Interventions in Board of Internal Economy
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View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
This meeting of the Board of Internal Economy is called to order. Good morning, everybody.
The first thing on the agenda is the minutes of the previous meeting. Are there any issues with those minutes?
Seeing none, I will consider those minutes approved.
Then we go to business arising from the previous meeting. Is there any business arising that isn't on the agenda?
Seeing none, we'll go on to number 3, the report from the Joint Interparliamentary Council on the governance of parliamentary associations.
As presenters we have Bruce Stanton, member of Parliament and co-chair of the Joint Interparliamentary Council, and Colette Labrecque-Riel, Clerk Assistant and Director General, International and Interparliamentary Affairs.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2018-12-06 10:34
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning, everyone.
I feel sometimes that I'm here way too often, but I appreciate all the good work you're doing on this. I'm pleased to be back in respect to a matter arising from the NATO Parliamentary Association meeting that was held on October 30.
In responding to your board's request on this matter arising out of your last meeting, the JIC met yesterday afternoon at a public meeting. It considered potential responses and, frankly, resolutions to the concerns that were raised here. With the help of our clerks—Colette and her team—we were able to put forward and ultimately agree to a resolution that we hope will meet that test. We'll circulate it in a moment.
Essentially, it does two things.
First, it addresses the issue of a motion having been put forward by the association that involves non-confidence in the chair of the association. There would be a neutral chairperson—i.e., one of the two JIC co-chairs would chair that meeting and the deliberations on that particular motion.
Second, it provides a process of appeal. Should a specific number of members feel that there was a contravention of the constitution as it pertained to that particular meeting, within a certain number of days, if they wished to, they could give notice of appeal and have that process taken up by the JIC itself.
If possible, we'll circulate the motion and go through it briefly, and then I'll be happy to take any questions.
While those are being circulated, I should say that the JIC adopted this motion at its meeting yesterday, and it is prepared to follow through with it.
The motion is as follows:
That, notwithstanding any provision in association constitutions or usual practice, effective upon the adoption of this motion, when a matter relating to the confidence in the Chair of an Association arises at an association general meeting, the following procedure shall apply:
a. One of the JIC Co-Chairs shall preside over the meeting during the consideration of the matter;
b. Ten (10) percent of the membership but no less than ten (10) members of the association may appeal a decision of the general assembly relating to the confidence in the Chair to the Joint Interparliamentary Council, by notifying the Clerk of the Council in writing within 10 sitting days following the meeting of the general assembly; and such notice shall cite which provision of the association's constitution has been breached;
(c) The Council shall meet to consider the appeal within 15 sitting days following receipt of this notice;
(d) The general assembly's decision which is the subject of the appeal will take effect unless the JIC co-chairs, upon receipt of the notice of appeal, instruct that it be suspended until the appeal is resolved definitively by the JIC.
That all associations be informed of this new procedure.
That's essentially it, in a nutshell. It achieves the two things.
As a final point, I'll make a brief comment.
There was considerable discussion about the notion of suspending the decision of the general assembly. As a compromise, we were able to come to an agreement that there would be a stopgap provision there. For example, if the decision taken by the general assembly was aggrieved by the given number of members, and if the infractions of the constitution were sufficiently egregious, the co-chairs could effectively suspend that decision. They would take a look at that. The appeal would still go through, one way or the other, but there was considerable discussion on whether a decision taken involving the confidence of a co-chair and subsequently appealed should require that the association's decision be suspended until the appeal had taken place.
I think we resolved that by putting that interim step in place as an option. The JIC chairs would simply review what the appeal was about, look at the substantive aspects of it, and then make a decision as to whether that decision should be suspended or not pending the appeal.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you.
Go ahead, Mr. Strahl.
View Mark Strahl Profile
I would like to thank you, Mr. Stanton, for your leadership on this issue.
I think this is something that our members were looking for, and I believe that it dovetails very nicely with the Speaker's ruling on this matter in the House of Commons. From my perspective, this gives us the assurance that we need that the rights of all members will be taken into account.
I understand that the JIC, like this body, operates on a consensus basis, so it wouldn't simply be the case that the majority would have the ability to take a decision that doesn't respect the minority, which I think is, from our perspective, what this has been about from the outset.
I want to thank you and the team for coming forward with a compromise that I think will allow us to move forward in a good way.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2018-12-06 10:40
Thank you for that.
You're right. This was discussed yesterday as well. In the same way that this board functions, the JIC also does.
The Speakers' rulings—particularly the House Speaker's ruling—were incredibly informative in terms of strengthening, underlining, and stating to what degree the JIC is given authority, frankly, by the two boards here in Parliament, and the responsibility it has to be the regulator should the constitutions of the association fail to provide the kind of fairness that those constitutions should. We're there as a secondary stop for that.
View Candice Bergen Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you as well, Mr. Stanton and Ms. Riel, for the work that you've done on this issue.
My concern, as I articulated a week ago, is that I think these associations have by and large served the purpose for which they have been created. They have been non-partisan and a very positive part of what we do here in Parliament for many, many years. I think this is good.
I don't anticipate that we'll see what we saw happen at the end of October, which was disgraceful. I don't think we will see that happen again—hopefully—because we're going to be able to operate as we always have in these situations, and not in a partisan way. That doesn't mean that we won't see chairs moved out because the party they represent is not the party that's in government. We all understand that happens. However, there are rules around that, and they should be respected.
When we're in government after the next election, it will be a different makeup of JIC. That will be a check and a balance for us, to ensure that even though we are in government and we will maybe have the majority on some of these committees, we can't use that to lord it or enact tyranny over the group.
I think this is good. This was created, unfortunately, for an extreme circumstance that is not the norm, but it has given us all the assurance that this won't happen again.
My only regret is that we can't go back and right the wrong that was done. This obviously isn't retroactive, and I understand that, but at least we know it won't happen again, and I'm happy for that.
Thank you.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2018-12-06 10:43
Those are good points, all.
It should be noted that once the associations are provided with this mechanism, of course they still have the tools that are given to them in their constitution and can still in fact request special general meetings. That tool is still available for them. Nothing in here impugns that ability for the associations.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2018-12-06 10:44
Very briefly, obviously we view events as they transpired differently, but I'm glad that we were able to find an accommodation that allows us to move forward.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you.
Seeing nothing further on this, we can I think move on to the next item, which is item 3.B., the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Halifax in January 2021.
We had the submission last time.
Are there any comments from members on this proposal, this request from the JIC?
Go ahead, Mr. Strahl.
View Mark Strahl Profile
For both issues, I am unsure of what percentage of the budget is related directly to hospitality. Do we have that information?
Obviously when we host, we want to do that well, but I just would like to know, considering the taxpayers who are paying for this, what exactly the portion is, outside of renting space, etc., for meals and beverages and all the rest of it. I would like to get some idea of that.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2018-12-06 10:45
For the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, on that particular conference the total budget is $1.5 million. The total hospitality on that is roughly 30%. That involves a welcoming dinner reception, lunches, a second dinner reception and a farewell dinner. It's mostly food—health breaks and that kind of thing—but it represents about 30%. I am given to understand that it's the usual kind of proportionate aspect of a budget for this kind of conference.
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