Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all members of the committee for having me here today.
You've all seen my motion; you've all seen it put forward. What I thought I would do today, rather than argue basic, broad principles, is to give you a little insight on things that I think you should deal with in your report, that is, mechanics.
The general principle, the general idea, I think everyone can understand and argue about, but the report that you will have to do, based on the motion, has to address some of the mechanics of how this could be implemented if the House decided to adopt it in a subsequent Parliament.
Let me just run through some of the issues fairly quickly. You should have the memo in front of you that I wrote and sent to the committee last week. I'm just going to comment on a few things that I think should be covered in the report, mostly about the mechanics of implementing this.
Let me start with some issues that you'll have to deal with if this ever does become part of House of Commons procedures. Of interest to note is that they're doing the elections in Great Britain right now, and the nominations are all in. The foreign affairs committee there seems to be a very popular one to chair, whereas some of the regional committees like the Welsh committee, the Scottish committee, and the Northern Irish committee all seem to have natural candidates who are going to be acclaimed. Anyway, it's interesting that it's coincident with this.
Issue number one is the nomination of MPs for the election of chair and whether there should be supporting signatures. In the report committee members will have the option to say that they recommend yes or recommend no. I think it would be wise that there be supporting signatures. Thresholds can vary. Having five or ten would probably be appropriate, considering the size of our House of Commons. I think it would indicate that the member has support or some degree of approval from colleagues. I think it would also sift out if candidates if members found fairly quickly that they were not getting signatures in support from fellow members. That might be an indication that perhaps they're not suited to the post they're thinking of.
Interestingly, in other places where they do this, they don't require signatures to be from both parties. I would not require that either, but it is something that you may want to debate or consider. Of course, there's always the possibility of letting members put forward their own name and going without any support. As I said, my recommendation is not to support that.
The second issue, and this one I really have no major opinion on, is who would run the nominations in subsequent election of chairs by the whole House. This is something that needs to be done; it could be by the Clerk of the House of Commons and associated staff there, or it could be by the Speaker's office. Frankly, I don't have a very strong opinion one way or the other. I think it would be something that when this were put to a vote [Inaudible--Editor] standing orders could be decided based on consultation with people with experience in both offices. Again, I think it's something that should be noted in the report, but I don't think there's something there that would be of major philosophical disagreement among members. It's more of a mechanical issue.
As for the timing of the elections of committee chair, I think there's a fairly natural window soon after the Speaker is elected. Members may want to seek the post of Speaker, as was the case the last time when Mr. Scheer won. If my memory serves me right, we had five or six candidates for the post. That should be done, and appropriate time should be given. As we've all had experience here, committees sometimes take longer to set up in some Parliaments than others, but a deadline, say, of three or four days after the election of the chair for members to have their nominations in, either to the Clerk or the Speaker's office, would probably be appropriate. Doing that a week later would be an appropriate time. Again, it's not a hill to die on, but it should be talked about and it should be noted that deadlines should be set, even if your report does not pick a particular timeline.
Another question would be how long do you have committee chairs elected for? I would say that when the House is prorogued, you can start again. For various sessions of Parliament you could have it. In this Parliament we've had two sessions, if I remember correctly. You would have two elections run twice. Again, that's an option you could have, but I think it's very possible people might want to switch chairmanships of committees. You may find that two years in, not every one has run their committee as well as, say, this chair has over the last few years, and there may need to be a re-election, and—how shall we put this—nomination races could start up again and there could be internal challenges based upon the competency of the chairmanship.
So that's another issue I think should be dealt with.
Another question is would we permit members to run for more than one post? Interestingly, looking through the British system, they don't have that, but it is an option that could be considered. Say we knew somebody who was particularly talented at both defence and foreign affairs issues, perhaps they would want to consider both positions. I personally would argue against that, but it's something, again, that should be considered. I think if a member is strong and competent in one area, he should put forward his arguments in that area, and again, if you had a second election two years later and the person wished to seek the post, it would not preclude that person from being elected in that second election after the House prorogued and restarted. Again, it's an issue that I think needs to be dealt with, and I think some flexibility could be put into that.
Another issue that I was asked about when I was here last time, which I'm a bit hesitant to include but I have included in case the committee does want to deal with it, is a question on the vice-chairs. I deliberately left the vice-chairs out of my motion because as a government member.... By and large most of the chairs, with again I think four exceptions, come from the government side, and I didn't want to impose something on other parties. However, I do think that it would be wise for the first vice-chair, in particular, to be chosen. Again, that may be something you want to consider in your report. My advice, because it was not a major or explicit part of my motion, is that unless the committee has substantive agreement on that, I would leave it out. But if there is substantive agreement on that issue among committee members, perhaps you could include it.
I would say, however, as we've noted in many Parliaments, the third party, from whom the second vice-chair comes from, often has only one member, and if we adopt a position where all vice-chairs are to be picked, the party at that point would have absolutely no ability to pick its own member on a particular committee if the one and only position were handed out by a vote of the general House of Commons. That's why, if the concept of vice-chairs is discussed in this report, perhaps some note should be made that the first and second vice-chairs could be treated differently. Again, I would say to committee members that this was not dealt with in my motion. So unless there's substantive agreement, personally I would stay away from it.
Issue number five is what happens if the chair resigns or if committees have become dysfunctional—this has happened on occasion—or motions of no confidence have been put, particularly in minority Parliaments—