Interventions in Committee
For assistance, please contact us
 
 
 
RSS feed based on search criteria Export search results - CSV (plain text) Export search results - XML
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
We are back in business, folks.
We have the motion by Mr. Lukiwski.
Mr. Cullen, you have the floor. Did you—
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Yes. I appreciate Mr. Lukiwski's words earlier. I think Mr. Scott has some specific things to say to this.
Here's our concern specifically with what we've seen. I don't believe we have a date yet from the Prime Minister as to when the House will reconvene. The concern we have, if committee members remember the motion.... I'm not sure if we can make copies available from.... It was in our request for the meeting, if committee members want to refer to it.
The motion that we very specifically put forward in the spring talked explicitly about a number of things. One was potentially replacing the Board of Internal Economy, which is a complex matter. It's not a matter of a simple signature on a piece of paper. It also talked about conducting a brief study to bring us to that type of action and allow us the ability to have transparent and independent oversight of members of Parliament's spending.
The concern we have with both prorogation and how this meeting has come together is with any loss of momentum. One of the things we're asking of the government, and which Mr. Scott will speak to, is the reintroduction, word for word, of what we all agreed to unanimously just a few months ago. I think that's important—certainly from our perspective. As Mr. Lukiwski will remember well, we talked about this at great length before the end of last session, and got the agreement of all members of Parliament to change the way we do things for the better and that it go to this committee to do that work, with a deadline.
If prorogation lasts a number of weeks, or longer, that's the clock running on that deadline that we set for ourselves. That means the study will be less well done. There's a fear that the work will be of lower quality and that we might not get to the result that Canadians expect of us, which is to improve things.
That's the essence of bringing the committee back. Sunday afternoon is an interesting choice of time, but here we are. We understand that things are what they are.
I think we're going to potentially move, and maybe I'll pass to Mr. Scott here, an amendment to this to allow it greater specificity to reduce the concerns we have about what Mr. Lukiwski has presented here today.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Scott would like to be on the speaking list. We'll get him on there.
Mr. Lamoureux, you're next.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you.
I actually appreciate the opportunity to come here today, as I suspect that a great deal of discussion has taken place in all of our ridings across the country, from coast to coast to coast, since Canadians are, in fact, quite concerned about what is taking place and what has been taking place in Ottawa over the last number of months.
In the past we attempted to deal with this, even prior to the House adjourning, or taking a recess, back in June. As members would know, it was the leader of the Liberal Party who brought forward four motions of substance. We attempted to get those passed. They are now referred to in the letter that Mr. Cullen has brought forward. I think it is important to note just how those motions, had they been passed, would have resolved a lot of concerns that many Canadians have today.
Unfortunately—and the record will show this—it was the New Democrats who actually prevented the motions from passing in the first place. So, on the one hand, we're glad to be here: we want to see changes. We want more transparency. We want those things, because we know that Canadians want them and are demanding them. We have seen strong leadership within our own party with regard to coming up with ideas on how we will be able to do just that.
I really believe that one of the first things we as a committee should do on this agenda—given the fact that back in June there appeared to be just a minority of New Democrats who were uncomfortable with the motions proposed by the Liberal Party—is to review those motions put forward by Mr. Trudeau and get the unanimous support of the committee. I think that would be a reasonable thing to ask. We've had the opportunity to review the motions. Everyone has had a copy of them, Mr. Chair. People are familiar with them. We would be doing a great service to Canadians if people would agree to let those motions pass.
Whether it passes unanimously today or not—and I will ask for that, Mr. Chair—as much as that would be great to see, I can tell you that we as a caucus are prepared to do it. We are committed, because we recognize what Canadians want us to do, and we're prepared to demonstrate that through leadership and to implement certain aspects of it ourselves. The question is to what degree other members are as well. I suspect that all members have had the opportunity to canvass their constituents and to find out that there should be support.
Mr. Chair, I'm not entirely sure of the proper procedure, but I am going to ask if you could canvass to see whether, in fact, there would be unanimous support for the four motions that were brought forward by Mr. Trudeau back on June 10.
I can quickly read them, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Trudeau moved:that the Board of Internal Economy begin posting the travel and hospitality expenses—
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
Just on relevance, I appreciate that Mr. Lamoureux would be fully within his rights to introduce a motion or, indeed, several motions. I don't think there's a notice requirement under our committee's rules, but we are actually in the midst of discussing not merely another motion—and everything discussed must be germane to that motion—but an amendment to that motion. I would think that these remarks would be more appropriate when we've dealt essentially with this.
Let's deal with Mr. Cullen's amendment to Mr. Lukiwski's motion first.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Reid. I was about to get there as Mr. Lamoureux was rounding the corner into new motions.
We are still on Mr. Lukiwski's notice of motion of today. Unless you are trying to move these as amendments to that, I don't see a way forward until after that discussion is complete. I'd be happy to come back to it at that time.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
With your assistance then, Mr. Chair, I would be interested in moving that as an amendment to the motion that Mr. Lukiwski has brought forward, if I can do that.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Let's see how we get there.
We'll allow a little latitude today.
Mr. Lukiwski, go ahead on a point of order.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I'm not sure if this is a point of order or a point of clarification, but if you take a look at the motion we passed on June 18, paragraph (vi) says:examine the subject-matter of the motions, standing in the name of the Member for Papineau, placed on the Order Paper on June 10, 2013.
I think, Kevin, you are trying to reintroduce the same motions that we have agreed to study anyway. I don't see the necessity of that. Part of the House order, and part of the motion that was unanimously passed, was to study the motions that your leader brought forward. We have agreed to do that.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I think a big part of it, Tom, is recognizing—which I wasn't too sure of in terms of the most appropriate way of bringing it forward in the form of an amendment—that what we're looking for is just getting the recognition from all three political parties that these suggestions or motions that were brought forward back on June 10 are very tangible and whether in fact they're supported by all political parties.
Now, it might not necessarily be appropriate as an amendment. That's why I was looking to see if we could get the unanimous support of the committee to at least acknowledge their existence and in fact support them, because what we're talking about is not studying them per se, but rather adopting them.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, I think this committee would like to usually move in that step, where we'll study before we come to the conclusion as to what we'll put in our final report.
I have Mr. Scott, Mr. Cullen, and then Mr. Lukiwski, but I'm trying not to get out of sync here as to where we are.
Mr. Lamoureux, as Mr. Lukiwski has pointed out, the subject matter you're talking about is already in the motion that founded the reason for our meeting. Belt and suspenders I understand, but I just don't understand why we need to go that deep at this moment, further—
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
If you'll allow me, let's leave it. If at the end you don't believe that the subject matter you're looking for is going to be covered, I might even give you some leeway to bring it back, but at this moment I think we're already discussing the topic that you're trying to put on the floor, either as an amendment to Mr. Lukiwski's motion or as another motion.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Okay. On that particular point, then, Mr. Chair, I appreciate your comments and I'll look forward to maybe a more appropriate time, when we could actually have some dialogue on the four motions that were brought forward by Mr. Trudeau.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, we're instructed by the motion itself to have that dialogue before December 2, so I'm guessing that we will have it.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Yes. I was hopeful that maybe we'd be able to draw some conclusions if possible, at least before the end of the day, so that we would have something tangible prior to the end of the meeting. I will hold off on providing more comments in regard to those particular motions, but suffice it to say that we're glad to be here today. We're anxious to see some movement in this area. We'll have to wait and see where it goes.
Thank you.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Lukiwski, we were still at your motion.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Yes, and I guess my only comment..... I know that Craig is coming next, so I—
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
I have him on my list.
So we'll let him do it at the end or...?
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Yes.
All I was going to say in response to Kevin is that with all due respect, Kevin, I just think what you're attempting to do here is somewhat redundant, because it's in the motion that we passed unanimously to study all of the elements of your leader's motions of June 10. So I don't think we need an amendment or a clarification. It's in the House order that was discussed.
Eventually...and obviously I don't want to cut off any further discussion of my motion, but I would just reiterate that the commitment of our government is to honour the motion that was approved unanimously on June 18, and that is to conduct a full and thorough review of all issues dealing with transparency and accountability of members of Parliament. It's I think fairly clearly presented in the motion that was adopted where we're going to go with this. We're going to talk about things, about the Board of Internal Economy. We're going to talk to the Auditor General and other financial people. We're probably going to examine other jurisdictions. But the sole purpose of and the spirit behind this motion was to try to increase transparency and accountability. That's why my motion comes forward: just to reaffirm the fact that as a government we are absolutely committed to doing that.
With respect to one further comment that Nathan made as to honouring the deadline of December 2, as a committee—and everyone knows that we're the masters of our own fate—we can meet as often and as frequently as we want. We can have extended hours. We can meet evenings, on weekends, whatever. Our point is that we believe the December 2 deadline can and will be met, and we're fully committed to participating in a thorough review.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Lukiwski, thank you for that recap, but I'm wondering if you wanted to read your motion into the record, because it was done while we were in camera.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Sure. Everyone has notice of it and this is public, but I will read it just for the record:
That, the Committee hold meetings in the fall of 2013 pursuant to the House order of Tuesday, June 18, 2013, regarding the transparency and accountability of the House of Commons, and that the Committee show respect for the will of the House by allowing one Member who is not a member of a recognized party to participate in these hearings as a temporary, non-voting member of the Committee.
I know that other people are on the speaking list, but I would like to deal with the substance of this, and I would call the question at the first opportunity so we can vote on my motion.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Super—as soon as we possibly can. But unless the people who are on the speaking list accept coming off it and voting, I don't see that....
Mr. Scott.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Great, thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think what I have to offer will actually assist in one respect: it will clarify to an extent a small concern about the extent to which we are committing in advance to move forward in the fall on the exact same motion adopted in the House on June 18. I think that's absolutely in the spirit of everything I've heard from Tom. I want to suggest an amendment that makes it even clearer.
In suggesting this amendment I think I'm probably helping on the point by Mr. Lamoureux as well, because my amendment makes it exceptionally clear that in the motion of June 18, the provision “examine the subject-matter of the motions, standing in the name of the Member for Papineau, placed on the Order Paper on June 10, 2013” will be part of the study. This will be made even clearer by my amendment.
What I'd like to do now is just to read the amendment. Tom's motion would stand exactly as is, and then I would suggest simply adding these words:
and that the Committee further show respect for the will of the House by instructing the Chair of the Committee to write to the Government House Leader to request that he, on the first day of the return of the House, seek unanimous consent from the House to bring back the House order of June 18 2013, in the exact form adopted on that day.
I think this is a good idea procedurally, because we are going to have prorogation—it's almost certain—between now and when we'll be able to really study this. In that case I think it's really a good idea to have the exact same motion back before this committee, and the mechanism I'm suggesting here would accomplish that.
At the same time, it absolutely makes clear something that is possibly just a little bit too general in the first three lines of Mr. Lukiwski's motion. The first three lines talk about holding meetings pursuant to the House order regarding transparency and accountability, but then it says, “and that the Committee show respect for the will of the House”, and it only specifies paragraph (h). The idea of showing respect for the will of the House with respect to including a non-recognized party member is really important, but it's isolating one element of the motion, whereas the first three lines are quite general. All I am doing, I think, is crossing the t’s and dotting the i's with what we've exactly heard already from Tom, that the government is in support of the motion as adopted.
I would like to add the extra procedural boost by asking you, the chair, to write to the House leader to ask him to seek unanimous consent when we return.
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, if we're going to turn, as I think we would have to do at this point, to debating a proposed amendment to the motion, I just want to confirm that Mr. Cullen never actually was going to introduce the motion, and that effectively this is the motion. Is that correct?
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay. That's the first thing.
Secondly, you talked about the first three lines, but it's actually added to the end of the motion. Is that correct, that the additional words are at the end?
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
The additional words are in italics, added to the end of the motion. When I talk about the first three lines—
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
I just had this handed out to me. I'm sorry.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
The first three lines reference was to how the first three lines are just a tiny bit too general.
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay. Now I understand. Thank you. That explains everything.
The Chair: Are you fine on that now?
Mr. Scott Reid: I am. Thank you.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
I have Mr. Cullen next, and then Mr. Lukiwski.
We are now speaking to the amendment.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
That's right.
This reiterates in black and white what Mr. Lukiwski just confirmed to the committee, the assurance that the government has maintained the political will over the summertime to continue the work that we unanimously agreed to in the spring. It provides specificity and assurance to Canadians that this work will continue.
I take the assurances from Tom just with regard to the committee's work. As soon as we get through this motion—I think we're almost there—I'd like to get into some of that discussion today so that the work can begin in advance on witness lists and whom we would call, with some suggestions made already, and the pace of work. As I've suggested already, while the goal is quite clear, getting there will be somewhat subtle and complex in changing the very, very old institution of Canada's Parliament, specifically the Board of Internal Economy, how to bring the Auditor General in properly, and those kinds of things.
This motion I think it just confirms the assurances that Mr. Lukiwski talked about. I think it should certainly confirm and give validation that the Liberals seem to be seeking. It allows the committee to know exactly what the work is about, and puts it in your hands, Mr. Chair, so that on day one the government House leader can introduce this. Of course, we will agree and we'll move forward, and the committee will have its marching orders to complete its work on that specified date.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I just don't have a problem with this. As I said verbally, our commitment is to do it. I've said so in public now, and so if this committee wants to instruct you, as chair, to write a letter requesting that we reaffirm the motion we have already passed, we don't have a problem with that. We are fully committed to having the study.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Can I ask a procedural question?
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Just procedurally, I want to confirm technically that a prorogation of the House, which we have not had yet, would nullify the motion we passed in the House in the spring. Is that correct? I wonder if we can just—
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Yes, I think that's correct. I ask because people might be wondering why we have all of these assurances. That's because it doesn't exist. The moment the Prime Minister seeks prorogation from the Governor General, the motion we passed in the House in the spring won't exist, so this is a very public confirmation that even though technically that's procedurally true, when we come back we'll have exactly the same wording, in advance, already confirmed by this committee and others.
I just wanted to assure my colleagues and others of that.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
All right, I have no one else on the speaking list, so shall we call the vote on the amendment?
Some hon. members: Yes.
(Amendment agreed to)
(Motion as amended agreed to)
The Chair: Fantastic. That accomplishes a good combination of motions today. Thank you very much. That's great.
Mr. Cullen.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
As I said in my very last comments, I wonder if the committee could seek to set a date by which we must submit our proposed witnesses. The reason I'm doing this, Chair, is that, as you know, for the people working on behalf of this committee, that can take a number of weeks with juggling schedules and what not. The uncertainty of when Parliament actually will resume is a challenge, so the second consideration I'd like us to interpose, unless the Prime Minister confirms quite soon when Parliament is meant to come back, is that we as a committee consider setting dates today regardless, because we do have the power outside of prorogation to set committee dates.
I'm not creating suspicions as much as addressing the reality that if the Prime Minister chooses the beginning of November as the best time for Parliament to reconvene, suddenly we're looking at a month with some witnesses with incredibly busy schedules. My concern is that we're going to run out of time and not do our proper work. So on those two fronts, would the committee consider setting a date today by which we should all submit our witnesses—and I suggest that date come quite soon, within a week or two—and begin to consider some potential dates for meetings, regardless of whether or not Parliament has resumed?
Those are the two questions I put to committee members.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Your chair was going to suggest the first part of that today anyway, that we get started with collecting witness names. I'm not going to put a finite end to it, Mr. Cullen, because you've seen how this committee can work. One witness can give us an idea that leads to our talking to another. So rather than putting a hard lock on a witness list, let's start it today. If you have any, by all means let's start talking to the clerk and getting the witnesses forward. Of course, some are mentioned in the House motion: the Clerk, the Auditor General, and the chief of accounting. We'll certainly have to talk with them anyway.
I recognize that through the summer, knowing this motion was there, the analysts started some research on this project. We didn't leave it and assume we'd just wait until we got back. We've already started a lot of the research. I'm not prepared to talk about it yet, because it's not collected yet, but it has been happening.
That being said, Mr. Cullen, you also know that this committee is able to move large boulders uphill when it has to, and so I'm not worried about that finish date. If we have to, we'll get it done. We showed last year, given the redistribution, how we're able to finish on time and on schedule.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Chair, I also wouldn't mind testing the room as to the level of interest among committee members. I understand about setting the date and that we oftentimes have modified witness lists as we go along. I think there is something about a deadline though that helps everybody to focus their minds a bit. If teachers say, “Have your homework in at some point”, they don't tend to be all that satisfied.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
That reminds me of the work this chair has had to do in the past—
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
I'm sure it does remind the chair—if the dog ate the homework. That's why I wouldn't mind just testing my colleagues in terms of those two things.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
I'm fine with having a small amount of discussion on this, but I'm caught by the procedures that this committee tends to follow on agenda and planning for future meetings, which take place in camera and not in public. So I ask the committee to take that into account as we have this discussion also, please.
I'm looking for other members to comment on what Mr. Cullen has said, or to agree to it.
Mr. Lamoureux.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I note that December 2 is the final date—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
—that's being suggested. Nothing prevents us from actually reporting a little earlier than December 2, if this gets done.
I don't see anything wrong with our trying to organize meetings for this September going into October. I don't think we have to wait until we're back in session, necessarily. We are going to get prorogued by the looks of it.
I would be open to setting some actual dates if we could, Mr. Chair. I think there would be a great benefit for us in terms of a planning perspective and from a witness perspective. We're here to set an agenda. I'm prepared to open up the calendar and see if we can set some dates.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Lamoureux.
I'll give a bit more of a comment at the end, but I'm not sure I'm quite able to set an agenda until I know what the workload looks like. That tends to be how this committee works.
Mr. Lukiwski.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
You've said what I was going to say. It's pretty difficult, if not outright impossible, to set an agenda until we find out how many witnesses people are suggesting we have. That's the way this committee has always worked. That's how every committee works. You get the witness list, and then the chair, with the support of the analysts and the clerk, tries to get a work schedule based on how many witnesses we're going to have to hear from. I think that's the proper way to proceed here.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I've only served on one committee, the immigration and citizenship committee. I know that when we set our agenda, Mr. Chair, what would often happen—not often, but always—was that there were government witnesses, official opposition witnesses, and third party witnesses, and it was determined in terms of what sort of numbers we were looking at.
This is the appropriate time and place for us to be able to talk about those numbers. That then allows you to get a sense of what sort of time is going to be required to do the review. I don't believe that we have to wait indefinitely for you as the chair or for the government to come back and say that we're going to have x number of witnesses. I think now is the most appropriate time to try to resolve that if we can.
How many government witnesses do you yourself expect to have, Tom?
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I don't know until we.... I can't answer that, Kevin, because we haven't sat down to try to determine exactly where we want to go with this. Similarly, every time we've tried to set an agenda at this committee, we've handled ourselves in the same fashion. We have a week or whatever it is to come up with witness lists. You will be speaking with your staff, I'm sure, and with other members of your caucus, as will the NDP, as will we. We'll submit the lists, and only at that time will the chair and the clerk then be able to say okay, we have 20, 30, or 40 witnesses. Then they set a work-plan and an agenda based on that.
I think it's pretty presumptuous and very, very unwieldy to try to force a particular agenda without having seen what we're all suggesting in terms of the witnesses. That's all I'm saying. Plus, the fact is that we've already passed an amendment saying that we're going to reaffirm the motion as soon as Parliament resumes. As was mentioned—and I think both Craig and Nathan said it—with prorogation, the initial motion as unanimously agreed to on June 18 basically goes away, so we're going to reaffirm.... We're going to write a letter to the House leader to bring it back. Let's just do things in an orderly fashion. That's all I'm trying to suggest.
We want to get it done. We've all agreed upon that. We know that we want to have certain witnesses appear before the committee. Let's find out who they are and go from there.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
If I could, I'll cede this to Mr. Cullen.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
In that vein and on the orderly fashion, because I agree this thing could get unwieldy if you look at all seven proposals outlined here, what I would suggest to the committee is something specific, Chair, to allow this to be orderly and to allow us also to hit the ground running in whichever fashion, whether it's coming back early, as I've suggested, or not “early”, but starting work when we're meant to, if we follow the parliamentary calendar, or early if the Prime Minister prorogues.
That is, I suggest that by this coming Friday we reconvene with a preliminary witness list, because five working days should give people enough time—if they haven't already started. We've started. In terms of what witnesses we're looking to have, some of them are obvious, but some other ones would cover that off. Secondly, I suggest that we have a preliminary set of themes to allow the analysts and the clerk to start to build that working schedule you need, so that when Parliament does get back, either at our own behest as a committee or as a normal function—as Parliament is sitting when the Prime Minister calls it—we have a work plan, we have witnesses set up, and certainly we have the first tranche of themes to be dealt with. By Friday, people should have a good sense of it.
We've been sitting with this issue for months—for some years—so it's not as if it's new. Maybe it is new to some parties, this idea of accountability and transparency, but as for the notion of who it is that we need to call and what expertise we need, I think it's pretty obvious.
That's what I've suggested. I've put that forward. I don't know if you need it in a formal motion, Mr. Chair, but that's my suggestion as an outline: that we return and meet with a set of preliminary witnesses and a set of themes that probably follow along the lines of the seven topics outlined here. There may be fewer or there may be more, but we can leave that to committee members to help decide. The committee can then send our analysts and clerks away and they would be able to build that kind of agenda so that we hit the ground in an orderly fashion, but also hit the ground running.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
I'll let you know that in the past and today it's always been your chair's thought to try to pre-think what you might ask and to move forward. We've been doing that. As I said, before we left for the summer we discussed what was in the motion and talked about what could be pre-done or at least looked at. I agree with you 100% on how great the staff is at anticipating our needs and moving forward, but I think without the steering committee actually doing this in the normal way we do it, we will try to do the schedule by whole committee and witness list selection by whole committee. I've seen how that's turned out, and you've been there.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
You're saying the agenda should be set by a subcommittee?
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
I totally agree. So amend my thinking, then, to a deadline with the subcommittee setting it up.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
At some point, once we have gathered some substantial part of witness lists, we'll move forward with a study of the plan, knowing what days we have going forward to look at it. I'm suggesting that we move in our normal fashion. That, I think, would work best.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Specifically then, because I talked about this Friday coming to give committee members and staff five days to gather those kinds of witnesses, my suggestion is that the subcommittee gather on Friday, pull those pieces together, start making those decisions, and outline the plan.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
I'm going to disagree with you, Mr. Cullen.
I'm not going to speak from the chair if there are hands up.
Mr. Lukiwski, go ahead.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I'm just going to ask for some advice from the clerk regarding prorogation. Parliament originally was scheduled to resume September 16, so I assume this coming week the Prime Minister will make some announcement on that. Once that occurs, what is the status of those committees? I'd like some advice from the clerk.
Marie-France Renaud
View Marie-France Renaud Profile
Marie-France Renaud
2013-09-08 13:42
Once the House has prorogued, PROC still has members, but we don't have a chair; we don't have any studies; we don't have anything, so we cannot meet. Even if we send out a notice of meeting, if there's a prorogation before Friday, it doesn't happen. So it's up to you, until we come back and elect a new chair—or the same chair.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Scott, I think I saw your hand.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Just so everybody knows, that will mean that with prorogation, this is the one committee that continues a certain ghostly existence. We'll have members, but no body, if that's correct. So we can't actually meet if there's prorogation, and that would include the subcommittee. I understand that.
I guess I would suggest then, depending on whether or not we want to, in some kind of a provisional way, talk about the subcommittee meeting on Friday, that it could still stay open. I'll leave that discussion to go on. I just assume this would happen, but maybe we could make sure it would happen. Prorogation sort of gets rid of us, but it doesn't get rid of the staff, so as long as it's very clear that the staff can continue to do all the work they would normally do, then at least we know that time when we're not in Parliament is not being wasted. As long as that can be clear, I think that's a minimum.
The second point, while I have the floor, is just to make one comment on the agenda list. Point number (g)(iii) says, “study the practices of provincial and territorial legislatures, as well as other jurisdictions and Westminster-style Parliaments in order to compare and contrast their administrative oversight”. Personally I see that as almost the most important piece in all of this.
Having said that, I just want to go to a really minor logistical point, which is that we don't always do the best job in Parliament in general and maybe in this committee because of the room we're traditionally in. If we're going to have witnesses with that kind of expertise, some of them are going to be beamed in. Can we just make sure that we have absolutely the best technological set-up for that? Because we've struggled in the past.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
We'll see if we can get it. Some of these people will not come in person, as we've learned in the past, but—you're right—in our effort to do the best with—
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
It's the room with the replicator.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
It's just a way of saying that there are better rooms than ours.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
You don't like our cozy little rooms.
The answer is yes, we can move forward. The other answer is that we exist only in kind of a name situation, but some of this work is already out there being done so that we can be as prepared as possible for the earliest possible date to start this study.
Mr. Cullen, on a very small point.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
I would just express from the official opposition side, as New Democrats, that the urgency of this is very high for us. We'll be endeavouring to act under deadlines for ourselves in terms of witness list submission. I say this through you to the staff.
It is a real downside of prorogation...and I know there are many reasons that go into it, but one of the bad aspects is that work as important as this is, by my understanding of all the technical aspects, is delayed. If the Prime Minister prorogues this week, as Mr. Lukiwski and others have suggested is necessary, and if he wants not to convene and not to start work next week, then other than doing some of this advance legwork, it is delayed.
We are going to endeavour to meet that deadline. I would encourage my colleagues to also have that type of urgency, as well as in the submission of those themes. As Mr. Scott pointed out, and I think Mr. Reid across the way agreed, there will be some that have greater importance, or have greater impact on our work, than others. It would be good if committee members put their minds to that, to say that this aspect or that aspect has greater importance, to give guidance on where we put the preponderance of our weight and our work, and to reach out to those groups and individuals right now. Just because the Prime Minister shuts down Parliament doesn't mean we stop working; hence, this meeting today and the work that we want to get started on as soon as possible.
It is unfortunate that the committee exists only in a ghostly form for the next little while, because it would be great to start this work. We're very keen to do it.
That's it.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Great.
I have no one else on my speakers list. We've accomplished what we needed to do to prepare ourselves for the fall and a new motion setting forward.... That's exactly what we'll do.
Is there anything else for the good of this committee today?
It's great to see you all on a Sunday afternoon.
We are adjourned.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
We'll call our meeting to order.
Before my opening comments, I would like all of us to stand and take a moment of silence in recognition of the 50 deceased or missing.
[A moment of silence observed]
The Chair: Thank you.
As everyone is aware, this is the first meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities since the tragic accident, the train derailment, at Lac-Mégantic in Quebec.
I can tell you that being on site last Wednesday—I toured with the minister, and we were very well received—had a very profound effect on me. There were a number of different things. It's not something that I would want to witness every day, nor is it something that I think any of us would want to witness. Going forward, I think I speak for everyone on this committee and in government when I say we want to make sure this kind of thing never happens again.
I saw a number of things down there that will stick with me for a long time: from a row of burnt-out foundations with one little house standing in the middle of them—it was very surreal—to majestic oak trees that are nothing but blackened wood sticks sticking out of the ground. The heat was so intense that the rocks used for a breakwall down around the lake itself are ready to crumble. Any pavement that was in that area was totally burnt off, while any cement—sidewalks and what have you—is burnt to the point where, when you walk on it, it's more like walking on a thin layer of sand than actually walking on cement.
When you first look at the tank cars where the main derailment and explosions were—and this thought was echoed by one of the investigators there—you think there are 15 or 20 cars, until you start looking and really counting the mangled mess. There are 70 some there. I saw wheels off train cars sitting out in the middle of a parking lot or a vacant field. Those things weigh tonnes, and you have to imagine the force of the explosion that blew them there.
Going forward, ladies and gentlemen, I think it is fair to say that we never want to see this kind of thing again. If you get a chance to support anybody there, I would certainly think that would be welcomed. But at the same time, it was made very clear by different people—some business people, the mayor, the local MPP—that the last thing the people there want or need is for us to be interfering or taking the investigators away from doing their job down there.
I know, Mr. Rousseau, you're a neighbouring member of Parliament to the riding—and I did run into Mr. Rousseau down there—and it was good of you to be there and show your support.
That's the end of my comments.
I'm going to have a speaking list here, and I have Mr. Watson first of all.
View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2013-07-23 16:04
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, committee members who are gathered here today.
Mr. Chair, just for purposes of guiding discussion, I'd like to move a motion, and we'll have discussion around that. I move “That, the committee conduct a study on rail safety when more findings of the TSB investigation into the disaster at Lac-Mégantic are available.”
I believe we have that in both official languages for the committee's benefit.
View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2013-07-23 16:04
I can read it in French as well, if you'd like.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
I do have a copy here. We should make sure that a copy, if possible, is distributed to all the members—or does everybody...? No?
View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2013-07-23 16:04
Rather than having a general discussion, I felt it would be productive to have a motion to actually discuss.
Mr. Chair, should I continue?
View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2013-07-23 16:05
Obviously, we are dealing with a very devastating situation here, a tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic. First of all, I think all of us at the table here express not only our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones, but also our solidarity with the community as it comes to grips with what has happened and looks to the future, and what that can look like for the community. I think the government has, from the beginning, with the Prime Minister and other ministers who have been on-site, demonstrated that not only can we can act but that we will do so as emerging evidence supports it.
The question today, though, and why we've been called back, is whether we should commence a study immediately and continue through the summer and, presumably, into the fall and some period of time afterwards, and whether or not it is necessary to have that study at this particular time. I would point out by way of history of the committee—a committee that I've been on since 2007—that this standing committee has shown in the past not only its capacity but also its will to act when it comes to studying things that are important, including rail safety.
Mr. Chair, if you'll remember, in 2008 this committee undertook an important study and report into rail safety in Canada. The question that the committee had to grapple with, though, if you'll remember contextually, was the series of high-profile train derailments, several of them, in the years leading up to 2007. These involved fatalities. They involved damage to the environment. The government at the time, and Minister Cannon who was the transport minister then, appointed an independent panel to look into rail safety and to make recommendations to the government. This committee wanted to conduct its own study as well.
We made the decision—and at the time it was a minority Parliament, so it wasn't a government decision—that it would be best to wait until more evidence was in. The study then commenced and the committee produced a report, as I recall, that was not only firm in its recommendations and its findings about rail companies in the undertaking of their safety responsibilities, but also in regard to the regulator itself, Transport Canada. That committee report had significant buy-in.
Mr. Chair, as you know, in deciding whether to commence a study now, this committee should also be concerned whether that would draw important resources out of the field, where they belong. There are a number of separate investigations under way, many involving government officials from the Transportation Safety Board. The independent Transportation Safety Board is obviously leading the scientific investigation into the causes of the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic. By its account, Transport Canada is very actively involved on a daily basis with them.
Separate from the investigation by the Transportation Safety Board, Transport Canada itself is looking into questions of, and gathering evidence as to, whether the rail company has been compliant with existing regulations. As I understand it, Environment Canada may be doing the same. As we all know, when it comes to having hearings, government officials are always front and centre, and rightly so, in those investigations.
Right now, though, I think it's important, and I think we could all agree, that those resources are best deployed in the field in the short term. That doesn't keep politicians from speculating about the cause. I don't think speculation is fruitful at this particular point.
The Transportation Safety Board itself is saying, and I think in their press release they have said, they are going to follow the science in this, the evidence, and as Ms. Tadros said, be careful not to draw premature conclusions about the causes of that tragedy.
Notwithstanding that, they have produced two urgent safety advisories to the minister, who promised at the time that Transport Canada would undertake an expedited review of those matters. Today we understand that the government has taken some action in issuing some emergency directives around issues related to the TSB's letter.
Those interim measures will ensure that action is taken until such time as rules can be finalized around those regulatory issues. I think the government can and will continue to act in the interim, but I'm not sure that the committee at this particular time, without further findings from the Transportation Safety Board, should be undertaking the study at this point. That doesn't mean there won't be a study. I think the answer from this side of the table is not a “no”; it's a “not yet”. I think we have to let the evidence show us the way forward.
If I could crystallize this, Mr. Chair, I think these hearings are taking place, whether or not the opposition is backing away from that now, in the shadow of Lac-Mégantic. Is this committee going to be seized with letting an investigation take its course, one that would be based on evidence, or are we going to try Lac-Mégantic in front of a committee based on speculation? I think the latter would be a very disastrous course for anyone. If we're going to demonstrate the seriousness of this committee, Mr. Chair, then we should wait until we have more findings from the Transportation Safety Board investigation.
I'll leave it at that for now. That's why I'm moving the motion.
View Olivia Chow Profile
NDP (ON)
I have an amendment, that I will read out in full, to Mr. Watson's recommendation.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
Just before you go, Ms. Chow, is everyone familiar with the main motion or do we need it read?
View Olivia Chow Profile
NDP (ON)
It has been circulated.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
You have that, okay.
Carry on.
View Olivia Chow Profile
NDP (ON)
So I have an amendment to it.
Before I move my amendment, I just want to say two things.
I can't imagine the horror and the sadness that has descended upon that town—and thank you, Mr. Chair, for being there. We can do a lot to support the families there, whether it's through the Red Cross or by visiting them as tourists.
I also want to thank the first responders who have been on the ground and are working around the clock. I can't imagine it's an easy task; I imagine it's life-altering for some of them. They've perhaps even put their lives on the line to do what needs to be done. Of course, there are a lot of officials who are investigating.
I believe it is the responsibility of the government, and of course all elected members of Parliament, to make sure that the food we eat, the water we drink, and the trains that come through our communities are in fact safe. That's what a government is for—to make sure there are regulations in place that industry can follow.
I say this in the context of having looked at all the recommendations that have been made in the past from investigations of past derailments. I'm not talking about this specific derailment at Lac-Mégantic, but about other serious derailments, whether the one in Burlington, where three people died and some were seriously injured, and others slightly injured and traumatized, or other derailments large and small. There was one in Calgary, Alberta, where thank gosh that train didn't go into the Bow River. There have been other derailments too.
After the derailments, especially major ones, the Transportation Safety Board, which has experts on the ground, usually issues a report a year later with its recommendations. Recently, it came out with an annual report that highlighted previous recommendation on a watch list that have not been implemented by Transport Canada.
I don't think we need to wait till the investigation is finished. I believe we have enough information before us—and I will detail it in a few minutes' time—to begin to look at some previous recommendations, such as implementing additional backup safety defences to help ensure that signal indications are consistently recognized and followed, that there be voice recorders in locomotive cabs, that safety assessments be carried out at level crossings on high-speed passenger rail along the Quebec-Windsor corridor, and that positive train controls be in place, meaning automatic braking systems. These are the recommendations that the Transportation Safety Board has made over and over again through the years to improve rail safety.
Also, the Auditor General's office has a list of recommendations. When it did a study in 2001, it looked at the transportation of dangerous goods. It's a report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development from the Auditor General's office.
You have the key findings in front of you. Let me say that to date there is no quality assurance program, there is no clarity in terms of the roles and responsibility within Transportation Canada for dangerous goods inspections, and there is no system to measure and report on compliance with laws regulating the transportation of dangerous goods.
These three key things are critical to improving rail safety, and they have not been done.
Do they relate to the Lac-Mégantic tragedy? I don't know. We don't need to make that assumption, whether they do or do not. But it is our responsibility to make sure that the expert advice is followed now. We do not need to wait another six months or a year or however long the Lac-Mégantic investigation is going to take. I think we can do that work now.
That's why I move that in the recommendation in front of us, which reads “That, the committee conduct a study on rail safety”, etc., immediately after the word “safety”, I would like to insert a portion of my letter, which is in front of you, that first:
a) The Transportation Safety Board recommendations on rail safety that the agency has not deemed fully satisfactory in terms of the actions taken by Transport Canada[;] b) The December 2011 findings by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development for the Office of the Auditor General on the transportation of dangerous goods;c) Examine if phasing out and replacement of unsafe tanker cars like the DOT-111/CTA-111A design is required.
And second:
that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities requests witnesses to appear in front of the committee from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Office of the Auditor General, Transport Canada, rail companies and representatives of rail workers, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and as well the Honourable Minister of Transport.
Furthermore, that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities request...copies of the following documents from Transport Canada—the General Operating Instructions and other Safety Management System and audit documents for all Transport Canada-licensed freight rail operators;
And that this Study be conducted throughout August and September of 2013, and a report of this study be prepared and reported to the House of Commons in October 2013.
Further, that when more findings of the TSB investigation into the disaster at Lac-Mégantic are available, the committee conduct the second part of this rail safety study, and report to the House of Commons its findings.
So effectively I've cut this rail safety study into two parts. The first part looks at what has been recommended in the past. When specific recommendations come to us from the TSB from the Lac-Mégantic investigation, we will then do the second part of the study. I see no reason to delay the first part, especially as we are hearing from mayors across Canada. Today, for instance, I saw another request from Vancouver. The Canadian Federation of Municipalities has been saying it wants to see precisely what the protocols are regarding the safety management systems, especially those under which MMA has been operating. They want to see all the documents. They want to make sure that these protocols are connected with the emergency crews in the municipalities, because when there is a derailment, guess what, it's the municipal workers who put their lives on the front line. The Calgary mayor said as much.
They deserve or have the right to know, as of now. We have the power to summon these copies. They have the right to know what is coming through their neighbourhoods, what kinds of dangerous goods are being shipped through their neighbourhoods. They have the right to know what protocol is in place and how they fit into that protocol. They have the right to be consulted, and that's what we should work toward. That's why we are asking for these documents.
As to the question of whether we will take people away from the investigation on the ground, absolutely not. I'm not asking the Safety Board staff on the ground investigating to come. Transport Canada should be implementing those previous recommendations. We want them to come and tell us what they are doing and how long will it take for these recommendations to get done.
Why won't Transport Canada wait until after the investigation is complete before issuing new directives? Today, two or three hours ago, Transport Canada issued new directives. They didn't wait. They issued emergency directives because they saw the need to do so. They saw the need to reverse the previous position, of having only one operator, back to having two.
Remember, Transport Canada gave the approval to move from two operators to one operator. They are now reversing it even though the Transportation Safety Board did not say they had to do that. Last Friday, they did not say that “thou shall” or “you should reverse it”. Transport Canada at 2:30 said they are reversing it. They are saying they need to have two operators. The New Democrats have been saying that for a few weeks now. They didn't wait until the investigation was over. They made that emergency directive because they knew what needed to be done and that's why they took action.
We have the road map, not from politicians; we have in front of us the Auditor General's report and the Transportation Safety Board annual report. We have the road map already. There's absolutely no reason for us to wait. I hope my colleagues will support my amendment and allow us to start to work now. We have the responsibility to tell Canadians that we are working together to improve rail safety.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
We're going to suspend. Ms. Chow, your amendment may exceed the scope of the motion, and we're in conference with the clerk. There would not be a problem with it as a motion itself, so if you would just bear with me for a second.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
I would ask the members back.
In consultation with the clerk, I do have to rule the amendment out of order. There are three or four reasons, but one is that the main motion by Mr. Watson says “conduct a study on rail safety when more findings....are available”, whereas this amendment is totally contrary to that and says we should do it immediately. That would change the scope of the motion itself.
As I said, the amendment as a motion itself would be a different thing. To add it as an amendment here, I have to rule as out of order.
View Olivia Chow Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Chair, if you would allow me, rather than getting caught in....You don't want me to speak again to move my motion. If you would allow me, I will put what I have just done as a separate, stand-alone motion after we deal with this motion, of course.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
That's what I was going to say. I have to point out to you now that your motion would have to be with notice, meaning with 48 hours. With unanimous consent we can come back to that. In the meantime—
View Olivia Chow Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Chair, Mr. Watson's motion did not have 48 hours either. I did not challenge it because you didn't raise it. If you want to raise it, I can raise it too. Neither of the motions had 48 hours. However, given that this meeting was called precisely to have a study, I move—if you want me to do that, to make it formal—that with unanimous consent both of these motions be allowed to stand, notwithstanding the 48-hour rule.
View Larry Miller Profile
CPC (ON)
We have a proposal for unanimous consent. Do we have unanimous consent to deal with the motions?
Results: 1 - 100 of 150000 | Page: 1 of 1500

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>|