Thank you, Chair. I appreciate that.
Thank you very much for your attendance today.
I'm going to start with another quote from the Auditor General, from yesterday. He said:
In particular, we noted that members of Parliament hold positions of trust and have responsibilities to their specific constituents and to Canadians in general that are considerable. In my opinion there are three fundamental elements that contribute to the fulfilment of these responsibilities. They are transparency, accountability, and good governance.
I'd just like to paint a picture for you and get your thoughts on whether you think it would be an improvement or not over what we have, and on any other holes in it that you see, or if perchance there are parts of it you like.
Right now, all the work of the BOIE is, for the most part, done in camera. You've acknowledged that most reasonable—if I can use that word—people will acknowledge there are some matters that do need to be in camera. We can articulate what those are: certainly people's medical records, legal circumstances, staff issues, and things like that, which really don't belong in the public domain because those people have rights.
What we're talking about is the potential for an organization, similar to what they've done in Britain, that would take all those issues that relate to MPs' expenses and running our offices and all the areas you're looking for, the line items and everything, and put them in this stand-alone agency.
Now, I've heard you say you really don't have a lot of thought as to who is making the decisions. I find that a little surprising, simply because there is an issue of arm's length. In terms of good governance, there are reasons that arm's-length bodies are created, and we're looking at this as an extension of that. One of the problems is that in BOIE debates, discussions, there can be partisanship. There won't be with people who are chosen from the public and there are criteria and it's a public application. The whole process of hiring these folks, actually, or appointing them is in law, and they actually have the regulations for that.
That would be a stand-alone body. They have no partisan interest. They have a stand-alone mandate and that mandate is to answer in this case to the Canadian people—the British people, in their case—on their monitoring and oversight of MPs' expenses and related matters.
You've acknowledged those in camera things. They started out in public. It's interesting. I think Tom mentioned they did start that way, and then they went in camera, which speaks to the issue that reasonable people will see times that you need to be in camera, and then they issue minutes. So they're in camera, not secret meetings.
However, on the flip side, by taking those things out of BOIE, I would suggest to you that it leaves a lot of other areas that are wide open to be public matters because we're debating them the same way as we debate anything. There are only certain times when you'd need to go in camera—security, and things of that nature—but for the most part, for the operation of the House and the building, there is not a lot of secrecy there. So it would actually, in the model I'm painting for you, provide the BOIE to have more of their meetings open, and to have a stand-alone agency that's accountable to the people directly and overseeing our wages, expenses, and related matters.
What are your thoughts on that picture?