Mr. Chairman, if I may, I hear the member expressing a point of view that is sensitive to public expectations about the House—and presumably the Senate these days as well—but I think one has to look at this, frankly, in terms of what's best for the institution as a public institution and not simply to serve public expectations.
That's what I've tried to do here by suggesting that some greater distance be between the board and the House. Right now the board, in its composition and structure, too closely parallels and mirrors the House; you know, it is the House in another hat. I think if other members had a role there, it might be helpful to give that distance.
But I also suggest that the Auditor General, at the end of each Parliament, look at the spending practice of members, caucuses, House leaders, and in some manner give each Parliament a review that would be of interest to the public.
More directly to the point...and this is hard to express, okay? I'm very jealous—if I may, not being a member of Parliament, still say that—about the democratic or political function of the House of Commons. As I said in my presentation, the House is where our democratic politics play out between elections. You have to be careful that you don't so regulate the House in financial administrative matters—and, as you are suggesting, Mr. Julian, an outside body—that you are in fact creating impediments to our politics being free to exercise itself in a robust fashion.
Politics, as you well know—better than I, certainly—is an unpredictable activity, but it serves the public interest writ large. There is no public interest writ larger, arguably, than the political life of the country. I'd be very nervous of an outside body.
Having said that, there's an intermediate suggestion that you have the board as I'm proposing it—I didn't include it in here because I wasn't sure there would be an opportunity or if it would be a welcome idea—but you have lay members, something that other boards have, as you know. They have a certain number of positions available for persons from the public to sit on the board.
Now, you could arguably have here three public representatives on the board who don't outnumber the number of recognized parties in the House, appointed by the Speaker without consultation with the House leaders, on application from the public. A qualifying condition is that they have at some point served in an elected public office.
I do believe, as someone who once held elected public office, there is no experience like sitting in an office to which you've been elected by the public. That teaches you something that no amount of theory can tell you. I think there's something to be said for all board members being cognizant of that.
I'm not so sure I'd give these public representatives a vote on the board, because I think the responsibility for the House has to remain with its members. They're accountable. But these lay members, if you want to call them that, would have an opportunity to represent the public and speak to board members publicly at public board meetings about those concerns that they see the board ought to address more closely on behalf of the public.