Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thanks so much for being back, Ms. O'Brien and Mr. Watters.
I want to set the scene. What we'd like to discuss, as much as we can, with you is what the transition to a more independent structure could look like. Let's leave aside the policy debates the other side seems to want to continue to have on whether we're going to have such a body.
I would note that Mr. Opitz, who is no longer with us, really did mistake the nature of the motion. He said that we're here to study “as an option”, which is language that does not appear in the motion. The motion says that we are to conduct open and public hearings with a view to replacing the Board of Internal Economy, and so that is the spirit in which we'd like to continue the rest of our questioning.
What would it take to transition to a more independent organizational structure, like IPSA, while not necessarily losing all the benefits we see with how the BOIE works? My colleagues are going to ask more specific questions.
I want to put paid to another possible misunderstanding. Ms. Legault, who was here earlier, suggested that we really have to look at the cost. Of course we have to look at the cost, but she cited the £6 million figure that IPSA cited, but at the same time, we were told that amount was either less or roughly the same as what the same functions had cost before. Whether or not that's going to be as easy for us to make it a wash in the future is something to discuss, but it's inaccurate to leave the impression in people's minds that the IPSA structure somehow cost an extra £6 million. It didn't.
Before we start the questions, I want to end by getting back onto the consensus point to see how that might work in an independent structure. The reason this NDP motion is here is that we believe not only with Madam Legault that the Access to Information Act should apply more broadly to the parliamentary administration, but also that we need much fuller disclosure of MP expenses, and we want this to be non-selective. Parties don't get to decide which expenses to disclose; just travel or just hospitality, for example, which is what the Liberals have done. It should be full disclosure, and here's the key: we believe that not only must the rules apply to everybody, and that's why we're trying through this multilateral process, but also that independent third-party verification adds to public confidence and to the accuracy of the information. Accuracy and completeness of information is much easier if the body tasked with it has an arm's-length relationship to those who are being reported upon; us, the MPs.
We have a fairly clear view: we want to see everybody move in this direction. Now, the two other parties keep hammering us to say that we want rules applicable to everybody, and at the same time, the Conservatives haven't done a thing. They keep talking about the fact that they plan to do something—we haven't a clue what it is—and the Liberals have completely botched what they planned. We have the leader of their party putting out one expense, when we know he travels all around the country. Whether he's hiding behind the leader's office, I don't know. The Conservatives have done nothing.
If we don't get to the point where we have everybody’s agreement that we go to a multilateral system with new rules, and that everybody knows what fully disclosed expenses will be necessary, then we're going to have to see if we can come up with our own, better system for ourselves.
Here is my question. Consensus doesn't mean unanimity, correct?