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View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you to our guests for being here to talk about this important legislation. I'm very happy it's included in the budget implementation act. I'm glad we have it here in front of the committee so that we're able to discuss the different aspects of it.
The first question I'd like to ask has to do with the purpose clause. You mentioned it in your opening remarks. I think it would be of interest to all members. I think the terminology that's been used in the purpose clause is terminology that all MPs have been seeking. I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that a bit.
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View Laurie Hawn Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
I want to talk about the purpose clause for a bit. That's been a sticking point, because it was, as you said, omitted for whatever reason when the legislation came into effect in 2006. But in de facto terms, has not every government of every stripe since 1917 tried to live up to that clause, whether written or not? In my view, every government—Liberal, Conservative, it doesn't matter—has tried to do the best they can.
I mean, the clause is nice. If it gives people comfort, that's great; it makes it more clear, more specific. But de facto, have governments not been trying to live up to that forever, basically?
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2015-05-11 15:45
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Thank you for that question.
I can tell you that we have had very robust consultations with our key stakeholders. Since the TPP negotiations were launched, we've had round tables involving over 350 different stakeholders from the economy. We have had one-on-one meetings with over 500 stakeholders during that period of time. I can assure you that those consultations with stakeholders from every sector of our economy inform the positions that we take at the negotiating table.
We will not compromise Canada's ability to secure an optimal outcome for Canadians, in the national interest, by disclosing our negotiating strategy to the other parties at the negotiating table. That's something we will not do. I can assure you that at the end of the day, the standard we have set, as I've mentioned many times in the House, is that we will not sign a trade agreement unless it is in Canada's best interest.
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View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee. I want to thank all of you for the work you do on the health committee. I know many of you are passionate about the issues of health, and I thank you for your commitment to that.
I'm joined by Simon Kennedy, Health Canada's new deputy minister; Krista Outhwaite, our newly appointed president of the Public Health Agency of Canada; and Dr. Gregory Taylor, whom you've met before, Canada's chief public health officer. I know he'll be here for the second half. You might want to ask him about his trip to Guinea and Sierra Leone to visit our troops and others who are working on the front dealing with Ebola. I'm sure he'll have some great things to share with you.
Michel Perron is here on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He's also new. Last time I know you met Dr. Alain Beaudet.
We also have Dr. Bruce Archibald, who's the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I think you've met Bruce as well.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to start by sharing an update on some of the key issues that we've been working on recently. I'll begin by talking about Canada's health care system, the pressures it's facing, and the opportunities for improvement through innovation. I will then highlight some recent activities on priority issues such as family violence and the safety of drugs in food.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada spent around $215 billion on health care just in 2014. Provinces and territories, which are responsible for the delivery of health care to Canadians, are working very hard to ensure their systems continue to meet the needs of Canadians, but with an aging population, chronic disease, and economic uncertainty, the job of financing and delivering quality care is not getting easier.
Our government continues to be a strong partner for the provinces and territories when it comes to record transfer dollars. Since 2006, federal health transfers have increased by almost 70% and are on track to increase from $34 billion this year to more than $40 billion annually by the end of the decade—an all-time high.
This ongoing federal investment in healthcare is providing provinces and territories with the financial predictability and flexibility they need to respond to the priorities and pressures within their jurisdictions.
In addition of course, federal support for health research through the CIHR as well as targeted investments in areas such as mental health, cancer prevention, and patient safety are helping to improve the accessibility and quality of health care for Canadians.
But to build on the record transfers and the targeted investments I just mentioned, we're also taking a number of other measures to improve the health of Canadians and reduce pressure on the health care system. To date we've leveraged over $27 million in private sector investments to advance healthy living partnerships. I'm very pleased with the momentum we've seen across Canada.
Last year we launched the play exchange, in collaboration with Canadian Tire, LIFT Philanthropy Partners, and the CBC, to find the best ideas that would encourage Canadians to live healthier and active lives. We announced the winning idea in January: the Canadian Cancer Society of Quebec and their idea called “trottibus”, which is a walking school bus. This is an innovative program that gives elementary schoolchildren a safe and fun way to get to school while being active. Trottibus is going to receive $1 million in funding from the federal government to launch their great idea across the country.
Other social innovation projects are encouraging all children to get active early in life so that we can make some real headway in terms of preventing chronic diseases, obesity, and other health issues. We're also supporting health care innovation through investments from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In fact our government now is the single-largest contributor to health research in Canada, investing roughly $1 billion every year.
Since its launch in 2011, the strategy for patient-oriented research has been working to bring improvements from the latest research straight to the bedsides of patients. I was pleased to see that budget 2015 provided additional funds so that we can build on this success, including an important partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.
Canadians benefit from a health system that provides access to high-quality care and supports good health outcomes, but we can't afford to be complacent in the face of an aging society, changing technology, and new economic and fiscal realities. That is why we have been committed to supporting innovation that improves the quality and affordability of health care.
As you know, the advisory panel on health care innovation that I launched last June has spent the last 10 months exploring the top areas of innovation in Canada and abroad with the goal of identifying how the federal government can support those ideas that hold the greatest promise. The panel has now met with more than 500 individuals including patients, families, business leaders, economists, and researchers. As we speak, the panel is busy analyzing what they've heard, and I look forward to receiving their final report in June.
I'd also like to talk about another issue. It's one that does not receive the attention that it deserves as a pressing public health concern, and that's family violence. Family violence has undeniable impacts on the health of the women, children, and even men, who are victimized. There are also very significant impacts on our health care and justice systems.
Family violence can lead to chronic pain and disease, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and many other serious and lifelong afflictions for its victims. That's why this past winter I was pleased to announce a federal investment of $100 million over 10 years to help address family violence and support the health of victims of violence. This investment will support health professionals and community organizations in improving the physical and mental health of victims of violence, and help stop intergenerational cycles of violence.
In addition to our efforts to address family violence and support innovation to improve the sustainability of the health care system, we have made significant progress on a number of key drug safety issues. Canadians want and deserve to depend on and trust the care they receive. To that end, I'd like to thank the committee for its thoughtful study of our government's signature patient safety legislation, Vanessa's Law. Building on the consultations that we held with Canadians prior to its introduction, this committee's careful review of Vanessa's Law, including the helpful amendments that were brought forward by MP Young, served to strengthen the bill and will improve the transparency that Canadians expect.
Vanessa's Law, as you know, introduces the most significant improvements to drug safety in Canada in more than 50 years. It allows me, as minister, to recall unsafe drugs and to impose tough new penalties, including jail time and fines up to $5 million per day, instead of what is the current $5,000 a day. It also compels drug companies to do further testing and revise labels in plain language to clearly reflect health risk information, including updates for health warnings for children. It will also enhance surveillance by requiring mandatory adverse drug reaction reporting by health care institutions, and requires new transparency for Health Canada's regulatory decisions about drug approvals.
To ensure the new transparency powers are providing the kind of information that Canadian families and researchers are looking for, we've also just launched further consultations asking about the types of information that are most useful to improve drug safety. Beyond the improvements in Vanessa's Law, we're making great progress and increasing transparency through Health Canada's regulatory transparency and openness framework. In addition to posting summaries of drug safety reviews that patients and medical professionals can use to make informed decisions, we are now also publishing more detailed inspection information on companies and facilities that make drugs. This includes inspection dates, licence status, types of risks observed, and measures that are taken by Health Canada. Patients can also check Health Canada's clinical trials database to determine if a trial they are interested in has met regulatory requirements.
Another priority of mine is tackling the issue of drug abuse and addiction in Canada. There's no question that addiction to dangerous drugs has a devastating and widespread impact on Canadian families and communities. In line with recommendations from this committee, I am pleased that the marketing campaign launched last fall by Health Canada is helping parents talk with their teenagers about the dangers of smoking marijuana and prescription drug abuse. The campaign addresses both of those things, because too many of our young people are abusing drugs that are meant to heal them.
Our government also recognizes that those struggling with drug addictions need help to recover a drug-free life. From a federal perspective, of course, we provide assistance for prevention and treatment projects under our national anti-drug strategy. We've now committed over $44 million to expand the strategy to include prescription drug abuse and are continuing to work with the provinces to improve drug treatment.
I've now met and will continue to meet with physicians, pharmacists, first nations, law enforcement, addictions specialists, medical experts, and of course parents to discuss how we can collectively tackle prescription drug abuse.
Finally, our government continues to make very real investments to strengthen our food safety system. As only the latest example, I recently announced a five-year investment of more than $30 million in the CFIA's new food safety information network. Through this modern network, food safety experts will be better connected, and laboratories will be able to share urgently needed surveillance information and food safety data, using a secure web platform. This will put us in an even better position to protect Canadians from food safety risk by improving our ability to actually anticipate, detect, and then effectively deal with food safety issues. This investment will continue to build on the record levels of funding we've already provided, as well as the improved powers such as tougher penalties, enhanced controls on E. coli, new meat labelling requirements, and improved inspection oversight.
In conclusion, those are just some of the priorities that will be supported through the funding our government has allocated to the Health portfolio. This year's main estimates, notably, include investments for first nations health, for our ongoing contribution to the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the key research and food safety investments that I have already mentioned.
I'll leave it at that. If committee members have any questions, my officials and I would be very pleased to answer them. Thank you.
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View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2015-03-30 16:10
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Good.
The report, if I understand the conclusions, said with respect to the management of this particular file, Industry Canada did a good job in assessing the recovery prospects of the company, found on page 7, paragraph 5.24; that Industry Canada monitored the restructuring assistance, page 11; it monitored the production commitments, page 12; and it has been recovering the funds, page 13.
The critiques, if I understand them, are in the nature of how exhaustive the due diligence was, not that there was due diligence absent. Is that a fair assessment, Mr. Berthelette?
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View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2015-03-30 16:11
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At the time, it said there was no report for the public with respect to the bailout. Is that complete now, Mr. Jennings?
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View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2015-03-30 16:11
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You pointed out there was no “lessons learned” exercise. That is in progress, as I understand it. What is the expected completion date?
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View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2015-03-30 16:11
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Okay.
On the auto innovation fund—which by the way in 2008 saved Ford's Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, that's a good news story there as well—I note that the Auditor General's report says that risk assessments were completed. I think for the first time I've seen one where they said it was perhaps too exhaustive in the due diligence. We'll take that as noted.
The project risk and proponent risk profiles, the Auditor General points out, were not part of the risk assessment framework. Are they now, Mr. Jennings?
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2015-03-12 11:46
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Thank you, Mr. Martin. I appreciate that.
It is clear to me, based on what the clerk said, that that there was some confusion about the invitation. We are very confident in the ability of Mr. Friday, and I'm certain that when he does come before this committee we will all be satisfied that he has conducted and will continue—
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View Greg Kerr Profile
CPC (NS)
View Greg Kerr Profile
2015-03-12 11:48
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Mr. Chair, I know a lot of us have been through a lot of committees and a lot of processes before, and certainly know how to detect the bit of posturing that's going on. That's part of what politics is about, but I understand that if you are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, because obviously a lot of comments are being made without knowing some of the background....
I think what Mr. Byrne was suggesting is to let him know that we'd really like him to appear and that we expect him to appear, and leave the door open for him to respond back that the committee would like to hear what he has to say. I think we all would like to hear what he would say, but to put motive in that sort of way, I think, is just absolutely irresponsible. I'd rather give this individual the chance to explain to us in detail what he sees his position is and what's expected. To condemn him blind, I think, is just absolutely irresponsible.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2015-03-12 11:54
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Yes.
This is getting absolutely ridiculous, to impugn motive without having heard from the interim commissioner. It's absolutely unfortunate and certainly below the office to which the member opposite has been called.
We expect and look forward to hearing from the commissioner, but this has turned into a bit of an unfortunate circumstance. We'll be voting against it, but we look forward to hearing from the commissioner in due course.
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View Greg Kerr Profile
CPC (NS)
View Greg Kerr Profile
2015-03-12 12:02
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Mr. Chair, because we have witnesses, we can get on with it. We could continue the hyperbole for a long time here.
What I suggest we do then, if you want, is to make a motion to reinvite the witness and give the witness a chance to come here and explain, as opposed to condemning him before he's even before us.
If it's in order, I will move a motion to reinvite the witness, and you set the date, as chair, as to when the witness appears.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2015-03-10 16:14
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Minister, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate the fact that you and your officials have made yourselves available to spend this next little while with us.
I was reading a national columnist this last week, and there was an expression of concern about the estimates process and the ability of the average Canadian and possibly of parliamentarians to understand it. Certainly he, as a member of the media, was confused by the estimates process. I think it's important for people watching this and for those who don't fully understand the estimates process that you explain in general terms how Canadians should look at the estimates. Maybe you can also explain some of the things that have been done to help people understand the estimates and some of the recent things that have happened.
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
This is a constant challenge for anyone who is the President of the Treasury Board, to draw the distinction between the estimates process and the budget process. Ultimately they align, but it does take some months for that to occur. Because I'm statutorily required to table the estimates to the House of Commons prior to March 1, and frequently the budget is either around the same time, or in this case just after that, they don't align perfectly at the start of the year but they certainly align perfectly at the end of the year. So parliamentarians have the estimates process and they obviously pass or not. We have the budget, and then we have the public accounts for the previous year, which are a topic of examination and debate by this committee and by the parliamentary process.
Finally, I would say that one of the things I have instituted since being named the President of the Treasury Board in 2011 is to try to get us away from paper-based estimates and public accounts, and toward the more online versions, where through hypertext and other links it will be easier for you and your colleagues to examine each program year by year, each department year by year, and that way you can compare and contrast, rather than going through three sets of books of the past three years that are a metre high.
I think it is working better, and there is certainly more that can be done, but technology is our friend and it's making it easier for the government to be accountable to parliamentarians.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:02
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I can challenge that notion if you like, but the point is, Mr. Chair, we all have the opportunity to hold government to account through many different vehicles. It's up to us, as individual members, to do that. While I totally understand that you do have your strong feelings on things like this, it should be done through the committee process. Therefore, if you'd like to ask the officials questions, you can give it up to the vice-chair, and I'm sure the vice-chair will gladly take the chair so you can fulfill your role and bring accountability in your way.
Thank you.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:03
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It's up to individual members of Parliament to do that, Mr. Chair—
The Chair: Well, as the chair—
Mr. Dan Albas: —and there's still a whole other hour.
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
Chair, in response, I offer up my officials. They can be here—
A voice: As long as you want.
Hon. Tony Clement: —day and night, night and day, to answer any questions you or the committee may have.
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
I have a few other things on my plate, but I can offer other time. If the committee votes to bring me back, I'd be happy to be back.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:30
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Okay.
Just on this whole topic, because criticisms are raised in this place quite often, and sometimes it's good to check in with them, would you say that you're well acquainted with the supply process and the need to check in with parliamentarians throughout?
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:30
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With that in mind, because it was raised earlier that we have only this much time at this committee, I was left with the impression that people at home might think we spend only an hour reviewing these particular things. I know you probably spend much more than just that.
Besides this committee, what other opportunities do individual members of Parliament have to hold the government to account when it comes to its spending, both informal as well as formal methods?
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2015-03-10 17:33
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I just want to clarify. The reports on plans and priorities I think was what you meant to say, not the departmental reports. Is that correct?
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View Terence Young Profile
CPC (ON)
View Terence Young Profile
2015-01-27 17:17
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Thank you.
This committee just completed a study of Vanessa's Law, which is now the law of Canada and is all about transparency and openness with regard to keeping Canadians safe when using prescription drugs. That will empower researchers, doctors, and even patients to get the information they need to keep themselves safe or keep their patients safe. What has the PMRA done to increase transparency and openness to help keep Canadians safe?
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View Gary Schellenberger Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
According to a report by the National Autonomous University of Honduras, between January 2011 and November 2012 police killed 149 civilians, including 18 individuals under the age of 19. The government did not respond to calls by the university to provide information on how many of those killings have been subject to investigations or have resulted in criminal convictions.
Under President Hernández, has there been any increase in the complete lack of police transparency?
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View James Rajotte Profile
CPC (AB)
View James Rajotte Profile
2014-11-03 17:10
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Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Adler.
I'm going to take the next few minutes here, as the chair.
The issue of access to information was raised, responsiveness of various departments. You mentioned that some departments are better than others. Which are the best departments and which are the worst ones?
Voices: Oh, oh!
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View Eve Adams Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
Thank you all for joining us today.
In the recent CMHA article that all of you co-authored, the subject of clinical trials was the main point that I took away, where you suggested that we really needed to improve this legislation regarding clinical trials.
Can you provide a comprehensive overview of what elements you feel are the most important aspects that we amend in this legislation to get that aspect right?
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View Terence Young Profile
CPC (ON)
View Terence Young Profile
2014-06-10 10:01
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Thank you.
I'd like to give my next question to Professor Herder.
Professor, a big issue we have in clinical research is that the drug companies, their game is to start a clinical trial and ask the researcher to sign a contract, essentially a gag order, that if they order the trial to be stopped at any given time they must never talk about it again, that it will never see the light of day. That's because many of their trials will show that their drug is not working better than a placebo or that their new drug is actually harming patients and they want to cover that up.
Your recommendations for transparency, would they address the issue of where a trial is registered and stopped? Are you insisting or asking that even the partial evidence from that trial or the partial clinical data be published as well?
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View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2014-05-29 11:03
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Thank you, and good morning. It's always a pleasure to come and visit this great group of parliamentarians.
I am very pleased to be here today, along with Marc Bosc, the deputy clerk of the House of Commons, and Mark Watters, the chief financial officer.
We're also joined by other members of the House administration's executive management team: Stéphan Aubé, the chief information officer; Richard Denis, the deputy law clerk and parliamentary counsel; Pierre Parent, the chief human resources officer; and Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms.
Today, I will be presenting the House of Commons' main estimates and the supplementary estimates (A) for 2014-2015. I will begin with a presentation on the main estimates and will conclude with information on funding requested in the supplementary estimates (A).
The 2014-15 main estimates total $413,725,137. This represents a decrease of 3.5% compared to the 2013-14 main estimates funding levels, and a 7.2% reduction from the 2012-13 main estimates. For reference purposes, you have received a document outlining the year-over-year changes for the main estimates between 2013-14 and 2014-15.
I'll proceed by providing an overview of each line item, along with four major themes: budgets for members, House officers and presiding officers; House administration; reductions under the structural operating review; and employee benefit plans.
To start, I would like to speak to the budgets for members, House officers, and presiding officers. Even when we exclude the reductions achieved under the strategic and operating review, this portion of our estimates was reduced by over $1.1 million. This figure includes both the statutory increases to the sessional allowance and additional salaries, as well as the statutory reductions to the members of Parliament retiring allowances account, and the retirement compensation arrangements account. The reductions seen as a result of both pension adjustments amount to $1.9 million.
As you may remember, the cost to the House of Commons for contributions to members' pension plans is determined and managed by Treasury Board, based on actuarial calculations.
Let us now look at matters that relate to the Administration of the House of Commons.
First, you will note that the main estimates allocate $1.4 million for increased transparency resulting from changes to the public reporting of members' expenditures.
This funding requirement is further to the announcement made by the Board of Internal Economy in October 2013 that we will move to an enhanced disclosure format, as well as towards quarterly reporting for the Members' Expenditures Report.
Notably, these changes to improve transparency will include the presentation of service contracts as a stand-alone category, separate members' accommodation expenses for members' per diem expenses, and subdivide the hospitality category. Additionally, more information will be made available regarding the use of all special travel points, and this will, as well, be disclosed quarterly.
The first enhanced quarterly members' expenditure report covering the period from April 1 to June 30 will be published by September 30 of this year.
While the funding requirements are not reflected in these main estimates, I do want to mention that the members' expenditure report for the second quarter of fiscal year 2014-15 will be further enhanced to bring House of Commons reporting for travel and hospitality expenses in line with proactive disclosure practices of ministers' offices. Extensive system changes are currently under way and will be reflected in a further report which will be available to the public by December 31, 2014. Increasing transparency has been a priority of the Board of Internal Economy for some time, and the board remains committed to finding ways in which we can continue to improve.
Moving on from disclosure, the main estimates also allocate an additional $190,000 in compensation for House administration employees. This funding is specifically used to cover economic increases for 2014-15 for collective agreements ending after March 31, 2014.
Additionally, the main estimates once again account for temporary funding for two parliamentary conferences: the 40th  Annual Session of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie and the 11th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic region. These two upcoming conferences will be excellent opportunities to showcase Canada, foster parliamentary diplomacy and advance Canadian objectives internationally.
The funding decisions for both of these conferences were taken by the Board of Internal Economy, in keeping with the recommendations by the Joint Interparliamentary Council.
The 40th annual session of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie requires temporary funding of $184,000 for 2014-15. This session will be taking place this July in Ottawa.
Further, the 11th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region requires temporary funding of $132,000 for 2014-15. The event will be held in Whitehorse this October.
There is also a $25,000 increase that is required for pages' remuneration under the House of Commons page program. In December 2010 the board approved a permanent annual increase to the compensation for pages that is equal to the average increases in tuition fees at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. I am certain we can all agree that we want to continue to recruit top young Canadians for the page program. By linking their pay to their tuition rates, we ensure that they remain fairly compensated for their valuable work. For fiscal year 2014-15 the annual compensation for each page increased by $536 to $13,584.
Finally, you will note that the main estimates reflect reductions for two instances of temporary funding: the online recruitment tool and asset management. This combined funding of $669,000 is no longer required.
Let us now turn to the reductions that are being achieved as a result of the House of Commons strategic and operating review. As you know, on March 12, 2012, the Board of Internal Economy approved a savings and reduction strategy that is seeing spending for the House of Commons decrease by $30.3 million, or 6.9% of the overall budget.
For the 2014-15 main estimates, the reductions amount to $13.5 million and are being achieved through a number of key initiatives that I will cover briefly.
Notably, there are reductions to House officers' office budgets in keeping with the decreases per year for the past two fiscal years. These amount to savings of $600,000.
Additionally, the reductions include significant savings that have been achieved by the increased use of flight passes and low-fare economy travel. As you well know, regular travel is a necessity for members, and it is an area in which we have been able to collectively achieve substantial savings.
The constituency office furniture and equipment improvement fund will be eliminated in 2014-15, resulting in savings of more than $1.5 million. This fund was used to supplement existing stocks of equipment and furniture for members' constituency offices. Going forward, members will make use of their own office budgets should they wish to supplement or improve their office furnishings.
Furthermore, savings of $3.6 million are being achieved through the reduction of personnel-related costs. Since January 2014, employees of members, House officers, and research offices are being granted vacation leave in lieu of automatic lump-sum vacation payments. This change brings our practices in line with the standard practices used by nearly all public and private sector employers.
For 2014-2015, there are further reductions to the Liaison Committee funding envelope. These reductions are in line with measures taken by members of parliamentary committees, as they too continue their ongoing efforts to limit spending and find efficiencies.
Additionally, further cost savings and reductions for the House of Commons Administration are being achieved through a combination of budget reductions, administrative operational efficiencies, attrition and a limited number of workforce adjustment situations.
The House Administration management team has put forth great efforts to limit the impact on its employees, and where there have been impacts, a work force adjustment policy is in place to facilitate employment continuity for indeterminate employees.
The final item that is included in the 2014-15 main estimates is a reduction of $1.6 million to employee benefit plans. This is a non-discretionary statutory expense that, in accordance with Treasury Board benefit rates, has decreased from 17.4% of salaries to 16.5% of salaries.
This concludes our overview of the House of Commons main estimates for 2014-15.
I would now like to move on to the House of Commons request of $5,048,736 in supplementary estimates (A). This request included funding for three items.
The first item, which was previously approved by the board, is for $81,000 to fund a 1% economic increase for House administration senior managers as of April 1, 2013. This economic increase is in line with the 1% increase approved by the Treasury Board for the executive group throughout the federal public service.
The second item, for $1.2 million, is for a 2014-15 annual adjustment of members' sessional allowance and additional salaries. This funding is statutory in nature and is based on an index published by Employment and Social Development Canada.
The final item included in the supplementary estimates is funding of $3.8 million required for the ongoing yearly maintenance and life cycle replacement costs for information technology assets. As established in the Long-Term Vision and Plan, there is a need to equip all buildings in the parliamentary precinct with information technology and related infrastructure required for access to information services in order to ensure the effective functioning of Parliament.
The board approved this funding on a five-year basis starting in 2014-2015, and the House Administration must return to the board on a yearly basis to refresh the five-year estimates via the main estimates process.
I am confident you will agree that the 2014-15 main estimates and supplementary estimates (A) reflect both the Board of Internal Economy's and the House of Commons' commitment to continued cost containment. We have been able to find efficiencies and make reductions by carefully analyzing our expenditures. While I am pleased that the main estimates I discussed here today represent a 7.2% reduction over those I presented two years ago, I assure you that we will continue to make every effort to find further efficiencies while providing high-quality support to parliamentarians.
At this time we would all be happy to answer your questions.
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View Brad Butt Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Welcome, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to start by congratulating you, your executive team, and really all of the MPs in the House for the cost savings and expenditure reductions that have been achieved. I think it has been a real team effort. I think we're setting the benchmark and setting the trend for the reality of the world and certainly Canada today that you live within your means, and that expenditures are reasonable and according to appropriate rules and within appropriate levels. I want to congratulate everyone involved in that. It's great to see a 7.2% reduction over the past two years, so kudos to all of you for that great work.
I would like to talk about the $1.4 million that you are requesting with respect to the new MP disclosure system. Can you give us more of a breakdown of the $1.4 million? Is it software-related or capital-related? Is it for employees who need to be hired to administer the new enhanced disclosure system? I think all MPs are looking forward to this, because it will be a uniform system across the board for every MP disclosing expenditures in a similar way throughout. I think it's a great initiative. I'd just like a better breakdown of the $1.4 million, please.
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View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2014-05-29 11:17
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Perhaps I could ask Mark to answer regarding some of the specifics in terms of the percentages, but I can tell you that most of it will be going to staff, to bringing on employees to manage all of the transactions.
One of the points that came up during the discussion on this was that members of Parliament and their staff travel a great deal more than even ministers and staff of ministerial offices and other sectors of the public service do, so tracking all of that will require additional human resources. There will also be some one-time software costs and licensing types of expenditures for the computer aspects of disclosure.
I don't know if we have a more detailed breakdown with regard to percentage.
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2014-05-15 10:30
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Okay. I thank you.
The another area that we see frequently, certainly in my home province of Ontario, is that money in health care has not necessarily gone to health care. The federal government does not have controls over the province in the administration of delivery of its health care system. When we look at what we could do with innovation and research with money, how do we better work together with our provinces on the delivery, which is their responsibility? How do we better work with them to try and provide some direction or guidance?
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View Gordon O'Connor Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
The Government of Canada has identified 14 areas for data that they're supposed to produce, and I think when we talk about government, I believe we're talking about the bureaucracies because they're the big monsters out there that make the data. I'm a bit skeptical. For instance, one of the areas chosen is government accountability in democracy. I can't imagine any government of any stripe is going to pour data out on that, but maybe they will.
We're talking about the government because I don't think private industry provides much information in the sense that they're commercial. My problem with all this data is what compulsion can we give to a government to make them produce data? Because as I said, there are 14 areas here: education, justice, energy...it goes on and on. Governments are only going to provide the data they want to provide.
I'll ask each of you in turn to answer the question. I'll start with David.
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View Jay Aspin Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jay Aspin Profile
2014-04-01 10:20
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Very good, and would you see the release of all this data as a step towards transparency and openness? How would you characterize it?
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View Stephen Woodworth Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Sachs for attending today. It's always extremely interesting. I want to again commend you on the necessary and good-serving function you provide in allowing government to continuously update its processes.
I want to begin with some things that are probably obvious to all of us sitting at this table, but may not be so obvious to those who sit at home. That is with the raison d'être of your department, your agency. As I read it, there are a couple of important functions that your audits and studies provide. One of them is to provide objective information, advice, and assurance to Parliament, territorial legislatures, governments, and Canadians.
Do you consider that as the prime function of your agency?
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View Stephen Woodworth Profile
CPC (ON)
Also, as I understand it, your office assists parliamentarians and territorial legislatures in their work regarding the authorization and oversight of government spending and operations. This too is a very important function and reason for your department.
Is that correct?
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you for the question. It is an important one for parliamentarians and for Canadians as well.
The responsibility for oversight is shared. It is obviously part of Treasury Board's responsibility in its meetings and activities to provide oversight, but it's also parliamentarians who have to take up the responsibility of oversight as well. We've done a number of things to improve what we call expenditure management to enhance the tools that are available to explain, dig into, and to develop and implement the government's spending plans.
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View Shelly Glover Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good day to my fellow members. Thank you for having me here for the first time in my role as Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. I remember my visits to this committee when I was parliamentary secretary. My greetings to Mr. Godin who was a member of the committee at that time and is one still. All the other members have changed.
So, let us begin.
I would like to recognize this committee's achievements. Your study on immersion programs across the country is an indication of your commitment to promoting our national languages. I was, however, a little disappointed that I did not receive an invitation to appear, especially given the fact that, as the product of an immersion program myself, I have often expressed my concerns regarding the changes that have been made to programs since I was in school.
That said, the vitality of our national languages is important to me both as the minister and as a member of the Franco-Manitoban community. I am honoured to work in both Saint-Boniface and Ottawa toward the advancement of French and English, as well as official language communities.
As you know, in the summer of 2012, we undertook official language cross-Canada consultations. Canadians told us that we have made significant progress in key areas since 2008. However, they also mentioned that there was still work to be done to unleash the full potential of our linguistic duality and contribute even more effectively to developing our minority communities.
In its report on the previous Roadmap, your committee shared the concerns expressed by the general public and representatives of organizations in francophone and anglophone minority communities. In the budget tabled on March 21, 2013, our government committed to measures reiterating support for our national languages and showcasing their importance for our identity. A week later, we rolled out the Roadmap for Canada's Official Languages 2013-2018.
This new strategy for official languages translates into $1.1 billion invested over five years in education, immigration, and communities. I'm pleased to confirm that all of the road map's initiatives are now funded on a permanent basis. This is important as only three-quarters of the funding in the previous road map took the form of ongoing support. Road map 2013 to 2018 provides clear testimony of our continuing commitment to official languages in this country.
As I explained in the 2011-2012 Annual Report on Official Languages that I tabled in Parliament last November, Canadian Heritage oversees two main programs supporting official languages. One aims to develop minority official language communities. The other's objective is to promote French and English in Canadian society.
Our programs support the offer of minority-language services at the provincial and territorial level in sectors such as education, justice, culture and health. Our actions have tangible results. For example, working closely with the provinces and territories, we are supporting minority-language education. Every morning across our country, more than 240,000 students in minority communities go to school in their own language.
We support second-language learning. A total of 2.4 million young people are learning French or English as a second language in Canada, more than 340,000 of them in immersion classes. Our young people are among our greatest resources. That is why I am pleased that we were able to offer bursaries to 7,800 students in 2011-2012 that enable them to improve their skills in their second national language. We also created some 700 summer or short-term jobs for bilingual young Canadians. These jobs allow them to practice their knowledge of French and English.
The annual report also provides details about my role in coordinating official languages support within federal institutions. In 2011-12, Canadian Heritage adopted a broader approach to coordination to make the accounting process uniform among all institutions. For three years we've been using this approach, adopted jointly with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
Some 170 federal institutions now have the opportunity to showcase their achievements, which provides Canadians with a complete picture of national efforts to promote French and English.
In the interest of efficiency, we also launched a review in 2013 of our support for organizations in official language communities. Through this review, we want to ensure that our measures effectively meet the needs of communities, particularly in key areas such as youth and culture. This review is being carried out in consultation with community organizations. Our investment levels remain unchanged. I simply want to ensure that we are achieving the best possible results.
The Commissioner of Official Languages has also acknowledged these results. In his 2012-2013 Annual Report, he applauded the efforts to date of Canadian Heritage and other federal institutions with regard to respect for official languages. We will be continuing along this path. We welcome the Commissioner's report and the recommendations in it. They will be used to inform our government's actions. I want to mention here that, last year, our government renewed the appointment of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Graham Fraser, for three years. This reappointment was applauded by numerous key stakeholders in official languages. I also want to note that I agree with the Commissioner when it comes to the importance of promoting our linguistic duality as part of large-scale events.
Let's talk about celebrations.
We are currently conducting online consultations and holding roundtables across the country to learn more about how Canadians want to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017. The consultations taking place are mindful of our commitment to promote our linguistic duality as part of the celebrations.
The Commissioner also mentioned in his report that he will be monitoring the implementation of the protocol for agreements for minority language education and second language instruction. I am very pleased that we recently renewed our co-operation with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. The protocol for agreements that we signed with the council provides for more than $1.3 billion in federal investment over five years to support the provincial and territorial governments in the area of official languages in teaching.
we have taken concrete action to promote respect for national languages. We will continue our efforts in this regard, because our action generates results for Canadians and benefits for minority communities.
Thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer your questions.
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View Shelly Glover Profile
CPC (MB)
I don't know of any.
The cultural program Juste pour rire has a budget of about $1 million. Another event we support is Montréal en lumière. I was there last week. It attracts thousands of people. Funding for the festival comes from our department and the roadmap, obviously, as well as the Canada Council for the Arts. Thus, we support opportunities that enable people to take part in activities in the minority language, and that applies not just to English in Quebec but also to French in the rest of the country. Both the QCGN and ELAN receive funding as well.
I repeat, Canada is the only G7 nation that did not make cuts in the area of official languages, and we should be proud of that.
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View Shelly Glover Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you so much for your question.
In fact, that was the second matter I discussed with the Commissioner of Official Languages when we met just before his annual report was published. He said in his report that the government cut an envelope of about $30 million that was intended for accountability and the coordination of departments, but that is false.
As Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, I am responsible for a large part of the programs' management. In the previous roadmap, money was set aside for governance and coordination. However, during the consultations we held across the country in 2012 regarding the next roadmap, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne asked us to remove that envelope from the roadmap because francophone and Acadian communities were not directly benefiting from that money.
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View Shelly Glover Profile
CPC (MB)
Yes. The audit report should be published soon.
However, I want to point out that this was a mistake made by the Commissioner of Official Languages. He admitted his error, but his annual report had already been published.
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View Bernard Trottier Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
Madam Charette, you use the terms “open data” and “open government”. I can see examples where open data would have little to do with open government, for example, publishing weather data isn't really about open government. So could you describe the relationship between these two concepts, which in fact are actually two different initiatives even within the Government of Canada, around open government and open data.
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View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
I'd also like to thank our witness tonight. I'm also from British Columbia. I'm the member of Parliament for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, so certainly familiar with the work that you've done and want to thank you for the tremendous work that you've done.
From your perspective, because you have a very unique opportunity to look at the intersection of federal government responsibilities, provincial government responsibilities, and first nations responsibilities, can you talk about some of those challenges and barriers in terms of that particular aspect of the work you do?
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View Ted Opitz Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ted Opitz Profile
2013-12-10 12:15
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First of all, thank you all for appearing today. I'm on the defence committee normally, and Mr. Kirkland visited us there not that long ago. In fact, the defence committee is conducting a study on the care of the ill and injured. We were actually in Petawawa last Thursday, touring the JPSU and some of the facilities there. And I was in Shilo a couple of month ago for a different event, but took the opportunity while I was there to look at some of the issues that are going on in Shilo.
That just illustrates that all of us in the House are very interested in making sure that this is right by veterans, and we're working very hard to do that.
To that end, sir, Minister Fantino announced that he would invite the veterans to the committee here for you to be able to air your concerns to Parliament, which you're doing today, which is fantastic. But at that time, did you expect the minister to ask us to bring forward recommendations on new language to be added to the new Veterans Charter capturing the duty, the obligation, and the commitment of the Government of Canada towards Canadian veterans?
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View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blaine Calkins Profile
2013-11-28 9:37
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here today. It's quite enlightening to hear what the government has planned going forward with the legislative agenda. I know that my colleagues and I are looking forward to having that legislation come to this committee.
Minister, you've been here a little longer than I have been here, and I have been here for quite a while now. I'm looking at the estimates—we go through this exercise quite frequently—and I notice that there are changes made in the preparation of the main and supplementary estimates. Basically it looks as if there's more information available. It's provided in a more usable format, and it's easier to read.
I'll give you an example. In both the published books and the online tables, various departments and agencies are presented alphabetically according to the legal name of the department or agency. It makes it easier to find the organizations, and so on.
I was wondering if you could enlighten us as parliamentarians here at the table on the importance of making these estimates not only more understandable for the general public, but also for the work that we do here as parliamentarians. I think this is an ongoing theme of openness and transparency that we've established here through various other mechanisms as well. Could you explain how this fits into that context?
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View Peter MacKay Profile
CPC (NS)
View Peter MacKay Profile
2013-11-28 9:38
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Sure. Thank you very much, Mr. Calkins.
I know that you have been very diligent in your committee work as well as in calling upon our own government to pursue this effort of being accountable, being open and transparent in the finances of every department.
That's what this main estimates and supplementary estimates process is all about. Greater accountability has been the cornerstone of our government, greater ability to translate that to the public in a more understandable way. We're not all accountants. We're not all perhaps as well versed with finances as we should be. Certainly as we approach tax time, this becomes more and more evident in my own household. Having more information presented in a way that the public can digest, that they can understand the line items and what they're connected to....
We were speaking earlier about programming and how that money is spent. That's true across government. People need to see the direct correlation between how money is spent and what results are achieved as a result.
As members of this committee know, this estimates process is really all about that direct accountability. Laying it out in the format as you see before you in clearer and more understandable terms is what we've sought to achieve. I appreciate your having noticed that and pointing it out. It is something that I believe all departments are working very diligently to continue to achieve.
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View Joe Oliver Profile
CPC (ON)
First of all, let me comment on your comment about ministerial responsibility. And I don't really need a lecture on that, I have to tell you.
I must say, this implication that integrity is in play here I utterly reject. There is no suggestion that anyone in my department or I have ever violated integrity.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2013-11-27 15:43
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the Auditor General for being here today along with his staff. Obviously, it is a very important function to make sure that Canadians are getting value for money. I certainly look forward to working with you during my time on this committee.
I'd like to start with chapter 1 of your report. Specifically, I want to understand not just the recommendations, but also the problems that are at hand.
First of all, it's my understanding that the Treasury Board policy on internal control was implemented back in 2009. To me, it sounds as if the purpose was to shift the department's focus from audited financial statements to mandatory annual public disclosure of their risk-based assessment of controls over financial reporting and their planned improvements. It's moving from that. It sounds to me as if they're moving from just keeping the numbers, tracking the numbers, to keeping an eye on other priorities such as inventories, liabilities, etc.
Could you explain a little bit more what that shift is?
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2013-11-27 15:45
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Thank you for that.
Your report in paragraph 1.7 states:
While the departments had made some progress toward completing their annual risk-based assessments, none of the departments had fully assessed their internal controls for financial reporting.
I'm bearing in mind that this particular committee takes a non-partisan approach. We're not about the policy per se; we're about value for money. I was disappointed to hear that there was an illusion that none of the seven departments had made improvements, but it sounds to me as if two particular departments made some significant progress. Is that accurate?
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2013-11-27 15:46
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So assertions in this chapter stating that the departments do not have controls over spending are not necessarily accurate. What we're talking about is transitioning to a higher level of accuracy and control from a system where they only monitored through statements. I also believe that it has to do with accountability, as in the Comptroller General's overall position in helping guide departments to comply with the policy.
I think that's another issue you've taken up with the departments. Is that correct?
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2013-11-27 15:47
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Because the policy itself didn't actually set deadlines, is it a fair characterization to say that your office, the Office of the Auditor General, and the Comptroller General's office disagreed with the notion that the Comptroller General, as part of the central agency oversight, would have more of an active role in trying to bring those departments into compliance? Is that correct?
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View John Carmichael Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Carmichael Profile
2013-11-27 17:14
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Thank you.
I don't want to put words in your mouth, so you can stop me at any point. You concluded that the CRA was diligent in its approach with the Liechtenstein lists and bank procedures. In your conclusion, paragraph 9.46, you state:
We concluded that overall, the Canada Revenue Agency adequately conducted compliance actions for those named on the Liechtenstein list. It followed its own procedures to determine which files to audit and how to conduct those audits. Agreements allowed the Agency to learn about the structure of these investments, which was in line with the project goals.
Previously, in paragraph 9.36, you go on.... This is what I wanted to ask you. Based on your review of the Liechtenstein project, do you feel the measures that were introduced in economic action plan 2013 will meet the objective of ensuring that we have greater scrutiny in the future of these types of situations?
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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
View James Bezan Profile
2013-11-26 17:03
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, through you I want to welcome our witnesses and thank them for their testimony today.
To both our witnesses, Mr. Wiebe and Mr. Fraser, under our Westminster style of Parliament and governance system, do you guys believe in the supremacy of Parliament in drafting legislation?
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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
View James Bezan Profile
2013-11-26 17:04
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And under international conventions such as what we're discussing here today, it takes the Canadian Parliament to actually bring into force the convention under Canadian law through a bill in the House, correct?
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View James Rajotte Profile
CPC (AB)
View James Rajotte Profile
2013-11-25 20:28
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Okay.
I'm going to take the final round here, as the chair.
I just want to clarify the process. We are discussing the overall bill, but this panel is largely focused on part 3 of the bill, division 1, which discusses employment insurance, EI hiring credit, EI premium rate, EI fishing regulations. All the questions with respect to EI are completely germane to this division of the bill.
I want to address a larger part of the process. The full briefing given by the Department of Finance is now online, thanks to this committee's work. We're one of the committees that does everything online. We're a very open committee. You can in fact go to our website and see every single study or every single witness who has ever presented on any pre-budget thing.
In regard to this bill: part 1, measures related to income tax; part 2, the Excise Tax Act; part 3, you have employment insurance, financial institutions—two sections on that. It's true, you have the Canada Labour Code, the reorganization of certain crown corporations, the Financial Administration Act, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act.
But I'd like to take it back to the process. This is the second Budget Implementation Act. The government presents the budget in February or March of each year, following up with one act in the spring and one act in the fall. But the start of this process is actually the pre-budget consultations at this committee.
Ms. Yalnizyan, I'm going to ask you the questions I ask my political opponents. We get submissions on every single topic at this committee every summer and fall. So if we don't want sections on environment or labour in the budget bills, and that's in the budget, do we as a finance committee say no to people who want to present on the environment, on labour, on immigration?
We take submissions at the pre-budget consultations on everything. We accept submissions on everything. The budget is the largest document each year and the budget act is to implement that. So if we're not going to allow it at the Budget Implementation Act process, we should probably cut it out of the pre-budget consultations. I'll tell you, if I did that as the chair, I wouldn't be a very popular person in this country.
Can you respond to that?
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View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Good morning to everyone.
We're here with the order of reference of Monday, October 21, on the review of the Board of Internal Economy.
Welcome to all today.
Madam Legault, it's great to have you here with us again. We're going to let you make an opening statement, and then we'll ask you questions.
Please go ahead.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Legault, for being here.
Thank you, Madam Bélanger, for being here as well.
As you know, the real purpose of this committee is to determine whether or not the Board of Internal Economy should be replaced with an outside independent agency. You may have some comments on that, but I understand from your opening statement that you really want to concentrate your comments on access to information and how it applies both to Parliament and, I assume, to individual members of Parliament as well.
You speak of proactive disclosure and the need for that. As I'm sure you are aware, two of the three recognized parties in Parliament, the Liberal and the Conservative parties, have undertaken to proactively post hospitality and travel expenses from their members of Parliament. The NDP has refused so far to do so. I don't know why, but I'm sure they will have some explaining to do about that.
Specifically, I want to get into how members could or should post their expenses online because there is always going to have to be that balance between access to information and privacy concerns. We have heard, at least in a written submission from the Privacy Commissioner, a cautioning to members about some of the infringements on privacy when posting some of the information of their expenses online. So that's where I'd like to ask you how you see that balance should be and perhaps could be affected.
I'll give you, perhaps for a point of reference and context, a specific example, because it was mentioned in the Privacy Commissioner's written submission. If there were, say, a group of constituents who came to Ottawa to meet with a member of Parliament, and the member of Parliament then subsequently took them out for dinner and posted that expense online, what level of detail do you believe should be on that web posting?
The Privacy Commissioner is cautioning us about naming names. The commissioner suggests perhaps the affiliation or the organization that the constituent or the individual represents rather than the name. But if constituents are coming down on a personal visitation as opposed to a corporate or organizational visitation, would it be sufficient, then, in your estimation, for a member to post that hospitality line as “dinner with constituent” or “dinner with stakeholders”, and the amount? Or do you think there needs to be more information than that? If you do, how does that balance off against the concerns that the Privacy Commissioner has?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
Before I get into a couple of questions, Madame Legault, again I want to correct the record. My colleague Mr. Julian has a habit of introducing revisionist history in this committee. He mentioned earlier that this committee has a mandate to replace the Board of Internal Economy. It most certainly does not. We are conducting studies to determine whether or not there could be an independent oversight review body, but certainly there is no mandate for this committee to do so.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Julian. I'm sure you'll have your opportunity in a moment.
I have a couple of questions. You've talked about access to information in institutions such as the Speaker's office, the Library of Parliament, and the like, saying that there should be more information disclosed so that ordinary Canadians.... Would that extend to officers of Parliament—to your own office, as an example?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
My question is, on your website do you have proactive disclosure of everything your office spends its money on?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Would the correct course of action be, or would it be something that could correct what you consider to be a failure in access to information—an ambit of access to information—if the rules and the bylaws of the Board of Internal Economy were changed? I believe right now, if I'm hearing your correctly, that the biggest reason you feel there is a bit of a failure lies not in the fact that they're not complying, but that the rules and bylaws perhaps are too restrictive in terms of access to information.
Would that be a correct characterization on my behalf? You said you examined the rules and the bylaws before you came here. If they were altered somewhat to increase transparency in your view, would that be a proper route to take?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Then perhaps for the benefit of members of this committee, you could, within about a minute, talk about the access to information requirements that you think the Board of Internal Economy should be subject to. If you can deal with some specifics, I think that would be more helpful than the generalities.
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-21 11:36
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Thank you, Chair.
Madam Legault, I've heard you say $500 million more than once. I suspect that $500 million includes the salaries of members of Parliament and senators, many things that are very, very public. I don't know where else that number would come from. The vast majority of that $500 million is quite available, I do believe.
But I have looked at your website and I can't find any disclosure. Would somebody have to use access to information to obtain the information for your department, or is it available to the public online?
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-21 11:37
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Okay. I couldn't find it here, so maybe it's my lack of ability on the computer.
I want to be sure that what we're talking about in this committee is proactive disclosure. I had the feeling that what you're talking about is access to information by your office, by requests that would ultimately go through that process.
Are we talking two different things or are we talking the same thing?
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-21 11:38
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Okay, I appreciate that.
If Parliament took your advice and brought all of Parliament into that realm of disclosure in the privacy of information, how many more staff members would you calculate it would take for your department to be able to handle whatever the increase would be in demand?
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View Ted Opitz Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ted Opitz Profile
2013-11-21 11:48
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I do need to correct something that the members opposite have said. “With a view to” often means to consider as an option. This is a study to reflect on the potential need to replace or make changes to, and that means “with a view to”. It doesn't categorically mean “this will happen”. You can't situate the estimate, meaning “predetermine an outcome”, before we arrive at that.
Additionally, my friends opposite are not transparent. As my friend from the Liberal Party pointed out, they refuse to be transparent, and in fact, Mr. Julian only has the most basic of first-year expenses from this Parliament on his website. To me, this doesn't appear particularly transparent, open, or accountable for anybody who potentially wants to lead this country. We'd end up going from having what we built as the greatest economy in the G-7 to having the NDP GPS drive us off the cliff. That's something I find very disturbing.
Madam, I'm having some concerns because I think what you're proposing, in many respects, is layers and layers of additional, burdensome administration. There is a lot going on in the House already. There is a lot of accountability. We are the government that put in the Federal Accountability Act in the first place to be able to accommodate this. Our side and the Liberal Party have both agreed to proactively disclose, and you have to give credit to parliamentarians for willingly wanting to disclose the details of our expenses.
In fact, when you do look at something to replace or to change, Mr. Sills from IPSA said himself that you really have to determine if there's a problem big enough to prompt a change. That is something we're also determining, and I'm not sure I see a problem big enough to do that.
Having said that, we've also had two former Speakers and the Clerk here and all said that the Board of Internal Economy is working well and has the appropriate level of disclosure and that things are announced and produced in the House for disclosure to the public, and all of these experts, these former Speakers, all of these people who have spent decades doing this and working intimately with the Board of Internal Economy have said this to us over the last couple of weeks.
Why are they wrong and you right?
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View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Julian. When you're made chair, you can make these decisions. I'm growing a little tired of your questioning things I do.
Thank you very much for coming today and having fun with us.
We will suspend for a minute while we bring in our other witnesses.
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View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
I call us back into session.
We have a new panel of guests here, but they're an old panel.
Madam O'Brien and Mr. Watters, thank you for coming back. We had some questions left from the last time you were here and have some new ones in the interim. We will take an opening statement from you, as short as you can make it, and we will try to get through a full round.
Committee, I'll pre-warn you that we're going to try to get to some committee business at the end for some direction on the report. We'd like to end this session a little bit before the top of the hour.
Madam O'Brien.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I have one more point about clarification, if I may, Madam O'Brien.
In the spirit of revisionist history that I keep referring to, my friend Mr. Julian has stated, on a number of occasions now, that there's a movement toward voting as opposed to consensus at the Board of Internal Economy. We've heard that claim refuted by both former speakers.
You yourself spoke of that consensus when you first appeared before us, but now, since we are on television and Mr. Julian seems concerned with the people who are watching, so that they get the right information, could you please remind the committee of how the board traditionally works in terms of reaching decisions? Is it through consensus primarily, or is there a movement toward voting and having a decision based on that?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you for that clarification.
I want to now, with the time we have left, delve a little deeper into your comments about the Auditor General's audit of the Board of Internal Economy. You said there were eight outstanding recommendations, which you all agreed upon, five of them mitigated, three still outstanding, I assume.
More on a, say, overarching view of things, in the report was there any suggestion either through direct recommendations or inference that the board was not fulfilling its duty and perhaps would be better served by having a replacement, independent, outside agency conducting the affairs that now are conducted by the Board of Internal Economy? I ask this because I can only assume that part of the audit was to examine your overall performance, and normally when audits are completed there are notes from the auditor.
So was there any indication, in your estimation, that the Auditor General was unhappy to the point where the BOIE should in fact be considered for replacement?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Then I suppose—and I asked this question of the Information Commissioner—if you were complying with and following all of the rules and the bylaws as set out, then if there were any need to change the way in which you operate, it would start with looking at the rules and bylaws and perhaps expanding them, changing them, or amending them to some degree.
Would that be correct?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Good.
If you have been following the discussion, you probably have seen this comment in the blues or the transcripts. Mr. Sills from IPSA spent a great deal of time with us talking about the need for IPSA and how IPSA operates.
I noted with interest that many of the operating practices of IPSA are similar, or seem to be similar, to those of the Board of Internal Economy. But the need for IPSA to be formed was surrounding, of course, the expense scandal in the U.K., and from my view, our rules and the bylaws would make it almost impossible for the same type of expense abuse to occur here.
But at the very end—this is the point I want to get your opinion on, and I understand it's tough to make an objective opinion when you're in a highly subjective situation, but nonetheless—Mr. Sills said his advice to us would be that we as a committee would have to determine whether or not there was a problem large enough for a need, then, to replace the Board of Internal Economy. I personally haven't seen, over the course of my nine years here, any problems large enough to match the extent Mr. Sills referred to as the reason IPSA was formed.
Can you comment on whether or not, in your experience, there have been problems to the degree we saw in the U.K. with members' expenses or anything on the financial side of things in the House?
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-21 12:25
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Thank you, Chair.
I just have to clear up one thing. I keep hearing about all these people who are looking for the information.
To be perfectly honest, I haven't got anybody at home, when I go to Tim Hortons, who wants to know all this information. I assume that maybe my riding is different, and they understand the accuracy of the reports. They understand that Mr. Watters and his folks are looking for receipts.
My understanding is that there's no payment without a receipt. I think that's exactly what got them into trouble in England, where they could submit for £250 every day without receipts. That's $400 a day to supplement your income with no receipts. In Canada that doesn't happen. We have the rules, and you're ensuring that we follow those rules. I mean, this is a whole different situation.
I think I heard somebody suggest verifying the accuracy of the information. Mr. Watters, is there any way that we could tell anybody any clearer that the accuracy of the information depends on the receipts that are received?
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-21 12:28
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Thank you.
My good friend Mr. Scott was talking about the issue of consensus. If you don't have consensus there is only one other way to resolve it. My understanding would be that you would have a vote. You're still not going to have 100% support in that regard. It seems to me that consensus, the way it operates today, is probably the best solution. It's not in a partisan sense. There are no cameras, as we have here today, so you'll end up with consensus.
Do you see any way other than those two options—votes or consensus?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thanks very much.
Not to belabour a point, but again I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree with the position the NDP has, that this committee has been mandated to find a way to replace the BOIE. I don't believe that to be true. I believe we have to examine whether or not there's a need to replace the BOIE. At this point in time I'm not sure if there is. I've always been of the view that, if it ain't broken, don't fix it or don't even try to.
I go back to a number of words of caution we've heard from previous witnesses. Mr. Sills, who of course was a member of IPSA, cautioned us that in effect we should not even try to replace something unless there's a need to, unless there's a problem that exists. I haven't yet been able to identify any problems large enough that would require a replacement of the BOIE.
But I also go back to something, and I think I'd like to get a comment on this. Let's assume for a moment we determined there should be a different body constructed, an independent oversight body. One of the things Speaker Fraser cautioned us on was the fact that—and I'm sort of trying to put it in my own words I suppose—there would be almost a loss of corporate memory. In other words, one of the things that the membership of the Clerk and the chief financial officer brings to the BOIE is that knowledge of the institution. What Speaker Fraser was asking is what role the Speaker would have and what problems might occur by having members who don't have the knowledge of the institution itself when trying to determine, as examples, spending allocations on maybe a renovation of the West Block, or whether or not there was a need to enhance or beef up security services, or anything of that nature.
Starting with you Madam O'Brien, I'd like to get commentary from both of you on whether or not you feel that, if we go to independent oversight, we might be in a problem area in terms of lack of knowledge of the institution itself. Corporate memory is, I guess, the term I use.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2013-11-21 12:47
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's good to have you both back.
As you know, I come from Alberta, and we have a saying, “All hat and no cattle”. That is a saying that I think could very aptly apply to the NDP when it comes to transparency—“All talk, no action”. Certainly we're hearing all this talk today about things on their website. Well, it's disclosure that of course Parliament provides. On Mr. Julian's website, for example, it's buried way down at the bottom. When you look at the actions we're taking and the Liberals are taking, there's certainly proactive disclosure. I just wanted to point that out, that there is some level of transparency that comes with that, in terms of disclosing your travel and hospitality on a line-by-line basis. Hopefully, we'll bring them into that at some point. They seem quite reluctant for some reason.
I want to continue my questioning in relation to expenses. My questions will be mainly for you, Mr. Watters, but, Ms. O'Brien, if there's something you feel you can add, please do.
Mr. Julian had a question about a new independent agency, something like an IPSA, which, as we heard from the IPSA officials themselves, actually works quite a bit like the Board of Internal Economy that currently exists. I believe 21 employees are responsible for adjudicating the claims put in by members of Parliament. You indicated that essentially, if something like that were created, those individuals would just have to move over and basically replicate what they do now under a different organization.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2013-11-21 12:49
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I take it from that comment that you essentially feel that what's being done now is quite sufficient, in terms of combing through the expense claims that are put in, that you feel they're being adjudicated in a fulsome way and that the process is quite sufficient as it exists now.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2013-11-21 12:50
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The bottom line has to do with the kinds of things we've seen with the four senators who have had a lot of publicity recently based on some of the inappropriate expense claims that were made. IPSA was created in the U.K. as a result of some significant concerns that arose with some of the expenses being claimed by members there. I would assume you would feel that with the process we have, there's really no way we could see.... I know there are no guarantees in life, but there's really no way we could see, given the magnitude of expenses.... I suppose there is always the odd thing that could slip through, but we wouldn't see those kinds of things happening in our House of Commons because of the way our expense claims are adjudicated currently. Is that fair?
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View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
We'll call our meeting to order.
We are here tonight in our special meeting still looking at the order of reference of Monday, October 21, and the study of the review of the Board of Internal Economy. We have a very special witness for you tonight.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Chair: Speaker Milliken, it's great to see you again. It has always been fun to have you at committee, and this is a whole different circumstance this time.
We are waiting for former Speaker Fraser to join us electronically. There have been some technical difficulties, and when he jumps in, we may give him a few words to start off.
Speaker Milliken, if you have an opening statement, we'd love to hear from you. Then we're going to ask you really hard questions.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I'm not casting judgment on the efficiencies of either Speaker Milliken or Speaker Scheer, but I know that certainly on behalf of everyone in our caucus, it is very, very good to see you again. You were always, in our opinion, an excellent Speaker.
It is in that capacity, of course, that you're here. We're engaged in a study on whether or not the Board of Internal Economy should be replaced.
I have one specific question. I'd like to hear your observations on that particular question.
To clarify things, for the last couple of meetings, Mr. Julian has been trying to impress upon people that the board either has in the past or is moving towards more of a vote-centric type of decision-making process. We have heard from Clerk O'Brien and also from IPSA in the United Kingdom that they work on a consensus basis.
My understanding is that the Board of Internal Economy for many years now has worked on a consensus basis. I would like to set the record straight so that we don't have the same type of, quite frankly, misinformation coming from Mr. Julian and the NDP.
Beyond the consensus question, I would ask you an open-ended question. Do you think that Parliament would be better served by scrapping the BOIE and going to an independent, arm's-length body similar to what the U.K. has done?
So there are two questions, one on consensus and the second on observations on whether the BOIE should be replaced by some other form or body.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Let me ask you something that has come up before, and that is on the composition of the board itself.
Madam O'Brien had mentioned that the composition of the board currently is that there are equal numbers of government members and opposition members on it, with the Speaker, of course, who's charged with, as you know, representing all members as the chair.
Has that always been the case in your experience?
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View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Speaker, we're studying the Board of Internal Economy, and we have Speaker Milliken with us too.
We've just started our rounds of questioning, and Mr. Lukiwski has already asked his round.
Do you have any opening statement or any comments you would like to make?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
That was never said.
I know Peter is trying to defend a position he has, but Madam O'Brien never said there was a move towards majority votes.
Let's keep it clear on the record.
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-20 19:42
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Thank you, Chair.
Speaker Milliken, whom I know best in this whole thing, it seems to me, having sat here through this, that we have people who have a solution for no problem.
When I heard the IPSA people talk about the issues they had that brought forward the IPSA program—which seems to me to fit very closely with the BOIE, other than that IPSA is an independent body—they were all the same things: they hold their meetings in camera, they have their minutes, and so on. But what we found out is that prior to their making those changes, they had a system whereby any expense claim of under £250, or about $400, could be made and was automatically paid without any type of receipt.
Would you agree that such a system does not exist here and that our receipts are scrutinized in a manner that is much more comprehensive than that?
I think that explains why they are where they are, and it probably explains the difference in the two systems.
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-20 19:43
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—and if the claims were then somehow made public, does that fit the transparency model that you would expect?
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View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-20 19:44
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My other question would be, when you headed up the BOIE, did you find that MPs were less partisan during in camera meetings than they are in televised meetings like today's?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2013-11-20 19:50
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Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I sympathize, because that happened to me the other day, so I know how it feels. But unfortunately, it's my opportunity now, and I appreciate that.
I want to go back to Speaker Milliken and some of the comments you were making earlier. You were talking about there having been a number of cases—and I can't remember the number you said, but it wasn't a large number—in which you had to look at a member's expense claim when they were questioning the decision that had been made about their expenses.
How often did that occur? Would it be something that—
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2013-11-20 19:53
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Something in that neighbourhood? Maybe a few times a year.
Maybe I'll ask Mr. Fraser if he recalls during his time as well. Can you give us some examples, obviously without giving personal information or people's names, of what type of thing that would have been? Would it generally have been something where they just weren't able to provide documentation, or was it something where there was a rule that was in place and maybe in an instance where the rule itself just didn't make common sense in the situation?
I know I can think of one, and I don't think it went to the Board of Internal Economy for me, where there was a snowstorm. I think it's 100 kilometres to be able to claim a hotel room in your riding and I was 88 kilometres from home and in a terrible snowstorm. I would have been leaving there at 10 p.m. and having to be back there at 7 a.m. the next day in the same community, so I was able to have an exception made. It was actually a cheaper thing to do, the hotel room, than the mileage anyway.
Was it more something like that, where common sense kind of dictated that the rule needed to be bent in that case, or was it lack of documentation? What would it have been?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2013-11-20 19:53
Expand
Sure.
Speaker Fraser, basically the same two questions: how often did you see those kinds of things come forward, and can you give us any examples, or maybe just even a broad generalization of what types of things they may have been that would have come before you in terms of members looking at their expenses and questioning the decision that was made by the staff of the board?
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View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
We'll start back up.
Mr. Taylor-Vaisey, thank you for joining us today. Do you have some opening comments? Tell us about your role, and then we'll ask you a bunch of hard questions.
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