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Results: 1 - 57 of 57
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 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 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 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 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 Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Taylor-Vaisey, for being here.
I'm assuming the reason you're requesting more transparency is because we're talking about taxpayer dollars. You wouldn't be asking for the same level of transparency, say, for a private sector company.
Am I correct in saying that?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay. I have a couple of questions along that line.
Number one, I will refer to some of Mr. Christopherson's comments when the Speakers were both here. He pointed to IPSA—and I hope I'm not mischaracterizing David's comments—as perhaps a better system. He stated that the public really shouldn't accept, or doesn't accept, MPs governing themselves and setting their own rules when it comes to pay and benefits.
From a transparency standpoint, which is your main concern, IPSA told us that they started having their meetings in public but then quickly went to in camera. That's how they do all their meetings now, and they listed several good reasons for that.
Madam O'Brien and both Speakers Milliken and Fraser said that in camera would be better as well, because there's a more frank, open, and frankly more productive discussion. Your point was that they can still do that in public because if partisanship came into the situation it would be the fault of the MPs.
I think what we're trying to do here is to make sure that taxpayers' dollars are treated respectfully and properly. I'm not sure, given the fact that all decisions are made public, that the rules and bylaws concerning spending of MPs are public, and that all of the decisions, as I said before, are made public, how having meetings made public would enhance the benefit to the public. Given the fact that there could be problems about partisanship, because that's just the environment we're in—shame on us perhaps, but that's the environment we live in—I don't see how transparency and the benefit to the public would be enhanced.
I'd like a comment on that.
Secondly, and on a separate issue, if it's the fact that you're more concerned about transparency because of taxpayers' dollars, would you be advocating for all crown corporations to have all of their meetings in public as well? We're still talking about taxpayers' dollars there.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Again, I go back to how the public's interest would be better served by having meetings in public. As both Speakers stated, as did Madam O'Brien, all of the rules and bylaws governing spending of parliamentarians are already public. The board has to adhere to those rules and bylaws. The decisions made by the board, which govern any requests or claims or any financial information, are published.
Are you suggesting that somehow the public would be better served if the meetings were made public and journalists and others could observe if the results were the same as they would be at an in camera meeting? You were saying that gives them more confidence that everything is on the up and up.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
But here's where I have a problem. When I say “problem”, I don't think there's a problem now with how the BOIE has been operating. It's certainly moving to greater transparency, and I think that's a good thing. I really do.
Madam O'Brien outlined many of the steps they're doing. In other words, rather than lumping a number of categories together and getting a final total, they're breaking it down individually. At least two of the three parties have gone to voluntary disclosure of their MP expenses as well. Third, as you've heard, the BOIE doesn't set salaries or pensions. That's set arbitrarily. They're basically talking about the financial administration of the House—which, as Audrey O'Brien said, can get pretty boring—and MP expenses.
Would your main concern be on getting more transparency in terms of the expenses to members of Parliament, the elected officials, or do you think the public is truly concerned about all of what I would perhaps incorrectly call the minutiae of the financial administration of the House?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
So you think it's important that the public knows how they got to the decision rather than just the decision, even if all rules and bylaws were....
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Would it be helpful if more detailed...I wouldn't say transcripts of all discussions, but if more detailed minutes were provided? For example, you know as well as I do that you only have so many column inches, and I would find it very difficult to believe that even if the meetings were made public there would be almost a verbatim transcript of all of the discussions that went on. There would be some editorializing, I'm sure. There would be some compactness of reporting. So I'm really not sure we would get to the point where the public would be better informed just by hearing how individuals perhaps got to a consensus, and then the decision, than they are better served now by just seeing what the decision is.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay.
Mr. Taylor-Vaisey, I'm going to challenge your profession a little bit here. I can understand completely what you're saying, and if I were in your profession I would probably be asking for the same thing. You're a journalist. You want to know. You want to gather information. You want to print information. You want to broadcast information. But I ask you to take, perhaps, a little self-critical look, because much of the information that is published now, frankly, is simply not reported upon.
Peter is talking with great pride about how he publishes, and has for seven years, all this information. Those are summary financials that are published with expenses for every MP. It's open to the public. It's open to journalists. I haven't seen, outside of one or two stories every second or third year, much concern or examination from journalists.
I gave the example a couple of meetings ago, and I will again—Kevin doesn't like this because I'm going to be picking on my friend, Ralph Goodale. It's quite clear in the financials on the travel expenses. Ralph and I both live in Regina, Saskatchewan. I live in Regina Beach; he's in Regina proper, but we both fly out of Regina to Ottawa and back. We both attend the same number of sessions of caucus. I'm here from Monday through Friday. Ralph is usually here Monday through Friday, but, amazingly, last year his travel expenses were over three times mine. His were about $122,000 and mine were $38,000. Do you know something? We never saw a story on that.
If all of this information is here, and if you're suggesting that the public is clamouring for this information—and maybe I'm mischaracterizing your words—why aren't you writing stories about the information you have now?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Much of the information is perhaps not as much as you'd like to see. There is information out there now in more detail than there ever was before, but I haven't seen a whole bunch of stories about it.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I go back to a point I made earlier. If all of the rules and bylaws are made public, so you know exactly what constraints we as MPs have—what we can and cannot do, in other words—and if the board adheres to those rules and bylaws and if the decisions made are published, why isn't that important then? As you said yourself, a lot of this may not be newsworthy. If it were, you would already know about it. If there were problems like we saw in the U.K., you'd know about it and you'd report it, but there haven't been.
I'm trying to get my head around why it is so important to be able to actually sit in a meeting to hear the discussion between members who reach the same decision that is published right now and that you are not reporting on.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Ferguson, for being here today.
I guess I want to start off with, if we can, a comparison between the oversight provisions imposed upon the House of Commons versus those of the Senate. Obviously, most Canadians over the last several months have heard, read about, and probably been concerned about some of the controversy that we've seen in the Senate with some of the expenses being claimed by senators, which, at least on the surface, appear to be claims that should not have been made and certainly should not have been paid.
I wonder if you would, for the benefit of this committee and perhaps anyone else who may be listening, contrast the oversight provisions upon members of the House of Commons versus the oversight provisions for members of the Senate, specifically for travel and hospitality. In other words, what documentation is required for travel and hospitality claims made by members of Parliament versus the documentation required with claims for travel and hospitality by senators?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
It is helpful, and thank you for that.
As a follow-up, you mentioned—and please correct me if I'm mischaracterizing what you said—that in the House of Commons there was 98.5% compliance.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
What I'm trying to get at is that if we're looking at 98.5% “compliance”, to use that term, where all expense claims were justified—in other words, submitted properly, with supporting documentation, and the claims were determined to have actually been for their intended purpose, and thus accepted—are you still suggesting, sir, that there is a lot of room for improvement?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Chair.
The real reason the committee is undertaking this study, frankly, is to see whether the current system works, whether it can be improved, or whether it should just be replaced.
Based on what you saw during your audit in 2012, were there any of what we and the general public would consider to be egregious examples of misspending by members of Parliament? We all know what happened in the U.K. with their expenses scandals there, with some members claiming money to build a moat around their castle. We've seen examples, in the U.K. and in Atlantic Canada, where members were using expense money, taxpayers' dollars, to furnish their own homes with electronics or television sets or computers, that type of thing.
In your audit, with the 1.5% non-compliance, did you find any example that you would consider to be as egregious as the examples I've just given you, or would they have been of a more minor nature? By that I mean, would they be mistakes made either inadvertently or administratively that could be corrected?
Were there any specific examples you could point to that would demonstrate that members of Parliament are misusing or abusing their expense money?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Had the documentation been sufficient, would you have had any problem with the claims that were made?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you for that.
You've done “random” audits. I guess that would be the best term, if I'm following you. In other words, you have not done a forensic audit at any time, whether of members’ expenses or in the Senate.
Are you recommending that if your audit capabilities were enhanced, you would like to see forensic audits of both the members’ and Senators' expenses?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
As I've said a number of times on this committee, I would have been able to follow up except that I wasn't listening. No, I'm just kidding.
With all due respect to Blake, I have a different series of questions, or a different view, anyway.
Going back once again to my last line of questioning, the purpose of this is to try to find out whether or not we need to replace the BOIE, and that's really why we're here.
The NDP is taking the view that we do need to. You've certainly made recommendations that we need at least some other independent body, whether it is to advise the BOIE or to replace the BOIE, that there needs to be an independent function. I can only surmise that you are saying that in your view, the BOIE, for whatever reasons, does not fulfill the functions of either transparency—and probably that's the priority you're talking about—or accountability in good governance. Otherwise, why would you think the BOIE, as we now know it, should be replaced?
We've certainly heard examples. Mr. Richards was talking about how some of his claims were rejected because the administration couldn't determine whether or not it was actually his signature. I—and I think every MP at this table—could give examples where I've made claims that have come back to for further information or clarification, which again, as Mr. Richards points out, gives me confidence that the people who are examining our expense claims are doing their job and they're doing it well. Yet you're saying that in your view, the BOIE should be either replaced or strengthened.
I'd just like to get comments from you as to, in an overarching view, why you think that's important. Is it that you just don't have enough confidence in the BOIE, or is it just not transparent enough for your purposes?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
—you're not advocating a replacement of the BOIE, just a strengthening of the system around it.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I have a few questions. First, let's talk about the composition of your organization. How were the members of IPSA selected? Was it the governing party who selected all of the members? Did the opposition parties have a chance to nominate some members? Did you go through a selection process? Quite simply, how were you and others on IPSA selected and what kind of a vetting process was there?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
I would assume that, as in any new organization—as you say, you started with a blank sheet of paper—there were growing pains. What were the audit findings with respect to the administration of your organization? Did they have any specific suggestions on how you could improve your function? Were there any problems that they determined needed to be corrected?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I'm curious. You may not have enough time to answer this fully, but if not, hopefully we can get back to it a little later.
From the transparency standpoint, you mentioned that you publish the findings you have on MP expense claims. What do you publish and how to you publish them? At what level of detail do you publish all of the claims that are submitted to your organization?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Sills, I want to get back to a question or an example that my colleague Monsieur Bellavance raised before. It's with regard to the egregious examples in the U.K. of incorrect expenses for anything from flat screen televisions to the dredging of a moat, those types of things. You mentioned that it's because the rules and the policies of the in-house operation allowed that to happen. In Canada, in our Parliament, the rules and policies we have governing expenses for members of Parliament would never allow those types of expenses to be approved in the first place. Similarly, the in-house administration set-up that we have, the operation called the Board of Internal Economy, seems on many levels to be remarkably similar to your operation, inasmuch as they work by consensus, they do not publish verbatim transcripts of the meetings, and most of the meetings are not held in public.
My question to you would be, if there were an in-house administration in the U.K. that operated in precisely the same manner that IPSA does, do you believe there would be a need for an independent outside operation, like IPSA, under any circumstance? Or do you believe that simply because you're independent, from a transparency standpoint, it is required to have an outside operation rather than in-house?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Yes, and it's a very good observation.
We've heard from our Auditor General that 98.5% of all expense claims made by members of Parliament are in compliance with the rules. Based on that, that's something our committee has to examine, whether there's a need for an outside operation, an outside audit, or I shouldn't say audit, but an outside independent operation to deal with members' expenses.
That's just an observation.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Luckily, so far at least, there hasn't been that similar type of activity in the Canadian Parliament. But your point is very well taken. It's our job to determine whether or not there's a need to go to the kind of system that you have created there. And let me say, based on what I've heard today, congratulations. It sounds as if you and your fellow board members are doing a job and you have solved a problem that had been occurring. Hopefully the job that you and your colleagues are doing will continue to represent the taxpayers well.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to Mr. Walsh and Mr. Thomas for being here.
I'll start with Mr. Walsh. I have a couple of questions. One will connect to one of the six recommendations you made. I'd asked this question of Madam O'Brien when she was here. She rendered an opinion, but she was a little uncertain of the legal ramifications.
My question was this: if the Board of Internal Economy, BOIE, held its meetings in public, would the members of that committee have the same privileges as members on a standing committee or members speaking in the House? In other words, would they have the immunity provided to most members? If not, it might be somewhat restrictive on members if all the discussions were held in public.
You've identified a couple of ways to get around that by having subcommittees of financial and legal matters, and others that might be required to have meetings in camera. But first things first. From a legal perspective, would public pronouncements by members of the Board of Internal Economy be covered by parliamentary privilege or immunity?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you. That's helpful.
One of the things that I was somewhat concerned about is that even though, you're right, all members have the ability for free speech and debate in the House or in debate, we are still governed by the sub judice convention, and I assume that same spirit would be reflected in any discussions held at the board.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Let's go into what dealings these subcommittees that you're recommending would have. In your experience with the board over the many years that you were law clerk of this Parliament, given that you're suggesting that the subcommittees deal with in camera discussions on matters that should be in camera, what percentage...? I don't want to make an unfair question for you, but I'm trying to get a sense of what you experienced over the many years dealing with the Board of Internal Economy. What percentage of the discussions and the substance of the board's discussions would be required to go in camera? How much would be in public? There's a perception that so much of what is done by the board is completely in camera. It's a secret, behind closed doors operation.
So what are we talking about if, on a normal basis, we say it's going to be public except...? How much of the discussions on, say, a normal board meeting would be held in public as opposed to how much, in your experience, would be necessitated to be held in camera?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thanks.
I have simply a point of clarification here. If there's a difference of opinion about what we heard from Madam O'Brien, I'm sure the transcripts will bear me out when I say—despite what Mr. Julian was saying, Mr. Walsh—that Madam O'Brien was not advocating for more votes. She was a firm believer in consensus. In fact, if my memory serves me well, she said that during her eight years as clerk there has only been one occasion where it went to a vote. The Speaker is loath to have votes; they actively try to encourage consensus to be the model they follow. Let's make sure we're clear on that, and I think you will enforce that.
My question now is to Mr. Thomas. You're saying that the Alberta and the city of Toronto examples of disclosure are what your organization would advocate, and I assume that is because of the further level of detail they provide, as opposed to what is currently being provided in the House of Commons. Am I correct in that characterization of what you've said?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay.
I assume you're not as intimately involved or familiar with the workings of the BOIE as Mr. Walsh and Madam O'Brien are. I would point out to you that in Madam O'Brien's presentation two days ago, on Tuesday, she showed us how far the BOIE has come in requiring disclosure from MPs.
When they started many years ago, the categories were very large, and almost all the information was lumped into single categories. Now they're starting to parcel out some of the information within each of those categories, so it's far more transparent than it ever has been.
Are you familiar with how all of the government departments, not only ministers and deputy ministers but MPs, are currently providing their information? You've seen the financial statements, summary statements, for example, on travel and hospitality. You're thinking they don't go far enough. Is that your contention?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
If I may, because we have only a couple of minutes, let's deal with the travel.
As you know, there's a travel points system. Each MP is given 64 travel points, x amount for travel between his or her home constituency and Ottawa, so many special travel points and so many travel points for dependants, designated travellers, that sort of thing.
If I am filing a report, in your Utopian world, your perfect world, saying that I'm travelling from my home constituency of Regina to Ottawa return, beyond stating the fact that it will cost x amount of dollars, what other information would be necessary to ensure the transparency you're looking for?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
You may be right. But right now, I'd point out, it's fairly easy for constituents to find that out.
I'm not saying this to embarrass my friends in the Liberal Party, but both Mr. Goodale and I travel the same route, from Regina to Ottawa and back, and in the last posting of travel and hospitality expenses, over the course of the fiscal year that was reported, my air travel was $38,000; Mr. Goodale's was over $122,000.
So right now we're giving that transparency. If anybody wanted to ask Mr. Goodale why his expenses, for the same flights I took, were three times as much, they should be able to ask that.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Madam O'Brien and Mr. Watters, for your very thorough presentation.
I have a lot of questions. However, I think the one we really have to deal with is contained in the order of reference that was adopted. It was originally a motion presented by the NDP, supported unanimously in the House last June, and it states, unequivocally, that the view of this study would be to replace the Board of Internal Economy. I thank you for your recommendation that the board need not be replaced; perhaps it could be improved.
I want to drill down a little bit on that. I think, certainly, one of the arguments we've heard from members of the opposition with respect to the board is the fact that all of its meetings are in camera. They claim the secrecy aspect is problematic, at least to them. I hope I'm not mischaracterizing where the NDP is coming from, but at least that's certainly what I've heard them state.
If the board remained in its current state but perhaps were open to some suggested changes, what would your thoughts be on the board meeting in public, as a general principle, and then going in camera when needed? For example, if they were dealing with issues of a personal nature, of a legal nature, of a labour relations nature, would that, in your view, be appropriate?
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I think there wouldn't be time for a detailed answer.
I thank you again for your candour on why the meetings are typically held in camera. I think there are a couple more reasons. Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge the Board of Internal Economy is not covered by privilege.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
This is my last comment, since we have a serious lack of time here. My observation, after what I've heard today, is that even if we went to a new system of an independent oversight body as suggested in the order of reference, that body, however it would be structured, would still have to be supported by the administration of the House in a similar fashion to the Board of Internal Economy being supported today.
So in terms of the old saying “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”, I'm not sure if the board needs to replace, but I'm sure there will be questions that will determine that outcome.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I'm not sure if this is a point of order or a point of clarification, but if you take a look at the motion we passed on June 18, paragraph (vi) says:examine the subject-matter of the motions, standing in the name of the Member for Papineau, placed on the Order Paper on June 10, 2013.
I think, Kevin, you are trying to reintroduce the same motions that we have agreed to study anyway. I don't see the necessity of that. Part of the House order, and part of the motion that was unanimously passed, was to study the motions that your leader brought forward. We have agreed to do that.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Yes.
All I was going to say in response to Kevin is that with all due respect, Kevin, I just think what you're attempting to do here is somewhat redundant, because it's in the motion that we passed unanimously to study all of the elements of your leader's motions of June 10. So I don't think we need an amendment or a clarification. It's in the House order that was discussed.
Eventually...and obviously I don't want to cut off any further discussion of my motion, but I would just reiterate that the commitment of our government is to honour the motion that was approved unanimously on June 18, and that is to conduct a full and thorough review of all issues dealing with transparency and accountability of members of Parliament. It's I think fairly clearly presented in the motion that was adopted where we're going to go with this. We're going to talk about things, about the Board of Internal Economy. We're going to talk to the Auditor General and other financial people. We're probably going to examine other jurisdictions. But the sole purpose of and the spirit behind this motion was to try to increase transparency and accountability. That's why my motion comes forward: just to reaffirm the fact that as a government we are absolutely committed to doing that.
With respect to one further comment that Nathan made as to honouring the deadline of December 2, as a committee—and everyone knows that we're the masters of our own fate—we can meet as often and as frequently as we want. We can have extended hours. We can meet evenings, on weekends, whatever. Our point is that we believe the December 2 deadline can and will be met, and we're fully committed to participating in a thorough review.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Sure. Everyone has notice of it and this is public, but I will read it just for the record:
That, the Committee hold meetings in the fall of 2013 pursuant to the House order of Tuesday, June 18, 2013, regarding the transparency and accountability of the House of Commons, and that the Committee show respect for the will of the House by allowing one Member who is not a member of a recognized party to participate in these hearings as a temporary, non-voting member of the Committee.
I know that other people are on the speaking list, but I would like to deal with the substance of this, and I would call the question at the first opportunity so we can vote on my motion.
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View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I just don't have a problem with this. As I said verbally, our commitment is to do it. I've said so in public now, and so if this committee wants to instruct you, as chair, to write a letter requesting that we reaffirm the motion we have already passed, we don't have a problem with that. We are fully committed to having the study.
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