Evidence of meeting #25 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was program.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Graeme Truelove

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Okay.

Mr. Lemay, you have the floor.

September 29th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I don't have much more to add, but I would like to explain something to the parliamentary secretary. Our committee has delegated the responsibility of establishing the procedure and the agenda to the subcommittee ever since it was created. When we come back before the committee, the agenda is presented. The committee as a whole may decide to review the agenda. Not all committees operate in the same way, but the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development decided that the large 12-member committee should not sit all the time and that the subcommittee would be responsible for pruning down the daily routine and preparing the meetings in order to save time.

For example, if we adopt—we have since adopted it—Mr. Lévesque's motion, the subcommittee will set the number of meetings and make a recommendation. It will probably also ask the members of the committee if they want to call witnesses and to let the subcommittee know as soon as possible. It would be the same procedure for all the other motions. With all due respect, that is why I find the parliamentary secretary's motion premature. So I encourage her to withdraw it, even if we discuss it in subcommittee. Otherwise, we would certainly not be able to support the motion if we had to vote. It would be a shame to start our work with the parliamentary secretary by defeating her motion. I urge her to withdraw this motion and present it to the subcommittee, which will be sitting in a few minutes.

To conclude, Mr. Chair, I would like to point out that it has been like this since 2006. The subcommittee is made up of representatives from each political party.The subcommittee decided that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would be present to provide us with information that will allow us to move our work forward. Initially, there was only the chair of the committee, the two vice chairs and a representative—in this committee's case—from the Bloc Québécois. We wanted to be more open and allow the parliamentary secretary to be present without the right to vote in order to get information and get things done faster.

Let's take Bill C-3 for example. We ask the parliamentary secretary to check with the minister when he'll be available to appear before us and so on. That way, we save a lot of time. For us, the subcommittee is like a working committee that reports to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It saves us a huge amount of time.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Lemay.

We will now go to Mr. Dreeshen and then to Mr. Weston.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Thank you.

Maybe it's just the new surroundings, but I'm certainly not concerned about staying for the extra time. If we talk about this for an hour, it's a different situation.

I think if we have the time there's no reason we couldn't be working together to try to hammer out some of these issues we're talking about. That's my comment.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you.

Mr. Weston.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Lemay for speaking French more slowly for us anglophones.

Normally, I would completely agree with Ms. Crowder and the other members of the committee. Actually, if we could save time, that would allow us to do something else. But I would prefer it if we could all work together for two reasons. The parliamentary secretary has occupied this role only for a little while and she perhaps is missing some information. She would probably like us to work together. Since I am a new member of the committee, I am personally interested in getting a better idea of what is happening and of what the committee is able to do after the subcommittee finished its work.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Merci, Monsieur Weston.

Ms. Glover, and then we'll come back to Mr. Clarke.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you.

I would like to clarify something. In subcommittee, the government side does not have input. We are the only people who don't have a vote. This is not balanced, not fair. This is why, rather than remove my right as a member by putting and enforcing a subcommittee that does not allow the government to have a vote, I would like to see this committee do their work. This committee is supposed to be here for two hours; let's get to work and be fair to all members. Under the rules and regulations, we all have a vote. Under this subcommittee that you've designed, the government has no vote. That's why I am opposed to it.

I would like to get on to the business of the day and move forward.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Okay.

Mr. Clarke.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I'd like to reiterate what Mr. Weston said and what our parliamentary secretary also had to say. I've been on the committee now for almost two and a half years, and I just don't understand how the inner mechanisms work in the subcommittee. I'd like to see it work in a proper parliamentary fashion.

Sometimes when I'm asked by the constituents, and sometimes the first nations leaders, what actually transpires for the selection of witnesses, and what occurs, not during the committee meetings, but in the subcommittee meetings, I cannot offer an honest answer to what actually takes place. If we start going in open discussion working together, as parliamentarians have to do, it would be very justified. When we're trying to represent aboriginals and first nations and give them the proper input and work together as parliamentarians here, I would like to see us work together within government. This would give us an opportunity to have a proper democratic vote. If that's going to be withheld, I don't think it's justified.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Okay.

I have Mr. Payne and Monsieur Lemay.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I've been on this committee for two years, and I never know what's going on in the dark halls of the subcommittee, which I find somewhat disturbing. As a member of the committee, I have no input. It comes back and it's pretty much decided from the subcommittee what's going to happen in committee. It would be appropriate for all of us to be able to participate in those subcommittee meetings, if you want to call them subcommittee meetings, in the decisions on what we are going to study that are brought forward to the committee as a whole--the studies we're going to have and the witnesses who will appear. From that standpoint, it's quite appropriate for all of us to be part of that whole process.

Thank you.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Payne.

Monsieur Lemay.

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

We are not out of the woods yet. I will try to be calm. I will tell you how it works. You don't have to believe me, but this is how it works.

Not long ago, not even six months ago, Mr. Duncan was parliamentary secretary. He has been blessed. He is now theMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. When Mr. Duncan was parliamentary secretary, he never complained. He always said that he did not need the right to vote because he represented the minister at our subcommittee and that the purpose of his participation in the meetings of our subcommittee meetings, to which we were kind enough to invite him, was to tell us what the minister's progress was on such and such an issue.

I hope I am being clear and I am sure that the translation is fantastic. Never did the subcommittee work in isolation without reporting to the full committee. The only thing the subcommittee does is to prepare the order of business according to the committee's request. We give you a report. There were six meetings last year and we always gave you a report. Not only do we produce a report, but we ask you what you think. I personally have been sitting on this committee since 2006 and never did we summon witnesses to appear if you did not want them to appear and never did we refuse witnesses that you wanted to appear.

But today I am slightly taken aback. If that is what the parliamentary secretary wants, I will immediately ask for a vote on her motion and she will experience her first defeat. So, Mr. Chair, I ask for a vote on the parliamentary secretary's motion if she does not withdraw it.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Okay. I hear your question. I still have two speakers, so on this particular question we have to continue, and we will. When we're finished with speakers, we'll ask the question.

Madam Crowder, followed by Mr. Payne.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I'd like to echo some of Monsieur Lemay's comments. I find the tenor of the conversation that we're having today pretty disappointing. The subcommittee has been serving the whole committee and the so-called backroom discussions that have been alleged here are discussions that came out of what happened at the whole committee.

Often what we do is meet outside of these committee meetings--so we're having to find other time outside of these committee meetings--to conduct the business of committee, and it is at the will of the committee. We then report back to the committee for a full discussion and a vote on what the committee determines as its business.

Now, as Monsieur Lemay has pointed out, the parliamentary secretary has been here to provide information to the subcommittee. The government is represented through your very able chair, Mr. Stanton, and we have generally worked on a consensus basis at that subcommittee, so it has not been an adversarial, partisan kind of exercise. We work through trying to represent the needs of our own constituents and first nations, Métis, and Inuit across this country.

To this point, we haven't heard complaints about how the subcommittee has worked. In fact, I think because of the work this committee has managed to achieve it speaks to the calibre of the subcommittee's work, so I would agree with Monsieur Lemay. If that's the way we want to go, we should go to the vote.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Ms. Crowder.

Mr. Payne.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you again, Mr. Chair.

Just on this subject, Mr. Lemay did talk about the parliamentary secretary being okay with this process. My recollection when we first came to this committee was that there was a discussion, in fact, as I recall, that the parliamentary secretary did want to participate and be able to vote, as the government did not have a vote on this. Now, you could check the blues on that. I might be wrong, but that's my recollection of the situation at that particular time. Of course, as I recall, it also was voted down that the parliamentary secretary would not have a vote at the subcommittee.

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you.

Monsieur Lemay, please go ahead.

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I would like to clarify one thing for Mr. Payne. I remember very well that the parliamentary secretary was not initially present in the subcommittee. That poses a serious problem. Later on, the parliamentary secretary asked to participate. Not only that, we asked the parliamentary secretary to be present to help us move our work forward.

I can assure you of one thing, and correct me if you need to: there has never been a vote in subcommittee meetings and never will there be one. If there were, how would we proceed with our work? We have never held a vote, we have always relied on a consensus. That is why we invited the parliamentary secretary. In my opinion, today's debate on whether the parliamentary secretary should be present or not is a red herring. We want the new parliamentary secretary to be present, but we don't want her to have the right to vote. I do not want to give her the right to vote because there will be no vote, period. The subcommittee is made up of the chair and a representative for each party and we work by consensus. It is great for the parliamentary secretary to be present, but we certainly must not give her the right to vote.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Lemay.

Ms. Neville, you have the floor.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I wasn't going to speak on this issue, but I'm sitting here in amazement listening to this discussion.

I had a period of an intermission from this committee, but I've been on this committee for at least five years. It has been a model of working well.

Do we always agree? No, but there has been cooperation, and since you've assumed the chair you've conducted fair and smooth meetings. There has never been an effort, or an overt effort, to impose the executive branch of government into the legislative branch of government. That's the distinction here.

This committee has worked well together. I've never been on the subcommittee, but it has worked well. The committee has ratified and has determined its agenda.

It's the old saying: why are you trying to fix something that's working? I'm astounded.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Okay.

Thank you, members, for that very vigorous discussion. This has been a discussion about the intricacies of how we manage committee business. It is certainly a valid discussion and one that helps inform the way we go forward and the way we work together.

At this point we will be considering the question, then, as to whether the committee proceed....

Oh, I have another intervention. Pardon me. Madam Glover, go ahead.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I hear what everyone is saying.

There are people here who have said they want to be included. Maybe not on that side of the room, but on this side of the room, there are people who want to be included.

I want you to hear that clearly: these people want to be included. When we have two hours of time, they would much rather discuss committee business together, which is not a function typically of a subcommittee unless there is no time.

They want to have the ability to vote. I too want to have the ability to discuss and vote.

But what Mr. Lemay has said very clearly, Mr. Chair, is that no one on this side gets to vote, because we don't care if you want to be involved, we don't care if you want to vote, and we don't care if you want to have discussion about committee business, we're going to do it in subcommittee. Nobody on this side gets a vote.

I'm sorry, but that's not democracy. That's not fairness. We're asking you to include us. We're not trying to be adversarial. We're asking you to include us. Allow us to learn. Allow us to take full part. Allow us to share. Our communities have given us voices. Please allow us to use these voices to make recommendations that matter to this committee.

Four people on this committee should not be deferred to if other people on this committee want to speak. It is now 4:25. We could easily--we still have an hour--allow these people to speak, to make some progress on committee business, which isn't going to take us an hour. It's going to take us another hour of debate, though, on whether or not this is the right thing to do if we don't just allow these people to be involved.

I will continue to support them. I will continue to defend my position that we not defer to people. When we have two hours, we should use them. We should be inclusive.

I hope the committee hears that these people want to be involved. I don't want you to hear the negative, because it's not negative. They're saying, hey, this is a great committee, and great things are done here, so please let me be a part of this. It's a positive. This glass is half full, not half empty.

These people want to make some important recommendations. They want to have some input. Please let them do it.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Ms. Glover.

We'll go to Mr. Clarke.