Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and good morning, everyone.
As the chairman mentioned, I'm the chief of protocol for the Province of Manitoba. I'm probably one of the longer-serving chiefs of protocol in Canada. I've been the chief of protocol there for 14 years. I've served different stripes of government. I've served the Honourable Gary Filmon, the Honourable Gary Doer, past premiers, and currently we have the Honourable Greg Selinger. In my years as chief of protocol for the province of Manitoba I also served for two years as the chief of protocol for the Government of South Australia, working out of Adelaide, for the premier there, the Honourable Mike Rann.
First of all, I want to applaud the federal government and all of you for initiating this approach to better understanding and making better use of protocols on national, provincial, and municipal levels. I hope at the end of the day what we'll have is a start to a process that might foster better relations and understanding of the protocols involved among all three levels of government and a better understanding of the process that all of us work within.
Having said that—and a lot of this will sound like an echo or a ditto to what Mary has just said—let me add that all the provinces and territories, from what I can gather, have what I would describe as a very good relationship with the staff of several federal offices that we count on and deal with on an ongoing basis. The office of His Excellency the Governor General is an office we have dealings with, as well as Canadian Heritage and the Department of Foreign Affairs. We have very good relations with the RCMP and the military, as they're all required because of some of the events and circumstances that we find ourselves in. And as Mary just mentioned, we also have a very good relationship—and I think this is true of all the provinces—with the office of the Canadian secretary to the Queen, Mr. Kevin MacLeod.
On a provincial basis we work directly with the premier; that's who I report to directly. But we also have strong dealings with members of cabinet, the lieutenant-governor, and the speaker of the legislative assembly. Oddly enough, our office—and I think this is true of most of the smaller provinces in Canada—has a very good relationship with opposition MLAs, members of the legislative assembly, as well.
There are many areas in the federal protocol system where all the provinces are really quite grateful for the guidance and advice we receive. There are far more areas of common ground than not. Coming from a smaller province, I can assure you we appreciate and really welcome all the help we can get.
I do know that the current Usher of the Black Rod and the private secretary, who was just mentioned a moment ago, Mr. Kevin MacLeod, started to revise a general protocol manual a few years ago. This was initially done in the 1990s. It was going to be updated by Mr. MacLeod, but then he went on to assume the new duties that he currently has as Usher of the Black Rod. To my knowledge, that manual is still unfinished. I think it's safe to say that all the provinces and territories would appreciate...and in truth—this is especially true of the smaller provinces—we actually need the completion of this manual. As I will reiterate at the end of my presentation, I'd be delighted to play an ongoing support role in this initiative if it's warranted.
I don't think I want to go any further just at the moment without telling you how really pleased I am to be here this morning and to be asked to be part of this process. I'm really flattered that I've been asked to be here today and have a chance to speak to all of you and play a role in today's discussions.
As Mary and Cathy have mentioned.... I thought I might just take a moment and tell you about the roles, responsibilities, and duties that are attached to my office as the chief of protocol, because I think it will reflect what actually goes on in the protocol offices in what are called smaller provinces in the country.
We play key organizational roles with respect to all incoming diplomatic visits—for ambassadors and high commissioners and consuls general—and we maintain a strong relationship, almost in a quasi-supervisory capacity, with our consular corps. It's not as large as Ontario's, of course, but there are 25 consular corps members at the moment.
Other areas, such as royal visits, the opening of the House—that's the Speech from the Throne—half-masting of flags throughout the province, books of condolence when required, and most special events where the premier plays a key role also fall, in some capacity, to my office.
The province also has a military liaison position called the Office of the Military Envoy. This office is actually attached to the protocol office to recognize the vital role the military plays in the province, not just from an economic standpoint but in a variety of other areas, including their community support, and in Manitoba's case, the very strong and major role they played in assisting the province in its flood-fighting efforts last year and, previous to that, in 1997.
This office plays what I would describe as a very strong public relations role in ensuring that all levels and branches of the military in Manitoba, including in some capacity cadets, are recognized, respected, and appreciated. I have a couple of examples.
We are in the process of renaming a section of Manitoba Highway 1 as the Highway of Heroes. A lot of provinces have a highway of heroes. This is related to my office and the military envoy position. We're renaming a large section of Manitoba Highway 1 between the cities of Brandon and Winnipeg.
A month from today, we're going to have a diamond jubilee event, which is military-oriented. We're going to have an evening diamond jubilee service of remembrance at Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. I don't know if you know this but Winnipeg has the largest military cemetery in Canada. As part of this evening diamond jubilee service, we're going to be placing candles on each of the 12,000-plus graves there. It will be quite dramatic. It's kind of a nice thing to tie in with the diamond jubilee. We hope to have members of the federal, provincial, and municipal governments also on hand for that event.
Of course, there are the not too frequent events, such as state funerals, the swearing in of a new government, and the swearing in of a new lieutenant-governor. As Mary mentioned, similarly in Manitoba, we have the hanging or unveiling of official portraits of past premiers and speakers of the legislative assembly. In fact, next week, former Manitoba premier and current ambassador to Washington, Gary Doer, will unveil his portrait at the Manitoba legislative building. We are involved in that.
We play a key role in many international trade missions led by the premier. In the past few years, we have gone to China, India, Australia, England, Belgium, France, Iceland—Iceland is very important to Manitoba—and the United States as well.
As the chief of protocol, I sit on numerous committees, including one for the diamond jubilee celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen. Both Mary and I are very privileged to be on the national committee for the diamond jubilee. On a provincial basis, I co-chair that committee as well. There is a series of other committees. Manitoba is celebrating its 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk Settlers, which was the opening of western Canada, really. We have the War of 1812, which is the key focus in Ontario, but just to the west we have the Selkirk Settlers, which is quite a big event for us. I am playing a role in the initial stages of what the federal government is doing on the sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary, of Canada coming up in 2017. Just on the heels of that will be the 150th anniversary of Manitoba and the 100th anniversary of our legislative building in 2020. Thankfully, that will be past my time as chief of protocol.
As mentioned by Mary, the chief of protocol for Ontario, we also administer gift banks for cabinet ministers, the premier, and so on. These are primarily used for outgoing trade missions and diplomatic visits the premier may receive, for example, ambassadors, high commissioners, and so on.
We have two styles of gifts. One is for key officials. We have gifts in the $100 to $150 range. For heads of state, we might go up to $1,000. That's not often, but it's possible. We have done it in the past. We also have a large bank of lesser gifts, what I would call knick-knacks. People might want 50 or 100 gifts for a school group, committee, convention, or something of that nature. They range from pins and pens to stress toys. We give away a lot of those; it's a sign of the times right now.
We're also the go-to office with regard to ongoing questions from the public and other government departments with respect to protocol, largely on orders of precedence, which I'm going to address momentarily. That is one area in which I'd like to see some resolution.
One other thing we do is our office serves as a secretariat to our provincial order, the Order of Manitoba. We have another, less known honour, the Order of the Buffalo Hunt. It is quite a prestigious award given out by the premier. The protocol office plays a key role in that.
One final point is that the office also plays a role with respect to media relations. I am often the designated spokesperson for different things that are going on where the premier is involved. There's the writing of speeches or news releases, and so on, that might be required for any given event.
This is all done with very few staff. There are just four staff, actually, in my office. We're quite a busy office.
Almost from day one, since I've become the chief of protocol in the province, I'm asked this one question: what is protocol?
This is maybe germane to what we're talking about here today. Aside from describing it, as Mary eloquently did, as a set of guidelines and customs and rules and precedents all coming together, really, to ensure that ceremonies and events have what could be described as continuous order or flow or dignity, I often describe protocol in much simpler terms as good manners and common sense, and maybe with a hint of flexibility.
This is actually the point I want to address. There's one area of contention that exists, and since we're talking about protocols and so on, I wanted to bring up a couple of points with you. One is the protocol manual that I mentioned earlier. I would certainly hope that can be looked at further in the months ahead. But one area of contention with regard to the provinces and the federal government in the area of protocol deals with the order of precedence. Maybe it could be better stated that the disagreements centre on how the federal order of precedence relates to or interacts with provincial orders of precedence in each province. I don't think there's a month that goes by where there's not a disagreement between communications staff at a provincial level and a federal level with regard to a federal news release or a federal-provincial event. Some of you are probably quite familiar with this point.
I can't really begin to quantify the amount of angst, distrust, and ill-will created by this, and in more practical terms, the amount of staff time that is actually lost or wasted by all provinces, and indeed federal employees, when it comes to federal-provincial events, announcements, and news releases.
By way of background, I thought I'd take a look at maybe how we got to this point today—