Evidence of meeting #7 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was economy.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Peter Milliken  Former Speaker of the House of Commons, As an Individual
John Fraser  Former Speaker of the House of Commons, As an Individual
Nick Taylor-Vaisey  Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

8:50 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

As it stands, I think the status quo, if it were to endure.... This is not ruining Canadian democracy. I don't think the status quo has been disastrous. Our opinion is we can improve things. I think that's the answer to the first part of your question.

As to the second part, I'd say that what we'd like to see in the minutes would be similar to what we'd see from a standing committee. We'd like to see as much detail as we can of conversations, where that's possible. It has been raised a few times, the question about there being legitimate times to go in camera. Of course, I would submit to that. But otherwise, as much detail of conversations as any member of the public can reasonably expect of a standing committee.

8:50 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

MPs are currently trying to post their expenses on the sites. Do you think the information posted there is currently sufficient or do you expect to see the Board of Internal Economy officially post it on the site to look at the difference?

Currently, journalists have to trust that an MP has reported everything, which is not necessarily the case, and that it is being done honestly and correctly. But you have no way of knowing if it's true or not.

I would like to hear what you have to say about that.

8:50 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Sure. Right now, journalists and the public are expected to trust politicians and people of influence, people with power, that everything is going reasonably well, things are handled with care and that everything is above board. In a perfect world, that would be fine, but we don't want to have to trust the word of people who are talking behind closed doors. They may be honest with us, but we don't want to have to trust that.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you very much. That's four minutes.

Mr. Richards for four minutes.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It has been brought up a couple of times, but I want to go back to something that has been discussed a little bit previously and ask you a couple of direct questions in regard to it.

It has been noted already during the meeting that both our party, the Conservative Party, the government, and the Liberal Party are currently moving toward posting more proactive disclosure—our hospitality, our travel expenses in line-item type status—so there's an ability to see where an MP has travelled, what was spent on that travel, hospitality type of expenses.

I guess I would want to ask you, looking at something like that, would you see that as a move toward greater transparency, and would you see that as a positive step?

November 20th, 2013 / 8:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Yes. If political parties compete with each other to be more transparent and post more things online that shed light on their expenses, that's something that I think the public would welcome.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Okay.

If something like that were to be made mandatory so that all parties would be doing it, we'd have to obviously drag the NDP kind of kicking and screaming toward it. Despite their protestations otherwise, certainly there's no question that actions speak louder than words. They talk a little bit about accountability and transparency over there, but we in our government live that, we embody it. You look at our record and it's a move toward things like the Accountability Act, that kind of move. We're trying to bring them kicking and screaming toward that transparency.

If something like that were to be made mandatory, so that all parties were doing it and it was a mandatory system, would that be something you would see as an improvement, something that would be greater transparency and something that journalists would appreciate?

8:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Absolutely. Okay. Well, I appreciate that. Thank you very much for that, and I hope that we can bring them into that—

8:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

I don't really want to endorse the preamble, but I will confirm the spirit of it—

8:55 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

I understand. Of course you have to be non-partisan, and of course you wouldn't want to endorse that, but certainly we would have to do that. We'd have to bring them kicking and screaming, and we hope to do that.

8:55 p.m.

An hon. member

[Inaudible—Editor]

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Well, as I've said, to talk about something is one thing and to show action, like we've done, is another. Now—

8:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

We'll see when the votes come.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

I just want to move towards the board minutes—

8:55 p.m.

An hon. member

You had your turn.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Members, to the witness or the chair, but not to each to other.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

You talked about the board minutes themselves.

Obviously they are now being posted and you are able to see some of the decisions that have been made by the board. As a journalist yourself, have you read those minutes? Are they something that you look at on a regular basis? Have you looked at them once or twice...?

8:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

The Board of Internal Economy minutes?

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Have you in fact read them?

8:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Yes, I've read them. I haven't been assigned a great many stories dealing with the Board of Internal Economy myself, so I don't regularly seek them, if that makes sense.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Yes.

8:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Journalists

Nick Taylor-Vaisey

But I have read them and seen them, back to 2011.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Okay. Now having done that, when you look at those decisions.... Try to be conservative in your estimate, I guess, but when you look at those decisions and you try to imagine what led to those decisions and the discussion, in trying to picture what may have been in camera types of discussions to arrive at certain decisions, what would you see—