Evidence of meeting #56 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was clerk.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

If we all agree on it, we can schedule that.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I think we need to know that we're definitely going to have to call somebody for maybe next Tuesday to get this thing going. Maybe we can have consent on who those obvious people are.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Yes.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Maybe at the top of the meeting we can then deal with anything else we have thought about between now and then. I think that's just a practical way to move this forward because we haven't had a subcommittee meeting in a while.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Just as a point of information, I forgot to mention the researchers did a report when this came up previously, and the report's on that. It's at translation now, but you'll have it by Tuesday, so we'll know a lot of the background and we won't be starting from scratch.

Mr. Nater.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

The question of privilege is uniquely in my name, even though it was not I who had my privileges initially offended, but I do have that unique opportunity to have that in my name.

I would suggest, going back to the original question of the estimates, that the motion from the House does indicate we make it a priority, but that's not to say that we can't, at the same time, review other issues as well, as long as this continues to be the priority of the committee. I think we would be consistent with the direction from the House to set aside a meeting to review the estimates prior to May 31. I think that would be consistent with maintaining this as a priority of the committee, nonetheless having the opportunity to review the estimates prior to the deemed May 31 deadline as well. That would be my suggestion, if that's the will of the committee. As the mover of the privilege motion, I'd be in favour of that.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Would it be okay if we approached the potential witnesses to see if they could come for either of our last two meetings in May?

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

For the last two meetings...?

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

You have the schedule in front of you. I think it's the 18th and the 30th.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Chair, if I could, I suspect the two witnesses we're talking about are our colleagues, Ms. Raitt and Mr. Bernier. The obvious problem with that—

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Sorry, I was talking about witnesses for estimates.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Oh, I'm sorry.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

There are three witnesses. There would be protective services, who would be with the Clerk. They would cover two estimates. One is the House; one is protective services. Then there's the Chief Electoral Officer estimates for Elections Canada. These are busy people, so I was proposing that the clerk see if they were available on either the 18th or the 30th.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

It seems reasonable to me.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

How long are we looking at having them for?

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

What did we have before? In the past it's been an hour with the Clerk, and an hour with the Chief Electoral Officer.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Yes, and here's the thing. We still have the study of the protective services that we started quite some time ago, not long after we were constituted as a committee. We started to get a little bit of traction and then it kind of fell by the wayside as other things got layered on top. This is an opportunity to deal with some of those same issues, so putting all my cards on the table, people know some of the issues that I care about, and I'm not sure that an hour is going to cover it this time.

On the other one, I don't know about you people, but I have no agenda on the Chief Electoral Officer other than I wouldn't mind getting some deadlines from him. There is more information I would seek from him than normally under estimates, given the work we're doing on that study that's now been pushed back. I'm very concerned. I've been very up front with Mr. Chan and others about the fact that we are united—at least I am—with the government in wanting to make serious changes to the election laws.

A lot of that is contained in the Chief Electoral Officer's report. A lot of it is withdrawing the ugliness, in my opinion, from Bill C-23. That work has to be done. It would break my heart if we got to the end of this Parliament, with a majority government and at least one of the two opposition parties seriously wanting to make reforms in those areas—progressive, positive reforms—and we hadn't ripped out that ugly stuff that was stuffed down our throats in the last Parliament.

All of that is to say that I, for one, might spend a little more time than I might otherwise at estimates, but I'm not seeking to have the tail wag the dog here. I'm just saying that, from my perspective, there may be a little more time needed, given the current situation on both those files.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We'll go to Mr. Reid, and then Mr. Chan.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Leaving the editorials aside about the previous legislation, I'll just make the observation that I think Mr. Christopherson has a very good point that the CEO.... Of course, it's not the CEO; it's the acting CEO. The acting CEO and his eventual successor have a full plate and a change of command under way in a limited timeline, in addition to the concerns that Mr. Christopherson is expressing, which I think primarily revolve around Bill C-33. From his perspective, I think that would deal with the things he disliked the most about the existing legislation that was imposed in the last Parliament.

Would that be correct?

11:25 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

It's a good start.

May 4th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Okay. What I'm getting at is that there's Bill C-33 to deal with, and what kinds of deadlines its going to face. Additionally there is the issue of Minister Gould asking us to complete our study of the 42nd parliamentary report of the CEO to our chair, so that she could then take our report, work on legislation this autumn, produce a piece of legislation and get it to the CEO in order for the CEO to act on it prior to the next election. The CEO would be able to comment to us on that.

Finally, there is the issue of the financial reform legislation, the election finance reform, or party financing legislation that Minister Gould has promised to bring before the House. I get the impression.... Actually I had a chance to ask her this and while she was not unclear in answering, I can't remember what her answer was, to be honest, but the question was essentially, “Do you need this in place by the end of 2017 in order to have it take place in the 2018 calendar year because of the way party financing works on a calendar year basis?”

There are all of those balls in the air. All of them relate back to the CEO and I think, on that basis, it would be helpful to have the acting CEO for more than an hour. I think as well we probably should agree now that, in addition to dealing with the narrow scope of the estimates, we would give ourselves liberty to deal with those broader issues. Seeing as the CEO—I assume—watches this committee religiously, we've effectively, in today's meeting, giving notice to the acting CEO that he should anticipate our desire to have some guidance on these matters.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Go ahead, Mr. Chan.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I was really going to just suggest that we might want to be a bit flexible about it, but maybe the suggestion is to prioritize May 18 as our preferred date, because if we go to May 30, we're running up against the window. We don't have any window after that. That's if the CEO is available. If not, then they know the calendar. As it sits, we have May 16, 18, and 30 probably, in practical terms, for them to be here and to give them some flexibility. Maybe we'll start first with the Chief Electoral Officer, go as long as we need to go, and then call in the Speaker and the head of the PPS. I suspect we won't need as much time to go through their estimates process.

From a scheduling perspective, it would be respectful to give them some certainty as to when to show up. Maybe we'll just go back to you, Mr. Chair, and give them a bit more flexibility and offer them May 16, 18, and 30, with the preference that the Chief Electoral Officer comes as soon as possible, and then we slot in the Speaker and the head of the PPS after that. I don't suggest we do it on May 30, because that puts us up against the window of May 31. That would give you more flexibility in terms of questioning. I'm also very mindful that we also have a deadline on the privilege motion as well. We don't want to take forever on this, but the points you've raised are valid.

Then the other point I wanted to just raise regards the issue of the prioritization from Minister Gould for advancing her particular agenda from her mandate letter. I can undertake to consult with her staff and her about whether there is a revision with respect to certain priority items that they would like us to consider at least before we rise for the summer, if it is at all possible, because clearly there was a referral to us to get something done by May 19, and clearly we're not going to make that deadline. I don't know that we'll have that time, given all the other things that we have jammed in right now.

We have, I think, six sitting weeks left and this to deal with and estimates to deal with. Probably in priority we'll start with this, go back to estimates, and then go back to the Chief Electoral Officer's report in table C, where we were last at.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

There are so many darn layers to this onion that I lose track.

What was the deadline on the minister's...?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Do you mean Minister Gould?