Evidence of meeting #6 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 process.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Huguette Labelle  Chair, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Joann Garbig

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

—we'll go on—

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Madam—

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

—to the next questioner.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Madam Labelle is ostensibly an individual who is independent. That's been emphasized over and over again in the government's statements with regard to her and the panel that she chairs. “Independent” must mean—

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

On a point of order—

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Lamoureux.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I'm actually on a point of order, Mr. Lamoureux.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

No, you're not.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Kevin, I am.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

No. You didn't start off by saying “On a point of order”.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Lamoureux.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Chair, sitting back here, it looks more as though Scott is just arguing with the chair.

You raised a point of order. The chair made a determination on that point of order. Now you're choosing to dispute the point of order. You haven't stated “On a new point of order” or anything of this nature.

Let's put this thing into proper context. The Standing Orders allow for the committee to call a witness of this nature. The chair has been very explicit, both at the beginning and now twice to you, in explaining what the standing order allows us to do. It was actually a Liberal member of the committee who moved the motion, believing that the will of the committee was to do exactly what it is the standing order dictates: deal with the competence and qualifications of an appointment.

If you wanted to question the policy aspect—and that's really what you're getting into—it would have been more appropriate to possibly suggest that it be debated in the House or in another forum.

The standing order is very, very clear, and I think we should respect the standing order. Scott, you've been very respectful of the rules in the past. I would suggest we just continue to ask questions related to the standing order.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

I have ruled already, Mr. Reid. You have one last chance.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

My concern, Mr. Chair, is that we are not respecting the Constitution of Canada, which, because of the tight deadlines in this committee, can only be defended at this meeting. It was after our January 29 meeting that we learned this process would occur and it would be finished on February 15. This is our only opportunity to ask some critical questions about whether or not information will be kept secret from us permanently with regard to whether or not the independence of future senators is being compromised by the nomination process.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Reid, we—

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

If you shut me down, you are shutting down the only opportunity we have to find the answers to these critical question. We're talking about the independence of a body of the Parliament of Canada. That surely deserves the opportunity to be discussed.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Reid—

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

On the same point of order—

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Okay, there will be no more points of order. We're going to move to Mr. Christopherson. The committee has lots of time. If people want to talk about the process, the committee can decide that in committee business, but that's not the grounds for this particular meeting.

Go ahead, Mr. Christopherson.

February 4th, 2016 / 11:25 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Good. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you again, very much, for your time today. At some point I hope we get to you.

I don't have a lot to say on the qualifications side. I mean, the paper speaks for itself. The only thing that struck me was that when you were going through your regular day-to-day background, you said you really thought you needed a Ph.D. and then you went out and got it, like you buy a shovel over at Canadian Tire. That's impressive. For me, somebody with a grade 9 education, that looms large in terms of your qualifications.

Competency takes us into some other areas. Let me just say, though, Chair, before I get into the area of competency questions, that the little skirmish we just saw between you and Mr. Reid, to me, right from the get-go, is a perfect example of the absolute impossibility of jamming the square peg of appointments into the round hole of democracy. No matter what part of this process we dissect, it's never going to add up because it doesn't work. It doesn't fit in a democracy.

Having said that, and being left with no alternative—and it's a shame, because we could use some real common sense on this whole issue—I want to ask about your thinking, madame, the criteria you use.

You, through the appointment of the Prime Minister, replace what Canadians do during an election, which is to make a merit-based evaluation, usually on the doorstep or on the phone or through an email exchange. We repeat it thousands and thousands of times, trying to convince people that we would meet their merit qualifications as they see them. The cumulative effect of that is that we have an election, and as tough as it is, it's usually very clear. Canadians decided who was merit-based and who wasn't. The beauty of the system is that if they get it wrong, if the Canadian people in a riding feel they got it wrong, then they get a chance in the next election to do something about it.

We don't have that. Once you're a senator and you're appointed, you're there till you're 75, and that's it. I'm wondering what process, what talent, what experience, and what training you are looking for that, in your view, would give Canadians the ideal lawmaker. This isn't just about having a gilded life on the red carpet; it's also a fact that senators make laws. In fact, their vote is worth more than our vote, because there are fewer of them.

What qualifications are you looking for when you're trying to replace the process that Canadians go through on the doorstep? What are you looking for when you're trying to choose a person Canadians would consider to be their ideal lawmaker?

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Ms. Labelle.

11:30 a.m.

Chair, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

Huguette Labelle

Thank you.

I must tell you that I have had many employees who had grade 9, and they did much better than I did because they had used their own lives to become experienced people.

In terms of the criteria, we have those that are in the Constitution already, which are age, residency, property—

11:30 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

But really, that's not much more than a pulse.

11:30 a.m.

Chair, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

Huguette Labelle

Yes.

Then what we also are looking at, and this is public, is, first of all, people who have a very strong ethical background, extensive knowledge and experience, and hopefully an understanding of the institutions of our country. We're also looking for the identification of people with diversity, be they women or men. We're looking for cultural diversity and linguistic diversity in addition to professional diversity, so that more than the same kinds of professions being recommended. The list is longer, but these are the kinds of criteria we use.

We're also looking at people who are ready to work in the Senate on a non-partisan basis, which is part of the mandate that was given. These are the kinds of things that we're looking at. We look for recognized leadership in the field they are in. We look for people who have been strong in serving their community.

We have quite an extensive list of public criteria, and those criteria are known to everyone who wishes to be considered.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you for that.

Given the fact that there is no built-in structural method of accountability and it's really only now that the media are beginning to ask senators the kinds of questions they ask us on a day-to-day basis—so there is some accountability starting there—what traits are you looking for that would indicate that senators-to-be understand there is some element of accountability in this process somewhere? I mean, it's the greatest lottery win in the entire world. You not only get a beautiful paycheque and pension until you're 75, but you get to make laws. How great is that for a G7 country? What traits are you looking for that would give you the sense that future senators understand there is some element of accountability? It's not there structurally. What would you be looking for in their personalities to give you a sense that they understand there is accountability? Do you believe that's a part of it?

I ask because you didn't mention that as one of your criteria.