Yes, Mr. Chair, I do have some questions with regard to that. I thought it was interesting. Through good will, we're trying to work with the opposition. At the last meeting, I sat and observed a member of the Liberal caucus actually move a motion, by using the Standing Orders, our rules, to have an appointment come before us, and everyone seemed to be quite encouraged about it. The Standing Orders provide the details of what we're able to ask and not ask.
This is something, Mr. Richards and Mr. Reid, that you would have known. You guys are not new to this system. I thought the idea of the qualifications and competence had validity. That's what the rule said. That's what we asked them to do. My concern is that we're saying we didn't really want that, and that is what I'm hearing. I'm hearing you didn't really want that, and that what you really wanted was to talk about government policy, government process, and to take an issue and debate it before the PROC committee. If you were to use that same process, you could take a wide variety of different issues and say, “Well, today we want Minister X; tomorrow we want Minister Y”, and where does it end?
I can understand and appreciate that there might have been some frustration on your part in terms of not necessarily getting to ask the types of questions you really wanted to ask, but maybe that should have been raised on Tuesday, when there was a sense of good will and good faith with regard to trying to accommodate an appointment.
We went in good faith, believing that members were genuine in wanting to get a better understanding of the qualifications and the competence. I was actually quite pleased to see that the chair was able to make herself available to come to committee within 48 hours of the board making that decision. The issue of process wasn't being dealt with, and that seemed to be your primary concern. Why did we even call for the chair? Why didn't you just express at the outset that you would rather have the minister? If legislation is referred to our committee or if the House, as a whole, refers an issue to our committee, then there is a lot more validity in calling the minister to appear.
I'm just not clear. Mr. Richards, I would look to you to provide some clarification so that all the committee members understand. Even though I'm not a committee member, I am obviously very interested in getting a better understanding, because maybe it's something we should be taking into consideration on rule changes. We're looking at rule changes. Maybe this is something that's suited to a discussion we should be having. I don't quite understand your motivations. At one time you were leading the committee to believe that all we would do is talk about qualifications and competence of a particular appointment, and then somehow you turned that around to wanting to talk about the process of Senate appointments.
You have many other forums in which that can be done. Today in the House we are debating one of the official opposition's motions. The debate that's taking place on the floor of the House of Commons today could have just as easily been about the Senate. You, and particularly Mr. Reid, have posed numerous questions in question period to the minister you're trying to call before the committee. There are many other forums, and I'm just questioning why it is that, on the surface, 48 hours ago you were suggesting we would like to review the qualifications and the competence of an appointment, and we bought into it. That's the reason we were the ones who actually moved the motion to have her come before the committee. That was a gesture.
We talk about parliamentary reform, and two or three days into it we're already calling a witness. We weren't trying to hide anything. The witness comes and performs, and then right away you're deviating away from competence and qualifications, wanting to pick up a line of questioning that would have been better posed to the minister of democratic reform, quite possibly.
I'm beginning to think that maybe this was your original agenda, the original purpose for having the discussion. That's why I think at the very least, if not to me but to committee members, you need to better explain why you even wanted to have this particular appointment come before the committee if your real intent was to talk about process and mandate.
If it was to talk about process and mandate, I would highly recommend that there be, at the very least, some discussions to make it clearer what the committee is being asked to do. That's at the very least. If you couldn't develop that consensus, then there's a responsibility, as an official opposition, to raise the issue. Instead of talking about deficits and whether there was or was not a deficit, we could have been talking about this issue today. If we'd actually had the minister come before the committee, we could have had that discussion then.
My concern is on whether or not you have other intentions. Are there other ministers that you ultimately want to be able to call?
I would appreciate it if you could comment on the real reason you wanted the appointment to be called. Do you not believe there are other ways in which you can achieve your questioning on process?