Thank you very much.
I'm honoured to be here today. I have to confess that I am a bit excited but also nervous. It was on Tuesday that the government House leader, the Honourable Bardish Chagger, tabled in the House of Commons a certificate of nomination designating me to be the next Clerk of the House of Commons.
What a rewarding journey the pursuit of this objective was for me! The process began last January when the position of Clerk of the House of Commons was announced in the Canada Gazette. I submitted my application before the end of February and I was interviewed by the board at the end of April. Then my references were checked and I had a psychometric assessment. I was delighted to hear of my appointment earlier this week.
The position of Clerk is a big job. It is the most senior position in my profession in this country. I am humbled but, I believe, also ready to take on this enormous challenge.
I believe you have a copy of my CV, but I would like to provide you with an overview of my background. I started my career—Andre will be glad to hear this—in the Library of Parliament. I worked for almost 10 years here in the House and for the last 26 years have been working in the other chamber. The end result is that during my career, I've had the honour of working for both houses, and of working for the Library of Parliament, which provides an invaluable service to both.
I began my career more than 37 years ago as an employee in the Library of Parliament. I then acquired a real interest in the work of Parliament, its traditions, its practices and its procedures. I quickly realized that there is nothing better for Canadian democracy than the Westminster parliamentary system, and I wanted to be part of it.
In the early 1980s the House of Commons was expanding its procedural services. This was when the table research branch was established here in the House. I applied for a position and was successful. I was in. I still remember the very first research paper that I wrote. It was on grievances and the history of the notion of grievances before supply.
During my time in the House, I was lucky to work with some of the giants in the administration of the House, former clerks, senior clerks, principal clerks, and deputy principal clerks. It was also a time of Speakers such as Jerome, Sauvé, Bosley, and Fraser. I had the good fortune to learn from all of them.
It was also an exciting time to be on the Hill and working in the Commons. The Constitution was patriated, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted. There was also the then-unprecedented bells episode, delaying a vote in the House for two weeks. That was also the day that Bob Rae left the House. In fact, this event was the subject of my first published article that appeared in The Table.
After several years in table research, I moved to other procedural operations, committees, and journals and became totally immersed in the services they provide to support the work of the House of Commons. I embraced the opportunity to take on the administrative part of these jobs.
Canadians, if they recognize us at all, see us sitting at the table in the House from time to time. You, however, as parliamentarians, know that more than two-thirds of the job takes place behind the scenes in the important area of administration. Without this, none of the rest would work.
In 1991 I took the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience in our bicameral Parliament and accepted a position as a committee clerk in the Senate. I thought it was a great chance to learn how the Senate, in the words of the Supreme Court, exercises its role as a complementary body to the House of Commons. From committees I became the EA to the Clerk of the Senate, and working in his office had the privilege of getting an important bird's-eye view of the way the entire place worked. I subsequently became a deputy principal clerk and table officer. I also assumed managerial responsibility for various procedural support services in the Senate, including journals, debates, and procedural research.
Again, the sound administration of each of these areas was an important factor to the success I had in achieving my goals of building a strong team and producing positive results.
While fulfilling these responsibilities, I continued to write and publish, with a particular focus on parliamentary privilege. I also became involved in different outreach activities, and joined some associations that promoted knowledge about Parliament and our democracy. I was involved in the initiative that established the Teachers Institute, and subsequently Many Facets. I became a member of the executive of the Canadian Study of Parliament Group and the Forum for Young Canadians. I also joined the editorial board of the Canadian Parliamentary Review.
To improve knowledge of the Senate and its rules and practices, as well as to enhance the skills of senators' staff, I led efforts to develop different tools and activities—procedural seminars, procedural notes, and, after many years and too many iterations, publication of the Senate manual Senate Procedure in Practice. I also worked closely with a small team of senators from the rules committee, who rewrote and reorganized the rules of the Senate, making the text clear with a more user-friendly format.
I should also mention that as a senior table officer since 1996, I was part of the Clerk's management team. A big part of the job of senior table officers is providing leadership for the logistical and support functions necessary to the operations of the Senate. I was also able to realize first-hand the great importance of the responsibility that comes with coordinating and directing the activities of the different components of administration and the legislative sector so that they work together in effective collaboration to enable senators to carry out their functions as efficiently as possible.
This isn't just about pushing paper. It's about setting the tone and the atmosphere necessary so that all staff can strive to improve, to be better, to always be on the lookout for ways that allow parliamentarians to fulfill their responsibilities more thoroughly and successfully.
My involvement in the management of Senate administration became deeper when I was appointed as Acting Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments at the beginning of 2015.
During that same period, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration created the executive committee, made up of the Clerk of the Senate, the Chief Corporate Services Offices and the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and Chief Parliamentary Precinct Services Officer. Using that model, we work closely together to manage all aspects of the administration and thereby to provide senators with better service.
My experience in the executive committee was similar in approach to the manner in which I have managed throughout my career. I believe that being open, inclusive, and transparent leads to collaboration, and that collaboration is the only way to get the best out of everyone. One bit of advice that I received years ago, when I was working as a junior procedural clerk in the House of Commons, has stuck with me: always be mindful of morale. The take-away from that advice was that good morale is essential to effective administration. It is absolutely key to solid performance. Without the support of motivated and dedicated employees and teams, no leader, no clerk, can really achieve what is required to sustain the work of the Senate or the House of Commons.
Having said that, the buck stops somewhere, and that is with me. When decisions have to be made, I accept and will accept full responsibility and, if confirmed as Clerk, full accountability.
Let me conclude with some thoughts on how I see my role as Clerk of the House of Commons should you support the nomination and recommend that the House vote for my appointment. I am here to work for you and with you, to make sure that you have the best support as parliamentarians in a modern, safe environment. The rapid pace of development of communications is transforming our appreciation of democracy and public engagement.
This is already having impact on your work as MPs as you represent your constituencies and legislate for the benefit of the nation.
While we need to keep up with these developments and incorporate them into our models of work, we can't lose sight of the traditions that still retain their meaning, that provide an anchor for purposeful advancement. The renovations under way throughout much of Parliament Hill provide a good image of what I mean. These projects, updating these wonderful historic buildings, including this one, show how we can embrace the future while remembering and valuing the past.
Thank you for your time.
I suspect I may be ready now for some questions.