Evidence of meeting #22 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was vote.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Aleksander Essex  Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual
Nicole Goodman  Assistant Professor, Brock University, As an Individual
Pierre Roberge  President, Arc4dia
Michael Morden  Research Director, Samara Centre for Democracy
Ali Ghorbani  Professor and Director, Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual
Guy-Vincent Jourdan  Professor of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
Chris Vickery  Director of Cyber Risk Research, UpGuard, As an Individual
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Justin Vaive
Andre Barnes  Committee Researcher

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Maybe the analyst, Andre, can help us with this as well.

I know you've already sent a portion of the draft report to translation, and I have just heard—this is for the benefit of the whole committee—that by Monday we might be able to get in our hands a portion of the draft report—a large portion, I heard—so we'll have something by this Monday.

Andre, what kind of time do your foresee will be needed when looking for an extension? Do you think we need to extend into one week of July, two weeks of July or more than that?

2:10 p.m.

Andre Barnes Committee Researcher

Thank you, Madam Chair.

To use a phrase that's been used maybe too much today, it is really the will of the committee as to how long the extension would be and how many more meetings you'd like to have.

A portion of the draft report has gone to translation. It might actually be translated by now. I'm writing a portion of Tuesday's meeting as we speak, and when I leave this meeting, I'm going to try to complete another portion, which will all be ready for Monday. Today's meeting will not be ready for the Tuesday meeting, just because it is practically impossible.

That is the update from my end. I hope that's enough to go on.

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

When would today's meeting be ready?

2:10 p.m.

Committee Researcher

Andre Barnes

It would be ready for Thursday, hopefully. Sorry, let me get that exactly correct. That would be the 18th.

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Okay.

Is there any other feedback?

If we are looking for an extension, I need to report back. That's the urgency of this matter. I can't wait until the 23rd to make this decision. I think our clerk can explain that a little better.

Mr. Richards.

June 11th, 2020 / 2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I think there were two different schools of thought on the rushed nature of this. This potentially satisfies one of those schools of thought. I might suggest a bit of a change, and maybe it's just a flexibility thing or whatever it might be. I like the way our clerk has laid out what the effects of this would be.

The idea is that we would get the rest of June essentially to finish with witnesses or whatever else we need to hear. Then, perhaps, rather than prescribing an exact date, we could simply say that following the blackout—I forget the period of time that we're blacked out for—based on the advice of our clerk and our analyst based on where they are at with things, we would pick up to write it in either a report or an interim report, whatever the case might be.

I would assume that's only going to take a couple of meetings, but if it takes three or four meetings or whatever, then so be it. I don't think there's a huge panic over July 10 rather than July 15 or something, or that some major catastrophic occurrence would happen if it was an extra few days.

Maybe rather than extending to a specific date, we could simply say that we will continue to hear from witnesses until June 25 or whatever it was, and then, following the blackout period, the committee would recommence to finalize the report, essentially. That way we wouldn't be.... It would basically have the same effect, other than not putting ourselves under the gun where we end up with a 12-hour-long meeting again or something, if it's required. One would hope not, of course, but....

That's one thing.

The second would be that I still don't think it addresses the concern that was raised by Mr. Duncan. I don't believe he is here now, but I certainly sympathize with that school of thought, which is essentially that what we're doing is making recommendations in June, or, in this case, maybe early July, for something that is then two and a half months off. With the way the situation evolves, we may find that we want to consider an interim report and then come back and revisit it for some discussion late in August or the first week of September to address where we are at that point and potentially make new recommendations, change existing ones, drop some of them or whatever the case may be. It really doesn't address that.

I don't know that we have to have a motion to do that. I don't know how that needs to be done, but those would be my two thoughts. We can do the first part of it in that manner. Then for the second part, I don't know what to suggest in terms of how to address that, but we probably should have a provision. Probably the easiest thing to do is to indicate that this would be an interim report and we would have a chance to revisit it when the time is appropriate, whether that is in late August or early September, whatever it might be.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

At this point, after tomorrow.... A couple of the points were about the witnesses. We have exhausted the witnesses we had already requested and all the parties had put forward, so that witness list has been exhausted.

From what we heard from Andre, we will have the complete, finalized draft report by June 18. So, by June 18, we will have a translated, full draft report that includes up to tomorrow.

I have a drafted motion that the clerk has helped draft. We will need to have something to ask for if we don't meet our current deadline, and I need to get that in as soon as possible. The rest is up to when you think that should be.

There are some hands up. We have Ms. Blaney, Mr. Gerretsen and then Mr. Richards again.

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you, Chair.

First of all, thank you for clarifying. That was the question I was going to ask, whether there are any outstanding witnesses whom time has prevented us from seeing. It sounds as though that is not the case.

My one concern.... I agree; I would like to set a date. It's important for the House to know when we're going to have this completed. I do agree with Mr. Richards, if there is a way for us to come back at the end of August or the beginning of September to look at what has happened. I know I'll be watching closely what's happening in British Columbia, because of course they're going to start going back to their legislature and doing it in a hybrid model towards the end of June. It would be good for us to have an opportunity to reflect on anything we've seen. I encourage us to consider that seriously.

Maybe the following week, July 15 or 17.... I say that hoping we can meet the week of July 10 but then give ourselves time at the end to get the final reports done, to have them tabled. I just don't want to see us rushing again, the day after the night. I just think about the last time. We were trying to get our report done and then get it translated and submitted. That was a very short timeline, so I'm especially thinking of that.

That's my sense of the conversation at this point. I look forward to hearing from other people.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

That sounds fair. There's probably a way the committee can put a report back with its recommendations, and also perhaps ask for that review mechanism or further input, or whatever it is that the committee desires, to provide feedback to the House of Commons again on the issue.

We have Mr. Gerretsen, and then Mr. Richards.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Forty minutes ago, we had no problem imposing a strict deadline on the bureaucrats to produce information and on translation to work over the weekend to translate a contract and any other contracts. It's entirely fair that we put a deadline on ourselves, create a deadline for ourselves and work towards that.

We're willing to say that June 23 or June 18, whenever the original deadline was, is a little tight.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

It was June 23.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

June 23 is a little tight, so let's work to find another date. By no means should we be setting ourselves up in a position to say, “Well, if we can't make it, then I guess we'll go a little longer,” when 40 minutes ago we basically told people on the Hill they had to work over the weekend. That's the reality of what we just did.

With that, I move that we ask for an extension to July 10.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Mr. Richards.

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Chair, there are a couple of things.

First of all, you indicated that we'd exhausted the witness list. I'll make a couple of points to that.

There are a couple of ways that a witness list can be exhausted. One of them can be that every witness who desired to be heard was heard. The other way could be, and I suspect it's probably the case in this scenario, that when we're rushed, as we were, they were offered a certain time or maybe weren't available during this period of a couple of weeks that they had. They would have liked to have the chance but just didn't get that chance because of the rushed timeline. We might find that, if we have more time, there might be other witnesses who wish to be heard.

The second point to that is that parties were all encouraged to submit short lists because we were rushed in terms of time. There might be other witnesses people wished to suggest but chose not to because they didn't have the time and had to prioritize. To say that we wouldn't have other witnesses might not necessarily be accurate.

Given that we would then have—

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

We have to empty the room. We're running out of time. This is why I was hoping that on Wednesday we could have had a one-hour committee business meeting, but at that time the committee didn't really feel that we would need a whole lot of time on this issue. It seems as though we do.

We have to clear the room, so we have to set aside another time for committee business. I have to figure that out and set that.

Justin.

2:20 p.m.

The Clerk

In terms of additional time, we do have a witness tomorrow for a one-hour meeting. We could put on the meeting notice another opportunity for committee business. It would again be fairly brief.

Seeing as the committee is moving towards an idea of some type of extension, next Tuesday, June 16, we will have a full three-hour meeting and there could be an opportunity right off the top, at the beginning of the meeting, for some additional committee business. If tomorrow's opportunity doesn't allow you to finish off the discussion and reach a decision, there might be an opportunity at the beginning of the Tuesday meeting to do that. There would still be a chunk of time in the balance of that meeting, if that is what the committee ultimately wants to do, to start in on at least a portion of the draft report as Andre currently has it.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Mr. Gerretsen had moved a date. What can we do with that?

Is your point of order on what I'm just about to bring up?

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

No, I want to make sure I understand correctly from a procedural perspective.

If we don't end up asking for an extension, we're ultimately stuck with June 23. Is that correct?

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Yes.

2:20 p.m.

The Clerk

Madam Chair, I could provide some clarity on that.

Essentially, the House motion of May 26 was a motion of instruction asking the committee to do a study on possible Standing Orders changes, incremental steps towards a hybrid Parliament, including remote voting. They had a reporting deadline of June 23 in that. The committee would be under some sort of obligation to report something back by June 23.

As I've indicated before, the nature of that report could be a recommendation to extend the deadline to some future point, for example. That's why ultimately the committee needs a specific hard deadline to make a determination on that. Whether it's July 10 or some other date down the road, there would be a need to do that. If the committee makes that type of decision, that could be the report that gets sent back to the Clerk of the House.

Of course, before a deadline can be made formal or official, the House needs to concur in it. Because we don't have the sittings in the usual way where a motion can be moved for a concurrence to the committee report during routine proceedings, some other mechanism would need to be in place that would permit the House to essentially give its approval to your recommendation to move the reporting deadline to some other date.

There are different ways of doing that. Special motions have been done in the House before, and we've seen that since the beginning of the pandemic. It could be done that way. There is a special provision from one of those motions, from April 23, where if the four House leaders of the recognized parties agree to a recommendation in a PROC report, such as a recommendation to extend the deadline, that could give effect to it as well. Simply your deciding to move it to another date does not necessarily guarantee that a new deadline will be officially made or officially set.

The first step, obviously, is to make a decision, if that is what you want, to ask for a deadline extension, and then of course determine what that specific date would be. Whether it's soon or whether it's later, that's up to you.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Is that something that can be decided by majority vote, Justin, or do we need consensus on it?

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Madam Chair, we have a motion on the table. Can we vote before we leave the room?

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

That's what I'm asking for.

Is that a votable motion?

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I have a point of order.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Mr. Richards.