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Evidence of meeting #30 for Official Languages in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was nrc.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Danial Wayner  Vice-President, Frontier Science, National Research Council Canada
Jean-Pierre Lavoie  Director General, Policy, Research and Programs, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
Daniel Watson  Deputy Minister, Western Economic Diversification Canada
Charles-Antoine Gauthier  Acting Director, Research Programs, National Research Council Canada
France Guimond  Director General, Operations-Manitoba, Western Economic Diversification Canada
Gilles Pelletier  Director General, Regional Operations, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
James Meddings  Assistant Deputy Minister, Western Economic Diversification Canada

10:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Western Economic Diversification Canada

Daniel Watson

We work with several groups in Alberta and elsewhere in the west as well. This is important. There are so many services being sold in Fort McMurray, for example, that come from other provinces such as Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia. We are working with a number of groups.

The labour problems are enormous. We estimate that there will be a shortage of approximately 100,000 workers in Alberta over the next 10 years. So we will have to find people in Canada, aboriginal groups, francophones from eastern Canada, who would like to work there. That will be important for everyone.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

If that's so important, would you say it's just as as important to find a system to ensure that Canadians are the first ones to get jobs, even if they only speak French and aren't English Canadians? As Canadians, they would have a right to work in the west.

10:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Western Economic Diversification Canada

Daniel Watson

Here's a contribution we can make to entrepreneurs looking to supply goods and services in this economic system in western Canada. We have organizations that can help these other entrepreneurs, in French, in western Canada. That's the contribution we can make. Perhaps we should contribute more, but that is the goal we have set for ourselves, to ensure that they can participate fully in the economy.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Godin.

We will suspend for one minute.

We will suspend to allow our witnesses to depart. We'll remain in public, so members of the public are free to remain, if they wish, until 10:45.

March 8th, 2012 / 10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

We are continuing the 30th meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. We are now sitting in public to continue the committee's proceedings.

The committee has before it a motion and an amendment that Mr. Menegakis introduced at the last meeting.

Consequently, I want to read something to committee members. If they want all witnesses who appear before us to make their presentations by teleconference, they must know that this will not be possible all the time: there are two rooms that we can use for teleconferences, and they are not always available. Furthermore, some witnesses are here in Ottawa or in the surrounding areas. It costs less to have those witnesses come before us than to send them to a teleconference centre in the national capital region.

Just so everybody is clear, if you ask me to have all the witnesses for the study appear by teleconference, that will not always be possible. There are only two rooms available for teleconferencing, and sometimes they're not available.

Secondly, there are witnesses in the national capital region who will appear, and it will be much easier for them to appear in person than try to organize a teleconference room a couple of blocks from here for them to appear.

If the committee wants witnesses to appear via teleconference, I'll make my best effort, but in certain cases we'll have to ask them to appear in person. I just want to make you aware of that.

I will read the motion and the amendment of Mr. Menegakis. We're on the amendment.

The motion says:

That in relation to the study of the evaluation of the roadmap: improving services and program delivery, the proposed budget in the amount of $63,900 be adopted.

Mr. Menegakis's amendment reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by adding after the words "be adopted" the following: "and that the Committee invite witnesses to appear by videoconference, and if not possible, that they be invited to appear in person".

We're on the amendment.

Mr. Menegakis.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Chair, I certainly accept your comments regarding my amendment. It is mindful of the taxpayers. We're all being asked across the country, from coast to coast, to tighten our belts. As parliamentarians, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the people, who have given us their confidence in being here, to exercise every possible opportunity to minimize costs. If they're outside the greater Ottawa area, we should exercise every effort to try to have witnesses appear before us via teleconference. If they can't, of course, we don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the study and the work of the committee.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Menegakis.

Monsieur Bélanger.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Chair, if Mr. Menegakis insists on his amendment—and, unless I am mistaken, he is doing so—I will move an amendment to the amendment to the effect that the committee should invite witnesses to appear in person and, if that is impossible, that it invite them to appear by videoconference.

I therefore suggest reversing the order, as should be done, and as has always been done. I am therefore introducing that motion.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Can you repeat your subamendment, please?

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Yes. I therefore move: That the amendment be amended by:

(a) replacing the words "by videoconference" with the words "in person"; and (b) replacing the words "in person" with the words "by videoconference".

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

The discussion now concerns the subamendment moved by Mr. Bélanger. There are four minutes left in this meeting.

I hand over the floor to Mr. Harris. And then it will be the turn of Mr. Weston and Mr. Zimmer.

Mr. Harris, you have the floor.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

As you mentioned in your explanation, Mr. Chair, there are two groups that do the video conferencing. If we as a committee choose to try to call all of our witnesses via teleconference, we will perhaps unfairly monopolize the video conferencing abilities of the House vis-à-vis every other committee in the House.

Before we dispense with this question, I would recommend that we ask those groups and the folks in charge of them how much of a strain we would be putting on their resources if we asked all of our witnesses to appear via teleconference.

I recommend we suspend debate on this motion and amendment until we have that relevant information. Let's just deal with the budget at hand today and move on, and then come back to it at a later date.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Mr. Weston.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

We are examining the subamendment. Since we are in a hurry, I believe I can speak on behalf of all committee members who are concerned for taxpayers' interests by saying that the subamendment of my friend Mr. Bélanger completely alters our meaning. Consequently, I cannot allow it.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Zimmer.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

It completely reverses the intent of my colleague's original amendment, so I would absolutely not support it. We have all of the equipment here and just need another step to make it all work. I think we need to push forward and get that operational.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

The technical requirements on the other end of the line need to explained.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Monsieur Godin.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I understand what our colleagues want to do. That's not the problem; it's more a matter of respect.

We are coming to the end of the study. We met with people from the west, in Whitehorse and Yellowknife in particular. We met them in person. They are waiting for a report. They have not yet received it. It is to be hoped that we will resolve this one day.

In addition, we would have to tell them they are not even invited to Ottawa. We are living in a country where someone who is fortunate enough to live near Ottawa will always have the opportunity to be welcomed here, whereas there are people who live far away whom we are telling to stay home. That would be tantamount to a lack of respect for those people.

That is why I think we should leave it to the chair and clerk to send out the invitations. Out of respect for our communities, we should give them a chance to come if they want to come. If we must proceed by teleconference and there is no other way to do it, we will do it. We have always worked that way.

I have nothing against teleconferences. I just have one problem: I am afraid of what people in the communities will think. It's as though we were telling the people from Newfoundland and Labrador that they aren't invited to Ottawa because they live on an island. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador would not like that.

So it's a matter of respect for our communities. We have invited everyone from everywhere. There are still a few witnesses to come from the communities, and I would like to see them here.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

There is one minute left.

Are there any other comments?

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Chair, I was just going to ask you if perhaps you could clarify again for the committee the technical requirements on the other end. As you mentioned, there are two groups the House has that go out on the other side to do the video conferencing.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Yes.

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

As I was saying before, if our committee monopolizes those two groups, particularly when we're inviting people from different areas at the same time—

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

It's the will of the committee. If the committee wants to book all the rooms for teleconferencing, that's your choice. I—

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Oh, yes. I just think that there perhaps was a misunderstanding about the requirements on the other end. Yes, we have all of the facilities and all of the equipment here, but every time we call a witness via teleconference, there's a lot that has to happen on the other end.