I now declare this special meeting of the public accounts committee in order.
I would ask the media to please excuse us and allow us to get on with our business.
Notwithstanding that the media has just left, I do remind members that this is televised. Everyone still has an opportunity to follow the proceedings.
You'll notice that we had a quick little meeting just before we started. I met with the three caucus leaders to talk about how we begin.
I'll set the stage by reading the rules that brought us to this point, and then put before you a suggested way to proceed.
I remind colleagues that this meeting has been convened pursuant to Standing Order 106(4), which reads as follows:
Within five days of the receipt, by the clerk of a standing committee, of a request signed by any four members of the said committee, the Chair of the said committee shall convene such a meeting provided that forty-eight hours' notice is given of the meeting.
That, everyone is in agreement, took place. We have followed all the rules.
For the purposes of this section, the reasons for convening such a meeting shall be stated in the request.
I'll read the wording of the letter that was signed by the four members who triggered this. It relates to what I just said, that the reason for convening such a meeting shall be stated in the request, and it is as such:
Pursuant to Standing Order 106(4), I the undersigned
—in this case, I have Monsieur Dubé's copy in my hand—
request that the Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts convene a meeting in order to study Chapter 2—Replacing Canada's Fighter Jets, of the 2012 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada.
Four members of the committee requested that a meeting be convened to discuss their request to undertake a study of chapter 2.
O'Brien and Bosc state in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 1084:
In considering the request, the committee decides whether or not it wishes to take up the requested subject matter. There is no obligation on the committee to conclude debate. If it decides to consider the matter, it may do so as and when it wishes.
The reason I'm doing this is that we all know there are at least two notices of motion before us that are applicable to this matter. What I need members to understand is that unlike a regular meeting, those motions are not stacked up, sort of waiting to be brought in. They can be brought in—any matter of business can be dealt with—but only on a motion, and then a majority vote.
So this is not a race to see whose motion gets in front of us first, at least not at the get-go. That's why I held that meeting. You can see the rules are very loose. I've never been comfortable with this notion, when things are really serious and a lot of the politics of the meeting gets determined by who gets the floor first, that the fair way is for the chair to recognize the first person they see. I have always found that patently unfair, because it means that anyone with arthritis loses, or that a chair who happens to glance the other way sees one hand when another hand was up sooner.
I mean, I've done it, and I'll do it, because that's the only thing we have, but you know my discomfort with that as a fair way to decide who gets the floor first. I've even suggested to this committee that I'd like to convene some quiet meetings to talk about how we would find a fair rule to deal with that. But we don't have that right now, so in trying to prevent a rush of who was first and then a big fight about “My hand was up first, theirs was second”, I've asked the principals, the three leaders of the three caucuses, if we could find agreement on how to open. We have.
The agreement is that we will allow Mr. Saxton first, then Mr. Allen, and then Mr. Byrne to each have two minutes. During that time there will be no motions put. It is strictly an opportunity for them to give their thoughts on behalf of their caucus as to how they think we should proceed, or anything else they want to talk about.
You have two minutes. Hopefully at the end of that we'll have some idea of where we want to go; otherwise it will be back to whoever gets the floor first can talk or move motions, and we'll take it from there.
Is everybody in agreement with proceeding in that fashion?