I now call this 43rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the House of Commons to order.
Colleagues will know that we had planned to have our Auditor General with us today. You'll know from the e-mail I sent to you and the news release that he had a relatively minor medical emergency that needed to be dealt with. He's going to make himself available as early as Thursday, but of course that's at the pleasure of the committee.
We have quite a bit of business in front of us. We have remnants of the 2011 fall report that we postponed to accommodate the F-35 meeting. We need to reschedule that one and get it back on track.
We have not yet prioritized our chapters from the spring 2012 report, other than chapter 2, on the F-35, which of course we've been focusing on. So we need to work on that.
We have a couple of outstanding motions in front of us. The thing we need to decide right now is how we want to proceed. Again, I'm a little hesitant, because after we lost the steering committee, the easy way to do this was lost.
I have fretted, again, over this notion of what I was going to do when all hands went up, and—we're back into this—who got to control the floor.
I have to tell you, with nobody doing anything and the government putting their hands up, it's all the same to me. I've said this to you before. Twice I've asked for assistance. I've asked for it privately. I've asked publicly. Nobody's taken me up on it, so I'm still left with this impossible situation.
In the absence of a clear rule, I'll let a couple of people speak. But I'm not going to take motions. I just want to give you an opportunity. As I said to you before, it's an impossible situation. You all throw your hands up at once. Whoever gets the floor first has a bearing. The people watching may not see it, but we all know here that inside politics, it matters a whole lot.
Here is my thinking, at this point. With a clear majority, the government always maintains the ability to deny an opposition motion and/or to carry their own motion. The opposition, by themselves, cannot force this committee to do anything. They don't have the votes. The government has 100% built-in control. No one can do anything without the agreement of the government. Conversely, the government can do anything they want, whether the opposition likes it or not, assuming they follow the usual rules of procedure.
With that in mind, all other things being equal, and given that this is an oversight committee whose sole purpose is to watch the books, hopefully in as non-partisan a fashion as possible, I'm going to try to bring some kind of fairness. Again, for those who may disagree, I am willing to host a meeting, private or public, to talk about a different way to approach this. But in the absence of that, I am going to go to the official opposition, then to the Liberals, and then to the government.
I am going to listen to interventions, probably from the government, if they want to make a different argument. But bear in mind that just winning isn't good enough in terms of winning the floor. We don't have a process that's fair. I'm trying to be as fair-minded as I can be, recognizing the mandate of this committee and that ultimately we're accountable to the public. We're the public accounts committee.
That's the way I'm going to proceed. I invite members to meet with me to talk about a different approach, but that's what I'm going to do.
I will now take any interventions. I will not accept any motions during these interventions, because my intent right now is to give the floor to the official opposition, at which time they will have the full right to the floor.
Right now I'm going to give people an opportunity to give me a little input into that decision, particularly from the government, since they would likely have the greatest difficulty with this. With that understanding, I'm willing to hear from Mr. Saxton.