COMMITTEE OF SELECTION OF THE SENATE

EVIDENCE

OTTAWA, Tuesday, November 2, 1999

The Committee of Selection of the Senate met this day at 11:30 a.m. to select a senator to preside as Speaker pro tempore and the senators to serve on the several select committees during the current session, in accordance with Rule 85(1)(a) and Rule 85(1)(b) of the Rules of the Senate.

Senator Léonce Mercier (Chairman) presiding.

[Translation]

The Chairman: On our agenda this morning is the business of nominating members to serve on various committees. However, in the absence of the opposition, I move that:

Pursuant to Rule 85(1) and Rule 85(2) of the Rules of the Senate, your Committee wishes to inform the Senate that it has met on the issue of nominating a Senator to preside as Speaker pro tempore. Your committee has not decided on a nomination and will report to the Senate at a later time.

Is everyone agreed with the motion?

[English]

Senator Grafstein: Because I did not get my comments on the record prior to the establishment of the meeting by the chairman, I would like the clerk to assure us as follows: first, that there was proper notice of this meeting; second, that the meeting was changed from 11 o'clock to 11:30 to convenience the opposition; and third, that opposition members were phoned individually and that the change in time was confirmed, so that, from the clerk's position, this meeting is appropriately and properly constituted.

Dr. Gary O'Brien, Principal Clerk, Committees Branch: Mr. Chairman, the notice was sent out according to the rules. The change in time from 11 o’clock to 11:30 occurred this morning. I received a phone call from Senator DeWare noting that there seemed to be a problem with 11 o'clock and asking if 11:30 would be a better time, and I conveyed that to Senator Mercier's office. That seemed acceptable to the whip and a notice was sent out. I was also involved in making phone calls to all the members of the committee informing them that the time had changed from 11 o’clock to 11:30 this morning.

Senator Grafstein: I thank the clerk for that. My office received the notice that this meeting was to be held at 11 o'clock; I was subsequently advised that it would be held at 11:30, and that is why I attended. If we are satisfied that the meeting is properly constituted, I am certainly prepared to listen to the business. We have heard a motion.

Senator Prud'homme: I would like to suggest something that might be helpful for the future. Our friend Senator Hays said, "We consulted with the opposition." There is something that could be very helpful in our relationships in the next couple of years -- when I say "our relationship," you can imagine to whom I am referring. If they were here, I would not speak like this, even though it is going to be recorded. I would prefer like that we do not refer to the opposition, having in the mind the five independent senators. I cannot speak for all the independents but I am not in the opposition. The Speaker pro tempore you will choose will be the pro tempore Speaker of all senators, not only of the opposition and the government. I refuse that category of being known as the opposition. I am not in the opposition, and you will know that very clearly this afternoon. That is all I want to say.

Senator Grafstein: Just to make it absolutely clear in my mind, I take it that the nominees for the Selection Committee have been received.

Senator Hays: Perhaps, Mr. Chairman, I could comment on that. The purpose of this meeting is to receive a motion nominating senators to serve on 10 of the 12 committees that to this point do not have committee membership. There are discussions on matters that relate not to the membership but to such things as how many committees would be chaired by whom, and so on.

Senator Grafstein: I understand that. My question relates to whether the members of this committee have been appropriately appointed by the rules.

Senator Austin: That is correct.

Senator Hays: Yes, Senator Grafstein.

Senator Grafstein: I am just responding to my colleague Senator Prud'homme about the opposition versus the independents, and I do not want to become engaged in that debate, although it is interesting and important. What I am interested in, for the purposes of making a decision, is ensuring that all the members of this committee have been appropriately appointed to the committee. If they have been appropriately appointed and have received a notice, we are properly constituted. I would like some assurance, if I could get it, that that is the case, if we have that information.

Senator Hays: Yes. The Journals of the Senate for October 12 refer to a motion that I made, seconded by Senator Kroft, naming the members of this committee. The question was put in the chamber and it was adopted on division, so I believe the membership of the committee is in order and the meeting is in order.

Senator Fairbairn: And Senator Fraser is substituting.

Senator Hays: Yes. There is provision for a senator who is absent to be represented by another senator. In this case, Senator Kirby was made a member of this committee but is unable to be here; he is at the Transportation Committee. The whip’s office has been good enough to arrange that Senator Fraser replace Senator Kirby at this meeting.

Therefore, to answer your question as best I can, everything has been done in accordance with the Rules of the Senate. We have the Senate's motion forming this committee, and I believe the committee's membership and the holding of this meeting to be fully in order.

Senator Prud'homme: I would like to add that I support fully what Senator Hays has just said. If some of you have in mind the question of the independents -- tough luck for them, that means me -- we have not disposed of the last session of report 11 and report 12, so you do not need to agonize today over these two reports. They do not exist any longer. We will have to redo them if someone wants to redo them. This meeting is very regular and too bad some have failed to attend.

Senator Fairbairn: If I may, just to satisfy Senator Grafstein, I was sitting in on the Transport Committee and received a message from my office of the phone call that had evidently been made to my office of the change in time from 11 to 11:30.

Senator Hays: I am not the chairman but the clerk advises me that there is a quorum present.

Now, Mr. Chairman, you have read a motion. I am an ex officio member. Perhaps one of the regular members of the committee might be good enough to move that motion.

Senator Grafstein: I will move that motion.

Senator Hays: May I speak in favour? To comply with rule 85, this committee should report as the rules require, and I therefore submit that this motion should be passed so that a report can be made to the Senate today to that effect.

[Translation]

The Chairman: I will advise the Senate of this decision.

[English]

Senator Hays: The other business that I hoped the committee would deal with today is the naming of senators to committees. There are several options. For purposes of the government's work, and the Senate's work, I believe it is important that committees to which bills can be referred when they are given second reading should be up and running. I know of bills that will be given first reading today and that will, in the normal course, be referred to the Banking Committee, the Social Affairs Committee, and the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. From the point of view of the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, it is an urgent matter that these committees come into existence so that they can carry out the normal work of the Senate, which is to consider bills referred to them.

There is also the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders. We have two matters of privilege that have been carried over from the last Parliament, matters that have been revived in this Parliament and will be referred, on the creation of that committee, to that committee. I think there is some urgency in getting that committee struck and in a position to carry out work.

In addition, we have some joint committees with the House of Commons -- Scrutiny of Regulations, Library of Parliament, and one other. They are in a position to proceed with the finalization of the creation of those committees. Those are priority items.

I regret that the opposition side is not here to put names forward to serve on at least those committees. The other committees will have work but they do not have it immediately. That is the position of the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate in terms of getting the government work done, which is one of our priorities, if not our first priority.

We have before us the option of naming government members to the committees, in order that they could be reported to the Senate today. If we did that, we should invite the opposition to name their members at an early time.

I notice that Senator Prud'homme is looking at me carefully. He will have comments on the independents.

I would suggest that the committee meet again tomorrow for that purpose. Alternatively, we could adjourn and wait to deal with this until tomorrow. Those are the two options. We could proceed with the naming of government members, and I would suggest only to the committees where we need to do that, and let the others wait. We would invite the opposition to make their nominations at the earliest possible date, we would call a meeting tomorrow for that purpose. The other option would be to call a meeting for tomorrow for naming members and hope that the opposition would participate in the meeting.

I look forward to your discussion and your decision.

Senator Grafstein: You have given us a sketch of those committees that have some priority. Is there any work of the Senate that is being inhibited as a result of the failure to establish these committees, as at this moment? Is there any work of the Senate whatsoever that is being prevented or stopped as a result of the failure to establish committees as of today, based on your knowledge?

Senator Hays: According to my memory, the only committee that, upon coming into existence, has an actual reference is the Committee on Privileges, Rules and Standing Orders. That work is the two matters of privilege that were revived in this Parliament from the last Parliament -- one by Senator Kinsella, involving a witness before the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, and the other by Senator Andreychuk, regarding leaking of documents.

Senator Grafstein: At this moment, if we were able to establish a committee dealing with those issues, those matters could be referred today to that committee.

Senator Hays: No. The selection committee's report will be tabled today, which is the earliest it could be done. It requires a day's notice and could be debated tomorrow. It is a debatable motion and could be debated for a long or a short time. The point is to get the process by which the committees will come into existence underway, and thus the possibility of pursuing the first option.

Senator Grafstein: My point, if I can rephrase it, is that I can understand that other members of the Senate who are not part of the government caucus might be at odds with things that those supporting the government would like to do. However, I do not understand, quite frankly, inhibiting needlessly the non-partisan work of the Senate. The Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders is one example where this is essentially an issue for the Senate as a whole. The work is now being inhibited in some fashion unless we can establish that committee ASAP. Am I correct?

Senator Hays: Yes. However, we will get first reading of some bills that will be up for second reading on Thursday. It is hoped that they will proceed in a timely manner through the Senate. They will need to be referred, if we follow our normal procedure, to a committee for consideration.

It is not just the one that has a conditional reference. It is fair to say that we will be giving first reading today to bills that will need to go to committee, if we follow our normal procedure, fairly quickly.

I am not suggesting that we end the discussion today and simply have government members on committees. There is a precedent for this. The then opposition party in the government of 1991 called a selection committee, which was attended by the now government party, which was in opposition at that time. The government party of that day nominated their members to the committee. The opposition party of that day did not nominate and went to the chamber on a matter, I think, of privilege or order. They stated that the meeting was not in order and requested a ruling from the Speaker. The Speaker ruled that the meeting was in order and that committees comprising only government members were acceptable and that there was no necessity to have a full complement of membership on a committee.

I do not know whether the ruling was appealed or not. I think maybe not, or perhaps it was, and it held on division. Shortly after that, the then opposition named its members to the committee.

We are in a similar situation, although at this particular time we have no members of the opposition present. I would speculate that we could proceed if we wished. In any event, we would want to give the opposition a full and fair opportunity to nominate their members. It would be necessary to have another meeting as soon as possible. Tomorrow would he the earliest we could do that. The opposition would nominate their members, which could match members we would nominate today.

We could simply defer further consideration of naming members to committees until a meeting that would be called for tomorrow. We should make a decision fairly quickly so that we can go to our caucus.

Senator Austin: Senator Hays, you are obviously in possession of information that this committee does not have about the nature of discussions with the opposition and the reasons why they are not yet ready to proceed with their nominations and the organization of the committees. You may or may not want to put that on the record. However, the question that arises is whether you believe that further time would be useful in your discussions with the opposition party, or whether you believe that nothing would be gained by taking further time. You need to tell us which of those situations you believe is the applicable one at this time.

Senator Hays: It is hoped that we will be closer to an agreement on these matters following consultation with our caucus. The opposition has a caucus meeting at the same time that we do. I can inform the committee that the leadership of the government and the opposition intend to meet when the Senate rises today in order to continue a discussion of the matters on structuring of the committees that are in dispute.

Senator Austin: In that case, it appears that what you prefer us to do is to adjourn this meeting and await the further call of the chair this evening, tomorrow, or whenever you believe it is appropriate.

Senator Hays: Yes. We can do that. I am not just sure how this will play out. Proceeding in this way would have us sitting Friday and, possibly, next week, if we wish to press ahead with the structuring of committees. That approach is probably one that is not determinative because that might happen anyway if we have an adversarial situation in dealing with this. They have means at their disposal to delay. The ideal solution would be if the two sides could reach agreement, which has not been possible to this point.

Senator Prud'homme: Just in case agreement is not reached, I would suggest to you that we all play on the safe side. If today is the fifth day, as some of us believe, you must report something to the Senate regardless of what you do this afternoon or later on.

If you see fit not to recommend anything, at least you would be on record as standing up and saying that, according to rule 85 and others where it stands, to be on the safe side. I am just trying to be a friend of the court today.

Senator Hays: It is only the report on the Speaker pro tempore that is required in five days, not on the committees.

Senator Austin: I am suggesting that if you want the time to continue your discussions and you believe that that would be fruitful, we can simply adjourn this meeting. We passed the motion you need. We can adjourn the meeting and give you additional time and the chair will call us together again when he decides to call us together again.

Senator Hays: Mr. Chairman, I would be interested in comments from others.

Senator Grafstein: That is an excellent suggestion, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Fairbairn: I would agree.

Senator Hays: I will not comment further. However, I would suggest that we had in mind a meeting of this committee for tomorrow morning at 9:30 and perhaps, Mr. Chairman, if it is agreed, we could ask that a meeting be called for 9:30 tomorrow morning.

Senator Grafstein: Perhaps we could do that, unless we hear otherwise from the chair.

Senator Austin: We will move that we resume discussion tomorrow at 9:30 in this room.

Senator Fairbairn: Does that give the deputy leader the option to negotiate a time, just in case there are caucus considerations on the other side?

Senator Hays: As you know, the time of this meeting has been varied and the time of another meeting can be varied.

Senator Fairbairn: I wanted to ensure that you have the option to change that time, if it is deemed to be inconvenient.

Senator Hays: It would be the chairman who would do that.

The committee adjourned.


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