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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 10 - Evidence - Meeting of June 18, 2008

OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 1:02 p.m. to examine and report on the national security policy of Canada.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I would like to first recognize Senator Meighen.

Senator Meighen: Mr. Chair, I move:

That the draft report of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on SISIP long-term disability payments be adopted; and

That the chair and deputy chair of the subcommittee be authorized to make the changes that were discussed and approved today, as well as minor typographical and grammatical corrections deemed necessary without, however, modifying the substance of the report; and

That the chair or deputy chair of the subcommittee table this report in the Senate.

The Chair: Comments or questions?

Those in favour? Opposed? The motion is carried.

Colleagues, the second item we have to deal with has to do with the eighth international conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

Senator Banks: Chair, I move that we go in camera.

The Chair: Okay.

Senator Banks: Is that your wish?

The Chair: I am fine doing it either way.

Senator Banks: Well, then, public is better.

The Chair: The item is the eighth international conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism to be held September 8 to 11. I have canvassed everyone in the room about it, with the exception of Senator Moore and Senator Nancy Ruth.

Senator Tkachuk wanted some time to think about it. Senator Mitchell expressed an interest in going, as did Senator Day.

Senator Mitchell: I would withdraw.

The Chair: I have an interest in going.

Senator Moore: I cannot.

The Chair: Senator Moore cannot. Senator Nancy Ruth? You cannot?

Senator Tkachuk, have you had a chance to think about it further?

Senator Tkachuk: Yes, I cannot go on those days.

The Chair: That leaves Senator Day and myself. Are we comfortable with authorizing that?

Senator Moore: Agreed. So moved.

The Chair: The wording I would also like to include is that there be a day set aside to visit Tel Aviv airport, and we are in negotiations to take a look at the security system there. We need a motion authorizing the chair, myself, and Senator Day to attend the conference.

Senator Tkachuk: Do we have costs for this trip?

The Chair: Yes, we do. The costs were in the budget, Senator Tkachuk.

Senator Tkachuk: Okay.

Senator Banks: I did not bring my copy of the new budget numbers today. What are the proportions of this? I guess this is from the conference and travel budget. Is this within our budget?

The Chair: It is 100 per cent of our travel budget for conferences until the end of the fiscal year.

Senator Banks: Until March 31, 2009?

The Chair: Correct.

I have been directed to go back to the Internal Economy Committee to obtain more funds on this. We also have determined that the Internal Economy Committee has more funds but has not yet distributed them.

Is there anyone here who has not received a copy of the analysis we did on the funding left in the committee's budget?

Senator Comeau: Mr. Chairman, may I make a point of order here? We have a document in one official language only. I was wondering if there was any kind of document that would be in the other official language. Could we get a copy in the other language? This is the eighth international conference.

The Chair: This is what came to us when we asked them for it.

Senator Comeau: Is that the subject we are on now, the ICT?

The Chair: Yes.

Senator Comeau: I was wondering if I could have the document in French.

The Chair: We do not have a copy of it. We just received this. This is the first time I have seen it, and I do not know when it came.

Senator Comeau: Mr. Chairman, on the same point of order, there has been a long-standing tradition in committees that when documents such as these are distributed, they should be distributed in both official languages.

The Chair: I am happy to take it back. I apologize. It was circulated in both languages when it was put in our budget initially. I will recall this.

Senator Comeau: As a member of the committee, I am asking if I could get a copy of it in French.

The Chair: I would be happy to provide that to you when we get it.

Senator Comeau: Is the decision going to be made now and I will get it eventually? I would like to get that on the record.

The Chair: My point is simply that when it was put in the committee's budget, it was added in both English and French.

Senator Comeau: Fine.

The Chair: This was something that I obtained for further information, and I apologize for passing it out. I should not have done that.

Senator Comeau: Yes, that is my point.

The Chair: I am conceding that. It was my error. I should not have passed this out.

Senator Comeau: Will a decision be made eventually? I have to make my decision based on the English copy.

The Chair: Frankly, the decision could have been made without this document because we had put it in our budget.

Senator Comeau: It would leave me to accept that I am working with information on the conference —

The Chair: I am withdrawing that.

Senator Comeau: But you will still make the decision on it even though all the anglophone members of this committee have a copy of it in their first language but the francophones do not.

The Chair: I am asking for it back from everybody.

Senator Comeau: But you will still make the decision. They have had a chance to review it in their mother language, one of the two official languages.

The Chair: I do —

Senator Comeau: Do as you please. I am making a point.

The Chair: I am accepting your point and saying that you are correct.

Senator Comeau: But you will go ahead and make the decision anyway.

Senator Banks: Mr. Chair, I do not think the decision is based on any document that we are looking at now. The decision is based on the concept of whether we are going to send a delegation to an event in Israel, which we have discussed previously.

Senator Meighen: Senator Banks, the issue is also whether it is appropriate — and it may well be — to use up all of our travel budget on one conference.

The Chair: The issue was that when the budget was prepared three months ago and the committee chose to put this in the budget three months ago —

Senator Comeau: The issue, Mr. Chairman, is that you are now in the process of making a decision on an international conference, the ICT, and a document has been distributed to members of this committee. I asked for a copy of this document in the other official language.

The Chair: When you drew it to my attention, I asked for the document to be withdrawn.

Senator Comeau: That is the issue I have raised. I have raised the issue.

The Chair: Have you given us back the piece of paper?

Senator Comeau: No, I intend to keep it.

Senator Moore: You cannot have it both ways.

Senator Comeau: I intend to keep it. Make your point.

Senator Moore: You cannot have it both ways. If you like it and you are reading it and you are counting on it, that is fine. Maybe you want us all to pick up the English one, too, and do the same thing. Is that your point?

Senator Comeau: I have made my point, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Moore: Not much of one.

Senator Tkachuk: We still have a decision to make, Senator Moore. It is almost the whole budget for conferences. There will be no other opportunity for anyone —

Senator Moore: We can go back and ask for more funds.

Senator Tkachuk: That is not the way it is supposed to work, Senator Moore. We have our budget for the year.

The Chair: No, we do not. This is the way it is supposed to work, I am sorry.

Senator Meighen: It never worked that way before.

The Chair: The Chair of the Internal Economy Committee made it clear that if people had requirements for more funds, they should come back. We have determined that there is additional funding available for all committees, that all the committee needs have been met. I gave you a copy of the document.

Senator Tkachuk: I understand that. All I am saying is that if they decide not to give you more funds, then that is it. Then there are no more conferences for other members to go to. Normally we would have booked two conferences for that amount of money. Now we are spending it all on one conference. To me, that does not seem like the right thing to do.

Senator Moore: Mr. Chair, we put ourselves in this position. When we first had the go-around with regard to budgeting, we wanted to put more money in for conferences and we were told, no, you have to itemize them now. You were insisting on that, senator, and we went along with it. Now you say, "Now we are going to use up all you have in it." Well, of course.

Senator Tkachuk: Senator Moore, you do what you want. I have a right to make my point.

Senator Moore: You can make your point, but you are also the guy who wanted to cut, so we cut and here we are.

Senator Tkachuk: Good. I understand how you are taking this. You are taking this really well.

Senator Moore: I am taking it factually.

Senator Tkachuk: Yes, you are. Exactly. Well, it is a fact. I did want you to cut.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Could I clarify something with the clerks and the chair? We have budget in this committee until the end of October; is that not correct?

Gaëtane Lemay, Co-Clerk of the Committee: Until March 31, 2009.

Senator Nancy Ruth: We have been given it all now?

Ms. Lemay: Yes.

Senator Mitchell: I would like to say in defence of this particular conference that it is internationally known. It is in a general area of the world — not Israel directly — that has tremendous experience with terrorist attacks. This committee has demonstrated that it plays a very significant role in the debate, review, assessment and the progress that we make on dealing with terrorism and other security matters in Canada. People would argue that we have some vulnerability. When we were in Afghanistan, we found that to be the case. It was underlined many times.

This is not an unreasonable conference. I think we would be getting value for money, but to cut it out strictly on the basis of its cost? There are other conferences that you are suggesting we might also go to. The process was laid out by the Internal Economy Committee that we could go back in the fall for additional funds. It was made clear that committees are not spending all of their money.

Sorry to always be at loggerheads with Senator Tkachuk. I would just like him to appreciate that anyone can cut, but you need to consider value for money.

I have seen in a government — and we will see it in this government too — the damage that is done when people cut without managing. Anyone can cut. It was done in Alberta and tremendous damage was done. The health care system now is very damaged.

Senator Tkachuk: I do not want a lecture. We are talking about a conference here, so let us talk about this conference.

Senator Mitchell: Yes, and I am —

Senator Tkachuk: Senator Mitchell, if the Liberal Party wants to take all of the money —

The Chair: Order.

Senator Tkachuk: — out of the budget in one motion, then go ahead and make the motion and have the vote.

The Chair: Order, please.

Senator Tkachuk: Do not give me a lecture about health care.

Senator Mitchell: I am entitled to say —

The Chair: If you want the floor, Senator Tkachuk —

Senator Mitchell: Why are you so sensitive —

The Chair: Order! Order!

Senator Mitchell: — about this?

Senator Tkachuk: Don't get ridiculous.

Senator Mitchell: You know you cannot get your own way.

The Chair: There is a motion on the floor.

Senator Moore: Are you calling for the question?

The Chair: Question. Those in favour?

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

The Chair: Opposed?

Senator Tkachuk: Here.

The Chair: The motion is carried.

Does anyone have other business they would like to bring before the committee?

Senator Tkachuk: Yes, I do. With respect to the budget to promote committee reports, I had put together a number of motions that I had distributed at previous meetings. I was told to put them after the budget was passed. The budget has passed, and so now I am bringing them forward, if I could.

Senator Day: I do not have a copy.

Senator Tkachuk: Yes, the budget has passed. It passed on Monday night.

The Chair: The budget was passed on Monday night.

Senator Banks: With respect to this question and other questions that might have to do with travel, in the budget that was passed on Monday night, what was the original amount for this travel and promotion of reports, et cetera? What is the approved amount of the reports, et cetera?

The Chair: It is a good question, and I will give you the answer.

Senator Day: I am glad you asked because I do not have any material here.

The Chair: Originally we had budgeted $61,570 for promotion of reports. That amount has been cut to $36,000, and the total cut was $25,570.

Senator Meighen: Does that include courier charges?

The Chair: No, it does not.

Senator Meighen: Subcommittees' courier charges have been cut from ten to one.

The Chair: Courier charges for the whole committee were cut by a very large amount as well.

Senator Banks: Senator Tkachuk, I have to say that I think your remark about the Liberals taking all of the conference money for themselves is out of order because the chair, very clearly, at the beginning of this meeting circularized the entire committee and asked who could go. He asked you, he asked Senator Nancy Ruth and he asked Senator Meighen.

Senator Meighen: No, he did not. I asked.

Senator Banks: Well, the chair asked Senator Nancy Ruth in this meeting, so it is not correct or reasonable or right to say that the Liberals are taking this for themselves. Every member of this committee who is present was circularized about that, so I do not think that is appropriate.

I am concerned about cutting nearly half of the budget. Senator Tkachuk, I want you to know that I have been objecting to this process for a long time now. In my view, the Internal Economy Committee does not serve well or wisely, as it should, the Senate or Senate committees in respect of these kinds of budgets when it does what it has done in this case, which is to say, "Here is some money for now that may have to last you until March 31, 2009, and if you need some more, come and see us later."

For all the reasons we have heard before, when this committee, or the committee that I happen to chair, goes back to the Internal Economy Committee and money is clawed back from committee expenditures that have been budgeted for but not made, year in and year out it is always too late for this or any other committee to make plans to do anything before the session ends, which is why last year we sent back more than $2 million from budgeted amounts for committee business.

Senator Tkachuk: Chair, I have a motion.

Senator Banks: I thought you made a motion.

Senator Tkachuk: I have not made the motion yet.

I have three motions. I would like to make one motion on authorizing the deputy chair to travel to Montreal on behalf of the committee. You all have copies in front of you. I do not think you need me to read it.

The Chair: Are they in both languages?

Senator Tkachuk: Yes, they are.

The Chair: On the back?

Senator Tkachuk: No. You have two sheets, one in English and one in French.

Senator Day: It is on the back.

The Chair: I am getting sensitive to this.

Senator Tkachuk: Sorry. On yours, it is; on mine, it is not. I have separate sheets.

That is my first motion. It has to do with the promotion of reports, meetings and other matters related to committee business. These were made at the invitation of members of the committee, when we discussed the initial travel motions for the chair, that I could, as a deputy chair, apply for these trips as well so that we could both play a part in promoting the reports. I am doing just that. I am not doing anything unusual here.

The Chair: Do you have a question you want to ask, Senator Day?

Senator Day: I have a question.

The Chair: You have about two minutes.

Senator Day: It says: pro forma, two nights. This is a trip to Montreal and back. Two nights to go to one meeting? I assume it is an error.

Senator Tkachuk: I put down two nights. I have to travel from Saskatoon, so I will probably come in the night before. I do not know if I will be there longer than one day or not, and I do not know how many days it might take.

Senator Day: I assumed it was an error.

Senator Tkachuk: No, it is not.

Senator Banks: Mr. Chair, we have a new budget number that none of us had seen before until Monday night. We will be meeting again sometime over the summer, in the next little while. I do not think we should commit to any travel by anyone.

Senator Tkachuk: Except the chair.

Senator Banks: Including the chair.

Senator Tkachuk: No, no, no. The chair's minutes are all passed in advance.

Senator Banks: I think we should revisit this question and rescind all previous motions having to do with the promotion of reports. When we made those commitments, those motions, we had $61,000 in the budget. We do not have $61,000 in the budget now, and I would have thought differently about those commitments for travelling to promote reports by you, chair, or by you, deputy chair.

Senator Tkachuk: He has already made a bunch.

Senator Banks: I do not think he has made a bunch.

Senator Tkachuk: I am sure he has.

Senator Banks: I am uncomfortable with whatever commitments we have made or might now make until we have had a chance to look at spreading this money until March 2009, which we might have to do, including your travel and the chair's travel.

Senator Tkachuk: Senator Banks, if he has made three trips, why should I not have three trips?

Senator Banks: I do not know that he has made three trips.

Senator Tkachuk: I am just asking. I think he has, but I will ask him.

The Chair: I have.

Senator Tkachuk: Has he made four?

The Chair: No, I have made three trips for the committee.

Senator Tkachuk: There you go.

Senator Banks: They were authorized when we thought we had $61,000. We do not have $61,000. We made a mistake.

An Hon. Senator: We did not make a mistake.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I do not think so. The first budget was until the fall and then there was more.

The Chair: It looks like it was until June.

Senator Mitchell: You are saying we are not allowed to come back for more money. That is what you just said a little earlier. It could be into the fall; it does not matter.

Senator Tkachuk: What are you going to do with the money, then?

Senator Banks, either tell me the truth or do not.

Senator Banks: We will be meeting in July, and we will have had time to look at this.

Senator Tkachuk: But the reports will all be tabled now. We have one tabled now and two more coming up. I think I should be given the courtesy of making some plans, otherwise it becomes extremely difficult, Senator Banks. You are the one who was arguing in favour of me making these proposals.

Senator Banks: I was, when we did not know that our budget was going to be cut by $25,000. We did not know that. We now have found that out, and I am uncomfortable with making this decision in one minute.

Senator Tkachuk: That is not what you said. You said if there was more money. I know what you are trying to do, Senator Banks.

The Chair: Colleagues, there is a motion on the floor. Are there any more comments?

Senator Tkachuk: Question.

The Chair: Those in favour? Opposed?

Senator Tkachuk: Senator Day?

Senator Day: I am still reviewing these things. I have not had a chance to —

Senator Tkachuk: I am just on the Montreal one here.

Senator Day: I cannot understand why you need two days to go to Montreal.

Senator Tkachuk: That can be dropped, then.

Senator Day: Thank you.

Senator Tkachuk: How will you vote now?

Senator Day: I will vote for you.

Ms. Lemay: I have four and four, because you have not voted.

The Chair: I do not intend to vote.

Senator Tkachuk: Three, and he is not voting, so it is passed.

Senator Day: As amended.

Senator Tkachuk: Yes, as amended.

Vancouver-Calgary: I have a motion to make that the committee authorize the deputy chair to travel on its behalf. You have it all in front of you. You will note that I only have one night in Vancouver and one night in Calgary.

Senator Day: I noticed that right away.

Senator Tkachuk: Just so that is clear.

Senator Day: That seems quite reasonable.

Senator Tkachuk: I would like to make that motion. Question.

Senator Banks: I have the same objection.

Senator Day: You indicated that for the Montreal trip you would be flying from Saskatchewan. Your airfare to fly to Vancouver and Calgary would be $2,350.

Senator Tkachuk: I may be flying to Calgary, and I think the clerks were the ones who — I checked that out, actually. It is Calgary return. It is not a direct flight. It is two flights, actually. If I stop in Calgary, then I have to take another flight from Calgary to Vancouver and then back to Saskatoon. I am just being safe here.

Senator Day: Okay. This, again, is pro forma?

Senator Mitchell: I would like to address "just being safe." You were critical of the fact that we had budgeted for things we were not sure we were going to use, and here you are budgeting for things that you are not sure you are going to use — two nights, extra airfare. Why do you not give us a precise budget on how much this will cost?

Senator Tkachuk: This is totally precise.

Senator Mitchell: No, it is not.

Senator Tkachuk: I will be using exactly this.

Senator Mitchell: You did not in Montreal.

The Chair: Colleagues, you are either going to resolve it now or wait a long time.

Senator Tkachuk: Question.

The Chair: Those in favour? Opposed?

Senator Tkachuk: Senator Day voted for me.

Senator Day: I voted "for."

The Chair: Carried.

Senator Tkachuk: You had three trips, right, Senator Kenny? I have one already passed and two more, so I will not move the third motion.

Senator Banks: We passed two today.

Senator Tkachuk: There was another one already approved, to Toronto, I believe, and it has been passed. There are three now passed, and I will leave my third one out because of Senator Banks' argument.

Senator Day: That is the Halifax one that has not been dealt with?

Senator Tkachuk: That is right.

Senator Banks: We can deal with it now.

Senator Tkachuk: Then I will move it. I would like to have that trip.

An Hon. Senator: It is 1:30.

The Chair: Time is up.

An Hon. Senator: We are playing by the rules. This meeting is over, I think, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Yes.

The committee adjourned.

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