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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance

Issue 10 - Evidence - Meeting of April 16, 2008

OTTAWA, Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance met this day at 6:20 p.m. to study the estimates laid before Parliament for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009. Topic: the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act.

Senator Joseph A. Day (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Good evening and welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. My name is Joseph Day, I represent the province of New Brunswick in the Senate, and I am the chair of this committee.


The committee's field of interest is government spending and operations, including reviewing the activities of officers of Parliament and those various individuals and groups who help parliamentarians to hold the government to account. We do this through the estimates of expenditures and funds made available to officers of Parliament to perform their functions and through budget implementation acts and other matters referred to this committee by the Senate.

This evening we are continuing our examination of the estimates. This stage is intended as our final meeting on the examination of positions and officers created or modified as a result of the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act. The committee has held six meetings with a variety of witnesses on this subject matter.

On March 25, 2008, Kevin Page was appointed Parliamentary Budget Officer for a five-year term. Mr. Page is a career public servant with experience working on relevant fiscal forecasting, policy and expenditure portfolios within the Department of Finance Canada, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Privy Council Office, PCO. He has worked at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. His most recent assignment was Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet Liaison Secretariat for Macroeconomic Policy in the Privy Council Office.

I am pleased to congratulate you, Mr. Page, on your appointment. I welcome you here this evening so we may introduce our committee, and you may be introduced to the committee and provide us with an overview of your responsibilities and vision for this new position, which we believe is very important to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance.

I would also like to thank William Young, Parliamentary Librarian, for being with us here again this evening. We had met with him previously to talk about the process leading up to what eventually resulted in the appointment of Mr. Page. At the committee's request, Mr. Young appeared before us on February 12, 2008.

If there are any points with respect to the appointment process or the creation of this office that would you like to comment on, we would be pleased to hear from you as well.

William R. Young, Parliamentary Librarian, Library of Parliament: Thank you. Since I am not the main attraction, I will be brief. I welcome the opportunity to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, together with the new Parliamentary Budget Officer.


When we last met, I offered a status report on the efforts taken by the Library of Parliament to establish the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Today, I am pleased to be here to introduce you to Canada's first Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page.


As you are aware, Parliament legislated these functions, creating an Officer of the Library of Parliament, a position that would operate within the library's established mandate of providing authoritative, reliable, non-partisan and independent knowledge and information to parliamentarians.

For me, and for you as parliamentarians, it is important that the Parliamentary Budget Officer add value to your work. As such, I know we would benefit greatly from your insights as we begin implementing new services through the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In fact, I would suggest exploring a consultative approach as a vital part of the library's efforts to shape these new functions to serve parliamentarians effectively. An ongoing informal dialogue with members would help us deal with the questions that will certainly arise as the statutory provisions are interpreted and given life through the delivery of this new service.

Some of the questions that might come up are the following: What are the specific needs and requirements of parliamentarians? How should priorities be set in the face of competing demands? Who better to answer these questions than the clients of these services, the parliamentarians themselves. I hope you agree.


Kevin Page, the man who took on the challenge of being Canada's first Parliamentary Budget Officer, started work with us just after Easter. For those of you who may not have seen his curriculum vitae, copies are available.


Mr. Page is one of the very few individuals with experience working on relevant fiscal forecasting policy and expenditure portfolios within all three central economic agencies of the federal government. This broad perspective will be of tremendous value to parliamentarians.

As you will see, Mr. Page is a people person with a good sense of humour and a great reputation. I can assure you that his phone is already ringing off the hook with calls from skilled professionals who want to work with him. This is great news for Parliament.

It is also a huge opportunity for us to build the library's research capacity and add value to the services that we already provide to parliamentarians.


Thank you again for your invitation to appear before you this evening.


Kevin Page, Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. I would like to also thank Mr. Young for his efforts in implementing this position so that we can increase the capacity of the Library of Parliament to serve Parliament. Allan Darling, who is not present today, a retired senior public servant, has worked diligently with the Parliamentary Librarian to make this day a reality.

In my opening remarks, I would like to take the opportunity to tell you a little about myself and how I will approach the work of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I have four key messages.

First, it is an honour and a privilege to serve Parliament. Second, we have an important and timely opportunity to move forward on the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Third, the building process will take time. Fourth, today marks an early but important step in the consultation process.


I am honoured to be Canada's first Parliamentary Budget Officer. This is an independent position within the Library of Parliament, an institution with a long and prestigious history in Canada.

The Library of Parliament's mission is to provide objective, non-partisan analysis and advice to Parliament. A well- known professor at the University of Ottawa, Sharon Sutherland, has recently described the level of service provided by the Library as a gold standard reputation.


I am very fortunate to be building capacity from the current strength of the Library of Parliament.

It is important that members of the National Finance Committee be comfortable with me as their Parliamentary Budget Officer. Trust must be accompanied by professional, unbiased and competent advice for me to be an effective servant of Parliament.


I was born in Thunder Bay in 1957. My love for my country was instilled early by my grandparents who were immigrants from Poland and Ukraine. My parents emphasized a number of values when raising their children: respect and compassion for others, hard work and prudence when it comes to money. I share the values of my parents. I am happily married for 26 years and the father of three children. While I love Ottawa and remain a fan of the Senators, I am also very proud to be from Thunder Bay.


As the Parliamentary Librarian noted, I spent more than 25 years in the federal public service. Many of these years were spent in central agencies where I had the opportunity to work with others in the provision of advice related to economic, fiscal and expenditure management issues. This is my first opportunity to work as an independent officer of the Library of Parliament. I have much to learn about how Parliament works, and I am looking forward to serving you and working with you in this new capacity.


I believe we have an important and timely opportunity with the creation of the role of Parliamentary Budget Officer. The importance stems from Parliament's ``power of the purse,'' which is a fundamental feature of democracy.


The genesis and momentum for the creation of the Parliamentary Budget Officer role reflects a number of important concerns expressed by parliamentarians over the past decade: first, concerns that the size of fiscal forecasting errors were hindering public and parliamentary debate on budgetary choices and damaging the credibility of the Department of Finance Canada; second, concerns that more was required to strengthen accountability and effective scrutiny by Parliament of government spending and future spending plans; and third, concerns that private member bills needed to be costed early in the legislative process and better integrated into the budget-making process.

The mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is outlined in the Federal Accountability Act and is now part of the Parliament of Canada Act. It has the following three components: objective analysis to the Senate and the House of Commons about trends in the economy, the state of the nation's finances and the estimates of the government; related research when requested by a committee of the Senate or the House of Commons; and estimating the financial costs of proposals introduced by a member of either House other than a minister of the Crown or by a committee.


The mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer includes one important provision, which gives ``access at convenient times to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department that are required for the performance of his or her mandate''. This will help stretch the budget of the officer and the analytical capacity of the supporting team.


I believe the launch of the Parliamentary Budget Officer comes at an opportune time. The economic and fiscal situation of Canada is relatively strong, as measured against many macroeconomic indicators — sustained and continuous economic growth, low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment rates, projected fiscal balance and a much improved debt-to-GDP ratio. It can be argued that it is better to launch this role in a period of relative economic strength rather than weakness.

We are in a Parliament with a minority government. Political scientists, such as Professor Peter Russell, have noted that this situation encourages debate about budgetary choices, and negotiation and compromise on legislation.

As we look ahead, we can envisage many important and interesting debates. These include the current debates about the impact of a weaker U.S. economy on Canada's economy and fiscal situation, and the adjustment pressures in manufacturing related to a high dollar and high input prices.


They will also include important longer-term debates about raising the standard of living in Canada. We must ensure balanced income growth, address issues related to aging demographics, realign fiscal resources to new priorities in a balanced budget framework and ensure environmentally sustainable economic growth.


Building the capacity to support the mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer will take time. With the 2008 Budget and the estimates for 2008-09 before standing committees, the next key milestone in the normal budgetary cycle for the Parliamentary Budget Officer will be the 2008 economic and fiscal update in the autumn and the 2009 pre- budget consultations.


One can envisage a number of overlapping phases of development in the building process. First, a consultation phase with parliamentarians on priorities, needs and potential products, as well as consultations with departments and agencies on the way in which we will exchange information. Second, a team building phase in which the office will be staffed within the Library of Parliament to serve parliamentarians. Third, an implementation phase in which products and services are provided to parliamentarians.

In the context of establishing the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a number of concerns have been raised publicly, including concerns about the independence of the advice and the size of the budget for the position. We must also decide whether or not the officer will provide independent forecasts.


In this regard, I wish to note that the Parliamentary Budget Officer will maintain the tradition of the Library of Parliament in the provision of independent, non-partisan advice. I will utilize all the resources provided to it in the most effective manner possible, and that includes leveraging current resources in the library, in federal departments and agencies through the provision of information, and through external stakeholders interested in serving Canadians. I will work with the Department of Finance and private sector forecasters to ensure that there is satisfactory comprehension and oversight by parliamentarians on the economic and fiscal outlook, the related risks and the implications for fiscal planning and budgetary choices.

As I close, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to open a dialogue on the implementation of the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. As I noted earlier, the Parliament's power of the purse is a fundamental feature of democracy. It will be an honour and a privilege to support your efforts to ensure that the revenue and spending measures that are authorized by Parliament are fiscally sound, that they meet the needs of Canadians with available resources and that they are implemented effectively and efficiently. I look forward to hearing the views of honourable senators on their expectations for the office and how it can best support their activities.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Page. We appreciate your comments. You touched on many points that are of great interest to us.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Mr. Page, I join in welcoming you, and I look forward to working with you as you seize your mandate and build the capacity of your office. This is great. We have been waiting for a long time.

For today, I am interested in your intellectual framework, from where you might start and what you are thinking about for the future. The first part of your mandate includes providing independent, non-partisan, objective analysis concerning the state of the nation's finances and trends in the national economy. As you may know, I have a strong interest in gender analysis, and I am not alone among parliamentarians in this.

Starting with Marilyn Waring's seminal 1988 work, If Women Counted: A New Feminine Economics, there has been a growing critique of the standard assertion that macroeconomics is gender-blind and race-blind. Market-based productive activities are preferred over other productive activities that are fundamental to the quality of our lives. I am talking about such things as home care, child care, elder care, the environment, clean rivers, clean water. As I understand it, you are first and foremost reliant on government agencies and departments for data, presumably including microeconomic data. For many equality-seeking groups, ``objective,'' ``independent'' and ``non-partisan'' often means focused on the dominant norm or mainstream, and makes women's work not count.

What does ``objective'' mean to you? How will you incorporate emerging critiques? How will you approach macroeconomic frameworks and data to ensure that Canada meets its equality obligations?

Mr. Page: I thank you for your welcome. It is appreciated. I cannot apologize for the time it has taken to put me here today, but I am glad I am here.

In terms of the intellectual framework in which we would approach the office and how this would relate to gender analysis, progress has been made in terms of gender analysis in recent years. We can thank you, senator, for much of that work and raising the level of attention to this issue. I know the Deputy Minister of Finance has met with the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women and has talked about this issue. Partly from the pressure from your office, much work has been done in recent years, particularly on the revenue side, looking at, from a gender-based analysis, what information can be put together.

It is fair to say that even finance officials will admit that much work still needs to happen. It is not there. We are at a point now where we are collecting information and trying to do analysis, but we are nowhere near doing gender- specific analysis, certainly not looking at it from a gender-equity framework.

As we move forward and try to develop the benchmarks, we will have to move beyond the revenue side. Finance has started to make progress on looking at the spending side as well.

Senator, you have raised the issue of data. We have to ensure we do not lose some of the data gains made in recent years. I am speaking specifically of the efforts Statistics Canada has made. They do a five-year study on women in Canada. They pull together much data from the various surveys. It would be a shame if for some reason the funding of those efforts was not continued. If we do not have those benchmarks, it will be hard to do the type of analysis you would like to do, which is gender-specific and gender-equity related.

In terms of the work and the vision of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, we will have an opportunity to broaden the perspective. Having worked on budget-related material in the past — and watching in some cases how Parliament was looking at it on an ex post basis — the more work we could do that is upfront, research-related and has a gender-based approach to it that is done in a pre-budget context, the more we could shape the budgetary processes.

In terms of approach, if we can do that we could actually make some progress. The government and the Department of Finance officials will be more sensitive to that, as opposed to doing these analyses on an ex post basis after the budget has been tabled.

We will have an opportunity to look at gender issues as well as other social and economic impacts of relative measures. We will be asked to do costing, and when we are, we should take a broader look at it as well. I am looking forward to working with you, senator, and this will be a priority. We will ensure that we have staff in our units who are capable of and trained to do this type of analysis.

Senator Nancy Ruth: How will you test whether your staff is capable of doing it?

Mr. Page: There is training available. We will ensure that we have analysts who have taken that type of training. There is a lot of literature, in part thanks to you, senator.

Senator Nancy Ruth: It is not thanks to me; it is thanks to dozens of women who have gone before from all parties.

I will give a couple of examples. I am a Conservative senator, and I support income splitting. However, it does not impact poor women, and according to the testimony from the Department of Finance — and I listened to the deputy minister this morning in front of the House of Commons committee — 40.4 per cent of women do not pay taxes and, therefore, cannot take advantage of any of these tax savings programs. They may well, in fact, be living in debt.

Programs such as RESPs have no impact on them, other than perhaps a negative impact. The economic model that you probably have been used to working with, both in the Department of Finance and in the PCO, may not be broad enough to deal with Canada's commitment to gender issues in the Charter, in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, or in the framework that was given in 1995.

To be frank, I am not very interested in the training that is given in government departments on gender-based analysis. It is not sufficient; it is not rigorous; it is not tested; and the impact is not evaluated. I would encourage all economists to become members of the International Association of Feminist Economics, IAFFE, so that at least they can utilize a website that will help them understand what women around the world are experiencing. For a developed nation, Canada is rather far behind.

You know my beef. I will come at you every time on this one. I want to see staff who are competent. There are competent people in Canada, and I would be happy to suggest names, if you want suggestions. The chief librarian has suggested that there are all kinds of people wanting these jobs. I hope you test for this marker and their implementation of it.

The Library of Parliament speaks about non-partisan analysis. It is partisan from my perspective. It does not deal with the poverty of women. It is partisan, so those words have no meaning for me, and I doubt they do for the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Hire people who know.

I read your paper, but I want to hear you say it. Who do you formally report to; who do you informally relate to; and, in the case of your work with this committee, do you report to the chair or do you report to the committee?

Mr. Page: I formally report to the Library of Parliament and the Speakers of the House and the Senate. In the mandate set out in the Federal Accountability Act, a number of committees are specified, namely, the House of Commons Finance Committee, the Senate National Finance Committee and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. I have a formal relationship with those committees as well, as they request research. I have a formal responsibility as well when there are requests for costing to serve members and committees in both the House of Commons and the Senate. I relate formally to just about everyone on the Hill in some sense, and I hope to build strong relationships so that I have a better sense of the priorities and can develop products tailored to meet your needs.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I would like to hear you say that you report to the committee and not to the chair. We have other fish to fry here; this is not about you in this job. I just want to hear you say it.

Mr. Page: I report to the committee.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Thank you.

The Chair: He did not say, ``Not to the chair,'' though.

Senator Nancy Ruth: The chair should not assume he is the committee.

The Chair: This chair would never assume that.

Mr. Page: I hope that I can bring to this discussion a strengthening of the relationship on the public service side as well as supporting the information analysis that we bring forward. If we could do that, we could leverage a lot of resources. I informally relate, as well, to some of my public service colleagues who I have left behind in previous jobs.

Senator Nancy Ruth: You need to know that part of my rage tonight comes from having listened to the Deputy Minister of Finance this morning.

Do better, please. Thank you.

Senator Mitchell: Congratulations, Mr. Page, on assuming your position. We, in the Senate, are very excited about it.

I second what Senator Nancy Ruth has said and the direction of her comments. I say that with great humility because I am a man, and I have not lived that type of issue in the way that she and other women live it. However, I do believe that it is the equality issue of many generations, and it remains that. It is a place where we can make break throughs because, without diminishing this, there is so much that can be done relatively easily that could have an impact simply as a result of people, such as Senator Nancy Ruth, talking about it and elevating it. I would like to reinforce what she said, and I am very impressed by her passion about that.

At what level are you in the bureaucracy? Are you the equivalent of an assistant deputy minister?

Mr. Page: Yes, that is correct.

Senator Mitchell: I did not think that private members' bills could have a cost attached to them, yet in your remarks you said that part of your mandate is to cost private members' bills. I thought that if bills involved expenditure they were, de facto, not eligible to be presented by a private member.

Am I missing something?

Mr. Page: As in the case of one private member's bills that has been much publicized and was ruled upon by the Speaker, if a measure reflects a reduction in revenues, there is a cost related to that. Similarly, on the expenditure side, if a measure reflects reduction in expenditure, there could be a cost related to that.

Senator Mitchell: Are both of those are eligible?

Mr. Page: Yes, they are both eligible.

Senator Mitchell: I do not know if I heard this correctly, but I thought you acknowledged a concern that was in part the reason for the implementation of the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer, that being the inability of the Department of Finance to accurately predict economic circumstances. With regard to three critical factors, such as oil prices, inflation and interest rates, could you give me a rough idea of how you might make better estimates of those three variables in overcoming predictive problems?

Mr. Page: With regard to the comment I made about forecasting errors, there were a couple of studies done — one in the early to mid-1990s — that looked at the Department of Finance forecasting errors of the 1980s. I was a member of the Department of Finance during that time and was one of those forecasters. There was another study done, commissioned by the Minister of Finance in the 2003-02 time frame, that looked at forecasting errors in the previous 10 years.

The former work was conducted by a former private sector chief economist, Tim O'Neill. It looked at the factors involved in the history of errors on the expenditure side and the revenue side and compared that work to private sector forecasts. My own assessment, based on that work, was that the Department of Finance did not look that bad when you took a broader view of these forecasting errors and made comparisons with the private sector. When you looked at size of revenues and expenditures and the volatility that takes place, those errors would tend to be in a plus or minus margin of 3 to 5 per cent during some periods of time when there is significant volatility.

As another piece of background, we have seen some forecasting errors in the past few years. Most of those errors were related to the revenue side. A lot of forecasters — not just the Department of Finance fiscal forecasters, but private sector forecasters — are having a hard time understanding the relationship, how incomes are moving with tax collections. We had much higher growth in tax collections relative to income, so we generated a lot more revenue, and that led to some higher than anticipated surpluses.

In terms of what I could add — would I have a better crystal ball and what would be my role in that context — I will take one quick step backwards. A number of changes have been made in how the Department of Finance works with private sector economists to do forecasts now. They survey private sector forecasts — they surveyed 20 of them — and take an average. They are no longer doing their own economic forecast, which I used to do, with limited success. They do their own fiscal forecasts and compare them with four other private sector forecasts, so they look at the range.

There was discussion in the media, as well as at previous committees, about whether we should be doing independent forecasts. Should I provide my own independent forecast on oil prices, inflation and interest rates?

There are different options. That may be one option; we can move toward independent forecasts. However, there is another option. Given all the work done now in terms of collecting information — where there are all the private sector forecasts — we could look at those ranges and the risks around them, the low and high ends: What does it mean for our fiscal outlook; would we be in a surplus position; if we took the low end of the economic forecast, would we be in a deficit position; what would that mean in terms of fiscal policy and budgetary choices as we move to pre-budget deliberations? If we do that analysis effectively, that could be value added.

That would be my preferred approach, at least over the short while. If there is more concern to do another independent forecast, if that is what senators and other members want, we could certainly look at that option. Right now, we are budgeted more for an option of doing our own risk analysis around those forecasts, looking at rules of thumb and what it means for budgetary choices.

Senator Mitchell: I would caution against reinventing the wheel. You will be overwhelmed by the amount of work — a few people trying to do the work of the Department of Finance. You have to get efficient with how you are doing it, unless there was an issue among the committee members with those forecasts.

I am sensitive about that issue because I come from Alberta — and am very proud of it. During the 1990s, the Conservative government purposely underestimated revenues. They construed that as a budgeting virtue. They said that they would be very conservative in their estimates of oil prices so that they would not risk having a deficit budget, and then they would come in with a surplus.

When the Liberals did that, Mr. Martin — who created one of the strongest economies in the Western world in decades — was vilified for purposely underestimating revenues so that he would pack his deficit. There it was. On the one hand, the Conservatives in Alberta were very happy to do it, it is a virtue; On the other hand, the Conservatives federally were saying of the Liberals, no way, it is disgusting.

I am very interested in figuring out how you will do that, but your answer was excellent.

Another question I have concerns gender equality. If gender equality is a 21st century equality issue — and it has been far too long — another huge issue of our times is the environment and the relationship, among many other things, of the environment to the economy, and to the ability of our economy to generate fiscal strength in a government.

This is a big question, and I do not know how I would answer it. However, I would be interested in getting some colour from you about how you feel about pricing environmental inputs in the economy. What do you think?

Mr. Page: That will be the 21st century issue. There is work taking place, obviously, at an international level; but, as well, there has been some real progress in provinces in our country. British Columbia is a leader right now in looking at carbon taxes. A couple of professors from Queen's University published a paper recently looking at excise taxes — what that means in terms of pricing emissions if you were to extend it more broadly in relation to taxation and revenues.

We could learn a lot on the issue of taxation and the environment from some of the work that is taking place now. That could be an important debate as we look forward, even as early as the 2009 Budget. From a research capacity, the issue of the environment and the economy, the environment and taxation, should be something at which the Parliamentary Budget Officer is looking.

Senator Mitchell: Given that there will be huge demands on your time, as I am sure senators and elected members of Parliament will be excited about having your type of resources, how will you prioritize between the Senate and the House of Commons?

Mr. Page: I will need help. This speaks to Senator Nancy Ruth's earlier question about the intellectual framework and the vision. It is a five-year appointment; one would hope that we can make progress on some substantive files over this period of time. The environment may be one, estimates could be another. There are other issues. We would hope, as well, that we can build a professional department, a place where people want to come to work.

There are a few other organizations such as that in Canada; the library being one now. The Congressional Budget Office in the United States, from my contact with them, is another one where economists would love to work. They look for opportunities.

More broadly, we would hope that we would be able to work on some of these bigger issues so that we can shape the debate. Back to your earlier point, when you talked about private member's bills and how we allocate time, we would hope we would be able to attack some of these bigger issues — poverty, environmental and scrutiny of investments- related issues so that we are getting good stewardship of money — over a period of five years, but we raise the level of debate and give you the type of information that you need, both on the Senate side and on the House of Commons side. If we could do some of that, I would be very proud.

Senator Mitchell: Do you have a budget, for example, to spend some time with the budget officer in the U.S. to observe that?

Mr. Page: Do you mean resources within our budget that would allow us to visit those organizations? The Librarian of Parliament has already conducted a study looking at parliamentary budget officers in other countries. He has identified what are the best international practices. That work was done even before I was considering doing this job.

He has targeted the places that would be of interest: The U.S. is one; the U.K. has a small office; the Netherlands have offices; as do others in different parts of the world.

We have a baseline budget of $2.7 million. In terms of rough allocation, we are thinking of a staff of about 15, and some money to procure services so that we can utilize private sector models. It also gives us a bit of a travel budget so that we can visit some of these places, and I can give back to you international best practices of the parliamentary budget officer role.

Senator Nancy Ruth: When you were talking about how you would design your office, it came to me what a wonderful opportunity to be starting from scratch. It is almost impossible to put new wine in old wine bottles, which is part of the frustration with women parliamentarians on this gender-based analysis. Here you start with a whole new shop, a new chance for choices that could model an economic analysis for the entire government that is not being done — or at least doing it differently. That is what is so exciting about your office for me. It is a whole new ball of wax.

Mr. Page: Thank you, senator.

The Chair: When you do, as you propose, independent analysis of other forecasts, do you anticipate that you would have a monthly newsletter to all parliamentarians — not just the chairs of the committees, as Senator Nancy Ruth indicated, but to all parliamentarians?

Mr. Page: Just with the nature of the economic information, the way it changes, there is so much research taking place on gender-based analysis, on the environment and taxation, these issues that could provoke ideas. At a Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, Senator Murray raised some other issues around budgetary planning, secrecy and pressures moving into a budget process. These pressures are based on existing factors. There is an opportunity to do monthly newsletters or quarterly newsletters on what is happening in the economy, both at a macro level and a regional level to highlight some of the research that could impact on the debate.

On the fiscal side, we have monthly fiscal monitors published by the Department of Finance that highlight quarterly whether their forecasts are on track. We can tailor products around that to give you a sense of where some of the risks could be and what it could mean for fiscal outcomes in the current year and downstream years.

I would welcome the opportunity to work with senators to tailor the appropriate products and get the right kind of regular products before you. It would be important to me, in particular during this period of consultation to which I referred, to work with you to ensure that we get the right regular products.

The Chair: As you have indicated, this is building, so we will have to do some experimentation. You also indicated that you will need some help and guidance in terms of priorities. I am sure that one area you will resource is the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. One of our representatives from the Senate on that committee is Senator Murray, from Pakenham, Ontario.

Senator Murray: I will not repeat the comments I made last week when we heard these witnesses before the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. Two comments occur to me tonight, and I would ask the witnesses to take them on board or respond as they see fit.

I will follow up briefly on something that Senator Nancy Ruth said, not specifically on gender analysis and gender equality, but her general comment on the inadequacy of macroeconomics, as we understand it, in analyzing and measuring the national welfare.

It must be more than 30 years — the early 1970s — since I first heard or read scholars and other commentators writing and speaking about the limitations of gross national product, GNP, or gross domestic product, GDP as an adequate measurement of a nation's progress and all the areas it did not take into account, including some of the areas that Senator Nancy Ruth mentioned, such as the environment and child care and so forth.

I do not know how much real scientific progress has been made along those lines. When I was chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology a few years ago, the late Senator Peggy Butts and I and our colleagues on the committee took a pass at social cohesion. I do not pretend this work was in great depth, although we had good help with it from experts and witnesses. We were trying to get at — and I saw it documented only the other day — the fact that while there has been an enormous creation of wealth from globalization, technology and freer trade, the real income gains have been at the top, not at the bottom and not even at the middle.

Those facts should concern us. There is some science to this, and we can put it on a more scientific and measurable basis if we try. At least, you can help us to do so. Much attention, along the lines of Senator Nancy Ruth comments, ought to be given to that by Parliament because if we do not pay it attention, who will? The initiative will not be taken by some of Senator Nancy Ruth's tormentors in the government, or some of the people in the government that she is tormenting.

On an entirely different issue, this committee considers a great deal of proposed government legislation. Some of it is extraordinarily complex, such as the annual budget implementation bills. There are usually at least two omnibus budget bills, which can be quite complex. Typically, this Senate committee receives them late in December, before the Christmas break; or in June, before the summer break, with time-sensitive provisions in the bills. We are told that we must pass them or we will inflict great hardship on this or that community or this or that group of individuals in the country or on the financial management of the government.

Typically, we become preoccupied with and concentrate on one or two major provisions in the bills. Meanwhile, other important matters can slip through unnoticed, which is no accident. Our friends in the Department of Finance see an opportunity to slip something through that they would not get away with if it were out in front. They slip it through.

For the last budget implementation bill, we were preoccupied with the Atlantic accord, equalization and the resulting controversy involving the federal government and two of the Atlantic provinces. We spent a lot of time on it. We heard from premiers and expert witnesses. We debated it extensively, and the budget implementation bill eventually went through. What none of us here noticed, and what no one in the House of Commons noticed, was that the government slipped a little provision into that bill — an amendment to the Financial Administration Act that wrote Parliament out of the borrowing process. For generations, governments that had to or wanted to borrow money came to Parliament with a borrowing bill. It was an occasion for a general debate on fiscal and economic management, and sometimes it was more than that. That was the process.

Today, there are no more borrowing bills. We voted ourselves out of the business, unwittingly. It was just one of those little things that the Department of Finance slipped into a bill — shame on us for not noticing it. We have no one but ourselves to blame. The Department of Finance will get away with as much as they can. They do not like Parliament, and they do not want to involve Parliament in what they consider their specialty.

Therefore, we need help to scrutinize complex proposed legislation, in particular omnibus bills, where, while our attention is diverted to some quite vital matter, other things slip through unnoticed.

A budget implementation bill is before the House of Commons. It will be before us in June. I looked at it tonight but could not see anything of note. Nothing leapt off the page to hit me between my two eyes, but I am sure something is in that bill that I did not notice and that a keener eye than mine would notice.

I leave that with you as being extremely important. I like to think that if you had been in your present position when Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, went through, you would have flagged that for us, and we would have been on it.

The Chair: Mr. Page, do you wish to comment on those points? It is not necessary, but if you would like to do so, you are welcome.

Mr. Page: There are two large points — one, building on the work that you did on social cohesion and looking at broader indicators of well-being that go beyond the national accounts. You stimulated a great deal of the work that has been done in recent years, such as by Statistics Canada and looking at a broader definition of ``well-being.'' I know that work has been done at the Institute for Research on Public Policy, as a result, on these sorts of definitions.

I was recently at Human Resources and Social Development Canada. They are still working on these broader definitions as well. That would be another area we could report back to you as to where we are related to that work and how potentially we can bring that type of analysis into discussions around budgetary debate.

On your second important point about the kind of scrubbing that needs to take place on budget legislation because it is so big and complicated, we will not be able to duplicate the Department of Finance's resources in terms of the legal potential downstream issues. Therefore, I worry a bit about that. We will ensure we have people and will work with some of the legal resources now in the Library of Parliament in terms of scrubbing those potential downstream implications.

Senator Nancy Ruth had good advice today about ensuring that we have the appropriate capacity on our team to deal with broader issues, gender analysis issues, and ensuring we have the capacity on our team so that when we are looking at the legislation side, we are scrubbing these things. If we notice something out of the ordinary, we can bring it to your attention and have those discussions with the Department of Finance and the Privy Council Office officials as well; so, as they are brought forward, you get that information in a timely fashion.


Senator De Bané: Mr. Young, I hope that the recommendation made by this committee, chaired by Senator Day, that asked the Privy Council to raise the level of this position, was of assistance. You explained to us that it was very difficult because so few people have the skills for this kind of position, and that it was absolutely necessary to raise it to EX-4 level.

Political scientists tell us that, in a modern country, 80 per cent of legislation has an economic impact. I assume that, as Parliamentary Librarian, you are the one who allocates budgets to the various services.

If it is true that 80 per cent of legislation passed by a modern country has an economic impact, do you think that the service that Mr. Page will head will have the resources necessary to conduct the studies that they wish to conduct?

Mr. Young: Yes, but for us, budgets are established according to the demands of parliamentarians. If demand increases, I will ask for more resources through the Senate.

Of course, you are aware that there are already 35 economists working at the Library, two of whom are here this evening, and Mr. Page will also work with them. I think that the value added by the Parliamentary Budget Officer is very significant. He should not be doing the same thing as the researchers who are presently attached to this committee. At the moment, I see his budget as an interim one; we will look at it again as we become aware of the demand for his services.

That is why I asked the committee to put in place a process of consultation with you to define how this added value can be established.

I just want to make one small comment. It is true that Mr. Page is at EX-4 level, but that is a temporary solution. It is the level at which he has been placed, not the level of the position. The Privy Council Office has not reclassified the position itself; the classification is his personal one. We will have the same problem with his successor. But the Privy Council Office has done something about the matter.


The Privy Council Office has made an undertaking to review the classification, but the classification has not been changed for the post. We reached a compromise to bring in Mr. Page, and that has obviously been successful in the current instance, but it will not hold for a potential successor.

Senator De Bané: Mr. Page, since 1981 you have been working in the federal government, so you have in-depth knowledge of how the Government of Canada works, and obviously you must have a large network.

What intrigues me is that, as you know —and I am not talking about governments — departments and institutions do not like to be criticized. We used to have the Economic Council of Canada that had the most brilliant economists of this country; and at some point, some departments — the Department of Finance among others — could not stand the Economic Council of Canada anymore, and it was abolished.

I assume that when you take over that position and start asking for data from the different departments, they will cooperate with you; but the moment they start reading your critical assessment of their assumptions and analyses — not as much as you, but I have been involved with the institutions — I cannot see how you will have their cooperation for long. You are part of that senior bureaucracy. They do not like to be second-guessed by other people.

In other words, contrary to the Auditor General, who has 1,000 people working for him, who has the law and such that make him independent of the institutions and allow him to go anywhere to check whatever he wants and do his own report to Parliament, et cetera, here, in the beginning, everyone would like to cooperate with you. However, the moment you start criticizing them, I wonder if they will not shut the door.

Mr. Page: The issue of the provision of information and the issue of the transparency of my office are significant. As you know, there is a provision in the Parliament of Canada Act for departments to provide the information that I require to do my job. That will go some way in terms of encouraging the flow of information. Another factor that will encourage the flow of information is the confidence and the trust that the Parliamentary Budget Officer needs to build up over time. That will be enhanced if we develop products in a transparent fashion.

We may be asked to do costing proposals and look at potential research questions around the environment or taxation, or research questions around gender-based analysis on specific proposals and will provide our products in a very professional manner and look at different options, potentially including the options of the government. There are other options out there with a lot of good analysis still being conducted. We miss the Economic Council of Canada. Many of those good economists have moved. Some of them ended up at the Department of Finance when we eliminated the Economic Council of Canada, so we did not lose all their good capacity.

We could borrow a lot from the analysis done in universities, from some of the great think-tanks we have in the country, such as the C.D. Howe Institute, The Fraser Institute and others in Montreal and across the country. We could bring this analysis together and provide different options. We will do this in a transparent and professional manner.

If we build good relationships with the departments and they realize we will present their views in a proper fashion as well as present other views and options, I am hoping that that will help foster a good dialogue between myself and my colleagues in the public service.

Senator Ringuette: I am looking at your curriculum vitae, and it is quite impressive. We have an excellent person, with the capacity and the extent of your experience, to do this job.

Included in your experience are also many years in intergovernmental affairs and federal-provincial relations, et cetera. Two years ago, I put forth a motion in the Senate requesting that every government bill be accompanied by a regional impact study because of the specific mandate of the Senate to represent regions. That motion was passed — I admit it was not passed unanimously, but it was passed. It is a motion that I consider part of its mandate and, therefore, in regard to providing information to the Senate, it should be one of the items included.

How do you feel about providing the Senate and the members of this committee with regional impact studies on government bills? I imagine the bill of first priority would be the budget bill. How do you feel about that?

Mr. Page: Thank you for noting that I spent a number of years in federal-provincial relations. When I was looking for a change, after spending about 10 years in the Department of Finance — and there was a lot of discussion going on at the time, in the early 1990s, around the Charlottetown accord — many fiscal issues were being discussed around transfers, and I saw that as an opportunity to help serve my country in a different capacity.

I was envious of my brother, who is an RCMP officer on the West Coast. He had a strong sense of being part of an important institution for the country, and I was feeling perhaps if I worked in that federal-provincial area, which is such an important part of our country, that some of that good feeling would be shared by me, and it was.

I have spent a fair bit of time looking at those questions, such as issues related to federal transfer, because fiscal federalism is such a big part of our country. I was also working for the government, which is a key part of the Prime Minister's mandate as well.

The Department of Finance, I have noticed, with respect to gender-based analysis, was much more of a recent phenomenon. Senator Nancy Ruth has noticed it in the Department of Finance, but they have come a long way, as well, with regional impact. They do that almost as a matter of course when they are putting together budgets. It may not always be shared the way it should be shared, but certainly internally, before Department of Finance analysts go into budget lock-ups. They are well-armed with statistics on how this expenditure measure will play out in this part of the country, and how this tax measure will potentially play out in another part of the country given different income levels and economic circumstances in regions and sectors.

We could do some good work. Also, not just in post-budgetary work, but leading up to the budget, during pre- budget deliberations; we could look at the economic and fiscal issues taking place in the province so that we have that information going into a budget.

We will be working with the Department of Finance officials, to ensure that you have access, as well, to information from the analysis that has been done, which is regional in nature or perhaps even sectoral in nature, when you are looking at budgetary bills.

Senator Ringuette: Mr. Page, you have already provided us with some information because when the people from the Department of Finance and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat appeared before this committee, I asked them whether they were completing regional economic impact studies, and their answer was, ``no,'' and that the motion I put forth in the Senate was too costly. You are saying that it is being done and that as a result of your authority to receive information, you will be able to get this regional impact study, certainly on the budget, to the Senate.

I have been looking at the community bill recently, where there were no standards established. It was a total blunder of money, in my perspective, not respecting the economic situations of the different provinces and regions.

Will we be able to count on you and your support staff to provide us with a regional impact study in regard to the effect of a bill when a bill such as that comes before the Senate?

Mr. Page: What I am hearing today is that there are issues with respect to regional impact studies. I believe you are suggesting that we go beyond the fiscal distribution of money that sometimes takes place in the budget, and we try to look at, if we are introducing new expenditure or revenue measures, what type of impact that might have on the economy in various regions.

You say that is a priority. Senator Nancy Ruth is saying a priority is gender-based analysis to the full extent that that is possible. Senator Murray has mentioned also as a priority that we need to ensure that as we look at budget legislation, we are scrubbing the legislation and looking for things that may not surface to someone focusing on one or two big issues.

This is what I am hearing today. If these are some of the big priorities from this Senate committee, then we will make it a priority as we establish our budget in the Parliamentary Budget Office to try to devote sufficient resources to them.

Senator Ringuette: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Mr. Page, I have listened to you twice, and you have just said it again, that if gender-based analysis is a priority, then you would look into it. It is not that gender-based analysis is a priority; rather, it is that it is a fundamental aspect of an economic model. It is not something you do on an occasional bill; it is how you look at the world.

I need to know that you understand that that is how I look at the world and that you will consider looking at it that way as well. It is not about priorities at all. It is about mindset.

Senator Di Nino: I can see the wheels of Mr. Page's very functional brain turning. I think those 15 people will very soon turn into 150, but that is a problem you will have to deal with.

Mr. Page, I will first add my congratulations and best wishes. In the proper management of any enterprise, including the affairs of a nation, the budget process is one of the most important to achieve a successful conclusion to whatever are the objectives.

In that vein, I suggest we have similar roles — ``we'' being this committee — and similar responsibilities. On behalf of all of us, we look forward to working together with you to achieve those objectives. They will be challenging. You will probably find that by the time you come here for the third time you will be given enough mandates that my prediction of 150 people will probably not be high enough to cover all of them.

Let me tackle something that Senator De Bané started to talk about, although not quite in that sense. I understand that the mandate that you have been given also contains exemptions on data that you will be able to access or request, such as under the Access to Information Act and others. Could you give us your thoughts on that? Will that be a problem for you?

Mr. Page: There is an enormous amount of information available for economists now — ``now'' meaning 2008 — versus when I started my career at the Department of Finance in 1981, where we did not have Internet websites, Bloomberg, Reuters or Excel spread sheets. It is amazing how much information we can access.

There has been significant growth in the academic and think-tank community that can contribute to policy debates. Also, we have one of the best statistical agencies in the world. Statistics Canada has been incredibly well-managed. There is a lot of information out there.

Having worked in budget environments and knowing the importance of cabinet confidences, I am hoping that I have a fair sense of where the line in the sand needs to be drawn in terms of how information will be shared between the Parliamentary Budget Officer and some of his colleagues in central agencies, such as Department of Finance, Treasury Board Secretariat and the Privy Council Office. I do not expect to get information unnecessarily, and that may include some of the different options put in front of ministers, prime ministers and finance ministers in terms of budgetary development. We will have to work with it.

It is hard for me to say how much that will infringe my ability to meet my mandate at this point. In terms of the provision of basic information and how it will flow, when we need to look at costing and research, just from early signals I have got from my public sector colleagues — and some of these are deputy ministers — some of them have gone out of their way to say they want to help.

I might be back at my third meeting with 150 people potentially with a different story in terms of information; but, at this point in time, I am hopeful. It is one of those stories where I will have to come back to you in six months to a year and let you know how it is developing and what the issues may be. It was a question put to me at the Standing Joint Committee of the Library of Parliament last week. The issue of information is a big concern. They wanted to hear back from me if I was finding it difficult to get information from departments.

Senator Di Nino: We do as well. Take that as a request on our part.

Does the legislation give you the power that you need to be able to demand information from the departments?

Mr. Page: It says timely access to information necessary to carry out my mandate as specified. There are three big pillars in that mandate in terms of economic trends, national finances and the estimates. That mandate will have to be explored with deputy ministers and chief statisticians in government. That process will take place over the next number of months.

Senator Di Nino: How is your relationship with the Auditor General?

Mr. Page: I have had one brief telephone call with the Auditor General, very recently. I will meet her formally a little over a week from now. I have worked in the past with the staff of the Auditor General on various issues as an officer in the Privy Council Office and at the Treasury Board Secretariat. I was always very impressed with the professional standards.

I look forward to having the discussion with the Auditor General on how we will work together in terms of ensuring that there is good stewardship of public funds. It will be a collaborative and complementary discussion. There are aspects of our mandate that are quite different. We talked today about the forecasts. It is a very forward-looking discussion economically and fiscally. The Auditor General has done some extremely good work through her legislative performance and financial audits that have raised issues that need to be solved in various departments. We need the capacity at the Parliamentary Budget Office to take this information and bring it forward in the context of scrutiny around the estimates. These are the important issues, the big priority issues in the departments. I see that as very collaborative, and we can build on the good work she does.

Senator Di Nino: I believe you said that individual parliamentarians from both Houses will have access to your services, whenever that is required and appropriate. Is that correct?

Mr. Page: That is correct, sir.

The Chair: Senator Stratton has had all his questions asked by others.

On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, let me thank both of you gentlemen for being here. Mr. Young, thank you very much for the work you are doing as Parliamentary Librarian and in helping to build this particular new aspect of the Parliamentary Library as it was going through its early stages. The Federal Accountability Act was passed on December 12, 2006. I know that even before that you were trying to determine the parameters of what should be done. We very much appreciate the work you are doing. Please take back the message to all of the analysts and others who work in the Library of Parliament of how much we rely on you to do the good job that we do here in the Senate committee.

Mr. Young: Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. Page, we look forward to working with you. We have been looking forward to your arrival. I know it will take a while to build things up and determine priorities. Any time you feel you should discuss matters with this committee, we would be very pleased to hear from you. Let us know, and we will make time for you.

We welcome our next panel of witnesses, Michael Nelson, Registrar of Lobbyists; and Marc O'Sullivan, Acting Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Special Projects, Privy Council Office.

We thank you, Mr. Nelson, for being here to bring us up-to-date with respect to the change that will evolve the position of Registrar of Lobbyists into commissioner of lobbyists. We are interested to know the status of developments in that respect.

Mr. O'Sullivan will assist us with respect to the development and progress of the various statutory agents and changes to existing legislation and offices prior to Bill C-2 coming into effect.

We understand that Joe Wild, Executive Director, Strategic Policy, Corporate Priorities and Planning, who had primary responsibility in this area of the implementation of those various offices and agents, tried very hard to be with us this evening.

Mr. O'Sullivan, I would ask that you take back to him our appreciation of his efforts. The timing to get on with our report left us with less flexibility than we otherwise would have had. The good news is that Mr. Wild was here before Christmas to tell us where we were at that time. We have asked him in writing if there is any further progress that we are not aware of that he would communicate to us.

Gentlemen, if you would make any introductory remarks primarily around how matters are coming along with respect to the Registrar of Lobbyists evolving into the commissioner of lobbying and the appointments commission. Those two areas have not been examined yet.

Michael Nelson, Registrar of Lobbyists, Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists: I am delighted to be here and to bring honourable senators up to date from the perspective of the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists. As you mentioned, the primary responsibility for the regulations, including those that will bringing the proposed lobbying act into force, is with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. It was important to me, although I am neither an independent agent of Parliament nor an independent officer of Parliament, which will be fixed by the proposed lobbying act, to be independent of the government during the making of these regulations. My office has provided operational advice to Mr. Wild and his staff, but we have not been part of the decision-making process on the regulations. I believe that if you give advice directly to ministers, then you need to be prepared to take advice directly from ministers. The independence of my office requires that I not take advice from ministers, so I did not give advice to ministers, but I gave advice to officials.

Nonetheless, I can give you an update from two perspectives. The regulations were gazetted in early January 2008 in the Canada Gazette, Part I. Once a number of representations are made to the government, they are considered in fairly short order. The first gazetting said that the proposed lobbying act would come into force on July 1. I anticipate that sometime between now and July 1, there will be a second gazetting. The regulations will be gazetted a second time and will confirm when the lobbying act is coming into force. I assume that will be on or around July 1. I must assume that date because I have work to do.

My office has been undertaking three different areas of work. The first area of preparation is getting the office and the registry ready. Over 99 per cent of the registrations in the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists are done online. It is an incredible success from a government-online perspective and has been like that for many years. It is free when done online, whereas it costs if you do it on paper, and it is quicker. In order to implement some of the provisions of the proposed lobbying act, we have had to rebuild the online system for registration. It will be called, Lobbyist Registration Version 5. It is a rather significant evolution. When I first came to the office a number of years ago, in an era when you could Google everything online, we did not have an online search and registration capability that was up to what people would expect. It is not only lobbyists that use the online system but also the media. Every time you see an article in the paper claiming that so-and-so is registered to lobby for so-and-so, the writer of the article probably found it on our online registration. We have been upgrading that system.

The second area of preparation is getting information ready for lobbyists and public office-holders who will have new obligations, in respect of the act in particular. There are a number of new obligations. There is a five-year post- employment prohibition on lobbying for a new subgroup of public office holders called ``designated public office holders.'' I can answer some questions around that if you wish. As well, there is a new requirement for lobbyists that communicate using certain types of communications with this subgroup to report to the commissioner of lobbying every month on certain aspects of the communications they have had.

I am reading from a list of implementation notices that we are considering putting out so that people will know their obligations before they come into force. You do not want people accidentally breaking the law. Currently, there are more than 5,000 registrations. Many of these people are not the high-profile lobbyists that we might envision. The Lobbyist Registration Act includes associations, universities and so on. Many people who are not sophisticated Internet users are lobbyists. We want to ensure that no one accidentally breaks the law.

The third area of preparation is getting a briefing book ready for the proposed commissioner of lobbying in order that the office will be able to continue into the future. The proposed lobbying act very wisely continues all of the staff of the Registrar of Lobbyists as public servants. That was important to me personally and to the staff so that they can feel confident moving into the future. We have been able to build an excellent staff, and Parliament has given us funds to move into the future with that staff. We are getting people ready internally, and we are getting the system ready for lobbyists. That is where we stand.

The Chair: How many more staff do you anticipate that the commissioner of lobbying will require, and how much more money?

Mr. Nelson: We asked Parliament for about $1 million more a year. We thought we would need three more investigators, three more staff internally to process registrations and a lawyer. We may make some internal adjustments to those staff. For example, a new provision under the act, for this five-year lobbying ban, allows the commissioner of lobbying to give exemptions under certain conditions to some designated public office holders so that they will be able to lobby in some cases. In order to give an exemption, something close to an investigation will have to be done. If someone says that they should be able to lobby, we will have to look at what type of jobs that individual has had in order to be able to make a good determination of what type of an exemption, if any, should be made. We may well make one of the investigators an exemption officer.

It is also somewhat lumpy work. We do not know when the exemptions will come in, so perhaps we could have one person doing audits, which we could stand down if something urgent comes in, have that person do the urgent work and then move back to audit. A bit of load balancing is required, if you will.

Marc O'Sullivan, Acting Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Special Projects, Privy Council Office: I will not go over material I went over in my previous appearance in December. I will, rather, go to those elements that were still underway when I appeared with Joe Wild in December and quickly cover where we stand now on those developments.

The Chair: You have many new challenges.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Yes, of course.

First, the government announced the nominee for the Director of Public Prosecutions on February 18. It is Brian Saunders, who had been the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions. That was announced pursuant to the procedure set out in the legislation. Mr. Saunders was slated to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, but that appearance was delayed due to pending procedural issues, and he has still not been able to testify.

The Chair: That is why he was still acting when he was here.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Yes, that is correct. We have to have the approval of that parliamentary committee in order to complete the appointment in the permanent position. We are keeping our fingers crossed in hopes of finalizing that.

The Chair: If the Senate committee were also authorized to do that, it could have been all done by now.

Mr. O'Sullivan: The wording in the legislation on that was a bit vague. It talked about a committee established by Parliament rather than clearly identifying the committee.

The appointment of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is fait accompli. Mr. Page was here earlier. That was a process set out under the act. It was run by the Library of Parliament and led to the recommendation and eventual appointment of Mr. Page to that position.

Since Mr. Nelson is here, I will talk about the commissioner of lobbying. We are running a selection process for that position. The advertisement appeared in mid-January. It is our goal to have that process wrapped up in time for the regulations to be finalized, and the coming into force of the act is contemplated for July. Our goal is to have everything tidied up and ready to go at the same time.

The Chair: Has that competition now closed?

Mr. O'Sullivan: Yes, it has closed. Applications are in, and the selection committee is now reviewing them.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Again, approval of both Houses is required on that. There is a procedure set out in the act for parliamentary approval of the appointments. We have to get that done before the end of June.

The last item is the public appointments commission. As I mentioned in December, there was an attempt to establish the commission previously by order-in-council. That did not come to fruition because the chairperson who was nominated was not recommended by the parliamentary committee that reviewed his nomination and the commission was stood down at that point. The members who were appointed all resigned.

In the meantime, the government, in proceeding with the public appointments, has been proceeding, in key appointments to heads of agencies and chairpersons of boards, with an open and transparent process. We have launched more than 100 appointments since February of 2006. We have a skeleton staff at the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat who have been preparing the ground for the eventual implementation of the public appointments commission. They have all the preparatory work done in terms of draft codes of conduct and draft procedures that could be followed in conformity with the legislation. Our goal is to have that ready to proceed with rapidly. However, in the meantime it is important to note that we have not waited for the establishment of the commission to move to a more transparent system for announcing positions and holding selection committees. Clear selection criteria have been established and announced in the Canada Gazette and on the Government of Canada appointments website in order to attract highly qualified candidates for these important positions.

Having worked hard at this for the past two years, we have made much progress in running these processes, attracting qualified candidates and being able to assert with confidence that appointees to these positions are well- qualified for their positions.

The Chair: Are you speaking of order-in-council appointments?

Mr. O'Sullivan: Yes, that is correct.

The Chair: How many order-in-council appointments would have been made since this legislation received Royal Proclamation on December 12, 2006?

Mr. O'Sullivan: I do not have the exact numbers, but this government is proceeding on the basis of approximately 700 appointments per year.

The Chair: How are the commissioners of the public appointments commission appointed? Is it through a competition or through order-in-council without a competition?

Mr. O'Sullivan: That is a decision that the government will have to take. One option is to run an open selection process, which has logic to it because of the nature of the task to be undertaken by the commissioners.

The Chair: That commission you keep referring to existed before there was any legislation. We are interested in what has happened since the creation of the Federal Accountability Act by Bill C-2. Where are we with respect to the public appointments commission now? Is there a process to have these commissioners appointed? If so, has it started?

Mr. O'Sullivan: No, we have not launched a selection process for the commissioners. We have been focusing on preparing the terrain for the establishment of the commission, but the decision has not yet been made to appoint the commissioners and get the commission up and running.

The Chair: Is there anything in writing that indicates that the government has decided not to proceed with this commission?

Mr. O'Sullivan: No, there is not.

The Chair: From whom are you waiting to hear?

Mr. O'Sullivan: The decision to establish the commission will be a cabinet decision, a Governor-in-Council decision, and we do not yet have a cabinet decision to proceed with the appointment. You asked whether there is something in writing saying not to proceed; there is not. We have the instruction to maintain a bare-bones secretariat and be in a position to have a commission up and running quickly.

I do not think we would have received that instruction if there was no intention of creating a commission down the road. It is a matter of when, not if.

The Chair: We appreciate you touching on those points for us.

Senator Ringuette: Mr. O'Sullivan, I have one main question for you. Maybe it is a naive question, but I am supposing that the people at Privy Council Office do talk with the people at Treasury Board very often. I saw you listening to our witness, Mr. Page, who is the new Parliamentary Budget Officer. This committee had recommended that the position be classified as deputy minister, but that has not yet occurred.

In your future conversation with the people at Treasury Board, could you restate the recommendation of this committee? Hopefully, it would be the recommendation of PCO too, but I know you cannot talk about that; or maybe you can — can you?


Mr. O'Sullivan: I would be happy to answer that question. First, I do not know if my colleagues at the Treasury Board Secretariat would like to admit that they have discussions with us.

I would like to make a clarification on the classification of the position. That was a difficult question for us because, on the one hand, Mr. Young told us how important it was to have a position with quite a senior classification so as to be able to attract experienced, qualified and seasoned economists. We were aware of the Senate committee's recommendations.

At the same time, we were faced with the reality that is set out in the Parliament of Canada Act, which establishes that the Parliamentary Librarian has control and supervision of the Library and of its entire staff. The way in which Mr. Page's position is established places him under the Parliamentary Librarian.

We had difficulty with classifying Mr. Page's position at a level equal to or higher than that of the person who controls and supervises his work. The difficulty was that Mr. Young's position is classified as level GC-6 — Governor in Council 6 — and Mr. Page's as GCQ-5 — ``Q'' for ``quasi-judicial'', the nature of the position meaning that he needs a certain degree of independence, which is implicit in the classification ``Governor in Council, quasi-judicial''. But we asked ourselves how we were going to place him at the same level as his boss. We therefore placed him at level 5, one level lower.

We are also aware of the frustration that this causes as a result, because of the salary available for, and the difficulty in recruiting, such a person.

Senator Ringuette: And the responsibilities.

Mr. O'Sullivan: The responsibilities are considerable, but there is still a problem when we ask ourselves whether the person who is legally his boss, that is, the person who controls and supervises his work, can be at the same level, or even a lower one. That is where our difficulty lay.

Senator Ringuette: Perhaps the Librarian's position will have to be reclassified.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Yes, that is upward reclassification; it is an inflationary force because there is not only the Librarian's position, but there are also legal counsel positions, clerks, deputy clerks, a whole complex of positions. Mr. Young and his colleagues would perhaps be happy to see the escalation in levels, but, from our side, it is our job to prevent those kinds of inflationary trends in job classification.

We recognize the importance of the position, the scope of the functions, the expectations of parliamentarians, and that is why we came to an agreement with Mr. Page that gives us six months to see the reality and scope of the position. As I listen to you this evening, I already have the impression that your committee has high expectations. We will take that into consideration and review the classification of the position.

We found a specific solution for Mr. Page that allowed him to accept and move forward with the position, but we will review the situation in six months according to the reality and the scope of the position. There was discussion about 50 or 150 employees; that would have an impact on the classification of the position. We will make adjustments when the time comes.


Senator Ringuette: My second question is for Mr. Nelson. You are on the fifth edition of the online registry. You mentioned that you are now in the process of receiving the monthly reporting. Perhaps not, but you are in preparation for that. Will it be online?

Will people be able to submit their monthly report online, and will there be some transparency? I do not know the names of the lobbyist firms, but if a given lobbyist firm submits its report, will I have access to see it online? Is there that degree of transparency?

Mr. Nelson: The big answer is, yes, and, yes. The first ``yes'' is right now, if we take Hill & Knowlton Canada or one of the other lobbying firms, if you wanted to see all the lobbying they are registered for or that the lobbyists that belong to that firm are registered for, you could go online right now and find that. With respect to monthly reports, it will be exactly the same.

The requirement in the law is that any lobbyist who has been in contact with one of these designated public office holders — essentially assistant deputy ministers and up, and ministers and their staff — anyone who has communicated in a certain prescribed-in-regulations type of communications, which right now looks as though it is oral, arranged meetings, will have to report to the commissioner of lobbying, by the 15th of every month, all of those prescribed communications that have happened in the previous month.

That will happen. We expect that will be quite a volume and is one of the reasons we have had to redesign the registry because it just was not designed for that. It first came into life in 1996. It was not that well-documented. We have had to redesign everything. That is why the answer is yes, and yes.

My desire in designing this has been that people will be able to slice and dice this registry the same way they can Google things online.

Senator Ringuette: That is very commendable.

My other question is, for instance, if I look at Hill & Knowlton Canada, one of the monthly reports, and there is an issue or a meeting that I know occurred and is not there, what do I do? Is there a complaint mechanism for Canadians in all this?

Mr. Nelson: Absolutely, there is. In a sense, it exists now. The current law, and it is the same in the proposed lobbying act, does not restrict anyone from complaining to me about anything.

Senator Ringuette: People can complain to you?

Mr. Nelson: Yes, to me, the Registrar of Lobbyists. We look into matters.

In your example, there are two ways of getting at that. One way is that if you are aware of a meeting, you could certainly report it to the commissioner of lobbying. That can be done by anyone; Mr. O'Sullivan could report it to the commissioner of lobbying. There is another important aspect about this law. The commissioner is empowered to go back to these designated public office holders, who are named by the lobbyist as having met with them, and ask, ``Did you meet with this guy? He says you met with him. In fact, he says you met with him four times about this subject on these dates. Is that right?''

That designated public office holder must report back within 30 days to the commissioner to report whether or not it is true and what really happened, at which point the commissioner would go after the lobbyist to tell them something is up.

Senator Ringuette: We have to be practical and think that there might be an omission or two on a monthly report.

In that aggregate of officials, does that include the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office, PMO? What happens if Mr. O'Sullivan is being lobbied by someone?

Mr. Nelson: Mr. O'Sullivan would be included, yes. The group included in public office holders under the Lobbyist Registration Act and the proposed lobbying is huge. That group consists of every honourable senator, every member of Parliament, every member of the Canadian Forces, every member of the RCMP. It is me; it is all of my staff; it is all of us. Designated public officeholders is this smaller subgroup, but the act defines them as assistant deputy ministers and officials of comparable rank, and the commissioner will have to determine what comparable rank means.

For example, Mr. O'Sullivan is an assistant secretary. I do not know, but he is probably an EX-4, as is an ADM. The commissioner will be able to say that that is comparable rank and that, yes, he would be a designated public office holder. In the diversity of the public service, I have been an ADM for quite a while. I have been called a vice-president, a registrar, a number of titles. The commissioner will have to sort out what comparable rank means.

It does not exclude departments or agencies; it says if you are of comparable rank. It is the PCO, Treasury Board Secretariat, Health Canada and National Defence. It is quite a large number of people. My thinking is that there are at least 1,000 people, and maybe more, in this designated public office holder group.

Senator Ringuette: I would think so. There are 250,000 public service employees. There are 308 members of Parliament and normally 105 senators.

Mr. Nelson: We are looking at some volume there, senator. It is only these designated public office holders, and only when it is oral and arranged meetings. I see what happens in the registry just when people check-in every six months as to what they are doing. The difference under this new legislation is that we will be able to see the pace of the lobbying activity. Instead of checking-in once every six months, we will see if someone is heavily lobbying these designated public office holders. Let us say that you are really into an issue, seeing assistant deputy ministers and deputies. People will be able to see on a month-to-month basis that they were talking to the ADM of Finance over at Health Canada that month, and the next week they were in with the deputy minister.

Senator Ringuette: They will have to stipulate the issue. If I want to search an issue on your site as to who has been lobbying who, I will be able to?

Mr. Nelson: Yes, you will.

Senator Nancy Ruth: What will the registry actually tell us? If your answer is partly slice and dice, do you want to add more to what you have already said?

Mr. Nelson: I would turn it around in answering and say that it will tell you what you ask it. The asking capability is what I am working on.

Senator Nancy Ruth: However, it will not tell me who met who in a bar or on an elevator, which is where some instances happen.

Mr. Nelson: It might. It may not tell you they met in a bar, but if a lobbyist is registered to lobby Health Canada on something — the lobbying right now requires the lobbyist to say what types of communication they will have, including informal communication — maybe the whole intent is to meet informally.

Senator Nancy Ruth: There is no requirement for the ADM to post that he or she met so-and-so in an elevator about X?

Mr. Nelson: No, that is not the requirement.

Senator Nancy Ruth: It is one-sided on that?

Mr. Nelson: Yes, that is correct.

Senator Nancy Ruth: That is one of the factors it does not tell us. Are there other factors that this registry will not tell us in which we might be interested?

Mr. Nelson: To contrast, the Americans have traditionally been much more interested in money than we have. Our legislation does not speak to money — and it has been in front of Parliament and parliamentarians a few times. Generally speaking, parliamentarians have, so far, said that they are not as interested in that as much as they are in other factors. It does not tell you how much the lobbyist is getting paid. Every once in a while we will see an article in the American Press about how much lobbyists in general have spent on lobbying. In fact, there are some commercials on TV right now to that extent.

Our registry does not speak to money. However, it speaks to money in one way; in particular, the new legislation forbids the payment of contingency fees. You will no longer be able to enter into a lobbying undertaking by saying, ``If I get this policy passed, you pay me; if I do not, you do not have to pay me.'' That will be outlawed from now on.

Senator Nancy Ruth: This tracks the lobbyist, the person, and their firm is a sidebar to that person, is that correct?

Mr. Nelson: It tracks the lobbyist, their client and any other interests, such as if the client is a subsidiary of someone or if the client has been getting government funding. We currently ask whether their client has been getting government funding, particularly for associations and people such as that. It is always an interesting question.

Senator Nancy Ruth: This is a hypothetical question around issue rather than person. If I want to know how many people had lobbied Monte Solberg on expanding parenting leave in Canada in the last five months, could I do that?

Mr. Nelson: Right now you would not be able to do that. The current Lobbyist Registration Act does not require you to say that you will lobby Monte Solberg or any particular member of Parliament. It would say what department; it might say which members of Parliament. You might choose to disclose that, but there is no requirement to disclose exactly.

Senator Nancy Ruth: The lobbyist does not have to say who they are lobbying?

Mr. Nelson: Currently, no they do not.

Senator Nancy Ruth: By ``currently,'' do you mean this may change?

Mr. Nelson: Yes, under the proposed lobbying act, it would be a requirement if the person is a designated public office holder. This is the subgroup I am talking about. If the person that you are lobbying is a designated public office holder and you are having an arranged meeting with them, sitting down and talking to them, you have to state the person's name. That is really a big step forward. You have to actually say that you are meeting with such-and-such a minister, if that person is a designated public office holder. Senators, just to clarify a distinction, will not be designated public office holders. If an individual was meeting with yourself, then they would not need to name you.

Senator Nancy Ruth: What happens if I get an email from a non-governmental organization, NGO, that says: ``Will you please speak to the Canadian International Development Agency minister about increasing their commitment to Burmese refugees on the Thai border because the price of rice has gone up 80 per cent''?

That is lobbying at some level, but I do not know whether this NGO is registered.

Mr. Nelson: The NGO might not have to be registered. The act allows for a few things. If they are all volunteers, they will never have to register because the current act and the proposed lobbying act both require payment to have occurred. The organization has to have paid employees. That is one trigger. The total lobbying effort of the organization has to be 20 per cent of one person's time if one person was doing it.

If you had 20 employees and they are each lobbying for 1 per cent of their time, that would be a total lobbying effort of the whole organization of 20 per cent. It is a lot easier if you have a vice-president of government relations for Texaco, for example, because it is clear that they will be spending 20 per cent of their time, or maybe they should not even be getting paid.

It gets dicier. That is important for the education component of the commissioner because this act is arcane. I will be the first to admit that even the Lobbyist Registration Act, for a short act, has twists and turns. It is Parliament meeting the diversity of the world. As soon as the diversity of the world meets a piece of legislation, you get all manner of situations that Parliament never thought of in the first place.

The commissioner of lobbying has an explicit outreach and communication mandate to try to make this a little more understandable so that public office holders are not asking themselves exactly the question you are asking: Should I feel uneasy about this? I do not know. Maybe I am talking to an unregistered lobbyist.

Helping parliamentarians and public office holders understand the law is a better dollar spent than going after and investigating someone because they might have broken the law.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I am working through understanding it. I will use another example: A number of individuals with wealth have holding companies that hold the wealth. The Department of Finance Canada is trying to find a way for private foundations to receive shares from these holding companies and get the benefit of capital gains exemption. It is passing it on to another generation without paying the taxman on the way. It is an idea of which I am not too fond, but I know it is happening out there.

These individuals are bumping into ministers of finance or deputies or whatever, here, there, and everywhere, at party meetings and Chamber of Commerce committees. It just comes up. I do not know whether they are organized enough to have hired a lobbyist, but I know they have fingers in pies, and the Department of Finance Canada is looking at it.

Can I find out who is doing what to mount a counter-lobby against a move I think is unhealthy for this country?

Mr. Nelson: Are they a coalition?

Senator Nancy Ruth: I do not know that.

Mr. Nelson: That is difficult to know, because the law does require that if there is a coalition and the coalition hires someone, registration must happen. You have brought up one of the difficulties of the act, namely, that it is difficult to know without doing an investigation whether or not someone has to register. This is why, as an office, if someone described the situation you described and asks whether they have to register, we would tell them that it would be up to them. We would show them the law, and inform them that if someone complains or we think they should be registered, then we will go after them.

There are many instances where people really are just one-off lobbying, they are not being paid, and Parliament in its wisdom has said that is allowed.

Senator Nancy Ruth: That happens every Friday in every M.P.'s office.

Mr. Nelson: This act has some principles at the beginning that say that this is legitimate. You just have to say who you are lobbying. It has to be transparent. Lobbying is legitimate as long as it is transparent.

Senator Nancy Ruth: What does it not tell us, besides the money issue? Was there anything else you would say about it, in the examples you have given?

Mr. Nelson: Let me tell you something that maybe you did not think it told you. This is not quite the answer to your question. It does tell you if the person was a previous public office holder and what previous public offices they held, which is a little-known fact about the registry. If someone is a former deputy, a former MP or even a former staffer somewhere, all of those public offices are already held.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Does it say whether you have gone to jail or not in the past?

Mr. Nelson: It does not.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Does it indicate whether you have been bankrupt?

Mr. Nelson: No, it does not tell you that; you are absolutely right. I am not as good at saying what is not in there. That is a great question.

Senator Mitchell: This is probably an obvious question, but I want to get it straight. You mentioned that the vice- president of government relations for a firm would probably easily reach the 20 per cent threshold and have to declare. If the president of that firm is brought in at the last meeting to make a presentation, for example, will she have to be registered as a lobbyist or would she escape that particular threshold?

Mr. Nelson: The answer is yes, she would have to be registered. To make the distinction here, the most senior person in a corporation or organization is responsible for registering all of the other people doing lobbying within. She might not have been registered, but if she lobbies for even 1 per cent of her time, or if any of her direct reports do, if they have already triggered the 20 per cent and they are a registered firm, that individual, the president, would have to register, as would the vice-president of corporate services.

Senator Mitchell: Let us say that it is not a lobby firm but an oil company.

Mr. Nelson: Yes, they have to register if they are communicating with the government on any one of the following subjects — and I like to think of them as changing the state of play: changing legislation, a regulation, a program; getting a contract, although getting a contract is for consultant lobbyists; or getting a grant contribution or other financial benefit. If they are lobbying as an energy organization, such as an oil company — and you can imagine the type of policy issues they might be interested in — and communicating with respect to those issues, that is lobbying.

Senator Mitchell: You mentioned that contingencies cannot be charged for achieving some policy change or presumably getting a grant.

Mr. Nelson: That is under the proposed new act.

Senator Mitchell: That is based upon a lobby effort, which, it seems to me, implies that you actually meet with one of these designated public officials.

Let us say that you have a firm that simply fills out application forms, does it properly, has a good record of achievement on behalf of clients and grants, are they able to charge a contingency fee if they do not actually meet with the designated public officer?

Mr. Nelson: The contingency-fee ban is on consultant lobbyists. If a company uses its own workforce to hound the Minister of Industry for months to get a grant or a contribution, that is lobbying. However, if they give their staff a performance bonus, for example, for doing that, that is not considered the contingency fee. If they hire an outside consultant to do the lobbying for them, then that individual is not allowed to charge a contingency fee.

Senator Mitchell: However, the operative variable there is to do the lobbying, which means they have to meet with someone. If they did not meet with anyone, or met with a director general and not an assistant deputy minister or above, and got it because it is a lower echelon, would they be able to charge a contingency fee?

Mr. Nelson: They would not. There are two parts to your question. If they never met with anyone and never arranged any meetings, it is not lobbying. If all they did was give strategic advice and say, ``I think you should be meeting so-and-so; I cannot go into the meeting; I cannot make the phone call for you, but this is what you should be doing,'' then they can charge a contingency fee because they are not registered; so they are not lobbying.

The Chair: I want to be sure that you feel that with the new legislation that is currently being implemented to create the commissioner of lobbying that there will be sufficient independence to do the job required.

To go back, my recollection is that that was one of the motivating factors for the new legislation under Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. It was deemed there was not enough independence in the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists to achieve the hoped-for results.

Are you satisfied now that, as this unfolds, there will be sufficient independence?

Mr. Nelson: First, I would say that I, personally, am not independent the same way the commissioner will be. I have been incredibly independent. I have not had so much as a BlackBerry PIN from any minister for whom I have worked, and I have worked for four ministers in two different governments. None of the staff have called me, and there have been some tempting moments; you can see them in the press. No one has so much as asked what is happening over here. It has been wonderful. I am proud, as a public servant, that that has happened.

The commissioner of lobbying will have that automatically. There is a bit of an aura around lobbying that — even though they were acting honourably — not one politician so much as called me. I believe the commissioner of lobbying will be very independent and has the resources to do his or her job.

The Chair: To whom will the commissioner of lobbying report?

Mr. Nelson: There is no organizational chart in the act. The lobbying act will provide for the tabling of various reports to Parliament.

To make a distinction, right now I table my reports through Minister Toews, for example. I tabled four investigation reports through him. He has been remarkably good, as have ministers before him in that they pass through, no questions asked. The commissioner of lobbying tables them directly — I believe — to the Speaker. It is not through a minister, in any event. That is an annual report, and any investigation reports done.

I believe, as I have said to other committees, when I meet with Parliament at one of these committees, it is like meeting with my boss. It is the only chance I get to talk to my boss. I am assuming the commissioner may have a similar attitude toward committees.

The Chair: The committees typically look for other indicia to ensure independence, such as the commissioner having the authority and the ability to file reports separate from the annual report, whenever he or she feels that something should be reported to Parliament.

Mr. Nelson: That is in the act.

The Chair: The other is the appointment. Is it for a term certain and you only can be removed for cause, or is it at the pleasure of the Governor-in-Council?

Mr. O'Sullivan: The position has the maximum independence and protection that a position could have in that it is a good-behaviour position. The tenure is during good behaviour, for a fixed term of seven years, which is quite a long term. Typical terms for Governor-in-Council appointments are more often three to five years. Just for a belt and suspenders, the person in the position may be removed only for cause by the Governor-in-Council at any time on address of the Senate and House of Commons. It has that additional protection. It is not the Governor-in-Council alone; it is the Governor-in-Council having to go through Parliament to remove that person.

The Chair: That is a high degree of protection so that the commissioner can do the job expected of him or her.

In terms of salary, is that determined by a committee or a group? The budget for the department or the commission is another area of pressure once it is created. The salary of the individual is always an area where pressure can be brought to bear if a particular government in the future might not be happy with what is happening. They can starve you to death, basically, with no funds. What type of assurance do we have that there is independence in that regard?

Mr. Nelson: To speak to the budget, the budget of the organization is about $4.5 million a year. The full-time equivalent, FTE, count is 28. The advertised salary of the position had a top end of $181,000. That is not much different than I make right now, and there is another $1 million in the budget. Looking at it like this, it says that there is room for the commissioner's salary.

The Chair: Who made the decision on the budget and the number of full-time equivalents, and can it be changed?

Mr. Nelson: Parliament made that decision. It was made through the Main Estimates, the Reports on Plans and Priorities, RPPs, and that sort of process. In the same way that parliamentary committees can, every year, change that, parliamentary committees could choose.

The Chair: Then is it Treasury Board that makes that decision and puts it to Parliament?

Mr. Nelson: I am not telling you anything you do not know, but Treasury Board submissions provide the minister responsible with the authority to ask Parliament for certain amounts of money. This is when we need to have some Treasury Board officials here. It would be very transparent if there was a reduction in the budget because it would have to go before Parliament.

That is the most I can illuminate that subject, that it would be a very transparent reduction if there was ever a reduction in that budget.

The Chair: Transparency would be helpful.

Mr. O'Sullivan, can you help us any more in that regard?

Mr. O'Sullivan: The position is paid remuneration set by the Governor-in-Council. Basically, when you have that level of protection offered to a position, the remuneration reflects the senior level of the position. Any government would be ill-advised to stave off a commissioner of lobbying by reducing their level in mid-stream. It would be constructive dismissal and seen as being contrary to the good-behaviour, removable-for-cause-only protection under the act.

The Chair: I agree with you. In terms of the overall budget for the office, with all of the individuals, that comes through Treasury Board. Is there any protection there? I remember when we met with the Auditor General there was some concern about that in terms of independence.

Mr. O'Sullivan: I am afraid that is outside of my domain. I would not want to comment on that.

The Chair: I appreciate that. I know you both came on very short notice, but I thought we would try some of the questions. Actually, we have done very well in dealing with many of our concerns.

We thank you both for being here. In terms of the commission of lobbying, we look forward to the regulations being approved and the commissioner being put in place sometime around July 1 of this year. Hopefully that will happen, and that we will have some good news to celebrate in that regard. It has been a long time. The bill has been around for about 18 months; it received Royal Assent about 17 or 18 months ago now. We are anxious that all of the promises that were in that bill two years ago come to fruition as quickly as possible.

Thank you both very much for being here. This meeting is adjourned.

The committee adjourned.

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