Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry

Issue 1 - Evidence - Meeting of February 12, 2009


OTTAWA, Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 9:05 a.m., pursuant to rule 88 of the Rules of the Senate, to organize the activities of the committee.

[English]

Josée Thérien, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, as clerk of your committee it is my duty to preside over the election of the chair. I am ready to receive a motion to that effect.

Senator Fairbairn: I move that Senator Mockler become the chair of the committee.

Ms. Thérien: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Ms. Thérien: I declare the motion carried and invite the Honourable Senator Mockler to take the chair.

Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: If you permit me, Senator Fairbairn, I will certainly be relying on you. We have some challenges ahead of us.

The next item on the agenda is the election of the deputy chair.

Senator Mercer: I move the Honourable Senator Fairbairn as the deputy chair.

The Chair: Senator Fairbairn, do you accept?

Senator Fairbairn: Yes.

The Chair: This will be a dynamic tag team.

Senator Fairbairn: We are best friends already.

The Chair: Are we agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

The Chair: I would be remiss if I did not recognize Ms. Josée Thérien, the clerk of the committee.

[English]

Ms. Thérien, thank you for steering us through the procedures.

The third item of our agenda is the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure.

Senator Fairbairn: I move that Senator Mercer join us in that endeavour.

The Chair: Do you accept, Senator Mercer?

Senator Mercer: Yes.

The Chair: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: The next item is a motion to print the committee's proceedings. It is moved by the Honourable Senator Milne that the committee print its proceedings, and that the chair be authorized to set the number to meet demand.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Eaton that pursuant to rule 89, the chair be authorized to hold meetings, to receive and authorize the printing of the evidence when a quorum is not present, provided that a member of the committee from both the government and the opposition be present.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

The Chair: The sixth item deals with the financial report.

Senator Housakos: I so move.

The Chair: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Housakos that the committee adopt the draft first report, prepared in accordance with rule 104. You have a copy. Shall the motion carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[English]

Senator Milne: Mr. Chair, before we move on to the next item, I think that this first report of the financial report is for the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament. I think there should also be a report on the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament, as well. There may be zeros all the way down because the committee was not formed. However, I do think if we do not do so, there will be a hole in the record. It is something to be looked into and see if this should properly be done because someone 25 years from now looking back will wonder what happened to that report.

Senator Mercer: That is a good point Senator Milne. Perhaps we could ask the clerk to clarify that point. It is something that will affect all committees and we may have to do that with all of them. While it is only an historic footnote, it will save someone many years from now from asking what happened.

The Chair: Is it agreed that we ask the clerk to revisit and advise the committee?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Mahovlich that the committee ask the Library of Parliament to assign analysts to the committee; that the chair be authorized to seek authority from the Senate to engage the services of such counsel and technical, clerical, and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of the committee's examination and consideration of such bills, subject-matters of bills, and estimates as are referred to it; that the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be authorized to retain the services of such experts as may be required by the work of the committee; and that the chair, on behalf of the committee, direct the research staff in preparation of studies, analyses, summaries, and draft reports.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

The Chair: The eighth item deals with the authority to commit funds and certify accounts.

Senator Rivard: I so move.

The Chair: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Rivard that, pursuant to section 7, chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, authority to commit funds be conferred individually on the chair, the deputy chair, and the clerk of the committee; that, pursuant to section 8, chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, authority for certifying accounts payable by the committee be conferred individually on the chair, the deputy chair, and the clerk of the committee; and that, notwithstanding the foregoing, in cases related to consultants and personnel services, the authority to commit funds and certify accounts be conferred jointly on the chair and deputy chair. Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[English]

It is moved by the Honourable Senator Mercer that the committee empower the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure to designate, as required, one or more members of the committee and/or such staff as may be necessary to travel on assignment on behalf of the committee.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

The Chair: The tenth item on the agenda deals with the designation of members travelling on committee business.

Senator Housakos: I so move.

The Chair: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Housakos that the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be authorized to determine whether any member of the committee is on "official business'' for the purposes of paragraph 8(3)(a) of the Senators Attendance Policy, published in the Journals of the Senate on Wednesday, June 3, 1998; and to consider any member of the committee to be on "official business'' if that member is attending an event or meeting related to the work of the committee or making a presentation related to the work of the committee; and that the subcommittee report at the earliest opportunity any decisions taken with respect to the designation of members of the committee travelling on committee business.

[English]

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Munson that, pursuant to the Senate guidelines for witness expenses, the committee may reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for one witness from any one organization and payment will take place upon application, but that the chair be authorized to approve expenses for a second witness should there be exceptional circumstances.

Are honourable senators agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

The Chair: Item 12 deals with electronic media coverage of public meetings.

It is moved by the Honourable Senator Eaton that the chair be authorized to seek permission from the Senate to permit coverage by electronic media of the committee's public proceedings with the least possible disruption of its hearings; and that the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be empowered to allow such coverage at its discretion.

Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[English]

The Chair: The thirteenth item concerns the time slot for regular meetings will be Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in room 705 of the Victoria Building.

Ms. Thérien: The room will depend on whether the meeting is televised. We could switch rooms but room 705 is the usual meeting room for the committee.

Senator Munson: It would depend on the witnesses, obviously, and if you had ministers or people that we would consider important. You folks would fight hard to get the downstairs room so it could be televised, right?

Senator Mercer: I have been on the committee for almost six years. We have almost always been televised, with very few exceptions. Meetings like this one are of no real interest to the public and so we are not televised. However, one of the problems can be the fact that the subject matter in the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry meetings does not get on the agenda of the popular media. If we could have the committee's proceedings broadcast then at least the issues would be available to Canadians. Those of us who have been on the committee for some time, Senator Mahovlich, Senator Fairbairn and I, receive feedback from people when we travel in our public and private lives. Many people actually see the broadcast of the proceedings, in particular those in rural Canada, on whom this committee has its focus.

Mr. Chair, I hope you encourage the clerk to try to elbow our way into those few rooms that have broadcast facilities. As well, they are much more comfortable because the heat in this room goes up and down.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Mercer. On that, I will ask the clerk if she has any comments.

Ms. Thérien: There is a process to follow for booking such rooms. The final decision goes to the whip's office if there is any conflict. If the committee wants the proceedings televised, I will make the request. I cannot choose the room but I will do my best.

Senator Fairbairn: You can mention that the room downstairs is better.

Ms. Thérien: Yes.

Senator Fairbairn: You have always been good at this. It is important for the committee and for the people across the country. It amazes me when I run into people who tell me that they saw us on television at 3 a.m. We often forget when we are so busy here in Ottawa, that many people across the country are interested in issues concerning agriculture and forestry. When they know that there is a time to view the proceedings of the committee, they tune in, and that is good for us and good for the Senate.

Senator Munson: I am sure that Senator Stratton and I will work in the best interests of the country.

Senator Milne: I suggest that the clerk put in a routine request for televised committees.

The Chair: Are there any other comments on the subject? Hearing none, we will move on.

At this time, after conversing and meeting with the previous chair, Senator Fairbairn, I would consider having an in camera discussion for about 10 minutes so that we can look at a proposed agenda. From that, coming back in two week's time, we could give proper instruction to the committee on the first agenda items of the committee.

[Translation]

At this time, I would ask that the meeting continue in camera.

[English]

Senator Milne: Normally we give permission for staff to stay during an in camera session.

The Chair: Yes, senators' staff can stay.

(The committee continued in camera.)


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