THE COMMITTEE OF SELECTION
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 18, 2016
The Committee of Selection met this day at 8:30
a.m. for the election of the chair and for the consideration of a draft
agenda (future business).
Blair Armitage, Clerk of the Committee:
Honourable senators, as clerk of your committee, it is my duty to preside
over the election of the chair, and I am ready to receive motions to that
Senator Munson: I would like to nominate
Don Plett as the chair of this committee.
Mr. Armitage: Are there any other
Seeing none, is it your pleasure, honourable
senators, to adopt the motion that Senator Plett take the chair?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Mr. Armitage: It is agreed.
Senator Plett, would you please take the chair.
Senator Donald Neil Plett (Chair) in
Senator Lankin: Congratulations on your
election to the chair. There is an outstanding matter that I hope will be
coming before this committee in short order, and that is dealing with the
issue of the appointment of independent senators to committees.
I spoke with Senator Carignan yesterday, and he
was of the thought that it was going to happen today. I'm here, waiting to
see my future unfold, but I understand it is not going to happen today.
Could you tell us if this will occur in short order, so that when we resume
in a week's time, independents can take their place as full voting members
The Chair: I can say to you, Senator Lankin,
that it will happen in a short period of time. I can also say to you that I
hope it will be done in time for when we come back.
There is the matter whereby we were given three
names for two positions, and it is probably not going to be this committee's
decision as to which two out of three will be there. You will likely be
receiving, in those cases — and I will just use, for example, you, Senator
McCoy and Senator Pratte — a letter. The independent senators who signed the
letter need to work out amongst themselves who those two will be. I don't
think we will be making that decision.
That is maybe for three or possibly four of the
committees. That's not a decision that we want to make. But the reason we
needed to select a chair today is so that the letter could go out under the
chair's signature rather than going out under Senator Munson's name and my
name as the whips. That will be drafted hopefully before we leave at the end
of this week, and then we will bring that matter to a close.
Senator Lankin: Just so I understand, my
recollection of the letter is that it put forward two independent senators
for each committee. There were committees that already had independent
senators as members from when they were members of caucuses and left, and it
was not our intention or our position that we should be having anything to
say about those individuals.
I believe that our letter put forward two for
each. If I'm mistaken, we should regroup on that quickly.
Is the conflict of the three independent
senators for some committees a matter of where there is already a sitting
The Chair: Not in all cases, but in some
there is, yes.
Senator Munson: What wasn't envisaged, for
example, was Senator Sibbeston, who sat on the Aboriginal Committee as a
Liberal senator and has now chosen to sit as an independent. We haven't
checked with him because he's an independent, but he is on Aboriginal as an
independent now, and there are two other names of senators who wish to sit
on the Aboriginal Committee. The way it has happened in other caucuses or
groups is that people say, "Who do you think would be the best two people to
sit on that committee?" That's just one of the situations we're facing.
Only one independent has put his or her name
down to sit on a committee, which will probably still leave a vacancy. And
we still have to look towards the future, because there are 17 seats to be
To echo what Senator Plett has said, this
letter will go out, I'm sure, before the end of this week, and we will call
another Selection Committee meeting very early following the break week.
Senator Lankin: My recollection of the
first letter we received from the two caucus leaders indicated that each
caucus was going to give up one seat on a committee, creating two vacancies
for independents on a committee. That letter did not specify that existing
independents sitting on committees would have to have their status reviewed.
They are already committee members. They carry the rights of full committee
If you look at the total numbers being put
forward in cases where there might be three because of an existing
independent sitting on the committee, it is still below proportionality. The
Modernization Committee premise that's coming forward talks about
proportionality. Everybody seems to be focused on that issue.
The response from the group of independents did
not really include those who were independent senators already on
committees. We acknowledge that they are there — so their names are there —
but it was putting forward two for each committee as per the request to us.
It sounds like this has already been discussed
and you know where you are headed, but I would ask you to reconsider that.
Although we're all attending committees already, it is below the
proportionality numbers, and there are a group of independents eager to get
to work in a fulsome way. I would appreciate it if you would look at that
The Chair: We will certainly do that. It
has been indicated clearly that we all agree with your last statement that
we want to get on with this and have some of these independents on the
committees. We need to grapple with that and we will do that, but the fact
of the matter is that since that letter went out, as Senator Munson just
pointed out, people have been leaving caucuses, so they have been losing
members in that regard. If we want to do some kind of portion, then the
independents would already probably outnumber the Liberals on some
committees. That, by our numbers, should not be the case yet.
We will look at that, Senator Lankin, and
hopefully resolve that satisfactorily.
Senator McCoy: First of all, I endorse what
Senator Lankin has just said.
On the example you used, Senator Munson, it
happens there are three vacancies already on the Aboriginal Affairs
Committee, so I don't see the difficulty, even with Senator Sibbeston
already sitting on that committee. There are three vacancies.
I wonder if it wouldn't be more useful, rather
than just sending us a letter, if representatives from the independents
group were to meet with this committee and go through each committee to see
what accommodations can be made. The Aboriginal Affairs Committee is a
The Chair: I will take that under
advisement. I think what we will start with, Senator McCoy, is a letter, and
hopefully that will resolve it. If it doesn't, certainly we are all
available. I am certainly going to be available to discuss it with you as
the leader or —
Senator McCoy: Facilitator.
The Chair: Facilitator, yes. Thank you. I'm
getting confused with all the names for different leadership positions.
Senator McCoy: That's all right.
The Chair: But we will not try to hide, and
we will try to bring this to a close as quickly as we can.
Senator Fraser: Both Senator Martin and I
are going to have to leave — 10 minutes ago — with apologies to all. But
before we do that, I would like to say that it had been my understanding
that the independent senators adamantly, understandably and legitimately
believed that they should choose which of their members would sit on
committees. The offer that was made and accepted was for two independent
seats on each committee, and that seems to me to be the groundwork upon
which we must operate.
Therefore, I suggest that it is not for this
committee to make a choice as to which independent senators will go where.
It is for the independents to figure out what they want to do. That's what
they told us they wanted to do. We all agreed that was appropriate. Let's
stick to the deal.
The Chair: Noted.
Senator McCoy, I will allow one more comment
from you, but as Senator Fraser has said, both she and Senator Martin need
to leave. The only item on the agenda today was the selection of the chair.
We have accommodated more comments, but I will allow you one last comment,
and then we will adjourn the meeting.
Senator McCoy: "Two new seats" was our
understanding of the offer.
The Chair: Thank you very much, colleagues,
for coming out.
(The committee adjourned.)