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OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Committee of Selection met by videoconference at 1 p.m. [ET] to discuss the motion to fill the position of Speaker pro tempore by means of a secret ballot.

Senator Terry M. Mercer (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I’m Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia, chair of the committee.

This is a hybrid public meeting of the Committee of Selection. Thank you in advance, senators, for your patience as we continue to adapt to this new way of holding our meetings. Before we begin, I’d like to share several helpful suggestions that we feel will assist you in having an efficient and productive meeting.

Participants are asked to have their microphones muted at all times, unless recognized by name by the chair. Before speaking, please wait until you are recognized by name. For senators participating via Zoom, I will ask you to use the “raise hand” feature in order to be recognized. For those attending the meeting in person, I will ask you to please signal to the clerk if you want to be recognized. I would like to remind you that when speaking, you should be on the same channel as the language you are speaking.

Should any technical challenges arise, particularly in relation to interpretation, please signal this to the chair or the clerk and we will work to resolve the issue. If you experience other technical challenges, please contact the committee clerk with the technical assistance number provided.

I would like to introduce the members of the committee who are participating in this meeting: Senator Percy Downe, Senator Pat Duncan, Senator Yonah Martin, Senator Ratna Omidvar, Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain, Senator Judith Seidman, Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Senator Yuen Pau Woo, Senator Marc Gold and Senator Don Plett.

Honourable senators, before we get to today’s agenda item, I had understood that I would get leave yesterday to pass the motion that would give us permission to meet over the next while adopted, but then there was suddenly no agreement. When we try to create a work plan in consultation with the leadership and staff — I am certainly not laying blame on anyone, but I am anxious to cooperate and do the work we are required to do. If we do not start some of our work over the next while, before we return in February, it will be very difficult to accomplish the goals the Senate has asked us to do.

We are hoping to report back with a nomination of an interim Speaker pro tempore before the Senate rises. We also require briefings on appointing a permanent Speaker pro tempore by secret ballot, on a committee and Senate sitting schedule, which is another responsibility that we have, as well as office allocations. If senators want to start their committee work when we return, for example, the Selection Committee needs to plan to meet accordingly. And you are well aware of the limitations.

I remind senators that the Selection Committee does not particularly deal with policy issues per se; it is more an administration committee that helps the Senate function as best it can.

With that, I turn to today’s agenda, which is in relation to Senator Dalphond’s motion that proposes a process to fill the position of Speaker pro tempore by means of a secret ballot. More specifically today, however, the steering committee wanted to focus on part two of his proposal, which states the following:

In the period preceding the secret ballot decision provided for under the first paragraph, any vacancy in the office of the Speaker pro tempore is to be filled on an interim basis, in accordance with the Rules.

Accordingly, the steering committee has agreed that we have this meeting to select a Speaker pro tempore on an interim basis until we establish the rules for election by secret ballot.

With that, I will now entertain debate and/or nominations for the interim Speaker pro tempore.

Senator Omidvar: Welcome to the committee. I’m glad you were able to make it.

I would like to nominate Senator Pierrette Ringuette to the position of interim Speaker pro tempore.

The Chair: Are there any other nominations, colleagues?

Senator Woo: Senator Mercer, I don’t have another nomination, but may I clarify that while we are using the language “interim Speaker pro tempore,” what we mean is the Speaker pro tempore according to the Rules of the Senate in full standing as any Speaker pro tempore would be until such time another Speaker pro tempore has been selected through the election process?

The Chair: They will be the Speaker pro tempore.

Senator Woo: Thank you very much.

The Chair: I think that’s understood.

Are there any other nominations? I called twice. I’ll call a third time. Are there any other nominations? Thank you, honourable senators.

I suggest we present a report later in the Senate. I could ask for leave to deal with it when it is presented. Are there any objections?

Senator Omidvar: No objections.

The Chair: Then I will try that this afternoon.

Senator Plett: Chair, I do not object to that. I support that. But I think I heard you say that you thought you would get leave yesterday for something and you did not get leave. I wasn’t aware of that. Can you expound on that because you are now saying you’re going to have to ask for leave again?

The Chair: Last evening, I was about to ask that we bring forward Motion No. 53 on the Notice Paper, and I would move it. In that motion, it covered meetings of this committee over the next while and also gave us permission to meet in January to do the rest of the work that the Senate has asked us to take on. We are doing so very willingly. We were told by others that we would have permission to do that last night but, of course, we got a little off track. That’s all.

Senator Plett: So it wasn’t something you asked for and were denied?

The Chair: I put it in the system and asked people to secure permission from the leaders to do this last night. I was told that we had permission, but when we got there I did not have permission.

Senator Plett: I don’t recall you not having permission. I recall agreeing to do that.

Today we’re rising after government business or four o’clock, whichever is earlier. Are you going to ask for leave — before we get off track — to bring this item forward so that we can deal with it? We will support that, but I think it’s unfair to simply say you were denied something, when in fact you never asked for it.

The Chair: I was told that if I asked for it, it would be denied.

Senator Plett: We were asked whether we would support it, and we said yes. Anyway, we don’t need to belabour that point. Are you going to ask for leave to bring it forward today so that we can deal with it?

The Chair: I had intended to. I tried to put it in the report on the Speaker pro tempore.

Senator Plett: That’s what I’m suggesting. I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t make any difference, colleagues, if we do it today or tomorrow. It probably makes no difference, but we would support it if you asked for leave.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Senator Plett. I appreciate your support, as always. Thank you.

Are there any other interventions, colleagues? I see no hands up. I apologize; I’m working on the screen of my iPad and not on my laptop because of these technical difficulties. I continue to see Senator Plett in his office.

Shaila Anwar, Clerk of the Committee: There are no other hands up, senator.

The Chair: That being the case, colleagues, I would suggest that we present the report to the Senate and then I could ask for leave to deal with it when it’s presented today. There seems to be no objection to that. If people are in agreement with Senator Plett’s suggestion, I will try to combine what we had in the motion for last night with the report, so that we could do it all at once. If not, we can go back again tomorrow with permission to meet when the Senate is not sitting, and particularly in January, to try to make sure when we come back in February that our work is done. That way, other committees can move on and get their important work done as well.

Senator Plett: On reflection, Senator Mercer, if I could ask that we separate these two; deal with the Speaker pro tempore. I think we’re all in agreement. I would like to get my mind around what happened yesterday and I think we would be quite happy to deal with that report tomorrow.

The Chair: Senator Plett, as always, I would be happy to accommodate you. If everyone is in agreement, that’s what we will do. We’ll report on the Speaker pro tempore and tomorrow I will move the motion to allow us to sit when the Senate is not sitting, particularly in January, to deal with the other issues. In the interim, I understand the Speaker himself had some interesting discussion on the election process and I will consult with him and see what role, if any, he would like to play in the process.

Are there any other comments, colleagues?

Senator Omidvar: I just wanted to clarify something, Senator Mercer. I had a motion on the floor. We don’t need to vote on it?

The Chair: Well, we called for other nominations. There were no other nominations, so that’s it. Senator Ringuette will be the Speaker pro tempore and at some time in the future, which we have not defined yet, there will be another election with a secret ballot.

Senator Omidvar: Thank you.

Senator Duncan: On a point of clarification, is there no seconder for that motion? Is it required for our record?

The Chair: No.

Senator Duncan: Okay, thank you. I just wanted that clarification.

The Chair: But if you would like to second the motion, we’ll take it for the record, if you like.

Senator Duncan: If it’s necessary, sure. Thanks.

The Chair: Thank you. Any other questions, colleagues?

Senator Stewart Olsen: Chair, I wouldn’t mind having a quick look at the motion that will go before the chamber. Can you get that to all of us beforehand so we’re sure that it reflects what we have said today, with Senator Woo’s input and everything? That would be great. I notice we’re a bit rushed and that would add a comfort level.

The Chair: We will do that, Senator Stewart Olsen. Quite simply, after Senator Woo’s intervention, it will just report on our recommendation of Senator Ringuette to be Speaker pro tempore, period. There is another motion that is part of Senator Dalphond’s motion, which calls for the election via secret ballot. We will then work on that, between now and February, to come up with a plan for that, and then we will need to have an election by secret ballot at some point. However, we haven’t defined a date yet.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Sorry, I think the motion has to read “interim Speaker pro tempore” because that is what the agreement was. And we don’t want to juggle off, but if you wanted to add a sentence afterwards dealing with Senator Woo’s suggestions that would be fine. However, I really think it has to be what we were told to do.

The Chair: Okay.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Mercer, would you like me to read a draft text for the committee to consider?

The Chair: Yes, please.

Ms. Anwar: This would be a report that would go into the chamber today. It has the usual “the committee was referred,” et cetera, and reads as follows:

Your committee recommends the following as an interim measure:

That until the Senate decides otherwise, the Honourable Senator Ringuette be Speaker pro tempore on an interim basis; and

That, for greater certainty, the senator who occupies the position of Speaker pro tempore on an interim basis be considered, for all purposes, to be occupying the position of Speaker pro tempore, as provided for in the Rules of the Senate.

Senator Omidvar: Great.

The Chair: I think that covers Senator Woo’s concern. Senator Stewart Olsen, does that cover your concern?

Senator Stewart Olsen: Yes, absolutely. That’s well done. Thank you, Ms. Anwar.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Stewart Olsen, for your intervention. Senator Woo, was that fine with you?

Senator Woo: Yes, two thumbs up.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Okay, colleagues, I can’t see any hands up.

Ms. Anwar: There are no other hands up, senator.

The Chair: That being the case, I declare the meeting adjourned and I will report later this afternoon in the Senate on your behalf. Thank you, all.

(The committee adjourned.)