Proceedings of the Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
Formerly: The Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders
Issue 3 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 28, 2001
The Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and
Orders met this day at 12:10 p.m. to consider matters pursuant to
its mandate under rule 86(1)(f) of the Rules of the Senate.
Senator Jack Austin (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, I see a quorum.
The steering committee has set four items on the agenda for
today. The first is the report of the steering committee in
connection with the future business and work of the committees,
particularly, the order of reference dated March 15, which is to
examine the structure of committees. Honourable senators will
have in the package sent to them the first report of the steering
In our discussion, we reviewed the discussion held in this
committee last week. It was our view that the discussion broke
itself into two principal sectors, the first of which was to consider
the issues put before us in the motion, the human resources, the
time occurrences and so on. In other words, to examine the facts
relating to the operation of the committees and the resources
That discussion, which was particularly contributed to by
Senators Murray, Joyal and Pitfield, asked the bigger question:
What is the overall role of the Senate and do the committee
structures represent all the interests which we traditionally see as
our responsibility? The suggestion of the members of the steering
committee is that a subcommittee be established to hold
discussions on the broad issues, and to report to the Rules
Committee at a time adequate to allow an integration of the two
In terms of the first issue, I would refer to the proposal in
paragraph one of the first report, which is in front of honourable
senators. It is our view that Senator Stratton and I should meet
with each committee in the next 8 or 10 weeks, and certainly
before we adjourn, to advise them how we see the issues and to
ask them for their views. We will send a letter to the chairs and
deputy chairs of each committee, which will sketch the agenda
that we would discuss and present to their committees.
We will ask the Clerk of the Senate to give us information on
the human resources issues, and the Director of Finance to give us
the necessary information on existing budgets for committee work
approved by the Senate, proposals for travel and other spending
proposals. We will then review the workload of all committees to
see whether the workload is reasonable or whether it is
unbalanced and needs adjustment.
We will discuss with the committees their terms of reference to
see whether they think those terms of reference are adequate to
the assignment, or whether some committees could be merged, or
some functions of some committees could be merged with other
committees. I am sure we will have a productive discussion on all
On the second issue, Senator Stratton and I are suggesting that
an ad hoc committee look at the overall role of the Senate and the
purpose of Senate committees, bearing in mind the various public
constituencies that the Senate has generally seen itself as
We were going to ask Senators Murray, Pitfield and Joyal,
along with Senator Stratton and I, to serve as a subcommittee and
to discuss those issues. I cannot say that Senators Pitfield, Joyal or
Murray have, as yet, volunteered, but if any other senator is
interested, please let me know.
Senator Grafstein: I am interested.
The Chairman: Fine. We think the committee should not be
more than five or six people.
Senator Gauthier: You are speaking about a subcommittee
and you asked for volunteers. I would be happy to serve, as long
as I have notice of the meetings so that I can bring my interpreter.
The Chairman: All honourable senators will have notice of
I am open to discussion. Senator Stratton, is that a fair
reflection of our discussion?
Senator Stratton: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I would suggest that we
come up with a schedule to meet the October 31 deadline. We
must develop our schedules so that our work is carried out,
remembering that we must draft a report, vet it around the table
and then have it approved in the Senate. Our deadline is
October 31, and we normally start sitting around September 15 or
20. It should not take much time in the fall to prepare a report,
submit it, and have it approved.
The Chairman: I agree that, as soon as we have resolved the
question of the two committees, we can put together a critical
path. The initial work should be done before we adjourn, and a
draft report will be prepared by the steering committee, with our
staff, as early as possible - probably even by the time we
adjourn. We should then consider that draft report and be in a
position to make recommendations of the full committee when we
resume, which will be the week of September 17.
Senator Stratton: I appreciate that.
The Chairman: Senator Joyal, the first report of the steering
committee is in the material before you. Because you were so
instrumental in both the shape and the nature of this report, and
because Senator Pitfield was also instrumental in the shape and
nature of this report and he is now present, the steering committee
is proposing to strike a subcommittee to discuss the questions that
you raised and the ones that Senator Pitfield and Senator Murray
addressed. We are suggesting that the three of you, along with
Senator Stratton and I - and Senator Grafstein and Senator
Gauthier have also volunteered - will set some time aside to do
this, if that is agreeable. I do not see this taking a great deal of
time, but it does require a focus in order to understand the
conceptual context that was raised and how it will apply to the
operations of the Senate.
I was about to ask if this is agreeable to those who have been
proposed to address it, and if the first report is agreeable to
honourable senators or if there is to be further discussion on it.
Senator Gauthier: Reflecting on what Senator Pitfield told us
last week, there is a political agenda and an administrative
problem. Are we to depend on Jamie Robertson to give us
research papers on this, or will we hire someone to prepare the
papers? I do not want to overload Mr. Robertson. He is a
hard-working individual. I am concerned mostly about the
political aspect of this. I think caucuses will want to have a kick at
the proposal before it goes to the Senate. I think it would be a fair
call for all of us to believe that the caucuses would like to discuss
it before we make it public.
The Chairman: Until Mr. Robertson calls for help, I can find
no one who is more experienced, deeper in background and
quicker to produce advice. It is up to him to let us know if he
Senator Andreychuk: How will the subcommittee that will
look at the broader question relate to your committee that must
report by October 31?
The Chairman: Do you mean procedurally or substantively?
Senator Andreychuk: Procedurally. Will one feed into the
other before the report? We could be going in different directions.
The Chairman: I will ask the subcommittee to meet after the
Easter break. The minutes will show that we adopted this report
and that we have struck the subcommittee. I will ask it to meet
during the last week of April. We will sit down and see how deep
and how substantive the concerns are about the way in which the
Senate deals with its responsibilities and the way in which,
conceptually, the committees reflect those responsibilities.
I do not know whether or not this will be a great deal of work,
but at our first meeting will we will tackle the question and
measure it. Clearly, that work must be done and dovetailed with
the other work that is reported in terms of the operating system
before we adjourn in June so that we can integrate our
information into a draft report that can be circulated to senators
before the end of June. Hopefully, we will have input from
members of the committee and be ready to have a full discussion
here in September. Then we will have an opportunity to go to our
caucuses for whatever consultation is required, and thereafter
senators will come back to the committee to conclude the matter.
I will have staff, along with the steering committee, put together a
critical path of those steps and circulate that to senators.
The second item on our agenda is the motion of Senator
Gauthier to establish a Senate committee on official languages.
The motion is part of the package of documents that you have.
The motion asks this committee to examine the proposal to
establish a committee of the Senate. I do not have the exact terms
of the motion in front of me, but it does not suggest or include the
withdrawal of the Senate from the joint committee that is now
organized under a standing order. It suggests that a parallel
committee be established.
At our meeting last Wednesday, Senator Gauthier addressed the
substantive reasons why he believes that a separate committee is
desirable. I would like to invite Senator Gauthier to add to his
comments, if he wishes, and then I will invite honourable senators
to respond to his proposal.
Senator Gauthier: At the last meeting, Senator Bryden and
others asked me if the Official Languages Act specified a joint
committee, a committee of the Senate, or a committee of the
House of Commons. I want to read into the record the last part of
section 88 of the Official Languages Act, which says:
...shall be reviewed on a permanent basis by such committee
of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses
I was right when I said "or" rather than "and" the last time.
In French, when referring to committees, it is clearer. There are
Senate committees, House committees or joint committees. It is a
point that I wanted to clarify. I never suggested abolishing the
Joint Committee on Official Languages.
We know the system. Several committees overlap, and
sometimes more, in the Senate itself and at the House of
Commons. For example, there are two Foreign Affairs commit
tees: one at the House of Commons and another in the Senate. At
the House of Commons, there is a Standing Committee on Human
Rights; in the Senate, this committee for human rights is a
subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee. There is a set of
subcommittees. So the issue is not whether or not we can have
these committees, they already exist.
That being said, I recognize that the joint committees currently
have heavy workloads. The fact that there are no specific standing
orders for joint committees causes problems. We will work on
this. For three or four years, we have not managed to put in place
standing orders to regulate the joint committees. The House of
Commons has its agenda - I know it since I worked there for
22 years. Its agenda is in large part political. The Senate also has
its own agenda, but it is more of substance than partisan. I prefer
For example, the Joint Committee on Official Languages has
no budget estimates or supplies to vote on. All of the committees
that I have heard of have supplies. It is quite rare that a House
committee examines budget estimates and reports before May 31,
as the Standing Orders of the House require.
It is deemed to have been tabled, and it is deemed that the
committee has looked at it, even though they may not have done
so. The practice in the House is to pass the budgets in June. Here
we do it differently.
I think the Official Languages Act is important. The committee
should also look at the annual report of the commissioner. That is
not being done at this time.
I am disturbed when there are important issues to be dealt with
and we get distracted by rabbit tracks instead of going after the
I made the case last time as to why we should have a
committee. Over the last year, I have sent documentation on this
to all members of this committee, and all members of the Senate,
as a matter of fact. I stand by my proposition. I know the
constraints. I know the difficulties. We will look at the whole ball
of wax here. I would like to accept in principle that, in our
discussions, we will not only include the two new committees we
just established, but also a potential official languages committee
of the Senate.
Without impeding with the work of the joint committee, I think
the Senate could and should have its own committee on official
languages. Basically, our vocation, our duty, our obligation, is to
look after minority rights and regional aspects. There are regional
questions to language, and it is important for the Senate to occupy
itself with these questions, just as we do with other subjects such
as foreign affairs, agriculture, defence or whatever. I think there is
just as much public interest and concern for official languages. I
rest my case on that, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: I will point out that Senator Stratton said at
our meeting a week ago that he was, if I understood the comment,
agreeable to including the possibility of an official languages
committee, our own separate committee in the Senate, in the
study of our committee system. Is that correct?
Senator Stratton: Yes.
The Chairman: Now I am inviting views.
Senator Andreychuk: Senator Gauthier has been putting
forward forcefully his argument as to why this committee would
work better and produce more as a single committee, and I must
be bound by his wisdom in this area. I do not have any particular
expertise as to which way would work better.
My concern is for the process. We make statements about the
joint committee not working, and I think we have a right to make
those comments, but at some point, before we finally dispose of
this, I would hope that we would give the House of Commons,
the chair or someone, the opportunity to respond. It has been my
practice that, if we make a comment about a committee, they
have the right to defend themselves or put forward their point of
view before we make a decision. That opportunity should be
afforded to them. If we act unilaterally without notice to them, I
am not sure that that is the right democratic process or that I
would feel comfortable. There is some merit in joint committees.
We are two chambers of one Parliament. I do not know how to
handle that, but I would hope that we would allow them to put
their opinion forward.
The Chairman: I would like to raise two or three questions
with respect to your contribution. One is that I do not believe we
are required to do this, although it might be polity to do it.
Should we ask only for the opinion of the House of Commons
joint chair, or should we ask representatives of each of the parties
in the House of Commons to give us their views as well? Should
we discuss with them their agenda for the joint committee's
Senator Andreychuk: I am not sure. As I say, I am not an
expert in this. I do feel a little uncomfortable when we come to
conclusions without hearing the other side. Perhaps it is my
judicial background, but I want to hear both sides before acting. I
am not sure what that means. I leave it to people who are more
versed in the committee and the processes. I just have this
uncomfortable feeling when we act unilaterally. That is not quite
the way I would envision it. They sometimes act unilaterally, and
we often say they should not.
Senator Grafstein: I think we should thank Senator Gauthier
for being single-minded in forcing us to face a very important
issue, not just dealing with this subject matter but the deeper issue
of how the House of Commons works, its relationship to the
Senate, and how, in particular, joint committees work.
Let me just take a different tack on this. I will not come down
far from Senator Andreychuk. When the Clarity Bill was debated
and we started looking at that, it caused me, and I am sure other
senators, to look at the role of the Senate and why it was that,
over the years, the Senate had not protected its own responsibi lities, its own jurisdiction and so on. Hence, when Senator Joyal
said that he would try to clarify that and relevel the playing field
with his bill, I was an enthusiastic supporter and seconded that
motion and supported it. This is part and parcel of the same issue.
However, behind that issue is something that we have discussed
in the Senate for many years, and that is the role of the Senate as
it applies to the separation of powers and checks and balances. If
you go back to this, fundamentally, under the English system,
under the Constitution Act, we were supposed to inherit the same
checks and balances under the common law and practice as the
House of Lords and the Commons. We imported those checks and
balances. The Americans went off on a different tangent and
decided they would develop checks and balances by means of
separate institutions, hence the separation of powers, but the same
notion of separation of powers and checks and balances is implicit
and expressed in our government structures.
What does that mean vis-à-vis the executive, which is the
government, and what does that mean vis-à-vis us and the House
of Commons? In my view, that means we have a role as a second
chamber to not only act as a check and balance on the
government or the executive, and no one will quarrel with that,
but we also have a role to act as a check and balance on the
House of Commons. The clearest way of examining that is with
the 88 reports, not just the one report of the Official Languages
Commissioner. Senator Kinsella went through this, and he and I
are at idem on this. We tabled 88 reports, one from practically
every agency of government, and there is no surveillance of those
reports or checks or balances either by the House of Commons or
the Senate. When someone sits back and says, "By the way, we
are the chamber of second sober thought," we are not. We have
not fulfilled our primary responsibility.
I will now refer to the specifics of the issue. The statute states
that the government is required to have its activities reviewed by
either a committee of the Senate, or a committee of the
Commons, or both.
What happens when we have the classic case, as Senator
Gauthier has raised, of a deficit in duties and responsibility of a
joint committee? What is our first responsibility? Is it our duty to
set up a parallel committee? I do not think so. Our first duty is to
take a look at that joint committee and, in chapter and verse, say
that it is not working - that, in fact, an instrument of a check
and balance, an instrument of government and a legislative
instrument, is not working. If the Senate wants to take its
responsibilities seriously - and, by the way, I am not sure that I
agree with Senator Gauthier, but there is a step alluded to by
Senator Andreychuk - we must satisfy ourselves with substan
tive evidence that there has been a failure or a deficit by the joint
committee. That means that some work, where we can have a
term of reference to say that there has been a deficit in a working
committee, like Senator Gauthier's prima facie privilege issue.
We must declare that it is not working and that we intend to
proceed with an alternative. However, before we do that, we must
abide by this piece of legislation.
I agree with Senator Murray in that there is nothing to stop the
Senate from setting up another oversight committee. If there is a
statute that states that there shall be a joint committee, we have a
duty, if that is failing, to substantiate that.
The chairman and members of the committee gave evidence.
What about the members of Senate who were on that committee
and failed to do their duty? There is a question of privilege and
the prerogatives of the Senate. It is considered nothing for us to
go to the members of the House of Commons and, as our duty
dictates, call those members to account. Why has the chairman,
who is a government member, not done his duty?
After that is all done, and I am satisfied at the end of the day,
we will have a record of what Senator Gauthier says - that there
has been a malfeasance, or omission, of parliamentary duty to
fulfil the statute, which reaches to the heart of bilingualism. Then
we can proceed on our own. We have hard work to do first. I
commend Senator Gauthier, but this, to my mind, would be a
greater reform of the Senate. Pursuing this issue and demonstrat
ing how it has failed would, more than anything else we can do in
terms of rules in the short term, be a greater reform.
The Chairman: I will touch on three points before I call on
Senator Pitfield. Much of what you said will apply to the
considerations that the subcommittee intends to engage in. Do
you agree with Senator Andreychuk who says that we need a
more considered approach before we take a decision? I get a little
flutter on the question of the dialogue with the members of the
joint committee because one of my passions is to create an
opportunity to have a consultation with the House of Commons.
This would be a subject on which we could ask for a formal
Senator Grafstein: This is not a consultation, but rather it is an
The Chairman: You may want an inquisition.
Senator Grafstein: They tend to work effectively.
The Chairman: I believe that we should be making efficacious
the rules that provide for consultation, which has not taken place
for several decades.
Senator Murray: We can call it a conference.
The Chairman: This is a subject on which the rules provide
that we could request a conference, but I will leave that matter
hanging out there for a while.
Senator Pitfield: Mr. Chairman, is there a time limit that I
The Chairman: There is not a time limit, specifically. We have
Senator Pitfield: This is, I think, easily the most important
question that will come before the members, and I do not know
what they will do with it. One was reminded of Shakespeare -
one of "Striving to better, oft we mar what's well." Over the
horizon comes this warning, which has kept people from touching
the very essence of the parliamentary system. We have not looked
at the management of power in years.
I wonder if this is not a subject to be approached with great
care because, while it is enormously beneficial or potentially
beneficial, it is also very complex. It will be extremely important
when, sooner or later, Parliament looks at itself, to have some sort
of plan or approach. You cannot continue to review the same
territory. However, when you look at systems - and they talk
about a dichotomy between the party system and the bureaucracy
for example - I wonder what the warning is to us in terms of
"Striving to better, oft we mar what's well"?
It certainly came home to me when I prepared for the debate
that we had last session of Parliament. If you consider the Fathers
of Confederation, it is quite clear that they had ideas and they had
plans in mind. If you read the paper that Frank Scott wrote in the
Canadian Bar Review in approximately 1935 and his description
of how the Fathers of Confederation adapted to the ideas that they
were dealing, then you wonder where that drive disappeared to. It
disappeared into the continuing wrangle between the two Houses
of Parliament - that one was above the other. That wrangle was
fostered by the growth of administrative and bureaucratic power.
That in turn gets mixed up with the study of the sizes and roles of
government. Again, I come back to it, and it is so easy to be
You must have a plan. You must have an idea of what you will
I will refer to a personal experience, if I may. When we were
preparing the government organization acts for members, one of
the smartest things we did in the bureaucracy was to devise our
plans for presentation in the house. We devised them so that they
took account of the basic principles of Parliament itself. The
drafters focused on safeguarding such things as the power over
the exchequer. The principles that apply in the Commons must
also apply in the Senate, and also between the elected and the
bureaucratic function. This process went on for almost a decade,
as the government reviewed the structure of the system. There
were different parties also. Ultimately, both the Liberals and the
Conservatives headed governments that were dealt with in this
The observance of parliamentary principles was consistent,
such as they were. You do not find an easy index, but you can
chart some course. You can find a beginning of the distinction
between policy and program.
It strikes people as surprising that this is as recent a distinction
as it is. It was barely 25 years or 30 years ago. One can remember
times when bureaucrats were teaching their colleagues to observe
the niceties of the system.
Ultimately, you will want to try to answer some of the
questions of modern government organizations and modern
control and accountability, all of which have been falling by the
wayside. People have dropped them on the desert floor as they
struggle across it to get away from the heat. I would suspect that
you will try to identify a piece to begin with, or you will try to
take a principled approach. I would hope that we would not try to
do it all at once or to have everyone with ideas come forward at
the same time.
We are into a field where the exercise of power is very real, a
field that, since C. D. Howe, has been left outside the purview of
too much fiddling, almost none at all. When members were
coming forward and saying how much there is to do, one wonders
if we are not fifth columnists in killing any possible argument that
there may be to look into these questions.
Later today, I believe we are to deal with the question of
disability. It is one in which I have an interest, both as a senator
and as a prospective beneficiary of those wonderful policies.
One wonders how to cut the cake. How do you distinguish
process control from program control? How do you deal with
systems? Almost everything now is conceived of as part of a
Mr. Chairman, I would like to come forward with a magic
wand, but I have not got one. I would urge that, when we deal
with these matters, we have in mind the basic organization of our
Constitution, the places where this house sits, and how those
pieces come together to make it possible for the governing
process to go forward on so many levels at the same time.
The Chairman: I think the caution that you give us about
dreaming too large is a good one. We have heard in the
committee, and I am reflecting what Senator Grafstein said
earlier, that the Senate should act in the process side more
aggressively to deal with the accountability of the government for
its spending. There seems to be a general view in that direction.
Spending is only a small part with respect to the Senate's role
as a check and balance. This is the much bigger issue. The
question goes right to the heart of the validity of the Senate.
This is apart from how we get here, which is a political
question entirely. Our role in the check and balance process is a
systemic question, to overuse the phrase, but it is useful. I am
hearing that we should be examining that, although not
necessarily trying to take too much of it on too quickly.
As has been said by Senator Pitfield, let us pick something
specific and dig in there and then perhaps enlarge what we are
doing over time.
Senator Poulin: Are we still discussing the issue brought up
by Senator Gauthier?
The Chair: Yes.
Senator Poulin: This committee is made up of members with a
variety of experience. We have the good fortune of having among
us Senator Pitfield, who was the President of the Privy Council,
and whose role was not only that of managing the public service,
but also of observing the role of both Houses of Parliament. His
presence can help us greatly, and I would like to thank him for
The question brought up by Senator Gauthier is one of great
importance, and I daresay, of some urgency. Currently, the whole
issue of bilingualism is not as popular as it was during the 1970s
and 80s throughout the country, and this is for a number of
reasons. In the past 24 months, specifically in Ontario, events
have demonstrated how easy it is to lose ground and to take for
granted certain services which may no longer exist.
First, we have lost ground and since time does not stop, we
continue to lose ground. Second, we have to deal with a new
reality; the fragility of some institutions. This is only the
I agree that there needs to be some process. I would really
appreciate a proper assessment, with assessment criteria chosen
beforehand by senators who were members of the Joint Official
Languages Committee. This would be an extremely important
tool in the process of deciding to establish a Senate Committee on
Official Languages. I fully support Senator Gauthier on the
importance of this issue.
The Chairman: I would like to summarize the discussion so
far and then go on to the next item.
Basically, I think that the steering committee should have a
quick meeting. I will ask my colleagues on the steering committee
to meet with me later this afternoon outside the chamber for a
quick discussion. It seems to me that we should move forward by
inviting senators who are on the joint committee to come to the
next meeting of this committee to offer their views on the
performance of the joint committee on the questions of whether it
can be made better and, if not, what they see as the agenda of a
separate Senate committee that would be different from the
agenda of the joint committee.
That will be first on the agenda next week, if we can get
senators to attend. We will then consider whether we should invite
members of the joint committee from the House of Commons to
come also, but that would be for a future meeting. I do not think
we want to occupy all the time of next meeting with this subject.
It will already take substantial time.
Senator Joyal: Are you implying that we will ask the members
of the House of Commons to come to this committee?
The Chairman: Next week we will invite senators who are on
the joint committee to come, and then we will consider whether to
invite members from the House of Commons.
Senator Joyal: We should think twice before we do that.
The Chairman: We will not take that decision right away.
Senator Gauthier: If that is the way you are going to proceed,
it will not produce very much. The current members of the joint
committee are new to that committee. They have had two
meetings. Most of them have not been members of that committee
before. There are a few senators who have been members for the
last two years. Senator Murray knows what I am talking about.
We co-chaired that committee years ago, productively, I think.
We now have a difficult problem. If you ask the members on
the joint committee from the House of Commons to come here to
argue with you, it would be grossly unfair to the situation as I see
it. The Senate should take its own decisions. I do not think we
should be asking the House of Commons for permission or advice
on what we should be doing here.
The Chairman: I see a will to invite senators who are or have
been on the joint committee. We will make any other decisions at
a future time.
Senator Grafstein: Mr. Chairman, it would be very useful if
our clerk got in touch with the clerk of that committee to get the
number of sittings they have had, the subject matter of the work
they have done, and a precis of the work of the Senate in the last
five years. Then we will have a context within which to ask
senators who have served on that committee how it did or did not
The Chairman: We do not need to ask the clerk of that
committee. That information is on the record and we will get it.
Senator Murray: Mr. Chairman, if you want to proceed in the
way you suggest, that is fine. I just want to say a word on the
motion. I have come with the greatest reluctance to support
Senator Gauthier's motion for a Senate committee and, implicitly,
our withdrawal from the joint committee. I do this with the
greatest reluctance because I was present at the creation of the
joint committee, as were Senator Joyal and others. It worked well.
When we withdraw from that committee and decide to go our
separate way, it will be the end of a very healthy concept.
However, it is beyond salvation at the moment. I have taken the
trouble to talk to people. Senator Comeau, one of my own Tory
colleagues who served as co-chair of that committee from the
Senate at some tine since 1993, has refused not only to serve as
co-chair but to be a member of that committee since that time.
The problem is, as has been described here and in the house when
we spoke about it, that there are two parties in the House of
Commons who do not support the fundamental idea of official
bilingualism in this country.
Senator Comeau has told me that with all the goodwill in the
world by the chair and the majority, be they Liberal, Tory or NDP,
it has been impossible to make any progress because of constant
points of order and procedural devices used by the Bloc and the
Alliance to impede the progress of the committee.
You can hear that from their own lips, if you like, or you can
take it second-hand from Senator Gauthier and myself.
The Chairman: I was trying to achieve a consensus because I
was being sensitive to the comments of Senator Andreychuk and
Senator Grafstein about process.
Is there a different consensus of the committee? Would we like
not to hear from them and simply discuss the specific issues that
our own committee could focus on and take agreements as a
Senator Pitfield: Mr. Chairman, is it clear that you cannot
have a committee of both houses?
Senator Stratton: I thought it was "or."
The Chairman: There is a joint committee. We can set up our
own committee. Mr. Audcent gave us that advice last week. The
question of whether we can withdraw from the joint committee is
another issue. We have not begun to discuss it because the motion
of Senator Gauthier is not to withdraw.
Senator Kroft: When I read "notwithstanding rule 85(3),
Senate membership on the Standing Joint Committee on Official
Languages lapse;..." is it not quite clear what the intent is?
The Chairman: Yes, but Senator Gauthier has revised
Senator Kroft: Has it been revised? I have heard it said that it
is not there, but when I read it here, it is clear.
Senator Murray: We do not have to withdraw from the joint
committee. However, in talking to those in favour of this, I got the
impression that the next step would be to withdraw from the joint
Senator Pitfield: Why?
Senator Murray: They feel it is unproductive and not worth
The Chairman: Senator Gauthier's motion is to withdraw
from the joint committee, but in statements to this committee he
has said that he is not pressing that part of his motion. Is that
correct, Senator Gauthier?
Senator Gauthier: I am not proposing that we stand away
from the joint committee. I am saying that it could meet
occasionally. We do that normally on other issues with the house.
I believe it would be appropriate for the Senate to have its own
committee. If the House wants one, then they can go ahead and
have one. Those two committees could meet occasionally, and it
could be the same members on both committees.
The Chairman: You said something different from what I
understood. I understood you to say that, in spite of your motion
which calls for the withdrawal, you are prepared to see the
continuation of the current joint committee.
Senator Gauthier: I have always said that. It is in my paper.
Maybe it is not explicitly contained in the motion.
The Chairman: Your motion says that we should withdraw
from the joint committee. You asked for the deletion of that part
of the rules which establishes the joint committee. What are you
asking us to look at?
Senator Gauthier: I will make a concession. It drew a lot of
attention from the other place, and that is what I wanted it to do
because they were absolutely amorphoused. They were not
interested in this issue. I believe that, sometimes, you must stick it
to them. When you say that you will withdraw, they get excited.
To be blunt with you, they do not have the institutional memory
that we have here in the Senate. That is very important. In fact, I
would like to see the Official Languages Commissioner called to
this committee and have her answer some of your questions so
that we can hear her view.
Senator Poulin: I am a bit confused. Which proposal are we
discussing? I thought that we were discussing solely the possible
creation of a Senate Committee on Official Languages and at this
time, we were not discussing our participation in the joint
committee. I am simply looking for clarification, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: Let me repeat what I said. My understanding
is that, although the resolution suggests and requests us to
consider withdrawal from the joint committee, Senator Gauthier,
in his opening statements and repeatedly, has said that the party is
really interested in establishing a committee in the Senate and he
is not pushing the withdrawal of the joint committee. I got
temporarily confused with his remarks of a few seconds ago when
he said "two parallel committees who would occasionally meet,"
which is quite a different thing. If I understand you, Senator
Gauthier, you are not suggesting the withdrawal from the joint
Senator Gauthier: I had to follow the rule. This was drafted
by our own advisers. Maybe I did not give them the right
instructions, but I never thought for one moment that we would
abolish or abandon the joint committee. However, I did think the
Senate had a deep interest in this issue and that we were not
getting a fair shake on the matter. That is what I want to get.
Senator Pitfield: This is exactly the situation that I was
concerned about. I happen to support our colleague very much in
his initiative but, in a Confederation, before you aligntwo Houses in contradiction to one another, you do not
necessarily go as far as this has gone. I would urge that we read
aboutJohn A. Macdonald.
The Chairman: Both volumes, or can you recommend
Senator Pitfield: We will ask the senator to show us which
Senator Kinsella: I agree with what Senator Pitfield is saying.
I do not think it would be wise for this committee to get bogged
down on Senator Gauthier's motion as such. I think Senator
Gauthier might agree with us that we should deal with the subject
matter of his motion; that is, withdrawing from the joint
committee or the establishment of the free standing committee.
Let us get to the principle first and not be boxed in by the
specificity that is associated with his motion. The committee
could go a long way if we are not limited by the disjunctive
nature of this, as it were.
The Chairman: That is a good summary. We will continue
with this discussion as the first item next week.
We will then look at the question of disabled senators. This is
an item that is now the responsibility of the Internal Economy
Committee, but we have commissioned reports, it is on our
agenda, and I would like to consult with honourable senators here
with respect to that particular topic.
I will then ask the clerk to proceed in camera and deal with the
issue of the declaration of qualifications, Item No. 6, which is
becoming significant. Also in camera, I should like to address the
question of parchment errors.
If honourable senators have a sense of urgency with respect to
any other items, I would ask you to speak to me.