Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 4 - Evidence - April 27, 2009


OTTAWA, Monday, April 27, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4:08 p.m. to examine and report on the national security policy of Canada; to discuss veterans affairs; and to consider a draft budget and other matters.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: I call this meeting to order. We have a number of items to deal with today. Two of the most obvious are veterans affairs and the budget. I would like to kick off the discussion of veterans affairs by moving a motion to create a subcommittee of veterans affairs for the full committee. The subcommittee is to consist of five members. We will distribute the yellow pages and the order of reference.

Senator Banks: So moved.

The Chair: Another portion to that was that Senator Meighen be the chair of such a subcommittee.

Senator Wallin: I have asked to second it.

The Chair: We do not second in Senate committee. Before we go to a vote, people should take a look at the order of reference. Actually, we can have a vote on the creation and the chair. Then we can take a look at the order of reference.

Debate is absolutely in order, Senator Mitchell. I will recognize you after people have a chance to look at their documentation. On the actual creation, I believe Senator Mitchell wants to have a word.

Senator Meighen: Then can we talk about the order of reference?

The Chair: Yes. I would suggest that we go for the question after Senator Mitchell, and we subsequently deal with the order of reference.

If everyone now has the documentation, I recognize Senator Mitchell.

Senator Mitchell: So as not to provoke any immediate reactions, I will begin my comments by saying that I will support the motion in the interests of consensus and cooperation, non-partisan and otherwise, in this committee. However, I do want to express my grave concern about this particular approach.

I thought a special committee was a perfect compromise. It took us giving up on our initial position of a standing committee, which had a permanency that I know bothered some members of the committee. It took the position of a subcommittee, which was not supported by me and others, where you captured one of the important features of the subcommittee, which was that we could do it immediately.

We can actually set up a special committee in one day, with unanimous consent. My concern is that, if this issue is as important as we all believe it to be — and it is, undoubtedly — and given that it is increasing, not arithmetically in its importance but geometrically because of the war in Afghanistan, there are fundamental limits to a subcommittee to be able to deal with it. The subcommittee does not have enough people nor does it have enough time.

We can argue that the subcommittee can operate until such time as the Rules Committee makes a decision. However, though I have only been here for four years, one of my profound and irrevocable impressions is that it takes almost forever to get anything of consequence done. My true fear is that this decision and the negotiations surrounding it on the Rules Committee will be bogged down in what is likely to become, if not a direct partisan issue, certainly an issue of fundamental difference in the philosophies with which some members approach the work of Senate committees versus others. It will be held up by virtue of the fact that some members — I do not want to be too particular about that — will resist a new standing committee and, in fact, want to reduce the number of standing committees. A process that would take a long time, in any event, will take infinitely longer because of that. I doubt very much that the decision will ultimately be made.

Who will be hurt by that? Veterans will be hurt by that — the increasing number of veterans with increasingly difficult problems.

I know Senator Tkachuk and I have had head-to-head, intense debates here. I want to clarify, for him and for others, about the budget and the role of the committees. The reason I have that is not that I dislike Senator Tkachuk because that is actually untrue. I realize some might argue that, given our interesting debates here. It is because I feel a profound frustration over differences of philosophies in what committees should be doing and how they should be doing it.

I get a sense from Conservative members on this committee that they want to diminish its role. That may be a currency for discontent on other issues, and, as we proceed, I would raise those issues. However, I feel a profound frustration that we end up in a debate over limiting the role of a committee of this quality and importance in its subject matter. I believe this to be probably the best committee in the Senate in what it accomplishes, in the intensity with which it addresses issues, in the number of issues it addresses, in the number of witnesses it brings in and, therefore, in the number of people who have a chance to have their say in a public forum. We should be promoting not diminishing the work of this committee.

I will vote for the motion, but it is with grave reservations. If, in a year from now, we do not have a standing committee, then I think we have to revisit this and say that we need to have a special committee. Fair is fair.

Senator Wallin: I would like to respond. Senator Mitchell was not party to the steering committee meeting, but we did have a long and fulsome discussion around all of this. I will take a little offence at the notion that we somehow want to diminish the importance of a veterans affairs committee. I too am new — even newer than Senator Mitchell — but, from our first day of the constitution of the main committee, we have been asking for and seeking to have the vehicle that exists for us constituted so that we could deal with veterans affairs immediately. That has been prolonged by debate and other points of view that Senator Mitchell and others on his side have put forward.

We have been asking for the establishment of the subcommittee on veterans affairs since our first meeting. We have sent a letter to the chair of the Rules Committee asking for a standing committee on veterans affairs because we believe the issue is so important when we are a country at war and dealing with a new generation of veterans.

While I note Senator Mitchell's concern — and I am very aware of his concerns and his reason for a special committee — I feel that the approach we are taking, which is using the vehicle that we have available to us, is as useful, as important and as potent as any other committee will be. Seeing as we are all on the same page on this issue — both sides are asking for a standing committee — I think we will both be working toward that.

The Chair: Senator Mitchell, I see you. We can do a back and forth all night, however, and I would prefer to avoid that.

Senator Mitchell: If the letter that specified to the chair of the Rules Committee that we want a standing committee did not specify a reasonable deadline for that decision, I think another letter should be written where we specify a reasonable deadline for that decision, given the pressures that we know the subcommittee will be under and that it will not be entirely adequately capable of doing this. We can specify a deadline.

The Chair: We can do whatever we want as a committee, but I have been advised that the Rules Committee intends to report out by the beginning of June. The commitment is there for it to report out by then. It will be a miracle. However, there is always room for a first and, if Rules Committee can report out by then, that is terrific. That is the advice I have, that they have undertaken to report out by June 1.

If we may, there is a question on the floor.

Senator Meighen: Question.

The Chair: Those in favour of the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Those opposed? Abstentions? It is carried unanimously.

That includes the election of Senator Meighen as chair.

Senator Banks: Re-election.

The Chair: Re-election. That means he can use his signs again.

Senator Banks: Yes, of course.

The Chair: Could we please go through the list that you see in front of you. Are we agreed that the membership shall be five, with a quorum of three members? All those in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Opposed?

Senator Tkachuk: I think other members should be named here.

The Chair: I am happy to, if people are prepared to go through that. I am not sure there has been discussion yet to name everyone. Senator Wallin and I had a brief discussion about it during the steering committee meeting. My answer is that I do not know yet.

Senator Tkachuk: I will leave it in Senator Wallin's hands.

The Chair: Could we leave it that it will be a list of two Conservatives and three Liberals that we will provide to the clerk sometime before we sit tomorrow?

Senator Tkachuk: Sure. That is fine with me, if it is fine with you.

The Chair: That will give us time to consult. Senator Meighen might have some views about it too.

Senator Wallin: It is helpful for us because Senator Manning is still tied up with family business.

The Chair: Could I have a motion delegating the membership to the chair and vice-chair to provide two names and three names?

Senator Tkachuk: I so move.

The Chair: Those in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Opposed? Carried.

We need authorization to hold meetings and print evidence when a quorum is not present. This still requires two persons to be present, one from each side. It is the same rule as for the rest of the Senate.

Do we have to adopt that motion? Is that not simply the way it is?

Ms. Anwar: We have to confer that power on the subcommittee.

The Chair: Can we vote on these motions together, or do we have to vote each time?

Ms. Anwar: You can dispense with the reading of the motions.

The Chair: I think people would like to hear the motions.

Let us read it through and see if we are prepared to adopt all the motions at once.

Ms. Anwar: Next is authorization to hold meetings and to print evidence when quorum is not present. That, pursuant to rule 89, the committee's authority to hold meetings, to receive and authorize the printing of the evidence when a quorum is not present be conferred on the subcommittee.

The next motion is the motion to send for persons and papers and to print proceedings. That, pursuant to rule 90, the committee's authority to send for persons, papers and records, whenever required and to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, be conferred on the subcommittee.

The next motion is the power to hire. That the committee's authority 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, be conferred on the subcommittee.

Next is the power to commit funds. That, pursuant to section 7, Chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, the committee's authority to commit funds be conferred on the subcommittee.

Next is the power to certify accounts. That, pursuant to section 8, Chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, the committee's authority for certifying accounts payable be conferred on to the subcommittee.

Next is attendance policy. That the committee's authority, pursuant to paragraph 8(3)(a) of the Senators Attendance Policy, be conferred on the subcommittee.

Next is electronic media coverage. That, the committee's power to permit coverage by electronic media of its public meetings be conferred on the subcommittee.

Finally are witness expenses. That, pursuant to the Senate guidelines for witness expenses, the authority of the committee to reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for witnesses be conferred on the subcommittee.

The Chair: Are there any questions?

Senator Banks: I move the eight motions that the clerk has read, with the exception that the word ``to'' should be removed as the third-last word in motion 5, the power to certify accounts. It is extraneous.

The Chair: Which item is this, please?

Senator Banks: It is in the fifth motion, the power to certify accounts. The third-last word should not be there.

The Chair: Do you not say on to the committee?

Senator Banks: No, you do not.

Senator Wallin: It is ``on the subcommittee'' in every other motion and ``on to'' here.

The Chair: With that correction, all those in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Those opposed. Motion carried.

Could I make a comment at this point, please?

Senator Meighen: Ask the chair.

The Chair: I was asking the committee, which I serve.

The subcommittee has met for a number of years in room 172. Across the hall is the Aboriginal Room. The Aboriginal Room is normally too large for the size of the committee because you would be shouting. However, at the horseshoe end of the room where the chair normally sits, it would be possible to place a table for witnesses fairly close. Then, you could have televised meetings from the start time until the bells ring for the Senate.

Senator Meighen: We did that a couple of times.

The Chair: I would like to suggest that we try to arrange to do that on a regular basis. In this work, it is as important to be seen doing the work as it is to do the work. Being seen to do the work will cause other veterans to come to the committee. It will also let people know that we are functioning. It seems crazy that we have a subcommittee on an important subject such as this and for it not to be televised on a regular basis.

I put it forward as a suggestion. If anyone wants to make a comment on it, particularly Senator Meighen, you have the floor.

Senator Meighen: It is a good suggestion. We held one or two meetings there, including the last one dealing with the pension claw back. Could I ask who will be our clerk? Will it be Ms. Anwar?

The Chair: The clerk will be assigned.

Ms. Anwar: I think at least in the beginning, but I may be.

Senator Meighen: I will be wholeheartedly in support.

The Chair: We have gone from two clerks to one clerk this year, so we will see.

We can ask for television each time because there is no competition for cameras at that point. Personally, I feel it is a no-brainer that we do that.

Would you like us to adopt the order of reference, which is the same as last year, or would you like to wait until the committee meets and have them adopt it?

An Hon. Senator: I would like the subcommittee to adopt it.

The Chair: We will defer it.

Is there anything else anyone would like to raise in relation to this topic?

Senator Meighen: Could Ms. Anwar, or anyone else, refresh my memory about the next steps with respect to the Senate as a whole? We have gone through the necessary steps here in the full committee.

Ms. Anwar: The next step would be for the subcommittee to have an official organization meeting. We have appointed a chair. The subcommittee would elect a deputy chair. All of the motions that have been conferred by the main committee onto the subcommittee would then be adopted by the subcommittee. A discussion on the order of reference, if that is what you would like to do, could take place. That would be reported back to the main committee and then be reported to the chamber to get the order of reference. All the usual steps will take place including budget, subsequent work plan, et cetera.

The first step would be Wednesday.

Senator Meighen: In order to become operative, we would have to have our own meeting.

Ms. Anwar: Yes.

Senator Meighen: We would have to come back here and then to the Senate.

Ms. Anwar: Yes.

The Chair: That was why I thought having an order of reference adopted might move things faster. You are in business right away.

Senator Meighen: What is involved in the course of operations in changing the order of reference? Of course, you have to go back to the Senate.

The Chair: Yes, you have to go back to the Senate.

Senator Banks: We have to go to the Senate in either case because this is new.

Senator Wallin: Is anything here different from the last reference?

Ms. Anwar: There is a slight change.

Senator Wallin: Can you point the change out to us?

Senator Meighen: We are not far from a summer break and the longer we take, the closer we get.

Ms. Anwar: Last year, a discussion took place about the definition of ``veteran'' versus someone from the Canadian Forces. Therefore, the order of reference was slightly modified. It is ``members of the Canadian Forces,'' but it also extrapolates veterans, RCMP, et cetera. I think the past order of reference just said ``veterans,'' so it was non-specific. This is Jim Cox's suggestion, based on the discussion we had last year.

Senator Wallin: I do not want to revisit all that. However, if the RCMP is there on active duty or in training, would they not qualify already?

Senator Banks: It was not that; it was the fact that it did not say ``members of the Canadian Forces.'' It omitted that.

Senator Wallin: We already had the RCMP in its antecedents. Were there other changes?

Ms. Anwar: That was the only change that was made from the previous order of reference.

Senator Meighen: Senator Tkachuk, were you here during this conversation? If we could adopt this order of reference, which is essentially the same as what we were operating under in the last session, it would cut down on the organizational time before we get down to work.

Senator Tkachuk: Sure, I am fine with that.

Senator Wallin: I have not had a chance to read it, but with those assurances, I certainly feel okay.

Senator Moore: I move the reference.

The Chair: Is there any discussion?

Senator Banks: Question.

The Chair: All those in favour?

Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Chair: All those opposed? It is carried unanimously.

Is there any further business with respect to veterans affairs?

Senator Meighen: We cannot, I gather, change the time of meetings.

The Chair: The reading I get is until Rules Committee reports out and you know how many committees you have, nothing is changing.

For what it is worth, since you brought up the subject, I will take 30 seconds for a little commercial for block scheduling. We implore our leadership to adopt a system where we have blocks of committees as to when they sit. When you are selecting committees, you select one from A, one from B and one from C; but you cannot have two committees in A, because they are sitting at the same time.

If we had a procedure such as that, the lives of senators would be significantly improved. We would have fewer people pretending to try to be at two meetings at the same time.

Senator Meighen: I tried to do it, and I did not find an answer in the last session.

Senator Wallin: With the particular schedules, was that subject to the particular individuals involved? Do you mean you could not find it or that the Senate would not allow any change?

Senator Meighen: I was on the Fisheries and Oceans Committee, and it met at the same time as the Banking Committee.

The Chair: It is a bizarre thing. It is similar to having the Internal Economy Committee meeting in the morning on Thursday. Internal Economy is not looking for media coverage, but that is a prime media time.

It is just that Internal Economy has been sitting at that time for 139 years and does not want to move. I remember the discussion. We said that Thursday morning sounds like the time for us.

Senator Tkachuk: We were all there, except Senator Wallin.

The Chair: In any event, I think the answer is that it is a mug's game to change committee sitting times, unless we are having a radical reshuffle of committees or a new system.

Senator Tkachuk: They are asking for senators' ideas. Those are good things; you should send a letter about this.

The Chair: I actually have sent several letters on it. I would be happy to recopy them.

Senator Tkachuk: The Internal Economy idea is a good idea.

The Chair: The last time I did it, I had about six guys from Internal Economy take me aside and say, ``Will you mind your own business?''

Senator Tkachuk: I would say the same thing, because I like that Thursday morning time slot.

The Chair: That is part of the problem. That is the end of that business. Could we now look at the budget?

At some point, could we decide whether we want to open the windows or not?

Senator Wallin: I will wait until we finish the windows discussion, if anyone wants to throw themselves through one.

The Chair: Unfortunately, because of a design fault in this building, from the third floor up, the windows do not open sufficiently to get a body through.

Senator Meighen: Is this a new budget?

The Chair: It is the same budget.

Senator Tkachuk: Just in case we forgot the other one.

Senator Banks: I move adoption of the budget; and we can now discuss it.

The Chair: There is a motion on the floor and now it is open for questions.

Senator Wallin: I wanted to recap a little bit.

The Chair: Could I ask all senators and anyone who is not a senator to turn off their cellphones? Before any discussion of the budget takes place, I would ask all people in the room who are not senators to vacate the room.

Senator Wallin: I have a general comment, before we go to the specific. We did have a lengthy discussion about budget at the steering committee. To bring my own team up to speed, we had proposed some specific changes to the budget, some reductions in expenditures. We went back and forth on that for some time.

The chair's position was that the budget would stand. We had discussed it and did not come to a conclusion. I will ask Senator Kenny for his recollection. It was my intention to propose four or five specific areas for reduction in this, and then we could have a vote on that, versus on the budget, up or down, as a whole.

The Chair: I would be happy to comment on it. First, every line in the budget is up for discussion. Committee members are free to comment on whether they like it or not.

Second, Senator Wallin has a proposal that she discussed at the steering committee, which she believes may expedite the process. I suspect that finds favour with members of the committee. Going that route, however, would not preclude anyone on the committee from raising other items or talking about any line that they chose to talk about.

Senator Wallin: We talked about the fact that whenever a discussion took place of an individual or a name that that would be in camera.

The Chair: I am coming to that.

Senator Wallin: Okay.

The Chair: Item 1 on the budget relates to personnel, and that is why I would ask all staff to leave the room so that we can have that discussion in camera. I would like to point out that Senator Wallin is correct; I was of the view that the budget should stand as is because it is the smallest budget that we have put forward since 2004. We have made significant reductions in the size of the budget. We have endeavoured to come up with a budget that is sufficient to do the job that we have at hand. There is no extra funding that does not belong. Senator Banks or I pointed out that this budget is not something to be spent. This budget represents maximums and, therefore, it is an up-to budget. A figure of $2,400 does not mean that that much will be spent. Rather, if it is approved, it means that the committee will not have the authority to spend more than $2,400. Essentially, it is a cap in various areas of spending.

I have a last point to make before we proceed in camera, assuming no one else has anything to say before that time. This budget will go through a number of steps before it achieves reality. It will go to the Subcommittee on the Review of Committee Budgets, which has been cutting budgets to date. It made cuts to the four budgets that it dealt with last week. Budgets go from the subcommittee to the full Internal Economy Committee, which can approve, disapprove or vary the budget. Then, the budget goes before the full chamber, which can also approve, disapprove or vary the budget.

After it leaves this committee, this budget will have to pass three other tests before it becomes a reality, which I simply mention for the record for those who are following the committee's proceedings. Even when it passes, it does not mean that the money will be spent.

I would ask that a document be circulated indicating that each year this committee has sat, it has never spent its full approved budget. Last year is a good example: While $485,000 was approved, only $98,000 was spent and $386,000 lapsed. If you look down the lines, you will see significant lapses of more than $100,000 in the budget each of these years. It had to do in part with the formula that the Senate imposes on committees, which requires full-fare funding when often we do not travel full fare. It requires the committee to budget for every member of the committee travelling when often some members of the committee cannot travel. It requires us to budget for hotel rooms that may not be that expensive. These are factors that we cannot necessarily know one year in advance, such as whether hotel rooms will be in high demand because it is a convention week in the city to which we are travelling. A number of features cause senators' budgets to look higher than they actually are. The actual amount spent, not just with this committee but with all Senate committees, is significantly less than the amount approved at the beginning of the year.

That being said, I would ask for a motion to go in camera.

Senator Tkachuk: First, I have a question on the professional services. We are close to the end of April, so we will have only 11 months in the fiscal year remaining by the time this budget is approved. Should those numbers be adjusted because of that?

The Chair: They have not been adjusted, but I would like to discuss that in camera, initially, if I may.

Senator Tkachuk: Okay. How long will we go in camera? Will it be until we finish items 1 to 5 under ``Professional and Other Services'' in the budget items document, following which we will return in public for general discussion?

The Chair: At page 2, items 1 to 5 certainly must be in camera. I am in the hands of the committee after that.

Senator Tkachuk: I move that we go in camera to discuss ``Professional and Other Services,'' items 1 to 5, and return in public following that discussion.

The Chair: There is a motion on the floor. Discussion? Those in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Opposed? Hearing none, the motion to proceed in camera is carried.

Senator Tkachuk: We need a motion for staff to stay.

The Chair: We just passed a motion to proceed in camera.

(The committee continued in camera.)

—————

(The committee resumed in public.)

The Chair: One at a time. Senator Banks has the floor.

Senator Banks: Are we still off the record?

The Chair: No, we are not.

Senator Banks: If it is your preference, as it is Senator Tkachuk's preference, that we break the budget question into tranches and deal with them separately, I would be agreeable to that. I think that is Senator Tkachuk's preference. If that is the case, I would ask permission of the committee to withdraw my motion.

The Chair: Those in favour of withdrawing the motion? Would you like to make a new motion, Senator Banks?

Senator Banks: I move that we adopt the section of the budget on page 2, under the headline ``General Expenses: Professional and Other Services,'' items 1 through 5 in the amount of $173,000.

The Chair: Also item 1 through 3, down to a total of $185,500.

Senator Banks: I did not know which way you wanted to make a division.

Senator Wallin: We decided to make it all of page 2, as a chunk.

Senator Banks: Then I move that we approve the budget as is laid out here in the draft, on page 2, in the amount of $185,000, including all the items between ``General Expenses'' and ``Total of General Expenses'' in the amount of $185,500.

The Chair: Thank you.

Senator Tkachuk: I would like to move an amendment to that — that we delete the item under ``communications consultant'' and under ``writer-consultant.'' Thank you.

The Chair: Not hearing any other amendments, we will move to the amendment first.

Question on the amendment? All those supporting the amendment? All those opposed to the amendment?

The amendment fails. Now back to the main motion.

Senator Banks: Mr. Chair, did I understand there was to be a motion on amendment for the miscellaneous expenses?

The Chair: No.

Senator Wallin: No, but we did include it in the whole thing.

The Chair: We have a question, which is the adoption of all of the figures on page 2. Those in favour? Those opposed?

The motion is carried; page 2 is carried.

Senator Tkachuk: Could we record that, please?

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Banks.

Senator Banks: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Mitchell.

Senator Mitchell: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Kenny.

The Chair: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Meighen.

Senator Meighen: Nay.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Moore.

Senator Moore: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Tkachuk.

Senator Tkachuk: Nay.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wallin.

Senator Wallin: Nay.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fairbairn.

Senator Fairbairn: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: There are five yeas and three nays.

The Chair: Motion carried.

Senator Banks: It is an observation that has nothing to do with the matter at hand directly, but I now hear phrases such as ``our side,'' ``my side,'' ``my members'' and'' my committee,'' which I have never heard in this committee before since the day it was formed. I am very sad to hear those things.

Senator Wallin: I would second that motion.

The Chair: If I can comment on it, just briefly: Let us all work toward avoiding that. Is your side okay with that?

Let the record show laughter. Thank you.

If I may, are there concerns about page 3 of the budget?

Senator Meighen: At one point, going through Charlottetown was talked about so as to be able to meet with people at Veterans Affairs Canada in that city.

The Chair: It is still part of the plan.

Senator Meighen: I did not see it initially. Obviously, I have selective vision — I see it now.

The Chair: Are there any other comments on page 3 or page 4?

I should note for the record that this budget has been in the possession of members of the committee for a couple of weeks, at least — perhaps longer — and a significant amount of discussion has taken place in various forums. If we appear to be moving through it quickly, it is because we have already had a chance to formulate our views on it and discuss it. The steering committee has also been through this budget and expressed those views again, so this is the umpteenth time that we have been looking at it.

Senator Wallin: I would move that we now consider together pages 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and part of 10, up to, but stopping at, the end of ``Total of Activity 7'' and consider those as a chunk.

The Chair: Colleagues, having heard from Senator Wallin, does anything in those pages concern you that you would like to comment on before we move forward?

Senator Tkachuk: I have a couple of questions. They are not about the actual program but on specific items. There were a couple of things you mentioned.

The Chair: Could you start with the page number?

Senator Tkachuk: This is a general question. Earlier in the meeting, you said that the responsibility of the committee is to bring people home. By ``home,'' do you mean back to Ottawa or back to their actual home?

The Chair: Home to their actual home.

Senator Tkachuk: That is sort of unusual for me compared to other committees.

The Chair: It is customary that, for example, if you are in Saskatchewan and a trip was starting, you would fly from Saskatchewan to Halifax and then we would fly you from Gagetown back to Saskatchewan. If your home were Ottawa, that would be the case. That is customary.

Senator Tkachuk: Okay. Should I assume — and I am sure because I think our deputy chair had mentioned this — on that charter flight on page 3, ``charter flight — sole source,'' numbers were worked out that it is cheaper to do the charter flight?

The Chair: Yes.

Senator Tkachuk: Is that flight is out of Ottawa?

The Chair: Let me qualify it. As everyone from the East, I think, is aware, everything goes through Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you want to go to Prince Edward Island, you have to fly to Halifax and then to Prince Edward Island. If you want to go to Greenwood, you have to come back to Halifax again.

Greenwood has an airport that you could land at flying straight through from there. It is a trip we have done before. If you are combining the number of days or the number of stops, the clerk advises us that this is the least expensive way to do it.

Commercial is $64,000, and charter is $50,000.

Senator Tkachuk: Is the $64,000 is based on business class?

Ms. Anwar: It is business class for senators and economy for staff.

The Chair: There is not much business class.

Senator Tkachuk: I would think most of it would be economy.

The Chair: I have just been advised that we would have to fly back to Toronto to get to Fredericton, New Brunswick on the dates we are looking at.

Ms. Anwar: You would have to go to Halifax to Toronto to Fredericton.

Senator Tkachuk: I have no more questions. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Tkachuk. I will ask the committee to please turn to page 10.

Senator Wallin: Question on doing that as section 2.

The Chair: The motion is that we adopt pages 3 through 9 and page 10 down as far as Activity 7.

Senator Wallin: Where it says, ``Total of Activity 7.''

The Chair: To the ``Total of Activity 7,'' to recommence at Activity 8.

Those in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Opposed? Carried unanimously.

I need a motion for Activity 8, please.

Senator Banks: I so move.

The Chair: Moved by Senator Banks. Now there can be discussion, if people would like to discuss this.

Senator Tkachuk: We had quite the debate on this promotion of reports last year as well. First, I think the budget is very high. Second, it should be split between the majority and the minority. Divide the budget in two so that each side is given $32,000 or whatever the amount is. I do not think the amount should be that much. However, it should be split.

I do not see the need for a staff member on each of the trips. That is a waste of money. That is all the argument I will make.

The Chair: Other comments?

Senator Meighen: Is this based on the assumption that the report is unanimous? If it were a minority report, what difference would it make?

The Chair: Minority reports do not exist in the Senate.

Senator Meighen: All right. What if there were serious observations?

The Chair: The observations would have to be adopted by committee vote.

Senator Tkachuk: How is this amount controlled?

The Chair: This amount is controlled by the steering committee.

Senator Tkachuk: Is there a formula?

The Chair: Not currently.

Senator Tkachuk: Perhaps we should have one.

Senator Banks: I do not think a formula is practicable because we do not know what it is we are promoting, what will be affected or which part of the country it will interest.

In the past, the process has been that when the subject arises, the steering committee looks at it and decides whether to go.

Senator Tkachuk: I remember that process last year.

The Chair: Last year, if I recall correctly, you got funding for every trip you asked for.

Senator Tkachuk: That is not true. We had significant debates over that. I did not get funding for every trip I asked for.

The Chair: You may not have gone on the trips, but you certainly asked for them and received funding for them. I would ask the clerk to bring that forward at our next meeting.

Senator Mitchell: We voted to allow that to happen.

Senator Tkachuk: Ms. Anwar, please bring the debates while you are at it. It is important for us.

The Chair: It is important if you want to re-till old ground.

Senator Tkachuk: I do want to re-till old ground.

The Chair: Having said that, there was an agreement; you did receive funding for every trip you asked for; and the record will show that.

If there was a debate where there was disagreement initially, at the end of the day, the bottom line was that you received all the travel requests for which you asked.

Senator Moore: That is correct.

The Chair: Do you disagree with that?

Senator Tkachuk: It was a result of the strategy we had to employ to get that. In our view, it was to be used by the majority. Therefore, we had to argue for our fair share when we should not have had to argue for it at all. It should have been a formula to which we all agreed.

The Chair: Would you like to revisit that argument?

Senator Tkachuk: No, if we agree to a certain amount of money — $30,000 or whatever it is — I would like it to be split $15,000 for each side.

The Chair: If it is, will you support it?

Senator Tkachuk: It depends on the amount; I think the amount is too high.

Senator Mitchell: I have two quick points.

Senator Tkachuk: Senator Moore, I have a right to my opinion.

Senator Moore: I know you do. It is not right, but you can have selective memory.

Senator Mitchell: First, on the question of Senator Tkachuk having asked for money that he claims he did not get, perhaps Senator Tkachuk can tell us which trips he asked for that he did not get rather than us going on a fishing trip.

Second, if we were to split this money in half, and Senator Tkachuk wants to reduce the budget, and given that he has said that he does not think a staff member should go with a senator, he can reduce the budget on his portion of any trip he takes by not taking a staff member.

Senator Tkachuk: One could take twice as many trips without the staff member.

Senator Mitchell: No, you should not be able to do that, either.

Senator Tkachuk: Why not?

Senator Mitchell: It is because you want to cut costs; that is why not.

Senator Moore: Mr. Chair, we are not willing to splitting up the budget between parties. It has never worked that way, and I do not accept it.

Senator Wallin: I think the question here is the preservation of a principle: that we actually think the promotion of the reports is a good idea. However, we are asking for a gesture acknowledging that the budget may be high. We have been around the argument in this committee before that these are tough times. Personally, I would rather cut the budget than to leave it in the hands of Internal Economy. However, that is up to debate because this is sort of ripe fruit in a way.

Without a formula, per se, our hands are bound. The point we were getting at is that if someone interpreted evidence, comments or information they had access to differently, we wanted to be able to access that money whether we were in different parties or maybe in the same party. It is much the same discussion we were having at the front end about publicity and communication, et cetera. We want to ensure that fulsome discussion is had on this in public because that is to whom we are answerable.

Is there some way for this decision to be made with an outcome not preordained by virtue of a vote of the steering committee or the committee as a whole? Is there any modicum of compromise that we can find here to address the principle of the issue?

The Chair: We always have room for compromise and adjustment, but not without the steering committee and this committee agreeing to it. Therefore, your suggestion that we try to find a compromise without the steering committee or without this committee is not a possibility. It is possible to bring forward something to either the steering committee or this committee that would be seen as an accommodation.

Senator Wallin: I believe that is what Senator Tkachuk was talking about.

The Chair: However, you cannot do that without this committee or the steering committee.

Senator Wallin: I believe Senator Tkachuk was trying to say that support for this would be dependent on the amount of the budget. We would like to see some reduction or gesture in that direction. Perhaps we can pass that issue to the steering committee for initial debate and report back to this committee about whether we have any bright ideas of how to deal with that and give everyone comfort.

The Chair: I am talking on my feet here.

Senator Wallin: I am also.

The Chair: I have been advised that the Subcommittee on the Review of Committee Budgets may not be meeting this week, and I do not believe the Internal Economy Committee will be meeting this week. Therefore, a period of time is available for discussion.

The question is whether the committee is willing to delegate this item to the subcommittee to see if it can find a formula. If it can, then this committee will be deemed to support this portion of the budget. If it cannot, then this portion of the budget will be deemed not to have the support of at least three people who appeared to have reservations about it.

Senator Wallin: Would we not have to come back to the committee as a whole again to deal with that?

The Chair: Not if it was delegated as I described.

Senator Tkachuk: I am not supportive of the total amount, so I would like to make an amendment there. Then we can vote, and you guys can discuss it all you want in the steering committee; it does not matter to me.

The Chair: Feel free to make your amendment.

Senator Banks: Is there a motion to amend?

Senator Tkachuk: Is there a motion?

The Chair: We need a motion to adopt first.

There is a motion to adopt. Senator Tkachuk now has the floor to make an amendment.

Senator Tkachuk: I will amend that motion that $64,996 be exactly half of that — whatever that amount is — $32,493.

The Chair: We are doing this officially with a calculator.

Senator Banks: What is the rationale for that?

Senator Tkachuk: I do not see the point of having staff travel with a senator.

The Chair: The figure for half is $32,498.

We have a motion on the floor. Is there any further discussion? Question? All those in favour of the amendment?

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Chair: All those opposed?

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Chair: The amendment is defeated. On the main motion, all those in favour?

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Chair: All those opposed?

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Chair: Do you want a recorded vote?

Senator Tkachuk: Yes.

The Chair: Recorded vote, please.

Senator Banks: Is this the recorded vote in respect of the main motion?

The Chair: Yes.

Senator Mitchell: The main motion on this section.

Senator Banks: Yes, Activity 8.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Banks?

Senator Banks: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Mitchell?

Senator Mitchell: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Kenny?

Senator Kenny: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Meighen?

Senator Meighen: Nay.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Moore?

Senator Moore: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Tkachuk?

Senator Tkachuk: Nay.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Wallin?

Senator Wallin: Nay.

Ms. Anwar: Senator Fairbairn?

Senator Fairbairn: Yea.

Ms. Anwar: Five yeas, three nays.

The Chair: The motion is carried. Senator Wallin has the floor.

Senator Wallin: Just to follow up on that discussion, I do not know whether we need a motion, but I would like to ask that the steering committee, of which I am a part, take up this issue and have a discussion about it the next time.

The Chair: Senator Tkachuk just cut the amount in half, which makes discussions moot.

Senator Wallin: I think the principle is the same. It is more of an agenda item for the next steering committee.

The Chair: I suspect it will be short, given the motion that Senator Tkachuk moved.

Senator Tkachuk: Why would that have anything to do with the principle of having a discussion?

The Chair: I am open to talk about anything, Senator Tkachuk. I am just commenting on how long the discussion might be.

Senator Tkachuk: I thought we had an agreement that the steering committee would look at this issue and discuss the formula. I thought that is what we talked about.

The Chair: Well, you talked about it, and then you proceeded to endeavour to cut it in half.

Senator Tkachuk: That is right. That is exactly what I did.

The Chair: That is what makes it moot.

Senator Banks: The steering committee deals with this as a matter of course each time it comes up.

Senator Moore: I move Activity 9, including the grand total on page 12.

The Chair: Thank you. Is there discussion, please?

Senator Tkachuk: Start again.

Senator Wallin: Activity 9, we are now dealing with the third section.

The Chair: It has been moved for adoption.

Senator Moore: Including the grand total.

Senator Tkachuk: Is he also including the grand total of $541,445?

Senator Moore: Correct.

Senator Tkachuk: I thought we had dealt with it in sections.

Senator Wallin: That is what we have been doing.

Senator Banks: The advantage would be if you made your motion down to Activity 9, and not including the grand total, then you might be able to pass the budget unanimously.

Senator Moore: I will do that.

The Chair: We have a revised motion that just includes Activity 9.

Senator Moore: Yes, chair. Question?

The Chair: Is there any discussion first? All those in favour?

Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Chair: All those opposed? Carried.

Now we have the total, which is $541,445. I have just been told what we need, excuse me. I will just check. Are you saying that I need to do all three together?

Ms. Anwar: You can do the bottom total and fill in the blanks.

The Chair: The motion is that the following budget application for the committee for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010, be approved for submission to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration for a total of $541,445.

Senator Banks: I so move.

The Chair: It is moved by Senator Banks.

Senator Moore: Question.

The Chair: All those in favour?

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Chair: All those opposed?

Senator Moore: It is unanimous.

The Chair: It is not unanimous. Three are opposed here.

Senator Moore: I thought you said that the motion would be unanimous.

The Chair: That is what we were led to believe, but it did not work that way.

Senator Moore: I see that. Do not ask me again.

Senator Wallin: We were doing this section by section. That is what we agreed to.

Senator Moore: Right.

Senator Wallin: What do you think happened that you do not understand?

The Chair: The impression was that if we went section by section and certain parts were dealt with by motions, we would have an opportunity for a unanimous vote at the end. That is what Senator Moore had in mind.

Senator Banks: That was, I guess, my error because I understood before in discussions we had had with Senator Tkachuk that if we did not do it that way, some members would be obliged to vote against the budget. I inferred from that — wrongly I guess — that the reverse would not be true.

Senator Tkachuk: We did support many parts of the budget, Senator Banks, and it is clearly on the record. It is listed as unanimously supported.

Senator Moore: Therefore, are we finished?

The Chair: We are finished; it is adopted. We are having a clarification discussion right now because some people had certain understandings and other people different understandings. The budget is adopted. I have been directed to give it to Internal Economy.

Ms. Anwar: Yes.

The Chair: Are any other motions or anything else needed?

Ms. Anwar: Just if they want to record it.

Senator Wallin: Yes, we did on the latter point.

The Chair: Is there any other business that you would like to bring before the committee?

Senator Moore: No.

Senator Wallin: Was the last vote we did not recorded?

Ms. Anwar: Not by roll call.

Senator Banks: It was passed on division.

Senator Meighen: When you say, ``other business,'' do you mean other business or business relating to the budget?

The Chair: I mean other business; the budget has been dealt with.

Senator Meighen: I have a question. Are the dates for the various activities still the same as were indicated to us at the last meeting? Do I presume accurately the leadership of both parties would meet and decide, in terms of the border crossing visits, who would be appropriate to go where?

The Chair: I would be happy to talk to that. Right now, we are at the mercy of witnesses, if I can put it that way. We will be out of here much faster if we can just go through this.

Right now, everything has been moved to the left by one week because we could not get witnesses for tonight. We are still hopeful of getting the witnesses for whom were looking for the meeting on April 27 to be available on May 4.

We do not have a confirmation back from them. However, I have spoken to the commissioner, and he indicated he wants to appear before us. He did not say, ``I will be there on . . . .'' We are still waiting to hear back from him on that.

Senator Meighen: I just want to make a point, and this may not have any bearing on anyone except for me and other members on my side. A memorial service is being held for Gordon Fairweather at four o'clock on May 4. I would like to attend it and would be amenable to starting the meeting later and finishing later, if that would accommodate the witness, for example.

Senator Banks: We could start earlier.

The Chair: Yes, starting earlier would be preferable. The meeting would not likely precipitate any votes, Senator Meighen.

Senator Meighen: Sorry, could you repeat that please?

The Chair: I do not anticipate that hearing from a witness would precipitate votes.

Senator Wallin: No, but I think he would like to hear the witness. Would it be possible to split the meeting times. We could meet from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then suspend for those wishing to attend the service. We could resume when they return. Could we accommodate in that way?

The Chair: Mr. Fairweather was a man whom I respect a great deal. Having said that, the business of the committee is such that we are moving people out of the time when there is any coverage of the meeting. If individuals wish to hear him, they have a number of choices: For one, we can all read the transcript, obviously. It is also possible to obtain substitutes.

Senator Meighen: I understand.

The Chair: One of the continuing frustrations facing this committee is the travel constraints of people. We therefore move our meeting time to a slot when no one knows we even had the meeting. That is highly frustrating, in particular on a topic of this nature.

Senator Meighen: Do we know who the witnesses will be?

The Chair: The proposed witnesses are Bill Elliott, William Sweeney and Keith Clark, to talk about RCMP transformation.

Senator Wallin: They are today's witnesses who were moved to May 4.

Senator Mitchell: The other frustration I feel with respect to the Monday slot is that we have three hours per week, whereas other committees have four hours per week. One would think that, given the importance of this committee, the intensity of the issues that it deals with and the fact that we have military men and women halfway around the world who work 24 hours a day and risk their lives doing it, we should work longer than three hours per week to deal with the issues that have profound implications for them and the security of this country.

Senator Banks: The Senate passed a motion near the beginning of the present session. It states that on Mondays following a break week, committees that sit normally on Mondays are constrained to meeting between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. However, Mondays that precede a Tuesday on which the Senate normally sits are not provided for in that motion.

Senator Tkachuk: The chair and Senator Mitchell, if there is consultation and a rational reason for meeting at a different time, whether earlier or later or other, will find that our side is quite cooperative. Our problem has been that myself and others have meetings in the afternoon, and all of these meetings have required votes. We have been stringent about the 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. time slot so that we can attend the meetings. It has been difficult.

When consulted, chair, our side is amenable. We are not interested in eight-hour marathons, but we are interested in flexibility and, if need be, extra time should a witness desire. We have no problem with that and never have had a problem.

The Chair: That is a most constructive comment, Senator Tkachuk. Elaborating on that, as a senator, I believe strongly in having a predictable future. We all have complicated lives, and the more certain we can be about when witnesses are appearing, the better off we are. The effort to prepare a work plan in a fairly detailed manner that was adopted unanimously was just that. All the goodwill in the world did not get our witnesses here today when we wanted them here. Until we can role out a three-month program, we will continue to find ourselves at the whim of the availability of witnesses. That requires even more consultation and even more flexibility.

The wish of the committee in the past will continue unless a discussion takes place and a decision is taken to the contrary to have one and a half hours for witnesses so that everyone in the room has a good opportunity to ask their questions. That has worked reasonably well, notwithstanding the times when some non-members of the committee arrive and also want to ask questions. Senator Wallin has made the point that members of the committee should have first crack at questions, and I agree. I turn to other senators only after Ms. Anwar has canvassed and verified that members are satisfied.

The pre-meeting of one half hour has been useful for the committee. It provides an opportunity to discuss who would be the lead questioner, to ask questions of the people preparing the briefing documents and to have them assist us in coming forward with coherent questioning of the witnesses. Frankly, we receive good feedback in that regard. As well, we have spent time advising staff who write the reports on our views of the quality of the witnesses and what points we would like them to note for future reports. That has been a constructive and useful practice.

Unless I am instructed otherwise by the committee, I propose to schedule the meetings in that fashion.

Senator Wallin: I have a question for Ms. Anwar. How difficult is it for you to phone witnesses? We are still waiting to hear, so could you phone witnesses who live in Ottawa and ask them to be on standby? Can we call people on short notice, or do you not go about it that way?

Ms. Anwar: No.

The Chair: We have varying degrees of cooperation depending on departments. Some work hard to get witnesses for us while other departments appear to have a sign-off process that involves a dozen different people. It bewilders us that we go through that exercise.

On occasion, I have asked that a phone call be made to bring in a witness when the system appears to be clogged and needs some liquid plumber. We have performed that function in the past to get people to appear before the committee. It is more an art than a science.

Would members of the committee like to raise any other business tonight? I am told that dinner will be served. To the membership of the subcommittee, could we agree to schedule a meeting on Wednesday afternoon behind the barn after Question Period?

Senator Banks: Do you have anything at four o'clock?

Senator Wallin: I have a meeting at the Foreign Affairs Committee. Can we meet for part of the lunch hour time slot?

Senator Banks: That is for veterans affairs.

Senator Meighen: I am not in on Wednesday, but I am sure that Senator Wallin could substitute for me.

Senator Wallin: I will do that. Over and above, are you looking for another chunk of time?

The Chair: I am suggesting that we go back out after Question Period. If something comes up, then it is easy to come back into the chamber. There is a room directly behind the chamber.

Senator Mitchell: How can you start the subcommittee if you do not have a meeting of the steering committee before?

The Chair: I am happy to do it tomorrow.

Senator Banks: That is what I thought you meant. Is it not the intent that the veterans affairs subcommittee will meet on Wednesday?

The Chair: Yes, but Senator Meighen said that he will not be here on Wednesday.

Senator Banks: Yes, but Senator Wallin can substitute for him.

The Chair: Who will chair the meeting if he is not coming?

Senator Wallin: He is substituting me in.

The Chair: He cannot substitute for the chair. The deputy chair takes the place of the chair.

Senator Mitchell: Are we saying that the subcommittee will start on Wednesday or not? It hinges on a steering committee meeting before that.

The Chair: We could have a steering committee meeting tomorrow afternoon and, with the authority of this committee, name members to it. It would then be up to the chair to call the meeting as soon as that happened. He could do it by 4 p.m. tomorrow. You could then have the first meeting take place on Wednesday.

I suspect it would make sense for Senator Meighen, if he was there. If he is not, it will not have the usual start. You then have a deputy chair wondering what the chair is thinking, moving forward.

Senator Mitchell: My concern is that we have had all this debate about how important it is and how we cannot delay; I think we should start it on Wednesday.

The Chair: I hear that, but Senator Meighen did not make his plans up in the last five minutes. He made his commitment some time ago. If he cannot be there, then he cannot be there.

Senator Wallin: I can meet tomorrow once Question Period and Government Businessis done, but I cannot be out of the chamber.

Senator Mitchell: Of course you can.

Senator Wallin: No, not for an extended meeting.

Senator Mitchell: Sit at the back. It happens all the time.

The Chair: That has been the practice, namely, to step out to the back and if anything comes up, a friend can call you in.

Senator Mitchell: You do not get any work done around here if you do not do that.

The Chair: It is your call, Senator Wallin.

Senator Wallin: I will check tomorrow morning and call you right away.

Senator Moore: With respect to the various border crossings visits, under the Maritimes —

The Chair: Could I have order? Out of respect for each other, Senator Moore is not interrupting anyone else when they are talking. The least we can do is hear him out.

Senator Moore: With respect to the various border crossings, and dealing with the Maritimes, travel is planned to Woodstock, New Brunswick. You should consider the St. Stephen, New Brunswick and Calais, Maine border crossing. It is very important. I was in Washington last week, and they are putting a large amount of money into improving that and enlarging it. You might want to look at it.

The Chair: I am wide open to that. Last week, Senator Day pitched this stop. The people who seem most knowledgeable on the committee are you, Senator Day and Senator Meighen. I am happy with either.

Senator Moore: We could do them both. I just raised it because I know it is important. In the latest infrastructure budget in the United States, they are investing money into this particular crossing.

The Chair: Okay. Would it be possible for members of the committee to consider which border crossing appeals to them or whether you want one, or whether one person may do more than one?

Senator Meighen: Yes, I would think so. That would depend on the date.

The Chair: It would — that is, once we know who is going.

Senator Meighen: Let us do it, regardless of date. Just say, ``In principle, I would like to do this or that.''

The Chair: Right. We will then try to fit the date to match the needs of the senator, rather than the other way around.

Senator Banks: Put me down, please, for Coutts, Alberta and Vancouver, B.C., whatever that is called, going into Oregon.

The Chair: You are interested in British Columbia and Alberta. Does anyone else know where they are interested in going?

Senator Tkachuk: I am interested in B.C. and the Prairies. Do we have one in the Prairies on the list?

The Chair: Yes. That is Coutts. Senator Mitchell is also interested in B.C. and Alberta.

Senator Moore: I am interested in the Maritimes.

The Chair: Senator Moore has expressed an interest in the Maritimes.

Senator Meighen: I am interested in the Maritimes or Ontario.

The Chair: Senator Meighen, for Maritimes or Ontario.

Senator Wallin: All the committee members?

Senator Mitchell: That is a good point. I would have to fill in.

The Chair: Everyone cannot go everywhere, but give us a list of what does interest you, and we will work it out.

Senator Wallin: I am flexible.

Senator Meighen: The possibility of travelling with Senator Moore around the Maritimes is compelling.

The Chair: Nice try.

Are there any other comments?

Senator Banks: Will we try to find someone who can represent the committee in French in Quebec? I presume there are border crossings in Quebec. Do we need bilingualism there?

The Chair: I think it is important. Frankly, the best person is on your side for that; namely, Senator Nolin.

Senator Tkachuk: Senator Meighen is pretty good. We could send Senator Meighen and Senator Nolin could take one of our places.

The Chair: It is up to you to decide. Senator Nolin is at a number of these meetings and is pretty knowledgeable.

Could we endeavour to have that list pulled together sometime this week?

Senator Wallin: Yes, definitely.

The Chair: Okay. If there is no other business, I need a motion to adjourn.

Senator Moore: I so move.

The Chair: This meeting is adjourned. Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)