THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL ECONOMY, BUDGETS AND ADMINISTRATION
OTTAWA, Thursday, October 4, 2018
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration met this day at 8:30 a.m., in public and in camera, pursuant to rule 12-7(1), for the consideration of financial and administrative matters.
Senator Sabi Marwah (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. My name is Sabi Marwah. I’m a senator from Ontario and will be serving as chair of this committee.
For the public, I will begin by asking my colleagues starting on my left to introduce themselves.
Senator Munson: Jim Munson, Ontario.
Senator Dean: Tony Dean, representing Ontario.
Senator Dawson: Dennis Dawson, Quebec.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell, Alberta.
Senator Verner: Josée Verner from Quebec.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, Alberta.
Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Saint-Germain: Raymonde Saint-Germain from Quebec.
Senator Tkachuk: David Tkachuk, Saskatchewan.
Senator Batters: Denise Batters, Saskatchewan.
The Chair: The first item on the agenda is the adoption of the minutes of the proceedings from June 21, 2018. Does anyone have any comments?
Senator Munson: No.
The Chair: Moved by Senator Munson. All in agreement?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you. The second item is the adoption of the minutes of the proceedings from September 20. Could I have a motion?
Senator Tkachuk: I so move.
The Chair: Senator Tkachuk. Any comments, any questions?
Next we move on to the Communications Subcommittee, which is a motion to add a member to the subcommittee and designate a chair. I believe the motion is to appoint me as a replacement for Larry Campbell. Could I have a motion to that effect?
Senator Saint-Germain: I so move.
The Chair: Any questions? All in favour?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: The next item is a report from the Subcommittee on Committee Budgets.
Senator Verner: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present the twenty-first report of the Subcommittee on Committee budgets, which includes the recommended allocations for two committee budgets.
Before we discuss them, I would like to provide some background. The total budget for 2018-19 will be $2.382 million. We will hold back $500,000 to cover expenses for witnesses to travel to Ottawa, leaving $1.882 million for committee budgets.
In fiscal year 2018-19 to date, the subcommittee has recommended the release of $1,137,432 for 10 committee trips ending at the end of October 2018. Right now, six of those trips have been completed and four more are planned for the coming weeks. As of September 28, 2018, these committees had spent or committed $428,033 to cover most of the costs for those trips.
The subcommittee met earlier this week to consider two budget requests that included detailed plans for trips outside Canada. The total amount requested by those committees is $124,385.
We met with the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, which submitted a budget request for proposed expenses of $122,965 for an activity, Activity No. 1, which is a fact-finding mission to British Columbia and Manitoba. This mission is related to the committee’s study on how the value added food sector can be more competitive in global markets. At the subcommittee meeting, the committee chair told us that the committee could reduce the number of senators taking part in the trip from nine to seven members. We then received a revised budget request. Based on this new information, the subcommittee therefore recommends that $113,710 be released for Activity No. 1.
The subcommittee also met with the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking and Commerce, which presented a budget for proposed expenses of $10,674 for an activity, Activity No. 1, in New Brunswick. This activity is related to the committee’s study on cyber security and cyber fraud and involves travel funds for three senators. The committee also requests the necessary fund to include a staff member from the chair’s office in his budget. Based on the information provided, the subcommittee recommends that $10,674 be released for Activity No. 1.
Your subcommittee therefore recommends that $124,385 be released. Of the $1.882 million set aside, that brings us to a total of $1,261,816 released to date.
As in previous years, the subcommittee notes that committees’ actual expenses are typically closer to 40 per cent of the total budget they request. We anticipate that more than $700,000 and up to $1 million will be returned to the main estimates from the funds set aside for committee travel during the current fiscal year.
In accordance with the current recovery process, your committee recommends that the funds planned for specific trips to be completed by the end of October 2018 and not used be returned to the committees’ main budget so they are not unnecessarily frozen.
Unless there are any questions, I recommend that the report be adopted.
The Chair: Any questions for Senator Verner?
Senator Marshall: One question. Regarding the charter bus for the Agriculture Committee trip to Kelowna for $10,000, what would that be for? Is that to visit different farms?
Senator Verner: To be clear, no questions were raised about this. All the members of the subcommittee assumed this was for travel costs on location.
Senator Marshall: Okay. Because it is a fruit-growing region, I was thinking that they were going to visit different fruit producing companies. Thank you.
The Chair: Any other questions for Senator Verner?
Senator Mitchell: I’m not sure this is a question but I do want to make a comment in the context of this discussion. I thought we made a pretty clear determination that committees wouldn’t travel during sitting weeks. Now I notice there are at least two, maybe three that are travelling. I think we need to address that. We are here to vote — and that can happen at any time — and we’re here to listen to debate. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, we need to be careful about having committees travel when we are sitting.
The Chair: Duly noted. We will take that into account when we look at the next one.
Senator Munson: Senators do have an obligation to do their job both here and in the field. There were probably circumstances in this regard where the only time they could travel was during a sitting week. I think that if you have an equitable number of senators on the three sides or two sides, and the whips are comfortable with that, then I don’t see it as a major issue.
Senator Marshall: To address what Senator Mitchell was saying, there was a policy whereby the whips or the facilitator had to agree that there had to be a mutual agreement that the committees could travel during a week we were sitting. I don’t know if that policy is still in effect or not.
Senator Mitchell: I don’t know whether it is, but we could formalize that if we had commitments on both sides. It’s a little different now because we don’t have a disciplined caucus on the other side. It’s more difficult to pair. It’s one of the evolutionary issues we have to face.
If we could sit down and agree to that and work that out, then — I think there is a majority, but coming to that.
Senator Tkachuk: There is a majority.
Senator Saint-Germain: The Independent Senators Group has a liaison. One of our principles is to first and foremost be in the chamber in order to fulfill our legislative duties, so I concur with you.
The Chair: Any other questions? All agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried. That’s the last item for the open session. Are there any other matters that senators wish to bring up before we go in camera? If not, I think we will go in camera.