THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL ECONOMY, BUDGETS AND ADMINISTRATION
OTTAWA, Thursday, October 25, 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. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration.
My name is Sabi Marwah and I have the privilege of serving as chair of this committee.
For the benefit of those who are on the webcast or on the phone, I would ask each of the senators present to introduce themselves.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell, Alberta.
Senator Dawson: Dennis Dawson from the province of Quebec.
Senator Dean: Tony Dean, Ontario.
Senator Verner: Josée Verner from the province of Quebec.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, Alberta.
Senator Plett: Don Plett, Manitoba.
Senator Saint-Germain: Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain from Quebec.
Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Tkachuk: David Tkachuk, Saskatchewan.
Senator Batters: Denise Batters, Saskatchewan.
The Chair: The first item on the agenda is the approval of the minutes from October 4. It’s in your package. Are there any questions or changes?
If not, may I have a motion to adopt the minutes? Thank you, Senator Marshall.
It is moved by Senator Marshall to adopt. Agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
The next item is a report from the International and Inter-parliamentary Affairs Directorate and its associations, its activities and expenditures.
Senator Marshall: Could I make a comment before we start? This is a 60-page report and we only got it, I think, the day before yesterday. For those of us who have committee meetings and subcommittee meetings until nine o’clock each night, it’s very difficult to go through it. I always read it in detail and I always have questions.
I’m not prepared to ask any questions today. I know Colette is here, but I haven’t had a chance to review it. So I would like to ask my colleagues if they would consider deferring.
Senator Plett: I’ve spoken to Colette already and we’re quite prepared to wait until next week, if that is the wish of the committee.
The Chair: Does everyone agree to wait until next week?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: So be it. See you next week. Sorry, Colette, for making you visit us.
It’s going to be a really short meeting now.
Senator Tkachuk: That’s two in a row.
The Chair: The third item, which was also sent to you in advance, is the government’s response to CIBA’s twenty-seventh report of the Advisory Working Group on the Parliamentary Translation Services. Richard Denis will give us an overview of the government response and then we will open it up to Q&A.
Richard Denis, Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments, Senate of Canada: Good morning everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about the government’s response to the twenty-seventh report of your committee, tabled in the Senate on March 27, 2018, with respect to parliamentary translation services.
That report included as an appendix the first report and recommendations of your Advisory Working Group on Parliamentary Translation Services, which was chaired by the Honourable Senator Ringuette, along with Honourable Senators Joyal, Maltais, Wallin and Mockler as the other members.
This working group was created on September 21, 2017, held four meetings and made 11 recommendations after gathering information from senators, their staff and committee clerks to check their level of satisfaction with the Translation Bureau’s services.
The government’s response, which was included in your package today, was tabled on October 5.
Turning to this committee’s recommendations that touch directly on the Senate administration, recommendation one directs the Senate administration to designate a manager responsible for ensuring that the terms of the service agreement for language services between the Senate of Canada and the Translation Bureau are respected.
I’m pleased to report that Catherine Piccinin, Acting Principal Clerk of Chamber Operations and Procedure, is the Senate manager responsible. This was announced in a memo to all senators on October 12.
The October 12 briefing note also addressed recommendation 2a) regarding feedback mechanisms, including ways to contact Ms. Piccinin and Nathalie Laliberté, Vice-President, Parliamentary Services and Interpretation at the Translation Bureau.
The note also announced the new Translation Bureau icon that appears on your computer desktops. With that application, it is possible to send comments directly to the Translation Bureau.
Ms. Piccinin has, since she began her responsibilities in the summer, set up regular working level meetings with the Translation Bureau to discuss ongoing issues in accordance with recommendation 2(b).
These meetings include the CEO, Stéphan Déry; Nathalie Laliberté, Vice-President Services to Parliament and Interpretation; Julie Poirier, Chief Quality Officer; and Matthew Ball, Chief Interpreter. These people are available here, if necessary, to answer any questions you may have.
At these working level meetings, Ms. Piccinin invites other Senate managers, such as those from Committees Directorate, who have a direct interest in translation and interpretation issues. Together, they have extended a request to meet with the steering committee of the Working Group on Senators’ Services and hope to do so in the next few weeks.
Ms. Piccinin has already contacted Senator Ringuette to inform her of her role and responsibilities, and she expressed satisfaction with the progress on the issue.
Ms. Piccinin will also be available to meet with this committee at least annually to monitor progress and discuss issues that require special attention.
The government response before you addresses the remaining recommendations from this committee’s Advisory Working Group. The monthly working level meetings that Ms. Piccinin has set up with her counterparts at the Translation Bureau review additional progress on these recommendations, as well as any issues that may be raised by senators, including, as appropriate, any specific concerns about quality.
Ms. Piccinin is here as well to answer any questions. Thank you for your attention.
Thank you very much, honourable senators. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair: Are there any quesitons for Mr. Denis? If not, we should move on and we look forward to the spring report from Senate administration on the progress on the recommendations.
Thank you, again.
The next item is a progress report on the Subcommittee on Human Resources. I was asked if that be deferred to next week as well. We are on a good roll today. If that’s okay, senators, we will defer that to next week.
That takes us to “other matters.” Any other matters before we go in camera? Senator Plett?
Senator Plett: Yes, I would like to raise one issue.
We’ve all seen some of the email exchanges that have been going back and forth about some security issues that we had here on the Hill some time ago. I know that some people have requested that the Speaker and the security folks give us a report, and that has not been forthcoming. I heard the other day that they offered to give our caucus a private report of what happened and I voiced my displeasure with that at that time. I don’t think that is appropriate.
There was enough dialogue back and forth that this committee should receive a thorough report from both the Speaker and our security on the Hill letting us know what happened and if, in fact, nothing happened then they should report that to us. However, I think it should be done at this committee.
I am not sure that it should even be done in camera, but I would be okay to consider that. But I would be making a request that the Speaker and head of security come to this committee at their very earliest opportunity and report what happened and what remedial actions have been taken to ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.
The Chair: Senator Plett, I think you are aware that I have spoken to the Speaker on several occasions and it really comes down the fact that the security is not, in my judgment, in the domain of this committee. It reports to the Speaker. So we have no jurisdiction over security and he has no obligation to appear before this committee. He has offered on several occasions.
I believe, Senator White, who is on his National Security Advisory Committee, has given you his view of what transpired on the instance you referred to. I think the Speaker has spoken to Senator Tkachuk and the Speaker spoke to Senator Batters. I’m not sure what else one can do because I really don’t believe it’s in the jurisdiction of this committee.
Senator Plett: I guess I beg to differ. And no, I wasn’t aware that you had spoken to him on a number of occasions. I appreciate you having done that, but we have had head of security and we have had head of the RCMP at this committee reporting on other issues. So at what point are they in fact under the purview of reporting to us and when are they not? Like I say, we had the commissioner here not that terribly long ago giving us a report.
Again, I believe that they should report to this committee. And if you, the Speaker and this committee, believe that they shouldn’t, then the Speaker should. You say he has no obligation. That may be true, but I don’t think he’s been asked officially to appear before this committee. I see no reason why we couldn’t at least make an effort to have these people come. If it’s on a voluntary basis, it’s on a voluntary basis. I still believe we should make the effort.
I think security is becoming a bigger issue. For us to be concerned about it is normal, and I think we should be updated.
Senator Tkachuk: I totally agree with Senator Plett. I have a problem with the Speaker saying that we have no jurisdiction over that. What was his excuse?
The Chair: He said security reported to him, and it was his purview. If there’s any issues on security, they should be addressed to him, which I understand your caucus has done. I understand that he has responded to your caucus; so I think no other caucus, no other members of any other group seem to have raised this issue with me.
Senator Tkachuk: I think that in the house the Speaker has different authority. He is almost like the CEO of the house. Here, the Speaker is first amongst equals. He is responsible to us. We can have it two ways. He can either come here and present, or we could ask him questions in the Senate.
The Chair: You are more than welcome to do that.
Senator Tkachuk: Why wouldn’t we do it here? I don’t understand why we would not do it in Internal Economy. We should be getting a regular report from the Speaker and from security on security on the Hill. They should be coming here every two months to give us a report on what’s going on, and if there have been any incidents, anything that the senators want to bring forward. They work for us. I don’t understand this.
I’ve never seen anything like it where an incident like this takes place and no one is talking about it. I don’t get it. Everybody says there’s nothing to it. Well, if there’s nothing to it, come up here and tell us there’s nothing to it but describe the incident to us.
There were two incidents. We hear about it in the press, but we don’t hear about it from our own security people? That’s ridiculous. I think he has an obligation to come here, and he should come here.
Senator Batters: I wanted to make it clear, chair, that while I have spoken briefly to the Speaker about this particular issue, that was simply to make the request that he and the head of Parliamentary Protective Services come to this meeting to deal with this issue and have all of these questions answered.
I, in no way, received a briefing about the incidents. I, and many of my colleagues, have significant questions about this that I think we need to have the opportunity to ask in this forum, as we have many times in the past. I’ve been on this committee for three or four years, and we’ve had at least a few occasions where we’ve had these times where we’ve had the head of Parliamentary Protective Services, and they’ve given us the opportunity to ask questions, and that satisfied people’s legitimate concerns. Thank you.
The Chair: I shall raise the matter with the Speaker again and advise you next week.
Senator Tkachuk: Is it going to be a formal invitation?
The Chair: No. I will talk to him verbally.
Senator Plett: If I could, as a closing comment, I never took part in that email exchange that was sent to all. I don’t like these fights on email where we reply to all and we’re airing our dirty laundry on email. But that happens, chair, when we don’t want to be transparent and open, then we have those types of email exchanges that are very detrimental to this committee and certainly to the Senate. Again, I don’t understand why we would not want to get in front of this and simply have a report.
I don’t think anyone wants to beat up on security. I have the highest regard for security, and I most certainly have the highest regard for our Speaker. I’m quite prepared to say, well, let’s have it in camera and let’s simply get a report. I don’t think anyone here wants to beat up on anyone. It’s a matter of us getting information and getting it through the proper channels so that we don’t have these email fights.
Senator Mitchell: I’m glad to hear Senator Plett say that he has the highest regard for the Speaker. When I saw the email chain, there is another feature here. I was quite shocked by the approach that Senator Tkachuk took where he, as of my reading, inferred that somehow the Speaker wasn’t telling us the truth. The Speaker is of the highest integrity; he was telling us the truth. This is a car accident off the Hill where one of our fine protective services people went to help. Why would that be something that’s got to do with security here?
I believe what the Speaker said. I have no reason not to believe that, and it’s very disconcerting to me that there would be some suggestion that he is not of the highest integrity and not telling us the truth. He is. I appreciate your analysis, and I’m with you. He doesn’t need to come here.
Senator Tkachuk: Number one, I did not infer that he wasn’t telling the truth.
Senator Mitchell: I’ll quote the email.
Senator Tkachuk: I tried to point out that we had a senator from our side get a phone call from a newspaper about an incident on the Hill which he didn’t know anything about, which seems —
The Chair: Senator Tkachuk, we all know the history. Why don’t we leave it? Let’s go on.
Senator Tkachuk: I don’t like what he said.
The Chair: Fair enough.
Senator Tkachuk: That is not what I said. What I said was why aren’t we getting a briefing on what has taken place here?
The Chair: I think what you said is in print, so let’s not get into a debate about what was said. It is there for the record.
Senator Forest: I don’t have the experience of the colleagues who are raising the issue, but there is something very simple I would like to know: Who is responsible for Senate security? The Internal Economy Committee? Who is responsible for this function? This is a very important aspect. Clearly, if this is the responsibility of the committee, we are entitled to request their appearance before the committee. If it’s not the committee’s responsibility, they can be sent a very polite invitation to appear. Who is responsible for the security function within the organization?
The Chair: For the record, under the Parliament of Canada Act, security reports, very clearly, to the two Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons.
I shall convey your concerns, once again, to the Speaker and apprise you next week.
Senator Tkachuk: You could ask him another question. If he says no to this, I want to know does that mean we will never get a briefing on security for any matter? Is that the way it’s going to be run?
The Chair: I’ll ask him.
Senator Tkachuk: Okay.
The Chair: Any other issues under “Other matters”? If not, we’ll go in camera.
(The committee continued in camera.)