NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Monday, September 28, 2015
Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
ASSEMBLY MATTERS COMMITTEE
Hon. Kevin Murphy (Chairman)
Hon. Lloyd Hines (Vice-Chairman)
Hon. Michel Samson
Hon. Randy Delorey
Hon. Lena Metlage Diab
Mr. Iain Rankin
Hon. Chris d’Entremont
Hon. Alfie MacLeod
Hon. Maureen MacDonald
Hon. David Wilson
[Hon. Lloyd Hines was replaced by Hon. Labi Kousoulis.]
Mr. Neil Ferguson
House of Assembly
Ms. Annette Boucher,
House of Assembly
Ms. Nicole Arsenault,
House of Assembly
Mr. Gordon Hebb
Chief Legislative Counsel
HALIFAX, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ASSEMBLY MATTERS
Mr. Kevin Murphy
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon everybody, welcome to the Standing Committee on Assembly Matters. The agenda has been circulated to everybody just coming in. We will take a roll call here to confirm who is present and confirm the couple of substitutions that are listed.
I’ll introduce myself - Kevin Murphy, Speaker, and the chairman of this committee. We’ll go around the room, I guess.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. We have received word that the Honourable Alfie MacLeod is en route, so we have permission from the PC caucus to start without him.
So without further ado, we’ll get right into the first item on the agenda today, which is the sexual harassment policy and Code of Conduct. For the briefing on that, I’ll turn it over to Assistant Clerk Annette Boucher.
MS. ANNETTE BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was asked to identify the Parliaments in Canada that might have had harassment policies, and sexual harassment policies in particular. What I intend to review is, just who has what across the country and elements to be considered by this House should this House wish to go forward with policies of their own. If there are any questions I can address them, but it’s not meant to get into a whole lot of very particular details - more of the higher level, if that’s your wish.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MS. BOUCHER: The House of Commons is certainly the leader in the country with regard to policies. The House of Commons has, since June, enacted a Code of Conduct for members of the House of Commons. These are exclusively the elected MPs. It is a sexual harassment Code of Conduct that applies to sexual harassment as between MPs only. So the Code of Conduct only deals with sexual harassment as between elected officials.
They also have a policy on preventing and addressing harassment. That’s a wider umbrella policy that applies to relationships or interactions between MPs, House Officers, staff who are employed by MPs, research officers, interns and volunteers. So it’s the interactions between staff of what we’ll call the Parliament of Canada and the MPs. The policy at the House of Commons with regard to everyone identifies abuse of authority, harassment and sexual harassment. This is a bit different from the Code of Conduct which only deals with sexual harassment as between the MPs.
Now the Senate of Canada has one policy and the policy deals with the three forms of what I’ll call abuse: abuse of authority, sexual harassment, and harassment, as between Senators themselves, and between Senators and the staff of the Senate - including the House Officers, their caucus staff, et cetera. So the Senate has one and their document goes back to 2010, so they’ve had it for quite some time.
In terms of the other provincial jurisdictions, interestingly enough, Quebec is the only province that has a policy and it was enacted earlier this summer, in June 2015. It deals with the elected members and their staff and it also approaches it differently in that the definition they have is psychological harassment, which includes physical harassment. They do not talk about sexual harassment per se, so whether or not the definition of physical harassment would encompass sexual harassment would be a question of interpretation.
Finally, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut both have a Code of Conduct that deals with elected members of their Houses, and workplace harassments and policy for the interaction between the elected individuals and the staff.
I think it’s fair to say that there are a number of jurisdictions that are looking at policies, but they’re not quite there yet. The federal House of Commons has gone through a very detailed investigation before they came forward with their policy, which is now part of their Standing Orders at the House of Commons, so there is a lot of benefit there. I have had the opportunity to meet with the folks in the Parliamentary Counsel Office in Ottawa with respect to some of the issues that they considered in drafting the Standing Orders.
I think for the people here today, some of the things that would have to be considered if Nova Scotia were to move forward with a policy include, to whom would the policy apply? Would it be between MLAs themselves, the relations between themselves
and/or their staff? What type of behaviour would be covered by the policy? Would it be abuse of authority, harassment, sexual harassment or some other form? It would have to be defined.
All of the provinces and the federal levels all have an informal process as well. There is a lot of focus that’s put on trying to resolve the issue early and informally, if possible - that’s not the only way, but it’s encouraged - so would Nova Scotia want to have an informal process? In terms of a formal process, what would the formal process look like? There are a lot of similarities between the provinces who have the policies and the House of Commons.
One of the things that sort of jumps out that you would have to give detailed attention to, is the role of the Whips of the Parties with respect to any harassment dealing with elected officials. The role of the Whip has been defined differently in different jurisdictions and there is one to be played by the Whip, there is no question.
Interestingly enough, all of these other jurisdictions have a human resources expert who is attached to their House of Parliament - either to the House of Commons, the Senate or the provincial Legislatures that have gone ahead - who has a pivotal role to play in the administration of the formal process and the informal process for resolving issues between them. So those are issues.
The sanctions and the confidentiality are also - confidentiality is clear in all of the approaches that there has to be an element of confidentiality. The sanctions go from small sanctions with the House of Commons Code of Conduct, where the matter is brought to the floor of the House of Commons and the House of Commons will decide on the sanction to be applied to the elected MP.
Those are elements that would have be considered. I think that there is a wealth of information that has been collected that I have that could certainly be used by any working group that might be established to go forward, but those are the sort of top level kinds of key issues that I think have to be looked at and that have been addressed elsewhere.
MR. CHAIRMAN: With that, we’ll open up the floor for questions or comments. Mr. d’Entremont.
HON. CHRISTOPHER D’ENTREMONT: Thank you for bringing the issue forward. This has been going on for some time and we all know what precipitated this - of course the allegations of sexual harassment in the House of Commons and then a second look at what happens in this Legislature. So of course this is extremely important to us.
The question sort of revolves around the issue of CRO. Within the document that you provided to us, it talks about sort of the keeper of information - the person that you can go to with process, the Whips and then moving on to that CRO, which is the Chief Human
Resources Officer. We don’t have that kind of position here in the House. I know we’ve talked about this one before so my first question, and I do have a follow-up on that - if we are to create one, would we have the budget available for one or has that not been thought through just yet? I know we’re in the preliminaries of this one, but that one is the one that sort of stood out of that federal document.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If I could interject. I certainly will leave it up to this committee, but I believe probably the path forward here is for us to strike an all-Party committee made up of one representative from each Party, to look at the details of this report and then come back to this standing committee at some point in the not-too-distant future with a recommendation.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Well in that case, why don’t I put a motion forward that we strike that all-Party committee - I don’t know what kind of structure, one from each Party and maybe a support staff member - so that we can go out and do a little more research or some work on that. I guess I’ll move that one forward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Just before we get into that - Ms. MacDonald.
HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I would be prepared to second that motion. I just want to thank the Clerk for her work. The information we received is excellent but I am very interested in knowing more about the Senate, for example, and their policies which I think probably wasn’t included in the information we received, and Quebec and other jurisdictions.
It seems to me there probably is a considerable body of information that would need to be sorted through and read and discussed. I think the obvious way to go is to have a small working group that would be tasked with the job of doing that, and then bringing back a proposal or recommendations to the various caucuses and the committee. We probably could develop a good policy for our own Legislature through that process.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. Mr. Samson.
HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I guess in the spirit of having this move along as quickly as possible, I am going to nominate Iain Rankin, the chairman of the government caucus, to be the government representative on this working group.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So Mr. d’Entremont has a motion on the floor - and correct me on the wording here, Mr. d’Entremont - to strike an all-Party committee made up of one representative from each Party, along with administrative staff support, who I will suggest will be Assistant Clerk Boucher.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Sure - can I make an adjustment to this one? I move that an all-Party subcommittee be struck to draft a sexual harassment policy and an MLA Code of Conduct policy to be presented at the next meeting of the Committee on Assembly Matters. (Interruption) Well how much time do we need? We meet once every six years so really - then we can talk about another meeting later on because ultimately you’re going to have to develop the work, do the research and then present it back to this group. So that’s what I am saying here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It’s somewhere in between.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: I have no problem in adjusting that.
MR. SAMSON: I think the suggestion is that the subcommittee would look at all the research that has been provided by Assistant Clerk Boucher and any other information that is suggested and then they would report back to the committee to seek direction on a final course of action, which would be approved at that point.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: I don’t see it necessarily too much of a difference that we could go and do the research and come up with a draft policy and then present it here for some final approvals or send it back to do a little more work. I mean if they are going to be together doing the work, why don’t we ask that subcommittee to actually start producing the policy? The research has been done, just to sit around and go over the research again is not going to get us any further down the road so why don’t we actually come up with some kind of policy? I’m just trying to save a few steps here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I certainly think it’s a fair comment that a lot of the research has been done, and that we would ask the committee to come back with at least a first draft for discussion and possible approval. It stands to reason that the committee would let this committee know if they run into any roadblocks that they need an inordinate amount of time to bring some clarity to whatever it is they stumble across. Ms. MacDonald
MS. MACDONALD: I think essentially we’re thinking about an all-Party working subcommittee that would look at the research and would make some recommendations to this committee on a go-forward basis which could include a draft policy of what that would look like. They don’t have the power to make the decisions, but they do have the power to do some of the preliminary work and present some recommendations or options.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure. So we have a nominee from the government caucus. Is there a nominee from the Opposition caucus for a committee member?
MS. MACDONALD: We have a caucus meeting on Wednesday and I will forward the name of the participant at that time. It may not be either one of us, it may be another member of our caucus.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think it should be a member of this standing committee, so it’s either yourself or Mr. Wilson. Do you want to have a caucus meeting now?
MS. MACDONALD: Is it a requirement that it has to be?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, I’m advised that it does not have to be. If you could let us know by the end of the week.
MS. MACDONALD: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is that fair?
MS. MACDONALD: Yes, that’s fair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: A nominee from the Opposition caucus will do the same. Mr. d’Entremont, do you want to re-read the motion?
MR. D’ENTREMONT: I’ll read this again. I move that an all-Party subcommittee be struck to research and draft a sexual harassment policy, an MLA Code of Conduct policy, to be presented to the Committee on Assembly Matters.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Seconded by Ms. MacDonald. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Just for purposes of clarification the final decision on the committee’s recommendation will have to come to the floor of the House for ratification. Ms. Metledge-Diab.
HON. LENA DIAB: Is it my understanding that you’re trying to draft two policies or one policy that would incorporate both? I couldn’t figure out from your . . .
MR. D’ENTREMONT: It’s two policies.
MS. DIAB: Okay, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We’ll move on to the second item on the agenda which is timing of bill briefings. Mr. d’Entremont.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: This is something that has been happening and I think as much as I want to blame other caucuses, I’m going to paint all of us in this one. There is no clear rule around when bill briefings need to happen or really whether a bill briefing should happen prior to the introduction of that bill in the House of Assembly. What we’re finding is that they’re happening haphazardly, they’re happening sometimes at the same time, and being small caucuses it’s always hard to get everybody out in the hundred different directions when the House is sitting.
I want to have the discussion here if there’s a better way to manage this, that there should be a 24-hour rule. Of course we will keep it to ourselves until that introduction actually happens, but to have the technical briefings 24 hours in advance so that two things can happen: that the departments know that they have to get themselves ready because some of the excuses that we’ve heard is well, the department didn’t know and then all of a sudden the minister gets a bill on their desk that day, so these things aren’t being handled in a truly processed way. It gives the Opposition, of course, an opportunity to listen to the information and do their own research and be able to either accept or not accept the bills that are being presented in the House of Assembly. I think it just makes us all look that much more professional when we’re all prepared when that bill comes before the House of Assembly.
A lot of times in the last session, there were no technical briefings. As a matter of fact, they happened after the introduction in the House of Assembly. So I’m just wondering if there is something that we could do or draft or come to an agreement that briefings need to be done in advance and I would suggest a 24-hour period prior.
The day before, the departments should be ready with the documents. I don’t know what Gordon thinks about this, but I think it would be good for his office to know too when things are being booked so that everybody is not spread too thin. That’s just the reason I’m bringing this forward here.
Whether there is a rule we could put forward on this one or whether I should do a motion on this one, I’ll leave that up to the discussion, I guess.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any further discussion? Mr. Samson.
MR. SAMSON: As you are aware, there are no rules in our Legislature dealing specifically with bill briefings. It has been an effort that has been underway for the last number of years. There has been no set rule around them and that’s basically because with the nature of our Legislature, it’s difficult to predict how quickly or not quickly bills are going to proceed through the House. While there are attempts to establish a bit of a schedule, unfortunately democracy doesn’t come with exact nature of what debate each bill will attract. So there is a need sometimes to move up pieces of legislation than the one was initially intended.
It has always been the intent to try to have advance notice and briefings provided to the Opposition, and that will certainly continue. But there will be occasions where because of how bills are proceeding through the House, there will be days where more than one bill will be introduced per day, which will require multiple briefings to take place. Again, we will certainly do what is possible to accommodate, but establishing a fixed rule is impractical and would not work under our legislative system.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there any further comments? Mr. d’Entremont.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Well then I’ll suggest this one and I’ll leave it on the agenda for next time so when we have the meeting we’ll see how you did and we’ll rate it that way. It’s just trying to get the common courtesy of going on bill briefings. Thank you to the Government House Leader - we’re having House Leader meetings hopefully on Mondays and trying to plot out the week just a little bit so that we all know what’s trying to transpire in the House of Assembly.
I think the same thing should go for bill briefings, so we know what bills are coming up and we can just make sure that our experts or our researchers are ready to give us the best information about the bills as well. Again, it just makes us all look that much better - makes it look more professional, and especially when it comes to small caucuses. It’s hard to keep your fingers on that. So I’ll keep the motion to myself, but I’ll probably ask for it to be back on the agenda next time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If there is no further comment on that item, we’ll move on to Item No. 3, Rules and Procedures That Govern Standing Committees. I believe again that’s Mr. d’Entremont.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: I’m busy writing letters to you, Mr. Speaker, on this one. I’ve been a member for 12 years and I know there have been a few members in this House who have been around for a long time and I’ve never seen committees work so haphazardly as we’ve seen in the last number of months, specifically when it came to agenda-setting where there seems to be some new decisions made by the government members on how they are going to proceed.
I think it has always been a tradition of this House and a tradition of those committees that there was a reasonable go-around of topics - whether it be in Economic Development or Community Services or even HR - that would be taken from the government. Of course they are the majority so they get a couple more than the Official Opposition and the Third Party, but it was a sharing of those topics.
At the last number of meetings we’ve had sort of - I would call them topic dumps, where it seems like we’re addressing 16 different topics for the next 16 meetings with no real appreciation to that rotation, so as to be trusting the Chairs that they would call the Opposition business when there are 16 or 17 items on that list. So really it’s to try to come back to the tradition of the House and to respect, I would say, the responsibilities of Opposition members and all members of this House to be able to get a topic on the list and have it debated in due course.
I do have a motion on this one, too, but in light of a letter that we did receive from the minister, I think there has been some discussion around this so maybe we’ll go around the table here just a little bit.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Any further comment? Ms. MacDonald.
MS. MACDONALD: I’m not sure exactly, Mr. Chairman, how you intend to proceed with respect to the letter we received about 15 or 20 minutes ago from the Government House Leader with respect to this topic, maybe you could give us some clarity. Is there a motion that is accompanying this letter that would put into effect what the government caucus has decided, how committees will function, what the roles will be, or is there going to be an opportunity for the Official Opposition who have a motion for how committees will function or other ideas about how we can make the standing committees effective and relevant.
I want to say in kind of the spirit of making things work, that we all look bad when committees deteriorate into bickering about how they’ll function and what the topics should be and all that kind of stuff. I think we have an opportunity to make our committees relevant and function properly. I hope we can do that without getting into some kind of verbal brawl over whether government will dictate how the committees operate or whether we can genuinely maybe use this as an opportunity to reform how our committees function.
I’ve thought about this a fair amount. I sit on two committees - Public Accounts and the Human Resources Committees and recently substituted at Economic Development - and was genuinely disheartened, I guess, afterwards in the way everything kind of broke down. I think we have an opportunity here to do something different and maybe even think outside the box a little bit. For example, maybe this is an opportunity for us to have some true public participation in the choosing of the topics that go in front of committees.
Rather than the Parties kind of fighting over what the topic would be, wouldn’t it be interesting to do a bit of an experiment to see whether we could have the Committees Office post on their website some opportunities for topics and let the public vote on a monthly basis and choose the topic that generates the most interest from the public. Then we would eliminate this idea that it’s the three Parties fighting over what topics are brought forward.
I think the public should have more opportunity. We’re in a new age now where the technology actually would allow this to happen on a fairly easy basis. I see this as an opportunity to move away from the old models and the old ways of doing things, to a much more participatory model. It might make our work more relevant and it might make younger people pay greater attention and the public generally to pay more attention.
I want to throw that out there as an idea for discussion and a way forward, rather than just have some sort of an edict come out of the government caucus, that this the way we’re going to do it and it’s forever and it doesn’t allow really for greater public input. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for the comments. Mr. Samson.
MR. SAMSON: In reflecting on today’s meeting I was going to say that other than myself and Ms. MacDonald, we’ve been in Opposition more than anyone else. She spent four years in government, I think I actually beat her out for being in Opposition for the longest period of time for any sitting member, which I’m not sure really is a title that one would go out and mention too often.
This has been a long-standing issue, being in Opposition and having topics that you want brought forward and dealing with majority governments - this is not new. This is something that has been going on since I was first elected and it’s a question of how can we best address that situation.
We have made a commitment and remain committed to reforming the committee structure, especially around the fact that we have major government departments that do not fall under any of our existing committees. We would like to see a structure in which all departments and agencies are clearly identified as to which committees they would fall under so there is no more debate at Human Resources as to whether Education goes there or goes elsewhere. I think it’s important that we have that so those discussions are going to continue and certainly any suggestions that Ms. MacDonald has or anyone else has, we can take that all into consideration.
In the meantime, in trying to address some of the concerns that have been raised and in wanting to find a path forward, we have decided as a caucus for the committees we are responsible for chairing, which is all standing committees other than Public Accounts, which is chaired by a member of the Official Opposition. I have provided a letter to the Leaders of both Opposition Parties indicating what process the chairs of the committees we are responsible for will now follow which we believe is one that is going to address some of the concerns that have been raised that will establish a rotation - where possible, I should add, because having chaired committees in the past, getting witnesses on their schedule is often the biggest challenge the Committees Office faces, not only topics, but it’s finding people and finding time in their schedules to meet with that.
If you would like, Mr. Chairman, for the purpose of recording this, I would be pleased to read the letter that was sent out today to the two Opposition Leaders setting out what our intentions are regarding the committees for which we chair in the Legislature.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure, proceed if you wish.
MR. SAMSON: The letter is dated September 28, 2015. It’s addressed to the Honourable Jamie Baillie, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, and the Honourable Maureen MacDonald, Leader of the New Democratic Party, and it says:
Dear Party Leaders:
I am writing to inform you that the Liberal caucus has met to discuss how Standing Committees of the Legislature set their respective agendas.
Liberal caucus members chair the following Standing Committees:
After our caucus discussion, we have decided that Liberal committee chairs will change the way they set their respective committees’ agendas. We will follow the new agenda-setting format for the above committees only.
Going forward, we will respect the current process for agenda setting, with one change. We will use the following format to ensure opposition parties have items on the agendas of each of the above committees:
Government Caucus will get three regular or emergency topics per six-meeting rotation.
The Official Opposition will get two regular or emergency topics per six-meeting rotation.
The third-place party will get one regular or emergency topic per six-meeting rotation.
One [sic] the list of six topics is exhausted, the chairs will hold another agenda-setting meeting that will follow the above rotation.
The above Standing Committee [sic] will rotate through topics using the following order:
All other rules for committees will stay in place.
The Liberal Caucus believes this process and format ensures equity and consistency.
Yours very truly,
Hon. Michel P. Samson
Government House Leader
Again, Mr. Chairman, we see this as an interim measure until we have a more global discussion around committee structure and how committees should function, but we do hope this will be seen as a sign of trying to address the concerns that have been raised and if there are specific questions around what is bring proposed here, I would be happy to address them.
I don’t believe it actually requires a motion of this committee since we have instructed the chairmen to follow this format, it will be left to the Official Opposition as to whether they wish to follow a similar format in the Public Accounts Committee or not. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Mr. d’Entremont.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Well thank you very much. I’m not going to speak for the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee but I know that’s pretty much the structure I think they already follow in most cases, so I will have a conversation with him as well.
I also look at this as being sort of a good step forward and I want to thank the honourable member for bringing it forward. I also think that of course this is the place where we have the discussion just like Ms. MacDonald talked about looking at other ways of setting agendas to truly look at the way we treat the standing committees. There has to be a clearing house for rule changes, whether it’s the House of Assembly or of course in those committees. I think this is where the discussion needs to happen and I’d appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this.
What I think is that we should just maybe solidify it a little more and run a motion that just says that any changes to the way committees choose topics or any rules to be discussed are voted on at the Standing Committee on Assembly Matters before taking effect. So of course we have them here, we have a little vote, we have a discussion about them and move forward so everybody has the same book.
Right now, as we appreciate the Liberal caucus for setting these guidelines, it would be nice to be able to actually have a motion that says that all things need to be run through this committee in order to I guess create a clearing house for these discussions and this idea exchange, so I will run that motion again.
I move that any changes to the way committees choose topics or any other rules be discussed and voted on at the Standing Committee on Assembly Matters before taking effect.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am advised by legal counsel that this committee doesn’t have the authority to change the rules of committee operations; that has to come to the floor of the House. This committee can make a recommendation but final approval comes to the floor of the House. Mr. Samson.
MR. SAMSON: Mr. Chairman, it would be our intention that once we’ve had the opportunity to have a discussion around the reorganization of the committees, that it would come back to this committee for discussion and then from there we’d be prepared for actual rule changes within the House of Assembly, once the House would sit again.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacDonald.
MS. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, I’m wondering if the Government House Leader will commit to a time frame for discussing this larger question of the structure of committees. When can we look forward to that work beginning and with a view to how long it would take as well?
MR. SAMSON: It would be our intention to have a proposal put together within the next few weeks. Again it would be my hope to see these changes brought about when the House sits again, during the Fall session. At the same time I want to again extend an invitation to both Opposition caucuses that any suggestions you have not only around our standing committees but also regarding the Rules of the Legislature - which are something that we will more than likely be looking at as well as part of this - by all means please forward them to us.
It would be our hope to be able to present you with some proposals, have a discussion, even possibly meet with the caucuses and then call a meeting of the Committee on Assembly Matters to have those presented and then, depending on the outcome, instruct Legislative Counsel to prepare the necessary changes to be brought to the Legislature once it sits.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. d’Entremont.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: I can appreciate that, but when we’re designing rules and changes, whether to committee structures or other, I think it’s always good to have Legislative Counsel along for the ride because they can think of things that we might be missing and vice versa. That’s why I think the motion is important here, and I can make the adjustment that says “voted on in Standing Committee on Assembly Matters before going to the House of Assembly for ratification” or something like that.
I would let the wordsmiths do a better job than I am on it, but just to make sure that it’s not the Liberal caucus making a decision, that it’s not the PC caucus making a decision nor the NDP - it’s at this committee that the final decision gets done before going to the next step, which is of course moving to the House of Assembly. So I appreciate what everybody is saying here, but I want to hold everybody’s feet to the fire that we work together within this committee.
MR. SAMSON: Is Mr. d’Entremont prepared to commit that any decisions made at Assembly Matters will be reflected in debate once it arrives at the Legislature and will be supported accordingly once it arrives at the Legislature, based on the decisions taken at Assembly Matters?
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Of course I can’t commit to further debate after this meeting, but as long as it comes forward to this meeting and we have a true debate on things, I’ve got no problem in supporting things as they go forward. A lot of times we’ve done this amongst House Leaders and on the back of napkins. I think it should be given more respect than what we’ve been giving up to this point, which is to go to this committee and giving the heads-up to Legislative Counsel and to the Speaker because it does reflect or affect what happens in this House of Assembly.
So it’s just to formalize this procedure. I think it’s an important one and I think it’s great that we’re sitting here talking about these things.
MR. SAMSON: I believe I’ve made it clear on a couple of occasions now that we would be bringing forward these changes to Assembly Matters prior to going to the Legislature; therefore, I see no need for any motion in that regard.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you want to reread your motion, Mr. d’Entremont?
MR. D’ENTREMONT: I move that any changes to the way committees choose topics or any other rules be discussed and voted on at the Standing Committee on Assembly Matters before going to the House of Assembly for ratification.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do we have a seconder? We don’t need a seconder?
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is defeated.
Is there any further discussion? Mr. MacLeod.
HON. ALFIE MACLEOD: I just wanted to add to the conversation that I think it’s important whoever is sitting down and having these discussions about committee makeup and Rules of the House and everything that they remember that this House belongs to the people of Nova Scotia - not to any specific political Party and certainly not to just the government. It is a House that is here to represent all the people of Nova Scotia. That’s why it’s separate and different from the Executive Council of the Province of Nova Scotia. That’s why, sir, you sit in the chair you do.
So when people are looking at how they’re putting together what we are talking about, how committees operate, it’s not just for the benefit of the government, but it’s for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia who we are all asked to come here and represent.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any further comment? Barring further comment, we’ll move on to the last item on the agenda, which is residency in relation to provincial appointments to agencies, boards and commissions. Ms. MacDonald.
MS. MACDONALD: I think that we’ve seen now a couple of our ABCs have people who are not residents of the province - not eligible to vote in elections in Nova Scotia, for example. So we had done a little bit - I think the Clerk had done a bit of preliminary research with respect to other jurisdictions and some of that information had been provided, but I don’t know how conclusive it was. So some jurisdictions do have requirements, some don’t, and some we still really don’t know. I’m interested in an update on the information so that we can have a fuller discussion of this matter.
MS. BOUCHER: The Legislative Library did conduct some research on residency requirements for members appointed to agencies, boards and commissions across Canada. What I can report, after going through that research, is that for five jurisdictions - New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut - residency is not a mandatory requirement. However, some of these jurisdictions have policies clearly stating that residency should be considered and the argument that is put forward in those policies is that current residents are often better informed on local and regional issues.
However, in those policies there is also indication that if a particular qualification or expertise is not available in the province that there should be some flexibility to allow the appointment of a person from outside the province. That is why there are policy directions in those jurisdictions but not mandatory requirements.
There are five jurisdictions that don’t have any residency requirements or policies directing any considerations whatsoever and these are Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon, although B.C. does have a footnote that there should be some geographical diversity to be considered when appointments are merit based.
The exception to all of this is that Quebec has, for four of their boards, mandatory residency requirements and those are set out in the legislative provisions creating each of those four boards. So in the legislation itself, there are sections that deal with whether all
members should be from a certain geographical area, or a certain percentage of them should be - or from even a specific area within Quebec.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Chief Clerk Ferguson.
MR. NEIL FERGUSON: I just want to add, I believe to the five that don’t have any policy right now, we should probably add ourselves, since we don’t, so there would be six in that category.
MS. MACDONALD: Do we know what the parameters are for the Government of Canada - the Parliament?
MS. BOUCHER: No, we don’t have that information. The information that was collected from the library, they were asked to look at provincial jurisdictions. We did not ask them about Ottawa. However, I would venture to guess that because the federal Parliament represents all areas of the country, that probably they don’t limit the membership to one specific area. It would be perhaps from all across the country, but I can look into that further if that is the wish of the committee.
MS. MACDONALD: Yes, I would request that we look at if there is a requirement with respect to residency and also citizenship - being a permanent resident, being a citizen and being eligible to vote in a jurisdiction, those kinds of questions that are kind of markers or definers of whether someone is a citizen of a particular jurisdiction or not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We can certainly look into that and bring that information back.
MS. MACDONALD: Perhaps after we have that information, we can have a fuller discussion about our own requirements for appointments to agencies, boards and commissions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any further discussion on that point? Barring further discussion, that completes all of our agenda items. Mr. d’Entremont.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: It should be on here too the date of the next meeting, but I’m just wondering what the commitment is going to be on having regular meetings of Assembly Matters. Is it going to be a couple of times a year, four times a year? What are we going to aim for and when might the next meeting happen?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, we’re already on track to set a record here because we have committed to meet again to address the first item of business - the harassment and Code of Conduct policy. Is there any discussion on a desired timeline?
The next meeting will be at the call of the Speaker. (Interruptions) Well I think based on the work of the subcommittee on the Code of Conduct policy, my benchmark
expectation is that we would be back before Christmas to look at the results of that - that’s only an expectation.
So hearing no other business, a call for a motion to adjourn. Moved by Ms. MacDonald.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 2:51 p.m.]