Mr. James DeWolfe
MR. CHAIRMAN: Let's get started, please. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you back to our committee. I notice we have a few sit-ins/stand-ins, whatever the expression is, this morning. The official replacements are Mr. Hendsbee is here for Mr. Barnet, and we're not aware of my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, his arrival time.
First of all you have the agenda in front of you. I guess the key thing you will notice is that we begin our regular schedule on October 2nd with Occupational Health and Safety appearing in front of us. However, we have, if we could look at it this way - the school teacher in me wants to say some homework to cover - you had received some surveys, and I guess basically the key thing is that Mora does need some assistance, not that she needs the assistance, but she needs our advice in terms of some particular subjective responses to the survey. Coming out of that will be the result of the survey for the professor from - I forget which university.
MS. MORA STEVENS (Public Accounts Committee Coordinator): Mr. Malloy from Carleton.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Carleton, right. Then we have a piece of correspondence which we have to deal with. Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Can I go back to one of your comments about our next agenda item, it just popped into my mind. Did we not have Occupational Health and Safety last year?
MS. STEVENS: No, we had approved it, but we had the public safety part of it with the fire marshal, and this is the second half of the audit with the occupational health and safety aspect.
MR. DEWOLFE: What group would we be having in for it?
MS. STEVENS: The Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Environment and Labour, Jim LeBlanc and other senior staff. I'm not sure who else is coming besides Jim. I do believe Ron L'Esperance will be there, but that hasn't been confirmed yet.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Stewart Sampson is with the Public Safety Division, so I think we've covered that through the Fire Marshal's Office.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Of course next Wednesday, if I may editorialize, it's going to be a busy day for us, it's the Order of Nova Scotia investitures on that day, correct? Not that we should have a problem sticking to our schedule. I assume you have that pencilled in, and if possible I would encourage you to attend that event. It's at the Lord Nelson, I believe.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: I just wanted to go back to OH&S. If Ron L'Esperance is coming, are we going to be able to contact Ron before he gets here and have a tight script of how much time he's going to talk because it will be the whole presentation. You're going to get three questions in and that will be it for Ron.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I want you to know that Mr. L'Esperance . . .
MR. DOWNE: I think the world of him. I have known him for many years. I hold him in the highest esteem, but I can tell you one thing . . .
MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: We will send him this transcript.
MR. DOWNE: He's better than anybody I've met in a long time and I say that as a compliment. I hope that it doesn't get to the point where it just goes on and on in response to an issue.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe, I thank you for your advice. The only thing I can tell you is that I had Mr. L'Esperance's two older sons as students, so if they're anything like Dad I know my hands will be full that day. I will take your advice and we will keep him on time. As Mr. Hendsbee suggested - I don't know if the record picked it up or not - maybe we will send him a transcript of what we just spoke about. (Laughter)
Can we get to the agenda then, as it's laid out here. First of all, as I think most of the regular members are aware, I was unable to attend the St. John's conference. My older daughter was home for two glorious weeks, from Nunavut, the first time I had seen her since last October. You know you're getting old when they don't come home for Christmas, but anyway. Perhaps those members of the committee who were in attendance could give us a few comments. Mr. DeWolfe, would you like to make a few comments to lead off with. I know Mr. MacKinnon has some comments.
MR. DEWOLFE: First of all, I would like to say that our members were diligent in being there. I think we were there for the most part all the time. Our presence was well represented. Also, on the floor, it was well represented, a lot of good comments came out of it. I believe all the provinces were represented. B.C. was the only one that didn't have a delegate but had a clerk there, I believe.
MR. CHAIRMAN: They didn't have a delegate?
MR. MACKINNON: One delegate.
MR. DEWOLFE: Was there one delegate from B.C.?
MR. RUSSELL: An NDP member.
MR. DEWOLFE: That's why I didn't notice. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe has the floor.
MR. MACKINNON: They seem to be diminishing right across the country, so that would explain the faint presence.
MR. DEWOLFE: I don't know if Mr. MacKinnon wants to make a few comments. I know the clerk had made a lot of notes with regard to it, and I don't know if she wanted to do a summary as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will ask everybody who was in attendance. Mora, of course, is an important part of this committee. Mr. MacKinnon, would you have anything to add, or any other member?
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, no. I concur with my colleague, Mr. DeWolfe's observations. I believe he presented the report very well, on behalf of Nova Scotia. As well, I agree with him that perhaps we were one province that attended every workshop and every meeting from start to finish. It was a very constructive conference.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hendsbee.
MR. HENDSBEE: Just for the purpose of Hansard has it ever been recorded who attended on behalf of our province's committee?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, you could answer that question better than I, I wasn't there.
MS. STEVENS: Officially, it was the vice-chairman, Russell MacKinnon and also Graham Steele on behalf of the chairman who was unable to make it and myself as clerk of the committee.
MR. HENDSBEE: Vice-chairman being Mr. DeWolfe?
MS. STEVENS: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, the only observation I would make outside the committee itself is when we're having our committee attend these conferences to present as a report, I think it would be a good idea that we at least have a better idea of what's going to be in the report. This is no reflection on Mr. DeWolfe, I think he and I have discussed this, in fairness to him. Mora did a very good job in helping to articulate many of the views and activities of the committee for the past year. I think the committee should have a sense of what's being presented at these conferences prior to attending. When we attended the conference I think we essentially sat down and that's when we were provided the report of what had to be read. I think in fairness to all committee members we should have a better sense of that. I'm not sure what your knowledge of that is.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If I may, I could be remiss with that as opposed to Mora and perhaps in future if I continue in this position for whatever number of months this term, I would take that under advisement and understand where you're coming from. Out of courtesy to the committee members who would be there, in my case as the chairman but in Jim's case as the vice-chairman. Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. DEWOLFE: Perhaps, Mr. Chairman, all committee members should review it at the meeting prior to the conference in the future.
MR. MACKINNON: My experience has been that a province that comes in looking cohesive is a very effective provincial voice at that table. It doesn't augur well if you have individual members starting to splinter off in questioning the report on the floor of the convention.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Did that happen if I may ask?
MR. MACKINNON: No, no.
MS. STEVENS: Not for us but some did.
MR. MACKINNON: Some did and it kind of detracts from the effectiveness of our position.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I feel obliged, knowing how much I depend on Mora, I would encourage you to make a few comments at this stage too about the conference, if you wouldn't mind.
MS. STEVENS: Just to go over some of the topics that were mentioned at the conference. We started with a joint session which once it got going it was measuring a government's bottom line but one of the very interesting things that came out of it was a discussion about the Auditor General's office budget and how that budget is set. That came back in another session about how each province looks at the budgeting process for the Auditor General. There was a very interesting discussion about how the auditors work with the various committees throughout the country. Then the conference always goes into the business sessions, the round table reports, so each province gets to report what they've done. Unfortunately, we missed the conference last year because of its date, September 15th, so it was a two year summary. The leaps from some of the committees from years back, Nova Scotia was by far and away ahead of the game, with the number of meetings we held both inside and outside the session, as well as the wide range of our topics, not just sticking to the Auditor General's Report or going through the Public Accounts line by line basically, like other committees do. It was very interesting to see the progress of those committees.
Alberta had done something, they had totally redone their Auditor General's Act and how their auditor is appointed. They actually went through the process of appointing their AG, so that was very interesting. Roy apologized he was going to be a few minutes late this morning but it might be very interesting to see what the auditors had to say because, of course, they had a conference simultaneously. So they've gone through a totally different process, mostly out West I found, with appointing new Auditors General because they are usually there for at least 10 years, they take two appointments. Roy is the longest standing Auditor General in the country now, so that's also an interesting fact.
We went through all of the sessions and hopefully, this will be outlined in a Hansard transcript. They weren't sure at the conference if there actually would be a transcript of it. It has all been taped but whether or not they would have it typed, it was certainly my hope and I expressed that, it would be wonderful for research purposes to go back and be able to see what the other committees are doing.
They had a wonderful luncheon speaker on the cost of culture, it was amazing and how Newfoundland, when it was brought into Confederation, what it contributed, what they knew at that point, what they didn't know. It was done with a humorous spin and it was, I think, by far and away one of the best luncheon speeches I've been to in a long time. Most of that day it continued on with our reports.
Australia was represented by the chairman of the Victoria committee, it is always very interesting to see where they are. Then we went on to administrative management sessions. We did a lot on the GOPAC/NAPAC and our committee members were very vocal in that. It's the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption and I don't know if you've heard some of the things that John Williams has been saying across the country on CBC on it but certainly, you might want to question some of our members on the goings-on that happened there. It was a very interesting session, to say the least.
The World Bank was also represented, dealing with the mandate, role and functions at oversight committees. We had someone from the Canadian Auditor General's Office who actually dealt with the roles of the AG's office. Our vice chairman chaired a session for the conference as well, one of the NAPAC sessions. Then it was on to our business session at the end. It is at this point that various delegations can put forward any ideas they had and again, there were ideas on furthering the independence of the Auditor General for some of the provinces. They asked about our relationships with the AG, then there were a few resolutions that were put forward.
I would rather the members comment on the GOPAC/NAPAC discussions because they were extremely interesting. I would pass it back to them on that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. DEWOLFE: I don't know if the other members would be very interested in it to be honest. We were pretty well as a block on that one and Russell spoke on the issue.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon. Good morning, Mr. Auditor General.
MR. MACKINNON: To those who aren't familiar with what the acronym stands for it is an organization to be led by Mr. Williams and other federal MPs. Mr. Williams is a member of the Alliance and is Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for the Parliament of Canada. They felt they would set up this organization of which individual legislative members and parliamentarians could contribute a fee of $25 a year to work toward eliminating any corruption in the elected Public Service. This seems to be a noble gesture but when you look behind the scenes, they already had a pre-approved budget - it was a federal initiative and I believe what they were looking for was the provincial jurisdictions to support them in this effort - from the World Bank of approximately $76,000 to take a trip to the United States and have a collaboration between 20 MPs and Senators in Canada with 20
Senators and House of Representative persons from the United States. Their mission, essentially, was to ferret out any jurisdiction either in North America or across the world, in other words a government that operated in a somewhat questionable or nefarious fashion and then they would be isolated and exposed to the world, how and through what process I'm not sure.
There was considerable concern raised on that because of a lot of the activities down in the States. Presently there is a general feeling, certainly it was a view that I put across, that perhaps as parliamentarians and legislators we should look at ourselves first before we start globe-trotting and getting ourselves into difficulty. I felt that was getting, number one, beyond our mandate. I felt that it should come back to the committee members and to each individual caucus, because once that resolution had passed it would be almost as if the provincial government was endorsing it. I thought that was unfair to the government members as well as to the Opposition members.
Secondly, they were asking for provincial support on that, which again seems pretty noble. Who would be against corruption? Everybody would be. It's like motherhood and apple pie, but on the other hand there was absolutely no opportunity for any chairperson of a Public Accounts Committee or territory in the country to partake in this so-called committee that was funded by the World Bank and so on.
That kind of gives you a little bit of flavour, and there were some other aspects to it. Generally there was very strong opposition to it except with the federal representatives. I believe the federal bureaucrats were more determined to have the resolution passed than even the federal parliamentarians. So, at the end of the day after a good full day's debate, I would think, the resolution was withdrawn from the floor rather than being defeated. I'm not sure if I missed anything. My colleagues or Mora could . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: I think most of their budget, Mr. Chairman, was used for travel. It was a funded clique. That was what I saw.
MR. MACKINNON: Rockefeller and Clinton.
MR. DEWOLFE: You just look at the list of the members, that's right. There was a lot of lobbying going on. Then they tried to ram it through just prior to a luncheon. We were breaking for lunch and they tried to get it through at that time, then the brakes started coming on. It was decided that we would discuss it over the lunch period and deal with it later on. We could see it developing across the floor, because most people, I think, initially didn't really understand the full ramifications of what was being proposed. As Mr. MacKinnon said, there was some interesting debate on it and discussion before the resolution was in fact dead. It was an interesting exercise, but perhaps it should have been brought up at the first of the conference and not at the end, to give everyone something to get their head around.
MR. MACKINNON: The whole theme, if we could dialogue this just a bit to give other members who weren't there a better sense of what happened.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure, go ahead.
MR. MACKINNON: My feeling was that generally the whole theme of the conference was to deal with politicians who weren't honourable and lacked the desire to be accountable. Then to bring this resolution in, it kind of - from the federal level, which by the way they didn't even need provincial support to proceed. In all likelihood they may be in Washington now on that conference that they had a pre-approved budget for. I thought it was a little concerning, the tone. I felt all members of the Legislature here in Nova Scotia should be aware of that. Then, whatever the powers that be decide, either individually or collectively, that's fine.
MR. CHAIRMAN: First of all, a note that the ferry finally did bring our Auditor General here this morning. Thank you, Roy. I understand it's a different schedule now, right?
MR. ROY SALMON: Yes, and my wife has this terrible work schedule. She has to work nights, so I have to wait for her to bring the car home. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: There's another copy of the minutes that's going to the wrong place. (Laughter)
MR. DOWNE: I was wondering how you made out with Reach for the Top yesterday.
MR. SALMON: We won.
MR. DOWNE: Who was on your team? It must have been Bill Hogg, was it?
MR. SALMON: Bill Hogg was on the opposition. I was with Harold Windsor, David Stuewe, Bob MacKay and Vicki Harnish.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Obviously a stacked team. You were impressive.
MR. MACKINNON: The dream team. (Laughter)
MR. SALMON: We won. We beat three others. The big problem in the whole game was for the scorekeepers to keep score, that was difficult.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to get back on task here. (Laughter) We have minutes of these meetings that become public. Anyway, congratulations on your big win.
MR. HENDSBEE: You may want to clarify for the record what Reach for the Top competition this was for anyway.
MR. SALMON: The United Way.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We knew that. I'm getting control of this, Mr. Hurlburt. Any questions of Mr. DeWolfe or Mr. MacKinnon in terms of the St. John's report? That's what we're doing at this stage, Roy, just reviewing where we are. Thank you for bringing those things to our attention. I know, of course, you were there and did your usual best.
Could we move on to the next topic? We have a survey and it has been distributed, and I just want direction from the committee as to how we're going to accumulate the information and get it back to the World Bank Institute. There are a couple of ways to do that. Of course the first parts of it are types of things that Mora can do, because they're quite statistical. I guess we should talk about process first. Do we want to take the time in this meeting now and go through it line by line, or - and I'm aware of the fact, in his absence I should note, that the member for Halifax Fairview has completed the form and submitted it.
MS. STEVENS: He has not submitted it; he has completed it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Now the homework is being done here. Are we going to look bad if we go around the table? How do we want to do this, I guess would be my question? Mr. Downe, give me direction, please.
MR. DOWNE: If we could find consensus on some of the more objective views here, which I would hope we could, it would be interesting to just send it in en bloc.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's what we're aiming for.
MR. DOWNE: In that way we're not, as Russell had said earlier, looking foolish, coming across this as debating each other on a policy position or on a statement of fact. As you said before, you want to have a united voice at the conference. It would be great if we had some sort of united voice going forward with this issue here. I think it would be a lot more practical to do it that way.
MR. HENDSBEE: Mr. Chairman, while I was reviewing the survey and stuff, I'm not a regular member of this committee but I just felt that perhaps, I don't know how to get a consensus on some of the questions, perhaps you may want to ask for one copy to be submitted from each of the caucuses and then that would be tabulated by staff and then averaged, perhaps, as a consensus, or do you want to go line by line, question by question. Some of the questions are straightforward and some of the questions are subjective. The question is, how do you have a consensus on that? Do you have one from each of the
Opposition caucuses and two from the government side for balance, because that is how the committee is structured, and then average all four out and get one average answer?
MR. DEWOLFE: I agree with Mr. Downe, that we should do it en bloc. It's 8:30 a.m. now. How long would it take to go through it and get it off the plate today? I know there might be some contentious issues here. Why don't we see where we can go with it? Do you have any other business to deal with at this meeting?
MR. CHAIRMAN: From my impressions, the survey from the Carleton prof, that would flow out of this. Are we going to go, as suggested by Mr. DeWolfe, and take the remaining time of the meeting to do this here as a group?
MR. DOWNE: I would concur. I think there are some no-brainers here that we don't even need to spend time on.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So agreed, that's what we're going to do this morning.
MR. KERRY MORASH: Could I suggest for the ones that don't have concurrence around the table, some of the ones that people aren't agreeing, perhaps a representative from each caucus, if need be, get together to see if there's some common ground at a later date, and if not put in the points of view from all three caucuses.
MR. DOWNE: That would make sense.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's a good suggestion and I take it we will agree to that? Agreed. Perhaps we could though, if you wouldn't mind, can we get to item IV, the letter from the Economic Management Training Program - not out of the way, but let's deal with it - before we get into the nuts and bolts of this. Do we have a copy of this letter on hand? Mora, I'm okay with it but I'm just suggesting that you (Interruption) yes, we're talking about the . . .
MR. HENDSBEE: Mr. Chairman, on the proposed draft of the schedule that they have I notice they have on week one of their visit, on October 4th, the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly, Finance Committee, I would have thought that perhaps they may want to witness a committee session in hand on October 2nd instead. That's when you are presently meeting so I don't know if the Finance Committee is going to be meeting again on October 4th but I know that you do have a session on October 2nd. They are scheduled to be with the HRM Finance Department on that particular day so I thought they may want to witness for a couple of hours that morning, the committee in action.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for the suggestion. What is your view on Mr. Hendsbee's suggestion about the fact that in week one we would ask them to revise their schedule? Comments.
MR. MACKINNON: Ask who to revise their schedule?
MR. HENDSBEE: This is just a draft schedule but we should probably advise them that the committee is meeting on October 2nd and it would probably be advantageous for them to witness the committee.
MS. STEVENS: I was contacted by Catherine Lyle, she's the coordinator and she did fax this over to me on September 16th and I forwarded it over to you. I mentioned the fact that our committee has started meeting and I wasn't sure what the committee would like to do. She said the schedule certainly is changeable, that it was just a draft schedule for the people who are here. I know before, when the House has been in session they have sat in on various proceedings of the House.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: I would concur with Mr. Hendsbee that we should just simply write them to offer the opportunity to come and view the proceedings of our committee in session. If it is suitable to them and their schedule great and if not we understand but at least give them the opportunity to make that choice.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do we have an agreement on Mr. Hendsbee's suggestion? Agreed. We're agreeing with David Hendsbee, let the record show that.
MR. HENDSBEE: There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
MR. SALMON: There is precedent for this. Several years ago we had representatives from Estonia and Latvia, one who was a Deputy Auditor General, he happened to be a lawyer, not an accountant, and he was brother of the President of the country at the time. They did sit in on activities within my office, as well as view the Public Accounts Committee in operation, as well as sit in the gallery during a session of the Legislature. So there is precedent and I would encourage you to extend them the courtesy.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will take your advice on that and Mora is prepared to be in contact with them.
MR. HENDSBEE: Mr. Chairman, also that day being a special day for the Order of Nova Scotia inductions, once we are finished our committee meeting that day and running off to the other facility to witness that event, would the committee at that time be planning to perhaps have further dialogue with staff members with regard to that, or will staff be available? I'm not sure if they will be present at the Order of Nova Scotia ceremony or would the Auditor General or staff here be available to answer any questions the delegation may have?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand it will be a busy day for all of us so I know where you are coming from.
MR. DOWNE: One suggestion would be to simply provide them a briefing document prior to our session, outlining what we do, how long we've been doing it, very similar to what you actually presented to the committee not that long ago, so they have a background in understanding what we're really all about. I'm sure they already know that but give them a briefing document. At the end if they wish to - and you could find that in the correspondence - discuss later any particular aspect of that, we can provide staff to make that possible. If the chairman is able to be there he will and I think that would be the simplest way of dealing with that.
MR. HENDSBEE: And would it be helpful perhaps to supply them with a copy of our answers to the survey we are filling out here because a lot of these questions here will probably be helpful to them with regard to their structure. So if they are looking at what the World Bank Institute is asking for, perhaps they may have similar questions in their own country and perhaps information we provide for this survey could be very helpful to them anyway.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, if we have it done in time. So if I may wrap this up to move on to the task at hand, Mora is going to be in contact and follow up with the suggestion that we agreed to, as proposed by Mr. Hendsbee.
Responding to Mr. Morash's advice here, the contentious ones that we are going to deal with in the next hour or however long it takes us to do this, your suggestion was, Kerry, that when we come to an issue that's going to not just be - excuse the expression - a no-brainer, we will say that will be something each caucus will make a submission on? For example if I may, Nos. 1 to 6 on this first survey are very much, from my understanding, statistical things that at a heartbeat can be taken care of by Ms. Stevens but then we come to No. 7. which said - and hopefully I'm not going to be reading these through - "Did the Committee achieve any of the following types of results or successes in the past 5 years . . . Government responds favourably to Committee recommendations . . ." Want anything contentious to start with, Kerry?
MR. MORASH: That's what my personal opinion is, I don't believe we are going to actually get through and finish this document today unless we bring in supper. Some of these things I'm not sure the best way to handle them, it is just that I don't believe we are going to come up with a solution for that quickly this morning.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Absolutely. That's why I used No. 7 as an example.
MR. DOWNE: What I understood Kerry as saying was when we get to those particular areas that we would appoint a representative from the three respective caucuses to sit down and try to debate it. Certainly people who have had some history in the committee will know that we have had some favourable responses from government and we have not had some favourable responses from government, it depends on what the issue is.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But, Don, if I may interrupt, you notice what the survey says - frequently, seldom, never.
MR. DOWNE: Right, so I'm just saying that when we run into that issue, I think if we appointed three individuals, for example, I think Russell would be a good one because he's been here forever and . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Notice for the record we are referring to Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. DOWNE: Yes. I think that would be a good suggestion, to at least try to do it that way because if you bring all these back to caucuses, I can tell you, you may as well kiss it goodbye because you will never get anywhere.
MR. MORASH: That is actually what I suggested. The other side of the coin is even with the size of this group, it is less likely we will get consensus on some of these issues than if there were three people who have some experience and are talking about these. Certainly Mr. DeWolfe can speak on my behalf, I have no problem at all with that.
MR. HENDSBEE: So moved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That wasn't a motion.
MR. MORASH: I'm sure Mr. MacKinnon, Mr. DeWolfe and the chairman will do a wonderful job.
MR. DOWNE: I think those three would be perfect.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But we are going to proceed to go through parts of this survey that we can do out of hand within the next time line.
I am at No. 7 and I would assume the way we would handle this is - sorry, Mr. Carey.
MR. JON CAREY: Maybe I'm out of sync here but we're talking about no-brainers as the ones that we're going to be able to handle and three are going to do the contentious ones?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MR. CAREY: Why don't we let them do the survey?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: Let me maybe go further in this discussion. We would try to do some of those here today. Where we run into gridlock (Interruptions) Where we can't go further, let them sit down and try to see what they can come up with. That would then come back to the committee for us to take a look at it, and hopefully we can find an agreement to the approach that they've taken. So there are some checks and balances in that process, not simply a matter of those three individuals, as highly qualified and capable and competent as they are, being left to do this on their own. (Interruptions) Does that make sense? Is that a reasonable option?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Absolutely, in my opinion.
MR. DOWNE: So let's try.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We're going to give her a go here. No. 7. Consensus, correct? If I may put it that way. No. 7 will go to the consensus committee.
Page 2 - what do you think of that, Kerry? We're jumping ahead here, are we not, Mr. Morash? We're on No. 8, Page 2. Can I have the direction of the committee on No. 8. It's broken down into a number of categories. It's a rating from 1- 4, as you notice, with 1 being very important and 4 not applicable. Certainly we can go through this, can we not? I don't think that has to go to committee. Okay?
"The Composition of the Committee. 8.1 Balanced representation of all major political parties on the committee". I need some response here. This reminds me of teaching Grade 8.
MR. HENDSBEE: Number 1.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morash, I see you looking at me.
MR. MORASH: No. I'm just looking. We have a number one on the floor. Going once.
MR. HENDSBEE: I think it's important to have balanced representation. We do have that now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm going to look at you, Jim, quite often with this.(Laughter) In fact if I had my way, Mr. DeWolfe, I would have you change seats with Mr. Hendsbee because he's not even a regular member and he's editorializing.
MR. DOWNE: Just for the record here, is that what I heard, it's balanced if you are in power? I think the question really is broader than that. It didn't say, fair balanced representation, it just says does it have a balanced representation. (Interruptions)
MR. DEWOLFE: It's balanced . . .
MR. DOWNE: Somewhat.
MR. DEWOLFE: It's somewhat balanced given the numbers in the House.
MR. DOWNE: The question is, is it important?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Very important, somewhat important, not important.
MR. DOWNE: I think it's very important to have that balanced representation.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, I'm going for very important.
MR. CAREY: Very important, once, twice, sold.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MR. DOWNE: It's very important to have a balanced representation of all political Parties, in other words you can't have a committee without - Mora, correct me if I'm wrong, the question is it meant to be, other than is it important to have all political Parties to just to have a couple?
MR. CAREY: It's important to have all representation.
MR. DOWNE: But is that the question?
MS. STEVENS: I think it is the question because the World Bank, from what I understand, is looking for best practices in this survey because what they would like to do is
be able to take this throughout the world and get opinions from various provinces and countries.
MR. DEWOLFE: Look at P.E.I., they have one Opposition member there. How could you have a balance on a committee? It has to be a balance of the numbers of people who are in the House, I think, given the number of people of each Party.
MR. DOWNE: The question isn't, are we balanced as a committee in regard to two, two and two. The question is, is it important to have balanced representation by the elected bodies. For example, there are countries that maybe have seven different Parties elected. So, would it be important to have a representative from all seven Parties, whether you have five from the government, three from such-and-such, two from such-and-such, and one, one, one, one? That's not the question. The question is, should they have all Parties represented at the committee. That's how I interpret that question, and the answer to that is yes. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: The question is if it's very important. It's not a yes/no. It's a rating scale.
MR. DEWOLFE: We have consensus on very important.
MR. DOWNE: But am I reading that question correctly?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: You are.
MR. CHAIRMAN: "8.2 Membership should exclude ministers of the Government."
MR. DOWNE: Very important.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Agreed. Very important.
MR. SALMON: We made that point years ago.
MR. CHAIRMAN: "Committee Powers. 8.3 Clear focus on holding the government accountable for its spending of taxpayers' money and its stewardship over public assets." (Interruptions) Number 1.
"8.4 Clear focus on administration of policy, and not on whether policies are good or bad."
MR. HENDSBEE: Number 1. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Salmon, you were going to add something on this topic.
MR. SALMON: I just wanted to comment that when they say policy here they mean program policy as opposed to administrative policy. I strongly believe this committee has a right and an obligation to comment on issues of administrative policy. By that I mean procurement policy, financial policies but not health policies or education policies.
MR. DOWNE: Not political Party policies as much as the administration of the delivery of a policy that's there.
MR. SALMON: Exactly.
MR. DOWNE: I would say that's very important.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have a consensus on number 1.
We are at Page 3. "8.5 Having a permanent reference to examine the Public Accounts."
We have number 1. Just interrupt me. I'm at "8.6 Having a permanent reference to examine all records . . .
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Reports.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sorry, yes. ". . . reports of the Legislative Auditor."
MR. SALMON: I hope not my records.
MR. DOWNE: Somebody already has those in the computer. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have one housebreak and you never live it down. I have number 1 for that.
"8.7 Power to call independent witnesses". That is very important.
"8.8 Power to investigate or review all past, current and committed expenditures of government, organizations receiving funds from the government and all state or crown corporations." That is number 1.
I hope you don't find this pedantic of me to do it this way. "8.9 Power to request (but not compel) the legislative auditor to perform specific reviews or tasks."
SOME HON. MEMBERS: One.
MR. DOWNE: I think we should be able to compel him to do it. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have number 1. "8.10 Power to compel officials to attend and be held accountable for administrative performance, even after they have left office."
MR. DEWOLFE: We do have the power to do that and we have done it and we will do it. I'm thinking of the Strait School Board, for instance.
MR. DOWNE: Yes, and I think we've done that in the past in other previous administrations as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, are you all right with that, Don?
MR. DOWNE: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have a number 1 for very important. "8.11 Power to compel witnesses to answer questions."
MR. HENDSBEE: Number 2.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I hear this voice over here, the acting, sitting-in member. To compel to answer questions.
MR. HENDSBEE: The first thing I think of is the casino situation.
MR. DOWNE: The first thing I think about is, depending on the circumstances with their legal counsel, they might be in a position where they might perjure themselves or put themselves in the position, even though inside that facility, it could destroy a legal case, for example.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If I may, this was one of the issues where we have an opening statement which we, not necessarily read any more, but we send in advance to witnesses. Included in that, if I can just refer to the concluding paragraph okay, ". . . if you're not excused from answering, you may request that the whole or a part of your evidence be given in camera and not be published . . .", but earlier on it says, "You are bound to answer all questions this Committee sees fit to put to you. If you are unwilling to answer a question, you
may, after stating the reason for desiring to be excused from answering, appeal to me as Chairman of this Committee, as to whether, in the circumstances and for the reasons stated, an answer should be given."
I don't know if you recall but this was an issue on which we worked with legal advice for an extended period of time. Mr. Hendsbee and then Mr. Morash.
MR. HENDSBEE: My question to the chairman would be, would this committee be seen as a quasi-judicial committee and therefore have the ability to subpoena and have the authority to do so? Those who refuse to answer, can they be charged for impeding the work of the committee?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Some of those issues we have dealt with over the last while and the answer to the questions that Mr. Hendsbee posed are yes and yes. Mr. Morash.
MR. MORASH: I was going to suggest that we, as an attachment, include our mail-out to everyone and include that with part of the survey.
MS. STEVENS: What I was going to do, I can say, see a side note, see statement, but we also have documents like our terms of reference and our extended mandate, as well as our operating principles and practices, which I would include with all of this.
MR. MORASH: Yes, I would suggest that we give them a package.
MS. STEVENS: Since they are all official documents. Our Rules of the House and things.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anyone else on this?
MR. DOWNE: I would say the exact same thing, give them one with an asterisk to the document, Appendix A.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, that's what we have, that we will have an attachment for 8.11.
"8.12 Power to make recommendations and publish conclusions."
MR. HENDSBEE: We do that now with the annual report.
MR. CHAIRMAN: With our annual report, making it public? Of course it is public as soon as you read it into the record, is it not?
Okay, that's number 1. Now, here's one I am a little awkward with when I was looking at it, "8.13 Power to hold press conferences and issue press releases."
MR. HENDSBEE: That's kind of an odd question, you know, how your meetings were generally broadcasted anyway, the public and the media are there anyway.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morash.
MR. MORASH: Currently, there is nothing to prohibit us from doing that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But you're talking to me as the chairman to try to get consensus to issue a press release? Isn't going to happen.
MR. DOWNE: Why don't we put down, not applicable.
MR. CHAIRMAN: NA? We're on our way here.
MR. HENDSBEE: I agree with that one.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's number 4, done. Thank you for that one, I appreciate your guidance.
"8.14 Power to hold in camera meetings, if dealing with sensitive or national security issues", which we have.
"8.15 Power to hold meetings and conduct enquiries even when the legislature is not in session." Of course, which is currently part of our practice now.
"8.16 Power to review proposed legislation or amendments to the Legislative Auditors Act." Roy.
MR. SALMON: I consider it very important.
MS. STEVENS: That was one of the things mentioned at the conference, how some committees have done that already throughout the country.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. "8.17 Power to review the Legislative Auditor's budget." That's of course, in my view, as 1.
"8.18 Power to choose subjects for examination without government direction and advice." Mr. Salmon.
MR. SALMON: You answered very quickly to 8.17 with regard to my budget but you've never done it.
MR. MORASH: We will now.
MR. SALMON: I hope so. Because I could use your support on it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: In terms of your office budget?
MR. SALMON: My office budget, the adequacy of the resources I have to do the job I'm supposed to do to support you.
MS. STEVENS: There was a very interesting discussion on that during the conference. Unfortunately, you missed the part where we went over some of the sessions that happened at the conference and we didn't get to what happened at your conference, at your part of it.
MR. SALMON: No, but the point is that practices vary across this country. In some provinces, in some jurisdictions the Auditor General proposes a budget and presents it in front of a committee of the Legislature, whether it's the Public Accounts Committee or the Internal Economy Committee or whatever. In other jurisdictions and I fall in that category, I just go through the Treasury and Policy Board of the Department of Finance.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: My suggestion is that we make that a 1 and also add to the list of issues for us to discuss this fall, to review and witness the Auditor General on his own specific budget, so that we can do our part to make sure that there's adequate funding there to deal with it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Motion not on the floor, Mr. Hendsbee.
MR. SALMON: Thank you, Mr. Downe.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, you will note the comments Don has just made, if you wouldn't mind. We are at "8.18 Power to choose subjects for examination without government direction and advice." Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: You're talking with your conscience?
MR. HENDSBEE: No, I think it's 2 because we talk about different subjects sometimes and we go back to caucus to discuss them. The caucus comes forward and we do have the balance of authority on the committee and basically, I wouldn't say without government direction but there is some direction provided by the government caucus.
MR. DOWNE: I would say that although you have the makeup of the committee, the votes are clear that you have the majority of the ability to determine. But we've worked on the basis of consensus, of trying to deal with issues. We've all brought issues forward, some of which the government wants to embarrass past governments and some past governments want to embarrass current governments and some other Parties want to embarrass everybody. So I think we've been fairly successful at doing all three, haven't we? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the question.
MR. HENDSBEE: But I have a suggestion for a 2 rating here.
MR. DOWNE: I don't sense that the government itself - cannot dictate everything we decide to review. So the power to choose subjects for examination without government direction and advice. In other words, we have been able to hold the government accountable on issues, maybe not necessarily with what the government wanted to discuss, but we've been able to do that. Is that accurate or wrong?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm not in the position of editorializing as the chairman. Would anybody like to answer Mr. Downe's question? Mr. Carey.
MR. CAREY: I believe that's accurate and if you're using the same criteria as you did for the first question that we discussed, I would think here it would be the same.
MR. DOWNE: That's how I feel too but maybe I'm misunderstanding . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Salmon.
MR. SALMON: I think this goes back to the basic principle of the Westminister system of parliamentary government and that is that there's a clear distinction between members of the Legislature and members of the government in power. What this is getting at is that when you're acting here as members of a Public Accounts Committee, you're acting as members of the Legislature, whether you are part of the Party that's in power or not. Therefore, if you're going to act for the people of this province, you're acting as individual MLAs, not as members of an Opposition Party or the Party that's in power. Therefore, acting in that role, it is inappropriate for the government to give you any direction.
MR. DOWNE: Do you feel like you've been living in sin or what? (Laughter) (Interruptions)
MR. SALMON: I'm sorry to sound like I'm preaching but this is a fundamental principle of the structure of our democratic system.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm not trying to ramrod this through but would we want 8.18 to go to the consensus committee that we've struck or do you think we have an answer here because we're taking some time. Jon.
MR. CAREY: I think we have an answer but why don't we just ask.
MR. HENDSBEE: Consensus on 1?
MR. CAREY: I would say, 1.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have 1 and that's where I would like to move. We are on Page 3 at "8.19 Power to compel Ministers to appear before the committee." Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. DEWOLFE: We have a number 1 and that's what I would like to move.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We're on Page 3 at "8.19 Power to compel Ministers to appear before the Committee". Mr. DeWolfe, please.
MR. DEWOLFE: We had a minister appear in the past before this committee in my time. I am relating to my time. That was done, so, obviously, the power is there.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, it is within our mandate.
Is it agreed?
Now, we're on to "Committee Practices". Let's have a look at "8.20 Close working relationship between members from different political parties" (Interruption) (Laughter) We're going to strike Mr. Morash's, comment. Kerry, you've been very helpful with your suggestions but if you are going to revert, I will have to ask you to leave. That is number 1.
"8.21 Advance preparation of members before hearings". Now, we're talking about the practices of our committee as we currently operate. "Advance preparation of members before hearings".
MS. STEVENS: Like a briefing session.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Briefing sessions, particularly with the Auditor General.
MR. MORASH: Or the information package.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. Number 1.
"8.22 Close working relationship with and research support from the legislative auditor". Number 1.
"8.23 Independent technical expertise and research support for hearings". We have a number 1.
"8.24 Separate subcommittees for groups of related departments".
MR. HENDSBEE: Could you clarify that one?
MR. DOWNE: Have we ever had that happen in the history of the committee where we would have a subcommittee meet with a specific group and then that would come back to this level?
MS. STEVENS: Not really a subcommittee. The chairman has gone off before and met with certain groups at the suggestion of the committee itself or we do have the subcommittee that could possibly deal with documentation. That's of the three - Russell is on it and our vice-chairman, Jim, and our chairman. If we had documents that would come in that were of question, whether we put them in a briefing package or if there are any questions of that nature.
MR. HENDSBEE: Three.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Or not applicable.
MR. HENDSBEE: Or not applicable, 4.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon, do you have anything to add on this particular topic with your years on this committee?
MR. MACKINNON: No, I am quite ambivalent on this one.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Chairman, so the word is related departments, if the word was related issues the answer would be 2, but it's related departments. Is it possible that there would - you're saying that there is a committee struck now, that you three, the three wise persons that we have would meet on the specific issue, related to a departmental issue?
MR. CHAIRMAN: With the mandate of the committee as a whole we would follow it that way.
MR. DOWNE: Yes, but is that what they're asking?
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is a good point. I understand where you're coming from with that one differentiation and word of issues as departments.
Mr. Salmon, you have a comment.
MR. SALMON: Well, I think what they're getting at is whether you think it is important that three of the nine of you focused on a group of departments like Community Services, Health, that sort of thing or a group of three of you focused on the activities of the Department of Finance, and Treasury and Policy Board or a group of three of you focused on everything involved with Economic Development. That's what they're getting at. You've never done that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Don, if I can go back. I don't think we can substitute words in the survey. They said specifically "departments" as opposed to what you had suggested with the word issue.
MR. DOWNE: I would say we don't do this at all.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So is not applicable appropriate here? But I see Mr. MacKinnon you had a point earlier?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I believe the only provincial jurisdiction in Canada that is endeavoring on this particular venture - well, I can't speak for the federal - but provincially I believe Quebec is the only one that is moving in that direction and it is still in the incubation stages at this point. It is a three or five year trial project.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would suggest, considering our discussion, as the chairman, I would like to suggest a not applicable, Number 4. Okay? Thank you.
We're at "8.25 Strategic prioritization of items for committee review, with time limits for stages of committee work like consideration of departmental replies, reporting, implementation reports".
Is it very important? Is it a time consuming process? Do I have any suggestions for a 1 to 3 rating? I assume 4 is out of the running, so, a 1to 3 rating.
MR. MORASH: Number 1 and I heard a 2, I don't think.
MR. DOWNE: I think it is important to get these reports back to us when we request this information back. We don't want to wait a year to drag their feet on the issues. I think that it is imperative that we get it immediately, get it as soon as possible.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am sure Mr. MacKinnon might have a point here, knowing some of your requests over the past sessions we have had. What do you consider?
MR. MACKINNON: Well, that's why I said 2, because I think my colleague is quite correct, when you ask for any you should get them in a timely fashion. Although because of the complexities of bureaucracies sometimes, we've had witnesses come before the committee, give undertakings to the committee, only to go back to their departments and say, hey, first of all, that wasn't your place to give that commitment and second of all, it kind of ties us down into a whole barrage of things. For example, the commitment that was given by Service Nova Scotia, they were going to provide the list of recommendations that were made to P & P on the restructuring of government. When I asked that question, that lady - I forget what her name was - gave the undertaking we were going to receive that. We haven't seen it yet.
MR. DOWNE: Did you see her after that?
MR. MACKINNON: I have been looking under the obituary notices but I haven't seen her name. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have recorded minutes here, so let's be careful of that one.
MR. MACKINNON: It is a rhetorical point.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand what you're saying. It is a rhetorical point.
MR. HENDSBEE: Two is tabled.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have a number 2. Thank you. That's in response to 8.25.
"8.26 Transcripts kept of all hearings and meetings" is, of course, a 1.
"8.27 Committee appointed for the life of the Legislature or Parliament and stays active between sessions:"
AN HON. MEMBER: One.
ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: That's two questions but that's our practice.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Morash.
MR. MORASH: I wouldn't give it a 1, I would give it a 2. I am not sure that it is essential for one person to be on this committee for the duration.
MR. HENDSBEE: No, no, it is not just saying that.
MS. STEVENS: No, what it does . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, clarify, please, Ms. Stevens.
MS. STEVENS: What it does - and this is actually happening in Ottawa right now - if the committee - and we used to do this - if it was reconstituted all the work that we had done like the draft report, right now, is done for what we did last year, it is just being edited, that would die the minute the committee was reconstituted. Like if you yearly did it, anything else you couldn't go back and look at the work and then report back from it. If you have a committee set up for the life of the Legislature, you can change membership but the work of the committee would continue on.
MR. MORASH: Okay.
MS. STEVENS: It would sort of be like being an election each time you had a change in your leadership.
MR. MORASH: My misunderstanding, 1.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Agreed? One.
Of course this next one is "8.28 Televised public hearings:"
SOME HON. MEMBERS: One.
MR. CHAIRMAN: "Report to the legislature annually, and ask for the report to be debated:" Ask for the report to be debated? Now, the first part is a given. (Interruptions)
Just one person at a time. Mr. Downe has the floor.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Chairman, any report brought back to the House is open for debate at any time. You can bring forward a resolution to debate the report and have it done in your time in the House.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, I have it. Mr. Hendsbee.
MR. HENDSBEE: Then, Mr. Chairman, I think just this past session in the House I think we had one of the topics on Opposition Day discussed after this meeting and I believe those issues came up in the House later that day during Question Period. I think that's part of the process being debated.
MR. DOWNE: We're referring to the report but not just the actual day-to-day activity of the committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Something that was tabled. So it is a 1. Next, "8.30 Comprehensive response to recommendations from the government".
MR. DEWOLFE: Is that something that we're asking for, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, it's the practices of the committee that we're reviewing, the current practices of this committee with regard to things we ask for or do currently.
MR. DOWNE: They're not asking whether or not we always get a comprehensive report, they're just asking whether we think it's very important to get a comprehensive report from government. The answer to that would be yes, that's what we would think we would want, but we don't always get it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't want yes or no though, Don, I want . . .
MR. DOWNE: One.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Salmon.
MR. SALMON: The government doesn't make recommendations, the government makes decisions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, is it an important differentiation in that word?
MR. SALMON: Yes. How can the government make recommendations to this committee and have this committee make decisions, when the government's in power?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hendsbee, then Mr. Downe.
MR. HENDSBEE: I read that question the other way. I read that as the government makes a response to our committee recommendations. That's how I interpret that question to be.
MR. DEWOLFE: That's not the way it reads, though.
MR. SALMON: Exactly.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have to disagree with you. I don't see it that way, David. Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: Well, how about this? That we are asking for a comprehensive response to the government's recommendations about whatever issues. The government is making recommendations on education and we're asking for a comprehensive response to that, that's how I read it.
MR. SALMON: The only way you can read it that it makes any sense is that you are asking government to respond to your recommendations.
MR. HENDSBEE: That's how I interpret it.
MR. SALMON: But that's not the way it reads.
MR. MORASH: Then let's put not applicable and put an asterisk with a note out to the side that the committee couldn't agree on the question.
MR. DOWNE: I would say that it's more that we didn't understand the question, a comprehensive response to recommendations from the government.
MS. STEVENS: I can call and find out what exactly that does mean, get clarification.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Can we defer 8.30 because we are concerned? Jim.
MR. DEWOLFE: I guess my thought is why do we have to bother doing that, why don't we just mark it questionable, that we don't understand what they're getting at. To bother going ahead, making a call and doing all this just for one question, is it necessary?
MR. CHAIRMAN: But if we have a committee in process we agreed that we could refer things to it. Not to make it time-consuming but I'm just saying, do you want it to go to the committee or do you want . . .
MR. CAREY: I would suggest Mora make the call and then the three who are on the committee make the decision.
MS. STEVENS: Yes, they're already going to have to deal with Number 7.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. I'm going to take your advice on that, Jon, if I may, and suggest a follow-up with your suggestion. Number "8.31 Having committee members with at least 2 years of prior Committee experience."
MS. STEVENS: We often get brand new members.
MR. DEWOLFE: You have to have new members at some point.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. It's really tying the hands of the government. I know in 1998 when many of us arrived, Don, you of course were in government then, you look at the people who appeared.
MR. DOWNE: Before 1999?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Here you were with your government experience in Cabinet which is ineligible because . . .
MR. DOWNE: Somebody else could be here and assume this position today and may have never been on this committee.
MS. STEVENS: Or any committee.
MR. DOWNE: I would give it a 4 or not applicable.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to have a 4 if we could, thank you. Next, "8.32 Having committee members with prior administrative or business experience." I'm out of the running, unless you call schools administrative.
MR. CAREY: I think that's another 4.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Carey suggests a 4.
MR. MORASH: We don't have that option.
MR. CAREY: People are elected from all walks of life and when you're here you have what you have.
MR. DOWNE: As Gerry Regan said, you play the cards you're dealt with.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Who said that?
MR. DOWNE: Gerry Regan.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Come on now, maybe Theodore Roosevelt.
MR. DOWNE: Gerry said it, I know that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You just didn't attribute the quote to Theodore, right?
MR. DOWNE: I'm sure Roy thinks the same thing about us sometimes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Or then again you have to dance with the girl who "brung ya" is the other way, right? "8.33 Extra pay or other incentives for members to participate in hearings outside the normal legislative session."
MR. HENDSBEE: Do members get paid per diems, for those who travel in, for these days that are outside the session?
MR. DOWNE: Just your per diem, $60 to drive in and drive home.
MS. STEVENS: Some committee members - it used to happen in this province - you got $100 per committee meeting. I think maybe a pay structure as to what we do might be applicable here because again, there are other ones who get thousands to be on Public Accounts Committees.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But if I may, that's not the direction of the question. What are our current practices - focus on that - what are our current practices?
MR. HENDSBEE: Well, they do get paid a per diem to come in here. I don't but I'm an inside member but other members outside the metro area do get an incentive to come here for the meetings between sessions of the House.
MR. DOWNE: I would question if you would call $60 an incentive. You can pry me out of my place for $60 bucks? Go take another look at this question.
MR. HENDSBEE: Even though it may be a pittance in your eyes, it's still an incentive.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have our first three of the session as a suggestion in here. "8.34 Meeting place suitable for media and public access to hearings." That's very important. Number "8.35 Incentives to encourage administrative action on committee recommendations." Jon, your face says you want to comment.
MR. CAREY: Roy, who would be the administrative . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: No. 8.35, Mr. Salmon.
MR. CAREY: It says incentives to encourage administrative action. Who would we . . .
MR. SALMON: Who would be responsible for the administrative . . .
MR. CAREY: Who would we be giving the incentives to?
MR. SALMON: That's what I don't understand about the question. I don't understand how this committee . . .
MR. DOWNE: The question is, is it important that we have incentives to encourage administrative action and committee recommendations. Do you consider that very important or not to have incentives?
MR. HENDSBEE: Define incentives. Is it a monetary value or is it political embarrassment or is it promotion? What is incentive? (Interruptions)
MR. CAREY: Everyone has a job to do. I believe in supporting good work and seeing that they're encouraged through incentives but I don't know who we're going to give it to here and who's doing it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: To be the devil's advocate here, the question here is, they're asking us, how important do we see having incentives to encourage administrative action on committee recommendations.
MR. HENDSBEE: A 3 or 4?
MR. DOWNE: No, a 1 or 20? I think it's important to have incentives for people to encourage administrative action. What do you consider administrative action? If the committee is saying we come up with a recommendation to go forward with something that they have administrative action to go forward with it.
AN HON. MEMBER: Who's the administration?
MR. DOWNE: It could be Roy, it could be any department.
MR. SALMON: But what's the incentive to you other than getting re-elected . . .
MR. DOWNE: I see the incentive being a fulfillment of our mandate and that is to hold government accountable.
MR. SALMON: I agree with that but what additional incentive do you need other than . . .
MR. DOWNE: A stick and a carrot, in other words if it isn't done they should get the stick and if it's done then the carrot is that they are thanked for giving it to us. Maybe I'm reading it all wrong. Obviously I am.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't think you are.
MR. SALMON: I think it's a poorly-worded question, in my view.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Roy has a point.(Interruptions) Mr. Morash.
MR. MORASH: I disagree with the idea of giving an incentive for someone doing their job or us holding someone accountable and giving them some type of an incentive, whatever it might be. I know it's because of the way the question is worded, but I think the stick is there and the media is certainly part of that stick if things don't take place. That's not a bad thing. I don't believe we give people incentives for doing their jobs and doing them well.
MR. DOWNE: So the definition of incentive.
MR. MORASH: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We are talking about the fact - we're saying it's not applicable but we're saying it's not important. Now which one are we going for? (Interruptions)
MR. MORASH: Because it seems to be hard for us to agree on the meaning of the question, it seems like maybe number 4, not-applicable, is the way for us to move through this without holding us up.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. I'm going to go for number 4 then, not applicable.
MR. DOWNE: As a member of the committee, and in trying to keep this moving forward, I would concur. I read it differently but obviously I'm reading it wrong.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Don, if you wish, we have the committee to investigate . . .
MR. DOWNE: No. If the question is, should people be given incentives for simply doing their administrative job, the answer is no. I agree, it's not applicable. If the question is, should there be incentives to make sure that administration is carried forward by the direction of this committee, then I say that's important. That's all I'm saying. I will follow you, I will go with number 4.
MR. CAREY: Mr. Chairman, we're already going to have 8.30 called into question, why couldn't Mora ask for more explanation or verification, and then the three can look after it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So, 8.30 and 8.35, Mora will call for clarification, and then the committee members will clarify it for us.
"8.36 Effective follow-up procedures to determine if action has been taken to implement the committee's recommendations." Do you follow this one? I know, and I appreciate your sticking with me as we go through this. "Effective follow-up procedures to determine if action has been taken to implement the committee's recommendations."
MR. DEWOLFE: This follows along, we'll have to get clarification of 8.35 before we can deal with 8.36, I think.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, 8.35 and 8.36, if you could get clarification, Mora.
MR. DOWNE: What is the current follow-up procedure to determine if action has been taken? In other words, when we send a letter or a request or when Russell asks . . .
MR. DEWOLFE: We do a follow-up.
MR. DOWNE: We do a follow-up? Isn't that what they're saying, effective follow-up procedures? Do we have effective follow-up procedures?
MS. STEVENS: Right now if a piece of documentation is asked for they get a transcript and a letter that goes with it outlining what they have been asked for. They're asked to table it, by a certain time, with the committee; if not, if they could give us an estimated date as to when we would get the documentation. Sometimes it works, other times it does not. Certainly Health requests that went forward had to go to the floor of the House before we received any action. As for recommendations and reports, when we make them, a letter goes to the department outlining the specific recommendations and they're asked to get back to us. Have we ever received a response back? Maybe one or two.
MR. DOWNE: So the question is, is that very important to us, to have effective follow-up procedure to determine if action has been taken to implement the committee's recommendations, or is it not applicable? I think it's very important.
MR. SALMON: One effective procedure is that if you as a committee make recommendations to the government to change administrative policies or procedures, you come back to me and ask me whether I've followed up to see if those recommendations have been implemented. That's very important.
MR. DOWNE: We're on the same page.
MR. SALMON: We're in agreement, I think.
MR. DOWNE: That's why I think it's very important that there is that ability, otherwise we would become a joke.
MR. CAREY: That is happening now. I felt that was being done now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe, do you feel comfortable with this?
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes, I do.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So, 8.36 is a number 1. "8.37 Good relations with other parliamentary oversight mechanisms such as the budget committee". Oversight mechanisms, interesting terminology.
MR. HENDSBEE: The budget - would that be the sessions we do in the Red Room through the Committee of the Whole House, estimates. (Interruptions) We are basically the same people.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Comments, please.
MR. DOWNE: I think we have a good relationship with other parliamentary - if there's an issue, a budgetary issue, we have the right to bring it back to this committee for clarification or discussion. I think we have a good working relationship for that. Roy, do you . . .
MR. SALMON: I think it's important that you have it. Whether it's working or not is really not the issue. Is it important? (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have a number 1. I didn't mean to draw significance to oversight mechanisms. Just quickly to summarize it, if I have it correct here, 8.11, we are sending an attachment to that answer, we're asking for follow-up for 8.30 and 8.35, from Mora, with that to be taken to the committee for follow-up.
We're on Page 5. We have a committee that is going to look at some of these - I'm just looking at the direction. Our subcommittee is going to compile this and put this together. Therefore, aren't question Numbers 9, 10 and 11 within the mandate of that committee, or do you want to discuss these issues here.
MR. HENDSBEE: Before we go to 9 and 10, I think you have to answer 8.38, 8.39 and 8.40. Are there any other factors that we think we should be evaluated upon and . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thanks, David. I apologize for jumping the gun there. Yes, 8.38, 8.39 and 8.40, other comments, other issues. In other words, is their survey not inclusive enough?
MR. DOWNE: What can we do outside the parameters of what we've just answered that we consider being successful and how do we rank them, is that what they're saying?
MR. CHAIRMAN: All of the above or whatever else.
MR. HENDSBEE: For instance, is our committee, the Hansard and things available, does it go on-line, is it accessible in other forms and fashions, is it just by camera or is it just by transcript or do we have an on-line capacity in regard to people for follow-up on these things?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good point. Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: For example, we have our AG with us at every meeting.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Or a member of his staff.
MR. DOWNE: I think that's very important. That was not necessarily a question in this document. Other important success factors - to me one of the success factors is having the AG or his staff, and it's very important to us to have them because that's the check and balance that he needs and we need to make sure that some of the directions are carried forward. There might be some others, but that's what comes across my mind. I think the point that my colleague made with regard to transcripts that are public some of the directions are carried forward. There might be some others, but that's what comes across my mind. I think the point that my colleague made with regard to transcripts that are for public, the audio-visual, that was somewhat questioned, but we can maybe add a little bit to it. Maybe Mora has some of the other points. That's what I see in this question.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What we should suggest, though, is other important successes that 8.38 we would suggest, that a member of the Auditor General's staff be present . . .
MR. DOWNE: The AG or his appointee. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Or designate (Interruptions) At all meetings, and that we would include that as a 1, and very important. So 8.39, you're suggesting, as another one - David, clarify for me what 8.39 was.
MR. HENDSBEE: Further availability of our reports, do we have on-line capacity.
MR. DOWNE: Web sites and everything else.
MR. HENDSBEE: All the talk about public meetings and stuff and the minutes being available, but also I think we have a further dissemination capacity through the Internet.
MR. CHAIRMAN: And we would consider 8.39 with those on-line capabilities very important, correct?
MR. CAREY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have added 8.38 and 8.39, the AG's staff or designate and the Internet access as very important. Thanks, David, for doing that; 8.40, another suggestion? Further ones come to mind with the committee. Mr. MacKinnon, then Mr. Downe.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, we're one of the very few jurisdictions, and I stand to be corrected, that has written terms of reference and a policy on procedures.
MR. SALMON: Copied from Saskatchewan. One of the few, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: I think that's quite significant. The rules of engagement and the manual of procedures and operations, very important, and the code of conduct. The fact that we have our terms of reference in written form is a blueprint which I believe a lot of other jurisdictions would be well advised to follow.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If I may, Mora, you have an 8.40 suggestion which you've written down there.
MS. STEVENS: I was just writing what Russell said, whether it becomes 8.40 or not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Tell me what Russell said.
MS. STEVENS: That it was important that we have written terms of references as well a mandate, operation principles and practices, and a code of conduct.
MR. SALMON: Operating procedures.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So that's a suggested 8.40. You say that there are two jurisdictions that currently have that?
MR. SALMON: The only province that we were able to identify several years ago was Saskatchewan. This committee, at that time, struck a subcommittee that took the Saskatchewan ones and adapted them and adopted them for this province. I'm not aware of any others.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would assume . . .
MS. STEVENS: Some are following suit. Some other provinces have looked at those.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would assume, Mr. MacKinnon, you would consider that 1, very important.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, it changed the format and the ability of this committee, I believe, to function very effectively in a more non-partisan fashion than it had been in the past.
MR. SALMON: I couldn't agree with you more.
MR. MACKINNON: Previous to that there was a fair degree of polarization. I believe John Leefe was chairman of the committee at the time. There was John, myself and Robert Chisholm, I believe, who sat on the subcommittee and we brought it back, the recommendations, these terms of reference, and policies and procedures. They were unanimously endorsed by the committee. I still understand the dynamics of partisan politics and the need to support government policy versus an opposing view. (Interruptions)
MR. CHAIRMAN: We know that's a given, Russell.
MR. MACKINNON: It's very difficult for me to be partisan at times, I know.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Especially when you take your shoes off.
MR. MACKINNON: We should probably strike that from the record too.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for the suggestion for 8.40, and I would assume that we have it - I know we have it - as very important. (Interruptions) Any other suggestions that come to mind, or can we say that the committee should look further, at 8.41.
MR. DOWNE: One other one is, and this is for the world we're talking about here, right? This is a study that she is looking at from a worldwide perspective. All our media are invited to attend those meetings and are actually participating in regard to being in the
structure, they don't participate in the debate. But you know, it is not like state-controlled clips that are going to be sent out or anything like that, they have full control over that. I think that is a great virtue of our democratic process and it is also, much to our, sometimes frustration, it does serve a good purpose in regard to showing the importance of this committee and also getting the information flow out to the public. So I consider that to be very important. I know it was in a question earlier, media have access.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, 8.34.
MR. DOWNE: Do you think that's enough on 8.34?
MR. CHAIRMAN: "Meeting place suitable for media and public access to hearings:"
MR. DOWNE: All right, fair enough. We'll move on.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for that clarification. They were all good points based upon our experience here in Nova Scotia.
Questions 9, 10, 11, 12.
MR. HENDSBEE: Number 11 is quite simple. We referred to that in 8.40 in regard to the procedures and it would be an attachment of the information anyway. I think number 10 is quite simple because 8.31 and 8.32 and 8.24, were the only ones we gave a 4 to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Just again, David, just go back from what you said here, you've been firing numbers at me.
MR. HENDSBEE: Question 10 refers to the series of questions in 8 that we answered number 4 to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MR. HENDSBEE: I believe we answered number 4 to 8.24, 8.31 and 8.32.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Right.
MR. HENDSBEE: They're just asking if there are any powers and practices in reference to those three exceptions that we answered 4 to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Do we have any further comments because I would assume that the remainder of this work can be done by the committee designate.
MR. DOWNE: I think it has been very beneficial to do it this way, I think we've had a good session. I compliment you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Other business, because what we had done was we had moved from the agenda, item IV has already been taken care of. Are there other items of business, otherwise I am going to entertain a motion of adjournment.
MR. HENDSBEE: I had a question with regards to the Malloy survey. Is that going to be done by staff?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mora, could you respond to that, because I know we had talked about it in advance.
MS. STEVENS: It is pretty standard and it will flow, some of the answers flow right from not only documentation but from what has been answered here. What I might do is maybe fill it out and then give it to that subcommittee, just as a check and balance, if that is all right?
MR. CHAIRMAN: This is in reference to the Carleton professor and what we will do is follow the advice of Ms. Stevens and handle it in the manner as she has suggested. Is that fine?
MR. MORASH: It is wonderful. Move to adjourn.
MR. CHAIRMAN: A motion for adjournment from Mr. Morash.
Thank you for your time this morning.
[The committee rose at 9:40 a.m.]