Back to top
May 30, 2013
House of Assembly Management Commission
HAMC Hansard
Meeting topics: 

Thursday, May 30, 2013
Red Room, Province House
Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Service

Hon. Gordon Gosse (Chairman)
Hon. Frank Corbett
Ms. Becky Kent
Ms. Pam Birdsall
Hon. Maurice Smith
Hon. Michel Samson
Mr. Andrew Younger
Hon. Christopher d'Entremont
Mr. Neil Ferguson, Chief Clerk of the House of Assembly
(Non-Voting Member)
[Ms. Pam Birdsall was replaced by Hon. Leonard Preyra.]
[Hon. Michel Samson was replaced by Mr. Andrew Younger, who was replaced by Ms. Diana Whalen.]

<u>In Attendance:</u>

<u>Speaker's Office Adviser</u>
Ms. Deborah Lusby,
Director of Administration
Speaker's Office

Ms. Annette Boucher,
Assistant Clerk
House of Assembly

Mr. Gordon Hebb,
Legislative Counsel

1:00 P.M.
Mr. Gordon Gosse

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I'd like to call the House of Assembly Management Commission meeting to order for May 30th. We will start with the regular business and approval of the January 29, 2013 minutes.
Mr. Ferguson.

MR. NEIL FERGUSON: Mr. Chairman, the minutes have been circulated. There is one typographical error that has been noted on the final page, item 7 says "2012-13 Quarter 1 Financial Review" and that should be "Quarter 3". That is the only typo or error that staff have noticed so, unless any of the members have found any, a motion to approve the minutes would be in order.

MR. CHAIRMAN: So moved by Mr. d'Entremont, seconded by Mr. Corbett.
Next on the agenda - Direct payments to select vendors for MLAs. I would now ask Deborah Lusby of the Speaker's administration staff.

MS. DEBORAH LUSBY: At the January meeting we discussed various options to ease the financial burden on MLAs and also the hope of minimizing late fees. We tested this process with several MLAs and it proved to be successful. We're ready to offer to everybody else, all the other MLAs, if we have the approval to do so.

HON. LEONARD PREYRA: I so move, Mr. Speaker.

MS. BECKY KENT: Seconded.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Moved by Mr. Preyra, seconded by Ms. Kent.
Number three on the agenda - Proposed regulation changes re: advertising and late fees.

MR. FERGUSON: We have the draft resolutions.

MR. CHAIRMAN: We do have the draft resolutions here, so I will have the Associate Clerk pass them out.

MR. FERGUSON: These are the ones that have been discussed previously that are arising out of recommendations made by the Auditor General. For the benefit of the commission, I can read the first one:
Be it resolved that Section 8 of the House of Assembly Management Commission Regulations be amended by adding immediately after subsection (3) the following subsection:
(4) A member is personally responsible for and cannot claim for payment or reimbursement for the payment of late fee charges by vendors on overdue accounts or overdraft interest charges by financial institutions.

Again, that was one of the recommendations of the Auditor General.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Moved by Mr. d'Entremont, seconded by Mr. Younger.
Number 4, on the agenda: Leased Premises. (Interruption) I guess in the motion beforehand I should have asked: Would all those in favour say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.

Number four - Leased Premises: Regulation 27(7). (Interruption) Oh, what is it?

MR. FERGUSON: Second item under number three.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Number three - Regulations. I will ask Mr. Ferguson now to hand out the resolutions respecting amendments to the House of Assembly Management Commission Regulations.

MR. FERGUSON: Be it resolved that Section 15 of the House of Assembly Management Commission Regulations be amended by adding immediately after subsection (4) the following subsection:
(4A) A member's claim for payment or reimbursement in respect of an expense for placing an advertisement or communication must include for:
(a) a printed advertisement, in a newspaper or magazine, on a banner, in a pamphlet or some other like medium, the copy of the proof provided by the member for publishing;
(b) an advertisement in an electronic publication such as a website, television or newsletter, a printed copy of the electronic page where the advertisement appeared showing the name of the publication; and
(c) an audio advertisement a transcript of the spoken words.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1) where a member is unable to provide the supporting documentation, the member may submit a claim providing reasons for the absent documentation and personally undertaking to provide the supporting documentation as soon as it becomes available.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Younger.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: I think there's an error in the wording of the motion. The second last line on our page says personally "undertaking" and I think it should be personally "undertake". It would be "providing reasons for the absent documentation and personally undertake to provide supporting documentation" - it's a minor issue, but we spend a lot of time amending typos.

MR. FERGUSON: I've just been advised by the Chief Legislative Counsel that there will have to be some renumbering done. We have subsections within a subsection, so if the motion is passed, if we could have the permission of the commission to renumber accordingly.

MR. YOUNGER: That's fine, but there is also my . . .

MR. FERGUSON: I'm sorry, he was talking to me when you were talking.

MR. YOUNGER: So for the benefit of the two lawyers, I think it should be personally "undertake," not personally "undertaking."

MR. FERGUSON: That will be amended as well.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Corbett.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: No, no disagreement . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: All right, the motion is for the resolution respecting the amendments.

MR. CORBETT: I'll move them with the provision of the numerical changes and the editing of the word "undertaking" to "undertake" as proposed by Mr. Younger.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Seconded by Mr. Younger.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
No. 4 - "Leased Premises: Regulation 27(7) requests a review of options and costs be undertaken for MLA leased accommodation. Director requests permission to proceed with this review." Deborah.

MS. LUSBY: I couldn't say it any better than what the Speaker has just outlined. We'd just like permission to proceed with this review.

MR. YOUNGER: I'll move that.

MR. CORBETT: What's that, Deborah? I'm sorry.

MR. YOUNGER: She just wants permission to do a review.

MS. LUSBY: Permission to proceed with the review and submit a report to the commission.

MR. CHAIRMAN: It was moved by Mr. Younger, seconded by Mr. Preyra.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
No. 5, Mr. Ferguson.

MR. FERGUSON: As members know, there are regulations about what items may be acquired for office furniture and equipment. Those have been in place for a couple of years now and it was always the intention, as demand for things came up, to expand the list.

So staff have kept a list of things that are not on the current list but which they get regular requests for, and they are items that are in keeping with most offices.

It's recommended that we allow under small appliances, to a maximum of $50, items such as a kettle, drip coffee maker, or toaster oven; and under the slightly larger appliances, to a maximum of $200, items such as a bar fridge, microwave, heater, dehumidifier, water cooler, or vacuum. A lot of these things relate to things like occupational health and safety, having available water in the office.

All of the assets, when they are no longer required in a constituency office, would be assets of the Crown and could be used in other facilities, and for things such as a bar fridge, in some cases people require something to keep medication cold. So there's a justification for all the items and there are reasonable limitations imposed on the maximum that may be spent.

So if the commission would care to approve those, then we can finally be able to allow the members to properly outfit their offices in keeping with other government standards.

MR. CORBETT: Can I do a friendly amendment and call it a mini-fridge?


MS. BECKY KENT: I just have a question on the maximum in relation to a mini-fridge of that nature. I only ask because I just recently purchased one for my kids, for one of my young-adult sons, and I know that even at somewhere like Walmart, and a place like that, they run in the $199 range, $179, $189, $199. My fear is if we set that at $200, people would be hard-pressed within that amount. I just caution that. Are we basing that on research around that particular item? Okay good. Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The motion is for the items that were just spoken upon, the motion with the amendment to a mini-fridge. All those in favour say Aye . . .

MS. KENT: I'll second that.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Seconded by Becky. Okay. All those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
No. 6, Deborah.

MS. LUSBY: This is relating to CA Expense Claims. When we had initially implemented this in the regulations, we had specifically excluded errands and deliveries,
with the best of intention. However, this causes hardship in some of the smaller communities where part of the CA's job is to go to the post office to pick up mail. They need to pick up supplies at local stores where deliveries are not an option, and deliver paperwork to constituents. So we wanted to remove that from the regulations and perhaps edit it to say "carries out an activity that is necessary, for the operation of the Member's constituency office, at the request of the Member."

MR. CHAIRMAN: The motion is moved by Becky Kent, seconded by Mr. D'Entremont. All those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
No.7 - Financial Review. Deborah.

MS. LUSBY: Every quarter this comes up. There is a document in front of you which is the quarterly financial review. This is for the period ended 2012-13, which just ended as of March 31st. The financial numbers are evident in that everybody came in under budget for their respective areas. If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to receive them.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Any questions? Andrew.

MR. YOUNGER: I'm not sure if the right person is here to answer this, but of course with so many things being under budget, the ones over budget jump out. I just wondered, if I'm reading this across correctly, Private and Local Bills - I mean, it's a tiny amount of money, it looks bad, 114 per cent, but I'm just wondering, what sort of expenses are there associated with Private and Local Bills Committee, and how that goes over budget?

MS. LUSBY: Interesting that you suggest that. What happened in the prior year is the committee payments were applied late by payroll, so we have three committee fee payments in there for 2012-13.


MR. YOUNGER: As I say, it's a tiny amount of money, it's the only one that's?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Thank you.
No. 8, "Amendment to Regulations to require that future leased MLA constituency offices be 'barrier free' as provided for in the Canada Building Code."
I think most of you have received a draft copy for the House of Assembly Management Commission. I would ask Keith now to send them around please.
I will now ask Mr. Ferguson to read the draft copy.

MR. FERGUSON: The resolution is:
Be it resolved that Section 19 of the House of Assembly Management Commission Regulations be amended as follows:

1. striking subsection (2) and substituting the following subsection:
(2) The space should be on a public transit route if feasible.

2. adding immediately after subsection (2) the following subsections:
(2)(a) In any lease entered into or renewed after the coming into force of this subsection, the space must, notwithstanding Section 3 of the Building Code Act, before occupancy by the member or within such time, not exceeding six months after occupancy, as approved by the Clerk, meet the barrier-free access and design requirements applicable to offices in the Nova Scotia Building Code Regulations, as amended from time to time.
(2)(b) Notwithstanding subsection (2)(a), temporary space that does not meet the barrier-free access and design requirements may be occupied for such time, not exceeding six months, as approved by the Clerk.
(2)(c) Notwithstanding subsection (2)(a), within three years of the coming into force of this subsection, the office space must meet the requirements set out in subsection (2)(a) or the space must be vacated.

Also, there is another resolution:

Therefore be it resolved that Section 20 of the House of Assembly Management Commission Regulations be amended by adding immediately after subsection (2) the following subsection:

(3) A constituency office in a member's residence must, notwithstanding Section 3 of the Building Code Act, meet the barrier-free access and design requirements applicable to offices in the Nova Scotia Building Code Regulations, as amended from time to time.
I was contacted by a member who has been involved in the work that has been proposed by the James McGregor Stewart Society and cautioned that 2(c), the requirement that existing leases, premises, have to meet the requirements or the space must be vacated, may be overstepping what was proposed, so I just bring that to the commission's attention.

MR. YOUNGER: I have a question about this. We're obviously very supportive of this and the question that I have comes from the fact that my own lease is coming up and
I've been looking for a new lease - actually, before I even knew this was coming forward - I'm in a wheelchair accessible space now and going to a barrier free one, or was hoping to.
The two problems that I ran into, which I think need to be part of this motion, or at the next meeting before too many of these come along, is we don't allow constituency offices to sign long-term leases and so when you go to somebody - and I think it might have been Deborah that I called and we had a brief discussion - somebody was willing to build it all out and I was going to pay the rent that I'm paying now but I had to sign a 7- or 10-year lease, and obviously MLAs could be around for six months, four years, or eight years, or the other option was to pay for leasehold improvements and just pay for those renovations. Obviously, we now cannot pay for renovations under our constituency office budgets.

Somewhere in this we need to address the issue that we need to allow them to sign long-term leases and then have a buyout clause at the end of them, or we need to allow the constituency offices to be able to pay for renovations or that sort of thing. As it stands now, to switch from wheelchair accessible to barrier free in the building I'm in now, which honestly they should do, and I've been having these discussions, but even our office is in the tens of thousands of dollars to do that. That's fine, we want to do that; that's why we looked at another building and the other building is willing to build it out, but will only do it if we pay for the renovations up front or sign a long-term lease, which TIR won't sign because we're MLAs.

This is a great motion and I'm fully supportive of it and I'm glad to see it here. I just want to flag the issue that we do need to address that other issue there because, at the moment, especially with subsection 2(c) there, there are some of us that wouldn't be able to do it because TIR wouldn't sign the long-term lease and Deborah won't approve - quite rightly, because the regulations won't allow it - the cost of the renovations.

I'm not saying we need to address it today, because I don't think anybody's moving tomorrow, but we need to address it. If we approve this today, which I see no reason not to do, we do need to make sure that we address that issue relatively quickly.

MS. LUSBY: Regulation 18(1)(h) does allow for necessary renovations to respond to municipal, provincial, and federal regulations respecting the provision of a safe, healthy, and accessible workspace in public space. It does allow for those expenses, however it is within your constituency allowance budget.

MR. YOUNGER: That would take the entire year's budget in some cases. I only know that because we are in the middle of doing the one at the caucus office and we are looking at that and that's a $20,000 job - the estimates came in to change it from wheelchair accessible to barrier free.

I'll add one more thing. My personal opinion, as one of the solutions, is we allow TIR to sign long-term leases with a buyout clause so that then it potentially has no cost. If a
MLA ceases to be an MLA for any reason, they buy out the amortized cost. There is no upfront cost to anybody and a future MLA could take over that space, potentially. I think that is the least expensive option. I think we should approve this motion. If you're going to include 18(2)(c) in particular, we all have three years to do those renovations, and none of us know what the cost is going to be to do those renovations within the three years.

MR. CORBETT: Is it the intent that this is your motion?

MR. CHAIRMAN: This is my motion, yes.

MR. CORBETT: Can you explain then what the intent of including 19(2)(c) was?

MR. FERGUSON: Well when the drafting was being done, we were reminded that one of the items that had been disused with the James McGregor Stewart Society was how long is long enough for people with existing leases to get the renovations done. The time that I understood from the discussion - three years - seemed to be a reasonable amount of time to allow people to get this done. When the drafting was done, it may have ended up with a somewhat harsh result.

The conclusion was if it has to be done within three years, then what is the remedy if you haven't got it done in three years? Nothing is going to happen. The drafting may have imposed too harsh a penalty, and that was the point that I had made at the beginning, so it may be something that requires discussion but that's the reason it's in there. It was to try and put some sort of sunset on how long is reasonably long enough for people to change existing leasehold space.

MR. CORBETT: I think Mr. Younger touched on something - what we have to look at here are options, right? That's my opinion on it. We need to look at options that will allow certain things to happen, because we've gone down the road before about office space and where it is because some people in rural areas have an office out of their homes. Mr. Younger quite rightly said that, yeah, we can use our funding to have this premises remodeled in such a way as to make them barrier free, which I think everyone is in agreement with, but it's not so easy in some of the more rural areas. I know we've talked about where possible to have it on a bus route and so on.

I'm just wondering where the thought is at now? If we table this and then come back in the next meeting and have a more fulsome discussion on this about what Mr. Younger has said, what we've said about sunsets and so on. I think it's the purpose of everyone around this table to make our office as accessible as possible. But for instance we say space may be vacated in New Waterford or Springhill or wherever, it may not be that easy then to roll into a barrier-free lease. Thinking of something like what Mr. Younger said, if TIR is given that task, then it may be a whole lot easier for everybody. They're the department of record on getting accommodations for everybody else across government, why wouldn't they be ours?

I am for this motion, but I just wonder if we need a bit more time to find out what's out there and make sure that three years go by and for some reason somebody doesn't have them, the next thing you know they're doing their MLA business off a park bench, and I don't think that's the intent of anybody. I think the intent here is to move as quickly as we can to get these barrier-free offices in place.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. d'Entremont.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Just to add my voice to it, especially in rural areas, I know specifically in my constituency even finding a wheelchair-accessible office was impossible. Trying to get the landlord to do an improvement to that facility, to at least offer a ramp and an accessible door was impossible because of the cost that he was asking for it. So within the constituency we have to get another building or a whole other construction in order to have it barrier-free. Barrier-free is even that much more difficult to find in a rural area, and I'm sure Argyle is not that much different than some of the other rural areas around the province.

The added point that maybe we should do a little more research on is as our constituencies change, and should I be lucky enough to be the MLA for a new constituency - the size of Argyle-Barrington will require two constituency offices. If both of them have to be barrier-free, and I do agree with it, it gets even that much more expensive. There's a whole expense issue here that's not being dealt with in this that we have to have a better handle on, especially for some of our rural areas. It's easy to find this kind of spot here in the city - and maybe not, I don't know. I know it has been impossible for me over the last 10 years to even be able to get a ramp let alone having something barrier-free. So this is a difficult issue for rural Nova Scotia, but one that I think we need to do a little more research on.
Maybe we can bring that back next meeting and have a little more detail to it on how we could actually address the finer points, which are the actual costs of leasehold improvements.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Younger.

MR. YOUNGER: Sorry, I'm not trying to complicate this, but I think we have two issues here. I think on the one hand we all support the idea and if there was a way - my concern is when is the next meeting? I don't want to end up into a next election. I think we're talking about this because we don't want to have an election call - and there will be some new people regardless, because there are people not running and stuff, and we want to make sure that any new constituency office is barrier-free and there's a plan to get the next one.

We have no idea how many aren't - I think there are a lot of wheelchair-accessible offices, like my own, but mine is not barrier-free, by these definitions. So I'm wondering if there is a way to pass this, but with an effective date - do you know what I mean? I don't think anybody has a problem with what it says, but I think our problem is we don't know how we're going to pay for it yet. Do you understand? I think the commission wants to signal to everybody that we support it, we just need to figure out how we're going to pay for it.

Thankfully, we have the minister here whose department is responsible for the leases and he's hearing the discussion and hearing the issue, and I think it's one of two options: we either have to have a pool of funding which allows the leasehold improvements to be done, or alternatively we allow a longer-term lease to be signed with an amortized buyout. Those seem to be the two cheapest and simplest options. Any space can be made barrier-free, it's just - I don't know. Or we promise we're going to have a meeting next week or in two weeks to address this. I just don't want this to go another three months, and I know I raised the issue.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Chairman, with what we have talked about, my motion would be that the committee is open to your call. If you can get this information we talked about today, get it as fast as you can and just call another meeting at the call of the Chair.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I guess I can do that. I know that I was looking at - this is an opportunity and I thought that maybe at the next meeting, maybe the society member could do a presentation. But I think we have to do research on this, I guess - from what I'm hearing around the table here today - and look at coming back in a relatively short period of time to see if I can get staff to look at the issues that were brought up here today, table the motion for now, and look at bringing it forward at the next meeting of the House of Assembly Management Commission as soon as possible, if that's okay by the members here today.

I heard the presentation by the James McGregor Stewart Society, and I thought it was a very compelling presentation, and I thought that we as Nova Scotians and parliamentarians would look at doing this. I understand what is around the table here today from everybody. I will go back with my staff and we look at trying to prepare something as soon as possible and bring it forward at the next House of Assembly Management Commission. Is that what I'm hearing today?

MR. YOUNGER: One of the ways to expedite this, because I think - I'm not hearing anybody saying we shouldn't do this. The problem is, the second we pass this motion, because there is no effective date on it, it becomes effective immediately. And that's a problem because the other rules don't allow us to address it.

So yes, there should be a meeting as quickly as possible, but perhaps you could send out what your recommendation ends up being to the caucuses in advance of the
meeting, and that way we've had a chance to make the whole process much faster. Then we can all have had a look at it before we get to the meeting and if we have any issues, we don't then go to a third meeting, and a fourth meeting, and fifth meeting, and a sixth meeting. Because this does have to happen relatively quickly, it's just the way this motion is worded creates another problem.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, I'm fine with that. I will have staff look into it. I know Deborah's quite busy, but I'll have her look into this, and probably have a meeting with TIR - have a look in with TIR and see what's available - and I will circulate a draft as soon as possible. We will put it on the agenda at the next meeting, hopefully very soon, of the House of Assembly Management Commission.
Ms. Whalen?

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Thank you. I'm just wondering if there is a time frame in which we could count on having another meeting about this, only because of the urgency, that new rule should be in place and should be clear going forward. I know we all support the principle of this and the importance of meeting. I mean, really, in our individual offices we should be demonstrating that we take this seriously and we want to have barrier-free offices.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. I wish I could give you a timeline on my staff doing the research, and meeting with TIR, and seeing what we can put available, but I can't say if it's going to be tomorrow, next week, or the week after. I don't know how long it's going to take my staff to look into this and get a draft ready. We had this draft ready, and we did this over the last three or four weeks.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think what's drafted is still good; it's good as is. All we need to know is how members will be able to go about making those adjustments and changes in their offices, like how it would be funded. So really, the wording would need to change here, it's more in the office side, about what provisions can be made to help members, over a period of time, make their offices barrier-free.

I don't think you need to re-draft this, in my opinion, maybe Mr. Younger disagrees, but I think it just needs to be that we know how (Interruption) - yes, so it still stands. I think as it reads today, people would like, you know, I'm sure we would like to vote on it today, but I understand that to be prudent, we have to know how we're going to be able to enable members to do what's requires. I'm just hoping that perhaps within a month or more - it's always better if there is a timeline, I feel, because then we know when we're getting back and it also doesn't disappoint the public who are waiting to see that leadership.

MR. CHAIRMAN: There are always issues around when we meet and that; sometimes it's a short period and sometimes it's a long period. But I will try to get the drafts out as soon as possible to all the caucuses. Thank you very much for all your input.
On the agenda: No. 9, Other Business. Mr. Corbett.

MR. CORBETT: I'd like to make a motion, and the motion would read as follows:
I so move that Legislative Counsel report back to this committee on what steps are necessary to ensure the committee can exercise its power of forfeiture with regard to Mr. Manning MacDonald and any other member who resigns before consideration can be given to a question of unexcused absence from the House of Assembly during a legislative session.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The motion is seconded by Mr. Smith.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Mr. Corbett.

MR. CORBETT: I'd like to put forward, with regard to the motion pending from the previous motion, I so move that Mr. MacDonald forfeit one day of pay for each of the following days without absence permission during the Spring Session, 2013, of the Legislature, and such dates being: April 2nd, April 3rd, April 4th, April 5th, April 18th, April 19th, April 10th, April 11th, April 12th, April 15th, April 16th, April 17th, April 18th, April 19th, April 22nd, April 23rd, April 24th, April 25th, April 26th, April 29th, April 30th, and May 1st. I so move. (Interruptions)

HON. MAURICE SMITH: You said April 18th and April 19th . . .

MR. CORBETT: April 8th and April 9th.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, that's correct. Mr. Younger.

MR. YOUNGER: I have no problem with the motion, I'm just wondering if we are going to - there are actually a number of other members in the Legislature who are also absent without permission, including Mr. Corbett who frequently took Fridays off, according to your own staff. There was Mr. Chuck Porter who took a week off for vacation.
In fact, you know that I had an e-mail from you indicating that, in fact, permission was deemed to be granted if you or the Whip were aware of it which, of course, is the case. But there were a number of members who were gone on different days and unfortunately as

- I'm fully supportive of the motion, in fact, I just think it should be expanded to include all members who missed a day and did not seek or receive the written permission, and we know that there are quite a few of those including a number of Ministers of the Crown.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The problem with that is that the Whip cannot give permission.

MR. YOUNGER: I know, but according to your e-mail . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: That the Whip can't give permission - no, that's . . .

MR. YOUNGER: And that's fine, I didn't say the Whip in our case did, but your e-mail that you wrote to me indicated that if the Speaker or the Whip were aware of it then permission was deemed to be given. I'd be pleased to table that e-mail with the House.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I'll get a copy of that e-mail and read for the commission, if you don't mind.

MR. YOUNGER: Yes, that's fine.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I'll go down and get a copy of that. That's not what I said in that e-mail; that was interpreted totally incorrectly. That e-mail would have come out of Bosc and O'Brien, Second Edition, on Page 126. That's where that came from and I will read that to you - I thought I brought it upstairs here with me. That's where that's at, it's Bosc and O'Brien, Second Edition, on Page 126.

MR. YOUNGER: Either way - I'm looking it up now - the point of my motion was more that there were a number of members who were absent for different reasons on different days. I don't think Mr. MacDonald's was excusable, and I don't think that some of the other ones that were absent were excusable either. I just think that we should apply it fairly to everybody.

MR. CHAIRMAN: You have the information about these other members that were missing, could you provide that to me, the dates . . .

MR. YOUNGER: Well, the member hasn't tabled anything either for Mr. MacDonald. (Interruptions) You tabled dates but you didn't say where you came up with those. Mr. MacDonald has said that there were 19 days - I think there were 19 on that list, and that's fine. All I'm saying is let's expand the motion to include all members who were absent on different days. Obviously there are some on the record as having been absent, and I wrote to you asking if you had issued written permission; I'll table that.


MR. YOUNGER: In some cases for medical appointments I believe you said, but no written permission has been provided for any of the absences which may be aware of, that's why I say we can leave it as . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Well I can tell you over that time period, in my research and my file, I had 10 requests from one Party, one request from another Party and one request from the independent member, which I granted permission in that timeframe for them to be away.

MR. YOUNGER: That's fine, Mr. Chairman. The amendment to the motion that I'm suggesting doesn't actually name anybody in particular; it just says it should be a blanket thing. The rule that Mr. Corbett is using suggests that you forfeit the pay - I can't remember the exact wording - the forfeiture is based on missing without permission. I'm just suggesting that, absolutely, I support that motion and it should be applied to all 52 members of the Legislature who are missing without any permission on any day. Sorry, 51 others, I apologize.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm going to ask the honourable member there if there's a motion. Can we put that in writing and have that sent to. . .

MR. YOUNGER: I haven't seen his in writing. We haven't received his in writing. The amendment is that it would apply to all members.

MR. CHAIRMAN: There they are right there. That's his right there. I would like to see your amendment put in writing, if that's possible.

MR. YOUNGER: That's fine. We only just received the motion.

MR. CORBETT: What we're dealing with here is extended absences and I think 14(2) is where it is. Look, if that is the bee that's in Mr. Younger's bonnet, that's fine. But to make the allegations that I don't show up on Friday is utter nonsense. The odd Friday that I may have gone back for ministerial duties or whatever, is true, and my staff has indicated to the Speaker's Office that I wouldn't be there. If that's the case, as a Minister of the Crown, I would indicate to the Opposition, especially if it were to be Question Period, but Fridays are not Question Period days. Whenever I'm absent, my staff would apply to you for my permission to be gone.

What we're talking about here is the rule that says when you're gone - there are people legitimately ill who couldn't get there. There maybe somebody who has some other personal reasons, I don't know. 
If Mr. Younger has a McCarthy-type list of who he thinks should be punished, then produce it.

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Chairman, the irony here is the reason that Mr. Corbett has the dates for Mr. MacDonald is because he was honest about it. All we're saying is that the
fact is I don't think Mr. MacDonald should have been absent. I don't think it was excusable, but the fact is he wants to do this under rule 14(1) which says that if the member is absent for one day without permission, they are subject to forfeiture. That's fine.

The e-mail from you, which I can read - you probably have it too now - I'll actually read what you said.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I have it right here now.

MR. YOUNGER: Oh, good, then you can read it. The thing is that all we're saying is that if we're going to apply the rule, apply the rule. He's already offered to pay it back regardless or pay this money out regardless of what happens at this committee. If he wants to make a political statement and go after Manning, he's already said that's fine. He'll pay it back, that's great. To me, we've already said we support that motion.

The point is that he wants to go further than that, which is what he wants to do because he already offered to pay it back, then that's fine, let's do it, but I don't understand why he would be opposed to that. If he thinks the rule should be applied, then why shouldn't the rule be applied? We can sit there and go through the list, but what is the value in that? We're talking about if you want the motion. I'll support the motion without the amendment if that's what he wants to do. What I'm suggesting - I'm writing the amendment out for you, I only just got his motion a few seconds ago - what I am suggesting is then apply the rule the way the rule was written. It's as simple as that.

Frankly let me tell you, that means that rule will apply to me when I was over getting an MRI, and that's fine. I'm writing an amendment here that will apply to me too, that's the way the rules are written. I let your office know I wouldn't be there, but I didn't receive written permission from you, so the amendment that I'm writing would actually apply to me too and I'm happy to give you the dates. The dates are easy because I didn't apply for per diems on those dates either, so they are easy to find. That is all I am saying.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I'll respond to your earlier about the Whips having given permission as the Whips. My email to you was that:
Attendance of members is seen to be a function of the Party Leadership, usually through the Whip, and it is rarely necessary for the House, as a whole, to take action in this regard. It is the Whip for each Party who is responsible for ensuring members attendance on behalf of the relevant Party's Leadership, not the House.
Is what I said correct?

MR. YOUNGER: I interpreted the way that . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: That's exactly what I said.

MR. YOUNGER: I know . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Right, you have it on your Blackberry there?

MR. YOUNGER: Yes, I have it right in front of me.

MR. CHAIRMAN: That's good.

MR. YOUNGER: And I still interpret the same way.

MR. CHAIRMAN: And I'll further read:

I've been asked for permission for members to be absent on a number of occasions. Such requests have often involved medical and other personal reasons so I am not going to disclose them to you. I am sure you would not want me to discuss your personal information. As far as the issue being on the agenda for the meeting on Thursday, all I know is what has been reported in the media. I have not been advised by any member of the commission that the matter is going to be raised. It might be raised under other business at the end of the meeting.

As it is so right now, correct?


MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Thank you, I'm kind of enjoying the discussion here because what really is happening here is sort of a glazing over of what the issue is. Mr. Manning MacDonald was allowed to leave the House of Assembly for over 19 days, by his own admission, on a number of occasions. This is not the only month that Mr. Manning MacDonald took off. I think if we go back to 2012 and 2011 as well there was some same amount, but those are other years and something else to talk about at another time.

The reasonability of this is the fact that on taxpayer's dollars, a member was away for a whole month not doing his job. Yes, he said, great, I'll give the money back, but the point is that the Leadership of the Liberal Party allowed that to happen. I think the motion is fully in order from what Mr. Corbett said, and I think we should go further on a couple of issues to make sure that this does not happen again and I have a couple of motions as well, but let's deal with this one first and we'll take another step too.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Preyra.

HON. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Chairman, I am intrigued by that last exchange you had with Mr. Younger and I'm wondering if Mr. Younger is implying that somehow he is capable of giving him permission or his Leadership gave permission and somehow that was okay? I'm just wondering whether or not it's asserting a new right to relieve members of their duties in the House?

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Chairman, I don't know where that comes from. I'm not the Whip of the Party or the Leader of the Party. I don't know where that kind of statement comes from.

MR. PREYRA: I'm just wondering if you're speaking on behalf of the Party, whether or not the Party is now . . .

MR. YOUNGER: That's probably the most ridiculous thing I've heard from a Minister of the Crown.

MR. PREYRA: . . . permission to do that.

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Chairman, the full point here is - and I've asked a couple of times now for a copy of the rule, but nobody seems to want to give it to me - but Rule 14(2) does not and it should - the House of Assembly Matters Committee should have met long ago and probably should still meet now and change those rules so it's clear - I know you're laughing about that - should clarify those rules so that what is in is not fine.

Manning's wasn't, we all agree with that, that's something we all agreed, but that's not the issue. The issue is that Mr. Corbett wants to move under Rule 14(2) and Rule 14(2) states - and I don't have it exactly, nobody seems to be able to provide it at a meeting where we are discussing it . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: It's right here.

MR. YOUNGER: We've been asking for a few minutes now. Rule 14(2) says, "If any Member shall leave the House for one whole day without permission first obtained from the Speaker, he may be subject . . ." - and it probably should say "he or she" but it doesn't - ". . . he may be subject to the censure of the House and shall also forfeit such monetary amount per day as is determined by the Legislature Internal Economy Board for the time he shall be so absent."

That's fine, I said right off the start that I support that motion, I said right off the start that I don't think Manning should be absent. So regardless of the ridiculousness of the statement that - I already said I don't. All I'm pointing out is the fact that if you want to move the rule let's move it for everybody who didn't have your written permission. You're the only one that knows who you had given permission to so my amendment, which I'm just finishing up, does not name names because I don't know who you gave permission to.

And you're right, if somebody is away for a personal or medical reason, it's none of my business. It's up to the Speaker.

I'm just suggesting that should - and Mr. Corbett already admitted that he left to go off and do other things and that his office advised you. I assume he did not wait to get written permission from you to be absent because that just hasn't been the case. The issue of Mr. MacDonald becomes - he has already said he'll pay it back, so this isn't even about trying to stop a motion of him paying it back because he already said he will. He has written you and told you he will. The only request he made was do you mind if I make it to a charity, but he said he will pay it back, and if the commission decides he has to pay it back to the province, that's fine. I'm just saying if we're going to enforce rules let's not do them arbitrarily, let's enforce the rules the way they're written. It's as simple as that.

You know we have Mr. d'Entremont next to me saying it's about the leadership but they all packed up and went to Cape Breton to watch their Leader give a speech one day. All but one - they left one person in the House and missed the FMA vote. Was it you that they left? That is the sole issue and the amendment, which I've written out and I'll pass to you, amended to include all members of the House of Assembly who are absent from the House pursuant to Rule 14(2).

MR. PREYRA: I just want to get some clarification. When you were talking about permission given, you said two Parties had asked for permission and the Independent member - there are three Parties in the House. Are you able to clarify that a little bit? I mean it has become a point of discussion and I'm just wondering whether or not permission was sought.

MR. CHAIRMAN: By the other Party?

MR. PREYRA: By the missing Party - who was the missing Party and was permission sought? It's fairly straightforward to imply that it was asked and then not have one Party ask for it. It's pretty clear; we don't need to do the math here.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I did the math and I've kept a file for the last two years. I'll be perfectly honest; I did have requests from the government members for permission to be absent, I had permission from the Independent member for Dartmouth North to be absent, and I had permission from the Progressive Conservative caucus to be absent. Does that clarify it?

MR. PREYRA: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Right now we have a motion on the floor with an amendment to that motion, so we will deal with the amendment first and I will read the amendment. The amendment is to include all members of the House of Assembly who are absent from the House, pursuant to Rule 14(2).

MR. CORBETT: Was the main motion moved?

MR. CHAIRMAN: I thought I was going to deal with the amendment first.

MR. FERGUSON: Was the main motion moved first?

MR. CORBETT: Yes, the main motion was moved first.

MR. YOUNGER: You moved it, didn't you?

MR. CORBETT: I moved it, but was it seconded?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, the main motion was that pending the report that Mr. McDonald forfeit one day's pay for each of the days absent without permission during the Spring session of the Legislature - and those days were already recorded. That's the main motion and it was moved by Mr. Corbett, seconded by Mr. Preyra.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.

Now we'll deal with the amendment to the motion, the amendment to include all members of the House of Assembly who are absent from the House pursuant to Rule 14(2).

MR. GORDON HEBB: You have to deal with the amendment - if it's an amendment to the motion, you have to deal with it first; if it's a new motion, then you can do what you've done. But if it's an amendment to the motion it has to be dealt with before the main motion.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Right, okay, let's deal with the amendment. The amendment includes all members of the House of Assembly who are absent . . .

MR. CORBETT: . . . we'll reconsider - is that a proper motion? Since you're on the prevailing side, the only time you can do a motion to reconsider should be by somebody on the prevailing side. We all voted yes, so we're saying we're going to reconsider this now because we have passed it by error.

MR. CHAIRMAN: So are we going to reconsider this?

MR. CORBETT: We're going to allow it to come forward as the amended motion, right?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Correct. I'll read it again, or is everybody comfortable with that amendment?

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

MS. BECKY KENT: We are talking about the amendment that the member for Dartmouth East . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, we are. That's what we're talking about.
The motion is defeated.

Now we will go back to voting on the original motion so moved by Mr. Corbett, seconded by Mr. Preyra.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.

Mr. d'Entremont.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: I have another motion that may be of some consideration to put some backing on this. We have talked about leadership of Parties, allowing things to happen and each caucus office, of course, receives funding for each MLA, over a certain amount of time. My motion would be this, and maybe we can have a little discussion after:

I so move that the House of Assembly Management Commission develop regulations that provide for a penalty to caucus office budgets if a member of that caucus is absent from the House for more than one day without the express written permission of the Speaker. The amount of the penalty should be equal to the pro-rated funding provided to the caucus office for that MLA.

So not only a penalty to the member but also to the caucus office and i.e. the leadership of the Party, to be able to pull some money back from those caucus offices - if they're not providing service to that member, why are they getting paid for it in the first place?

MR. CHAIRMAN: May I have a copy of that circulated, please, to the members of the commission?

[2:02 p.m. The commission recessed.]
[2:05 p.m. The commission reconvened.]

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The motion now has been circulated to all the committee members. I will ask Mr. Hebb to speak on this motion.

MR. GORDON HEBB: First I should point out that the issue you have been discussing, which arises from Rule 14(2) is only before the commission because the Rules of the House put it before the commission. This motion, in my view, is asking the commission to do something which would infringe on the privileges of the members of the House, which is their prerogative to control the attendance of the members of the House. So I think the regulations would be ultra vires this commission.

MR. CHAIRMAN: So the motion . . .

MR. HEBB: The motion itself is not out of order, but it's asking the commission to do something that would infringe on the House.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Just for the discussion, if this isn't the right committee then let's hope we have another committee at some point to be able to talk about this one, or maybe we can amend the motion to refer this to Assembly Matters. Would that be . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: That would be the appropriate committee.

MR. HEBB: That would be in order.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: All right. So I'll amend my first motion that way as long as I can get a seconder on it.

MR. CHAIRMAN: It was moved by Mr. d'Entremont, seconded by Mr. Corbett, that this motion be referred to the Assembly Matters Committee. Ms. Whalen.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Chairman, I don't think that committee has met since 2007, so again, in terms of urgency, I might make the suggestion that there's quite a list of things to be looked at within Assembly Matters.

MR. CHAIRMAN: May I suggest to you, Ms. Whalen, that I did meet with the Government House Leader, the Progressive Conservative House Leader, and the House Leader of the Official Opposition on two occasions - at least one, anyway - to try to get issues like this, and other issues important to this parliament, and I couldn't get consensus from everybody at the table to call the committee and get some of these issues dealt with in the past. Maybe with your help, I can get that done.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Chairman, I have been named a member of that committee and I have never been called to a meeting of the committee in the last four years. I am anxious to deal with a number of issues, which I won't raise today because you know them very well.

MR. CHAIRMAN: That's right. I, too, am also anxious to deal with lots of issues which I did put forward to the House Leaders at a meeting.

MS. WHALEN: I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman. I just think really, if we're talking about the privileges of the members, that the members have a right to be able to sit at an internal matters committee, or the Assembly Matters Committee, and discuss those issues. But we seem to have been thwarted up to this point, as all members have not had the chance to raise issues around committees, on-line petitions, and a number of other things. This motion clearly is an issue of importance to all members, so I think there's an urgency that it meet. Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand that. There are many, many important issues to all members of the Legislature that I tried to get consensus to bring to Assembly Matters, and I couldn't get it done.

MS. WHALEN: 2007.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Corbett.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I take umbrage with the word "thwarted." It would imply that there was something going on that the government, or even your good office, had stopped it. I would think that it has been - my time in the House, which is over 15 years, and all three Parties have governed, and I've sat on that committee for 15-plus years, and nobody saw fit - yourself as Speaker, or previous Speakers that I've sat through - I don't think of any of those Speakers and any of those Government House Leaders thwarted anybody, it was just a matter of course. So I take umbrage with the word "thwarted." Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. So the motion is to refer Mr. d'Entremont's motion to the Assembly Matters Committee.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
That being it for today, I would now look for a motion that we adjourn.
It was moved by Mr. Preyra and seconded by Ms. Kent that we now adjourn to meet on another day. Thank you.
[The commission adjourned at 2:09 p.m.]