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Proceedings of the Standing Joint Committee for the
Scrutiny of Regulations

Issue 1 - Evidence, May 11, 2006

OTTAWA, Thursday May 11, 2006

The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations met this day at 9:04 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 106 of the House of Commons and rule 88 of the Senate, for an organization meeting.


Mr. François Michaud, Joint Clerk of the Committee: Good morning. My name is François Michaud and I am the Joint Clerk of the Committee for the Senate.


It is my duty to preside over the election of the Joint Chair for the Senate side. I stand ready to receive a nomination to that effect.

Senator Bryden: I nominate Senator Eyton.

Mr. Michaud: Thank you.


Mr. Michaud: Are there any other nominations?


Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Mr. Michaud: Senator Eyton, you are elected Joint Chair for the Senate side. I will ask my colleague from the House of Commons, Mike MacPherson, to preside over the election of the Joint Chair for the House of Commons side.

Mike MacPherson, Joint Clerk of the Committee: It was moved by Gurbax Malhi that Paul Szabo be Joint Chair of the Committee for the House of Commons. Are there further nominations? Seeing none, I declare Paul Szabo duly elected joint chair of this committee.

I am now prepared to receive nominations for the first vice-chair on the House of Commons side.

Mr. Turner: I nominate my colleague, Ken Epp.

Mr. MacPherson: It was moved by Garth Turner that Ken Epp be vice-chair of the committee. Are there further nominations? Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Mr. MacPherson: I declare Ken Epp vice-chair of the committee.

I am prepared to receive nominations for the second vice-chair.


Mr. Bouchard: I nominate Mr. Paul Dewar.

Mr. MacPherson: Mr. Bouchard moves that Mr. Paul Dewar be elected Vice-Chair of the committee. Are there any other nominations?


Seeing none, I declare Paul Dewar second vice-chair of the committee.

Senator J. Trevor Eyton and Mr. Paul Szabo (Joint Chairmen) in the chair.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): I understand that members have the agenda before them. The next item is number 4 on the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. May I have a motion to that effect?

Senator Nolin: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

Item number 5 is to print the committee's proceedings.

Senator St. Germain: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

Item number 6 is the unrevised transcripts, an excellent idea.

Mr. Epp: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

Item number 7 is adoption of the first report. That, too, has been circulated. Should I pause for a moment or are we ready for the motion?

Mr. Epp: I would like to ask about this budget. Are we approving this budget now, and is it then etched in stone?

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): That is historic, is it not? I believe that it reflects the last session. We will deal with a current budget as the last item on the agenda.

Mr. Epp: Okay. Can we revise it later?

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): This is not a budget but rather a reporting of the last session.

Mr. Michaud: If I may, the figures you see in the first report are based on a requirement in the Senate pursuant to rule 104 of the Rules of the Senate. Each committee has to report back to the Senate the expenditures of the last session, so the figures you see in this report are the Senate expenditures incurred by this committee during the first session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament. This is not a budget for the current session. It merely informs the Senate of amounts spent during the previous session.

Mr. Epp: May I make my other point?

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Thank you.

Mr. Epp: It says, ``the foregoing budget was approved by the committee,'' so it looks as though this is a budget for the future.

Mr. Michaud: I do not think that is accurate.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): It is at the end of the first report. Is that what we are talking about?

Mr. Epp: Yes, I am sorry. Thank you.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): The motion is on the first report.

Senator Moore: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

Item number 8 is the authorization of expenditures.

Mr. Laframboise: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Mr. Epp: Will we debate this now? How firm is this? Is this the final budget?

Mr. Wappel: We are not on the budget.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): This is to authorize individual expenditures only within the budget.

Mr. Epp: Where are we?

Mr. Wappel: We are on Item No. 8, on page 3.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): It provides authority for individual expenditures.

Mr. Epp: I am sorry.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

Item number 9 is travelling and living expenses of witnesses.

Senator St. Germain: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

Item number 10 on media coverage is a bit scary. Perhaps we should have a discussion after the motion.

Mr. Laframboise: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Are there comments? I assume it has not been done in the past, or has it?

Mr. Michaud: It has been done in the past.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): We have not had media coverage before.

Mr. Michaud: Not since 2004.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): How do we feel about having media coverage?

Senator Nolin: I feel good about it. It should be the norm to have the deliberations of this committee aired so that people can see how regulations are examined by Parliament, which is a valuable process. Of course, it could be boring for those who do not have the paperwork before them as they listen to the debate. Nevertheless, it is a valuable tool that we should utilize more often.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): I am hearing you say that you think it might be appropriate on some occasions.

Senator Bryden: Mr. Chairman, we have had this provision since I became involved with the committee, that particular provision. During that period of time, there were only one or two times when there was a sufficient level of media interest to bring in the cameras. The last one occurred when considerable controversy arose around an issue of regulations in the fishery on the West Coast. It was a lot of fun, actually, and it was neat to chair. This committee competes with all the other committees for television time. It is not particularly high on the media's list of things to cover. However, if something topical occurs, the media will show up. It is a good motion to have on this agenda.

Mr. Dewar: I would like clarification on past practice, and Mr. Bryden has shed some light on that. I assume this allows us to have the meetings televised should we desire. Is that all we are talking about?

Senator Bryden: Yes.

Mr. Dewar: In terms of cost, I assume we have the facilities. Yes? Thank you.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): I was trying to plumb the attitude of members on this.

Senator Moore: Mr. Chairman, any use of television has to work within our deal with CPAC. Coverage depends on whether the budget we have with CPAC will allow it as well.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Are there other comments or questions? All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

Item number 11 is schedule of meetings. Our efficient staff have already suggested some dates. Does anyone have a problem with those dates? May I have a motion please in the terms suggested?

Senator Nolin: I so move.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Chairman (Senator Eyton): Carried.

The next item will be under Other Business. Mr. Michaud has referred me to the budget, which is a two-pager that should be in the material before you. I ask you to look at the second page, where you will see the historic budget and historic expenditure, which must show that this committee is one of the most frugal on the Hill. We never really come close. However, the suggestion here is a total budget of $18,300, allocated between the Senate and the House of Commons.

Is there any discussion?

Mr. Epp: I am sorry for getting ahead of the game here. How difficult will it be for us to revise this budget later? We have no way of knowing for sure which items will face this committee. We could need a greater expenditure to bring in witnesses or something like that. Therefore, we need some ability to revise it.

On the other hand, I see that the budget is based on previous budgets, and the numbers that have been budgeted have always been much greater, even though the actual expenditures are less. I wondered why we reduced the budget so greatly this year, in the sense that it takes away some wiggle room.

Mr. Michaud: This year's budget was reduced by about $5,000 compared to last session because in the past we usually had an item, under professional and other services, to provide for the hiring of external legal counsel in case it was needed.

In the last session, the Joint Chair from the House of Commons faced the problem when he went to his own committee to get the budget approved. He was told that if there was a need to hire external staff, then the committee ought to go back to liaison and ask for additional funds. With this in mind, when I prepared the draft, I took out that provision for external staff. If there is a need at some point over the course of this session, I think that the joint chairs will ask for permission from this committee to go back to liaison and ask for additional funds.

Mr. Epp: In other words, there is a mechanism for us to go back for additional funds if necessary. That answers my question. Thank you.


Mr. Lafromboise: In the budget submitted to us, the detailed projections are in English only. I have not received the French version.

Mr. Michaud: One does exist.

Mr. Lafromboise: The detailed budget is French, but the page containing the explanations on the backside is in English only.

Mr. Michaud: I would imagine, Mr. Laframboise, that this was a printing error. I apologize. It was in no way intentional.

Mr. Lafromboise: Fine then. Obviously, we will concur with the budget, provided, as you say, we have the option of going back to the committee to request additional budget funds.


The Joint Chairman (Mr. Szabo): Is there any further discussion on the budget? It was moved by Senator Moore. All those in favour? Opposed?


On a related item, this afternoon at one o'clock there is a Liaison Committee meeting of the House to look at requests for funding. One thing I noted is that this committee has not travelled in about seven years. The importance of the area has been set aside somewhat.

Is there any thought, or should we give some thought down the road, to whether the committee should consider a possible trip to consult and to exchange some ideas with other jurisdictions in regard to the scrutiny of regulations? If that is the case, is there an interest in reserving a little money in the liaison budget for a possible trip? We should probably make that representation at the committee today. We could discuss it at a later time if we would like to act on it.

As you probably know, the liaison money is appropriated quickly, and by mid-year it is gone. Is there any comment on that?

Mr. Wappel: I was vice-chair of the Liaison Committee in the last Parliament. I will also be on it with you. I think the past practice — that does not mean it will be the future practice — of the committee was to divide the budget into three sections, and spend in three different sections. The point was to try to avoid committee chairs scrambling at the beginning and eating up all the money in the first month or so for the entire year. In past practice, which I think worked well, there would be a discussion, let us say to the end of December because of the way the calendar has fallen, and then there would be further discussion for the period from January to March. It might be refined even better than that.

In terms of time, I do not know whether we have much time now to discuss potential trips because we really do not know where they might be or where we might wish to go. You are absolutely right that the last trip this committee took was in July 1999, when we took part in a conference of Australasia countries dealing with scrutiny of regulations and bills. It was a fascinating exercise and we learned a lot, I think. We also learned that it is hard to understand the Australians sometimes.

Having said that, I think the Joint Chairman's idea is a good one; but I do not know that we have enough time to put anything together, because I know that the committee will ask for specifics. They will ask for where we are going, what kind of flights, how long — the whole nine yards. Along the lines of Mr. Epp, there will be time, should a trip arise — and we do get invitations from time to time or can arrange to get one, I suppose — that we could then go back with a specific trip once this committee has examined it. If the committee decided to go, it would need to decide how many members will go and what the breakdown would be amongst the House of Commons and the Senate, et cetera. Then we could go with a firm proposal to the Liaison Committee, because the Liaison Committee, based on my experience, will not look at it unless the numbers are firm.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Szabo): Thank you, Mr. Wappel. That is excellent. We will ask the clerk to give us an idea of potential visitations or meetings. We may give the Liaison Committee a heads-up. I understand we cannot put together a budget, but I do not think any other committee has met often enough to be able to do that either. Perhaps we will keep our name on the list of potentials.

There are a couple of other small points. The clerk and the staff have put together the background notes. Has everyone received this document? I want to be sure. Is there anyone who did not?

Mr. Epp: Was it sent to our offices?

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Szabo): Yes, I received the document in my office two days ago. Mr. Dewar still needs a copy. If anyone else does not have this document, we will arrange for them to receive a copy. I have read through it a couple of times and it take a couple of reads. It is in both official languages and it is about 50 pages of reading with big type. It will be extremely important for the committee, to allow new members to apprise themselves of the activity levels.

I also commend the committee members who are new to visit the joint committee on the parliamentary website, and look at probably the first two meetings of this committee. The minutes are fairly straightforward, but some of the testimony or the transcripts are helpful in terms of the cadence — the order in which business is dealt with and the nature of the items. That introduction will help to break the ice for new members.

Many members, MPs and senators, are known in this committee. However, many in the room are unknown. It would be helpful if the clerk could point out those people who are unknown and introduce them to committee members. As well, could the clerk tell us where questions, needs or comments of committee members are to be directed? That information can be found on the website but it would help to mention that now to best meet the informational needs of committee members.

Mr. Michaud: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am François Michaud, joint clerk of the committee, and I work for the Senate. On this committee, the tradition has been that the Senate administration has the lead as far as the administration of the committee is concerned. Members should note that every expenditure is paid out of the Senate budget at a rate of 30 per cent and out of the House of Commons budget at the rate of 70 per cent. When you have a question relating to the administration of the committee, I am the main contact.

I ask Mike MacPherson to introduce himself and then François Bernier, general counsel, will have a few words to say.

Mr. MacPherson: I am the joint clerk of the committee from the House of Commons side. I am in a supportive role to Mr. Michaud and I too can be contacted. My information is on the website.

François-R. Bernier, General Counsel to the Committee: Good morning, gentlemen in this case, because we have no ladies on the membership. The committee might get into trouble for that. My name is François Bernier and I am general counsel to the committee. I have served the committee since 1982. I am beginning my final year for this quarter of a century. If members have any questions relating to the mandate of the committee, the examination of statutory instruments or a particular interest, they are welcome to contact us. Our contact information is available in all the usual places.

I emphasize the desirability for new members to take a look at these background notes. They generally answer a number of the questions that members have in the initial stages about the role of the committee, the mandate and how that mandate is discharged.

One last word: Because I have the microphone now, I will introduce my two colleagues who serve as counsel to the committee: Peter Bernhardt and Jacques Rousseau. You will see them on a rotational basis as the meetings of the committee start.


Senator Nolin: For information purposes, could you tell me which files are, generally speaking, the most fascinating ones? One in particular that comes to mind is fisheries, given that the committee spent so much time reviewing this area. Some files drag to the point where they seem to set down roots. Often we have to deal with very obstinate departmental administrations. Generally speaking, which important files will be vying for our committee's attention?

Mr. Bernier: The first file will be the fisheries regulations. That item is on the agenda for the committee's first regular meeting. The agenda has been drawn up and is ready to be printed. The Ontario Fisheries Regulations had been the target of a disallowance motion in the Commons during the last Parliament. The disallowance report was referred to the committee for study.


The legislative solution that had been promised to take care of and resolve that problem has not come to fruition. The committee now has to deal with the issue of how to proceed with the file. That issue will be there on June 1. That is the main one that I can think of right now.

Senator Moore: Thank you, chair. Counsel, where is the file with regard to the CRTC and the level 2 fees that they were charging, which we deem to be taxes? Is that a matter of litigation?

Mr. Bernier: If you will recall, Mr. Lee was the main member to push that file. The committee made a report to make its view known that these fees could be perceived as an improper tax. The committee, as was pointed out the last time the file was before the committee, never made a formal legal finding, if you will, that this was so. The committee simply expressed a desire that the legislation clarify —

Senator Moore: Was there not an issue before the court that we were awaiting the decision on?

Mr. Bernier: Yes, you are right. It came back to the committee. The court found that the fees were proper. The argument that this amounted to a tax did not succeed.

At the initial level, this argument was part of an incidental proceeding. This item is a little complex. The Crown had asked the court for a legal determination based on the assumption that this was a tax, to try to shorten the proceeding between the parties. A procedure allows parties to do that and asks the court for a determination on the legal issue that might shorten process. That was done, partly as a result of a suggestion of this committee. The Department of Justice applied to the Federal Court and posed two questions to the court asking, if this were a tax, would it be authorized by the Broadcasting Act? The court did not limit itself to answering that question and went a little further. It said that this fee is not a tax and that it is authorized.

Mr. Turner: We have no background on this issue.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Szabo): You are quite right, Mr. Turner. There are hundreds of files that go forward. I understand that Mr. Bernier is available to discuss any file or update any member on any file of particular interest. On those matters that are for the consideration of the full committee we will have information for the full committee prior to any discussion. We will invite all members to do that.

I will set up a meeting with Mr. Bernier to further educate myself on the processes and the matters of business of the committee in advance of the next meeting. If any members wish to join me, please let me know personally. We will ensure that the schedules for all members who have the time and interest will be accommodated.

Is there further business of the committee?

Mr. Cannan: For clarification, the next meeting is on June 1, for which the agenda is prepared. Will you have advance notice of the reading material?

Mr. Bernier: The agenda is usually distributed, during the week preceding the week of a meeting. If the meeting is on the traditional Thursday, the agenda materials should be received in the members' office late Thursday or Friday of the previous week.

Mr. Cannan: If we do not receive the materials, we can call you; and I appreciate that.

Mr. Bernier: Definitely.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Szabo): Is there any further business for the committee? Seeing none, I will entertain a motion for adjournment. Moved by Mr. Cannan. Agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The committee adjourned.

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