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REGS Committee Meeting

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Proceedings of the Standing Joint Committee for the
Scrutiny of Regulations

Issue 1 - Evidence, November 15, 2007

OTTAWA, Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations met this day at 9:17 a.m., pursuant to rule 88 of the Rules of the Senate, and to Standing Order 106(1) of the House of Commons, to organize the activities of the committee.


Marcy Zlotnick, Joint Clerk of the Committee (Senate): Good morning. As Senate clerk for this committee, it is my duty to preside over the election of the Senate joint chair. I am ready to receive motions from senators to that effect.

Senator Bryden: I nominate Senator Eyton.

Ms. Zlotnick: Are there other nominations? It is moved by Senator Bryden that the Honourable Senator Eyton do take the joint chair of this committee. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Ms. Zlotnick: I declare the motion carried. I invite Senator Eyton to take the chair.

Senator J. Trevor Eyton (Joint Chair) in the chair

Michael MacPherson, Joint Clerk of the Committee (House of Commons): Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the next item of business is to elect a joint chair from the House of Commons. I am ready to receive motions to that effect.

Mr. Epp: I nominate Derek Lee, and I do so with great pleasure and honour.

Mr. MacPherson: Are there other nominations? It has been moved by Mr. Epp that Mr. Lee be elected joint chair of the committee. Is it your pleasure, honourable members, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Mr. MacPherson: I declare Mr. Lee duly elected joint chair of the committee and invite him to take the chair.

Derek Lee (Joint Chair) in the chair

Mr. MacPherson: We will move on to the election of two vice-chairs for the House of Commons.

Mr. Norlock: I nominate Mr. Epp for first vice-chair.

Mr. MacPherson: It has been moved by Mr. Norlock that Mr. Epp be elected vice-chair of the committee. Are there other nominations? Is it your pleasure, honourable members, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Mr. MacPherson: I declare Mr. Epp vice-chair of the committee. I am now prepared to receive nominations for the second vice-chair.


Mr. Ménard: I nominate Mr. David Christopherson as second deputy chair.

Mr. MacPherson: It is moved by Mr. Ménard that David Christopherson be deputy chair of the committee.


Are there any further nominations? Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Mr. MacPherson: I declare Mr. Christopherson duly elected second vice-chair of the committee.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Senator Eyton and I are ready to assume the role of co-chairs if the clerks have finished. We have a bunch of routine motions. Senator Eyton and I will take us through those motions as quickly as we can.

Can I confirm with the clerk for the House, the clerk for the Senate and our counsel that the forms of these motions reflect the same provisions in the previous session? They do? Okay, we will go through them.

I will look for someone to move one or more of these motions. Does anyone want to move them? Senator Harb moves item 4, Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, as written. All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.


Ms. Guay: I move that the committee publish its proceedings in both official languages. I would like the phrase "in both official languages" added.


Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): I will check with our clerk. Our proceedings are in both languages.


Ms. Guay: I would like it to be written in the document.


Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Ms. Guay, do you want to move an amendment?

Ms. Guay: Yes.

Mr. Lee: What is it again?


Ms. Guay: I will reword the amendment. It is moved by Monique Guay that the committee publish its proceedings in both official languages.

I move that "in both official languages" be added to the document.


Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): I see no objection around the table. Clerk from the Senate and clerk from the House, is that in order? Thank you. I will put the amendment. All in favour of the amendment?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): The amendment is carried. The motion, as amended, is moved by Mr. Wappel.

Item 5, all in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Senator Eyton): Item 6 is unrevised transcripts.

Mr. Wappel: I so move.

Joint Chair (Senator Eyton): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Item 7 is adoption of first report.

Mr. Epp: I so move, as written.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Item 8, authorization of expenditures, is moved by Mr. Norlock. All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Item 9 is travelling and living expenses of witnesses. Mr. Szabo moves the motion as written. All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Item 10 is electronic media coverage of public meetings. Mr. Lebel moves this one as written. All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Item 11 is the time slot for regular meetings. Colleagues, we normally meet Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. Normally, it is every second Thursday, but may we simply pick Thursday at 8:30 a.m.? It is moved by Ms. Guay, as written. All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): We have a draft budget, colleagues. You have a copy in front of you. Is there any comment from either of the clerks on the budget? I presume it reflects previous spending authorities. Is there any comment?

Mr. Epp: Presumably, the numbers are close or equal to what they were last year. What is the actual outcome? In other words, compared to the budget amount, what were our actual expenditures?

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): That question should go to the clerk from the Senate, I believe. The clerk from the Senate is directing Mr. Epp to page 2. At the bottom of page 2, you have the information for everything you ever wanted to know, Mr. Epp.

Mr. Wappel: I am not sure that information answers the question, though. That is the budget but what was actually spent? Was it exactly $18,300?

Ms. Zlotnick: It is the figure underneath, where it says total expenses. That was the actual expenditure.

Mr. Wappel: Then why are we asking for $18,300?

Ms. Zlotnick: You are free to modify that amount if you so choose.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Mr. Wappel knows that the clerks project likely or possible expenditures through the upcoming session.

Mr. Wappel: I also know the Liaison Committee has asked that chairs bring in more realistic budgets. I am a little surprised. In the last session, a forecast of $18,300 that comes in at $2,200 is not even close to realistic.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): One factor is the number of meetings we will have. The clerks are in a guessing game as to how long the session will be. The clerks know how much it costs per meeting to bring in a witness, et cetera. They will average out the number of witnesses we might want to bring in and the amount of publications they may wish to purchase throughout the period. If the period ends up being shorter than that, the expenditure will be less.

If you have a question about an individual item of expenditure, the clerk might be able to answer that.

Mr. Wappel: I do not want to prolong the meeting, but if you look at the history of the last five years, it is clear that regardless of whether there is a majority Parliament or a minority Parliament, a Liberal government or a Conservative one, the expenses are around $3,000 on average, no matter what the sitting was. Each and every year we ask for a tremendous amount of money and we come in at $3,000. It is laudable but it is also laughable in a way because it does not reflect the reality of the committee, based on a history of five years.

Joint Chair (Senator Eyton): Would you like to suggest another number? I agree with your general observation that it does seem a little ridiculous. It seems to me it should be a number somewhere in the middle. There is room.

Mr. Wappel: I merely point it out. I look for some guidance from the joint chairs.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Mr. Wappel, you will be aware that other committees, as they put their budgets forward, will come in with hundreds of thousands of dollars in proposed spending. It is not that they know they will spend every nickel but they are preparing for those contingencies. Our clerks do the same thing.

We do not have hundred of thousands of dollars of projected expenditures; we have a grand total of $18,000. They merely follow a format that was used before.

Can the clerk comment on whether we can pare down our $18,000 projected budget to make it look better to the Liaison Committee and members around the table?

Ms. Zlotnick: This is my first time clerking this committee, so I asked about that number. I take your point and I did see those same figures. I noted that there has been at least some reduction because the committee asked for $29,000 in 2004-05.

It looked to me as if we could chop it a bit more, but I was told to be conservative. Because I did not have any experience with this committee, I went with what I was instructed to do.

However, this is your committee. I will take instructions from you.


Ms. Guay: I have been sitting on this committee for a very long time and I can tell you that the committee has never exceeded its annual budget. The amount left over simply goes back to the government and the committee requests another budget in the following year.

I see no problem with a budget of $18,000. I do not see why we would quibble about it. We have never spent more than that.


Mr. Epp: Mr. Chair, to move this along, I asked the question because I wanted to know how realistic it was. I am glad this was included.

I move an amendment to the budget such that each of the amounts given in the budget be reduced by 25 per cent, rounded up to the nearest thousand.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): There is a motion. Do we need a seconder? We do not need a seconder. Debate?

Mr. Epp: I should change that. The motion is for a reduction of 25 per cent in each category but rounded up to the nearest hundred rather than the nearest thousand.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): We have a motion on the floor in respect of the budget.

Mr. Szabo: Having watched the committee's interests through the liaison committee, we are the lowest budgeted committee. They do not even look at us. We have been trying actively over the past years to have some special activity whereby a paid witness would be required, which would wipe out the $18,000. This is nonsense. It is $20,000. Do not compare it to a full standing committee that receives this amount. Leave the budget alone. They will spend $4,000 changing these papers so it is best to let it go. If you want to change it later on, do so, but I am opposed to making silly changes now. It is $20,000 and we should leave the paperwork alone.


Ms. Guay: I am completely opposed to that motion. Like my colleague, I see no problem with a budget of $18,300. If we do not exceed that amount, we give back any amount left over.

But if we reduce the amount, we will have to make a request in order to get more. To do so, we have to appear before the Committee on Procedure, and it gets complicated.

I think that we must leave it as it is, and if there is a surplus, we just give it back. We should not cut the budget and then have to go and ask for more because we need it. So I oppose the motion.


Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Thank you. Seeing no further interventions, I will put the question on the amendment by Mr. Epp. All in favour?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Opposed?

Some Hon. Members: Opposed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): The motion is defeated. Therefore, I do not see any other motions or any other discussion. I will put the motion to adopt the budget as proposed by the clerk. All in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Opposed? The motion is adopted.

I ask counsel for the first report.

Peter Bernhardt, General Counsel to the Committee: If we are to meet next week, for purposes of lesser quorum we will need to have the report tabled and concurred in both Houses.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): We have, before the committee, a routine draft first report. It is introduced and tabled in both Houses at the beginning of each session of Parliament for specific reasons. The report is identical to all such previous reports. It allows us to move forward and to do business in the same way.

Mr. Wappel: Did we not pass this as item 7? It has been done.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Yes. Next, we will set a date for the next meeting? I will take an adjournment motion.

Ms. Barnes: You said that the committee meets every two weeks but we passed the motion for every Thursday. Is it at your call?

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): The motion that we adopted is the 8:30 a.m. time slot for meetings. If we have a build-up of work, we then add another meeting.

Ms. Barnes: Are we planning to meet next Thursday?

Mr. Bernhardt: We were looking tentatively at meeting next Thursday, November 22, and on Thursday, December 6, two weeks following. We will try to squeeze in a third meeting on Thursday, December 13. The dates are: November 22, December 6 and December 13, if members are agreed.


Ms. Guay: One meeting a week? Is it not a meeting every two weeks?

Jacques Rousseau, Counsel to the Committee: The next meeting would be next week. Then there will be two weeks before the next meeting on December 6, and the last meeting will take place a week later on December 13.


Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Committee members will note there has been a build-up of work in the secretariat since the last session, and we must keep up. Of course, we will not meet during the January break. Three meetings are scheduled. Are members agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Joint Chair (Mr. Lee): Do I have a motion to adjourn?

Senator Harb: I so move.

The committee adjourned.

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