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REGS Committee Meeting

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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, October 23, 1997

• 0909

The Standing Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons for the Scrutiny of Regulations met this day at 9:09 a.m. to organize the activities of the committee.


The Joint Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Tõnu Onu): Honourable senators and members of Parliament, as the clerk of the Senate for this committee, it is my duty to preside over the election of a Joint Chair for the Senate.

Are there any nominations?

Senator Lewis: I nominate as Joint Chair for the Senate, Senator Hervieux-Payette.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): Senator Hervieux-Payette has been nominated Joint Chair. Are there any other nominations? If there are none, I declare Senator Hervieux-Payette elected Joint Chair. Unfortunately, she is unable to be here as she is travelling, so I declare her elected in absentia.

We will now proceed to the election of a Joint Chairman from the House of Commons.

The Joint Clerk of the Committee (Ms Danielle Bélisle): Pursuant to Standing Order 106, it is now up to the House of Commons side to elect a Joint Chairman representing the House of Commons. Are there any nominations?

Mr. Epp: I nominate Mr. Ted White.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): It is moved by Mr. Epp that Mr. Ted White be the Joint Chairman representing the House of Commons.

Mr. White: I have a point of order, Madam Clerk. It is the belief that on a committee such as this, the Joint Chairman should be a person who both wishes to be the Joint Chairman and is elected by his peers. In that spirit and because I do not wish to be Joint Chairman, I nominate Mr. Derek Lee to be the Joint Chairman.

Mr. DeVillers: I second that nomination.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): With unanimous consent, would you withdraw your motion, Mr. Epp?

Mr. Epp: Do I have to withdraw my motion?

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): If there is a motion on the floor, it should be withdrawn by the person who put the motion.

Mr. Epp: Yes, I withdraw my motion.

Senator Lewis: It has been tradition that the Joint Chairman from the House of Commons is from the opposition side.

Senator Kelly: Senator Lewis is saying that it is the tradition; it is not necessarily the rule.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): Perhaps our legal counsel can verify this, but the custom has been that the Joint Chair from the Senate comes from the government side, and the Joint Chairman from the House of Commons comes from the opposition. We also have the position of Vice-chairman who is usually from the House of Commons and from the government side.

As in all these things, the committee is its own master.

Mr. Wappel: On a point of order, Madam Clerk, this is a development that was unforeseen. The reason I am speaking is because I was asked by Mr. Lee to nominate him Vice-Chairman. He is attending a funeral this morning.

Unless Mr. White has previously discussed this possibility with Mr. Lee — and can tell us — Mr. Lee will have absolutely no idea that he has been nominated co-chair of this committee for the House of Commons. I have no idea whether he will accept the post, bearing in mind that he was Joint Chairman when we were in opposition. He recognizes that the tradition of this committee has been to have a Joint Chairman from the opposition throughout. While I think he would make an excellent Joint Chairman, if no one has discussed the matter with him, we are putting him in a bit of a bind.

Mr. DeVillers: I suggest that we proceed with the nomination of Mr. Lee. He has been nominated and the motion has been seconded. If his desire is not to serve, then he could resign. That would be the proper procedure.

Mr. Pickard: Are we positive there are no rules in place that would exclude a member of the government being the Joint Chairman in this case? If we are, I assume we can go ahead with the process, as Mr. DeVillers has suggested.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): There are no rules in this regard.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): It is custom. The committee is very much the master of its own work. We, as clerks, certainly cannot make procedural rulings or even take points of order.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): We can only put the motion on the floor, and you have to decide on it.

It is moved by Mr. White that Mr. Derek Lee be Joint Chairman of this committee. Is it agreed?

Mr. DeVillers: Upon sober second thought, I would now suggest that if Mr. White is not prepared to accept the traditional nomination as a member of the Official Opposition from the House of Commons, perhaps Mr. Epp would be prepared to act as Joint Chairman.

Mr. Epp: I am not prepared to do so.

Mr. DeVillers: It was only a thought.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): It is up to the committee to decide. Would the committee prefer to postpone the election to the positions of Joint Chairman and Vice-chairman?

Senator Kelly: Why do we not agree to elect Derek Lee subject to his acceptance? In the event that he declines, perhaps we could agree today that he then become Vice-chairman. We would then be able to fill that seat without going through a whole bunch of other machinations.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): You propose, Senator Kelly, that Mr. Lee be elected Joint Chairman on condition of his acceptance of the position. If he does not accept that position, he would automatically become Vice-chairman.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): Then the Vice-Chairman that would have been elected would be someone from the opposition. Would that person accept to become chair?

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): We would not discuss the position of Vice-Chairman at all.

Senator Kelly: At this point, we would not discuss the Vice-Chairman.

Mr. Pickard: I believe we have gone through the process and offered to the opposition members in attendance the opportunity to stand as chair. Since they have declined, I see no problem in electing Mr. Lee. Certainly he would have the right of refusal, but I am certain he is looking for an administrative position because he did request that his name stand as Vice-Chairman. I think it is appropriate that we go ahead, elect Mr. Lee and continue with the process.

Mr. Casey: It could become a little cumbersome if Mr. Lee later decides he does not want to co-chair. We still do not have a Vice-Chairman. Does he automatically become Vice-Chairman and then we choose someone else? That sounds like two or three different motions jumbled together. I find that very cumbersome.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): We would not entertain any other motions today.

Mr. Casey: Is there any urgency in this issue? Is it urgent that we elect a Joint Chairman today at this meeting? Let us find out what Mr. Lee says.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): Even if the committee elects Mr. Lee Joint Chairman, the Senate Joint Chair is absent. We have a series of routine motions to go through. In the absence of both Joint Chairs, do you feel that it would be appropriate to go through them at this point in time?

Mr. White: If it would help committee members to rationalize and come to a decision, I realize that it is traditional that I would fill the chair position. I have explained already that I do not wish to do that. Mr. Lee did a very good job. I did discuss with him in the House some weeks ago the possibility that I would raise this issue.

I would be more than willing to serve as a Vice-Chairman. I realize that is a reversal of the normal roles. This is an unusual committee in that it does not get into partisanship in a significant way, in fact none that I can remember. It being administrative in nature, I would feel quite happy filling that position. If that helps members feel comfortable with the situation, then they can allow those events to unfold.

Mr. Pickard: The only motion we have on the floor at this point in time is the nomination of Mr. Lee. Possibly we should do away with that motion and then deal with Mr. White's motion.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): The motion on the floor at the moment is Mr. White's, to nominate Mr. Derek Lee as Joint Chairman of this committee. I also have the motion in amendment by Senator Kelly, which adds to that motion, pursuant to the approval of Mr. Lee.

Mr. Epp: I suggest, then, that we call the question on that amendment. My recommendation to the committee is that we defeat it so as not to cloud the issue. Then we can go on and vote on the main motion.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): Do you want to withdraw the motion?

Senator Kelly: I am quite content to withdraw the motion. I was trying to get through this process in a smooth way. However, I withdraw.

Mr. Epp: On a point of order. Unfortunately, I am more tied to Robert's Rules of Order than to Beauchesne's. In Robert's, once a motion is made it belongs to the meeting and not to the mover of the motion. With regard to this motion to amend, does the mover have the right to withdraw it?

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): Unanimous consent is needed.

Senator Kelly: I certainly have the right to withdraw.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): Yes, as long as there are no objections, and it is by unanimous consent.

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): It is moved by Mr. Ted White that Mr. Derek Lee be Joint Chairman of this committee.

Is it your pleasure to adopt the motion?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): Can we have a motion for someone to chair for today in order to deal with our routine motions?

Mr. Wappel: I move that Senator Lewis be acting Joint Chairman for the day.

Senator Lewis: I would say not for the day but until the election of the Vice-Chairman, after which the Vice-Chairman should take over.

The Joint Clerk (Ms Bélisle): As well as the routine motions.

It is moved by Mr. Wappel that Senator Lewis be the acting Joint Chairman for the day. Is it your pleasure to adopt this motion?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Senator Derek Lewis (Acting Chairman) in the Chair.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Derek Lewis (St. John's, Lib.)): Thank you for your confidence.

The next item is to proceed with the election of a Vice-Chairman. Are there any nominations for that position?

Mr. Epp: I move that Ted White be elected to the position of Vice-Chairman.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Are there any other nominations?

There being none, Mr. Ted White is elected Vice-Chairman of the committee.

Mr. White: I am sorry, Senator Lewis, but I have to leave for a media interview, so you are in the chair for the rest of today and for the routine motions.

I thank members present for electing me Vice-Chairman. I will certainly be here for subsequent meetings.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): There is a question as to whether we proceed with the rest of the agenda items or put them off until the two Joint Chairs and the Vice-Chairman are here. However, it seems to me it might be better to proceed. Most of these matters are routine and we might as well deal with them.

Is there any objection to proceeding in that way?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): The next item is the appointment of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, or the steering committee. In the past, we moved quickly on this because we did not have as many parties in Parliament as we do now. I do not know if there has been any discussion among the parties as to who they would like to see on the subcommittee.

On the subcommittee there are usually the two Joint Chairs, the Vice-Chairman, and, traditionally, there has also been representation from the opposition parties other than the official opposition. There is no fixed number.

Mr. Pickard: Mr. Chairman, I do not mean to throw a wrench into this process. In view of the fact that both Joint Chairs and the vice-chair are not here, is it wise to continue to set up the committee structure and move that agenda along? I think it could be done very quickly with the standing members present, in particular the two Joint hairs and the Vice-chairman. I think it would be more prudent to skip over some of these structural matters and deal with them when the full complement of the committee is here.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): That was my point at the beginning.

Is it agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Senator Kelly: Surely we can agree on the fifth and sixth items.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): I do not think there is anything in the fifth item of any particular concern.

Senator Moore: I move:

That the committee print 550 copies of its proceedings and that the Chair be authorized to adjust this number to meet demand.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Is it agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): The next item is No. 7.

Senator Kelly: Mr. Chairman, with great respect, in the absence of the Joint Chairs, I do not think we are in a position to deal with this item.

Mr. François-R. Bernier (General Counsel to the Committee): The problem, Senator Kelly, is that this being a joint committee the quorum of the committee must be fixed by the House of Commons. The request for the quorum has always been included in the first report, which is then adopted by the House. In the absence of that, it means that when the committee next meets, we must have a majority of both Houses which, with 17 members from the House of Commons and eight senators, can get a little tricky.

Senator Kelly: I have no intention of it being dealt with at this committee. I would point out that it requires the joint chairmen to report to their respective houses and they are not here.

Mr. Bernier: Presumably, in the coming week, they will be back.

Senator Kelly: I understand that. I remind you, counsel, that you launch us into these technical arguments all the time. I just want to give a little of it back to you.

Mr. Pickard: I move Motion No. 7.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): First, we have to determine the issue of the quorum. It has been suggested that in the past the quorum was fixed at four and, for the receipt of evidence, the quorum was fixed at three. It is provided that both Houses be represented.

Mr. Epp: In view of the greater number of members now, I move that the quorum be set at seven members.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): The committee itself has increased in size to 25 members; however, our experience would suggest that you might have trouble achieving that number. You are suggesting that the quorum be set at seven?

Mr. Epp: That is my motion.

Mr. Bernier: You can change it later if it does not work.

Mr. Wappel: Mr. Chairman, I understand Mr. Epp moving this because of the larger size of the committee. However, I have been on this committee since 1989, and many days we are lucky if we have four people attend.

Traditionally this committee only meets from 8:30 to 9:30, or at the latest 10 a.m., once every second Thursday. That important meeting could be scuttled because we only have four people here instead of seven. As the House of Commons and the Senate proceed with their business, you will find that there will be less and less attendance. That is a dramatic cut into the work that the committee can do. Things can change in politics; however, heretofore, this committee has not been one where there has been stellar attendance from the members, if I may put it that way, and I would urge that we not set the quorum too high.

Mr. Epp may find that seven out of 25 is a joke, but I suggest that seven is, in fact, too high based on previous experience. I recommend that we remain at the present numbers. If it turns out that many members are attending, the committee is the master of its own procedure and can always increase the quorum. I suppose, by the same token, we could always decrease it. However, if we do not have a quorum, then we will not be able to have a meeting to decrease the quorum.

I simply urge, based on experience, that we be cautious about increasing the minimum number of members who should be present.

Mr. Epp: I should like to simply put the argument on the other side. The quorum is for the purposes of taking votes, resolutions, and other decisions. The business of the committee, it seems to me, can still carry on, according to the next motion. We have fewer numbers there. In other words, I am simply submitting to the group that I think my choice of seven is a reasonable one, and I think it is defensible. Seven and three would be fine.

Mr. Pickard: Tradition is a good means by which to make rules, particularly given that no one has voiced here today that there has been a problem with quorums before. It seems to me that if no problem is voiced about the size being four, it is just saying that that is a minimum. We hope we will have seven. We hope we will have more, but that is up to each individual committee member.

The reasoning that Mr. Wappel put forward, in which the chairman seemed to concur, was that there may be times when it will be difficult to achieve a quorum and that it can be an obstruction to the committee if we have too large a quorum. As a result, I would suggest that tradition be the guide here.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): We will need to have a vote on Mr. Epp's motion.

Mr. Epp: If it is defeated, so be it.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Would all in favour of Mr. Epp's motion that the quorum be set at seven and three please raise their hands? Those against the motion? The motion is defeated.

Is there a motion to accept the report and that it be completed by setting the quorum at four and three?

Mr. Pickard: I would so move.


Mr. Marceau: I would go along with four and three. I merely want assurances that the quorum will consists of at least one member of the opposition. Therefore I would add to the motion: provided at least one opposition member is present.


The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): We have always avoided it in the past because it is a non-partisan committee; however, I see your point. It may lead to a bit of difficulty in the sense that if we were to say “both Houses” were represented, then I suppose you would have to say “all parties”.

Mr. Marceau: That is not what I am asking. I am asking for one opposition member to be present. Theoretically, it is possible that all members constituting a quorum could be Liberal, so I do not think it is asking too much.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): We have not had a problem with that, but I take your point. I suppose it would have to be, then, that both Houses be represented, including at least one member from the Opposition from the House of Commons, or the Senate? Do you see the point?


Mr. Marceau: I would prefer that the motion read one member of the opposition from the House of Commons, as there are no NDP, Reform or BQ senators.


Mr. Pickard: Mr. Chairman, again I will go back to tradition. This being a non-partisan committee, with a difficulty obtaining quorum at times, when we start trying to represent partisan groups, then we may have to say next an opposition member in the Senate. All kinds of variables could be built into obstructing this committee from moving. As long as proper notice is given of committee meetings, then it is up to the opposition members to be here, and it is up to the government members to be here. The real question here is that proper notice be given with a reasonable time period.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): I am advised that in practice we do not run into this problem.

Mr. Pickard: My point is that as long as every committee member is notified of the meeting within the proper time-frame, then I do not see it to be a problem. We can look at whatever issues are coming if we are notified properly, and surely some member of the opposition would find it incumbent to be here if that is important.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Also, it is traditional with committees that the chairman will not start the meeting until he sees representation on all sides, or at least one person from both sides.

Mr. McKay: The only concern I have with the motion, which on the face sounds perfectly sensible, is that the effect could be that, if the opposition boycotted the meetings, then the work of the committee could be paralysed. That would ultimately defeat the work of the committee. On that basis, I cannot see how we could support that motion.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Are you making a motion to that effect then?

Mr. Marceau: Yes.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): You have heard the motion that the report be amended to cover the point which has been made. You have heard the comments. Are you in favour of amending the report?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Some Hon. Members: No.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): The motion is defeated, 3 to 12.

Mr. Wappel: Mr. Chairman, I have a question on the last page where the report is dealing with money. Can counsel advise us; are these moneys in the usual amounts or similar amounts to those which have been passed before? There has been no discussion whatsoever and we are talking about $100,000.

Mr. Bernier: Mr. Wappel, that portion of the report simply meets a requirement in the Rules of the Senate. It is actually a report on expenditures made in the few months that preceded the dissolution. The Rules of the Senate require that these expenditures be reported back to the Senate at the first opportunity.

Mr. Wappel: So this is not a request for the expenditure of money; it is a report about money which has been expended.

Mr. Bernier: Yes. It is an accounting.

Senator Kelly: It might be useful, particularly for new members, to distribute the detail of the miscellaneous figure from last year.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): That figure is relatively high because it represents the whole session and, for at least part of the last session, we were still paying for costs to print committee proceedings at the government printing bureau. As of last year, that work is being done internally in the Senate. Those costs will not continue.

Senator Kelly: I understand that. I am saying that when one sees a set of accounts where close to 45 per cent of the total is under the heading “Miscellaneous”, one automatically wonders what that is all about.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): That is why I wanted to explain that “Miscellaneous” primarily refers to a printing cost which we no longer have to pay.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Can we proceed to the motion by Mr. Pickard:

That the committee concur in the first report and that the Joint Chairs so report to their respective House.

Is it agreed, honourable members?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Carried.

Regarding item number 8, we require a motion that:

That the Committee confirm the agreement to have two Counsel from the Library of Parliament and two Administrative Assistants from the Senate assigned to the said committee on a continuing basis and that their salaries and other expenses be paid by the committee from funds provided for that purpose in the committee's budget.

Mr. Wappel: I so move.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Is it agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Carried. Regarding item 9, we require a motion:

That either Joint Chair or, in accordance with the direction of the Joint Chairs, either Joint Clerk be authorized to approve payment of expenditures of the committee.

Senator Kelly: I so move.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Is it agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Carried.

Mr. Epp: I would move an amendment to item number 10. I believe that an organization can be represented quite adequately by one person most of the time and that we should authorize to pay for the living expenses and travelling for no more than one witness from any organization. I suggest we change the word “two” to “one”.

Senator Kelly: I would make one caveat. I do not argue against it, but I do believe we should leave room for exceptions in situations where a presentation is rather involved. We are entitled to get all of the information that we need from witnesses and if, in their view, things cannot be explained adequately through one voice and they need two, then we should leave room for ourselves to accommodate that.

I do agree that there is nothing wrong with saying that we will cover one witness as a rule, as long as exceptions are possible.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): In the past, we have allowed for two, but it has been very rare that we have had any organizations come before us.

Mr. Epp: I do not wish to bind the committee. I had not thought of that. There may be two very expert witnesses who come from the same organization. With unanimous consent, I withdraw my motion to amend and I move the motion as it stands:

That at the discretion of the Joint Chairs, the committee may reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for no more than two witnesses from any one organization and payment will take place upon application.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): The resolution does say “may” reimburse. There is no amendment. Is everyone in favour?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Are there other matters to discuss?


Mr. Marceau: I simply want assurances that there will be no problems here. We are dealing with delicate regulations. I would like all of the documents to be in French and in English and I would like to move a motion to this effect. I know that this is not the case in all committees. However, as this is normally the case here, I would like this to be part of our rules. I do not think that this will pose a problem.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): The documents circulated by counsel are always bilingual. The only time that you may encounter a problem with the documents is when they come from outside witnesses. All of the documentation prepared by the committee or by government agencies is always bilingual.

Mr. Marceau: I understand, but there can be a problem with outside witnesses. I know that in the case of the agriculture committee, Liberal Denis Coderre raised this point and with good reason. The witnesses submit their documents to the committee and they are translated so that all members — I know that all members are not comfortable in both languages — can follow along in both official languages.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): The witnesses do not always submit their documents far enough in advance. Where we run into a problem is when a witness submits documents two days in advance, but as a rule, things happen exactly as you described.

Mr. Marceau: Then could I possibly move a motion?


Mr. Pickard: Mr. Chairman, I fully support what has been said here. The problem is not necessarily receiving documents that are fully bilingual, though. We do sometimes receive documents in one language. The question is when that document gets circulated. Quite frankly, I would find it difficult if I were sitting at a committee meeting discussing a document that was only in French. I certainly sympathize with the statement here that, if a document is not bilingual and in each person's native tongue as they wish, it should not be circulated until it is available as such. That is a critical point. It is not whether it is received bilingually, but when it is circulated. I do not think it should be circulated until it is translated, so that every committee member has equal access to the information.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): This has been a problem quite often, because of time constraints. You have to hold up a meeting for another couple of weeks before we get a translation.

Sometimes I have seen it happen that the document is brought forward in just one language and the committee can look at the document but will take no decision on it until the translation is produced.

Mr. Pickard: It very much infringes upon my rights as a member of Parliament, as a person who represents people in Canada, if I do not understand that document and I am there to discuss the information in it. I do not think that is just a logistical problem of translation. I think it is a problem of communication in total, and I think it is unfair that a committee would sit and deal with an issue about which I do not have the same detail as my colleagues. I strongly support what is being said here: That when documents are laid in front of members, they be in both languages.

Mr. Epp: I should like to give the opposite point of view. In the committees on which I have served before, there were several occasions when a witness was making a presentation in a language with which, unfortunately, I was not familiar. The most bizarre thing would happen if we had a rule that both languages must be represented, that then the person would not be permitted to present the documentation in the language which was available. Sure, it makes it unfair, but to do otherwise would slow down the work of the committee.

What I think is a good compromise is that any documentation put forth from the committee itself be translated, but in terms of hearing witnesses, we do have the advantage of that wonderful work that our interpreters do and we can survive with that. We have to do that in the House all the time because I am one of those poor, unfortunate Canadians who does not understand French. We ought to just go ahead and use interpretation when we have witnesses. If they have their notes in both languages, that is preferred. If they have their notes in only one language, we do not want to inhibit them from distributing their notes in the language they have available, and then we do the best that we can. However, anything that is distributed from the committee should certainly be in both official languages.

The Joint Clerk (Mr. Onu): I would just like to offer a point of clarification. It is our practice that we always distribute our documents in two languages, and if a witness submits a document well enough ahead of time, we can translate it and distribute it in two languages. Of course, a witness can make his or her presentation in either official language. That is not the question. Where we run into a problem is if a witness submits a document to us a day or two ahead of time and we are faced with the question of whether or not we distribute this document to members in one official language. That is really the issue.


Mr. Marceau: For Mr. Epp's benefit, my objective is not to prevent people from making their presentation in a particular language. I am not asking everyone who comes here to make a presentation to be bilingual. Far from it. The issue is the distribution of documents, as the Clerk said, and I in no way want to prevent people from expressing their viewpoint. As my colleague opposite was saying, I simply want to be certain that everyone understands what is being said.


Mr. Epp: This still does not address the question. The member says we are talking about the distribution of documents. If there is a person who comes to the committee who speaks only French and who, because of lack of time, does not have an English translation, I would not want to say, “Sorry, your French documentation cannot be distributed because you do not have English.” That is all I am trying to guard against. I would say, “Let whoever gets it get it.” The rest of us will use the interpretation as best we can, but let us not inhibit the people from distributing the information they have. I am speaking specifically of witnesses who do not get their documentation here in time.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): From a practical point of view, I do not think it has been a problem in this committee, because generally the documents are translated before they are distributed. The only problem is when the documents come at the last minute. However, I think what we should do then is not put them before the committee.

Mr. Marceau: May I suggest a compromise?


I will read it in French and in English. First, in English:

That the Clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute in the original language the documents received from the public and that such documents be translated and the translation distributed as promptly as possible.


That the Clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute in the original language the documents received from the public and that such documents are translated and the translation distributed as promptly as possible.

Mr. Epp: Excellent. Why did you not say that in the first place?

Mr. Wappel: It is his fall-back position.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): You have all heard the motion. Is it agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Carried.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): The only other matter is when to hold the next meeting.

Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I have two more items that I should like to raise, if I could. One is the notice of new business, and this is more for my information. Regarding the notice of meetings, I just want to confirm that meetings are called always with a minimum of 48 hours' notice. Is that true?

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): That is the house rule.

Mr. Epp: I just wanted to confirm that. Secondly, some joint committees have the rule that they can only meet when both the Senate and the House of Commons are actually sitting. I wonder whether we could have that rule here as well. This is particularly important for those of us whose ridings are far away from Ottawa. When the house is not sitting, it would cause us some difficulty to be here.

Mr. Bernier: Mr. Epp, the committee has never sat when the House of Commons is not sitting. However, the committee has sat when the Senate was not sitting. That, in fact, is the point of the motion in the first report asking the Senate authorization to sit when the Senate is not sitting. The reason for that is fairly simple: There is a greater frequency, perhaps, of adjournments in the Senate, and there is not a regular sitting calendar. We did a calculation of this once for a particular session, and if there had been a requirement that both houses be sitting at the time this committee sat, we would have cut the frequency of committee meetings in that session by about half.

Senator Kelly: Mr. Chairman, I should like to alter the way in which the learned counsel described the reason why the Senate does not have to be sitting. He put an uncharitable tone to the whole thing. The fact is senators are prepared to come to the meetings whether the Senate is sitting or not, unlike the House of Commons members.

Mr. Epp: However, senators do not have the same obligation to maintain contact with their constituents, since they do not seek re-election.

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Point well taken.

The only item left is to decide on the date of the next meeting. It is suggested that our next regular meeting would be November 6, 1997. The qualification is that we can only meet if our report has been tabled and adopted in both houses.

Senator Kelly: Is the time 8:30 as usual?

The Acting Chairman (Senator Lewis): Yes. That was the next point. We usually meet on Thursday at 8:30 in this room.

I presume that we will meet at 8:30 on November 6, 1997, provided the report is adopted in both Houses. Is it agreed?

Hon. Members: Agreed.

The committee adjourned.