Wednesday 24 June 1992

Semiannual review: Clerk of the House

Claude L. DesRosiers, Clerk of the House

Tom Stelling, Sergeant at Arms

Hon David Warner, Speaker of the House


*Chair / Président: Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND)

*Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot ND)

*Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

McClelland, Carman (Brampton North/-Nord L)

*Mills, Gordon (Durham East/-Est ND)

Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East/-Est L)

*Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L)

Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville/S-D-G & Grenville-Est PC)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

*Harnick, Charles (Willowdale PC) for Mr Villeneuve

*Murdock, Sharon (Sudbury ND) for Mr Farnan

*In attendance / présents

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Mahoney, Steven W. (Mississauga West/-Ouest L)

Clerk pro tem / Greffier par intérim: Decker, Todd

Staff / Personnel: Yeager, Lewis, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1624 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Noel Duignan): Seeing a quorum, I call the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order. The committee has two items of business in front of it today. The first item of business deals with the administration of the House and the provisional services to members. This is pursuant to an order of the Board of Internal Economy dated December 14, 1987.

I would like to welcome the Clerk of the House here this afternoon. I know you've got an interesting and possibly detailed report to report to the members.

Mr Claude L. DesRosiers (Clerk of the House): Thank you, Chairman. It's always a pleasure to appear periodically before the committee.

No, I don't have a detailed report for you but I'd be happy to report to you that the organization is proceeding. The organization as we know it today is approximately five years old and it's developing continually. I think there are a few items of note that have happened that might be of interest to members that I guess you wouldn't know offhand just by your normal, very busy schedules as members.

We've been trying to do one thing with the staff here, in the last couple of years anyway. When I got here there was sort of a division in the staff between what we call the administrative staff and what they, the administrative staff, refer to as the people who have the fun jobs here, and that means the people who have the privilege of working directly within the chamber and directly with the members. So there was quite a we-they type atmosphere around, which is understandable to a certain extent, and what we've been trying to do is bring everybody on board. Basically we all have the same job.

I now meet every new employee who comes on stream to work for the Office of the Assembly. We have regular orientation programs now and I meet all these employees. Basically there is one message I tell them: that we all have the same job. I have the same job as they do, doing different duties, but basically it boils down to one thing: We are all here for one reason. We're here to serve a democratic institution, we're here because there are members elected to serve the province of Ontario, to serve the population of Ontario. That is basically our job.

What we've been doing over the past couple of years is holding seminars, holding meetings. We've had people here holding workshops, basically bringing the staff together. We now have a number of staff committees working on various things, on health and safety. In the near future we will be producing a new manual of administration. We have a manual of administration right now. It's a copy of the manual of administration that is used basically by the government of Ontario, by the Ontario public service, and it is really not a good manual for operation in the Office of the Assembly in a parliamentary milieu. So we set out about two and a half years ago to write a new one, and we had a choice. We could have done what most people do in that situation: go out and try to get a consultant who can come in and find out what you want and write you a nice book. We decided we wouldn't do that because it's very specialized. The problem with getting consultants in a milieu like this is you have to tell the consultants what it's all about before they can start doing their job, and it's really a terrible waste of money in that sense.

What we did was we created a committee. This committee of representatives of various sectors from all over the assembly has been busily writing this manual of administration. We gave them directives. We wanted it to be readable; we wanted it to be up to date so that the various policies that run this place were clear and well-indicated in this manual. Just last week we got a status report on it and we're getting very close to producing this manual and it will be very interesting to see. So this is the type of thing. We have a number of these committees working on various things.

The benefit of these committees is that staff who work in finance, in human resources, in Hansard, in committees, in research, in the library, in the clipping service, in the restaurant, in various areas in this building for the first time get to sit down in a room and get to work on a common project. This has many, many benefits and we're starting to see the benefits with the staff in this sense. Our aim is that in a very short period of time we will be able to say we have a staff which is already very, very dedicated but which will feel, as we say in French, une appartenance, a very close association with our job which is a very specialized one and it's a very unique privilege to be able to work in a Parliament and this is what they do for you.

There are a lot of things I can talk about, but what happens in these meetings is that unfortunately we never have time for very many questions and answers. If you have any problems or any preoccupations with the administration, how it's going, I'd sure appreciate your pointing me in the right direction.


Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): I guess it was about a year ago at this time that we had the first meeting with you, and I think I reported that I was absolutely impressed by the level of service that I, as a member, and my colleagues receive from all the staff around this place. I thought that maybe it was the first blush of a new administration and that everybody wants to put on the best face and that slowly but surely things would revert to what I perceived as being "normal." I am very pleased to report that this is in fact not the case.

I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of myself, to thank you and your staff and all the folks who work for the Legislative Assembly for the excellent level of work that goes on in this place. I'm impressed by the kinds of seminars and meetings you're having with respect to continuous improvement -- I guess that is the buzzword -- so that the people actually feel involved with their jobs, and that sense of detachment between the fun jobs and the work-type jobs is no longer there.

I was involved, at the invitation of some folks from the Clerk's office, in looking at some new desks for the committee rooms. I thought it was pretty interesting that they would ask for our input in terms of the seating, the desk, the height of the desk and things like that. These are things we use on a daily basis. Members of the opposition were invited as well, and I assume they turned up at some point.

As I said, I think this is my opportunity to thank you for your work and that of Barbara Speakman and the other people in this place. The folks in the dining room are ever-pleasant; it doesn't matter what's going on in the chamber. These folks have always got a smile and a pleasant word. I'm pleased to see that the rating cards are in place as well so that there's a method of tracking in case there are some difficulties. We all have good days and I'm sure the cooks have good days and bad days, so it's a good way of tracking that.

In conclusion, in the same vein I'd like to say that I hope some of the media folks who from time to time have included these deliberations in their magazines will take the opportunity to use this Hansard for inclusion in their magazine. I think you folks do a tremendous job. I'm not sure members take the time to give you the thanks you truly deserve.

Mr DesRosiers: I thank you on the part of the staff.

The Chair: Any further questions?

Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): I have a question. There's a doctor's office that suddenly appeared down below. What's the function of that and what happens there? I've gone by and I've seen --

Hon David Warner (Speaker of the House): It's the nurse's station.

Mr DesRosiers: I don't believe there's a doctor on call.

Mr Mills: It's the nurses, is it?

Mr DesRosiers: There was not a nurse's station here. A couple of years ago the board actually decided that it would be a good idea to have a nurse on the premises for health reasons.

Mr Mills: First aid sort of thing.

Mr DesRosiers: Yes, that's right.

Mr Mills: I wish they'd put the scale inside.

Hon Mr Warner: The nurse's station, of course, is available and can provide a service not just for the members and the staff but for our visitors, of whom we have more than 250,000 a year -- occasionally there's a sudden health difficulty that arises -- and for the children who serve here as pages. Occasionally they've run into a little ill health and many are a long way from home, so we're able to provide some quick service.

Mr Mills: Then they'd follow up with a doctor if they need one. That's the process.

Hon Mr Warner: There are hospitals nearby, should that be the case.

Mr Mills: Good. It's nice to know, in case you get stricken.

Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): I'm at somewhat of a disadvantage, being a substitute for another member today and not having been here when the agenda was agreed upon for the Clerk to appear. I'm not quite sure what the purpose was, if it was just simply to chat about the process or if there were specific questions that members of one of the parties had in relation to changing the levels of service rather than just simply congratulating one another. Certainly I appreciate your efforts. I don't always like the advice you give the Speaker, but that's a different problem. Is there something we're looking at in relation to the service provided to members that needs to be discussed?

Mr DesRosiers: The question you're asking is a very good one. This meeting is a yearly or biannual one, I believe. When the new administration was organized in 1987 it was proposed to the board. The board said: "Well, this is fine. You should take this new organization to the Legislative Assembly committee and pass it by them." I did that, and the Legislative Assembly committee reported back to the Board of Internal Economy agreeing with the proposal.

It was felt at that time by the board that it would be a good idea if the Clerk were invited by the committee at least once a year to answer questions from the members, just to make sure things were on the up and up. This is a yearly occasion for you to ask questions and of course to listen. Mind you, any time this committee feels it wants to talk to the Clerk, there's no problem at all. Just a phone call and I'll be happy to come. If you wanted to hear my views on a specific subject matter or the improvement of various services to the members, that's no problem at all. But this meeting is a general type meeting.

Mr Mahoney: I don't recall seeing it, but do you have an organizational flow chart with names, phone numbers and that kind of thing which might be a quick, easy access for members or their staff? I don't know if we have that. I haven't seen it in my office.

Mr DesRosiers: You should. On my return to the office I'm going to make sure that a package goes up to your office. You've received one.

Mr Mahoney: My staff probably has it.

Mr DesRosiers: That's right, but I'll make sure you get it.

Mr Mahoney: The fact that they don't bother me with it is maybe a sign that everything is working smoothly in that regard.

I notice the second item on the agenda deals with security and involves the Speaker and the Sergeant at Arms and presumably would involve the Clerk in a sense as well. I don't know if this is all one agenda item or if it's appropriate to go to that item at this time.

The Chair: Normally security is dealt with in camera, if it deals with the security of this place and personnel situations.

Mr Mahoney: Let me ask another thing. Comments were made with regard to Mrs Speakman and her role in the improvements and ongoing maintenance of this building. I have had meetings with Barbara in the past and found her to be very professional and helpful, but I'm concerned at the apparent progress of the work in place in the sense that I don't know what's going on.

Someone from the riding may come down and see the building covered in a huge mesh and wonder what is going on. I know there are repairs to the roof. In fact, during one rainstorm my desk was under water, so I know there are some very serious problems that need to be fixed, but I get the sense that we're going way beyond repairing the roof with the project that's under way and spending an awful lot of money. With a building like this, repairs beget repairs and one thing leads to another.

This may well go to the Board of Internal Economy and there are half a dozen members who have things under control and who should in turn report back to their caucuses on those items, but I wonder if this committee isn't a more appropriate place rather than caucus for Mrs Speakman or the Speaker or somebody to give us an update and some hard numbers as to what we're spending.


Hon Mr Warner: I appreciate the question. There was a special committee on the parliamentary precinct and it had a mandate to oversee the restoration and renovation and repair of this building. The precinct committee did all the background work -- it was an all-party committee of five members -- and worked very closely with the architect, as well as with Mrs Speakman.

Mr Mahoney: Mr Mancini was on that from our caucus.

Hon Mr Warner: That's right. The committee did excellent work. Unhappily, the committee was not reinstated when the House resumed sitting in the spring. It needed to be and it wasn't. The Speaker has no control over that; that's at the discretion of the government House leader. That would have been the committee, logically, to have addressed the type of question you're asking.

What I can tell you, I guess, are two things. First of all, I do believe there's been an effort to provide, from time to time, an update on the work that's being done in a bulletin, whose title I can't remember, that's sent around to the members' offices.

Mr Tom Stelling (Sergeant at Arms): In The Works.

Hon Mr Warner: In The Works is the name of it. The repair of the roof is a contract which was let some time ago. Obviously, at the time you put the scaffolding up, there is the opportunity then to repair the brickwork also, much of which is simply falling off. There are chunks of it that are literally falling off because of erosion and some serious problems. That needs to be done and this is the opportunity to do it, obviously. There are even certain places where the mortar has fallen out. This building's 100 years old and it has been neglected for some considerable length of time and it's in the process of being repaired.

I understand at this date, quite happily, that everything is under budget and is on time by the construction schedule that was set out. Of course it shouldn't be a surprise that we're doing well financially on it, because during recessionary times the companies that are bidding on these projects are coming in with very low bids. They're hungry for the work and, to my knowledge, the result is that everything that's been tendered out has come in with bids lower than what we had budgeted, so we're pleased from that aspect.

My last part of this answer ties in to something you asked earlier. The management advisory committee, which consists of the Speaker, the Clerk, the controller, the director of supply and services and the director of the library as well as the managers from the three caucuses, is invited to do a little tour up to the roof to see the damage, to see what was being done, to witness first hand, close up, the actual work as it's unfolding. It's quite an interesting experience if one doesn't get a sense of vertigo about it, which unhappily some of us did, but it gave us a close-up view of the extent of the damage. Maybe you'd have to see it for yourself, but it really is extensive.

Still, the work is proceeding on target and on time. I can't remember the precise projection, except that I believe they should have completed that front portion where you see all the netting and so on by November and will have moved to the other portions of the building.

Admittedly it is difficult to keep everyone up to date on what's going on, and you probably get inquiries in your office or visitors who come down and say, "What's going on?" It's tough sometimes to be kept entirely up to date. I will be pleased to talk to Barbara to make sure we are getting a very regular update that goes into the members' offices so that you're fully informed as to what's going on.

Last, I think members can appreciate that this is a very unusual construction site. It would be foolhardy of us not to take every conceivable precaution for public safety. As I mentioned earlier, we have at least 250,000 visitors a year, and those people are still going to come to the building whether we're repairing it or not. Should any of them be injured, even slightly or much worse, the public outcry would be horrendous, and deservedly so. So we have taken every conceivable precaution to ensure that it is a very safe work site both for our visitors and of course for the people who are working there, and we try to be a model employer in that regard.

As well, I might add, there are 55 or 56 persons who are employed, and nine of them are apprentices. We are able to provide some apprenticeship training and, of course, there's some -- I wouldn't say gender balance, but there are women on the work site as well. So we're trying our best to be the model employer and at the same time get the people who can do the job well. It's an artisan type of work that's being done. The slate replacement is a specialized task and so the people who can do it are very few in number, but we've been very fortunate in getting the best people in the field and at very good prices.

Mr Mahoney: Just to follow up on that, since the precinct committee was not reinstated, it might make sense to have a report to this committee on a regular basis, every quarter or something. Maybe that's too often, but something reasonable. I think that to assume members are going to stay abreast of something that's sent into their office is sort of like relying on e-mail, and, you know, it's not even fashionable to read your e-mail any more. I just wonder, in light of --

The Chair: If I can be helpful to the member, I understand that the Board of Internal Economy has basically taken over the function of the precinct committee, if I'm not mistaken. I think if we had some sort of directive or motion from the committee here requesting that the Board of Internal Economy give some sort of quarterly report on the progress of the repairs, it may be helpful to the members.

Hon Mr Warner: I appreciate Mr Mahoney's suggestion. The Chair is right. The Board of Internal Economy has assumed, it would appear, complete responsibility for overseeing all of this. The reality is that the Board of Internal Economy has met twice this year -- three times?

The Chair: Yes.

Hon Mr Warner: To my mind, from a logical, rational point of view it would make sense that if the precinct committee is not to be reconstituted -- although I think there is a superb argument for saying that it should be reconstituted -- then perhaps this committee would be the most logical committee to have routine and regular reporting so that you are kept up to date and, therefore, your caucuses. In the meantime, your managers are involved in that they are invited -- we meet almost every week, the management advisory committee. The caucus managers are invited to attend, and most of the time they're there. So whatever is discussed by way of report with respect to the building repairs is then made available to the caucus managers, and they in turn report back to you.

Mr Mahoney: Perhaps I could just point out, though, that the reason I suggest this committee -- and I frankly think this might even be better than a precinct committee -- is because we are in public. The Board of Internal Economy is not a meeting where Hansard is keeping a record of things and where there's stuff on the record so much. Then it's up to the representative to come back to caucus, and it's much more of an internal thing, if for no other reason than the old saying that not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done, if exactly what we're doing is put on the public record.

One other question I have is whether the plan has proceeded and, if so, what the status is -- the plan of moving members back into this building and having this building being primarily for the members of the Legislature and their staff.


Hon Mr Warner: I'm pleased you asked that. You're right. The long-term goal is that all the members of the assembly should be accommodated in the building. The process to help make that happen was moved along in leaps and bounds by my predecessor and in part by signing the memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Government Services, which brought the building under the control of the Speaker for the first time. It then meant that you could start to make moves with respect to ministries to move out of this building and any other function not directly related to the members.

My understanding is that most of the cabinet office has already moved, and the remaining will be done by July.

Mr DesRosiers: Yes, this summer.

Hon Mr Warner: What we'll end up with at some point is a "ceremonial" office for the Premier, but all of the other staff who work for the Premier will be located elsewhere and then bit by bit we reclaim.

Part of the puzzle, though, is of course the fifth floor, which as you know has been shut off by the fire marshal for years. That's part of the long-term plan of the restoration in order to reclaim that currently unusable space. If I'm not mistaken, that space represents about 15% of the total area of the building, so we're talking about a fair bit of space.

Until that happens, we can't guarantee 100 offices. I think in general terms what we're looking at as a target is 100 offices, but also making allowance in some of those offices so that at least cabinet ministers might have a desk and a phone as a place to be when the House is sitting. That in essence accommodates all 130 members. That's the goal. I'm not sure by the end of this summer or the beginning of the fall how many members we'll accommodate. I don't want to guess at a number.

Mr DesRosiers: These are questions on which I think I'd take up the suggestion made by Mr Mahoney. I'm certain -- and I'll be talking to Miss Speakman shortly and asking her to please make a report to you -- she would be happy to come before you. She has all those figures and all that information in complete detail. She could at the same time give you a complete breakdown as to where the project for renovating and fixing up the building is at.

Basically what's happening now is we're replacing the roof -- it's a complete replacement of the roof -- and there is a project to replace some of the windows. You'll realize some of the windows are basically huge windows. A study has been made of various windows and some have been declared unsafe. We did have an incident a couple of years back just before I got here where some of the huge windows in the chamber flew in in a big wind. Fortunately the House was not sitting. They just fell right on the floor, right on the Clerk's table. It could prove very dangerous. A study has been made of all the windows in the building and certain of them have been declared unsafe. That is going ahead as well in the same project.

This whole renovation project is one that we know now, as a result of the work of the precinct committee, where, if it is the will of the Board of Internal Economy and if it is the will of the members here to renovate the building -- we know we have a heritage study that tells us what steps can be done and should be taken and what is missing now. This will take the time that it takes. It will be dictated and run by the board basically, and by this committee, if it so wishes, to say, "It is now time to move ahead." All that has been approved by the board so far is this initial project of the roof and the windows. As the Speaker said, the scaffolding is such an expensive proposition that once the scaffolding is up then we have to do a lot of the mortar work as well. That's part of the main fix-up. But that's progressing and that's all that has been approved so far.

I think it's a very good suggestion that this committee be the recipient of a report from Ms Speakman on a regular basis as to all the various items, as to the recuperation of the building for the members and the renovations and restorations as they moves along.

Ms Sharon Murdock (Sudbury): I just have a couple of things, probably what may at first blush appear to be silly, but we noticed them as we stood at the front of the building. One Thursday we had the trillium planter when we left -- that's what I call it, that huge planter that was in the middle of the walkway -- and when we came back on the weekend it was gone. Is it gone for ever?

Hon Mr Warner: Yes. It was something that needed to be moved. It was a temporary thing to begin with and there was no foundation for it. It just sat like a giant planter on the ground.

There were a number of concerns raised with respect to the safety of individuals who had come to demonstrate at the building. Because of the construction, all the demonstrations were being moved further south on the property. As they moved further south, what happened was that trillium bed was in the way and it was becoming a hazard.

What we're going to look at is a substitute somewhere on the property, and I've asked them to take a look at what would be most feasible and most attractive and to use a bit of imagination. We can take a look at what can be put in that would be a suitable replacement and would be equally, if not more, attractive than what was there before. But for safety reasons it had to be moved.

Plus, in the long-term plans, the front of the building changes slightly in terms of the pavement and the entranceway. All of that changes, and with it an encroachment on the area where that planter was located. So at some point it had to go anyway. We moved it quicker because of the safety concerns that were raised.

Ms Murdock: That leads into the next question I had about the archway. As you have said, as a consequence of that archway -- I presume that's up for safety factors as well -- it has resulted in demonstrations being moved south on the property. Is that the plan, or should I be asking security at some point? Is it intended that it's going to remain that way, where they won't be coming up to the stairs any more?

Hon Mr Warner: I'm not sure.

Ms Murdock: Well, I can wait for the security section.

Hon Mr Warner: Thomas can tell you. I'm really not sure, because it's been a long time since I've seen the sketches of what that front elevation looks like.

Ms Murdock: It is going to be changed, though?

The Chair: If I could help the member, there is going to be a new entranceway at ground level where people in wheelchairs, for example, could come in at the ground level, which would be the cafeteria level right now. In the main restoration plan, that in fact would become the main lobby down there for all visitors and school tours and stuff like that. That would be at ground level. Instead of that ramp, people would be able to wheel right into the lobby at ground level.

Hon Mr Warner: There would still be a demonstration area at the front. I mean, nobody is going to provide a barrier for the public to appear in front of the building. As to whether they move south a bit because of the configuration, I'm not sure. I doubt it would be by a whole lot anyway, but to some extent.


Ms Murdock: You say the scaffolding is going to be moved to another portion of the building as soon as they finish. How long do we have to look at that scaffolding? Do you know? Do you have any idea?

Hon Mr Warner: From where it is now?

The Chair: Nine months.

Ms Murdock: November? The other question I have was raised when you were speaking earlier in terms of this building being used by the members: Does that mean the media will be moved as well?

Mr DesRosiers: It does not mean that; it has not been addressed at this point. If it ever is addressed by members of the media then you'd have to have discussions. Other parliaments have done it with the full cooperation of the media.

I can give you the example of what happened in Ottawa. The media kept a space in the main building: a very good space. They need to be close to the chamber. But their offices and things like that were moved to a building across the street on Wellington in the national press centre. I don't know what the arrangements were there and so on but that's where they went.

In that building they have a press theatre. When you watch press conferences from Ottawa and you see the Prime Minister or ministers or opposition parties, or even people giving committee reports -- you'll see the chairman of a committee with two of his colleagues using that theatre. They actually have two press theatres: The main theatre is in the press building and so the members go across the street and hold a press conference there. There is also what is referred to as the studio in the main building which is used by the members for various things, for quick interviews and things like that.

This brings about the question as to what can be done here. Queen's Park really operates under a completely different philosophy than Ottawa. The caucuses here are units. They have their own administration, they have their own services to a great extent. You'll find that's not so in Ottawa. Each caucus has a research division but that's basically it. It's a research division; it's not an administrative structure.

If I come back to the media and the media studio which we have next door here, we have struggled with that at management advisory committee quite often as well as to what the best use of that space would be for the members. We're going forward soon, I think, with a proposal to the board on that. If the board wants to do something with it -- and caucuses will have input and so on -- that'll be the occasion.

As for the physical offices of the press, that's for the future. I don't know. I guess that's for this committee as much as -- it's certainly not a staff matter.

Ms Murdock: I just want to thank you --

The Chair: Sorry, just briefly as co-chair of the precinct committee: We dealt with this issue. In fact we had a presentation from the press corps here in the building. It's obviously the intention of the precinct committee, correct me if I'm wrong, that the press will remain in this building. Just where in this building is up for negotiation. The plan calls for most of the fifth floor to be devoted basically to the news media. It was always the intention to have the news media remain in this building.

Hon Mr Warner: But not the fifth floor in its present condition.

The Chair: Not the fifth floor in its present condition. That is still subject to negotiation with the press group here. We have another item to move on, so if any of the --

Ms Murdock: I just wanted to, in relation to Mr Mahoney's comment --

The Chair: Briefly.

Ms Murdock: Yes. In terms of this committee being reported to on a regular basis, I think that's an excellent idea.

The Chair: With some direction from the committee here, I can certainly take it up with the Board of Internal Economy and ask it, in the absence of the precinct committee, to at least submit a quarterly report, for example, to this committee on the progress of the renovations to this point.

Hon Mr Warner: Your committee may wish to make a request. I think that would be entirely appropriate. We're leaving this item now?

The Chair: Basically, if members have no more questions -- a very brief question, Mr Mills?

Mr Mills: It's a very brief question. I've also discussed it with -- we're talking about member services here. I find it quite an inconvenience, since my office is down on College Street -- on some days, particularly Thursday when I go to a committee of cabinet, I have a big briefcase full that I have to carry. I have my other briefcase to carry. Then I have to juggle things about because I'm going to be weighed down. What I would like to see -- and I don't know if it's been investigated -- is some sort of locker system in here. It may seem trivial but it really is a problem for me getting my stuff organized and to and fro on the committees I'm on.

Mr DesRosiers: It's my basic belief that, if possible, every member should have an office, no matter who that member is, no matter what responsibilities that member has, be it the Premier, a minister, parliamentary assistant, or a simple backbencher. Every member should have an office. It hasn't been that way here. If you go back 25 years, I'm told very few members had offices here. They had a common room. I guess they had lockers then and that's all they had.

I have a lot of difficulty with the system here that says to a member, once he or she receives a promotion to PA, "You're going to have to give up your office." If that happened to me I'd raise a mighty squawk. Unfortunately we don't have the space right now to accommodate it. But, as the Speaker said earlier, if we arrive at an approximate number of 100 offices here we will be able to accommodate at least one office for every member, possibly with the exception of cabinet ministers. Even then, cabinet ministers, I feel, should have at least an area here they could call their own. We're moving towards that.

Hon Mr Warner: We'll take up your suggestion, though. I'll talk to Barbara Speakman and see if there's some way we can accommodate your request.

Mr Mills: Right now people say to me, "You can leave your cases in the whip's office," which we do. Then, when you go to get it there's no one there. You've got to get security. You come in the morning early and there's no one there. It's very inconvenient.

Hon Mr Warner: We'll see what we can do. If there are no more questions -- with the indulgence of the Chair, if I could be permitted two minutes just to respond to a couple of things that were mentioned, in particular Mr Owens's comments at the beginning.

I must say that, in the role of Speaker where I've had the opportunity to visit all of the departments from time to time and to be involved almost on a daily basis with the administration of the assembly, I've been singularly impressed with the professionalism and the high degree of dedication the staff have to Queen's Park. They have that dedication and professionalism regardless of who the government of the day is.

They have the sense of serving the members, serving the Legislature. It doesn't matter what job the person's doing. We've got a couple of guys who work on a loading dock downstairs almost directly below here, the carpenter, the florist, the kitchen staff. Just go through, department by department. It doesn't matter what the job is; there's a certain sense of pride about working here and participating in helping to make this a very special place and serving the members. I appreciate the comments you made. The staff from time to time -- I think it helps their morale when members pass along compliments to them and say, "We do appreciate the work you do."

In closing, the irony of it is that the better you do your job in serving the Parliament, the less people notice you, because that's the sign of success. You're so good at your job that everything runs so smoothly, nobody notices what you're doing. Often we forget to say thanks to the staff for the work they do, so I'm pleased members have mentioned that and indeed will be able to pass it along to the staff.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Very briefly, again, the other function of the precinct committee is to look after the allocation of space among the parties. Since the precinct committee is not around, maybe that's a function the Board of Internal Economy might like to see this committee look after as well. I wish to thank the Clerk of the House for coming along here this afternoon and participating in a very good exchange of questions and answers. We look forward to you coming back again some time in December; I think it's every six months.

Mr DesRosiers: Thank you, Chairman. It's always a pleasure.

The Chair: The next item on the agenda for this afternoon is dealt with in camera.

The committee continued in closed session at 1711.