Thursday 16 September 1993

Role of the independent member

Peter Sibenik, procedural research clerk, committees branch, Office of the Clerk


Chair / Président: Hansen, Ron (Lincoln ND)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Wessenger, Paul (Simcoe Centre ND)

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

Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND)

MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton ND)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

*McClelland, Carman (Brampton North/-Nord L)

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

*Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Sterling, Norman W. (Carleton PC)

Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L)

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

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present/ Membres remplaçants présents:

Hope, Randy R. (Chatham-Kent ND) for Mr Hansen

Jamison, Norm (Norfolk ND) for Mr Paul R. Johnson

Johnson, David (Don Mills PC) for Mr Villeneuve

Ramsay, David (Timiskaming L) for Mrs Sullivan

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Sola, John (Mississauga East/-Est Ind)

Clerk pro tem / Greffière par intérim: Bryce, Donna


The committee met at 1026 in the Humber Room, Macdonald Block, Toronto.


The Vice-Chair (Mr Paul Wessenger): We'll call the meeting to order. What I was going to suggest we do today is continue on discussion with any of the points that have not been discussed yet. After we finish the discussion on all the items that have been raised, then I think we ought to consider whether we should ask research to go back and prepare a summary for us to see where we go next.

Peter, I'll just ask you to indicate to the meeting the areas that have not yet been covered.

Mr Peter Sibenik: Thank you very much, Mr Chair. I believe the two principal areas that the committee has yet to consider are the areas of member statements and oral question period. They are proposal 2 in Mr Morin's proposals and they are indicated on the very first page of yesterday's agenda.

I believe there has been discussion on all of Mr Morin's other proposals and there may be some areas on the last two pages of the agenda that the committee may feel it wants to go over, although I suspect there has been some discussion, if brief, on each of those nine proposals that are listed there. However, I think the committee could very well proceed with oral questions and member statements as a starting point.

The Vice-Chair: Okay would someone like to start off comments with respect to this item? What were indicated as some of the possible approaches were more discretionary approach based on some guidelines, or a more definitive formula. I think those were the suggested two alternatives.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): We had lots of discussion yesterday as to somehow setting out in the rules to allow the discretion of the Speaker. I think in these areas that's maybe a wise course. As we spoke earlier, this is not something carved in stone for ever. If we can give an initial crack to this, we can always come back if it's not working. I think we could maybe lay out some guidelines on what we would like to see happen and how we would like to see the Speaker run the House. That would be maybe along the lines, I might suggest, that the Speaker give due consideration to the participation of independent members during members' statements and question period, and maybe just leave it as simple as that. Let the Speaker run the House and give that due and fair consideration to the independent member from time to time when he or she sees fit.

Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): I think you should just give the Speaker discretion to permit independent members to make oral statements in proportion to the independent's representation in the Legislature vis-à-vis other private members. So you'd be talking, in the present scenario, one out of 105. I prefer not to say once every four weeks or once every three weeks, again, because politics being what it is a member may in fact have a very good case for having two statements in one week. But we would hope that member then would not expect another statement for another three or four months maybe or whatever. I prefer to have something that's in the Speaker's discretion.

The only other thing is that I think, because the other parties would not be aware this was happening, because I would expect that the request would be made to the Speaker privately between the independent member and the Speaker, that the time for members' statements be extended by the 90 seconds required for that independent member to make the statement.

In terms of the question period, I don't think the question period should be extended, quite frankly. I think it's probably too long now. Actually, I've suggested on a number of occasions that it be cut down, but I've never won that argument. That should be done the same way; I don't know whether the proportion would be to the number of opposition members or the number of private members in the House. I'm not sure which is the correct ratio, and I don't think it really matters that much anyway. I just think there should be some proportional statement in there to give the Speaker some credibility when he says to the independent member, "No, you've been at me too often and I've got to answer to the other members of the House."

Mr Norm Jamison (Norfolk): I believe it should be left within the latitude of the Speaker also. I don't disagree with that. My concern at this point is that with the party system, backbenchers have limited abilities as it is to have an extraordinary amount of input compared to some other members, especially on the government side. It was evident in the past government, the one with 95 seats, that members sometimes didn't have as much input or time in the House as others, and in some cases it works that way in the present House.

My concern is that in trying to be as benevolent as we can be here, I certainly don't want rights that are given, whether that be out of discretion or otherwise, to exceed the ability in any case of members of designated parties to participate. If the outcome were to be that, I believe we'd do more harm than good. What's being said here today about the latitude of the Speaker to recognize, and with a sense of fair play, the ability of independent members to participate and represent their constituents to the best of their abilities and to help them with that ability, to allow them some latitude within the House to do that, I don't have a real problem with that at all.

The only concern I do have is that in our drive here to be as fair as possible, we have to understand that we can't surpass the ability of members of individual parties at this point to participate and give rights that could go beyond the ability of those other members to participate.

Mr Ramsay: Following that, it might be -- I know what Mr Sterling said -- beneficial to have some sort of enabling language there that spells out that we want the Speaker to use his or her discretion in recognizing independent members and maybe using the language in a fair and proportional manner, or something like that; you're spelling out what you're talking about, that, right, you don't want the rights of the independent member to exceed, say, the struggle a backbencher has, whether in opposition or in government. Maybe that sort of language just might cover that, so it's really clear what we intend, that the independent member has as much right, but no more, than any other member in the House.

The Vice-Chair: Any other discussion?

Mr Sterling: I don't know whether members want to go on in this. I think we've gone around the horn about five times on each subject and, quite frankly, I've exhausted my arguments. The other thing is that I don't think we should take ourselves too seriously on this committee with regard to this whole matter, in that the recommendations we make are again going to be negotiated between House leaders. I think what's been put forward are relatively mild changes to the standing orders. Hopefully, they can be converted into language that can be interpreted in the standing orders to give meaning to -- I think there's a pretty common intent around the table. I'm not hearing very many new ideas come up as we go along and I just don't want to prolong the discussion longer than necessary today.

I don't know whether -- Peter, do you think you have enough direction now to write a report at this time?

Mr Sibenik: Is there a consensus, actually, on oral question period here and members' statements?

Mr Sterling: I think so.

The Vice-Chair: Could I maybe state what I think the consensus is to see if that's correct?

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): Can these ceiling tiles move?

Mr John Sola (Mississauga East): Not where you're sitting.

The Vice-Chair: It seems, first of all, that independent members should have their fair, proportionate number of questions and statements.

Second, there should be no additional time added to question period to accommodate the independent member.

Third, when an independent member makes a statement, 90 seconds should be added to the time for statements, so it doesn't detract from any of the -- yes.

Mr David Johnson (Don Mills): Could I just ask a question? When you're talking about fair and proportionate, I guess nobody would argue with that. But proportionate: Is that excluding the leaders' questions, for example, as a guideline, and proportionate being based on the number of questions that everybody in the House would have, excluding the leaders' questions? Is that what you're thinking?

Mr Ramsay: That's what I meant.

The Vice-Chair: Excluding the leaders' questions, yes.

Mr Ramsay: Equal to any other backbencher.

The Vice-Chair: Equal to any other backbencher.

Mr David Johnson: Yes, that sounds great.

The Vice-Chair: We also should emphasize the discretionary aspect. It's the Speaker's discretion. These are guidelines to the Speaker to exercise his discretion.

Mr Owens: We're not suggesting these as rules changes.

The Vice-Chair: No, we're not discussing these as rule changes.

Mr Ramsay: We're giving guidance to the Speaker as to how we think it should be used.


Mr Sterling: We have to have a rule change to extend the time for statements.

The Vice-Chair: Yes.

Mr Ramsay: If an independent member is recognized by the Speaker, the time would be deemed as being extra to the 15 minutes.

Mr Owens: The non-partisan, the statements, the private members' bill issues that we discussed yesterday don't trouble me at all in terms of an independent member. But when you get into question period, which is totally partisan -- we talked about the theatrics and I quite agree with your theory of life around this place -- that's where I start to have my difficulty. When you talk about proportional questions, proportional to what?

The Vice-Chair: To other backbenchers. I think that was the indication.

Mr Owens: But what the hell does that mean, with respect?

The Vice-Chair: It's at the discretion of the Speaker.

Mr Ramsay: It's a computation, in a sense, because it's answering the concern that was just expressed that we want to make sure, like Norm has said too, that really an independent member doesn't abuse it, because you could get into some sort of rotation where a couple of independent members could be recognized on each rotation, and that's the type of thing we're wanting to prevent. It should only be in a fair and proportional manner to the opportunity the other back benchers have in the House to pose questions during question period. That's the sense that I feel the consensus is developing on.

Mr Sterling: I don't think you can spell these things out exactly.

The Vice-Chair: No.

Mr Ramsay: No. How can you say "every third Thursday"?

Mr Owens: No, that's not what I'm saying. When you talk about proportional to back bench, that's a very broad statement. What I don't understand is the numbers that we're talking about.

Mr Sterling: I don't think you can talk about numbers.

Mr Ramsay: That's right, you can't.

Mr Sterling: I think if a guy represents a very unusual riding --

Mr Owens: Can you imagine your colleague Turnbull being denied a question? I'm quite serious about this. This guy would go absolutely ballistic if he were denied a rotation as a result of a Speaker's ruling. Whether it's John or North, or whoever -- wherever the hell North is sitting these days.

Mr Ramsay: That's what we're saying here; it's not in rotation. Rotation doesn't apply. That's why we're saying this. So if Turnbull was an independent member, that person understands that he doesn't have any more right. There's going to be no rotation going; after three parties, now an independent's going to get a shot. It's not going to be like that. That's why we want to spell it out a little bit, so the Speaker doesn't get the idea we're talking about, "Now you just rotate." That's four parties in the House; it's not.

Mr David Johnson: I guess if you wanted to do an exercise on it, you would take all the questions that backbenchers ask over a period of time in the session and then divide that by the number of backbenchers, and we're talking about all three parties, I presume.

The Vice-Chair: That's right, all three parties.

Mr David Johnson: Then that would give you sort of a guideline. I don't know what that would be, but that would give you kind of a guideline.

Mr Sterling: I don't think you want to be that accurate.

The Vice-Chair: No, I don't think we want to be. We want, I understand, to protect the Speaker, to give the Speaker some security in exercising -- Mr Morin and Mr Villeneuve both indicated they wanted something they could say to the independent member: "Look, you've had your fair share of questions."

Mr Owens: Maybe I'm obsessive-compulsive about this, but as a backbencher in an organized --

Mr Ramsay: You bring your problems here to the table, don't you, Steve?

Mr Owens: What can I say? I have to fly up north for treatment.

I guess my point is, as a member of an organized party, if I have a question that is pertinent and burning in my riding, what I would need to understand is at what point the Speaker is going to be asked to exercise his or her discretion on this. If I'm up there and I'm ready to go with my question and all of a sudden we're into a situation where the Speaker has been asked to exercise discretion, is that on a point of order? Is this something that's kind of organized into the process?

Mr Ramsay: I don't think we need to spell that out, but I would think if I was an independent member and something pretty traumatic happened in my riding, I would go to the Speaker in the morning and say, "Listen, the government's closed a college in my riding," or whatever it is, "and I really need to get on the record today and ask a question of this government." I think you'd give some advance notice, but you can't spell all that out. Custom will then develop, that's all, from this.

Mr Owens: I guess I'm interested in protecting the rights of myself as a member of a party.

Mr Ramsay: But we're saying "in a fair and proportional manner." That's why we've put these guidelines in there for the Speaker, so the Speaker won't abuse it and say, "Okay, I think it's going to be on a rotation basis," citing the independents as a fourth party and they'll get equal treatment. We want to prevent that. As Norm says, you can't spell it out too much more exactly than this.

Mr Sterling: You are not dealing with a huge problem here. You're dealing with three or four independent members, or whatever number, at this time. If we get a situation where we have 15 independent members after an election, or some quirk, whatever happened, then we'll have to revisit this thing.

Mr Owens: I don't think the number of the independents is really the issue that I'm trying to address.

Mr Sterling: Yes it is, because the issue only arises because of that.

Mr Owens: No, no. My question is around how your colleagues and my colleagues --

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): One at a time. Hansard's having a difficult time.

Mr Owens: -- and David's colleagues want to fiercely protect their opportunity to get up in the House, as members of the New Democratic Party or the Progressive Conservative Party or the Liberal Party, to make their points, to get their hits. That's my point. It doesn't matter whether there's 15 or one independent member; it's the issue of fierce protection of our territory. That's what it comes down to.

Mr Sterling: You have to give up a little territory, that's all.

Mr Owens: You're very magnanimous.

Mr Sola: I think what we're trying to do here is to give the independent member a foot in the door, so to speak, to be able to ask a question, which is an opportunity that is now not available to an independent member. I don't think we're trying to bestow extra privileges upon independent members.

As a matter of fact, I think we should maybe take this opportunity to use this committee as a vehicle to get the individual backbench member into the role that was actually conceived of originally, which has been usurped over time by the fact that the strictures of party discipline have sort of encroached on the individual member's ability to function in representing his or her riding.

I think all we should be trying to do is create a climate where, when the need arises, an independent member can get up to speak on behalf of his or her riding. We can't make any too defined a role here, because usually these things happen in such unexpected fashion that you have to react quickly. You won't be able to give a week or two weeks' notice, because something may happen in your riding where you have to react to that today. I think that is what you're trying to establish here, just the ability for an independent member to be able to represent his riding when the need arises.

Mr Owens: I'm trying to balance my partisanship and trying to tone it down, and I repeat that in terms of your ability, or any other independent's, to stand up during members' statements or private member's hour, I have absolutely no trouble with that at all. But I view question period as the time when opposition members, or government members, for that matter, have questions that directly affect their ridings.

Let's be frank here: This business is about you wanting my job. If that's the opportunity where you get to go after my job, then I want to protect my right to keep my job and to also address my issues with my party or my government or whatever the hell, or David's right as a member of the official opposition to go after my government.

Mr Ramsay: What do you suggest?

Mr Owens: Adjourning. But anyway --

Mr Sterling: What are you suggesting? How do you allow the independent member to ask a question? That's what we're trying to find.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Sterling, I'll recognize you now.

Mr Sterling: It's the question that Mr Ramsay had. I don't think you can deny that. Are you prepared to deny an independent member? I don't think you are.

Mr Owens: No. I think that David's suggestion about taking a look at the number of questions and things like that may be a bit too scientific.

Mr Ramsay: It wasn't my suggestion.

Mr Owens: David A, David B.

Mr David Johnson: David J.

Mr Owens: David J, that's a good one; DJ.


Mr Sola: In direct response to that question about our role being trying to get into the role of government, I think for the parties that is correct, but I don't think it is reasonable to expect an independent member to be going after a government member's job, unless we have 70, or what is it, 66 independent members in the House and then they come to some sort of agreement on how they're going to govern. Independent members are trying to represent the riding in which they were elected, so the political ramifications of going after somebody's job or the political playacting does not play as great a role when an independent member poses a question as when a member of a party does.

Mr Owens: In terms of Mr Sola's commentary, I think we disagree, but that's for discussion at another time.

I think, though, in terms of taking a look at a process, as Mr Johnson outlined, we have to look at the numbers of questions that have been posed by the three parties and the backbench and work out a process that we all understand. I think my difficulty is that if there isn't a process that we all have the same understanding of, there's going to be a point where there's going to be a great misunderstanding about what has happened as an event in the House, whether it's somebody being denied a question or somebody being denied something different. I think something a little bit scientific and perhaps codified is what we're looking for.

Mr Sterling: I don't think my House leader or any of the other House leaders is going to go for this kind of sophistication in the rules. They've got to have something that's workable, fairly simple for people to understand.

Quite frankly, if the Speaker steps out of line and starts to give an independent too much attention, he's going to hear about, you know? The Speaker's got to respond to his members. The Speaker is the servant of all of those members in that Legislature. If I don't like what the Speaker's done, I speak to him quietly about a ruling or whatever in terms of what I'm not satisfied with. That's what the Speaker's role is, to respond, and hopefully he takes that into consideration. If it becomes more of a problem, then you go back and you look at the rules again or you start agitating for a change, or you get your House leader to agitate for a change.

That's where I think you've got to be somewhat reasonable in your approach in this thing. Quite frankly, I think the Speaker's handled it quite well to date in terms of dealing with independent members. I haven't heard anybody complaining, at least on our side, about the intervention of independent members, either in questions or how much time he might have had in the House.

I only want to say, back to Mr Owens's question about a burning question, that if an independent member has a burning question for his constituency, he's totally at the mercy of the Speaker. If I have a burning question, or you have a burning question on the government side, you've got another avenue. You go to your question period committee and you say: "Hey, this is A1, top priority in my constituency. I need to have the first one. I can't wait around and take the chance that the second one's going to roll in." So you've got a huge advantage over the independent member to get yours on, as far as the way we're talking about the structure of this whole thing is concerned.

I don't follow that argument at all in terms of me not having the opportunity to sell. If I can't sell it to my own colleagues that it is the most burning question, then I don't see that it is a burning question. You have to make your own arguments with the other people in that room to get on one of those two or three questions. Heretofore, before the NDP took over, party backbenchers never asked questions or rarely asked questions, because it's viewed by the media and everybody else as nothing but a stall. That's the hard truth of the view. I'm sure you view it differently, but that's the way everybody else views a government backbencher question.

When I came here, a backbencher on the government side might ask a question. It might be one question every two weeks from the government side. Then I think it became a little more common under the Liberals.

Mr Ramsay: We had such a big caucus.

Mr Sterling: Yes. It varies somewhat by the number of members in the caucus.

Mr Hope: I can't believe the talk that's going on here.

Mr Sterling: It does vary.

Mr Hope: You're amazing at times.

Mr Sterling: I'm just telling you what the history is.

Mr Hope: Well, speak on behalf of your own caucus and don't speak on behalf of the government side members. We'll speak for ourselves on whether questions are relevant or not. Just stick to your own issues and stick to private members' issues. We'll speak on behalf of ourselves, whether questions work or not.

Mr Owens: I guess you were told.

Mr Sterling: Sorry, Randy.

Mr Hope: It's accepted.

Mr Sola: I'd like to refer to the memorandum we received, in order to alleviate Mr Owens. On the first page which Mr Sibenik gave us he says, "Most eligible members generally place anywhere between three and thirteen oral questions in oral question period per year. The actual range is between zero and 25 for 1992, and between zero and 26 for 1991." That's in the material that we received from Mr Sibenik.

I do not think that the backbencher who placed 25 questions in the year 1992, if he was reduced to 24 so that one independent would be able to speak, would be seriously hurt by this process, and I think it would be to the advantage of the backbencher who posed zero questions to be able to point and say, "That independent was able to pose a question; why can't I?" The same for 1991, where a backbencher was able to pose 26 questions and another backbencher zero.

Mr Jamison: In placing the number of questions, one of the problems that has developed, and it developed with the cameras and the public awareness of being able to tune in, is that we've all very much become good role players and actors at times.

Mr Ramsay: We dress better too.

Mr Jamison: We dress better and we all comb our hair better also.

I think all of us here can agree that the problem is that this deals with the question of time available, but I believe that under the Speaker's discretion, great latitude is given at times, and often, during question period, to placing a question. I've heard the Speaker ask that succinct questions be asked probably a thousand times. The reason he would make that statement in the House to the person asking the question was simply that there wasn't a succinct question being asked. The degree of rhetoric was at that point unbelievable and the member was playing directly to the camera and for effect. In politics, that's an inherent factor that exists.

If we are going to allow, and I think this addresses some of Mr Owens's concerns, that as many questions can be asked in the House as possible, just as there is a limit on making a statement, there should very well be a limit on asking a question, with the possible exception of something being so intricate that it's not possible to ask a question within a certain period of time.


But I think as a member of this Legislative Assembly committee, and I'm saying this non-politically, this is a major problem. We are all long-winded politicians at times and we take advantage of the situation. The problem about the numbers of questions being allowed to be asked in the House is very much our own fault. I've timed questions in the House, and if I were that long-winded at asking my children questions when the time came, I'm sure I'd lose the opportunity to ask them as many questions as I'd like also.

Mr Sola: You'd be able to put them to bed much earlier.

Mr Jamison: The problem is that already we have difficulty, in question period, in allowing the rotation of the number of questions allowed. At times, people don't get on, and this is what Steve Owens is saying. He's saying it because it's a fact that the official opposition and the third party have built into the rules the ability to ask more questions out of a rotation. Unfortunately, it's the same with every party and every Parliament since the inception of live coverage. The rhetoric and the play and the role-playing overcome the actual ability of people to really get down to brass tacks and ask direct questions without rhetoric.

So if we're concerned, as a committee here, about the ability to include independent members in question period, I think some of the concern evolves directly around how we, in official parties, handle the situation about the amount of time taken and the theatrical performances required, once on camera. That may, in the end result, require us to limit our own questions by specific time, and then I think all of us would feel better about the inclusion of independent members' questions, because question period is not working the way it should for the members in the House.

Mr Sterling: That's an issue, Norm, which I think is important, but it's not an issue which we're really -- if we wade into that area, we'll have as many opinions as whatever. I only say that it's to the advantage of the government the way question period operates now and not to the opposition. We're our own worst enemies in that thing. I don't want to get on to that debate. Mr Chairman, is there anything else to discuss?

The Vice-Chair: There are actually two more people on the list. The two people on the list are Mr Ramsay and Mr Owens. If we allow them to speak, if they wish, and then what I suggest is that we deal with the issue of Peter preparing a report and deal with Mr Sterling's deferred motion.

We also have to make some decision with respect to how we're going to deal with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We must have a report completed before December 31 with respect to that act.

I think those are the items that we have to deal with. I think probably we all agree we'd like to complete proceedings this morning with respect to this committee.

Mr Hope: Oh, we do?

The Vice-Chair: Yes, that's my suggestion.

Mr Ramsay: What was that again?

The Vice-Chair: That we'd like to complete this morning and we don't come back this afternoon, that we complete what we have to do today. Now, with that I'll move to Mr Ramsay.

Mr Ramsay: Just another plea to recognize that much in the British parliamentary system is not written out. A lot of it's based on custom and precedent. We should allow the Speaker the latitude of the to and fro that happens in the House, to get back a little more to that. So again I would just make the plea to state some general guidelines and maybe use the words as I've suggested in a fair and proportional way so that there is some sort of sense of limit there, that we want fairness. I really think we should move on to the next topic.

Mr Owens: I was going to suggest, at the risk of moving things on, that in terms of how the report is drafted, I'm prepared to accept the consensus of the committee and bite my tongue and hope for the best.

The Vice-Chair: In that case, could I perhaps have the report indicate -- I'll see whether there's consensus on this -- that the committee feels a fair level of dissatisfaction with the way the question period works in general now? Is that a fair consensus? We can throw in the report that there's a general unhappiness with the way --

Mr Ramsay: Why get into that?

Mr Owens: That's not the way I would draft that. It's not quite what is meant.

Mr Sterling: Forget it.

The Vice-Chair: Forget that, okay. But it's true.

Mr Sterling: We'll put it in another report.

The Vice-Chair: Put that in another report, okay, that's fine.

With that, Peter, do you feel you have enough direction to go with the report now?

Mr Sibenik: Yes.

The Vice-Chair: There are obviously going to be some areas where you say there was no consensus on these items.

Mr Sibenik: That's correct.

Mr Hope: Most of them are with me, right?

The Vice-Chair: But we have some areas of consensus.

Mr Owens: We're going to show a consensus with a tongue bitten, of course.

The Vice-Chair: I would suggest, if Mr Sterling would agree, that his motion be deferred until we have Peter's report back.

Mr Sterling: Is there consensus over that part?

The Vice-Chair: I'll have to ask Peter about that.

Mr Sibenik: There was some discussion of your particular motion yesterday, and I didn't really sense at that time that there was consensus, although I may be --


The Vice-Chair: Okay, I'll read the motion.

Mr Sterling: Why don't you just pass it out?

The Vice-Chair: Why don't we just pass it out, yes. Keep a copy of it. I'll need a copy too.


The Vice-Chair: There's no consensus there.

Mr Hope: No consensus from me.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. In that case, I think it should be deferred until we have the report.

Mr Sterling: The only thing is that I don't think anybody is denying that private members should have the opportunity to sit on a committee. I think Mr Hope is the one who is expressing the most opposition to this. If he has some other kind of alternative, I'm quite willing to look at it, and I think it should be put forward by him.

The Vice-Chair: That's why I was suggesting it be deferred.

Mr Sterling: No, for Peter to put in his report.

Mr Hope: I have already indicated in Hansard how I felt that mechanism could work to allow an independent to be a part of the process, that the current rules that are there stand, and for every extra independent who wishes to participate, how that participation would occur -- we had differences of opinion about that -- whether it goes to the Speaker or the House leaders. There was difference in that, but I'm saying for every additional independent who is then put forward on a committee, an extra government member is established to make sure the balance of representation is still there, that the government holds the majority on the committee.

Mr Ramsay: Not that we're suggesting that it's going to supersede the rule that the --

Mr Sterling: I think the only difference in his proposal is that first of all, his proposal would require that the 11 be taken out --

Mr Hope: No. My proposal says that the 11 stays for the identified parties, and then there's a special clause dealing with the right of an independent member.

Mr Sterling: So you add an independent member.

Mr Hope: If you add an independent member, then the government side gets an additional member.

Mr Sterling: That makes 12.

Mr Hope: That's the only time that you'll start to change the numbers. I heard comments yesterday saying, "We really don't need 11 people here," okay? That's up to the House leaders, but everybody goes to the common practice of putting 11 on a committee. But what I'm suggesting is that we identify the independent's rights of participating in a committee. You keep the current rule as it is and you put a (b) clause to it which says that for every independent that is established to a committee, an extra government member is established.


Mr Ramsay: There would be 13 members on the committee.

Mr Hope: Yes. But it's only governed by the independents and you still keep the ceiling on the 11.

Mr Ramsay: I don't mind if you want to make some sort of a permanent amendment, because I think that's what would have happened under Norm's, except Norm just didn't spell it out. Norm has said he didn't intend that the balance of power be affected by the introduction, so I don't think we're --

Mr Hope: No, but he's removed the ceiling.

Mr Ramsay: You just want to spell it out exactly, that's all. That's what you're saying.

Mr Hope: He's removed the ceiling, which I have a problem with. I say the current status quo stays, and then for the independents to be established --

Mr Ramsay: Norm, if I could suggest: As I agree with you that this is not a big problem, why don't we just spell it out?

Mr Sterling: I think the bigger problem is how the independent gets on the committee.

Mr Hope: That's right.

Mr Sterling: Randy believes the Speaker should have control, without a vote in the House, as to the independent being on a committee. In other words, the independent has a greater right than you and I, as individual members, to go to the Speaker and ask to be on a committee.

Interjection: So the House leaders determine this.

Mr Hope: No, you can go to your House leaders. Just reverse your arguments, what you just told me about question period, about governments and opposition. You have that right to put your case forward to your House leader or your whip's office of why you should be on that committee. I'm saying now use that same philosophy that you just spread this morning on the committee side and the justification to the Speaker. That's all I was saying.

But we've quite a difference of opinion on this: How does he actually get on the committee? I'm willing to look at options. I've put how I felt to allow the independents, what I felt was the proper process, and you have a difference of opinion. I think working on a happy medium in between, I'm willing to look at. I'm not status quo.

The Vice-Chair: I'm just wondering if we might better resolve this by asking legislative research to set out in his paper some options with respect to this.

Mr Owens: In terms of my colleague's proposal, on a point of clarification, I don't understand how you maintain status quo with respect to the numbers but then add an independent. How do you maintain the primacy of the government?

Interjection: I say we vote for 11 to 13.

The Vice-Chair: There's 13, with one additional government.

Mr Ramsay: Just add the extra government member. That's fine.

Mr Owens: I am troubled again by just the expansion of the committees without the --

Mr Ramsay: That was Norm's point: Just keep the primacy of the government but don't restrict the House leaders in making that there have to be extra people. Maybe they'll just reduce the size but still keeping the primacy of the government. That's the only difference between, really, Randy's and Norm's, and maybe who does it. That's the other thing.

Mr Sterling: The one question I have for Randy: As I understand his proposal, the independent member would go to the Speaker and say, "I want to be on the standing committee on resources development."

Mr Owens: The Speaker shrugs and says: "I don't care. You're on it." Right?

Mr Sterling: That's right. But is there a vote of the Legislature to confirm that?

Mr Ramsay: There would have to be.

Mr Sterling: Well, that's a major, major departure.

Mr Hope: Okay, I go back to Gilles Morin's comments. Let's look at the independent and let's say the House is not sitting, Norm, and a decision is made to choose the role of an independent because of a piece of legislation and you want to get on that committee. Where is your mechanism? You're not going to get to that committee, other than to -- you're not going to be able to vote.

Mr Sterling: Well, there's no mechanism for any of us.

Mr Hope: Oh, yes. You can always be substituted through your whip's office. You have the option to be substituted into that committee because you already hold seats on that committee, where an independent member doesn't have that avenue, and I'm looking at the independents.

Mr Sterling: He doesn't have that right. He wouldn't have that flexibility.

Mr Hope: That's right.

Mr Sterling: That's part of being a party, I guess.

Mr Hope: That's why I said that (c) would have to change too, on that clause, for the simple fact that they won't have a whip to make changes, so (c) would have to accommodate the independent also.

Mr Sterling: I see this as a bigger problem for government than I do for any opposition. Let me take an example of somebody who is not an independent -- I won't even name the name, but you'll know who I'm talking about -- who feels very, very strongly about public automobile insurance. He goes to his party and he says, "I want to sit on this committee on automobile insurance," and they say, "No way, José." So he says, "Hmm. How do I get on that committee? I become an independent. Then I go to the Speaker and I demand to be on that committee," and he's got a tremendous story to sell to everybody. "My party, the government, wouldn't allow me to go in and speak my piece on this committee, so I had to become an independent in order to involve myself in this debate."

I'll tell you, I don't want it when we're in government that way.

Mr Hope: I have no problem with it. That's what they're doing today. Isn't that what's happening today?

Mr Sterling: I think the structure of the committee should be voted in --

Mr Hope: Don't use that philosophical viewpoint, because that's part of the issue of why people choose to sit as independents. It's because they don't agree with the policy. Sorry about that; I apologize.

The Chair: Mr Owens.

Mr Owens: In terms of moving the good work along here, I'm not sure whether we just want to have a non-consensus decision on this as opposed to putting it to a vote, and sort it through as we move along. I think there's a number of different issues, Norm.

Mr Sterling: But I can't support Randy's because it doesn't make any sense in terms of our existing standing order.

Mr Owens: The endless building of committees, in my view, doesn't make sense either. So if we add two more members and we add two --

Mr Sterling: That's fine. We'll just put them all down and we'll sign our names beside what we think is reasonable and what isn't reasonable. That's probably the best idea. That's fine, then.

The Vice-Chair: So we'll put the alternatives that have been put by the -- I think that's reasonable, when the report comes back later. So in effect we're deferring this till the report. Is that correct, Norm?

Mr Sterling: Sure.

Mr Owens: That's sorted out.

The Vice-Chair: That's good. Great. The next item is the question of dealing with the municipal freedom of information act.

Mr Sterling: I haven't heard from all the government members. I don't know where everybody stands on this. I think that basically all of the opposition members here are in support of my suggestion with regard to an independent member. Are there any government members who are in support? I know you don't have your strength here. I don't know whether you want to do that or you don't want to do that, or do you feel uncomfortable voting on it today?

The Vice-Chair: At this stage.

Mr Sterling: I'm not pushing the issue one way or the other, but I suspect there's some support on the government side on my position. Therefore, I think that --

The Vice-Chair: If I might just suggest, I'm sure that this matter can be dealt with when the report comes back, determining who supports what. Give people a chance to think about it and reflect on it. I think that perhaps it can be resolved at that stage.

The next item is the question of when the committee should meet again.

Mr Sterling: Never.

Mr Hope: Let's just have Norm sit on one side and a couple of Liberals and then I'll get three people on this side; we'll downsize this committee and try to hash this out.

Mr Sterling: So that would be 13?

Mr Hope: No, no, no. You guys were telling me that's the ceiling of 11, but you guys have a common practice. I can imagine if we remove the ceiling, you'll be going up to 25 people on a committee. Well, you do it now. You said you don't need 11, but we put 11. Check Hansard for some of the comments you've made.

The Vice-Chair: Could I perhaps suggest a date, as the Chairman? If we come back on October 13, would that be satisfactory? That will give time for --

Mr Jamison: What year will that be?

Mr Sterling: My only concern is, I want to tell you, that I suspect our House leader will be pushing for changes to the rules before that time, because we just don't think that independent members have adequate rights at this time. I'm quite sure a lot of my colleagues, probably in most of the parties, feel that way. So we'll continue to push on this end of it.

Mr Owens: Rule changes beget rule changes, and if we're going to start with the process, then we may as well do the whole thing.

Mr Sterling: No, we're not going to do the whole thing. We have independent members; we have to deal with their problems. So you can do whatever you want on the other rule changes; I don't care. But I think we've sort of determined what our bottom line is on this. I don't like to come out in front of what a committees decides or whatever it is, and I could write the report in about 20 minutes.

The Vice-Chair: Research has indicated it wants a month to prepare the report, and I would like to indicate to committee that's the reason why the date was suggested of October 13. It had nothing really to do with any purpose of delaying the process. It merely had to do with the fact that research --

Mr Sterling: I'd like a report the first week we're back.

The Vice-Chair: It's possible the report might be ready -- well, no, a month is October --

Mr Hope: So what if the House leader goes to the House and starts screaming about the rights of an independent member? If research say they need the time to do the work appropriately, and they're saying October 13 is the date, then so be it. So what if the Tories are going to go in and scream about rule changes? What else are they going to scream about? Nothing new.

Mr Sterling: I guess we care about what the independent member's role is in terms of --

Mr Hope: Read Hansard, Norm, and you'll find out how much you really care about the independent member.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. Now let's not get into -- I think we have accomplished some consensus and some direction to research.


The Vice-Chair: Okay, then that will be October 13 if that's agreeable. At that time, we can deal with the matter of the municipal freedom of information act. It just has to be commenced before January 1 and completed within one year.

Mr Owens: If I can humbly suggest, Mr Chair, in terms of the subcommittee, which I gather you represent, our august group, that you'll meet to determine the other research needs of the committee. As a person who did the provincial legislation, I can assure you that it's a formidable exercise and that you would want to have enough time to prepare so that some level of intelligent discussion can be had.

The Vice-Chair: Right. Yes, we will have to have, obviously, the research; that's going to be work for you too.

Is there any other business to be dealt with? Then I can entertain a motion to adjourn.

Mr Dave Johnson: I move we adjourn.

Interjection: I was just starting to have fun.

The Vice-Chair: I declare the meeting now adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1122.