June 7, 2011                     HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION              No. 31

The Management Commission met at 3:15 p.m. in the House of Assembly Chamber.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Good evening.

I would like to welcome members and staff to our regular Management Commission meeting, our televised meeting, and we will start by having members introduce themselves. I will start at my immediate left with the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Joan Burke, Government House Leader.

MR. RIDGLEY: Bob Ridgley, MHA, St. John's North.

MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, MHA, Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk's Office.

MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Financial Officer.

CLERK: I am Bill MacKenzie, Clerk.

MR. SPEAKER: My name is Roger Fitzgerald, and by virtue of being the Speaker of the House, the Chair of the Commission.

We will start our meeting by having an adoption of the regular meeting that was held on March 23, 2011. If there are no errors or omissions, would somebody move that the minutes be adopted as circulated?

MS MICHAEL: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Ms Michael, seconded by Mr. Ridgley, that the minutes of the March 23 meeting be adopted.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

The motion is carried.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: The next item would be the adoption of the minutes, as circulated, of our March 30, 2011 meeting. If there are no errors or omissions, somebody might move that this particular set of minutes be adopted as read, as well.

MR. RIDGLEY: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

The motion is carried.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: I may be a little bit ahead of my game here, because March 30 was an in camera meeting and March 25 was an in camera meeting.

CLERK: That is May.

MR. SPEAKER: Or May 25. I think I should report what the approval of those minutes were since it was held in camera.

The March 30 meeting was an in camera meeting where "The Commission approved the proposed restructuring dated March 2011 for the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate as presented, with the condition that it must be achievable within the existing budget of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate." Those particular minutes have been adopted as circulated and properly passed.

There was another in camera meeting held on May 25, 2011. At that particular meeting, again, "The Commission confirmed as permanent the positions of Director of Individual Advocacy and Outreach, Director of Reviews/Investigations and Systemic Advocacy and the Director of Strategic Development and Planning.

"The Commission confirmed the classification of HL 23 (management) for the permanent position of Director of Individual Advocacy and Outreach.

"The Commission confirmed the classification of HL 23 (management) for the permanent position of Director of Reviews/Investigations and Systemic Advocacy.

"The Commission confirmed the classification of HL 23 (management) for the permanent position of Director of Strategic Development and Planning.

"The Commission approved the abolition of the position of Director of Advocacy Services.

"The Commission directed that all hiring for the three new positions must be achievable within the existing budget of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate."

Could somebody move that those motions be adopted as circulated, and as reported now in our broadcasted session of the Management Commission?

MS BURKE: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Ms Burke, seconded by Ms Michael.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

The motion is carried.

Prior to our meeting here this afternoon, there was also an in camera meeting held to discuss another matter that dealt with approval of funding and remuneration for Mr. Victor Powers, Chief Electoral Officer. Again, the Commission at an in camera session approved the remuneration of Mr. Victor Powers, Chief Electoral Officer, at the EP-06, point total of 2,328, at Step 1.

I ask somebody to approve that particular Commission directive.

MR. RIDGLEY: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Mr. Ridgley, seconded by Ms Michael. That, again, is reporting a brief in camera session that was held prior to this meeting this afternoon.

The next item on the agenda is the report to the House of Assembly Management Commission, the Delegated Authority Respecting Financial Matters.

The Chair would like to report that the hon. Member for the District of St. John's South submitted a claim past the sixty day deadline for $86.63 for a constituency allowance expenditure. The Member for St. Barbe submitted a claim, again, past the sixty day deadline for $84 for a constituency allowance expenditure; and the hon. Member for the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island submitted a claim for $910.63. Again, past the sixty day deadline but certainly met the test of qualifying to have those expenditures paid for within his allowable allowance.

On page 2, the hon. Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island submitted a claim past the sixty day deadline for $603.77. The hon. Member for Terra Nova submitted a claim past the sixty day deadline for $70. Again, all allowable expenses, but because of our rule that says anything past the sixty day deadline must be reported to the Management Commission. Those are for reporting purposes only. It has all been paid and because of the time restraints when those bills had to be paid before the end of the fiscal year or thirty days after, again, the Speaker contacted the individuals who were named and authorization was given to pay those particular allowances.

Are there any comments? If not, we can move to the Financial Performance of the Legislature. Here again, it is a review of the performance of the Legislature and the Approved Allocations and Actual Expenditures of Members of the House of Assembly.

Members had an opportunity to review those expenditures. This is for review purposes only. Again, it is for transparency and accountability that we, as a Commission, decided we would print this probably on a quarterly basis, Ms Lambe, and have it reported so everybody can see the financial operations of not only the House of Assembly but members as well.

It is open for questions to Ms Lambe or one of the other staff present here, if there is anything there that members might have some concern with.

MR. RIDGLEY: This is all online, Mr. Speaker, is it?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes it is, Mr. Ridgley.

There is one there that I would like to question, and that is under 1.1.04 Members' Resources. It shows Provincial Revenue of $129,313. My understanding by the footnote there, it says "Revenues mainly related to the repayment of excess constituency allowances."

I wonder if the Clerk could further expand on that.

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: Yes. That is, of course, a relatively large sum. The bulk of that, I believe, comes from the Office of the Comptroller General's withholding of the supplementary allowance portion of the retirement allowances for the four individuals who were convicted. There would be some which was double-billing repayment, the lesser amount, but that is smaller sums. So the bulk of it would come, I think, from those four individuals. The Comptroller General's office can withhold the supplementary allowance portion of what is called their pension.

MR. SPEAKER: How many members do we have now, not counting the four individuals who we have no control over, that this is being deducted, taken, or repaid through the courts? Are there any former individuals who owe the House of Assembly and owe the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador money from over billing or excess allowances?

CLERK: There are still three of total identified in the Auditor General's 2007 report who have not fully repaid. One of those has given us all of the postdated cheques, so that will be concluded in December, 2012. The other two individuals, we are not having as much luck with, so we are going to take some further steps with those two.

MR. SPEAKER: Do members have any comment on that?

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: I thought we spoke about it maybe a year ago and indicated at that time unless these members had made arrangements they be taken to collection or whatever would be the normal course of events. That would be our obligation, I would guess.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

These are things that I would like to see cleared up in the forty-sixth General Assembly. These are overpayments that were identified, I think, in 2007.

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: September 2007 was the AG's report.

MR. SPEAKER: I think maybe we should try to make an effort. We cannot do anything with the people who owe money and the collections that are being done through the courts, that is out of our hands and there have been decisions already made. For the individuals who have owed money, we have tried to collect and obviously we have not been successful; all the other members have paid now, except three.

Do members have some suggestions as to what we do? Do we put it through small claims if it is small claims, or do we attach people's pension?

MS BURKE: Who are they?

CLERK: Anthony Sparrow, who finished up in 1999, owes us $451. We can try Small Claims Court with him. Despite the limitations period, he has paid us $400. He originally owed $851. Because he has paid us $400, that is an acknowledgement of the debt. So despite the fact that some of these go back twelve to fourteen years, an acknowledgement means that the limitations period would probably be ignored by the court.

The other individual is Paul Shelley. He is in receipt of a pension, so we can attach the supplementary allowance portion of his retiring allowance. I spoke to Mr. Shelley and I told him if he does not resolve it soon, we will do that.

We can have it cleared up within the next few months.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: We should decide as a Management Commission when these things happen and individuals owe money that we as a government are paying a pension to - we are paying a pension on a monthly basis to individuals who have an outstanding balance - it should be deducted from the benefits that government are paying.

Is that a decision that we, as a Management Commission, can make today?

CLERK: You could. I do not know that it is necessary for the Commission to get involved in all of these, because there is an administrative element to this.

MR. T. OSBORNE: If we made a blanket decision, then it would not have to come back to the Management Commission, the Administration would then have a decision of the Management Commission and could use that decision on a go-forward basis.

CLERK: It certainly could. It would be more a direction to me. The way the Financial Administration Act works is the deputy minister or the permanent head of the department would inform the Comptroller General that there is a debt owed to that department and then the Comptroller General would proceed. It would amount to the same thing. I spoke with Mr. Shelley last week, told him what we were about to do. He spoke to the Pensions Administration Division and was informed that the supplementary allowance portion of his retirement allowance is not protected from being garnisheed. The pension portion, which is what the Canada Revenue Agency allows to be defined as a registered pension, is protected in law so that cannot be garnisheed, the supplementary allowance portion can.

I have told Mr. Shelley that we will be doing that. He did commit to having some cheques in to us and having it resolved before the election. Because, like you, I told him I want it resolved in the forty-sixth Assembly. It will be four years this fall from the AG's report, so it should be clued up now.

I am confident we will have those done. The third individual, Minister Burke asked, was Bill Ramsey but he gave us thirty-six postdated cheques as soon as this came about, so that has been chugging along, so that one is looked after.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just to say that I think the direction is that the Clerk do as he is indicating, stop asking and now take action, the actions that are there in the normal process, and it sounds like that is what is happening. I think that is the direction that I would like to see. I trust then that the Clerk is doing and will bring that to conclusion because there is a process: stop the talk, get the process in place, and make it happen.

MR. SPEAKER: Are all members of like mind?


MR. SPEAKER: Is there any other commentary on the Legislature or the offices of the Legislature, the stat offices, which are all reported here?

If there is no other commentary, we will move into the Statement of Revenue and Expenditure for the statutory offices. The one that I would like to ask about there is the 2.1.03. Audit Operations, Office of the Auditor General. On a continuous basis, the two hundred-plus thousand dollars in the projected savings are brought forward. Is this a situation where the Auditor General has a problem staffing his office with the amount of money that he is expected to pay accountants, or is it where monies are put forward, again, in the budget that is not needed?

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: No, I think it is more a difficulty in recruiting. Some of the positions, the entry level positions there, are classified at a relatively low level, so if you are trying to get accountants and so on, it is probably not up to market rates or even salary levels in other government departments. So I think he always has a bit of a challenge in trying to recruit from outside. So as he gets vacancies and cannot recruit, you end up with some salary savings. This is relatively common, I think, in that office.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

If not, we can take a review of members' expenditures. Again, it is all summarized by category for the forty-eight Members of the House of Assembly. All this information is posted on the Web, as Mr. Ridgley said, so we will not go down through members' expenditures or the categories, but people can certainly access them on the Web and see what each individual member has spent, and the accountability that is put forward with it.

Is there any commentary on any member who is listed there? It is obvious that members are not overspending money, and for the most part, in fact, as you look through them, the members are spending much less, in most cases, than 50 per cent of their allocated funding, and what they are allowed to spend in the different categories is itemized with individual allowances. So there is nothing there to raise any concerns, that I can see.

If there is no commentary, we will move now to the Budget Transfers Report. I will ask the Clerk to lead us through this particular session. If there are questions on any of those transfers, then now would be the time to raise them, and here again it is for reporting purposes only.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, as you say, Mr. Speaker, our Transfer of Funds Policy says we bring this back to the Commission, so they are published, they are on the Web and the Commission gets to look at them, but it is for reporting purposes only. Rather than going through the details, it is probably better just to see if any Commission members have questions they want to ask about a given transfer.

MR. SPEAKER: Seeing nobody has any problem with the transfer of funds, the next item on the agenda will be Tab 6. It is the Audit Committee report. Mr. Ridgley is our representative on the Audit Committee.

Mr. Ridgley, maybe you can make some commentary on the Fifth Report of the Audit Committee to the House of Assembly Management Commission.

MR. RIDGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This is basically the activities of the Audit Committee from March of 2010 to April of this year, 2011. I guess for the benefit of those who do not have a copy of the report before them, it summarizes there in number one that the Committee held meetings with the Auditor General three times, the Comptroller General and so on, down through with the Clerk, the Chief Financial Officer and with the staff of Grant Thornton who do the external auditing.

The bold section there down below, Mr. Speaker, I think is worthy of noting, that the Comptroller General was, until October of last year - they were doing what the Audit Committee considered too much effort for very little return, in that every expenditure of every member was scrutinized and over-scrutinized. They would come back with a report of double billing and indicate that in most cases they were simple errors in the amounts of like $50 or $60 and so on. So the Comptroller General has now decided to basically audit the same as the rest of government and no additional effort be put into auditing members.

On page – just flick over, Mr. Speaker; also indicated there as an addendum to our report is that the House of Assembly is in complete compliance with all requirements. Essentially that is it, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: Questions or commentary?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just to ask what is meant, Mr. Ridgley, by (inaudible) done for the rest of government, the same as will be done for the rest of government.

MR. RIDGLEY: I guess they just do a spot check, essentially. The Comptroller General, rather than just spot checking, was taking every piece of paper from every member and spending endless hours in terms of the man hours that were being spent for little return you know. The Audit Committee basically felt it was overdoing it.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Spot checking would mean doing some members, occasionally doing members, or never doing members? Just spot checking in the whole overall running of the House of Assembly?

MR. RIDGLEY: In terms of the expenses that members claim. Rather than take every members' claim and say: okay, you claimed travel from A to B, and going over that, and then a hotel room here and a meal there, it would be periodic checking, Mr. Clerk. I am assuming that is correct.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: Yes, it is my understanding they do have a compliance section in the Comptroller General's Office. I am not sure exactly what they do, but I think what they normally do is take so many transactions a day. Their staff review them probably in detail, so it is more a statistical sample rather than looking at every single document.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, thank you.

That is helpful.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk, did you have – okay.

Is there any further commentary?

Thank you, Mr. Ridgley.

The next item will be Severance Pay for Members of the House of Assembly, under Tab 7. The reason this particular item is brought forward is the Chief Justice Green report and the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act clearly established the Members' Compensation Review Committee be struck in each General Assembly to look at members' allowances, to look at members' salaries, and to look at such things as severance pay.

Back when Chief Justice Green brought in his report prior to the Members' Compensation Review Committee, it was established that tax-free allowances for members should be clearly established as taxable allowances. The way the structure was brought about was the fact all members' salaries would be reported and would be taxable, but it would be done in a way that members would not receive any extra benefits by their salary being completely, 100 per cent taxable. As a result of that, the existing severance payments were structured in such a way that members are entitled to one month per year service to a maximum of twelve months, and it was reflective of their salary. To bring about the adjustment when members' salaries were being totally taxable, there was an adjustment made to members' compensation for their severance pay to reduce it to 81.2 per cent of the member's total allowance.

The Management Commission decided that members' severance allowances should continue to be structured in the way it was brought forward prior to the structure of the Members' Compensation Review Committee. Because of that and because now we need to have a directive put in place, we bring it back to the Commission to give us a directive in order to allow the continuation of the 81.2 per cent of a member's current gross salary rather than the 100 per cent, which would be a windfall for members if you would. If there are no questions or if I failed to explain it very clearly, somebody else, the Clerk probably can step in and we can entertain any questions.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just to confirm for members, we have been doing this anyway, with everyone who has left since the Green report came out. We are doing it only on the authority of a recommendation, as it were, instead of a firm Commission decision. We would be doing this anyway, but it is nice to have the Commission confirm it with a directive.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I have no problem if this confirms what is in the Green report, because without a - what is the committee called that we have to strike?

MR. SPEAKER: The Members' Compensation Review Committee.

MS BURKE: Yes. Without that, and a recommendation we accept from that committee, I do not think we have any leeway to do anything other than accept the Green report, and it can only be changed, in my view, from that members' committee that we strike.

CLERK: That is right, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The next Members' Compensation Review Committee, the Commission has already established and accepted, or adopted the fact, and I think there has been a directive given already that it be struck within six months of the next general election. Because prior to that it was vague on - it was not vague, it could be struck any time during the General Assembly but we thought it should be struck within six months so that way the report could be brought in and the next General Assembly could live by the report of the Commission.

The Recommended Minute would be – are there any more questions or debate?

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Just on, Mr. Speaker, so the point is clear in terms of the 80 per cent and the 100 per cent for the general public. Basically, it goes back to the tax-free portion of the former pay structure. If a person was getting at that time, say twenty-six tax-free that became thirty-five or thirty-eight or whatever. You would have gotten 100 per cent of the twenty-six but now you are going to get 80 per cent of the inflated portion.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, it is no more money for individuals.

MR. RIDGLEY: No, it is no more money.

MR. SPEAKER: The severance pay is exactly the way it was prior to 2007.


MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I think the point is; it is not so much is the pay more or less or the same, what is important is that we are following the Green report, period.

CLERK: Absolutely.


MS BURKE: No matter what the compensation is at the end, we are following that report.


MS BURKE: And if there are going to be changes, we will follow the recommended way to make the changes as well.

MR. SPEAKER: That is exactly what we are doing, and it is in compliance with the members' accountability and integrity act.

The Recommended Minute would be, "The Commission directs that severance benefits for Members are calculated and paid based on 81.2 % of gross Member salary as established by s. 11(1) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act." That is written right in the directive.

Can somebody move that motion?

Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Ms Burke.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

The directive is carried.

The next will be under Tab 8, Conversion of Directives to Rules. I am going to pass this one to the Clerk because there might be some confusion there on what directives are and what rules are.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess the Commission remembers that at various times it issues directives interpreting rules or clarifying rules, or amplifying rules, and this is one of the authorities provided in the accountability act. Try as you might, no rules are ever crystal clear and, in special circumstances, come up where the Commission has to issue a directive interpreting what it means. You will remember that we then send out this Commission directive providing the interpretation and we suggest you put it in the back of that big members' rules manual.

We have issued so many now, interpreting rules and so on, that it is starting to get rather cumbersome to find what a particular rule means or if there has been any interpretive directive issued around a given rule. So, we have asked the Law Clerk to go through all of those interpretive directives and where it would fit, we would actually write that decision - the substance of that decision already made - right into the rules and simply rescind the directive. So, when you are looking for a given matter, it is much easier to look just within the rules than to flick through a whole binder full of directives.

One of the obvious ones we have here - you will remember we did very early - are memorial wreaths as an eligible expense. We issued a directive saying that was eligible, so that only exists as a directive and it is not written in the rules. We asked Ms Proudfoot to go through, see which ones could be incorporated directly in the rules, and there were eight or nine of them. We have attached those on these legal sized sheets in this three-column format. The substance of these, we have not changed at all. So, we have the original directive and the directive number there, the proposed rule amendment in the middle column, and then, if it required, some comments over in the right-hand column; but we have not changed the substance of any of them.

The other issue that comes up is we have issued directives on some issues and subsequently adopted a complete policy. For instance, on those legal sized sheets if you look at directive 2007-006, we had a directive on advertising: The purpose behind advertising expenses shall be solely to assist members, et cetera. While we are not writing that in the rules, we have adopted a complete policy on advertising, so the directive is now redundant. We do not need the directive hanging about because we have a complete policy on advertising.

As you look through these, there are only three sheets of them here I guess, seven directives. There are at least seven directives we could rescind and five of them we could write directly into the rules. Because these are not adding any expense money or changing annual allowances, the rule amendment process really just requires that it come to the Commission once. It is not like changing a dollar figure where we deal with it twice, or if we are changing an annual allowance it actually has to be confirmed in the House. If the Commission agrees with these, we simply accept the minutes as presented here today and then once they are gazetted, the rules then are in force.

MR. SPEAKER: So the directives become rules, then, and they will be clearly established in members' handbooks as rules, rather than having references to go back and look and see what directives exist.

CLERK: That is right, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

If not, a motion is in order and there is no need of me reading those three pages of directives here. They have all been clearly established in the past and debated here at other meetings, and clearly shown again on the Web, of our meeting here, on the agenda of our meeting.

If it is in order, then I look for direction from the Commission to rescind directives 2007-006 and 2007-010 effective immediately, and have those directives accommodated and accepted as rules of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act. If members are willing, we can put forward that motion.

Moved by Ms Burke; seconded by Mr. Ridgley.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

The motion is carried.

That should make things more clear as well, Mr. Clerk, especially for new members –


MR. SPEAKER: - once we structure the handbook and make it available to the members as they come and try to find out the workings of the House of Assembly and what their dos and don'ts can be.

The next item on the agenda is the Guidelines on Dissolution. I guess it would be the dissolution of Parliament and the guidelines for members' salaries, allowances and services during the general election. Prior to now, there has always been an accepted practice of what members are allowed to do once the writ is served and once the House is dissolved, or the Assembly has been dissolved, and what they cannot do. It has never been written as such, so we have decided that maybe we should make it clear for people to understand what they can and cannot do during an election once the writ is served, and to make a level playing field where everybody will know what the rules and regulations are.

Staff have put forward Guidelines on Dissolution of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly, effective June 2011. It is clearly written. There is nothing new here. It has been an accepted practice pretty well all through the years of what happens, but now we have it put in writing.

I ask members to take – and members, I am sure, have read this – another look at some of the wording here, some of the guidelines, and if there is any need to bring forward or to have something deleted from this particular policy, then we can do that right now.

I will just start the debate here. I have taken a close look at this. The only thing I saw there is that I thought some of the language should be strengthened. For instance, I will start by 4.4, Constituency Business. It says, "Members may assist their constituents with ongoing or nonpartisan concerns. Constituency Assistants may not be involved in the election campaign while occupying their offices in the Confederation Building Complex or other constituency offices located outside Confederation Building."

As you look through what is printed here, there is a lot of the word "may" being used, and I think that should be strengthened. Instead of saying "may" - because may has all kinds of connotations: you may do it or you may not do it - I think we should insert the word "shall".

If you look through anywhere that the word "may" is used, you will find that the word "shall" can fit in there. It is clear what the intentions are here: that members or their assistants shall not do those things, and shall not use their offices for constituency business, and offices shall not be used to prepare, store, or distribute party or constituency association campaign material.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: My comment on the 4.4, it says members may assist their constituents, and you would recommend in that one that members shall assist their constituents. I think the members need to make that call, because there may be some very complicated cases that they may have to put off until after the election. I think by putting "shall" there it is almost like you have to come off the election and go in and deal with the issues that are being requested, because you "shall" do it.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and I did not look at that one, I just moved on to the next one, but it is a very good point. The next one, I thought "shall" should fit in there, but there - members "may" assist – yes, sure, that is the way that it should be.

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Chair, is it considered that the member, once the writ is dropped, is still the member?

MS LAMBE: You still get paid.

MR. RIDGLEY: I understand that, but is he still the member or she still the member?

MR. SPEAKER: Good question; members get paid.

MR. RIDGLEY: I understand that part.

MR. SPEAKER: Members get paid right up until election time as incumbents.

MR. RIDGLEY: I am not worried about that, but is he a member or the candidate?

MR. SPEAKER: You are not a Member of the House of Assembly once the House is dissolved.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, because the House is dissolved, there is no House of Assembly, there is no General Assembly, so there can be no members of it, but the Accountability Act clearly said that you continue to receive salary up until the day before polling day. If you will remember, it also said you are eligible to collect reimbursement for expenses right up to the day before Election Day. This Commission wanted that amended in the act, and the act was amended to say that you cannot claim reimbursement for expenses during the writ period. That was an amendment to what Green had originally said, because I think in the 2007 election - and the act, remember, just came in, in June 2007 - this Commission and all the parties agreed they would not claim, but that was a voluntary decision on behalf of the parties. Subsequent to the election, that act was amended to say you are not eligible to claim reimbursement.

It was in Green that you continue to get a salary and that you could claim reimbursement. Now what we have done with this, and Ms Lambe can explain it better than I can, so we said you cannot claim reimbursement that is for travel, meals, accommodations and so on during the writ period; however, there are certain administrative expenses members incur which tend not to be reimbursed on a claim basis, we tend to pay directly. We pay rent and we pay phone bills. Perhaps I will turn to Ms Lambe; she was worried that if we stopped all that, there is a huge administrative effort following the election.

MR. RIDGLEY: Okay. Pardon me for one second.

MR. SPEAKER: Sure, Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: I appreciate the answer, but it really was not what I was asking. I was just referring to what the Chair had raised here, members may assist their constituents. In a sense, there are no members.

CLERK: That is true.

MR. RIDGLEY: You are not a member anymore, you are a candidate.

CLERK: That is right.

We could have written: those who used to be members until the writ was dropped.

MR. RIDGLEY: That is what we are talking about.

CLERK: It is a bit of a short hand, yes.

MR. RIDGLEY: In a sense, there are no members.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, that is right.

MR. RIDGLEY: The ministers are still ministers –

CLERK: Absolutely, yes.

MR. RIDGLEY: – but the members are not the members.

CLERK: That is right.

MR. RIDGLEY: Albeit, these are people who you have worked with or who live in the district that you used to represent, you are not the member.

CLERK: That is right.

MR. SPEAKER: That is right.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, just to add to that. You have members now who may not have yet announced, but there are going to be members who are not running in the election. Are they still considered members? So, that is the question. It would seem to me that if they are not, then they would not be assisting constituents. Isn't that correct?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: For purpose of salary, of course, they are still members right up to the day before polling day. With respect to helping constituents, of course, there is nothing in law that you have to do that, that you are obligated to do it or anything else, but one assumes if you had been elected previously, you were a member until the writ was dropped, you are serving constituents. If they were to call during that writ period and you were not running again, whether you were or were not running again, you would probably try to help. You have to juggle your time and so on, but one assumes the office still gets calls from constituents, the member and the constituency assistant continue to try to help.

MS MICHAEL: So all members are being paid right up until polling day –


MS MICHAEL: - no matter what their status is with regard to the election.

CLERK: That is right, the day before.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, well in that case it does fit. The day before, that is right.

CLERK: The day before polling day.


CLERK: And members-elect who are first past the post on polling day that is the day salaries will begin.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: I think I was trying to save some grief for the constituency assistants who presently exist. Because, for example, if I am out there as the candidate for St. John's North and my present constituency assistant calls me and says: Mrs. Jones called from X Street and has a problem with whatever, she could just as easily have called the candidate for the Liberal Party or the NDP.

MR. SPEAKER: That is right.

MR. RIDGLEY: In a sense.


MR. RIDGLEY: But by calling me, she is really showing favouritism. Not to say that she will or will not, but just to be clear in terms of saving them grief, you know?

CLERK: Yes, that is true.

MR. SPEAKER: And the directives, I guess, could come just as easily from the candidate from the other party as from the incumbent. Because you are not the member, and I am not the member anymore once the writ is served, and you are not even allowed to refer to yourself or to advertise as a member of the House of Assembly.

MR. RIDGLEY: No, and my assistant would actually represent St. John's North District –

MR. SPEAKER: Not you as an individual.

MR. RIDGLEY: – and any concerns there, but our ties are kind of cut, in a sense, technically.

Now, if she wants to call me that nicely, I mean human nature is human nature, but technically that is the way it should be, shouldn't it?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Another point, still under 4.4, I just want to get clarification. "Constituency Assistants may not be involved in the election campaign while occupying their offices in the Confederation Building Complex or other constituency offices located outside Confederation Building." Because constituency assistants can do volunteer work outside of normal hours, I am presuming this point means that they cannot do it within the office itself.


MS MICHAEL: Okay, that is fine. Just to make it clear.

MR. SPEAKER: It is almost a reflection of what we have seen federally.


MR. SPEAKER: If you have noticed, the members' offices were all open but in some cases probably their campaign headquarters might have been in the same structure as their constituency office. You are not to use your constituency office for partisan purposes during an election.


MR. SPEAKER: If your constituency assistants decide to get involved, then they have to do one of a couple of things. Number one, take a leave of absence without pay; or number two, use their annual pay and vacate their offices. At that particular time we can replace your constituency assistant by the guidelines that we already follow.


MR. SPEAKER: Number two, go to work as your constituency assistant, take part in no partisan activities, but what they do after 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon until 9:00 o'clock in the morning is none of anybody's business other than theirs.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, but as long as they are not doing it in the office.

MR. SPEAKER: As long as it is not being done from their office.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: The only question I have is: So, if you have a constituency assistant who takes a leave of absence or goes on annual leave during the election period, their position can be backfilled?

MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely.


MR. SPEAKER: That is within the rules and the regulations of the replacement of constituency assistants that we have all adopted here and abiding by Chief Justice Green's report of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Yes, my comment, that is why I wanted to clarify that. It was just under the section where it says about the expenses. Where is it?

MR. SPEAKER: Salaries for Constituency Assistants maybe?


CLERK: The restriction we put on?

MS BURKE: No. It was about our expenses, what we can claim.

CLERK: Yes, way back at beginning under Entitlements during the writ period, where we quote subsection (2) of 14. In the middle of the page there, subsection "(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1)…" is that the point you are looking for?

MS BURKE: I guess I just wanted to make sure. We are not claiming expenses, and I understand that, except for what is ongoing: the telephone, the rent and whatever.


MS BURKE: That makes sense, but the other part that would be ongoing that we will not claim, because we do not necessarily claim it, would be the salary for somebody who came into the office.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: That is right, and that is paid directly. What this is talking about is claiming reimbursement.

MS BURKE: Okay. Fair enough, that is fine.

CLERK: Ms Lambe, as I said, has a number of good arguments that we cannot stop paying rent and phone bills; we will incur huge costs hooking them all up again.

MS BURKE: Right.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I think this policy is fine as it is because I think that we understand. What I would like to see happen - I know it is available and all of that - I think it needs to be distributed to all of the members so everyone can read it in case there are issues to be clarified. The bottom line is, I think what truly happens here is once we dissolve the House we go into election mode and we are not out doing constituency business because, quite frankly, you are busy doing something else. It does cover us and our assistants off for when things have to happen, and there may be something that was of an ongoing nature, a hearing or something, coming up and you have to deal with. This is basically what it allows us to do and our assistants as well.

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Chair?

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: I am just going from my previous comments in terms of members not being members any more. Go down to 4.9, we would have to ask then why would they be entitled to use cellphones and BlackBerries provided by the House.

MR. SPEAKER: We can do one of several things here. Some members in the past, once the writ has dropped, have come forward and said here is my BlackBerry or here is my cellphone, and that way there is no temptation and there is no opportunity to use them. Other people, like ministers, have their cellphones. So ministers have access, they are still ministers, the Speaker is still the Speaker, so they need this particular technology in order to carry out their duties that they are still responsible for.

MR. RIDGLEY: I understand. I think we are going to have to distinguish between ministers and members. Members who are not ministers, really, have no entitlement to those cellphones.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: No, but it is very hard for us, for instance, to leave members who are ministers with their phones and go out and take it from you because you are not a minister when, as you say, ministers will still need those. It goes back to the point I made - and perhaps Ms Lambe should speak a bit to this - if we start cancelling those phones for those –

MR. RIDGLEY: Turn them in.

CLERK: Well, that is your choice. We do not need to collect them. You are free, as we say, to turn it in and we will have it in safe keeping, but we do not want to go out and demand that you give it to us because you are only an ex-MHA, whereas an ex-MHA who is still currently a minister gets to keep it. So, we did not want to go down that road.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: I understand the point raised; however, I will say this: Members are not permitted to submit expenses during the writ period for cellphone use or otherwise. The reality is, while the House is dissolved, each member who is running for re-election is still working on constituency issues, they may have appeals to do, and they may have other business to do that they carry on. I know, I am running for my fifth term, so I have been through elections while the House has been dissolved. I still use the phone for government business.

Now, there is a distinction, and I carry two phones. One is my personal telephone and one is my government phone. That way, any personal calls I get on my personal phone. If you are going to be doing government business, especially for some of the rural members in particular, if they are going to be doing government business, should they have to pay long distance fees on a personal phone to carry out government business because the House is dissolved and there has been a writ dropped? I would advocate that members continue to have access to their cellphones.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: That is exactly what the policy says. You do have access to it; however, if there is personal use on it, you pay for it. If this is your work, it is fine and that is covered. Technically, if you are still covering the constituency office in whatever capacity, you have the phone. The day that election is over, if you are no longer re-elected, it is back. If you do not want to carry it, you do not want to make that personal cheque out to say this is what you owe, turn it in or turn it off.

MR. SPEAKER: This is exactly what 4.9 states, Tom. What you just repeated was the same as you would have gotten had you read this.

MR. T. OSBORNE: There was a comment made that we should turn them in and no longer have use.

MR. SPEAKER: Some members have done that in the past. If that is what they feel comfortable with, then by all means bring it down, turn it into the Clerk's Office, and it will be looked after.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I just want to back up what Ms Burke has said. It is there. Currently, we have a policy that says if we are using our cellphones for other than business, we pay. I pay regularly every month. I send down the money for personal things that are on my BlackBerry. I know it is a lot of work for the House administration, but I really appreciate that I get the printout and I know exactly which calls were personal and which were not, and I pay regularly.

This is just continuing what we already do. I think it would be such a hassle on a number of levels. I just do not see why we cannot accept it as is written here.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: My only comment is that it only makes good sense that the general public still have access to the numbers to contact us, or the texting, the e-mail or whatever. If you are not going to take them, just put messages on to say have it rerouted here until that day.

I think this covers it off. Actually, I think this is not a bad policy. The intent, I think, is clear. Like I said, I want to see and make sure that when we pass it here today, assuming we do that, that a copy specifically goes out, not just an e-mail, but in an envelope and says make sure you understand this as well as your constituency assistant.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and just to repeat again, it gives you a choice. We are not separating ministers here from another member. If some members decide that they are not going to be a candidate any more, well then they are probably expected to carry on their duties until that time arrives and they should be doing that with a phone that allows them to make government calls and not be disadvantaged. If you feel that you do not want any part of it at all, then you turn in your cellphone and everybody is treated equally and they have the same advantage to use or not to use it, but to be responsibility for your own personal usage.

Is there any further commentary? If not, a motion to accept the policy as written here for the Guidelines on Dissolution of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly is in order.

MR. RIDGLEY: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Mr. Ridgley; seconded by Ms Burke.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Just before we vote on it, that is with the language as presently written, that exists here now, not making any changes to anything?



All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

The motion is carried.

That concludes the regular meeting of the House of Assembly Management Commission. I thank members and I thank staff for making themselves available. I know some members had to deal with the fog, and drive from Gander rather than St. John's airport. I thank members for making the special effort to be here.

A motion to adjourn is now in order.

MS MICHAEL: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Ms Michael and seconded by Mr. Osborne that this meeting do now adjourn.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

The meeting is adjourned.

On motion, meeting adjourned.