March 20, 2013               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION              No. 39


The Management Commission met at 5:15 p.m. in the House of Assembly Chamber.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Good evening.

This is a meeting of the House of Assembly Management Commission. Before we start, we will go through the formality of having people introduced for the viewing public. I will start on my left; Mr. Ball.

MR. BALL: Dwight Ball, District of Humber Valley.

MR. VERGE: Wade Verge, Lewisporte District, Deputy Speaker.

MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi.

MR. KING: Darin King, District of Grand Bank, and Government House Leader.

MS SHEA: Joan Shea, St. George’s – Stephenville East.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

Joining me at the Table…

MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk’s Office.

CLERK: Sandra Barnes, Clerk.

MR. SPEAKER: Today, we have a couple of items on the agenda.

Under Tab 1, we have the minutes of the meeting of February 27, 2013 and the minutes of the meeting of February 28, 2013. We can deal with each of them separately. You have all had a chance to review the minutes. Is there a motion to accept them as circulated?

MS SHEA: (Inaudible) it should say Darin King, Government House Leader, as opposed to Jerome Kennedy, in both sets of minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, we have a typo. Thank you.

I do not know if we complimented him or insulted him.

Okay. We have corrected that typo in the members present. Does that reappear anywhere else?

MS SHEA: The second set.

MR. SPEAKER: The second set of minutes, as well?

MS SHEA: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. With that adjustment made, I will entertain a motion.

MS SHEA: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Ms Shea.

Do we have a seconder for that?

Ms Michael.

Before I call the question, are there any questions with respect to any of the content of that?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Carried.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: The second set of minutes deal with our meeting on February 28. Again, we have made the correct change in those present.

I will entertain a motion to adopt the minutes as circulated.

MS MICHAEL: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Ms Shea.

Are there any comments before I call the question?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Carried.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: In Tab 2, there is a note there that provides an explanation of a proposed change that has been brought forward.

As you will recall, when we dealt with the Members’ Compensation Review recommendations there was a recommendation embedded in that report that talked about making an adjustment in the allocation for mileage and ferry travel in the District of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune as a part of the adjustment for the helicopter allocation. The report itself did not address the same issue that happened in Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair.

What this note proposes to do is to make an adjustment in the allocation for the District of Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair to make it consistent with the changes made in the Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune numbers coming out of the compensation review process that we went through. This re-establishes that equality that existed in both of those. The rationale would be the same for making the adjustment for Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair.

You have had an opportunity to see the Briefing Note. Are there any questions with respect to some of the logic that went behind this inclusion in this recommendation here?

I will entertain a motion to accept the recommendation put forward in the note, that we would make the road kilometre and the ferry travel adjustment in the District of Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair.

Moved by Mr. King; seconded by Ms Michael.

The third item, under Tab 3, when we dealt with recommendations of the Members’ Compensation Review Committee, there were some recommendations with respect to establishing a helicopter travel allocation for the District of Burgeo – La Poile and also to have the helicopter allocations in the four districts impacted budgeted for separately. To help us, obviously, in going through this exercise, it was an opportunity to review the helicopter allocation for all districts in order to help us establish an equitable number to be assigned and budgeted for in the District of Burgeo – La Poile.

The Commission gave me direction to meet with the members who were impacted in the four Districts of Burgeo – La Poile, Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair, and Torngat Mountains. I had that meeting, and we had a good discussion around the uniqueness of the respective districts and how much air travel is required. We also looked at the allocation that was originally put in place by Justice Green back six years ago. We also have the value of having five full years, post the implementation of the Green report, to look at historic utilization.

There is a grid that is supplied for you that lays out what we are proposing as being the allocation for each of the districts. You will note that based on past experience, the three districts have had an allocation, which was Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair, and Torngat Mountains. Neither of those districts used anywhere close to one-half – in fact, they did not even reach one-quarter of their allocation. We obviously had to be cognizant of that when did the allocation, but at the same time allow some flexibility.

What we are proposing here is to make some adjustments in the allocations that were done for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune and Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair, such that even if they have in place the reduced number over the previous five years, they still would not have come close to using it all.

For example, in Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, the reduced number from $46,000 down to $23,000 if that had been in place for the last five years, that district would have still only used 39 per cent of that allocation. These numbers are considered to be reasonable, given our historic experience, and provide opportunities for four districts to still have access to helicopter travel.

I will entertain a motion to accept the recommendation as put forward in the note and to use the numbers as proposed in the grid here.

MR. BALL: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Mr. Ball; seconded by Mr. King.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Contra-minded?

Motion carried.

The final tab – I just want to lay out for us a process that we will need to go through. Any time that there are changes in the regulations that provide for the allowances and expenditures for MHAs that require a change in the regulations themselves – and some of the changes we are making here requires changes in the regulation, and there is a number of steps in this process.

The first one we went through on February 27 and 28, which was to have a Management Commission meeting where we talked about the recommendations of the MCRC report. We talked about the budget allocations that we would make.

The next step in the process is to come back to this meeting here today and deal with the proposed regulatory changes that would be required to be introduced in the House of Assembly. Then we read into the record of the House of Assembly on some future date – I will read into the record in the House of Assembly the proposed changes to be made. Then the Government House Leader would introduce a notice of resolution to actually have a debate and discussion in the House and vote on it. On some subsequent day, there will be a vote in the House of Assembly on it, and then it comes back to the Management Commission again for ratification.

It lays out a process that expands over a period of time so that there is a full discussion publicly around the changes that are being made in members’ allocations and resources. This is what would be the second step in a process.

To help us with the discussion, there is a table that you have in your package of information which identifies – the grid’s headings would be the existing rules, which clearly indicate then what currently exists today in the regulations that flow from the legislation that governs MHAs. Then we have a column that talks about the proposed amendments, and the comments section talks about the rationale for it. The rationale is tied back to the decisions we made on February 27 and February 28.

I will just go through the proposed amendments. I will not read them out in total, but I will just provide some of the highlights of the rationale we are going through. Then with one single motion we could adopt the recommendations that are in here if you wish.

The first one is basically coming from the decisions. Now that we are going to make some amendments to the legislation, this is a housekeeping change to be made as we deal with that $1,000 start up. Remember in the Budget we right-sized that figure, instead of leaving the $1,000 in there, as $16,000 as a Budget item?

The second thing we are doing as a result of the 20 per cent reduction in the members’ allowance for office operations. The office operation budget is being reduced by 20 per cent down to $12,000 a year. That will require a change in the regulations.

The second thing that is happening is that the mechanism for budgeting for MHAs’ constituency offices that are outside the Confederation Building complex, the allowance allocations historically have been $7,000 a year. We have enough history now to know that we cannot rent space for that. Because we are using the Public Tender Act, you are always going to get what market forces will dictate you have to pay.

If we are going to make the changes as we have done or proposed change as we have done in the budgetary process, then we will need to take out the $7,000 reference in the act and talk about it as having an entitlement. Members have an entitlement to have a constituency office in their districts, and then the policy around the public tendering process will dictate how you go about securing that office space. You pay whatever the market conditions dictate.

The next piece is again a changing of some wording to make it consistent with the thrust of the policy decision. Before it was an allowance and now it is an expense. Instead of having an allowance of $7,000 per person, whatever we spend is now considered an expense. We will have to change the language from allowance to expense.

Then we have the next one where we dealt with the $750 for the short-term rentals. When we dealt with that we now merged that with the constituency allowance provision. That rule, section 20(7), is no longer required, so we are repealing that section.

I would like to acknowledge now, too, that Mr. Granter has just joined us. Mr. Granter, we are in the process of going through Tab 4 of the agenda, where we are talking about amendments that are required for the House to deal with the changes that will need to take place with the regulations in the act governing members’ allowances and compensation.

The next one we talk about is section 33(1). When we made the decision to provide for it based on the recommendation of the Members’ Compensation Review, we acknowledged that there were a number of districts. We have labelled them here: Bellevue, Carbonear – Harbour Grace, Ferryland, Harbour Main, Placentia – St. Mary’s, Port de Grave, and Trinity – Bay de Verde.

Those districts are close enough to the capital region so that if the member chose they could drive back and forth; when the House is in session, they could drive back and forth to their districts, rather than have to stay in a hotel. We know the current mechanism only provides for reimbursement should you stay in a hotel, but it did not provide any reimbursement should you have to travel back and forth. That requires a change in the regulation as well, and that is what this proposed amendment does.

Then the next one deals again with the schedules to be attached. When we make the changes for the helicopters, we have to amend those allocations in the schedules to be attached. As well, when we make the changes the intra-constituency travel allowances and the reductions we have proposed for there, we had to now add those schedules into the legislation.

Then the helicopter travel we just dealt with under Tab 3; we need now to set up a new provision in the act to deal with helicopter travel because historically that was imbedded in the category of intra-constituency allowance. Now that it has its own grouping and own definition and parameters around it, it needs to have its separate section in the act itself.

Then the next item deals with the intra-constituency travel. When we eliminated the $750 per short-term accommodations – meeting rooms – as a stand-alone item, it is now brought into this category here, so we need to reflect that in the constituency allowance provision in the act. Then to accommodate the 20 per cent reduction in the intra-constituency allowances – and there is a typo in that last page of the grid. It says constituency allowance; it should be intra-constituency. That is where we made the 20 per cent reduction, in the intra-constituency allowances.

These proposed changes that I just went through accommodate the reduction and reflect the changes that are required to have the legislation accurately reflect the decisions that have been made from a policy perspective. The substantive ones that were identified here are that members’ intra-constituency allowance has been reduced by 20 per cent; members’ allowances to operate their offices have been reduced by 20 per cent; and there was a provision in here to have members use up to a cap of $750 a year for meeting-room space. That category has been eliminated; now members who would choose to do that need to have that reimbursed from their constituency allowances that remain the same.

In terms of substantive pieces here, the substantive pieces that we are talking about are those three reductions in member’s allocations as well as the setting up of a separate grouping, a separate budgeting mechanism for the helicopter travel that sets up a new schedule to reflect the allocation for the helicopter allowances that we have provided here.

The other attachments that are here are simply schedules that reflect those changes. You can see the schedules for House operations, the estimates for the intra-consistency costs; this is what the new schedule will look like when it is in the legislation replacing the one that is there now. Then we have the helicopter schedule that is attached and will be referred to in the act as Schedule B, with the four districts being named and their dollar allocations being provided.

To complete the next step in the process, as I have said, with a motion from this Committee today, we will then have the Legislative Council draft the appropriate legislative changes for tabling in the House. The first step in that process is to get a motion by the Committee today to endorse these proposed amendments as you see them here. When the legislation comes out, if there is some slight wording changes and numbering changes in what you see tabled in the House from what you see here, that is something that would have grown out of the drafting by those who – that is their area of expertise, to draft legislation, but the thrust and substance will remain the same. That is what you see before you today.

With that overview I will entertain a motion to adopt, and I would ask that – under the briefing notes that you have there it says: Actions Required. Really, the motion that we need to have made today, should the Commission accept the recommendation, would be that the recommendation under – the motion would include the actions required. That would be the wording of the motion that we would need to advance this now to a legislative drafting, as per the schedules attached.

With that said, I open the floor now to anyone who would wish to make that motion.

MR. VERGE: Could I ask a quick question?

MR. SPEAKER: Sure.

MR. VERGE: The schedule you are referring to, intra-constituency costs, is that the same one that we have called intra and extra?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, exactly.

Moved by Mr. King, seconded by Mr. Granter.

Any discussion or comment before I call the question?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

That concludes the business of the House of Assembly Management Commission for today. As I have indicated, the next step in the process now is to have this come back to the Legislature.

Bear with me for one minute.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: I have just been reminded that procedurally I jumped a step. I have a motion on the floor, and a seconder, but I did not get a vote on Tab 2, the change in the allowances for the District of Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair.

Moved by Mr. King, seconded by Ms Michael.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, folks, and we will be back again. I suspect the next meeting of the Commission will follow the introduction of this into the House of Assembly after the Easter recess.

Thank you.

On motion, meeting adjourned.