August 29, 2007 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION No. 1
The Committee met at 9:00 a.m. in the House of Assembly.
MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!
Good morning, and welcome to the first meeting of the House of Assembly Management Committee. This meeting is the first held since the submission of the Green report, and the issues, the policies and the procedures that have been communicated to the House of Assembly following that report, and I want to welcome all members.
Yesterday we had an organizing meeting and we agreed with the seating arrangement for the Members of the Board of Management Commission, and I would like to introduce the Members of the Board of Management Commission at this time.
We have, over on my left here, the hon. Tom Rideout, the Government House Leader; Mr. Kelvin Parsons, the Opposition House Leader; Mr. Gerry Reid, who is the other appointee of the Opposition; Ms Beth Marshall, MHA for Topsail; the hon. Tom Marshall, the MHA for Humber East and also the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board; and we have Ms Lorraine Michael, the MHA for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.
I would like to introduce, as well, the members who are at the Table with me. We have Mr. William MacKenzie, who is the Clerk of the House of Assembly. We have Ms Marlene Lambe who is a chartered accountant and our Chief Financial Officer.
Today, as well, I would like to welcome some other members who are with us here. We have, to my right here, Madeline O'Brien with the Hansard staff; Kimberly Hammond who is our Chief Librarian and also the Director of Information Management. We have Elizabeth Murphy, the Clerk Assistant. We have Scott Jones. Scott is the Manager of Financial Planning and Reporting. We have Mark Noseworthy. Mark is with our staff here, the Manager of Financial Operations. We have Sandra Mitchell-Cooney, and her role here is as the Manager of Human Resources. We have John Cowan who has been seconded to the House of Assembly from the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. He is assisting us with the policy and procedures manual, as well as the members' manual. We have Lily Green who is from the Public Service Secretariat. She has been seconded to the House. She is assisting with constituency office policy, standard office equipment packages and inventory control.
I am pleased, as well today, to welcome to the House three of our House Officers. We have Mr. Paul Reynolds who is the Chief Electoral Officer and the Legislative Standards Commissioner; Ms Darlene Neville who is the Child and Youth Advocate; Mr. Barry Fleming who is the Citizens' Representative. Regrets are sent by the Auditor General and by Mr. Phil Wall, the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Also, we have regrets this morning from the Deputy Speaker who has a medical appointment and could not join us.
We have agreed beforehand with the seating arrangement. We have also agreed that members will be seated while they discuss matters. The standard procedure of the House of Assembly will apply in that members will be recognized by the Chair. We have only one microphone that will work on each side of the House at a time, so members are asked to wait until they are recognized by the Chair, and the Chair will try to be fair and reasonable to all members to make sure everybody gets a chance to have an opportunity to participate.
On the issue of votes, the Speaker will seek a consensus. If there is a question as to whether a consensus has been reached or not, then we will ask for a verbal vote as we do in the House. If there is any question as to whether or not that matter passes or does not pass, then we can have, actually, a recorded vote. Any member who wishes to have his or her vote recorded, voting in favour of a matter or voting against a matter, these proceedings are all televised and they are also recorded in Hansard. So anything we say today will become a document of permanent record in our Hansard.
Today, we have distributed the agenda beforehand. We note that towards the end of the meeting we will be requesting an in camera meeting. The in camera sessions are designed to discuss issues that probably should not be discussed in the open forum. Today's issue will be that of a special warrant. When we have held these discussions on that particular matter - that is the only matter that can be discussed because it is the only matter that is referred to, to an in camera session - then that matter will be brought back to the House and will be ratified in a public forum; providing that the members, of course, agree to the contents of the special in camera meeting.
The first item we have is the adoption of the agenda. We have communicated and -
MR. T. MARSHALL: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Minister Marshall.
MR. T. MARSHALL: (Inaudible) that we were going to have an in camera session. I believe -
MR. SPEAKER: I think your mike is on. Go ahead. I was having difficulty hearing you.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, you indicated that we were going to have an in camera session. I think it is the understanding of most of the people of the Province that one of the changes that Commissioner Green recommended, Chief Justice Green recommended, is that the proceedings of this Committee would be open, would be televised, and the remarks made would be recorded and published on the Internet. I think it might be helpful in starting that - if the Clerk might want to read the piece of legislation which indicates the exception to that general rule, that proceedings have to be held in public. I think it might be helpful for all of us if we clearly understood those few exceptions when this Committee will meet in camera.
MR. SPEAKER: There are very, very few exceptions. Today, as I noted, it is relative to a special warrant that we need to pay some of the expenses that pertain to the operations of the House of Assembly establishment.
The Clerk certainly has that section of the act there and he can now read that into the record so all members of the public will know exactly why we would have an in camera session.
The hon. the Clerk.
CLERK (MacKenzie): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Section 19 of the act - for those of you who have the act with you - is the section which permits this. If you want to open to the act, section 19, the marginal description of that section is Proceedings of the Commission. Essentially, what it says is all proceedings of the Commission, excepting four elements, shall be open to the public. There are four exceptions listed. Section 19.(1) covers those exceptions.
I think Chief Justice Green recognized that there are some matters which must be kept private. Some are obviously - I think in any public body, organization and so on - private, and those would be personnel matters. You tend not to discuss those in open, public debate if they involve a human resource or personnel matter, and that would be paragraph (a) of 19.(1) "personnel matters relating to officers and employees...". They can be done in an in camera session; (b) "legal matters, including actual or potential litigation." We would understand that as well. We would not prejudice any legal proceedings by having open discussion, so the Chief Justice recognized that as well.
I think (c) and (d) are the two that apply in this case of a special warrant funding request; (c) "matters protected by privacy and data protection laws." There are laws in the Province - the Access to Information and Protection of Personal Privacy is the obvious one which dictates access to certain records and also the protection of certain records. One of the exclusions permitted under the Access to Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act - this is section 18 - is advice to Cabinet. Cabinet has a right to a certain degree of confidentiality in its proceeds. The Access to Information Act does permit an exception for Cabinet matters, advice to Cabinet and so on. So, I think in the case of a special warrant, which does require Cabinet's blessing, Cabinet is responsible for public funds, that is the one which would apply here.
But, similarly, (d) "budget deliberations involving the preparation of the annual estimates...". Although it says the word annual estimates, and we would assume that to be the proceedings through the winter when we are deciding the estimates to be submitted, by extension you could see that speaking to the estimates of the Legislature generally, whether it is preparation of annual, or in the case of a special warrant, that is a supplementary matter to the Budget of the Legislature. One could see it being a very similar issue.
So, Minister Marshall, those are sort of the key elements and this is precisely as Chief Justice Green recommended in his draft bill.
MR. SPEAKER: If I could add there, minister, as well. Section 19.(4) says, "The substance of all decisions of the commission, including the decisions made following debate on matters in private referred to in subsection (1) shall be recorded and shall form a part of the public record."
In other words, it must come back to the public body and the decisions cannot be operational until they have been ratified in the public forum. So this afternoon after we deal with that matter, or later on in the morning when we have to deal with the matter, we will have our deliberation in private, then we will come back to this body here and then have it appropriately ratified.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you.
The point I just wanted to make, and the point I wanted to make sure that the public had clear, is that the law requires that all proceedings be held in public, with these four exceptions.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. T. MARSHALL: The four exceptions were recommended by Chief Justice Green and that they are set out in the legislation that governs each proceeding.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, we will be following the precise dictates of the legislation.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, just a further question to that so I have it clear in my mind. Because of the private nature of the content of the special warrant, does that mean that what gets ratified in the public session, after the in camera session, will say whether or not we passed the special warrant without saying what the content of the special warrant is, is even the content private to the recommendation to Cabinet?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, there is a procedure we follow in that regard. What will happen is that after the House of Assembly Management Commission, through the Attorney General, will then refer the matter to the Cabinet. There is, contained in legislation, a procedure that we must follow. We will identify the purpose of it but we will not identify, in all probability, the amount; keeping in mind that all special warrants must be debated on the floor of the House.
When the House next meets, whenever in the autumn, then within fifteen days of the House reconvening this matter must be brought to the floor of the House. Special warrants have to be brought forward and there has to be a bill brought in which, at that point in time, there can be a debate in the Assembly which will then ratify or not ratify the special warrant that has been granted.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Beth Marshall.
MS E. MARSHALL: Perhaps the Clerk could just indicate to us the information that will eventually be made public with regard to the special warrant, because my understanding is that there are some documents that once it is subject to debate in the House of Assembly that certain documents will be available. Is that correct?
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Clerk.
CLERK: I am not sure in terms of what will ultimately come to the House of Assembly, what is required to be tabled with special warrants. There is an Order-in-Council that comes with special warrants and so on and so forth. I do not think the actual Cabinet submission gets tabled in the House, but that is probably neither here nor there. I think the question is probably more: What will the Speaker announce when we reconvene as a Commission following the in camera session? Is that more the issue?
The Speaker and I have discussed it. Our thought is we could speak to the purpose of the request. In fact, almost everything except the precise dollar figure. I do not think this is a particularly contentious matter. I think it has wide appeal and support and House leadership, but again, because it is a funding request to Cabinet, we feel we should keep the actual dollar figure confidential at this time. Once Cabinet deals with the matter in a week or two or whenever, it may well be that they would just choose to put out a press release or something.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay, but the amount will eventually be made public, obviously.
MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely.
CLERK: Within fifteen days of the House opening all special warrants must be tabled in the House. Yes, that is added to the estimates of the Province. So, it cannot be hidden. That must come to the House.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of -
MR. RIDEOUT: Government House Leader.
MR. SPEAKER: Government House Leader. I apologize, I am so used to referring to you as Government House Leader, I was referring to you as the Attorney General.
MR. RIDEOUT: Thanks.
We will not obviously get into the details of the special warrant requests at this point in time, but since it is a matter under discussion just let me say this. The simple fact of the matter is - and it will be reported to this Committee at some time today and it will be tabled in the House when the House next meets for public consideration, as is always the case. Special warrants must be tabled in the House fifteen days after the House reconvenes in the next session.
The purpose of the special warrant is to provide additional funding to Elections Newfoundland and Labrador because when the House passed amendments to the Election Act in June month, members will recall, we extended special ballot privileges to all forty-eight districts in the Province. That was not all accounted for in the House of Assembly budget when the Budget was submitted back in February or March and the Budget was debated and passed by the House. Some funding was in there but it could only be an estimate of what the House might do, because the staff in Elections Newfoundland and Labrador, they could only guess what the House might do back when they prepared their Budget. The House may deal with the legislation; the House might require that special ballot provisions be made in all forty-eight districts; the House might decide that it would stay in St. John's, as was the case in the last election, in that people who live in Torngat Mountains would not be able to avail of special ballots in Torngat Mountains.
The House decided to amend the act so that special ballots will be available in all forty-eight districts; at least in one location, some districts more than one location. In order to accommodate that, there will be additional financial resources required that were not budgeted. That is the purpose of the special warrant and that, of course, is a Cabinet decision. The House can only make the request to Cabinet. Cabinet will approve or not approve. I would guess that Cabinet might approve it, but that is only a guess. The Lieutenant Governor will sign off on it and it will come back to the House when the House next meets for ratification. That is the process of special warrants. That is what will happen and that is as the law provides it, whether it is requested by this Committee, or this Commission, or whether it is requested by a department. The process for special warrants is the same for all of us.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much, minister.
Are we ready to move on now? Okay.
We have the adoption of the agenda. Are we satisfied with the agenda as circulated? I note consensus.
If you go to tab one you will see the House of Assembly Management Commission and the Policy Procedures Manual. In this particular case - if you look at the contents, which is on small italic page ii, we have the first three items: the Management Commission, the Members, Orientation and Training. The areas where we would like to have some discussion today and some adoption would be in 4.0, the Meetings; 5.0, the Rules of Procedure, and 6.0, the Agenda and the Minutes. When we are adopting these procedures I think we should point out that what we have here is approval in principle. You could use that expression because there are some instances where we do have some grammatical issues that need to be cleaned up, and there may be some minor instances where the Clerk might want to be able to, before it is finally drafted or the final draft is done, but these are the sections that we would like to draw your attention to.
Also, we have, of course, 8.0, the Audit Committee. Some of these things are coming up a little later on, in other reports.
The Chair would like to have some direction. All of these things arise from the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act. I do not know whether the Clerk would be so kind as to take us through these matters.
Again, I point out that we are going to be asking the Board of Management Commission to adopt the general principles. From time to time there will need to be some changes and some addendums that we will have. If the Clerk could take us through and look at the items where he feels we should have some, I guess, ratification.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As noted in the briefing note which accompanies this at the start of that tab, there is a requirement in the act under section 19(3), for the Commission to adopt rules with respect to the orderly conduct of business of the Commission. Part of this is for the protection of the Commission, I guess, to ensure that it is adequately served by staff of the House, so it talks about rules respecting the previous or the early circulation of agenda, the briefing materials, and all of these matters, so that is an explicit direction in the act.
We have put together very much a draft manual, and you have noticed that we have kept the word draft watermarked on it. This will take a few months, I think, for us, with the Commission's help, to work through, and will undergo a number of revisions.
Some sections, as the Speaker said, sections 1, 2 and 3, the way we have identified it, tend to be just elements of the act, perhaps rewritten, paraphrased or summarized but with really not much added; however, the act itself does not get into the conduct of meetings, rules of procedures, and the details of how much time in advance do we circulate minutes, and so on and so forth.
In those sections 4, 5 and 6, which the Speaker mentioned, we have tired to come up with some reasonable suggestions for policies. It is not essential that these be approved today. I think the good will of Commission members is sufficient to be able to conduct a meeting. I would commit to do advance circulation materials even for the next meeting of the agenda but, nonetheless, we thought it was desirable, as almost the first item of business, that we look at policies and procedures for the conduct of meetings. Whether we come to full adoption today, it may be ambitious to think we could go through this full manual and accomplish that.
I could, Mr. Speaker, just go through sort of section by section as it were and just see if there are any matters which jump out, or -
MR. SPEAKER: You might want to do a highlight, because we already have looked at basically 1, 2 and 3. When you look at meetings, which is 4.0, and section 5 and section 6, perhaps what we should do is call those sections and then if a member of the Board of Management has an issue with the particular section then the member is welcome to speak to it. So, if it is agreeable that we would move to section 4, which in your notes would be on page 15, Notice of Meetings for Members of the Commission, that continues on, then, to page 18.
Is there any member who has any difficulties with section 4? It deals with the notification of meetings for members of the Commission; notification of the public; locations and time; regularity of Commission meetings; special meetings requested by a Commission member; special meetings requested by a non-Commission member; attendance of Commission members; attendance and participation by non-Commissioners at Commission meetings; attendance by spectators at Commission meetings. That is section 4.
Are there any comments thereto?
MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, maybe to expedite things, I think all members of the board have had an opportunity to read through the policy and procedures. Maybe a better process would be to move adoption of it as circulated. It is certainly open to the public and anybody who wants to read this as well. I think everybody read it. It is pretty straightforward in terms of when you have meetings, where you have meetings, how you get notifications and agendas out to the members.
I think, rather than have to go through every single one in detail, I would move adoption of the new board Policy and Procedures Manual as drafted by the Clerk. It is obvious that it is a first draft and there will, by necessity, be some revisions required over time. Then, if anybody wants to come back with a particular concern about some item that is in there, I think by all means we could do that, but at least we would have the general framework adopted, and if there is anything in particular that a member wants to raise about something that is here now, by all means we should then proceed with the specifics, but I do not think we need to go through every single line of this Policy and Procedures Manual in detail. Anyone who wants to read it certainly can. I have read it through and I find it to be very comprehensive, and a lot of it is pretty straightforward stuff about how you hold meetings and so on.
MR. SPEAKER: The Opposition House Leader puts forward a suggestion. Speaking to his suggestion that we would adopt the House of Assembly Management Commission Policy and Procedures Manual as presented, as circulated - and it is fairly extensive; the Clerk has done a lot of work on this, together with his staff - speaking to that particular issue, does any person wish to speak?
MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As long as we follow the recommendation from the Opposition House Leader, and that is, if there is a specific that we may want to speak to, I think we should speak to it today. I have read the whole thing also and I think it is pretty straightforward, but I have one point that I would like to raise, so as long as we get to do that today.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
We have the suggestion that we would adopt it, but that does not exclude a member, when wishing to raise a particular point, seeking an explanation. We will take Mr. Parsons' suggestion and we will go back to Ms Michael and say if you could identify the issue that causes you some concern.
MS MICHAEL: Yes, section 5.4, 5.4.1, which, in our orientation session, was raised as something for us to look at. That refers to the quorum of the Commission being 50 per cent of the members with at least one member representing a party in opposition to the government.
It would seem to me that the quorum should have at least one member from either opposition or from government in the quorum, and I would like to put that forward.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, we are very much aware of that. The reason why this is here is because this is the act. We do not have the authority to change that. This is what is written in the new act that governs it. I would think that probably when the House next meets there might be an amendment that will come forward that will address that issue.
For the general public, what it means is that there is a directive that when a quorum, which is four members of the Board of Management Commission, that one of those have to be a member sitting in Opposition; but the same, shall we say, directive does not apply to members of the governing party.
It would seem to me that, in terms of being fair, where we have three members from those sitting in opposition and three members sitting from those in the government, that we would offer the same kind of opportunities and the same kind of protections, but we cannot change that because it is contained in the legislation.
The hon. the Minister of Finance, Mr. Marshall.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I think you mentioned in your remarks that we could not change it. Certainly, I think the whole purpose is that it is the intent of this Commission, when it notices things in the legislation that do require change, to debate it and to pass a resolution, a directive or an order, and then bring it forward to the House of Assembly for ratification. Is that correct?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, by agreement.
In my discussions I had a long time ago relative to making sure that issues were dealt with in this kind of manner to have all parties represented on the Board of Management Commission, what is here is really an oversight. That does not, however, the law does not preclude an agreement between all hon. members that we would never have a Board of Management meeting without having at least one member from the governing side and also one member from those who sit in opposition. That can be an agreement among members. If members wish to have that recorded as an agreement then the Chair certainly has no objection to that, with the idea that when we go to looking at amendments, and there are some amendments that are needed to the legislation - there are several, in fact, and that is being looked at by our staff - that this is one of them and this is only just treating all sides of the House equally.
MS MICHAEL: Well, then, Mr. Speaker, I would hope that today we would come to an agreement that we will be wanting an amendment with regard to decorum to reflect what we are saying here right now.
MR. SPEAKER: Is there an agreement among members to give direction to the Speaker and to the Clerk that, until this act can be amended, we will have an agreement that no meetings of the Board of Management Commission can proceed without having representation from both the opposition side of the House and from the government side?
MR. PARSONS: (Inaudible) a further directive saying that the amendment would go forward at the earliest opportunity. We do not need to wait for another time to suggest an amendment. I think we do both. We do the agreement that it will not happen henceforth without a government member present and also that the staff will do whatever is necessary to ready the amendment to do it legislatively at the first opportunity.
MR. SPEAKER: We can have our Legislative Council draft the amendment and we will bring it back at the next subsequent meeting, have it ratified by the Board of Management and then it can be brought forward to the Government House Leader, together with other amendments that will be coming forward as well. Is there agreement that we will proceed along that route?
Two things, one is that we have a gentleman's, or an agreement now that we will operate in that mode and that we will also have a draft prepared of the amendment to be brought back for ratification at a future date by the Board of Management. Is that agreed?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.
MR. SPEAKER: Agreed. Okay -
MR. T. MARSHALL: (Inaudible) suggest an agreement to this policy manual to include that agreement.
MR. SPEAKER: We can certainly include it but we will have to make a note to it indicating, at this stage, that it is an agreement reached between all hon. members, because we do not have the authority to change the act at this stage.
MR. T. MARSHALL: But we do have authority to change policy.
MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely. We can change the practice, and it makes sense to change the practice.
MR. T. MARSHALL: The last comment I will make is that I want to thank the Leader of the NDP and the Opposition House Leader for protecting the interests of the government here. I think if that is the way we are going to do business, I think we will all get on quite fine in this House.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Marshall.
MS E. MARSHALL: Have we agreed now that the policy manual will be changed, because there can be things in the policy manual that are not in the legislation?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes. We have agreed that this will be the changes to the policy manual to reflect the agreement that members have here.
Okay. Is there anything else on that particular issue? On the agenda, it is the -
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Clerk.
CLERK: I would like to bring one matter to the attention of the Commission which, maybe - I think there is a logic to it but I do want the Commission members to be aware of it.
Section 5.7 of the Policies and Procedures Manual, page 20, and into 5.7.1. If I could refer to the act again. Section 19.(5) discusses the minutes of the Commission. So it is section 19.(5). It says, "A copy of the minutes..." - that is of our meetings - "...containing the substance of all decisions of the commission made at each meeting shall, following approval by the commission at its next meeting..." - then it goes on to say: be tabled and distributed and so on.
There might be a suggestion that until the minutes are approved at a subsequent meeting, a decision is not ratified. It would depend on how you choose to interpret minutes versus the other wording of 19.(5): the substance of all decisions. Because we are broadcast, because we are transcribed by Hansard, if a decision is made at the Commission it would seem logical that there would be no need to wait until a subsequent meeting of the Commission, thirty days or whatever, before we put that decision into effect.
What I am suggesting here in 5.7.1 is somewhat like the way the Treasury Board operates. Following the meeting, the decisions are communicated to the members and members have two days in which to review, see if the wording is accurate, if there are any concerns and so on, and then the decisions are deemed to be in effect. If we wait until a subsequent meeting of the Commission to approve minutes, and only at that point do we feel we have a formal decision, we will be delaying matters all the time.
That note following 5.7.1 is really just trying to argue that given Hansard, given the broadcast, given the transparency of decisions, would we not put them into effect more quickly than waiting for adoption of the minutes at a subsequent meeting? The minutes could be interpreted to include all matters respecting the Commission, attendance, agenda and so on and so forth, but if there are actual decisions we would like to implement soon, we should probably do them quickly.
It is only a policy issue in here, of course, but that is what that recommends, that I will get decisions out within a couple of days, you take a couple of days to review them, see if this is accurate, and then following that, we would feel the decision has been approved and we could go ahead and implement it.
MR. SPEAKER: Keeping in mind, of course, Mr. Clerk, that when you have an actual Hansard, when it has all been transcribed, then really the decisions of the Commission are more appropriately, in some cases, going to be recorded in Hansard so that - we do not want to end up with a situation whereby we are delaying implementation.
For example, after today's meeting the probability of having another meeting between now and the October election is not high, but there are certain things we have to have ready for that meeting and we need to be able to have a process in place to have them ratified before - well, if the election is on October 9, it may be October 25 or thereabouts, or somewhere around there, before members are sworn in and you have a new Board of Management Commission appointed and a new Speaker probably by that time, then you do not want to wait that long. New members and members who are incumbents will want to have certain procedures in place long before that. So is that agreeable?
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
Are we finished with the House of Assembly Management Commission Policy and Procedures Manual? We have agreed to adopt it as is, with the explanations that have been put forward and with the addendums that have been suggested by Ms Michael and agreed to by all members relative to the issue of representation necessary in constituting a quorum.
The next section we have is: Status Report on Implementation of "Green Report". We have subdivided this. What we have done is put it on a spreadsheet. We have taken every single recommendation and we have indicated the status of it. In some instances we have subdivided the recommendations. There are eighty recommendations in the Green report. By subdividing them and making sure that they are clearly understood, we ended up with 275 recommendations. I want to know how you wish to handle this particular matter, page by page, or in a collective manner suggested by the other item on the agenda previously discussed?
What we are doing here is saying: here is what we have been doing and giving you an update. This will change as time goes on. There will be further changes. Some of the things that are recommended here later on today, we will make some changes when we adopt certain procedures because, obviously, they are not indicating now that they are adopted because we have not adopted them, on some of the other agenda items that we have here; startup allowances and travel allowances, these kinds of things, but this is the status report as it now exists.
I do not know if you have any comments or you want to ask any particular questions. It turns out to be forty-six pages long. I did not intend to go through it page for page, unless members wanted me to do so.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Rather than go through it one by one, because there are eighty recommendations, possibly the officials could give us a summary, overall, where we are with respect to the implementation of the recommendations, if that is agreeable?
MR. SPEAKER: We have been making tremendous progress, Mr. Marshall. We have the team here that have been working very diligently. We seconded some of the best people throughout the entire civil service. They are here today and I want to thank them for the great work they have done. Several people are not here, like Lorna Proudfoot, she is not here, and Ramona Cole is not here. They are both on vacation. These two people, in addition to the team you have here, this is what we have been doing since June 14 when the act was passed by the House.
The Clerk can certainly take us through and look at some of the more salient points.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Yes, and I should echo the Speaker's comments. The Executive Council has very generously allowed us to second staff. We have seconded four staff from various departments, and that has been instrumental in getting a lot of this done. We really did not have the resources on permanent staff to get this done in the time frame that faces us, particularly with the October 9 election coming up and so much of this had to be done by then. That was very helpful of the Executive Council to be generous in that manner.
As the covering note says, a lot of the Green report recommendations spoke to the legislation and rules which should come into effect. The report also included a draft bill and a draft set of rules. In fact, as you go through the list you will see half or more of the recommendations are actually accomplished once we have the statute proclaimed and the rules part of it. It was just the nature of the way he wrote the report. Legislation should say this and in the draft bill he proposed it does say that. That has been proclaimed. In fact, that type of recommendation has been accomplished. Many of those then, even though they are accomplished in so far as they are part of the law now, there are ongoing operational requirements which we will have to meet to make them operational.
Then there are a number of other recommendations dealing with matters to be done, which must be done by October 9, how we will report members' expenses and these sorts of matters. Those are complicated matters. It may sound simple but as we will see when we look at some of the other issues, we are dealing with government's financial management system, commonly called Oracle, and how that is programmed, how matters will be posted on the Web, so it involves the Chief Information Officer, the Office of the Comptroller General and so on.
We have broken these up into a number of different projects. The most complicated one, I suppose, is that one on having the FMS cover the new categories that are outlined in the rules and finding a way to take that data directly from FMS, without any manipulation manually, as it were, and post it directly to the Web so the data integrity is protected.
We have had some other projects. The Speaker mentioned Lily Green working on constituency offices, the policies, the leasing arrangements, the hookups for services, utilities, all of those matters, developing an inventory system, because the House will now be providing standard packages. That is another separate project. There are a couple of matters where Green recommended some audits to be done of the House of Assembly accounts for 1999, 2000 and 2001. We have a Request for Proposals out now and we are getting responses from some auditing firms. There is another recommendation that a forensic audit be conducted over some of the minutes of IEC; we are drafting an RFP for that. Ministerial allowances, that is covered in here. Executive Council is reviewing the allowances for ministers to ensure that matches with the MHA system of allowances. There are a number of these various recommendations ongoing, almost all of which, I can say, will be done for October 9, which is when they need to be in effect.
Then, as the covering note says, there are others which we have had to put on hold just because of resources. We have three of the independent officers of the House here today for the meeting. The Clerk's office has been charged to provide some administrative support and to assume an administrative responsibility for management in those offices. Because they have a small staff, they cannot capture the full range of administrative management responsibilities such as segregation of duties, internal controls and so on. We have necessarily had to postpone that, so we will be speaking to the offices this fall to try and put that into place, but there is a big task there.
The note also mentions the management certification process, which is a huge undertaking which will take through the fall and winter, where, within the House and the statutory offices, we implement all required internal controls of financial management, the documentation, the policies surrounding all of those, and then the Clerk certifies that they are all in place, copper fastened and perfect. That is a long process.
While the majority of them will be done by October 9, there are some necessarily we have had to delay just by virtue of resource limitations.
MR. SPEAKER: Any questions?
MS E. MARSHALL: Perhaps Mr. MacKenzie could just briefly give us an overview of what members can expect after the October 9 election, because I understand there is some intention to provide some training, and possibly the documentation that will be provided to new members and probably current members who are coming back, and how the House of Assembly staff will sort of indoctrinate the members into the new rules.
MR. SPEAKER: We have done a lot work on that particular issue. There is still more to be done, but when the citizens of the Province make their decisions on October 9 we will be ready to proceed, then, with appropriate orientation. The orientation in this particular case will be not only for the members who are newly elected, but there will also be a need for members who are re-elected to become familiar with the whole procedure as well because there is an entirely new regime that is going to come in place. We will be ready to do the work on that, and members will have appropriate briefing sessions.
We hope to get these going probably very soon after October 9, even before members are sworn in as members. There is a window there between October 9 and, say, October 22, or something like that, when you are still waiting for the official gazetting of the results, and we can do some work there as well.
Our staff is ready, but Mr. MacKenzie has been piloting this and I am sure he would like to comment on it and say the great work that has been done.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The importance of training and information for members was recognized by Green so much so that it is in the act, so there is an obligation for the Speaker and the Clerk to provide orientation, training and so on, to members. As I say, it is enshrined in legislation.
Section 22 of the act actually lists all matters which the House has to provide to members. So, in just referring to that, if you look at 22.(2), within thirty days, an orientation program has to be delivered to members - that is section 22.(2) - on the types of services offered, proper procedures for making claims, proper systems to be employed for the constituency office, any other matters the Speaker considers appropriate.
Then, if you look at subsection (3) it actually gets into itemizing the materials the members must be supplied with: the act, rules, any directives of the Commission - some of which may or may not be done today because further on in the agenda there are some of those - written policies affecting members, codes of conduct, and so on and so forth.
We have started work on the manual. The members' resources and allowance rules, which are a schedule to the act, are much more complicated than in the past. That will serve a purpose, but they need to be explained clearly to the various categories of members depending on where they live, where they are travelling and so on. So we are reviewing this now to try to get a clear and might I even say user-friendly approach for explaining all these various rules.
I think even existing members of the House who look at it might face some complexities in reading their way through it. A new member elected on October 9, of course, will really struggle, not even having the benefit of the few months experience on dealing with rules, so we will try to do a very clear members' manual, user-friendly, explaining all of these, giving the processes to be followed, the contact information of staff, the forms to be used, all the policy documents, policies that are not actually in rules, that the Commission may adopt and so on.
We realize there is an important effort here, and it is essential for members to get a good package. As I say, it is why Green has made it an obligation of staff to develop this.
In the past, I think it is no secret to say that the directions to members on these matters were thin and they were open for misinterpretation and trouble. Justice Green has tried to make them clear and precise every step of the way, but there are still some matters we will need to clarify. So, with Ms Lambe's help, the Chief Financial Officer, John Cowan is helping us with the manual. We have also had some advice from the executive secretary of the Green commission, who is very knowledgeable of the rules, so she has been retained by us to give some advice on interpreting some of these rules. We will have a good job done. I am committed to it, but we probably will not have it done much before October 9.
MR. SPEAKER: The Chair acknowledges that we have had excellent co-operation with the Green officials, in particular with Beth Whalen, who is the secretary, and her primary role was working with the rules. She has come on and we have engaged her to give us advice from time to time because she also has a very broad perspective of what is operational in other jurisdictions. They have quite the database and we have been able to access all of that information, which is very, very helpful to us.
Is there anything else on the update on the Green report?
MS MICHAEL: Just to say, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the staff, you and all of the staff, on the hard work that has done. I am impressed with the progress that has been made to date and I look forward to October 9. I am sure that, as Mr. MacKenzie has pointed out, things will be in place, but I do want to congratulate the staff officially.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Marshall.
MR. T. MARSHALL: I just want to confirm, for the record, that all these forms, rules, manuals and documents, will all be available to the members of the general public so they, too, along with the new members coming in, will have a chance to review them and see what these rules are, so it will be clear to everybody what the rules and obligations are.
MR. SPEAKER: There will be absolute openness and transparency to everything. The forms will be known to everybody. If you want to get a copy of the way the forms are done up, anybody can have access to that.
As you know, with the Audit Committee, in the future all of the procedures in place will make sure that everything that is done in the House will be looked at by some body, some group, that has the responsibility, whether it is the Auditor General or whether it is going to be the Audit Committee of the House.
I noted yesterday, we have already written the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal asking him to appoint two members to the Audit Committee. Later on today, we will be asking the members here to appoint somebody from the Commission itself. We are making tremendous progress.
I would like to again echo what Ms Michael said, that we have not had many days here this summer when we have not been going full speed. It takes a long time. We are not just simply modifying a system; we are developing an entire new structure.
While we can get the benefit of consultations with provinces like Saskatchewan, other provinces have been very, very helpful to us, and we have all of these benefits, but essentially we take all of that in and we have to make it our own. That is what we are in the process of doing.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
One other question. You said during your remarks that, in terms of implementing the recommendations of the Green report, and you are working towards October 9, you said you had a problem with resources. A problem with resources, of course, is one of the factors that led to some of the difficulties that the House has experienced.
It has been my understanding, as part of the budgetary process, that the major resource needs of the House of Assembly have been addressed in a material way; but, in light of your remarks that there is a resource issue, is there something that the Clerk would need, or is there anything that we could do, in helping to address that resource issue now?
MR. SPEAKER: The resources are there. The Clerk would more appropriately comment on it. We have had excellent co-operation with the executive branch. Any requests that we have made have been addressed and the people that we have identified have been seconded. There are other secondments that have occurred over the last while, particularly as it relates to the Auditor General's work, but we have worked through it quite well and I do believe that we are able to complete the task without any undue delay.
MR. T. MARSHALL: So there are no resource needs that you have now that are not being addressed? Is that correct?
MR. SPEAKER: No, we have access to the various officials. When we get over to some of the other parts today, I can identify; some of them are people who are advising the government on new issues relative to privacy and these issues, but they are also advising us. Some of these people have indeed been brought in to the Province from outside. One of our officials here is a lady who is coming in, working for the government, but really she is in from Ottawa where they have some experience.
One of things we are finding is that, as we proceed here, we are on new territory. In some cases we just cannot call up and say to another jurisdiction: How do you do this? Because they do not have, in some cases, any relevant experience that addresses the kind of issues that we are addressing here.
Again, I say that we are getting excellent co-operation from the executive branch.
The hon. the Clerk.
CLERK: Just with respect to resources, we have had excellent assistance and, as you say, we have had four people so we will be ready, I think, for October 9, what we need to do.
I might point out one of the matters in Green, which I said would be done through the fall and winter, and this is this management certification process. This is somewhat new to me. The chartered accountants are aware of it, and Ms Marshall would understand it. As it has been explained to me, this was, I guess, in response to some of the various accounting scandals which occurred with the publicly traded companies, the well-known, well publicized ones, Enron and WorldCom and so on, and it requires CEOs, sometimes, Chief Financial Officers and others, to certify that all these various internal controls are in place, are documented across the board, copper fastened as it were. Then you sign your name in ink and dot it. Then you answer for anything that transpires subsequently.
The House necessarily uses a whole range of government systems, so we are using government's financial management system, commonly called Oracle. We apply government policies. We use government payroll systems. We, in fact, even though we are the legislative branch and we do some things by ourselves, the size is such that we necessarily use a full range of government systems, use government policies and so on.
As I understand the management certification process, which I will have to sign - next August, I think, is when Justice Green recommended full implementation - you require complete documentation of all systems in place.
While we can document matters within our purview, within the House of Assembly service, it will also require, to be effective and to be complete, that a whole range of government matters are also documented, the policies are clearly outlined, processes and so on. It is actually a massive undertaking which, as they say, is sort of below the radar right now but through next winter will be a huge undertaking. For me to sign it, I will be given assurances that I have complete confidence and so on in government's financial management system, its payroll system, its everything across the range of government. We do not know yet, we have not really focused in on what will be required, but I suspect there will be a huge resource requirement to accomplish that.
Within the Department of Finance, the offices of the Comptroller General, they are also looking at management certification throughout government, but the Green report has brought it in, at least for the House, a little earlier than was anticipated.
I would not want to say that the House will be capable of handling that with its own permanent resources through the fall and winter. That is just the only matter I should make note of.
MR. SPEAKER: As I pointed out, we are also working with the executive branch. They are doing many of the same things. We are working as a team with them so that we can work to achieve the same goals.
There are also some other issues that we will be talking about later on, privacy issues and that kind of thing - there are policies being developed - but in terms of October 9, and being ready to get the new system in place, we are on target.
Are there any other questions relative to the implementation of the Green report?
The next item we have is under tab number 3. I have written to all members, a few days ago, relative to the responsibility of members during an election writ period. Members will know that the new act, the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity And Administration Act, makes some changes.
One of the things that we did previously is that, when the writ was issued, members who were incumbents would cease to use their phone systems, their blackberries. Now, the executive branch might have had a different arrangement. We did not accept, as far as I know, any claims for members for travel in their constituency during the time of the election. Chief Justice Green, under law, has mandated a new structure. In this case he is saying, in subsection 11. (2), "A member is entitled, subject to those conditions and limitations that may be prescribed by rules of the commission, to be reimbursed or have payment made on his or her behalf for reasonable and legitimate expenses incurred by the member in carrying out his or her duties as a member."
What that means is that after the writ is dropped, members who are incumbents will be able to submit claims for travel within their districts and use their constituency allowances to be compensated.
I, personally, have some difficulty with that because I think that there are issues around the Elections Act, issues surrounding having a level playing field for all members, incumbents plus any new participants in the electoral process; however, I do want to say that Chief Justice Green believed that this was a reasonable thing to do, so I wrote all members bringing the matter to their attention.
Members will recall that last spring we sent out a memo saying that we would divide this year into two parts, from April 1 until the date of the writ, and then from October 9 until March 31, that there would be no constituency allowances paid to members during the writ period. That would have had a net saving to the House of about $105,000, around there, because there would be no amounts paid during that time.
My concern is that we have to abide by the act as it is now written. We do not have a choice. I am just issuing a caution here to members to advise them that if they are going to be claiming expenditures during the writ period that there is going to be an internal audit, there is going to be an external audit, and it is going to be monitored very, very closely, including the expenditures that will occur by way of a cellphone, but no knowledge of who was called or whatever, but it is an occasion where all of these matters will be subject to auditing. I am advising members that they should be very, very careful, and be very wise and prudent in the way in which they would operate during the writ period.
MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, just for the sake of the public, I think it is important to point out that in your memo it says very clearly, from the rules that are attached to the act, that these expenses, legitimate expenses, have to be able to be understood as constituency business and may not include partisan political activities.
I think we all recognize that this is going to be very difficult to determine. You have given very clear directions in the memo that you sent out, and almost warnings actually. You do not call them warnings, but they seem to me to be warnings. I know, for myself, I would have to have something very, very clear to me that it was constituency in order for me to claim it during the writ period.
I understand, I think, where Chief Justice Green was coming from, but I think we all have to recognize, and as a Commission I think we should sort of underline what you have in your memo, that this is a personal responsibility and every MHA should recognize the personal nature of the responsibility - you are very clear on that - and that it is not going to be the responsibility of the Clerk of the House or somebody else to make the judgement. I think we really have to take that responsibility for making that decision. You make that extremely clear in the memo, and I think for the sake of the public I wanted to point that out.
MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?
Again, the intent here is to circulate this to all members and then they can exercise due prudence and due diligence. I think the memo itself is self-explanatory.
MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a comment. With all due respect to Chief Justice Green, elections are different animals and he has never been through one, and that is not disrespectful. I accept the act. I helped pass the act as a member of the government that brought the act in. I know what I am going to do personally. I would not touch this with a barge pole. This is a piece of law that makes it possible, if somebody wanted to so do, to cause more trouble than you can imagine here today.
When the writ is dropped all of us are going around campaigning and how you can separate going off to Snooks Arm to knock on a door and at the same time seeing somebody who has a Canada Pension problem, your imagination can run wild on how you can handle this, if you want your imagination to run wild.
I think the law is the law and we have no right to change. We accepted the draft bill. The House accepted a draft bill that the Chief Justice presented us with. We did not amend it in any material fashion. We just accepted it. This is one of the areas that I think is problematic. There may be others, but from a personal perspective and from a party perspective, and from a perspective of this institution, the law is there but I would suggest that members govern themselves as they did in past elections and that when the writ is dropped we become politicians who are out knocking on doors looking for votes. I would not expect that any of us would be submitting claims. We did not do it in the past. There is provision under the Elections Act for candidates expenses, to form part of your legitimate election expenses, and the taxpayer pays for part of that through the election financing process.
Like I said, with all due respect to Chief Justice Green, this is a piece of his recommendations and a piece of the new law that, personally, I would not touch with a barge pole.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Reid.
MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have to agree with the Government House Leader. Again, no disrespect for Justice Green, but he obviously does not understand what happens during an election campaign. I know in the past that once the writ was dropped, other than our salary, I think there were no expenses covered by a sitting MHA during the election, and I think that is where we should go. As Tom said, I would not touch it, as well, with a ten-foot pole. Let me give you an example of why.
I have thirty-nine communities in my district, all of which have some form of a municipal government and it is very common during elections that all of these municipalities, the leaders in these communities, want to meet with you and call up and make appointments. As a result, I could be sitting in the Town of Twillingate and have to visit a council on Fogo Island, and as a result of this ruling, I could pay my expenses to and from Fogo Island, along with accommodations and meals, meet with the council on Fogo Island for an hour or two and then campaign for the rest of the day. I think that it is open for abuse and the easiest way for it not to occur is if, when the writ is dropped, then we are on our own and no claims be made against any constituency allowance.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that the approach that this Board of Management is recommending? Because we do have a right, under the act, to make a policy decision, and a practice, you might say. If that is a decision that this board wishes to make, I have very grave concerns because no member who is an incumbent wants to be accused of accessing indirectly a benefit during an election writ that is not available to other people who are his or her competitors. All members who get 15 per cent of the votes will get one-third of their expenditures reimbursed. Argument can be made if this, as written here, were to be applied, that there might be benefits that potentially could occur that might be contrary to the Elections Act as well.
So, I have great concerns. I have discussed it with the representatives of the Green commission. They understand my viewpoint. I felt so strong about it that I felt I had to go and write a memo on it to clarify it, but I am hearing here from the Leader of the Opposition, and from the Deputy Premier, that we do not want any of our incumbent members accessing these funds. In actual fact, what happens is that during the election period members still have a constituency representative that can take calls, somebody who has an issue, so that the citizen still has somebody who they can contact. I am very happy that the board has dealt with this the way that they have.
MS E. MARSHALL: I would go a step further and suggest that we consider amending the legislation. I realize that the legislation is there now and the House will not sit for awhile but we can deal with it as we just discussed, but the legislation should also be amended. That is something we should consider.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: I agree with that suggestion, that we put in place what we think should be the policy for this election and then make sure, for the next election, the legislation has been amended.
MR. SPEAKER: Do I hear members say as well, because I made the suggestion here that in the last election, on the date of the writ, the Speaker or the Clerk's office disengage all the telephones that are provided by the House. We can disengage them automatically on the date of the writ.
The last time when this happened, my cellphone was disengaged, I merely went and rented two phones at my own expense from Aliant. That does not mean that you have to disengage a telephone system to your constituency representative, but you have keep in mind that to the member himself or herself. We offered this in the memo, that members would go and approach us. Am I hearing now that we would agree - I cannot speak for the executive branch because that is something they would deal with - that we disengage the telephones?
MR. PARSONS: Just one comment, a practical thing I guess. I would concur with both the suggestions of the policy for this election as well as the legislative amendment as soon as possible, but a practical thing is make sure members are aware of this, the incumbents -
MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely.
MR. PARSONS: - because a lot of people use blackberries and have their address books and so on in their blackberries. So give them a heads up, and maybe the IT people can help out in providing some way to transform, at least keep your address book because there is no need of - for example, you disconnect, but there is no need of the member still not having some hard copy or a disk form of their address book. So rather than just cut them off without that being done, I think the IT people should assist and provide whatever assistance is necessary to the members to preserve that information if they need it later.
MR. SPEAKER: Thanks for that because we can go - now I can work with Lily and others, and we can work on that to make that practical.
So we are saying two things here. We are saying for this election, the day that the writ is dropped, that we will discontinue - any expenditures that occur before that are legitimate and we will process them. After that, constituency allowances will not be processed by the House staff. Secondly, the Clerk will, at some future meeting, have drafted an amendment to the act to correct what we feel is a piece of the integrity and accountability of the administration act that needs to be modified.
CLERK: Yes. Certainly, we can do that and we can begin the process of drafting an amendment to this and bring it back for subsequent ratification.
There is a complicating factor with respect to what the act currently says. The Commission could adopt a policy with a strong recommendation and so on. I do not think a policy of the Commission can overrule what is currently there. If a member chose to insist to be reimbursed for these expenses, I think we would be obligated under the statute as it exists to comply with that. Perhaps the Commission could give advice or strong recommendation and so on, but unlike the policy matter of having a government member in attendance at the meeting, that would be an extension of the current provisions of the act but would not negate the current provisions of the act.
MR. SPEAKER: We cannot do that. Keep in mind that we have the Leader of the New Democratic Party, the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Opposition party, and the Deputy Premier who have now said that they want this new policy to be in place. I think it would be incumbent upon these people in their responsibilities to deal with any member who might not understand or might wish to have another interpretation.
MR. REID: With regard to the cellphone for expediency, would it be possible, for example - because we all have a well-known cellphone number. Wouldn't it be possible that the day the writ is dropped, that members who use their cellphones would be billed for all calls made after the day the writ is dropped? That way you would not have to cancel all the numbers. I am just asking the Clerk and Marlene, maybe if that would be possible? We do have phone bills and it would save the problem of having to go to IT and having them all disconnected and we having to -
MR. SPEAKER: It is possible. The only thing we would have, Mr. Reid, would be the issue of maybe having to cut it off and then the member would be responsible. We might have some difficulties there because we are responsible to Aliant. We are responsible to pay it, but we will work on that.
MR. RIDEOUT: That is a process matter and a logistical thing. It would seem to me, we all get phone bills and we initial them or sign them off - well, not we. We all get them, but we all do not initial them and send them to the House for payment. Ministers phone bills and blackberries are paid by the department to which you are a minister. MHAs who have no other responsibilities in the executive branch, we get a phone bill and we initial it and sign it off and send it to the Clerk's office or whoever's office and it is paid.
It would seem to me that Gerry makes a logistically, important point. If the writ is dropped on the eighteenth, then all calls itemized on the bill between the eighteenth of September and the ninth of October are the individual's responsibility to pay and they just cut a cheque and send it to the phone company. That do not seem, to me, to be a problem. Now, I am not an accountant -
MR. SPEAKER: (Inaudible) deducted from any benefits that they are given.
MR. RIDEOUT: I am not an accountant, as I was saying. I do not know if that is a problem but it would seem to me that could be handled and therefore, for consistency purposes, then the number that people are used to calling the member at is still part of the public record. If that could be accomplished, I do not see a problem with it, personally. If it cannot be accomplished, then perhaps somebody should let us know.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Just a question of clarification. Does every MHA receive a phone bill? Because I have not seen one since I have been elected. It does not come under constituency allowance. It is part of the office expense and I have never seen one.
MR. SPEAKER: Ministers do. Not all MHAs sign off, but we began a process some months ago to look at that methodology, and we can do it.
MR. REID: (Inaudible) you made, Mr. Speaker, about this being the law, we not being able to change this law. You were saying that the onus was on the leaders of the party to tell these individuals in our caucuses what they should and should not do. I do not have the authority to tell any individual in my caucus that he should or should not do this because it is the law that they are entitled to do it. So, I do not want to be taking the responsibility for that.
MR. SPEAKER: You are right.
MR. REID: I can make a suggestion -
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. REID: - but it is the law and they are entitled -
MR. RIDEOUT: That is all we all can do.
MR. REID: Yes, exactly.
MR. SPEAKER: That is all we all can do. Mr. Reid is the -
MR. REID: No, but I wanted that on the record, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and we acknowledge that, but I would like to think that when the leader of a party, and we have a discussion here, it is all publicly disclosed. People of Newfoundland and Labrador are listening to this as we are talking about it, that they themselves now understand the problem and the issue. So, therefore, I have great faith in all hon. members that when they know there is an issue, that we will get pretty (inaudible) and compliance.
MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I will be very, very quick. I have to leave for a little while to attend to some public business, so I am assuming that people will carry on with the agenda. I will be back as soon as I can. There are some still people, even though it is August month, want to talk about seals.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.
MR. PARSONS: The only comment I would make is I agree with Mr. Reid and Mr. Rideout who said about the continual. Surely we had the resources in place now, in the House of Assembly, that we ought to be able to ?? All the financial challenges and management challenges you have had in the last twelve months, to be able to adjust forty-eight phone bills from whatever the rate it dropped, to October 9. I would not think that is a big issue. It is about accountability and it is a matter of keeping track of forty-eight phone bills.
MR. SPEAKER: It shall be attended to.
MR. RIDEOUT: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: Are we ready to move on?
The decision is that we will recommend to all members that they not submit bills for constituency expenditures during the writ and that we will try to make arrangements whereby either they can have a choice of disengaging their cellphone or that they will have to take the responsibility of paying for it themselves.
We shall, yes. We will be sending out a letter to all members, a follow-up from the one I wrote the other day.
If we could move on to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that is ATIPPA, what we are doing here is, we have had some meetings. I have attended some briefing sessions relative to what will be available to the public under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We wanted to let you know what we are doing here. Several things are of note. The ATIPPA applies to records both pre- and post-October 9. There is no question about whether it applies. It does.
The issues as to what records might be available, or the exceptions, are noted here: members' records, personal or a constituency record of a Member of the House Assembly in possession or control of the member, the House of Assembly records, the records of non-disclosure required for the purpose of avoiding infringement upon privileges of the House, and the statutory office records, records connected with the investigatory functions of a statutory office. That would apply to all of the statutory offices. Obviously, we cannot go having these kinds of records put out.
We do have a resource person on staff, working with us, and eventually we will be having to look at whether we are going to have to have somebody engaged to do this. We are not there yet; because, again, the executive branch are working with us as well and this is a big piece of work. We have to be very careful.
I should say again, there is not another jurisdiction across Canada that can give us any help because we are leading the rest of the nation on the Access to Information. Therefore, we kind of are working with resource people from Ottawa. We have one lady working with us here. She works with the executive branch and ourselves. Eventually, we will have more people trained and working as well with officials up in Mr. Wall's office as well, because these two offices work together.
I just wanted to again give you an update as to what we are doing. I don't know whether Bill has any comments.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Just one other point further to Ms Marshall's question earlier. This is also part of the training that the members will get on October 9 - members and staff - their constituent assistants and so on; because, while it is not complicated, you need to know the process and the obligations, and even if a record, for instance, a constituency record, will not be released, there is still a process to be followed in responding to the request, so it is another training issue.
Kimberley Hammond, who put together this note, is looking at some of those matters for us for post-October 9.
MR. SPEAKER: I don't know if Kimberley wishes to have a comment or not.
MS HAMMOND: I think the Clerk has covered it, unless you have some specific questions for me.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, maybe we could comment on the target dates that we could have this - you know, they are going to apply to pre-October 9 and post-October 9. When do we expect to be operational in this particular area?
MS HAMMOND: The act will come into force on October 9, whether we are ready or not. We had hoped to provide some training in advance of October 9; but recognizing, of course, that most members will be on the campaign trail and their staff will be tied up in that regard, we are not optimistic of actually getting together, so we thought we would provide a written briefing so that the members have some information in advance, but then also include more in-depth training once we have the orientation session after.
MR. SPEAKER: Any comments from members?
MS E. MARSHALL: I would like clarification on one thing.
My understanding is that, in addition to people being able to request the information under Access to Information, that the House of Assembly, as a matter of course, will be disclosing certain amounts of information on the government Web site, just to ensure that the information is open and transparent.
I wouldn't mind some commentary on that.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Hammond.
MS HAMMOND: Yes, that is correct, and we have, in draft form, a publication scheme which outlines which documents of this Commission, of members' financial records, and also the regular parliamentary proceedings of the House, how they will be published, when they will be published, the time lines, and what the House intends to commit to making public.
It doesn't, however, I should add, preclude - anything that goes on the Web does not preclude it from being a request being made under ATIPPA, so if a member's claims - if the report goes up and it outlines the member's claims or expenses, the actual claims can still be accessed under the Freedom of Information, or I should say Access to Information Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The fact that a request is made under ATIPPA does not mean that the request will be granted. Many requests are there, but then there is a team that will make that decision, and make it according to the best practices, and that will be - because certain privacy rules apply and certain issues involving a member and his or her client, namely the constituent, there is a confidentiality that applies there, too, so we will have all of that worked out and be ready to proceed as of October 9, but there might be some learning curves that will have to be dealt with as we go along.
MS MICHAEL: I guess just looking for some information because, of course, I was not a member of the Internal Economy Commission, the former Internal Economy Commission, and obviously its records will be able to be requested under this, which I totally agree with, and I am delighted to see that it is pre-October 9, not just post-October 9, that this is referring to.
My question is: Are there any other records of the former IEC besides the minutes that are public already, and the reports that came out? Did the former IEC keep other records?
It is more for information; I am curious.
MR. SPEAKER: Any records that were here, to my knowledge, have all been disclosed to the Auditor General, to the police investigation team. I am not aware of any records that we have not shared with officials like that.
MS MICHAEL: That is not my question, Mr. Speaker. I am just wondering, did the IEC keep other documentation besides the minutes that went public? Like, were there notes of the IEC that were kept or was it just the minutes that were publicized, that went out to members? I have seen those minutes. I am just curious if there were other documents that were maintained in the name of the IEC. I am not questioning -
MR. SPEAKER: Not to my knowledge -
MS MICHAEL: Not to your knowledge.
MR. SPEAKER: - and I think I am fairly familiar. There might have been some private notes that the Clerk of the day might have had, scribbles that he would have made in a meeting, this kind of thing.
I think the Clerk wishes to make a comment.
CLERK: I am not sure if the Chair is getting everything in your question, Ms Michael.
There is a file from each meeting and that is, I guess, distinct from the minutes. There is a file which contains the various agenda elements for that meeting, and in that occasionally, as the Chair said, there may be a handwritten note or so on, but essentially that would be the package of information presented to the IEC members for that meeting. We still have all those files.
MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible) laws would cover what I am thinking about.
If, for example, there are notes with regard to recommendations that went to Cabinet from the IEC, I am assuming that they would not be able to be requested. In the case, for example, of the special warrant that we are going to be dealing with today, that is going to be covered by ATIPPA, so I am assuming that there could be information in pre-existing documents that also will be protected by ATIPPA. That is what I am getting at.
MR. SPEAKER: I would think so, but I cannot think of many examples of where it would apply.
MS MICHAEL: Right.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Clerk.
CLERK: There could well be, in the files - those certainly can be requested. You can request anything -
MS MICHAEL: Right.
CLERK: - but ATIPPA does provide for this exclusion, under section 18, for Cabinet materials and so on. It is really the decision of the head of the body - in this case the Speaker - who would decide.
If, for instance, it was a special warrant from a year or two ago - it would already have been tabled in the House - the Speaker may decide I would let that go forward. So it would depend, I guess, case by case.
Anything can be requested and there are other exceptions in the act, prior to Green, such as Cabinet confidences. The Speaker, as head of the public body, would decide whether to release it or not.
MS MICHAEL: I guess I just want the clarification, both for ourselves and for the general public, to understand that.
MR. SPEAKER: Any further questions on the ATIPPA?
Again, this matter will come back to the Board of Management at some future meeting for further updates if it has to.
Do members wish to take a little break before we proceed to tab 4, a five minute break?
MR. REID: Did you say fifteen? (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: We have some coffee in the Speaker's boardroom, so maybe we can take a fifteen minute recess. If you wish to have a recess, I can be accommodating. We will be back at five to the hour.
The meeting is now recessed.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The meeting will now reconvene.
In consultation with some of the media people who are present, they have asked if they could come in on the floor of the House and take a few pictures. This is standard procedure. If they are doing meetings, for example, of committees in Ottawa, and that kind of thing, they let people come in and take pictures of their sessions, so I have asked them if they would do it as quickly as they could and try not to be too much in terms of interfering with the process that we are dealing with.
Clarification of rules regarding Harmonized Sales Tax is tab 4. In this particular case we have had some considerable discussion. When we were dealing with the commission, the Green commission, there was some talk about having the HST inclusive, and then there was talk about having it exclusive. There was some considerable debate on that matter, so the Clerk has made some notes.
One of the ways we can do this is to simply take - let's say, for example, if there is $7,000 that members would have, then we simply say that we take 14 per cent off the top, because that would be the maximum, and then do some adjustment later on, that kind of thing.
We have to abide by the legislation. This is the recommendation and it is now the law. As of October 9, the HST will be included in members' expenses, and the only way we can be assured that works is to take it right off the top and then we keep the records.
The financial management system has only one account for HST and GST, and that is not able to handle our particular circumstance.
Mr. Clerk, if you could offer a few further comments and look at your recommendations.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Even before going into the details on this HST one, because it is within the legal framework of the act and the rules, and the same issues show up in some of the other notes where we are seeking to clarify the rules, if I could ask you to refer to the act again, section 20.(6) is the part of the act which authorizes the Commission to make rules. You will see it reads, "In carrying out its duties, the commission..." - that is the Management Commission - "...may (a) make rules of general application respecting...", and it goes on to list those, a lot of matters that the Commission can make rules on. Section 64 also provides a greater detailed list of these.
My understanding of what Chief Justice Green was recommending was that he put a draft set of rules forward in his report with the thought that the Commission would consider them, make whatever alterations they felt were appropriate, the set of rules would be brought into the House and adopted, and that would then be the rules made by the Commission.
I think the timing of matters in the House - receiving the report in May and the House closing in June - made that difficult, so what was decided by government and the House, I guess, was to schedule the rules to the act so they all came into effect at the one time. If I could ask you to turn to section 72 of the act, you will see how that was accomplished.
So, while there is a process for the Commission to make the rules and the House to adopt them, section 72, if you read that, says, "The rules contained in the Schedule shall be treated for all purposes as if they have been made by the commission under section 64..." - of the act, and adopted by the House, which is the standard way to make rules. Subsection (2) of that, "Notwithstanding subsection (1), the rules contained in the Schedule may be dealt with by the commission under section 64 as if they had been made by the commission."
So what we have, in effect, is the rules scheduled to the act have been made by the Commission. It was simply that one-time element, given the House schedule, that they had to actually be scheduled to the act, and we dealt with it.
If I could ask you, then, to go back to section 20.(6), but in that case not paragraph (a) about making rules but paragraph (b), issuing directives. Section 20.(6)(b): The Commission may issue directives interpreting, clarifying or amplifying the rules.
So that is a right of the Commission. I suspect Chief Justice Green knew you could not cover every eventuality. Sometimes things are not as precisely articulated as you would like, so the Commission has to be able to interpret at times. We need to keep that in mind; the Commission has the right to interpret.
I have one more reference in the act, if you could move over to subsection (8) of section 20, "A directive issued or decision made by the commission... (b) shall not be issued or made if it is inconsistent with this Act or the rules."
So, the Commission has the right to interpret; however, there is this overarching requirement in the act that your interpretations must still be consistent with the rules and the act, so there is a bit of a juggling act there.
It is within that context that we have put these various notes together such as this one on HST, and the issue arises later as well. The issue with HST is that government's accounting system, the preparation of estimates and so on, never factors in HST. All of the estimates in the system are net of HST. So, if the HST is a receivable from the federal government, any HST expenditures made by any government department, any individual, all are tracked in one account in government's financial management system and then, of course, that is rebated from the federal government. Government's entire accounting system is predicated on that basis.
For the forty-eight members we have set up individual tracking accounts so we know their expenditures, and the maximums are assigned to those accounts in the financial management system through a funds controlled process. So, within each category created by the rules, funds control is there; there is a maximum amount that can be spent and charged to that account, but there is no way to account for HST tracked by individual members because all HST goes into the one account.
We now have a problem in that the rules state that the maximums covered in the rules, whether it is a daily $125, an annual $7,000 office accommodations, $3,000 constituency allowance and so on, are all inclusive of HST. What, in effect, you have, for instance, on the $7,000 office accommodation one, your maximum is in the range of $7,000 minus 14 per cent, $6,100 plus HST. That is really what you have to spend, because the $7,000 maximum includes HST.
Government's system does not permit us to track that HST component by individual members. What we are proposing is, for tracking and reporting purposes only, we would restate these maximums, such as the $7,000, and call it $6,100, or whatever the precise dollar figure is, always with the proviso that we would append the words "plus applicable HST", or something similar, so it would be understood the maximum is, for instance, $6,100 plus HST.
That is how we would do funds control by members by categories. The HST would be assigned to the HST account so it could be received from the federal government. It is a restatement for tracking and reporting. It does not mean members would not be spending the full $7,000; it just means the full $7,000 includes the HST component.
To maintain the integrity of the data we are going to use to report members' expenses, we want to bring it directly from the financial management system, the Oracle system as it is called in government, without any manual manipulations so to speak. The only way we could capture the HST spent, add it to the non-HST component of an allocation - in this instance $6,100 - would be to do it manually. We would calculate HST, add it to what has been spent to date, and we could report that figure, but it involves a manual manipulation and calculation and it is not the data that we will be extracting from the financial management system.
For the integrity of the data - that is uppermost in the Commission's interests - we want to take it directly from government's Oracle system, as it is often called, without manipulation. That raises, as this note mentions, the possibility, slender as it is, but even the hint of a second set of books. The number we reported, if we reported a $6,100 expenditure, factored in HST, so we have $6,950, that would not be data extracted from government's accounting system. It would be calculated by us, put in a spreadsheet of some sort, and then reported to members or posted on the Web.
So, there is an integrity of data issue. Marlene has looked at this very carefully, and if we were to restate in this fashion we are proposing, we could maintain the integrity of data and we would always have the caveat, it is this figure plus applicable HST, and we would track and report on that basis. It is a bit of a complex matter. I do not know if Marlene could answer some of your questions on it because what I have just said is about the end of my knowledge on the matter.
MR. SPEAKER: Marlene, do you have any comments?
MS LAMBE: No, I think Bill has explained it really well, actually. I know I have had some discussions with Ms Marshall on the topic.
MS E. MARSHALL: (Inaudible) last night, so at break time I took the opportunity to speak to Ms Lambe. Am I understanding it right, that all of the dollar limits, like including the maximums for the various types of allowances, they will all have to be reduced to accommodate that 14 per cent?
MS LAMBE: Yes, they will be restated.
MS E. MARSHALL: So, the $7,000 for the leased accommodations for our constituency offices will now be $6,140?
MS LAMBE: That is right.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
MS LAMBE: The dollars that you spend will not change. You still can spend $7,000.
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes.
MS LAMBE: It is just that instead of charging the HST to the member's account, it will be charged to the HST receivable.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
The $125 maximum relating to secondary residences or temporary accommodations, plus the $25 and the $50 for meals, that will all be reduced by that 14 per cent?
MS LAMBE: Yes, which is the way it is done everywhere else in government, actually.
MS E. MARSHALL: I only have one other question and that relates to: Has there been any discussions with the Comptroller General's Office on this?
MS LAMBE: Oh, yes.
MS E. MARSHALL: And they are satisfied with what is being proposed?
MS LAMBE: Yes. It was really through discussions with them and their recommendations that this is the best way to handle it.
MS E. MARSHALL: Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Just a really practical question. In terms of reporting, I imagine the same form will be used because the form does separate out the cost of the item from HST when we make claims? The current form.
MS LAMBE: The current form only shows the amount charged to the member's account. It does not show the HST portion because the maximum under the old rules was that it was exclusive of HST.
MS MICHAEL: I thought the recent forms does have HST separated on it.
MS LAMBE: It does, for our accounting purposes -
MS MICHAEL: Yes, right.
MS LAMBE: - but if you look at what actually gets charged to your account, the HST portion is not included.
MS MICHAEL: Right. Yes, that is what I mean.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. MacKenzie.
CLERK: If I could, Ms Michael. Yes, under the current rules, of course, all allowances were exclusive net of HST. It was not factored in, just as it is not factored in anywhere in government budgets. This is a departure to have it inclusive. While it was always identified on the form, it was not charged to a member's allowance or allocation.
MR. SPEAKER: This is the best arrangement that we can come up with that fulfills the letter of the act, but at the same time, does not disadvantage members and members are treated fairly. If we have to include the HST, then we must. So we just simply take it off. That will mean there will be now - I assume, Ms Lambe - new ceilings that will apply in the case of, instead of having $7,000 then the new ceiling would be $6,100. If members were to go beyond that, it would be like your Visa, it would say: Sorry, you don't have any money in your account. That is how we operate.
So, the public should understand that now you cannot overspend because once you reach your maximum it operates just like your credit card, and says: I'm sorry, you have reached your limit and that is where you are. Instead of having $7,000, we would have $6,100 and then we would calculate how much HST would have to go to that account, and that could be all 14 per cent. The probability is that it would never be, but with donations not a factor now and these other matters, you are going to be getting nearer to having your full 14 per cent applicable to your account.
Any there further questions? Are we ready to approve the directive that is on page - I do not have the page number here but it is the concluding note to the Harmonized Sales Tax and Members' Allowance.
Members are okay? Thank you very much.
We have the Travel and Living Allowances. Again, members have had these documents for a few days. Members have some concerns. Some members have raised these matters with me. We do have an issue here relative to private accommodations and that kind of thing. If we could ask Ms Lambe, probably, or the Clerk, to guide us through, because this is one of the sections that is of concern to many members, particularly members who live in rural Newfoundland.
CLERK: Yes, Mr. Speaker, just a bit of clarification. I think these matters were some words that perhaps were omitted -
MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I don't have that section.
MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry -
MR. REID: (Inaudible).
CLERK: Travel and living allowances?
MR. REID: (Inaudible).
CLERK: Did you get the package?
MR. REID: I got the package, but that part isn't in it.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
Could we move on, and someone could get a copy -
MR. RIDEOUT: I am just wondering, can we park this one and come back?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, we will park that one and we will come back to that. One of our staff people will look after getting this particular item.
Let's move to the Standard Office Allocation. There is a briefing note there that determines the Standard Office Allocation for office furniture, equipment package and service pursuant to section 25.(1) of the Members' Resources and Allowance Rules.
What we have done here is we consulted with Beth Whalen, and she has worked with Marlene and her staff to put together what we view is a suggested standard office allocation. We have itemized them: office furniture, office equipment, telephone services. I should say that this is standard with other jurisdictions. If you were to go to other jurisdictions, you would find that this is all specified in a similar manner to what we have shown here.
We are, I think, reasonably generous in terms of equipment for the members. However, that does not mean that in the future the Board of Management would not wish to add to it. These are the things that we thought would be necessary to set up a functional office. We fully expect that as technology changes, as things change - we have indicated, for example, two desktop computers, one laptop computer. All of these things here - again, the inventories will be kept here. All of these things become the property of the House of Assembly. So, I am recommending that. I do not know whether the Clerk has any comments there, too.
CLERK: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Just to make the point that, as it says in the notes, section 25.(1) of the rules says that this package has to be approved by a directive of the Commission. So this is our recommendation. As I mentioned earlier, Lily Green has done a lot of work on this to come up with a list but it does require a directive of the Commission to authorize it. The House would then take the steps to purchase equipment, inventory and so on, but a directive is necessary for us to put this into effect.
MR. SPEAKER: I should point out that many of these things here - we need to get this process in place because we have to go and abide by the Public Tender Act. We have to get things done here that will let us get this ready. We know there are going to be forty-eight members elected. We do not know exactly how many members are going to have their constituency office in their districts, but we need to have the tender documents ready and all that kind of thing, well before October 9.
MR. T. MARSHALL: If I could raise just a point of clarification.
I know under the former rules, if an MHA went into the Cabinet it was the department that provided the offices the furniture and the equipment that came into the office. Will that still be the case, or is it now everything is going to be done through the House of Assembly?
MR. SPEAKER: We are working with the executive branch to make sure that no member has more of an advantage than any other member in terms of the resources available for that member to do his or her constituency work; because we have to have, again, a level playing field. In that case, we are trying to work out some arrangements in terms of where offices are located and all that kind of thing. Ms Lambe has been working on that as well. Maybe you could comment on that.
MS LAMBE: The intent of this is to ensure that all members, including ministers, if they so choose, can have an office in their district. This is the package that will be provided for that district office. I do not know if that answers your question.
MR. SPEAKER: The other factor that I should mention as well, is that under the old regime members who had bought items out of their constituency allowance, after three years these items became the property of the member. That system has been abandoned. Now it will be the property of the House of Assembly and we will have somebody who will be keeping records on that, a person assigned to document that process.
MR. T. MARSHALL: I certainly agree with that, Mr. Speaker, but I guess the question was - as I understand it, if an MHA is elected and they come in here, they are given a constituency office. Then, if that MHA goes to Cabinet, that office is abandoned or given up and a different office is paid for by the department. These are the rules that apply to MHAs, not to the executive. Has that co-ordination been worked out?
MS LAMBE: No, we have not addressed that issue. I guess we made the assumption that the minister would still have his office in the department, and that would be through the department funds, but if they choose to have an office, either in the Confederation Building or in their district, as a MHA, they could have that second office and it would be provided by the House.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.
MR. PARSONS: Just to clarify, my understanding is that we are dealing here, with the board, only with the rights of the MHAs, not the ministers. To me, technically, a minister can have three offices or more. He can have his ministerial office here in St. John's, wherever his ministerial office is. If he or she chooses, they may have a ministerial office somewhere else in the Province. For example, there is a Premier's office on the West Coast in the Sir Richard Squires Building, and if a minister wants to set up an office out there, as I believe the Minister of Finance has done, he can do so. That is separate for what we are here dealing with.
The other issue is what offices you can have as an MHA. Under the Green report, MHAs will automatically get an office space and the accompanying furniture and so on in the Confederation Complex but we also will have the right now to have an office in our constituency. That is what we are dealing with here; we are saying this is the package that you would get, as an MHA, should you choose to set up an office in your district.
The two are separate, and I would think that they are easily kept separate. For example, if Minister Marshall wants to have his office as a minister in the Sir Richard Squires Building that is one thing, but if you also want the right to set up an office in Steady Brook then that is your right to do so as well. Is that the correct understanding there?
MR. SPEAKER: They can only have one office that is going to access (inaudible) that we would have here. If he wants to have that over in his Corner Brook office, fine, because if you go beyond that, what the minister does in his capacity as a minister -
MR. PARSONS: Excuse me. I am not clear on that, Mr. Speaker. I think that is not correct. Green was quite specific that an MHA shall have an office, and the usual office furnishings and services, here in Confederation Complex.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. PARSONS: He can also, or she, have the same thing, based on this package here, if it is approved, in his or her district.
MR. SPEAKER: Not quite, because Mr. Green said that if you choose to have an office in your district then when you come into the Confederation Building, essentially what you have is a place to hang your hat and access to a phone. It is not the standard office.
MR. PARSONS: I beg to differ, Mr. Speaker.
I do believe Chief Justice Green said the only difference that you would have, you make a choice, you get one political assistant. That assistant can work within your office in the Confederation Complex or that assistant can work within your district office. You do not get two assistants. Other than that, you get two offices and the accompanying equipment. In fact, if you choose to have a constituency office and have your political assistant in your district, it is provided under the Green report that you will still get some secretarial assistance here in the Confederation Complex.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, shared with some other members.
MR. PARSONS: That is not what you said. I want to be clear on that.
MR. SPEAKER: My understanding from my discussions, again, I have to go to the rule itself, the idea was that, if members choose to have an office in the Confederation Building and not have one in their district then they would have a full-fledged office here. If they choose to have one in their district then there would be a space provided in the Confederation Building, shared - in the dialogue that I had with Chief Justice - with other members. It might be a place where you would have access to make a private telephone call. In fact, the conversation that I was party to was very, very direct on that.
Again, I would have to defer to the Clerk.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I think - even though I know the discussions you had with Justice Green - when the rules were written it did say there is an office available in the Confederation Building, but those who have their constituency assistant in a constituency office are in the second tier of offices, as it were. Those who are having their assistant in the Confederation Building have, in essence, the first choice, and what is left for office space goes to those who do not have an assistant. The act does not go to the point of actually sharing space, or the rules I should say, do not go that far. There is a second tier, as it were.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: My understanding from the report, the Green report, and my understanding from discussions, is that we have to have full caucus offices, and the caucus offices are made up of MHAs. It is not just a matter of having a desk, and a chair to sit on. When MHAs are in the House, they are here as part of a caucus and that is separate from having a constituency and a constituency office. They have to be able to operate fully as MHAs here in the House as part of a caucus, with all the requirements of what that means.
The research staff, the support staff, everything that is in caucus offices right now, will be maintained unless an MHA says, well, my constituency office is elsewhere and that staff person is elsewhere. Everything else that is needed to maintain a caucus office, my understanding is, would still be there, and that would mean adequate space for the person to work when they are here in the House of Assembly.
That is my understanding.
MR. SPEAKER: Running a caucus office is different from running the constituency office. These are two separate things, as you know.
MS MICHAEL: That is what I am separating out, I think, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: There was a decision made on the maximum amount to be granted to the third party. That was made back in 2004. I believe that was made in March 2004. That was then reconfirmed by the Commission after the by-election in Labrador West. These are two separate issues all together.
MS MICHAEL: I realize they are, but I am pointing it out because of the fact that the caucus office will have demands depending on the number of MHAs, and that will be worked out with staff. So, I do not think the MHA's space in the House of Assembly is determined by whether or not it is a constituency office. The MHA has to have an office here, when the MHA is here working. To me, it is the very fact that it is to a different issue that makes that the case for me, so that I would not see two or three MHAs in the same office trying to do work in that same office, that kind of thing. Because, even when an MHA is going to be here in the House of Assembly, while his or her assistant may be out in the office in the district, there is still going to have to be communication with the MHA about constituency affairs.
That was my understanding from the report and from discussions.
MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In the rules, rule 20.(4), it does suggests members will also have an office in Confederation Building, even if they choose to have a constituency office. That is on or around page 73 or so, depending on your version of the act.
Section 20.(4) of the rules: A member who chooses to have his or her constituency assistant work in the Confederation Building Complex shall, with respect to the assignment of office accommodation in that complex, be given priority over a member who chooses to have his or her assistant work in the district.
In a sense there are two tiers, but the implication is clearly that, even if you are in the second tier, you would get an office but someone else would get first pick, I guess. I guess that is how we would look at that.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Marshall.
MR. T. MARSHALL: We have had differences of opinion expressed here. It is my understanding, and others have said it is their understanding. We should not have to rely on our understandings any more; that is what got us into trouble before. It is important that the rules are clear, that the legislation is there, that the rules are there and that the directives are there.
As I understand it now, and I would like clarification of this, is Mr. Parsons correct in that each MHA will be given an office in the Confederation Complex in St. John's as well as in their own district? Is that correct?
MR. SPEAKER: The member will get an office here in the Confederation Building -
MR. T. MARSHALL: And in his or her district.
MR. SPEAKER: - and, if he or she chooses, an office in their district. That is there, as Bill said. The office here, however, is only available if it has not been taken by some other member who, this is his -
AN HON. MEMBER: That is not correct.
MR. T. MARSHALL: That is not correct, Mr. Speaker, no.
Mr. Speaker, we have just read the rule.
MR. REID: (Inaudible) priority, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The priority, okay.
MR. REID: The quality of the office probably might (inaudible).
MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, there is another little factor that factors into office space, too. I do not know where it is going to fit, but apparently when I was in the government, the back benches and all the MHAs are in the West Block here, for example, and when you talk about priorities of offices again, there was always an office designated usually closest to the door for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier; and, in the Opposition offices, the office closest to the door was usually reserved for the Opposition House Leader, for the simple reason that you are in and out more often, probably, than anybody else, particularly when the House is open and whatever.
I do not know where that stuff factors in here, but maybe it is something that we should address at a later date. I realize now that we are just talking about the office package, but those are all kinds of questions that we certainly need to address so there is no confusion in the future.
MR. SPEAKER: On the issue of office furniture and equipment, are we ready to - I am sorry, Ms Marshall.
MS E. MARSHALL: I still have a list of questions.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay, go ahead.
MS E. MARSHALL: The first one, possibly Mr. MacKenzie can address this. Under the Equipment, the last page, it speaks about two telephones for the residence, if requested, and then under Services they are talking about the installing, I guess, of a telephone service in a member's residence. What is the logic behind that?
CLERK: The two per residence?
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes.
CLERK: We struggled with this one. Our understanding is, members' constituency assistants continue to do calls at night, receive calls, make calls and so on. We wondered if we could say that those calls should be done on cellphones and blackberries, but you run into a situation where not every member's residence has cellphone coverage. While we could restrict it to those who do not have cellphone coverage at their residence, it was a recognition that members and assistants are working at night. What we are doing now is, for instance on the assistant in particular, if not the member, as they make calls - their phone bill will be submitted to us and we are itemizing, these were work calls, these were not. There is a long, complex process of filling out the claims and paying them call by call by call. Our thought was - and we debated it among staff - it may be simpler to put a work phone in the assistant's residence and the member's residence, have the bill come directly to the House. They would still have their personal phone and that phone would be paid for by the House; we would monitor the bills, we would pay for it. It would be divorced from the personal matters of the member or the assistant.
MS E. MARSHALL: My preference would be not to have that. I do see - like at the bottom, I think the last sentence in that note there is a reference to a calling card, which I would have no problem if members are using that for constituency business, but I am a little bit concerned about starting to reimburse for things that are in people's private residences. So, I do have concerns with that.
MS E. MARSHALL: The second concern that I had was at the top of the last page. It references other furniture and equipment as pre-approved for purchase by the Office of the Clerk of the House of Assembly. My concern there is that all members be treated equally. The way it is written, it does provide an opportunity, I guess if one wanted to, is to show preference of one member over another. That is my comment on that section.
The other comment is just clarification. If a member decides to have their constituency office out in their constituency - and then, of course, we get some sort of office in here - is the equipment and furniture for the office that would be located in here, is that stipulated here in this policy?
CLERK: I think we would be using whatever we currently have.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
CLERK: If we have equipment and furniture now for forty-eight members, that would be assigned on whatever basis is required. So, no, this is a separate matter just for the constituency office.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
CHAIR: (Inaudible) recognize in some cases the members need upgrades to computers and that kind of thing, because in some cases the computers have not been upgraded as often as they might have been.
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, okay.
I realize we have a lot on our plate right now but perhaps some time in the future we might want to look at a standard package for the offices in here, whether it is a tier one office or a tier two office.
CHAIR: Mr. Parsons.
MR. PARSONS: I would concur with what Ms Marshall said in regards to the telephone, no question, but on the issue of the other office furniture as pre-approved, rather than saying - I think we can deal with this fairly simply. Rather than saying Office of the Clerk or the House of Assembly, leave it to the discretion of the - or come back to the board with it because we do have, even now, certain members who have physical disabilities and limitations in some issues, and hearing apparatuses and so on, and you may have someone visually impaired or physically impaired otherwise. I think we should at least put something in here to leave it open, that you can back rather than saying nothing, so that the board should consider it then. Then you are not talking about an equality issue, then you are talking about an accessability issue type of thing.
CHAIR: Okay. Any further questions?
Is it agreed that we would drop the matter that Ms Marshall referred to?
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
CHAIR: Yes. Is that agreeable?
So you are excluding the two telephones - I am just trying to see where this is now -
CLERK: At the very top of the last page.
CHAIR: In our anxiousness to make sure that members have the tools to do the job, that this is put in there as something for the board to consider. If it is the board's wish that we drop that matter, then that is entirely up to the Board of Management.
MS LAMBE: It is the current practice to reimburse members through their constituency allowances for phones in their home or in the home of their constituency assistant. That does not only include phone calls, it would include the cost of the phone, Internet services and different services if they had a home office.
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MS LAMBE: Yes, a lot of members do not avail of it, some do. It has been the practice since I was here last year, and we did continue seeing the need, that members were making calls from home and so were their assistants.
MS E. MARSHALL: (Inaudible) calling card. I would agree with that.
MS LAMBE: I like to (inaudible) being discontinued.
CHAIR: Mr. Rideout.
MR. RIDEOUT: Not to prolong the debate because I am learning things here this morning that I did not know existed in terms of members submitting a bill for calls that are made from home or constituency assistants. I did not even know that happened, but to me, it is academic. Most of us - I do not, I suppose partly all of us - at home, this day and age, we have some kind of a telephone package. I have a $20 a month package. I can call where I like in Newfoundland after 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening. I suppose I cost the telephone company thousands of dollars calling people in Lewisporte, but that is the package. I have never, since 1999, considered - I suppose I could bill the $20 -
MR. REID: Retroactively, Tom.
MR. RIDEOUT: Retroactively, yes. You owe me money, guys.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that I think we all have packages at home. Our assistants - I do not know, my assistant is required sometimes to do work at night, I have never heard her complain about it. I would assume most everybody have those packages and it does not cost anything extra to call Lewisporte from St. John's or Nain from St. John's if you are calling in the nighttime.
CHAIR: Or anywhere else in the country, for that matter.
MR. RIDEOUT: Or anywhere else in the country. Yes, I suppose within Canada really. Yes, because we call our families out West and whatever. So, to me, it is an academic piece. I do not think it needs to be dwelled on really.
CHAIR: I have fourteen years of bills that I could have submitted, but will not.
Anything else on this matter?
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
CHAIR: Okay. Are we agreed?
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
Let's move over to the startup allowance and then we will go back later on to the one that we had to have circulated.
In section 19.(4) of the Members' Resources and Allowances Rules, there is an item comes up here, start up allowance. Of course, one of the issues you have is that it talks about $1,000 and different expenses that may be specified by the Commission. Again, they have to be documented. They have to show receipts and all that kind of thing. The problem we have is that - that is designed to buy little things for your office that you might need. The problem we have is that a member who was not a member of the Forty-Fifth General Assembly will be able to access that $1,000, but if you were a member of the Forty-fifth General Assembly, if you interpret the rules as written narrowly, then you will not be able to access that $1,000. We want to bring that forward because there is a matter in which - I think this is somewhat unfair and does not treat all members equally.
When you adopt new rules and you say that each member can access $1,000, the assumption is that all members have already done all that, but members have not had these offices set up. Therefore, they have not used $1,000. It was not available to them and they did not do it. It seems to me that whether we do it now or do it later on, we need to have this apply to the Forty-Seventh General Assembly, not the forty-sixth. The Clerk and I have looked at suggestions on that. I would admit that this is one of those borderline issues where you are really not following the letter of the rule, but there is a matter here of fundamental fairness. Members who are here - like Ms Michael has been here a few months. It seems to me that she should not be treated any differently than someone else, or if you have any member here today who has not availed of this before - but once you avail of it, then that is it.
CLERK: Yes, it is a difficult issue there. The first part of this note says: the Commission will direct what expenses may be. That is this sort of itemized list. I think that is pretty straightforward.
Under 19.(4), the Commission can establish what expenses would be eligible for this one time, $1,000 startup cost, but the point the Speaker makes, it makes it difficult the way it is written, it is as if this provision of the rules should have come in the Forty-Seventh Assembly. Most members do not have constituency offices now. There are only three or four who do. The way this is written, any member re-elected, coming back in October, while they are eligible for the $15,000 operational resources piece, you cannot avail of this additional $1,000 to cover startup costs for your office. Brand new members could avail of the $1,000 one-time cost, re-elected members could not. It does not seem logical, and as the Speaker said, there is an issue of justice. The quandary is, it is written in very clear and stark terms, whether we think it is logical, it is not really something that is to be misinterpreted and it is in the rules.
This is one of those cases, as I mentioned back in the preamble, where we have to consider whether a directive interpreting the rules is still consistent with the act and the rules, as it said in section 20.(8)(b).
MR. SPEAKER: And it probably isn't.
CLERK: It is a quandary here. I think the logic is irrefutable. If you have not had a consistency office you should be able to avail of this additional $1,000 to cover these incidental costs, but we are also dealing with the way the rules are written.
MR. SPEAKER: We do not want to end up with a situation where either the Auditor General or an internal auditor, this becomes a (inaudible) when we give members access to $1,000, however reasonable and fair and logical that might be, and then end up getting members into some question later on.
We recognize the problem. We are looking for a solution, even if that is an amendment.
The Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: I do not know if it is a solution, because I do not know the legalities of what I am going to suggest, but I do not have a constituency office outside of the House of Assembly but I do have a constituency office in the House of Assembly. I have a constituent assistant and she has a separate office. She has office supplies, equipment; that is most of the stuff that is outlined here under Action Required, in this briefing note. How does one monitor this?
If I am re-elected, and if we decided my constituent assistant was going to move to an outside constituency office, couldn't we monitor that the materials that are physically in her office now, these kinds of materials, could move with her since they were paid for her as a constituency assistant?
MR. SPEAKER: My quandary is, the act is very specific to the forty-sixth House. Are we pushing the - to suggest that we would change it might be questionable without doing the amendment.
MS MICHAEL: What I am suggesting is that we would not be changing it. If I chose, in the forty-sixth, to set up my constituency office outside, like the act says I may, then could not the materials that the assistant uses at this moment go with her to that outside office?
That means that there would be no amendment, this would be happening in the forty-sixth. The $1,000 would not be coming to me, because the act says it cannot, but there are materials that are already there, being used for the constituency office.
MR. SPEAKER: You would not be accessing any new funding.
MS MICHAEL: Yes, that is right.
MR. SPEAKER: You would be transferring the money that you have to the new office. It is a different thing all together. I don't think that would be an issue.
MS MICHAEL: Transferring material.
MR. SPEAKER: It might be in terms of control. We have to identify the items, because they become the property of the House.
The issue we have here is the issue of what we do now for the forty-sixth Assembly.
MS MICHAEL: That is what I am suggesting; it is for the forty-sixth Assembly.
CLERK: If I could, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: Go ahead.
CLERK: In that particular case it may be possible - I don't know if other members would select the choice you just described, but even in the office you would retain in the Confederation Building somewhere you would need many of these supplies. I am not sure if that is a full solution; some of these you would want to keep here.
MS MICHAEL: Right.
CLERK: Maybe in that particular circumstance we could, but it would not apply to all members.
MS MICHAEL: Then my second thing is, in the act, with the authorization that is given to us, we may issue directives interpreting, clarifying or amplifying the rules.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MS MICHAEL: Would it be outside of amplification - be beyond that - if we were to say that, for the forty-sixth Assembly, that it would be new people elected plus anybody re-elected who did not have a constituency office, just for the forty-sixth. Would that be outside of - legally outside of - saying amplification? Is that amplifying too far?
MR. SPEAKER: We have had discussions about that, the Clerk and I and others, and we have not been able to come to a conclusion because the law is the law and is written down very precise. We looked at the section dealing with amplification and that kind of thing.
Mr. Reid was going to make a comment.
MR. REID: Why couldn't you just write it such that if you were setting up a constituency office for the first time, whether you are elected now or elected in the future, you would be given $1,000 one time, up front?
MR. SPEAKER: We could, but the question is whether that requires an amendment to the act.
MR. REID: Let me give you an example of how it does not work, Mr. Speaker.
I don't have a constituency office in my district today. If I am elected in October, I will not be able to avail of that $1,000 to set up that office. If my opponent wins, he will; he will be given the $1,000 to set up an office that currently doesn't exist.
MR. SPEAKER: That is my point in being fair.
MR. REID: I think the way around it would be to say that any member, from here to eternity, who sets up an office, would be given the $1,000 up front, one time only - because it is going to continue.
MR. SPEAKER: I agree with you.
MR. REID: I might determine that I am not going to set up an office this year but I may next year or the year after.
MR. SPEAKER: What is the legal advice here?
CLERK: It strikes me that would be going a little bit further. That would be really beyond interpretation and we would perhaps be amending a rule, even, which would require bringing it back to the House and the whole adoption process entailed. It is a very difficult one. We could seek a legal opinion on whether the amplification argument that Ms Michael put forward, interpretation, could be applied to this section of 19 (4) and see if a directive such as we have proposed would cover it off adequately. It is a difficult one, this one.
MR. SPEAKER: I think, from my perspective as the Speaker, I would wish to have somebody give some advice on that because I do not want to end up in a situation where hon. members elected in the forty-sixth House, like Mr. Reid and others, who will be re-elected - there will be some members re-elected - that these people are disadvantaged. At the same time I do not want, a year from now, for the Auditor General to be coming out with a long detailed list of the fact that certain members accessed $1,000 when they were not supposed to. This is an issue, so, if it is agreeable, we will seek some legal advice on it.
MS E. MARSHALL: I have questions relating to - it is the second last page. We say, here are the types of expenses, the following expenses, like the office supplies. If it was not paid for - we have these things now. Where does it get charged to now?
MR. REID: That is a good question.
MS LAMBE: It just gets charged to the general fund in the House of Assembly. It is not assigned or allocated to any member or office overall, just a general fund.
MS E. MARSHALL: That funding will be available in one big pot and then there will be additional funding for this specific allowance. Is that right?
MS LAMBE: Yes. That has to be reviewed again because it comes back to Ms Michael's talk of the caucus operations. Really, we treated all of that in one big pot, if you like, but now, with the new rules, we have to revisit the funding for caucus operations, which generally is where the funding comes for all the office supplies and anything that a member, the assistant, the research staff, or anyone in the office would need.
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, because things like paper trays, three-hole punch, staples, pencil holders, scissors, hanging folders, my constituency assistant already has all of that up there, so I can see that we would not need the full $1,000. On the other hand, a coffee pot would be nice to have out in the constituency office - which we do not have - so I think we have to rationalize it as to where this is going to be charged and whether we double budgeted for these types of expenditures.
MS LAMBE: Well, we haven't and I guess our concern was, if we did charge like, say, for a re-elected member who is starting up an office, whether it is in the next term or two terms down - I mean, it doesn't have to be the next Assembly - if we funded those same expenses from a general fund then we are, in a sense, circumventing the intent of Green's recommendation.
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes.
MS LAMBE: That is why we felt we needed a directive.
MS E. MARSHALL: To break it out.
MS LAMBE: To break it out.
MS E. MARSHALL: What about office equipment, then, like a computer monitor stand? I notice that is not in our package, the standard package, the policy we just approved, so where would that be charged? That also would be charged somewhere, wouldn't it, if a constituency assistant wanted that right now?
MS LAMBE: Yes, that again is the general fund for the House. The expenses are broken out for the members' constituency allowances, but all the other expenses are just grouped together and not assigned to a particular person or member.
MS E. MARSHALL: So it is possible, if we stay with the current rule, that an existing member, say, like myself, if I get back after the election and I decide to set up an office out in my constituency, if I don't have the $1,000 then I would just come to you and look for it out of the general pot?
MS LAMBE: And I would say no.
MS E. MARSHALL: You would say no? Well, then, I think we are going to have to -
MR. SPEAKER: You can't do indirectly what you are forbidden to do directly.
The hon. the Clerk.
CLERK: If I could just make one point, this is a sort of one-time supplementary pot. It is not the only way to handle these expenses.
Under section 19 is the office allowances, so for office operations and supplies there is $15,000 per member to cover all the supplies or operational needs in the office. This is just a one-time supplement to make it $16,000 for one year.
It is not a crisis; I am sure you could manage to get a coffee pot. It is not the end of the world; it is just a case of an inequity. The new members will have this; you will not. You will have to budget your office budget that much more carefully to cover this off; but, as I say, it is part of the overall package of $15,000 plus.
MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?
We will seek some legal advice on this matter and bring it back.
CLERK: Mr. Speaker, if I could.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Clerk.
CLERK: Mr. Speaker, we broke this out into two directives. One is simply the sort of one-time items that would be acceptable. If we could approve that, then members would have that knowledge, that this is what they could use it for. The issue of when that restriction would come into play, we would get the legal opinion on that. Mr. Speaker, if we could sort of - as you see, there were two separate ones there.
MR. SPEAKER: Two separate -
CLERK: A legal opinion on the second element of when it applies.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
Is that agreeable?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.
Okay. We will leave the implementation date.
It is now 12:00 noon - in fact, a little after 12:00 noon. Do we wish to recess for lunch?
MR. RIDEOUT: I think we are obviously going to have to come back after lunch, but I just want to, before we recess - we have officers of the House here who have been here all morning and could theoretically be here all afternoon, if we are going to be sitting all afternoon. I know of no reason - if we need an officer of the House we could send for them, I suppose, but I really do not think that there is any purpose to be served - and this is not a criticism, just an observation - of having them sit here listening to us talk about coffee pots and paper holders and that kind of stuff, which are things we have no choice but do because the law says we have to do it, but I am not sure that we have to entertain them while we are talking about it.
MR. SPEAKER: I tend to agree, and want to thank them for coming in the morning session. I do not believe there is any need - the two House Leaders have adequate information to deal with the special warrant and I do not think there would be any need to have Mr. Reynolds come back to discuss that. We will leave it entirely to your discretion.
We did not provide lunch. We could not have any guarantee as to how many people would be around for lunch. What is your request or advice to the Speaker on when we reconvene? At 1:00 p.m. or 1:30 p.m.?
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: At 1:30 p.m.?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: We will recess now until 1:30 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
Thank you all very much for convening for the afternoon session. We do have a number of items here. We are going to item 11 on the agenda. That is clarification of rules regarding the secondary residence.
This is the one that has caused us some difficulty. Maybe I could ask either Marlene or the Clerk to comment on them, because there are some options that might be available to us.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In this note, I think what we are really addressing is simply an omission of certain words throughout the rules. They were in draft form and, of course, the thought was that the Commission would be reviewing them before adoption, but the manner of scheduling to the act caused some complexity.
If I could just sort of work through the briefing note there on secondary residences, the second bullet talks about the Green report and some of his comments on the provisions of services for members. As he says, "A system that requires elected representatives to pay legitimate expenses necessarily incurred if properly working on constituency business out of their pockets is not adequate."
Then we go on with another quote to talk about living arrangements, including secondary arrangements and flexible arrangements. Clearly, the report talked about the need to accommodate secondary residences.
Over on the next page, then, we talk about the travel rules. In the second bullet you will see section 28 defining a variety of terms. There is a definition for secondary residence, "a residence that is not a permanent residence but is owned or leased by the member and is available for occupancy by the member but does not include a seasonal or recreation dwelling or cabin." Clearly, there is an intention to cover secondary residences and there is even a definition of it.
If I can just finish off reading the rest of that bullet you will see the quandary. The rules specifically state that a member may operate and maintain only one permanent residence, but a member may operate and maintain a secondary residence and stay there when travelling. This supports the position taken by the Chief Justice that members may have a secondary residence and avail of it when travelling.
That is clear, I think. The problem is, the wording does not quite confirm that the reimbursement of expenses is covered. Now, it might seem like a bit of a subtlety but when you look at the literal reading of the rules, the last sentence there, which goes on to say: However, this does not entirely confirm whether a member can be reimbursed for costs associated with staying in a secondary residence.
It may seem like a subtlety, but just for clarity we want to ensure that reimbursement is permitted. What we are suggesting is, we interpret a number of these rules, these subparagraphs and paragraphs listed down below, as including the words "or secondary residence", and in the directive over on the next page you will see that there are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven instances where the wording of the rules says, "the actual costs of temporary accommodations, with receipts..." and so on, and that formula is repeated throughout a lot of the rules, but clear from what Green said in the report, the fact that there is a definition of secondary residence and so on, that secondary residence also should have been eligible for the reimbursement. So, what we are suggesting is that it be interpreted as if those words "or secondary residence" were present in each of those sections.
Marlene, have I misrepresented anything there?
MS LAMBE: No, I think that covers it all.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Marshall.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Section 29.(8) says, "When traveling, a member may avail of temporary accommodation or may stay in a secondary residence or in private accommodation." So it is obviously the intent of the legislation that a member who is leaving his or her permanent residence and coming into St. John's to attend the House of Assembly session or, in cases when the House is not in session, to come in to St. John's to the Confederation Building Complex on government business - or I should say on constituency business - that they are entitled for reimbursement for those out-of-pocket and recorded expenses, if I can use that term. They can stay in a hotel; that is temporary accommodation, which is defined. They can stay in a secondary residence, which would mean an apartment, I guess, leased by a member, or a home or a condominium owned by the member, or stay in private accommodation, which I understand is an apartment or a home owned by somebody, not the member.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. T. MARSHALL: So it would appear that all three are eligible for the expense.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I do believe, Minister, that was the intent, and in my discussions that I had with the Green Commission people, we are satisfied that this was an omission. It was not a deliberate thing. It just got left out. To make, again, the rules apply equitably, we need to be able to go and read it as if it included secondary residence.
This is what the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi mentioned this morning, when you are going and looking at the rules and saying this is tweaking, or you can call it going and modifying it, to fulfill the intent.
I have talked to other members and staff and they agree that is what it should be. If you do not, then you are going to have a situation where an hon. member who is a rural member, say, owns a house in St. John's, but when he goes out to his district, then when he comes into St. John's, if he went and stayed at the Holiday Inn, or anywhere like that, he could claim his allowance, but if he stayed in his own house, on which he is paying a mortgage or has paid a mortgage or whatever, then we do not give him any accommodations at all.
MR. T. MARSHALL: I noticed, however, that the words "with receipts" are utilized there. So, if you are in a hotel fine, but -
MR. SPEAKER: You have to calculate that in terms of - if you happen to have, for example, a mortgage, the cost of your insurance, the cost of your municipal taxes, all of these things have to be prorated over a per day allocation and then added in, because it is not automatically $125. It is up to $125 with receipts.
MR. T. MARSHALL: So, where does a receipt come from in that situation?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, what you have to do is, you have to go and get the data and get the receipts of where you paid those other costs that I just mentioned. You have to show, for example, that you are paying - the cost of municipal taxes in St. John's could be $2,500 a year. So, if you are staying in your residence there for fifty nights a year, or sixty-five or 100, whatever it is, then you can charge a proportion of that. Once you do the calculation the first time, then you do not have to do it any more after that because you have all the data in your data profile.
MS MICHAEL: Just an observation which explains why I support what is being recommended with regard to the wording changes in the sections outlined in the bullet that Mr. MacKenzie referred to.
When you put rule number 29 together with - which Mr. Marshall just referred to - when you put rule number 29 along with section 41 of the rules, it makes it quite clear, because under rule 41.(2) - as is outlined in the briefing notes from Mr. MacKenzie - rule 41.(2) outlines the types of expenses a member may claim related to a stay in a secondary residence.
When you put that along with section 29, there is absolutely no doubt that there is an expectation of being able to stay in a secondary residence, and it even names the expenses that get covered. So, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was just an oversight, that secondary residence was left out of the seven sections that it was left out of, and I would be absolutely comfortable with our doing that.
MR. SPEAKER: Our legal people have looked at it and they have concluded that it was the intent -
MS MICHAEL: Yes, it is absolutely certain to me.
MR. SPEAKER: - because if not the rest of the section does not make any sense. Therefore, our recommendation is that we would add in the words "secondary residence" to those clauses for operational guidance and that at the appropriate time there would be an amendment brought forward to put the words into the Act.
MS E. MARSHALL: I think Ms Lambe might be able to answer this question.
Have we calculated up the maximum that a member may be able to claim for accommodations? Because there are all maximums; there is a maximum of $125, there is a maximum on the number of nights. Have we worked up a number, like the maximum amount that a member would be able to claim?
MS LAMBE: There is no limit on the dollar limit on what a member can claim for travel to St. John's when the House is in session, or depending on where the permanent residence is to or from St. John's, only on the intra-district travel.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
MS LAMBE: It depends on the number of trips rather than the dollar costs.
MS E. MARSHALL: Even for accommodations? Does that hold true also for accommodations?
MS LAMBE: Well it is up to $125 for a night.
MS E. MARSHALL: So there would be a maximum, right?
MS LAMBE: Yes, per night but not an overall maximum.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: There is also a section, Ms Marshall, that you will be familiar with, that each member in the Forty-Sixth Assembly will have to do up a budget for the running of their offices. It is not the case where one model will fit all and that budget per the member will be brought to the Board of Management and then it can be decided here.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: The other point on that is, of course, it will depend on how long the House is open. It is going to be very difficult to budget this. We have no idea how long the House may be open. There may be thirty people in availing of the temporary accommodations. It is going to be a challenge to do the annual budget.
MR. REID: I have a bunch of questions on this one, but I will start by asking Ms Lambe: Under the regulations, is there a set number of trips or nights that an individual who has a residence in his or her district can spend in the Capital region?
MS LAMBE: I will have to look it up. I am sure there is. I apologize but I am still not familiar with the rules in detail. Your permanent residence is in your district?
MR. REID: Yes.
MS LAMBE: And you are travelling -
MR. REID: How many trips are you permitted to St. John's when the House is closed and how many nights can the individual stay in St. John's when the House is closed?
MS LAMBE: It is up to twenty return trips.
MR. REID: Okay. Thirty-five nights?
MS LAMBE: Thirty-five nights, yes, and a maximum of three nights per stay.
MR. SPEAKER: Again, there is an issue here for the future in terms of post-October 10th when members will have to come to grips with that, because there are instances when setting down a precise number of return trips might not be the best way to serve the constituents.
MR. REID: I agree. That is the point I was going to make.
MR. SPEAKER: Telling members now - I will not be here, but this whole issue of the number of trips was a significant issue for members who felt that given those constraints they might not be able to serve their constituents. In some cases, we had some discussion on what you meant on why a member would go to his or her district. The Chief Justice had some opinions as to what constituted a valid trip, whether it was for political reasons or whether it would be in the interest of self promotion. He was not quite as agreeable, you might say, in putting the number of trips up beyond twenty.
It is an issue and the Board of Management will have the authority and where necessary they will have to bring it to the House to change it. As of now, this is where it stands.
MR. REID: It also concerns this particular item we are looking at as well, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Pardon.
MR. REID: It also concerns this one as well.
MR. SPEAKER: My understanding is that it does.
MR. REID: Yes, definitely. Let me just try and explain it here because it is a bit complicated.
There are a number of individuals in the House of Assembly whose permanent residence is here in St. John's, but they represent a district outside of the Capital City. If, for example, we - and there is a group of us - were to own a secondary residence in our district then we are only entitled to stay in that secondary residence for thirty-five nights when the House of Assembly is closed. According to the rules, when the House of Assembly is closed I am only permitted thirty-five nights in my district.
MR. SPEAKER: Thirty-five, yes.
MR. REID: Pardon me.
MR. SPEAKER: Thirty-five?
MR. REID: Yes, twenty trips, thirty-five nights.
MS LAMBE: Unfortunately, the rules assume that the secondary residence is in St. John's.
MR. REID: That is what I am saying. That is why I find it somewhat discriminatory.
MR. SPEAKER: That is the member's point.
MR. REID: That is the point I am making.
MS LAMBE: Yes, and unfortunately that is the way the rules are written.
MR. REID: Whereas the others who live in their districts and their secondary residence is in St. John's, they can make a claim against government for every single night that they spend in St. John's. If the House of Assembly is open for 300 days a year then they can claim 300 days a year. Whereas, if the House of Assembly is not open then the maximum number of nights that I can claim if I had a secondary residence would be thirty-five. Do you understand what I mean by that? You look doubtful there for some reason.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: I do not understand what Mr. Reid is saying because you only get paid, whether it is in a secondary residence or a temporary hotel or whatever, for being there because you are doing constituency work or work as an MHA. Where you are saying you could get paid for how many nights a year because of a secondary residence in St. John's, I do not understand it.
MR. REID: No, what I am saying is I am only allowed to spend thirty-five nights in my district when the House of Assembly is closed. I do not think that is fair.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: That is a separate issue from whether there is a secondary residence or not, because it is the same for somebody who does not have a residence in the district. They would only get paid for thirty-five nights in a temporary. The issue there is not whether it is a secondary residence or not. It is the thirty-five nights only in the district that you are getting paid for that for me is the issue, and is that satisfactory. That is what I see as the issue.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Marshall.
MR. T. MARSHALL: I think the time limit is the same. If you have your permanent residence, say in my case in Corner Brook, and I come into St. John's when the House is not in session, if I have a secondary residence here I am allowed thirty-five nights. In your case, it is the exact opposite. When the House is not in Session you are allowed thirty-five nights in your district. I think we will both agree that thirty-five nights is not enough.
MR. REID: Exactly.
MR. T. MARSHALL: But I think the rules apply equally to both situations.
MR. SPEAKER: The issue I think is that we hear what members are saying and members are reflecting what some of their colleagues who are not here today are saying as well, because they have spoken to me. This is an issue that I do not think we can resolve here today but it is an issue that has to be addressed.
MS MICHAEL: Which issue? The issue of the thirty-five nights or the issue of the secondary residence?
AN HON. MEMBER: Thirty-five night.
MS MICHAEL: The thirty-five night.
MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?
What is your wish? We are going to agree to operate as if the words "secondary residence" were included in those paragraphs that are listed. There are one, two, three, four - there are six paragraphs. Are we agreeing that our methodology of operation would be as if the words "secondary residence" were added there? Are members comfortable with that?
WITNESS: I think there are seven.
MR. SPEAKER: Seven, is it? Okay. Yes, five, six, seven. I am sorry. Thanks for the correction. Is that agreeable?
AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
The issue of the thirty-five nights is something that in future the Commission is going to have to deal with because Mr. Reid makes a very good point.
The next issue we have is the Memorial Wreaths. All of us in the House of Assembly have been invited, from time to time, to go to a Legion ceremony in our communities and to lay a wreath on behalf of our constituents. I know it happens in my district every November and every July 1, but when we brought this forward it was not quite clear. What we are suggesting here is that members have $3,000 per fiscal year and it says, "...necessarily incurred by a member to carry out his or her constituency business."
Subsection 46(3) outlines what maybe reimbursed and subsection 46(4) outlines what may not be reimbursed. Subsection 46(3) says: "...other categories of items directed by the commission."
What we are suggesting here is that the words, over on the next page, we would add, "...Memorial Wreaths to commemorate and remember veterans, fallen soldiers, prisoners of war and the missing in action."
MS MICHAEL: There is an assumption that memorials are only done for those who have died through military action, but there is one event that happens every year that a lot of us take part in and that is in memory of workers who have been killed on the job. That is a place where we also lay memorial wreaths. I do not know how specific you want to get so maybe there is a more general way in which you can put the directive. That is an extremely important memorial service that happens.
MR. SPEAKER: In that case, is it the individual members who are laying the wreaths or is it the leadership of the political party on behalf of the entire party laying the wreath? I have not participated in that kind of an event. In terms of laying a wreath I have been onsite but never invited to lay a wreath.
MS MICHAEL: Right.
Here in St. John's, the one that happens here at the House, it always happens here in the House of Assembly, I mean out in the foyer, I think I am invited as Leader of the Party to do it.
MR. SPEAKER: There is only $3,000 in total that you have in that category.
MS MICHAEL: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: You cannot swap from one category to another one. You cannot say, oh, I have money left in the other account and I can go and use the other available funds.
I do not think anybody has any difficulty with memorial wreaths. What is your opinion on the point made by Ms Michael?
MR. PARSONS: (Inaudible) circumstance, but also we have the Ocean Ranger Memorial, for example, that is held every year. I know in Grand Falls-Windsor they have a labour related memorial every year. I think anything -
MR. RIDEOUT: So that particular MHA -
MR. PARSONS: Does do that.
Maybe you just need to define what memorial is and it does not need to include just what you have there. People are pretty understanding of what a memorial is.
MR. SPEAKER: We could put a comma after Prisoners of War, put in the Missing in Action and then add in the other categories that have been mentioned.
MR. PARSONS: If a new one comes up we can always consider it if there is future need.
MR. SPEAKER: Would that be agreeable that we would add in the Labour Day wreaths, the wreaths commemorating the deceased workers of the Province?
MR. T. MARSHALL: Workers who were killed on the job.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, workers killed in pursuit of their employment.
MS MICHAEL: Workers killed on the job.
MR. SPEAKER: Was there another? The Ocean Ranger?
MS MICHAEL: That includes the Ocean Ranger. They would be workers killed on the job.
MR. SPEAKER: They were working and would fall under that category.
MR. RIDEOUT: Police officers killed on the job would be covered by (inaudible) on the job, and there is one of them out there in the lot, too.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
We just want to make sure when members come in with these things - when I did discussions on it, in the background data they found of some instances where members were buying wreaths pretty generously throughout their constituency as they deemed appropriate and that kind of thing. There was a feeling we should be a little more constrained.
The argument put forward by the Commission was that, at what point does the laying of a wreath, or the presentation of a wreath, stop being a personal statement of grief in consideration for those whom we have lost and become an issue that members do because they feel it is - well, the words were used - at some point they become political. These are harsh words, but....
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: No.
So, we will agree with adding those words?
The hon. Minister Marshall.
MR. T. MARSHALL: I just want to concur with what Mr. Reid said. The MHA is asked in many cases to lay a wreath as the Member for the House of Assembly for that particular community.
I confirm that, in addition to workers who are killed on the job, it is not only police but also peace officers who are killed on the job as well. If we are going to use specific wording, we should refer to police and peace officers.
MR. SPEAKER: Peace officers.
MR. T. MARSHALL: There is a memorial each year.
MR. SPEAKER: We can add that to it as well.
Is that agreeable?
You might want to make a note to look at that again at some - pardon?
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: Yes. If so, at the next meeting I am sure members will want to add.
MS MICHAEL: I cannot remember the official name of the remembrance of workers killed on the job but the meaning is more than actually killed on the job, because you could die from an industry related disease, for example, so we should get the wording, and to point out that in that memorial all of these other groups are included. The military are there, the police are there, firefighters are there. They all take part - at least here in St. John's - in that memorial because it is all work related death.
MR. SPEAKER: We will get the proper wording for that.
MS MICHAEL: Yes, to get that wording.
MR. SPEAKER: There is a wording that includes all of those groups.
CLERK: Perhaps what we will do, then, since - if we are going to issue a directive, we really should have the precise wording, so what we will do is try to make it broader, incorporate these various matters, and bring it back; because we should really approve the precise wording.
This has to be added to the list in 46.(3). We would want to get quite precise in the wording. If there is another Commission meeting before Remembrance Day, for instance, then maybe that would be adequate to be decided then.
MR. SPEAKER: This will cover the Remembrance Day issue. That has already been asked by members, if they could do it. I want to get this approved today, because you do not want a member to go out and buy a wreath to present on Remembrance Day and then this comes out of his or her own pocket.
MR. RIDEOUT: (Inaudible) on behalf of government.
MR. SPEAKER: You do it on behalf of the government.
CLERK: If the Commission will allow me a little editorializing, we could use the existing list there. We could say - I am not sure if it is workers killed on the job, Ms Michael, but whatever that term is, if you will allow me a little leeway on that, we could incorporate peace officers, even though they were on the job they might deserve the recognition, and we could say marine disasters; that would also include passengers, for instance, the Caribou if Port aux Basques does anything on that any more. It would not just be people employed but passengers and so on, and we could end with a broad statement, or similar memorial occasions or something like that.
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) memorial service.
CLERK: Yes, so there is a bit of a leeway there. Then we could approve the directive as is and it would be in place, then, for the eleventh. We will work on that within those parameters.
MR. SPEAKER: Moving on to advertising, the issue with advertising was discussed at some length with some members, and discussed with the Commission. The legislation is very precise. It says, "A member may claim against the office operations and supplies allowance for reimbursement to cover operational costs of operating a constituency office including....(i) advertising, including constituency office hours, contact telephone numbers for the member, email addresses, notices of constituency meetings, and advertising messages of welcome or congratulation...." This got referenced in section 24(i) and also 46(4).
In interpreting the rules, for example, if you had an ad in a community booklet there is not much difficulty with that, excepting that you have to be careful what you say. If you are going to go and do great, lengthy congratulations to the local community group, or welcome people to come home year and putting in your number, that kind of thing, that seems to be okay. What the fear of the group was, if you were to go, for example, and have a little booklet, a minor hockey booklet - I am not saying minor hockey, I am just using them as an example - you have a little booklet, and instead of charging the member $75 they charge him $500. Then they say, okay, part of that is a donation.
They were concerned about indirect donations by way of advertising. What they came up with was, ask yourself the question: What is the purpose behind any advertising expenses? They should be solely to assist members to convey contact information along with advertising messages of welcome or congratulations.
You have to have the original invoice, and so on and so forth. Our recommendation is as we have written here. You have to send in your transcript. If you are going to put it on radio, you get a transcript of it and send it in. This fulfills, I do believe, the intent and it gives the staff some guidance as to how to interpret.
MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I have a problem with that. What are we going to have, some kind of a communications police force here now? If you are going to put a business card type thing with your office address and telephone number on it in the local paper every week, it is pretty easy to submit that. If you are going to put a congratulatory message in the minor hockey program in February, does anybody in here want that? Should anybody in here demand that come in? An invoice from the Lewisporte Minor Hockey Association for advertising should suffice. Blessed Lord have mercy, where are we going?
If you are going to do a congratulatory message on electronic media, a local television station, related to a come home year or something, do we want that transcript sent in here? Do we send it in for approval before we say it? My God! Let's have a grain of common sense here. If you consider it to be an advertisement and you submit an invoice, then it is up to somebody to prove the contrary. What are we setting up here?
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Marshall.
MS E. MARSHALL: I would like to make one comment on that. I think the Comptroller General can require whatever documentation he requires in order to process -
MR. RIDEOUT: If he asks for something, you provide it.
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: The trouble we have is that right now our requirements for documentation are so stringent - and they are stringent in our offices.
MS E. MARSHALL: It is stringent, yes.
MR. SPEAKER: They are stringent when we go to the Comptroller General's office, very stringent.
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: I think what we are trying to do here is merely try to assist members so that they have some guidelines as to what might be payable, rather than going and going and saying that you are going to be dialoging back and forth with the Comptroller General for weeks on end to try to get a $100 bill paid for advertising.
The other trouble you have is, you are asking for transcripts - and we thought of this - sometimes when you have to pay someone to get that transcript, the cost of the transcript is higher than the cost of the ad. Now you have the cost of getting the transcript. People do not pass out transcripts for nothing. There are companies that are in that business.
MS MICHAEL: I think it is the transcripts that I have the biggest problem with, because you do have to pay for them.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MS MICHAEL: When it comes to the print media, for the most part, they send it with their invoice as proof that it was in their paper, their newsletter or whatever.
MR. SPEAKER: They do.
MS MICHAEL: It seems to me that if there is a possibility of down the road being asked for the proof, we might as well do it up front than have to look for it in a year or two years time. Even if it is a minor hockey newsletter or something, all you have to do is, when you do it, say we would like a copy of that. For the most part, it gets sent to you.
The thing, I think, that is most problematic is the proof of the electronic. Maybe there needs to be some leeway there because it is harder to get that one, but the other is really easy to get and any constituency staff person knows how to ask for that. I do not think that is a big issue.
CLERK: We brought this matter forward because of requests from a number of members who were concerned, at a certain point, in the community booklets, would advertising be thought of as donations? - which would be a violation of the rules, prohibiting donations. That was where this issue came from. The more we looked at it, the more complex it became. It is very difficult to put any clarity around it.
With respect to the supporting documentation, what we are suggesting was merely that you keep it on file. You would still have to have it. You would not submit it, necessarily, with claims, but if you had it on file it would be open to review by an internal audit or something. The only reason, really, for it, was, to go back to what Mr. Speaker said, if you have a small business card size ad, you put in a booklet and you pay $1,000, it starts to look more and more like a donation. Looking at the documentation would be some way to make a judgement call. If this was the back cover, glossy, everything, well then I guess it is a $1,000 ad. If it is a little line, maybe it is not a $1,000 ad. It was the only way we could think of, to try to tell members we think that has probably gone too far and it is into the donation realm. It is all grey; there is no precise way of determining this, that we could come up with.
On the transcripts, we might have used the wrong word. I was under the impression that for radio ads you would always get a short script - maybe script is the word - prior to producing the ad, rather than transcript afterwards. It was really just the twenty-five seconds you would speak, but if that is a difficulty we would have to forego it.
MS E. MARSHALL: (Inaudible) issues, isn't it? We, as the Commission, will determine what we can claim, and the second part is the Comptroller General determines what documentation is required. It would seem to me that we should decide here today what we can claim, and I am sure the Comptroller General will be able to tell us exactly what he wants before he releases the public funds. It is probably - if we look at it in two components.
MR. SPEAKER: I do not have any difficulty with members advertising. Part of the job is that you want to let your constituents know where you are, the business you are in, how to get a hold to you, and all that kind of thing. That is not the issue. Maybe Ms Marshall's suggestion that we would approve the concept but we would then consult with the Comptroller General as to what documentation he would require.
Is that agreed?
All right. Thank you.
The next item I have here is the meal allowances, "Clarification of the proration of meal allowances under subsection 29(7)...". What we are saying, basically, is that we will use the same rates that is used by government in general: $10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner, a total of $50 a day. That is what is used throughout the entire civil service. You are not going to get very, very, well fed. You had better bring a lunch -
CLERK: Inclusive of HST.
MR. SPEAKER: That is inclusive of HST.
CLERK: No tips.
MR. SPEAKER: There are no tips, so all we need is an understanding that will be the -
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: If you travel internationally, if you were in London and staying it would cost you twenty-three pounds for an English breakfast. That is about $47. Don't stay too long, and if you get one of those things that you can eat a lot, go for it.
Are we agreed?
That just makes the MHAs consistent with everybody else.
We need to go back to number 8.
MS MICHAEL: You said consistent with everybody else. I am not asking this for any ulterior motive, but I do want to point out: with ministers - I do not think $50 is what civil servants get. It is $37.50 a day that they get, so this is actually more than. With ministers and MHAs, it is more than civil servants. I just want to point that out. It is, so I think that is another table for that to be discussed, that the civil servants get so little.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for the information.
Back to number 8 in Tab 4, we have Travel and Living Allowances. Some members did not have a copy of that matter. This is, again, a clarification of the rules regarding subsection 31(1), 32(2)(b)(i) and 35(b)(i).
"The Commission is authorized under Subparagraph 20(6)b(i) of the Act to issue directives ‘interpreting, clarifying or analyzing the rules'. This recommended directive is intended to provide clarification of the three items as noted above."
The action required, over on the next page, is to say that the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the Commission issues the following interpretation directive with respect to sections 31, 32 and 35. Subsection 31(1) should be interpreted as if the words "or private" appeared after the word "temporary" and that subsection 31(1) should read: "A member who travels from his or her permanent residence outside the Capital region to temporary or private accommodations or a secondary residence in the Capital region to attend a sitting of the House of Assembly may claim reimbursement for the following cost."
Then, subparagraph 32(2)(b)(i) would then read, "the actual cost of temporary accommodation, with receipts, in the constituency up to a maximum of $125 a night actually spent in the constituency, or with receipts, temporary accommodations in the capital region of $125 a night for every night the accommodations are actually occupied by the member, or. "
Keeping in mind that what we are saying here is that the $125 is only the maximum. You have to show your receipts. Again, we are back to the issue we had before today, that this does not mean that you can automatically charge $125; up to that.
MS E. MARSHALL: That rate of $125, that is going to be reduced now by the HST. That is one of the amounts that has to be reduced, right?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, it is.
CLERK: It is restated. It is the same dollar figure, it is just that the HST was hidden in it earlier.
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, that is right.
CLERK: We would not want to call it reduced, but restated.
MR. SPEAKER: In effect, the member having calculated, it would be $14 and 25 per cent of $14, whatever that is, so you would end up probably taking off about $17 and so many cents. Really, instead of $125 you are down to minus $17.
MS E. MARSHALL: Just to clarify, it is my understanding that this is what Justice Green intended. I am correct in that interpretation, am I?
CLERK: On receipts you mean, requiring receipts?
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes.
CLERK: Yes, I think all of these, the argument -
MS E. MARSHALL: The receipts I do not have a problem with, but the other inserts there with the -
MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, private.
CLERK: I think it is clear. If you want to go through the note again that the Speaker went through, right back to the first page, if you look at that in section 31(1), a member who travels from his or her permanent residence to temporary or secondary residence, that is how 31(1) begins, but then when you go down to the subparagraph of paragraph 31(1)(b)(ii) it talks about private accommodations. It seems clear it was just missed in the higher one. It was definitely intended to be there.
MS E. MARSHALL: In the writing of the rules, okay.
MR. SPEAKER: Are we agreed on the matter? Okay.
The next item we have is the Code of Conduct for Members, tab 5. This is the development of the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Assembly and it requires the Speaker, immediately after the coming into force of the Act, to refer the issue of developing a Code of Conduct to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. This Code of Conduct would be adopted by a resolution of the House of Assembly.
My only reason for putting this in here today is to make note of the fact that there is a process here and that the Government House Leader and the Opposition House Leader were both on the Striking Committee for committees of the House. My understanding is that once you have appointed the Striking Committee - I stand to be corrected - the Striking Committee can then go and strike a committee of the House to deal with this issue. There is an expectation out there that we have a Code of Conduct.
We have included here some of the codes for some of the other jurisdictions. Basically, most of these codes are advising members to be of good behaviour, be diligent, and that kind of thing. There is, in the world today - we mentioned this morning what is happening in the executive branch where people have to certify that things are properly done. Then there is an expectation that the House would adopt a Code of Conduct. My reason for bringing it here is not to overly discuss it except to ask the Government House Leader if he would speak with the Opposition House Leader and others who are on the Striking Committee and ascertain when it is most convenient for them to get that group together. It would be advisable, if we could, to have a Code of Conduct ready for adoption on October 10, but I am not sure whether that can be facilitated at this stage.
The hon. Mr. Rideout.
MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, we will certainly take that matter under advisement. I will chat with my colleague about it.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
The other item we have here is the Code of Conduct for the Officers and staff. In that particular matter we have had discussions with the Officers of the House. They have agreed. I have to just tell you that in the first draft we made a mistake. I am not going to read it, but leave out the word not in number 6. It was quite the smile around the office. They have all agreed with this and in their opinion this is ready for adoption.
CLERK: Mr. Speaker, I point out, just in case it has not shown up on your desk, we did an updated version which was left on your desk today. If you have that inserted it is the version dated August 28 that we would be looking at.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MS E. MARSHALL: I am just wondering, do public servants have to file disclosure statements? As members we do with the Commissioner. Is there a parallel process for public servants?
CLERK: No, not that I am aware of. The act of disclosing is that positive act. You would receive 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000 of these disclosure statements, so there is no requirement. Some of the same issues would apply under the Conflict of Interest Act, but there is no requirement for disclosure annually.
MS E. MARSHALL: Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: Are we okay with adopting the Code of Conduct for officers and staff?
The next item is the Audit Committee of the Commission. Section 23 of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act says it must establish an Audit Committee of the Commission and outlines the Committee's various responsibilities. It shall consist of two members of the Commission chosen by the Commission, at least one of whom shall not be a member of the government party and two persons chosen by the Chief Justice of the Province.
As I mentioned this morning, I have written Chief Justice Wells. He had not given me a name of a person yet. We can however this afternoon, if we so desire - I can ask if there are members who we would like to name to that Audit Committee this afternoon.
MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The legislation that was recommended by Chief Justice Green and passed by the House of Assembly does, as you indicated, provide for the establishment of an Audit Committee consisting of four people: two selected by the Chief Justice of the Province and two selected by the Commission, one of whom shall not be a member of the government.
When I look at the duties of the Audit Committee it talks about, essentially, providing assistance to the Commission in fulfilling its overall responsibility to the House of Assembly with respect to the stewardship of public money. It goes on to talk about making recommendations to the Commission with respect to the choice of an auditor. It talks about reviewing audit plans. It talks about reviewing financial statements. It talks about reviewing compliance reports, reviewing internal audit reports, reviewing internal controls, the effectiveness of internal controls, and other financial matters including accountability, record keeping and so on.
Accordingly, I think there is one member here who is eminently suited to take on this responsibility, and who is a former Auditor General of this Province. I know the current Auditor General talked about the dark period when the Auditor General was removed from the House of Assembly, and the Auditor General who was removed at that time, of course, is the hon. member on my right, the hon. Member for Topsail.
I would like to put forward, with her consent, the recommendation that the hon. Member for Topsail be appointed -
MR. SPEAKER: You are moving, on behalf of the governing party, that the -
MR. T. MARSHALL: No, I am moving this as the member for the wonderful people in the great and historic District of Humber East.
MR. SPEAKER: At least one member shall not be a member of the governing party. If we have two members, and Ms Marshall is appointed, I assume that she would be the member appointed by the governing party.
I have no difficulty with that. Obviously, we all agree that Ms Marshall's credentials are pretty suited to the job - very suited to the job.
MS E. MARSHALL: I would be pleased to have my name stand, and we will see what happens with the vote.
MR. SPEAKER: I think we would all agree with that.
The opposition members of all parties, are you people ready to name your person today or do you want to wait for some other time?
MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As the leader of our party, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to put my name forward, so I will not be.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
I just wanted to know if you were going to put forward someone else from -
MR. REID: Yes, (inaudible) Mr. Kelvin Parsons.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
We have a question being raised by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.
MS MICHAEL: It is not a question, Mr. Speaker. I am supporting that. As the leader and sole member of my party sitting in the House, I would be really happy to have Mr. Parsons play the role, and he, too, is eminently qualified to do it.
MR. SPEAKER: So it is agreed that, Mr. Parsons, you accept?
MR. PARSONS: I accept on one condition. I do not have the financial background that Ms Marshall has. I have no problem doing it, but I am not into the accounting background sort of thing so I would certainly appreciate some orientation, as we talked about this morning, as to what would be involved in fulfilling that role.
MS E. MARSHALL: I find that, for these type of committees, it is also a benefit to have people on them who do not have a financial background, because sometimes they point out obvious questions that people with that area of expertise sort of miss, so it would be a good combination.
MR. SPEAKER: So, we are agreeing that the members of the Audit Committee from the government side will be Ms Marshall, the Member for Topsail, and from the Opposition benches it will be Mr. Kelvin Parsons, the Opposition House Leader.
Is that agreed?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.
MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.
CLERK: Mr. Speaker, if I could, one point for Mr. Parsons.
When Minister Marshall was nominating Ms Marshall, he stopped after having read all the accounting requirements necessary for the Audit Committee. They do go on. If you look under that section of the act, there are a number of other more general qualifications and duties: reviewing codes of conduct, establishing procedures for the treatment of complaints, and so on and so forth, so there are other matters.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much.
We have reached the stage where we need to go in an in camera session.
MR. T. MARSHALL: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: A point of order has been raised.
MR. T. MARSHALL: (Inaudible) also requires the designation of a Chair of the Audit Committee, so I would move the appointment of Ms Marshall as Chair of that Committee.
MR. SPEAKER: My only question with that would be, perhaps should we wait until the Chief Justice has appointed his people first and they would then decide among themselves?
MR. T. MARSHALL: That is fine, Mr. Speaker.
I withdraw the proposal.
MR. SPEAKER: Since there are no members of the public in the gallery, we can simply turn off our television coverage temporarily to deal with the in camera matter and be back probably in less than five minutes to reconvene to ratify the matter. If that is agreeable then we will not have to move from here at all.
In the meantime, perhaps one of our staff will be so kind as to close the doors.
[In camera session]
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much.
For the information of the general public, during our in camera session consideration was given to the need for a special warrant to fund special ballot procedures in the 2007 General Election. That motion was passed in the in camera session and the motion, which we will refer to the Commission now, the Board of the Management Commission, is as follows:
At the in camera session just completed the Commission authorized the Speaker to refer to the Attorney General a special warrant funding request to cover unanticipated costs for the 2007 General Election under the legislative head of expenditure. We are noting that this matter deals with special ballots.
AN HON. MEMBER: Agreed.
MR. SPEAKER: It is agreed. All members agree.
I should point out: What this does, as the Government House Leader said this morning, it helps to assure that every citizen of this Province has equal access in terms of access to special ballot procedures, and it further makes it more equitable so that if you are in St. John's, for example, or Mount Pearl, under the previous arrangement you could go in to Hallett Crescent at any time and you could vote. That is deemed to be unreasonable and unfair to the other districts. What this does is make the same eligibility available to all forty-eight districts. We feel that is the appropriate procedure to do.
I want to thank the two House Leaders, Mr. Parsons as the Opposition and Mr. Rideout on behalf of the government side, for doing a lot of the work on this and getting it done and having it ready for implementation for the October election.
The next item we have here is other business.
Date of the next meeting: I am recommending that it would be at the call of the Chair because that is provided for in the Act. It is not my intention, unless something happens that I do not foresee, to call another meeting until after the election. That probably would be with a new Speaker, unless it is held immediately after the election. As members know, I will stay the Speaker until a new one is elected but I do not anticipate having a meeting of the Commission, the Board of Management Commission, before then. If I do not, I would like to thank all hon. members for their diligence today. This procedure is indeed setting a new mark in Newfoundland political history, and it is open, it is transparent.
I want to thank our staff. There is still work to be done relative to the implementation of the Green Commission Report. They have been diligently working all summer, some of them have not had their holidays yet, and I want to thank them. In particular, I want to thank the Clerk and the Chief Financial Officer. These people have worked extremely hard to make sure that all of this material was ready. We still have a lot of work to do yet, but come October 10 we shall we ready and the new system will be operational.
Thank you all so much.
The House of Assembly Management Commission is adjourned to the call of the Chair.