April 30, 2008         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION            No. 6


The Committee met at 5:00 p.m. in the House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: (Fitzgerald): I would like to welcome members of the Management Commission to a regular meeting of the Commission.

Maybe we will start, for the interest of those who are viewing, by introducing ourselves. We will start with the Deputy Speaker and go to each member of the Commission.

MR. OSBORNE: Tom Osborne, MHA, St. Johnís South.

MS MARSHALL: Beth Marshall, MHA, Topsail.

MS JONES: Yvonne Jones, MHA, Cartwright-LíAnse au Clair.

MR. PARSONS: Kelvin Parsons, MHA, Burgeo & LaPoile.

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

MR. SPEAKER: We are going to be joined very shortly by Mr. Tom Rideout, the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale.

My name is Roger Fitzgerald and, by being the Speaker, I am the Chair of the Committee.

We will start the business of the Committee by approving the minutes from the April 18, 2008 meeting.

Any comments on the minutes as written? If not, the Chair will entertain the adoption of the minutes, the approval of the minutes.

Moved my Ms Michael, seconded by Mr. Parsons, that the minutes of the April 18, 2008 meeting be adopted as written.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion is carried.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: Any business arising from the minutes as written?

The update from the subcommittee: I will call on the Clerk, if he would be kind enough to take us into where we are on the subcommittee and the review of caucus resources.

The Clerk.

CLERK (MacKenzie): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have met with the company - and I should point out at the outset, our minutes the last time spoke of company A being awarded the contract because we had not spoken with them. We have now had meetings with them. The company is EFG Metrics. We have had two meetings with them now. They have the materials that we have all had at the Commission, all the background material and the other jurisdictionsí experiences and so one. They have a letter ready to go out to caucus chairs and-or party leaders, introducing themselves, with a list of questions they will want to meet various members of the House to debate or to discuss. They will get a limited sample. I do not think they will interview forty-eight people but they will cover all parties and various office holders and so on.

They have a draft advertisement ready to go for the solicitation of the publicís views. You will remember that was part of their proposal. They are going to start doing a jurisdictional scan with four or five of the other provinces, so I have an e-mail ready to go to the Clerks of those jurisdictions introducing the company principles so that they can deal directly with the Clerks in the other provinces.

They think they can still finish up by the end of May, which was essentially their time line, four to five weeks start to finish. So, in the next few days your caucus chairs or party leaders should start receiving letters and they will try to schedule some interview time with you.

I pointed out that with the House open plus Estimates Committees, it is going to be a little difficult for you to find the time. You may find, some of you, that you only have Fridays. I do not know what your calendars are, but it is an important matter so I guess you should try to find the time to help them out with their advice.

Anything I missed?

MS KEEFE: No, I do not think so.

MR. SPEAKER: Any comments or suggestions?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible) a question.

Do you think, Mr. Mackenzie, that there will be flexibility with them? For example, if I said I was willing to do five oíclock someday that they would be open to that kind of flexibility on their side?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, I am sure. I mean, they are working as consultants. It is not nine to five. If they have to do some evenings and so on, I am sure they would be more than willing.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?

The next item on the agenda would be the update on the committee room. As members would know, this has been a topic that has been discussed here before. In fact, there was a letter included in our last set of minutes from the Minister of Transportation & Works indicating that there was not much hope in us being provided with a designated Committee room anytime within the near future.

We have been down and we have looked at the old Colonial Building but that is three years into the future. They are about to start making some changes down there to that building and one of the things that they are looking at doing is to incorporate a room there for such things as we talked about. An excellent location and an excellent place in order to, I guess, with the ambiance there, conduct our meetings, but that is certainly a longtime into the future.

Do members have other suggestions or does the Commission want to enforce or ask for a Committee room, because obviously it is not going to happen anytime soon.

We have included in the Budget this year a cost for portable camera equipment which will give us the flexibility to go to another room if we deem necessary and to be able to broadcast. That again is further down the road but at least it is something that we might see quicker than what it going to happen at the Colonial Building and will give us an opportunity to use other rooms.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I remember when we first had the discussion and I had suggested that an extension of this table would allow enough space for the committee to meet. At that time it was impossible because of the fixed nature of the cameras that are already in the Assembly, but if we used the movable cameras then wouldnít that be possible?

MR. SPEAKER: It is certainly food for thought. If we have portable cameras, I see no reason - we would have to talk with broadcasting - but I see no reason why they could not be used here as well as in another room.

I think what we were trying to get away from was the adversarial seating arrangement where we would be seated on each side of each other or in a form that we are used to in a different nature all day long, but it is something that we can certainly talk about.

Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: I wonder what is meant, though, when they talk about portable cameras. Are they talking about something that will come into a committee room and tape a meeting and have a tape available? Is that the portability they are talking about? Are they talking about a camera that would be doing a live feed, because that is what we would be talking about as the requirements for this committee? It would not necessarily be a requirement for some other committee of the House at the present time, although the House may at some point want to ensure that all of its committees are broadcast. This committee, it is mandatory that it be broadcast, so unless it is a live feed it is no good to us. That would have to be clarified.

Why would the old Colonial Building be on a three-year deferral if we wanted to use the Colonial Building and it was suitable to use?

I remember, when I was on the Public Accounts Committee back in the late 1970s and 1980s, we in fact used the Colonial Building in those days for Public Accounts Committee meetings. I do not know whether it has deteriorated to the point that it cannot be used, the old Chamber or the Upper House, the two public Chambers that were available down there at that point in time. I mean, it was only up until The Rooms came on the scene, just a few short years ago, that it was used still as the public archives, the building was, and all of that.

So, maybe we should push ahead rather than be pushed back, and tell Transportation and Works that the House requires a room to be used as a committee room. We require a committee room, even without the televising of this Committee. We have need of a committee room for Estimates purposes. We need a permanent committee room.

AN HON. MEMBER: Public Accounts.

MR. RIDEOUT: Public Accounts is another one.

So, the House has to have a permanent committee room. We gave up the permanent committee room up on the fifth floor because of expansion of the House for Hansard purposes and so on. So I think we have to tell Transportation and Works that we need a room, and they have to find us a room, and the Colonial Building is one option.

Personally, I like the Colonial Building idea. It would keep that as part of our political heritage, where a lot of the political history of this Province occurred, going back to the days of Responsible Government and the National Convention and so on. I have always argued for having some political activity, public activity, in the Colonial Building. In fact, where we are today, as far as I am concerned, should have been the Colonial Building, but it is too late to talk about that now. I think we are going to have to push back a bit harder, perhaps, on the Colonial Building.

MR. SPEAKER: My understanding is that the portable camera will give us the instant broadcasting ability, and it will not have to be taped and broadcast later.

We were at the Colonial Building last Thursday morning. The Colonial Building, in its present state, does not lend itself to be very acceptable for meetings right now. It is my understanding that they are about to Ė there has been some funding already identified Ė they are about to proceed to turn it into a construction zone to refurbish the old building. So, the Colonial Building is not a place, right now, that would be acceptable, not only to this Committee here but to any committee, and I do not see it changing, Mr. Clerk, any time in the near future. In fact, it is used now for storage.

You are right - I went there in 1993, when we used to have our Estimates meetings there - it was one of the locations where we would meet, but it is certainly not a place that you would want to conduct a meeting now.

The Clerk.

CLERK: We met some people from Tourism, Culture and Recreation there, as the Speaker said, last week, and did a tour of it. They are just now putting together specifications to go out to tender so that they can get their plans done. It will probably be the balance of this year, because they need to preserve the historical flavour of the building. In some cases, they need to dismantle modern additions and bring it back to a certain point in time; I think it is the 1880s. There are a number of significant changes to make, and then there are structural matters to be addressed, the decorative elements. They think they will be a year developing their plans. These plans, of course, are to keep the historical nature but include all modern wiring, sprinkler systems and all of that, and two yearsí construction.

It is an ambitious project. It will probably be 2011 before it is actually useable, so that is quite a ways down the road. Once it is done, they are very interested to having us use it. They would even like to have the lower Chamber used for ceremonial purposes by the House, on occasion, as well as committee purposes.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation would like the House to use it, but it is three years out.

MR. SPEAKER: Getting back to Mr. Rideoutís statement, what we did as a Commission was write the minister and put forward the need for a committee room. What I am hearing is that we should write the minister again and ask that the committee room be provided ASAP.

Ms Jones.

MS JONES: I was just going to ask, because I like the idea that Mr. Rideout has put forward to use the Colonial Building in the future as the committee room for the Assembly, in the meantime is there something that we could look at? Is there any space in The Rooms that we might be able to use on an interim basis, until that work is done in the Colonial Building, or are there any other government properties that might be able to make that space available to us for the next two or three years, if that is what is required?

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: That is another idea and another alternative that I think could be and should be explored.

You know, maybe taking some House offices that are administrative and putting them out into a rental space for two or three years is an alternative. The bottom line is that this Chamber requires a committee room. We need it for this committee and we need it for at least one Estimates Committee. We have three Estimate Committees starting work on Monday of this week. Outside of this Chamber, they really do not have a home; and, two of them have to meet at the same time to get our work done within the confines of our Standing Orders.

The House is strapped in terms of space, so perhaps the thing is to identify a unit that we control, that the House controls, an administrative arm of the House, and take it and put it out in rental space for the next two or three years and we use that space on an interim basis.

The best set-up for us would be as close to this Chamber as possible, obviously, because of cameras and everything else, and if we are meeting like this after a regular parliamentary day then this is pretty convenient. The Colonial Building, on a long-term basis, is not bad - it is a good alternative - but the bottom line is that we need a committee room, and we need a committee room, like, yesterday. So, we have to identify some space for a committee room, whether it is in here and move somebody out in rental space - which I would prefer, rather than us going into rental space. I mean, we are the House; it is the peopleís House. Nobody controls us in the sense that the government is not going to say move out or move in. We control this House, and the space surrounding it, so perhaps the ideas ought to be explored of: Do we have some flexibility in space that we can identify, and then tell public works that we want them to rent some space for that particular unit and we will use that room as a committee room on an interim basis until the Colonial Building is done? Maybe, as Ms Jones said, The Rooms might be another alternative.

I am open, but I think we have to push it and we have to get space. We need space.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: I agree with the suggestion put forward by the Government House Leader. I would say, in the meantime, that if Tourism are going to be renovating the Colonial Building, as opposed to them renovating it with the hopes that we are going to use it, I think there should be some collaboration to ensure that the rooms they are renovating will fit the needs and purposes of the House for committee purposes and other purposes, so that in 2010 or 2011, when that is completed, we donít find out we still canít use it because it is not appropriate for our needs.

MR. SPEAKER: That is why we have met with them on two occasions already, and we visited the site, and that is part of the plan that they are putting together.

My understanding is that the Clerk has a suggestion, if we want to probably go outside the House. The Clerk may want to identify some information that he has.

CLERK: Further to Ms Jonesí comment, I am aware of another space. I have not even spoken to the department that controls that space; but, in asking where might there be space around, even outside the building, it was brought to my attention that the old Art Gallery space in the Arts and Culture Centre does not yet have a permanent use. Over in the Arts and Culture Centre, when the art gallery moved to The Rooms, that space, as I understand it, has not been permanently reassigned to some other use. Now, it is Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation space and I have never even spoken to them. It was just pointed out to me that that might be a space big enough for a committee room which, as far as I understand, does not have another use now.

MR. SPEAKER: What we are hearing is that we do need a committee room. That is certainly established. Do we want to proceed in looking for space within the confines of the Confederation Building, or should we look for alternatives in close proximity? Where should we be channeling our efforts?

Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: Preferably, Mr. Speaker, if we could identify a unit of this House that could operate just as easily, in this day and age, on the dark side of the moon as they can operate here next door to the House, we could offer that up as an alternative for rental space and then we would take that over. It is more convenient for the House to be close to the House, whether it is the Public Accounts Committee, whether it is this committee or whether it is an Estimates Committee. Members offices are here and everything. It seems to me it wouldnít be a great big deal for a unit of Hansard or a unit of our administrative section, or a unit of something that the House controls, offer it up as an alternative for rental space and we would take that in the interim. That seems to me to be the best approach.

MR. SPEAKER: I think we have clear direction that we will pursue the committee room, look within the walls of the building and if we canít find the alternative here or if we need something in the meantime while that is happening we will bring a suggestion back to another meeting.

Are there any other comments on committee rooms? I think we have heard it all.

We are joined by Mr. Taylor from The Straits & White Bay North as well.

The next item on the agenda is an update on financial reports. I will turn that over to the Clerk.

CLERK: Just an update matter, because as you know the Commission is responsible for reviewing the accounts of the House quarterly. The last time we did it was January, the January 23 meeting, but rather than bring it forward now we thought, since we are at the end of the fiscal year and today is the end of the write back period, because we are allowed the thirty days of April to conclude all old year transaction processing, we may as well get this write back period done so in a couple of more weeks Ė give us two weeks to produce the reports, so probably mid-May we will do the quarterly instead of now.

It is a small matter, but the Act does say quarterly so I wanted to bring it to the attention, that we try to keep this regular. If we were to do it immediately, we wouldnít have the full and final year end, so another couple of weeks will give us the year end.

MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda is a report on section 18(4). Section 18(4) is a form actually that would be used in order to report costs which exceeded the allocation to the Management Commission for the accommodation of constituency offices, which was set at $7,000. Some of the amounts reported and approved previously did not include the cost of signage for those particular offices.

If you look on your agenda there, you will see a number of constituency offices that have been opened and some signage is not applicable. There are three there, Bay Verte-Springdale, Bay of Islands, and Burgeo & LaPoile. In other locations there, the cost range for signage identifying those offices ranged from $100 to $1,720. Those costs were not included in the particular rental agreements. Members have seen fit that they need the signage in order to direct their constituents to their office location and the request is that this signage - not the annual rent, it is a one-time cost, actually - be approved by the Commission.

Before we get into a discussion on that, the Speaker would also like to draw your attention to the annual rent for the Humber Valley office for $17,750, and the signage cost for that particular office is $400. That actual rental agreement has been signed off and I am hereby reporting it to the Commission. The member there from Humber Valley has gone through advertising and trying to identify an office and this has been the only accommodations that have been suitable to rent in that particular area.

Any comments on the signage?

Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: I just have one comment on the signage, Mr. Speaker, and that is there was a signage cost incurred for my constituency house in Baie Verte-Springdale, that is not here, but I just want to tell you that I know it has been signed off and installed. So, it will appear at some point.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: The same thing on Burgeo & LaPoile, Mr. Speaker. There has been a signage cost; I cannot recall right now what it was. I was not aware, for example, that signage was not included until now. So I will just forward that information along to the clerk.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I know that it is probably too late for this assembly, but where the signage cost varies so much, from $100 for the ones that we have there up to $1,700, obviously, the signs must be all different. We should probably stipulate specifications for the signs and have some sort of standard to control the cost rather than have all the signs coming in at varying costs.

MR. SPEAKER: There is, certainly, a big difference, and I do not know what a $100 sign would purchase and what the other one there on the extreme end of the scale would purchase.

Any comments or suggestions?

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I think that we - because in the absence of guidelines, I think that we have to deal with it now. I think not only do we need to establish a standard for the sign but we need to establish an upper mark for the cost of a sign.

I have had a constituency office in my district now for four years or three years, and it is a eight-and-a-half by eleven sheet of paper stuck in the window of the town hall, and it cost fifty cents, I suspect.

I understand that people want signs but maybe - everybodyís district is not like mine, I understand that too, where everybody knows where my office is by word of mouth, but we really need to - the cost of implementing the Green report is far in excess of the cost associated with the stuff that was associated with it. So letís not get carried away with this stuff now, which is going to bring us to the next one on furniture.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?

Ms Marshall.

MS MARSHALL: Are we going to talk about the annual rent?

MR. SPEAKER: Maybe we can deal with the signage thing and give the Commission some direction or give the Chair some direction of where we want to go with sign allocation or sign allotment for cost and then we can revert to the rent after.

Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: My only comment is that I think there ought to be a standard sign, whatever that is for everybody, but I can only speak - I saw the sign on my office once. I have been there once since February, I think. It just has the Newfoundland Coat of Arms up in the corner and it says Tom Rideout, MHA BaieVerte-Springdale. That is all it says on a piece of stuff that does not disintegrate in the weather, up on the side of a building. I do know it was $1,200 or $1,300, I am told. Again, it was done by going and asking for three proposals or three bids, whatever the rules of the House are and that kind of thing. So, they ought to be standard but having said that, I do not know how you get one for $100 vis-ŗ-vis, $1,700 or $1,800.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I am not questioning what the amount should be. All I am saying is that we can spend $1,700 on a sign, but, with the way constituency allowances are structured now, I cannot have my constituency assistant travel around my district beyond six months. So, there are some serious problems with this.

I would rather have the cost of the sign hauled down and have our people more accessible to the constituents, than I would have a sign up telling people where the office is, that they already know exists.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I will just comment that I guess there is not much you can do with regard to these particular ones that have already been done, but on a go-forward basis I think the standard will, in some ways, dictate the cost. For example, in mine, I think it is around $50 that the signage cost came to. All I have - it is a main street office, and I just had put in the window: Kelvin Parsons, MHA, Burgeo & LaPoile. It cost $50, I think.

I think what you are seeing here is probably some people who have lit signs, maybe, or whether it is an eight by twelve; you know what I am saying. The size of it is one of the big determining factors, and the material that you use in it, but surely a policy on the standard of the sign, I think, will get rid of the issue of the cost.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I think we should get some direction.

The other thing members have to be aware of as well, I guess: a sign in a place like St. Anthony, or a memberís constituency office in St. Anthony, versus a memberís constituency office in Holyrood, there might be a completely different location where a lot of people in the Holyrood area may want signage, or the member there, because of where the office is located, it being a busy place, and I guess being close to such an urban centre. In other smaller locations it might be very quickly identified where the memberís office is Ė but we have asked for direction.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Just a couple of different points.

There is no approval required of the Commission, because the Speaker approves these. This is just reporting to. These are done, approved, settled, but the Speaker has to report to the Commission whenever the $7,000 is exceeded.

These two expensive signs, yes, they are illuminated, two by eight illuminated signs, with electrical hookups and so on and so forth, whereas others would be a piece of plywood on the side of the building, so that is the variation.

The Department of Transportation and Works has certain guidelines for signs. Because it changes by buildings and so on, they are not hard and fast specs, but they do have guidelines which include electrical use, for instance. So we may find the standard sign, according to Transportation and Works specs, does reach the $1,500-$2,000 sort of cost.

For instance, they talk about the sign width, height and graphic layout in accordance with the Graphic Standards Manual. Now, I am not sure that has been updated. That goes back to the use of the crest as opposed to the new one the Department of Business is organizing under the brand - lettering and sizing in accordance with good visual standards, high output instant-start fluorescent lamps and a heavy ballast photocell operation, heavy-duty gauge extruded aluminium with reinforced corners, all installation including wiring and controls, the lessor responsible for all ongoing electrical costs.

So they do have these sorts of standards, but we may find that they are in the $1,500-$2,000 range if we apply those as we would to a government office.

We can certainly work up some specs to bring back (inaudible) standards.

MR. SPEAKER: I, as Chair, would like some direction. While I have the authority to approve signage, I would like to have some direction and to hear from the Commission as to what they would feel is acceptable, because right now it is not clear to me.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: All I was going to say is, look, it is nice to have a sign, but letís not drive the cost of this through the roof.

I have to say, the way that the fall-out from the Green Report has been implemented is costing the House of Assembly a huge amount of money - costing the taxpayers, I should say, that is correct - a huge amount of money for less access to their member and to the people who work with their member.

Every time I turn around, I see a piece of paper that says we are going to spend more money on something that has nothing to do with accessibility to the member, like furniture in our offices, and the way we are dealing with that, and signage and whatever.

Yes, the standard is the standard, but standards can be inflated too. I agree with the standard, but I do not agree with it in the absence of a price cap.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: I still think you have to parameters around it. You cannot just leave it open-ended with regard to the signage. You can tighten up the parameters so that everybody gets a $100 sign, but that would be up to us.

To look at it now and see some people are paying $50 for a sign and some people are paying $2,000 for a sign, obviously there is something wrong.

MR. TAYLOR: There is not necessarily anything wrong with what they are doing. Letís just clarify that.

MR. SPEAKER: Maybe the Commission would be happy enough if we drew up some direction and brought it back to the next management meeting for approval. Would the Commission agree with that?

CLERK: Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: I agree, as well, that there should be some limits. It should not be open for somebody to go out and get whatever sign and expect somebody to pay for it.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Mr. Speaker, we cannot say next meeting. I am already at least one meeting behind in what I was directed to do last meeting.

MR. SPEAKER: Subsequent another meeting.

CLERK: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the Commission agree?

Ms Marshall, you wanted to raise the issue with rental space.

MS E. MARSHALL: I just want to mention the point, Mr. Speaker, that there is a requirement that we comply with the Public Tender Act, or that would be my interpretation of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act. There is no information there as to whether all of this space has been publicly tendered or has complied with the Public Tender Act, but there is a requirement to comply with the Public Tender Act.

MR. SPEAKER: My understanding was Ė and I think it came probably from the member who was seeking office space, who indicated that they did advertise for space. In some cases there have been only one or two locations in the district where they wanted to set up their offices, and if that was the case then it was invited tenders. Where there was a space where people would have an opportunity to tender, it was published either in the local paper or by some other local means where people would be aware of it.

Does the Clerk have something to add?

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Ms Marshall does raise a rather complicated issue. There are two issues at work here. When the rules that Chief Justice Green wrote were brought forward and adopted as is, exactly as he wrote them, he has a whole means under sections 18, 19 and 20, I guess, of how these offices are selected. All he asked members to do was solicit three bids, look at them and decide based on what suits the member.

Under the Public Tender Act, as I understand it, and I am by no means an expert on it, if the estimated cost of a lease is less than $10,000 it is acceptable just to get the three quotes and you donít have to go through the full public tender process. Our Act says we must follow the Public Tender Act unless the Commission adopts alternative and appropriate policies. I suppose one could argue that the three quote process listed in the membersí rules is an alternative policy, as we are permitted under the Act, in the application of the Public Tender Act.

Ms Marshall and I have discussed this and the three quotes for leased properties under the Public Tender Act are if the estimated cost is less than $10,000. When we started this process, because it was only a $7,000 maximum allowed the rules, we assumed that it would be under $10,000. As we started seeking these quotes, and as the Speaker said in some cases issued full public tenders with ads, $7,000 does not rent an office anymore in most of this Province. I think we may have - we have one I know of, the Member for Terra Nova and there may be one other office that is actually under the $7,000.

So, if you look at this list of the annual rent, $1,000 a month seems to be the minimum and then it goes up. Ms Marshall does raise a point, it is probably worth reviewing. If we had estimated the cost at $7,000, the three quotes is complying with the Public Tender Act. Based on the experience, we could probably assume we will not now find space for under $10,000 and the Public Tender Act would require us then to go through other processes. So, I do not think it is a dramatic violation but it is something that is probably worth reviewing. We could ask the Government Purchasing Agency to give us help on it or have our law clerk look at it. GPA does audits of various client departments and agencies. We could ask them to have a look because we certainly do not want to violate it. We are obligated to follow the Public Tender Act. The question is, our process to date, was that adequate to be in compliant with the Public Tender Act? So, we could review it, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: (Inaudible) I think that is a good idea. I would like to have it reviewed and I am sure the Government Purchasing Agency would be very agreeable to doing that. I think we have already been cited for violations of the Public Tender Act. So I would like to, from here on in, make sure that we are complying with proper legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?

MR. TAYLOR: Just one.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I know you wish I did not show up, but anyway. Just one, and it has nothing to do with whether we change the process when it comes to - do we need the size offices that are prescribed? I mean really, that is what is driving the price. I have an office in St. Anthony, I am paying $300 a month, and I have been paying that for three years. If we go to tender on the specs that have been defined, you are not getting it less than $10,000 and I am going to end up, more than likely, in the mall in St. Anthony. I do not care where it is to be honest with you, but I am telling you, in order to get the kind of facility that is being talked about - which I personally do not think is required and I have not heard any of my constituents say they wanted a spot with three offices and four chairs and a coffee table et cetera, et cetera. Maybe we need to review - before we decide on how we are going to approach this, maybe we need to review the specs for the office with an option to downsize, because I tell you, we are chewing up a lot of money that is not doing anything to service the constituents that we are supposed to be servicing. The office that I have in St. Anthony, while it should be wheelchair accessible and it currently is not, that is the only complaint I have about it. Adding two more offices and another half-dozen chairs, tables, desks, another two computers and stuff like that, is going to do little to assist the people who are there.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: The comment I would make, Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate the Member for St. Anthony making the comments but he is new to the Committee and new to the Commission, but letís not forget what we are all here for. There are two words in this act that we passed in this House last year, accountability and administration, the other one is integrity. We passed that as a House, and if we can sit here - we went through all of this in former meetings. We have had dozens of meetings of this Commission before today. We have walked through all of this. It is not a case of us deciding whether we like it or we do not like it. We are living with a law that Chief Justice Green drafted and gave to us. I do not think it is accomplishing anything to sit here and say we want to look at building a new barn. We were told the barn that we were going to have by the Chief Justice. Albeit, some of it might seem mundane in a lot of cases, but that is what we have been now told to do because we did not do those things in the past. Although some of these issues, like whether you have a $50 sign, or $100 sign, or $1,000 sign might seem to be mundane, we are, by obligation now, forced to get down and deal with these issues. I think that the reason is obvious; it is because before former IECs - of which I was a member as well - did not take the time to do that and certainly did not do it under public scrutiny.

This issue of a standard office, the Chief Justice considered all of that when he said standardize an office. Somebody sat down and discussed all of this and he just -

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible) what Chief Justice said about the issue we dealt with two weeks ago, too, Kelvin.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons, please.

MR. PARSONS: The member can certainly talk whenever he likes. I am just trying to make it clear here that it seems from your comments that you have a problem with spending the money. All I am saying is we have been told the rules that we have to live by. We can sit here for the next ten years and say we disagree with this, we disagree with that. It is like I told Chief Justice Green, personally. I disagree with a lot of things that he said, and he admittedly says too, himself, I am not going to be perfect on everything. That is why he came back, for example, in a public forum here and indicated why he felt the way he did about the Auditor General, but he is not going to come back to us on every little issue about the size of your rental office or whatever. He gave us the guidelines, and I think we have to accept that. We have to deal with it. That is our purpose of being in on the Committee, and if we are going to sit down every second meeting and redo whether we need a standardized office or not, we are never going to get anywhere.

MR. SPEAKER: I will just make a comment before I recognize another couple of members who want to add to the debate.

It is clear, Chief Justice Green has stated, and I think he indicated between 350 and 400 square feet that he recommended for an office space. He also recommended what the offices should contain. We are guided by the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, and the rules that are accompanied by that act. A lot of those issues were discussed at other meetings. So I ask members to keep that in mind, and if there are changes maybe we can put it on the agenda to be brought back for another meeting.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, Chief Justice Green prescribed what the travel allowance is going to be, he prescribed what the meal allowance is going to be, and he prescribed what the per diem rate was going to be. As I recall, two meetings ago we changed that, and that was to exceed what he prescribed. What I am suggesting is that what he has prescribed is excessive. All I am saying is that maybe it needs to be looked at and maybe it needs to be scaled back. That is all I am saying, and that a standard be set that is more applicable.

MR. SPEAKER: We are straying off -

MR. TAYLOR: It makes no difference to me if all we are going to do, if the Management Commission - he also recommended that a Management Commission be struck and that we are responsible for the ongoing operations of the House and membersí allowances and so on and so forth. As part of that, we were charged with making decisions to alter, one way or the other, what he prescribed. We accepted it at that time. Now, I am not looking for a bigger office. All I am saying is that I am going cost the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador another $7,000 or $8,000 or $10,000 in order to have the office that the Chief Justice said I should have, and I can get it right now for $3,600. Anyway, if people do not agree with it, that is fine, I have no problem with that.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, maybe we can -

MR. TAYLOR: I am not finished, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I am not finished. So anyway, that is fine, but if we are just going to come here everyday and say: Okay, well Chief Justice Green said this a year ago, or in a yearís time we say he said it two years ago, then I do not see the point of sitting around and having a discussion about it. What is the point of having a meeting? Anyway, that is all I am going to say about it.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Chair?

MR. SPEAKER: Before I entertain any other speakers, we are off on a Ė we introduced here a signage and the approval for one particular office which Chief Justice Green clearly stated, within the rules and the parameters of the act, that we should be doing. It should be brought back to the Commission merely to report.

I think we are kind of getting off track here, of the particular agenda that we put forward for today. If members want to add a concern about the size of offices to a future meeting then the Chair will certainly entertain that, but I would like to wrap up this debate that we are having now on office space because it is not on the agenda and it is new to what we are discussing here today.

We have all agreed as a Commission that, before we discuss any new items, it would be brought forward to be put on the agenda rather than introduce new topics at a Commission meeting. That is where we are going, and I would like for us to bring it around and get back to the agenda.

I recognize the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Osborne, if it is a new topic.

MR. T. OSBORNE: No, my topic was on office space.

MR. SPEAKER: I would just as soon if we Ė

MR. T. OSBORNE: I know. Fair enough.

MR. SPEAKER: In fact, I would suggest that if members have problems with office space then we put it on the agenda and bring it back to another meeting.

We will move on with the agenda as we have put forward here today, and the next item up for debate is the per diem for eligible members of the Commission and committees of the House.

As members will note, in the past, members of Public Accounts were paid a per diem on an annual basis, and when there were special committees of the House struck and they met outside of the House being open, I think Ė and I stand to be corrected, but I think I am correct here - that the Chair of that particular meeting, of that committee, would get $100, the Vice-Chair would get $75, and there would be no payment for committee members.

With the present structure of committees - and here again going by Chief Justice Green and the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act - members of the Public Accounts Committee now would only get paid for meetings, and not get a regular salary, when that committee is struck. The only two people who would get paid would be the Chair of Public Accounts and the Vice-Chair of Public Accounts. That would extend to all the other committees of the House as well, including this particular committee.

The Chair is looking for some guidance on what would be acceptable as a per diem to be paid for members sitting on a committee of the House, and we are open for comments and suggestions on that particular topic as well.

If you look at the action required, where we talk about committee allowance, we clearly state there what the House of Assembly committees are and the per diem that members would consider would be a per diem for members who would sit on those particular committees of the House when the House is not in session.

Comments?

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to state that I am probably in a conflict on this item, based on the briefing note provided by officials. I may be one of the members who might be eligible for a per diem, so I will not be voting on this issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk can probably lead us through what Chief Justice Green has suggested in the act of what members should be paid.

CLERK: With respect to the Commission, Ms Marshall is right. Under the current composition of the Commission, many of the other members are in receipt of office holder salaries, or ministers and so on, so they would not be eligible. With the current makeup of the seven members, it would only be Ms Marshall who would be eligible for this of the Commission.

Similarly, on the committee, the Audit Committee of the Commission, it would only be Ms Marshall. Then you get into all of the other Standing and Select Committees of the House. Some members of the Commission are on those; many would not be, because it is private members.

What the act says is he left it up to the Commission to determine the per diem for committee members as long as there was a maximum of $200. It might have been helpful had he set a dollar figure, but he did not. He simply said up to $200 is the appropriate per diem, and for the Commission to decide it.

It would only apply when the House is not in session, so it is not an urgent matter as the House is now sitting; but, as committees start, whenever the House closes, we should really establish this. It also covers the expenses of people coming in for committee meetings and so on.

When we tried to find some precedents to guide this, there was very little, as the Speaker said, in terms of per diems. There had been a practice of annual stipends for committees such as Public Accounts, but there was little guidance for per diems, except a Level 1 practice in government, the Level 1 remuneration for boards and commissions. That was really the only per diem we could find, and that is the level noted on the top of the second page of the briefing note.

The other point to make is - and it is why we had to exchange this note with you today, and I apologize for that - we thought it was simply a matter of the Commission making a decision as to the appropriate per diem; but, in fact, when you go on in the act to section 15 it says that it has to be a rule. So, whatever decision we make, we have to make a rule or amend the existing rule. So, we will have to decide today, bring it back to the next Commission meeting, and then have the Office of the Legislative Counsel do the final drafting for publishing in the Newfoundland and Labrador Gazette.

We had suggested a change to rule 45. There is a small section in the rules called 45, Committee Allowances, so we have included suggested wording subject to final drafting but did not include a recommended per diem.

I donít know if that helps, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: Well, Mr. Chairman, I am going to say what I think. Whether I am shot for it after, or not, I couldnít care less, to be honest with you.

We are all in a conflict of interest on this Commission right now, except for Ms Marshall, because every one of us here is getting an extra income as a result of some office that we hold. I get paid as a minister, I make no bones about it, and I think I earn my salary, and I do not back in and take my cheque, but I get paid as a minister. So does Mr. Taylor. The Deputy Speaker gets something extra. The Leader of the Opposition gets the same as I get as a minister. The House Leader for the Opposition gets something extra. I do not get paid extra because I am Deputy Premier. I do not get paid extra because I am Government House Leader. I get one extra pay, as a minister.

It seems to me that members of the House, if they are going to serve on committees Ė you know, members of the House are making a reasonably good salary compared to the rest of the people in the Province at todayís standards. I am not saying that they are not earning their salary, but when the House is open or there is committee business of the House to be done, I really donít understand why there has to be a per diem for members to do the work of the House.

I have difficulty with it. I have difficulty with it in practice and in theory, and I really do not see it. That is my view of it.

MR. SPEAKER: I assume, Mr. Rideout, you are aware that we are talking about when the House is not in session.

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

MR. RIDEOUT: There are expenses to come in for the meetings, no problem. I mean, if they have to come in because of House business, to do House business, you expect them to be paid, their expenses to be paid, to get a per diem or their hotel paid, their meals paid, their airfare paid. I have not problem with any of that, but they are still getting paid to be a member of the House, whether the House is in session or whether the House in not in session. Of course, we all understand that members work, whether the House is in session or not in session, on behalf of their constituents, so I have trouble buying into this business of extra per diem for doing committee work for the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The Commission is wide open for suggestions.

If that is what the Commission decides, then that is fair enough; but, you know, we are putting forward Ė this is the reason why we meet. There are some shortcomings here that we need further direction from and an interpretation of the House of Assembly Accountability and Integrity Act. If that is the wish of the commission, then that is fair.

Would somebody want to put that in the form of a motion?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Just a point of clarification; maybe the Clerk can educate me.

Did Chief Justice Green say anything about chairs and vice-chairs? Did I understand you correctly, that he did deal with those?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: There is nothing in the Act, and I have not checked his report to see if he mentioned it. He may well have, but in the Act he just speaks of members. The pay for chairs and vice-chairs, that was a practice under the IEC regime, where chairs and vice-chairs got it. I would have to check his report, but he certainly does not specify that in the Act. He just talks about members of the committees.

MR. PARSONS: (Inaudible).

CLERK: Yes, they are part of the salary holders, just as Opposition House Leader and so on and so forth. The Chair and Vice-Chair of Public Accounts, those are the only committee chairs and vice-chairs with an annual salary.

MR. PARSONS: The reason I ask for clarification is because Ms Marshall is not a member of the Audit Committee, she is the Chair of the Audit committee. I did not know if he had already given some directions on chairs and vice-chairs. We would not have to deal with it in her case as say for a member, she would fall under whatever rule applied to chairs. That is why I was not sure what he did or did not say.

MR. SPEAKER: It is my understanding, and I stand to be corrected, that in reading the Act and in reading the report the only two positions that he clearly identified that were with a salary was the Chair and the Vice-Chair of Public Accounts.

The Chair is open, the Commission is open, to entertain a motion that the Commission not consider any per diem for members who serve on committees of the House, other than those already identified under the Green Report, the Chair and the Vice-Chair of Public Accounts.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I would just like to suggest, can we maybe defer it until the next meeting, Mr. Chair? It might not be a bad idea for us to just sit back and reflect on that, considering that all of us are - I can see both sides of it. We are all in a bit of a conundrum here when it comes to that, I am not sure either one of us - it would be nice if Judge Green had been as explicit on this as he was on some other things.

MR. SPEAKER: We can certainly defer it to another meeting if that is the wish of the Commission.

Is it the wish of the commission that we defer it to another meeting and have it brought back on the agenda at a future meeting?

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, that particular piece of business for the per diem for eligible members for Commission and committees of the House will be deferred.

Moving along to new business: The next item under new business is Tuition Assistance Policy.

I am going to ask the Clerk to help us on this particular one as well.

The Clerk.

CLERK: This is really, I guess, a rather straightforward matter. In the Executive Branch of Government there is a Tuition Assistance Policy where staff who are pursuing University or College courses and so on can get up to 50 per cent of the tuition covered, predicated on successful completion of the course. It is paid after the fact with proof of passing and proof of expenses paid. This is really a government policy but we brought it forward for this reason. The Executive Branch policy says the deputy minister - approves is the term used but in fact it is recommend, because the deputy ministers recommendation then goes to the Centre for Learning and Development, part of the Public Service Secretariat who actually controls the money that pays for this.

If we were to simply adopt governmentís policy verbatim it would say that we have to go to the Centre for Learning and Development of the Public Service Secretariat for approval. All we have done is replaced the Deputy Minister and Centre for Learning and Development references with the Clerk, so that we are just handling it within the Legislative Branch. Other than that, it is the identical policy as the Executive Branch of Government.

MR. SPEAKER: Any comments or suggestions on the Tuition Assistance Program?

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Just clarification, Mr. Speaker.

Does this policy apply to people like constituency assistants? Is this just for your office or would this also include constituency assistants people in that category?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: The government policy would be silent on it and I do not think it would apply to contractual in the Executive Branch of Government, because it is designed, I think, for permanent staff or perhaps long serving temporaries, part-time. There is no real reason why we could not adapt it to political support staff. The Executive Branch policy which we have adopted does not, but we could adapt it.

MS E. MARSHALL: The point I would like to make on it is that I know that there are - it does not apply to myself - but there are constituency assistants who have been working in the system for, I think, twenty or twenty-five years and I am sure that some of those people could probably use training that is specific to their positions. I was wondering as to whether they would be provided with the opportunity, because as I say some of them have been here for quite a few years.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: If you look at the program itself right after the briefing note, Ms Keefe pointed out the eligibility there. We really just took the Executive Branch one of government. Under the eligibility heading it talks about full-time or part-time permanent because that is what the Executive Branch of government would think of, the permanent employees of a department. Because there is a political support contract, by just making a wholesale adoption of the Executive Branch one it would not be covered. We could change that if the Commission wished.

This speaks to tuition courses, college and university and so on. With respect to shorter term professional development opportunities, Green was also very explicit that those should be provided to all staff, to members, constituency assistants and so on. That is really up to my office to develop opportunities there or to have constituency assistants and others with contractual employment come forward. That would be a separate piece with the short-term courses, but if there was a need to include tuition reimbursement we would just rewrite the eligibility section of this policy.

MS E. MARSHALL: Yes. I would like to have it considered. As I say, I am aware that there are a number of people who have been in the system for a number of years. In fact, some of them are quite qualified, have bachelor degrees, I think some of them may even have a masters, but they might identify continuing education opportunities relevant to their jobs. I would be interested in hearing what other members on the Commission think about this.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments regarding the item under the Tuition Assistance Policy Program.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would move that the Tuition Assistance Policy be adopted by the Commission.

In regards to the comment by Ms Marshall I think there is a lot of discretion invested with the Clerk. The Clerk has to approve every application. I think, in his wisdom, leave it to him if he feels it is appropriate that it would be approved.

MS E. MARSHALL: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Can somebody second that motion?

Seconded by Ms Marshall.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Mr. Speaker, I just want to be clear.

As it is written, it says, full-time or part-time permanent and then full-time or part-time temporary employees with five or more continuous years. Although temporary sounds like the contractual, I think it means something different in government terminology. A temporary employee is not a contractual employee. The way this is currently written the contractuals would not be eligible. We could adapt by adding that word and then leaving it to the discretion - just add the word contractual.

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible) five years.

CLERK: Yes, something like that; full-time or part-time, temporary or contractual employees with five or more years, something like that. Okay.

MR. SPEAKER: Would Mr. Parsons want to build that into his motion and make his motion part of the language that is used by the Clerk? I am not even going to attempt to repeat it in case it may change.

MR. PARSONS: Yes, I do not know if I would use that word contractual. If we are talking about constituency assistants, why wouldnít we just say this policy shall include consistency assistants? Then we do not complicate it with someone else coming along and saying: Well, am I temporary, am I contractual, or whatever? Leave it like it is but specify that constituency assistants shall be included under the policy.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I would just like to say, I would not want to - just so I understand now. We are not segregating executive assistants from constituency assistants. I do not mean to drag this out but I do not know if there is a differentiation or if it is covered off under another policy, or whatever. So I will ask the Clerk?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Clearly, an executive assistant is not a CA, and vice versa. So in order to include EAs we would have to (inaudible).

MR. TAYLOR: Yes.

CLERK: The other issue there would be caucus support staff, researchers, communications, and so on. They would not be either CAs or EAs.

MR. TAYLOR: I have an executive assistant with me for six years, as have most people - not that this policy needs to be framed around that person, but I would not want that person who was no different than anybody else who has been here for six years, really, when it comes right down to it. I am just throwing it out there.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I understand we are dealing here with House employees.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes.

MR. PARSONS: An executive assistant would fall under - that is not our concern. That is a departmental issue, likewise research staff in an office.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, fair enough. That is the reason why I asked, I was not clear.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: As always, it is never quite that easy, because the Leader of the Opposition has an executive assistant position within the House and the Speaker has an executive assistant position within the House. Of course, they are not on departmental payroll like in the case of Minister Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible) they should not be segregated.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: No, I think you would want to include them all. Now that you are talking about that, also I think there are researchers, there is other support staff. So I think you cannot discriminate. We will have to have a general policy to cover -

MR. TAYLOR: Employees under the House.

MS E. MARSHALL: - employees under the House, right.

MR. SPEAKER: Maybe, for clarification, since this has taken on a far-ranging discussion, that we can have the Clerk put forward a proposal to be brought back at a future meeting, and then members would be clear as to exactly who we are talking about and what is included.

Do members agree?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda would be the organization structure of the House of Assembly service and the statutory offices. Here, again, we are referring and going back to a suggestion in the Green report and some of the recommendations that he made as it relates to an organization chart, job description, and a review of the Houseís staffing needs. The Clerk and the policy officer have done a fair amount of work here in putting forward this proposal, as the proposed organization structure of the House of Assembly, and a job description of each one of those positions. It is fairly lengthy, and I am sure members have had a chance to review it. So I ask members for their comments and suggestions before we ask for approval.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I have gone through all of the material, and the only point I would like to make is that there are new positions there that are subject to Budget approval, and the Budget has not been approved yet. So, if we do decide to approve it, it will have to be subject to the approval of the Budget.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

I would imagine this is put forward subject to budgetary approval, in order to fund those new positions. Some of the positions are already funded, but if there new positions, that it would certainly be part of the budgetary process.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you.

It is almost two different matters, although we could certainly refer to it in that way. You can create positions and then never, ever get the budgetary resources to fill them. We looked at this a bit during the Budget meeting, and really that is why we have it separate, because they are almost two separate matters. I do not think it violates anything, subject to the budgetary allocation this year, but we are creating them permanently. The Budget allocation only has its twelve-month existence. So, there is a certain element of that. I do not mind tying it to that, but it would be creating permanent positions subject to the 2008-2009 Budget. Every budgetary year forward, we could not fund some of these positions. It is really a separate matter.

MR. SPEAKER: Somebody make a motion that we approve - Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I am a bit lost here. If that is the case, everything government does is subject to Budget approval, why would we be tacking it on here in this particular case? My understanding is that we are approving an organizational chart outlining positions, job descriptions and whatever. What they get paid in any given year is always going to depend upon what the Budget is. I agree with the Clerk, I think it is a totally separate issue. I do not know if we need to tag that on because it could cause yourself a problem next year, you have to come back and do it all again.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms. Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: I think we are being presumptive that the Budget is going to be approved. Well I guess it will be approved but -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) voting against it, are you?

MS E. MARSHALL: No, I am not going to vote against it but I still think that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary by the Clerk.

CLERK: Like departments, if we had x-number of positions approved, but you did not get the budget you had hoped, you have to leave them vacant. I mean, you can only staff with the dollars approved in the Budget. If there are just a bunch of vacant positions because you did not get the budget requested, that is what you live with, as departments do in maintaining a bunch of vacancies. So, it is really more just the structure and the positions, and then every year you have to look for the dollars to fill them.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Adoption of the organizational structure of the House of Assembly and four statutory offices as outlined in the briefing information.

MR. SPEAKER: Seconder to that motion?

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Seconded by Mr. Rideout.

The motion is that we approve the organizational structure of the House of Assembly and the statutory offices as put forward in the minutes.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda under new business would be Whistleblower Provisions -Explanatory Material. Here, again, we are going back to another part of the Green report and a suggestion that we introduce Whistleblower - I guess it is Whistleblower Provisions that we are putting forward here and the Approval of Disclosure of Wrongdoing pamphlet by the Commission and that is being done by the Office of the Citizensí Representative.

Members have had an opportunity to read the pamphlet and to understand. This will be circulated and it will be, I guess, placed in the hands of everybody who takes an interest in Whistleblower policy. If there are any comments or suggestions or deletions or additions, we will entertain them.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Just one question, Mr. Speaker. I know there are several phone numbers referenced there. The different offices are aware are they, that their numbers are published in this bulletin and they can expect to receive some calls? For example, I notice at the end there that indicates you can make your disclosure to the Commissioner for Legislative Standards, and they give the number there. I am assuming that the Commissioner for Legislative Standards has either been notified or will be notified.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: I canít say categorically that the Commissioner for Legislative Standards has been notified. This was actually developed last fall, but I assume the Citizenís Representative did discuss it with him. Of course, disclosure or actually calls for investigations are all gone to the Citizenís Representative. The only time the Commissioner for Legislative Standards comes in is if the wrongdoing is within the Office of the Citizenís Representative. So, it is that very small population that would turn to the Commissioner for Legislative Standards.

I can certainly check with him.

MS E. MARSHALL: If you would check that out of courtesy.

CLERK: The Citizenís Rep certainly is aware his is used, because he actually developed his.

MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, he actually developed his.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?

If not, a motion is in order to accept the Disclosure of Wrongdoing pamphlet as presented.

Moved by Mr. Parsons, seconded by Mr. Rideout.

All those in favor, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

On motion, Disclosure of Wrongdoing pamphlet accepted as presented.

MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda is Standard Office Allocations. Here again, I guess, we go back to an item, that we deferred the size of the offices and that kind of thing to another meeting. It was brought up earlier, but now we are back into office furniture. There was an established list that the Commission agreed to that would be the normal furniture that members who decided to have an office in their constituency could expect to receive by ordering it through the normal process of going through the House of Assembly service.

We found, since some of those offices have been opened and some of this furniture has been purchased, that there is now a need to do something different in order to accommodate the equipment, and we are talking about fax machines and copiers, in order to make it suitable for the membersí offices.

It is not the intention, or it is not the intention that the Chairman would like to see, for us to be coming back to Commission meetings every time somebody needs an item for an office in their constituency. What we are asking for is for the Commission to probably look at what we are putting forward here as a particular stand for a combination unit printer-fax- scanner, and a stand for a printer. In the future, maybe other equipment can be pre-approved for purchase by the Clerk of the House of Assembly, rather than bringing it back to Commission meetings.

We take your guidance.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, you do not need to start with me. I mean, I heard the Member for Cartwright-LíAnse au Clair.

If everybody thinks that it is appropriate to have a $10,000 or $15,000 office when we do not need it, then I will be quiet about it. Fine! I donít care! But, it is going to cost the people of Newfoundland and Labrador several hundreds of thousands of dollars that they do not need to incur. That is all I am saying.

I have an office in St. Anthony now, everybody knows where it is, and its costs $300 a month. We have it furnished and we are getting by, and that is it. So, fine! If we want to go and blow another $500,000 annually, then far be it from me to be the one who is going to stand in front if it. That is all I am going to say.

MR. SPEAKER: Just for information purposes, when we talk about offices here I would like it to be known that every member, the forty-eight members, do not have an office in their constituency. We are talking about nine offices. We are not talking about forty-eight. We are talking about nine private members who have chosen to have offices in their constituency. That is where it is when we are talking about office space and when we are talking about signs and when we are talking about equipment for the members to use in the offices.

Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to have a couple of comments here. I think if this is an issue with regard to office size or the kind of furnishings that are being provided for MHAsí offices, well I think the Member for The Straits & White Bay North to do the appropriate thing and bring it forward for the agenda.

I do like to remind him that there are MHAs who have full-time offices in their districts. When this House of Assembly is closed, they spend all of their time there. They hold an office there, their executive assistant holds an office in that space, and they meet with all of their constituents there on a regular basis. They do not have the luxury to have a full ministerial suite like he does, that is very well staffed and very well furnished, I might add, Mr. Speaker. I know of many offices in this Confederation Building that have had a lot of money spent on them.

MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Take the Minister of Justiceís office, for example, where there has been a tremendous amount of money spent to bring upgrades and to do work in that office so that individual can do his job.

I take some exception to the comments that are being put forward by the Member for The Straits & White Bay North. I do not think anyone here has a problem with ensuring that people have the appropriate furniture, the appropriate technology to do their job in an appropriate working space. If those numbers and the cost of what is outlined here is a bit extravagant, well sure, we should look at it and we should look at if it can be provided at a more affordable rate. I have no problem with that. But I think that we have to be cognizant of the fact that not every individual has the privilege to have a full suite of offices and everything they need in this building to do their work. Many of them have only the resource that they have in their District and they use it on a much oftener basis than certainly ministers would use it, because they do not have the same kind of privileges to spend that kind of time in their ridings.

I think what the Clerk is asking us today, is that there is some equipment and there are some furnishings that are not on the list right now that members are asking for and that they require, and I certainly would have no problem offering approval for that. If the issue here is doing a review of the standards of that equipment, whether it is too extravagant or whether it is not, then it should be placed on the agenda for a further meeting.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

Any further comments?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I direct my comments towards the last bullet on that briefing note dealing with Standard Office Allocation, and that is delegating the authority to the Clerk.

The reason I raise that issue is, I guess, I am sort of torn. To say that you would not delegate it to the Clerk might imply that you do not trust the Clerk, if you did not delegate it. I have a concern in the sense that a lot of the stuff that was revealed by the Auditor General and commented on by Chief Justice Green dealt with, again, openness and accountability. I personally have had incidents where you become the subject of media stories whereby you say how you did it and you say, well, I did it because such-and-such an employee told me, the Chief Returning Officer, or the Clerk told me or the Speaker told me in some cases, only, when you go back, to find that there were no records.

I have a problem with saying, leave it to the Clerk, and the Clerk authorizes me down the road to do something or to get a piece of equipment or whatever for my office, only to find out six months later that you are in the Telegram again as having done something improper. I have no problem with delegating it to the Clerk provided limitations of some kind are outlined. If it is going to be, for example, up to a purchase exceeding a certain amount that you must come back to the Commission on it. I think that needs to be there. There has to be some kind of recording of what it is you bought and correspondence between you and the Clerk doing it in writing, so that it is just not verbal, and there must be some place where that information is kept. Because we have all been, I certainly have been, the subject of this kind of stuff happening. If we are going to do it and delegate it, let us put the proper parameters around doing it.

MR. SPEAKER: We are certainly wide open for suggestions and proposals. Maybe one of the things that we can do is, it can all be brought back to the Commission. We can certainly do that, or if we want to we can delegate it to the Clerk to do and to be brought back and reported to the Commission, like we do now with office rentals. That way it will be clearly shown what has been done for each office and it will be identified in a book of minutes that is put out to the public.

We are certainly open to suggestions and proposals.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I agree with the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile. I do not have a problem with delegating it to the Clerk, but having shared a similar circumstance where six-and-a-half years later you got written up, and there was a clear correspondence on a car rental, or a car lease I should say, that the then Speaker said there was no clear policy, I would rather if delegation to the Clerk took place up to a certain financial amount, and no matter how much is delegated to the Clerk that it be brought back the meeting after or on a predetermined schedule and laid in front of the Management Commission so that the people can see it was done; and not six-and-a-half years later somebody bringing it up to you, that, boy, you did not have authority to do that, when clearly you had written authority to do it. Unfortunately, the rest of the people did not know it, it was between you and the Speaker and the Clerk. Once bitten, twice shy!

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I have no problem with that. With the House in session and regular meetings of the Commission, this is actually not even needed in the current time. The problem is, when we have difficulty getting meetings for some of those periods, we might be a couple of months between meetings. Because the Commission would have to approve it, we tell people: Well, I am sorry, you cannot buy a printer stand. Now, a printer stand costs $150 or $100, it is just four legs to put a printer on, but we say you are not allowed and we have to wait until the Commission meets. So, it is only in those rare times.

The Act does permit the Commission to delegate authority to the Speaker or the Clerk and then establish what reporting has to come back to the Commission, just as you do with office leases over $7,000. A dollar figure, if we are looking at just really small purchases - I am not going to start approving flat screen tvs to cover the walls, $500, I do not know. We are just really thinking smaller matters just to avoid members waiting until another Commission meeting.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: I think there is a consensus Ė in fact, perhaps unanimity - that it is fine; we do it and it just be reported back, that is all. Like you, Mr. Speaker, have to report on what happens in terms of office rentals and so on.

I donít think anybody has a problem with that. We do it and report back.

MR. SPEAKER: Do members agree with that, that we give the Clerk Ė or we add, I guess, to the office allocation, a stand for the accommodation unit that we are talking about here and the stand for the printer, and in future other items. We can put a dollar figure on it, if we want. We can do that now and have the Clerk, in consultation with the Speaker, have it approved, and then have it brought back to another meeting to be reported and clearly documented on what was done. Everybody will know that the information was provided and the authority given.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I agree with the suggestion by Mr. Rideout, but I would like to see a $500 ceiling put in there because that protects the Clerk. That way, the Clerk is not subject to someone going to him, a member going to him, and saying I want to do such-and-such, and it is only $1,200 or it is only $2,200.

That gives the Clerk the leeway to do what he needs to do, but at the same time protects him on each case-by-case basis having to get into it. If it is above $500, it should come back here and be considered.

MR. SPEAKER: And the report will come back for everything that is purchased.

MR. PARSONS: The report would come anyway, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The report will come back for everything that is purchased, but if it is over $500 the authority has to come here before the purchase is made.

MR. PARSONS: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: Understood?

CLERK: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Would you make that a motion, Mr. Parsons?

MR. PARSONS: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Would somebody second it?

Mr. Rideout.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda is the next meeting.

The Chair realizes that it is a busy time, with the Budget and committee meetings.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I will just make one comment. I meant to do this at the last meeting and I forgot about it.

In terms of putting items on the agenda for the next meeting, is there going to be a section in our agenda that we can do that, or should we just do it in writing to the Clerk?

The issue of the Public Accounts Committee, for example, we have an issue legislatively that we cannot comply with the act as it is currently structured, and we will not have a Public Accounts Committee if it stays that way. I am just wondering if I could get that item put on the agenda. Then the Clerk could prepare a briefing note outlining what the circumstances are now, and we would consider it at our next meeting.

MR. SPEAKER: What we would like to do, if it is possible, is to contact the Clerk and have the items added to the agenda.

There is a list. We are still backlogged, and we only put on the agenda what we feel we need to do now and what time will allow. By all means, make contact with the Clerk, ask to have it added to the agenda, and it will be put on the agenda for the next meeting.

The Clerk.

CLERK: I understand this issue, because we are well aware of it, but it would be good to get a letter just for absolute clarity, just so we understand precisely what the issue is. It doesnít have to be long, but just for the records it is helpful, although I think I am aware of it; it is section 18.(5) of the act. We have talked about it, so if we want to bring it forward to the Commission then a letter would probably help. Then we can circulate that and address it.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Again for clarification, Mr. Chair, you just made mention of the fact that there is a backlog. How does the communication work between the Speakerís office and the Chair and the Clerk, who have all this stuff? I was not aware, for example, that there is a backlog. I am just wondering how that gets (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: I will let the Clerk comment on that, but some of the things Ė for instance, there are a number of letters that are continually coming from Members of the House of Assembly looking for changes to the rules.

We have gone through the process where we changed a number of rules at the preceding meetings. What we decided to do was not to put them on this list until the list is compiled, because it is still coming forward. So the intent was, since those minutes were already written up and provided, we kept the other letters together to be put on the next agenda.

The Clerk can comment on how he deems what is most important. Some of it is by timelines from the act.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, it is complicated.

A backlog may be a bit strong, but there is any number of matters which we need to bring forward. As an example, for instance, we have a lot of administrative policies which we really would like the Commission to approve. We follow government policies, unless the Commission develops alternative policies. That is what the act says.

In the Executive Branch of government there are well-established policies for things like transfer of funds, and Green said we should have our own transfer of funds policy. We do not have a Treasury Board to go to, to authorize transfers between activities and so on, so we should develop our own. We have all the financial reports. Any number of those sorts of things, we would just like the Commission to approve new policies.

As the Speaker has said, we have six or seven letters with ten or twelve rule amendments proposed in the last few weeks. We have ongoing matters, like the financial reports. The Audit Committee, at some point, will want to report.

I guess it is not a long list of itemized matters; it is just that we always have enough to have a meeting with ten or twelve agenda items, and it takes some time to develop the briefing materials to go with them. So, in terms of a backlog, there is a lag for us to get the binders done and out to Commission members.

MR. SPEAKER: What we found as well, Mr. Parsons, in relation to adding things to the agenda, and especially as it relates to the letters for suggestions that we change the rules, is there has to be a fair amount of information gathered; because if you change one rule then that reflects back on another particular rule, and it takes some time to go through the rules and see what other rules it will affect before we bring forward a directive and a suggestion for members to consider. It is fairly time-consuming; hence, that is the reason I brought it up now.

We talked about five days, that the members of the Commission would get the minutes five days in advance of the meeting so that members would have ample time to look at them and read them and be prepared. I donít know if next Wednesday would be a time for another meeting.

MR. PARSONS: We have Estimates Committees for the next two weeks, every night, starting (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I donít know about anybody else, but being from a district that is a long ways from here, this is grad time of the year and you canít count on me for the next three Fridays, definitely not. I have meetings and grads and what have you in my district for the next three Fridays. In the week it is okay, but I understand the Estimates Committee process, too.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Again, I agree, everybody has pretty cramped schedules for the next two weeks from Monday to Thursday, and on Fridays everybody has constituency stuff. So, it might be tough to get it in, in the next two or three weeks.

Back to the issue of the PAC again, I cannot emphasize enough that this is one of the most important committees in the government structure. Chief Justice Green acknowledged that, the Auditor General acknowledged that, and if we do not get that done in this sitting of the House, which is only two or three weeks more, we are not going to have a Public Accounts Committee operating in this Province until at least come fall when the Legislature resumes.

I cannot emphasize enough: that becomes an accountability issue again, then, if we do not get that done. I donít think it is that complicated to get it done, but obviously the Government House Leader has to be brought into the loop as well and a piece of legislation would have to be drafted, I presume, so I just cannot emphasize enough that I think we should act on that.

MR. SPEAKER: It certainly would not happen overnight, because it is a change in legislation and that would have to be brought back to the House and would have to be done by the normal things that happen, as most members would know, in order to get a piece of legislation drafted up and presented.

Mr. Rideout.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I do not want to complicate the situation anymore than it is, but I have raised, with people who ought to know, the necessity of bringing forward amendments to the Green act and I have highlighted those that I am aware of.

One is the problem surrounding the Public Accounts Committee. There is another surrounding the fact that if there is an officer of the House who is not capable of performing his or her duties then it is not fair that we go to that person who is incapacitated and say resign because we need to put somebody else in your place and be able to pay them. That is not fair. That is not human, and I am not prepared to do it. Therefore, the only answer to it is that we do what we always did, which was, in this case, appoint somebody else to the position and pay that person appropriately. We are not allowed to do it under the act as it currently exists.

That is two issues where I have made it known that I want to see amendments proposed for, but I can only ask. Until they come forward - as a Government House Leader, I cannot bring them forward. So far I have not seen them, but I have asked.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Both those issues, as the Government House Leader says, require legislative amendments but they are not lengthy. We could bring that back relatively quickly to a meeting of the Commission, given the time constraints on getting a bill drafted and brought to the House and so on.

With respect to Wednesdays as a meeting day, the schedule we have now for Estimates Committee has meetings on May 7, but the following week it is booked just in case. There is no Estimates Committee specifically scheduled for Wednesday, May 14, but there is for May 7. In doing two a night starting May 5, Monday, through to the following Monday, if you do two a night, you have eleven or twelve done and there are sixteen to do. I do not think there is one specifically scheduled for May 14. It is just booked in case the schedule goes awry.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, unless something has changed since 5:00 p.m. today, I was a part of drafting the Estimates Committee schedules and I thought both Wednesdays, next Wednesday and the following Wednesday have two Estimates Committees booked for that evening. That was my understanding, unless it has changed. I was under the impression and was party to it today, along with Mr. French from CBS, that two Estimates Committees was booked for Wednesday, next week, and the following Wednesday

CLERK: The schedule I saw, I did not think we needed to go Wednesday the fourteenth, but I will have another look. Definitely, the seventh has two of them booked.

MR. SPEAKER: If members would agree - and I am hearing there are two items that need to be done ASAP, and they are both changes to the House of Assembly Accountability and Integrity Act, which is our act, and it needs to come from this Commission before it goes further. Would the Commission agree to meet within some time early next week to just have on the agenda those two items and we will bring forward suggestions for the amendments? If there is a consensus, and I am hearing it is a problem with the government and with the Opposition, or with all members I should say, then maybe we can meet very quickly, bring forward the recommendations, either have it accepted or changed in the Commission meeting and let it go forward at that particular time and we can get in with the calendar of the House of Assembly in getting it attended to.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I would agree with that, and I think any morning next Monday through Thursday, at 8:30 in the morning would be, if it fits everybodyís schedule, it should not take that long to get it done.

MR. SPEAKER: Would members agree? Would Monday morning be to - would most members be in on Monday morning?

Before I say that, I have to look to the Clerk because we have to get the law clerk to bring forward a suggested legislative change.

The Clerk.

CLERK: We have discussed with the law clerk - I mean these are not long or exhaustive. The one on the Public Accounts Committee is simply subsection 18(5) is repealed. That is gone, and the one on office holderís salary, we have done some work on. So, we could definitely have something for Monday morning. We could even try perhaps - I do not know if we could meet tomorrow afternoon. We could probably do Friday but a lot of members would be gone Friday and would not get to them, but we could try, yes. So, if we could try for some draft Thursday afternoon and then something else Monday morning, if that would work?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: We could either try to do it on Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon, but I think on Friday most all of us are going to be out of here.

CLERK: No, I did not mean to meet, just to present something with you so you would have a day or two to go over it. If we could not meet tomorrow afternoon, I guess we will miss most of you and Ė

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CLERK: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: So, would that be okay? Letís set a meeting now for 8:30 on Monday, which is May 5, 8:30 in the morning. There will be two items on the agenda. There would be two legislative changes.

We will ask the Law Clerk to draft up the amendments and have them to members hopefully by tomorrow.

Would that be the agreement?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

I think we should get that dealt with, and we can do it in a timely fashion and fall within the calendar of the House if we can meet on Monday morning.

I thank all members for their co-operation.

There being no further business, this meeting is now adjourned.