July 3, 2008             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION             Vol. XLVI   No. 10

The Committee met at 9:00 a.m. in the House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Good morning.

I would like to welcome Commission members back to a scheduled Commission meeting. We will start off this meeting as we have with all others, by asking members present to identify themselves for the purpose of those people who are watching us by means of television. I will start with the Deputy Speaker to my immediate left.

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

MR. TAYLOR: Trevor Taylor, The Straits & White Bay North.

MS E. MARSHALL: Beth Marshall, Topsail.

MS BURKE: Joan Burke, St. GeorgeísĖStephenville East.

MR. PARSONS: Kelvin Parsons, Burgeo & LaPoile.

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

MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Chief Financial Officer.

MR. MACKENZIE: Bill MacKenzie, Clerk.

MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerkís Office.

MR. SPEAKER: My name is Roger Fitzgerald, and I am Chair of the Committee.

We will start the meeting by having the minutes of the May 28 meeting approved as written and circulated. Members have had an opportunity to read the minutes in their briefing notes, and I ask if somebody would move that the minutes be accepted as written, approved as written.

Approved by Ms Michael; seconded by Ms Marshall.

All those in favour, Ďayeí.


MR. SPEAKER: Those would be for the two sets of meetings Ė I ask the mover and seconder - for May 28 and June 4.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: If I could just ask one point of clarification, and I think probably Ms Lambe might be able to answer this question. For the June 4 meeting, on the second page, CM 2008-055, the second line there says fifty-nine positions. Is it fifty-nine positions or fifty-nine position descriptions?

MS LAMBE: Fifty-nine position descriptions.

MS E. MARSHALL: Can we change that? It says fifty-nine positions. Really, it is seventy-odd positions, isnít it?

MS LAMBE: Well, there may be one position like, say, voter registry co-ordinator, and there are four Ė well I guess there are four positions, yes, but one position description.

MS E. MARSHALL: One position description, yes, okay. When I read the material for the last meeting I understood that there were fifty-nine positions, but it is really fifty-nine position descriptions covering seventy-odd positions.


MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, okay.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Agreed?

Okay, the minutes of both May 28 and June 4 have been adopted.

Next, we move to minutes arising from the minutes as per Chief Justice Greenís recommendations. In order to bring about and implement changes, any change has to be introduced at one meeting, brought back to another meeting for ratification, then gazetted and brought back to another meeting for final approval. This is the second meeting for the approval of committee per diems, as discussed at our June 4 meeting. I am going to read out the Action Required so we are clear, and ask for comments and a vote of approval.

Pursuant to subsection 12(3) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act the Commission hereby approves the following proposed amendment of the Membersí Resources and Allowances Rules.

Section 45 of the Membersí Resources and Allowances Rules is repealed and the following is substituted:

Committee allowance

45 (1) A member who is a member of a standing or select committee of the House of Assembly, the commission or a committee of the commission may claim for reasonable expenses related to attendance at a committee or commission meeting when the House of Assembly is not in session.

(2) A member who is a member of a standing or select committee of the House of Assembly, the commission or a committee of the commission, other than a chair, may claim a daily amount of $145 for attendance at a committee or commission meeting when the House of Assembly is not in session.

(3) A member who is a chair of a standing or select committee of the House of Assembly, the commission or a committee of the commission may claim a daily amount of $190 for attendance at a committee or commission meeting when the House of Assembly is not in session.

(4) Subsections (2) and (3) shall not apply to a member who is a minister or who holds a position referred to in subsection 12(1) of the Act.

(5) Reasonable expenses claimed under subsection (1) shall be

(a) in accordance with the Travel and Allowance rates permitted under these Rules; and

(b) approved by the Speaker before being reimbursed to the member.

Any comments?

If not, the next step in allowing those rules to come into force would be that those particular rules will now, Mr. Clerk, be gazetted.

CLERK: This is the first time through, so we should actually have a vote approving this wording. This is the first time we have seen the actual wording.

MR. SPEAKER: It was only introduced at the other meeting.

CLERK: Yes, the issue was discussed but not the proposed amendment. This is the first time we have seen the proposed amendment, so we should really approve it by minute now and then we will bring it back to the next meeting. Following that it will be gazetted.

MR. SPEAKER: Can somebody make a motion that the per diem rates reflect as stated and as put forward by the written brief?

Moved by Mr. Parsons; seconded by Ms Michael.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda is business carried forward, and there are a number of items here that we have had on other agendas and, because of time constraints, we have not had time to deal with. We thought it would be something that we should make a priority at this particular meeting. It is under Tab 3 in your manual, and it is Requested Rule Amendments.

As Members of the House of Assembly, when members put forward requests, and put forward their concerns about some of the rules and how it affects them, they write a letter to the Commission. The letter is put forward on the agenda and there will be recommendations provided. Normally, the Clerk would write up the recommendations and have the committee look at some of the suggestions and some of the allowance changes, I guess, as brought forward by members.

In this particular situation, because of the type of requested rule amendments, we thought it only right and fair that we would bring it forward to the Commission first, and not have the Clerk and the staff put forward their recommendations and do research on items that we thought should not be considered for recommendations or approval.

The first one on the agenda is Mileage Rates, and it is put forward by the Member for Bellevue. The Member for Bellevue makes three requests. His first recommendation or request to the Commission is to allow travel claims from MHAs travelling less than 120 kilometres one way, or 200 kilometres return trip, from the district to the capital region while the House is in session. The other recommendation is for the Commission to give clarification for travel allowance for the House not in session versus the House in session with regard to the seven day recess. The third recommendation that he has put forward is for the Commission to look at the formula used by the federal government to review every two months and adjust the mileage up or down according to gas prices to increase or decrease with a base minimum of forty-two cents per kilometre.

I ask for membersí comments.

The Clerk.


CLERK: Because Mr. Peachís letter had two or three different ones, we have different notes interspersed throughout and we find some of the other letters had two or three separate recommendations, so we tried to break them out by the individual issue and have a note on each of the individual issues.

The one, for instance, on the number of trips shows up later because it was also a request from the Member for Placentia & St. Maryís and so on. Rather than repeating those photocopies of letters in every instance there is a briefing note later on, on the number of trips, and the letter attached to that is a Placentia & St. Maryís request.

It may be simpler just to deal with the mileage rate on this one and then we will come to the number of trips later on.

MR. SPEAKER: We will deal with the mileage rate whereby he suggesting that it be adjusted every two months and at a base rate of forty-two cents per kilometre. Is that the suggestion?

CLERK: Yes, and using the federal government formula.

MR. SPEAKER: Using the federal government formula.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate what the member is talking about here in his letter, and what he is recommending. I have to say, before I came into government, as a person who worked with a not-for-profit organization that received funding mainly from the federal government, I was very happy to be able to use federal government policies with my staff; because the federal government policy with regard to the rate per kilometre, I think, reflects much more the expense that one incurs. However, having said that, I do not think this is an issue for us to deal with as a Commission. We have to make a decision - that is not how I mean it - but I do not think that we can deal with this issue separately in the House of Assembly because, to me, we should be in line with government policy, and the policy that we follow is the policy that all government workers have to follow with regard to the rate.

Now we may want, as the House of Assembly and as the Management Commission, to talk to the wider government with regard to the system that is used in the provincial government with regard to the rates. I cannot remember when the last review was done; some months ago, I think. I know that the rate changed somewhere since I have come into the House of Assembly but, when you do compare it to the federal system, our system does not reflect - and recently quite drastic change is happening quite regularly with regard to the cost of travel. However, having said that, as I have already said, I do not think that we can have a separate system for the Members of the House of Assembly from the system that is used for other members who work for the government agencies and government departments and offices.

So, the only thing I would be willing to look at is: Do we want to give some reflection back to the wider government, to those who make these decisions with regard to the reimbursement for mileage when using private vehicles? But it would have to be part of a full provincial government policy, not just the House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I think this one is fairly straightforward to deal with, and I basically concur with Ms Michael. All the policies and rates associated with mileage for members should be consistent with government, everybody in government, and that is the argument that was made by members when the Green Report dealt with the accommodations and the $50 and the $71 and the hotel room accommodation rates and what have you. I think that we cannot make that argument on one policy and make a different one on another policy.

I donít mean to belabour it, and I donít think we need to belabour it. In my view, for what it is worth, it is fairly straightforward and I think the issue of adjustment in mileage rates - I mean, the mileage rate is adjusted on a fairly frequent basis depending on the price of fuel. So, one part of his request is dealt with anyway and has been for, I suspect, a year or more now, if I am not mistaken. The part on changing to the federal government, I think we just have to say no to that and move on to the next issue.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I am just wondering if maybe, for the record, the Clerk could advise us of what is the existing provincial policy now in terms of mileage so we all know what the playing field is right now.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: It is adjusted quarterly by the Public Service Secretariat so, in fact, July 1, a couple of days ago, it was adjusted again. Generally it went up about three cents on the two categories. The one category for the first 9,000 kilometres, that is now at fifty-two point one three cents for the first 9,000 kilometres if you have to use your vehicle as a condition of employment or for MHAs, they get that first 9,000. Then, for all subsequent mileage for the year, it drops to thirty-eight point two three. That is of July 1.

That is done quarterly so it would have been done the first of April, the first of July, and it will be done in three monthsí time. The Public Service Secretariat has a certain formula they apply. I am afraid I do not know all the details of it, but for each of those two categories it has gone up about three cents since April 1.

MR. PARSONS: The only comment I would make is, I agree with both Mr. Taylor and Ms Michael that we should not be determining our mileage rates based upon federal rates. We should do it based upon provincial rates.

The only comment I would make is, given the quick increases, shall we say, I do not know if quarterly is sufficient. You might want to look at the provincial formula in terms of doing it monthly as opposed to quarterly because we all know - I mean, right now I donít know about in the city but I know out west we are paying $1.51 per litre whereas four months ago we were paying $1.39 a litre.

You might want to look at the provincial formula and make it more quickly responsive to the expenses. I agree; we certainly should not be tying it in with the federal piece.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?

To recap, what I am hearing is that we should not proceed in the recommendation by looking at the federal government formula in reimbursing members for travel expenses as it relates to mileage but possibly look at adjusting the time frame to reflect the cost of travel within the present guidelines that we now use and, rather than quarterly, do it on a Ė are you suggesting a monthly basis?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Yes. I think, given the way it is increasing, yes. You are currently being reimbursed based upon what the price of gas was back in April and, really, you are fifteen cents out of whack between what it was. I am just saying that, if you are going to have a formula, use the provincial formula but make it responsive to what the rates are. Four months to wait is a pretty long time. You are getting thirty-eight cents I understand, now, a kilometre, on a go-forward basis, as of July 1. Really, back in the last quarter, everybody was paying far more than that out of your pocket. You did not get reasonably reimbursed for what the rates were in the last quarter, actually. You were always playing catch-up, so I just think it should be a more responsive formula; that is all.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I just have a question of clarification that I would like to ask of Mr. Parsons. Do you mean that we would recommend this to the Public Service Secretariat, that it would be monthly, or are you saying that we would do it monthly no matter what the Public Service Secretariat does? I just want clarification, because it is not clear to me what you are proposing.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I am saying it should apply to the public service. Everybody is in the same boat. The social worker, for example, who travels from Corner Brook to Bonne Bay, faces the same thing, and four months later to say to that social worker that we are going to pay you thirty-eight cents a kilometre whereas the price of gas has, as everybody knows, gone up substantially in the last four months. You are only going to reimburse that social worker, or whoever in the public sector is travelling, on a go-forward basis but you have not compensated that person for the actual cost that they incurred for the previous four months. I just think the formula should be more responsive to the cost that you actually incur.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the Clerk need any other clarification in order to bring back a recommendation?

CLERK: No, I think I could write the Member for Bellevue, saying we have declined to pursue the federal approach; however, we will write the Public Service Secretariat recommending that adjustments be made in a more timely manner to keep up with increases in gas prices, or something like that. Then we will write PSS recommending the same.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: I donít mean to complicate this. I agree with everything that is being said. If we are going to allow this for all the public service, if you look at a social worker, for example, in Labrador, where the price of gas is considerably higher than it is on the Avalon, is there any way we can tie this to - what do you call it, the pricing commissioner for fuel? What is the position? Is there any way we can tie it so that Ė like I say, I am not trying to complicate it, but a social worker in Labrador, if they are being redeemed at thirty-eight cents a kilometre, is probably losing money where a social worker in St. Johnís claiming the same rate is probably breaking even.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: I donít know what formula is used by the PSS to determine these, when they do these quarterly adjustments, but we can certainly ask. Again, I guess, if the Petroleum Pricing Office of the Public Utilities Boardís approach were to be applied, it would have to be applied to a government to be consistent with what we have been saying, not just to the House. I guess, in the letter, we could ask them to explain how they come up with the formula and if they take that into consideration.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I donít want to belabour this either, just to say that the only thing we can deal with here in this room is the Members of the House of Assembly, their allowances, and the policies that govern us. Beyond that, if we see the need, based on the wishes of the Members of the House of Assembly to articulate to the Public Service Secretariat or others, as the need may be, the views, and ask that it be looked into - but going beyond that and asking the Public Service Secretariat to look at what the issues are with social workers, and their travel in Labrador, is not our mandate. I suggest that we stay away from it, we only deal with the issues that we have here, and we deal with them in a manner that is consistent with the policies and what have you that apply to the people in the public service.

At another table, if NAPE or CUPE or whomever believe that the mileage rates for their social workers in Labrador are inadequate, and they are being inadequately compensated, then it is their role to raise that with the government. That is not to say that we should not, but it is not the Management Commission. If a member wants to do it, they can do it. If the Member for Lake Melville wants to raise it then so he should, but the Management Commission should leave it alone.

MR. SPEAKER: So, we revert to the suggestion that was made and put forward that we look at changing the way we do things to have it reflect probably on a monthly basis rather than a quarterly basis, taking into consideration the fluctuation of gas prices, and have us still continue within the guidelines put forward by the provincial government for travel claims.

The next item on the agenda brought forward by the same member, the hon. the Member for Bellevue, whereby he raises the issue - and it is not new; it was brought forward by the Member for Port de Grave, I think, at an earlier time. It was not brought forward as a request; it was brought forward as a concern. It was not dealt with at that time because it was not brought forward as a request so we did not deal with it as a Commission. What the hon. member here is suggesting is, where members live within a certain distance from the capital city, while the House is in session, that the Commission might consider allowing Ė

CLERK: Mr. Speaker (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

[Technical difficulties]

MR. SPEAKER: I understand that my notes are not completely in order here and we are going to deal with that issue in another set of briefing notes further in the manual.

The next item on the agenda would be Secondary Residence Rules. I will ask the Clerk if he would respond to this because it is brought forward in a way that it concerns Chief Justice Green and his report, and a recommendation that is outside the purview, so maybe the Clerk could explain this particular section so members could be clarified on what we are talking about and what we will vote on.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There were two separate requests to amend the rules respecting secondary residence. One of them suggested that property taxes be listed as one of the eligible expenses, and there is a list in the rules outlining all the various eligible expenses, and the Commission is free to add additional expenses to that. So the property expenses or, I am sorry, the property tax, as an eligible expense is one issue.

The other recommendation, signed by a couple of members, wanted to go back to the situation that used to exist where there was a flat $53 assigned to either private accommodations or secondary residence accommodations without receipts and so on.

In looking at that, and talking to the Law Clerk, it is not clear whether the Commission has the authority to do that or not. It is a grey area. It looks like a discretionary allowance, as it were, because it is receipted.

So, there are two separate matters and perhaps we will go through each individually.

On property tax, a number of members wrote - and on the second page of that note I outlined, sort of, their concerns. In essence, it comes to two matters. If you are renting, 100 per cent of your rental costs are an eligible expense for reimbursement. One would assume the property owner, the landlord, has factored in his tax as part of what he needs to get in terms of his rental. Yet, if you own your secondary residence you currently are not eligible to claim the municipal tax, the property tax. That is one part of the argument.

The other part that the members have brought forward is that a payment of taxes is really a payment for services. That is what pays for garbage collection, snow clearing, water, and all the rest, so you are not building up equity, which was a consideration Green had, and why mortgage principal is not eligible. If you look at property taxes as just a means of providing services, snow clearing, water, and so on, then it is really not much different than paying utility bills, electrical and otherwise. Those are the arguments dealing with property taxes and eligible expense.

We have done a quick estimate on the cost. We currently only have nine members with secondary residences. Your estimated average property values, average tax rates and so on, it may come out to around $400 tax per year once you factor in the eligible nights and so on, because you are only eligible to claim this the nights you actually stay in the secondary residence.

If your property tax, for instance, is $1,200 and you stay in your secondary residence one-third of the year, the additional cost would be $400 per individual. Currently we have nine or so, so these are not huge sums with the current numbers of members with secondary residence; it is around $3,700, our estimate. That would increase as more members went to secondary residence. That is the first matter, adding property tax as an eligible expense.

The other approach, the non-accountable allowance, is entirely different and, of course, would make the first matter of including property taxes redundant or moot. We could deal with the first, but inevitably if you are looking at agreeing to the first, the second is sort of decided, so they really tie together. If you decide one, it really speaks to the answer to the second matter of the non-accountable.

On the non-accountable, this would be the flat $53 private accommodations, similar - no receipts. So you would not have to itemize actual costs as you currently do. You would not swear an affidavit as to actual costs for your secondary residence and so on. In looking at the act, it appears that this could be considered what is called a non-accountable allowance. Now, the act is not crystal clear because it might be speaking to salary type allowances. Nonetheless, it is close enough, because it is non-accountable - that is non-receipted - we felt we should put this caveat there. It is not clear if the Commission is eligible to do it. If it is a non-accountable it has to come as a result of a recommendation from a Membersí Compensation Review Committee, and we have not appointed one of those yet. That is one of the considerations, whether it actually falls into what the Commission is allowed to do.

The second one, I suppose, is the entire regime of secondary residence that was created in the rules would, in effect, be dismantled, the notion of eligible cost, affidavits, and all these things. We would actually be abandoning that and we would simply say if you have a secondary residence you just tell us what nights you stayed there on your claim form and we provide $53 irrespective of actual cost. It seems to be different than the actual incurred cost which was one of the principles of the rules as Green drafted them.

Mr. Speaker, those are the two. As I say, the decision on one really impacts the decision on the other.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further clarification?


Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Thinking back over the Green Report, and I know that Justice Green was fairly prescriptive in what he was saying with regard to allowances and how taxpayersí money was to be spent in the future, just to talk about the inclusion of property tax, do we know why it was not included by Justice Green? Did it seem like it just was not something that was considered? I donít recall anything in his report that would be rationale for excluding it.

I wonder if the Clerk could speak to that.

CLERK: I have looked at the report. It is not spoken of at all. The only thing is this general comment. In terms of what are eligible expenses, the only comment was one about not building up equity so that mortgage principal would not be eligible, but it is silent on the rest.

He does say - and this quote actually comes up when we look at the membersí advertising in the discussion paper later on Ė that it is impossible to do a completely comprehensive list, so you look at the purposes of the eligible expenses.

It may have been just missed, overlooked. We did not canvas, we did not phone him to see. I do not know that it is fair for us to continually ask him these questions.

MS E. MARSHALL: I wasnít looking to follow up with Justice Green but I would like to make two comments. One is that, as a member of the Commission, I would be prepared to consider including property tax as an eligible expense. The second part about the non-accountable advance of $53, where our Law Clerk has indicated that this would be a new type of non-accountable advance and therefore should be established by the Compensation Review Committee, I am little bit more concerned about venturing into that territory.

Perhaps the Clerk could go back to a comment he made previously where you have sort of linked these up. You were saying that the municipal tax Ė how were you linking the two together?

CLERK: If we were to go with the non-accountable allowance of $53 there is no need of any list of eligible expenses, so that would be moot. Conversely -

MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, I see what you mean. Okay.

Well, my previous comment stands and I would be willing to consider the first point but I am somewhat more reluctant, given the concern expressed by the Law Clerk, but I would be interested in hearing what other committee members have to say.

MR. SPEAKER: Any other comments?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Yes, I agree with Ms Marshall. That has been my reflection on this: that I am very uncomfortable with what is outlined under section 2 in terms of something for us to consider. I think there needs to be a real study done of the rationale behind why Chief Justice Green dealt with this in the detail that he dealt with it in his report and therefore in our legislation and rules. I do not think it is our role to do that. That is with regard to number two. I am not prepared; I donít think it is in our mandate to deal with this. I think if we do want to send it on, and I think we probably would have to, if MHAs have come to us, it would be our responsibility, I guess, to send it on to the Membersí Compensation Review Committee, when it is set up, since they did bring it to us.

Then, with regard to number one, I am just assuming that the property tax was just an oversight and it is a legitimate expense of the secondary residence. I would be ready to approve number one.

MR. SPEAKER: What the Chair is hearing is that the Commission should consider including property tax as an eligible expense where a secondary residence is owned or occupied by a member, but the part whereby the secondary residence should be considered for a per diem of $53 a night to reflect the cost of having a secondary residence should not be considered?

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: My understanding is, based on the advice of the Law Clerk, does it not fall outside the Commissionís authority, that we do not have the authority?

MR. SPEAKER: To reimburse for the $53 per diem for secondary residence?

MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, that is my understanding. Is that not correct?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: That is our understanding.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I think for an agreement with the municipal taxes there does not seem to be much dissenting opinion there; we could approve that one.

The second one is not so much that we are not going to approve the $53. I think what this says is that if that is the recommendation - we have the Membersí Compensation Review Committee struck - we can refer the issue to them.


MS BURKE: It can be looked at and some recommendations can come back to us.

So at this point we would just be mute on that particular issue, other than to say that we would refer it to that committee.

MR. SPEAKER: We would defer making a decision on the $53 because we feel that should fall under the purview of the Membersí Compensation Review Committee.

MS BURKE: Right, because it seems from the information here that we probably do not have the authority to make that type of decision, and because it came to us as a request that we should refer it to the appropriate committee, which would be the Membersí Compensation Review Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Is everybody in agreement?

The next item on the agenda is Increase Number of Trips: number one, when the House is in session; number two, when the House is not in session. Chief Justice Green allowed members one trip a week when the House is in session for a week, or part week thereof, from their constituency to the capital city, and twenty trips per year when the House is not in session.

A couple of members have indicated that they are Ė again, I bring up what I brought up earlier - within driving distance of the capital city and probably within an hour - I think they put forward 120 kilometres, if I recall, by reverting to it - and have shown whereby if they were allowed to drive rather than stay in St. Johnís they could travel back and forth to their permanent residence, charge the appropriate travel and meal allowance, and still save the taxpayers and the government a fairly substantial amount of money.

Chief Justice Green made no provisions whatsoever to allow any member to drive and to be reimbursed on a daily basis for the trips to and from the capital region when the House is in session.

I want members to offer their views and opinions but, when they do, I think you should also take into consideration how you would control and how you would draw the line of what the distance should be where members are allowed to travel, and what expenses would be allowed to be incurred if we are going to go down that road and allow members to travel on a daily basis and to be reimbursed.


Does the Clerk want to provide further clarification?

CLERK: No. I think, Mr. Speaker, you have covered it off. Just that, I will tell you what we always have to keep in mind is that these are two individual members. This can be applied to any number of members. How far are you willing to drive on a daily basis? Maybe you are willing to drive two hours each way, daily.

The other consideration - and it may seem a bit far-fetched but I think there is a principle here - if you are allowed to incur certain costs to drive, if flight arrangements were such that you could actually fly home each day, are we going to allow the ability of a member to travel and conduct business just to be based on, it is cheap enough driving so you can do it but flying is too expensive so you cannot.

I think we have to keep an eye on the principle of all of this. It may well be that the individual members - Mr. Collins, Mr. Peach, and there are a couple of others close to St. Johnís - there are good arguments. I think we have to keep in the back of our mind the overarching principle in what we would allow here.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Chair, I read the material and I listened to what the Clerk was saying, and I notice that one of the members did put forward the proposal that they would live within their existing budgetary allocation. I know that would be only for one member, but there is something in the briefing note, the last point, that says, "The requested changes require amendments to various provisions of the Membersí Resources and Allowances Rules. Implications of the amendments for all Members will need to be considered before amendments are drafted."

If this was something that we were interested in pursuing, how would you recommend that we pursue it? I realize that today we would not come forward and approve something specific. We would start on a journey somewhere.

Could you just elaborate as to what process we would follow if we were interested in pursuing this?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With respect to the first comment in that bullet about various provisions, those are the ones listed on the first page, because it shows up in a number of different sections of the rules, so all of those would require amendments: House in session, House not in session, where are your permanent residences and so on.

In terms of pursuing it, it is a very complex field. I suppose we could get some sort of group, perhaps involving some members of the Commission, to working on it. It is a matter of such complexity, it would be much easier if the Membersí Compensation Review Committee had been struck and tasked with doing this, because the complications of canvassing, for instance, the members on the Avalon, for starters - I should not prejudge where the Commission would go - I suppose the Commission could say members who write us will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and the Commission could agree to that. Conversely, we have any number of members on the Avalon with permanent residence who conceivably could travel, commute. Then we have those, as I say, up to two hours away; would we apply to them? Of the forty-eight members there may be two dozen who conceivably could commute by driving. Flying, again, is a whole other matter, although I do think there is an issue there. If flight schedules were such that Minister Burke could fly in and out each day, or Mr. Parsons, they might also have an argument: I would like to be home at night as well.

There are a lot of complexities to it. The cost - as you say, Mr. Collins has acknowledged he would cover it under Intra-Constituency so there is no increased cost in that case. I do not know that Mr. Peach suggested that, but he might well be willing to cover it. That would be a certain qualification which would make it easier.

It is a complex field. I do not know that I have thought through how we may approach it, but I know there are a lot of complex elements to the decision.

MS E. MARSHALL: One of the other issues, of course, is that we have approved the budget for this year so I am just wondering if you would have any idea of the budgetary implications at this point in time, because we cannot put in a rule that we do not have the money for.


It can be dramatic, again, depending upon what you do. If it is within the Intra-Constituency allocated budget there is no additional cost. If you allow more than one trip a week when the House is open, to everybody, then it is astronomical costs. If all forty-eight members availed of their trip home, based on the estimates that the Review Commission used, because they have given us their spreadsheets, it is roughly $40,000 if all forty-eight members travel there once a week. That is everybody flying to Labrador, staying three nights in a hotel, or whatever the costs are. That was their rough estimate of the cost of a trip per week. I do not think it has come to that because not forty-eight travel every week, but if we were to extend it into that degree where all members could avail of it, subject to travel schedules, then it would be astronomical. If it is within Intra-Constituency, there is no additional cost.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I want to go back to a point that the Clerk made a few minutes ago about how we deal with these types of requests, and I raised this at a previous meeting. I donít think it is fair for us to deal with this on a he or she, whosoever, may write us, we will deal with. Whosoever may write we will deal with, and those who donít, we wonít.

I know there are not many people around the room here who are shy and scared to write us, donít get me wrong, but it is too much of an ad hoc approach to it, I believe. I look at Mr. Collinsí request and, to be honest about it, I think it is a very legitimate request. I look at Mr. Peachís request, and that is probably reasonable as well. I am not sure that the rationale in both of them is consistent, because I look at Mr. Peachís allegation that it is cheaper for him to drive than it is to stay in a hotel and claim his meals; but, if he is driving he is eligible for his meals as well. So, either way, he is going to be claiming miles and meals for the day, miles and per diem for the day, regardless, if he drives, and if he stays in a hotel he is going to claim the hotel and meals for the twenty-four-hour period.

I am not sure which one is cheaper or whatever, but unfortunately I donít think we are equipped enough around here to be dealingÖ. The other side of it is, like, Mr. Collinsí suggestion on driving back and forth to the district, well, the other part of that is Mr. Young in St. Barbe does not have the luxury of travelling home every day. Yes, he is in his district and the suggestion in Collinsí letter is that the people who are in their district are at liberty to be able to go throughout the district at will. The fact of the matter is, with the formula Ė well, it is not a formula because Green in no way used a formula when he determined the district allowances for travel. I think he just grabbed them out of the air. At least what we had before was based - whether it was the right amounts - there was a fairly graduated scale to it depending on the size of your district and your distance from St. Johnís and what have you. I know myself and Mr. Young at the time had basically the same allocations per district, and the member for Southern Labrador, for Cartwright-LíAnse au Clair, hers, that district, had a higher allocation, somewhat higher, and for legitimate reasons. Now what we have is, hers is three times as much as mine and Mr. Youngís, and that in no way reflects the reality of the geographies and distance and what have you.

Anyway, while I agree with the basis for the suggestions here, I am not sure that it is appropriate to deal with it in an ad hoc manner. I think that as soon as we can get the Review Commission struck then we should get it done and refer many of these matters to them, because they are all legitimate. While some days we may not see the legitimacy of them, I am sure the person who is writing us and asking us to consider it believes that they have a legitimate argument to be made and to be heard, and I think all of it needs to be considered in one shot.

I am not sure that I am adding much to the discussion here, but I am never one for these one-offs. We deal with this one today and then we will deal with, for the sake of argument, if Ms Johnson decides to resign tomorrow and the next member for the Bay de Verde area decides to live in the district and comes in with the same request, or vice versa. Then we deal with Port de Grave and we deal with Mr. Kennedy, if he decides to move out to Carbonear. We have to deal with it across the board, I think.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I agree with what Mr. Taylor is saying in that it gets complicated when we are trying to change all of these rules, but I think there is a fundamental issue that we need to address here. The Green report talked about MHAs who live in the capital region, and they are treated differently from people outside the capital region.

I think what was missed in that report is the fact that there are people, not just MHAs, who live outside the capital region who commute on a daily basis in and out of St. Johnís for work, whether it is because of the House of Assembly or other work. That would include the districts like Mr. Taylor just mentioned. It could be Bay de Verde, Carbonear, Harbour Grace, or it could be the Port de Grave district or, I guess, Placentia district or the Whitbourne district. So there are areas outside the capital region. I guess when you hit that line that you are not in the capital region, it is not that you actually commute into St. Johnís and stay in a hotel.

It is almost like the report did not encompass the fact that people commute into St. Johnís, not just in the capital region. Now, we can take it further and say, well, if there is a morning flight in and out of Stephenville, why canít you fly in and out and do your work from there? That is a bigger, larger issue, but I just think there is a fundamental issue here that there are a number of places here on the East Coast where people commute in and out of St. Johnís. If they were working in any other manner, they would not be probably living in a hotel all week; they would be going back and forth. I think that is missing in the report.

Then there are other bigger issues that Mr. Taylor spoke about, and we are going to have the Membersí Compensation Review Committee that can look at all of these, but I donít know if there is something we could look at just as a general Ė like what we would extend or see as a commuting area.

I am interested in other opinions. Maybe even by suggesting that it has taken it outside our realm and we should not be getting into that type of discussion.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

I sort of concur with what Ms Burke and Mr. Taylor are saying. This has been a bit of discomfort I have been having, you know, dealing with all of this. We didnít get to it at our last meeting, but at the last meeting I did indicate that I had some concerns that there were issues, that there were things that should be left for the Membersí Compensation Review Committee, whether or not it is very clear that we cannot deal with it. I think legitimately we could deal with what is in this briefing note, but in terms of the broader principles that have been referred to, and the fact that we do need to look at broader principles, et cetera, I think that we do have to be concerned.

At the same time I, too, am uncomfortable with dealing with things on a case by case. I think that it does need to be dealt with in a broader picture and for that reason I, too, think that this is one area that we should also give to the Membersí Compensation Review Committee.

The one concern I have, and I donít know how to get at this, it could be going the direction that Ms Burke is indicating, is that at least one letter, Mr. Peachís in particular, that I can remember, talks about being out-of-pocket on some of his trips, that he has had expenses that he has been paying for out of his pocket. I think, though, that was referring directly to trips that he was making when the House was in session, not when the House was not in session.

At the moment the House is not in session, and conceivably we will not be until probably November, which is when we usually start our fall session. The problem is that we cannot set up the committee before then, either, so I do have a concern about people being out-of-pocket while this process continues and I donít know how we would deal with that. That is sort of a bit of a conflict between saying I think this issue, as principle issues, needs to go to the Membersí Compensation Review Committee, but I do have a concern with people paying out-of-pocket.

I am not going to get into telling an MHA how to do his or her work, but it would seem to me that, for example, while the current rules are in place, MHAs can also find ways to adapt themselves to the rules.

It struck me when I was reading what Mr. Peach put forward with regard to meetings on a Friday during a week when the House was in session, and the thought came to me: Why didnít he just stay overnight Thursday? He could claim Thursday nightís stay overnight and still be here on Friday for his meeting.

As I said, I donít want to get into that kind of discussion because I donít want to get into telling MHAs how to interpret and how to put in their claims, because we all have different situations. You know, I basically live in my district here in St. Johnís. I am like a one minute drive away from the edge of my district, so I donít want to get into that.

It is very difficult and I am not comfortable with the case by case, so I will not belabour it. I think my position is somewhat clear, though muddy.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a process in place whereby the Membersí Compensation Review Committee is to be struck, and that certainly would not happen any time soon. I think it has to be done in consultation with the Speaker, the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Government House Leader, the Premierís Office, and the Commission has 120 days to report back to the House of Assembly. I guess the House of Assembly has to be open in order for the committee to be struck, so it is not something that is going to happen very quickly.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: Just for clarification purposes, even though there are a number of people in the Eastern Region, we will say, the Avalon Region, as Ms Burke said, I mean, there is really only one that is in a situation where the twenty trips is really restrictive, if I am not mistaken, while the House is closed, while the House is not in session. Letís put it this way, now: Mr. Peach, for example, twenty trips will get him through getting in here between now and November, for the sake of argument, right?

MR. SPEAKER: I think what we are talking about now is while the House is in session. Then we move to when the House is not in session, which is the next item on the agenda.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, sorry.

MR. SPEAKER: Right now we are talking about members asking and requesting that they be allowed to commute on a daily basis, claim one meal, and claim their travel expenses while the House is in session on a daily basis rather than once per week. So, if we could deal with that particular request first.

Am I hearing that we should ask the staff, the Clerkís staff, to make a recommendation on distances, or am I hearing that it is something that should be left to the Membersí Compensation Review Committee, once that is struck, to deal with those particular items?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, personally, I donít have an answer to this and I am sort of lost because I can speak, for example, to the Member for Port de Grave. From 2001, when he first got elected, until last year, Roland Butler travelled every day from his home in Butlerville when the House was open. He came in here, did the House, went home, and he charged for mileage, which worked out to be whatever the mileage rate was.

Based upon the rules that Chief Justice Green brought in, Mr. Butler now comes in on Sunday, drives in, he spends Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Hillview Terrace, charges whatever the rate is, $150 a night, charges for his mileage in on Sunday, charges for his mileage out on Friday, all his meals. The per diems would be the same, regardless; but, like he says, he is costing the government $750 a week to stay in the Hillview Terrace when he would just as soon stay home in Butlerville every night like he did for the previous seven years. He is just looking for an answer. All he is saying is: Why should I spend $750 a week when I can just charge for my gas back and forth and be home every night?

He seems to have a very legitimate argument, as does Mr. Collins and so on, if you choose to live in your district. I just donít know the answer. I donít think we should be dealing with it piecemeal, but it doesnít seem to make any sense that you should force a member to spend $750 a week when he prefers to be home and he can do it for whatever, $200 a week.

We need to find an answer - maybe referring it to the committee or whatever - but it is a legitimate request and we need to find an answer to it. To say that you are forcing them to stay in here because Chief Justice Green said it, that doesnít make it right. It is not sensible. If you can do it cheaper, and it satisfies the member in doing his job Ė because we have remember, Chief Justice Green said, the bottom line was here, let members do their jobs as well, but do it in an accountable fashion. However we have to do it to get to that point is where I think we need to go.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: Would it be fair to ask the Clerk and House staff to just do a Ė we all know that it is basically Bellevue and east. Would it be possible to look at - if somebody lived, for the sake of argument, under the rules that are currently in place based on Green, how much would it cost per week when the House is in session, and likewise for when the House is not in session, to deal with what we have in front of us on travel and overnight accommodations, to look at how much that would cost, and what would be the saw-off for accommodating the request?

I am not doing a very good job of explaining this, I donít think, but how much would it cost, for example, to entertain Mr. Butler? I will pick on Port de Grave there now. How much would it cost to entertain him, and is there a way that we can put a system in place, or look at options I should say, that would allow these types of requests to be accommodated in a manner that does not exceed the cost of Green?

If it can be done cheaper than Green, then we look at it, providing that the policy makes sense and is accountable and what have you, but letís not get into a spot where, by accommodating a member, wherever they want to live, that it is going to cost more than what is reasonable, as defined by Chief Justice Green.

I donít know if that makes any sense or not.

MR. SPEAKER: To expand on that: members, if they are travelling on government business, can choose their mode of travel. I guess the accepted mode would be by air. If members decide that they are going to drive, then they can drive and claim appropriate accommodations up to an airline ticket, and I donít see this as a whole lot different. We shouldnít be putting Ė

MR. TAYLOR: That is not entirely true, Mr. Speaker. That is not entirely true, because I can leave here in a rental car and drive to St. Anthony, in my district, and I can spend two days up there and I can do my business and I can turn around and I can drive back, and I can do it cheaper than I can fly from here to St. Anthony, rent a car in St. Anthony, drop it off back in St. Anthony two days later, and fly back here. It would cost me about $400 more to do it that way than if I rented a car in here and drove out; but, because my primary residence is in the St. Johnís area, I am not allowed to rent a vehicle from here to commute anywhere outside the city, but I can do it cheaper doing it that way.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, you are bringing in another formula. Not to get into being argumentative, we shouldnít be putting distances on it, and it should reflect on your statement right from the beginning by saying that if it can be done cheaper or reflect a cost no more than what Green had proposed then maybe it is something that should be entertained.

If the Member for Trinity North decides he is going to commute from Clarenville, what is the difference whether he drives every day or whether he stays in here, if it is no more than the cost that would be incurred by what Green suggested is the normal activity or action of a member while the House is in session?

Maybe, if I am hearing right, we should ask the Clerk and his staff to bring back a report and a directive for another meeting as it relates to travel while the House is in session, either on a daily basis or on people who decide to stay for their five days in the capital city, in the capital region, while the House is in session.

Is that what I am hearing? Do members agree?

The Clerk.

CLERK: I suppose we could try to do some discussion paper. There are all sorts of assumptions, of course, we would have to make on this; you would understand that. I might ask Ms Lambe, who is more familiar with these, to perhaps speak to it.

We would have to make a number of assumptions and look at a number of scenarios: which districts; numbers of nights you might stay; can you stay some nights and go home others or, once you decide you are going back to Butlerville, do you have to go every night? Are you allowed to stay some nights?

There are a number of complexities to it, which is why the Membersí Compensation Review Committee would have made life easier.

Perhaps Ms Lambe could just talk through some of the complexities. Could we do some sort of a discussion paper outlining this?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: I guess we could. It is quite a piece of work, to make sure you include all the different assumptions and all the different scenarios. Do we look at the whole Island and Labrador, and try to zero in and see at what point does the distance become cheaper by driving and flying, or a combination of both? Then, do we bring in rental cars as part of that scenario?

There are quite a number of scenarios that you would have to consider. I am sure it can be done, but I do think it is a big piece of work and I am not sure how long it would take, considering our resources right now.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I have to be honest. Perhaps I am naive, but I think we make a lot more work out of stuff than we actually need to. Letís be honest, now; you can assume a lot of things but assume what is reasonable, and it is reasonable to expect that people east of Clarenville might commute on a daily basis, but beyond that there is nobody commuting on a daily basis. There never has been, in the history of the House, anybody commuting west of that on a daily basis, and it is only now, I suspect, that Bellevue is commuting. It is probably the first time in a long time, anyway Ė the first time since Percy got elected, I suspect - that there was commuting on a daily basis.

The worst case scenario is, under Green, you go to your district every single week when the House is open and you spend three nights there. How much does it cost to drive from here to wherever the members currently reside, and how much is it reasonable to conclude they are going to claim in overnight accommodations when they get there, if they take the full three nights and then drive back, and their per diems and what have you associated with it? Conversely, if that person was allowed to drive on a daily basis then they are going to drive seven days a week, or five days a week, or four days a week, whatever it is, four round trips, I suppose, however many it is, anyway.

I donít think you need to be looking at scenarios of combinations of flying and renting vehicles and all that kind of old foolishness. There is nobody going at that. The only airstrip that is out in Harbour Grace is the one that Alcock and Brown landed on, so they are not going at that kind of stuff. Is it reasonable? What do we have requested? Deal with the worst case scenarios on that.

I donít mean to oversimplify it, but letís not overcomplicate it either.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

I ask the Clerk if he needs clarification.

CLERK: No, I understand perfectly. We will do up a discussion paper looking at all the different scenarios. There are a lot. I donít mean to necessarily complicate it, but there are a lot of considerations. We will try to come up with all the different permutations; it will be at least a basis to start. I donít think it will be the answer but it will be a basis to start discussion at any rate, so we can do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Members agreed?


MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda would be travel while the House is not in session. Members are allowed twenty trips per year now when the House is not in session. For the most part, I guess, when you consider that, you think of somebody living out in your constituency in a rural district and the twenty trips would be from your district, your constituency, to the capital city; but it is my understanding - and the Clerk can correct me if I am wrong - that in the case of some members who may reside within the capital city and represent a constituency outside the capital city then the twenty trips are reflective on the number of times they can travel in that particular direction as well.

Here, again, the Member for Placentia & St. Maryís has written a letter and expressed his concern where he would be disadvantaged because he happens to live within the capital region and twenty trips per year to his constituency, in order to be reimbursed for mileage, is certainly not reflective of what his constituents expect, and the need to be in that particular constituency.

I ask for membersí comments. I also ask if members want to - the Member for Placentia & St. Maryís is present. While it is not on the agenda for him to address the Commission, it is certainly something that the Commission has encouraged in the past, if members want to. If the Commission would like further clarification and further understanding of this particular memberís situation then the Chair would entertain and provide the opportunity for the Member for Placentia & St. Maryís to express his views and opinions before the Commission.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I call a point of order with regard to what you are suggesting, and I do that based on my own personal experience in our last meeting where an issue was discussed involving myself and it would have been very helpful if I had been able to answer questions about the request that I made to the Commission. While I understood my not being involved in the decision that was made, I think my being able to have input into the discussion would have been helpful.

I call a point of order. If we are going to do this then we have to make a decision it is going to be a policy, and if it is a policy then I would want a review made of the decision that was made with regard to my request in the last meeting.

MR. SPEAKER: I accept your point of order and just put it forward to ask the membersí indulgence if they wanted the member to make a presentation; but, by all means, the member is allowed to sit and the committee can certainly take part in the discussion as put forward.

Any comments on the situation whereby the travel when the House of Assembly is not in session - for an increase in the number of trips, especially whereby a certain member or members live in the capital city and represent constituencies outside the capital region?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I am just wondering; Mr. Taylor is in the same situation as Felix. It is not an issue for myself personally but I am just wondering. Mr. Taylor is a member of the Commission; how do you find the current arrangement where you are allowed twenty trips per year, sort of thing? Is there anything you can add to that?

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I guess, for me, because of ministerial duties, I donít really have the opportunity, or rarely have the opportunity, to make the twenty trips anyway so it is not so much of an issue, but I know, based on experience prior to becoming a minister, that the twenty trips is just not adequate. I donít know what the adequate number is. I am not sure that there was a number required, to be honest with you, but we are gone down that road now.

I understand from my colleague in the adjacent district that twenty trips are problematic. Some years you may use them, some years you donít use them; but, letís face it, the House is open for four or five weeks in the fall and it is open for how many in the spring, fourteen or fifteen? Twelve? I donít know, twelve probably. Seventeen, probably, is where we are coming in at, seventeen weeks, so you have another twenty-five weeks of the year, is it? Twenty-seven weeks. My math is not very good; that is the reason I am not in Finance. You have another twenty-seven Ė or thirty-five weeks.

I just donít see it, myself. The twenty weeks is restrictive and there is no need for it. It doesnít make any difference to me. It doesnít need to be changed for me; that is for sure. I am not making an argument on my own personal situation but when you have to go to St. Johnís, or vice versa, people expect you to be there. If you are in St. Johnís, you are living in St. Johnís, and there is a festival on the go down in Cape St. Maryís or Branch or St. Brideís or whatever, and you say, no, sorry, I canít go because my twenty trips are used up - I mean, you are a laughing stock. It is foolishness.

Likewise, if you are living in St. Barbe or Plum Point and the Town Council in Port Saunders is on the way in to meet with ministers - it is October month and you are after making twenty trips now - and the Mayor of Port Saunders calls you up and says: Wally, are you able to go to St. Johnís? We are on the way in next week. No, I canít go; I canít afford to go.

Everybody is spending money out of their pocket at this racket anyway, so I personally think that it is restrictive. Whether we should change it here, again this goes back to this ad hoc approach to it. I am always uncomfortable with that.

I donít know what the appropriate number is. Somebody might say if it is only open seventeen or eighteen weeks, roughly, a year, then twenty trips - every second week getting a trip to St. Johnís, I suppose that is what Justice Green looked at when he did it. I donít think that it is required, personally.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: If this rule were to be changed, how many MHAs would be affected by that rule?

MR. SPEAKER: I guess we are looking at two things here. We are looking at people who live outside the greater St. Johnís, the capital region, travelling to St. Johnís to carry out constituency work. Then we are looking at the other scenario where people live in the capital city and have to travel to their constituency, so it works both ways.


How many MHAs would that be? It doesnít affect me because I am in the capital region. How many MHAs would be impacted?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: I couldnít give you precise numbers. Some come to mind who are actually living here and representing districts within the Avalon: Minister Kennedy, Mr. Collins, Mr. Hutchings, they are within the Avalon, so that is one of the issues. In the case of Mr. Collins, of course, his district is close enough; he can make return trips each day, which is part of his issue. That would be true of Mr. Hutchings and Minister Kennedy.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. King.

CLERK: Minister Johnson. There are a few.

Well, Mr. King, I guess, goes off the Avalon Peninsula.

Then you have that other issue, if you are talking the number of trips, does it matter if you are in close proximity like Mr. Collins or can you indeed drive to Burin or Clarenville or so on? So it is similar to the other issue; it does expand when you look at the principles involved.

MR. SPEAKER: The other thing in Mr. Collinsí case, where he states here in his piece of correspondence, even in this twenty trips that he is allowed to drive from the capital city to his constituency, he drives from the capital region to Salmonier Line before he can even start charging mileage within the twenty trips that he is allowed to make, because of the boundaries of his district. So, you know, it is a situation where somebody is severely disadvantaged by the geography and where the person lives, and you are talking about serving your constituency and your constituents.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Well, it seems obvious that we would not be able to change that rule today because we do not know how many people it is going to impact, and I think we would have to work up some sort of analysis, but is that another issue that the staff could work on and bring back an assessment?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: We could work on that.

MS E. MARSHALL: The concern I have, and it goes back to what some of the other members of the Commission were saying, to make changes to rules on an ad hoc basis; but, you know, if we are going to make a change to the rules, I would like to know what all the implications are and what the estimated cost is before we actually dive in.

I am sympathetic to Mr. Collins and also to Mr. Peach, and I know that Mr. Young from St. Barbe has also expressed some concerns about the number of trips. I would like to see an assessment done up and the financial implications also prepared so that we could decide how we are going to pursue this.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I think the staff should look at it. A couple of concerns I have - I can appreciate Mr. Collinsí situation, where he lives in here and his district is close enough that he would like to commute maybe even in the morning and be back when the House opens in the afternoon. I raised this issue earlier when we talked about increasing the number of nights that a person could stay if you lived, in my case, for example, in Port aux Basques, and I come into the city and you are restricted to, at that time, I think, thirty-five nights. I donít think we should get caught up in the absolutes here.

Chief Justice Green made recommendations on what he thought was the best-case scenario. We are finding out, in practice, that the reality does not necessarily fit the rules that he designed. Now some people in the media, for example, might say: Well, why are you changing Judge Greenís rules within twelve months of having passed the act that he recommended?

The thing about it is that we have to deal with the reality of the situation. Now in my case, if I had business, for example, as an MHA, I try to double it up. I am coming in here for a management meeting; I would double up my business and do my constituency business at the same time so I do not need an extra trip, but there are occasions, for example, that I am going to find myself, I am sure, short. Even though we have increased it to fifty nights, you still have the limitation of twenty trips.

What happens if October comes and I am out of my twenty trips, and I have to come in here on behalf of the Town of Burgeo? I am not allowed to come in here to see the Minister of Municipal Affairs because I am out of my trips. That conflicts with Chief Justice Greenís comment that you still ought to be able to do your job.

We have a problem, not only in the case of Mr. Collins who wants to go out to his district because he lives in the city; we have a problem for persons like myself and Mr. Young, for example, who lives up on the Northern Peninsula, who wants to come into the city to do business.

I do think we need it reviewed. I think somewhere between the jigs and the reels reality has to meet what Chief Justice Green wanted. Chief Justice Green wants accountability. I have no problem with having the guidelines as he suggested, but we have to be reasonable and sensible enough to realize, and to use some common sense here, that the hard and fast absolute numbers that he suggests might not apply in all cases.

I will give an example. Chief Justice Green found it okay, for example, if I were travelling from here to Port aux Basques and I ran into a snowstorm in February, all I had to do was pick up the phone, call the Clerk, and say I am caught in a snow storm and I cannot get past Grand Falls. He can approve of me to stay in Grand Falls overnight and then continue on the next day, because obviously you do not compromise your safety and security when you are travelling.

Why couldnít there be a similar type situation? Have the guidelines, your twenty trips and your fifty nights, but if you exceed that, why shouldnít there be the same kind of common sense rule -maybe I will never exceed it, but if I do, why shouldnít there be some common sense rule - that I must have the permission of the Speaker or the permission of the Clerk? If I am absent from the House, for example, I get docked $200 a day under Chief Justice Greenís rules, unless I have a note from the Speaker. Why couldnít there be a common sense type of rule that would be applicable there?

What I am saying is, yes, letís use his guidelines, but, in the meantime, if you do exceed for some reason Ė I might never exceed that, if I were a member for thirty years, but if I do exceed it for some reason Ė I ought to be able to document it to the Speaker and to the Clerk why I am over my twenty trips. In that case, if we are trusting to the Speaker to be accountable in those cases of my absence from the House, why wouldnít you be accountable in a case where I needed twenty-one trips instead of twenty? I just think we need to bring some common sense to this thing.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I agree with Mr. Parsons, we have to bring some common sense to it, and there are different scenarios and it is very difficult sometimes when you have the absolute rule and that is how it goes. If we are going to ask the staff to look at it and come back, one thing I think that lacked in the Green report that we need to build in as we move forward on this is the whole rural analysis; because, if you represent the capital region and you live here in the capital region, you have full access 365 days a year to your district and to the government, to Confederation Building, to do your business. I do not think it is fair that, because you do not live in the capital region, or you do in the case of Mr. Collins, that your district does not get served to the same level.

Now, we do not cut off the people in the capital region and say you are allowed to come up to Confederation Building twenty times a year to meet with people; after that you are on your own until the next year rolls around. We do not put those parameters around people who live in the capital region. We donít say to them that you can go out into your district and attend functions thirty-five nights a year; after that, for the rest of the 300-and-some-odd nights, you have to stay away.

We do not put the same restrictions on, so as we move forward I would like to see some analysis done to ensure that just because you represent a district outside the capital in a rural area that you are not disadvantaged; because, as the House of Assembly, we should not have rules that treat people outside of the capital region differently or treat the constituents differently so they do not have full access to do their work.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

I totally agree, if I am allowed to make a comment. A person living in Gaultois should have as much right to their Member of the House of Assembly as somebody living in Topsail. With those rules that members are living by now, that is certainly not the case.

I am hearing that we are going to ask the staff to bring forward and bring back some recommendations for consideration to continue this discussion and probably come forward with a directive on a go-forward basis.

Do members agree? Does the Clerk need further clarification?

CLERK: Simply, could we speak of it more as a discussion paper as opposed to recommendations?

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. Yes, sure.

That can be done over the summer. I donít know if anybody is going to get any summer holidays or not, but it is something that we need done.

The next item on the agenda is Increase to Intra-Constituency Allocation. Here again is a letter brought forward by a member, the Member for St. Barbe, talking about the fact of the Intra-Constituency and extra constituency allowance that he receives is not reflective on the size of the district that he represents. He also ties in the situation as to where he lives, which is in the extreme end of one part of his district, and the travel that he has to endure in visiting the extreme other end of the district. The letter is there for clarification.

I ask the Clerk if he wants to make a comment on the proposed motions as put forward by the hon. the member.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Young is the only one, I think, who has written us on this, but it does come up in conversation a lot and Mr. Parsons referenced it as well. When the review commission, the Green commission, looked at what was required for the Intra-Constituency travel and so on, they actually did up a spreadsheet based on certain estimates. Whether those are right or wrong, they had a certain basis.

In the appendix document, the appendices to their report Ė it is actually appendix 10.3 which shows the calculations and assumptions - when you look at them, it does sort of give reason for pause. Minister Taylor spoke of this earlier. Despite a certain size of district, which would seem to suggest more travel costs and so on, a lot of the districts have a sort of standard allocation, or within a certain ballpark, $12,000 to $15,000.

The estimates are in this appendix on the number of nights you would spend in temporary accommodations, the number of kilometres you would travel, other travel requirements, ferry and so on, a helicopter in some of the districts. There was a basis for it. The problem we have now is there is not really any experience yet. The rules came in October 9; there wasnít a lot of experience up to the budget year, so members really could not put forward twelve months worth of experience as to what they actually need. It would not at all surprise me if some of these Intra-Constituency Allocations are inadequate; it is just that we do not know which ones are and are not.

The other complexity, as I mentioned in the note, is the total of the forty-eight different Intra-Constituency Allocations is $626,000 so any sort of adjustment now, mid-year, really looks to Special Warrant. There is no way we could handle even like a 10 per cent or 15 per cent increase over $626,000, so it is a complex matter.

It is difficult to address but, having said that, at some point I think we do need to go through the assumptions on the number of nights, the number of kilometres travelled, and see if those assumptions are matching up with the experience of members.

At this time it makes it awkward because each district impacts another. The issues that Mr. Young raised about location of permanent residence, proximity to major service centres, which I take it to mean, if you are dealing with civil servants, in some districts you have a big enough town in the district you can go and get service; if you are in a district that does not have a larger regional type service centre you actually have to leave your district to get service and so on.

There are a lot of complexities to the issue and, like the one on the number of trips and so on, I have no easy answer for the Commission.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I think there are a couple of issues in relation to this. I think the Member for St. Barbe raises a very simple issue. He feels that his Intra-Constituency Allocation is not enough. There were changes in the Green report with the allocations. I am sure there is probably 90 per cent of the allocations right now that are sufficient, and that there are going to be no requests for any changes.

If we look at just doing an assessment at the end of the year, we are only assessing what people were allowed to claim so it has to be within Ė you cannot assess something that exceeded it because it never went in or it never got approved anyway.

I would think that if members right now felt that this allowance or this allocation has not been adequate, they have probably brought it forward or can bring it forward. There might be some way that we can ask members. I know for my district it is not an issue; what I have there is going to be fine. There are other districts that probably have far less kilometres than St. Barbe that have more.

There might be an easier way to look at some of this. This might be just simply - there might be two or three districts that the allocation is just not high enough.

Without making it a real complicated matter - there is budgeting, we have to bring it in somehow, but I donít want to make this a bigger issue than what it is. I think we are just merely going to have to look at some of the districts, look at the number of kilometres within those districts, and see what is reasonable, or how St. Barbe would compare, say, to Humber East and Humber West down in Corner Brook. I think they are almost similar in their allocation, but there is no highway driving and it is not spread out over 300 kilometres; it is located basically within the City of Corner Brook. This looks like it is one, probably, here, and there might be a couple of more, I am not sure, that we just simply have to look at and say the allocation is not correct for the number of kilometres.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, the hon. member shows - while I wonít mention the districts, but have compared them - the geography of some districts compared to the geography of the district that the hon. member represents is much smaller, much more compact, and a greater allocation of funds allocated, so there is some unfairness there.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Just to give an example, I represent Burgeo & LaPoile. The Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, for example, her hometown is in Harbour Breton. If she is in her hometown and she takes a ferry to go to a community that she has to go to by boat, for example - I think the longest boat ride she has is probably three hours - she is entitled, under the allotment, to helicopter trips per year. My home base is Port aux Basques. I have to drive four hours to get to Burgeo, four hours on a boat to get to Grey River, but I donít get a helicopter allotment. I donít understand the logic of that. I have four isolated communities. I travel greater distances by road to get to the boat, and then I travel greater distances on the ferry to get to the community, than the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune; yet, that member is allowed once a year to get a chopper to go to these isolated communities but I am told, no, you have to get on the ferry.

I think we need some history here to show how it is working. We are only into this now a year and I agree that maybe the amounts are not sufficient either, but I donít know yet. I empathize with the Member for St. Barbe, but I think we need to give it some history.

I am finding already that I may be out of money before the year is up, too, and what I am going to have to do, of course, is curtail the number the trips, but there are those issues. There is the helicopter issue; why the difference from Burgeo & LaPoile versus the Cape la Hune district.

I think we need to give it some history and then come back and, once we have that bit of history, review it again.

MR. SPEAKER: Are you suggesting that we sent out a memo to all members letting them know the information that we are seeking, and ask for their input or their concern, because we are not talking about a lot of members here.

I know, me, representing the District of Bonavista South, I certainly have adequate money and it would not be something that would affect me or that I would be interested in, but there are others that are disadvantaged, it is clear.

MR. PARSONS: I think 90 per cent to 95 per cent of the members are okay under the current rules. It is only when you get into the reality of the situation that you figure out these differences and these off chances, shall we say.

I am not going to come back to the Commission because I ran into one problem, but over the course of a year or two if I find that this is a repetitive thing, that I cannot get to visit the district whereas another member can, well, fine, then I think it becomes an issue of fairness and then I bring it back.

So, yes, I think each member should be invited: You have had a year or so now experiencing the rules; what do you think? Invite some input.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I agree. As I said before, the travel back and forth for me to my district, to the district, is not a big problem because I am in Cabinet now. If I wasnít it probably would be, but once you get to the district, as I said before, and people probably took me the wrong way, but I can furnish a very lovely office in St. Anthony right now and have a lovely waiting room for the couple of people a day who drop in, but my constituency assistant who is up there canít go to Englee if they want to meet with them. It is very, very restrictive.

When you compare my district, I have forty-one communities spread over about the same number of kilometres as Mr. Young, you cannot physically drive to them all in a twenty-four hour period because they are all off on roads all over the place, as bad as the Baie Verte District and Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune and Burgeo & LaPoile Ė I mean, it is all scattered all over the place - yet, across the Straits, my colleague in Cartwright-LíAnse au Clair, I am assigned $12,600 to look after my district and Cartwright-LíAnse au Clair is $49,200. Now, she has three isolated communities, I will grant her that, but in five hours she can drive from one end of her district to the other and she is allowed to get a helicopter twice a year and she is allowed to charter a boat and she is allowed to have a Ski-Doo and guide and all that kind of stuff, which is okay, but before Green I was at $45,000 and she was at about $60,000. There was a $15,000 spread, roughly, I believe, give or take a few thousand dollars. Both of us, I donít know, I canít remember her ever complaining about how she had access to her district, and I didnít have any complaints about being able to service my district. Now she has four times as much as me, and I had three communities added to mine under the electoral boundary review. So, something just does not jive here.

I donít know. Maybe she Ė well, I know she obviously did more lobbying of Justice Green than I did, because I didnít even speak to the man but obviously I should have. It seems to me that he who spoke got something and he who didnít, didnít.

Anyway, I would like to see a memo go around. I think it is probably maybe eight or ten people who need some minor adjustments and my guess is that even within the existing budget most of that could be accommodated, because I know I am not going to use all my flights and I am not going to use all my nights - I donít expect, anyhow - and I am sure there are others like me.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

If not, then we will ask the Clerk to send a memo to the forty-eight members asking for their input as to their intra-district and Intra-Constituency allowances, and if they feel that they have been disadvantaged, and in what way, and what extra funding is required in order to allow them to carry out their work and to serve their constituents.

The next item on the agenda is Per Diems Ė Meals. Here again, I think this came as a request from the hon. Member for St. Barbe.

Members are allowed, I think, a total of $55 a day without receipts as a per diem for meals when they are doing constituency business. It is broken down on a cost for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The member makes the concern whereby, if he is carrying out constituency work and he has people from his constituency, whether it is town council members, fire department members, other concerned citizens here to meet with the ministers, and the member takes the visiting constituents out to lunch or buys them pizza, then that particular member cannot eat and charge out meals. He can eat, but he is not allowed to charge out any extra meals for that particular day while he serves his constituents.

He feels that he is totally disadvantaged and it should not take away his right to be able to charge out the extra meals that he needs and that he is entitled to normally for that present day.

If members have comments or suggestions, we will hear them.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: I would support the change, but I am just wondering why the recommendation says, "Öhereby moves that the Membersí Resources and Allowances Rules be reviewed.Ö"

Do we need to review rules or anything? Canít we just make that one change? I donít think we need a comprehensive review.

MR. TAYLOR: That is his recommendation, not ours.

MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, that was his recommendation, but canít we just make a motion to change that one rule? That is the problem.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, we could certainly just address the one. It would be a rule amendment because, of course, you are talking about Rule 42 and Rule 46, so it is a rule amendment through that two-stage process; but, yes, we could address just that one.

MS E. MARSHALL: Yes, I would support that change.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: I missed something here. I am not clear.

On the issue itself, my first comment would be, I am not the person who wrote the letter but I, myself, for example, had a school visit from my district throughout the year and there were twenty-odd kids who came in and we did the tour of the Confederation Building. I treated them to pizza and I did without my meals for two days because I bought them pizza; I wasnít allowed to claim the per diem.

MR. TAYLOR: A great way to diet.

MR. PARSONS: A great way to diet.

I didnít see the connection between my having a meal for two days and being able to treat the kids to pizza. My thought was, we have a limit of $3,000 a year under your strictly what they call constituency allowance now.

My view was: I thought if you were entertaining somebody like that, or you took somebody to a meal, why would you not just bill it off to your constituency allowance piece? It is a legitimate meal. The fact that I, for example, take the Mayor of Port aux Basques, when he is in St. Johnís, if I take him out for lunch when he is in here meeting with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Innovation and Trade, I have to do without breakfast and supper because I took him to lunch. I donít see the connection there. It doesnít make sense. Why not just bill it off to your constituency allowance?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I am sort of on the same page as Mr. Parsons. I guess, as a question of clarification or just to share my own practice, this is not constituency allowance but I agree with him that if it involves having a lunch with constituents then I see claiming that under constituency allowance, like when you are entertaining a group in the way Mr. Parsons did; but I know that, for myself, if I were in that situation, which I cannot be in because of the fact that I basically live in my district, I would see claiming for the breakfast and the evening meal but not claiming for the lunch meal. I donít think there should be the double-dipping, to use that phrase.

If I go to a conference, for example, where I do get my expenses covered, and two of the meals are covered by the conference, I donít think I should also be claiming my per diem and getting that extra money.

I donít see why, in the case of Kelvin, for example, what he just described, yes, he doesnít claim for the lunch in the middle of the day because it was paid for when he ate with the kids and he got it out of his constituency allowance Ė

MR. PARSONS: I didnít.

MS MICHAEL: He didnít but he should have, I think Ė and then claim his breakfast and dinner. That is real common sense to me.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I think what this is trying to get at is the fact that you donít go out and purchase meals and then claim a flat per diem without receipts, because that is wrong to do both. What it should say, I think, very simply, is that in 42 it says, "Where a member makes a claim pursuant to subsection 46 (3) relating to meal expensesÖ" Ė because we are not talking now, you know, the water gets delivered to the office; this is a meal that you are out, a legitimate meal Ė the member shall not claim that meal under the daily meal allowance.

That is plain and simple what it means. So, if you happen to have dinner that is a separate claim because the mayor is in town or you are doing constituency business for lunch and you have sandwiches come into your office, I agree that you should not claim for lunch on your flat per diem because you have now claimed for that under a separate matter, under separate circumstances, and I think that clears it up quite comfortably.

If you are claiming for a meal, you donít claim it on your per diem. It stops you from doing the double-dipping and getting paid twice for the same meal.

MR. SPEAKER: I totally concur, and I think that probably that was the intent here. Not to have members go days, or even a day, without eating because they had served their constituent to breakfast or to lunch.

Would you like to put that in the form of a motion, Ms Burke, that we would implement that change and make that change to that particular rule? Would that be the procedure, Mr. Clerk?

CLERK: I think we can see there is a consensus on that front and we can draft something up, unless Minister Burke has something she wanted to put forward in terms of the wording, but I think generally what we are saying is, as with civil servants, if you actually entertain - this is the term used in the civil service - someone bought a meal for someone, which you ate, you would not claim for that meal that day; the other meals you would.

That is the standard civil service approach. I think if we take it as a consensus that the Commission supports that, we could go on that basis and draft a rule amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Okay, 46 (3) will stand as it is because that means that you can purchase coffee or muffins or whatever.

The motion would be, then, to amend section 42 to read: Where a member makes a claim pursuant to subsection 46 (3) relating to meal expenses, the member shall not claim that meal under the daily meal allowance.

MR. SPEAKER: Can somebody second that motion?

AN HON. MEMBER: Seconded.

MR. SPEAKER: Properly moved and seconded.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

It being 10:53 a.m., maybe we will take a fifteen minute break and resume again at about 11:05 a.m. or 11:10 a.m.

This Commission meeting is now in recess.


MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda would be Function/Event Costs under Tab 3; the last item, actually, under Tab 3.

Here is a request again from a member whereby the member makes the point of elected members being invited to attend functions. It is not uncommon for a Member of the House of Assembly to be invited to attend a function such as a Chamber of Commerce meal, Knights of Columbus, any particular event that you are invited to as a Member of the House of Assembly. You may not be there doing constituent business but, for the most part, you are there and invited because you are the Member of the House of Assembly for that particular area where the event is taking place.

Since Green, members have been incurring this cost personally themselves because there is nowhere they can charge off the ticket purchase. The member is suggesting that, where a member attends a function related to their district and the invitation comes as the Member of the House of Assembly, that the member should be able to charge that event off under their constituent allowances and be reimbursed. There may or there may not be a meal involved. I would think if there is a meal involved then we would revert to the same idea that we talked about before we recessed. If there is a meal involved then you would not claim a meal for that particular meal on your constituent allowances or your per diems. If there is not a meal involved then you would certainly be allowed to claim your meals and the request is that you be reimbursed for the cost of the ticket.

I ask for membersí comments.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I guess in simple terms it seems like, if we are attending business as the MHA and there is a cost to attend, that we can claim that cost. I guess that is kind of the discussion we are getting into.

I just want to highlight another issue. There was recently a dinner in my district and I was sent an invitation, and the cost of tickets Ė I think I was probably given complimentary tickets. The House was open so it was something that I wasnít able to attend, so I didnít give it much thought. I could have taken the complimentary tickets and attended the meal; or, on the other hand, family members had tickets bought anyway, so one way or the other I would have been covered off had I been in town to go to this meal.

It was a fundraiser. It was a fundraiser for a particular organization over in my district. I made the assumption that if I went to this fundraiser I would go as a private citizen, I would pay for my ticket, and there would be no acknowledgment of me at that dinner as the MHA because otherwise I am overstepping what I thought was in the Green report.

As we look at this, that is one question we have to look at, is it a fundraising activity? Is someone raising funds from it?

In fairness to what you just said, Mr. Chair, if the Knights of Columbus are doing a dinner, chances are it is a fundraiser for that club. That is why they host these dinners. They make money off these dinners. Then, on the other hand, do we use money from our constituency allowance to pay for that? I think there is a big line to be drawn as to what we attend, and whether or not they are fundraisers.

I will go to another question which is probably not on the radar: What about if we are given complimentary tickets to a fundraiser dinner? We are lending our names, then, to that fundraiser. We will probably be identified. Because they took the trouble to send us tickets, they are probably going to say: and here is your MHA.

Now, we have not paid for the tickets but we are lending our name and we are accepting that as a gift for a fundraising event.

My comment on this, my concern is that we have to be cautious over the fundraising part of it.

MR. SPEAKER: Any other comments?

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: For this one here, I donít see whether it refers to a meal but for some reason when I read it the first time I thought there was a meal involved and I thought that it would just automatically be included under 46 (3) (a) and wouldnít need to come to the Commission. The last part of it talks about meals and non-alcoholic beverages on other constituency-related occasions.

I know that I have gone to some of these events myself, so I would think that it would be covered under 46 (3) (a) if it was claimable, if there was a meal involved.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: I guess with the change we just made before the break, where you would be able to claim that meal as if you were treating constituents, that may be covered if there is a meal involved. There are also others where there is no meal. It may just be whatever: a concert, dance or so on.

The meal one may be resolved from the proposed amendment we just discussed before the break, but there could be other instances where there isnít a meal yet the member is expected to go and purchase a ticket and so on.

On this particular one that Dr. King spoke to, we may well have been able to consider it a constituency-related occasion - he describes it in that e-mail - and perhaps we could have talked about it in those terms. There are others where it is still a bit grey. If we tie it directly to this 46 (3) (a) constituency business or constituency-related occasions, that does provide a certain judgement which we would have to invoke on it; nonetheless, it is probably doable in that sense. The bigger issue might be whether there are or not meals.

MS E. MARSHALL: That leads into this question, then: What were we looking at in terms of a motion? Because for this now we were obviously thinking under 46 (3) (m), those others items directed by the Commission. So, what did we have in mind for defining other items?

CLERK: Well, again, we had not proposed anything; it was more just to get direction from the Commission and then we can write it up following that.

MS E. MARSHALL: Did this one include a meal? Would you know that?

CLERK: I donít know.

MS E. MARSHALL: If it would probably include a meal then I would just say it is covered under 46 (3) (a) and there is no need for the Commission to provide any additional direction.

MR. SPEAKER: If I might interrupt, while we are speaking specifically to the letter from the Member for Grand Bank, there have been other inquires. While that is the only letter that is accompanying the discussion here today, there have been other inquiries where members have asked for reimbursement, or if they would be entitled to reimbursement, for attending functions, for being invited as the Member of the House of Assembly, and they have not chatted about meals; it is just the cost of (inaudible).

MS E. MARSHALL: Well, the only concern I would have is that if we are going to define other items, as a Commission, then I would certainly like to know what category it is rather than have something out there that is too general.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just to back up what has been said, I agree with Ms Burke that if we do something under 46 (3) (m) it cannot be so general, as Elizabeth has just said, that we are not ignoring the issue around fundraisers, because we already have direction around that and I am sure we are all living by that, which is: if it is a fundraiser, you give your donation privately, you ask for no public recognition, et cetera, and we are all doing that.

I think it makes sense to put something in under 46 (3) (m) - I think it does - because I think there are events, like the one that Dr. King is talking about, which may not have a meal attached to it, and there are others like that.

Whatever the wording is, we would have to make sure that we recognize the issue with regard to fundraisers.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I think we have to bear in mind what Ms Burke said, if we do consider anything under (m), because 99.44 per cent of this stuff, like Ivory soap, has some fundraising component to it and you canít do through the back door what you canít do through the front door. So, if you canít make a donation to the Lions Club then it would be very difficult to go to a Lions Club event and make a donation in the form of a ticket to that event and then turn around and claim that under your constituency allowance.

If you want to go, if you are invited to go, there are only two ways you can go, I think, in my view, for what it is worth. If you are invited to a function in your district, if you are invited there as the MHA and you decide to participate as the MHA, then the people who are holding the event have to understand that there is no financial contribution from you as a result of that; or, you participate as a private citizen and whatever donation you decide to make is between you and your pocketbook, and nobody else knows about it. If we stray beyond that, then it has to go back to 46 (3) (a) and (3) (f) and deal with it under the meals and the decision that we made on the last issue.

I know that we all incur these types of things, but I donít know how else you can get there. I mean, it is all fundraising. If the Board of Trade invites you to something, you know, technically speaking, it is fundraising; because, whatever funds they have from their dinners and luncheons and what have you are used to support the ongoing advocacy of their members, of the board on behalf of their members. It is a bit dicey there.

There is no clear answer, but I think on this one we just deal with it right now as it relates to meals in the previous one, and whatever we decide to do on a go-forward basis - it doesnít hurt to have a look at it, but consider it against the backdrop of what Green said about donations.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Looking at that particular case, if the MHA in question was invited by Sport Newfoundland and Labrador to go, that is fine, there are no consequences financially to him to go. If he was not invited by Sport Newfoundland and Labrador, he made a conscious decision to go as the MHA so he bears the brunt of that.

Whether it is the Duke of Edinburghís Awards, or whatever awards, if I make a decision as an MHA that I am going to go to support some constituent, I am doing that in a political capacity and therefore I cannot be charging that off to my constituency allowance. That is my view.

MR. SPEAKER: So I am hearing that the request for reimbursement of costs to attend functions will not be considered at this time?

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: There is a difference between Ė I think what Mr. Parsons was just saying is that sometimes we are invited. So, we are invited as an MHA to go to something and it could be a function that is not a fundraiser but to honour someone. In Stephenville, I know, the Legion has a formal dinner every year to honour the people from the Legion and people who have since passed away. That is a formal dinner that they host. I guess it could be a fundraiser for the Legion Ė we wonít get into that Ė but you would be invited there as an MHA, which is different from, say, if they had a dinner for some other event and you chose to attend. Sometimes you choose to attend; sometimes you are invited. Sometimes you are invited to a function as an MHA.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: If you are invited and there is a meal, well, fine, you are covered under 46 (a), it is not an issue; but, if you are not invited and you choose to attend, that is a different story.

MS BURKE: What about if it is a fundraiser?

MR. PARSONS: Again, if you Ė

MS BURKE: - and you are invited.

MR. PARSONS: If you are invited and it is a fundraiser, again, you should not be using your constituency allowance to pay for fundraisers.

MR. SPEAKER: How do you make the difference of what the meal costs and what the amount Ė this is the kind of stuff that we are talking about.

MS BURKE: You can attend Ė

MR. PARSONS: Well, Mr. Taylor made a comment earlier this morning - there is a modicum of common sense. If somebody tells me I am paying $50 for a meal and I am getting a cold plate there is a fundraiser element attached to that, if it costs you $50 in rural Newfoundland for a cold plate. Now, if somebody says I am paying $7.50 to go to a fundraiser and you are getting a cold plate, I would say that is reasonable. You have to use some common sense here. You donít pay $50 to go to a cold plate supper or a turkey supper or whatever Ė certainly not out my way, anyway.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: What about, say, your local Chamber of Commerce was having a lunch and the tickets are $15 or $20 and - go back to what Mr. Taylor said - they obviously use these as fundraisers. So they use it as a fundraiser, which would be different than, say, the Bay St. George sick kids having a fundraiser. Do we just not pay for meals that are fundraisers?

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: If that is the case then we donít go to any of them. As I said, .56 per cent we can go to, because 99.44 of them are fundraisers in one way or another, whether the cold plate is $7.50 or the cold plate is $75. The only difference is how much you make off it. Everything is donated at $7.50. We had a fundraiser for my district association not very long ago and we sold them for $5 and we made money off it because everything was donated.

We can spend more time here talking about the $2,000 that is going to be spent annually on cold plates and luncheons than we spend on $6 billion for the budget in the run of a year. I think that we just go back to: if it is a meal and there is a reasonable cost associated with it then you are allowed to participate and you deal with it under the previous decision that we made. If it is anything outside of that, let the staff of the House have a look at what might or might not be considered under (m) and we will have a look at it at another time.

I donít know if that makes sense, but we canít get into Ė in my view, anyway - if somebody is going to go to a $50 event at Ducks Unlimited then it is eligible or it is not eligible, or if it is at the Legion for $20 then maybe or maybe not. If it is for the Stars and Legends Awards Gala and it is $50, well maybe we can because it is honouring a group of people, but if it is just for a fundraiser for that same organization, to help them support the ongoing costs of running their organization, then no, we canít.

Are we going to get down to that level of detail here? If we do, we are going to be bogged down here for the next ten years. Well, I wonít be, butÖ.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: To bring it back, Mr. Chairman, to this $50 it is my opinion that this $50 is claimable under rule 46 (3) (a).

MR. TAYLOR: It is mine also.

MR. SPEAKER: Marlene, do you want to make a comment as to the reason why you would have some problems and why it wasnít paid?

Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: Yes, I refused that claim mainly because when we looked 46 (3) it says meals or purchase. It does say constituency-related events, but this was to attend an event rather than to have a meal. I guess we looked at meals like when Mr. Parsons talks about having pizza for a school group to come in to tour the House, or a meeting with the town council or people in your district.

This was a $50 ticket to a Sports Newfoundland and Labrador event in St. Johnís - not in the district, actually - and we felt that he should not be covered under 46 (3).

MR. SPEAKER: Can we make some consideration Ė I am just sitting here, thinking Ė if members attend functions such as this, and if there is a meal involved, why couldnít the member claim what he is allowed to claim for that particular meal, and anything over and above that let him or her be responsible for?

If there is no meal involved and they are buying a ticket then obviously it is a donation, but if I am entitled to $25 for my dinner and I attend a $75 function in my district then maybe I should be entitled to receive the $25 that I am entitled to receive. The other $50, if I choose to attend, is obviously something that I cannot collect and I am out-of-pocket the other $50.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: What you are saying would not apply to this particular case because Dr. King lives in the St. Johnís area so he would not be entitled to a per diem. If this function happened in his district, he could do what you are saying. This was in St. Johnís. So, because he lives in the capital region, he could only claim it under 46. He could not claim it under his per diem because he would not be entitled to a per diem.

MR. SPEAKER: Because of where he lived.

MS BURKE: Right. Not because of the function but because of his residence.

MR. SPEAKER: Do members want the staff to look at this, or do members want to continue as in the past, that there is no reimbursement for cost, or do members want to look at the cost of the meal being reimbursed, forgetting about where you live, what you are entitled to, and if it is a function that you have been invited to, with the invitation and with the amount that you ordinarily would be allowed to claim for the meal, and after that you would be on your own? I seek membersí direction.

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: Just to add one other item to it - there are a lot of legitimate issues here, including the donations one - this is speaking to the $3,000 constituency allowance, so it is a finite pot. If you were spending it on these sorts of events, it is not a bottomless pit here. You have the $3,000. If you spend it on this, you donít have it for the other constituency allowance expenses. That is not to say there shouldnít be any rules, but it is one of the considerations; it is not a lot of money in this particular allocation. That might be a consideration for Commission members.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I understand where Ms Lambe is coming from, and I agree with her, but, as the Clerk just said, we are talking about a $3,000 pot here and it is a $50 meal. There is a meal involved. Is there a way that this can be dealt with under the previous - as other have said Ė and take a vote on it or something? We are beating $50 to death in the midst of how much. I know you have to look after the pennies and the dollars will look after themselves, but Ė

MR. SPEAKER: It is obvious that members have some concern here, to make sure that members are not disadvantaged and to make sure that we abide by Green, so maybe we can ask the staff to bring back a recommendation for the next meeting, and deal with it that way, and give us some insight as to where we should channel our thoughts or bring it to some conclusion and deal with (inaudible).

MR. TAYLOR: I hope he doesnít need that $50 any time soon. I hope he didnít need it very long ago.

MR. SPEAKER: Those are a lot of the petty issues that we have to deal with, but they need to be dealt with and members should not be disadvantaged.

The Clerk.

CLERK: I should say, of course, the Commission has the right, on appeal, to change the decision we have made.

On the specific issue of $50 for Dr. King, the Commission has the authority to say: No, we think that is appropriate; reimburse him. The problem is that is does not work for all the others who have asked, it is case by case, but on this specific issue the Commission should understand they have the right, on an appeal as it were - we can consider this an appeal - to say reimburse the $50.

MR. SPEAKER: The only thing is, and not to keep this going, we need to give Ms Lambe some clear direction because we should not be taking up our meetings with those appeals that will certainly come regularly when somebody submits a claim. If we are going to do something we should do it, be definitive and move forward, and not have those kind of items taking up the agenda every time that we meet.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: My last comment on this would be, if it was $50 and he attended a meal to be there to support the constituents, and it can be claimed under section 46 (3), I will support that; because the flip side could be, if he could not attend this dinner in honour of the constituents or the constituent who is being honoured, he would have had access in his constituency allowance to take that individual to dinner, and pay for that dinner, which would cost us probably $150.

So, when you put it in perspective, he was there, the constituents were there, it can be reimbursed under 46 (3), so I think, you know - it is; but, in saying that, there are going to be other issues that we do not have to deal with here today that will come forward, that we will have to address under this section.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I agree with what Ms Burke has just said, and if we want to give direction to the staff with regard to coming up with something to bring back to us for a firmer decision - I think we talk about events, getting the non-fundraising point into whatever statement we come up with, and get into the point about if there are meals involved, exactly what you had outlined, Mr. Chair, and that is the meal part that you would be normally eligible for you would get and the rest is your own expense - if they can come up with some kind of a statement that brings in the concerns that we have raised and then we make a decision, but I agree with Ms Burke with regard to this particular expense that has been put before us. If there was a meal involved then it is covered by 46 (3) (a). I donít know if Ms Lambe knows whether or not there was a meal involved.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael, you had the final comment on this particular issue.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask for a motion whereby we reimburse the hon. the Member for Grand Bank for the cost of a ticket to attend a gala event where four athletes were nominated for awards, and ask the staff to bring back a recommendation on a go-forward basis at another meeting.

Can somebody make that recommendation?

Made by Ms Michael; seconded by Mr. Taylor.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Moving right along to item 6, Budget Process.

I pass that to the Clerk.

CLERK: If I can find it.

MR. SPEAKER: While the Clerk is looking for his notes, this was brought about by some concern that was raised by some members of the Commission when we last met to consider the budgetary process of the House of Assembly and the statutory offices. Some members thought that it was done in a way that did not allow enough time and enough input to ask the pertinent questions to feel comfortable with the amounts that were put forward for consideration. As a result, the Clerk indulged in coming up with a calendar and with time frames on how the 2008-2009 budgetary process might be done in a more constructive way where members would have input and be allowed and be permitted to come forward, meet with the statutory offices, ask the questions, and at the end of the day be comfortable with the estimates as put forward.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, as the Speaker said, there is a sort of one-page flow chart at the beginning and then, following it, two or three pages describing each of the various areas. In the left-hand column on those blocks you have the responsibility, the various office or individual with the responsibility for achieving that step. In the middle is a description, and a more detailed description is on subsequent pages, and then the target dates, just generally identified by months, not anything more specific than that, in the right-hand column.

Starting in August, the budget division of Finance develops its guidelines, circulates them to departments and so on, and we receive those. The Corporate and Membersí Services Division, Ms Lambe and her staff, would receive that, see if there are any matters we need to adjust for House of Assembly activities or the stat offices, and that would be circulated on to the statutory offices and the directors within the House. The next step is those various offices would prepare their requests and so on. So, between August and October they would be working up their next year budget requests and submitting them. October and November would be an opportunity to review and have feedback, ask questions and so on, on those requests. Then, in November, the House accountability act assigns specific responsibilities for the Clerk to do analysis and commentary on many of the offices, deal with our own directors within the House of Assembly and so on.

Ultimately we are recommending by the end of November to be presenting the budget requests to the Speaker, and in this case the Speaker is comparable to the minister, as it were, so we would go to him and present the various requests from the divisions and the stat offices.

At that point in November the Department of Finance tends to want information from departments and the Legislature, at least in a global sense, of what their next year budget requests may be, the projected figures for the current fiscal year and so on. Even by November, even though there are a lot of months left in the year, the Department of Finance likes to receive that, so we would do that in November.

Following that, we would then start the briefing of the Management Commission, so the individual statutory offices could provide technical briefings. The number of meetings we might require is really dependent on the Commission. Do you want just a half-hour with one of the offices, or do you want a couple of hours and really go into detail on the whole budget?

Those would provide technical briefings to the Commission. I would provide it on the House of Assembly service and caucus operations. Again, that is through December and January, finally leading to the budget meetings, as it were, the decision meetings of the Commission in January.

This last year we had that meeting, you will remember, on February 6. We donít want to be much later than that. I think the Department of Finance wants this settled in January. They have a big job to do in pulling it all together. So, by late January, we are saying, we would then have the final approved budgets sent on to the budget division, Department of Finance.

That is sort of it in a nutshell. It is skeletal at this sense, and the numbers of meetings and so on are not identified. That would really be subject to the Commissionís wishes.

I guess we can open it for questions and, if necessary, Ms Lambe could speak to some of these processes in more detail.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: I have no questions, just a couple of comments; because, as the Clerk was saying, there was some discussion about the process we used last year.

I do like the two separate meetings, one on the statutory offices and one on the House of Assembly service and caucus operations. I like that. When I read the briefing notes I was concerned about sending the budget over to the Department of Finance before it was approved by the Commission, but from what you are saying I understand they want the projected numbers mostly?

CLERK: This is the November one?


CLERK: They do want global figures, though, donít they?


MS E. MARSHALL: They want global figures? Okay.

CLERK: Of course, there are no decisions.

MS E. MARSHALL: There are no decisions.

Well, if that is going over to the Department of Finance that gives me a little bit of concern because of the supposed separation between the executive arm of government and the legislative arm. Of course, it will not be approved by the Commission and, of course, the Commission will not even have seen it at that point in time.

I would just like to bring that point up.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: Thank you.

We tried, actually, in the first year I was here, I tried not sending it over, but I guess their concern is they are just looking for a global number of what government is expected to spend in the next year, if they bring out some policies for restraint or whatever, and without any number for the Legislature at all then they do not have a sense of what the total budget could be.

Of course, what is submitted to the budget division at that time, and the numbers they are using, is purely the departmentís request. There have been no decisions made if that funding will actually be approved at the end of the day.

We could just send over last yearís numbers. That would give them a number to work with, but it would not really give them the numbers before the Commission had them, I guess.


I just wanted to raise that as a concern.

MS LAMBE: We can discuss that with them, and see if they would be okay with us sending over the current yearís budget, just to give them a basis to work with.

MR. SPEAKER: Any other comments?

We will advise the Clerk, or the Clerk can take advice from what he has written here, and we will proceed with the 2008-2009 budgetary process in that direction.

The next item, we will go to Tab 4 under New Business, is a letter of appeal regarding a telephone line in a private residence. The letter of appeal came whereby Mr. Rideoutís constituency assistant had a constituency office in his residence, and from the time that the former member had left, up until the time that Mr. Rideout got elected in Baie VerteĖSpringdale, the constituency assistant continued to work from his home and carry out the function of a constituency assistant: making telephone calls, Internet service, fax correspondence, et cetera. He submitted his bill for payment. I think the bill, Ms Lambe, amounted to $624. He also submitted to me, at the time, an itemized telephone list of the calls made. Well, it was the telephone bill, actually. I reviewed the bill and it was obvious that every call that you could see there was a two-minute call, a three-minute call, and they were all from the District of Baie VerteĖSpringdale.

Since there were no allowances made under the Membersí Resources and Allowances Rules for a constituency assistant to have a telephone line as a constituency assistant in his private residence, Corporate Services decided that they could not pay that particular fee.

The letter was written to me, and I indicated to the former member at that time that it would have to be an issue to be raised with the Commission. The constituency assistant was carrying out his due diligence, performing his work as a constituency assistant; but, because there were no provisions for that telephone line to be installed in his residence effective October 9, 2007, the bill was refused.

I would like for members to consider the appeal and the request as put forward, so that the constituency assistant for the District of Baie VerteĖSpringdale might be reimbursed for costs incurred in carrying out his duties as a constituency assistant to the former member.

Membersí comments?

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chair, I think that the request to pay it is reasonable. The rules changed on November 28. There had to be a reasonable time given for people to adapt to the new rules. As you just explained, the costs of the bills appear to be all associated with the business of the constituency. So, as such, there is no reason to question or quarrel with the actual amount. The only question is where it was located, and I think that we should provide payment.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I agree with what Mr. Taylor said, and I think what is interesting here to note is that, following the election, we certainly started following the rules as they are set up, and there would be a constituency office available to the constituency assistant, whether he was working from Confederation Building or if the person was working from the district Ė and in this case there was no district office. That is the line that I would draw, that you cannot have a district office and have this set up in your home, but that constituency assistant was working from the district, being paid to do that work, so they needed the appropriate equipment to do the job. Once the office opened, it was cut out.

I think, based on those circumstances, that this is a reasonable expense.

MR. SPEAKER: I might add, the office space was not available until February 2008, and at that time those expenses ceased.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I agree with the comments, both from Mr. Taylor and Ms Burke, and in light of the supportive letter from Mr. Rideout which does indicate what you just said, that they knew that the constituency office was going to have to be moved from Mr. Jimís house to outside, and they started right away to try to do that, in the light of all of that, I think this was a transitional kind of issue that we are dealing with here, and in the light of that I approve the reimbursement as well.

MR. SPEAKER: Would some member of the committee make a motion that we reimburse Mr. Patrick Jim, the former constituency assistant to Mr. Rideout, for the costs of telephone services and other office related expenses, to the sum of $624?

Made by Mr. Parsons; seconded by Mr. Taylor.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is an associated issue with Mr. Jim out in Baie Verte-Springdale which perhaps, if the Commission would indulge me, we could address now. We have had a long-standing practice in the House, when a seat becomes vacant, particularly a by-election, resignations, waiting for by-elections and so on, we keep the consistency assistant on salary, keep the office open. There is at least a point of contact in that district. Even though it is not an elected member, because of resignations or what have you, there is at least someone charged with responsibility for that district to take the phone calls and so on. It has been a long-standing tradition.

In the current situation in the House we have two seats vacant: Cape St. Francis and Baie Verte-Springdale. We have kept the constituency assistants on salary with the offices, such as they exist - open, the phones still work and so on - but the authority to do that back under the Internal Economy Commission is somewhat unclear. What do exist are minutes respecting the general election so that, during the writ period of a general election, assistants and so on stay on salary. It does not speak to by-elections and so on.

If the Commission agrees, it may be helpful for us to draft a minute that the Commission approves keeping consistency assistants on salary following the vacancy in a district until the subsequent by-election clarifies the new member, something along those lines. We say it just so that there is clear authority for us to have kept these people on payroll until the by-election comes about.

I donít have anything drafted. It just occurred to me, looking at the issue respecting Baie Verte-Springdale, but we could draft a minute, circulate it as part of the draft decisions, and see if it meets the Commissionís approval.

MR. SPEAKER: Comments?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just to say I certainly agree with what the Clerk is putting forward. It certainly happened in my by-election. In between Jack Harris stepping down and my being elected, the constituency assistant was kept on, and I think it is what we owe the people in the constituency. They have to be able to have their issues dealt with, and all of the constituency assistants are so experienced that they can carry on.

I certainly would look forward to having that and approving it.

MR. SPEAKER: Any other comments?

If not, then the Commission hereby grants approval for the Clerk to submit a directive to be brought back for approval at another meeting.

The next item on the agenda would be Letter of Appeal Ė Parking Fees. This is a situation whereby, prior to the change of a rule at a subsequent meeting, when members stayed at temporary accommodations in the capital city, or in their district, I suppose, for that matter, there was a $125 cap put on the amount of funding that members could receive.

A member was of the opinion that the $125 was for the reimbursement of room expenses only and not to be considered for parking expenses and other incidentals.

The Clerk and Corporate Services deemed that the $125 was a complete cost for all costs related to accommodations at a hotel, whether it is Internet service, room fees, parking fees, et cetera.

The Member for St. Barbe has appealed to be reimbursed, and to have parking fees for his temporary accommodations applied on a retroactive basis.

With the change in the rules on a go-forward basis at a subsequent meeting, the cost of a normal room was considered the norm, and with the cost of a normal room then the incidentals like Internet service, parking fees, et cetera, could all be included.

I ask the membersí direction as to whether we should entertain the thought of reimbursing a member retroactively with the cost of parking fees up until the change when the rule was reflected at a higher cost for temporary accommodations.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Chairman, even before we amended the rules, I would have through that the parking would have been reimbursable, because it says, "Where a member claims expenses relatedÖ."

My interpretation of that is that the cost of the parking is not necessarily part of the $125, that there is room there to charge for the cost of parking in addition to the $125, so I wouldnít have any problem approving that.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe, would it be fair to ask for your interpretation in deeming that parking fees should be considered over and above the cost of the room?

MS LAMBE: Our interpretation was that, in the section that refers to it, it says, "Öthe actual costs of temporary accommodations, with receipts, up to $125Ö." Then, section 41 (1) says, "Where a member claims expenses related to temporary accommodationÖ."

To me, all of these expenses are related to temporary accommodations, and the maximum for temporary accommodations is $125, all-inclusive; these cannot exceed $125.

I will be honest. I thought it wasnít, to me, even a matter of interpretation. I thought it was clear so we didnít even at the time question it, until it was raised afterwards.

MS E. MARSHALL: I would have thought that the additional cost for the parking was reimbursable, even just from what I would think would be a common sense point of view. The $125 is not a high rate, but to say that the $125 had to include the cost of your room, long-distance telephone, parking fees, et cetera, et cetera, I just thought that it didnít seem logical to me, in addition to my interpretation.

MS LAMBE: I agree, from a common sense point of view, that it should not include it, but I guess from a strict interpretation point of view I felt that the $125 under the temporary accommodations would include all of the items.

I agree, $125 for all of this was not sufficient; but, apart from that, I still felt that the wording of that one, that says that these expenses related to temporary accommodations, and then the temporary accommodations amount was $125, I guess we took it at the strict interpretation of the wording there.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Having put up my hand, now I am not sure what I want to say, because I am sort of with Ms Marshall on this one and I was misinterpreting, I guess, because I was missing that the room charges, which would mean the actual cost of a room, was included in expenses related to temporary accommodation. With that in there, I understand now that all of it comes under the $125, but how in heavenís name all of that could come under $125 and expect to be covered, I donít understand how it could be.

I just would be concerned that if we approve this cost, which I think is quite a legitimate situation, that if we are approving a retroactive payment, that we do not open up a door to a whole lot of other requests with regard to retroactive payment in other changes that we have made. That is the concern that I have.

That is not an answer to anything; it is just putting that concern out there.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: As has already been said, I just would have thought that they were included, and by highlighting that this can only be dealt with now as it relates to the changes that were made a little while ago we are implying that this has to be done retroactively. It seems to me that, while Ms Lambe interpreted it, or said there was no need for interpretation, it was categorical, the rest of us are interpreting it differently than that.

Like Ms Michael just said, how you can get all of that for less than $125Ö. You can, I suppose. Anyway, it is listed there. I am not sure what we should do with it, but I definitely donít think we should be talking about retroactivity. When we changed the rules, all we changed was the standard room, and that is all. We said a standard room, and we used those wordings so that we didnít deal with stuff excessively. We shouldnít be dealing with it in a retroactive manner.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

The Clerk.

CLERK: Again, it does seem a bit confusing. In fact, when this issue first arose some months ago and Ms Marshall spoke to me, I agreed, common sense means it wouldnít be covered. Then I spoke to Ms Lambe and she has convinced me.

Whether it was intended or not, the wording really speaks to this. It says: the actual cost of temporary accommodations to $125. So temporary accommodations has a maximum.

Then, when you go to 41 (4): When a member claims expenses related to temporary accommodations - which has a maximum of $125 - those temporary accommodation expenses may include all of this.

So, whether he intended it, the way it is drafted is, it cannot be just the room charges of 41 (1) (a); it has to include all those other costs.

While the $125, as the Commission subsequently decided, was inadequate, the issue isnít what is included in the $125; it was that the $125 itself was an inadequate sum.

As Minister Taylor said, the rule amendment we made that cannot be retroactive - rules cannot be given retroactive application Ė and however we may feel for Mr. Young and his parking fees, Ms Michael is correct, it could be any number of things; we would have to go back to October 9 and see whether we should or should not have paid them. We would have to go through almost all the files again and look at every claim and so on.

While Mr. Young will be covered on a go-forward basis, I really strongly recommend that we donít do the retroactive change here.

That is all, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments?

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chair, I donít mean to go off on a tangent but I feel that it is necessary to highlight why we are dealing with this here today.

Prior to the rules that we now live by, Mr. Young had an apartment and he could claim his $50 a night for every night that he was in here, and that enabled him to cover off the cost of paying for that apartment for the full year. Because he is now not allowed to do that, and he can only charge the actual cost of a night, or if he gets an apartment he can only claim for the number of nights that he actually sleeps in it in the run of a year, we have him staying in the Delta, costing us $125 a night, plus, plus, plus, and it is something that he is not terribly enamoured with Ė as I understand it, when I have talked to him, because he is poisoned with it, to be honest with you Ė and it is costing us probably three times as much as it would have cost us before.

I just want to put that out there, because this is why we are dealing with this today. If he was allowed to claim, and I understand the - what is the terminology, what we dealt with under the $50 and the $71? You know what I am talking about.

AN HON. MEMBER: Secondary residence.

MR. TAYLOR: No, no. Yes, the issue is around secondary residence, but the unaccountable piece or whatever it was called.

MS BURKE: Unaccountable allowance.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, the unaccountable allowance.

I understand that. I understand it, but was it Einstein who said absolute consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds?

This is where this breaks down. Being absolutely consistent is good, yes, when you can live by it, but there is a cost to it, and this is a cost, and it is a problem.

When we review this issue, when the Review Commission finally gets appointed, and we look at secondary residences, I hope that is looked at; because right now we have people staying in hotel rooms while the House is open, and those twenty or thirty nights that they are allowed to come in here when the House is not open, and it is costing us a small fortune, when, under the old rules, properly managed, it would cost us a half, at most, of what it is costing us right now.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I just have a question of clarification from the Clerk, or from the financial officer.

Is the issue that the parking fees pushed the amount of money being asked for beyond $125 a night? That is the issue? To me that issue might be the issue we want to make the decision on: to approve - it has nothing to do with retroactivity - to approve the parking amount, even though it put his claim per night beyond the $125.

Once again, that can get into somebody else who may have a similar grievance, who didnít bring it forward, saying: Well, if that happened here I want that to happen for me, too, because mine was over $125 and I couldnít claim it.

That is one way of dealing with it, which isnít dealing with retroactivity, which is dealing with just approving that the amount of money was beyond $125 through no fault of his own but because of the room charge.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael, you are aware that under the new rules parking is permitted?

MS MICHAEL: I know, but I am dealing with before the new rule.

MR. SPEAKER: Am I hearing that the retroactive payment, as put forward by the request from the hon. Member for St. Barbe, be denied?

MR. TAYLOR: I donít see how it is retroactive, Mr. Speaker. That is the problem. That is the problem I have with it. It is not retroactive. The only thing we changed in the rules, when we changed them, was allowing the room to be at $125 as opposed to whatever the rate was before. That is all we changed.

When that was done, because we were concerned about people going and doing whatever, and getting fancy rooms, we said that there was a standard Ė what was it we called it?

MR. SPEAKER: A standard room.

MR. TAYLOR: A standard room, yes.

Now, because the wording is different - our intention is no different. I donít see where there is any difference from what you were allowed to do before and what you are allowed to do now. It is just somebody wrote it different.

The way this is being portrayed here today is that we need to consider this as a different policy from what we had previously. It is not different. Somebody wrote it different.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It may be time to bring up the next briefing note following this, because the two are tied together.

MR. SPEAKER: Maybe we should deal with this one.

CLERK: I think we really need to bring it up.


CLERK: I am not introducing extraneous material, Mr. Speaker. The second one refers back to this.

When we did an amendment, effective April 25, removing the cap of $125, we didnít write it as well as we should have, and we invoked the cost of a standard room. There is no $125 arbitrary ceiling; it is the cost of a standard room.

By the same argument we are putting forward that whatever cost, whatever it is, $125 or the cost of a standard room, it subsumes items (a) to (e) in 41 (1). That is room charges, parking, Internet, telephone, other items as directed by the Commission, but clearly that is not what we intended.

When we said the cost of a standard room, we intended that only to apply to item (a) of 41 (1), room charges, so we actually have recommended a directive in this next note where we clarify that when we say the price of a standard room we do not intent that to have to cover off parking and Internet charges.

We will have to take responsibility for that, as staff. We did not draft it adequately, because clearly that was not what the Commission meant. The cost of a standard room only refers to room charges. Parking, Internet, and other charges are over and above.

That brings us back now to this particular appeal. On a go-forward basis the parking charges will be covered, irrespective of the cost of the standard room, as will phone and other charges; but, to go back to October 9, there is no other way to say it except it is a retroactive application.

As of April 25 this is covered off and there is no dispute, subject to that clarification, but going back, changing the claims and covering the parking fees, it is retroactive. So I am not sure, Minister Taylor, why you say it wouldnít be. It would have to be if the claims have all been addressed and dealt with.

MR. TAYLOR: No, the payment is retroactive, I agree, but what I am reading from you and Ms Lambe is that we would have to apply the current policy retroactively. All I am saying is that what existed before, from the committeeís perspective, I think - I could be wrong; I am not speaking for the committee - but it is certainly my interpretation, and I believe it is Ms Marshallís, that what we have in front of us now, while it may be worded differently, what we understood it to be, is the same.

Now, if you want to get into what the definition of a standard room is, fine, that is something else; that is on a go-forward basis, not on a retroactive basis.

I agree with what you are saying on a standard room. The room that we are talking about, it could arguable be said that it is not necessarily standard. It is a standard for the hotel, but it is not necessarily a standard for the city or whatever.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: We are not talking about applying the April 25 rule amendment retroactively, I understand that. We are dealing with the interpretation, as it were, of 31 (1) and 41 (1).

I take it that means I have not convinced you and Ms Lambe has not convinced you that this is not even a matter of interpretation, it is irrefutable; however wrong-headed, those two sections together seem, to me, absolutely irrefutable. Temporary accommodations as a maximum - temporary accommodations include room, parking, Internet and so on.

I suppose the Commission has the right to deal with the appeal on that basis. It is not a retroactive application of the new rule, the April 25 amendment; it is dealing with the interpretation, such as it is, of 31 (1) and 41 (1).

It does open the door to anyone else who has fallen into this situation, so the Commission would have to be aware of that.

MS LAMBE: We would have to review all claims.

CLERK: As Ms Lambe says, we would have to go through all claims to see if this came up.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael, a final comment.

MS MICHAEL: A final comment? Okay.

My comment - whether or not it is going to be the final one is going to be up to the Chair - is that I donít think it is an interpretation of 31 (1) and 41 (1) that we are talking about, because the parking fees were covered. What we would be approving would be an over expenditure of an item that was covered under 31 (1) and 41 (1).

That is what we are approving. We are recognizing that overnight parking fees were covered. That is not new, and I think that is what Mr. Taylor is pointing out. That is not new; they were covered, so it is not an interpretation. It is just that, because of the cost of room accommodation, et cetera, this one member has applied after the fact for the parking charges to be covered because obviously he was not able to cover everything under $125.

We do have the right, as the Management Commission, to approve that over expenditure after the fact, but it is not a retroactive interpretation of 31 (1) and 41 (1).

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will entertain a motion either to deny or to accept the appeal as put forward by the hon. Member for St. Barbe.

MS E. MARSHALL: I move that we accept (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Is there a seconder?

The motion is made by Ms Marshall, seconded by Mr. Taylor, that we approve the appeal as put forward by the hon. Member for St. Barbe to have parking fees paid retroactive to the time that the rules came into effect, which was, I guess, June 14?

CLERK: October 9.

MR. SPEAKER: October 9.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chairman?

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: You were going to take the vote - I am sorry - were you?

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: The only thing I would say, I believe I understood from the Clerk that there is going to be some definition coming forward as to what we believe a standard room is. Is that what I understood, or not?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: No, I just mentioned - you will see this in the next briefing note - we are trying to get some clarity around this issue so that the issue does not arise again, because the amendment we put forward, I think, still left room for confusion.

The amendment we proposed, or that was approved on April 25, is really just speaking to paragraph (a), room charges. We want to include that the cost affixed to a standard room refers to (a), the room charges, but the parking and other charges are over and above.

It is just a matter of clarity so we donít end up in these matters in the future. It was really Mr. Youngís appeal which brought it to our attention that we have to clarify it.

So, with respect to standard room, we would not define it. That is really an issue for each hotel, motel, and so on, whatever a sort of standard room is.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

The next item on the agenda is the Eligible Expenses under Temporary Accommodations Ė Clarification of eligible expenses.

I guess this goes right back to the debate and discussion that we just had. The Clerk felt, and the staff felt, that the directive as put forward at a previous meeting did not clearly identify what the intent of this change was.

In light of the fact that there may have been some misinterpretation, or different interpretation than what was intended, there was a recommended minute put forward and I am going to read it. It may not make a lot of sense to those who do not have all of the information in front of them, but it needs to be read and it needs to be accepted here by the Commission.

It reads, "Pursuant to subparagraph 20(6)(b)(i) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the Commission issues the following Directive:Ö" Ė and here it goes Ė "In subparagraphs 31(1)(b)(i), 32(2)(b)(i), 33(b)(i), 35(b)(i), 36(2)(b)(i), 37(b)(i) and paragraph 38(2)(b) of the Membersí Resources and Allowances Rules, the phrase "temporary standard room accommodations" refers to the eligible expenses under paragraph 41(1)(a) Ė "room charges" - with the actual expenses of paragraphs 41(1) (b) to (e) to be eligible for reimbursement in addition to standard room accommodations expenses." Those are the expenses that we just referred to, and we talked about earlier: parking fees, long-distance telephone, Internet charges, et cetera.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is just one minor addition I would like to make to it, just to cover any concerns auditors might have. I think, following the discussion, we would probably like to begin this amendment with, effective April 25, 2008, and then go on in the subparagraphs and so on, as you read out.

To put an effective date, which we are permitted to do under an interpretive directive Ė not a rule, but an interpretive directive Ė that way we are covered off from the day the new rule comes into effect.

MR. SPEAKER: Would somebody make a motion that we adopt the recommended minute as put forward in our briefing notes?

Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Mr. Taylor.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

The next item, item 10 under Tab 4, is Membersí Advertising - Issues. I will ask the Clerk if he would bring forward the information on that particular topic.

CLERK: A few meetings ago, April 18, we dealt with the appeals from members who had put advertising out there in the holiday season and neglected to include contact information. We had rejected those claims. The Commission subsequently decided to reimburse.

During that discussion it became clear that there is a lack of clarify in the rules surrounding advertising. The Commission asked me to develop some draft policies. I didnít feel up to that task, so this again is more in the issue of a discussion paper, or an identification of issues, seeking a little greater direction from the Commission.

There are a couple of key issues; they sort of divide into two parts. The matter that was addressed at the April 18 meeting was more the purposes and acceptable messages that we could use in advertising. For instance, the rules currently say messages of welcome and congratulations. They do not specify holiday greetings or other such matters. The discussion at that meeting was to get some clarity around acceptable purposes or messages, so I have outlined some of the issues around that.

The other issue, which is, in fact, the one we get more calls from members on than the purposes of messages, is the matter of advertising in not-for-profit agenciesí publications, and could it be seen as donations? We get many, many more calls on that than we do on acceptable purposes and messages. We donít get calls: Is a Happy Holidays ad okay, or a special week? We do get calls: Can I pay $100 for this ad in a booklet for minor hockey or so on? Those are really the calls we get a lot of, in terms of advertising.

I broke the sort of discussion down into two parts. With respect to the purposes and messages, Greenís rules Ė I wonít belabour and read through all of this note - he speaks about expenses being eligible for the conduct of constituency business, and he has a definition of that. Yet he, himself, beyond the merely factual information which would seem to seem to fall within the definition of constituency business, also allowed messages of welcome and congratulations.

That seems, to me, a rather arbitrary itemization of two purposes. A message of welcome to your district or to a hockey tournament or to a concert is permitted, but Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, is not. I donít quite see the distinction.

I suspect some members, when they were being interviewed by the Chief Justice, said, I am used to doing messages of welcome to my district for Festival X, so he allowed it. He did not allow, or at least did not itemize, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas.

Ms Lambe and I have looked at this, and members had a long tradition of doing Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and we said: I canít see why that has less merit than welcome to my district; welcome to the hockey tournament; welcome to the concert. We have been allowing it, subject to the caveat of having contact information, because that was clearly part of what Green wanted.

We have had other purposes which we have accepted, National Occupational Health and Safety Week, perhaps Remembrance Day and so on. There is a long-standing tradition for special weeks, events, days, and frankly we cannot see the distinction between congratulations on a given matter than certified Workersí Day of Mourning or those sorts of things. It is a very arbitrary, it seems to us, declaration to say welcome and congratulations are acceptable; the others are not.

Now, when we discussed this, there was a thought that perhaps I could draft a list of what the acceptable purposes would be. I failed in that, although I have suggested we could continue a longer list: Welcome, Congratulations, Happy Holidays, significant days or weeks or events or so on. It will not provide the ironclad clarity that members want, but it may be better than what we have now.

It has the additional purpose of, Ms Lambe and I will not have to answer to auditors while we are approving Happy Holidays ads, when Happy Holidays ads are clearly not itemized as an acceptable expense under the rules. So, it serves our purposes as well to have a greater clarity. That is likely where the Commission will ask us to go, and we can attempt that.

I just want Commission members to understand there is no perfection on this, and some purpose or message is going to come around which is not listed. It will still fall to us to express a judgement or an opinion, so we canít protect members from that.

That is that matter, and if we want to address the messages purposes first, because I do not have precise recommendations listed here, I just assume that is where the Commission would want to go, we could deal with that before we look at advertising and donations, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Comments?

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I was just curious as to how we could deal with that without dealing with advertising, because it really isÖ. I will tell you why I say it, so that it is probably a fair question.


MR. TAYLOR: What I was going to suggest on the advertising is, define the list of acceptable Ė so at least you donít have to deal with so many unknowns.


MR. TAYLOR: Okay, this one comes in: I want to do an Occupation Health and Safety Week.

Instead of me having to ask you, it is known that we can advertise in Occupation Health and Safety Week, for example.

If we are agreeable to doing that - we have been doing it, so it is just as well that we accept that we are going to continue to do it. So, we define a list knowing full well that it is probably still going to result in some inquiries saying: Okay, well, this here, why canít I do this? Maybe you will make a decision, or maybe someone will come back to us or whatever.

Beyond that, then, I think, while we say now you are within a certain budget in your district for this kind of thing, the fact of the matter is, if we identify that list and we allow the people to advertise, for example, against that list whenever they want to, if that list has twenty names on it Ė twenty times that you can advertise - then my guess is eventually we will find ourselves to a spot where I am looking across The Straights and Yvonne Jones is advertising in the Pen this week for Occupational Health and Safety Week. Well, if Yvonne has one in, I have to put one in, blah, blah, blah, and so it goes, and we will be back here at budget time, at some point in the future, looking for an expansion to this.

Quite frankly, in my view, a lot of this advertising Ė some of it is okay, but we can easily get carried away with it. So, as a result of that, I would suggest that we be each allowed, each member allowed, a certain number of slots a year, and if that is three or four, one a quarter, or something like that, you be allowed to do it to a maximum dollar figure per year.

You might have your total allotment for your constituency matters, but within that only a certain amount of it be allowed to be spent on advertising; because, if you donít, this will gradually grow and grow.

To be honest about it, I have seen times Ė I donít do so much of it now, thankfully, but if you mind to, every single week your local newspaper will have you having a $300 to a $500 ad in it because it is Tourism Week or it is Occupational Health and Safety Week or it is Come Home Year in Green Island Brook, or blah, blah, blah.

All of it is good, and there is nothing wrong with it, but I am not sure that there is a lot of value for the taxpayers or the constituents in it. I think that we should be allowed to do some of it, but we should put a box around it, or a couple of boxes.

MR. SPEAKER: Any other comments?

Are you suggesting, Mr. Taylor, that the Clerk staff again bring back recommendations to another meeting on what we would consider, or is it necessary to write a list or for members to use their own judgement on what they consider important and put a dollar figure on what the ads would cost?

MR. TAYLOR: I would suggest that the Clerk and the staff come back with a possible approach to this, with a number of times Ė a number of opportunities in the year, not necessarily a time, but once a quarter or whatever, something sensible like that. We donít need to be ten and twelve times a year advertising congratulations on this and congratulations on that. I think it is appropriate for us to have three or four opportunities a year to do something around maybe Remembrance Day - for my own self, maybe around Remembrance Day - maybe around Christmas and Occupational Health and Safety Week. There are four or five times that you probably would like to do it three or four times, and people would expect you to be seen saying something at that time of year - maybe Labour Day, something like that - but not too many. Maybe four times a year, three times a year, that you are able to do that, a maximum dollar figure so you are not going out paying $700 or $800 for an ad. If you think that a list is appropriate to go with it, then fine. If it is left to our own judgement, that is fine by me too.

MR. SPEAKER: So you are suggesting that we include the two items there, 1 and 2; one to a recommendation on the type of advertising, how often, and what the cost would be.


MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just a comment with regard to the second bullet under advertising versus donations, and then reflecting that back to the background. It has to do with the not-for-profit advertising, and in the background the minute from August 29, 2007 is quoted and it says, "the purpose behind any advertising expenses shall be solely to assist Members to convey contact information along with advertising messages of welcome or congratulations" - which is essentially the rule.

What the Commission minute does not reflect - and maybe I am wrong; maybe other Commission members can help me remember - it seems to me, when we had the discussion last August, one of the things we talked about as a guideline with regard to what would be reasonable ads was that, if the ad in the not-for-profit booklet, or whatever it is where we are putting the ad, was more than reasonable ads of the same size that we would put in other papers, then we would recognize this is really a fundraiser.

I thought we had that discussion. I can remember us saying that most of the ads, when you put a business-card size in, are around $50. If they are saying $50, that is sort of a norm, but if all of a sudden it is $300 to put that in, you say no, we are not going to do that.

I thought that was part of the discussion we had last August, but it is not reflected in the minute that we had that discussion.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: I think Ms Michael is right; we discussed that.

While there is a certain commonality on all of the Ė I still call them RB papers - whatever they are now, on the weekly papers, there is a certain set cost, by and large; but, for instance, The Telegram is quite a different cost. To put that little business card ad in The Shoreline versus The Telegram is quite different, so we sort of have just left it as reasonable, which is a judgement call; $50 is reasonable, $1,000 is not. The problem is all the ones in between, when it becomes a donation.

It is really an impossible task. Short of those two extremes, it is hard to say that $100 or $200 is unreasonable, depending on how glossy the brochure is, and all the other costs that tie in, so it is a very difficult matter on the donation front.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

If not, I think what we are hearing is that the Clerk would bring back a recommendation and then we would have further discussion on advertising, and the cost of advertising, at another meeting.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Just so I am clear: We would expand the list of acceptable messages and purposes but also, based on what Minister Taylor said, certain restrictions, the number of placements or annual dollar figures, or combinations thereof. Is that essentially where we were?

MR. SPEAKER: That is what I am hearing.

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: That is what I am suggesting. I know we still have to live within our budget that we have right now, but the more you are allowed to do, the more opportunity there is for you to come back lobbying for a bigger budget. The best thing to do with this is nail a few fences around it right from the beginning.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I will just make one final comment, Mr. Chair, for the Clerkís sake.

With regard to the ads in not-for-profit publications, I donít think we should be rejecting them, so we should be (inaudible) the guidelines to help; because, in actual fact, not-for-profit publications very often are getting to people who may want our contact information and may not be reading papers but would be reading this kind of a thing and they see their MHAís information.

I think it is legitimate to have stuff in not-for-profit publications, but find a way to make sure that we are not paying unreasonable amounts of money for them.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: The only other point, then, following that, is there any direction from the Commission respecting this issue of not-for-profit placements? Do we want to look at anything, or will we just look at the messages and purposes of ads, such as Minister Taylor mentioned?

MR. SPEAKER: Comments?

Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: To go with what Mr. Taylor said, I think if you limit it to a specific number, like a business card size ad so many times a year, if a member chooses to put it in The Telegram or a transcontinental paper or a not-for-profit publication, if you are allowed twelve per year, you are allowed twelve per year, and where you put it is -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the Clerk if he needs further clarification.

CLERK: We will work from that.

MR. SPEAKER: There needs to be something done with it. I know in certain publications I have seen business card ads by some members and then I have seen a big glossy picture by other members and sometimes we get a call saying: Why havenít you contributed the same amount? There needs to be some clarification brought to it and have everybody doing the same thing.

There are four other items of business under New Business. I donít know if members can just look down through the four items that are there. If it is going to take some time and if the members have some concerns about them, not to rush the process, then we will take an hour dinner break and return, but if it is something that only needs to have some questions asked, or some clarification, then we can deal with them and be done.

There do not seem to be a lot there that I would see would cause any anxiety, but if there are then we can certainly take a lunch break and come back. If not, we can continue with the process of concluding the New Business.

I ask for membersí direction.

Ms Marshall.

MS E. MARSHALL: I think that we should carry on.

MR. SPEAKER: Carry on?

Is it the direction of the Commission to carry on?

MS MICHAEL: I think we should be finished by 1:00 oíclock. My stomach wonít take it beyond 1:00 oíclock.

MR. SPEAKER: I say to Ms Michael, if we are not finished by 1:00 oíclock we will take a break.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The next item is Transfer of Funds Policy.

I will ask the Clerk to take the lead on the next four items, actually, because it is long and he can get to the chase much quicker than I can.

The Clerk

CLERK: Sure.

The Green report recommended that the Legislature adopt a Transfer of Funds Policy. There is one, of course, throughout the Executive Branch of government, and it is expressed as Treasury Board Directive 97-07.

I think in Green, in reviewing the historical issues and the various troubles that befell the Legislature, one of the things that was being done was money was being transferred out of statutory office activities into the allowance and assistance, which covered off the expense claims of members. That is how these extra funds that are the subject of the police investigation were found. It was because there was no set process for the transfer of funds, and the staff of the House could transfer without requiring the authority of other bodies, so Green said we need a Transfer of Funds Policy.

We have developed one for the Legislature which essentially follows governmentís policy. It follows government policy. It does not match step for step what Green recommended in 42 (7), and I can only assume Green did not fully understand the Transfer of Funds Policy within government.

For instance, if you look at recommendation 42 (7), and he does say generally consistent with government practice, but in the last sentence there he says, "For transfers that would require Treasury Board approval in the case of a government department, the prior approval of the Commission should be requiredÖ" - and that is fine, the Commission would be the counterpart of Treasury Board, but then it goes on to say, at the end of it - "Öand transfers across the parameters of the statutory offices."

Within our budget estimates each of the statutory offices, except for the Auditor General, is a separate stand-alone activity. The Auditor General has three activities to comprise his complete office. Within a department, a department, without any reference to Treasury Board, can transfer from one activity to another. That is not a matter you would go to Treasury Board on.

I guess, because the Chief Justice was concerned of the House taking money from statutory offices without their involvement, he suggested that should require a much more involved process than even a government department has.

So, when we drafted this policy, which is attached, we have made it essentially comparable to governmentís Transfer of Funds Policy Ė and we have attached that Treasury Board Directive 97-07 to it Ė that is not everything that Green said, because he went further than governmentís policy, and I think wrongly. If we have to go to the Commission any time we might need to transfer funds from the Citizensí Representative Office to the Child and Youth Advocate, or vice versa, we are going to slow things up immeasurably, so we have not pursued that element of Greenís recommendation. What we have done is made it consistent with government.

The policy itself, if I could just switch to it, following the briefing note you will Treasury Board Directive 97-07. That is the Transfer of Funds Policy that government departments follow. Then, following that, we have a House of Assembly Transfer of Funds Policy dated April, 2008. Essentially what that is saying - it is essentially the government policy - on matters within the House of Assembly, the Clerk or the chief financial officer could authorize certain transfers on matters involving the House and a statutory office. The statutory officer would have to sign off. On matters between statutory offices, both statutory offices would have to sign off, and would have the authority to do that, but there are certain matters that the Commission has to approve. This is in keeping with the authorities that Treasury Board has retained within government.

Marlene, you might jump in there. On matters of salaries, transferring into salaries, Treasury Board has to approve that?

MS LAMBE: That is right.

CLERK: Allowances and assistance - could you just help me out on what other ones Treasury Board retains the authority that we would allow the Commission to have?

MS LAMBE: The allowances and assistance, and the grants and subsidies, are the two main objects that we have right now. There are others, like loans and debt expenses, but they would not apply to us anyway, at least not at this present time, but we actually include them in the policy anyway.

The other one is transferring between current and capital expenditures. Again, we donít have any capital expenditures at this time. So the main one, I guess, that we would be looking for the Commissionís approval would be transferring money into salaries, or into allowances and assistance, or grants and subsidies. They were the ones that would be requiring a higher level of approval.

CLERK: In essence, I guess, like Treasury Board, Treasury Board has delegated authority to budgeting division staff, Public Service Secretariat staff, and, of course, deputies have authority to transfer within their own head of expenditure. We would like to have similar delegated authority - the statutory offices and the Clerk - on matters that would be comparable to what departments do.

The matters that Ms Lambe referenced - grants and subsidies, allowances and assistance, salaries Ė that Treasury Board would retain the authority, we would want you to retain as the Treasury Board counterpart.

Again in keeping with Green, all ratifications would come back to the Commission. So, whatever is done through any delegation of authority, every individual one - and you will see a list of them in subsequent pages - would ultimately come to the Commission. They are all public, they are a part of the agenda package, so I think Greenís intention of any sort of slight-of-hand transfers of funds not being caught will be addressed by that.

If we bring everything to the Commission - given the difficulty of the Commission meetings - that is going to slow matters down to a crawl, so I think a certain delegation is appropriate.

Here is another one: On matters where the Commission would still retain the authority - that is the Clerk, chief financial officer or independent officer of the House would not have the authority - we are still suggesting that the Commission delegate to any two members of the Commission the authority to approve it, and it would again be brought back to the next Commission meeting for ratification.

The only reason for that is the difficulty of getting meetings. The Speaker and I have discussed, through the rest of the summer, it appears unlikely we will get another meeting in July and August. We may, but we know the difficulty of scheduling that. If a budget transfer came up which involved any of those main objects that we required Commission approval, we simply could not do it. Because we have to make our decisions on television, publicly as it were, we cannot simply do the phone-around that Treasury Board would do. Treasury Board would canvass members, get the votes, and go ahead and make the decision. Because we are constrained by making these decisions in these public meetings, publicize the agenda, broadcast everything, we cannot do that. We would have to bring a quorum in to conduct the meeting, even to do that one little transfer.

So, Ms Lambe and I have discussed a delegation process. We said: Well, what if any two members of the Commission Ė that could be changed, depending on where the Commission may go Ė could authorize it and then it is brought back to the full Commission at a subsequent meeting.

Those are the key elements, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Comments or suggestions?

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I am just going to ask: So that we are consistent on the delegation of authority, as opposed to delegating authority, couldnít we do the phone-around, delegate it that way, as opposed to delegating to two? Still take the same approach; take the Treasury Board approach and phone around.


MR. TAYLOR: I am assuming that the delegation of authority, the two people, would still not be coming in here and sitting down with the cameras on, so why not just leave it like it is - I mean, deal with it within the quorum perspective, deal with it that way, do the phone-around. If you can get hold of at least one person from the government and one person from the Opposition, three people in total, you have your quorum that you require, and bring it back for ratification at the next meeting.

Then we are still consistent with Treasury Board in a way, and I think I would feel more comfortable that way.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk, would you need signatures rather than telephone conversations?

The Clerk.

CLERK: While there is logic to what Mr. Taylor says Ė

MR. TAYLOR: It doesnít mean anything.

CLERK: - here comes the shoe to drop. The Commission is authorized to delegate any of its responsibilities, as it sees fit, to the Clerk, the Speaker, and others. The Commission, under the act, has the authority to delegate, but if it is the full Commission having a meeting then we are held to all these restrictions of publicizing the agenda and broadcasting it on television and so on.

The delegation is actually done more easily, because the Commission has the authority to delegate, and the people with the delegated authority are not conducting a meeting of the Commission - they would be just delegated authority to make the decision - but when we go to the meeting of the Commission then all the other matters kick in.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: I think we can accomplish both here.

I agree with exactly what the suggestion was from Mr. Taylor. To maintain an openness and accountability, I think you need to have at least one member of the Opposition, one member of government, but I think you need to at least have a quorum. While it is not a meeting, it is still a delegation. You can still delegate to have a minimum of a quorum of members of the Commission contacted to get approval, and then bring it back to a publicized meeting that is televised, of the Commission, for ratification; but, to keep an open and accountable Ė I think you have to have at least one member of the Opposition, one member of government, to have a say on any decisions that are made.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: There may be a way that we could do that, in the sense that a budget transfer Ė you are transferring funds from the approved allocations that were voted on Ė in a sense, it is a budget decision. You are reallocating within the approved budget, and the budget matters are eligible for in camera sessions. It is one of the things under 19.1 of the act that are eligible for an in camera meeting.

I suppose one could argue, when we are doing these, we could deem it an in camera session to be reported back at the next public meeting of the Commission, the thought being that if it is an in camera it could be done quickly, we donít have to book satellite time, we donít have bring in the broadcast crowd, and in that sense there may be something we could do, as what Mr. Osborne says: Get a quorum, it is an in camera session of the Commission, and report it back at the next meeting.

What do you think, Ms Lambe? Would that work?


MR. T. OSBORNE: If I might say a word?

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: I am not suggesting that you have a quorum and have a meeting. What happens -

MR. TAYLOR: It is consistent with, if you did have -

MR. T. OSBORNE: It is consistent, exactly.

What happens if you contact any two members of the Commission, get approval, then you bring it for ratification and the majority of the Commission say no way?

I think you need to have a sufficient number of Commission members contacted that would constitute a quorum, and then bring it back to the next meeting for ratification.

CLERK: If I could, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Just so we are clear, before we move on.

So, we would delegate the authority to any four members of the Commission, as long as each side of the aisle were represented.

MR. T. OSBORNE: As long as at least one member of the oppositions and one member of government are included in that.

CLERK: Okay.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the Clerk again: Would you need something actually signed, or would it be done by agreement?

Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: You would probably have to have an e-mail or something written. We could get it signed afterwards, but there should be written approval before we go ahead with it.

If I can speak further on that, the only concern I have when we extend the number of people that have to approve it is because of the number of Commission members and what usually happens with salaries, for example. If you remember, our budget wasnít approved for a full salary budget so we may have to move money around for salaries. Sometimes the payroll has been processed. You realize, because of the amount of the payroll, at the last minute Ė and this happens in all government departments - that there are not sufficient funds; you are $50 short and you need to transfer money in, in order to let the payroll run. Now, if we have to get approval for members during the summer that might be difficult, especially if it has to be so many from each party.

I am just putting that forward as an operational difficulty that I see with extending the numbers to four members.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Ms Burke (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: In the Delegation of Authority, and that is on page 5 of the Policy, it just reads, "If this is not practicable, Authority is delegated by the CommissionÖ" and then we could just put in the definition of what a quorum is there.

My next question is: If there have only been so many salary dollars now put in, shouldnít we try to live within that as opposed to being cute and transfer the money around?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: The Commission didnít approve the full salary budget for the full staff complement. Basically, we were not funded for our step increases and other increases that a lot of government departments are not funded for. It is accepted by, I guess, budget division, or whoever makes a decision, that the department will find funds throughout the year to cover off those costs hopefully within their salary budget, but if not within their salary budget then somewhere else within the department. It is traditional that no department is fully funded for all of their salary costs. It is quite common to move money into salaries.

Normally, a department would go to budget division and they would approve a TBA on behalf of Treasury Board, and therefore they can get it done within an hour or a half-hour for that matter because there is always someone in budget division to approve it. It is approved on behalf of Treasury Board. It actually never goes to a Treasury Board meeting at all; it is budget division that approves these certain types of small transfers, if you want to call them, those types of natures.

Another option might be to restrict the dollar amount if you were not comfortable with the delegated authority. I am concerned about the operational difficulties if four members have to approve before we can make a transfer of a small amount.

If you look at the transfers we did last year - I think we did twenty-six or something for the entire year - except for a couple, they were minor amounts really. I would expect we had more last year because of the implementation of the Green recommendations, and various reasons.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: It seems to me what we are talking about here is accountability, so that when it comes to a transfer relating to the areas we are talking about it is not just staff who are doing it, that members of the Commission are involved.

Knowing that none of this, as Ms Lambe has said, involves large amounts of money, it is a pro forma thing, it is a normal thing that happens in the running of government departments, et cetera, I am not sure that we have to worry about having a quorum of the six of us. I think it is important that both government and Opposition are represented, but I donít see the necessity for having a quorum because I donít see it as something that is out of the ordinary. It is an ordinary thing, and the fact that it comes back to the Commission anyway, there is no way, for example, that this is going to involve transferring a million bucks. When we look at what was transferred, that was given to us, like Ms Lambe has just said, most of it - I have one that I want to question, but most of it - is small amounts of money, and I suspect it would be the same.

I think we do have to be concerned about the operational difficulties that she sees, and as long as we have both Opposition and government represented, to me, it would be all right.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, it is something members should keep in mind, that when the process happens it has to come back to a full meeting of the Commission for ratification and agreement, and there is nothing done by the actions of one or two individuals.

Any further comments?

Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Not to belabour this, but we spent a considerable amount of time this morning talking about advertising, which is less than $3,000, or meals less than $3,000.

MR. TAYLOR: Fifty.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Fifty dollars, whatever the case may be.

What happens if you get two individuals, is the point I am trying to make, who say yes, I agree with the transfer of however small the amount of money be, and you bring it back to the Commission and the Commission says no? How do we get out of that type of situation?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: I guess what you are talking about is having two people approve it versus four, without the rest of the members of the Commission approving it. I will be honest; I donít necessarily see the difference.

The other thing that I would like you to keep in mind is that, for all the government departments, there is only one person in budget division that would approve this transfer. It wouldnít go to the full Treasury Board. It wouldnít go to Cabinet. It wouldnít go to anyone in Treasury Board, other than a Treasury Board analyst.

MR. TAYLOR: We didnít have trouble in other divisions that we had in the House of Assembly, either.

MS LAMBE: I agree, but, on the other hand Ė

MR. TAYLOR: We didnít have four-and-a-half a million dollars go missing anywhere else.

MS LAMBE: I agree, but Ė

MR. TAYLOR: Not that we are aware of, anyway.

That is not a reflection on you; donít get me wrong.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe, are you concluded?


I donít think I have anything further to say.

MR. SPEAKER: It is obviously something Ė

Mr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: The only difference being, Ms Lambe, to what I was saying and what Mr. Osborne was saying, and what have you, if two versus four, the only thing on four, you do have a quorum. One would conclude that if you got them to agree to the transfer then I suppose they would agree when they got back in the meeting to actually have it ratified. That is the only thing, I think, that we are talking about here.

It is not a big deal one way or the other. I am not hung up on it or anything like that. I thought that, in order to be consistent with Ė but I appreciate your point also.

MR. SPEAKER: Can we make a recommendation that members try to be contacted, and if we can contact four or if we can contact the seven members of the Commission then I think an effort should be made to do that; but, by the same token, I donít think we can stop the workings of government and people from getting paid if members cannot be contacted, when we know the decision is going to come back for a full meeting as well.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, like many of these rules, it is a learning curve.

My thought is, notwithstanding Ms Lambeís comments about the operational difficulties, I think we should at least make an effort to contact four. If we find out that it is not workable, we will deal with it. In the meantime, why not go with the four?

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons, would you make that a recommendation, that four people, a majority of the Commission, be contacted in order to adopt a transfer of funds policy, and letís try to deal with it on a go-forward basis in that way, and at least one member from Opposition and one member from government be a part of that four.

MR. PARSONS: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Can somebody second the motion?

Seconded by Mr. Taylor.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We have been a great judge of time. It is 1:03 p.m. now, and there are three other items there, if members have the will to continue?


MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda is Ratification of Budget Transfers.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This again follows on from the previous discussion. Even though we didnít have a bona fide, approved Legislature policy, we have been doing budget transfers. Ms Lambe and I have been signing them off, and we have been, of course, documenting them all. As Green says, they all should be ratified by the Commission and part of the public minutes of the Commission, so they are all a part of these agenda packages and so on.

If you will notice one thing, the numbers, we have 2007 as the beginning of the fiscal year, I guess, and the numbers go up to thirty-nine. Some of them Ė and the fourth bullet on the briefing note mentions this Ė are not included; because, although we used the form, Ms Lambe tells me essentially those are not really budget transfers. Those were reallocations within one main object Ė the allowance and assistance matter - so they are not transfers of funds as the policy speaks to. They are much more minor matters that we can handle internally.

It is a little odd to bring all of them together for ratification and, further to the discussion on the policy, what if the Commission, at this juncture, were to refuse to ratify? Well, I have no idea, it is too late, but it is something Green says, and again just sort of the safeguard.

So, even if Ms Lambe and I are doing matters, it ultimately comes back and it is publicly reported; but there is a question, yes, does the ratification mean a lot when the funds have already been transferred and put into effect?

I cannot speak to a lot of the details of each of these transfers. Ms Lambe has the backup documentation, which we didnít provide, but every time we do a transfer one of these forms would be done.

I know Ms Michael at least had a question on one matter, Mr. Speaker, and there may be others on the individual matters.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

First of all, because it comes up in a number of places, what does PFE stand for?

MS LAMBE: Property, furnishings and equipment.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, sure, of course. I knew it was something simple, but I just could not figure out what it was.

The one thing, I just was curious, is under Legislature, and it is Adjustment 200713. That is all I can give you, so if you look at the top of your page. This has to do with Hansard and the Broadcast Centre. The transfer to property, furnishings and equipment is $130,700 and explains what the funds were required for and then where they came from. It came from two different subheadings: the largest amount from transportation and communications, and the other from House Operations, transportation and communications.

I am just curious; $108,700 is a large sum. Was it that this expenditure was anticipated but that the money was just put in this section and then got transferred after? If not, how come there is just so much money available under transportation and communications? Because itís $108,700.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: We had put approximately $350,000 in the transportation and communications for Hansard last year for a new uplink system. Actually, in Budget Adjustment No. 200711 you will see a transfer related to that. We transferred part of the money over, and went to tender, but we didnít get sufficient response to the tender so we actually had funds approved this year.

That is what the money was for, in actual fact.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, that is helpful because I was going to ask about 200711; so, those two are related.


MS MICHAEL: Okay, thank you.

That is what I wanted clarification on.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chairman, I have had an opportunity to look at each of these. I would move that they be ratified by the Commission as submitted.

The comment I would make, however, is on the tab just before that, when we talked about the transfer policy, on page five, the Delegation of Authority, the last sentence says, "The transfer of funds approval will be ratified at a subsequent Commission meeting."

I think we should make it clear that it would be ratified at the next Commission meeting, not a subsequent one. That way, we donít end up with bulk approvals a year down the road.

MR. SPEAKER: That would be added to the previous motion that was put forward?


MR. SPEAKER: All members agreed?


MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.

There is a motion on the floor. To that motion, Ms Marshall?

MS E. MARSHALL: I would just like to ask the Clerk Ė I know we donít have some of the transfer funds because you were saying they were within the same division, but I would still be interested in seeing them. Would it be possible to get a copy of those?

The other comment I wanted to make before we vote, Mr. Chair, is for the Transfer of Funds Policy, on page 5, the section "Other" where it is saying the Commission must approve if we are transferring funds out of Supplementary Supply money. I didnít think that was allowed at all. I always thought the Financial Administration Act prohibited it, or something prohibited it. Something in the back of my mind tells me that. I thought once special warrant funding was provided for a specific purpose you couldnít use it for another purpose.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: It is not asking to use the supplementary funding, but if funding was transferred into a particular main object you can still transfer money out of that main object.

MS E. MARSHALL: Okay, but it wouldnít be the Supplementary Supply money?

MS LAMBE: No, you would have to show that it wasnít that funding.

MS E. MARSHALL: Okay, I understand.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is made by Mr. Parsons that the Commission ratifies and approves the transfer of funds, numbers 200705-200714 and numbers 200725-200740, which reallocated funds within the vote of the Legislature for the fiscal year 2007-2008 to facilitate payment of required expenditures.

Can somebody second that motion?

Seconded by Ms Michael.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

The next item again for the Clerk is the Management Certification Status Report.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wonít belabour this; this is just an update. Some of you may remember the Management Certification Process which Green has talked about. We have Grant Thornton hired. They have been with us now for the last couple of months reviewing all of the processes in the House, all of which leads to, as of August 31, this year, I have to sign a certificate, personally, saying that we have the disclosure controls in place, we have all our internal controls in place, and that they are operating effectively as of August 31.

We are still working with Grant Thornton to have a full description of the project plan. We didnít want to put that out yet because we are still working with them on edits, but essentially this is chugging along; it will be done by August 31.

While it doesnít affect you, perhaps, at this time, it is a huge issue for the Commission once this is signed, because this is the entire control regime over the finances of the House, so it is more just an update.

I donít know if you have any questions, but it was more just to keep you abreast of where it is.

MR. SPEAKER: Any comments on the report that is put forward by the Clerk? It is for reporting purposes only.

The next item on the agenda is again a report from the Clerk regarding the authorization for furniture and equipment expenditures that members wanted brought back to the Commission when those kinds of purchases happen.

Does the Clerk want to briefly Ė

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is not much to say. I was delegated authority up to $500, with the understanding that I would bring back it to the Commission and report.

The only expenditure up to June 26 was this one table for $185 for Mr. Dalleyís office, so that is the only one that I have authorized since, up to the June 26 report date.

MR. SPEAKER: That concludes the business of the Commission as put forward on our agenda.

I thank members for their indulgence and participation.

This meeting is now adjourned, and the next meeting will be at the call of the Chair.

This meeting now stands adjourned.