November 17, 2010               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION        No. 29

The Management Commission met at 10:30 a.m. in the House of Assembly Chamber.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Good morning.

First, I would like to welcome members of the House of Assembly Management Commission to a regular meeting, members and staff of the House of Assembly. We will start the meeting, as we do at every other previous meeting, by having members introduce themselves for the interest of those who are watching us by means of television.

I will start to my extreme left here with Minister Kennedy.

MR. KENNEDY: Jerome Kennedy, MHA for the District of Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Tom Osborne, MHA for the District of St. John's South.

MR. BUTLER: Roland Butler, MHA for the District of Port de Grave.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Kelvin Parsons, MHA for the District of Burgeo & La Poile.

MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, MHA for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MS BURKE: Joan Burke, MHA for the District of St. George's-Stephenville East.

MR. RIDGLEY: Bob Ridgley, MHA for the District of St. John's North.

MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Chief Financial Officer.

CLERK: Bill MacKenzie, Clerk.

MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk's Office.

MR. SPEAKER: My name is Roger Fitzgerald, Member for the District of Bonavista South. By virtue of being the Speaker, I am Chair of the Management Commission.

We will start the meeting.

First of all, I would like to welcome a new member to the Commission, Mr. Roland Butler, who is filling in for the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, Ms Jones. Welcome, Sir, to the House of Assembly Management Commission.

We will start the meeting by adopting the minutes of the previous meeting, which was held on September 22. Members have had an opportunity to read a copy of the minutes. If there are no errors or omissions, could somebody move that the minutes be adopted as circulated?

Moved by Ms Michael, seconded by Mr. Ridgley.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda will be the Speaker's Report on Authorizations under section 18(4). Here is a situation where the hon. Member for the District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans - for office accommodations, I guess, Mr. Clerk?


MR. SPEAKER: - for office accommodations where the hon. member had, under the Rules, put out a request for office accommodations and, as per our Rules, if the office accommodations come in excess of $7,000 – HST included – then it must come back to the Commission, I guess to the Speaker, for approval and to be reported at the meeting. The amount approved was $7,488 – HST excluded.

The next member was the hon. Member for the District of Carbonear-Harbour Grace, who again selected the option of having an office in his constituency. The lowest tender proposal that was received was for $14,900. That has been approved as well.

The other one that you will see on your agenda there has already been approved at a previous meeting, so I do not need to report that any more even though it is included on the agenda.

Are there any questions or comments?

The next item on the agenda is for the Member for the District of Bonavista South, myself. Here again, under Rules, under Travel under Special Circumstances, was a travel that was approved by the Clerk. Again, in abiding by our rules and regulations, where I had left here on the twenty-second of September, the day after the storm, and tried to get to my constituency, and because I could not make it, due to road washouts, returned back to St. John's, back to the office again, on the same day, and because of the circumstances, travelling and not completing the travel, the Clerk has approved the travel in the amount of $202.76.


The next item on the agenda is again abiding by our rules and regulations, which is a letter of appeal for a claim that came to the attention of Corporate Services in excess of the sixty-day submission deadline. The claim has been vetted through the Corporate and Members' Services office; it meets the test of being eligible for payment. It is from the hon. Member for the District of Topsail, and it is in the amount of $59.67.

Would somebody make a motion to approve the payment of that particular claim?

Moved by Mr. Parsons, seconded by Mr. Kennedy.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The next item, again, is a very similar claim that has been vetted through the office of Corporate and Members' Services. It is a claim, again, that is in excess of the sixty-day submission. It is from the hon. Member for the District of Ferryland, and the total amount of the claim is $75. Again, it has been vetted through Corporate and Members' Services, and it is certainly eligible for payment, but because of circumstances, the claim was not processed within the sixty-day period. To meet the test of the members' rules and regulations, the Commission needs to approve this particular request as well.

Would somebody make a motion that we reimburse the hon. Member for the District of Ferryland a total of $75 for a claim submitted?

Moved by Mr. Butler, seconded by Ms Michael.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda is the financial report that has been signed off by the Audit Committee. Since Mr. Ridgley is the Chair of the Audit Committee, I will ask Mr. Ridgley if he would like to make commentary on this particular item on the agenda. If there are no errors or omissions, or if members agree, then myself and another member of the Commission can sign those audited reports.

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Chair, (inaudible) in accordance with the rules and regulations, the Audit Committee has to recommend acceptance of the financial reports, and we have done so in this letter.

MR. SPEAKER: I do not know if the Clerk has any commentary on this report or those figures that have been brought forward here by the statutory offices.

Is any further explanation needed, Mr. Clerk?

CLERK: No, I do not think so, Mr. Speaker. These are the audited statements audited by the Auditor General. We amended the act such that the Audit Committee has to recommend the acceptance of the statements by the Commission. Formerly they just came to the Commission, but we have changed it such that the Audit Committee recommends their adoption, so the Audit Committee would have had a look at it in some detail with the AG.

MR. SPEAKER: I think maybe, Ms Michael, you may have signed those in the past, myself and you. It does not matter; any member - any member of the Commission - after the meeting, we can just sign those reports and that way we will meet the test again of our own rules and regulations.

Is there any further commentary?

If not, the next item on the agenda is Confirmation of Permanent Status for Two Positions. Those two positions were authorized and approved in our Budget Estimates back when we approved the Budget, but for some reason, I think in another time, another Finance Minister had requested that, even though the positions were approved in the budgetary process, before they get final approval they would be brought back to the Commission in case something might have changed from the time that the Budget was brought forward and by the time that the positions were made permanent.

Again, to follow past practices, we are looking for the confirmation for the permanent status of two positions. One was for the privacy analyst for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the other position was the permanent sessional Broadcast Technologist from a part-time position to a permanent position.

Those two individuals are put in place on a permanent basis. Funding has been approved in the budgetary process, so now we are asking the Management Commission to confirm the permanent status of the position of Access and Privacy Analyst as approved in Budget 2010-2011; and the Commission also confirms the conversion of the permanent sessional Broadcast Technologist to permanent full-time status.

Are there any comments or questions?

If not, somebody might want to make that motion.

Made by Ms Michael, seconded by Mr. Kennedy.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

I have been just reminded by Ms Keefe that we did not have a mover and a seconder for the approval of the financial statements as recommended by the Audit Committee. So, I guess, before we sign off – and this is probably the first time that anybody has seen those figures.

Mr. Clerk, do we want to have that motion made today, in light of the figures just being passed along today? Should we wait for another meeting so that members can have an opportunity to digest them, or should we move ahead and have it signed now? What is the –

CLERK: This is how we have done it, and there is a deadline to getting them signed. We have had these unsigned ones - which are what I have passed out - since August 31, which is the deadline that the AG has to do.

We have not sent them around in the past; we have just done it here, following the AG's – since they are audited by the Auditor General already, and the Audit Committee has looked at it, there is really little for Commission members to do about it. These are the audited statements.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe, do you have further commentary?

CLERK: Marlene just reminded me, these are the same ones that came to the Commission earlier in the year when we did the year-end –

MR. SPEAKER: So members have already seen those figures, Ms Lambe, and have had an opportunity if they wanted to look?



Members, is there any further commentary? If not, a motion is in order that we accept the recommendations by the Audit Committee for the financial statements as provided.

Can somebody make that motion?

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Chair, I guess it is inappropriate -

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: - for the Chair to make the motion.

MS MICHAEL: I cannot see why not.

MR. RIDGLEY: The Audit Committee has already done it, so I can make the motion if it is in order. I will make the motion.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved by Mr. Ridgley, seconded by Ms Michael, that we accept the approval of the financial statements as recommended by the Audit Committee.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda – again, in the interest of clarity and in the interest of the person who knows it better, I am going to refer to Mr. MacKenzie, the Clerk. The item to be discussed and a recommendation made is Staff Professional Development for Constituency Assistants.

Mr. MacKenzie, if you do not mind leading us into this particular discussion, I would appreciate it.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The office operations allocation under the members' Rules - that is the $15,000, HST included - covers supplies, postage, newsletters, greeting cards, those sorts of things; and it also has, in paragraph (f), staff professional development as an eligible expense under that allocation.

Also under Constituency Allowance you will see - which is 46; that is the $3,000 allocation - there is travel, accommodations, meals and registration fees for conferences and so on. A constituency assistant took a university course, with the member's approval, and submitted a claim under the Rules, under this Staff Professional Development, 24(f), for reimbursement. The Comptroller General, in processing the claim, hesitated; and we had ongoing discussions with him because the Legislature has the Tuition Assistance Program, so he wondered whether tuition should be an eligible expense under 24(f) of the Rules, given that we also have a Tuition Assistance Program.

We had ongoing discussions with the Comptroller General. In the end he agreed to pay, since this constituency assistant had applied for university and did the course in good faith, but there was mutual agreement between the Comptroller General's Office and us, that we should clarify how tuition would fit under this provision of the Rules given that we have a Tuition Assistance Program.

I have a couple of paragraphs there, bullets, explaining the sort of differences of the two. I think you know the Rules. The Rules reimburse 100 per cent; there is a requirement for a sixty-day turnaround; the member would approve any expense of the constituency assistant, and so on.

At the top of the next page you will see the summary of the Tuition Assistance Program. Now, we brought that to the Commission a couple of years ago. It really mirrored the Executive Branch program, which really addressed permanent staff; it did not permit contractual staff to avail of it. The Commission thought that the contractual staff in the Legislature should be able to avail of it, so they had a two-year eligibility window: once you had served two years you were eligible to apply for tuition assistance.

Under that program a learning plan needs to be developed by the applicant. That is approved by the Clerk in our case, the deputy minister in the case of a department, it is reimbursed at the 50 per cent level, not the 100 per cent of the Rules, and it is paid out of House administration; whereas under the Rules, of course, that is paid out of the member's allocation and charged and reported to the individual member.

So, even though that CA was approved for the claim by the Comptroller General, we agreed we should bring this back to the Commission and see where it wants to go with this. The Green report does not discuss or have any guidance on what was meant by staff professional development. So, other than putting those three words in the Rules, there is no further discussion on what was meant by that. If we leave it in the Rules then it is the member who will make the decision, because the CA would be using the member's allocation.

Currently, if it was put under the Tuition Assistance Program, it would be the Clerk who would be making the determination as to the course work and the learning plan and so on. Again, if it is under the Tuition Assistance Program, it is charged off to the House administration as opposed to the member's allocation, so there might be an issue there.

It can be done either way. Really, we will just, I guess, throw it open for discussion with the Commission as to how we provide some clarification for any future claims.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk, am I right in assuming that the staff of a member could apply under the Tuition Assistance Program and be reimbursed 50 per cent?

CLERK: Yes, currently they would be eligible under the Tuition Assistance Program already.

MR. SPEAKER: If we go in a direction where we include the constituency assistant and the constituency assistant would use the member's allowances, then that would be a reimbursement of 100 per cent?

CLERK: Currently that is how it works, because all expense reimbursements are 100 per cent. Now, I suppose the Commission could issue a directive amending that particular expense item so that it was not the full 100 per cent. The Commission could approach it that way.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: A couple of comments.

Where Green was vague – I guess under the Tuition Assistance Program it is five years, I believe, Mr. Clerk?

CLERK: The government one? Yes, for contractual.

MR. T. OSBORNE: I have no issue with the two years under a different program, because contractual staff generally have different terms of employment; however, under the Green report, where it is so vague, I think it is incumbent upon us to set some parameters for the safety of members, I guess, especially new members being elected and probably not having gone through the entire Green report process and understanding how things can spin out of control.

I think it is incumbent upon either the Management Commission or MHAs to set some parameters around which courses can or cannot be funded, and whether or not it is 50 per cent or 100 per cent, whether we keep it in line with the Tuition Assistance Program and fund it at 50 per cent, but I do believe we need to put those parameters there for everybody's safety.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I guess the important point for me is the fact that the constituency assistants are eligible in two places, and they are the only group that is eligible in two places. You can have contractual employees who are part of caucus, for example, and they would be eligible under the Tuition Assistance Program only, but, because we have the regulations from the Green report that relate specifically to constituency assistants, we also have that place. I really do not think the constituency assistants should be able to be eligible under two different programs.

I realize that when we had the discussion in June 2008 with regard to the Tuition Assistance Program I think I missed it, the fact that the consistency assistants now have two different places where they could be eligible, and there is nothing to stop that.

I do not agree with the recommendation with regard to the first option which would allow that to happen. I think we should make a change to this. I do not know if we need to change the rule, so that the rule matches the Tuition Assistance; that is a second discussion. I am not necessarily opposed to the constituency assistant thing saying 100 per cent; but, still, why would we have that different from anybody else as well?

I suppose there is - I do not know what the word is - less security in the constituency assistant position, and we do not have a time limit, so any constituency assistant, once they are in there, can have staff professional development and it is all covered. Because there is less security in that position, maybe we can just leave it that way, but I do not agree with them being able to be in both programs. That seems wrong to me.

I am just wondering - let me check now. I do not see them, either, under the Tuition Assistance Program; however, we could say that is the only place they do it, like everybody else. If we have a Tuition Assistance Program for the Legislature and contractual staff can be under it, it is not taking away from the spirit of the Green report to say the constituency assistants are included under the tuition program only. We are still allowing for professional development of constituency assistants and it would be totally consistent, then, no matter who the staff is - contractual, non-contractual, caucus or constituency assistants - all under the same program.

To me, the spirit of the Green report is to have professional development for constituency assistants, but I certainly do not see them in both places. I am open to listen to others, obviously, but both places seems wrong to me.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Chair, it is almost as if there are two separate things. Under the Tuition Assistance Program an employee would have to be there for a five-year period and then they file a learning plan: Here is what I intend to do; I intend to pursue a degree in X, Y, or Z. It meets approval and you are reimbursed for 50 per cent of your course work.

If I want my constituency assistant, for example, to take a course in letter writing or a course in something that she may never have taken – I mean, we get people calling us, for example, who are addicted to drugs, who are threatening suicide. She has no training in that. If I want her to do a course that would improve her ability to answer those calls - that is not her choice - that should be reimbursed 100 per cent. I see that; it is a whole different thing.

I think what we really need is clarification of staff professional development, more delineation of what exactly that means, and that it would be covered 100 per cent if the member requires the CA to do the course. It is not their choice; it is my choice. I would like you to do this course. That is a whole different thing.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Just to Mr. Ridgley's point, if those were sort of short-term courses, they would clearly be eligible, I think, under the staff professional development of 24(f). The real issue is the university, post-secondary, credit type.

MR. RIDGLEY: Then there would have to be a plan of study.

CLERK: Yes, for those.

MR. RIDGLEY: It is a whole different thing.


MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael, in your commentary, did you want to finish that off by dealing with the five-year, two-year situation?

Right now my understanding is – and the Clerk can correct me if I am wrong – that there are different time frames there in order to deal with the two different programs. Looking at the constituency assistant who would come to work for a maximum, I guess, of any kind of permanency, a four-year period, there may not be any opportunity to take advantage of that within the first four years of their employ.

The Clerk.

CLERK: In our program, it is two years for the contractual.


CLERK: It was two years for contractual staff under our program.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, so that would fit.

Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: That was the point I was going to raise in response to Ms Michael's comments: because contractual staff are really different than full-time, permanent public servants, I think you have to differentiate between the five years and two years.

Just for clarification, again, under 24(f) even a full-time permanent public servant can receive 100 per cent reimbursement if it is short-term – a typing improvement course or something like that - something that does not fit into a long-term university graduate plan, for example.

CLERK: Yes, it would not be under 24(f), but under the Tuition Assistance Program if the employer, the department, insisted that a course be done, that would be at 100 per cent.

MR. T. OSBORNE: For example, regardless of which direction we chose here, I would agree that for crisis management, something that is not the employee's choice but the employer's choice, that 100 per cent reimbursement would be there. Allowances are made for that at present, I think, in any event.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just to go a bit further with what Mr. Ridgley was saying, because we do not have any directions, as we know, with regard to the expenditure, I like what he put out with regard to staff professional development that is deemed necessary by the member for the work that is being done by the constituency assistant which is not necessarily – and it is not – what is under Tuition Assistance because it does not have to directly affect a person's position. It is for their personal development in a general way; it benefits the position that they are in and the department they are working in, et cetera.

Under the constituency allowance, I think there if we were very specific that it is training that is specifically, very specifically, related to the position of constituency assistant, something that would show a differentiation so that the constituency assistant is not seen as having an extra benefit over the caucus staff, for example – looking at it from that perspective - just to have something in there, as Mr. Ridgley suggested, to make that clarification, to make it clearer.

MR. SPEAKER: I am hearing pretty well general agreement, I think. There is just some confusion around what had been offered here. I just want to add as well that the recommended minute is certainly not what we suggested the Commission follow; it is a recommended minute to create exactly what we are doing here, discussion, to get us thinking in a way that this can be amended. It is just a suggestion.

Mr. Clerk, would you have enough information to put together a minute to be brought back, to be clarified and brought back, for a suggested recommendation at the next meeting?

CLERK: Perhaps, if there is general agreement.

If I understood Mr. Ridgley, he thought that we should have some sort of definition of staff professional development for constituency assistants so that we would know the type of courses that are eligible for the 100 per cent reimbursement under 24(f).

I do not think we can develop a comprehensive list; what we might do is turn to the definition of constituency business, which is what members have to adhere to for their claims. So we would be talking about courses which assist the constituency assistant in the conduct of constituency business, and sort of leave it at that. There may be a few other things we could add. I do not think we can come up with a list, of course, but we may be able to put some parameters around it such that to do a university course in engineering, we could agree, is not advancing the constituency business of the member. I do not know if that sort of approach might work. I guess associated with that is the courses which do not fall into that would then be directed back to the Tuition Assistance Program, if that is generally where we go.

Marlene do you see an issue with that? We could try that along those lines.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ridgley, I notice that you wanted to comment.

MR. RIDGLEY: Sorry, Mr. Chair.

Basically, the thing is if the member requires the constituency assistant to do this course, or indicates I would like you to do this course, that is the member's choice, not the constituency assistant. I do not see a member saying, for example, while you are here with me, for four years, I would like you to continue your teaching degree or your law degree. It is a whole different thing.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: No, my point was made.


Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Again, just a further point to what has just been said. I see the difference between a constituency assistant and, say, a caucus staff member in that the work of a constituency assistant – there are not a lot of job descriptions around covering that job. When somebody is elected for the first time, they probably do have somebody, they trust somebody who is very competent in their district, whom they trust and think would make a good constituency assistant, but will know that there are going to be some things, like Mr. Ridgley has pointed out, that they will need some training in. Whereas, when we hire people for caucus staff, and who are eligible then for stuff under the Tuition, we have very specific positions; you have to meet the demands. If you are going to be a researcher, then you have to have the skills to do the job. We hire according to the skills that are required. Whereas, I do see a nuance around the constituency assistants, and that is why I like the way Bob has been putting it.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, that is fine. We will park that particular recommendation for this meeting, bring it back at the next meeting, and hopefully there will be something put together for clarification and we will all be able to know, and constituency assistants will be able to know, what courses they can avail of and what they can expect to receive, whether it is 50 per cent or 100 per cent in tuition reimbursement.

The next item on the agenda is under Tab 7. Pursuant to the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the act requires us, at least quarterly and regularly, to review the financial reports and performance of the House of Assembly, as well as the actual expenditures of members.

Enclosed you will see both the financial performance of the Legislature and the actual expenditures of members from April 1 to September 30, 2010. Those are for review purposes and reporting purposes only, but if members have questions or look for explanations then we will certainly entertain them at this time.

Under Members' Resources,, projected savings overruns from original budget and its projected savings of $100,000, the projected savings are related to the secretarial pool and constituency assistant replacement, partially offset by severance payments.

I would just like to make members aware that this is, again, in accordance with Chief Justice Green. There is a policy that we have set on this in the past. Members who have elected to have constituency assistants in their constituency are entitled to have help while the House of Assembly is in session.

I do not know if any member has taken advantage of that, Ms Lambe, or any group of members.

MS LAMBE: Not during the current fiscal year.

MR. SPEAKER: Not during the current fiscal year.

That is where that savings is derived from, and just to make members aware that is something that is allowed under the Rules that we have created and put forward a policy in the past. I do not know if it is one for three – there is a policy that is written, and it is something that we can find very quickly – but up until now members have not taken advantage of that particular item there; hence the projected savings of the $100,000.

Further commentary?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Could we get the direct rule with regard to the secretarial pool replacements, please?

MR. SPEAKER: Secretarial pool?



MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: We can provide members with that, if you want.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, because I cannot remember that.

MR. SPEAKER: What we will do, Ms Lambe, is probably provide it to the members of the Commission. That way the three parties are represented here and can share it with whoever it affects.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: I should say, as well, we also post all of those on our Web site. You can find a list of all those policies under the Management Commission page.

MS MICHAEL: Right, okay, I will check that.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Under the expenditures summarized for members, members will note that every member, without exception, is certainly abiding by rules and regulations. In fact, members have been very responsible in spending constituency allowances. You will notice that no member there has even come close to spending an allotment that has been provided to him or her to look after their duties as a Member of the House of Assembly.

Is there any further commentary or suggestions or questions regarding those two reports?

If not, we will move into Tab 8, Caucus Operational Funding Grants. Here again, this is where we are abiding by one of our own rules and regulations that was brought forward here by a member of the Commission: that caucuses report publicly, for the caucus funding that each caucus gets, to the Management Commission.

This, again, is for reporting purposes only. The three parties have submitted the Summary of Expenditures for the period of April 2009 to March 2010. The three parties have reported here, and this is for reporting purposes only, as well.

Is there any commentary on this particular report?

If not, then that concludes the regular business of the House of Assembly Management Commission. I thank members for attending this Commission meeting. I thank staff for attending.

There being no further business, an adjournment motion is in order.

Moved by Ms Michael, seconded by Mr. Ridgley, that this meeting be now adjourned.

This meeting now stands adjourned.