December 04, 2012 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION No. 37
The Management Commission met at 6:00 p.m. in the House of Assembly Chamber.
MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Good evening.
I want to welcome everybody to the meeting of the House of Assembly Management Commission. Everybody has their agenda, but before we start today's meeting I want to welcome Mr. King, a new member to the committee.
For the benefit of those who are listening to the broadcast and for the purposes of Hansard, I will ask members to introduce themselves before we start the agenda. I will start on the end, to my immediate left with Mr. Verge.
MR. VERGE: Wade Verge, in my capacity as Deputy Speaker, I am just an observer on the committee.
MR. GRANTER: Vaughn Granter, MHA for the District of Humber West.
MR. BALL: Dwight Ball, District of Humber Valley.
MS JONES: Yvonne Jones, District of Cartwright L'Anse au Clair.
MR. KING: Darin King, Government House Leader.
MS SHEA: Joan Shea, St. George's Stephenville East.
MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, Signal Hill Quidi Vidi.
MR. SPEAKER: I am Ross Wiseman, the Member for the District of Trinity North and the Chair of the Commission, and to my right.
CLERK: Sandra Barnes, Clerk.
MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk's Office.
MR. SPEAKER: I remind members as well, that my microphone will remain live for the whole meeting but yours will be activated when you identify yourself. The normal process, as members wish to speak if they would just signal so and I will acknowledge them and the Broadcast Centre will activate your microphones. Everybody has a copy of today's agenda together with the documents supporting the meeting.
We will turn then to Tab 1. The first item we will deal with is the minutes of the Commission meeting of September 18, 2012. I had an opportunity to review the minutes, and I will entertain a motion for their adoption.
MR. BALL: So moved.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ball, seconded by Ms Michael.
All those in favour, aye'.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: The minutes are adopted as circulated.
On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.
MR. SPEAKER: Is there any business arising from those minutes? There being none.
Under Tab 1 as well, the first item that you see under Reports, is the Speaker has been delegated certain authority between Commission meetings to deal with some expenditures as outlined in section 18 of the Members' Resources and Allowances Rules. There were four constituency office issues that arose since our last Commission meeting. They deal with signing of leases for the Districts of Terra Nova, Labrador West, and Bay of Islands.
There was an adjustment needed to be made in year one of the lease for the Member for Bonavista South. The amount here reflects that adjustment that pertains to a signage issue, but the lease is adjusted for year one only. These amounts exceeded the amounts as provided in the rules, but consistent with the delegated authority to the Speaker, I have authorized the execution of these leases for these members.
The next item under the same heading, again, is part of the delegated authority to the Clerk that deals with certain expenditures incurred by members in the operation of their offices. There are two items that, for information purposes, we are providing to the Commission. There was an item in the District of Labrador West and the District of St. George's Stephenville East. There is office equipment and office furniture involved. They have been approved and authorized for payment by the Clerk since our last meeting. These two notes are for information purposes.
The next item on the agenda under Tab 1 deals with the Members' Compensation Review Committee. All Members of the House of Assembly would have gotten a copy of the report. The Commission, you will recall, earlier had appointed Judge Brazil of the Provincial Court to do a statutory review that is required after each election to review the issues of compensation, pension, severance, and allowances for Members of the House of Assembly.
That review is concluded. That report was made public yesterday. We each have copies of the report itself, together with the annex, which includes a range of tables, part of her research that helped inform the decisions that she has reached.
Now, I guess the big question for the Commission is we need to talk a little bit about how we should approach the review. The Commission has a responsibility to receive the report from Judge Brazil, and then to review it, discuss it in a meeting such as this, and then make recommendations as to how we would proceed and how we want to accept these recommendations. The report is accepted; now what we need to deal with is each of the recommendations.
It would be premature to try to get into the meat of the report this evening, given the fact that we received it yesterday; there are some substantive issues raised in these recommendations and it requires, I believe, the Commission as a whole to do some significant discussion and some deliberations. Maybe it might be of some benefit if we talked a bit about how we may proceed from here to deal with it, and to take the components of the report.
As members would see, the report is broken down; if you look at the table of contents, they are broken down in a structured way: salaries, pensions, severance, and allowances. There are two things; one thing I will share with you is that some of the recommendations in here dealing with the issue of salaries and some of the allowance provisions could depending on how we decide to deal with the recommendations have an impact on next year's budget, which is being developed as we speak. So, early in the new year the commission will be talking about next year's budget, and how the House of Assembly's budget needs to look for the next fiscal year.
If any of these recommendations will have a budget impact, it will be important to help inform the budget process and factor that in, if necessary.
So, one of the things if I could make a suggestion for some discussion by the Commission is that given the time that we will need to review it as members and to turn our heads to the recommendation, give it a thorough read, and share with and have some discussions within individual caucuses around the report, there may be some value in deciding to defer the discussion about the content of the report to a meeting for early January, where we might want to start dividing the report up into components.
Because of the budget process, I am wondering if there is value in us saying that the salary piece would be dealt with first, and extract from the recommendations, and because there are only a couple of the allowance provisions that will have a budgetary impact, extract from the allowance section those items that would have a budget impact or potential budget impact together with the salaries and have that form the basis of a meeting in early January to start our discussion with respect to the report itself.
It is just a thought to stimulate some discussion, so I will open the floor now for any comment by members.
MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I had an opportunity just to go through some of the recommendations that were in there and, obviously, these are four major categories that have to be looked at. I would be interested in definitely having the time to read the annex to see how Judge Brazil came to the recommendations that she did and what information she used to substantiate those recommendations in particular.
However, even when I was looking at the report, I did notice a couple of things. One of the things I did notice very evidently was that some of the issues we asked to have looked at have not been looked at in its entirety. I am talking in particular about pensions, which was recommended since the Green report in 2007; this is our second report now that we have had done by a public independent process. It does not seem like we are getting much closer to finalizing how some of these things are going to look.
Having said all of that, I think that I am more comfortable with referring it out until after Christmas and giving ourselves an opportunity to read everything, to look at where these recommendations are coming from, because obviously, we want to be able to compare it with other jurisdictions as well and see what is happening in other areas and how these things are being look at. I would have a greater comfort with that. I am not sure how everyone else feels.
MR. SPEAKER: Any other comments from members of the Commission?
MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I agree with the things that Ms Jones just said and I think your suggestion of dealing with anything that is budget-related up front is obvious. If there is anything that could potentially affect the budget then we would need to deal with that in January.
The only other thing I want to say at the moment is I think it would be good for us and I do not think we can do it in the whole body; maybe a couple of people need to sit and look at it and come up with a suggestion I think it would be good to set some timelines for ourselves, in by when we want to have something done. For example, with the pensions and I agree with Ms Jones; here we are once again with the pensions in our lap. I think we better accept the fact that it is in our lap and we have to do something with it as the Management Commission itself but can we set a timeline, say: by two years' time when there is another committee, we have a proposal ready, and then put a plan in place for what it is we have to do to try to get somewhere with regard to the pensions, a plan for how we get the information that we need, a plan for how to work as a Commission, and who we need with us to do it.
I think that is what number 7 recommendation is about under pensions. It has to do with actually having the resources to do a thorough review of the pension plan. I would like to see us set some time frames around however we plan to do the work.
MR. SPEAKER: It is a good suggestion and I appreciate your point. I am wondering, though, in terms of when we do that, would it be more appropriate to do it at the time we have the first discussion on pensions, at that moment because then we realize the scope. Once we have had a full discussion and shared our thoughts collectively on the issues, then we will have a good appreciation for the scope of the task ahead of us and be better informed as to how we set up a timeline to manage it.
MS MICHAEL: Oh yes, I did not mean that we do it tonight, but I meant as part of the moving forward that would be a piece that we should do.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
MS MICHAEL: Doing that as early as possible is also important. We may need to look at it in January, if we are looking at things that potentially have a budget connection to it; in actual fact, number 7 recommendation might be one of those as well, if we are talking about resources being made necessary to do the thorough review. We may want to look at that from a budget perspective also.
MR. SPEAKER: Good point.
Any other comments with respect to the report we received? In the absence of any further comment then, and I gather from the two that we have had there is some concurrence with the suggestion that we would set up a meeting for early January and deal with the salaries. I think it is two, maybe three, but there are at least a couple of items under the allowance that has budget impact. We will tease those out, create the backgrounders and the information necessary for the meeting, and we will have a meeting in early January with the sole purpose to discuss the report that we have received.
Okay, thank you.
The next item on today's agenda is found under Tab 2. This is a copy of an audit report that will be tabled in the House. We have had frequent discussions at this committee and in the House, and we are frequently all aware of the role the AG has in auditing government departments and expenditures of government agencies.
We have always thought: Who audits the auditor? There is a process. This is a report by Grant Thornton of the audit they did of the AG's office. So this is a report that is completed on a regular basis by an independent auditing firm. This year it was Grant Thornton who did this. This is as of March 31, 2012. This is an audit report that will be tabled in the House of Assembly. It was provided here for information purposes for the Commission; however, if there is some question or comment, please feel free to raise it because it will be tabled in the House.
In the absence of any, the next item on the agenda is found under Tab 3. This is a part of the regular reporting requirements of the Commission to have the financial reports and the operations of the House tabled for discussion. This is the quarter ending September 30, 2012. As always, the format remains the same. It lays out the proposed budget and the expenditure levels for all aspects of the House operation, and includes the variances that are included.
I do want to bring your attention to one item. You may have some questions about it because we dealt with it at an earlier Commission meeting. Under Hansard and the Broadcast Centre there is a forecasted shortfall of $176,000. You may recall we approved a budget transfer to deal with the equipment installation in broadcast. This is a timing issue of the accounting transaction to make the transfer.
The minute and the direction provided by the Commission have actually been actioned. What we are seeing here is a lag in the transaction being collected in the financial reporting. In the next quarterly report this will be eliminated because that transfer will be actually documented and recorded.
That is the only comment I would make with respect to it, but the floor is open for members of the Commission should you have questions you want to raise or a comment you may want to make about the reports that are here.
MS SHEA: Yes, I want to just bring to light as well, because we discussed this in our last Management Commission meeting, I believe, and that was the Third Party caucus. There was a salary overrun and it is noted here as $12,100.
I just want to ask: Is there is a plan to deal with that? Has there been any action to deal with that information?
MR. SPEAKER: What I understand from Corporate Services is that the Third Party have identified those areas in their budget where they will accrue savings. Again, this statement does not reflect as of September 30.
The next time we get a statement such as this, you will see the actual numbers move from one of those subheads up to the salary piece. So, what will show on the next statement that we will produce like this, that salary deficit forecast will not be there; yet, some of the surpluses that are forecast in some of those other budget categories will not be there either, because the budget will be transferred from one subhead to another.
MS SHEA: Does that happen at the Management Commission or do you just do that privately? Do we vote on that or is that just something you do?
MR. SPEAKER: You might recall the meeting when we had the discussion, the Briefing Note laid out three options for the Commission's consideration. One of the options was to have the money to deal with that budget shortfall was to have the money transferred from another expense category within their budget. That is the one that the Commission agreed to do.
With that direction from the Commission, Corporate Services then met with the representatives from the Third Party to identify the groupings from which this money would come from. The Commission will be advised of that at the next meeting of the Commission when the reports are produced showing what categories it was moved from.
Ms Michael, to speak to the point?
MS MICHAEL: Yes, to the same point.
Just to point out that the caucus offices make a report of their expenditures and how they have spent their money at the end of the year. That is when it would become obvious what all the decision making was in the budget of the Third Party and how they have dealt with this issue. That is the time for it to show up, would be my understanding.
As you pointed out, Mr. Speaker, there has been consultation between the financial administrator of our caucus and the Corporate Services around all this.
MR. SPEAKER: Just to add some additional clarification though, it will show up before the end of the year. It will show up as a result of an adjustment.
MS MICHAEL: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: The statement we are looking at here now, the next one that you will get, there will actually be a change in these numbers.
MS MICHAEL: Exactly.
MR. SPEAKER: The salary number will change, together with some of the items that are under these subheads 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 numerically. Some of those heads will change in terms of their budget allocations. The $12,000 will be moved from one of those, or a combination of those subheads to cover off the salary shortfall. That will show on the next statement that you get like this, rather than wait until the end of the year. That will actually occur at the next reporting period.
MS MICHAEL: I agree. The point I wanted to make is that the caucus offices do not work out their budgets with the Management Commission. That has not been the practice. The Management Commission approves the money that caucus offices get, and the caucus offices are accountable for that money but they interact with the Corporate Services.
MR. SPEAKER: The uniqueness about this particular case is that the Third Party exceeded their allocation and therefore it became a decision of the Commission.
MS MICHAEL: I realize that, but you pointed out that
MR. SPEAKER: The Commission will deal with this one slightly different because it was an anomaly in that ordinarily these things would not happen because the allocation is gone.
MS MICHAEL: I agree. All I want to say is that the accountability is to the Commission. The Commission said what needed to be done, and that is being done.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. King.
MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Probably a question out of naivety, since I am new to the committee, picking up on Ms Michael's comments: Is it correct that the budget as provided here, the Commission deals mainly with, I will just say the $512,300 grand total, and they have flexibility to work within that, or would the Commission have to endorse the transfer of money between categories?
MR. SPEAKER: Ordinarily, these caucus funds are driven by policy. It is a mathematical formula, so the Commission would not deal with the exact dollars and talk about what they should or should not be. It is driven by formula, as it is for all the caucuses, and there are two groupings.
One deals solely with the if my memory serves me, it is the leader's salary, travel. I think there are probably four items that is fixed in category one. Then all the other items come in the second category. Within that first category it is fixed. You do not move the money around. In the second category, the individual caucus has some discretion as to how they move it around.
As result of a discussion that took place at the last Commission meeting, there was it centred on a $12,000 shortfall that had happened within the Third Party caucus salaries. Then there were three options as to how that would be remedied, because you cannot overspend. There was a discussion as to why it happened and how it happened. That was the subject of a briefing note and the discussion at the last Commission meeting.
There were only three options to deal with the shortfall. One was to take some staffing actions; they would lay someone off to realize the savings. Two was to allow the Third Party to move some money from within other expenditure items into that salary component; or three, to take some money from some other area of the Legislature and give it to the NDP caucus to allow them to balance their budget. These were the three options presented to the Commission at the time.
The option selected was the option to allow the transfer from within the Third Party caucus from one expenditure item to another. The NDP caucus was asked to absorb that error and then they would not get additional money from the House of Assembly's other global budget.
That was a decision taken at the last Commission meeting. From that, the officials at Corporate Services then met with the NDP caucus to talk about how that would actually happen, what items would it come from. That piece of work has been done, as I understand it. Now, when we get the next statement that you will see, like this, with a different for the next reporting period, you will see, under where it says Operating Budgets, the numbers starting with item 03 down through 10 will be reduced the equivalent of $12,000.
How it gets dispersed over those numbers I could not share with you now, but that discussion has taken place and will be dispersed over those numbers and reported back to the Commission through this reporting mechanism here the next time out.
MR. KING: From the Commission's perspective, the direction was provided with the solution that was supported, so there is no other vote or decision point for us, because that will be worked with officials am I understanding correctly?
MR. SPEAKER: As I understood, the decision of the Commission the last time in those three options that I just identified was to have the money absorbed within the caucus budget allowance, which is what we are looking at here now on this page. The way to do that was to allow a transfer from one of those subheads from 03 to number 10, take the money in some kind of distribution over those seven subheads, and move it into the salary component to ensure that the component was balanced.
The direction coming out of the Commission, they would report back to see if the Commission was okay with taking it out of 03 versus 05, 06 or 07, as long as the total amount came from within that budget. Based on that direction, the Corporate Services people worked with the staff of the Third Party to identify how that would get done. This shows the September 30 time as of September 30 but as of September 30, that move to those numbers had not occurred.
As you recall, the meeting of the last Commission was sometime in mid-September, but the next time we get a report like this it will show where the money came from to offset the salary component.
MR. KING: Okay.
If I may?
MR. SPEAKER: By all means.
MR. KING: The transfer of the funds there, that action in itself obviously would eliminate the deficit, so can I assume or can you provide some information? I am assuming there would be a staffing action at some point so that beyond this fiscal year, without changing the current staff complement that caused the overbudget, you are going to run into the same thing next year.
MR. SPEAKER: Just for your benefit, because you were not here the last time, the staffing issue arose as the result of the hiring of an individual who is no longer with the caucus. So, on an annualized basis, there was no annualized impact on the budget.
MR. KING: Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: So, the staff person who came on that gave rise to the $12,000 deficit was the person who came and was employed for a while and drove the costs to where they were, but they are no longer employed by the caucus, so there is no annualized impact on the budget. It is an error that occurred in this fiscal year, and it is now corrected, so it is not compounding. Had the person stayed on, that problem would be compounding and the number would accumulate to be a greater amount. That is not the case, nor is it the case where the person becomes a part of the permanent staff and has an impact in the next fiscal year; that is not the case either.
MR. KING: Okay, I appreciate it. With your patience, I do have one final question, Mr. Speaker.
There is a further deficit projected of $1,500 that was not budgeted for, for the hiring of an external consultant. Can you explain? Hiring consultants, is that the normal practice? Can you tell us what that would be, if there was no particular budget category for it?
MR. SPEAKER: Maybe one of the officials can speak to the piece, because I am not sure of the operational decisions that would have been made to expend the money. So, I am not sure if we have some information with respect to the consultant hired.
MR. KING: I guess I am asking from the perspective that there is no budget provided for that service, so I am just curious as to how you would expend money on something when there is no provision for it in the budget.
CLERK: All of the staffing in the caucuses are paid through salaries.
MR. KING: Pardon?
CLERK: The staffing in the caucuses are all paid through salaries.
MR. KING: Right.
CLERK: So, I am not sure I understand your question.
MS SHEA: What was the consultant?
MR. KING: Under 05, Professional Services, is a $1,500 expenditure, and it is footnoted number 4. It says: "Project overrun due to hiring of an external consultant". So my question is: can you explain what that is? There is no budget appropriated for that such category because it is zero there is no budget line at all. I am just curious as to how that would happen.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the piece I cannot speak to the specifics around who the consultant was and what the piece of work was, but you might recall an answer to one of your previous questions around how these budgets are established, and I indicated that there were two groupings. There is one grouping that deals with the salaries of the leader and the leader's expense. There are three or four items under that category and there is no flexibility. If you do not spend the money under one category you cannot move it to the other. In the second grouping of expenditures there is flexibility within that global budget to move the money around from one grouping to the other. If expenditures get incurred under one grouping a little bit over the others, as long as they balance out, you have the ability to move that around.
There is, however and I cannot answer the details of the question a mechanism for the hiring of external consultants. There is a process as within the public sector. Government departments have guidelines for the hiring of consultants. So do the House of Assembly. All parties are subject to those same provisions for the hiring of consultants.
What I do not know is the mechanism used by the Third Party to hire this consultant and whether they conformed to the guidelines established for the hiring of consultants, which is a separate issue from your budget question.
The budget question is a global budget within that category. There is flexibility to make some adjustments there. The mechanism for the hiring of external consultants, all expenditures, whether it is parties, caucuses, the House, Corporate Services, my office, or the Clerk's Office, there is a mechanism to hire consultants. There are guidelines that everybody must follow, but I cannot speak to the operational detail about how that actually materialized.
MR. KING: So section 5, Professional Services, I am assuming based on what you have said, Mr. Speaker, that section would be grouped in with at least one other section there where there would be a budget provided. There is flexibility that they can move $1,500 down there and reduce the other section accordingly.
MR. SPEAKER: Exactly.
MR. KING: Okay, thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: If you were hiring a consultant and you paid them, then you would charge it to the appropriate expense category because that is an accounting requirement. The budget allocation for it obviously would have to come from some other budgeted item. When you account for it, even though you may not have budgeted money there for it, when you charge it up to an account, you must charge it to the appropriate expense category then absorb it within your global budget.
Ms Shea had a question.
MS SHEA: Yes, I just have one question and it refers to the one I asked first when I saw the $12,000 deficit. I know you are explaining that the money is going to be found from within. When you go back to the minute of our last meeting, it reads, "The Commission considered a motion to transfer funds of $12,096 from elsewhere in the budget of the Legislature to the budget of the Third Party Caucus. The motion was defeated."
I was of the understanding that there would not be a transfer of funds.
CLERK: We will have to process a transfer funds within the allocation for the Third Party.
MS SHEA: Just for clarification, what we give them in their budgets they can transfer around however they want to?
MR. SPEAKER: No, I want to go back to a distinction that I was making in the explanation to Mr. King. There are two groupings within the caucus fund. There is one category where you do not make transfers, and there is another grouping where you do.
The last discussion of the Commission, as I understood it, was that we were giving consent to move the money from one category to the other. That needed the Commission's approval, which I think speaks to the question you were posing earlier.
MS SHEA: It is not minuted. We did not minute that we made that decision.
MR. SPEAKER: I want to make sure I understand Ms Shea's question.
MS SHEA: I was of the understanding that we said the money could not be transferred around. The minute reflects what I thought. That is all I am saying. There is no minute here to say that we said however it could be transferred from within that particular budget at all. That is my understanding of it. I may have misunderstood, but the minutes reflect exactly what I am thinking.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear your point.
MS MICHAEL: If I may speak here, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: I am looking at the minute that Ms Shea has referred to, "The Commission considered a motion to transfer funds of $12,096 from elsewhere in the budget of the Legislature to the budget of the Third Party Caucus."
Doing what you have explained is not moving money from the budget of the Legislature to the budget of the Third Party caucus. It is the Third Party caucus dealing with the shortfall within its budget. There was no transfer and there is no transfer of money from the budget of the Legislature to the budget of the Third Party caucus.
MR. SPEAKER: If I am hearing you correctly, and Ms Shea you can correct me if I am misunderstanding just for clarity, the minute reflects the decision because a request that came to the Commission was to have money transferred to somewhere else in the budget. At the time, to make that motion, it was defeated. So, we were not going to transfer the money from anywhere else in the House of Assembly. The following discussion which you are pointing out is not minuted. The following discussion was, how do we solve the problem?
MS SHEA: That is my point, it is not minuted, and it does not reflect my understanding. That is why I am questioning it this evening. I would prefer if the Commission made that decision, if we agreed that could happen, it needed to be minuted.
What I felt was our decision is reflected exactly in the minutes. The rest of the conversation I did not think we had made that decision and you could transfer without Management permission. It is just my reflection on it, my recollection. That is why I was surprised to see it. I think the minute reflects what we said. I am not aware that we made that and I would like to see it minuted' if we made that decision.
MR. SPEAKER: Are you suggesting that before the transfer gets made, it would be made as a result of a minute by the Commission?
MS SHEA: Or that the Commission votes on it. Lots of times if there is a transfer we get an e-mail asking us to agree to it or not.
MR. SPEAKER: Right.
MS SHEA: I would like to see that we minute it somewhere, that we all agreed to this or that it did not get defeated. Just because we are talking about the money, we are talking about the transfer of funds. It did not reflect what I understood was the outcome of the meeting.
MR. SPEAKER: Are there any other comments?
MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It was my understanding I am trying to recall now the discussion at the last committee meeting was that the parties had a right to manage their budget. What we denied was the fact that money would come from an outside source, that you live within your own budget. In this particular case, the Third Party would have a period of time to adjust their budget so that they could bring their budget process in line before it was finalized for the year. That was the way I understood it. I do understand, as well, that the minutes do not clearly reflect that.
There was a question though, that I would need clarification on. I did understand, too, that the only line that you could not transfer money in or out of was the salary line. That within purchased services or travel or wherever, in other areas of the budget you could actually do that, but I cannot speak with certainty on that. Somewhere along the line I can remember a discussion about that.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you.
I agree it is not said there, but certainly what Mr. Ball has just said was exactly what I came away from the meeting with the understanding, and we took immediate action on the understanding that we were left with after the meeting. Now, I recognize it is not there. So if there is something we can do to say that, but what Mr. Ball said is exactly what I left the meeting understanding.
Like I said, we took immediate action, meetings with Corporate Services to talk about the work there because that was our understanding. We had to deal with the problem. That is what we were left with.
The thing is, the way our minutes are done I am not saying it is wrong. We do not put discussions in and there must not have been, I do not remember if there was or not, a motion to say. It was an assumption that we just had to go back and take care of our budget. We do not have points like that kept in the minutes. Maybe we would do something about it today.
All I can say to the members of the Commission is that the work has been done. As the Speaker said, the next report will reflect where the monies have been saved. We went back thinking, okay, we have no money now because we have to find the $12,000 elsewhere all over the budget. That is what we have been working on.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Shea.
MS SHEA: At this point, if that is the case, which I am not convinced, but if that is the case: Do the individual transfers, from one budget line to the other, have to come out to the Management Commission to say yes? So, any changes that are going to happen will come back to us to approve?
MR. SPEAKER: If I could, I want to remind members of the Commission of where we are in the fiscal year, and we have a circumstance where this budget cannot have a deficit. It is driven by a formula. That is the rules of the House. So, no one has the option to overspend their allocation.
I think it would be important as a Commission to provide clear direction to Corporate and Members' Services as to how to manage this piece, because if, in fact, the Commission was contemplating a deliberation around whether or not to approve the transfer into the salary piece, should it decide not to do it at a future date, it would be impossible, time-wise, to allow the Third Party to actually balance their salary budget. Because a salary budget can only be balanced by either not hiring someone or laying someone off.
If you have a deficit of $12,000 today, and your staff are currently there, that would consume the rest of your money. Then you need to make a decision now in order to realize any salary savings between now and the end of March.
If the Commission was contemplating that maybe they would not approve the transfer from one expenditure area to another, then it would be important to communicate that today, rather than wait until such a request came through this forum here to have that transfer occur. Because if the transfer was turned down, the consequence would be the deficit would be on the books. It would be incurred and no action taken, which just cannot happen. There is no provision for it.
Really, the questions being raised now prompts the Commission, I suggest, that we need to turn our heads to what might be the decision of the Commission. It was not anticipated to be posed to the Commission today, but because of where we are within the fiscal year, the Commission does have to make that decision today; because if the Commission is not going to approve the transfer of the money from expense categories into the salary component, then the decision of the Commission must be then to direct the Third Party to balance their salary budget by taking staffing actions.
The last briefing note that was done for the last Commission meeting, that was one of the three options.
MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I need some clarification. It is my understanding, just picking up from the comments by the Member for Humber Valley, that in our office, in the Opposition Office, we ran into a similar situation where if we did not make some changes in our staffing we would have been projecting a deficit at the end of the year.
I was of the understanding that we could not transfer any money from any other line item in our budget into salary. We could not take money that was allocated for supplies or transportation and put it into salaries. In fact, we made cuts in our office to accommodate that savings and to project our budget to a balanced budget for the end of March.
I would like to get clarification if that is exactly what happened. It is my understanding of what happened internally with the House, and if that is the case, why would it be any different for the NDP?
MR. SPEAKER: It is a fair question and I appreciate the comments about the minutes we do keep a record of the Commission meetings but what I shared with you earlier was my understanding of what came out of the last Commission meeting. If the Commission's view is different, then obviously, I value that and I appreciate that.
What I am sharing with you now is this is December; March 31 is three-and-a-half months away, so the Commission needs to make a very definitive decision about how we will dispose of the issue, because if the direction to the Third Party is that you must absorb your salary deficit within your salary allocations, and therefore, if one of the options presented in the briefing notes at the last meeting was to take a staffing action, then that is the direction we need to give to the Third Party at this meeting to allow them ample time to make that decision, to action it and have it realized by March 31.
MS JONES: I am fairly certain that was the action that was required of us in the absence of not coming to the Management Commission.
I ask the Member for Humber Valley if he can speak to that as well.
MR. SPEAKER: I think you shared that at the last I think you used that as an example in your demonstration.
MS JONES: Yes, we did.
MR. SPEAKER: I remember your commentary at the time.
MS JONES: Yes, and that was the reason, when I walked away, I was of the understanding that staffing action would be taken in the NDP Caucus to balance their salary budget by the end of the year, which was exactly what we had to do in the Official Opposition Office.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: I have a question. I will make the comment that I left here with a clear understanding. My understanding was we had to absorb the cost and that we absorb it in our budget. It was not that we had to stay within the line of salaries.
Having said that, is there a video of our meetings? Are videos kept?
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MS MICHAEL: Well, then, I am requesting, Mr. Speaker, that video be watched to see, to get the final decision that we made; that is not recorded in the minutes, but is in the video. I think that is a fair request to make since that exists.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Shea.
MS SHEA: In the meantime, it still comes back to the individual members to vote. How many votes do you need for it to be approved: three or four? Is it the majority vote?
MR. SPEAKER: The majority vote.
MS SHEA: Okay, fair enough. You can review the video and we can put it all out for a vote.
MR. SPEAKER: I think one of the things that I am going to ask is, with the Commission's indulgence: because of the explanation I just provided about where we are in the fiscal year, and in all fairness to the staff who were employed by the Third Party, we would want to ensure that any staffing actions, we need to make them in a timely fashion to realize any savings by March 31.
Rather than dispose of this question at this evening's meeting, I would like to convene another meeting of this Commission within the next couple of days to deal with this very specific budget item only. We can dispose of the rest of the agenda this evening. We all realize that the House will be convening in fifteen minutes, or fourteen minutes, thirteen minutes as the clock ticks. We have thirteen minutes before the House opens.
If we could take this item under Tab 3 here and table this, defer the discussion around this meeting. Instead of adjourning, we will just continue this meeting tomorrow. If we could move forward to the other couple of items on the agenda here and have another session of this meeting of the Commission to deal with this one item only, and in the interim I would get the broadcast of that meeting that we had to provide some clarity of the discussion that occurred.
I do appreciate and acknowledge the references made to the minutes and how the minute reflects a decision not to do something, and no decision is recorded as to what to do, which is an important point being raised and important for all of us to understand.
In the absence of the minutes reflecting a definitive decision to take some action versus not to take an action, it is important. That being said, we obviously left the last Commission meeting without disposing of that item on the agenda. There was a Briefing Note that laid out three options and we had to make a decision about one of them. We rejected one, but we did not make a decision about the other two or at least the minutes do not reflect it, and that was an error on our part, if that is the case.
If we could come back to this item and finish off the meeting and with your indulgence, I would like to have that meeting over before this week is done. Maybe we can quickly convene a meeting of this Commission tomorrow morning, Thursday morning at 9:00? I will canvas the members to see what we can do, but we do need to dispose of this quickly because of the time.
The last item under Tab 4 is an issue around Revisions to the Standard Office Allocation. Some of the current rules are pretty prescriptive and they deal with a level of detail that talk about the very specific size of TVs that members can have in their offices. It says very specifically a twenty-inch TV. Sometimes, in some markets, that has become a bit of a challenge.
What we are asking here is some flexibility within the Corporate Services in purchasing TVs for MHA offices, so that if they cannot find one twenty inch, they can buy one that is twenty-two inches. If they cannot find one that is twenty-two, they can buy one that is twenty-six. We are not going to have big screen TVs in offices, so the cap is thirty-two. If we could give Corporate Services some flexibility, rather than being very prescriptive in saying it must be twenty inches.
This is a decision of the Commission, so I need a motion to that effect if members are in agreement.
MS MICHAEL: So moved.
MR. SPEAKER: It is moved by Ms Michael.
A seconder for the motion.
MR. GRANTER: Seconded.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Granter.
All those in favour, aye'.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
I will canvas the members, if not this evening, first thing in the morning, about how we can convene a meeting before this week is out to deal with the agenda item 3.
I thank you very much. We will not adjourn this meeting, but we will take a brief recess and pick it up and deal with this item 3.
Thank you very much.