2002 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 37th Parliament
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON
Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Present: Blair Lekstrom, MLA (Chair); Tony Bhullar, MLA (Deputy Chair); Jeff Bray, MLA; Kevin Krueger, MLA; Barry Penner, MLA; Lorne Mayencourt, MLA; Ida Chong, MLA; Brian Kerr, MLA; Harry Bloy, MLA; Joy MacPhail, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Ralph Sultan, MLA
1. The Committee deliberated upon its Report to the House on the matter of the Statutory Officers.
2. Resolved, that the Report as amended be adopted by the Committee and presented to the House by the Chair.
3. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 4:07 p.m.
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2001
Issue No. 24
|Discussion of Draft Report||767|
|Chair:||* Blair Lekstrom (Peace River South L)|
|Deputy Chair:||* Tony Bhullar (Surrey-Newton L)|
|Members:||* Harry Bloy (Burquitlam L)
* Jeff Bray (Victoria–Beacon Hill L)
* Ida Chong (Oak Bay–Gordon Head L)
* Brian Kerr (Malahat–Juan de Fuca L)
* Kevin Krueger (Kamloops–North Thompson L)
* Lorne Mayencourt (Vancouver-Burrard L)
* Barry Penner (Chilliwack-Kent L)
Ralph Sultan (West Vancouver–Capilano L)
* Joy MacPhail (Vancouver-Hastings NDP)
* denotes member present
|Committee Staff:||Josie Schofield (Committee Research Analyst)
Audrey Chan (Assistant Researcher)
[ Page 767 ]
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2001
The committee met at 1:10 p.m.
[B. Lekstrom in the chair.]
B. Lekstrom (Chair): Good afternoon. At this time, I would like to call the meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to order.
We are here this afternoon to discuss the issues surrounding the statutory officers and the draft report that we are commissioned to put together and submit to the Clerk's office if the Legislature is not sitting. We do have a number of issues to deal with.
We have heard from all seven of the statutory officers regarding their budget presentation, service plans and so on. The committee members have done a considerable amount of reading, I know, over the last number of days and weeks. It is nearing the end now for this committee. We must put our recommendations regarding the seven statutory officers forward in our report, and we will be discussing that during this meeting.
There are some issues surrounding the open meeting versus an in-camera session. Because we will be dealing with issues surrounding staffing levels and possible discussion around that today, it is my intention to have a motion to go in camera under the protocol that the Legislative Assembly and legislative committees work under. For further clarification, I would ask Craig to explain the formality of that at this time.
C. James: The practice in British Columbia, and for parliamentary committees generally, is that in consideration of their reports to the Legislative Assembly, they consider and deliberate upon the recommendations in their report in camera.
There are a number of precedents for this. Committees have in the past in this place prepared some of their reports to the Legislative Assembly not in camera. But it would be my advice that in this case, where the committee is considering matters relating to the statutory officers of the Legislative Assembly, they may wish to consider their testimony in camera and deliberate upon their report to the Legislative Assembly in camera as well. It's a very normal and standard practice to do so.
B. Lekstrom (Chair): With that, I would seek the guidance of the members of the committee and take direction from them.
J. MacPhail: The Chair and I have had some discussions about this process, and they've been very helpful. What I'm unclear on is that this is supposed to be…. I understood that the reason the Finance minister referred these matters to us was because it is very different than the budget process. These officers report to us as MLAs. Frankly, the first submissions are all on the record with Hansard. What is it today that becomes more confidential than what we've already heard from the officers themselves?
B. Lekstrom (Chair): I'll give you my view on that. I think we're going to go into some discussion regarding the budgetary requirements and recommendations that this committee may or may not recommend. We may very well deal with the issue of staffing levels and so on.
With the history I've had in municipal politics — and that's why I looked to Craig — issues surrounding personnel were certainly in camera until decisions were made so that the issue of speculation about what may or may not happen does not affect the people and their families. I would suggest that with the issue surrounding that, it is probably very important for us to be able to do it. Personally, the issue of going in camera is one I will support on this, but again, I will take direction from the members of this committee as well.
J. MacPhail: Okay. I'm just trying to understand why there seem to be…. I don't have a lot of experience on legislative committees, but there seem to be a lot of in-camera meetings. Frankly, if it is an issue of how staffing levels may be affected, you know, there are 11,000 public servants out there that have been told that they're going to be laid off. What's the difference here in terms of confidentiality?
B. Lekstrom (Chair): Just prior to going to Barry, as the Chair, we received all of the evidence through the public process — public meetings and so on. I believe now we're going in to deliberate the report that we are commissioned by the Legislative Assembly to put together and submit.
For a number of reasons, which I have indicated already, certainly first and foremost in my mind is the issue that should a recommendation come out — again, I'm predetermining the discussion — that would affect people, their jobs and their lives, I think it would be appropriate that that wasn't done through a public process until we as a committee have had those deliberations surrounding our draft report.
I will go to Barry and then to Harry.
B. Penner: This is a question for Craig. Craig, maybe you can help us here with some of the parliamentary tradition. If we're going to be making recommendations as a committee to the Legislature, is it not appropriate that the other MLAs be the first to hear about that before the information goes elsewhere? Isn't that what we did with the report from the Finance Committee a few weeks ago?
C. James: That's quite true. The Legislative Assembly is the body to whom this committee reports, and it is the Legislative Assembly and the Members of the Legislative Assembly who should receive knowledge of the committee's report prior to it being released publicly. If a parliamentary committee is deliberating upon its report in public, then that principle is contravened
[ Page 768 ]
in the sense that the public would have knowledge of the committee's deliberations and recommendations and the contents of the committee's report before Members of the Legislative Assembly would know generally.
H. Bloy: I'd like to move that we go in camera for these discussions.
B. Lekstrom (Chair): Seconded by Mr. Bray. Is there any discussion on the motion before the board to move to an in-camera session?
J. MacPhail: Yes, and I'll be voting against it for this reason alone. This particular government, and therefore the standing committees, gets to choose. It seems to me that there are very mixed rules about what's in camera and what isn't. If this committee is saying that staff relations and the future of families and the lives affected by potential layoffs are so sacrosanct that we want to do it with great care and attention, then perhaps that's a message we need to send to the cabinet as well — that the rules be even across the way. Already, that rule has been violated several times, so I don't understand why we need to do it for this part of the budget when it has been violated elsewhere.
B. Lekstrom (Chair): Thank you.
My understanding in that direction — because this is certainly a new process, and a number of new members are here as Members of the Legislative Assembly — is that this is standard parliamentary procedure. That's what I have been given to understand through my discussions, and for that reason, I would move in camera.
I cannot speak for the other members or for cabinet. I think they are doing a very effective job in carrying out their duties. As a committee and with the job we have to do, I will support the decision to go in camera for these reasons. It's not to hide anything from the public. They will be informed very, very shortly, with the committee's mandate to report out. This, from my perspective, has nothing to do with hiding information from the public. This is proper procedure, from my way of looking at it, and one of courtesy to the people we will be discussing.
B. Penner: A final comment, Chair, if I may?
B. Lekstrom (Chair): Certainly.
B. Penner: I think perhaps Ms. MacPhail is also missing the point about our duty to other members of the Legislature, that they not know through the newspapers before they get the courtesy of a report directly from this committee. As a member of the Legislature, I take great umbrage when that parliamentary tradition is bypassed. I think we have a duty to uphold this, and it was done recently. All committees go in camera when they're drafting their reports, so I think that's nothing unusual.
B. Lekstrom (Chair): Just to follow up prior to calling the vote on the motion before us. The issue will be that our deliberations take place. Once the deliberations have concluded and we move forward, we will rise with a report. Once our draft report is concluded, our body will then deal with that. We will deposit it with the Clerk's office, at which time that full report becomes a full public document as well.
With that, there is a motion before the members, duly moved and seconded. I will call the question. All those in favour? Opposed? One nay. The motion is carried. We will now move to an in-camera session.
The committee continued in camera from 1:20 p.m. to 4:06 p.m.
[T. Bhullar in the chair.]
T. Bhullar (Deputy Chair): Okay, we're now on the record. Is there any other business?
J. Bray: Is there a requirement from the Clerk that the supporting material that we've been using…? I know Blair said that he didn't have a problem, but do you have any particular desire that we keep this material here or just keep it under lock and key?
A Voice: That doesn't matter to me.
T. Bhullar (Deputy Chair): I guess we should say that the Chair had to leave. When we came back into open session, the Chair was replaced by myself, just to close the meeting.
There being no further business, we can adjourn this meeting.
The committee adjourned at 4:07 p.m.
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