2010 Legislative Session: Second Session, 39th Parliament

SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES

MINUTES AND HANSARD


MINUTES

SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

1:00 p.m.

Douglas Fir Committee Room

Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.

Present: Dr. Terry Lake, MLA (Chair); Jenny Wai Ching Kwan, MLA (Deputy Chair); Katrine Conroy, MLA; Mike Farnworth, MLA; Rob Fleming, MLA; Eric Foster, MLA; Dave S. Hayer, MLA; Richard T. Lee, MLA; Pat Pimm, MLA; John Slater, MLA

1. There not yet being a Chair elected to serve the Committee, the meeting was called to order at 1:03 p.m. by the Clerk Assistant and Acting Clerk of Committees.

2. Resolved, that Dr. Terry Lake, MLA be elected to serve as Chair (Eric Foster, MLA).

3. Resolved, that Jenny Wai Ching Kwan, MLA be elected to serve as Deputy Chair (Eric Foster, MLA).

4. The Committee reviewed the legislated mandate of the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives pursuant Recall and Initiative Act, RSBC 1996, c. 398.

5. The Committee considered the referral received August 23, 2010, pursuant to the Recall and Initiative Act, RSBC 1996, c.398, section 10:

Initiative Petition: An initiative to end the harmonized sales tax (HST)

Draft Bill: HST Extinguishment Act

6. It was moved by Jenny Wai Ching Kwan that, pursuant to s. 11(2)(a) of the Recall and Initiative Act, the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives table a report recommending that the draft Bill entitled HST Extinguishment Act be introduced into the Legislative Assembly at the earliest practicable opportunity.

7. It was moved by Eric Foster, MLA to adjourn debate on the motion before the Committee.

8. The Committee recessed from 1:19 p.m. to 1:24 p.m.

9. The motion to adjourn debate on the motion before the Committee was agreed to on the following division:

Yeas (5)

Nays (4)

Foster

Conroy

Hayer

Farnworth

Lee

Kwan

Pimm

Fleming

Slater

10. It was moved by Eric Foster, MLA to invite the Acting Clerk of Committees to seek information from the Chief Electoral Officer on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote so we can make a properly informed decision.

11. An amendment to the motion was moved by Jenny Wai Ching Kwan, MLA striking the words: “the Acting Clerk of Committees to seek information from the Chief Electoral Officer” and adding the words “to invite the Chief Electoral Officer to attend to provide information” on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote so we can make a properly informed decision.

12. The Committee recessed from 2:03 p.m. to 2:08 p.m.

13. The Chair ruled the amendment in order. The amendment to the motion was agreed to.

14. The motion, as amended, was agreed to.

Resolved, that the Committee invite the Chief Electoral Officer to attend to provide information on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote so we can make a properly informed decision.

15. Resolved, that the next meeting of the Committee be Monday, September 13, 2010 at 1 p.m. (Dave S. Hayer, MLA)

16. The Committee adjourned at 2:10 p.m. to the call of the Chair.

Dr. Terry Lake, MLA
Chair

Kate Ryan-Lloyd
Clerk Assistant and
Acting Clerk of Committees



The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.

The printed version remains the official version.

REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS
(Hansard)

select standing committee on
Legislative initiatives

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Issue No. 1

ISSN 1705-9887


contents

Election of Chair and Deputy Chair

1

Legislated Mandate of Legislative Initiatives Committee

2

Referral of Initiative Petition and Draft Bill

2

Next Committee Meeting

9


Chair:

* Dr. Terry Lake (Kamloops–North Thompson L)

Deputy Chair:

* Jenny Wai Ching Kwan (Vancouver–Mount Pleasant NDP)

Members:

* Eric Foster (Vernon-Monashee L)


* Dave S. Hayer (Surrey-Tynehead L)


* Richard T. Lee (Burnaby North L)


* Pat Pimm (Peace River North L)


* John Slater (Boundary-Similkameen L)


* Katrine Conroy (Kootenay West NDP)


* Mike Farnworth (Port Coquitlam NDP)


* Rob Fleming (Victoria–Swan Lake NDP)



* denotes member present

Other MLAs:

John Horgan (Juan de Fuca NDP)

Blair Lekstrom (Peace River South IND)

Joan McIntyre (West Vancouver–Sea to Sky L)

Clerk:

Kate Ryan-Lloyd

Committee Staff:

Josie Schofield (Manager, Committee Research Services)








[ Page 1 ]

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2010

The committee met at 1:03 p.m.

Election of Chair and Deputy Chair

K. Ryan-Lloyd (Clerk Assistant and Acting Clerk of Committees): Good afternoon, everyone. As there has not yet been a meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives since its appointment by the Legislative Assembly in September 2009 and as there is not yet a Chair elected to serve this committee, as the Clerk to this committee, I would like to open the floor for nominations to the position of Chair.

E. Foster: I would nominate Dr. Lake.

K. Ryan-Lloyd (Acting Clerk of Committees): Thank you, Eric.

J. Kwan: I was exactly going to do that — following the procedures by putting up my hand, like a good schoolgirl would on the first day of school here in the Legislature.

Most certainly, on this side of the House we would nominate Terry Lake as the Chair of the committee.

K. Ryan-Lloyd (Acting Clerk of Committees): Thank you so much.

So we've got that nomination now from both Eric and Jenny. I will call for nominations for a total of three times. Are there any further nominations? Any further nominations? Any further nominations?

Seeing none, Terry, do you accept nomination as Chair?

T. Lake: Yes, I do.

K. Ryan-Lloyd (Acting Clerk of Committees): Then I will put the question on the motion: all those in favour of Terry as Chair of this committee.

Motion approved.

[T. Lake in the chair.]

T. Lake (Chair): Well, thank you, Kate, and thank you for your work already on this committee. I really appreciate that.

Our second order of business, then, as per our agenda, which has been previously circulated, is the election of the Deputy Chair.

E. Foster: I nominate Jenny Kwan.

T. Lake (Chair): Are there any other nominations? I'll call a second and a third time for any other nominations. Finally, any other nominations?

Ms. Kwan, do you accept?

J. Kwan: Yes, I do.

[1305]

T. Lake (Chair): I guess we have to call the vote on that.

Motion approved.

T. Lake (Chair): Congratulations.

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee members for the nomination and the election. I look forward to the work of this committee.

I know that we have a number of items on the agenda. First would be the review of the legislative mandate of the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives, Recall and Initiative Act. Following that, there will be the issue of the consideration of the referral received on August 23, 2010, pursuant to the Recall and Initiative Act — namely, to deal with the initiative petition and the draft bill, the HST Extinguishment Act.

At the appropriate moment I'd like to just put on notice that I would like to put forward a motion.

T. Lake (Chair): Before we proceed with item 3 on the agenda, I just want to take a moment, if I may, to acknowledge the significance of our work here today as a committee. This is the first time in 16 years, since this legislation was created, that this committee has had a referral from the Chief Electoral Officer in the form of an initiative petition.

I just want to acknowledge the work done by the organizers of the petition, the many volunteers who participated and the many, many British Columbians who took part, gave their time to consider the issue before them. Whether we all agree on a particular policy, it is, I think, a real tribute to the spirit of British Columbians that so many engaged in the debate.

It is now this committee's duty to fulfil its mandate as outlined in the act. This issue, of course, has gained a lot of publicity in the media and in the minds of the public, but we want to make sure this committee works in a respectful way and in a thorough fashion. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to do that, and certainly, with two redheads at the helm here, I'm sure the level of debate will be very, very civilized and demure.

Having said that, we'll move on to the next item on the agenda. That is a review of the legislated mandate of the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives, Recall and Initiative Act.
[ Page 2 ]

Legislated Mandate of
Legislative Initiatives Committee

T. Lake (Chair): Sections 9 through 12 are, I guess, the most pertinent parts of the legislation that sort of give the terms of reference for the committee, but we have provided for you, in your package, more information, should it be necessary, and we do have a copy of the entire act, should that become necessary.

I would turn your attention particularly to section 11 of the act, which is the duty of the select standing committee. Section 11(1) says: "The select standing committee must, within 30 days of receiving a copy of the initiative petition and draft Bill under section 10, meet to consider the initiative petition and draft Bill." We have fulfilled that part of the legislation by meeting today.

"The select standing committee must, within 90 days of the date of its first meeting, (a) table a report recommending that the draft Bill be introduced at the earliest practicable opportunity...." That's option 1. Option B is: "refer the initiative petition and draft Bill to the chief electoral officer." Of course, that leads to an initiative vote to be held, according to the legislation, in September of 2011.

As I see the duty of the committee, it's important, I think, that we have real clarity on the role of the committee to either select choice A — to have the government present the draft bill in the Legislature at the earliest practicable opportunity — or to send a report to the Chief Electoral Officer to start an initiative petition.

This committee is a little bit different than some legislative committees, in that the powers of holding hearings, for instance, calling witnesses, is somewhat.... Well, it is restricted because we don't have the ability, according to the rules of parliament, to do that under the way this committee was struck. We can, however, seek information through the Clerk's office. Certainly, there is that option available to us.

[1310]

I will just ask if there are any points of review or clarification that members require from the legislation which guides this committee.

Seeing none, then, Ms. Kwan, you said that you had a motion to put forward. Kate has reminded me that agenda item 4 is consideration of the referral, and I presume that is where your motion would properly be placed.

If there is no other question or questions of clarity around the review of the mandate of the select standing committee, then we can certainly move on to No. 4, and that is the actual consideration of the referral that we received August 23, 2010, pursuant to the Recall and Initiative Act — an initiative petition, an initiative to end the harmonized sales tax, and the draft bill, the HST Extinguishment Act.

Referral of
Initiative Petition and Draft Bill

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): I had the opportunity prior to coming to this committee to, first of all, go back and review Hansard. That would be back to the year 1992, when the Recall and Initiative Act was introduced in the House.

I reviewed the comments, particularly, made by some of the members during that time. Of note, I think, for a reference, would be comments from the now Premier, the then opposition leader. The comments, I think, are worth putting on the public record, also, to provide us with some glimpse into what the thinking was at the time of the MLAs who were involved in bringing this bill forward and passing this bill in the House.

The Leader of the Opposition then, the current Premier, said this: "Why do people call for that accountability?" This, of course, was in reference to the Recall and Initiative Act. "Why has that cry come up so loudly from the towns and cities of British Columbia, from the north to the south, from the east to the west? The reason is that they believe that our governing institutions have indeed lost their sense of accountability to the electorate."

Indeed, I would say that there is merit to this comment, and I would actually agree with the then opposition leader, the now Premier.

We all know the history of how the HST came about, which is concerning for many British Columbians and, I think, for members of this House as well. The government said prior to the election that the HST was not on their radar. Then, of course, after the election…. As we now know, there is ample evidence, including briefing notes to the Premier and to the Minister of Finance, to indicate that the HST was on the Minister of Finance's desk and was certainly brought to the attention of the Premier as well.

We know that British Columbians felt betrayed by this government with respect to the HST, so much so that they reacted, in rejecting the HST, by bringing forward the petition to where it is at.

Everybody at the time thought that the petition was not going to be successful, that it was enormously onerous to get the signatures collected. Notwithstanding, British Columbians came together. They volunteered their time. They brought about the petitions, and hence, we're here.

To further quote from the opposition leader, the now Premier, he also said: "When we talk about being elected, we all have to remember that we are elected to respond first to the needs of our constituents." Then he went on to say: "I believe accountability is going to be the cornerstone of re-establishing and restoring the trust between our elected representatives and those who elect them."

In that light, Mr. Chair, I would move the following motion. "Be it resolved that pursuant to s. 11 (2) (a) of the
[ Page 3 ]
Recall and Initiative Act, the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives table a report recommending that the draft Bill entitled HST Extinguishment Act be introduced into the Legislative Assembly at the earliest practicable opportunity."

[1315]

I have copies of the motion for the other committee members, which I'm happy to share so that everybody can see the exact wording of the motion that I'm putting forward.

I'd like to just further say that I think British Columbians have waited a long time for this day. They wanted accountability. They did a lot of work to bring the petition about, and there were delays along the way. Notwithstanding the court challenge and so on, the petition was deemed to be successful.

We now have this matter to deal with in this committee. As you mentioned, Mr. Chair, the committee's mandate is very specific and, I would argue, is also quite narrow. We have one of two choices to make: either (a) to refer this to the Legislature or, alternatively, choose to send it to a referendum. I am moving the motion in support of sending this to the Legislature.

Why? Because (a) is expeditious and is, I think, the quickest way to get accountability. I think that every MLA has the responsibility to represent their constituents, as the Leader of the Opposition said when he debated this bill back in 1992. Every MLA would have the opportunity to do exactly that.

I hope that the committee would agree with me to send this bill to the Legislature so that every MLA would be able to engage in that debate. I hope that the MLAs would call on the Premier to allow for a free vote for this, and so I hope that the committee will support the motion before us.

T. Lake (Chair): The motion is in order, so I call for debate on the motion.

E. Foster: All members of this committee recognize that what we're doing here today is unprecedented. It's the first time this committee is meeting, and it is important that we take this seriously and consider both options. Many volunteers have put in a great deal of time and effort around the province, and it is important that we take the time necessary to consider both the options.

To make a decision this important, we must first gather and review all the relevant information and then have a proper, informed debate to ensure the committee is able to come to the best decision. Therefore, I move adjournment of this debate.

T. Lake (Chair): Okay, the motion is to adjourn debate on the motion. I've been informed that the motion to adjourn debate is up for debate, so we certainly can….

I think I'm just going to call a five-minute recess just to make sure that we have procedural correctness here. I'm very aware of making sure that we do this in the correct fashion, so I just want to take five minutes to discuss with the Clerk the procedure in front of us at the moment.

The committee recessed from 1:19 p.m. to 1:24 p.m.

[T. Lake in the chair.]

T. Lake (Chair): Thank you for your indulgence. Just to clarify, the motion is in order and is not debatable. Just to tell you, the effect of the motion would be to essentially adjourn debate on Ms. Kwan's motion, but it could be brought back at another date. Then we certainly can go back to reconsideration of section 4, which is the referral.

[1325]

The motion, then, is to adjourn debate on the motion that was before the committee.

Motion approved on the following division:

YEAS — 5

Hayer

Lee

Foster

Slater

Pimm

NAYS — 4

Fleming

Farnworth

Kwan

Conroy

T. Lake (Chair): We are back to reconsideration of agenda item 4.

E. Foster: I may be able to explain why I made the previous motion. As this is the first time that this committee has had to make a decision — or the Legislature, actually, has had to make a decision — it is important to ensure that committee members are fully informed on the two options that we can undertake. I think it is important for the committee to be briefed on the mechanics of both options. "Therefore, I move a motion to invite the acting Clerk of Committees to seek information from the Chief Electoral Officer on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote so we can make a properly informed decision."

I so move.

T. Lake (Chair): Do you have a copy of that, Mr. Foster, that we can circulate?

That is the motion that is under debate at the moment.
[ Page 4 ]

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): It's interesting to note, in terms of where the committee wants to bring this.... Certainly, if the committee members would like to get clarity from the Chief Electoral Officer around the procedures related to what's mandated in the act, in terms of the course of action, we don't oppose that. I think it's fine to have the Chief Electoral Officer come forward to explain to the committee members on those issues.

I want to make sure, though, Mr. Chair, that when we do have the Chief Electoral Officer come before the committee, one of the key questions I think we may as well ask the Chief Electoral Officer to give to us and to the public would be the cost of a referendum so that we can have a better estimation of what that cost would be and, for taxpayers, the burden they will have to carry if the referendum route ultimately becomes the direction.

Of course, Mr. Chair, I would urge that we do this at the earliest opportunity, putting on the record that the opposition members are available to meet tomorrow. In fact, we would put this as our top priority to get on with it. I hope that could be expedited so we can have that matter dealt with.

I also want to note this as well, Mr. Chair. The petition and the HST Extinguishment Act — I think the people who brought it forward.... There's no doubt that the people who initiated this work.... The many, many volunteers across the province who participated in it and who worked towards this spent their own time in getting this to this stage. In that process, they have experienced many roadblocks.

The last thing that this committee needs to do is engage in delaying tactics, and I hope that is not the case. We need to move forward with a decision and to expedite action in this matter.

T. Lake (Chair): Just to clarify, the motion was not to have the Chief Electoral Officer appear before the committee but to have the acting Clerk of Committees seek that information from the Chief Electoral Officer. Certainly, the question around the costs can be included in that information.

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): I would appreciate that.

My question — not to put the Clerk's office on the spot, if the Clerk's office could advise: how quickly can we get this information?

[1330]

T. Lake (Chair): Well, I think they're certainly willing to get it as quickly as possible. I'm not sure that it would be available as early as tomorrow, but I don't think there's any intention on the part of committee members to delay the process. I think that one of the orders of business that we need to address is the date of the next meeting, so I would be willing to entertain a motion in that regard.

D. Hayer: First of all, I also want to say my thank-you to all the volunteers who participated in this….

T. Lake (Chair): With permission, Mr. Hayer, before you get to that motion, if you have another motion forward, we do have the motion to have the Clerk's office seek out information from the Chief Electoral Officer. It was endorsed, if you like, by our last speaker, but we still need to go through the procedure of having a vote. I apologize for that.

Is there any more debate?

R. Fleming: On this motion, I wonder if it might be advisable to have the Chief Electoral Officer appear himself. There may be questions that the Clerk of Committees is unable to answer. It would be a shame to have another opportunity to proceed with the business before us on the basis that some questions can't be answered in person by the Clerk of Committees. And there may be other questions that simply are technically beyond the Clerk of Committees that the administrator for election procedures in British Columbia could more appropriately and suitably answer.

T. Lake (Chair): Well, I'm told that certainly, the Clerk of Committees will take any questions from members and seek answers directly from Elections B.C. So I think that maybe addresses some of those concerns.

The difficulty we face is that the procedures and the delegated authorities of this committee are somewhat different from other committees. It is the view of the Clerk, in my discussions with the Clerk, that this committee does not have the ability to call witnesses directly. We can seek out information through the Clerk's office, but it is not able to call witnesses directly. Certainly, we have to work within the limits of the abilities of the committee.

R. Fleming: Mr. Chair, the Chief Electoral Officer is not a witness. They have a direct reporting relationship and a referral relationship to this committee. Therefore, they could attend any committee meeting, in my view, to be an acting resource to committee members, and I would put that to you for your consideration.

I think it might be expedient to have that person appear at the next scheduled meeting of this committee so that members wouldn't have to experience the frustration of perhaps having to adjourn debate again because questions can't be answered by a technical expert.

T. Lake (Chair): Well, I appreciate the view. When you want to, I guess, use a commonsense approach, I agree. However, we must observe the rules of the committee. It is my information from the Clerk's office that we do not have the ability to call people in directly to speak to the committee, but we can seek out information. Certainly,
[ Page 5 ]
we can do some more work on that particular issue in the meantime, before the next committee meeting, if there is a desire to do that. I think, as I said at the outset, it's important that this committee understand with total clarity the procedures that it must follow.

Ms. Kwan, you had a question.

J. Kwan: (Deputy Chair): It's a question more to the member who moved the motion, Mr. Eric Foster. In the motion he actually asks for clarification to seek information from the Chief Electoral Officer on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote so we can make a properly informed decision.

In that regard, I'm wondering if Mr. Foster could explain for the rest of the committee which aspect of the procedure and details is he wondering about with respect to this, and what clarity is he seeking from the Clerk's office through to the Chief Electoral Officer?

[1335]

E. Foster: One of the items that's been kicked around in the press lately was the cost, and I've made some inquiries and didn't get an answer on that. So that was one of the specific ones that I was concerned about. Is this a stand-alone initiative? Can there be other initiatives put on the vote? There are different things that may come up. Certainly, in my area people are talking about different things on a referendum — so those types of questions, just technical things. I've read through it several times, and I couldn't get the information out of it.

I certainly agree with Mr. Fleming and you, Ms. Kwan.

I don't want to see this go on. The purpose of this is not to stretch this out. I want this cleared up as quickly as we possibly can, so it's not the purpose of this. I want to make sure I've got everything clear in my mind before I vote on this. I didn't come here with a predetermined idea of what I wanted to do, so I want to make sure I've got all my facts straight before I vote.

T. Lake (Chair): I think it's fair to say that we need to be specific in our questions, and I invite all members to submit specific questions that they may have for the Chief Electoral Officer through the Clerk's office. I think if we do that by noon tomorrow, that would give enough time to get that information back in a timely fashion.

If it is agreeable to members to have specific questions around option B, the Chief Electoral Officer can supply those answers to us for our next meeting.

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): I'd like to just further my question to Mr. Foster as well. He mentioned that there might be a possibility of asking other questions through this referendum. Is it the case that Mr. Foster has got some questions already in mind which he would like to put on, should the referendum route be the chosen course of action here?

E. Foster: Not necessarily, no, but it's a question. We've talked about the cost, for example. And if there was anything else, can you run two referendums parallel? Could you use the same process, the same day, to have another initiative on a referendum? There are all kinds of opportunity for referendum.

These are questions that I had, and I didn't get answers to them, so I'd just like to have some answers.

You know what? Honestly, the biggest one was the cost. I mean, I've heard everything from a few million dollars to $30 million on the radio this morning. No one has been able to give us a definitive cost. I'd like to have an answer to that, and I don't think it's asking a whole lot to wait a couple of days to find out some of these answers.

T. Lake (Chair): Needless to say, I think we're looking for specific questions, and we have a mechanism whereby we can obtain those specific questions from members.

M. Farnworth: Mr. Foster says he wants to have full information, and the Chair has just said that we have a mechanism where we can get questions answered if we have specific questions, which we as a committee, I guess, or individually, address to the Clerk of Committees, who will go and find that information for us.

One of the things I tended to find in my experience was that when you ask questions and receive an answer, quite often there are further questions that arise. So given what the Chair is saying, is the procedure going to be that we give the questions to the Clerk of Committees, who comes back with the answers, questions arise out of that, and then the Clerk of Committees has to go back again and talk with the Chief Electoral Officer as to what the answer to our questions arising out of the questions are? That doesn't sound particularly efficient.

One of the strengths of our system and the way our House has functioned and our committees have functioned is that we have flexibility. If we as a committee decide that we want to have the Chief Electoral Officer here to be able to answer…. It's not as a witness, as a cross-examination. It is as a resource to our committee. Then there's no reason why that cannot take place. I think it's appropriate that the Chief Electoral Officer is here as a resource so that we can get answers to the questions that we have.

We may well have questions here, but once we ask those questions and we get the answers back, then you're going to have questions that come out of that that you need.... And the idea of "Okay, now we'll go back" just doesn't make any sense.

J. Slater: I agree with that. It's not just option B; it's option A as well. How can we inform the public about
[ Page 6 ]
the ramifications of the HST or the options, the other tax regimes, by putting it in front of the Legislature? What are we allowed to debate, and what are we allowed to get from our constituents?

[1340]

I've got a lot of constituents that are still asking questions, that have signed the petition, and now they're looking at their bills and saying: "Well, that's not right. That's not right."

We can't debate the pros and cons of the HST in this forum. So my question is: how much information can we get from the public before we start debating this in the Legislature, or do we go to a full-blown referendum initiative?

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): Actually, I refer back to the bill, of course, and that is the Recall and Initiative Act. In section 13(1) of the bill it actually states, regarding an initiative vote: "If the select standing committee refers the initiative petition and draft Bill to the chief electoral officer, the chief electoral officer must hold an initiative vote under this Act."

Then it goes on to say: "On the recommendation of the minister after consultation with the chief electoral officer, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting the conducting of an initiative vote under this Act."

Then it further says: "Without limiting subsection (2), the regulations may (a) specify what provisions of the Election Act apply, and (b) adapt any of the provisions of the Election Act with changes that the regulations may provide."

Then it goes on to provide for the timelines of when the initiative vote could take place, and then it goes on to talk about what is deemed to be a successful initiative vote, etc.

In section 16 of the act, where it talks about the effect of successful initiative vote, it says:

"If the chief electoral officer declares an initiative vote to be successful, the government must do one of the following: (a) introduce the Bill at the earliest practicable opportunity; (b) if the Bill is for the appropriation of any part of the consolidated revenue fund or of any tax or impost, (i) request the Lieutenant Governor to recommend the Bill by a message in accordance with sections 46 and 47 of the Constitution Act to the Legislative Assembly, and (ii) introduce the Bill at the earliest practicable opportunity."

In the act the people who could actually answer the questions, then, that Mr. Foster had put forward would be.... One, to be certain, is the Chief Electoral Officer, I would submit. I have no doubt our able acting Clerk of Committees would work very hard to see to seek that information on our behalf.

Having said that, it would be appropriate, in my view.... I had thought originally, when I first heard the motion, that it was to call on the Chief Electoral Officer to come before this committee to answer these procedural questions that the members may have. I think if that's required for members to make a decision, that would be appropriate, because the bill actually calls on the Chief Electoral Officer to do that work, so it would be appropriate as well.

There'd be some parts of it, I would submit, that would actually go to the minister's office, because it states that "after consultation with the chief electoral officer, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting the conducting of an initiative vote under this Act."

In order to move in the most direct way of getting the answers the members may have, then I would submit that the appropriate person to call as a resource for this committee…. By the way, the Chief Electoral Officer is in fact an officer of the Legislature who is there to serve every single member. I suspect that even not before this committee, if we phoned up the Chief Electoral Officer and asked these questions, we'd be able to get the answers accordingly as well — which could have been done, actually, prior to the meeting.

Notwithstanding, we're here today. The request is put forward. So I think it would be appropriate to amend the motion and move directly to inviting the Chief Electoral Officer to come before this committee to provide procedural and detailed information about the conducting of an initiative vote.

I would move the amendment accordingly.

T. Lake (Chair): For clarity, we'll just have the Clerk have you put that in writing, Ms. Kwan.

The amendment is to have the Chief Electoral Officer invited in person to the committee. I just want to make sure we have clarity.

[1345]

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): Yeah. Let's put it on the record, then, for Hansard as well. So the amended motion would read: "Therefore, I move a motion to invite the Chief Electoral Officer to attend on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote so we can make a properly informed decision."

So it was to strike out "the acting Clerk of Committees to seek information from the...."

T. Lake (Chair): There's the question of the procedural appropriateness of the motion. While I understand the intent of the motion — and I think that probably both sides are amenable to the intent of the motion to have the Chief Electoral Officer come before us — there is some procedural question as to whether the committee has the ability to do that.

I think we need to clarify that, and we certainly can have the Clerk's office clarify that at the earliest possible opportunity. If the committee is okay with that, we can adjourn the debate on this amendment until we have clarity around the committee's ability to invite the Chief Electoral Officer.
[ Page 7 ]

Point of Order

K. Conroy: Point of order, Mr. Chair.

It seems like because this is a new committee and there are new rules and regulations, we as a committee agreed that we already would change some of those rules by allowing more people into the gallery for viewing, as far as media goes. As a committee, we already stepped out of the act and said that we'd all agreed on this.

To have the Chief Electoral Officer here as a resource is.... It seems to me that we are just once again following those guidelines as a committee. We all seem to be amenable to it, and it's something that we should be looking at. To bring us all together again and again, without that resource here, seems a little ridiculous. We agreed to other things out of the box, so why not carry forward with this also?

T. Lake (Chair): I agree with the sentiment, but the details that were changed to accommodate the press and the public, for instance, were administrative details, not procedural details. I'm told that there is a difference.

I beg your indulgence. I want to make sure that we do this properly, that nothing that we do can be called into question.

Part of the role of this committee is to clarify exactly how this committee operates. While it may be a bit excruciating for all of us to go through this, I think it's important that we do find our way through so that we do have clarity.

Proceedings Continued

D. Hayer: First of all, I just want to say that I myself also appreciate and thank all the volunteers who participated in this initiative as well as everybody that was involved with this. I think the whole committee probably feels the same way — that we should try to get to the conclusion of the two choices we have: either A or B, to send the bill to the House or to the Chief Electoral Officer for the referendum.

My personal view is that we should try to get that done and conclude this committee by next week and not go for months, or 90 days, as is stated in the regulations as allowed.

I think if we can invite the Chief Electoral Officer by the laws that govern this committee, then we should invite him. If he cannot be invited, then we should put the question so that we can move forward on this.

[1350]

Also, my personal view is that we should try by next Monday to hold our next meeting and hopefully, if we can get all the information, try to come to some sort of decision by that time and not go on for weeks and months as some members might feel and maybe some members of the public might have thought before this.

I think this is a very important initiative. It is a historical initiative, and lots of people took the time to vote. Over 750,000 people participated in this. On the other hand, I think whatever the choice we make, we should have all the information possible. On the other hand, we are not able to go for weeks and months.

I would like to see if we can have our meeting by Monday, September 13, 2010, at 1 p.m. and see if that time allows us to get all the information, and then we should try to get on that.

I think that's probably one of the concerns that the opposition seems to have, because they think maybe we are finding ways to adjourn this that will take weeks and months. I think that is not the view of the committee from the people I have talked to in here and what I heard from the opposition too.

R. Lee: I think it's important to conclude the work of the committee as soon as possible. I think they are procedural questions. Probably if your motion is on the condition that it didn't violate the rule of the procedure, then we can invite the Chief Electoral Officer to come. I would approve that. This is a good way to get information.

I think that option A and B.... Those are the options available to us to choose. Actually, it was established since 1994. This is under the NDP government. I think we should follow those democratic procedures accordingly.

We need as much information as possible so that we can make a wise decision.

R. Fleming: I think that we're not really far apart here, and I think, having read the act, there's nothing prohibiting the Chief Electoral Officer from attending this committee.

There are no conventions in the standing orders that I'm aware of. The Chief Electoral Officer is an independent officer of all 85 members of this Legislative Assembly. They should be available for parliamentary committees of this assembly when they meet.

Mr. Hayer, I think, just made a very good argument in favour of having the Chief Electoral Officer appear here. He wants to conclude the business, the very limited business of this committee, quickly. And I think that in all practicality, that can be accomplished better by having the Chief Electoral Officer here than by putting the Clerk's office in a go-between position to perhaps delay information that we could obtain in person at committee recorded in Hansard rather than in perhaps days in between.

I know Mr. Foster.... I appreciate the sentiment that he voiced earlier. I appreciate that he wants to ask questions on the record, transparently, and ask them probably of the Chief Electoral Officer, who's in charge of administering elections budgets. There's been far too little transparency on the whole matter of the HST in the last year.
[ Page 8 ]

I think this is accomplished much better and enables our committee to get on with its work if that person appears. I haven't heard a ruling from the Chair yet that suggests that we're unable to do that. I'm not hearing differences in the intent here from any of the committee members as to what we want to get done.

I would suggest that the amendment that Ms. Kwan has made is helpful to us — it's in keeping with the spirit of Mr. Foster's motion — and that we put that to a vote and get on with it.

T. Lake (Chair): Okay. We'll continue on a few more minutes of this debate.

M. Farnworth: I think it's important, given the comments that have been made by Mr. Hayer and Mr. Lee that they want this wrapped up as quickly as possible , that we recognize that in order to do that, we have to have the answers to the questions which you feel need to be asked.

[1355]

We on this side of the House are perfectly amenable to do that. If you want to do that speedily, that means you've got to have the Chief Electoral Officer here. Otherwise, we may as well recognize that we're going to be asking questions that will then be….

The Clerk of Committees will be going to the Chief Electoral Officer, coming back with answers, which will facilitate more questions, which will facilitate the Clerk of Committees going back to the Chief Electoral Officer, who will come back with answers, which will facilitate more questions. We will not be dealing with this by Monday, and we will be stretching out.... We may as well bring our sleeping bags, because we're going to be here for quite some time.

The idea that the Chief Electoral Officer cannot be here because of some sort of perceived procedural motion is ridiculous. We have a commonsense amendment that's been moved by my colleague from Vancouver–Mount Pleasant. I suggest that we do that.

In terms of a question, this needs to be done. There is no reason why this cannot be done quickly. Let's just get on with it and get down to the real business, which is being able to ask those questions and being able to get those answers and then make a decision.

J. Slater: Basically, I was going to say the same thing. Whether it's "invite" or "request," maybe there are some language issues that we can say, through the Clerk's office, that this language will work and this language won't work procedure-wise.

T. Lake (Chair): The issue here is that the amendment as it stands may be out of order. We recognize the intent, I think, of all members of the committee to speak directly to the Chief Electoral Officer. My concern — and I don't think it's a ridiculous concern — is that we do this properly, that our procedures are not held open to question later on. I think the public wants clarity. The public wants us to deal with this, so I want to make sure that we deal with it properly.

I certainly can seek guidance. We can adjourn debate on the amendment, seek clarity, and knowing the intent of the amendment at our next meeting, if we have clarified and are able to meet the intent of that motion, then we can have that available at our next meeting.

R. Lee: May I propose to amend the amendment by adding "if the procedure allows the committee to make a decision on that."

T. Lake (Chair): Sorry, Mr. Lee. Could you repeat that for me, please?

R. Lee: Okay. On the amendment, just add "if the procedural process for the committee allows the committee members to decide on this."

T. Lake (Chair): Before I rule on that motion, I'd just like to hear from Ms. Kwan on that.

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. For a minute I thought I was invisible or something.

I just want to be very clear, Mr. Chair, about my amendment. Let's be clear about what the intent is, because I'm not sure if people are clear about that. I'm not intending for the Chief Electoral Officer to be called before this committee as a witness. I'm intending for the Chief Electoral Officer to come before this committee to be a resource.

The Chief Electoral Officer is an officer of the Legislature who is there to serve every single member of this House. We are members of that House. We constitute a committee that happens to be this Recall and Initiative Act committee. It happens that we're here today with this committee.

Having said that, there's nothing in the act that bars a resource person, an independent officer of the Legislature, from coming before this committee to provide information for committee members.

Now, you say, Mr. Chair, you want to make sure everything is done by the book, and I fully appreciate that. So I would ask this. How long would it take for the Clerk's office to make a determination on whether or not this amendment is in order? I suspect that we wouldn't actually need to adjourn for the rest of the day to do that. I suspect that it'll take a couple of minutes to review that, so we can get on with it and move forward.

So far what we've done in this committee is talk about motions about what not to do, instead of mov-
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ing forward on what we need to get done. Everybody says that they intend and they want to make sure that we deal with this expeditiously. So far I haven't actually seen that in concrete action from the committee members.

P. Pimm: I think, obviously, the debate that's going back and forth here has some merit. I don't think an amendment to an amendment would be in order. I think you'd have to defeat an amendment to put a new amendment in. I believe that would probably be how that would have to be handled.

[1400]

I think everybody is in the same light here. I believe everybody is thinking along the same line. So possibly, the wording should be to Ms. Kwan's motion, provided that it doesn't affect any procedural proceedings, that we have the electoral office come in. I think that would handle it quite nicely.

T. Lake (Chair): Okay. For clarity, the amendment as it stands now is to invite the Chief Electoral Officer to attend on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote. That is the amendment at the moment.

J. Kwan (Deputy Chair): Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask for a ruling, please. If you could make a ruling on my amendment, I would appreciate it.

T. Lake (Chair): I appreciate that, Ms. Kwan, and we'll come to that shortly.

D. Hayer: Can you also let us know, in case the amendment was not in order…? Can you take a look if the Chief Electoral Officer can answer all the questions we have in advance? Plus if he's available to come over here on that day — if we have any further questions while we're sitting here, so we don't have to go look for him — maybe he can provide the information.

Maybe he can work from the Clerk's office or in the assembly so that we can very quickly get to any of the questions that we were not able to get before Monday. That way, we don't have to have another meeting after the Monday. Can you please take that into consideration when you're making a decision?

J. Slater: If we call question on the motion and the motion is defeated, Ms. Kwan can change the amendment. So I call question on the amendment.

The original motion still stays. The vote is on the amendment.

T. Lake (Chair): Excuse me, Member. Please wait until you're recognized by the Chair.

We're going to take, again, a five-minute recess. Again, I want to make sure we have clarity, so we'll take five minutes and come back with the ruling of the Chair.

The committee recessed from 2:03 p.m. to 2:08 p.m.

[T. Lake in the chair.]

T. Lake (Chair): Thank you again for your patience and indulgence. I'm prepared to rule that the amendment as presented is in order. The question of procedural propriety, I guess, is one that we've examined, and I think both sides agree that this is in fact the appropriate way forward for the committee.

If there is no more debate on the amendment…. Seeing none, then I will call the question on the amendment, which is to invite the Chief Electoral Officer.

Amendment approved.

T. Lake (Chair): Therefore, the main motion, then, as amended, is to invite the Chief Electoral Officer to attend to provide information on the procedure and details of conducting an initiative vote so we can make a properly informed decision.

Motion as amended approved.

T. Lake (Chair): Further discussion on item 4, which is consideration of the referral.

Next Committee Meeting

D. Hayer: I would move that our next meeting be Monday, September 13, 2010, at 1 p.m. and that the Clerk's office try to get all the information possible and talk to the Chief Electoral Officer so that when we come in, we have everything available — whatever is available beforehand.

T. Lake (Chair): Kate is just going to get a copy of that motion, for clarity, Mr. Hayer.

Essentially, the motion is to adjourn today and to call a meeting for Monday, September 13, at 1 p.m. The motion is: "I move the next meeting of the committee be Monday, September 13, 2010 at 1 pm."

Motion approved.

T. Lake (Chair): Is there a motion to adjourn?

Motion approved.

The committee adjourned at 2:10 p.m.


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