January 25, 2012 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION No. 33
The Management Commission met at 9:30 a.m. in the House of Assembly Chamber.
MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our second Management Commission meeting of this Assembly.
As we did the last time, this meeting is being broadcast. For the benefit of the people in the media centre and those who may be listening, I want start the meeting by some introductions.
I am Ross Wiseman, the Chair of the Commission, and to my left, Mr. Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: Jerome Kennedy, MHA for Carbonear Harbour Grace and Government House Leader.
MS JONES: Yvonne Jones, MHA for Cartwright L'Anse au Clair.
MR. BALL: Dwight Ball, MHA, Humber Valley.
MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, MHA, Signal Hill Quidi Vidi.
MS BURKE: Joan Burke, St. George's Stephenville East.
MR. VERGE: Wade Verge, Lewisporte district.
MR. K. PARSONS: Kevin Parsons, Cape St. Francis.
MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Chief Financial Officer.
CLERK: Bill MacKenzie, Clerk.
MR. SPEAKER: Also in attendance today is
MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk's Office.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much.
Just a couple of housekeeping things: the microphone that I have will be open all the time, so yours are not. What I will do is, as you want to speak, I will acknowledge you and then the Broadcast Centre will turn on your microphone. Just wait a moment until your light comes on so you will know then your microphone is live. Thank you very much.
We all have had a copy of the agenda distributed, and the notes associated with that helped us prepare for the meeting. Under Tab 1, we have the minutes of our last meeting on December 14, 2011. You have had an opportunity to review them. I would entertain a motion to have them moved.
MR. KENNEDY: So moved.
MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Mr. Kennedy.
The next item of business is a piece of information. Ms Michael, last time I think you were inquiring about the status of the lease space. You were wondering about the cost associated with that because we had $7,000 in the budget item and we understood that some of those leases were coming in a little more than that. So you have there a copy of the information that you were wondering about. It is there for information. Is there anything that you would like some clarification on, with respect to that?
MS MICHAEL: I guess just a comment. First of all, thanks to the staff for making the information available. When we look at the leases of those who have constituency offices, very, very few well, only two, actually, in the list I am looking at are below $7,000 and some are significantly higher. We could just continue approving those that are beyond $7,000 or we could give a further direction as to coming up with a more realistic amount of money. It is paperwork having to get the permission all the time when it seems like we are way below what is reasonable to expect somebody to pay. So I am not going to suggest how much money, I am just wondering if we could have a further process of looking at what might be a more reasonable rate.
MR. SPEAKER: Just to provide additional information for you, this was in response to your request at your last Commission meeting.
MS MICHAEL: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: So why we are providing it here is for your benefit today and for the benefit of the members of the Commission; however, this afternoon the Commission will have a discussion about the coming year's budget. This obviously is a budget item, so we will have a little more information for you then as we look at the budget: the implications of any change, and what that might look like. So we will have a fuller discussion of that this afternoon.
MS MICHAEL: That is good. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: The next item of business is found under Tab 3, and this is a discussion around caucus resources. You might recall at the last meeting of the Commission, we had indicated that this was a topic we would be discussing early in the New Year and there is some background information needed to be provided.
Just by way of a backdrop for the discussion, this item is on the agenda today as a result of a letter that I had received back in October from Ms Michael representing the Third Party and a letter that I had received in January of 2012 from Mr. Ball on behalf of the Official Opposition. Each letter, as your package would indicate, is asking for an additional consideration of resources allocated to those two respective caucuses. Maybe rather than my providing some insight as to what is contained in both letters, what I will do is ask both Mr. Ball and Ms Michael to speak to their request and to provide some comment to the Commission with respect to why the ask and the basis for that and what they are really asking the Commission to consider here.
Mr. Ball, if you wanted to give me an overview of your letter and the rationale for that.
MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I guess the rationale from the Official Opposition is where it goes back to the Metrics review a few years ago, and the report of that review, the seventeen recommendations. I think the notes actually speak to eighteen recommendations but I think there were seventeen: sixteen of them being recommended and one, Recommendation 2, not being recommended. I guess our request goes right back to that. We have had a few years now in operation and our request speaks to the extra $150,000 that the report mentions in Recommendation 2.
MR. SPEAKER: For clarity then your request is, I will not use the word simply but clearly stating, you are asking the Commission to take the Metrics report and implement it as it was presented at that time.
MR. BALL: Exactly.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you.
Mine will be a little bit longer because I think it is a bit more complex, what I have put in the letter to you. I am going to refer back and forth from the Briefing Note that was prepared for us, as well as to my letter.
I think, first of all, the bottom line is that when we asked for a review to be done in 2008 the situation of my Party was that I was the only person in the House. I think that did colour the recommendations and they were logical recommendations. I am not saying they were wrong, they were correct. I mean, obviously, with only one person in the Third Party in the House the resources that were recommended were in keeping with what was happening across the country when there was one person and was fair, I said that at the time; however, we have had a radical change with my Party now having five seats in the House of Assembly and it has already changed significantly the workload in my office because of that.
I will speak to a couple of the areas. One, for example, is in the area of communications. It was one reality around communications when it was only one person, the Leader of the Party in the House of Assembly, but now that we have five people in our caucus, all of whom obviously with critic areas that they are covering and have been covering since November, quite significantly, the workload around communications has increased significantly.
With the new resources, we have been able to hire another person but the significant workload for the person who is directing communications has really increased.
I believe we should be able to designate somebody as Director of Communications because of the workload and the fact that communications now involves two people; one of whom has to co-ordinate everything around the five members of caucus and communications.
In order to do that, if I were to be fair, then the person should be able to be paid in the same category as Director of Communications in the other offices.
While I know there is nothing that says that the classifications are formalized in a letter from the Clerk of the House back in 2008 when we were looking at resources, it was indicated to me, and I understand it is the same, that a Director of Communications is paid within the category of PS-07, and a chief of staff, which I also think is now required in our office, is paid in the category of PS-09.
There is no way that I have the resources to pay the two people who would be doing that work in those two categories. In actual fact, the salary level I am paying right now is two levels below, to the people who would be in those categories if I could put them in those categories.
With regard to the two positions I mentioned in my letter, the Chief of Staff and Director of Communications, I am not talking about new positions, I am talking about a reclassification of work that is being done by two people right now whose workload has increased significantly. The workload for the person who was called my executive assistant is way beyond executive assistant now, it is Chief of Staff. As I have indicated, the workload for the person who is co-ordinating communications is way beyond what that role is. For me to recognize that, they should be put, I believe, in justice in the same category as in other offices and that would mean moving both up two steps.
I think that is very fair and very just to ask, and I am putting that forward. I cannot put a total figure on that. Looking at the two categories today, we are probably talking some tens of thousands. It could be $10,000 or $15,000 for each one, I am not sure. I cannot give the exact figures because I do not have the exact figures in front of me, but going by the letter that I received when I first wrote the Clerk about this, you are talking in each case about a difference of $10,000 or $11,000 in each one. It could be up a bit now because the figures I have in front of me are older figures from 2008, and there have been cost of living increases over those three years.
With regard to the discussion around Chief of Staff and Director of Communications, as I have said, I am not asking for new positions. I am asking for a recognition that now with a caucus of five that this is something that needs to be recognized, the workload for the staff. I would like to name them and pay them in the same way as in the other offices. What I am asking is - that recognition is something that does exist in other Legislatures across the country and in Ottawa for sure - the recognition of those positions. Once again, I am not asking for new positions but reclassification, and I do not have adequate income to do reclassification.
The other thing that I speak about in my letter, and I thank the office for doing the research across the country, is the whole thing of having a Third Party House Leader. With five seats in the House, and the Official Opposition with six seats, while I totally recognize the important position of the Official Opposition we do know, now with us having five seats, that there will be a greater responsibility. We do not make those decisions at this table but we are talking. There will be a greater responsibility for the Third Party in the House. I believe, as does happen in the majority of Legislatures across the country and in Ottawa, the Third Party should have a recognized Third Party House Leader, and the recognized Third Party House Leader, of course, would mean money for that position. The Third Party House Leader would then also have to have an assistant, which would act as a Legislative Assistant for the House Leader. So, again, I do not have the figures to put to that. That is something that we would have to ask. If we agreed that we do follow the practice of what is happening across the country with Third Party House Leaders, if we agree with keeping with the practice that is going on across the country and in Ottawa, then I think the figures would have to be assigned to what the Third Party House Leader would receive, and what the assistant to the Third Party House Leader would receive.
So, that is the bulk of what it is that I am asking for. It is recognition of the increased role and asking that the House Management Commission approve what I am asking based on the needs that we have but also based on the fact that what I am asking is practiced in the majority of the Legislatures in Canada, including Ottawa. If anybody has any questions I would be happy to respond.
MR. SPEAKER: I do not want to try to summarize all of the things you say you do because (inaudible) what you provide in your overview, but what has prompted the request is the change in the number of people in your caucus. I get that was the motivation for this request, it was a move from
MS MICHAEL: That is correct.
MR. SPEAKER: a one person caucus to a five person caucus.
MS MICHAEL: That is correct. Because I believe, and rightly so, like I said in the very beginning, when we had this work done in 2008 there was one person in the Third Party. I do not think the broader issues of what was Third Party practice was even looked at because nobody to put it bluntly nobody was thinking that the Third Party was, all of a sudden in the next election, going to be five people instead of one. I think that is why the issues I am talking about were not dealt with, because first of all, the two director positions that I have mentioned, or the Chief of Staff and Director, it was sort of moot when you only had one person. Then, the House Leader was also moot when you only had one person. So, those broader issues were not thought about at that time and were not part of the discussion.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.
Are there any other comments?
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have a couple of questions, or points of clarification, if I could first perhaps ask Mr. Ball. I am trying to understand the basis of his position, and if I understand correctly, what Mr. Ball is saying is that the Metrics report should be now applied with all of the recommendations adopted, as opposed to the one recommendation that was left out. That seems to be the first point.
Is that based on and I am looking at the report itself. Now, it is a strange report, Mr. Chair; it does not have page numbers on it, but the best I can tell you, under section 5.1, Proposed Funding Arrangements
MR. SPEAKER: Everybody would have that in their notes. That is under Tab 3, but it is Attachment 5.
MR. KENNEDY: When you go three pages beyond that, there is a discussion there which talks about the role of the Official Opposition as opposed to the Third Party. I am just wondering is it Mr. Ball's position that the Metrics report recognizes the role of the Official Opposition and that is why they should get more money as outlined, the extra $150,000 in base funding. Because what I am hearing, and I will have a couple of points of clarification from Ms Michael, what I am hearing from Ms Michael it seems to be that the NDP or the Third Party because they have one less seat will essentially play the same role as the Official Opposition. I just wonder if Mr. Ball could elaborate on his position.
MR. BALL: I was not around, Mr. Kennedy, at the time of the discussion back in 2008 I believe. What I did do when I read this report - I think it makes it quite clear throughout the report the intent of what the Metrics group wanted to do and how they define the Official Opposition here; you can see through the commentary throughout the report. I think that then led into Recommendation 2 in terms the Official Opposition and they actually set a number there. I think they made comparisons to other provinces. It was a fair amount of work, I think, that was done. What we have seen over the years in discussion with the staff up there, we have ran into similar circumstances in the ability to pay, who we could get, and the numbers of people that we could have to actually run a functional office up there and be the Opposition that this report thinks that we should be and expresses that throughout the report.
That is the reason why what we have seen here is that Recommendation 2 basically meant there would $250,000 in the base core funding and, essentially, I guess a decision was made at that point to bring that back to $100,000. So what we are asking for is to review this decision and asking for the extra $150,000 so the Official Opposition could actually do the kinds of things that this report says we should do.
MR. KENNEDY: Okay, just a follow-up question for Mr. Ball, if I may, then I have a question for Ms Michael.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay, Mr. Kennedy, go ahead.
MR. KENNEDY: Does the effective numbers, Mr. Ball, have any effect on your request? There are six Liberals and five NDP or is it the fact that you are the Official Opposition and the Metrics report recognizes the significant role of the Official Opposition?
MR. BALL: Our position is the Official Opposition.
MR. KENNEDY: Okay.
If I may now ask for clarification with Ms Michael?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, go ahead, Mr. Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: Again, if I understand Ms Michael's position is that the Metrics report applies to the extent that they get their $18,000 based on each member, so we have four new members which would result in $72,000 to their caucus funding. Each one of those members, I am assuming, Mr. Speaker, gets a constituency assistant that is not included within this money.
MR. SPEAKER: That is right.
MR. KENNEDY: I am hearing, Ms Michael, I just want to make sure I am clear
MR. SPEAKER: Just to add, it might be really beneficial inasmuch as it is not in the material for the meeting this morning, everyone would have had the documents distributed for the meeting this afternoon which deals with the budget. I think the numbers, if I am not mistaken, if you are going to have this discussion about money, it might be important to acknowledge that in the proposed budget for next year the Third Party would end up with an increase in their budget of $115,000, the Official Opposition would end up with an increase in their budget of $54,800, and the government caucus would see a reduction in their budget of $82,000. These would be the new numbers reflected in this year's budget, just to create that context for your question.
MR. KENNEDY: Thank you.
The Metrics report would apply with the increase funding per member being given to the Third Party. Now, what I am hearing, though, is that the Metrics report should not apply to the Third Party as a result of increased members and new roles that need to be played. It seems to me that there are essentially three requests from the Third Party and this applies, Mr. Speaker, so it is not really a request one is that they get their money per member as outlined in the Metrics report, if the NDP accepts the Metric report; two, is that we do not accept the Metrics report and we provide new members, based on what has happened in the last election, new resources based on the last election; and thirdly, that we have to amend, as outlined in the Briefing Note, the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act to recognize the roles put forward or requested by the Third Party.
My question to Ms Michael is when I look at what she said, and she referred to October 15, 2008 again, the Hansard does not have page numbers. I am looking at a point where the Leader of the NDP at the time talks about it, "At some point there could be changes made to it, based on our experience of the formula, but that we now have something that is not subject to political whim or to how the political winds move, that we now have something in place that is recognized by all parties as this is the formula for our Legislature." That is the first comment.
A little further on, she talks about being pleased with the report and looking forward to the discussions on the recommendations, which there was quite some discussion, I understand, back in the time, Mr. Speaker. Then a little further on, "I certainly recognize that the responsibility of the leader of the third party is not the same as the responsibility of the Leader of the Official Opposition in all of those cases "
Finally, two more references: "What they chose to do" - being the Metrics report - "was to recognize the greater responsibility of the Official Opposition caucus to that of the Government members' caucus and to that of the third party." "They do have extra responsibilities in the Official Opposition caucus. There is absolutely no doubt about that."
So it seems to me a recognition by Ms Michael that the Official Opposition has a greater responsibility not simply based on, there is no reference to numbers here, but on their role. What I seem to be hearing today is that, well, essentially the Third Party will play the same role as the Official Opposition and therefore we should be treated the same as the Official Opposition now.
I do not know if Ms Michael can comment on the basis for her request. Am I summarizing properly?
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will speak further to the issues. First of all, I think we all know that the Metrics report was a report that we requested as the House of Assembly Management Commission. I am not going to say directly what was in Hansard, but I will paraphrase. We decided, as a Commission, it was pretty tricky for the Commission representing the three parties to try to make the decision. We did not have to do it, but we decided to put an external committee in place to help us make a decision. We made those decisions based on, I think, what was the situation at that time.
I did refer to the fact, as I think Mr. Kennedy just read from Hansard, that there could be changes that would need to be made in future. That was the recognition that we did not know what situations were always going to be. The decisions that were made were made based, I think, on the situation we were in then.
I do not think the situation we are in now has anything to do with political whim; it has to do with the fact that the people of the Province have changed the way in which we sit in the House of Assembly. That is not political whim; that is the voice of the people.
With regard to the relationship of the Third Party to the Official Opposition, I stand by everything I said in the discussion, the points that were just made by Mr. Kennedy. That is why I supported the recommendation of Metrics back in 2008 when they said that the Official Opposition should get a larger base, and my comments were in that context. I was speaking to the point - I have not seen the direct Hansard that Mr. Kennedy has quoted from, but I suspect and I believe that I made the comments in discussing why we should accept the recommendation from Metrics that the Official Opposition have a larger base.
I still believe the Official Opposition should have a larger base. I really did not understand then, and I do not understand now, why that was the only recommendation that was not accepted from the Metrics report. I believe we should right a wrong and we should still give the Official Opposition a larger base, for the reasons that I stated at that time and I still believe. However, when it comes to the situation of the Third Party, we now have a situation where we have five seats in the House, of an eleven person Opposition, six of which are the Official Opposition.
I know this discussion is not a discussion for this table, the decision-making, but I think it has to come into the discussion, that when we look at other Legislatures across the country, and you look at the role of Third Parties in Question Period in particular, which is, of course, a key part of the Legislature, because Question Period is the part of our being in the House - no matter where you are, Ottawa or any of the other provinces, and ourselves - it is the part of what happens that is most covered by the media. In Question Period across the country, the distribution of Question Period is a much more equitable distribution than what we have here right now in the House of Assembly.
Currently, we are in discussions around Question Period. I cannot bring those discussions to this table but just to say yes, we - when I say we at the moment, the Official Opposition and I - have met with the Speaker and we have begun a discussion, and we have spoken to one another, and we are in discussion around how to distribute Question Period. I certainly have an expectation that that distribution is going to be significantly different. If it is, that means the Third Party has a greater responsibility in Question Period, and that is the reason, as well, for the need for adequate staffing. It is not saying that the Third Party is equal to the Official Opposition. I have acknowledged that, I have acknowledged it privately, I have acknowledged it publicly. I am saying the Third Party will have a bigger role and needs more resources, but I am also saying that we should right the wrong that happened in 2008 and acknowledge the recommendation of Metrics. Whether it was 2008 or they made the recommendation now, I would say the Official Opposition has to have a larger base. I put that forward.
Does that mean, because I am supporting, that is why I am saying the Third Party should have a bit more money? No, I am saying the Third Party needs more money so we can equally assign tasks in the same classification as the other caucus offices. That is all I am saying. I stand by everything I said, and I do not see any contradiction in anything that I have said but I am happy to continue clarifying if what I am saying is not clear.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: Okay, so perhaps for Mr. Ball. Mr. Ball, are you saying, Sir, for a point of clarification, that we should apply the Metrics report as written, or that we should go outside the Metrics report as requested by the NDP?
MR. BALL: The question, Mr. Kennedy, is - and I think what is happening here is we are trying to bring the two letters into one discussion and maybe that is a little unfair for the discussion at this point. In our letter, I think it is very clear here, we are asking for Recommendation 2 to be approved. If we want to deal with each letter separately, which I thought this is where the agenda was going to go, this is the way it would proceed and I do not want to step in the Chair's role, but we have two separate letters here. I thought we could have the discussion on both letters. Then, we prepare to enter into discussion on the NDP letter at that point.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I guess what I am trying to clarify, and I am sure there are other people who may have questions here, but what I am hearing - and again, people may be hearing this differently, Mr. Speaker - is that the Official Opposition is saying, because of our role, as outlined in the Metrics report and recognized - the Metrics report does not look at, the way I read it, on the basis of numbers, it looks at the role of the parties - because of our role, the Metrics report should apply and we should get that increase in base funding.
Now, that is what I am hearing Mr. Ball say. What I am hearing the Third Party say, and they seem to be irreconcilable positions right now, I am just seeking clarification, is that the NDP are saying: well, we accept the Metrics report as it benefits us in terms of giving us our $18,000 per member but we also want to go outside the Metrics report in asking for increased resources that we do not accept the Metrics report as written and, thirdly, that we need to amend the House of Assembly Accountability Integrity Act. All I am asking Mr. Ball, is his position that the Metrics report should be applied as written in this committee meeting? That is what I am asking. It seems to be a simple question.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Kennedy is looking for some information. I do not know Mr. Ball, if you can provide some additional commentary for him before I open the floor to any other questions or comments?
MR. BALL: Mr. Chair, I think our letter is quite clear. We have asked for Recommendation 2 in the Metrics report to be adopted. I do not know how much clarification you want on that.
MR. KENNEDY: One last point.
MR. SPEAKER: Go ahead, Mr. Kennedy, just as a point.
MR. KENNEDY: If the Metrics report as written is applied, well Mr. Ball is saying he does not support the NDP request. Are they doing both, or is it simply one or the other? That is all I am trying to find out here, because if the Metrics report as written is his request than that goes against the NDP request. That is all I am asking.
MR. SPEAKER: I do not know if you want to provide any additional comment Mr. Ball. You have provided an earlier answer, I do not know if you want to add anything to your earlier comment before I open the floor for others.
MR. BALL: You can open the floor, Mr. Chair.
MR. KENNEDY: We will be voting.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much.
I guess two points, one of which I guess relates to what Mr. Ball was saying. When I wrote, on behalf of my caucus as leader, the letter that I wrote to the Speaker after the election, I did not have any discussion with Mr. Ball. This was our assessment of where we now were as a Party and we wanted to get that out and get it seen to, at least get the discussion started right away. I had no discussion with Mr. Ball whatsoever and he certainly had no discussion with me after he became leader with regard to the letter that he sent. I received a copy of it at the same time I think that it went to the Speaker of the House. There was no discussion, and I just do not think it is helpful to be trying to do what you are trying to do, Mr. Kennedy, I really do not, because the Metrics report is something that is in our power. It is not something that was legislated. It is something that is in our power.
At the time, when the Metrics report came, I will be blunt: The government members of the Commission had no problem saying we accept every single recommendation, except the one which would have given a larger base to the Official Opposition. We saw it in our power to accept or reject recommendations at that time. There is absolutely nothing in our practice to say that the Metrics report is in stone. It is not a legislated report and even a legislated report we still have the ability to say yes or no to a recommendation.
My argument is not about that report. My argument is we are now in a new moment and should be making a decision on the new situation because of the larger caucus that we have as a Third Party and if we are going to fulfill our role in the House of Assembly without my overworking a staff to a degree that I see as not acceptable. That is the issue we have to deal with. I am not happy to be having this thing of trying to put us in this box of the Metrics report. We are in the new moment; it is up to us to have a broader discussion and to see if what is being asked for is acceptable.
When I refer back to the report with regard to the broader base for the Official Opposition, that is not saying that is the report I am accepting. I am saying that recommendation that was rejected then, I think we should still look at now. That principle, the principle of the Official Opposition having a larger base, I think we should look at now. I think that is very clear. That report is in our control, we can change that, and we can do whatever we want to do with it now as well as we were able in 2008.
I am asking that we talk about the current situation and make decisions based on the current situation. There are principles in that report, the principle of extra money per MHA. That is sort of in there, and that we recognize. That is a principle, sort of, that is in there. They do not name it as a principle, but that is a practice that happens in other places too: a bit more money with every new MHA that comes into the caucus.
There is nothing to say that the report can never change. Of course it can change. It is a report that was given to us. We can do whatever we want with it. All I am saying is now, in the new situation with a whole new ball game, we need to look at the request that I have put on the table and I believe the Official Opposition has put on table.
I am not happy with trying to put the two together as if this was something that was presented together or it is something that I do not want a game being played around the Metrics report. I do not think that is fair to us and I do not think that is fair to the discussion we are trying to have here.
MR. SPEAKER: Do any other members of the Commission have any comment?
MS JONES: I want to speak to the request that we have placed as the Official Opposition. I guess it goes back to our debate of 2008, and I was at the table at that time.
The Metrics report was done for one sole purpose, and that was identifying what the roles and responsibilities were of the Official Opposition, the Third Party, and government members within our democratic system, but, more importantly, within the parliamentary system. It focused on what resources were required to do that job and to do it adequately.
I think the Metrics report outlined very clearly that the role of the Official Opposition is one that assumes more responsibility than that of the Third Party, and there is a larger expectation, and there are more demands being placed on the Official Opposition in their role within the House of Assembly. Notwithstanding that, it also outlines the role of the Third Party and the need for resources for them to do their jobs adequately. I am not necessarily going to speak to that; I want to speak to the Official Opposition piece.
During that analysis that was carried out and when the report was tabled, it outlined quite clearly that the Official Opposition should be funded to a larger extent under the House of Assembly budget. It actually recommended that our base amount would have been increased at that time from $100,000 a year to $250,000 a year. At that particular time, the Management Commission did not see fit to approve the money, regrettably.
It was a very unfair practice, in my mind, because members of the Commission voted to support the additional funding recommendations in the Metrics report for government members' offices, they agreed to support the recommendations at the time for extra funding for the Third Party; however, they declined the recommendation to support the additional funding for the Official Opposition, which, in my mind, was not in good faith. The report was done in good faith and with the greatest of intentions of looking at a very non-biased approach to what resources were required to our work, as parties within the House of Assembly.
What we are asking today is that the recommendation would be reconsidered and that funding would be granted. We are asking it for several reasons. Over the course of the last four years, we have had an opportunity to look at what our budgets are and try to carry out our responsibilities within those targeted budget areas. You can go back and look at the salaries of the staff that we employ in our offices. Our communications directors are paid far less than any communication director within government. Our chief of staff is paid far less than any other chief of staff within a government office. Our director of research and policy, their salaries are far below what the directors' salaries are across government.
Are they on wage parity with all government employees in the jobs that they serve in? No, they are not. It is impossible to be able to pay them at those levels because we do not have the money to be able to do it. So we have to, obviously, budget within our means to get the work that we need to have done completed. What we found is that not only has there been unfair wage parity for people who work in the Opposition offices compared to those who work in government in the same positions; but, in addition to that, we have found that our workload and the workload that we place on our employees is far greater, I would think, if it was properly measured, than what is expected of normal people who do research in any other office, in the hours that we require them to work and the amount of workload that we require to carry at one particular time. All of this is done because we have small numbers in our caucus of elected members and we have a small number of staff. So, we are placing more and more responsibility on them at any given time.
We felt the need to go back to look at the recommendation in the Metrics report, which not only recommended an increase in our funding from $100,000 to $250,000 but also strongly indicated and outlined the duties that were required of an Official Opposition, what the role of the Official Opposition was within our parliamentary system, and the need to have the adequate resources to do that job properly. I guess they also made it quite clear that in order to have proper administrative research and good policy analysis, in order to have good, healthy debate within our democratic system, it is important that the Official Opposition be resourced appropriately and have the budgets that were necessary to be able to staff their offices accordingly.
That is the purpose of our request today. In fairness, I think, Mr. Chairman, that we should be discussing the requests separately. They are getting grouped in together but I think that it is two very different situations. While both of it concerns budgets, and it concerns budgets for parties in the House of Assembly, I think it is fair to say that the role of the Official Opposition and the Third Party, while similar in many ways, differs in others as well. I think that we should be having separate discussions around the funding allocations instead of grouping it all in together.
MR. SPEAKER: If I could just make a comment, the issue of the agenda and how it is presented was my call. There are two requests from both parties. They both deal with caucus resources. In the broader context, we need to have a discussion around caucus resources in general to deal with both requests. Fundamentally, and you are right, there is a distinction between the two requests, but I think the effect of the request from the Official Opposition is to implement Recommendation 2 of the Metrics report. In so doing, then that would see the House having accepted all of the recommendations of the Metrics report in 2008. In effect, if we took that particular recommendation and made that decision then we would be, as a House, operating with the Metrics report and all of its recommendations, and that would be the guiding principle that would guide the allocation of resources, which had a number of components to it. One, there was a base funding component, and there was another component that saw change based on the numbers of people you elected. That is what would happen if you dealt with the Official Opposition.
The effect of the request from the Third Party is to take the resource allocation outside of the Metrics report and do something over and above the Metrics report. If we dealt with them in sequence, for example, we would then have dealt with the regulations from the Official Opposition, we would then be in a position to say that we are now guided by all of the recommendations of the Metrics report. Any future adjustments would be guided by the formula outlined in that report, and that is what would be guiding us. The effect of responding to the Third Party's request, and if we were to do that as a Commission, then we would be charting new ground. What would then be guiding us in that decision? Because the Metrics report, we would have just thrown out and said it no longer has any merit today but we should be guided by a different set of principles and guided by a different thinking in how should we do that.
It was difficult to take two of them in isolation and deal with one first and then the second one because they all relate to caucus resources. It was my call to put them together to have a discussion because I think we can see there is an interrelationship in the two of them because we are dealing with an issue of caucus resources. What should we use, what should guide our decisions? The Commission of 2007 were not able to come to a conclusion. They were not able to meet a consensus of what should happen, and hence, the decision to get an independent body to come in and do a report. That is why we ended up with the report that we had and the Commission dealt with in 2008. That is why I married the two of them under that broad heading of caucus resources.
We have had a good discussion here now about the we have had an opportunity for both the Official Opposition and the Third Party to provide an overview of their requests, and the rationale for their requests. We have had some questions and some commentary with respect to it. Is there anything else that we could add to the discussion before we move to a decision?
MS MICHAEL: I would just like to add the experience of the last three months that we have had in our office. There is absolutely no doubt in mind that the experience of the last three months has resulted in at least two staff people being completely overloaded beyond what they have been in the past, because of having a caucus of five.
I absolutely believe the Third Party House Leader is something that we should be saying yes to. I believe everything I have said should be said yes to, but the Third Party House Leader, because of the role that we will now have in the House of Assembly - we will have a caucus of five. The practice across the country, in the majority of Legislatures, is for the Third Party to have a House Leader, and the House Leader has an assistant. I think it is absolutely essential. That was not a reality in 2008 when Metrics did its report. As I said earlier, it was something that was not even thought about when Metrics did the report because with one person in the House, it just was not something that came under the radar, the whole issue of a Third Party House Leader and therefore the need for an assistant as well.
I think we have to broaden our thinking beyond where we were in 2008. Just like the Official Opposition, we have new MHAs who not only are MHAs, they are critics as well. They have critic areas. They all need deeper research than we have been able to provide before. The more people you have speaking to issues the more is expected when they speak, if we are going to be on top of the issues. The workload has increased. I do not think we can just look at the Metrics report based on the context we were in, in 2008 because the context is different. Perhaps a decision we would make now will reflect the future as well, and we can assume that maybe we are always going to have three full caucus' in the House of Assembly. We may never, ever again have a party with only one person sitting in the House of Assembly. That is certainly my hope.
I think we have to look at a broader picture in making this decision. I, just like the Official Opposition, have a tremendous caucus. They are working hard, and if they are going to do their job, both as MHAs and as critics, then I hope that the Members of the Commission will broaden their thinking with regard to what I have put forward here at the table.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.
MS JONES: I just want to clarify, I guess. The recommendations in the Metrics report, we have already adopted all of the recommendations except one. That one recommendation does not have bearing on what else has already been done. We have already adopted all of the other recommendations.
I just want to clarify that anything you do for the Third Party in terms of the requests that are on the table today would require changing the approach or the recommendations that were already in the Metrics report to start with and it would also require changes to our act. I do not see how that has any bearing on the requests that we have put forward. I am just looking for some clarification on that.
MR. SPEAKER: The issue in terms of the context for the discussion, they deal with caucus resources and how we want to approach caucus resources because we have a report that guided some decisions in 2008, which was sought independently. We now have the Third Party making a request for additional resources that would have the effect of not only changing that report and all the other recommendations that have already been implemented but also would have the effect of having to go back in to the House of Assembly and change the House of Assembly Accountability Act, because the provisions for the House Leaders are built into that legislation and not the subject of the report.
In a broad sense, they all deal with caucus resources. So it is difficult to have a discussion with one in isolation of the other, because the Official Opposition, if I am hearing you correctly in the implication of your ask, at least as I see it, would be let's continue with the Metrics report and implement Recommendation 2 that was left out back in 2008 and let's move forward. That would be the implication if we adopted your recommendation.
Then we have the Third Party saying: no, no, hang on now, because all of the other recommendations need to change as well. We want to go in and make some wholesale change in not only the Metrics report but we want to also change some legislation. That is a very different request, but it is all in the context of caucus resources. So we need to have - which is what we just did, had a broader discussion inasmuch as the shape and focus of the discussion we used those two requests; yet, we have had a broader discussion around the whole issue of how caucuses should be resourced. That is why I think it was important, to marry the two of them, to have the broader discussion around the caucus resource issue.
We are at a point now where we do need to respond to the two requests as a Commission. I am now asking the Table: Is there some sense of where we want to go? Is there someone in a position to make a motion that we do something and what might that be? Let us use that as what will help us move this agenda forward.
MS JONES: I will make a motion with regard to the request by the Official Opposition.
I would like to move that we adopt the recommendation of the Metrics report that recommends the funding for the Official Opposition be increased from $100,000 annually to $250,000 annually, based on the recommendation that was currently made in the report.
MR. SPEAKER: Is there a seconder for that motion?
MS MICHAEL: Seconded.
MR. SPEAKER: Seconded by Ms Michael.
We have a mover and second for the motion. The motion is to accept the recommendations of the Metrics report -
MS JONES: No, we have accepted all of the rest.
MR. SPEAKER: Accept Recommendation 2.
MS JONES: I am recommending that we accept the recommendation that speaks to the funding for the Official Opposition office, that our budget would be increased annually from the $100,000 to $250,000.
MR. SPEAKER: That has been seconded by Ms Michael.
MS BURKE: My only clarification is we are voting to say that the Metrics report should be implemented in whole.
MS MICHAEL: That is not what I seconded.
MS BURKE: Okay. So the other recommendations, are we going to vote on them as well?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, we have a motion on the floor. We need to respond to both letters as the Commission, but we have a motion on the floor now that has been moved and seconded that Recommendation 2 of the Metrics report now be implemented.
The additional information provided in the motion by Ms Jones was that you then elaborated on what Recommendation 2 was, which was to have the annual base budget of the Official Opposition become $250,000 a year.
MS MICHAEL: Yes, just to say that I think it is very clear what has been moved by Ms Jones. I have seconded it very clearly. This has nothing to do with the whole of the Metrics report. That was something that was dealt with in 2008. There is a specific that is now being voted on and let's not play games around this, that is what we are voting on.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ball.
MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The letter of January 4, I think, is very clear. If you look down through the second last line there it says, "In particular, we request that Recommendation #2 of the Metrics Report which stated, Increase the base funding for the Official Opposition Caucus to $250,000 annually, from the current level of $100,000.' be implemented effective immediately." That is our request.
MR. SPEAKER: We have a motion on the floor and it has been seconded. Ms Burke had a comment. Mr. Kennedy, you wanted to make a comment?
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, I will just outline that is the second or third time Ms Michael has referred to games being played today. There is no one playing games here. There is a report, she accepted the formula that was outlined in the report, and she says it is a basis for the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, I will put it this way: Ms Burke has outlined whether or not the Official Opposition are asking to have the Metrics report adopted as a whole. If they are looking for that, then that is a different issue than looking for Recommendation 2. I will just put that out there for their consideration as to whether they want their money or not.
MR. SPEAKER: We heard the motion. The motion is that we would implement Recommendation 2 of the Metrics report. The recommendation has been moved and seconded that we would implement Recommendation 2 of the Metrics report. The other part of the motion, I just want to make sure I captured it, Ms Jones, was that it would result in the base funding for the Official Opposition becoming $250,000 per year.
We have heard the motion. Are there any questions? It has been called.
All in favour of the motion?
MR. KENNEDY: I am willing to rephrase the motion, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: I think we have had a motion on the floor and we could have amended the motion before we voted on it.
MR. KENNEDY: Ms Burke tried to do it.
MR. SPEAKER: She asked a question of clarification. She did not propose an amendment, unless I missed it.
MR. KENNEDY: I took it as a proposed amendment.
MS BURKE: I do not know where we are in the process here now. My question would be: If we voted any way in regard to the Metrics report, would we walk out of the meeting with the Metrics report implemented in whole?
MR. SPEAKER: The motion, as it is on the floor now
MS BURKE: That is the clarification I wanted.
MR. KENNEDY: I am willing to amend the motion.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, just hold the proceedings for a second here because we have a motion on the floor, it has been seconded. The question you are suggesting is that you were attempting to make an amendment to that motion earlier. Is that what you are saying?
MS BURKE: I would have amended it, based on the clarification I needed. My question is: When we come out of this meeting, are we going out saying that the only thing in the Metrics report that we agree on is Recommendation 2, so that is all that stands, or are we voting to say that we take the Metrics report as a whole report with all the recommendations and that would be the end result?
MR. SPEAKER: I understood, from Ms Jones' clarification, she had indicated that we have already accepted all of the other recommendations in the Metrics report. If we now accept Recommendation 2, as a Commission, this body here and the previous Commission, we would now, in effect, be operating with the Metrics report in its whole applying to the resources of caucus. Have I captured that correctly, Ms Jones?
MS JONES: Yes, because we have already adopted all the other recommendations in the Metrics report. We did it through motions; we did it by voting at the Commission level. There was only one recommendation that was not accepted, and that is the motion that I have put forward this morning. So, I guess however you summarize it, if that motion is adopted then we will have adopted the entire report, as a Commission, at one stage or another.
I do not know why I have to put it into a motion. I am just saying that it has already been done; it was done in the past.
MR. SPEAKER: I do not know if that answers your question, Ms Burke.
MS BURKE: My concern is that if we started voting on one recommendation, are we going to open it up and start voting on the others? I would be more comfortable with a motion that says we adopt the Metrics report in whole.
MS MICHAEL: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: We have a motion that was moved and seconded and voted on. I did not see all the hands, but I take it that it was a three-three vote. Is that correct? At this point in time, with that vote, we still have to get a decision on that vote. It seems to me that is what should be happening now, not the discussion that is happening, because the vote has not been finished and we were in the process of the vote. So, with respect, I think we have to take the next step with regard to this vote.
MR. SPEAKER: The question being posed is, when we make the vote a question of clarification has been asked here - when we conclude the voting on this motion, should the motion pass, the effect of that motion would be that we will now be operating just parking your request for a moment, the one that you had made, Ms Michael - if we had made this motion here, then the effect would be that we would be operating with the Metrics report guiding the decision. As a Commission, we still have to respond that would give the Commission, or put me as the Chair of the Commission in a position to respond to Mr. Ball's letter. We, as a Commission, and on behalf of the Commission I still have to respond to your letter which asks for certain resources. We still have to dispose of your request, which is what will be the response as to how we go beyond what the Metrics report would provide in responding to your request. The clarity here would be, should this motion pass, what would be guiding the House of Assembly and what would be guiding this Commission in the reallocation of caucus resources should that decision, that motion stand as it is? What would it be?
MS MICHAEL: I would like to respond, please, because I did open the question and I would like to respond first.
MR. SPEAKER: Please, go ahead.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker, we did not come in here saying that we were discussing the whole of the Metrics report. If that was what we were going to be doing and we were going to review the whole of the Metrics report, then I think that should have been put out on the agenda. I understand the request I am making goes beyond that but the request of the Official Opposition to do what they are saying goes beyond the decision we made before, too. Trying to put all of it in, that the acceptance or rejection, say the acceptance of the question that is on the floor, that the acceptance means now the whole of the Metrics report is the operating framework, to me, worries me when it comes to the discussion of what we are putting on the floor because we are asking for a broader discussion.
If we are saying we are reviewing the Metrics report then let's say we are reviewing the Metrics report and do a full review of the Metrics report then. I am really concerned, and I am concerned that you are entertaining a question that has been brought into the middle of the process of voting because you have not cast your vote yet, which is the final required step in the vote that we are taking.
MR. SPEAKER: I think it is really important that Members of the Commission in voting understand the implication of their vote.
MS MICHAEL: But they have voted.
MR. SPEAKER: What I have heard is that if the implication is one thing, then some of the members may vote in a very different way than they initially signalled. I am very concerned here that when people make a vote on a motion, that they understand the implication of their vote. That is why I am entertaining this discussion. It is really important that when we vote at this Commission meeting, that we, in fact, understand the implications of the vote.
MS MICHAEL: Well, what is the status of the vote that we have had, Mr. Speaker? That is my point of order. What is the status of the vote we have just had? We have voted. We have voted, so what is the status of that vote?
MR. SPEAKER: I am going to acknowledge, Mr.
MS MICHAEL: That is my point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: I understand your point of order, and I will make a comment on it, but I want to hear Mr. Kennedy's question first.
MR. KENNEDY: I will make this very simple. If, as Ms Burke pointed out, and I thought she was making an amendment, if the Official Opposition request is that the Metrics report be adopted in whole, which is the last recommendation, then we will support it. If it is a specific request which Ms Burke says leads to opening up of all of the review or potential review of the Metrics report, we are not willing to go there. That is really how simple it is.
If the Official Opposition wants their money, it is a question of the wording of the motion. I clearly understood, Ms Burke was proposing an amendment that the Metrics report be adopted as a whole, and I think we are all saying the same thing. If you adopt Recommendation 2, you are adopting all seventeen or eighteen recommendations. It is a question of how the wording so that is what I understood. Now, the basic question is, does the Official Opposition want their money?
MR. SPEAKER: I think the
MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible), Mr. Speaker, please.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael, go ahead.
MS MICHAEL: I do not understand what Mr. Kennedy is saying. Is he saying that we are now - and this is the point of my point of order. With regard to the Metrics report, if he is saying we are re-voting the Metrics report then I say we have to have a review of the Metrics report of 2008; if we are re-voting the Metrics report. If we are voting on one clear recommendation that has come forward right now from the Official Opposition, then that is what we are voting on. If we are re-voting everything in the Metrics report then we have to have a review of the Metrics report. That is not what today is about. That is my clarification that I am trying to get.
MR. SPEAKER: I am really concerned that we are having a vote here and it has come down to a split. There is some confusion around what people believe they are voting on, in terms of the implication of the vote. That is what is important. The implication of a vote is really important when you make your decision to vote.
To go back to your point of order and your question as you raised, Ms Michael, the issue around where we are in this vote, we have a tie. What I am hearing at the Table, there is some confusion about what the implication of that vote might be. Now, in the event of a tie it rests with the Chair, but the Chair is not under any obligation to vote, and if I do not, the motion dies on the floor. The floor is open then for another vote, another motion. Unless I have a comfort level that there is clarity in people's minds around what they are voting on, then that puts me in a position where it should not be left to me because I, too, may have misunderstood the implication. I want to make sure, and what I am hearing here now, there is a little bit of confusion around what people believe to be the implication of their vote.
I hear from some members that if the implication of their vote is one thing, they will vote a certain way; if the implication of their vote is something else, then they will vote another way. I also hear there was a belief that by virtue of a clarification comment made early, one individual assumed that they were voting in one way. That puts the Chair in a precarious spot in casting a deciding vote, knowing the ambiguity around the issue and the understanding of the implications of voting one way or the other. So unless there is a consensus around the table of what the implications would be and everybody has a comfort level with understanding the implication of their vote, then the Chair is not prepared to vote on the motion and the motion will die on the floor. Then we will go back to a decision. Again, I will throw the floor open to the group to either further discuss the issues before us or to introduce a new motion, which would be in order. If it is seconded, we will discuss that and vote on that. In the absence of clarity and in the absence of an understanding, the Chair has decided that I will not be casting a vote to break this tie and the motion will die on the table.
The floor is now open for any further discussion with respect to the issue at hand, dealing with the agenda item of caucus resources. If there is any additional comment or discussion, or if someone would like to make another motion for us to consider at this Table, then by all means, I will throw the floor open to the membership.
MS JONES: It seems like the confusion around my original motion is in the adopting of the Metrics report or not. It is my understanding that we have already adopted all of the other recommendations of the report at previous meetings. The only one left that has not been adopted is number two, which speaks to the additional resources for the Official Opposition.
I guess my motion would be that I move today that we would accept Recommendation 2 of the Metrics report and, in essence, we would have accepted the entire report, as the Management Commission, to date.
I do not know if that is the proper wording or
MR. SPEAKER: If I am hearing you correctly, you have framed it in terms of your intent here, and I do not want to take any
MS JONES: I think the intent is clear. We have adopted all the rest and if we adopt this one, we have adopted the report in its entirety.
MR. SPEAKER: If it is your intent to adopt the Metrics report - because as the Chair I want to be careful here, given the uncertainly in the previous motion, I want to be clear what your motion will read for the record. If it is your intent to ask the Commission to now endorse the Metrics report in its total, then I will ask you to frame your motion with that clarity, if that is your intent, rather than try to comment about what the motion would be and then, as an explanation, provide your intent.
MS JONES: Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: If you could be very succinct in your motion because this is a critical issue, an important issue, and I want to make sure that we capture it to reflect what it is you want to do here.
MS JONES: I will also move that we adopt the Metrics report. Is that what I am doing? I am sorry; I am just looking for clarification.
MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved that the Commission adopt the Metrics report. Is that seconded?
MS BURKE: Seconded.
MR. SPEAKER: Seconded by Ms Burke.
Are there any other comments or questions?
I will call for a vote. We have heard the motion. The motion is that we accept, as a Commission, the Metrics report and that has been moved and seconded.
All in favour?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: Contra-minded?
The motion is, as of now, the Commission is accepting the Metrics report. As a Commission, that gives me, as the Chair, the direction to respond to Mr. Ball's request.
I now have a letter the Commission, and on your behalf from the Third Party that I have to respond to. I am looking for some guidance as to how to respond to Ms Michael's request on behalf of the Third Party.
MS MICHAEL: First of all, I guess I should have said a point of order. I would like to record to show that I abstained in that vote. I would like the record to show that.
MR. SPEAKER: Duly noted.
MS MICHAEL: Then in response to what you have just said, I would like to move that the House Management Commission approve the position of Third Party House Leader in our Assembly.
MR. SPEAKER: In terms of the motion - and I would like to get some clarification on this - does this Commission have the authority to change legislation or the recommendation -
MS MICHAEL: My recommendation is to the House of Assembly for the position of a Third Party House Leader is what I would mean then.
MR. SPEAKER: To the effect of doing what you are doing would be to go and amend the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, subsection 12.(1). We require an amendment to that act to do that. So we are making a recommendation to that effect? That is, in essence, what you would be doing? Is that what you are attempting to do here?
MS MICHAEL: I am making a motion that we recommend to the House of Assembly that we amend our legislation to acknowledge a Third Party House Leader. Now, how that would have to be worded, how that would have to be worked out that is what would have to be worked out, the guidelines around it. My motion - and I hope that I am going to have a seconder to this - is that we recommend to the House of Assembly that we recognize in our legislation the position of Third Party House Leader.
MR. SPEAKER: Is there a seconder for the motion?
MR. BALL: I second the motion.
MR. SPEAKER: Seconded by Mr. Ball.
The motion is that the Commission would recommend that section 12.(1) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act be amended to add the position of a House Leader for the Third Party caucus.
All in favour of the motion?
The Commission's recommendation would, obviously, be to the Assembly. Then it would be a decision of the whole House whether to amend it or not. That would be a decision of the House.
CLERK: Just for clarification, what this Commission would actually have to do is request Cabinet to prepare a bill to amend the act. Somehow this bill would have to come to the House, so that would be through Cabinet. We would actually have to request Cabinet to present a bill amending the act. We have no means of bringing it directly to the House.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion would be a recommendation to Cabinet, and then that the Assembly debate it and discuss it.
MR. KENNEDY: In terms of changes to legislation - and this would have to result in a change to the House of Assembly act - I am not sure if that would be the appropriate process for the Commission to be directing Cabinet to examine something. Cabinet is the executive. Legislation is brought forward by various departments. Is there any clarification or guidance on that in either the act or in past practice?
MR. SPEAKER: I am seeking some guidance here in terms of the authority of the Commission to make such a recommendation to Cabinet, or would the Commission need to seek the consensus of the House before making such a recommendation. I recognize we represent the House of Assembly and members of the House of Assembly. That is our role as a Commission. We represent the membership of the Commission, so amendments to a particular piece of legislation need to be debated in the House. I am just looking for some clarification here now on process.
CLERK: We have made a couple of amendments to the act in the summer of 2007. Ordinarily, the Commission will put forward the substance of its amendment and then we will write the Cabinet requesting that a bill be presented and brought to the House. Bills can only be brought in by ministers. The only way our act can be amended is that some minister would have to bring a bill forward.
MR. SPEAKER: Basically, getting it to the floor of the House would depend on whether Cabinet would want to bring the bill forward.
CLERK: We would be requesting, yes.
MR. SPEAKER: We would be requesting Cabinet to bring the bill forward. If they choose not to, it does not get to the floor of the House; if they choose to, it gets to the floor of the House for some discussion and some debate.
I will support the motion.
The motion is carried.
The next item on the agenda is Tab 4.
MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry, go ahead, Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: I just want to point out, based on the comment that you made earlier with regard to the budget discussions this afternoon, I am willing to take the further discussions into that because the other things that I have put on the table do not require changes to the act and they are budgetary discussions. So, I am willing to take those issues into the discussion this afternoon. That is why I have not made any more motions.
MR. SPEAKER: Okay.
CLERK: Just to that point, Ms Michael. Because this afternoon is Budget meetings - that is in camera, which is authorized under the act - even though decisions we make here have budgetary implications, it is the policy decision; which is why in 2008 we had to debate the Metrics report in an open, public meeting. I do not know if we could just shift other elements of this whole issue to in camera meeting.
MR. SPEAKER: Because there is a policy component to it.
CLERK: Yes, that is right. We deal with other matters which have budgetary implications, but we deal with them in the public meeting.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.
MS MICHAEL: Mr. Chair, we have had no direction in the briefing note about the way in which to go here, so it is difficult to know where to move. I appreciate what Mr. MacKenzie has just said. The thing with the policy we have or what we are following with regard to Metrics is that the policy, if we can call it policy, covered approving funding rather than positions. I think that point is made in page 2 of the briefing note, that with the exception of the House Leader Assistant position, the policy is based on funding rather than positions. It seems as if perhaps what we should be dealing with then is that issue. I am not prepared at the moment to bring forward, just off the top of my head, a motion with regard to that. Maybe that is what we have to discuss. I may need to bring a motion at a later date with regard to this issue.
MR. SPEAKER: I will seek some clarity from the Table here, but if we just made a motion that we would accept the Metrics report - so right now today, as we speak here now as a Commission, we are guided by the Metrics report in allocation of resources. Unless we make a decision to go back into that report and pull out the current policy pieces to give the certain allocation in certain categories or that we want to have a broader discussion of how we actually revisit the whole piece about the mechanism for allocating caucus resources, it will be difficult for you to bring forward a motion to increase funding from X dollar to X dollar when in fact the policy decision is the reference point of the Metrics report. It can make a recommendation or a motion to increase funding from X to Y, then the Commission would be guided by the direction provided in the Metrics report which would be clear and the motion would be contravening the report which would have to be defeated.
The piece here would appear that any entertainment of a motion to do something that is contrary to the Metrics report, which we have now endorsed, would require and would need to be preceded by a motion that we would either re-evaluate the Metrics report or that we would look at other mechanisms to do the caucus resource allocation. I do not know how else we could entertain a motion to do something that is contrary to a policy that we have just endorsed without changing the policy first.
MS MICHAEL: Respectfully, Mr. Speaker, if at some point I want to bring something to the table, I will bring it to the table and we can have the discussion.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.
Are there any further comments before we move on to Tab 4 and the item Short-term Accommodation Rentals?
This briefing note provides an explanation of a provision that provides for $750 annually to be provided to members who may want to rent office space or meeting space in their districts to hold meetings with constituents or other groups that they may have business with.
Rule 20(7) is clear; it talks about for those who are wholly outside of the capital region. The provision of the rules now would prohibit individual MHAs who represent districts within the capital region from accessing that pot of money to hold such meetings. You recall, this rule grew from the Green report and there was not a lot of explanation as to the rationale for that particular recommendation. As we all know, the Green report was implemented and endorsed by the House and implemented in total. This is now operationalizing it. Ms Michael, on behalf of the Third Party, has brought this to our attention because there are some people in her caucus who represent the capital region. It is here before the House.
Ms Michael, you raised it, and I will ask you maybe if you could speak to it.
MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Because it was only myself in the House before, and I had my constituency assistant in the office, I really did not realize that if the constituency office within the capital region is outside of the House, then if an MHA wanted, for example, to have a town hall and wanted to rent a space for a town hall, in actual fact they are excluded in the clause around rental of space in the constituency, for whatever purpose. I just could not understand why they would have - when this was put together, and I did not pick up on it - why we would exclude districts in the capital region. It does not make sense.
Let's take, for example, our MHA in The Straits & White Bay North, he has a constituency office there but if he has a town hall somewhere in the district he can pay for the space. It just seems logical that it be true in St. John's, too. I am just saying it does not make sense to not have it true in the capital region. Our MHAs are looking at moving outside. That means if they decide to have a meeting that is larger than two chairs in their office, they have to pay to rent the space when other MHAs do not have to. It just seems illogical to have that restriction in there.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Kennedy.
MR. KENNEDY: Yes, perhaps if Ms Michael could give us some guidance here. I understand that one of the Third Party members had a town hall the other night. How many people showed up, where was it held, what was the rental? Can you give us any guidance as to how that would proceed?
MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible) last night, because I had an e-mail from him. Mr. Murphy had one, for example, and I did not ask him because he knows what he is doing, how much he paid for the rental, but I know twenty-five people turned up. If he had a constituency office in St. John's East, he would have been able to fit twenty-five people in the constituency office. He was quite pleased with the discussion, with issues that were raised. I am judging by the e-mail that he sent last night he was quite pleased.
All I am saying is the MHAs outside of the capital region can do it, why are we saying MHAs inside of the capital region cannot? It just does not make sense that is all.
MR. KENNEDY: Okay, but you just follow up. I am just questioning to try to see - so, twenty-five people. The night before I think another one of the Third Party MHAs had a town hall, how many people showed up to that?
MS MICHAEL: I think he had somewhere around ten. Again, it is not a number of people you can put in a constituency office.
I am not asking for something special for the MHAs of my Party here. I am asking whoever the MHAs are in the capital region, why they cannot have the same situation as the MHAs in other regions, in other districts, that is all.
MR. SPEAKER: There is an annual cap on this figure of $750, isn't there?
MS MICHAEL: Pardon?
MR. SPEAKER: There is an annual cap of $750 on this expense item.
MS MICHAEL: Right, yes.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.
MS JONES: I just want to clarify. The request is not that they have offices outside of the Confederation Building, is it? You are not looking for the $7,000 allowance per member in the
MS MICHAEL: No, they are allowed to have offices outside.
MS JONES: Oh, they are?
MS MICHAEL: Oh, yes.
MS JONES: Okay.
MS MICHAEL: It is just that if they want to rent a space to have a meeting, which you can do in other districts, in the capital region you cannot if you have an office outside. The office outside is only like an office with a desk and a couple of chairs and the space for your constituency assistant. It is not large enough to allow for meetings of constituents if you wanted to have, like a town hall. It is just that they are not allowed to get that rental covered in the capital region if you have your constituency office outside the Confederation Building.
With myself, my CA is in the building, so I never realized it before until now that we have people who are going to have offices outside. Right now, their offices are inside because spaces have not been found yet. We are trying to do that with Transportation and Works. Spaces have not been found, so right now they can be covered for renting a space outside because their offices are inside at the moment. When they move outside, they will not be able to claim coverage for rental of a space. I am sure you are only talking about a couple of meetings a year. I think it is indicated here it could be around $10,000 that we are talking about.
It just seems like an inequity that MHAs in the capital region cannot do what MHAs outside I do not know what the rationale was really. I think it was a lack of understanding of those who put those original things together. We approved a lot of stuff, we remember. There are a lot of things we have made changes to that came from the Green report; a lot of things that practice said that is not practical or it does not make sense. This, to me, is an example.
MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ball.
MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think the rationale was - and I agree with the fact there is some inequity shown here amongst MHAs in the capital region, but I think the basis of the argument or why this was put in, in the beginning, was most of the MHAs outside the capital region would hold meetings in smaller communities. The bulk of the fifteen members in the capital region would be in a more condensed area. That is what I was told was the rationale behind this decision.
MS MICHAEL: Still, if they hold a meeting, they are still holding a meeting. You are trying to explain the rationale, but it is all the same.
MR. BALL: Yes.
MS MICHAEL: It is all the same. If you hold a meeting of your constituents -
MR. BALL: You would not fit fifteen people in it.
MS MICHAEL: No, you would not fit ten in a constituency office.
MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.
MS JONES: I am just wondering, the NDP has a boardroom or caucus room and all of your members are in this area that are making the request, but wouldn't they be able to use that facility to hold town halls or public meetings or whatever the case may be?
MS MICHAEL: If I may say, I really do not consider the Confederation Building 7:30 at night a comforting place for people to come to for a constituency meeting; I really do not. I do not see others having to do that or doing it. Sure, in the daytime we have meetings of more than one person and we use our boardroom. When you are talking about constituency meetings, it just does not seem to be an easy place for people in the city to get into at night. It really is not.
I am asking this question in general. I do not care who the MHAs are. Why say that the districts in the capital region are excluded? That is all. It just does not make sense. We are talking $10,000, folks, that already fits in the budget. It is not even new money.
MR. SPEAKER: Any other comments?
MS BURKE: You can only use up to $750 a year, and times five it would not be $10,000. It would be about $3,500 or $3,700 actually.
MR. SPEAKER: I think there are fifteen members in the capital region, so if all of them availed of that dollar amount to its maximum then that is what that figure represents.
MS MICHAEL: It is money that is already there.
MR. SPEAKER: Do you want to make a motion, Ms Michael?
MS MICHAEL: I make a motion that we remove the restriction respecting capital region districts with regard to the reimbursement for rental of spaces for meetings by MHAs. I cannot remember which rule we are amending.
MR. SPEAKER: Rule 20(7).
Is there a seconder for that motion?
MS MICHAEL: Rule 20(7), yes. Amend Rule 20(7), removing the restriction for capital region districts.
MR. SPEAKER: Is there a seconder for the motion?
MR. BALL: I will second the motion.
MR. SPEAKER: Seconded by Mr. Ball.
All in favour of the motion.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.
Now, the final item on the agenda today is a letter of appeal from the Member for St. George's Stephenville East. This is one of those situations again where the submission of an expense claim was beyond the sixty-day period and it was rejected by the Corporate and Members' Services Division; however, the expenses themselves would have been legitimate expenses and would have been paid automatically had it come into the office within the sixty-day time period.
This is an issue of us being asked to approve a late payment of a legitimate travel claim. Legitimate meaning that it has been validated by the members of Corporate Services as meeting all the criteria to be eligible for reimbursement, and the Commission is making a decision to make a payment on legitimate expenses.
Without any questions or comments, would anybody make a motion to that effect?
MR. KENNEDY: So moved.
MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Mr. Kennedy, seconded by Mr. Ball.
All in favour.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: Approved.
The motion is carried.
This concludes the meeting.
I will entertain a motion for adjournment.
MR. K. PARSONS: So moved.
MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Mr. Parsons that this meeting now adjourn.
The next meeting will be at the call of the Chair.
AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).
MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry. Yes, as I am saying that, you are right. The Chair calls it for this afternoon.
We will meet at 1:30 p.m. in the Speaker's boardroom.
Thank you very much.
On motion, the meeting adjourned.