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May 16, 2016                    HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                    Vol. XLVIII No. 28


 

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): Order, please!

 

Admit strangers.

 

We welcome to the public galleries today Heather Modlin and Dave Martin from Key Assets who are present for the reading of a Ministerial Statement.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: Members' statements today are the Members for the Districts of Bonavista, Mount Pearl – Southlands, Labrador West, St. John's East – Quidi Vidi, Harbour Main and Cape St. Francis.

 

The hon. the Member for Bonavista.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

“We got your back, Fort Mac!” That has been the rallying cry from people across Canada and especially here in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past two weeks. The devastating wildfires in Northern Alberta have affected most, if not all, communities in our province. That is true for my hometown of Catalina in the municipality of Trinity Bay North. My childhood friend Ryan Duffett and his family were one of those who lost everything.

 

This moved the children of Trinity Bay North, led by Keiara and Karlee Paul, young cousins of Ryan, to do something to help. Beginning on Sunday, May 8, and continuing until yesterday afternoon, these kind-hearted kids held bake and lemonade sales at various locations throughout our community, a raffle on all the fixings of a traditional Newfoundland turkey dinner, won by Sharon Donovan of Melrose, and a BBQ. All proceeds from these events are going to the Canadian Red Cross and, to date, they have raised over $900, with donations still coming.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KING: I ask all hon. Members to join with me in congratulating the children of Trinity Bay North, parents Krista Diamond and Shannon White, and all those who provided support to this worthy cause.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this hon. House to recognize several outstanding young people in my community. The 26th Annual Mount Pearl Focus on Youth Awards was a tremendous success and highlighted the great talent, athleticism and intellectual ability possessed by some very amazing youth.

 

These individuals included: Mount Pearl Female Youth of the Year, Victoria Jackman; Male Youth of the Year, Michael Howse; Youth Volunteer of the Year, Megan Glover; Male Youth Speak Off Award winner, Michael Howse; Female Youth Speak Off Award winner, Elizabeth Tulk; STEM Award winner, Emily Wiseman; Male Youth Athlete of the Year, Liam Hickey; Female Youth Athlete of the Year, Sarah Hiscock; Youth Sports Team of the Year, the Mount Pearl Senior High Huskies Male Soccer Team; Official of the Year, Ashley Hammond; RNC Youth In Service Award winner, Ryan Linstead; Youth Group of the Year, the O'Donel High Robotics Team; Performing Arts Individual Award winner, Joseph Coffin; Visual Arts Award winner, Shea O'Keefe; and Literary Arts Award winner, Breanna Sheppard.

 

In addition, there were Performing Arts recognition awards presented to the Mount Pearl Show Choir, the O'Donel Jazz Band, the cast of Etcetera 29, the Mount Pearl Senior High Jazz Band, Mount Pearl Senior High Traditional Band and the cast of the Mount Pearl Senior High Musical, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.

 

I would ask all Members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating all these individuals on their accomplishment. Our future is in good hands.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

 

MR. LETTO: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the 2016 graduating class of Menihek High School in Labrador West. I had the honour of attending the graduation this past weekend and witnessed first-hand the joy and anticipation in the eyes of the 102 young men and women who appear ready to take on the world.

 

The graduation theme was a quote from Walt Disney himself: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Very fitting, Mr. Speaker, at a time when our world requires courage to make the right choices and the right decisions. 

 

The graduating class initiated a collection for Fort McMurray during the graduation ceremonies and collected $800 for the cause.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LETTO: I would also like to recognize the teachers and staff of Menihek High, in particular Principal Fraser Drover and Vice-Principal Eugene Costello, who have shown tremendous leadership to the students of Menihek. Both the school and the communities of Labrador West are fortunate to have them guiding our students in the right direction.

 

I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating the class of 2016 at Menihek High School and wish them every success in their studies that lie ahead.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi. 

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

On Saturday, May 7, we lost a great man. John Gibson was, until the last election, a constituent of mine. More important, he was one of the most tireless and passionate voices behind the restoration of the city's river systems, including the Rennies River in St. John's East – Quidi Vidi, as well as the Waterford and Virginia Rivers.

 

John retired from DFO in 1997, but he never retired from science, continuing to record his observations and to publish in both news media and scientific journals. His final paper was accepted by a journal just days before his death.

 

John Gibson, to quote his obituary, “cared deeply about pristine rivers and lakes, tree cover and natural debris for fish cover, no development along riverbanks, natural streams left above ground, biodiversity and sustainability, honesty in science and politics, and preservation of habitat amongst many other issues.” 

 

On a personal note, I was always impressed with John's lack of fear in standing up for nature against what others thought was the inevitable path of development, using scientific facts and data to support his argument.

 

My sincere condolences to Judy, Caroline and Mary Jane.

 

I ask all hon. Members to salute the great scientific legacy of John Gibson. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main.

 

MS. PARSLEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to salute Roncalli Central High of Avondale. This high school just concluded their annual graduation ceremonies.

 

I wish to highlight that this was yet another safe grad event. Events such as this, can only take place with the support of the community, the volunteers, parents and, of course, teacher and staff involvement.

 

By sponsoring this event, the graduates came to realize that you can have a good time with friends, family and staff without drugs and alcohol. Long-term, thoughtful planning of events and activities throughout the night, ensured a safe time for all.

 

At this time, while many of our province's Level 3 students are about to host their own graduation celebrations, I ask all Members in this hon. House to join with me in wishing them a safe grad, a night filled with enjoyment and pride in their accomplishments, and every success in their futures.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the newest Lions Club in the province, the first one in the past 20 years.

 

On May 7, the Torbay Lions Club had their first charter night celebrations, hosted at the Pouch Cove Lions Club, attended by family and friends from Torbay, Pouch Cove and Flatrock.

 

Torbay Lions Club projects for 2015-16 were: host a bingo at the North Pond Manor for seniors; assisted in serving Santa breakfast at Holy Trinity Elementary; entered a float at the Christmas parade and collected food for the food bank; participated in an awareness campaign at the Christmas market at Jack Byrne Arena to fundraise for community groups; served brunch at the Gathering Place for world hunger week; donated 100 pairs of eyeglasses to Bishops Falls Correctional Centre eyeglasses recycling program.

 

The club donated a total of $1,600 to local groups and Lions Club International including: the Torbay food bank, the Holy Trinity Elementary breakfast program, Pathfinders, the Gathering Place, White Cane project and the diabetic campaign.

 

I ask all hon. Members to join with me in congratulating the Torbay Lions Club on their first year and wishing them many more.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to welcome to our public galleries today as well, former member Percy Barrett.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

The Commemoration of the First World War and the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel

 

MR. SPEAKER: For Honour 100 today, we have the Member for the District of Lewisporte – Twillingate.

 

MR. D. BENNETT: I will now read into the record the following 40 names of those who lost their lives in the First World War in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve, or the Newfoundland Mercantile Marine. This will be followed by a moment of silence.

 

Lest we forget: Robert North, Edward Noseworthy, Herman Noseworthy, William Noseworthy, William Nurse, Henry Oake, Augustus O'Brien, Edward O'Brien, James O'Brien, James John O'Brien, Justin O'Brien, Michael G. O'Brien, Patrick O'Brien, William Vincent O'Brien, Felix O'Connell, Albert O'Driscoll, Michael Joseph O'Flynn, John Joseph Ogden, Edward O'Keefe, Thomas Joseph O'Keefe, William Joseph O'Keefe, Hubert Oldford, James Joseph O'Leary, William Ollerhead, Joseph Olsen, Ambrose A. O'Neill, John St. John O'Neill, Michael Joseph O'Neill, Patrick O'Neill, William O'Neill, William O'Reilly, John Organ, John O'Rourke, John O'Rourke, Reuben Osborne, James Osbourne, Cecil Osmond, Douglas McNeil Osmond, Gerald Augustus Osmond and William Osmond.

 

(Moment of silence.)

 

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

 

Statements by Ministers.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Public Safety.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As we begin National Police Week, it was an honour this morning to help kick off the Women in Leadership Law Enforcement session being held at the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's Memorial campus in St. John's.

 

Twenty intelligent and ambitious women from the RNC, RCMP, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Division, Sheriff's Office and Adult Custody are participating in the program this week which is based on the Legacy Leadership model. It certainly was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet with them this morning.

 

The goal is to encourage female leadership in law enforcement agencies and to develop networks among women who work in law enforcement. The 20 women I spoke to this morning have been identified as leaders or emerging leaders by their respective organizations and the session will be highly interactive and experiential.

 

Mr. Speaker, while we have come a long way in terms of gender equity in law enforcement in Newfoundland and Labrador, there is still plenty of work to do; particularly in the senior ranks. Our hope is that programs such as this will result in more women in leadership roles.

 

Law enforcement careers are stressful and strong leadership talent is critical to ensuring the safety and security of our communities. The women participating in this week's training have been encouraged to use the knowledge and skills they gain to become talented leaders and mentors to those they supervise.

 

Mr. Speaker, good leaders are sometimes hard to find to find. I believe all the women participating this week have great potential and I look forward to seeing them advance in their careers.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of the statement. On behalf of the Official Opposition, I would like to recognize May 15-21, 2016, as National Police Week in our country.

 

Mr. Speaker, programs such as the Women in Leadership Law Enforcement session are valuable to the policing enforcement industry in our province. These programs inspire women who attend to take on leadership roles within their respective organizations. These programs also give them valuable mentoring and networking opportunities that they would not find elsewhere.

 

As we all know, we have not yet obtained gender equality in law enforcement. While programs like this help to inspire women to reach for the top, there's plenty more that needs to be done.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. I agree with the minister that while we have come a long way in gender equity in law enforcement, we still have a long way to go. For too long the senior ranks of law enforcement have been almost exclusively men. For the service to change for the better, we need more gender equity in senior ranks.

 

Good luck to these 20 courageous and committed women. We need their energy, insight and leadership.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

 

The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Mr. Speaker, as we continue to face a shortage of family-based placements for children and youth in care in certain regions, I am pleased to rise today to highlight a creative approach that is helping to increase these placement options.

 

Recently, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services entered into an agreement with Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador to establish the Key Assets' Family-Based Pilot Project. This project provides family-based placements for children and youth in care who have a range of complex needs and/or are part of a sibling group.

 

Mr. Speaker, through this project, Key Assets recruits, assesses and trains those providing care, as well as provides 24-hour wraparound supports. Our social workers monitor these homes and the children and youth placed in them, as well as work closely with Key Assets to develop “in care plans” for these children and youth. To date, 13 children have been matched and eight homes approved.

 

We are pleased to continue collaborating with Key Assets, a non-profit organization providing residential and family-based care and support services to young people and families with complex needs.

 

Mr. Speaker, through budget 2016-17, we have reiterated our commitment to ensuring the protection and well-being of children and youth. We will continue to focus on further enhancing child and youth care through an investment of approximately $150 million for child protection.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: I thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. We all recognize the challenges that exist with having a sufficient number of appropriate placements for children and youth.

 

Today's announcement of a Family-Based Care Pilot Project has been in the works for quite some time and we are very pleased to see this finally come to fruition.

 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Key Assets, our non-profit community partner, an organization with a wonderful reputation and track record in providing residential and family-based care and support to young people and families with complex needs. We must also recognize that none of these initiatives would be possible without the knowledge, creativity and dedication of the senior staff at CYFS, who I hear did a fantastic job of taking this idea and making it a reality.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I, too, thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. I'm glad to see Key Assets' pilot project is making strides in providing a supportive home environment for children with complex needs and children who are part of sibling groups. It is good new approaches are being tried to give children a home as an alternative to other types of residential care.

 

Bravo to the eight families who have opened their homes to children in these circumstances. I thank them for their generosity and commitment. The more support resources these families and children can receive, the better.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

 

Oral Questions.

 

Oral Questions

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has included a $30 million contingency reserve in the budget for the first time since 2002. In the Estimates book there's a description of each line item and a count by department. The $30 million contingency fund does not include this.

 

Could the minister outline for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador what exactly this fund is for?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the Member opposite for the question. When we met in the House the last time the House was open, we were debating in Committee of the Whole. As part of that debate, the Member opposite asked that question and I provided him a number of examples; things such as disasters that would happen, things that would be unforeseen that may happen.

 

The contingency fund provides an opportunity for us to make sure that on the sad chance that some community in our province may go through something like a Fort McMurray experience or a tsunami or other things, we want to make sure that we had a contingency fund. I think I've provided the Member opposite with a large number of those answers last Thursday.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I acknowledge we asked the questions, but we're talking here about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I'm asking on their behalf. Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned disaster relief and items like that.

 

I ask her, for certain circumstances, why wouldn't you have that in a line item in Municipal Affairs or Fire and Emergency Services?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As the Member opposite certainly is aware, Municipal Affairs as well as Fire and Emergency Services has the responsibility for providing support to communities. Finance has the responsibility for making sure that we have monies available on a contingency basis, should things happen in our community that are unforeseen – not singularly related to impacts on community, but there might be other things that might happen.

 

Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, if we knew the exact things that would be unforeseen, we would have detailed that out in the budget document. Providing a prudent amount of money in the Estimates to be approved by this House, we think, is being very transparent.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, in the Estimates process line-by-line line departments, things are described and there are definitions given of what funds would actually be used for. What we have here, since 2001, there's never been this type of a contingency fund or number on the books, with no description of what it's going to be used for. In the fiscal situation we're in this year, certainly there are a lot of community groups, a lot of people in Newfoundland and Labrador, services and programs are going to be checked.

 

I ask again to the minister: What are you going to use this $30 million for, and why is there no description in the Estimates on what it is going to be used for?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you to the Member opposite for the opportunity to stand up again and provide some additional insight into the contingency fund; things like potential legal claims, forest fires, increases in caseloads in a variety of departments. There could be all kinds of things related to communities that may happen in the next year.

While the former administration may have thought that planning a contingency fund was irresponsible, we believe that being transparent with that amount of money in the budget is a prudent thing to do. Certainly, as I also explained, that information would be provided to the House within three days of the expenditure being approved, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, the minister is not going to tell us what she is going to spend the $30 million, but she says she is going to make it available to the House. So what will happen, it will go to Treasury Board, it will go through Cabinet, they'll make a decision how it's going to be spent, then they'll come to the House and tell us. What they should be doing is right here in Estimates in the House telling us how they're spending $30 million.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Thirty million dollars, as I said, with the fiscal challenges we're facing, how about reinvesting $5.1 million to eliminate the Liberal choice to increase class cap sizes? How about $3.6 million of these funds to remove the Liberal choice to combine grades? How about reinstating $1 million to keep the libraries open? Why aren't these good choices, Finance Minister, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, we have no idea at this point the number of legal cases, the potential increase in caseloads, what might happen through natural or other incidents in our community.

 

This amount of money is put aside. It will not be spent in the absence of due diligence providing the details to the Members of this House. It is a practice that has been underway in many jurisdictions, including our own up until the former administration decided not to do it. We felt that it was important to have this contingency fund available so that instead of expecting the budget to run over, as the former administration would, that we would have a modest amount of money that would be able to provide for contingencies, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we're going to be asked to vote on the $30 million here in the budget process.

 

So I ask the minister: In your process of deciding how are you going to use these funds, how are you going to decide? When are you going to let us know when you use the funds? Is it after it goes through Cabinet and you make the decision, or are you going to make it public what the consideration is in spending this $30 million sometime in the next fiscal year? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. 

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I thank the Member opposite for the opportunity to speak to this again. Providing transparency around any expenditure related to this contingency fund is very important. As I mentioned last week when we were discussing this as the Committee of the Whole, the requirement would be that the spending amount or the expenditure would be tabled in this House within three days. Certainly, that is what we intend to do.

 

Unforeseen circumstances are exactly what that word indicates, unforeseen, and we want to make sure that the people of the province know that we expect to be held accountable, and we know we will be, in this House of Assembly when we present that information, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the $30 million could have been used to prevent budget cuts.

 

I ask the minister, could she consider reinstating the $4.9 million to the Newfoundland and Labrador Drug Prescription Program for over-the-counter medications and diabetic test strips? How about reinstating $2.5 million through government aid to reduce adult dental coverage? Are these issues that are important to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that can be considered or are we just going to keep this $30 million flush fund there? We don't know how it's going to be spent.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs. 

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I just find it kind of odd that the Member opposite is asking these types of questions for emergency funding. Mr. Speaker, as we said, it's a contingency fund. Forest fires; we could have a major forest fire in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

If the Member is willing to keep going on this line, I'll ask him one question. When you had $2.3 in your emergency funding last year, as the Minister of Municipal Affairs, why didn't you bring it to the House what you were going to use it for? Do you know the reason why? He didn't know what he was going to use it for because it's for emergency funding.

 

When he passed the budget last year, this Member, the same one who's asking the question, could not come to this House – over $2 million – and say, here's what we're going to use it for, Mr. Speaker, because it's for emergency funding. He's well aware because he was the minister who had the money.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I ask for all Members to respect the individual who has been recognized to speak. If Members can't respect the Member who's recognized to speak, that Member may not be recognized to speak when they stand.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Another day, another protest in our province. Just a half hour ago, hundreds of nurses marched in front of this Legislature. The Premier has previously stated that he will make nurses work harder.

 

I ask the Minister of Health: How many nursing positions will be eliminated from the health care system as a result of this recent budget?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

MR. HAGGIE: Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Speaker.

 

The nurses are an integral backbone of the health care system in this province, both in the community and in acute care. The gentleman opposite will have had access to the Estimates documents just like everybody else.

 

There will be 41.28 FTEs removed from nursing this year as a result of rationalization and attrition, some of which was started by his government.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, he can call it rationalization or attrition. He can call it whatever he wants, the bottom line is he is eliminating critical nursing positions from our health care facilities.

 

What about budget number two, Mr. Speaker: How many nursing jobs can we anticipate being slashed and gutted from the public service in the budget that's coming this fall?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

MR. HAGGIE: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the question.

 

Rationalization means to expose to reason. What we have done is we have taken programs in the past which have been shown scientifically to have no evidence to support them and we have reallocated the money from those. It is natural that some of those FTEs will disappear. Whether that will result in job losses will entirely depend on a process, as he knows, called collective bargaining and labour rights and that will work its way through the system.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister and the Health Minister love to talk about FTEs while we're talking about nurses and we're talking about people and how their lives are going to be impacted.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: On a related note, related to nurses, I ask the Minister of Health: What are you doing to make the work environment for our nurses healthier instead of simply making their work environment smaller?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

MR. HAGGIE: Thank you very much for the opportunity to answer this question. We actually have a joint committee, whose acronym I forget. It essentially involves the registered nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador sitting down with government and the regional health authorities to discuss the nature of the work environment, how we can improve that and ensure it's safe for them and all users of the health care system.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, other than the handful of ABCs, the agencies, boards and commissions that will go through the Appointments Commission, Bill 1 does not require the new Liberal Appointments Commission to rank the three names they submit to Cabinet.

 

Will the government agree to an amendment to Bill 1 that will direct the Appointments Commission to rank the candidates whose names they submit to Cabinet?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm happy to stand here and speak to Bill 1, the Independent Appointments Commission, which, as the Member knows, we will be discussing in Committee in this House today. We're willing to listen to all the amendments that the Members will put forward as we go into the Committee stage today.

 

However, I would note that I did ask over a month and a half ago if the Opposition had any suggestions that they would like to see. I wish they had forwarded them earlier, but we will consider them as we move through Committee today.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for his response. This bill has not been discussed in this House for over a month and a half. We were advised this morning that we will be going into Committee today. I have all of our amendments right here, Mr. Speaker, and I'm happy to give them to the minister right now and happy to work with him as we run through the debate.

 

Bill 1 will allow the Cabinet to ignore the names submitted by their Appointments Commission and appoint someone else in secrecy.

 

Will the government amend Bill 1 to require the Cabinet to make a public disclosure every time the person they appoint is not on the list of candidates recommended by the commission?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Just going back to the first point the Member referenced, I emailed the Opposition on March 23 and it said: Why don't you submit your amendments so we can discuss them and consider them and put some thought into whether they can improve the bill? The Opposition didn't take the opportunity to forward that until right this moment in the House of Assembly.

 

The purpose of this Legislature is to discuss legislation in the hopes of making it better so that we can have the best legislation. I would submit we're very proud to forward this piece of legislation into the House. Before we had this legislation what you had were individuals getting appointed to prominent positions based on who they knew, and not necessarily were they the best selection for this position. So I look forward to the amendments that the Members have as we discuss this in Committee today.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole is the opportunity to introduce amendments; that process isn't starting until today. If government was serious about considering amendments to Bill 1, it would take this flawed piece of legislation and refer the entire thing to a Committee of this House for review by all Members.

 

Bill 1 will allow the Cabinet to bypass their Appointments Commission whenever circumstances are deemed to be urgent or extenuating.

 

Would the government agree to an amendment that would require the Cabinet to notify the public immediately whenever it bypasses the Appointments Commission to make an appointment in such circumstances?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Again, Committee is the opportunity to discuss this, but I would like to thank the Members of the NDP who, when I emailed them, came forward with their suggestions some time ago so that we could discuss them. I would like to thank the NDP for doing this.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, the purpose is to have the best piece of legislation. I am looking forward to considering these amendments. But before we can say what we're going to do, I'd like to even read the amendment as opposed to being asked a question in the House of Assembly right here.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, as I said, the minister is welcome to see all of the amendments. I've commented on some of the intended amendments publicly previously.

 

Bill 1 calls for a review of the act every five years, a review that would be sent to Cabinet.

 

Would the government, in the interest of openness and accountability, agree to an amendment that would send this review, not to Cabinet, but to the Speaker of this House for public release?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, I can probably give the same answer now that I'll give, depending on how many amendments they put forward, is we look forward to listening to their amendments and to the rationale behind them. I certainly won't make a snap judgement on this very important piece of legislation, something that is new in this province and we've never seen before.

 

I look forward to seeing the amendments that the Member puts forward; however, I would note one thing. They are putting forward suggestions based on a piece of legislation, one that they never put in when they were there for 12 years. In those cases, Cabinet put in who they wanted. They put it in based on the name that they thought; there was no consideration by anybody, whether it was the Public Service Commission, an Independent Appointments Commission. This was totally Cabinet-based.

 

I appreciate the fact that they're trying to fix the flawed process that they had.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: What we're trying to do, Mr. Speaker, is fix a flawed piece of legislation that is a complete joke.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: They're talking about an Independent Appointments Commission. The commission is anything but independent – and guess what? It can't even make appointments.

 

Mr. Speaker, will government consider an amendment to Bill 1 that will require annual reviews to determine whether the merit principle was applied in every case that an appointment was made? Would the government agree to have this review published in the interest of openness, transparency and accountability?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, again, I look forward to hearing the amendments that the Members put forward, as they do so in the Committee process. 

 

Again, I wish we could have had an opportunity to review them over the last month-and-a-half that we had prior to this coming back to the House. I'm willing to consider any amendment that they put forward here in this House so we can discuss it to make sure we have the best piece of legislation.

 

The fact is we have to listen to these suggestions because we do want the best piece of legislation possible. Either way, even if it's flawed it's going to be 10 times better than the process that the Opposition had when they were in government, which was nothing. It was based on who you knew.

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Following the devastating fire at the fish plant in Bay de Verde the Premier said we will do whatever is needed. If there's a role for the province, we'll be there. We'll step up and we'll be there for the people. Clearly, the province has not been there.  

 

I ask the minister: Where are you for the Town of Bay de Verde? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs. 

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I was at that meeting. I went to Bay de Verde with the Premier and the Minister of Fisheries. We met with Quinlans. It was very devastating. We understand the impact it's going to have on the communities and surrounding areas. We did meet with the mayor, later with the council.

 

What the mayor said to us: He would like to have income supplement, a top up. Where they are used to probably 60 hours a week, now they may only get 40 or 50. But the mayor did also add, in front of 15 people: I know there's no program available. I just want to put a human side to the face.

 

That's what the mayor said in the meeting, and he understood this, we understood this. What we said to the mayor and to the council, at the end of the year, if there are people who need any help with employment generation, we would do it through the community enhancement program, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis. 

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Wow, Mr. Speaker. It was a big media day when we saw the Premier, the minister and the Member go out, and they were going to do everything for the area.

 

On Friday, the Mayor of Bay de Verde was quoted in the media as saying his pleas to the province have fallen on deaf ears.

 

So I ask the minister: The mayor it out pleading to the province, why aren't you answering the mayor? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs. 

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I understand politics. It's to a new point when you are using the tragedy in Bay de Verde to try to get political points. It is, and I'll tell you why, Mr. Speaker. What the Member opposite is talking about was said a month ago. I just had an interview with CBC with Lindsay Bird; she took this story that was a month old. This story was a month old when the mayor – we let it ride until Lindsay Bird asked me for an interview. What we said is we would help the town. There hasn't been one additional request – not one request – made to my department since that initial media report back when we met with them, Mr. Speaker.

 

We're helping. We're working with Quinlans, Mr. Speaker. We committed to Quinlans. We offered assistance. We are available to it. I say if you're going to do media reports, go back when it first started a month ago, not last Friday, when it initially came out.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have stated they would spend half a million dollars to create an office for a seniors' advocate. Groups in every corner of the province are stating that your budget will be devastating to seniors and you turn a deaf ear.

 

I ask the Minister of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development: You won't listen to the seniors who are crying out to you now, why should seniors believe that you'll listen to an advocate?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development.

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Mr. Speaker, Budget 2016 provides support to programs and services for seniors. We consulted with groups and they asked for an office of the seniors' advocate. It's not a luxury, it's a need.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: Mr. Speaker, every Member of this House should be an advocate for the seniors they represent, and fight against the Liberal budget that will bring them hardship.

 

Would the minister consider delaying the hiring of a seniors' advocate and reinvesting the $500,000 budgeted to remove some of the burden on your seniors? Your government has clearly demonstrated that you don't listen anyway.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I take exception to the Member opposite's insinuation that in this budget we didn't consider how important seniors are in our province, quite frankly. We implemented a Newfoundland Income Supplement. We enhanced the Seniors' Benefit. We committed to creating the office of the seniors' advocate when Members opposite last year spent hours in this House debating that that was a luxury – a luxury.

 

Quite frankly, that's shameful. For that Member there to say today that a seniors' advocate is not important in this province, I hope that she continues to maintain that when her constituents ask her why she's backing away from a seniors' advocate.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: I'll remind Members again that the Member that's been recognized to speak should be given the floor. I ask Members to respect that.

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Liberal's election platform stated the Liberal government would generate $50 million in revenue this year from selling unused government assets.

 

I ask the minister: What assets have been sold? Why didn't they follow his party's election platform and contain this revenue in the budget?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you for the question. One of the things we have done is we make sure that we're going to be optimizing all of the resources and assets we have. Part of my plan, over the next little while, we're putting together a real estate optimization plan. We're doing a complete and total inventory of all the buildings we have.

 

We've already started to make some changes within our department to try to eliminate some of the enormous leases we have done. For example, the English school board, we're moving them out, so we're doing some rearranging.

 

What we will be doing is we will be optimizing the amount of money we can get from some of the assets that we will be disposing of, and that will be over the next little while. We will certainly keep the House up to date on how the progress will be going in that particular area, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for his response. A promised asset optimization plan – this was a promise made to the public and there was a dollar figure out on it. It's nice to know we're doing an asset optimization plan and we're analyzing all our assets, but I have to ask the minister: Was the $50 million figure an election tactic or was it a real promise?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will tell you one of the promises we'll make to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador is that we will get as much revenue as we possibly can from any of the assets we have to dispose of. One of the things we want to make sure is that every person who is living in Newfoundland and Labrador will get a return on what we have.

 

We do have some concern, Mr. Speaker, with the amount of inventory that has been in the previous administration, buildings that were purchased and we have areas that we do not have full capacity. So part of my mandate is to make sure all of those areas, the inventory is done, any space that we can utilize within the existing, and we may be in a position to dispose of property.

 

That's the plan. That's the optimization we're going to be making. That's what I'm going to be doing, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Deficit Reduction Levy extracts a higher percentage of income from low- and middle-income Newfoundlanders and Labradorians than it does from higher income people. I understand the Premier's position that the levy is temporary. I have never asked whether it is permanent or temporary.

 

I ask the Minister of Finance how this government justifies this regressive form of taxation, which puts a heavier burden on low- and middle-income earners than it does on higher income earners.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the Member opposite asks a question about the temporary deficit levy, a levy that we felt was important to make part of our entire suite of, sadly, the tax increases we had to undertake as a result of the mismanagement of the former administration.

 

This type of levy is not unusual for jurisdictions that are faced with the economic and fiscal realities that our government is. When we look at the progressivity of the entire personal income tax, I can assure the Member opposite that taken in conjunction with the levy and the personal income tax, our tax is progressive.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi. 

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I say to the minister that their levy is an unfair tax. It flies in the face of regressive taxation principles.

 

So I ask the Minister of Finance: What is it about the tax being temporary that in any way diminishes its unfairness? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. 

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I'm not sure if the Member opposite heard me or if she is using selective hearing today. The progressiveness of the tax is the deficit levy in conjunction with the personal income tax; 38 per cent of the people in the province won't be paying the deficit levy. The average, for about 40 per cent or less, is less than $340. 

 

The Member opposite can certainly continue to discuss – and will I'm sure – the temporariness of this deficit levy, but I can assure the people of the province that our intention is to remove this levy as quickly as we can when we get a better management on the fiscal situation of this province, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi. 

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The minister didn't hear me. I would like to say that I have asked the minister to ask the Premier to provide the documentation to the House to support his claim that 35 per cent of taxpayers pay 88 per cent of all taxes in this province. He claimed it. We'd like to see the documentation.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. 

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, if the Member opposite is looking for a stratification of taxpayers, we can certainly provide her that information. I think we can provide it for her, no problem. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre. 

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman said every country that introduced significant austerity has seen its economy suffer. All of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push has been discredited – totally discredited.

 

I ask the minister: Why is she enforcing an austerity budget in spite of all this expertise and evidence, and further crippling our economy? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. 

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, we have the highest debt per capita of any province in Canada. We have some of the lowest ratings when it comes to being able to borrow money. We have some of the smallest population. We're the second, I believe, smallest population in Canada with the largest geographical area to service. If the Member opposite doesn't understand the fiscal situation that we are in, she should really take a look at the reality of the financial results of this province.

 

We have the highest debt per GDP. We have the highest debt per capita. People of the province cannot afford – they cannot afford the borrowing that we were going to put on the heads of our children, Mr. Speaker, which would be somewhere in the vicinity of $53,000 per person.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, the minister is ignoring the most brilliant economic minds in the whole world.

 

Mr. Speaker, running the provincial economy is not like running a business. It is not only about money in money out, nor can you solve deficits simply by slashing with a red pen. In government, if you cut spending you may save money but you also have a negative impact on the overall economy and you put people out of work.

 

I ask the minister: Can she explain how her cuts to date have improved the employment situation in the province?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, for the first part of the Members preamble, one of the reasons why we presented the people of the province with a seven year plan to bring the province back to surplus was with a reverence for the pace of change that our province can undertake to bring us back to surplus. Quite frankly, those discussions and decisions weren't made in the absence of understanding that there is an economic impact, Mr. Speaker, and we don't hide that.

 

Secondly, to the Member opposite, I can confidently say that $570 million worth of infrastructure creating thousands of jobs over the next number of years certainly will impact the economy in a very positive way, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The time for Question Period has expired.

 

The Speaker is hesitant to interrupt Question Period and take away from the time of recognized political bodies in this House to ask or answer questions, but I've stood on many occasions and I'm going to put it out here today very firmly that those who persist in interrupting during questions and answers risk not being identified by the Speaker when they stand to ask a question or answer.

 

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

 

Tabling of Documents.

 

Notices of Motion.

 

Notices of Motion

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

I give notice that I will on Wednesday be moving the following private Member's motion:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urges the government to ensure that the Deficit Reduction Levy is immediately eliminated and that any replacement measure be based on progressive taxation principles and further urges that an independent review of the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial income tax system begin promptly to make it fairer to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 

This will be seconded by the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

Also, Mr. Speaker, the motion that I've just read is the motion that the House will debate on Wednesday.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

 

MR. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act to Amend the College Act, 1996, which I understand to be Bill 29.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Pursuant to Standing Order 11, I give notice that this House will not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.

 

Further, pursuant to Standing Order 11, I give notice that this House do not adjourn at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

Answers to Questions for Which Notice has been Given.

 

Petitions.

 

Petitions

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS as a result of Budget 2016 X-ray services at the Bonavista Peninsula Community Health Centre will be closed after 4 p.m. until 8 a.m.; and

 

WHEREAS this will mean that anyone needing an X-ray after 4 p.m. will have to travel elsewhere via ambulance; and

 

WHEREAS as a result of Budget 2016 laundry services will also be cut resulting in laundry being transferred to St. John's;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to immediately direct Eastern Health to reverse cuts to X-ray and laundry services at the Bonavista Peninsula Community Health Centre.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I was contacted by a resident of the Bonavista area who was unable to get a response from his MHA about this petition. So I agreed that I would present a petition on behalf of residents. The residents who are on today's petition are from communities like: Port Union, Keels, Bonavista, Elliston, Catalina, Spillars Cove, Newmans Cove and a number of other areas on the Bonavista Peninsula as well.

 

The petition continues to be circulated and I anticipate receiving similar petitions from residents of the Bonavista Peninsula in the days and weeks ahead, and I'll do my best to bring those to this House of Assembly on behalf of those residents.

 

I received one letter from a gentleman in the Bonavista area who's a father. He wrote and he said without X-ray services at the Bonavista hospital, his son probably wouldn't be with us today. He provides some commentary as well about the impact of cuts to X-ray services and he argues that there isn't cost savings.

 

One of the things that the residents of the Bonavista Peninsula would like to see is proof that closing an AES office or reducing X-ray services or making changes to laundry services will actually result in savings. He says with regard to the cost savings, there is none.

 

One certified X-ray technician position, for the sake of lives, isn't saving money when I will have to pay for an ambulance, which government subsidizes, a nurse and/or doctor to travel to Clarenville as well, an hour and a half away from Bonavista, which is time enough to determine whether his son lives or not. Upon arrival to the referring hospital, an X-ray technician will have to be called in.

 

His argument is that there could actually be more costs incurred as a result of these changes. So the residents are looking for answers. They don't want their health care services eroded. They feel they have been unfairly targeted in this budget when it comes to cuts not only in health care, but in other government departments as well.

 

In the days and weeks ahead, I look forward to presenting further petitions on behalf of residents of the Bonavista Peninsula who are very concerned about these recent budget cuts.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS the Deficit Reduction Levy is an extremely regressive surtax, placing a higher burden on low- and middle-income taxpayers; and

 

WHEREAS surtaxes are typically levied on the highest income earners only as currently demonstrated in other provinces, as well as Australia, Norway and other countries; and

 

WHEREAS government states in the 2016 provincial budget that the personal income tax schedule needs to be revised and promises to do so;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to ensure that the Deficit Reduction Levy be eliminated and any replacement measure be based on progressive taxation principles, and that an independent review of the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial income system begin immediately to make it fairer to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, the petitions keep pouring in to the office. I also have an electronic petition which I know we cannot submit to this House at this point, but that has close to 20,000 signatures now. People aren't just signing their names electronically. It's interesting; many of them are writing comments. There are thousands of people writing comments, some of them quite lengthy and substantive comments.

 

Mr. Speaker, the people of the province know this levy is not a progressive, fair taxation. Everybody in this House knows that as well. I don't know what it's going to take for government to listen, to hear.

 

Academics are telling us, Municipalities NL is telling us, seniors are telling us, teachers are telling us, labour is telling us and our neighbours are telling. What does it take for government to listen, to really hear? They talk so much about their consultation process, but that was a faux consultation process. Basically all they did was set up the question, framed the question and said: What would you cut?

 

We know that's not the way to get ourselves out of this economic situation that we're in. We all know it's bad. We've heard from government a million times. We know it's bad, but we know there is a better way and that is what government is refusing to look at.

 

When you think of the Nobel laureate economist Krugman said that, in fact, austerity doesn't work. We know that. Economists all over the world are saying the same thing. Yet, this government is choosing to ignore the most brilliant economic minds in the world. There's something wrong, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'd like to present this petition: To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS Budget 2016 closed the Advanced Education and Skills office in Bonavista; and

 

WHEREAS the residents of Bonavista and surrounding communities require and deserve an appropriate level of service;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government reconsider its decision to close the Bonavista Advanced Education and Skills office.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I've had the opportunity to stand in this House and present a number of petitions, particularly around the impact that the closures of the AES offices will have on these communities. A lot of these are remote communities or they're in isolated areas, or they themselves are the hub for a number of surrounding communities. In Bonavista's case here, we have people here who have signed from King's Cove, Plate Cove East, Melrose, Catalina, Bonavista and all the other surrounding community areas there.

 

I would like to note, too, that along with the Bonavista closure we have the other areas: Baie Verte, for example, Mary's Harbour, Bell Island, Norris Point, Hopedale, Nain and Twillingate.

 

As I mentioned at the beginning, all of these are key service, oriented communities that other communities feed into. They are either isolated, that they stand on their own and all the residents use the AES office for a multitude of services. Above and beyond what normally the Advanced Education and Skills would offer, they become the hub for the connector between – if it's Municipal Affairs, if it's Health, if it's Education, if it's Tourism, Culture, Business Development. Whatever line departments it may be, they serve a very important component to enhancing programs and services for the people there.

 

I've noticed in my own community of Bell Island, and it has a similar process when it comes to Bonavista, that it's a standalone, yet it can service people in the immediate area. There's isolation. When you're in Bonavista to be able to get to your nearest hub, it's not just down the street. It is not, let's get a ride with our neighbour. It's not, well, on the way home from somewhere I'll pick it up. It doesn't work that way.

 

The services there are necessary, and they've been there for decades and decades for a reason. It's helped drive the economy. It's helped to educate people. It's helped get people access to services they didn't know existed. It's helped the government at different levels, from municipal, provincial and federal to be able to promote the services they have. It's also been a noted area to engage citizens. Citizens have been able to go there for engagement processes where they've been asked to give their opinion on certain programs and services. This has been a very valuable tool to those communities that exist in those particularly isolated areas.

 

It's an injustice to be closing those without giving any real thought to the service. I'm confident, and I've said it as somebody who worked nearly 30 years for that department, that this will cost the government much more than what they're going to save on these closures and take away the service to the people of this province.

 

Mr. Speaker, I present this petition.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS government has once again cut the libraries budget, forcing the closure of 54 libraries; and

 

WHEREAS libraries are often the backbone of their communities, especially for those with little access to government services where they offer learning opportunities and computer access; and

 

WHEREAS libraries and librarians are critical in efforts to improve the province's literacy levels which are among the lowest in Canada; and

 

WHEREAS already strapped municipalities are not in a position to take over the operation and cost of libraries;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to keep these libraries open and work on a long-term plan to strengthen the library system.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

These petitions, Mr. Speaker, continue to come into our office. People around the province are absolutely concerned about the closure of the 54 libraries, whether or not it is happening in their community.

 

Today, we have people from Gander, from Fox Harbour, from Paradise, from Logy Bay, from CBS, people from St. John's, Upper Island Cove and one person who identifies herself as working poor. These are people who are sending in the petitions. Besides the petitions that we're getting, they are being backed up by people who may or may not have signed petitions, but who are speaking out loudly.

 

The letters to the editor in the paper continue. We have people from the university, professors in the department of English, professors in the Department of Education all speaking out.

 

The Minister of Education has said repeatedly that there's a regionalization going on. One of the letters in the paper from a very professional librarian has a question, well, what is that plan for regionalization? Regionalization means nothing in and of itself. What is the plan? The plan seems to be nothing, Mr. Speaker. That's what's concerning people.

 

The Minister of Education has also repeatedly said that the communities can take it over, the towns can take it over, yet we have mayors speaking out. The plea from the Mayor of Cartwright is unbelievable. If these people haven't listened to it, the government side of the House haven't taken time to listen to the Mayor of Cartwright pleading for his community, I suggest they do it. I suggest the ministers listen to it and find out what the mayors are really saying about the impact on their communities. They cannot carry the load and they're saying that they have to have the libraries for their communities.

 

In places where you can't use cellphones, you can't get any kind of communication except through Wi-Fi; the libraries are one of the places where people can go. They will not be able to access them, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

A petition to the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS the people of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune need to have access to adequate health care; and

 

WHEREAS the local clinics in rural areas are the main source of medical assistance for our people; and

 

WHEREAS the government has reduced funding and closed the Hermitage clinics and downgraded services throughout the region;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to reinstate the services to health care in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, as we heard in Question Period today, there's $30 million just sitting to the side for goodness knows what, when for a million dollars we can keep the health care clinics open in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It's absolutely shameful that in this day and age we see a government making these kinds of decisions. It's certainly very dismaying for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

In fact, the residents of Hermitage, Seal Cove, Gaultois and McCallum are extremely upset. It's being portrayed by the government opposite well, oh, it's just a half an hour drive to the next nearest clinic. But that's not even accurate. It's about a 45-minute drive from Hermitage and about an hour's drive from Seal Cove. It takes an hour and a half by ferry from McCallum to even land in Hermitage or a half an hour by ferry from Gaultois to even land in Hermitage.

 

At the same time, we're seeing visitation to my island communities, which have no way in and out other than by ferry from twice a month down to once a month. At the same time as they are closing the clinic and decreasing services, they're cutting two nurses in the Harbour Breton hospital, sending an additional 1,000 people their way and taking two nurses out of the system, Mr. Speaker.

 

All of us are at a loss as to how the Department of Health can justify mandating Central Health to make such drastic cuts in rural areas. We strongly feel that this government is being very punitive to rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and we're very worried about the future of Newfoundland and Labrador with this government at the helm.

 

Certainly, if you look to my district, with the increase in aquaculture in our area we do have a higher volume of traffic. We have a larger workforce. We have an increased risk, I guess, at the plant which is operating flat out all the time – a wonderful thing – but now if there's an industrial accident, almost an hour away from a hospital. This can be a matter of life or death, Mr. Speaker, and it is going to be too late after something happens.

 

In the mayor's letter that he recently sent to the minister – and I truly hope that the minister responds timely and favourably and grants their request for a meeting to discuss this most serious issue – he asks why we are being looked at as second-class citizens. We deserve health care, just like the rest of the province. We can't be dismissed just because we live in rural communities. Rural communities, Mr. Speaker, make up over half of this province.

 

We will continue to fight until this government recognizes rural Newfoundland and Labrador is just as important as anywhere else and we deserve health care. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis. 

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I applaud my colleague here on the side of me for standing up for people.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS the federal government cannot justify discriminating against Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in determining the dates of the recreational food fishery;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to be vocal in calling the Government of Canada to extend the recreational food fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador to promote fairness, safety and tourism in our province.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Every week since we started in the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, I presented this petition. I'm going to continue to present it. Everywhere I go people are asking the question: Where are we to? I'm sure the Member for St. Barbe – L'Anse aux Meadows hears it every time he comes out, I'm sure the people in St. Anthony, I'm sure the people on the Northern Peninsula, I'm sure the people in Bonavista – we want to know where are Members are and where the Minister of Fisheries is in trying to get this out.

 

This is about Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, about who we are as a people. It's about a right that we had and our forefathers had for years to go out and catch a fish in safety.

 

The biggest thing about this whole thing, Mr. Speaker, is the safety aspect of it. The federal government issues three weeks a year to go out in July, then a couple of weeks in September to go out. In September, hardly anybody gets out because it's too rough to go out there. The people who do go out, they risk their lives every day to go out and catch a few fish.

 

All we're asking is for our government to advocate to the federal government, talk to your cousins and ask them if they can put this forward for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It's a safety issue and we want to see that our fisherman and our people can go out on the water like everybody else in Atlantic Canada and catch a cod.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

This, too, is a petition that has been presented many times, but we have to continue on.

 

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS the Deficit Reduction Levy as introduced in Budget 2016 unfairly targets the middle class; and

 

WHEREAS the Deficit Reduction Levy asks low-income earners to pay more than their fair share instead of increasing taxes to high-income earners;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to immediately stop the introduction of the temporary Deficit Reduction Levy.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, on a personal note, I've joked with a couple Members opposite that the word levy and anything that rhymes with it is becoming a bit more challenging. We're faced with a situation where you run into on a daily basis – I guess there doesn't be a day that passes that people don't discuss it. Their fear, their issue is – and I keep to the basics, the low level; it's the people on the ground who really matter. They keep saying: Why isn't anybody listening?

 

The Third Party has made a private Member's motion for this week. We all on this side of the House continually, every opportunity we get – I've had hundreds of emails, as does most Members in this House. That seems to be the real bone of contention.

 

I guess to put it in context, what stuck out to me last week, I spoke to a lawyer, a government worker, a teacher and just your regular run of the mill, your average person, every one of those people, no matter what their income levels, from top to bottom, complained about the levy, head tax, cover charge – they used these terms, not me.

 

I know that Members opposite probably turned the mute button on this issue, and it will come to light as we proceed through this session, but they should stop and – again, I use the words pause and reflect, because this is a huge issue. In addition to everything else in this budget, the levy is – I've never seen such a lightning rod for anger in people. It amazes me; it really does amaze me how Members opposite don't take this more seriously.

 

I know one Member presented a petition on this exact issue from his constituents, and I applaud the Member for that, but I wish the entire government opposite would take this matter more seriously and listen to the people.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I call Orders of the Day, Mr. Speaker.

 

Orders of the Day

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Law Respecting Statutory Offices Of The House Of Assembly. (Bill 27)

 

I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader that they have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Law Respecting Statutory Offices Of The House Of Assembly and that this bill be now read a first time.

 

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce the bill?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, “An Act To Amend The Law Respecting Statutory Offices Of The House of Assembly,” carried. (Bill 27)

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Law Respecting Statutory Offices Of The House Of Assembly. (Bill 27)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time.

 

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, Bill 27 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 1.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole and that I do now leave the Chair to debate Bill 1.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

On motion, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 1, An Act To Establish An Independent Appointments Commission And To Require A Merit-Based Process For Various Appointments.

 

A bill, “An Act To Establish An Independent Appointments Commission And To Require A Merit-Based Process For Various Appointments.” (Bill 1)

 

CLERK: Clause 1. 

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry? 

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

As for this bill, it's been a while now since we had a briefing on it, so I guess I first should thank the people who provided us with the briefing.

 

This act, and the proposed Independent Appointments Commission, when in fact the bill only serves to create a commission which will recommend appointments. So it's not making appointments. It's going to give a list that will be considered further up the line.

 

When you call something an Appointments Commission, the words appointments and commission, you'd think that the decision would be more substantive. They're actually just recommending for appointments to be made eventually by Cabinet. They will be made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, which is Cabinet, and which in turn is politicians.

 

If the Liberal government is serious about taking the politics out of appointments – and it's something that was campaigned heavily on. I remember hearing the commitment. It was kind of interesting when I heard the Premier during the campaign state how they were going to do that. I'm always open to new ideas. When I heard that being said – I wasn't a sitting Member in the last Legislature – out on the campaign trail I used to think it sounded great.

 

You take the politics out of appointments, but as you get digging into the bill you start to realize that in theory – I guess it's a bit of window dressing. It looks like you may be taking the politics out of appointments but when you dig down, the way the bill is presented to us anyway, it's very questionable how much politics is actually going to come out of these appointments, Madam Chair. 

 

As I said, if this was something they promised to do, then wouldn't they take the politicians out of the appointment process altogether? Change the legislation; change the regulations to show that the appointments were made by a commission, not just recommended by a commission.

 

You have a commission, and if you have to set up another Appointments Commission, at least that would be more rigorous, I guess. They need to have their own process.

 

What I like to refer to sometimes when I have thought about this Appointments Commission, any people who are familiar who have been in the public service know that you go to the Public Service Commission, you apply for a position, you're narrowed down – you apply I guess and they do the search down. They identify X number of people to do interviews. There's a matrix; there is an actual scoring system. So if people have an issue, everyone is entitled to go back and say: Why didn't I score higher? Why did I not get the position? Where did I land?

 

It is incumbent upon the Public Service Commission to meet with those people and go over where their weakness were, tell them what they scored, tell them what they could improve upon. It's more of an open process. Even when the decisions come up the line – and I've been seeing that before; you have your recommended candidates but they are scored and you could have a bona fide reason not to pick number one.

 

There are times that has happened, but usually there is a process in place and you have justify why you are not picking the first person, if you're going through a matrix as the Public Service Commission does follow. If you're going to just take an Appointments Commission, you're going to submit a batch of names, whoever wants to apply and you're just going to recommend some people from that to send it up the line to Cabinet, again, to me, it doesn't sound like politics has been taken out of appointments because we all know Cabinet ultimately makes decisions, the way it stands today.

 

Governments are elected, so if you want to call politics as politics – but there is no doubt; anything that goes to the Cabinet room, politics does play a role. If you're going to have something that's independent, it should be independent of Cabinet and independent of government.

 

Before I move on, I hear Members opposite will get up, and I heard it today – again, I distance myself from that because I didn't appoint anyone in my previous life, so I can pretty well talk freely on that one. It's not what this former government done; it's not the process they used. It's thrown back as we're going to do it better.

 

I get that to a certain degree, Madam Chair, but still, it is what you promised as a government. This government came up with this promise, our current Premier and all elected Members. This wasn't something that the former government done; this is something that the new government committed to doing. I think that's a big difference because I suppose we learn – back in 2003 when the former government was there, the new government took over and done things differently and you hear that banter back and forth; but, on this case here, yes the former government and every government prior to this current government, that's the way these appointments are done.

 

Now you've committed to changing the process, which is really a big moment because this is Bill 1 to a new government. Bill 1 is usually a watershed. It's your bill that you stand by.

 

During the election, like I just said earlier, I commended the current Premier of the day for coming out and bringing that in. I really did honestly say it. I'm not saying it just for shallow words. I thought it was neat because personally that was something that – did you always pick the best person for some of those positions? On a total just personal situation, I used to look sometimes and wonder that a lot myself. So I commended the Premier for bringing that forward. I thought it was pretty innovative.

 

Again, though, it makes you wonder is this legislation for the sake of fulfilling an election promise. I was a bit surprised when we went in and did that debriefing on it. The Members and government officials did a good job, but there were a lot of blanks not filled in. You start realizing, as my colleague for Mount Pearl North earlier tabled with the possible amendments, there were a lot of issues. This bill sounds great on paper, but when you start looking at it, it does require a lot of adjustments, I think, for this to be truly an Independent Appointments Commission.

 

As I said, the legislation is for the sake of fulfilling an election promise, especially as it does nothing to alter who makes the appointment to alter who makes the ultimate decision. As I just said, that decision will rest Cabinet. Is this commission nothing more than window dressing? That remains to be seen. Madam Chair, we feel on this side of the House that this bill has a lot of weaknesses.

 

Government has been seen to be the government of inaction so far. As it was stated last week by another Member on this side of the House, they finally kept their promise on one of the bills they passed. It was a bit of tongue-in-cheek, but a lot of people in the public questioned the same thing. When are we going to see a lot of these promises that government has been campaigning on, boasting on, yet they haven't delivered on.

 

This legislation and the commission it will create have no teeth, no way to ensure the recommendations are followed. It is inactive legislation, much like the inactive government. The Cabinet has traditionally retained the power to make appointments to key position. As I said, a Member opposite said that earlier. That's the way it's been done forever, back to when we became a part of Canada. This has always gone through Cabinet.

 

Because the First Minister and other Cabinets – a collective response for leading the provincial government and setting the direction of policy. They're not accountable to the people of the House during elections. Again, it comes back to every Cabinet needs to ensure that all those in leadership positions, at agencies, commissions, Crown corporations throughout the government are not just qualified, skilled, experienced or proven and trustworthy, but also capable of working collaboratively with government and not cross purposes. Sharing the vision and objectives of the government is part of being qualified; a team divided against itself could not stand.

 

Yes, there are roles where you want antagonists, people who want to be independent and hold government up to scrutiny of criticism. For example, the Auditor General, the Child and Youth Advocate, the Citizens' Representative and soon to be the new seniors' advocate, are in such roles. We'd also like to see a veterans' advocate, but I guess you can't have it all.

 

That's why they're appointed by the House. If you're appointed by the House, it's intended to be taking Cabinet, taking the politics of out of it. You're appointed by the House, and those positions are appointed by the House for that reason, because they're not supposed to be on government's side. They're supposed to be speaking for the general public, the people.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: They're expected to be critical of government, but agencies and commissions and Crown corporations –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Agencies and commissions and Crown corporations are entities that do work of government. They are part of a team running this province. They are expected to work collaboratively and smoothly with the administration to implement the administration of policies to achieve its goals in the context of sound, corporate management.

 

Obviously, Madam Chair, it's not in any Cabinet's interest to appoint political friends who are not qualified to do the job because the work will not get done effectively and Cabinet will bear the blame and the shame.

 

There are many examples where Liberal governments and PC governments have appointed individuals who have worked very closely with the administration in the past and that would be considered political friends. Over the years, both governments – when it's their turn in power – have appointed people and they've gotten their share of criticism for it. Some of those appointments have not been bad appointments.

 

You can have your banter, but if you want to truly make this independent and truly take the politics out of everything, do that. Put this Appointments Commission – remove it so Cabinet doesn't decide. Put it in the hands of a truly independent commission to do independent appointments.

 

I know Members opposite always like to refer to the past or what's happening behind the scenes, but that's not where we are today. We're debating Bill 1, which I want to remind the government again, it is their watershed bill. It is their first bill they're bringing in as a new government.

 

Ironically, it was brought in and we were – back in March it seemed like it was full steam ahead and then it stopped. There's no doubt, when the amendments came out it was just put on the Order Paper and it stayed there until now. So, obviously, it's not a piece of legislation that probably government wants or proud of, as they boasted in the beginning because maybe they too realize there's probably a lot of work to be done on this bill.

 

Again, as the Opposition over here, we're not saying it's a horrible thing. We're saying this bill needs to be tightened up more. It sounds nice on paper to have an Independent Appointments Commission but it means nothing on paper unless it's truly independent. Right now, the public will say, you'll come out and you'll pass a bill and you'll make it all sound great. When it comes to practice, we all know where the end result happens. It happens in the Cabinet room.

 

Any decision coming out of the Cabinet room, if they're not political – I can't see them not being political, but if they're done by an Independent Appointments Commission and then they are brought into the House to be voted on, that to me is an independent process. It's one we should all embrace because it's your Bill 1, it's your watershed bill. It's one that you should be moving in the direction of doing that instead – again, it's fine to get up here, and we'll hear it. No doubt, we'll hear lots of that, what you did or what you did in the past and all this. That's not where we are.

 

We're not actually opposed to this legislation. We're just opposed to the legislation as it stands now and the way it's written. We have issues with – as you say, we have amendments coming. Those amendments are meant to address the concerns we have.

 

The bill as it stands right now is one we don't support, but the legislation, the idea of that legislation is one we're open to discussing. At the end of the day, we'd love to see an Independent Appointments Commission that is truly independent and will do the work that it's required to do and no political interference.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for St. John 's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you.

 

Just giving notice that we will be doing amendments to subclause 6(3) and subclause 9(1).

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Just following suit, the Leader of the New Democratic Party has just indicated which clauses that she intends to introduce amendments for. Out of respect for the House process and hopefully to allow things to move smoothly this afternoon at the Table, I'll indicate as well some of the clauses that we intend to propose amendments for: clause 2(c), clause 6(3) – I'm sorry, the Leader of the NDP indicated 6(3), so we may bring forward an additional amendment to 6(3) as well – 6(4), 6(7), 7(4) 7(6) –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: We gave a copy –

 

MR. KENT: Yes, you have this list that I'm reading from as well. I know the Table Officers do as well.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MS. MICHAEL: That's an amendment.

 

MR. KENT: It is still an amendment, yes.

 

It is 9(2)(b); 10(2); 11(2); 13(1) – as you can see, I've been writing all weekend, Madam Chair – 13(3) and (4); 13(5); 15(1) and 16 –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KENT: A Member opposite just suggested we write a new bill. That would make a lot more sense, Madam Chair, than what we're going to do here this afternoon.

 

There are a couple of amendments to 19(4), which affect the Public Service Commission Act 21(3) and 21(4), and also 19(5) which relates to Schedule C of Public Service Commission Act; and we will also reserve the right to bring in amendments to the Schedule and, perhaps, the long title, depending on how debate unfolds today and perhaps in subsequent days in this House.

 

So those are the amendments we intend to introduce. I won't prolong discussion on clause 1, and I look forward to working with the other parties in the House as we proceed through the Committee stage of debate. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

I'll speak to clause 1 just briefly as we move on and I will say to the Members opposite, I appreciate you submitting your amendments in advance. I can say that we are looking at this now because we do want the best piece of legislation possible.

 

I'm going to respond to the Member for CBS's comments first of all. I think what he said is that he disagrees with this bill and won't be supporting this bill. That's how I took it. I took it so that the Official Opposition disagrees with the concept of having a more rigorous, merit-based process to the appointment of individuals to positions. If that's the case, if I'm hearing that wrong, then I find that very, very unfortunate and I'll let the Members opposite discuss that.

 

I don't want to belabour the point because we have had an opportunity. We had a press conference on this, there were briefings on and we had second reading on it. But I will address one point just so the Member realizes. He said well, we're in here now talking about this and it was full steam ahead at first, but he has to realize that actually I think we discussed this just during the first couple of weeks that this House was in session. Then I think we went on the traditional Easter Break where there's nothing discussed in this House of Assembly because the House is not open. Since that time, again, I think we all realize what we've been discussing, which is the budget. So it's not a case of not wanting to discuss something; it's a case of there are certain things you have to do at a time certain time.

 

We're extremely proud of this piece of legislation. I think somebody in the Official Opposition's staff office might be out tweeting about it and saying that I said it was a flawed bill. Just in case, if they're going to quote me, just get it accurate. What I said was if it's flawed, it's still 10 times better than what the previous government had, which was nothing. I say to the staffers out there: If you're going to tweet, get it accurate. If you don't want to get it accurate, I can't help you there. You do what you got to do. What I've said – and thankfully everything that we say is recorded in Hansard.

 

To go back to the general subject of what the Member is discussing, he's saying this is something we campaigned on. It's an independent process, but we don't think they've done enough. They've haven't gotten the politics all out of this; therefore, I can't support it.

 

As we've discussed on a number of occasions, I'm willing to speak to this bill and answer the different clauses, whether they want to amend them or not. We'll certainly take our time. We have all today, tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night and June, that's not a problem. What I will say, though, is that I'm looking forward to getting into the substantive side. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about it is not good enough.

 

The fact is the Member opposite wasn't a part – well, he was a part in the background. The previous government had every opportunity to do something and they chose not to. Their process was find somebody, put them in a position and there was no process.

 

In this case, we've laid out that the Public Service Commission is there and will do screening of applications, merit-based assessments, gender lens; there's a whole number of screening. Then it goes to an independent board. This group actually won't be appointed unless it's done through this House, a resolution that will be also debated in this House, those individuals, once we ever get to that stage.

 

I'm looking forward to that because as I just said to the media, we need to move this forward. I think the number I have here, the number when we came in – there are 50 vacancies and 300 expired appointees. That's a significant number for the number of ABCs we have out there, agencies, boards and commissions. So we've come in and normally the previous government – what I would say is that when they wanted something filled, they filled it. How did you select who it was? I have no idea. One could only guess.

 

What I will say is that we want to get this commission up and running. We think this is a great process. We think that there are checks and balances in place. We think that there are going to be public reporting components. We know that there are going to be public reports done on an annual basis. We know that the IAC itself will go through an IAC process down the road. This is light years ahead of the previous processes used by any government before. We think this is a step in the right direction.

 

I know the other side is going to oppose certain things. I get that. That, in many cases, is the job, to oppose. I can say I've been there. What I also like to think is that when I was on the other side I prided myself on trying to do what I thought was best, in the legislative sense, of putting forward amendments. So we'll certainly take all the time that is necessary to debate and discuss the amendments that are put forward by both sides, to discuss the pros and cons, why we should or should not do something.

 

I welcome the fact that the Deputy Opposition House Leader has suggested a huge number here. We'll discuss each of these as we go through. I'm sure they're going to stand up on a number-by-number basis and enter those and we'll discuss each one of these. If it has merit, then maybe we'll discuss putting it in. If it doesn't, then we'll disagree and there it is. At the end of the day, I still think we're going to be at a much, much better place than where we were previously where it wasn't merit based; it wasn't independent.

 

The other thing – I just had to point this out before I sit down – is that they've said Cabinet still has a say. As the Member opposite would know, Cabinet has a duty to govern. The failure to act upon that and to abrogate your responsibility would go against the whole purpose of governance in the first place. I know that you want this to go to a select process and I know you still want the opportunity to have that, but that's not how the governance process works. What we're doing is vastly improving on the governance process that existed beforehand.

 

I look forward to the debate. I look forward to discussing the substantive amendments that have been put forward. I'll sit, at this point, and wait for further commentary.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. PETTEN: Conception Bay South, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: My apologies.

 

MR. PETTEN: No problem. Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I just want to point out a couple of things that the hon. Government House Leader just pointed out. To clarify, I said we support an Independent Appointments Commission. We don't support what's being presented on this Bill 1.

 

We do support, with the proper amendments, with the right independence to it – we do support that. So I just want to clarify, our stance on this side of the House is we have no problem with an Independent Appointments Commission as long as it's truly independent. We have amendments put in to try to make that happen. The text of the bill as it stands today, we don't support it. We do, though, support an Independent Appointments Commission, if it's truly independent.

 

I won't take up all my time, Madam Chair, but I wanted to clarify that. Something else that the hon. Government House Leader just pointed out – it's window dressing; you can say what you want, but it keeps coming back to this side of the House. As I clearly stated, I commended this government, this Premier for bringing in – like I said during the election, I thought it was a decent idea. I started thinking when I saw it first – I think we all kind of said yeah, it's an interesting option. But basically, this is like the legitimizing of secret Cabinet decisions.

 

Now all of a sudden the Appointments Commission made this, it's going to go to Cabinet, it's going to come to the House – it's a smoke and mirrors game; it makes it seem like this has been done independent, which we know that the way this bill is designed now the Cabinet does not have to take any recommendation from this committee. That's no different than what's ever been in place, Madam Chair.

 

Before everyone knew, those are the rules of the game forever in a day. Again, it's not about this side of the House. It's not about previous governments; it's about what's here and now today. It's Bill 1, it's their bill. It's one that they campaigned on, that their proud of. Again, I'll just remind everyone. We're not opposed to Bill 1 or an Independent Appointments Commission as stated in Bill 1; we're just opposed to all of the loopholes and back doors. As my colleague for Mount Pearl North said maybe a new bill would be better with these new amendments, then it would be something that we could sit down and have a conversation about.

 

This is government's bill. It's not about previous governments. Whether they be Liberal or Tory or whatever, this is not about those governments; it's about what this government here and now that was elected November 30, 2015, campaigned on. It was one of the centrepieces to their thing, taking the politics out of appointments.

 

As I said and as we will continue to say, we have put these amendments in to voice those concerns. We have serious concerns with the way this bill is written. When you have a bill that can go and if they are only basing it on recommendations, as we all know recommendations are what they are, they are recommendations. Final decisions if they're made by Cabinet, well that's where your Independent Appointments Commission is, Madam Chair. It's in the Cabinet room, not in the Independent Appointments Commission office.

 

Until they (inaudible) those amendments that we have in place or talk to us about them, right now we can't support it as it stands, but we are willing to talk to them if they are willing to bring in some amendments.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: My apologies to the Member for Conception Bay South for wrongly identifying his district.

 

The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

Just to speak briefly to clause 1, which says, “This Act may be cited as the Independent Appointment Commission Act So that's a telling phrase; it's a telling name.

 

One of the things that was in the Liberal platform in 2015 – it was their very first promise, actually – was the creation of a commission to take politics out of government appointments. Everybody wants that to happen. Everybody would like to see politics taken out of appointments to the various government bodies and agencies. People talk about it all the time. How do you get appointed to these things?

 

We have an awful lot of proof in our history here in the House of Assembly for decades and decades of many appointments being patronage appointments. So one imagines that's what the government or the Liberals were thinking about when they put in their election platform that they would take the politics out of government.

 

Then they repeated it again in the Speech from the Throne, because they had the Independent Appointments Commission in the Speech from the Throne. They said, “This commission will be the first of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador, taking the politics out of government appointments. We believe that appointments to our agencies, boards and commissions should be merit-based, not politically motivated, as in the past.”

 

So taking politics out does seem to be something they're really concerned about. It's a very interesting idea, but as we go through the discussion of Bill 1, we will be questioning and looking at: Does it really take the politics out? One of our amendments in particular, which I'll make when we get to section 6, will be putting in an amendment we think would help take the politics out. Because right now so much power is in the hands of the government, they don't even seem to be recognizing where they are holding power.

 

In our first amendment, when we get to it, we'll put something on the table to propose how to take the politics out in a very real way, in the very first step of setting up the Commission. The government will prove to us then whether or not they are serious about taking the politics out when they decide whether or not to vote for our amendment which we will be putting forward.

 

Right now, that's all I want to say. As we go forward I will have more to say.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape – St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair – and you got the name right, thank you.

 

I just want to say a few words on this one, just for a couple minutes. Bill 1, I got up and spoke a little while ago when we first introduced it here in the House. Bill 1 to me is – I look at the intent. I agree with the Government House Leader, the intent of the bill is good. I really do believe that. I believe the intent of the bill is good, but it's how the bill is put forward. It's what's in the bill that I really disagree with. I know across the way there are names slung over here of people that our government appointed during our tenure in government. I really respect a lot of those names. They did a great job and they're still doing great jobs, actually, in some of their portfolios.

 

It's not only us. It goes back for years and years and years, since Confederation really. When you look back – and every day. You'll always see names in the public. You'll see names like Dicks and Dumaresque and that in the '90s that were appointed. It's not to say one did it right or one did it wrong. They're very respectful men and the same thing – are people. Most people who do get appointed to these commissions and boards are good people. I'm sure they're doing a fantastic job. The idea and the promise that was made during the campaign was that this was going to be done independently. That was the promise that was made.

 

That's not a promise because this is not what's happening in this bill. What's happening in the bill basically is that it will all come back to Cabinet. Now that's not what the promise basically says. The promise they made in their election platform was that we're going to take out – the words were: take politics out of appointments. That's what we heard: taking the politics out of appointments.

 

Maybe you can do it and maybe there are ways of doing it. I'm hoping people across the way will look at the amendments we're doing and perhaps we'll have the best piece of legislation in all of Canada. That's what I'd love to see come out of this.

 

When you say to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that you're taking the politics out of appointments, they look at you to say, okay, so that means politicians are not going to have the final say in who that person is. The best possible candidate will be the one that's selected.

 

I think that's what everybody looked at when this promise was made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They said, okay, all these years since Confederation it was always – and we've heard it. Listen, everybody in this House and everyone listening at home, it was always said it's not who you know, it's what you know. You're not going to get a job unless you know somebody there. That's sad, but do you know what? Today that's leaving because if you see how people are getting appointed, like no matter what it is, fire departments and stuff, they don't even use names anymore and stuff like this. It's a good way of doing things because it's fair. That's the same thing with this.

 

We want the best possible legislation that's available. We want to make sure when we finish Bill 1, when it comes out that, okay, we got a piece of legislation in place for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that they feel confident in. Not something like a Member said earlier, smoke and mirrors. You want it perceived as, oh, we have this great legislation in place and everything is hunky-dory, that the people are very, very pleased with, but down the road things change. What can change in this is that the Appointments Commission will recommend – now, we can't call them an Appointments Commission; they should be called a recommendation commission because they only recommend. They do not appoint. That's the big difference that we'll see here today is that they do not appoint. You have to remember that it's a recommendation.

 

Then what happens, they'll recommend three people that will go to Cabinet. This is the part that I'd like to see is that there be some kind of a ranking. So here are the criteria for the job – and this is what's normally done – and here's what you need to meet that criteria. It could be anything, your education, your background experience and stuff like this. Here are the things we are looking for in that job.

 

When you go into most jobs what they'll do, they'll rank you. They say okay, the first job, education; well that's exactly what we're looking for, education. So it goes one, two, three, four and how it goes down the line on each one. At the end, you have three people. These are the three best qualified people for that job. These are the three best people for that job. Number one, he or she has everything that we were looking for. Number two, well, we would like a little bit more experience, but still qualifies and that's why we selected that person as number two. Number three would be okay, still has great experience and stuff like that but when we interviewed them, this is the way we ranked them.

 

That doesn't happen at all in this bill. The commission do not give you a ranking; they just give you three names. Now, one person could be so qualified, they could have years and years of – and that person is head and shoulders over everyone else, but it's only that name that goes up to being a recommendation.

 

Here's the scary part of the whole bill, and the part that I really don't understand. These three individuals do not have to be the person that they choose. After going through this whole process, huge process of getting the names – it could be hundreds of people, could be 50 people, could be 1,000 people, I don't know, apply for this job, apply for head over this department, head over this commission, head over whatever. Here they are, they applied for this and it goes through the whole process through the recommendation commission, the whole process goes through and those three people that are after going through the whole process – they don't know their ranking or anything like that, but their names get forwarded to Cabinet. And obviously, a good commission are after going out and they're after finding the three best possible people to do the job.

 

The three names go to Cabinet, yet Cabinet, if they don't want them, they can say no, that's not the person I want. They can appoint somebody completely different. Now, what is the difference – the Member said smoke and mirrors. I believe this is smoke and mirrors but this is the worst kind because you're trying to lead people to believe that you're doing something and you're not actually doing it.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I remember one time a boss of mine said you've got to make them believe you're telling the truth. That's what they're trying to do to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They're trying to make you believe this is independent when it's not. It's not truly independent because at the end of the day once the appointment comes out where they are appointing a commission for the Auditor General – they could have a name that we're going to put in as Auditor General of this province. The whole process can go right through the whole system. Then all of a sudden, the three best names after they interview them, they check out all the references, they checked out their education, checked out their experience, checked out everything, and we have three really good candidates to do that, these three names get put up to Cabinet.

 

The Cabinet – before it all started – probably said this guy would be a great guy or this lady would be a great person, and that name they could have there too. Let me tell you, I am not saying that person wouldn't be qualified because I'm sure you wouldn't appoint somebody to the Auditor General's portfolio if they weren't qualified. I mean, that's a huge position and you really need to know what you're doing to be the Auditor General. I applaud Mr. Paddon and all Auditors General, Mr. Noseworthy and everyone else who I dealt with since I've been here. I was on the Public Accounts Committee since I've been elected and I have to tell you they do a fantastic job.

 

My point being is that we could have three really good candidates – this is the problem with the whole bill. This is the gist for me because I agree with us taking politics out, like the promise was. The promise was to take politics out of appointments. Those were the words the Premier used. Those were the words that were in your red book. Those were the words when you knocked on doors and they talked about people getting appointed for everything and you had to know somebody to get a job, those were the words you used to the people in the province.

 

That's not what's happening here at all. What's happening here is you can have you want; this commission is just going to give you a recommendation. It's going to go up to Cabinet, you're going to sit around the Cabinet table and you're going to have a person who you have in your mind, this is the one we want for the job and that person may qualify. Yes, that person may be a great candidate, but it may not be the three names that were recommended. It may be someone different.

 

Here's the worst of it. If you came out publicly and said okay, we have candidate A, B and C and these are the three people who were recommended for the position, but we don't want that person because we have another person. If that was put out publicly, if the public knew that, then maybe the bill would be okay. If that's what the intent of this bill was to do, was to put it out into the public and say okay, we disagree with the commission. We don't agree with A, B, and C because they are not as qualified as the person we have selected. If that was the case and you could justify it then okay, but that's not the case. No one will ever know. They'll never know the three people that goes up to Cabinet, and they'll know if those three people were the actual ones that were recommended. No one will ever know. It's secrecy at the worst.

 

It's unbelievable that you could even think about doing something like that. It is even worse than what it was before because you're putting all this bureaucracy in place and getting all this work done, yet you're cutting her down and saying no, that's the person we wanted.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I say it seriously.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'll join some of my colleagues in taking an opportunity to speak to clause 1 of the bill and respond to some of the things that have been said so far. I thank my colleagues for really summing up the fundamental problem we see with this legislation.

 

So when we're talking about clause 1, this is a clause that defines the bills short title. At this point in time we won't be amending that clause. But the clause reads: “This Act may be cited as the Independent Appointments Commission Act. So, for the reasons that my colleagues have outlined, maybe it would be appropriate at some point in time for us to change the name of the bill.

 

I'm hoping through the course of this debate in Committee we'll make changes that will make the bill more effective, but to suggest that it's called the Independent Appointments Commission is incredibly ironic, Madam Chair, because we're talking about a group that at this point, based on the way it's proposed, won't be at all independent. And here's the real kicker: It won't even be able to make appointments.

 

We thought maybe it should be called the Liberal recommendations commission or something like that, or a more cynical name might suggest that it be called an act to justify Liberal political patronage appointments. But that's overly cynical.

 

The Government House Leader has expressed a willingness to work with us through this process, so I'll take him at his word. I hope that of the 16 amendments we've brought forward will all get adopted by government in this House. But at the very least, I hope a number of will because it will make a flawed piece of legislation a little bit better.

 

However, the right thing to do would be to scrap it altogether and start again. It is so flawed that there are amendments required to virtually every clause of the bill to make it a sensible piece of legislation. Even then, it's still not the optimal approach.

 

Much like the recent budget, it would be far better to admit you got it wrong, throw it out and start over. That would be the right approach to take with this Independent Appointments Commission Act. In the absence of doing that, then we need to do our best to try and make this legislation at least a bit more sensible and workable.

 

We want to ensure the commission is truly independent, that it's impartial, that it's accountable and that it's effective. So that is why we will be bringing forward amendments to many clauses in this bill. If the bill isn't significantly amended, then I think a name change would be warranted. The current bill doesn't create a commission that's independent, doesn't create a commission that can make appointments.

 

Just a general comment on our amendments, they may seem a bit complicated in some places, but they're intended to be really straightforward. We've laid out the language, we've consulted with others to try and make sure the amendments are technically sound. I hope that we'll get an opportunity to debate each one of them in this hon. House.

 

The other point I want to make, Madam Chair, in response to the Government House Leader's comments, if government had wanted to avoid this kind of process in the House where we have to introduce an amendment – it's the typical process: you introduce the amendment, you debate the amendment, you pause to consider whether the amendment is in order and then you debate the amendment if it is – there was a better way.

 

We didn't have all our amendments finished six weeks ago, but we did provide some public commentary. I did media interviews where I outlined the kinds of amendments we were going to bring forward. Now we've got them written, and today is the first opportunity to present them in this House.

 

The bill could have been sent to a legislative review committee, a committee of this House, with all parties represented. A committee could have been struck to review the legislation. The beauty of that process would be that we could go through the bill, clause by clause, and make suggestions, propose amendments and really understand – get a better sense of what government's intention is, and maybe make modifications that we could all agree to that would make the legislation better.

 

That process wasn't the one that was chosen, so I just want to be on record that we did suggest that about six weeks ago when we were going through the second reading process. I still believe that would have been a better approach. Nonetheless, we are where we are. We'll go through the traditional process. We'll introduce amendments.

 

In fairness, there have been times where governments in this House have adopted amendments that have been put forward by the Opposition. I recall during recent sessions of the House of Assembly that that happened. So I hope today government will work with us and we'll be able to make some changes that will make the bill better and put us in a better place.

 

The Government House Leader also said that regardless of whether any changes are made, this process will be better than the one that existed before. Well, I beg to differ. I have to respectfully disagree with the Government House Leader because I think we're going to be in a worse place. I believe we're going to be in a worse place because what this bill does is give Cabinet power to make appointments which it can do today but then hide behind a veil of legitimacy. Because of this smoke and mirrors piece of legislation that is being proposed, now Cabinet ministers will be able to hide behind this veil of legitimacy and simply appoint whoever they want in secret behind closed doors. I don't think that's better. I think that's actually worse.

 

What we hope to do as we go through this bill is make some changes that make it a little bit better. It's not ideal. Even if all of our amendments were passed and even if the amendments proposed by the New Democratic Party were passed, I still think we're not in a great place and there is a better way. We'll make the best of a bad situation and try and get the bill to a more sensible place.

 

While I still have a few minutes, I'll just make some other comments on the bill generally. I think it's important to point out that beyond the application stage, beyond the point where somebody applies to serve on a board or a committee or a council or a commission, there's nothing about the process as proposed that's public.

 

I also have a problem with the Appointment Commission. The initial five person commission is going to be appointed by Cabinet then rubberstamped in this House, but there's a better approach there as wall to have all parties engaged in making sure that that commission is truly independent. Why not involve all three parties in the selection and appointment of that commission?

 

We also have some concerns about the entities that are listed in Schedule C, where some appointments will go through the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission will basically produce a list of applicants they deem qualified. They'll give the list to a minister and the minister will simply make the appointments, and not even subject to any kind of Cabinet process. Now I recall from having served in Cabinet that even routine appointments would be subject to some kind of Cabinet process, but apparently that's not the intention of the Liberal government.

 

When the Premier presented his flagship piece of legislation – I hope we'll hear from him during this debate – he indicated that he wanted the best person for the job. Well, for the big jobs, for the ones that will be subject to the Independent Appointments Commission, this process will identify a few qualified people and then let Cabinet pick behind closed doors from that list that won't even be (inaudible). There's a fundamental problem with that. If you really want the best person for the job then you have a process that would truly identify the best person for the job. So we have some concerns with that.

 

Because of the Public Service Commission's involvement, I'm worried about the potential for political interference with the Public Service Commission, which hasn't traditionally been a problem. The Public Service Commission does good work, but I'm very concerned about how this is going to play out. I think it's also important to note that everything the Liberal Appointments Commission recommends is simply a recommendation. It's non-binding.

 

Madam Chair, this bill, as it stands, does nothing to take the politics out of appointments – which is another one of the Premier's famous lines. Over and over again we've heard this is going to take the politics out of appointments. Well it does nothing like that at all. This legitimizes a political process. It's an attempt to legitimize a political process.

 

Again, we're talking about a commission that will have zero authority to make appointments. So those are just a few comments. We'll have lots of time to talk about this bill and talk about the various clauses, but I'm pleased to have a chance to get up and at least make a few general comments on clause 1 before we get into the more detailed clauses and specific appointments that at least two parties in the House will be putting forward. I hope perhaps even government will acknowledge some of the concerns that have been brought forward and present some amendments of their own as well.

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi. 

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

Just a couple of points I want to pick up on, following up my colleague from Mount Pearl North, and it has to do with the process of working together on the piece of legislation. I hope we will have an open discussion here in the Committee of the Whole because when the Government House Leader first came to us, when we first got the bill, the suggestion was for us to submit recommendations; if we were going to want things amended to submit those to the government so they could have a look at them ahead of time and decide ahead of time what they wanted to do with any amendments we may be suggesting. When that request was made, our response as one party in the House was, no, that's not the way we saw that it should work.

 

If we use a process that's more common in the legislative system, what would happen is the act would come to the floor. Then, if there were things in the act that needed to be discussed in Committee, what happens in Ottawa, for example – and it's even in our Standing Orders – is that things can get referred to the all-party committee that would deal with a piece of legislation.

 

Rather than having a Committee of the Whole, if we had an all-party committee that dealt with the kind of legislation we're dealing with today in Bill 1, then we would take the pieces of the act that we had some controversy over and pass it on to the all-party committee. The all-party committee would deal with the points of contention and then jointly agree on what would come back to the floor of the House. That's how it works in Ottawa and that's how it works in some of our other provincial Legislatures.

 

We don't do it that way. We go through our bill too. We go through second reading and then everything comes into Committee of the Whole. So a Committee of the Whole is where we deal with the concerns. Committee of the Whole is where we put out our suggestions for recommendations.

 

It's not letting government know ahead of time what can be problematic and they're ready for it and they come into the House and there's no real discussion. This is where we're supposed to look at the things that may be contentious and where we try to work it through.

 

Now I would prefer that we had a process, like they have in the House of Commons and in other provincial Legislatures, where you actually have an all-party committee that does the committee discussion in a smaller setting that can also call in people to be witnesses in the discussion, and call in other people to come and give their opinion on what the bill is. If we had that kind of a process, I think it would be a much more open process, but we don't.

 

The most open process we have is the discussion that happens in Committee of the Whole. Although, our Standing Orders do say that we could do what I'm suggesting, that we should have standing committees. Our standing committees for Government Services, Natural Resources and Social Services, those standing committees can be the committees that would receive something from the House and be asked to work on. We don't do that.

 

It's in our Standing Orders we can do it, we may do it. We don't do it. So when the Government House Leader came with his suggestion our reaction was, no, well that's not the normal way we do it. We do it in committee. We bring our discussions to a committee. That's what we're doing here, and we're happy to take part in the discussion as it goes on. 

 

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. 

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. 

 

I just have a couple of minutes; I had 10 the last time. I just want to talk to a couple of points because once we get into the amendments we'll be talking about amendments and the leave. Right now we're just talking about the bill, the overall bill.

 

I want to agree with the Member who just got up and spoke. I'm part of the All-Party Committee on the Fishery and we've been meeting on a regular basis. I tell you, it's real good to know that we're all there, it's a committee and everybody is listening to each other's opinion. Yet, government does have, at the end of the day with the majority of Members on that committee, anything that's going to be said or what recommendations come out, they will have – at the end of the day, the recommendations that will come will be voted on by government.

 

An all-party committee, no matter what, will always be controlled by government Members because they have the majority of people on those committees. That's the way it works, but it's a great opportunity for the other parties to put together ideas and suggestions to the minister and to the people who are on that committee and work together. That's what an all-party committee does, it works together to make sure the best possible results will come out.

 

When the hon. Member suggested this should be deferred to an all-party committee, I think that this legislation is important. It's important to the people of the province. It was so important to the Liberal government during the election. It was one of their biggest platforms. They raised the expectations so high – you raised the expectations of people. They really said, okay, finally – and they voted for it. They voted for you and they voted you people in your seats over there. That was one of the reasons they voted, because they wanted change. There's no doubt about that.

 

They wanted legislation that was going to come forward that they agreed to, which made sense to them, that people – rather than who you know, would never come up again. It would be done through fair, and it would be done independently, and it would be done by people other than politicians to make the decision at the end of the day.

 

That's not saying politicians make the wrong decisions or whatever, or don't select the right people, but this was a promise. This is what you promised the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. You promised an independent commission that would take the politics – and these are the words you used – out of appointments, but you're not doing it. This bill is a far cry from what the promise actually was. The promise was that politicians wouldn't have a say. It would be an independent commission that would determine who gets the positions within government.

 

I don't understand; I really believe it's a step forward we've made in the last couple of years in the House of Assembly with all-party committees. We started with mental health and addictions. We decided to set up an all-party committee with that. Now it's still in the process, but do you know what? It gives everybody an opportunity who's on that committee to have a say; to sit down and say these are the things we need to do. This is the best possible thing.

 

At the end of the day, it's government's decision. No matter what happens with this bill today as we put our recommendations, no matter what happens, people out there have to understand that at the end of the day the governing party will say what happens, but we're here to try to make it a better bill. We're not here just to put out recommendations so we can all sit around and argue over it all day long. That's not the point of this at all.

 

The point we're making here today and the point my Member just made to defer to an all-party committee is to have the best possible bill that can be out there. That's what this is about. We want to make sure people have confidence in this House to say, okay, they're doing the right thing.

 

Every time you're in government, some people will argue with decisions you make and whatever, but I hope everybody makes the decisions on doing the right thing. Doing the right thing would be to make sure we have the best piece of legislation that's available.

 

Deferring it to an all-party committee takes the House of Assembly away from it. It lets people sit down and really give their point of view and people can say, oh, yes, I understand that. Yes, I can see where you're coming from and whatnot. That's what we want, and that's what the people want. That's what you promised. That's a promise you made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, that you were going to take the politics out of it. You were going to have an independent commission that would come and here's the best person.

 

At the end of the day, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want the best person qualified to do the work for them. No matter if it's the Child and Youth Advocate, if it's – like I said earlier – the Auditor General. Whatever it is, we want to make sure the best person qualified is the person who does it. This bill is not going to do it. It's not going to cut it.

 

The other thing, I talked to the Members across the way. This is Bill 1, your first bit of legislation coming in here to the House of Assembly. This should be the bill that comes in and says, okay, one of the big promises we made in this election, we made a huge promise to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and we're going to live up to it. We're going to live up to the promise we promised you. We told you this is what we're going to do. Well, it doesn't live up to it. It's not even close to living up to it.

 

I'd say looking at this, it's almost like you're trying to fool the people of Newfoundland and Labrador but they're not getting fooled, obviously, because they're smarter than that. I mean, we hear all the time when we're debating the budget, you don't understand, the media don't understand, nobody understands, nobody in this province understands, but I tell you the people of Newfoundland and Labrador do understand this. They do understand that unless it's out in the public, unless a commission that's independent from government makes the appointment that it's clear of government – that's what you promised. That was the promise that you made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Now, we can talk about promises, but I'm not going to go there. That was a promise that you made, and that's what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador wanted. They really do. They want an independent commission that is going to be able to say, okay, at the end of the day, the person that's most recommended to do the job is the person that got selected.

 

I ask the people over across the way: Isn't that what you want? We talk about openness and transparency. How more open and transparent can you be if the persons that are qualified to do the job are put out there and said these are the three best candidates to do this position, Cabinet has it and we're going to look at it and we'll give you our decision tomorrow or the next day when Cabinet meets?

 

Is there something wrong with that, putting it out so people would know? Not to say okay, give us three names, we'll keep them in the envelope, no one will ever see who they are, yet the person we wanted all along is not in that envelope but we're going to take that person because we might not even open the envelope. How are they going to know? Really, how are the people of Newfoundland and Labrador going to know that the best qualified person has that job?

 

You want to be independent, you want to show people that you're transparent, you want to see openness, well, put the proper procedure in place so it is.

 

You can go back over years, and I hear people chirping over there now it is what you did years ago and you did this, but you raised the expectations of the people – come election time, this was one of your big platforms. You were going to take it all out. Like again another promise –and we know about promises. But it was another promise that you made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that the politics would come out of appointments. This is a far cry from what you're doing. 

 

You really have to be honest with yourself. Maybe when you first brought in the bill, you looked at it and said yes, this is a great bill; we're doing a good job and everything else. But when you really go back and look at it, it's worse than what we had. It really is worse than what we had because you are giving expectations to three people that you're qualified for the job, but you aren't getting it because we have a person in mind to do that. That's what could happen here.

 

I know that some of you are over there shaking your heads and agreeing with me because it can happen, and you know it can happen. Why put that in place? I'm not saying the person that's selected won't be a good candidate. Anyone that has to do these jobs, I sure hope they're qualified to do it because I know a lot of people out there are really qualified to do the job. Why not be open? Why not be transparent like you promised? Why have it under the secrecy? That's what this is. This is pure secrecy what you're doing here now. No one will know. We don't need to tell.

 

What does that tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador? We don't need to let you know who the person is, no, no. We don't need you to know that the person that got selected wasn't one of those three. That's shameful. It really is.

 

You're not really giving Newfoundlanders and Labradorians the credit they deserve. They're smarter than that and they do understand. Many times in this House of Assembly we hear the words, you don't understand. I tell you, you've got to give the people of Newfoundland and Labrador a little bit of credit because they do. The process is flawed with what you're introducing. It's really flawed.

 

There's an opportunity to make it the best piece of legislation in all of Canada, where we all can sit down and agree at the end of the day this is a great piece of legislation. The intent is to take politics out of it. The intent is to be open and transparent. The intent is to have people in Newfoundland to have confidence in government, have confidence in politicians. I want them to have confidence in what I do here today and I want to have confidence in what we do here as a general (inaudible).

 

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'd just like to build on my colleague's comments and make a few more comments about clause 1. I really want to emphasize that this bill does nothing to take the politics out of appointments. We're talking about a new commission that isn't independent and has absolutely no authority to make appointments. There's a fundamental problem that we won't be able to totally fix through amendments here this afternoon and this evening, but we will try and make it a little bit better.

 

One of the suggestions that have been made is that this is going to be non-partisan. What's non-partisan about allowing Cabinet Members, individual ministers, to hand-pick from a list of candidates, whether they're doing it through the Public Service Commission in the privacy of their offices, or whether they're doing it through this new Liberal Appointments Commission? In either case, there's nothing non-partisan about it.

 

The Premier says he wants to take politics out of appointments, but Bill 1 ensures that politics always, always, always trumps process. That's a real challenge for us, Madam Chair.

 

When this bill was first introduced, it was highlighted that Cabinet can simply appoint. Cabinet can simply bypass all of this process that's being laid out here in Bill 1 and simply appoint who they want. Do you know what government had to say about that? They said, well, we don't expect that to be a regular occurrence. Even from the introduction of the bill government acknowledged that even if this process is smoke and mirrors, we're just going to totally ignore it and appoint who we need to appoint from time to time, but we won't do that too often.

 

Another Cabinet minister suggested during the initial discussion on this bill, during second reading, that this would be a significant change. Well, I would argue that as it currently stands, this bill doesn't change anything. It tries to justify political appointments. As we said during second reading debate, there are times when government will appoint people, and so they should. That's part of being government. They received a strong mandate from people of the province, and yes, sometimes they're going to make appointments. That's part of carrying out the business of government, but don't say that you're doing it independently and through this arm's-length Appointments Commission that isn't independent and can't make appointments, because that's just simply smoke and mirrors and it is not accurate.

 

The list of names that is being put forward to Cabinet by this new commission won't be made public. I think that is worth noting as well. So there's an air of secrecy around this entire process from start to finish beyond the application stage. If Cabinet chooses to ignore the three recommended names, then there's no mechanism presently for that to be disclosed, which is one of the things we will try and address as we propose amendments to the bill.

 

When the Premier was questioned on that in the initial news conference he said, well, those Independent Appointments Commission members can complain or resign if that happens, if they feel that the process is not being respected, but hopefully that won't happen too often. He expects that to be rare. That's all very concerning, Madam Chair.

 

Another thing that's concerning is that twice in the bill it actually says that Cabinet can ignore recommendations; Cabinet can do what it wants. So that's highlighted at two separate points in the legislation that we're debating here this afternoon.

 

This is very much about Cabinet secrecy and Cabinet control. I recall at the news conference hearing the Premier say, well, that's the way things work. Well, if you say you're going to do things differently, then your actions have to reflect that. Unfortunately, Bill 1 doesn't reflect anything new or different.

 

How can you say you're taking the politics out of a process if Cabinet can simply do what it wants at the end of the day? That's really one of our fundamental concerns with this whole process. They're setting the stage already to just go and do what they want by making comments about extraordinary circumstances and occurrences that are going to be very rare when the legislation is not followed. It's all very concerning.

 

If all decisions ultimately – no matter what process we finalize here today or tomorrow or whenever we get this bill finished, no matter whether there are changes made or not, if all the decisions come down to politicians making appointments behind closed doors, how can you claim that's not political? How can you claim that's not a political process? I think we should just do what we say we're going to do, but you can't say you're going to do one thing and then do another, which is the real problem we have with Bill 1.

 

When the Premier kept saying these commission members will resign if Cabinet doesn't respect the process, that's an incredible red flag from our perspective, Madam Chair. If you don't like our decisions, you can resign. That doesn't sound like a legitimate, independent, objective process to me.

 

Relying on commissioners resigning to ensure the integrity of your process probably means your process is flawed out of the gates, which is the real concern we have. You can't possibly say that's independent or you can't possibly say that's non-political. Cabinet at the end of the day gets to pick names from a secret list.

 

The Finance Minister, during second reading debate said – I think it was during second reading debate – that she's proud of this piece of work. All I can say, Madam Chair, is that this bill is a piece of work, there's no doubt about that. I just wish there was an opportunity to do some more work on it before we get to this stage of the process. A committee that would have allowed us to work through this and try and come up with something meaningful and sensible would have been a good approach if government was serious about making change, but they're clearly not.

 

Madam Chair, 130 boards and agencies are exempt from this new Independent Appointments Commission process.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

If the Education Minister has something to say, he can certainly rise when I'm done in a few minutes. I look forward to his contribution to the debate as well. He's been chirping at us throughout Committee of the Whole this afternoon. Several of my colleagues have commented on that. I'd encourage him to get up and share his views. We'd welcome that because he has been notably quiet for the last number of days. We'd welcome his participation in the debate as well.

 

As I was saying before I was interrupted, 130 boards and agencies are exempt from this new process. So that's a real concern. During the news conference on this piece of legislation, the government ministers that were there were asked if they will appoint five high-profile Liberals as the initial commission, and they didn't deny that. They just said they'll look for the best people. Well, maybe if you are serious about having an independent, objective process, let's work together; let's have all parties of the House play a role in appointing those people.

 

We'd still like to get clarity on which agencies, boards and commissions are not covered. It's an extensive list in the legislation. We still haven't received a clear answer on which agencies, boards and commissions won't be impacted by this legislation.

 

Another concern I'd like to highlight – I only have a minute and a half left – is it's been said by government that they'll be no added cost to doing all of this smoke and mirrors exercise. Well, does the Public Service Commission have that much extra capacity? I don't believe they do, Madam Chair. My experience tells me that the folks of the Public Service Commission are quite busy. So how all of this work can be done with no added cost and with no additional resources is another cause for concern.

 

Madam Chair, Members of government have referred to this piece of legislation as groundbreaking. Well, I'd suggest that this is a piece of legislation that is not at all on solid ground. We'll propose amendments, which hopefully government will consider, that will make it a bit better, but at the end of the day I fear it will still be severely flawed.

 

So send the whole thing to committee, let's take the politics out of it, let's all work together to come up with something that's truly independent and something that can truly make appointments and then we may land in a sensible place. That's my appeal to government this afternoon, and I look forward to continuing debate on the clauses of this bill.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I just have a couple of more little points. The Member just brought it forward there, that point. If we really want to get independent here and have five people that are selected on this commission, why don't we do it through the all-party committee? Why don't we just do that? Just pick parts of this that we can do through committee so people can see that it is an independent commission and it is people that are – again, as the Member for Mount Pearl North just stated, this commission is done through appointment of the Premier and Cabinet and they'll just select the five people that are on this commission.

 

So how can the people in the province have faith in the people who are selected? Why don't we just do this the right way? Why don't we just put it to an all-party committee and we all come up with suggestions of people who should be on this commission. I don't know if anyone is going to want to be on it, to tell you the truth. It's a lot of work. As far as I know, it's basically a volunteer type thing. The commissioners are not going to get paid. That's what I understand. It may be a job to get people to serve on this, I'm not sure.

 

My suggestion to the government is if you really want to make this independent, if you really want to be open and transparent, like I said earlier, why don't you just put it to an all-party committee? I have Members agreeing with me. We can have it so that at least when we get to the commission part of it, the commissioners who are there are people who were selected by people from an all-party.

 

For example, the PCs could put 10 names forward, the NDP could put 10 names forward and the government could put 20 names forward and we could select the five best people for that. At the end of the day, you have the majority of the people on the all-party committee. So at the end of the day, at least you can have the say you want. You can have the control that, obviously, you want in this. Why don't you just come out and say, okay, we listened to your suggestions but the five we are going to select are these five.

 

At least it gives us the opportunity to sit down and talk, and say these are the people who are best for the commission. There are the people who would be good. We could have five individuals and maybe one that we suggested. Maybe it could be one that the NDP suggested. It could be three you guys suggested on this. The NDP may have five excellent names. We could all look at it and say, listen, those are the five people who should be on this commission. That makes sense. That person brings this; everybody brings a little bit.

 

No matter what you do on a committee – I've been involved in committees all my life and it's nice to see people who bring a different perspective. It's nice to see people bring – wherever I go in any committee I'm on, I always like to see the youth engaged. I believe today, more so than ever before, our youth are engaged. That may be one part of it where you're not looking in this commission. Maybe a young person – and gender, obviously, plays a huge role.

 

We all have the right to sit down and discuss it, not just come out of Cabinet and say, okay, these are the five people we've selected. Now how did you come about selecting those five people? Not telling you. No, you're not going to know. We're not going to tell you. You just take it or leave it, and we're open, we're transparent. Take it or leave it. Those are the five people we selected.

 

Now how did you come by those selections? Not going to tell you that either. We don't need to do that. Just take it or leave it. These are the five people that are going to be there. Have they got any allegiance to this one or that one? Don't need to tell you that either. Do they work here or did they work there? Don't need to tell you that either.

 

It's the whole piece of the bill and I can't believe you're not getting it. I can't believe you're not getting what people are saying and why this bill is so flawed. The intent of the bill is excellent. The intent of the bill, why the bill was brought in the first place is what it should be brought in for. What the bill actually does is not even close to what your intent is.

 

You promised the people of Newfoundland and Labrador politics out of appointments. I think those were the exact words you used. I apologize again for repeating myself, but I have to say it's another broken promise. It's a huge broken promise because you're trying to fool the people of Newfoundland and Labrador about it. They're more intelligent than that. They understand. They see what you're doing. Here it is.

 

People do understand. They won't understand, they don't understand – if I hear that anymore in the House of Assembly I'm going to go mad because they do understand. People do understand. You talk to people every weekend home in your districts, do they understand? Yes. Well, tell the Minister of Finance they do understand because no one understands. That's the same thing in this bill. You've got to –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Relevance, relevance.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: The relevance is the people do understand what you're trying to do here. The relevance is that you're trying to put something through that's not what you promised. It's just like everything you're doing, with the budget and everything else. Everything you're trying to do.

 

CHAIR (Lane): Order, please!

 

I would remind the Member we're speaking to the bill.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Okay, I know. We're speaking to the bill, but there are a lot of similarities here, Mr. Chair. A lot of similarities here when I talk about promises and what they promised and what they're not giving, and what they promised and what they're not giving and what they promised and what they're not giving. I can say that a few times more. That's what the whole thing is about here.

 

The intent of the bill is fantastic. The intent of the bill is to make people have confidence in the House of Assembly, make people have confidence in politicians, make people feel that this is the right way of doing things and they're doing the right thing in there. But this is not what it's doing.

 

I'm going to go back to the five Members that are selected on the commission. I believe that should be done through an all-party committee. We can put our suggestions in, you put your suggestions in, the NDP, and let's get the five best candidates. Why does it have to go – and you may say, well, it's always done that way, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's right.

 

My father used to say, if you're going to do something do it right the first time. He always said, do it right. When you're going to do it, do it right the first time. So why not do this right now? Why not do this right now? Why not just get a piece of legislation that everybody in this province can be proud of, that everybody in this House of Assembly can walk out through the door in the evening and say, wow, we did a great job. We have a great piece of legislation. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are going to be pleased with it.

 

That's not what this is all about because this is more smoke and mirrors. This is thinking that the people of the province don't understand. They don't know, but we're doing a real good thing here. This is a wicked piece of legislation we just did for you. This is wicked, this is unreal. You'll never know who the selection was. You'll never know who the three people were but that's okay, you don't need to know that.

 

The person that was selected wasn't from the commission. He was one we already had picked. Now the commissioners, if they don't like it – if the commissioners don't like it, do you know what they can do? They quit. Wow, that's great. So they can't say anything, can't do nothing. The only way to get around that is to quit.

 

Well, if I was on a commissioner – I don't like quitting on anything. I'm not a quitter and I don't think most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are quitters. They usually go and fight for their rights and they do what it is. That's why we are what we are as a people. We really are –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: We're not quitters.

 

We will have hard times coming at us and there may be difficult situations that come forward to us, but I can tell you right now Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not quitters.

 

I don't think anyone on this commission will be a quitter either. I really don't think so. I think they'll voice their concerns and perhaps they'll say, okay, now maybe the next time when we put the three names together, we work hard on it, we have interviews, we went through all the candidates that were available to us, we looked at them all and we found the three best that we could find that were suitable for the job. But when we put it up to Cabinet they said, no, that's not the person we want. I don't know if they can go back and say get us another three. I'm not sure if they'll do that or if that's what they want, if it's not the three they want because that's what you're opening this up to.

 

I just ask government Members, and I'll sit down now in a second. I just ask people on the government side to probably do the right thing. How about doing the right thing? People elected you to do a job for them, to represent them to the best you can do.

 

Looking at this bill, obviously, you all know this is a flawed bill. There are major flaws in this bill. So why don't you do the right thing? Why won't the right thing be done? We come in every day and we talk to Members across the way with issues they have in their districts and everything else, and I'm hoping that they'll do the right thing when it comes to those decisions.

 

But this is your first bill. This is the bill you brought in to be your landmark for four years. This is the number one bill, the one promise that you promised the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the one big promise you promised them. They promised a lot of other promises, but the one big one that they really – the first bill that they came in for and you're letting them down –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair reminds the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North. 

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair. 

 

The Member for Cape St. Francis certainly raised some interesting points. I hope he'll have some time during the debate to expand on those because he was on to something there. I hope, while he seemed to building some momentum, he'll rise and continue again.

 

But I'd like to pick up on a few things he said. I'd also like to remind all hon. Members that this debate is not about what we did, or what any other administration did. This is about what the Liberals said they would do differently in the mandate document that they were elected on.

 

It's the Liberals who said they'd change the way things are done. So they raised that bar and now the onus is on them to rise to that level. Otherwise, Mr. Chair, if they fail to do so, if this is just smoke and mirrors, as the Member has said and not a real change, then their commitment wouldn't be worth the paper it's written on. That would raise an integrity issue. Surely, they wouldn't want that to be the case with their very first piece of legislation, Bill 1.

 

This initiative, Mr. Chair, was not a minor commitment. It was about as major as a commitment could be. It was the very first plank in the 2015 policy red book, the very first item in the very first section of the red book. So it's hardly a trivial matter to them, which really makes you wonder how we got to this point with such a flawed piece of legislation.

 

So it's now the very first piece of legislation of their mandate and Bill 1 is traditionally the keystone bill that you want to define you as an administration, as a government. It's something that you would expect your administration to be judged by. Having set expectations exceptionally high they can't fault us, or fault the media, or fault the public for demanding that the bill live up to the expectations that they've raised.

 

Just building on the comments from the Member for Cape St. Francis, let's see if their legislation does indeed rise to the level they have set. A big election promise, let's look at that election promise in more detail and their red book commitment reads as follows, Restoring Openness, Transparency and Accountability: “Liberals strongly believe the government must be open, transparent, and accountable. The people of the province deserve to know how and why government decisions are made. When government is not open, transparent and accountable, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are denied their right to the democracy they deserve.” The current Premier – his name is listed; I'm not allowed to say his name in the House –“and a New Liberal Government will restore openness, transparency, and accountability to government through the following actions: 1.1 Take Politics Out of Government Appointments” – interesting indeed.

 

“Government is responsible for appointing senior positions at Crown corporations, public commissions, and other public agencies. Liberals believe that these positions should be filled based on merit, not politics. It's simply a matter of making sure the most qualified person gets the job.” The most qualified person.

 

“A New Liberal Government will establish an Independent Appointments Commission to take politics out of government appointments. This nonpartisan commission will screen candidate, apply a gender lens, and recommend the most qualified people for appointments, adding a much-needed level of independent review to the appointment process.”

 

Now, I don't believe in going through Bill 1 – it just jumped to mind here – that there's any reference to gender lens, that there's any reference to gender or ensuring diversity. I know that from listening to media reports, the New Democratic Party will be bringing in an amendment that will address that issue, and I think that's a good thing. I think it's good that there will be some further debate and discussion on that particular issue. Because it's right in the red book that this will viewed through a gender lens, which implies that there will be something done to ensure gender diversity and other forms of diversity through this commission.

 

The key words in what I just read to you, Mr. Chair, are these: A new Liberal government will take politics out of government appointments by making sure the most qualified person gets the job. But it doesn't take the politics out of appointments. The decisions will all still be made by Cabinet ministers behind closed doors and by picking a name from a list that is not even ranked or weighted, and maybe not even picking one of those names at all. How does that ensure that the most qualified person gets the job? It doesn't.

 

The implication, Mr. Chair, is clear. The implication of what they committed to is clear. The appointment process would be completely oblivious to political associations, blindfolded to political links. Just like the blindfolded statutes in front so many of the world's top courts.

 

But even that red book commitment ends a little weakly. Because if you really want to make sure that the most qualified person gets the job, then wouldn't you expect the Independent Appointments Commission to do a lot more than simply make a recommendation? I would think so.

 

Mr. Chair, the legislation that we're debating in Committee today, it only recommends appointments. It does nothing at all to take the politics out of appointments. Wouldn't you expect the commission and expect the commissioners to have the power to weed out every unqualified applicant and maybe even rank remaining applicants and maybe even actually make the appointment of the most qualified person, even if there is some kind of rubber-stamping, so to speak, that has to occur?

 

Obviously, the Liberals aren't prepared to give up that power. So don't say you're going to do it when the legislation you're bringing forward indicates otherwise. They want to have the final say. They want to make sure they don't end up with someone who may be very qualified but isn't capable of working well with them on their team of leaders.

 

There may indeed be real risks in relinquishing obligations and abdicating responsibilities to a commission that is not directly accountable to the people and in a position to be judged by the people. So these things all need to be considered.

 

We didn't relinquish that obligation or abdicate that responsibility. We made appointments – as you'll be reminded again during this debate – and we're prepared to defend them in this House and outside of this House as well, because we were elected to govern and the new administration has been elected to govern as well. It's the Liberals who said the process was wrong. It's the Liberals who set new expectations. It's the Liberals who said there must be an independent, merit-based, politically neutral appointments process.

 

All we're saying here today as we debate clause 1, Mr. Chair, is deliver on what you promised. The bill doesn't do that, so you can't have it both ways. Either it's independent or it's not; either it's meaningful change or it's not. If it's not, then isn't it really just a sham? That's the point my colleagues are trying to make as we have this opportunity to debate clause 1 today.

 

If you truly want independent appointments, then there are two separate issues that I think we need to consider. First of all, how independent will the commission gatekeepers actually be? Secondly, how much power will the commission gatekeepers actually have?

 

That first issue is critical. How will we ensure that the gatekeepers are indeed truly independent and neutral and qualified to make sound judgements about the qualifications of candidates for leadership posts in this province? Well, that depends entirely on who will be on the commission, on how they'll be appointed and how their independence will be assured.

 

Who are the gatekeepers? The bill outlines that and we'll get to that as debate continues. The bill outlines how the commission will be appointed. I will save some of my comments on that for when we get to that particular clause.

 

We know that five members will be appointed by Cabinet and then be rubber-stamped by this House. So Cabinet will choose people and appoint them to this commission. Then government, with the majority it has in this House, will pass a resolution to appoint them.

 

The point I want to make, Mr. Chair, is that Cabinet will have the power to select those gatekeepers and that's interesting. How can the Liberals say the commission itself will be non-partisan if Cabinet is going to select them and then use its majority in this House to hire them? If the gatekeepers themselves are political appointees, then you can't stand here and argue that the process is non-partisan.

 

Mr. Chair, I have some more comments to make on clause 1, but I see my time is winding down. There are some broad concerns that we have and the debate on clause 1 gives us an opportunity to highlight those concerns before we get into the specific amendments that we intend to bring forward. I thank you once again for an opportunity to speak to this debate on clause 1 as part of Bill 1 this afternoon.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Mr. Chair.

 

It's an honour and privilege for me to stand here and say just a few brief words about Bill 1, our signature piece of legislation. It is about doing things very differently, absolutely it is.

 

Look, we know that the Official Opposition doesn't like this way of doing things. They don't like this way of appointing people to public service positions or positions that are supposed to be based on some record of experience or education or qualification. For 12 years that ended in the fall, that's not the way the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador appointed people to lead and to have leadership roles in appointed bodies in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

For the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, for the previous administration, their idea of merit wasn't about having an application-based process where every Newfoundlander and Labradorian who had qualifications for the position could apply. It wasn't a process where it would have short listed candidates for these positions selected through the Public Service Commission. It wasn't a process like that at all.

 

If you look at just the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation it seems to me that it was a process whereby your qualification to lead a public body was based on whether you were a past leader of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. So how many people in Newfoundland and Labrador has been the leader of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador? Well, not very many, so not very many of those people in Newfoundland and Labrador were qualified according to the measure of merit that the previous administration used for public appointments. That they didn't qualify because of that.

 

There are other qualifications that the previous administration did use – I'll give them credit. Other qualifications were past candidate for the leadership of the PC Party, past minister in the government of the PC Party, past executive member of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, past vice-president of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, past treasurer of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, past secretary of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, past member of the executive of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, and past president of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and I neglected to say past Member of the House of Assembly in the PC Party caucus. So those were basically most of the orders of merit that were employed by the previous administration.

 

MR. KENT: (Inaudible).

 

MR. KIRBY: I say to the Member for Mount Pearl North, you had an opportunity to say your peace, now let me have an opportunity to contribute to the debate as well. He's still chirping over there, I'm not sure why. I'm just trying to have a debate and counter your argument and if you don't like what I have to say I encourage you to stand up afterwards and counter it, but in an orderly way I say.

 

If you look at the appointments made by the previous administration, by and large one of the most significant factors in selecting people to lead public bodies, to receive significant remuneration, I believe the Chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation in particular makes something in the order of $180,000 a year. That's on the sunshine list.

 

If you go to the sunshine list and you look at the individuals who were selected through the independent process employed by the previous administration, by and large, some affiliation, either Leader of the PC Party, candidate for the leadership of the PC Party, a member of their caucus, somebody who is involved with their executive, some political activist who was involved, that was how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were judged when it came to being able to have an opportunity to use their skills, their talent, their education, their accumulated ability. That's how the previous administration used – that's how they appointed people to public bodies.

 

You can hear them all over there. They're all chirping over there now, Mr. Chair, because of course they don't like to hear this. This, in fact, is the essence of the truth.

 

What we're trying to do here is we're trying to move the province away from a process and say, well, it's not perfect. Well, I'm not sure what is perfect but I'm pretty sure having a process whereby positions that are open are publicly advertised, that people can apply through public competition, that their credentials are judged by the Public Service Commission, and there's a short list provided from that. That's pretty good. That's basically how all job processes work. There's a short list produced.

 

The Opposition was saying before the Easter break – so months ago or weeks ago when they got this legislation, because they had it the whole time. I don't know why they didn't work on their amendments prior to tabling them here today, but that's their decision. They had this, and they were saying, why wouldn't you make this short list of three people public? Why would anybody want to subject themselves to a process where they'd basically be more or less publicly ostracized?

 

When you apply for a job, do they go and post it on the bulletin board, here's the unsuccessful applicant for everybody to see? They want it posted in the newspaper. Why would anybody in their right mind ever want to subject themselves to that sort of thing? It's absolutely nonsensical when they get to it. 

 

Now, the other thing I find extremely interesting here today is that we have the Member for Mount Pearl North and the Member for Cape St. Francis, and other Members over there talking about how this should go to an all-party committee. This should go to some all-party legislative committee. The sort of all-party legislative committee that for a dozen years in Newfoundland and Labrador, that crowd denied the House of Assembly to have.

 

There was one all-party committee that was created, or two all-party committees. There was fisheries; there was the mental health. At least in the last four years in the sitting of the House of Assembly, I don't recall any other ones. That was an initiative of the NDP, certainly not an initiative of the government. They were quite prepared to vote against that in Private Members' Day one day until they buckled under the weight of public opinion and decided to strike the all-party committee.

 

The Member for Mount Pearl North, when he was the Minister of Health he stood there. One hour he spoke against the bill, the next hour he spoke for it.

 

The other thing the Member talked about in terms of an all-party committee – the Member did talk about sending it to an all-party committee. That's what it was suggested that Muskrat Falls go to, an all-party committee. There was no all-party committee. They actually refused to let the public utilities board do its job and review it. So it's certainly not going to any all-party committee. They thought the debate on Muskrat Falls was to just have it in here on Private Members' Day.

 

At least Bill 1, the bill to create the Independent Appointments Commission to ensure that we move away from the political cronyism of the past; at least the bill is being debated in the debate for legislation in the House of Assembly. For Muskrat Falls, there was no all-party committee. They just went in here and had a three-hour debate and had Private Members' Day and that was all it, more or less. There was no all-party committee for that.

 

There was no all-party committee to create Bill 29 and there was no all-party committee to repeal Bill 29. The issues that attracted the most attention in the previous sitting of the Legislature, almost all of the Members with the exception of the Member for CBS, all those Members were there. I did not hear one time any of them uttering the words all-party committee, not at all. Never heard a single word of that uttered.

 

In the meantime, like I said, for all of the most significant or most of the most significant positions that were to be had for people to fill for public bodies in this province were traded as if they were pieces on a political chessboard. If you did not have affiliation with the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, then you could count out any opportunity that you would have to lead public agencies in this province, and I challenge the Members to go through.

 

You will find the odd person appointed through merit. Certainly there were some; there's no question about. By and large, you go and look especially at the positions with the most significant remuneration involved and they inevitably involve people who ran for the PC leadership, led the PC Party, sat in the PC caucus, were ministers in the PC government, were a president or some other position on the PC provincial executive; or were in some ways connected through the PC Party as somebody who was an activist politically with them on election campaigns; or people who contributed significant sums of money to their past election campaigns. That is what the Members opposite viewed as a merit-based process. That is not a merit-based process. That is a highly politicized way to do political appointments.

 

We made a commitment in the election to stop doing that, and this is the way that we're challenging to do it. If the Members have better ideas, the legislation is here and if we have to stay here till 4 tomorrow morning and debate the amendments they're bringing forward, then that's what we'll do.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I find it a bit interesting getting up and as the hon. Member opposite correctly pointed out, you're right; I wasn't part of the previous administration and some of the decisions.

 

You need to base facts on facts. It's good and it sounds good, and again it's a bit of theatre. The Minister of Education is great on theatre as we've seen in the past. There's something about the camera coming on. He's pretty good in front of a camera, but answering a phone call or an email sometimes can be challenging.

 

MR. KIRBY: That's absolutely not true. How many emails (inaudible)?

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: Mr. Chair, I gave him the respect and listened to him, so I hope he gives it to me in turn.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I would remind the hon. Member that we are debating Bill 1.

 

MR. PETTEN: I realize that, Mr. Chair.

 

You mentioned about appointments that were made by this former government and they're merit based, and some of them, if you weren't a supporter of the party, you never got appointed. I find it interesting when you look at – we have, for instance, former Liberal Cabinet ministers appointed to the Chief Electoral Office. We had someone that headed up the Bill 29 review. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation and Works were on the Nalcor board. We had another former high-profile Liberal who was chair of Nalcor – or, yes, chair of the Nalcor board or Hydro.

 

So I don't think that's accurate. They're obviously not PC members. They were appointed because the government of the day, which was the former government, felt that these people qualified to do the job. So there was some merit gone into it. As for making those comments about you had to be – that's not totally accurate.

 

We can go back to the former previous Liberal administrations, as I said earlier, this has gone on for a long time how these appointments happened to be made. You're moving forward from – 8 o'clock November 30 when the ballots were in and I guess the verdict was in and this government that won power, as my colleague for Mount Pearl North rightly said, this was their signature bill. This was one at the top of the red book of commitments, you taking the policy out of appointments.

 

So from that minute on, this was nothing to do with the former administration, like I said, no matter what stripe you were. On a go-forward basis to this new administration, this was their watershed bill, whatever you want to call it. I think the Member for Mount Pearl said a keystone bill. It was your bill. It was what you had prescribed to; this is what you had told the voters.

 

We've said it many times and I'll repeat it again, it's not that we're opposed to an Independent Appointments Commission, not at all. We do have exceptions to how the bill is presented. Our amendments are addressing our concerns, so we'll see how that translates.

 

When you're on the campaign trail, it always sounds good to bring up stuff that – because this has been an issue. This is not the first time we've mentioned it, as you've heard in the public. There have been criticisms of governments over who you appoint, who gets this job, who gets that job, who's head of this board and who's head of that board.

 

I'd like to think over the years – I'll give the governing party from their former days too. A lot of those appointments are valid appointments. I think it's an unfair characterization to say that if you're not a supporter of either party – as I listed off there, the former government, the PC Party appointed some well-known Liberals. They felt they were very capable and they got the appointments due to some merit.

 

It's kind of unfair to tag someone because they're qualified and they're appointed by a sitting government that they're automatically supporters of that government. No doubt, we don't live in glass houses. I do understand that has happened in the past and that's a reality, but not in its entirety.

 

It sounds great when you're talking to the camera and people are listening. It plays well, I have to say, but let's be fair and compare apples to apples. It's not a fair comparison. There is some truth but it's not all accurate. There are some on both sides. I just think that's worth being clarified.

 

One other thing I note, and I find it kind of amusing sometimes. We're out in our districts talking to constituents all the time about their issues and a lot of people have said over time: What's going on out there? This government seems like they were – everyone knew they were going in power. For the last year-and-a-half everyone had them seen as being the government in waiting, but it seems like they got in and there's no plan.

 

Well, this was in the front of their book. This was one of their centrepieces. It's almost like, it sounds good, it plays well, we'll put it there. All of the sudden, November 30 ballots were counted and you go: Uh-oh, we're in power. That's the first bill we have to deliver on. Let's get something on paper. Let's get it out there. Let's get it on the books, but there was not a lot of thought went into it, Mr. Chair. We've all said that, and my colleagues have said it here today.

 

When you look at the bill, these amendments we're presenting – if anyone across the way wanted to look at these amendments, they're not earth-shattering. Everyone can twist it which way they want, but these amendments are made to make this bill stronger, for the betterment. The intent of this bill is good, but right now the way it looks is there are a lot of loopholes.

 

You bring in an Independent Appointments Commission, how do you go about questioning the commission about its recommendations? They make these recommendations, they send them to the Cabinet room, and as I said when I spoke earlier today, once it leaves any committee or any recommendations in any department and it goes in the Cabinet room, what comes out of the Cabinet room and what goes in sometimes are totally different things. That's what they're elected to do. They're appointed to Cabinet to make those decisions, and a lot of them are tough decisions.

 

When you have officials who are working on – no different than this bill. If you have officials working on stuff, they push it up. They give it to the minister who presents it in the Cabinet room. When it comes back out, it cannot be remotely – other than the name or the number of the bill, or the number of the document, that may be all the same but when it gets around a table of 12, 13 people, things happen to change.

 

Again, it's smoke and mirrors or window dressing, whatever you want to call it. It's a bill that sounds good, looks good but when you pull back the layers it's not what it appears. You are going to have this so-called Independent Appointments Commission that is going to be appointed by government. It's going to sit down, it's going to take recommendations. Fair enough. You can send in a list of people who want to apply. You could send in hundreds or whatever, this commission will then decide who they will recommend; who they think is the best ones. They will send up a list of three.

 

Then government gets up: we don't like any of these people. Kaboom! We don't like it. We're going to pick this person. Then there is no reporting mechanism to tell anyone they changed their mind. That's not the spirit, that's not independent. That's not the spirit of this bill in my opinion. If the government were sincere and wanted to take the politics out of appointments and have an open process, I say I applaud them.

 

I need to go back. I want to go back, because one thing I sit here and I listen to – and we hear it on a daily basis. I'm hearing it again today on Bill 1. It's what you done. It's what this one done. To me that's amateur hour, Mr. Chair.

 

We all know this government opposite are the ones in power as of November 30. We're the previous ones. We done, this government I should say – the previous government done no different than any other government done in generations. This government took it upon themselves to bring out this centrepiece of legislation. They are going to make things different, and I commend them. We all commend them, but don't play those silly games and looking at us and saying how ye done it differently. That's not what the public want to hear. I hear it on emails. They're sick of the blame game.

 

They want this government that was elected to make decisions, and make decisions that make sense. We're meant to be a parliament – we're Opposition, we're supposed to be that opposing voice to say we have amendments. Why don't we try to strengthen this legislation. That is democracy.

 

So pointing the finger across the way I know plays – again, I'll say it plays well publicly. I understand where it's coming from but it's not going to make any bill or any legislation or any matter in this House any stronger if that's what you get up and hear.

 

Again, this was the legislation that was brought in by this government. It's Bill 1, and it's one that they should step up to the plate and honour and bring in amendments, make it a stronger piece of legislation. Do you know what? If they do all that, Mr. Chair, that's something they could probably be proud of. Instead, we have a bill full of loopholes. They need to be stronger. Stand up, tell the people – the people are asking them and we're asking them again. We can treat this like they treat everything else and we can just say we know better than ye. As my colleague for Cape St. Francis – everyone knows better than us. Well, fair enough. If you do, listen to the people.

 

These amendments, I think most people would say they make sense. I encourage government to stand with us or at least talk about our amendments.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's been interesting to see where the debate has gone over the last little while. I thank the Member for Conception Bay South for adding to the debate. I do need to pick up on a couple of the comments that the Education Minister made. He seems a little riled up, so hopefully he'll simmer down a little bit as the evening goes on.

 

He talked about a sunshine list. Mr. Chair, the sunshine list is in the draft Open Government Action Plan. There have been lots of public calls for a sunshine list –

 

CHAIR: I remind the hon. Member that we are speaking to Bill 1.

 

MR. KENT: We are, and the Education Minister referenced it in his comments on Bill 1. I'd encourage government to get on with it and do it, if you're going to reference it in debate here in this House of Assembly.

 

There was also lots of commentary about past presidents of the PC Party, which is really entertaining when it's coming from the past president of the NDP. There is something humorous about that. It's good to have a couple of light moments during a rather serious debate.

 

The debate is not about past appointments or past presidents of parties. The point is here that the Liberals, the current government, promised a non-political process and now they're not delivering on it. It's the latest broken promise by this administration.

 

This legislation is a joke, Mr. Chair. It's severely flawed. We're going to propose a number of amendments to try and make it a little bit better, but it's still flawed. Here we have another example, a sad example of this Liberal government saying one thing and then doing something completely different. That's what we see here in Bill 1. That seems to be the Liberal way of doing things. It's unfortunate. I think people are on to it. They see through it. We do have to stand and challenge that.

 

Let me talk a little bit about some of the issues around openness and accountability as it relates to the bill. We have many concerns about the proposed Appointments Commission and that is why we're advocating for changes today.

 

Just to give you an example, government appointees must swear an oath or make an affirmation to be impartial. So maybe government should make changes to Bill 1 to require the appointments commissioners to swear an oath, or make an affirmation to be impartial. It's a small step, but it's an example of something that can be done to make the bill a little bit better.

 

Bill 1 will require the Appointments Commission, in consultation with the Public Service Commission, to develop a merit-based process to guide them in their work. That means that they're going to have to come up with a definition of merit for the purposes of the act, and a way to measure a merit as well.

 

So maybe government should require, in this legislation, annual reviews to determine the merit principle was actually applied in every case that an appointment was made. And maybe that review should be published in the interest of openness, transparency and accountability. 

 

One major concern that I know people have about this legislation is that Bill 1 allows the Cabinet to ignore the names that are submitted by the Appointments Commission and appoint somebody else in secrecy. So if you're going to ignore the recommended candidates list, I think that is something that should be disclosed. Maybe a change can be made to require Cabinet to make a public disclosure every time the person that they appoint isn't on the list of candidates recommended by the commission.

 

I'm sure we'll hear it said well, there are privacy issues around that. Well, there'd be no need to reveal who the commission recommended, only that Cabinet accepted none of them and made a different appointment.

 

Bill 1 also allows Cabinet to bypass their Appointments Commission whenever circumstances are deemed to be urgent or extenuating. So if they're going to do that, and it's clear that will happen because it's been referenced several times by the Premier and by ministers, would government consider requiring Cabinet to notify the public immediately whenever it bypasses the Appointments Commission to make an appointment in such circumstances?

 

So these are ideas that might make the process a little bit more legitimate and sensible, as opposed to simply saying you're going to do one thing and then doing something completely different.

 

There's going to be a five-year statutory review of this act. I think the results of that review should be publicly released, not just simply gone to Cabinet for consideration, but send it to the Speaker and have the Speaker release it. Bill 1 calls for that review every five years and says that it will be sent to Cabinet. So if you're serious about being open and transparent and impartial and independent, then have that sent to the Speaker of the House for public release instead of to a secret Cabinet review. Those are just examples of things that can be done to make the legislation, potentially, a bit better.

 

In my previous time speaking, I talked about some of the challenges with the bill, as proposed, and how if the gatekeepers themselves are political appointees, then the process is anything but non-partisan.

 

What happens if somebody leaves the commission while the House isn't in session? That is addressed elsewhere in the legislation and we'll get to that during debate, but one concern I have is that Cabinet can appoint a replacement commissioner and then bring that to the House within 10 sitting days of the next sitting of the House. If it is several months before the House sits, months could pass without any disclosure of that.

 

So it is another example of where this legislation is severely flawed because at certain times of the year that could be a very long time. Cabinet could fill a vacancy in June, if the House wasn't open, and not have it confirmed here in the Legislature until November, potentially. Or fill a vacancy at Christmastime and not have it confirmed until probably close to April. These are the kind of issues that exist with this flawed piece of legislation.

 

How are these gatekeepers going to be held to account? Well, if we don't like a Cabinet appointment, we can question the Cabinet ministers today; but, from now on, the Cabinet is simply going to say, well, the commission recommended the person. Therefore, they won't take responsibility.

 

How do we question the commission about its recommendations? It's one step removed from scrutiny and from accountability, but the commission, in theory, could be just as partisan as the Cabinet, since the Cabinet selected the members and used its majority here in the House to hire them. There's a real challenge with that as well. What all that means is that this new process will be less accountable than the process that exists today. I think there's some irony in that.

 

Not every appointment for every entity listed in the act will actually go to the commission for review. I think that needs to be highlighted while we're debating clause 1 here as well. That's really interesting because some of the appointments will sidestep the commission's scrutiny. That is a real concern.

 

A Cabinet minister or Cabinet as a whole can say, well, the situation is urgent or circumstances are extenuating and skip the entire commission process. When will government use that escape clause? Would this be the escape clause that government would have used to justify some of the appointments they've already made?

 

I'm not going to get into names, as some people have done here this afternoon, not at this point during the debate. I'd rather stay focused on the bill and on the intent of this legislation and some of the issues with the legislation. There have been political appointments made already by this administration which needs to be considered as we're going through this debate as well.

 

It will be interesting to see when government chooses to argue that circumstances are urgent or extenuating. Remember that these appointments are for key posts in agencies, commissions and Crown corporations so they're vital, and there's always going to be some urgency around filling them.

 

Let's suppose the government wants to sidestep the commission. They could justify moving ahead and appointing at will, just as governments have done in the past, simply by saying the situation is urgent or extenuating. This is another example of problems we see with this legislation.

 

I see my time is winding down, Mr. Chair. We do have major concerns. We will bring forward amendments that will hopefully improve the situation, but it won't change the fact that this legislation is very flawed and completely inconsistent with the election promise that the Liberals made back in November. Another broken promise by this administration and they're only five months in.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I would move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Madam Speaker returned to the Chair.

 

MADAM SPEAKER (Dempster): Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Madam Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, report received and adopted.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Madam Speaker, number 16 on the Order Paper, I would move that pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m., today, Monday, May 16.

 

Further, number 17 on the Order Paper, I would move pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 10 p.m., today, Monday, May 16.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do not adjourn at 5:30 today, Monday, May 16 and that the House do not adjourn today, Monday, at 10 p.m.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Madam Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Education, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 1.

 

Thank you.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 1.

 

Is it the pleasure of the House that I do now leave the Chair?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, Madam Speaker left the Chair.

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Lane): Order, please!

 

We are debating clause 1 in Bill 1.

 

A bill, “An Act To Establish An Independent Appointments Commission And To Require A Merit-Based Process For Various Appointments.” (Bill 1).

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's indeed an honour to stand in his hon. House and speak to Bill 1, the Independent Appointments Commission Act. Something that I support, I wholeheartedly support the concept. I've gone through the bill and I see a number of good items there and good clauses in it.

 

I do have some challenges around it and, no doubt, over the next number of hours, we'll have some extreme debate around where there are some loopholes there or where there are some nuances that need to be improved on and how we can do this so, at the end of the day, the people in this province are confident that those individuals who get appointed to boards and agencies and get positions in government where they have influence and have a responsible position and a responsible duty to fulfill for the people, will actually be the best people that we could put in place. 

 

I just want to note again for the people who may have joined us a little bit later this evening as they're getting home for their supper hour, the bill would enact an Independent Appointments Commission. I have to give credit. Back when we were gearing ourselves up for the provincial election, back in late October and November, and the Liberal Party had put out their red book, a very inclusive book, it had outlined exactly what they stood for, what their key objectives would be as a government if they won the government, what they would move forward on, and exactly what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would expect under their regime.

 

What I did note, I did see an Independent Appointments Commission. I said, interesting, so I started to read, particularly in the red book. As I read it, I said I like the concept here; I like where they're going with this. I think it's something that's probably been overdue. There is no doubt that my years as a civil servant in various administrations, I've had ministers come to me and say: David, can you get some resumes for this particular committee? Can you have a look at these individuals? We need this filled out. Then you'd submit it to the respective minister, and then you never really knew how the decisions were made because some of the names would be appointed afterwards I hadn't heard about. There would be people who I thought would probably be the seventh or eighth of the three-panel committee that would have been selected, so no real understanding exactly what the merits were, what it was based on.

 

When I went out to recruit people, I went out based on the knowledge I had of people's experience within whatever role it may have been, whatever that particular committee, their expertise, what they'd done in a previous life, their commitment to fulfilling whatever that responsibility may be as an appointee to a commission or a board for government.

 

A little caught off guard by it – and again, this is the Liberal administration, the PC administration. I've had the privilege of referring people and in some cases, a number of cases, the people I referred or had their resumes and had them fill out the appointment notice got selected. So I felt this would be another good step of cleaning that process up, making it more fluent, but particularly, they caught me, they had me when they kept saying, we want to restore openness, transparency and accountability. I felt well, what a great way to do it. This could perhaps be the best act you could put in place that would at least start the whole process of more accountability.

 

We had started it as an administration about openness and accountability. We had done that. We had set up a whole line department that would be responsible for that. We brought in support staff. We worked with agencies outside of government to ensure information was distributed to people in a timely fashion and that the information was relevant to what people were asking.

 

I was in to the point of saying: I'm going to follow this through and see where it goes. So I read a little bit more about what their concept was. I said: Okay, I could support something like that. If they form the government, when we get to a point in the House of Assembly, if I'm fortunate enough to be elected, then I look forward to seeing where they're going with this.

 

Sure enough, obviously, we know the outcome of the election. As we got into it, the Throne Speech came down. At the same time it was noted in the Throne Speech and I said: Good, they're following through. Bill 1, accountability, transparency and openness and a better process, a fairer process, a more inclusive process for selecting those people who are going to represent the needs of the people in this province.

 

So again I said: I'm in. I'm looking forward to debating it. I'm looking forward to supporting it. I'm still looking to supporting it. I will say that unequivocally right now, the concept of Bill 1. I'm looking forward to supporting a number of things that are in the proposed bill by the Liberal government here, but I'm particularly looking at supporting an inclusive, comprehensive bill that has amendments that are being put forward by our party and by the Third Party. I would hope the Members in the Liberal government would see the merits of it and see that it takes what they are proposing and puts it to the next level, where everybody can be happy with what it represents and it will meet their needs. It will particularly fulfill what they said in their red book when they ran.

 

Again, in their Throne Speech – I give credit, the Throne Speech was read out by the Lieutenant Governor and it was again reiterating a commitment to openness and transparency, and the government is committed to that. It would be an Independent Appointments Commission requiring a merit-based process for various appointments.

 

So who could argue with merit-based? Obviously, it's a simple process that outlines, you go to the market, you go the general public, you go to people who have an expertise in a certain area, you bring in as many as possible and you evaluate them based on their merits, their experience, their education, what they worked at previously and what their beliefs are. That would make it much more efficient for how we run things in government. It was never about remuneration or any of these things. It was about people putting their names forward because they wanted to do their part to better serve the people of the province. So I said: This is great. I look forward to it. I can't wait for it to get to the House.

 

We were only here a couple days and, no doubt, Bill 1 is tabled in the House of Assembly and I looked forward to it. I said: Great, I took it. It's one of the more comprehensive bills. It does outline every segment of it and every clause. I went through it. I read it. I took a full day and went through it. I noted some things. There were a number of things there I liked. I thought it went where it needed to go and it fulfilled what they had said. There was a number of things there I thought were grey areas, that were left to interpretation and worried me a little bit, and then there were some things that I said this is about don't do as I do, do as I say. It's not going to where the intent of what they said in the red book, what they said in their Throne Speech and what they were touting when they were first presenting the bill. So I had a few concerns about that.

 

No doubt, us as a caucus – you may notice there was no notice about it here in the last month. We've been discussing this over the last period of time about what kind of amendments should be added. We all agree with the concept of Bill 1. We see the merits of it. So what kind of amendments would be necessary to fulfill what the Liberal Party wanted to do and what we would support? But they had to be the ones that made sense. They had to be the ones that filled the gaps in this particular bill.

 

As the evening goes on and we get into the next number of days, they'll become more evident and we'll have a good debate around that. You'll see the merits and the argument as to why we feel this would enhance Bill 1 and would be something that would be positive.

 

The challenge I had when I went through it was saying we're segregating this group over here – well, they're not important to us. We'll let the commission identify the individual we wanted appointed and then they can just go through the process. The other ones, the ones that have more of a higher level of responsibility or may be responsible for change of policy or driving our economy, we're going to hold them. We're not going to do it just on a merit based, we're going to be able to keep them to ourselves too and we're going to get a set of recommendations. Then we're going to decide who we think, from our perspective, would be the best.

 

Then that's when I started to worry about the transparency. You had me up to that point, the transparency and the accountability. You lost it on that part of it. There are a number of things here that open up the process where you get to a point where it's transparent, it's open, there's a proper fluent flow to it. You'll no doubt be able to acknowledge the best people for any position here and you'd have a better opportunity to serve the people of this province. Then, you have the clause around – no, no, Cabinet.

 

There is no doubt Cabinet has to sign off on any positions. I agree with that. I think that makes sense. Cabinet are the entity that represents the government who are elected to govern. I have no problems with that. But you can't say we're going to have it merit based and you'll ask the commission – and first of all, you're appointing that independent commission itself and I've got some challenges around that, the fairness on how that process works and keeping it non-political.

 

That's the thing that the government stood on. This was going to be non-political. You can't call it non-political if the political people are the ones making the appointment of the first people, who are then going to make the recommendations to the rest of the politicians, who are then going to decide whether or not publicly we tell you who we recommended and who we gave the position to may or may not have been even the group that the appointees put forward to us.

 

So it becomes very confusing. It takes away from the intent of what is potentially a great piece of legislation and could be an earmark for the Liberal government as your primary bill. But to do that, you've got to be open to make sure it's done right. As I said, it's not just about do as I do; it's about do as I say. And at the end of the day, it has to be the fact that the best people will be selected through the fairest process and the most transparent and open concept.

 

The best way to do that is have an open debate about the amendments we're putting forward and then let's move it forward so we get the best people for the best job to serve people. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North. 

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's been a good discussion this afternoon. I don't have a lot more to say about clause 1, so this will perhaps be the last time I'll speak to clause 1 before we move on to other sections of the bill. I've outlined some of the loopholes and the concerns we have generally with the bill. Clause 1 gives us an opportunity in Committee to address some of that.

 

There is a reporting mechanism in the bill, and we'll get to that as we get further into debate. But I'm left wondering what the reporting mechanism actually achieves. So it's hardly going to be a secret if an appointment is made to a senior position. We're going to know about it long before any exemptions are reported in this House. I think we need to strengthen those reporting mechanisms and make sure that when Cabinet makes exceptions to this process that it's disclosed quickly, very quickly, and not just when the House of Assembly is open.

 

I think, as I said the last time I spoke, we'll hear lots about urgent and extenuating circumstances. So we just want to make the process better.

 

There's another way the Cabinet can make exceptions to the independent appointments process. The act includes a list, a schedule, of those entities to which the process applies, but it says that –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Later we'll talk about a provision in the bill where Cabinet can amend that schedule whenever it wants when the House isn't sitting. Cabinet can remove an entity from the list and that entity will remain removed until the end of the next sitting. So that's a concern. It's another huge loophole that we feel we need to try and address.

 

I also am left wondering whether these gatekeepers that will be appointed have any real power. We've seen several ways the government can sidestep the commission's process for appointments, but what about the matters that the gatekeepers actually do see? How much power will they actually have? 

 

As I went through the bill, much like my colleague for Conception Bay East – Bell Island did, I noted that there are some concerns in that regard as well because a Cabinet minister or the Cabinet itself will have the unfettered authority to appoint people at their own discretion, which is a real challenge. If you say you're going to have an Independent Appointments Commission, yet Cabinet and ministers can simply continue to appoint whoever they wish, then it's just smoke and mirrors. It makes the whole process essentially meaningless.

 

The Cabinet or a minister can ignore completely and continue to do things the way they've traditionally been done. Does that meet the higher standard that the Liberals have set? It definitely doesn't, Mr. Chair.

 

We've seen already as we've gone through this bill, and now I presume shortly we'll go through in detail clause by clause, this new commission has no teeth. Even when it's asked to make a decision, and there will be times when Cabinet will say there is urgent or extenuating circumstances to bypass the process, there's some real concern about the Independent Appointments Commission's ability to do anything. 

 

Now the bill also amends the Public Service Commission Act to give them a role in this process. We'll talk about that later. So I won't get into that now, but there's an escape clause there as well. That is a real concern. It has to be a real concern for all of us.

 

Mr. Chair, I just want to touch on the cost issue as well. It has been said at some point this afternoon that a commissioner won't be remunerated for their duties under the act but they'll be reimbursed for their expenses in accordance with Treasury Board guidelines. So I just want to highlight that there will be other costs associated with administering this commission. While government says there won't be, I just find that hard to believe given the amount of work we are potentially talking about.

 

As I conclude my comments on clause 1, this process will be a way of gathering resumes from people. No doubt about it, but will the recommendations of the commission place any sort of obligation or expectation on Cabinet? No. That is one of the fundamental problems with Bill 1. It would be better to call this an advisory board or a review board rather than an Independent Appointments Commission because it isn't independent and it can't make appointments.

 

It's not an independent process for making appointments. It's a process for sometimes submitting names and non-binding recommendations to Cabinet and the Cabinet will retain sole authority for making appointments at its own discretion. So nothing is changing, Mr. Chair.

 

There's a section of the bill that makes it clear the limitations of this process. The commission is an independent, non-partisan body whose mandate is to provide non-binding recommendations.

 

As I conclude my comments here on clause 1, the question that needs to be asked: Does this meet the test of the promise in the 2015 red book? Does this bill take the politics out of government appointments by making sure the most qualified person gets the job? Absolutely not, Mr. Chair, it makes sure of nothing. It takes the politics out of nothing. It changes nothing.

 

That's where it fails because it's simply not good enough for this new administration to say they're going to change things and then change nothing. They raised expectations in their red book, and with this bill they raised expectations even further and said things would be different. By being no different, this initiative fails. The bill is flawed. The Independent Appointments Commission is just such a flawed concept based on what's outlined here in this bill.

 

I look forward to bringing forward amendments that will hopefully make it a bit better. I still believe the whole thing should be referred to a committee for further work, so hopefully we could come back to the House with a piece of legislation that actually made sense.

 

I thank you for listening, Mr. Chair. It's been helpful to listen to the clause 1 debate. I look forward to continuing to debate the bill as it progresses through Committee.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clause 1 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 2.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

We're now debating clause 2 of Bill 1. Clause 2 defines certain terms in the bill. While we debate clause 2, we will be introducing an amendment to paragraph (c) of clause 2 which defines the merit-based process. Having a process that's merit based makes really good sense.

 

We're going to be proposing this amendment – and I'm providing a little bit of background so that people will have an appreciation of the amendment that we're going to bring forward and why we're bringing it forward. We're actually going to propose an amendment here because of a separate amendment that we intend to bring to subclause 6(3) in a few minutes. Let me briefly explain why.

 

Paragraph (c) here defines the merit-based process as, “a process established by the commission in consultation with the Public Service Commission for the purpose of executing their respective duties under this Act.” So that's good. That sounds good, Mr. Chair.

 

Our amendment will add the following words after “Act,” and here's what we're thinking: “and also includes any process the Public Service Commission uses to recommend members of the commission.”

 

Then the amended paragraph (c) would read: “merit-based process” means a process established by the commission in consultation with the Public Service Commission for the purpose of executing their respective duties under this Act and also includes any process the Public Service Commission uses to recommend members of the commission.

 

Why do we need this? Well, because when we get to subclause 6(3) we'll be proposing the very first Independent Appointments Commission should also be appointed through a merit-based process. Obviously, the Independent Appointments Commission cannot define that process because it won't yet exist.

 

The amendment that I'm about to propose allows for two merit-based processes. One, that the commission defines with the Public Service Commission for future appointments, and one for the very first Independent Appointments Commission.

 

Mr. Chair, this is my first time proposing an amendment in the House so I may need some guidance from the Table, but let's give it a whirl.

 

I'm proposing an amendment to clause 2, paragraph (c) here in Committee of the Whole. I'm moving this amendment, seconded by the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

The bill is amended at paragraph (c) of clause 2 by adding immediately after the word “Act” the words “and also includes any process the Public Service Commission uses to recommend members of the commission.”

 

Again, Mr. Chair, I submit this amendment, moved by me, as the Member for Mount Pearl North, and seconded by the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

CHAIR: The Chair will take a brief recess to consider the Member's amendment.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair has considered the proposed amendment. According to O'Brien and Bosc, page 768, it states: “Moreover, an amendment is out of order if it refers to, or is not intelligible without, subsequent amendments ….” Based on that, the Chair rules that the amendment is out of order.

 

Seeing no further speakers to clause 2, shall clause 2 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

On motion, clause 2 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 3.

 

CHAIR: According to what I have here, the next clause that the Opposition had raised some concerns about was clause 6, so we'll go clauses 3 to 5 inclusive.

 

CLERK: Clauses 3 to 5 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 3 to 5 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 3 through 5 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 6.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 6 carry?

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm happy to stand again and speak to this bill and speak especially to clause 6. Clause 6 is an important clause because it talks about the commission and the way in which the commission is established. There are eight sections to the clause. Most of them I agree with. I will be speaking to one that I will want to make a change to but before bringing forth the amendment, I'd like to make some comments.

 

I know some of my colleagues have said this before, but I think it's important for me to say it again because it is going to be the main point of the amendment I make. Section 6(2) says: “The commission is an independent, non-partisan body –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. MICHAEL: – whose mandate is to provide non-binding recommendations respecting appointments to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or the minister, as appropriate, following a merit-based process.” And “The commission shall consist of 5 members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on resolution of the House of Assembly.”

 

The first thing that struck me when I read that section, when we were reading the act was, well, this is sort of like a chicken and an egg thing. We're talking about the commission, but where does the commission come from? That became the question for me: Where does the commission come from? As I started probing that, I realized a major weakness in the bill and that was that the commission, from its outset, was a commission that was actually put in place by a partisan process. It was put in place by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, so by government.

 

When I looked at that I said, well, this is a real problem. Because if you have a commission that's put in place by government without even any consultation – and there isn't any consultation. When you read section 6 and read through it, it doesn't say there will be consultation, there'll be meetings or be anything. It is just Lieutenant Governor in Council shall be the one who shall put the commission in place. The Lieutenant Governor and Council shall designate one of the members of the commission to be chairperson.

 

Now, I don't mind the Lieutenant Governor in Council appointing the chairperson, if the whole commission had been put together by a non-partisan process. But it is not put together by a non-partisan process. This is one of the weaknesses of the bill itself.

 

The bill clearly stipulates in section 5 and section 23 that Cabinet or a minister's power to appoint is in no way affected by anything in this bill. That happens a number of times through the bill. In actual fact, I don't have a problem with that either because when it comes to the ultimate decision, an actual appointment, it really is government's responsibility to do the final appointment. That's a fact. That is a responsibility of government when it comes to the kinds of positions that this bill is covering, when it comes to putting people in key positions in governmental agencies, et cetera. It is government's responsibility. There's no doubt about that.

 

So that's why in sections 5 and 23 it actually says – I'll get section 5 and read it because I think it's important. Section 5 starts off talking about the appointments. It says: “Notwithstanding another provision of this Act, the requirement to consider a recommendation under section 4” – that's recommendations that come from the commission – “shall in no way affect, alter or fetter the discretion of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or the minister to exercise an authority to appoint a person under the applicable Act or another authority.”

 

That's fine. I have no problem with it because it is government's responsibility. All the more reason for making sure that the way in which the commission is put in place is completely non-partisan. All the more reason for making sure the body that makes recommendations to council, to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, is not a partial body, it's not a body which had been hand-picked by one group, in this case the government.

 

If I want to have a feeling of security that the recommendations that are going to be made to government are recommendations that are non-partisan and recommendations that are free of bias, then I'm going to want a commission that doesn't have a sense of obligation to the governing body who appointed it. I think that is really basic.

 

Making the appointment system of the commission non-partisan becomes extremely important in this whole process. Having the commission itself appointed by government is enough to make me say, I don't know if I can vote for this act. I haven't got a decision made yet. I want to go through the process. I want to go through the amendments. I want to see if government is going to listen.

 

The whole process, because of that, is flawed right from the beginning because it isn't the commission, number one, making appointments. That's number one, but I understand why the government ultimately has to be able to say no, but I don't understand government saying the commission should be set up the way that it's being set up.

 

It's for that reason that I make the following amendment, Mr. Chair. I would like to see subclause 6(3) of the bill amended by adding immediately after the word “members” the words “selected by an all-party committee of the House of Assembly and”.

 

That means we would end up with section 6(3) reading: The commission shall consist of five members selected by an all-party committee of the House of Assembly and appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on resolution of the House of Assembly. I have copies of this amendment for the Table.

 

CHAIR: We will take another brief recess to consider the amendment.

  


May 16, 2016                  HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                  Vol. XLVIII No. 28A


 

The House resumed at 7 p.m.

 

CHAIR (Lane): Order, please!

 

The Chair has considered the proposed amendment and according to O'Brien and Bosc, page 768, it states, “…an amendment is out of order if it refers to, or is not intelligible without, subsequent amendments ….” Based on that, the Chair rules that the amendment is out of order.

 

Seeing no further speakers to clause 2, shall clause 2 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clause 2 carried.

 

CLERK (Ms. Barnes): Clause 3.

 

CHAIR: According to what I have here, the next clause that the Opposition had raised some concerns with was clause 6, so we'll go to clauses 3 to 5 inclusive.

 

CLERK: Clauses 3 to 5 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 3 to 5 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 3 through 5 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 6.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 6 carry?

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm happy to stand again and speak to this bill, and speak especially to clause 6. Clause 6 is an important clause because it talks about the commission and the way in which the commission is established. There are eight sections to the clause, and most of them I agree with. I will be speaking to one that I will want to make a change to, but before bringing forth the amendment I'd like to make some comments.

 

I know some of my colleagues have said this before, but I think it's important for me to say it again, because it's going to be the main point of the amendment I make. Section 6(2) says: “The commission is an independent, non-partisan body –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. MICHAEL: – whose mandate is to provide non-binding recommendations respecting appointments to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or the minister, as appropriate, following a merit-based process.

 

“(3) The commission shall consist of 5 members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on resolution of the House of Assembly.”

 

The first thing that struck me when I read that section when we were reading the act was, well, this is sort of like a chicken and an egg thing. We're talking about the commission, but where does the commission come from? That became the question for me: Where does the commission come from? As I started probing that, I realized a major weakness in the bill. That was that the commission, from its outset, was a commission that was actually put in place by a partisan process. It was put in place by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, so by government.

 

So when I looked at that I said, well, this is a real problem, because if you have a commission that's put in place by government without even any consultation – and there isn't any consultation. When you read section 6 and read through it, it doesn't say there'll be consultation, there will be meetings, there'll be anything; it's just Lieutenant Governor in Council shall be the one who shall put the commission in place and the Lieutenant Governor in Council shall designate one of the members of the commission to be chairperson.

 

Now, I don't mind the Lieutenant Governor in Council appointing the chairperson if the whole commission had been put together by a non-partisan process. But it is not put together by a non-partisan process. This is one of the weaknesses of the bill itself.

 

The bill clearly stipulates in section 5 and section 23 that Cabinet or a minister's power to appoint is in no way affected by anything in this bill. That happens a number of times through the bill. In actual fact, I don't have a problem with that either, because when it comes to the ultimate decision, an actual appointment, it really is government's responsibility to do the final appointment. That's a fact. That is a responsibility of government when it comes to the kinds of positions that this bill is covering, when it comes to putting people in key positions, in governmental agencies, et cetera. It is government's responsibility. There is no doubt about that.

 

That's why in sections 5 and 23 it actually says – and I'll get section 5 and read it because I think it's important. Section 5 starts off talking about the appointments. It says, “Notwithstanding another provision of this Act, the requirement to consider a recommendation under section 4” – that's recommendations that come from the commission – “shall in no way affect, alter or fetter the discretion of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or the minister to exercise an authority to appoint a person under the applicable Act or another authority.”

 

Now, that's fine. I have no problem with it because it is government's responsibility. All the more reason for making sure the way in which the commission is put in place is completely non-partisan. All the more reason for making sure the body that makes recommendations to council, to Lieutenant Governor in Council, that the body that makes recommendations is not a partial body. It's not a body which has been hand-picked by one group, in this case the government.

 

If I want to have a feeling of security that the recommendations that are going to be made to government are recommendations that are non-partisan and recommendations that are free of bias, then I'm going to want a commission that doesn't have a sense of obligation to the governing body who appointed it. I think that is really basic.

 

Making the appointment system of the commission non-partisan becomes extremely important in this whole process. Having the commission itself appointed by government is enough to make me say, I don't know if I can vote for this act. I haven't got a decision made yet. I want to go through the process. I want to go through the amendments. I want to see if government is going to listen, but the whole process because of that is flawed right from the beginning because it isn't the commission, number one, making appointments. That's number one, but I understand why the government ultimately has to be able to say no, but I don't understand government saying the commission should be set up the way that it's being set up.

 

It's for that reason that I make the following amendment, Mr. Chair. I would like to see subclause 6(3) of the bill amended by adding immediately after the word “members” the words “selected by an all-party committee of the House of Assembly and.” That means we would end up with section 6(3) reading: The commission shall consist of five members selected by an all-party committee of the House of Assembly and appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on resolution of the House of Assembly.

 

I have copies of this amendment for the Table.

 

CHAIR: We'll take another brief recess to consider the amendment.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair has considered the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for the District of St. John's East – Quidi Vidi and rules that the amendment is in order.

 

Now speaking to the amendment, the Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East – Quidi Vidi. 

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm really appreciative of the ruling because I think what the amendment does is makes the action that is being described here under section 6 something that looks like was the intent of the government. The government said it wanted this process to show that it was open and transparent, and that the appointments would not be political and that the process would be non-partisan. I may be putting some of my words in there.

 

But the meaning we've heard from government, certainly when they had the whole notion of an independent committee in their platform – again, I said this earlier today, but I'll repeat it – that the whole thing they wanted was the creation of a commission to take politics out of government appointments. And I think what we are doing with this amendment is helping government to make sure that process is in place, that it will take the politics out of government.

 

Because if an all-party committee has to sit, work together and come up with five people whom they all can agree upon, then I think that we have a real possibility of a non-partisan group of people working together, coming up with a group of people who are accountable to the whole House of Assembly and, therefore, to the people of the province.

 

It still is in government's hands to accept or reject those nominations; it always is. But I think that we can be more certain that what would come before government would be something that they could accept because government would have been part of the all-party discussion.

 

What we have going on right now, for example, in our All-Party Committee on the Northern Shrimp I think is a real good example of that. We've come together on a number of occasions now because we have to make a presentation to the ministerial advisory committee, the federal committee. As an all-party committee we sit and we put all of our thoughts out on the table. We look at them from different angles. We all have the same facts to deal with. We all have the same information. We really do have very, very good discussions as we're trying to come to an agreement on what the final presentation to the ministerial advisory committee will be.

 

It's an excellent example of what all-party committees can do, that we're all there with a common purpose. That's what we did; we came to a common agreement of what the ultimate goal of the committee was. Then we had to fine-tune, okay, there are some details around this, how do we get at it. We're still working. We still have a couple of more days to make our final decisions, but it's a real process that I think all of us who are taking part in are very, very pleased with.

 

That's what would happen with an all-party committee putting a commission together like this. We would all have a common goal. We would all want a group of people who would have, I think, the experience, the expertise, the knowledge of the province that would help them in their process of being involved in the choosing of people they would recommend for the different positions that government is putting them in place for.

 

I think it would give the people of the province a real sense of honesty on the part of government, that when they would see a commission that was put together, not because a phone call was made the night before by government, say, to me as a House Leader we're appointing so and so tomorrow, which is what happens now, that's what happens – that's not consultation, but an all-party committee that would sit and merely put their efforts into coming up with the best possible people that they could think of together as a group.

 

I certainly would think that none of us would be surprised by what we could come up with. As all-party committees we all ourselves have a variety of experiences and a variety of networks that we're part of and a variety of knowledge just as people who sit in this House. Put us around a table and I think maybe we might surprise ourselves by the names that would come out if we did this, if we were to make this part of the legislation.

 

I'd really implore the government side of the House to really look at what this does for them. It shows how committed they are to a non-partisan process, how committed they are to taking the politics out of the appointments of people in key positions. This would show they really mean it.

 

It still wouldn't take power out of government's hands to make a final appointment. Government would be the ones making the appointment of the five. It would still be in their hands. We wouldn't be changing anything in the legislation that says government doesn't have that ultimate responsibility, because it does have that ultimate responsibility. But I think it would really show the openness of government.

 

We have had some commissions that have been set up in the province for different reasons, but commissions set up with people sitting on the commission who had a variety of political positions. One of the ones that come to my mind was the one that was set up to look at Newfoundland and Labrador's place in Confederation. I can't remember everybody who was on it; I remember Elizabeth Davis was on it. There were three of them and I should be able to remember the others, but I can't. They definitely weren't three people who had the same political positions. They had a variety of experiences; there were just the three of them.

 

I think they showed how government can put in place a committee or a commission or a panel that is above political persuasion when it comes to government putting the group together. I think an all-party committee putting this commission together would definitely be that. An all-party committee would definitely be wanting to have the best people on – I know I would. If I were involved in an all-party committee that was putting this commission together, I really would want the best people we can come up with to make sure that then, in doing the search, with the help of the Public Service Commission, we would have people who would have broad experience in knowing what it is you want in the positions that government is filling. So we all would want the same thing.

 

The thing is if we set up an all-party committee – we don't often look at our Standing Orders but our Standing Orders have clear guidelines for committees, whether they're standing committees or select committees. My amendment doesn't say what kind of an all-party committee it is. Actually, under our Standing Orders it probably would be a select committee. It wouldn't be a standing committee because they're very well defined, but the select committee is a committee that can be set up at various times and have time limits to it as this does. It wouldn't be a standing committee of the House; it would be a select committee.

 

The rules for the select committee are very, very straightforward. It even talks about what constitutes a quorum. It talks about what expenses get paid, which this legislation does too. What's in the standing committee says exactly the same thing.

 

The thing about a standing committee, or a select committee – standing committees would be the same – but standing or select committees can call witnesses. For example, the committee when it's put in place, the all-party committee that's going to make recommendations re the commission, the committee could reach out to people and say we are welcoming suggestions of people that we can then look at to be on the commission. That would be a further step in openness, consultation and democracy in the whole process.

 

For me, we are very serious about this amendment. We mean it very seriously. We honestly believe it is the thing to do. There's only one other clause that we're going to bring an amendment forward on and they're both amendments that we very strongly feel belong in the act.

 

So I really encourage the Members of the government side of the House, I think we do have the support of the Official Opposition, but I really encourage the government side of the House to understand how it benefits them, even in their image with the people, how it benefits them to agree with the amendment I've brought forth.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service NL.

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm just going to spend a few minutes to speak about the amendment that was just made by the Third Party.

 

Mr. Chair, this bill was brought forth to try to put some independence and bring the best people forward possible. I'm not going to get into any political debate here about what happened in the past. I'm just going to talk about the bill itself.

 

I've been in this Legislature for many years, Mr. Chair. I've seen a lot of people come and go. I've seen a lot of people appointed over the years. In my opinion there is no better way to have an open and accountable procedure than to have it here in the Legislature.

 

Mr. Chair, part of this bill, and this is the part that I guess people just don't want to understand or don't feel it's the right way to do it, is when we bring forward the names for an independent committee, they've got to be voted in this House of Assembly. So the names that are going to be brought forward for this committee are going to be laid on the table in front of you. Every person in this House has an opportunity to say aye or nay to that person if they feel they're not qualified or are going to show some bias.

 

Every person in this House is going to be able to stand in the House, look at that person, Mr. Chair, question in this House about if this person is qualified or if this person should be on the committee. That's what we're elected for. This is not, as the Third Party is suggesting, that we're just going to go off and appoint and no one know who is going to be on this committee. That is just not true.

 

What's going to happen, we're going to appoint a committee. The committee's going to be debated in this Legislature. The people who elected all of us in this House of Assembly will have an opportunity, have a fair opportunity, Mr. Chair, to stand on their feet, and if they don't feel there is someone qualified or if someone is too political, or they just feel that someone shouldn't be on it, they have the opportunity to do it.

 

Now, Mr. Chair, all-party committee. Sure, we had an all-party committee on the fisheries. I was part of one back years ago. How many people really feel that once an all-party committee starts you're going to have dissenting views on a regular basis? Because this one, you don't like this one or you don't like that one.

 

What the Third Party said, government's going to have the final say anyway. If she really believes that rationale that government's going to have the final say, I'll ask one question. If government's going to have the final say isn't it better to walk in with the five names, lay them on the table and say here are the five names, now let's debate those people so everybody in this whole House can have an opportunity to debate the names?

 

Before those names are even presented they're almost saying no, they're going to be so political; no, they shouldn't be there, they'll have a partisan view. That's just absolutely wrong. If we take it and pass it off to an all-party committee we're abdicating our responsibilities. If we're going to go into Bill 1, before the five names are even put forward, we're saying no, they're going to be too political.

 

Mr. Chair, this is why this Legislature is here. Any Opposition – the same thing on the government side, Mr. Chair. If we feel we have a problem with anything we could stand up on our own two feet, we could look those people in the eyeballs and say, listen, we don't feel you're qualified to be on this committee. We don't feel you're going to observe your responsibilities properly and we don't feel you're going to carry out your duties. That's what we're going to tell them. That's exactly what we'll tell them.

 

I know the Members opposite brought up something about once the committee selects people, how it's done. Look, that's all fair game. I understand all of that. There may be some changes to it; there may not be some changes to it. I understand that process, but to stand in this Legislature as parliamentarians and say we should not look at and vote for those people, and if we need to at the time, to look at their qualifications and say aye or nay, stand up in Division and vote for it so everybody can stand up and say, yes, I agree with this one; I agree or I don't. Mr. Chair, we are abdicating our responsibilities. We are not standing up as parliamentarians.

 

I know the Third Party, and I'll say it again, she said it many times, Mr. Chair, government will have the final say. We're going to have an all-party committee –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: I agree with you. You said it. So why not bring the names forward in the House of Assembly so all of us could debate the names? Why can't we do that, Mr. Chair? Why can't we do that? What's wrong with taking the five names coming up and laying them there? We're going to have the final say anyway, but we're giving everybody an opportunity to debate the names and look at their resumes and say, these people, here we are. Then with an all-party committee we have to come forward with the results of an all-party committee. We have to come forward.

 

Mr. Chair, I'll ask you a question. I'll ask anybody in this House a question. What happened at some of the meetings we had in Marystown with the all-party committee on FPI? No one knows. All you know is what we came through with the recommendations. So what's going to happen with the all-party committee? You wanted to be so open. The all-party committee is going to get together, decide on some names and say, okay, here are the names coming forward. Okay. Now, what are we going to do then?

 

What better way than have an open, accountable procedure that lays the names on the table and say let's everybody debate it, anybody who wants to debate it – nothing hidden.

 

Madam Chair, we did this before with people in the gallery. The former government wanted a committee. I'm not here to play politics with it. I'm not going to bring it up. I'm definitely not. But if you agree with it or don't agree with it, it's the way to go. You can look the person in the eyeballs and say you are not qualified and here is the reason why I don't think you're qualified, or you're too political and here's the reasons why. But before even those five names are selected, here we are told that they are going to be too political and we shouldn't have them here.

 

Mr. Speaker, put names forward to go on the committee, if you feel that strong about it. I look at some of the other all-party committees that were in this House –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Madam Chair.

 

MR. JOYCE: Pardon me?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Madam Chair.

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Chair, yes.

 

I look at some of the all-party committees, what we get in that, we get the end result. So we don't get this open in the House of Assembly where everybody in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador can see the debate. Everybody in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will see the names put on the table. Everybody can see who said what. That's open. That's accountable. That's what you're asking for. This is what we're giving as a government.

 

So I say to the Third Party, I know your amendment was approved by the Table, but I can tell you I want it to be open. I want it to be accountable. Madam Chair, I can tell you one thing, when I want something open and accountable, I want to be able to stand on my two feet, whoever is looking – and I know the Members opposite feel the same way because you've done it many times. Stand on your two feet in here and speak about who's on the committee and say aye or nay who is on the committee so that everybody in the province will say, okay, you disagree, you agree, you agree and we can play it right out for all the people of the province to see.

 

An all-party committee, we'll see what came up in the recommendations. If you don't know who said what, when they said it, this is the place – this is the people's forum. This is the people's forum of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is why we're elected.

 

If, for some reason, we were taking the names and saying, okay, we're not going to tell you who is on the committee, we're going to hide that from everybody, who is on the committee, who is going to make the selection, we're not to even release the names of who is on the committee, I can see a big uproar. I honestly could.

 

How can you argue with taking the names and laying them in the House of Assembly and say here's the names – this is before the committee even starts, here's the names, do you agree or disagree with these names? Without even seeing the names, everybody disagrees. Everybody disagrees with the names.

 

I hear the Third Party over there heckling. But that's the difference, Madam Chair, I listen. I listen very intently. The minute I say something that I disagree with, you're heckling. Just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I'm wrong. That doesn't mean I'm wrong. It's just not fair. I'm giving what I feel. If I'm going to say something – and here she is going again. I'm sorry, I'm sure everything you got to say has to be perfect, because anyone who disagrees, they're wrong. I'm sorry, Madam Chair. This is the same Member who promised not to heckle, yet now everything she does and says is right.

 

Anyway, I want to stand on my own two feet, I want to stand so people can look at me and say here's how I voted for the independent committee, the five people. I'm willing to do it and I'm sure all Members opposite are willing to do it also.

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member his time is expired.

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Madam Chair, again, to get up after the hon. Member – and he made some good points that time, but I think what we're doing here is basically a difference of opinion. We're all entitled to our opinion. That's something about this great country that we live in. If you got an opinion, you can get up and express it, just like that hon. Member did that time.

 

I see it a little different than what he sees it. He thinks that the government should come in with five names, lay them on the table, and say, okay, these are the five names that we selected and these are the people we want on the commission now. Being the ruling party, no matter what we do on this side, we have absolutely no say in who those commissioners are or who those people are on the commission. So your party will come in and you'll say, okay, these are the five people that are on this commission. We'll have absolutely no say in it; the NDP will have no say in it at all.

 

All an all-party committee is going to do – I may have somebody that would be great on the commission that you didn't think of. Again, I mentioned it earlier today, every committee that I ever served on, I always liked to see youth on it because they bring a different perspective than what other people have. Madam Chair, that's all the all-party committee will do.

 

At the end of the day, you'll decide who the commissioners are. The Opposition and the Third Party, we'll have our say, but we're nowhere in line to who will be on this commission, because you're the people, you've got the majority vote in the House of Assembly, and you'll carry it. But what's wrong with hearing our opinion before you put it on the table?

 

All they're asking in this amendment is to set up a committee – and we'll give you names, and the Third Party will give you names, and maybe you'll look at it and say, wow, there's a person that should be on that committee. That would be a great person for that committee because it will bring a different perspective. But no, you're saying, no, no, no, no, we're going to come down with five names, we're going to lay them on the table, and we're going to let you debate and we'll say, b'y, I don't like that fellow, don't like this fellow. We are bringing people's names out that are volunteers basically, because they're not really getting paid to do anything. These people are going to be people that are going to be scrutinized by us in here in the House of Assembly.

 

Rather than have a committee, a committee that the Third Party and the Opposition and government met, looked at the five said, okay, these are the candidates we agree with to go forth. At the end of the day, even at Committee stage government has the authority to overrule what the other people want, but at least you'll get a say. That's what the people of the province want.

 

They want people to be able to look at this and say it's non-political. There's no way it's non-political if Cabinet says, okay, we've selected five people – how is that taking politics out, I don't know – and we're going to put the five people here. We know how government works; everybody knows how government works. At the end of the day, every Member over there will stand in their place and support their government.

 

I have no doubt in my mind that will happen, unless it's circumstances that one person really feels that they have to do it and they'll sit down, and I don't think that will happen on something like this because it will be a recommendation from Cabinet and it will be done.

 

Why not go the route where other parties will have an opportunity to put names forward too and we decide on the five best people? At the end of the day, it's all about the best legislation, and the best legislation will be what everybody can have a part in it. That's all this is about, is making sure the proper people get appointed. Like I said, there may be a person that we recommend or there may be a person the Third Party recommends that you'll agree to, and that's a good thing. That will be a real good thing; it will be good for democracy. It will be good for the House of Assembly; it will be good for our province.

 

That's all I have to say.

 

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you.

 

Madam Chair, I'm just going to stand for one second. I understand what the Member is saying. This is a valid point. It's a great discussion. Some of the things you brought forward are any position, once those five people are appointed – I just want to make this clear – we should at least look and see who these five people are. Once we find out who these five people are then if we disagree, then we can speak in the House of Assembly.

 

The second part of it that was brought up very briefly is that once an appointment needs to be made, it's going to be advertised. The appointment for any position that's under this tier one will be advertised, so it's not that I, as a Member of the Legislature, not that anybody in this House got to go out and say let's go find people. It will be advertised.

 

Once it's advertised, then it goes through a screening process. Once the screening process takes place – there is process through the Public Service Commission and then down through the committee that will then look at the applicants, screen the applicants, and then however they decide that we're going to interview five, 10, 15, however they decide, that is how it's going to be done.

 

So this idea that, okay, we have an all-party committee set up here, we'll set up an all-party committee – oh jeepers, I might know someone who'll be good for this position. That's not the way it's working. Once the five people are set up, Madam Chair, and there's a position comes up, whatever the position may be – I know in tier one there's a variety of numbers under tier one, Madam Chair. I'm not sure of the exact number.

 

Every position that is going to go to this commission will be advertised. So people are getting the impression that because we're going to set up an all-party committee here in this Legislature, and because the Third Party may know a few names, or someone in the Opposition may have a few names, or one or two friends over here in the government is going to have a few names, and collectively we could come up with six or seven names, that's not even on. It's going to be publicly advertised. Anybody in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador who wants to find out what positions are available, what matches their qualifications, they will know and they will have the opportunity to apply.

 

I have no problem with having an open debate. I have no problem having the discussion about this because it is a serious issue and we are trying to make it much better. This will be much, much, much better than it ever was before, Madam Chair. There may be times – it's like any bill we bring in this Legislature, every day that we're in this Legislature, every minister in this House, and the former government also, we have to go and check our legislation to come in and bring legislation forth because things get outdated. That's part of it. Things may change. They may find a better way. That's part of the process of this government. This may happen with this bill, but this is where we're starting from.

 

So for anybody to get the impression that because you're on an all-party committee, that we may be able to get some different names from different parties, that just shows me, Madam Chair, the partisanship of it all. Well, we have a few friends over here with the Third Party, so we can bring them forth and we got a few friends too – this is not being political in any group; this is just the way politics works. I understand, but what we're offering up, instead of having this little bit of turf, we know three or four people, we know three or four, we're offering it up to everybody in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to say if you feel you're qualified, put in your application. We'll accept it.

 

I have to ensure that it's properly put forth that because it's an all-party committee that we can bring names forth – it makes no difference, Madam Chair, who's on that committee. The committee is there to select the best candidate. The committee's job is not to go out and find people and people they may know; the committee is to say, here are the people that are coming forth with us. There is a screening process in place to ensure that we have a certain number of candidates. Once we have a certain number of candidates who are qualified, then the process for that committee is to find the best candidate in that group. That is the process.

 

If people got the idea with the all-party committee, that's fine. I can understand that. I can definitely relate to that, why some people want to bring that forward. I've got no problem with that. But we have to make sure that when we're speaking in this House that we speak and ensure that the policy and the procedures, once the committee is set, how it works after. Because I don't want to leave anybody with the impression that the committee is going to go out and try to find names, and if we do set up an all-party committee, that they're going to go out and find some people.

 

It's going to be publicly advertised, unlike before. It's going to be a public process, whereby people have to go through an interview – which wasn't done before – and then they're going to come down to the independent committee who is going to end up making the selection and making the recommendations to Cabinet. That wasn't done before.

 

This process is much better than what it was before. It's much more open and accountable. Like I said earlier, Madam Chair, and some people may like it, some people may not like it, but when I have something to say in this Legislature, I have no problem standing on my own two feet and saying, here's why I think it's right, here's why I think it's wrong, here are the good points, here are the bad points. There's no better than having 40 people in this Legislature to stand and say, here's the reason why, black and white, stand on your own two feet as a Member, as we're all elected to do, and give the reasons why.

 

There's no better open process, in my opinion, instead of taking our responsibility as Members and passing them off to a committee and saying, okay, we don't feel now, the 40 of you, that you guys can make the right decision. It was already said by both parties – both parties – government's going to have the final say. If you're going to have the final say, why have it out into a room with five people on the committee to decide who's going to come forth? I'd rather for all of us to stand up here in this Legislature, every Member in this Legislature standing up and saying I want to be able to say aye or nay, I want to say why this person is qualified, why this person is not for the appointment of this independent committee. There's no better process, there's no better openness, there's no better accountability than to stand on your own two feet and defend your words and defending your actions.

 

Madam Chair, I think that's what democracy is all about. Once that independent committee is done, everybody in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador can start saying what positions are open to make this province a better place. I am sure that every Member in this Legislature, and I'm sure every person in government – well, I shouldn't say that. Every person on this side, for sure, wants to ensure we get the best possible person in the position. That's why it's going to be open. That's why everybody in the province is going to know how to apply. Every person in this province who feels they're qualified for a position will have the opportunity to apply. That is why we'll be asking the best talent in Newfoundland and Labrador to come forward to help us.

 

Madam Chair, I'm proud to stand with this government, and I'm sure all Members in this House – I know we all stood on many occasions in this House – will stand in this House and say aye or nay about the independent committee, who they are and explain the virtues of why these people are selected in such a way. Instead of standing up before we even know who the people are, stand up and say no, we don't even agree with you because you might be too impartial or you may be a bit biased. Without even knowing the names, without it being brought forth, right away politics has stepped in.

 

Once you get the names, then if you want to stand up – the co-leader of the Third Party has started again. Once again, if you don't agree with the Member, all of a sudden you're wrong. Your ideas are no good. I can't stand and express my views because they may be a bit different.

 

I respect everybody's view. We may have a difference of opinion. We do. I have no problem with that, but please respect my view because I'm elected. Every person in this House has an opportunity. So if you (inaudible) with the co-leader of the Third Party, if you disagree with her views, all of a sudden she starts heckling.

 

I listened to you very intently. I never said one word when the former Member for Cape St. Francis – because this is an important issue. Sure we have our tos-and-fros. We all have that back and forth. I understand that, but when there's an issue like this here and we're expressing different points of view – I can tell you one thing, Madam Chair, I take no better pride than standing in this House of Assembly and saying where I stand, why I stand and the reasons why I stand on different issues in this province.

 

I can guarantee you one thing, I'm willing to stand for anybody who comes in this Legislature that we're going to put forth and say why I want that person, why that person should be there, show the reasons why. I'm pretty confident, when you look people in the eyeball, face to face and try to say that person is not qualified, without even knowing the people who are going to be appointed, politics has already stepped into it.

 

Let's put the people in front of us, let's find out and let everybody in this House of Assembly have an opportunity, Madam Chair, to do our right and to have a vote for whatever we want to do (inaudible).

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

I'm very happy to stand and speak to this amendment, particularly to get us back on track in terms of really what the amendment is and what it is we're talking about here this evening. The amendment is to Bill 1, An Act to Establish an Independent Appointments Commission and to Require a Merit-Based Process for Various Appointments.

 

This is a very important act, Madam Chair. It's an important act and one we were all looking forward to. So it's great to be able now to stand and get this debate back on track and to talk about the substantive nature of the amendment that we are looking at right now and debating right now.

 

The amendment we are looking at is in section 6(3). It says, “The commission shall consist of 5 members ….” And the amendment is: selected by an all-party committee of the House of Assembly and appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on resolution of the House of Assembly.

 

Madam Chair, basically what we're talking about is enriching the process. We can't stand in this House of Assembly and debate private citizens about whether or not they are qualified for a position on the commission, or whether they're qualified for an appointment in one of our many agencies, boards or commissions. We can't do that. We can't do that in this House of Assembly to private members. That's absolutely ridiculous, and that's not what this amendment is all about.

 

I'm not sure where the Member for Humber – Bay of Islands is really thinking. I can't imagine what it was he was thinking about.

 

Basically, what this amendment is recommending is that the five-person commission – the Independent Appointments Commission is the foundation of this whole bill. It is actually the foundational piece of this whole bill. It is they, those five members, who will assure not only to government, not only to the Official Opposition or our Third Party, and not only to the people of the province, but it also is a safeguard for the people who are appointed.

 

We will know by a very transparent and open process like that, that the people who are appointed are appointed because they bring a certain expertise and experience to the table, which is what we all want. We all want that. I know that's what government wants. I know that's what we all want on this side of the table. I know that's what the people of the province want. We're talking about not taking the politics out of it, because everything is political. All our boards and agencies, they're dealing with political issues. We're talking about taking the partisanship out of it. That's really important.

 

Again, the five-person committee is the foundational piece. It's about whether or not this bill works or not. It's about whether or not appointments to agencies, boards or commissions will be non-partisan. Well, we've just had sort of a similar example, not quite the same, but sort of similar in the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.

 

The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee was a really important committee. It was about redrawing the boundaries for our electoral process. That's really important. Again, that's the foundational piece of our democracy, making sure we have electoral districts that reflect the needs of the province, making sure they are drawn properly, that they are divided, because it was a big job they had to do. Those people were appointed with very clear input from all three parties here in this House.

 

That's what we're talking about. So there's precedence for it. Again, it's something that's a little bit different. They were a one-time committee. They had very important work to do. As will, this Independent Appointments Commission has really important work to do, because they are going to be appointing, for instance, a Child and Youth Advocate. That is so crucial, and some of the roles that will be appointed are people who will have to advocate and push against government policy, who will have to advocate on behalf of their constituents and push against government legislation or push for legislation.

 

When you look at the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate it's so crucial, and she does at times have to come out and criticize what government does. It's so imperative, not only for those of us in the House to see it as non-partisan, but it's also imperative that those who are appointed by this commission in our agencies, in our boards, in our commissions, they also need this safeguard. Because when they make difficult decisions, whether it to be fully agreeing with government, they need to know the public has confidence in the fact they were appointed, not on a partisanship basis, but they were appointed because of their merits, because of their expertise, because of their experience.

 

It's a safeguard for people like the Child and Youth Advocate, for the Citizens' Representative. A Citizens' Representative is so important, as someone lobbying on behalf of citizens. They need that assurance as well.

 

What we're asking is for all of us to have input in the appointment of the commission so that as the foundational piece of this bill, they're not under scrutiny in terms of their partisanship affiliation. It actually frees them to do their work. Then when they make decisions that may not be favourable to us or may not be favourable to government, they know the very process by which they have been appointed, in fact, safeguards them. Then because their role is so foundational, then that safeguards the work they do.

 

We know it's just the right, reasonable thing to do. It's about enriching the process. It's not about taking power from government, because ultimately government does make that decision. That is their role and that is their responsibility. It's not about taking any power away from government at all. It's not about minimizing the role of government. As a matter of fact, it's about enriching the process. It doesn't cost us anything. It's really about making it better. I'm not sure why government wouldn't welcome an amendment such as this. I'm not sure why they wouldn't welcome this type of enrichment to the process.

 

Again, I cannot stress enough, it's a safeguard for government. It's a safeguard for the Independent Appointments Commission. It's a safeguard for those who are appointed into some of our really, really important agencies, boards and commissions. They are people who have to make very, very difficult decisions, decisions that really affect how things are done in our province.

 

The Environmental Protection Act, the Energy Corporation Act, some of the appointments are so crucial. That commission will appoint the Board of Regents for Memorial University, the CEO for Hydro, the head of Legal Aid; very important, extremely important positions.

 

I bet you if there was an Independent Appointments Commission right now and it was time to turn it over and appoint anew, I'm sure they would make a recommendation such as this. It safeguards everyone. It makes it more open and transparent. It takes nothing from government. As a matter of fact, it's about making things better.

 

The other thing is we have the tools at our disposal, to use a select committee. We don't even have to create anything new in order to be able to do this. Again, those are our fantastic democratic tools that enable us to do the work we have to do as legislators the best that we possibly can.

 

I believe we can do this. I would think if government would stop and just take a look, that, in fact, it's not chipping away at their power. It's not questioning anybody's integrity or morals. It's about safeguards. I would think that anybody in this House could get that.

 

Madam Chair, at this point I would like to say thank you for the opportunity to speak. I will get back up and speak again.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member her time has expired.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I just wanted to rise briefly to speak in support of the amendment that's been proposed by the Third Party. We had an amendment drafted, and maybe we'll get an opportunity to introduce ours as well. It's slightly different. The broad intent is much the same.

 

The concept is about having an all-party Select Committee of the House of Assembly involved in selecting who's going to be on the Independent Appointments Commission. I think that's a good move. It is really fundamental – as, I'm not sure, one of the Members of the NDP pointed out this evening – because it's about establishing the commission in the first place.

 

Subclause 6(3) currently reads, “The commission shall consist of 5 members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on resolution of the House of Assembly.”

 

For those who may be watching who aren't as familiar with some of this stuff, the Lieutenant Governor in Council is effectively Cabinet. So we don't believe that Cabinet should select the names that will go to the House in a resolution. We, too, believe that a committee of this House should select those names.

 

If you want to take the politics out of this and you want to have it independent, then that seems like a logical approach. We think the NDP amendment is a good one. We think we can build on it even further, but the amendment as it stands is a sensible one and we support it, Madam Chair.

 

Thank you. 

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, we'll now call the vote on the amendment of the subclause 6(3).

 

All those in favour of the amendment, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The amendment has failed.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: Now we'll go back to continuing debate on clause 6.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

We're now debating section 6. I want to talk about subclause 6(3) once again. As I just said, I think the amendment that was put forward makes good sense, but I'd actually propose going a step further. We believe that in addition to having the commission chosen by a committee of this House, that those folks should also be determined based on a –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I ask Members for their co-operation to keep the noise level down a little bit in the House.

 

Thank you. 

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

It is difficult to hear.

 

We believe that in addition to them being chosen by a committee of the House, it should be done using a merit-based process. So I'm going to propose an amendment to add the following words after the word “Assembly”. I will read the formal amendment, but just to give you an idea of what we're trying to do here, after the word “Assembly” we'd like to add “and the names on that resolution shall be provided by an all-party select committee of the House of Assembly which shall receive recommendations from the Public Service Commission that are determined on a merit-based process.”

 

The amended subclause 6(3) would read: The commission shall consist of 5 members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on resolution of the House of Assembly and the names on that resolution shall be provided by an all-party Select Committee of the House of Assembly which shall receive recommendations from the Public Service Commission that are determined on a merit-based process.

 

So similar to the previous amendment, but in this case we're saying in addition to having them appointed by a committee of the House, let's ensure it's a merit-based process that's used to arrive at those recommendations.

 

I'll move the following amendment, Madam Chair. Subclause 6(3) is amended by adding immediately after the word “Assembly” the words “and the names on that resolution shall be provided by an all-party select committee of the House of Assembly which shall receive recommendations from the Public Service Commission that are determined on a merit-based process.”

 

CHAIR: The hon. Member for Mount Pearl North has proposed an amendment, again, on subclause 6(3). So the House will take a brief recess to consider the amendment.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair has considered the amendment put forth by the Member for Mount Pearl North, subclause 6(3), and has ruled the amendment out of order based on O'Brien and Bosc, page 767, “The committee's decisions concerning a bill must be consistent with earlier decisions made by the committee.”

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: All right, Madam Chair, it's interesting. I respect your ruling. I can assure hon. Members that we did do considerable research and consulted with the appropriate parties in preparing the amendment. So while I'm surprised by the ruling, I certainly accept the ruling and respect the role of the chair.

 

The amendment was remarkably similar to the New Democratic Party's amendment, which was ruled in order but unfortunately voted down, which is rather unfortunate.

 

I'm still speaking to clause 6, but I'm going to move to 6(4) within Bill 1. The issue here relates to the choosing of the chair of the Independent Appointments Commission. This clause is about who should select the chair of the Independent Appointments Commission in the first place and designate any replacement chairs.

 

The current bill says Cabinet should. Now, we believe a Select Committee of the House should. Why is that, you may ask. Well, for two reasons. First of all, a select committee is more independent and transparent. If you're serious about making this an independent, transparent process then decisions can't be made behind closed doors in the Cabinet room.

 

Also, the chair of this commission is going to have considerable power. Under clause 8, it's the chair of the Commission who has the authority to “appoint a panel of 3 commissioners to review potential appointees for each appointment.”

 

Subclause 6(4) currently reads: “The Lieutenant-Governor in Council shall designate one of the members of the commission to be chairperson.” The amendment I'd now like to propose deletes the words “The Lieutenant-Governor in Council” – which, again, is Cabinet. For those who may be watching this debate, when we say Lieutenant Governor in Council we mean Cabinet – and substitute the words “An all-party select committee of the House of Assembly.” Secondly, by adding after the word “chairperson” the words “and that select committee shall designate a replacement chairperson in the event that the chairperson's position becomes vacant.”

 

I will move the amendment in a moment, but the whole thing would then read: An all-party Select Committee of the House of Assembly shall designate one of the members of the commission to be chairperson and that select committee shall designate a replacement chairperson in the event that the chairperson's position becomes vacant. This addresses the issue of who should choose the chair and replacement chairs, if required.

 

Madam Chair, I'll move the following amendment to Bill 1. Subclause 6(4) of the bill is amended by deleting the words “The Lieutenant-Governor in Council” and substituting the words “An all-party select committee of the House of Assembly” and by adding after the word “chairperson” the words “and that select committee shall designate a replacement chairperson in the event that the chairperson's position becomes vacant.”

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North has put forth a motion to amend subclause 6(4). This House will take a brief recess to consider the amendment.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair has considered the amendment put forth by the Member for Mount Pearl North, subclause 6(4), and has ruled the amendment out of order. O'Brien and Bosc, page 768, “… an amendment is out of order if it refers to, or is not intelligible without, subsequent amendments ….”

 

Basically, it doesn't anticipate subclause 6(5).

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Once again, I respect your wisdom and respect the ruling of the chair. I am rather surprised by it and disappointed by it; nonetheless, we shall move on. We have many other amendments to consider.

 

The opportunity in clause 6, by bringing forward amendments we thought we could address a number of fundamental flaws with this piece of legislation, making sure first and foremost that the first Independent Appointments Commission is truly independent and is not just a committee of Liberal appointees. So it's unfortunate that is not being fixed here this evening.

 

Further to that, recognizing the important role that the chair plays, having a good process in place for the selection of the chair, we also felt was really critical. It's unfortunate that we're unable to effect change to those particular items at this point in time. But we shall carry on. There are other changes that can be considered here tonight and are needed. So I look forward to continued debate, and I do want to talk further about clause 6.

 

The next thing I'd like to speak to, now that we've addressed the issue of who chooses the committee and who chooses the chair, and we've made an effort to try and fix both of those flaws in the bill, I'd now like to talk about the issue of the rules of the Independent Appointments Commission. I'd like to draw your attention, Madam Chair, to subclause 6(7) in Bill 1.

 

This is a clause about who should set the rules of procedure for the Liberal Appointments Commission. The current bill says that the commission should. We also believe the commission should, but we also believe a Select Committee of the House should review those rules and have the power to amend them if they are flawed.

 

Why would that be important? Well, that's about ensuring greater accountability. Subclause 6(7) currently reads: “The commission shall adopt rules of procedure and keep records of its proceedings.” Our amendment is to delete that wording and replace it with the following: “The commission shall keep records of its proceedings and shall propose rules of procedure to the Select Committee which may amend the proposed rules and shall direct the commission as to the rules of procedure which will apply to the commission.”

 

So, Madam Chair, hopefully I'll have an opportunity to speak to that further, but I'd now like to move the following amendment to subclause 6(7). Subclause 6(7) of the bill is deleted and the following is substituted: “(7) The commission shall keep records of its proceedings and shall propose rules of procedure to the Select Committee which may amend the proposed rules and shall direct the commission as to the rules of procedure which will apply to the commission.”

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North has put forth a motion to amend subclause 6(7).

 

The House will take a brief recess to consider the amendment.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Member for Mount Pearl North put forth a motion to amend subclause 6(7). The Chair has ruled the amendment out of order based on O'Brien and Bosc, page 763, “The committee's decisions concerning a bill must be consistent with earlier decisions made by the committee.”

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Once again, I have no choice but to respect your ruling. I want to highlight for people who may be watching the debate, that section 6 of this bill is really critical for a number of reasons. It's about how this Independent Appointments Commission gets selected to begin with. Right now they are pure, political appointees. What we've been trying to do through proposing amendments is resolve that issue in terms of how the chair is selected and in terms of how committee members are selected.

 

I still want to speak to –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

As my colleague for Mount Pearl North was just saying, it's unfortunate that the intent of our amendments to clause 6 to try and take politics out of appointments by having an all-party select committee – that was the intent of the amendments we proposed for section 6, was to do exactly that.

 

As Members stated many times, and we'll say it again, having an all-party or select committee gives a fairer or more neutral assessment or ability for the committee to actually make appointments, make recommendations that are more in keeping with a neutral, arm's-length body as opposed to going to Cabinet.

 

We've made several amendments and we've been unsuccessful in having a select committee, but that is the main goal of our – our whole intent has been to take politics out of appointments. As the government opposite has prided themselves in their red book and through the campaign trail, they want to take politics out of appointments. Unfortunately, right now the way it stands, we don't feel that politics will be taken out of these appointments. An all-party committee was a great way to achieve this. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

 

Madam Chair, I guess we'll soldier on. It's unfortunate, but I guess we'll keep moving through this.

 

Thank you very much.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

As I was saying, I do want to speak a little bit more to clause 6 of this bill because it's significant for a number of reasons. While I respect the rulings that have been made on amendments we've tried to make – and I recognize that one of the amendments that was in order, presented by the New Democratic Party, was voted down tonight – I do want to talk about the issues in clause 6 that are of concern. I think this is a really substantial piece of the bill and it really speaks to the fundamental problem we have with the legislation.

 

In clause 6, it talks about how the so-called Independent Appointments Commission is chosen in the first place. The problem we have with that is these initial appointees, who are supposed to be independent, are going to be simply chosen by Cabinet. Now, there will be a resolution brought here.

 

There was a Member opposite tonight, I believe it was the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who made the point that yes, we do get to debate that in the House of Assembly – and he's correct on that point. We do get to have a debate. We can all speak our mind on those five names and how we feel about them, and whether they're the right names and whether we like the process. So I'll acknowledge that he is correct in saying that.

 

I guess where we differ and where we'll have to agree to disagree on all of this is that there's no ability – we can speak at length about those names and about our feelings on them, but at the end of the day there's no ability for us to stop that from passing the House. That's how this process works.

 

Government has a clear majority, and that's something we all have to acknowledge and respect of course. When we talk about the fact that that's really a so-called rubber-stamping, that's what we mean. The names will be chosen by Cabinet. It will come here to be formally ratified, but there's no real process for us to effectively stop that from passing. That is how things work here. Whether that's right or wrong, that is the system we work within.

 

The challenge is that those appointees will be appointees of Cabinet. That will get rubber-stamped in this House, but there will be no opportunity for input from anybody else. I think that's a miss. I believe government wants to do the right thing here. I don't think it would have been a significant part of the party's platform in November if they weren't serious about it. I just feel there are some major, major flaws with this bill that probably will – unless we can get some of these amendments through, it will probably put us in a position where we have to stand against – some of us, anyway, will have to stand against this bill. Nobody is standing to say we oppose the concept of an Independent Appointments Commission. I haven't heard anybody say yet that they oppose that concept. But what we're talking about here in clause 6 is how these people are going to be appointed. They are being appointed by Cabinet and we don't believe Cabinet should select the names that will go into the resolution that will come before this House.

 

Having a committee of the House select the names makes sense. Our party believes that should be a merit-based process as well. Maybe it shouldn't just be based on input that comes from the Public Service Commission as we were proposing. A committee could get input from all kinds of places to make an informed decision on who should be on that committee. The fact that it will remain that these are appointees of Cabinet and it's that simple, I think, is an unfortunate missed opportunity. I can't sit quietly while clause 6 passes without making that point, Madam Chair, and I respectfully submit.

 

Also in this clause there's language around how the chairperson gets selected and we have the same issue there. It's perhaps not as significant as our issue with the overall committee appointments, but the fact that the chair will be appointed by Cabinet is rather unfortunate, I think.

 

I think a select committee would be more independent and more transparent. Having a committee to make those appointments makes good sense. The chair of this committee is going to have some significant power and, for that reason, we think it should be a more objective, impartial, transparent process that is not political. So that's why we're raising concerns with clause 6.

 

Similarly, the commission will establish its own rules. While they should establish their rules of procedure – as I said, I think that makes sense – it just seems that if there's a flaw, if there's an issue with those rules, if we're going to make this non-political and make it independent, then having a role for this House to play in reviewing those rules and addressing any concerns that come up would ensure a greater accountability.

 

Those are the points we wanted to make around clause 6. I think there is an opportunity, by making changes to this section of the bill, to actually achieve a little bit of independence. It won't solve all of the issues with the bill, but how the committee is actually chosen, how the chair is chosen, how the rules of procedure are established, that's big stuff. In terms of the overall functioning of this Independent Appointments Commission those are major considerations, which is why we've taken some time this evening to raise concerns about that.

 

So I hope that Members will reflect on those comments. I don't know whether there will be any additional amendments proposed by, perhaps, government or other Members of the House; but, to me, there's a better way forward here. There's a way to make changes to clause 6 that would allow the committee to be more legitimate and more independent, to allow the chairperson's appointment to be more independent and accountable, and to give the House some visibility over the rules of engagement for that group.

 

We're trying to make a sincere effort here to make this legislation a bit better, and that has to start with how this group is formed and constituted in the first place. That is the reason why I wanted to express some further concern around clause 6. I don't know if other Members of the House wish to express any concerns or raise any questions about clause 6, but I will now take my seat and allow them to do so if they wish.

 

Thank you. 

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi. 

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

I would like to make some more comments on clause 6 because, as I said when I stood before and when I brought forward the amendment, I do think that it is really basic to the whole act how the commission is put in place. When I first read the act – and if anybody wants to see my notes, they'll see it – one of the things I wrote on the side of 6(3): no consultation with other parties. It was the first thing that struck me that the commission would be put in place by the Lieutenant Governor in Council – in other words Cabinet.

 

Now it says on resolution of the House of Assembly – and I think my colleague for St. John's Centre mentioned this when she spoke, but I want to make it clear again. We all know what happens in the House of Assembly when names are brought in to be in positions. It's almost a protocol of the House that you have individuals who've been named by Cabinet. It may be one or it may be a committee. And while it's brought to the floor, it is a rubber-stamping and it's a rubber-stamping because we are respecting the people who've been nominated.

 

We're not going to stand here in this House and tear apart an individual who's been nominated by Cabinet. We're not going to do that. It would be inappropriate to do it. So to say that we have an open process, names will be brought and we get to vote on it, even if we rejected the persons or one of them that was being brought forward – which I promise you is never going to happen on the floor of the House, but even if we did, we're not in the majority anyway and government would have their nominees passed anyway.

 

That is not what the spirit, I thought, of this bill was supposed to be. It's going against the spirit of the bill. We all know what I'm saying is correct. We all know that. So it's very, very disturbing. I don't understand why government doesn't see it, unless it is that government wants to have ultimate power. They want to have the ultimate say. They want to have the ultimate control, and the ultimate control is naming who the commission is. That's the ultimate control.

 

They have the ultimate control in the process because when all is said and done, government still can reject a nomination that comes to them from the commission when that commission is in place. So why aren't they happy enough to have that – and they should have it. Government is responsible for the appointments, but why not recognize that working together to come up with the names of people is logical.

 

You have a broader experience around the table. If you had a committee – I don't know how large the committee would be but, say, if we had a committee of five – which I think is sort of what we work with now, five or seven. If you had that size of a committee, you have that many more people who are known to the committee.

 

I don't know people in some areas of the province, obviously, but somebody on the committee from the West Coast will know. I will know people from here in St. John's. Somebody on the all-party committee from the Northern Peninsula will know people from there. Somebody from Labrador will know people from there. So you get a broader experience.

 

Now, government could say back to me, well, they have all their MHAs and they have a broader experience too, but we all know that we all move in different circles. So the circle becomes that much wider if you have an all-party committee choosing the commission.

 

Yes, I know there's a process of working with the Public Service Commission and the Independent Appointments Commission is not the one doing everything, but they're still the ones who get recommendations to them from the Public Service Commission and they still ultimately come up with names that go on to government. So we want a commission that is open, that is wise, that has a broad mixture of experience. We'll talk more about that later when we talk about the makeup of the commission in another clause.

 

It just makes ultimate sense, and it's such a sign to people that government is not afraid of working with the other parties when it comes to putting something like this together. This is what I don't understand. It would benefit the government. People would look at you and say, they really do know how to consult. Not the experience that people have had with this government over consultation. They will say they really do know how to consult. They know what consultation really means.

 

It means working together, actually. That's what it means, but this government just seems intent on holding onto the reins on this one. I don't understand it, because you do have the ultimate power to make the final decision but show the openness right from the beginning.

 

It really doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't make sense to me that you don't see what you're doing here. Maybe you do and you think it doesn't matter, but if you think that people will see the appointment by Cabinet of the commission as being open, transparent and non-partisan, I got news for you. People are not going to see it that way. This is a wonderful opportunity to once again test in this House of Assembly how all-party committees work. We're learning our way with that and this is another opportunity.

 

When I look at all of clause 6, which has to do with putting the commission in place, I actually have no problem with the members of the commission electing from their number one person as vice-chairperson. If the government had chosen an all-party committee then it would have been logical for the all-party committee to choose the chairperson, but again, government is maintaining that control. You're maintaining the control of who even the chairperson is. You let the group, the commission itself choose its vice-chairperson, you could let the group choose its chairperson. Again, it's a sign of you wanting to have total control.

 

I'm glad the commission gets to adopt its own rules of procedure and keep records of its proceedings. I think it's good for them to decide how to work. Because they may decide they want to come to consensus on their decisions, they may not want to use Robert's Rules of Order. So for them to decide how they'd like to operate, I think is a very, very good thing.

 

If you really did want this to work, then, number one, you would do what we've been suggesting and talking about. You could bring the motion in yourself. You could bring in the amendment. You could show your openness by your bringing in an amendment, because as government you could do that. You wouldn't have to prove. You could change the legislation before we vote on it. You have the power to do that.

 

I think I am in agreement with the Official Opposition, that this Part II is called Independent Appointments Commission, and the act is called Independent Appointments Commission, and it isn't an Independent Appointments Commission. It's a commission that was chosen by government and it doesn't do the appointing. I totally agree with the Official Opposition in making that point.

 

I don't even agree with the name of the act, because the name of the act is not correct. It's not what it is. It's not what the commission is and it's not what the process is.

 

I just really believe I needed to say some of that again and bring up the other point of the fact that it is not a consultation when names come on to the floor of this House. We are respectful for names that are brought here to this House. We are respectful.

 

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Madam Chair, I appreciate the comments made by the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi, because we're in large part saying the same thing here. So I just want to make that point.

 

There's a legitimate attempt being made here this evening to try and improve on this legislation, and clause 6 is so important because it's about how that group gets formed and who gets appointed to it. That's why we're making an effort to bring about some changes to clause 6. There's still an opportunity here to do so, Madam Chair.

 

Government still has the ability to make changes if it wishes, even if our amendments are ruled out of order. The spirit and intent of what we're trying to do here this evening is to make this more independent and to make the whole thing more legitimate. If this is the flagship bill for government in its first sitting in the House of Assembly, then there should be a desire to try and do that.

 

That's what's at stake here this evening. What we're saying is, let's take the politics out of the appointment of that initial group of commissioners. Let's have multiple parties in the Legislature involved. Let's make sure it's a merit-based process. From the get-go then, the whole thing will have more legitimacy and more creditability.

 

I think it's possible to make changes to clause 6 that would make a real difference in that regard. It may not be obvious to people who may be watching this at home, but when you're amending legislation there are a lot of technicalities. Even a minor word could mean an amendment is in order or not in order. What we're really trying to do with the various changes we propose to clause 6 is make sure that commission, when it's appointed, is independent. That's critical if it's going to be called the Independent Appointments Commission.

 

We also feel there should be some oversight in terms of the rules that committee operates under. Any select committee responsible for dealing with this could help achieve that as well. So we believe there's some real opportunity to make changes that will make a real difference.

 

I also think it should be a Select Committee of this House that should choose the chair of the committee as well. That's why we're raising concerns about clause 6. It is really critical, it's foundational. It's about how this committee will be formed and how it will operate. It just makes sense to make it non-political.

 

The way it stands now, if this clause passes and the bill passes without any amendments to clause 6, then what we're going to have is a commission that's supposed to be independent but is appointed by Cabinet. It will be handpicked by Cabinet with no kind of merit-based process.

 

On top of all that, we're still going to have a commission that can't make any appointments; that can only make recommendations that may be adopted or may not. We won't even know. If we do find out that process hasn't been followed, it could be months later before we become aware of that. So that's why we're raising concerns around clause 6.

 

I just want to assure hon. Members, and assure anybody who may be following this debate, that the Opposition parties this evening and earlier today are making a concerted effort to try and make this bill better so that we don't simply end up with a flawed piece of legislation that doesn't achieve what government set out to achieve.

 

Now, I'll stand by my belief, Madam Chair, that it would be better to start again. Because as people are seeing from the process so far, there are significant amendments required to try and make this workable and address some of the concerns that have been brought to us and that we've observed ourselves as we've gone through the legislation.

 

But if we're going to just work on Bill 1 and it's going to carry through this process, as seems to be the intention here, then we've got to try and address as many of those concerns as we possibly can, which we'll continue to do here this evening.

 

On clause 6, it's about how the commission gets appointed. We believe that shouldn't be simply done behind closed doors at the Cabinet table. The chair shouldn't be chosen that way either and the rules that the commission sets for itself, there should be some review and oversight as well. Those things will make the process better.

 

Is this ideal? No. We still have concerns overall with Bill 1 and the approach that is being taken, but none of us are opposed to the concept of an Independent Appointments Commission. I was hoping we'd be able to make enough changes to the legislation this evening that we could at least live with it. But if we're not going to fix clause 6, if we're not going to fix how these people are appointed to begin with, then that's just such a deep, severe flaw that there may be no saving this flawed piece of legislation. But we're going to do our best.

 

Despite the fact that changes aren't being made here to clause 6, there are other changes that can still be made and we'll continue to do our best. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to these issues. We have many other changes that we'll bring forward that we believe need to be made, but not fixing clause 6, not fixing how that commission is appointed, not fixing how the chair is selected, not fixing how the rules are set and monitored, that's a major miss.

 

It can still be avoided if government chose to take a different approach, and we would happily work with them to come up with language that's acceptable in order to make that happen because it's so fundamental to what this bill is all about.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Madam Chair.  

 

I'll just stand to have a few minutes to speak on this. As I said earlier, and I don't mean to be political about this debate one bit, but in my opinion there is no fairer way than bringing names forward to this Legislature. Both parties already agreed that no matter if we set up a committee, government will have the ultimate to say who's going to be on the committee anyway. So if we're going to bring the names forward to this House of Assembly, everybody has the opportunity to stand up and question the names put forth.

 

If you look at the next proposed amendment that's going to be put forward it is to have all members of the committee sign an impartiality letter saying they're going to be impartial in their decisions. Even if you bring them forward, they still have to sign a letter. If you go through an all-party committee and bring the names forward, there's going to be another amendment coming up here in the next half an hour or an hour or so saying they still have to sign the form to say they're going to be impartial.

 

What is the process? What is the best way to go about this? Once you get an all-party committee, still they have to sign a form. So it boggles my mind on how they are going to plan to say, okay, we agree with the process because no matter what, they're going with one step now, setting up the all-party committee. The next step is to make sure the ones that the all-party committee recommends, there is going to be an amendment brought forward saying they have to sign a form of impartiality.

 

I always said the best way to do this, Madam Chair, and the best way to hear what you have to say is not five people out in a room who are sitting down doing an interview and people are going come out and say here's who we recommended. The best way is to open up the Legislature. Bring the names forth. Let's go. If anybody has a concern about the names that we're bringing forth on this committee, let them stand in their own place and say here's the reason why.

 

If you want them to stand all of a sudden and say, okay, we're going to sign a form that says you're going to perform your duties with impartiality, I have no problem with that. If you really feel you have to do that with the names you put forth and question their integrity, okay, go ahead.

 

If they want to sign that form, I have no problem whatsoever – none whatsoever. No matter what, it's almost like, even with the all-party committee which both sides said you can have a final say, even when they do come forward with the all-party committee, there's an amendment going to be put in that they have to sign an impartiality.

 

Madam Chair, is it the best process? It's much better than what we've ever had. Are there going to be changes down the road? Who knows? But I can guarantee you one thing, the best part I like about it is that we can stand in our places here in this Legislature and we can express our view, aye or nay, yes or no, about the people, look at their credentials and say yes – we haven't even seen the five names that are coming forward. We haven't even seen the five names.

 

Let's see how it works first. Then with the amendment coming forth – I'm pretty sure the amendment is going to come forth. You mark my words, as sure as I'm standing here there's going to be an amendment saying make them sign an impartiality.

 

Okay, we make them sign an impartiality; what then? Well, it's going to be another fly into it, Madam Chair. So it is a bill that we're bringing forth to improve the process, which we have done. I welcome all Members with their comments on it. I'll take my seat and I'll just wait for the next amendment, which is going to be signing a letter that each one is going to be impartial.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

I am happy to rise again to speak to clause 6. I was quite surprised by the vote of government on our amendment – perhaps not so much surprised, but surprised because it was a very reasonable amendment that was totally in the spirit of the entire bill. I believe it was something that would enrich the process, not take power away from anybody nor give power to anyone, because ultimately government does have the authority – and that's as it should be. No one's debating that, nobody's questioning that, at least not from this side of the House.

 

So I was surprised, because this government has talked so much about modernizing the way we do things, and modernizing our House of Assembly, making it more responsive to the needs of the province. I applaud that, and I would believe them when they say that. Why wouldn't you believe that?

 

I believe that's what this amendment that was recently defeated was about. So again, I would be curious to be able to speak to each individual Member and ask why you voted against it. I can't imagine why vote against it – what would be the reason for that? Again, because I know that process would enrich the whole experience.

 

We've had a fabulous experience with the All-Party Committee on Mental Health and Addictions. It's been great, and all parties are represented there. It's going to come down a little bit to the crunch because we're going to be making recommendations. We all know that some of the recommendations we will make, some of them might be tough, but we share that responsibility.

 

It's been a great experience with the All-Party Committee on Northern Shrimp. Again, it is a very difficult area, one that's so important for the province. It doesn't take any power away from government, doesn't give any power to anyone, but it's the process and the approach. We all know that we've all been elected by the people in our districts. So every time we come into this House we all know that we are bringing all of those people with us. The people have voted for us because of a particular perspective that we would bring to the House. So I would say to extrapolate from that, then it's also that perspective we would bring to something like a select all-party committee to make those appointments to the Independent Appointments Commission.

 

Again, it's such a foundational piece because the work they will be doing for three years is so crucial for our province. The agencies, boards and commissions make up a huge part of our public service, managing huge resources or critical decision-making abilities, and critical services to the people of the province.

 

It's 2016. We've all worked really hard to start that whole process of modernizing. Why would we stop now? I can't imagine for what reason, other than hubris, to not support such an amendment, to not look at clause 6.

 

I know there are people across the floor who knows that it's a reasonable thing. It's about enriching the way we do our work. Not taking power from, not giving power to; it's really about doing something better. And why wouldn't we do that? It doesn't cost any more money. What it does is it brings different perspectives to the table which can only be enriching.

 

I believe, again, that it protects government, it protects the people who will be on, who will be chosen as the Independent Appointments Commission. It protects them, and then it protects the people they've appointed because there's no doubt that it's non-partisan. Why wouldn't we want that? It doesn't cost us money; it's not going to take a whole lot more time. It's all about the safeguards and being open to a whole other type of engagement process.

 

In this kind of situation, as in the All-Party Committee on Mental Health, as in the Electoral Boundaries Commission that was representative of different parties, it means we're all pulling, ultimately, for the same goal. We might all have a different way of getting there. We may have some different paths, some different approaches that we bring to it.

 

Ultimately though, government makes that decision, so there's nothing that government needs to fear. But I can't imagine what the reason would be not to do it. I simply cannot imagine. I mean I can guess, but I would hope that there would be an openness to modernize the way we do things. That has been stated by this government again and again, but we're not seeing the follow-through. This would be a follow-through on that. This would be concretely proving but also following through on their own stated way of doing things.

 

I don't get it. It's a mystery. It would be really interesting to hear from everybody across the floor why you voted no. It makes no sense at this point to vote no to something that is modernizing our process and using a tool at our disposal. We didn't have to make it up, those tools are available. Those democratic tools that help us do the best work we can possibly do are there for the taking. It's there for us to use. It's there for people to use and I don't understand why government would refuse to use those tools. They are there.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: We're not saying this is wrong.

 

MS. ROGERS: A Member across the way is saying: We're not saying this is wrong. Well, what I'm talking about is the process to get there. Those are the tools at our disposal. We have a toolbox to make our democratic process as open, as transparent and as enriched as possible bringing all the perspectives. Why not use them? It doesn't cost money. It's not going to take a whole lot more time and, again, it's a way that we work together. The ways in the past while that we have been working together just show how successful it is.

 

The other thing is that the people of the province like it too. I think the people of the province are proud. They're proud when we work together because that's what they want to see. When we hear complaints – how many times they complain about the lack of the ability to work together, and they want us to be able to do that.

 

If government doesn't do something other, it's really a wasted opportunity. It's a shame. It really is a shame. It's a wasted opportunity. Those opportunities are there for the taking and for the using. All it does is it brings us forward. It propels us into a more modern approach to doing our work.

 

I do not agree with the Member for Humber – Bay of Islands. We can't be debating in this House about the pros and cons of individual private citizens, about whether or not they are appropriate for certain appointments. We can't do that.

 

Already we are asking a lot of people when we ask them to even consider positions to serve in the public good and for public service. We can't be at that in this House. That's not what this House is for. Ultimately, when those last decisions are made, they are made and hopefully will have gone through a process that is thorough, transparent, open and accountable and the decisions are made in the best interests of the people.

 

So it's unfortunate that government chooses not to use a tool that's at our disposal. I would hope that government might reconsider that. I believe that would be fulfilling this commitment to modernize the way we do things in this House. We've had some recent successes. Let's build on that. Let's not go backwards. I believe it's a step backwards not to do this.

 

I don't think we can afford, in our province, to step backwards. But I believe we have what it takes to move forward and to do things in a more modernized way.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: Madam Chair, I thank you very much again for the opportunity to speak to this bill and this amendment.

 

CHAIR: I remind the hon. Member her time for speaking has expired.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers to clause 6, we will vote on clause 6.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR:  All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried. 

 

On motion, clause 6 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 7.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North. 

 

MR. KENT: Good evening once again, Madam Chair.

 

I would like to take an opportunity to speak to clause 7. As I've advised you, Madam Chair, I'll advise the House that there are a couple of amendments that we'd like to propose related to clause 7.

 

The first one may prove to be challenging because, again, we're suggesting that a committee of this House could deal with some of the issues that we've been raising here tonight. Given the previous rulings on proposed amendments, which I respect, this may pose a challenge as well. But I still want to make the argument because I think it's an important argument to make. It's about how replacements for the commission members are chosen.

 

We do believe that it's not too late to establish an all-party Select Committee of the House to help with this entire process, and to give the whole process some more legitimacy, credibility and actual independence.

 

So this clause that I'd like to speak to now is actually subclause 7(4), and it's about replacing commission members when the House is closed, when the House is not sitting. Subclause 7(4) currently reads: “Where the House of Assembly is not sitting and a commissioner cannot act due to accident, illness, incapacity or death, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may appoint a person to act in his or her place, but that appointment shall be confirmed on resolution of the House of Assembly within 10 sitting days of the House next sitting.”

 

Again, Madam Chair – oh, Mr. Chair, hello; good evening to you as well. The transition happens rather fast sometimes. One minute it's Madam Chair and the next minute there's another smiling face in the Chair.

 

Mr. Chair, this goes back to the argument we've been presenting throughout the evening that it should be a committee of the House and not the Cabinet that makes these appointments. Such a committee could receive recommendations going through the Public Service Commission process, which would make it a merit-based process. That committee could gather input in a whole bunch of different ways, but it would make sense to utilize the Public Service Commission process so that there is something about the process that is merit-based rather than simply have Cabinet appoint commissioners or, in this instance, appoint the replacement for the commissioners.

 

That's what we'd now like to present. Again, I respect the rulings that have been made related to establishing this all-party committee, but I still fundamentally believe it's a solution, which is why we're going to propose a similar change here in subclause 7(4).

 

Our amendment is to delete the words “the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may appoint a person to act in his or her place” and substitute the words “then (a) the Public Service Commission, using a merit-based process, shall recommend 3 persons to act in place of that commissioner; and (b) an all-party select committee of the House of Assembly shall receive those recommendations from the Public Service Commission and designate a person to act in place of that commissioner; and (c) the Lieutenant-Governor in Council shall appoint that person to act in place of that commissioner.”

 

So the amended subclause would read: Where the House of Assembly is not sitting and a commissioner cannot act due to accident, illness, incapacity or death, then (a) the Public Service Commission, using a merit-based process, shall recommend three persons to act in place of that commissioner; and (b) an all-party Select Committee of the House of Assembly shall receive those recommendations from the Public Service Commission and designate a person to act in place of that commissioner; and (c) the Lieutenant Governor in Council – which means Cabinet – shall appoint that person to act in place of that commissioner, but that appointment shall be confirmed on resolution of the House of Assembly within 10 sitting days of the House next sitting.

 

Now, Mr. Chair, I think this makes sense. Because, in this instance, there's nothing we're recommending here that is contingent on the previous changes we proposed. In this instance, we're talking about an all-party select committee being established to receive those recommendations.

 

We believe that this amendment can stand on its own merit. It's not dependent on previous amendments when we were debating previous clauses. So it's not too late for us to establish this concept of a merit-based process to select commissioners, setting up a committee of the House to receive those recommendations from the Public Service Commission and then appoint people accordingly.

 

The arguments for doing so are very similar to the ones that we've presented earlier tonight. Even though we're now debating a new clause, I'm not going to rehash all of that. Our objective here is not just simply to prolong debate, we're really trying to make changes that are going to make a difference and make this legislation work.

 

So I won't repeat all the arguments of why a committee makes sense, but I do feel this change would stand on its own merit. I recognize the rulings that have been made so far tonight. I'm fearful, for that reason, this one will also be ruled out of order, but I do feel I need to make the case again because it's a point worth considering.

 

I'll move the following amendment, Mr. Chair: Subclause 7(4) is amended by deleting the words “Lieutenant-Governor in Council may appoint a person to act in his or her place” and substituting the words “then (a) the Public Service Commission, using a merit-based process, shall recommend 3 persons to act in place of that commissioner; and (b) an all-party select committee of the House of Assembly shall receive those recommendations from the Public Service Commission and designate a person to act in place of that commissioner; and (c) the Lieutenant-Governor in Council shall appoint that person to act in place of that commissioner.”

 

CHAIR (Lane): We will take a brief recess to consider the amendment as brought forth by the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

The Committee is now in recess.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

In considering the proposed amendment to subclause 7(4), the Chair reviewed O'Brien and Bosc, page 767, which states that: The committee's decisions must be consistent with earlier decisions. With that in mind, clause 6 had been approved and under clause 6(4) the chair is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

 

In the proposed amendment to section 7(4) rather than having the Lieutenant Governor in Council make the appointment, the amendment would say that a select committee would do so, which is inconsistent with the previous decision which negated the establishment of a select committee. The amendment is therefore not in order.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Not surprised by the ruling in light of your comments and previous rulings this evening, so I thank you for the consideration. I do want to continue discussion on clause 7. I will be proposing an additional amendment on clause 7 that does not relate to the select all-party committee.

 

Before I move on off that point, I just want to emphasize once again how this is really a missed opportunity. What we've been focused on this evening is how the commission gets formed, how it's appointed and the value in having some independence around that process. If you want to take politics out of something, you certainly have to take it away from the Cabinet table, which is what we've been trying to achieve through the various amendments we've been discussing tonight. I think those amendments in clause 6 and 7 are really critical to addressing that issue of independence.

 

I'm definitely disappointed, but nonetheless there are some other changes that we'd like to propose making. I don't think they're as significant in some cases, to be honest, which may mean – assuming they're in order – there may be an opportunity here for government to acknowledge that some of the suggestions will make the bill better. Having said that, I would urge government to consider how that commission is appointed to begin with, how the chair is selected to begin with, because there is still an opportunity, before this bill passes the House, to make it right.

 

I'll now move on to a different issue that is still in clause 7 and it relates to subclause 7(6). The issue relates to an oath of impartiality. One of the Members opposite, I think it was the Minister of Municipal Affairs, made reference to it previously. Several weeks ago I had an opportunity to ask a question in Question Period about this particular issue.

 

I don't think it's controversial. I think it's a really small change that is perhaps more symbolic than anything else. So this may be an opportunity for us to – assuming the amendment is in order, Mr. Chair, it may be an opportunity for us to make a small change. Not as substantial, not as important as some of the other changes we've been discussing this evening, but still it's a change that would make a slight improvement to the legislation that's proposed. The bill as it stands doesn't require commissioners to take an oath of impartiality and we believe it should. So our amendment is really simple, it's about adding a new subclause.

 

We've already asked for this during Question Period on March 21, I believe. The question was: “We have many concerns about government's proposed Appointments Commission, and for this reason we will be advocating for changes to Bill 1. For instance, many government appointees must swear an oath or make an affirmation to be impartial.

 

“Will the government consider an amendment to Bill 1 to require appointments commissioners to swear an oath or make an affirmation to be impartial?”

 

There is precedence for this, Mr. Chair. There are other government bodies where appointees must swear an oath or make that kind of affirmation to say in this instance that they would be impartial. I think it's a relatively simple, straightforward amendment that is consistent with other bodies. I don't see a lot of controversy attached to this one. I don't think it really changes the substance of the bill. It definitely doesn't change the spirit and intent; it's just a slight improvement. It doesn't fix the bill from our perspective, but it's an improvement that I just think makes good sense. I hope that other Members of the House will agree.

 

Our amendment is to add immediately after subclause 7(5) a new subclause which will be subclause (6) which reads: “A commissioner shall, when appointed, take an oath that he or she will be impartial in the carrying out of duties under this Act.”

 

Under the Oaths Act an affirmation can serve the purpose of an oath. Subclause 3(1) of the Oaths Act states: “A person who objects to taking an oath may instead make a solemn affirmation.” So, again it's pretty straightforward, Mr. Chair.

 

I will move the following amendment: Clause 7 of the bill is amended by adding immediately after subclause (5) the following: “(6) A commissioner shall, when appointed, take an oath that he or she will be impartial in the carrying out of duties under this Act.”

 

CHAIR: The Chair has received this proposed amendment in advance. We have reviewed it and we find the amendment to be in order.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm happy to be able to speak to this.

 

CHAIR: To the amendment.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: To the amendment, yes.

 

I can say just a couple of points to this amendment which has been put forward here. The first thing I'd say is that given the fact that these individuals are being placed in a position of trust, given the fact that there is a resolution that will be debated on the floor of this House of Assembly, I don't think that it's absolutely necessary.

 

That being said, we're certainly happy to agree to it. If it makes the Opposition feel this will be a better piece of legislation, then I don't think it's harmful, per se. I think these individuals, whoever is placed in this position, will have no issue. The same as all Members in this House sign an oath then I think these individuals will also have no issue signing an oath to carry out their duties in an impartial manner.

 

So I can just put forward to the Members of the Official Opposition, the Member for Mount Pearl North, that again, pending any further comments, we will be supporting this amendment.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Just quickly, to say I thank the Government House Leader for that commentary. I acknowledge this is not essential. He makes a legitimate point, but I think it's still a good thing to do. I'm pleased to hear him say that he supports this amendment. That's a positive step and, hopefully, we can work together on some more amendments as the evening continues.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers to the amendment, shall the amendment carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

The amendment is carried.

 

On motion, amendment carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 7 carry, as amended?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

On motion, clause 7, as amended, carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 8.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 8 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 8 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 9.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 9 carry?

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm very happy to stand again to speak to Bill 1. As we know, when we look at the history of gender equality, whether it be in the political arena or whether it be in business, that things are moving very, very, very slowly. As a matter of fact, sometimes we even see steps backwards.

 

The Huffington Post released an article on September 30, 2015, which is just a little over half a year ago, or about a half a year ago. It was written by Emily Peck. She's the executive editor of business and technology at The Huffington Post. The title of her article is: Things are getting better … very, very slowly.

 

She said things are improving so slowly for women in corporate America – and I believe it's the same in Canada – that we aren't going to achieve gender equality at the top for another 100 years, according to a report released on Wednesday. She also went on to say it's not for reasons that you might think. She said some of the biggest barriers are cultural and related to unconscious biases that impact company hiring, promotion and development processes.

 

If we look at the political landscape as well, all we have to do is look here in our House and of the 40 Members, only nine are women. That's less than 25 per cent of the MHAs here in the House are women. But, we do know, when we look at the federal election that we just had in 2015, women made up 533 of the 1,732 nominated candidates – so they made up 29.7 per cent – and women went on to win 88 of the 338 available seats. That's 26 per cent.

 

What we're looking at, Mr. Chair, is that although we've made some gains, despite our historical highs, Canada now only ranks 60th – 60, not 16, but 60th in the world when it comes to achieving equal representation in our democracy. What's even worse is that we have fallen from being ranked 21st in the world – so Canada was 21st best in terms of gender representation in our elected positions in 1997, and now we're 60th. So not only are we not progressing very quickly, in some situations we're actually losing ground.

 

So we talked this evening and debated about how important the Independent Appointments Commission is and the crucial work that they will do, and how much of what they do – that 43 per cent of the total of government expenditures are agencies, boards and commissions that this Independent Appointments Commission will appoint members to – 43 per cent of the total of government expenditures. And that is 75 per cent of the total public sector employment, so it's a considerable piece of the activities and the action that goes on within our province.

 

Mr. Chair, I know that most of us in this House support gender equity. Theoretically, most of us do – maybe all of us, who knows. I know that most of us support diversity. We want to see diversity in appointments, in our employment, in our political house. We want to make sure that the regions of the province are represented, but just because we want that to happen it doesn't mean it's going to happen.

 

The proof is in the pudding, in the statistics that I've shown, that Canada is now actually ranked 60th in terms of gender equity and gender representation in political office. We've fallen. We used to be 27th and now we're 60th, so we cannot simply rely on people's good will. We cannot simply rely on what we have in our hearts, our theories or our political philosophies. We have to have legislation, we have to have policy and we have to have regulations to ensure that it happens. We know that there is a cultural bias and that it's so hard for women to get beyond that.

 

The amendment that we are proposing – and it's simply an amendment that gives direction to the Independent Appointments Commission, that it gives them a direction on how to work and how to move forward.

 

Our amendment to clause 9(1): The commission shall provide recommendations –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

The commission shall provide recommendations respecting appointments in accordance with a merit-based process – I totally agree with that, Mr. Chair, totally – but we add: “and those recommendations shall accurately reflect the province's society as a whole in terms of gender balance, diversity – we are becoming a much more diverse population – and regional representation.

 

Again, Mr. Chair, we have nothing to lose by this. This is again one more step towards modernizing the way we do our business, modernizing the way that anyone we appoint also carries forth that philosophical approach, that commitment to equality. It also falls in line and is in alignment with our Human Rights Act, which many people have worked so hard to develop, and which we should all be using and I'm sure we all use in this House as a valued principle in how we undertake our business.

 

So, Mr. Chair, I have copies of the amendment here. I'll read it one more time without embellishment and editorializing. This is an amendment in the Committee of the Whole of the House for Bill 1, An Act to Establish an Independent Appointments Commission and to Require a Merit-Based Process for Various Appointments. Subclause 9(1) of the bill is amended by adding immediately after the word “process” the words “and those recommendations shall accurately reflect the province's society as a whole in terms of gender balance, diversity and regional representation.”

 

I move this –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: That is all you have to do.

 

MS. ROGERS: Oh, that is all I have to do, apparently.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I have copies here which I will bring to the Table.

 

CHAIR: We are going to take a short recess while we review the hon. Member's amendment to determine whether or not the amendment is indeed in order.

 

The Committee is now recessed.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair has considered the amendment. The principle of the bill is that the appointments would be merit-based. Therefore, the amendment goes against the principle of the bill. So it is not in order.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I just want to take a moment to speak to the proposed amendment. I am just speaking to the general content that was put forward. I don't know if that's acceptable. I'm obviously not questioning this at all, but I just wanted to have a discussion of some of the comments that were made by the Member opposite.

 

From what I can gather, just a couple of things I'll toss out. I believe, number one, you mentioned human rights and the fact that under the Human Rights Act it's discriminatory not to consider these factors. I think in this case that's actually not going to be an issue. There is always a lens applied, even if it's just a matter of policy within the Public Service Commission. So I don't think that's going to be an issue here.

 

Again, I see the Member – I didn't turn down the amendment, I say to the Member opposite. What I'm saying is that the Public Service Commission does collect this info, does tabulate this and is going to ensure that these things are considered. It's not just going to be a gender lens. It's going to have to be a youth lens and it has to be a regional lens, all this information.

 

At this point, I will sit down and let the Member opposite have her say.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm happy to stand and speak to this again. I very much was listening to the Minister of Justice there, and he is right that it should have a youth lens and other lenses.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: Well, our proposed amendment, in fact, Mr. Chair, talks about that this should accurately reflect –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: – that in fact that the –

 

MR. HAGGIE: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: I would ask the hon. minister what section of the Standing Orders he would be standing on?

 

MR. HAGGIE: (Inaudible) 49, no Member may reflect upon any vote of the House except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded. This is not (inaudible).

 

CHAIR: The Chair never really heard the commentary that the minister is referring to, so I'll have to review it and report back at a later time.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. Minister – maybe the Chair is misunderstanding what the hon. minister is trying to say.

 

MR. HAGGIE: I am objecting to the line of discussion being put forward by the Member opposite under section 49, on the basis that the Member is reflecting upon a vote of the House for purposes other than moving that the vote be rescinded.

 

CHAIR: The hon. Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

Speaking to the point of order, there has been no vote. There was an amendment turned down. There was no vote by the House on that amendment. I presume the minister is speaking about the Member for St. John's Centre. She's still speaking to the section that she didn't get an amendment for, but she can still speak to the section, I would put forward to you.

 

CHAIR: The Chair would have to agree with the hon. Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi. There was no vote on this section. Therefore, it is not a point of order.

 

I now recognize the hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

Again, I'm happy to get up and to speak to this section. I understand that the amendment was ruled out of order and I would hope that government might consider perhaps making another amendment to its own legislation that would reflect the spirit of the amendments that we put forth. It's unfortunate that the Minister of Justice sat down and I hope he does get up and I'm more than willing to listen to what he is saying.

 

My concern is that the Human Rights Act would be in reaction to any kind of complaint. I know that not appointing women or not appointing youth or not appointing diversity would not be in violation of the Human Rights Act in and of itself. It's only if a complaint were brought through that someone wasn't appointed because they were a woman or somebody wasn't appointed because of their ethnic origin or whatever.

 

What this amendment asks for – and I ask government to perhaps consider a way that they may be able to integrate this. I do know that government is committed to gender equality. It's committed to pursuing diversity in all kinds of appointments, but we do know that without guiding principles, without policy, without legislation it doesn't work. It doesn't work.

 

Look at this House of Assembly, it doesn't work. It doesn't work if it's just because we want it to. We know that to be true. The evidence is there and we all know that the evidence is there. I appeal to the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women to speak on behalf of this. I appeal to her to speak on behalf of women.

 

If we look at our boards and commissions – I spoke in this House when this legislation was first introduced and I went down the list of appointments for the different agencies, boards and commissions and looked at who were the heads of those positions. It was embarrassing and I kept saying that I know that this is tedious but I went male, male, male and the odd female, or man, man, man and the odd woman. That's the reality. It's the reality. It's not someone's philosophical approach. That is what's happening in this province, and unless we do something about it, it's not going to change.

 

We see that Canada was 27th in terms of gender equality in political positions years ago, now we're 60th. It doesn't get better on its own. It simply doesn't get better on its own. We have to do something that's proactive.

 

I appeal to the Minister of Justice, I appeal to the government to do the right thing. It's not just about representation of gender, it's about – the appointments have to reflect our province. If they don't reflect our province, we keep committing the same problem again and again and again. We have to get out of that loop, because that's what it is, Mr. Chair. It's a vicious loop that keeps repeating itself.

 

We need something that binds the Independent Appointments Commission to reflect on the diversity of the province in making those appointments. If not, we're not going to see the change. It's so important we do.

 

I believe it's Iceland – if not Iceland, it's another Norwegian or Scandinavian country – where what they did is they passed legislation to say that 40 per cent of the representatives in their government have to be male and 40 per cent have to be female. So that makes it 80 per cent, and the 20 per cent – well, leave that to whatever. But they knew that without those kinds of regulations we will not get gender equality. We will not get equality in terms of diversification. It doesn't work.

 

We've been talking about this for years. Again, all we have to do is look around this room. I wish I had brought with me the list of people who are heading some of our most crucial and important agencies, boards and commissions. The majority of them are led by men. Look at what happened when we just found out about the sunshine list in Nalcor. The majority of the high earners and the managers there –

 

CHAIR: I would ask the hon. Member – I'm trying to provide as much latitude as I can, but I'm asking you to be relevant to the bill.

 

MS. ROGERS: I understand that, Mr. Chair.

 

Well, the relevance to the bill, Mr. Chair, is to look at what happens if there are no guiding principles, if there are no directions to appointments what happens. We see that again in this House. We see that at Nalcor. We see that in our boards and our commissions.

 

Nalcor is one of our agencies as well where appointments are made. We saw that the majority of them in positions of management are men. It's undeniable. That's the thing, it's undeniable. Even if we wanted to be different – if we believe it's not going to be different, it's not going to happen because of cultural biases, because of all the biases that we have to push against.

 

If we do not do this, Mr. Chair, we will not see a difference. History has proven that. The evidence is before us here tonight. All we have to do is look at our boards, our commissions and our agencies, and it's evident. We also have to have regional representation. We have to have representation. We need to see seniors being able to be in positions to be able to make decisions. It's even more crucial in some boards, agencies and commissions than perhaps others.

 

Again, I appeal to the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women to look at this. How many people do we have with physical disabilities managing any board or agency or commission? I don't know, but certainly it should be if we request our population –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair reminds the hon. Member her time for speaking has expired.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for Treasury Board. 

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I just wanted to take a quick minute in the debate this evening to speak to this particular section, in light of the comments by the Member opposite.

 

The work we've done in bringing the legislation into the House had a very robust discussion around the importance of making sure that gender lens and gender equity was part of how we actually execute and operationalize the Independent Appointments Commission. I think it's important for the Member opposite to know, I've had three different meetings with the Public Service Commission lead, our deputy there, to make sure that as we work through the regulations, that the regulations reflect the intent, which is to make sure that individuals of merit are provided an opportunity to get into the pipeline for consideration by the Independent Appointments Commission, or the Public Service Commission, depending on what tier board we're talking about. 

 

Certainly, one of the most important things for us to do, in my responsibility on the Public Service Commission, is to make sure we are actively recruiting and encouraging all individuals, including, as the Member opposite has suggested, women are participating at a higher level than they have been.

 

Mr. Chair, I can assure the Member opposite, that from a regulatory perspective, making sure we actually have the regulations in place that provide the action that yields a result is something that's very important to our government as part of this legislation. Equally providing opportunities for women throughout the province, as well as other groups that we –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

– other groups that maybe feel that in the past they have been under-represented as part of former administrations' practice of filling the board positions on agencies, boards and commissions, that we provide an opportunity for those individuals to participate in a very fulsome way through the recruitment position.

 

I would suggest to the Member opposite, a legislative change in the absence of what we have committed to, which is a robust regulatory regime supporting this legislation in the actual execution of the legislation through the Public Service Commission, I believe will be something that will provide opportunities for us to have the boards that represent the agencies, boards and commissions to be representative of the demographics in our province.

 

I'd also remind the Member opposite, that the focus of the Independent Appointments Commission is to make sure we have a merit-based approach. While there is no doubt, there is a need for increased representation of women in all areas of government, including this House, I would argue to the Member opposite, that making that happen through the Independent Appointments Commission and the regulations that will be in place will be a responsibility that I won't take lightly. As a matter of fact, I've already had conversations with stakeholder groups on this very issue.

 

I look forward to continuing to discuss this in the House, Mr. Chair.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

This is an extremely important issue. When we discussed this bill in second reading, and even when we were briefed on this bill, we brought up the issue of the commission only providing recommendations respecting appointments in accordance with a merit-based process.

 

So, I'm speaking to the fact that government has made a decision to use a process, which we were told when we asked the questions – I think it was both here in the House and in briefing – a process which itself, through the Public Service Commission, it has been said very, very clearly that they use totally a merit-based process. We brought up the problem with that, if that means you cannot also put on the whole layer of diversity and see appointments through the lens of diversity.

 

I'm very, very disappointed that government hasn't taken that seriously.

 

MS. ROGERS: Shocked.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Yes, my colleague here says shocked. I am shocked that in this day and age the government is putting this process in the hands of a commission and saying the only thing being used is a merit-based process.

 

It's just unbelievable actually. It's absolutely unbelievable and it explains, I think – I'm sorry but the Official Opposition, you were government too and we've had so many people put in positions on boards, et cetera, where in actual fact our balance of men and women has gone skewed again. There was a while when more women were being appointed. Now sometimes you're getting three and four appointments made and not one woman or not one Aboriginal person or all from the same area. It's happening over and over.

 

I'm really imploring government, as has the Member for St. John's Centre and I think we're going to hear from the Official Opposition as well, imploring you to rethink this. You put in place a process that is flawed, seriously flawed. I'd like you to look at what's happening in other provinces.

 

For example, let's take one that's close to home, New Brunswick. They have an appointment policy for New Brunswick's agencies, boards and commissions. They say, “A properly functioning board should have a diversity of perspectives. This diversity could be gained by having a board with a mixture of professional qualifications, or it could come from having a board with differing personal experiences (ideally, a board will have both). Therefore, special efforts will be made to appoint individuals from a diverse set of professional backgrounds, while being inclusive of New Brunswick's two official linguistic communities, women, First Nations, persons with disabilities, visible minority groups, and residents from all regions of the province.”

 

I would like to suggest that New Brunswick is light-years ahead of this piece of legislation that government is putting in place. I can't believe that you're doing it in this day and age. So you're saying we put it in the hands of the Public Service Commission, they use merit based and then that's fine. It's not. It's going to be up to government to have to recognize and how you're going to – we got to have it in legislation, like my colleague has said. It will not happen if it's not in legislation. It will not happen. So you've got to put in legislation how the commission is going to relate to government to meet those needs. You have to make sure that it's in there or it's not going to happen. It's not happening now, so it's not going to happen.

 

If there's a particular board, for example, that's going to be appointed and you need two or three people on that board, I would say the commission has an obligation to make sure that the new appointments add diversity to the board. They have, but there's nothing in this to say that. So you're leaving it in the hands of this so-called neutral process under the Public Service Commission. That can't be, and that's what was said to me.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MS. MICHAEL: May I continue speaking, Mr. Chair?

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. MICHAEL: It seems like the minister is not even conferring with me. I'm talking about some really serious stuff here. I don't want to be made fun of; I don't want to be mocked. This is 2016 and we cannot see how to put into this legislation something that will cover diversity. I think the minister is probably embarrassed that it's not here.

 

Let's look at British Columbia. Their body is called the Board Resourcing and Development Office. Every province has a different name. What do they say in British Columbia? In this agency's appointment process guidelines, which are over a decade old, they look for “a diversity of professional skills, experience and approaches to problem solving is critical for effective board performance.” “Rather, the recruitment process should be undertaken in such a way that it facilitates the consideration of people from these minority populations based on the particular skill sets sought.”

 

So you see what they've done. Yes, there's a skill set that they're looking for and, yes, they want merit; but they also put in the layer that you are looking for people from minority populations. Folks, we're not making this up. This is the world of today. We have a piece of legislation that's not recognizing it. I mean, it's absolutely unbelievable.

 

If government is getting upset over there, I'd say they are being defensive because they know that they're making a mistake. In Manitoba they say agencies, boards and commissions need members with a variety of qualifications and competencies in order to carry out their mandate. A diverse mix of experience, age, gender and culture can bring valuable perspectives, options and insights.

 

The guidelines also note the fluidity of the challenges faced by recruitment. Challenges change over time, but they have to be met, and the composition of members and the expertise which may assist an organization should also evolve over time. Surely to goodness we've evolved in this province into understanding how to make a piece of legislation recognize diversity. Just hiding behind the merit based – I mean, the ruling that the Chair had to make, I fully understand because it's filled with this merit based, without any other layer.

 

There's no other layer in the piece of legislation, no other lens; it's all just the merit based. I think we should be ashamed of that. I think we should be ashamed to say, well, it's in the hands of our Public Service Commission and all they do is look at merit based. There's something wrong with our whole practice here.

 

This is the time to try to make a change. This is the time. We have a piece of legislation here that is flawed in a couple of serious ways that we've pointed out. I hope to goodness – well, I'd like to see change. Are we going to see in two years' time with what we saw with Bill 1, what we saw with Bill 29, the infamous Bill 29, that both parties in the House voted for initially and the Official Opposition finally changed their mind when they were government and made changes and brought it back to where it should have been because they finally listened to the uproar?

 

Well, I suggest there is going to be uproar over putting in a piece of legislation with regard to appointments to all these major bodies that are covered by the legislation – major bodies, and we're not just talking about positions at the top. In most cases, you are talking about appointments to boards as well. To say that all of that is going to be only merit based is just unconscionable in this day and age.

 

If government over there is feeling defensive and ashamed, they should. They shouldn't get angry with us because of the mess that they've made in this piece of legislation. It is absolutely unbelievable.

 

I think I've said what I have to say, Mr. Chair. I think the Official Opposition will follow me.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I want to just rise briefly and speak in support of the sentiments expressed by the Third Party here this evening. Debates can get emotional in the House. We've seen that many times in the past, and sometimes for good reason.

 

What I want to focus on here is the notion that was put forward earlier this evening by the New Democratic Party to basically try and get yet another issue addressed in this legislation that would make it a little bit better. Amendments can be ruled technically out of order. That's part of this process, but the point I want to make in relation to clause 9 that we're now debating is just like the issues we raised in clause 6 and 7, there's still an opportunity here to address the concerns that are being brought forward. There is still an opportunity to bring forward more amendments if government wishes. They can make this right.

 

When it comes to issues like ensuring gender balance and diversity and regional representation, I don't think it's reasonable to say, well, we can just trust that will happen. Because if we look at the public service today, if we look at this Legislature, if we look at other systems in our democracy, it doesn't just happen. It takes a heck of a lot of commitment and work. Maybe we'll get to a point in our society where it will just happen but I don't believe we're there, sadly. So an effort to put something in the legislation that ensures this commission would have to consider issues like gender balance and diversity and regional representation, I think that will be a positive improvement.

 

I want to stand and support that principle while we're debating clause 9. I think that not finding a way to enshrine that in the legislation is another missed opportunity. Just like the missed opportunities we were talking about earlier around ensuring the appointments of the commission are independent and some of the other issues we've raised that we think are serious.

 

Well, I think the suggestions that have been put forward tonight by the New Democratic Party make good sense. I would urge government to figure out a way to enshrine those issues into the legislation. Maybe clause 9 is the appropriate place. It feels to me like it is. Somewhere here in clause 9 that we're debating this evening, but if not here then somewhere else in the legislation.

 

Just like I would encourage the government to consider the concerns we've raised around how the commission gets appointed. Even if some of the amendments we've proposed are ruled out of order for technical reasons or for some other reason, it doesn't mean there isn't a good argument to be made for making changes to make the legislation better. So that's the point I want to make while we're still debating clause 9 here this evening, Mr. Chair.

 

It makes sense that the appointments that are going to be recommended by this commission – and ultimately made in the Cabinet room behind closed doors, unfortunately. It makes sense that those recommendations should reflect Newfoundland and Labrador and reflect Canada today and address issues like gender balance and diversity overall, and regional representation overall. That just won't happen on its own. I do think there's merit in finding a way to work that into the legislation.

 

I wanted to rise tonight to speak in support of the effort that my colleagues are making, because it's the right thing to do, Mr. Chair. It's the right thing to do, and that's why we support the notion that's been advanced by the New Democratic Party tonight.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

It's odd to be standing in May of 2016 to have to be debating and arguing and pushing for this at this time in our evolution. I'm quite surprised.

 

I'm particularly surprised as well by the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, because if not her, then who on that side of the House will stand up and look at this issue? She, above anyone else, should understand the ramifications of not – putting something in this legislation that binds the commission to reflect the diversity of the province in making appointments. That's what we are talking about.

 

We are talking about putting something in legislation that would bind the commission to ensure that diversity of the province is reflected in the appointments to our agencies, boards and commissions. That is not an unreasonable request. As a matter of fact, I believe it's probably best practices in almost every province in the country.

 

We know the Premier noted when he introduced the legislation to create an Independent Appointments Commission that the province's agencies, boards and commissions make up 43 per cent of the total of government's expenditures. That is 75 per cent of the total public sector employment. That's what we're talking about, Mr. Chair, a considerable piece of the activities and the action that goes on within our province.

 

The Premier has clearly said he wants to modernize how appointments are made. He has a clear path for the most qualified people to apply for a position, be considered and selected on the merits, but without something binding the commission to reflecting the diversity of the province, it isn't going to happen.

 

This does not diminish, in any way whatsoever, the merit-based overriding principle. It does not. This is the kind of legislation that human rights activists, women, people from the disability community, that First Nations people have been pushing for and fighting for, for decades. We thought we had solved this issue, and here we are in our House of Assembly as if none of that has happened. I feel like I'm Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter's tea party. I cannot believe it.

 

Let's look at what's happening federally. My colleague from St. John's East – Quidi Vidi pointed out what's happening in a number of provinces. Let's look at what's happening federally. Also, the Liberals federally made a decision, the prime minister made a decision to appoint half of his Cabinet women. Also, there are a number of faces in that Cabinet that reflect the diversity of the country.

 

In 2008, the federal Conservative Party election platform promised to continue to –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair is providing, I think, a lot of latitude.

 

MS. ROGERS: Yes. 

 

CHAIR: But I would ask the hon. Member to bring her points back to the merits of section 9 of this particular bill, Bill 1. That's what we're debating.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

What I am doing is looking at diversity does not affect the merit principle whatsoever; but, in fact, what we are looking at is what is happening in other boards, in other jurisdictions when they do appointments, what they use as their guiding principles. Because that is what we're looking at right now, what's happening in other jurisdictions that provide legislation and guiding principles to their Independent Appointments Commission.

 

What happened in 2008, federally, the government, in fact, didn't follow through because they said that they were going to appoint a taskforce to find ways to ensure that appointees to federal agencies – which is what we're talking about here – and Crown corporations reflect the diversity of Canada in language, gender, region, age and ethnicity. So they're talking about appointments, their commission that appoints to boards, agencies and commissions. It didn't happen.

 

Now the federal government recently, on May 2016, changed the appointment process to reflect the fundamental role that appointees play – and that's more than 1,500 people. So this is what the Appointments Commission for the federal government has done in relation to appointments to their agencies, boards and commissions. The federal government has decided appointments will achieve gender parity and reflect Canada's diversity in terms of linguistic, regional and employment equity representation.

 

So, Mr. Chair, it's happening everywhere and why government wouldn't do this and hold us back – this is not state of the art; this is state of ark. That's what it is. It's state of ark; it's not state of the art. We can expect better. I expect better out of this government. I know that they can do better and I know that they can do the right thing.

 

I am not sure what will stop it now. I am pleading to government to do the right thing. I am pleading to the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women to do something that would make it binding for the Independent Appointments Commission to make recommendations, keeping in the mind the diversity of the province. We know, history has shown us, all the recent research has shown us, the very faces that sit in these chairs in this House of Assembly have shown us, the heads of our agencies, boards and commissions in the province shows us it doesn't work unless it is legislated.

 

For government to not take the steps necessary to ensure that these appointments reflect the diversity of the province is nothing short of I don't know what – again, I can't believe that, in 2016, we're debating this like this. It should be a given. This is about enriching our province; this is about making sure that the people of the province are represented. What is wrong with that? What is wrong is to not put in place measures that do ensure that is happening.

 

Mr. Chair, I'm going to sit down because I don't think there's anything left to say. It's just so clear. I hope that this government will do the right thing and not drag us kicking and screaming backwards but, instead, propelling us forward and do the right thing.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I just want to make a couple more points with regard to the whole issue of the appointments happening based on merit. Nobody has any problem with that. We obviously want appointments to be based on merit, but history has shown us – and there is all kinds of research to show us – that because we are still in a society that is patriarchal actually, we're still in that society that when people, when organizations, when governments, when businesses, when boards themselves look at new members to go on their boards or people to be in certain positions, because of the male dominance there is this thing where they're only looking at males when it comes to merit. It's a fact. It's a scientific fact. It's been researched.

 

So you have to make an effort in realizing that person in a wheelchair also has merit; can do this job. You have to look at that women can do this job. You have to look at the person with a brown face can do this job. You have to look at this Aboriginal woman can do this job. It won't happen without that.

 

That's why in Ontario – their body is called the Public Appointments Secretariat; PAS is its acronym. PAS does stipulate government has a responsibility to ensure government agencies are made up of members who are qualified to do the job and are representative of all segments of Ontario's society.

 

So it's a repetition of what I referred to earlier when I said what British Columbia has in theirs. The name of their body is the Board Resourcing and Development Office. When I read what they have in Manitoba, in Manitoba the appointments are actually under the Auditor General. It's called the Auditor General/agencies, boards and commissions. That's the name of their body and I read what they have.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. MICHAEL: In New Brunswick, they don't so much have a body but they have their policy, the appointment policy, and I've outlined what is in their appointment policy.

 

So the point I'm making is that it's not merit based or diversity – we want merit based – but it's the recognition that because of how we have developed in a patriarchal society that unless we look for merit in other places besides in male domain, we continue to have male dominated. And, in our society, it's not clichι, it's just a reality: white male dominance. That's the reality.

 

If we say we have a Human Rights Code in our province, we have a Women's Policy Office – I remember some years ago under another premier – well, four or five premiers ago now, I suppose – saying that the government believed in making sure that women were getting appointed to boards. What we're saying here today is it's not just women, it's the whole face of our province and the merit-based process on its own is not going to work.

 

I really am pleading with the government, stop this process, slow down, work on this and get it right before we vote on it and make it legislation, because you'll be carrying it on your heads. There's no way that we can vote for this bill as it is. We can't. We just can't vote for it as it is. It has other things that are small things that we might like to see changed, but the two issues we've brought up, and which have also been spoken to by the Official Opposition, are crucial issues. And this issue of the merit based is just so obvious.

 

Again, I'm not going to go on much longer because I said a lot the last time I was up. But I wanted to get on record the other places in the country where they are concerned about this and where they have systemically put stuff in either legislation or rules and regulations to make sure. And I'm not comforted by the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women saying trust us. It's not you. It's the process that is being put in place and we have to have it built into the process.

 

So it's not who you are as individuals; it's not even who you are as a government. This has to be a piece of legislation that on its own, on its own legs, used by anybody, used by any party who happens to be government, used by any of the public service sector, legislation that on its own will ensure that not only will people of merit and skills and experience be on our boards and be in the heads of our various agencies, but we will also have the diversity we've talked about already: women and men, Aboriginal people, people who are immigrants who are not part of our society, people with disabilities, regional differences.

 

Once again, it's 2016, please stop it. Please make the changes to this legislation. We're not going to make any more amendments. It's in your hands. Make the changes. Minister, you can stop this and say we'll put this on hold and make changes.

 

I know of other pieces of legislation over the years I've been here that got withdrawn and held back and changed and came back to the House. That can happen with this, too. Let's do the right thing. Let's not do what – and I mentioned earlier. Let's not repeat Bill 29.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I fear that not only is the budget that this government passed hurting women disproportionately, but they now refuse to ensure that women are fairly represented in our agencies, boards and commissions.

 

Mr. Chair, I asked the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women if a gender lens was applied to the budget. I asked her to table that. We haven't seen that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: So I ask her now, was a gender lens applied to this piece of legislation? If so, can she table it?

 

I ask the minister: Did this piece of legislation pass through the Women's Policy Office? Did the Women's Policy Office analyze this particular piece of legislation as it relates to their mandate? Was there a specific gender lens tool applied to this piece of legislation before it came to the House?

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm just rising briefly once again to speak to clause 9. I think the questions that are being posed by the Member for St. John's Centre are legitimate questions. I hope that while we're working through this bill together at Committee stage that we will get some answers to those questions around what thought and what research has gone into getting us to where we are.

 

Again, I'd highlight that while some amendments may pass tonight and some may fail, and some amendments might be ruled in order and others may not, there's still an opportunity to make this right. There's still an opportunity for government to do, as the leader of the New Democratic Party was just suggesting, maybe just press pause and go away and do some of the work that's required to make this bill work better.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair reminds the hon. Member that we are speaking specifically to clause 9, and I would ask the Member that he direct his comments toward that particular clause. 

 

MR. KENT: No problem, Mr. Chair. Thank you.

 

Clause 9 is very much about the merit-based process. In addition to focusing on a merit-based process, which makes lots of good sense, there are other things that need to be considered: like overall diversity, like making sure we have appropriate gender balance, like making sure the various regions of this province are reflected in the appointments that get made. So it's not simply about determining whether people are technically qualified to serve in a given role. It's also important that consideration be given to those other factors.

 

Anyway, the Member for St. John's Centre has raised some legitimate questions. I respectfully ask Members of government to respond to those questions because I think they're worth discussing as we work our way through this bill.

 

Thank you. 

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 9 carry?

 

Seeing no other speakers; all those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The vote has been taken.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

CHAIR: The Chair would say to the hon. Member, an opportunity was given, nobody stood. The question was called, it was voted on.

 

Clause 9 is carried.

 

On motion, clause 9 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 10.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 10 carry? 

 

The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

We had an additional amendment for clause 9. I couldn't rise because, of course, there needs to be an intervening speaker. I saw the Member for Conception Bay South take to his feet. It's unfortunate he didn't get an opportunity because we did have an additional amendment to clause 9 that we wish to present.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair would remind the hon. Member that clause 9 has been voted on, it has been passed. So we are now on clause 10.

 

MR. KENT: We are.

 

CHAIR: The hon. Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: I'll speak to clause 10. Given that we didn't get an opportunity to present our additional amendment on clause 9, I'll now propose another amendment to clause 10. It relates to the commission's report when it can't appoint three appointees. I'd like to speak to that now, Mr. Chair.

 

We just spent considerable time talking about the merit-based process. Sometimes the commission will not be able to recommend three appointees for a post. The current bill says when this happens the commission will have to report to Cabinet on its best efforts.

 

Once again, we've got a process that's shrouded in Cabinet secrecy. We believe the commission should report to the Speaker of the House and the report should be made public. The commission should be accountable to the people, and this is the people's House. So it just makes sense that rather than have that report go to Cabinet and be discussed behind closed doors, that there be discussion in this House.

 

Subclause 10(2) currently reads, “Notwithstanding paragraph (1)(b), where, in the opinion of the commission, it is not possible to recommend 3 persons for an appointment, the commission may recommend fewer than 3 persons but in that case it shall report to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or minister, as appropriate, outlining its efforts to comply with paragraph (1)(b).”

 

I'm going to propose another amendment, Mr. Chair, that would delete “Lieutenant-Governor in Council or minister, as appropriate,” and substitute “Speaker of the House of Assembly.” Because if you want to take politics out of this, then the decisions can't continue to be made in secrecy behind closed doors in minister's offices or at the Cabinet table. That is the fundamental problem with this legislation. In various sections of the bill we've pointed it out. We're pointing it out again here in clause 10.

 

Our amendment would insert before the final period, the following words, “and the Speaker shall table a copy of it in the House of Assembly immediately after receiving it if the Assembly is sitting or, if it is not, the Speaker shall give a copy of the report to the Clerk of the House of Assembly and immediately after receipt of that report by the Clerk it shall be considered to have been tabled in the House.”

 

The amended subclause would read: Notwithstanding paragraph (1)(b), where, in the opinion of the commission, it is not possible to recommend three persons for an appointment, the commission may recommend fewer than three persons; but, in that case, it shall report to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, outlining its efforts to comply with paragraph (1)(b) and the Speaker shall table a copy of it in the House of Assembly immediately after receiving it if the Assembly is sitting or, if it is not, the Speaker shall give a copy of the report to the Clerk of the House of Assembly and immediately after receipt of that report by the Clerk it shall be considered to have been tabled in the House.

 

I need to note, Mr. Chair, because it's relevant to this amendment that I'm going to propose that there's a parallel amendment to clause 16 regarding the Public Service Commission. So I want to note this amendment's tabling provisions reflect the wording of the Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act which is another piece of legislation in this House of Assembly.

 

That subsection reads: “The report shall be given to the Speaker, who shall table a copy of it in the House of Assembly within 15 days after receiving it if the Assembly is sitting or, if it is not, the Speaker shall give a copy of the report to the Clerk of the House of Assembly and after 15 days after receipt of that report by the Clerk it shall be considered to have been tabled in the House.”

 

I point that out because the wording we're proposing here is along the lines of an amendment that was proposed by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile in the House in 2014 and it did pass. Ours is similar, but it's not identical because ours calls for the release immediately and not after 15 days. I could quote what was said at the time, but I don't feel it's necessary to go into all of that, depending on how the debate unfolds on this particular amendment.

 

We think there is precedence for this. Our provision regarding immediate tabling in the House does actually reflect wording that's also in the Centre for Health Information Act and it reads, “The report and statements referred to in subsection (1) shall be submitted to the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Speaker shall table the report and statements in the House of Assembly immediately after receipt of the report by him or her or, where the House of Assembly is not then sitting, within 7 days after it resumes sitting.”

 

Really what we're talking about is amalgamating those provisions here. I think there's sufficient precedence for this. Again, we're trying to address what happens when the commission's report is that it cannot recommend three appointees and then where that report goes from there.

 

Now that I've provided you with those references to the Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act and the Centre for Health Information Act, I'll now read the amendment into the record and move the following amendment:

 

Subclause 10(2) of the bill is amended by deleting the words and commas “Lieutenant-Governor in Council or minister, as appropriate,” and substituting the words “Speaker of the House of Assembly” and by adding immediately before the period at the end of the subclause a comma and the following: “and the Speaker shall table a copy of it in the House of Assembly immediately after receiving it if the Assembly is sitting or, if it is not, the Speaker shall give a copy of the report to the Clerk of the House of Assembly and immediately after receipt of that report by the Clerk it shall be considered to have been tabled in the House.”

 

CHAIR: The Chair has received this amendment in advance and considered the amendment, and has found this amendment to be in order.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North, to the amendment.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I've outlined the rationale for the amendment. I won't repeat all of that. I'm glad that the amendment is in order. I think what we're proposing is a sensible change. It's about making this process more transparent, removing politics from it and having less decisions made behind closed doors in the Cabinet room and more decisions made in a process that's connected to this Legislature, to the people's House.

 

So I think establishing this role for the Speaker and making sure that the reports are issued and provided in a timely fashion makes good sense. I won't prolong the matter. I think this is a sensible and reasonable amendment, and I ask for government's consideration.

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I don't have a lot to say because this is very straightforward, and I think it makes a lot of sense actually in terms of openness and transparency because when we read what 10(2) says, it says: “…the commission may recommend fewer than 3 persons but in that case it shall report to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or minister, as appropriate, outlining its efforts to comply with paragraph (1)(b).”

 

What the report will be doing, it doesn't look like to me that it would be personal, naming people. We've had this discussion in second reading about we have to be careful about names being used. That was why we had it presented to us, and I actually agreed with it, that if a name goes in and it's rejected by government, it really would not be proper to release that name publicly.

 

But what's being talked about here is process; the commission recommending what it's gone through and why it has fewer than three persons. They definitely would not have to name names or anything, just the process. It could be as simple as they didn't have enough applicants or they didn't have enough applicants who had the background that was needed, et cetera.

 

I think from that perspective, it certainly is not a violation of confidentiality to do that kind of report. Based on that, I think the amendment that's being put forward really does make sense and I support it.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

 

MS. COADY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the amendment. I've listened very intently all night to a lot of discussion and a lot of amendments, a lot of changes proposed to this bill. I listened intently because I thought it was very important, and I've spoken to it a couple of times already. This bill really speaks to ensuring that we have a process to place the best, the most qualified candidates. It encourages some separation in making sure that we do not have a political lens on people being appointed to our boards, commissions and agencies, making sure that we do as best possible to have the right people of the boards, agencies and commissions that are so important to the people of the province.

 

Mr. Chair, what bothers me most is when we consider a process, when we consider how best to move forward and choosing people to sit on boards, agencies and commissions, we want to make sure that we have a process that's fair, that's equitable, that encourages people from around the province, that encourages diversity, that encourages people to be involved, that we have an ability to choose, then, from an array of people from around this province. We open up the process.

 

Far too often the former government for the last 12 years did a lot of this behind closed doors. I listened intently to the Member opposite when he kept saying behind closed doors. Mr. Chair, the intent is to throw open the doors, to ensure that we have a website collecting addresses, people's interests, people's resumes, people's involvement, people's information to ensure that we have a vetting, if you would, of all those who would be interested in being involved.

 

Mr. Chair, I think it's of concern to me, as an accredited corporate director, that opportunity to have the politics removed from this and the opportunity to ensure that we have some –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair would just remind the hon. the minister that we are currently debating clause 10. Clause 10 is pertaining to the concept of if we are unable to appoint three persons to the board, what the process would be. We're debating the amendment around that. So I would ask the minister if she could try to bring the comments relevant to the amendment.

 

MS. COADY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

My relevant point was the entire bill itself, including this proposed amendment, was – we felt the bill itself, the Independent Appointments Commission, did take politics out of it. I think in making the amendment it is just trying to layer another mechanism on top of that.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. COADY: I'll continue to listen to the debate, continue to listen to what they have to say on this very issue and perhaps they can change my mind, Mr. Chair. But my concern here is that we're layering on more provisions rather than trying to get to the heart of the matter, which is ensuring that we have the right process for agencies, boards and commissions.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Chair, we're not layering on anything. What we're talking about is taking this out of the Cabinet room and having an impartial process that's non-political, where there's a greater role for the House of Assembly to play. So I'm not sure what the minister is referring to.

 

What we're doing here is addressing the issue when the commission is not able to recommend three appointees for a post. If that happens, they report to Cabinet. We're saying there's a better way. We're saying make it public, report to the Speaker of the House. The commission should be accountable to the people. That's what we're saying. We're not adding an extra process. In fact, if it had to go through Cabinet to ultimately get publicly exposed at some point, well, that's additional layers.

 

We're saying skip all that. Skip the behind-closed-doors stuff; skip the smoke and mirrors of pretending this is an impartial, independent process when all the decisions are still going to be made at the Cabinet table. Call it for what it is and if you're actually serious, then bring those kinds of recommendations, like the ones we're addressing here in subclause 10(2), directly to the House of Assembly.

 

I believe that's the right move. I believe there's precedent for it. I've pointed that out in two other pieces of legislation, so I'm disappointed to hear government ministers rise and speak against this. Passing this amendment would demonstrate some commitment to making this thing a little less political and a little bit more legitimate. I'm very saddened to hear the commentary that was just presented by the Minister of Natural Resources.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm happy to stand and speak to section 10 and the amendment made by the Deputy Opposition House Leader. For those out there watching, when you look at section 10 basically what that's saying is that: “The commission shall, (a) together with the Public Service Commission, administer a merit-based process for appointments; and (b) recommend 3 persons for those appointments.

 

“(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1)(b), where, in the opinion of the commission, it is not possible to recommend 3 persons for an appointment, the commission may recommend fewer than 3 persons but in that case it shall report to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or minister, as appropriate, outlining its efforts to comply with paragraph (1)(b).” So I think in the amendment put forward by the Deputy Opposition House Leader, they're replacing LGIC or minister with Speaker of the House and then saying that the Speaker shall table a copy in the House after.

 

The first thing I would argue is that we're talking about a process here. Hopefully, I'd like to think that this will not be the situation where you have less than three appointments. I'm hoping that we have the interest for every position that's advertised publicly. Something that's never been done before.

 

I'm going to stay away from the Member opposite's commentary at the end of his last speech talking about it's saddening because it's so political. I'm going to stay away from that because I'm going to try to talk about the merit-based process we're working with here, and we're moving to something that they never had the time to do.

 

In this case, where the PSC doesn't get the three applications for a particular board or agency, so you will go to, whether it's the minister that's appropriate or the LGIC and say, look, we couldn't get the three persons so we need to ensure that it reported.

 

The amendment that has been put forward is that should now go to the Speaker, but the Speaker has nothing to do in terms of legislation. There's no responsibility for legislation and also is not responsible for appointments. So I fail to see why this amendment would make the legislation any stronger or any better. I certainly disagree with it.

 

I've sat here and listened to the amendments put forward. In fact, we supported one. Unfortunately, many of them were not approved, but in this case, this is not something that I think strengthens or makes the legislation any better. In fact, I think it is contrary to it.

 

The fact is we're moving to a process where the PSC – again, they're going to have policies set up similar to other provinces where it's open for applications. Everybody should apply. It's not based on who you know. It's based on if you have interest and go through the website and you see a position you might be interested in, you submit your application. A particular board, commission or agency may not get the prerequisite amount of interest to all for three qualified individuals. If that's the case that will be reported by the minister or the LGIC, whoever is appropriate.

 

I think that's the best you can do in the situation you have here. Having it reported to the Speaker, who again has no involvement in this, I don't think adds anything to it. Unless there are other comments, that would be our position on that particular amendment.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers to the amendment, we'll call the question.

 

All those in favour of the amendment as proposed?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The amendment is defeated.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 10 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Clause 10 is carried.

 

On motion, clause 10 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 11.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 11 carry?

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: I'll rise quickly, Mr. Chair, to make sure I don't miss my opportunity. I want to propose an amendment to clause 11. The issue I want to raise is about explicitly empowering the Public Service Commission to use experts to find candidates. This is another important consideration. I think we can improve upon clause 11 of Bill 1.

 

Clause 11 is about directing the Public Service Commission to support the commission in its work to find suitable candidates for positions. We believe there should be an explicit statement that the commission can rely on the Public Service Commission to use persons with expertise in finding suitable candidates for positions in particular fields of employment. This statement reflects our belief that the process should look for the very best candidates to serve the people in the province.

 

We support the intent that was proposed here. The concept of finding the best people for the job and having a transparent process to appoint them makes good sense, but we don't feel that Bill 1 achieves that at all. Here we think there's an opportunity to make sure that the Public Service Commission and the Independent Appointments Commission does the best it can to get people with expertise to find the right people with the right skills and experience, and draw on the expertise of people in particular fields as necessary.

 

Subclause 11(1) reads: “The Public Service Commission shall support and advise the commission in the execution of its duties and the conduct of its business.” Subclause 11(2) currently reads: “In addition to subsection (1), the Public Service Commission shall do those other things that are requested by the commission, where those things are required by the commission in the exercise of its duties under this Act.”

 

What we want to do, Mr. Chair, is add the following words at the end of subclause 11(2), and I quote: “including using persons with expertise in finding suitable candidates for positions in particular fields of employment.”

 

The amended subclause 11(2) would read: In addition to subsection (1), the Public Service Commission shall do those other things that are requested by the commission, where those things are required by the commission in the exercise of its duties under this act “including using persons with expertise in finding suitable candidates for positions in particular fields of employment.”

 

Mr. Chair, for lots of the appointments, maybe you wouldn't need to go through that additional step of drawing on outside expertise. But when you look at the tier-one level appointments that are outlined in Bill 1, we're talking about some pretty significant positions with incredible levels of responsibility within the public service in our province, both inside government itself, but also within the agencies, the boards and commissions that government is ultimately responsible for.

 

This is not the most significant amendment we'll present by any means. While it may appear to be a very minor point, I think it's an important one and one that I would hope government can easily agree to, should you rule that the amendment is in fact in order.

 

Mr. Chair, I will move the following amendment: Subclause 11(2) of the bill is amended by adding immediately after the word “act” the words “including using persons with expertise in finding suitable candidates for positions in particular fields of employment.”

 

CHAIR: The Chair had the opportunity to review this proposed amendment earlier and finds this amendment is in order.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

We've had an opportunity to listen to the Member opposite and review the amendment that was proposed. We see no issue with adding this to the legislation. We'll support this amendment.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi, who was indeed on her feet first.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm glad to hear the Government House Leader say that they accept this amendment. I'd like to point out what I see as something really important, actually, in this clause along with the amendment.

 

“In addition to subsection (1), the Public Service Commission shall do those other things that are requested by the commission, where those things are required by the commission in the exercise of its duties under this Act” including using persons with expertise in finding suitable candidates for positions in particular fields of employment.

 

If, under its duties under this act, the commission were directed by the legislation to make sure that we have diversity in appointments, then the commission would have the direction it would need to say to the Public Service Commission we need you to combine hiring by merit along with hiring by diversity. If the commission doesn't do that now and doesn't know how to do it, there are all kinds of people with expertise out there who know how to do that. One of the areas in which they could hire people with expertise to help getting suitable candidates would be people who have expertise in looking at how to hire based on merit but how to do that while also recognizing diversity.

 

I once again put that out to the minister and to all the Members of government to recognize the many, many places in this piece of legislation where they could make insertions that would bring in the diversity issue, and here it is. It's ripe for it because of the government saying they agree with the amendment. So find the expertise to help them do the right thing in this act.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Seeing no other speakers to the amendment, shall the amendment pass?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 11 pass?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: It's passed.

 

On motion, amendment carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 11, as amended, carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

Clause 11, as amended, has now been carried.

 

On motion, clause 11, as amended, carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 12.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 12 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 12 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 13.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 13 carry?

 

The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'd like to advise you that I'll be proposing three different amendments to clause 13. I'll speak to the first one first, which probably makes sense.

 

The issue is in subclause 13(1). It relates to reporting when Cabinet bypasses the commission in urgent circumstances, which is something we've talked about in second reading. While we were talking about clause 1 earlier today, we had an opportunity to raise that issue as well.

 

It relates back to paragraph (b) of subclause 9(2). I had hoped to present an amendment at that point in time. You'll recall that the way section 9(2)(b) currently reads, it states that the commission's merit-based process does not apply to “an appointment which, in the opinion of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or the minister, as appropriate, must be made due to urgent or extenuating circumstances.” So I'm glad I now have a chance to raise this issue related to urgent or extenuating circumstances.

 

That paragraph gives Cabinet the power to bypass the commission whenever the Cabinet determines that there are urgent or extenuating circumstances. Had we had an opportunity, we would have talked about 9(2)(b) further because there should be a public announcement before such an appointment is made, and the appointment should last for a maximum of six months.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair would remind the hon. Member for Mount Pearl North that we cannot reflect on a clause which has already been voted on and passed.

 

MR. KENT: This particular clause relates back to a previous clause, Mr. Chair. This clause 13(1) is specifically about reporting when Cabinet bypasses the commission in urgent circumstances. On subclause 13(1) it says there should also be reporting after, not just annual reporting but immediate reporting. That's the amendment we wish to present at this point in time.

 

Whenever the commission is bypassed so that an appointment can be made in urgent or extenuating circumstances, which will be simply determined by Cabinet, we believe public notice of that appointment should be issued immediately after to state which person was hired in these circumstances. This is about accountability. We don't believe Cabinet should simply make the decision that it's urgent or extenuating and not then be accountable for reporting on that in a timely fashion.

 

Subclause 13(1) currently states, “The minister responsible for the administration of this Act shall report annually to the Legislature those appointments exempted from the operation of this Act under the authority of paragraph 9(2)(b).” Our amendment adds at the end of the subclause: and shall give public notice of those appointments immediately after they have been made.

 

The amended subclause 13(1) would read: The minister responsible for the administration of this act shall report annually to the Legislature those appointments exempted from the operation of this act under the authority of paragraph 9(2)(b) and shall give public notice of those appointments immediately after they have been made.

 

A relatively minor change we're proposing but we think it does strengthen the legislation and puts a bit more accountability around this notion of urgent and extenuating circumstances that's referenced several times in the bill.

 

Mr. Chair, on that note, without prolonging the matter, I'll move the following amendment. Clause 13(1) of the bill is amended by adding immediately before the period at the end of the subclause the following: “and shall give public notice of those appointments immediately after they have been made.”

 

CHAIR: The Chair has previously reviewed the amendment by the hon. Member and finds that the amendment is in order.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

 

MS. COADY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, to have the opportunity to speak to this amendment.

 

I'm listening all evening to my hon. colleague's debate and discourse around the changes required. He speaks frequently about the need for changes to this bill. He wants to have: “and shall give public notice of those appointments immediately after they have been made.”

 

Mr. Chair, the only thing I can say is in looking at appointments that are made – most often in this environment in which we operate today with modern communications and the way people understand and know things, if an appointment is made, certainly something that is made urgently and with extenuating circumstances, it would normally be in the court of public opinion very quickly. I'm sure my hon. colleagues would hold this government to account very quickly. I'm sure that an order-in-council would be made and therefore would be made public. Is that –?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

 

MS. COADY: I understand that would be done immediately, in any event, and that would be a public document. I don't know the merit of adding to an act to say it would be immediately known. An order-in-council would have to be made if this was done under urgent or extenuating circumstances.

 

Secondly, in today's modern world and modern communications, it would be known very quickly when an appointment is made. I'm sure if something of this nature is made, my hon. colleagues in the Opposition and in the Third Party would hold this government to account very quickly.

 

I'm not quite sure of the merit of this amendment, especially based on the fact that it would be known almost immediately. I suspect, Mr. Chair, that maybe this is just to ensure that we have lots of amendments to the bill. I don't know if it's meritorious when it already would be known publicly.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Chair, those comments are rather alarming coming from a minister who's supposed to be responsible for open government. What we're talking about is ensuring that in a timely fashion there's disclosure of when these appointments are made, when Cabinet bypasses its own set of rules and doesn't go through this process and simply makes an appointment because they believe it's urgent or there are extenuating circumstances.

 

Now, I'll acknowledge there will be times where there could be extenuating circumstances or a matter could be urgent. All we're saying is disclose that in a timely fashion. When we say immediately, that definitely has merit, Mr. Chair. In this day and age it's very easy to do that. It could be done online. It could be simply posted on a website. It doesn't require any kind of major public event for that disclosure to occur because if it stands as is, then it could be months before there's disclosure.

 

For the minister to suggest that it will somehow just be known anyway. Well, no, it won't be. So there's a need for some kind of process for disclosure. That's all we're asking for here.

 

I'm disappointed that the minister would take such a dismissive approach. We think this would strengthen the legislation. Frankly, I don't think it's a big deal. This feels like it should be an easy one to address and fix. Let's give public notice of those appointments immediately after they have been made; immediately within reason, obviously.

 

Maybe they get posted to a website, for instance. We're not suggesting that government needs to take out a big ad in the paper or run ads on the airwaves but there needs to be some kind of process for disclosure.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: In the age of openness and transparency, I just think about how our access to information requests now get handled in short order and the results get posted online. Orders-in-council ultimately now get posted online. There are ways to do this. It's at very little cost and it can be done quickly. It doesn't need to wait months and months to happen.

 

I'm not sure why there would be such a concern from Cabinet ministers on this point. It feels like an easy one, Mr. Chair. I respectfully ask government Members to reconsider.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm going to concur with the Member opposite when he said this is an easy one, because it is easy. The fact is any decisions made there will be an order-in-council. Those are posted online, easy access, usually done within days. So I don't know what the issue is actually coming from the Member opposite. There's going to be no delay here. This actually is routine business.

 

I understand the concern is: “and shall give public notice of those appointments immediately after they've been made.” So the public component will be taken care of because orders-in-council are public, they are posted online. I don't think we'll be going the route of spending money to do ads anywhere. As long as they're put online I think that's acceptable and, certainly, I don't think there's going to be any concern there. But if the concern is the public side of it, that is taken care of.

 

The second part is done after they've been made. Actually, the wording here says immediately, but I think he just said in his commentary that within a reasonable period of time as orders-in-council are done and they're supposed to be done. It is a routine business, so I think the concern expressed by the Member opposite is actually going to be done already with the bill as stated. That's why we will not be supporting the amendment because we think it's redundant.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I appreciate the commentary from the Government House Leader. While we don't agree on the point, I appreciate him taking the time to present a reasoned argument as to why he doesn't. So I respect that.

 

But 13(1) says that an annual report is needed. What we're saying in this amendment that we're presenting here tonight is that an immediate report is needed. The previous argument presented by the Minister of Natural Resources is that these matters will already be known. Well, why would you even need an annual report at that point?

 

We're simply saying let's disclose that information in the most timely fashion possible. An annual report isn't timely. Given this information is going to be readily available, finding a way to post it somewhere in short order makes good sense. Using the order-in-council example, the order-in-council won't – I'm not sure the order-in-council would necessarily indicate that the commission was bypassed. So simply referring to the orders-in-council when they get posted online doesn't really address this concern.

 

The annual report is about exceptions. An annual report isn't good enough, in our view. We think the reporting should be more immediate than that. That's why we're making this recommendation.

 

I respect the view of the Government House Leader, but I don't agree, and that's why I don't agree. I think there's a bigger issue here. That's why we've put forward this amendment. So once again I'd ask for consideration by government.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers to the amendment, shall the amendment carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The amendment has been defeated.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 13 carry?

 

The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

As I said, I do have a couple more amendments to clause 13. Clause 13, much like a couple of other clauses we've discussed this evening, has a number of significant provisions that I think need to be fully debated and discussed in this House.

 

What we're proposing to do here is add subclauses 13(3) and 13(4). It has to do with reporting when Cabinet ignores the commission recommendations. So very much related to the previous issue raised related to subclause 13(1), but now we're proposing that two additional subclauses be added.

 

For the benefit of those that may be trying to follow all of this, clause 13 is about when reports are required. We believe there's additional reporting required. That's why we're suggesting two additional subclauses. The first pertains to the Appointments Commission recommendations.

 

If we go way back to second reading on this bill, I'd just like to remind people that there are two tiers of recommendations and two tiers of appointments here. What we've referred to as tier one are the ones that will actually be made by this Appointments Commission. The second pertains to the Public Service Commission recommendations, tier two.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Just for the clarification of the hon. Member, I realize you have two amendments, you're saying. Just so that you're aware, we would do them separately.

 

MR. KENT: Absolutely, yes.

 

CHAIR: So you will have to bring one forward. We'll have to recess, determine if it's in order and then we'll do the second one.

 

MR. KENT: Absolutely, yes. No problem at all, Mr. Chair. Thank you.

 

This first amendment is related to adding these two subclauses that I'm speaking of, which the first pertains to the commission's recommendations; and, the second pertains to the recommendations that will be made through the Public Service Commission process for those entities and those positions that don't get referred to the Independent Appointments Commission.

 

I have a separate amendment to clause 13, but I think that because these two subclauses are directly related to one another, it would make sense to propose them together as one amendment. I trust, Mr. Chair, that's okay. Or do you need me to move each subclause separately?

 

CHAIR: I've been advised that for the sake of clarity and so there's no confusion –

 

MR. KENT: We'll do each of them separately.

 

CHAIR: – and to make sure that they're in order and so on, you're better off to make them separately, one at a time. Right now you're proposing three and four. I understand there's going to be a subclause (5). Do all three of them separately, one at a time.

 

MR. KENT: Okay. No problem, Mr. Chair.

 

I'll speak first to subclause 13(3).

 

CHAIR: Correct.

 

MR. KENT: I won't need to repeat all of my commentary around it because 13(4) is going to be very much related.

 

These reports that we believe are needed are about all circumstances in which someone was appointed who was not recommended by the commission. So to speak to subclause 13(3) that we're proposing, we're talking about those tier-one appointments that relate to the so-called Independent Appointments Commission. We, again, believe those circumstances should be disclosed quickly and they should also be accounted for.

 

The first amendment I'll propose, Mr. Chair, then we'll do the second as you've suggested, is subclause (3) related to the tier-one appointments. What we're suggesting is that a subclause (3) be added that says, “The minister shall report immediately after an appointment is made and annually to the House of Assembly those appointments to entities listed in the Schedule that were not an appointment recommended by the commission.”

 

Mr. Chair, I will move the following amendment, clause 13 of the bill is amended by adding immediately after subclause (2) the following: “(3) The minister shall report immediately after an appointment is made and annually to the House of Assembly those appointments to entities listed in the Schedule that were not an appointment recommended by the commission.”

 

CHAIR: The Chair shall take a brief recess to consider the amendment and then report back.

 

The Committee is now in recess.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair has considered the amendment as proposed by the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North and finds the amendment to be in order.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I appreciate your consideration. Just because I suspect we'll shortly vote on this, I want to remind hon. Members of what we're proposing here.

 

It's about reporting. By adding subclause 13(3), we're talking about recommendations that are coming from the Appointments Commission. These reports are about circumstances in which someone was appointed who was not recommended by the commission. We believe that should be disclosed immediately and should also be accounted for in the annual reports.

 

We're simply adding a subclause that says: “The minister shall report immediately after an appointment is made and annually to the House of Assembly those appointments to entities listed in the Schedule that were not an appointment recommended by the commission.”

 

It's fairly straightforward. I won't prolong discussion, Mr. Chair. I've made my points and certainly ask for government's consideration of what I think is a reasonable amendment.

 

CHAIR: Do we have any further speakers to the amendment?

 

Seeing none, shall the amendment carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The amendment has been defeated.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm disappointed that amendment was defeated. I'll propose an additional amendment. I had mentioned previously that we were going to propose subclause 13(3) and subclause 13(4). Well, subclause 13(3) just didn't get approved, so I'm going to propose a new 13(3) which was my 13(4). I think you're following me here.

 

So the new subclause (3) I would like to propose relates to the recommendations from the Public Service Commission for the tier-two appointments, for those appointments that won't go through this Liberal Appointments Commission but go through a Public Service Commission process.

 

The language we're proposing now for subclause (3) is: “The minister shall report immediately after an appointment is made and annually to the House of Assembly those appointments included in Schedule C of the Public Service Commission Act that were not an appointment recommended by the Public Service Commission.”

 

This is about accountability and transparency. It's about immediately disclosing those instances where these processes aren't followed. This additional reporting is not a big burden. It doesn't really cost anything. It's just about making the whole process a little bit more legitimate, hopefully, and more transparent.

 

Mr. Chair, I'm adjusting it based on the failure of the previous amendment.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: I'm moving the following amendment. Clause 13 of the bill is amended by adding immediately after subclause (2) the following: “(3) The minister shall report immediately after an appointment is made and annually to the House of Assembly those appointments included in Schedule C of the Public Service Commission Act that were not an appointment recommended by the Public Service Commission.”

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The Chair has previously reviewed the amendment and finds this amendment also to be in order.

 

Do we have any speakers to the amendment?

 

The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Just quickly, Mr. Chair, I'm not interested in prolonging it unnecessarily. For the reasons I previously outlined, this is just about improving reporting.

 

These reports we're asking for address a circumstance where somebody is appointed who wasn't recommended. Having that disclosed in a timely fashion, if we're actually committed to having a process with accountability and transparency, then it just makes good sense.

 

I've made my arguments; I won't prolong them. Unfortunately, the previous amendment was voted down. I fear this one will be as well. But I believe it's the right thing to do and I think it improves upon this flawed legislation. I hope government will reconsider, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers to the amendment, shall the amendment carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The amendment has been defeated.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: Do we have any further speakers?

 

The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Originally we were going to add a subclause 13(5). So now we're going to propose subclause 13(3) once again, as our proposed subclauses 13(3) and 13(4) didn't pass. This is about the merit principle.

 

In light of the previous amendments failing, I may need to make a slight adjustment here to the proposed amendment. Let me walk you through our rationale for proposing an additional subclause and then we'll work through the amendment process.

 

Clause 13, which we're spending some time on here this evening, is as significant in some ways as clause 3. It's about when reports are required. We believe that yet another report is required here.

 

The merit principle is at the heart of this legislation. It's actually included in the long title of the legislation. We believe there should be independent annual review of all tier-one appointments to determine if the merit principle was respected.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I believe there will actually be an amendment required to another clause later under clause 19 regarding tier-two appointments. But for now we'll address the tier-one appointments that are handled by the Appointments Commission.

 

Our amendment adds the following new subclause at the end of clause 13, which would now be subclause 13(3): “The Public Service Commission must conduct an annual review of all appointments to entities and statutory appointments listed in the Schedule to determine if the merit principle was respected and its review shall form a part of the report made under this section.”

 

We want to ensure that this merit principle, which is key to the whole legislation, is upheld. Having the Public Service Commission review that annually and provide some commentary on that helps ensure that.

 

This relates to some legislation that exists in other provinces that I feel is relevant at this point in time to draw your attention to and draw Members' attention to, Mr. Chair. Government has repeatedly suggested that this is the first example of an independent, merit-based appointments process in Canada. I don't believe that notion is accurate. In fact, Ontario has had an independent appointments commission for decades. The merit principle does actually factor in here.

 

Ontario has had a Standing Committee on Government Agencies since 1978. The function initially was to select and review a small number of agencies, boards and commissions each year, but then that standing committee in 1990 was given a fresh mandate that took effect at its meeting, I think, early in 1991. So we're going back 25 years.

 

The mandate of that committee in Ontario reflected the recommendations of an all-party committee report in 1986. The reason I'm raising that, Mr. Chair, is that the committee now reviews intended appointees to agencies, boards and commissions and of directors to the corporations in which the Crown in right of Ontario is majority shareholder. Intended appointees may be requested to appear before the committee to discuss their qualifications. The committee reports back to the legislature on whether or not it concurs with the intended appointments.

 

A discussion of qualifications is all about merit. It's about making sure the right people get appointed for the right reasons. There's precedent for what's being proposed here in Bill 1, we just don't feel government is going about it the right way. This additional accountability related to ensuring the merit principle is followed is a really critical change that we hope government will consider.

 

When Ontario went down that road there were over 5,000 appointments to be considered by the committee. Complementing the work of the standing committee, Ontario actually has a Public Appointments Secretariat. The mission of that secretariat is to ensure the most qualified men and women having the highest personal and professional integrity serve the public on the province's provincial agencies and other entities. Persons selected to serve must reflect the true face of Ontario in terms of diversity and regional representation.

 

Diversity and regional representation; that ties directly into the provisions related to merit and qualifications as we were reflecting on earlier. The government has committed itself to a more open and transparent system for filling the positions on the province's provincial agencies and other entities. So maybe Bill 1 is not as groundbreaking as some would have you believe, Mr. Chair.

 

All appointments, order-in-council and ministerial letter are made following a recruitment and review process supported by the Public Appointments Secretariat. Ontario has an Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act which enforces the competitive, merit-based process. In order to ensure adjudicative tribunals are accountable, transparent and efficient in their operations, while remaining independent in their decision making.

 

Mr. Chair, while we're discussing this, Ontario is not the only province to appoint based on merit. In British Columbia's Public Service Act, Part 2, you'll find a position called the merit commissioner. There's really good precedent across the country for what we're talking about here this evening when it comes to making the merit principle stronger.

 

In that Public Service Act in BC, before you get to Part 2, you'll notice that the act applies “to any board, commission, agency or organization of the government and its members or employees, to which the Lieutenant Governor in Council declares this Act, or a provision of this Act, to apply.” The merit commissioner in BC is an officer of the legislature and must faithfully, honestly and impartially exercise the powers and perform the duties of the office.

 

What we're trying to do here tonight through these amendments, Mr. Chair, is bring that same level of accountability to our process here in Newfoundland and Labrador by involving the Legislature. I know my time is running short.

 

MR. KIRBY: Talk about Alberta.

 

MR. KENT: Talk about Alberta – the Minister of Education would like me to talk about Alberta. I will stand after proposing my amendment and I'm happy to speak about Alberta as well. That's not a problem.

 

For right now, I'd like to propose the amendment while time still allows and then we can debate it further. There may be other people who wish to say a few words about this amendment that I'm proposing.

 

The amendment is as follows, Mr. Chair. I move the following amendment: Clause 13 of the Bill is amended by adding immediately after subclause (2) the following: “(3) The Public Service Commission must conduct an annual review of all appointments to entities and statutory appointments listed in the Schedule to determine if the merit principle was respected and its review shall form a part of the report made under this section.”

 

CHAIR: Okay, the Chair had an opportunity to review the proposed amendment prior to the Member reading it here in the House of Assembly and the Chair rules that the amendment is in order.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: On the amendment.

 

MR. KENT: I'm speaking to the amendment. I'm glad that it is in order. I was talking about British Columbia. I'd like to finish that thought. Then, at the request of the Minister of Education, I'm happy to talk about some of the things that are going on in Alberta as well.

 

In BC, like I said, the merit commissioner is an officer of the legislature. The Legislative Assembly must not recommend an individual to be appointed as merit commissioner unless a special committee of the Legislative Assembly has unanimously recommended to the Legislative Assembly that the individual be appointed.

 

What that means is for that merit commissioner to be put in place in British Columbia, all parties in that legislature have to work together and support the appointment of that person. The changes we're trying to make to uphold that merit principle are very much in line with what's happening in a couple of other jurisdictions in this country.

 

The merit commissioner in BC is responsible for monitoring the application of the merit principle under the act by conducting random audits of appointments to and from within the public service to assess whether the recruitment and selection processes were properly applied to result in appointments based on merit; and the individual, when appointed, possessed the required qualifications for the positions to which they were appointed –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair

 

– and reporting the audit results to the deputy ministers or other persons having overall responsibilities for the ministries, boards, commissions, agencies or organizations, as the case may be, in which the appointments were made.

 

That's a great example of merit review that's happening in British Columbia. We should learn from it. This legislation isn't groundbreaking, Mr. Chair. We've got clear precedent for this kind of approach in Ontario and in British Columbia as well. What we're talking about through this amendment is strengthening the merit principle and ensuring accountability around the merit principle. So we should learn from what has happened in other jurisdictions.

 

I think I've outlined the arguments, but I will comment on what's going on in Alberta. According to the Throne Speech that was on March 8 in Alberta, there's a report coming of the all-party special committee on ethics and accountability. The new Alberta government announced its intention to introduce the reform of agencies, boards and commissions act.

 

In September 2014, the previous premier of Alberta also committed to merit-based appointments. So they haven't progressed as far as British Columbia or Ontario. Clearly, they don't have the same kind of history and experience with this, but other jurisdictions in Canada are attempting to explore what we're talking about here this evening.

 

An annual review of the merit principle makes sense. We think this amendment, adding an additional subclause in clause 13 makes good sense. I hope that hon. Members will support subclause 13(3) that we've proposed through this amendment because it's all about respecting and upholding that merit principle that government says is important and that they believe in. So here's an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, we call the question on the amendment.

 

All those in favour of the amendment?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The amendment has been defeated.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 13 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clause 13 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 14.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 14 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clause 14 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 15.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 15 carry?

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Chair, I just wanted to stand for a moment and speak to section 15 of Bill 1. As it stands, section 15, for the interest of those watching: When the House of Assembly is not in session, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order, amend the Schedule, but the order shall not continue in force beyond the end of the next sitting of the House of Assembly.

 

The good news is that after speaking to this piece of legislation over the last two months – it was brought forward in March – we have had a number of people that have spoken to us. They've contacted us and expressed interest and had suggestions.

 

At this point what I'd like to do is I actually have an amendment that I would move. It's saying: Clause 15(1) of the Bill is amended by adding immediately after the word “Schedule” the words “by adding to it but not deleting from it.” I would move that amendment.

 

CHAIR (Dempster): The hon. the Government House Leader has proposed an amendment. This House will take a brief recess to consider the amendment.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: The Government House Leader proposed an amendment to subclause 15(1). The amendment is ruled in order.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I want to speak in support of the amendment that's been proposed by the Government House Leader. In fact, one of the amendments that we mentioned earlier today and circulated copies of is basically the same amendment. This one is worded a little differently, perhaps better. I don't know. But the intent is exactly the same as the amendment that we were going to bring forward to subclause 15(1).

 

I want to speak to why I believe this amendment is important. Subclause 15(1) of the bill would give Cabinet the power to amend the Schedule of the commission's act when the House is not sitting. As this amendment reflects, that's fine if Cabinet is adding bodies to the Schedule and subjecting more government bodies to this process. But we had a real concern if Cabinet intended to remove a body from the Schedule. Then it wouldn't be fine.

 

A body that is removed from the Schedule wouldn't be subject to appointments through the Appointments Commission using a merit-based process if this stood without the amendment. That would violate the principle of the Independent Appointments Commission Act.

 

Cabinet shouldn't have the discretionary power to remove a body from the Schedule. I'm pleased to see that government has acknowledged that and brought forward an amendment considered essentially the same as the one we would have proposed.

 

I have no problem with the wording as it's proposed. It achieves exactly the outcome we were hoping for with our proposed amendment. I'm simply rising to speak in support of the amendment that has been proposed by government.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, we'll call the vote on the amendment to subclause 15(1).

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, amendment carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 15, as amended, carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clause 15, as amended, carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 16.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 16 carry?

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Moving on to the next section here, section 16 states: “The minister responsible for the administration of this Act shall, every 5 years, perform a review of this Act and consider the areas in which it may be improved and report his or her findings to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.”

 

We are going to propose an amendment. I will acknowledge the fact that the Member of the Opposition did have an amendment for 16. I believe they are very similar in intent but I think this one may be worded a little more clearly. I will read it. They'll have an opportunity to speak to it, but I believe it has the same intent.

 

The amendment I would move is that clause 16 of the bill is amended by renumbering it as clause 16(1) and by adding immediately after that clause the following: “(2) Within 3 days of the submission of the report under subsection (1) the minister shall (a) table the report in the House of Assembly; or (b) where the House of Assembly is not then sitting, table the report as if it were a report of an officer of the House of Assembly under section 19.1 of the House of Assembly Act

 

I believe this accomplishes the goal that's set out in the clause 16 amendment. I think it's the same intent but I do thing it may be worded – having the benefit of having some staff that are able to look at it, so I think it does carry the same intent. But I look forward to comments by the Member opposite.

 

CHAIR: The Chair has had an opportunity to review the amendment proposed by the Government House Leader for clause 16. We will give the Opposition and Third Party a moment to review the amendment proposed by the Government House Leader.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) rule if it's in order.

 

CHAIR: I'm about to make a ruling.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

CHAIR: Okay, we'll try again. It's getting late.

 

The Government House Leader proposed an amendment to clause 16. The Chair has had a chance to review and has ruled the amendment in order.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm just making sure my light is on.

 

I appreciate the Government House Leader's comments. I really do appreciate the fact that government has considered these couple of amendments and brought back wording that is acceptable to government in the proper form, and still addresses the concerns that we've raised.

 

As we just did with clause 15, an amendment that we had suggested was brought forward by government in a form that was suitable to government. I believe that's exactly what's happening here as well. I gather from the Government House Leader's comments that he feels the wording as now proposed in their amendment is very similar, and the intent is the same as what was in our proposed amendment to clause 16. So I accept that and I appreciate the fact that government is considering these suggestions that we've brought forward.

 

This amendment to clause 16 requires the report of the review of the act to be tabled within three days of its submission. In our amendment we had approached it slightly differently, but I think the intent is much the same. We basically wanted to ensure the five-year review went to the House of Assembly for release as quickly as possible.

 

I'll just speak to it very briefly without spending too much time on it, because I think we are in agreement. Clause 16 of the bill requires a review of the act every five years. The problem we saw was that this review would go to Cabinet. We felt it should instead be given to the people of the province through the Speaker of the House. This bill is supposed to be about independence, so let the people see the review to determine whether government's performance measures up.

 

I know certainly in the media, and perhaps in the House as well, the Government House Leader has said we'll be accountable by our actions. The more reporting and the more transparency, the more public disclosure, the better people will be able to determine whether government's performance measures up.

 

So I think these changes make sense, and for that reason I'm prepared to support the government's proposed amendment, which is basically the same as our amendment, just differently worded. I appreciate the co-operation from government and from the Government House Leader.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, we'll call the vote on clause 16, the amendment.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried with amendment.

 

On motion, amendment carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 16, as amended, carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 16, as amended, carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 17.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 17 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 17 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 18.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 18 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 18 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 19.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

We're getting near the end of Bill 1. I probably shouldn't say that prematurely, but we are. There are only so many clauses. There are several amendments that I'd like the House to consider related to clause 19. Beyond that, we will discuss the Schedule and the long title, but we have made our way through most of the bill in the past number of hours here in the House of Assembly.

 

Getting right down to business again, we're going to be proposing an amendment to subclause 19(4). I want to highlight for the House that it relates to the Public Service Commission Act subsection 21(3). It's about bypassing the commission in urgent circumstances, which is an issue that has come up several times during this debate.

 

The amendment that we're going to propose here is parallel to an amendment we wish to propose to subclause 9(2)(b). It's about what happens when Cabinet declares the circumstances to be urgent or extenuating in order to bypass the merit-based process.

 

An amendment we were hoping to address previously related to tier-one appointments. This one, in subclause 19(4), relates to Public Service Commission tier-two appointments. So if Cabinet can bypass the process at will, then where is the independence? It goes back to that problem that's really at the heart of all of this from our perspective. It makes a mockery of the principle of the bill when the Cabinet has so much discretionary power to bypass its own legislation and appoint at will.

 

This amendment to 19(4) affects subsection 21(3) of the Public Service Commission Act. Here's how subsection 21(3) in the Public Service Commission Act reads: “Where an appointment is made further to urgent or extenuating circumstances as referred to in paragraph (2)(b), the circumstances of that appointment shall be included in the report required under section 17.”

 

Our amendment adds immediately after the words “in paragraph (2)(b)” the following words: “and provided that the minister has first made a public announcement of the proposed appointment and that appointment is not more than 6 months unless the appointment has been confirmed through a merit-based process.”

 

The amended subsection 21(3) would read: Where an appointment is made further to urgent or extenuating circumstances as referred to in paragraph (2)(b), and provided that the minister has first made a public announcement of the proposed amendment and that amendment is not more than six months unless the appointment has been confirmed through a merit-based process, the circumstances of that appointment shall be included in the report required under section 17.

 

In other words, Madam Chair, before Cabinet can make a tier-two appointment that bypasses the Public Service Commission in what Cabinet would call urgent or extenuating circumstances, there must first be a public announcement that the process will be bypassed because of urgent or extenuating circumstances. Also, the appointment should not be for more than six months unless the appointment is subject to an actual merit-based process.

 

We proposed a related amendment to subclause 13(1) that wasn't successful to require reports on these exceptions immediately after they're made and annually. That's what we're trying to – we're trying to put some more rigor around those instances where the commission is bypassed in urgent circumstances, and ensure more transparency and accountability around that.

 

I hope that's clear. It's one of the wordier amendments, I guess, that we'll be presenting. If Cabinet plans to make appointments that bypass the commission in those urgent and extenuating circumstances that has to be revealed publicly. The appointments should only be for a specific period of time if there hasn't been some kind of merit-based process.

 

I'll move the following amendment, Madam Chair: Subclause 19(4) of the bill is amended at the proposed paragraph 21(3) to the Public Service Commission Act by adding immediately after the words “in paragraph (2)(b)” the following words “and provided that the minister has first made a public announcement of the proposed appointment and that appointment is not more than 6 months unless the appointment has been confirmed through a merit-based process.”

 

CHAIR: The hon. Member for Mount Pearl North has made a motion to propose an amendment to subclause 19(4). The House will now recess briefly to consider the amendment.

 

Recess

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Member for Mount Pearl North proposed an amendment to subclause 19(4). The Chair has ruled the amendment in order.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm glad the amendment is in order. I won't speak further to it. I've made the arguments as to why I think this is a sensible amendment and I'm hoping government will see fit to support this amendment.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, shall the amendment carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 19 carry?

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

It's good to get up and speak on this section 19. My colleague for Mount Pearl North has been carrying today on this, and doing a great job I might add.

 

As we've just seen, this amendment is in order. The bill is amended at the proposed – to the Public Service Commission Act by adding immediately after the words: “and provided that the minister has first made a public announcement of the proposed appointment and that appointment is not more than 6 months unless the appointment has been confirmed thorough a merit-based process.”

 

We're glad to see that amendment has been found to be in order. I pass it back over to my colleague to carry on with his next amendment.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Madam Chair, the amendment that was found in order was defeated. So we're now back to debating clause 19, is that correct?

 

CHAIR: Yes, correct.

 

MR. KENT: Okay, thank you.

 

Just to make sure we're in the same place. Thank you.

 

On that note, I'd now like to propose an additional amendment to clause 19. It's to add subsection 21(4) to the Public Service Commission Act. But I now believe that would be 21(3) because if the previous amendment failed, then this one would actually be 21(3).

 

Does that make sense, Madam Chair? I'm pausing just to make sure we're in the same place here.

 

CHAIR: No, I think we have a discrepancy here, I say to the hon. Member.

 

We'll just have a look at the amendment you have there.

 

MR. KENT: Okay.

 

CHAIR: Just pause for a moment.

 

The hon. Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Madam Chair, I think now we're on the same page. We just want to make sure we get it right. It's a little more complicated in this instance because we're proposing a series of amendments to clause 19. Because government just voted down our first proposed amendment, we now need to make some adjustments to the next amendment.

 

That's where we are right now. I think we've got that sorted out. We're going to propose a new subsection 21(3) to the Public Service Commission Act. We're proposing an amendment to subclause 19(4) of Bill 1.

 

This amendment is parallel to an earlier amendment we proposed this evening. It's about the annual review of the merit principle. It's purpose is to require an annual review to ensure the merit principle was respected in tier-two appointments that should go through the Public Service Commission's merit-based appointments process.

 

It's about what happens when Cabinet declares the circumstances to be urgent or extenuating in order to bypass the merit-based process. So very similar to some other amendments that we've proposed.

 

What we want to do now, in light of the previous amendment failing, is amend subclause 19(4) to add subsection 21(3) to the Public Service Commission Act. Here's how the new subsection 21(3) would read –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Subsection 21(4).

 

MR. KENT: It is subsection 21(4). Okay, I apologize. We're just having a little bit of confusion with the numbering here, Madam Chair, just because of the multiple amendments to the same section.

 

I'm sorry; it's subsection 21(4) that we're proposing to add. Subsection 21(4) would read as follows: “(4) The Public Service Commission must conduct an annual review of all appointments to entities and statutory appointments listed in Schedule C to determine if the merit principle was respected and its review shall form a part of the report made under section 17.”

 

So let me just tell you what section 17 in the Public Service Commission Act says: “The chairperson shall, following the end of each financial year of the government, make a report to the minister of the transactions and affairs of the commission during the immediately preceding financial year, and the minister shall lay the report before the Legislature within 15 days after it is submitted to him or her if the Legislature is then sitting, and, if it is not sitting then within 15 days after the beginning of the next session.”

 

If we are aligned here, the original amendment that I was going to propose, the numbering will still work as it was originally proposed. I'm going to move the following amendment, Madam Chair. Subclause 19(4) of the bill is amended at the proposed section 21 to the Public Service Commission Act by adding after subsection (3) the following: “(4) The Public Service Commission must conduct an annual review of all appointments to entities and statutory appointments listed in Schedule C to determine if the merit principle was respected and its review shall form a part of the report made under section 17.”

 

CHAIR: The Chair has had a chance to review the amendment and has ruled it in order.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm hoping that I have this right. There was a little bit of confusion here with this one. I think the amendment as entered by the Deputy Opposition House Leader was to change clause 19(4) and the amendment would now say: “The Public Service Commission must conduct an annual review of all appointments to entities and statutory appointments listed in Schedule C to determine if the merit principle was respected and its review shall form part of the report made under section 17.”

 

Looking at this piece of legislation, in case people were wondering, the Schedule C that is referred to is towards the back; Schedule C lists a number of entities which we would refer to as tier-two entities. There is tier one and there's tier two. Again just so people understand how tier two works, tier two will still go through the Public Service Commission. People will have the opportunity to apply, to put their name forward and it is screened. The Public Service Commission puts forward names to – in this case, though, it doesn't go to the Independent Appointments Commission; it goes to the minister that would make the decision.

 

Currently, as it stands, under the process that's currently in place, there's nothing whatsoever. A minister can appoint who they want regardless. There's nothing in place. In many cases, there's often no notice given; it's just you fill the position based on what's available. I can say that a number of them are available.

 

I guess the issue I have here is that basically the Public Service Commission is being asked to do an annual audit on themselves. They're saying they must conduct an annual review of all appointments. In this case, any appointments made to this have to come through the Public Service Commission.

 

So the Public Service Commission is the one that's putting them forward. It's up to a minister to take these names and apply. It's not about going outside of this. If there is an exception made to this, it goes back to the other sections here where there's notice having to be provided and tabled in the House.

 

I certainly don't think the PSC needs oversight of themselves. I don't think that this subsection is necessary. I understand where the Member was trying to get with it, but don't think it's necessary.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I appreciate the Government House Leader's comments. This is another one where we'll probably have to agree to disagree. Even if the Public Service Commission is reviewing appointments that it's been involved in, an annual review to confirm that the merit principle has been upheld, even if it's an internal review, we still think has value.

 

Making sure that the merit-based appointments process is maintained makes a lot of sense. What we're talking about here, particularly times when Cabinet declares the circumstances to be urgent or extenuating in order to bypass that merit-based process.

 

I respectfully disagree with the Government House Leader's view on this one. We do feel this additional step to ensure the merit principle is upheld has merit. I won't prolong it. I've made my arguments. We think this is a good amendment.

 

Unfortunately, we see this differently. But an internal review by the Public Service Commission to ensure that the merit principle is being upheld is something that we feel is valuable and would improve this legislation.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, shall the amendment carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: The amendment is defeated.

 

On motion, amendment defeated.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 19 carry? 

 

The hon. Member for Mount Pearl North. 

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

I thank the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development for his enthusiastic support one moment ago. He should note as well that I always get the name of his department right. I guess I should as his critic, but it's a complicated department name that many mishandle but even at this hour we've got it right.

 

I do have one more amendment to propose to clause 19, which we're now debating. It's unfortunate that our previous two amendments have failed. So we'll move on to a different issue now. Previously, we were talking about urgent or extenuating circumstances and an annual review of the merit principle, but now we want to talk about expanding the commission's Schedule. 

 

We were just talking about the Public Service Commission and its role in all of this. Our belief is that more public bodies should be subject to the new commission and the merit-based process. Even though a number of our significant concerns with the commission process haven't been addressed, if there's going to be a commission then we feel more bodies should actually be subject to the commission and its process.

 

The Independent Appointments Commission tier-one bodies are listed in the Schedule at the end of this bill. They include a couple of entities and dozens of statutory appointments. The Public Service Commission tier-two bodies are listed in subclause 19(5) which proposes to add a Schedule C to the Public Service Commission Act. It includes 30 entities and dozens of statutory appointments.

 

What we're proposing here, Madam Chair, is quite simple. We want to take the entities from the Public Service Commission Schedule and add them to the Independent Appointments Commission Schedule, and in order to do that we need two amendments; one to remove them from one place and another to add them to another place.

 

This first amendment I'm introducing is removing entities from the Public Service Commission Act, Schedule C. The amendment will read: Subclause 19(5) of the bill is amended at the proposed Schedule C by deleting the heading “Entities” and the items under that heading.

 

This is one amendment, and I will be proposing a further amendment to the Schedule that will add those entities back in under the Schedule for the Appointments Commission. What we're doing here is simply taking out the list from under the Public Service Commission and putting it under the Independent Appointments Commission but that will require a second amendment that I can't do in the same amendment – just to be clear on what we're doing here.

 

There's a long list of those entities that we're talking about. I could read them all, Madam Chair, but in the interest of time –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. KENT: I'm having a little trouble hearing myself, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I ask members for their co-operation (inaudible).

 

Thank you.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you.

 

I won't read the full list but just give you a few examples of those entities we're talking about moving: Agreement on Internal Trade Dispute Screener; Agreement on Internal Trade Roster of Panellists; Atlantic Lotto Corporation with respect to provincial representatives; Dental Monitoring Committee; Municipal Assessment Agency with respect to taxpayer representatives; Premier's Youth Advisory Committee; Provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors; Provincial Wellness Advisory Council. Just to give you a few examples.

 

It is a long list, and I can read it if the minister would like me to do so.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KENT: Okay. I'm going to respect the opinion of the Government House Leader. He doesn't feel I need to read them all into the record, so I accept that. They're there in the bill clearly outlined.

 

We believe even for these bodies, which are categorized here as tier-two bodies, that the Independent Appointments Commission should be responsible for those appointments as well. If we're going to do this, let's do it. We still believe there are some major problems with the commission as its proposed making it very difficult for us to support this bill as it presently stands, but if it's going to proceed then we believe all of these entities should be subject to the commission and a merit-based process. That's what this amendment is about.

 

Madam Chair, on that basis I move the following amendment: Subclause 19(5) of the bill is amended at the proposed Schedule C by deleting the heading “Entities” and the items under that heading.

 

CHAIR: The Chair has had a chance to review the amendment and is ruling the amendment out of order because it is really beyond the scope and intent of this bill.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Shall clause 19 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clause 19 carried.

 

CLERK: Clauses 20 through 24 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 20 to 24 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 20 through 24 carried.

 

CLERK: The Schedule.

 

CHAIR: Shall the Schedule carry?

 

MR. KENT: I'm up, so I'll speak briefly and then give him the floor.

 

CHAIR: The hon. Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Madam Chair, we do have another amendment that relates to the amendment that was previously ruled out of order. I still think it's important to make the point of what we were trying to do. The amendment is to take entities from the Public Service Commission Act, Schedule C, and place them in the Independent Appointments Commission Schedule.

 

I am going to move the amendment. I'll respect whatever ruling you make. Perhaps government will have additional amendments to the Schedule. They would be welcome, Madam Chair, especially if our amendment is ruled out of order.

 

I'll only read the amendment once, given the length of it. I now will have to read that long list I was referring to moments ago.

 

I move the following amendment to the Schedule: The Schedule to the bill is amended by adding immediately under the heading “Entities” the following items: Agreement on Internal Trade Dispute Screener; Agreement on Internal Trade Roster of Panellists; Atlantic Lotto Corporation with respect to provincial representatives; C. A. Pippy Park Golf Course Limited with respect to ministerial appointments; Dental Monitoring Committee; Interprovincial Lottery Corporation Board of Directors with respect to provincial nominees; Municipal Assessment Agency with respect to taxpayer representatives; Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation; Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Commemorations Board; Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre Incorporated with respect to six members and a chairperson appointed by Lieutenant Governor in Council; Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Board with respect to a ministerial appointment of a chairperson; Premier's Youth Advisory Committee; Provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors; Provincial Advisory Council on Mental Health and Addictions; Provincial Advisory Council on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities; Provincial Cancer Control Advisory Committee; Provincial Council of the Rural Secretariat; Provincial Wellness Advisory Council; Regional Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Avalon Peninsula; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Burin Peninsula; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Clarenville – Bonavista; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Corner Brook – Rocky Harbour; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Gander – New-Wes-Valley; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Grand Falls-Windsor – Baie Verte – Harbour Breton; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Labrador Region; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, St. Anthony – Port Au Choix Region; Regional Council of the Rural Secretariat, Stephenville – Port aux Basques Region; Torngat Joint Fisheries Board with respect to the members appointed by the provincial minister; Torngat Wildlife and Plants Co-Management Board with respect to the members appointed by the provincial minister; and URock Volunteer Award Selection Board.

 

CHAIR: Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair has had a chance to review the amendment. Again, it is beyond the scope and intent of the bill and for that reason has been ruled out of order.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Speaking to the Schedule, I do have an amendment that I would move. This one is number one: The Schedule to the bill is amended by deleting the reference “Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015, section 85.” There was a briefing today on a piece of legislation about statutory offices and this is something that, actually, I will discuss again after we move this, if it's accepted and approved.

 

CHAIR: The Chair has reviewed the amendment put forth by the Government House Leader and has ruled that the amendment is in order.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I believe as we move forward here, we are coming towards the end. We're dealing with the Schedule of the bill. As the Member opposite referenced, there are a number of different entities here. Again, depending on whether they're tier one or tier two, in fact, the level of importance defers. I would suggest that tier one obviously carries a different level of importance as opposed to tier two.

 

As you're going through tier one in the Schedule there are a number of agencies and groups there. One of them actually is under the Statutory Appointments. It's the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015, section 85. And that's as it relates to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. All statutory offices normally, as they stand right now, would be a selection by Cabinet, a resolution put forward to the House and then voted on in this House of Assembly.

 

In our proposal that we're putting forward, this would still go through the PSC. It will go the IAC. Three names will be put forward to Cabinet, a selection made, the same thing, a resolution put forward. As we know, it was just last year that ATIPP was revised and we discussed, debated and voted on it here in this House. The procedure voted on and I think agreed unanimously by all Members in this House was to have a different procedure put in place to select that. I think it's actually a double-majority vote that's to be used.

 

The position that we're putting forward here now is that given we haven't had an opportunity to test this particular piece of legislation, and the fact that it also has to be reviewed down the order as a statutory review, we felt it best given that this was put forward in this House – actually, was brought forward by the previous government, was supported. We feel that it's best to continue on with that, to test it and allow that to continue as per normal.

 

So that's why the amendment as suggested is put forward. But I would look forward to any comments or questions the Members opposite would have.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I accept the rationale that's been put forward by the Government House Leader. It sounds like it's a logical amendment. I have nothing further to add and am prepared to support the amendment.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: I do support the amendment with my colleague for Mount Pearl North. He'll finish it off here now.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Madam Chair, I appreciate how concise and to the point the Member for Conception Bay South is when he speaks in this House. I hope his constituents are watching tonight. Just so focused and to the point, I appreciate that.

 

The final point I wanted to make, Madam Chair –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: – because I realize we'll vote on the amendment, but then we'll quickly vote on the Schedule as well. I just want to reiterate again that we believe all of these appointments should be subject to the Appointments Commission process. That's the spirit and intent of the amendments we were introducing last going off under clause 19, and now under the Schedule as well.

 

I just wanted to highlight that point one more time that we believe if we're going to do this, then all entities should be subject to the merit-based process through the Appointments Commission. But again, I don't have any problem with this amendment that's somewhat related, but doesn't address our main concern with this Schedule.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, shall the amendment carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, amendment carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall the Schedule, as amended, carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, Schedule, as amended, carried.

 

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows.

 

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I do wish to propose an amendment to the long title. I believe this would be the appropriate time to do that. Is that correct?

 

CHAIR: We haven't called it yet.

 

MR. KENT: Okay. I just don't want to miss the opportunity, Madam Chair. I appreciate your patience.

 

That will be called next?

 

CHAIR: Yes.

 

MR. KENT: Okay, thank you.

 

CHAIR: I appreciate your enthusiasm, given the hour of the day.

 

MR. KENT: I appreciate you being reasonable and understanding.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Shall the enacting clause carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, enacting clause carried.

 

CLERK: An Act To Establish An Independent Appointments Commission And To Require A Merit-Based Process For Various Appointments.

 

CHAIR: Shall the long title carry?

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I believe this will be the final amendment that I will propose here – I was going to say this evening, but it's now morning. I guess in House of Assembly world, though, it's still Monday. That's the remarkable thing about how days work in this House of Assembly. It's still Monday here, regardless of what the clock says. But I don't think Monday will continue too much longer.

 

I want to propose an amendment to the long title because some of the significant amendments we proposed earlier this evening, particularly those related to clauses 6 and 7, failed. They either failed or were ruled not in order. The ones in clause 6, I believe, were ruled out of order. The challenge is that was an opportunity to make the processes more independent.

 

So now we have a process that's not independent. Because we don't have a process that's independent, it feels like the long title of the act is inaccurate. I won't talk about this at length; I'll simply make the point that, in the interest of accuracy, the long title should be amended to truly reflect the legislation because it currently doesn't. So I'd like to propose the following amendment, Madam Chair, to the long title.

 

The long title to the bill is amended by deleting the words “Independent Appointments Commission” and substituting the words “Appointments Recommendation Commission.”

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

According to O'Brien and Bosc, page 770, under The Title, “Amendment to the long title is sometimes possible once consideration of the bill is concluded. The title may be amended only if the bill has been so altered as to necessitate such an amendment.” That is not the case with the bill here this evening, so the Chair rules the amendment out of order.

 

We'll call the vote on the long title.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, title carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall I report Bill 1, An Act To Establish An Independent Appointments Commission And To Require A Merit-Based Process For Various Appointments, with a number of amendments, carried?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I move, Madam Chair, that the Committee rise and report Bill 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall I report Bill 1 carried with amendments?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'