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The Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization met this day at 12 p.m. for the consideration of methods to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework.  1

Senator Tom McInnis (Chair) in the chair.  2

The Chair: Our meeting today will have two parts. For the first part, we have invited members of the Senate Legislative Sector to speak about changes to the way we proceed through the Order Paper. Following that session, we will continue our in-camera discussions as we move towards an interim report.  3

Before I introduce our witnesses, I would like to provide some information to the committee.  3-1

Many senators, including some on this committee, have expressed some frustration about how the Senate conducts its daily business. An idea has been presented to make the calling of items on the Order Paper clearer and easier to follow in the chamber, and avoiding the need to stand items.  3-2

I would like to outline the proposed process. Instead of calling all items on the Order Paper in the Senate by the reading clerk, senators would be asked to submit their intention to speak through their respective caucus leadership, a facilitator for the independents, a group leader, or directly to the Chamber Operations and Procedure Office. These intentions to speak on specific items would be assembled into a single list and added to our internal document called the "Daily Scroll.'' This document would be shared among senators and possibly made public to indicate which items will be debated that day.  3-3

During the Senate sitting, only the items on the Order Paper to which a senator has indicated a request to speak would be called by the table. Items not called would be deemed to have been stood and will be reflected as such in the Journals. Once all the pre-announced items have been debated, senators would be invited by the Speaker to re-call items that were skipped because an intention to speak was not communicated prior to the sitting. Once we have completed the Order Paper in this matter, the Notice Paper would follow the same process.  3-4

To provide their comments and to discuss the feasibility of this proposal, we have invited two members from the Senate's Chamber Operations and Procedure Office. This office is responsible for the preparation of the daily sitting and to provide advice to the Speaker and senators, as well as the table, on all aspects of parliamentary practice and procedure.  3-5

I thank the following individuals for coming: Dr. Heather Lank, Principal Clerk, Chamber Operations and Procedure Office; and Charles Walker, Procedural Clerk, Chamber Operations and Procedure Office.  3-6

Heather Lank, Principal Clerk, Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, Senate of Canada: Thank you very much, senators. We very much appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to speak to this idea. I'm very pleased to be here with my colleague Charles Walker, one of our procedural clerks, who is an expert on the Order Paper. I'm sure he will also be able to assist you in your deliberations.  4

It may be useful to begin by explaining the documents we're talking about, especially for those who might be listening in or watching who are not familiar with Senate documents to give the context, and then we'll address the specifics of your proposal.  4-1

I would like to say a few words about the document known as the Order Paper and Notice Paper and the scroll, a very important document to the Senate. The Order Paper and Notice Paper is the official agenda of the Senate. It sets out all items of business before the Senate and is prepared in advance of each sitting based on decisions taken at the previous sitting.  4-2

There are two major parts to the document, one for the Orders of the Day, including Government Business and Other Business, and the other for items on the Notice Paper. The structure of the Order Paper and Notice Paper, as well as the order in which business is conducted during a sitting of the Senate, is governed by the Rules of the Senate.  4-3

One of the important points to note is that under the current system, the order of business is quite linear. Every item on the Order Paper is called at each sitting in the order that it is listed, with one exception. You'll know that Government Business can be called in the order that the government decides. Nonetheless, by calling each item, maximum flexibility is maintained in allowing virtually any item to be debated at any sitting by any senator.  4-4

On the other hand, one of the disadvantages of the system, as this committee has pointed out, is that because every item on the Order Paper must be called at each sitting, there are many items that are not proceeded with in a given day, and they are stood until the next sitting.  4-5

For the sake of clarity, "standing'' means that when an item is called, there is a request to push it over to the next sitting. If any senator objects to an item standing, it must be dealt with in some way, either through debate, putting the question to a vote or a formal adjournment motion.  4-6

In terms of addressing your proposal, I should note at the outset that any changes along the lines of what's being proposed by the committee would require a decision of the Senate, be it through a sessional order or a change to the Rules. That's something to keep in mind. Because the process that exists is captured in the Rules, it would require a change along those lines.  4-7

In terms of the other key document I want to speak to, it is about the scroll and what the current system is for creating it, because that may have an impact on your reflections. The scroll is essentially a reformatted version of the Order Paper and Notice Paper, except it has the addition of the various headings under "Routine Proceedings.'' It has that extra level of detail. The format was developed many years ago to serve as a working document for use during sittings of the Senate.  4-8

All senators currently have access to the scroll on the Senate network; however, it does not contain information about expected business. As I said, it is essentially a reformatted version of the Order Paper.  4-9

There is another version of the scroll that many of you may have seen, the annotated version, which is based on information that we receive from deputy leaders and more recently Senator Harder. The Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, which you might have heard referred to as COPO, adds annotations indicating which senators are expected to speak to a particular item on a particular day. Work usually begins on the scroll the day before the sitting as we receive information from the deputy leaders. It is updated very frequently as information is received.  4-10

Normally, the scroll meeting is held around nine o'clock on sitting days, and it's at that point that most of the information for the day's sitting comes together. However, changes to the scroll occur right up to literally minutes before the Senate sits, and indeed in the course of the sitting, so the scroll is an ongoing piece of work.  4-11

I will now hand the floor over to my colleague Charles Walker, who will speak to the details of your proposal.  4-12

Charles Walker, Procedural Clerk, Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, Senate of Canada: Honourable senators, thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I would like to go over some of the key points of the committee's proposal and suggest some questions that the committee may wish to consider further.  5

First, the proposal assumes that there will be a leadership for senators who belong to an organized group, and also that there will be a facilitator for independent senators. Senators would be able to signal their intention to speak to an item either through someone in a leadership or facilitator role, or directly to the Chamber Operations and Procedure Office.  5-1

Given the multiple channels that would be available for senators to provide information, the question of how this would be managed is something to consider. The Chamber Operations and Procedure Office currently coordinates information from three primary sources. But, with the prospect of up to 40 independent senators in the foreseeable future, it would be challenging, from a resource point of view, for the office to handle input from so many sources.  5-2

The following are some other questions that need to be considered. Through what means would the notice of intention to speak be given? In writing, in person, electronically, all of the above? If multiple senators signalled an intention to speak to a particular item, in what order would they be listed? How do you see this document being finalized and approved? It could be done at the daily scroll meeting. In order to ensure a timely distribution of the document, it would be advisable to implement a deadline for submitting a notice of intention to speak, thus allowing the office sufficient time to assemble the document.  5-3

Finally, as Ms. Lank just explained, the scroll meeting usually takes place at 9 a.m. Friday sittings would need to be taken into account. When the Senate sits on a Friday at 9 a.m., the scroll meeting occurs much earlier and, on occasion, does not take place at all. The timelines that would normally apply to most sitting days for the daily scroll would have to be adjusted accordingly for Friday sittings.  5-4

Second, the proposal further indicates that the assembled information would be circulated to all senators and possibly be made public. Some questions for you to consider are: What information and how much detail would be included in this document? Would it only indicate items for debate, or would it include the names of senators who have given notice? How widely available would the document be made— to senators and staff only or to the public? Would it be posted on the IntraSen or on the Senate website?  5-5

In relation to these questions, here are a few things the committee may wish to consider.  5-6

By knowing which senators will speak on which items, it would be easier to estimate when a particular item might be dealt with during the course of a sitting as well as estimate the overall length of a sitting based on the different speaking time limits prescribed by the Rules of the Senate.  5-7

In contrast, there could be some confidentiality concerns about publicly listing senators' names for particular items. We sometimes receive information from senators that they wish to speak to an item; however, they explicitly request that only the Speaker be informed. Also, it is not unusual for us to be told that a particular senator intends to speak to an item but in fact they do not do so that day.  5-8

If the Senate were to adopt a system whereby senators could indicate whether their intention to speak should be included in the Daily Scroll, there could be challenges in managing this information and ensuring no errors. The option of including the names of some senators but not others at their request would involve significant risk. From a risk management perspective, it would likely be better to either include the names of all senators or no senators in the Daily Scroll.  5-9

Third, the proposal suggests that, during the course of the sitting, only items that were signalled for debate would be called.  5-10

One advantage of having notification from a daily scroll is that senators would be better informed to follow and participate in debate on items that are important to them.  5-11

Something that the committee may wish to consider is what would happen if a senator were to give notice of an intention to speak, but, when the item was called for debate, they had changed their mind and decided not to speak or were absent from the chamber at that moment. Presumably, other senators would have the opportunity to speak, or, if no one wished to speak, the matter could be held over and leave would be required to return to the item later during the same sitting.  5-12

Fourth, the proposed system seeks to maintain the flexibility in that it would not prevent a senator from speaking to an item even if they had not previously signalled their intention to do so. This means that the list of speakers for a particular item would not be binding. Other senators could participate in debate on an item as they saw fit.  5-13

Another aspect of this proposal would allow any senator to speak to any item on the Order Paper after those on the Daily Scroll have been disposed of. Depending on how this is managed, it could be very difficult to follow proceedings if various items were debated in a random order at the end of a sitting. The committee may wish to consider whether any constraints should be put in place to ensure an orderly debate on items for which no notice of intention to speak was signalled.  5-14

One option would be that at the end of Government Business, the Speaker would ascertain whether any other senator wished to speak to an item of Government Business that was not called before moving on to Other Business. Similarly, the Speaker could do the same at the end of each section of Other Business. This would have the advantage of staying on one section of the Order Paper instead of potentially moving quickly to various parts of the Order Paper at the end of a sitting.  5-15

Another option would be that once an item on the Order Paper has been passed over as business progresses through the sitting, leave would be required to return to it. For example, if Items 1, 3 and 7 appeared on the Daily Scroll, after Item 7 was called, leave would be required to return to Item 6 or any previous item that had been passed over. This option, however, would not give any priority to items on the Daily Scroll.  5-16

Ms. Lank: In summary, the proposal on which we have been asked to comment would work in terms of its mechanics. There would, however, be points requiring clarification, such as when notice would have to be given, how it would be provided and to whom the daily scroll would be made available.  6

The proposal keeps the flexibility of the current Order Paper, but the possibility of calling items for which no prior notice had been given for debate could lead to some confusion. This could, however, be reduced, but I suspect not eliminated, by requiring that this be done at the end of Government Business, at the end of each category of Other Business and then at the end of the Notice Paper rather than at the very end of the sitting.  6-1

Finally, if the committee chooses to recommend any changes, it might be advisable to implement them on a limited- term basis by means of a sessional order. This would allow for a trial period to see how things would work if in fact it is an improvement and then decide whether more formal rule changes are advisable.  6-2

Thank you, honourable senators. We look forward to your questions.  6-3

The Chair: Thank you very much. We'll start with the deputy chair, to be followed by the third member of the steering committee.  7

Senator Joyal: Welcome, Dr. Lank and Mr. Walker.  8

The comments made generally about the Order Paper, as it is labelled, are essentially that outsiders have the impression that so many items are stood at each session, Senate business amounts to very little. It creates the negative impression that either the Senate is not ready to debate any issue that appears on the Order Paper or that senators are not prepared to debate or don't want to debate. It creates the impression of a lazy Senate. That preoccupation was very much present in the minds of senators when they discussed the idea of broadcasting sittings of the Senate.  8-1

I think there are around 22 private members' bills. Suppose, like yesterday, there was only one speech on one bill and all of the others were stood. Suppose you are looking at your screen or your computer, and you say: "My God, they had nothing to do; nobody wanted to work today.'' That's will be the way the public will interpret it.  8-2

That concern was very present in the minds of senators. I know that, for some, it was the reason to stand the decision of broadcasting sessions of the Senate.  8-3

Have you ever considered how we could change the approach to the Order Paper so that we would not have to go through the procedure of standing so many items on any sitting day, to avoid creating the impression that the Senate is not working, that is, not taking up its responsibility to debate bills or policy issues?  8-4

Ms. Lank: Essentially, Senator Joyal, the proposal before us is the one that we were asked to comment on, so I'm reluctant to go off in other directions because I want to restrict myself to the proposal that we were asked to give our views on.  9

But I do understand the concern that from an optics point of view it may not look good to have so many items stood on a regular basis. It's not intuitive, necessarily, to the public why that would be.  9-1

Certainly, for senators, when they introduce legislation, it's very hard to know when colleagues will be ready to speak. So there is often time built into our processes. This proposal that you're bringing forward for consideration is certainly one that addresses your concern in terms of the optics of not working hard, which we know is not the case.  9-2

My concern is that the price of eliminating that impression of standing items and not doing the work may be confusion. My concern is that, be it from a television point of view or a senator's point of view, if the Senate were to go in this direction, given the nature of reverting to a previous item, it could be very difficult for senators to know where we are in the Order Paper. The optics of me sitting beside the Speaker, looking for the right card to try to figure out what item we're moving to, or senators flipping through their documents to figure out where we are in the Order Paper also runs the risk of not giving the correct impression to the public about the orderly manner in which we do our business.  9-3

I think there is a trade-off between efficiency and perhaps understanding where we're going. As frustrating as "stands'' can be, it does give a pause in the course of the day for people to catch up and say, "Okay, I've got a few seconds to figure out where we are in the day.''  9-4

In terms of how we can get rid of "stands,'' ultimately the speed at which items are debated rests in the hands of senators. It's up to senators to decide when they bring in their bills at first reading. They decide when they're ready to speak at second reading. We certainly have cases of bills being introduced and there being a very long delay before the debate even begins and then very long delays until senators are ready to respond, for any number of perhaps very good reasons. Ultimately, the pace of work is within your hands. If you want to have more people speaking, that's a decision that you each can make.  9-5

The system is set up right now to give you all an opportunity to speak, each day, on every item. If senators choose not to take advantage of that reality, that's absolutely within their rights, but I think it's less of a procedural issue than an issue of collective and individual planning. I don't see it as much of a procedural problem or necessarily a problem with the Rules, but I do understand your point about the optics of frequent stands and it perhaps giving the wrong impression about how senators work and the amount of work that they do.  9-6

Senator McCoy: As a follow-up to Senator Joyal's question, you responded that you were restricting your comments to the proposal that's on the table. I think I need to ask the next question: Do you have a better proposal? If so, would you bring it forward?  10

Ms. Lank: I'm hoping that our comments today will assist you in reflecting on the proposal before you. It may be something that you're comfortable with, and it may well be subject to improvement based on what we have to say. But I did not take that next step and bring forward my own or our own proposal, different from the one that we were asked to comment on. If, of course, this committee were to ask us to reflect on other possibilities and bring forward other options, we would be very happy to do so.  11

Senator McCoy: Get the experts to help. That would be very good.  12

Second, as I understand the scroll meeting, never having been allowed to attend one, being an independent all these years, what emerges from that meeting is a shortlist, which says, "Here are four senators who have been identified to speak at Senators' Statements. Here is Government Business, Motions 1, 2 and 3, Bill C-7 and Bill C-10— a shortlist of things that are expected to happen that day. I understand that that is shared with the political caucuses. At least it's shared with the leader, the deputy leader and the whip of each political caucus, the Speaker, the table officers and with about 66 other people in the Senate, all of whom are on staff. But it is not shared with senators. I don't understand, in a transparent, modern Senate, why that simple piece of information wouldn't be available to every sitting senator. Do you have a reason for that?  12-1

Ms. Lank: I do not have a reason for that.  13

Senator McCoy: Would you support a move, if we were to put that forward through the Modernization Committee, to share that information amongst senators so that we have some added transparency?  14

Ms. Lank: From a Chamber Operations point of view, we would have no difficulty sharing that information if senators would like it broadly shared.  15

Senator McCoy: That would certainly reduce confusion.  16

Ms. Lank: It would definitely be a step in that direction; there's no doubt.  17

Senator McCoy: I have one other question. At the moment, when we come to the Order Paper— you'll have to help me here, as I'm trying to visualize it— I know things bump from second reading up to third reading, and they disappear for a while. Then, we're over at committees, et cetera. Somehow, when things are spoken to— I think it's under motions, inquiries and bills— they get put on the Order Paper not in numerical order but because that was the last thing we said.  18

When I look at the Order Paper now, I see Motion No. 73, then Motion No. 7 and Motion No. 42, and I'm thinking that I can't remember the number of my own motion, let alone the one I thought was ridiculous and want to argue against. Where on earth am I? Talk about confusion.  18-1

Is there any reason why we couldn't list things on the Order Paper from Item No. 1 through to the conclusion of whatever numbers we've arrived at?  18-2

Ms. Lank: Thank you very much for that question. We did not plant that question, but if I'd had a question to plant, it would have been that one.  19

We find it utterly confusing and nonsensical, and we would be thrilled to see a recommendation that items be ordered in numerical order so that senators and everybody else could find these items. If you're interested in why we do it, Charles is the man, probably the only man on the Hill, who understands it. But it is certainly something that would be an improvement.  19-1

Senator McCoy: I really don't care why we do it. I really only care that we continue.  20

You could take that as a motion, Mr. Chair, if you like, to put that into our interim report, part 1 of our report, that we— whatever wording you just said— list everything in numerical order.  20-1

Senator Massicotte: I'm going to go further to Senator Joyal's point. I'm not an expert in procedure at all, and I'm not even sure where we are often. Let me define to you what I think the objective was.  21

It was a committee of our October sessions that I think prepared this in conjunction with the Clerk, or we got significant help from somebody there. Another one of the objectives was the "stand'' issue, but the significant one in my mind is that I find the way we proceed so disorganized and inefficient. We don't know who's going to talk about what subject; we don't know when. We don't know if it's in a week or not. It can be delayed and delayed. I would say, "Come on. Let's get on with it; we have work to do. Therefore, what we try to do is to limit the amount of delay.  21-1

If I look at a comparison— a bad comparison maybe— when we had the discussions regarding the suspension of senators, it was very interesting, not only the result. We had people talk about the issue. I think of Senator Stewart Olsen, et cetera. We have no debate. There is no added value. We learn a lot from debate. The way it currently is, if somebody makes a speech, we don't know if someone else will respond two weeks from now or 10 days from now. There is no added value.  21-2

What we have to get at is what we had with the suspension; we had people talk about matters of principle, matters of judgment. Another person talked about it, and we sort of evolved. We learned a lot from that process, and we were interested.  21-3

If you noticed, the Senate was largely full, but now we go back to our offices. We listen on our computer. We may come back to the chamber.  21-4

We have to get there. We have to get a full discussion, where we are all happily sitting there, learning relative to the decision we have to make. That's one of the objectives.  21-5

I say to you: Does this get us there, and if it does not, I ask permission of this committee for you to come back to us with your recommendations to get us there.  21-6

Ms. Lank: As you were speaking, Senator Massicotte, off the top of my head I was thinking about the possibility, for example, of the Senate deciding that such-and-such a day or such-and-such a week will be about all issues on the Order Paper related to agriculture, just to take something out of the blue. You could, as a Senate, decide to have focused debates in particular time frames, on particular topics, with the agreement of at least the majority of your colleagues.  22

There are different ways of organizing business so that there would be that focus. There is no impediment per se to doing that if the Senate chooses to. You could do it through a motion in the chamber. There are a lot of different ways of doing that.  22-1

So I understand your point about having greater focus, and we could come up with some ideas. Some may appeal to you and some may not, but things for you to think about that would address some of those concerns.  22-2

Senator Massicotte: Can we get your thoughts on that, say, within 24 hours?  23

Ms. Lank: I'm not even going to pretend—  24

Senator Massicotte: Forty-eight. I'll be generous.  25

Ms. Lank: We will do our very best, but I don't want to make a promise I can't keep. Given that we are sitting today and tomorrow, you will have much better work if you give me at least the weekend.  26

The Chair: We shall have you back.  27

Senator Cools: I have a lot of problems, and I tend to think that I won't support that we will alter the whole phenomenon of every single item being called daily. That may seem to be a nuisance when times are harmonious in the Senate, but when they are not, believe you me it is a necessary item that every single item is called daily.  28

We have had some pretty big filibusters in the Senate, and the fact that every order was called every day was a big feature and a huge stick that the opposition had in the Senate. You're looking at life through the eyes of being in government forever, but it doesn't work like that.  28-1

During the GST, we were in the opposition, led by Senator MacEachen. One of the saving graces every day was we had to go through the whole Order Paper. What is the feature of a filibuster? You delay to a point, and then you find another technique to further delay so that the house does not get to the order that whomever is trying to get to.  28-2

Our debate is revealing the fact that large numbers of senators have forgotten the reasons that these rules exist. They exist for very good reasons, because unless we could call every item every day, filibusters would have been easily defeated in three days instead of in three months.  28-3

Somebody has raised the issue about wanting to debate things on many different points. The fact of the matter is that every debate follows a rubric, and the rubric usually demands a motion because everything in the Senate moves by motions or resolutions. It's the same difference. So you really can't have a debate on everything at the same time because a debate is going to follow the rubric, which is the motion that Senate can do this or that the Senate can do that.  28-4

So we are indulging, in a certain way, in the absence of reality, and the reality is that when things get rough in the Senate they can be very rough. The stakes are very high, and senators need tools.  28-5

One of the objectives of most rule changes in the last couple of years has been to deprive senators of opportunities to speak, to shorten the times that they have to speak and the number of things that they can actually speak on. So I will not support this sort of thing at all because I know what the result of it will be within a very short period of time. Every rule change in the last few years has been to limit debate.  28-6

We came from unlimited time, which was never violated. A senator might not speak for three months, then would rise and speak on something for an hour and half. It was never violated. Now we are in a situation where we have 15 minutes to speak. Let me tell you: I'm a reader and I do a lot of research. Fifteen minutes is nothing in terms of putting a large issue before the house.  28-7

I'm appealing to us, in a way, to look very carefully at what these Rules represent and why they were put there and not be in haste to throw things out because somebody thinks that an audience watching on television may find six "stands'' in a row bad optics. I don't believe that; I think it will make people curious as to what "stand'' means. I see life quite differently.  28-8

I love the Senate, and I don't think we have to discard everything without knowing where it came from.  28-9

Senator Massicotte, if you would put to me evidence that you have considered the issue carefully and have precedents and customs to show why we should go down this road, I would agree with you, but I can't agree with you because I don't think making the Senate's Rules is like picking candy: "I like that colour; I like this colour.'' I know why those Rules are there. I've made it my business to know why those Rules are there, and you know what? We're never going to have a Senate as good and as well constituted as the present Senate. Make no mistake about that. That's because very great minds worked hard on it for years.  28-10

Senator McCoy: Would you take a question, Senator Cools?  29

Senator Cools: Happily.  30

Senator McCoy: Thank you very much for reminding me why we call every item, and I think that's extremely important.  31

Senator Massicotte's other point, which I think you also addressed, was about staging debate. You could have one afternoon set aside for agricultural issues so that everyone is speaking at the same time to a single issue. I didn't hear you express an opinion.  31-1

Senator Cools: You couldn't say, "We'll set aside an afternoon for agriculture issues and everybody can speak.'' Senators can only speak to what is before the house, and the only way things are put before the house is a motion. There can only be one motion at a time before the house.  32

Senator McCoy: There would be a motion before the house and people would speak to it. You would get your chance.  33

Senator Cools: If you could have one motion for everything, then I suppose, yes, that can be done.  34

Senator Lankin: There is much to learn. You'll get tired of me saying I'm a newbie here. I'm going to use that excuse and drag it out as long as I can.  35

As I listen, I think of my previous legislative experience. I think others have had legislative experience, and I'm interested to hear that the Rules here around things like senators' private bills and standing items were put in place as mechanisms for filibuster. That's not something that I'm accustomed to in the evolution of the rules at a legislative level.  35-1

I certainly have seen them. As a former whip and former house leader of a partisan caucus, I made use of the rules inappropriately, I admit. I say "inappropriately'' because I don't believe the rules were intended for that, and they be here. I'm not disputing someone who knows much more than me.  35-2

I question whether that is the way in which business should continue in a modern Senate, but I think we're being asked to consider that and to be cautious about looking at it. I agree with the concern that rule changes should not be successively put in place that limit the full participation of senators, the ability to speak and the ability to deeply explore the issues in bills and in motions that are before us and that require appropriate Senate attention. I think that those are really important concerns.  35-3

To some really pragmatic things, with respect to the script of how the day unfolds, currently that's not something that I have access to. I will say that a short version of that was graciously shared with some of us for a while by another senator, and I much appreciated that. As the debates have unfolded about names of positions and everything like that, the sharing ceased. I'm not sure what that had to do with me, but as an independent, I guess I don't have a right to know what that has to do with me. I do understand the issue, though.  35-4

I think that this sharing of information is not a rule; it's not a standing order anywhere. I think it is just a convention from when there were primarily two partisan caucuses and there was a mechanism through deputy leaders and whips to share that information. I think it makes no sense in a Senate that has at this point in time a fair number of independents. I don't think a rule change or motion is required. I think if people generally think it should be done, it can be a recommendation. If there is no reasonable or rational objection to it, I don't know why we wouldn't just proceed on the basis of that.  35-5

With respect to how the day is ordered, I feel for my colleagues who have just joined with me who have not sat through legislatures before. I have, and I have held those positions. And I have a heck of a time trying to follow the day as it unfolds, partly because I don't know what to expect with regard to what is going to be spoken to. I haven't figured that out yet. I may want to participate, but I don't know and I might then have to stand and adjourn in my name. Had I known, I might have been prepared and things could have unfolded.  35-6

One of the things I'm used to, for example, is that a set period of time in the sitting of a chamber or legislature is dedicated to the debate of private members' bills. They are scheduled and called so that people can prepare to participate and know the length of time for debate. They are subject to reasonable rules. The fact that there is a dedicated time allows you to know that you're going to participate on that, as there is on a daily schedule for Government Business coming forward or for committee reports.  35-7

I think there are ways of structuring it that are helpful to full participation and review, and that's what we should be aiming to achieve. But for today and what's possible today, I think with the general agreement of people we could have that document shared, which would certainly facilitate my job as an independent senator in participating more fully.  35-8

The Chair: Thank you. We will see that that's done.  36

Senator Beyak: I agree with Senator Cools: I like this institution very much and have always thought that our founders got it right. Senator Cools knows my late husband Tony and I also liked you very much and have admired your hard work over many years and how well you know this institution.  37

I'm blessed to live in a northwestern Ontario riding that has great respect for the Senate and for members of Parliament just as it is. We have a great media that is not biased and not opinionated; it just reports facts. So I come here feeling that the citizenry really admires us, admires the work we do, watches our committees on CPAC and follows especially the Agriculture Committee and others that are very important to their well-being. So I hope we carefully consider anything that we change.  37-1

My question is a practical one that comes from one of those very informed and knowledgeable citizens. She wonders why the Speaker doesn't just say at the beginning of all the discussion that there will be items debated and items stood; we will say "stand'' on those items and debate the others. In that way, people will know right away that we're going through the whole Order Paper. Because it's so huge, some will be debated and some won't. It's just a practical suggestion. She's 90 years old, and I thought it was excellent.  37-2

The Chair: Thank you, senator.  38

Senator Eggleton: What I see as being of particular value in changing the way we do all of this is that we have a greater understanding of what is going to come up and get debated in the course of a meeting. All of us have tons of motions, resolutions and bills on the Order Paper. It would be good to know in advance when they're going to come up. You get up and give a speech, and then the items are held down for the next person to give their remarks. You don't know how long that's going to take, and yet you have an interest in the subject.  39

You want to be there when it's debated and you might want to ask questions. You might want to bring your briefing materials with you and be ready to go on these issues as they come up, but you don't know. You could be sitting there for a couple of hours every day for weeks— maybe you should be sitting there anyway, somebody would say— but it would be good if you know when an item is coming up. That's what I see as the value.  39-1

Maybe this document called the scroll is a key part of this. I've heard of it and I think I've briefly seen it in the past but never paid that much attention to it. Maybe that's a key part of understanding what is planned for debate, although I do appreciate the comments that we should be more efficient and not have to deal with this constant "stand'' throughout. The main reason for me is being prepared when an item of interest comes up.  39-2

Secondly, there is this whole matter of themed ideas. That has some appeal. It might have some appeal to a television audience if we are dealing with all agriculture or all health issues in one session, but there is a lot of difficulty with that. First of all, not everybody is here all the time. Some are away on committee trips and an item they're interested in may come up while they're away on a committee trip; or they may not be prepared with materials that they have been getting ready for debate on a certain aspect of either health or agriculture. I think that's going to be rather difficult to do, but I'm willing to look at any proposition that might help facilitate themes.  39-3

I think the main reason for wanting to see a change is so we have a better understanding of when items that we have a particular interest in are likely to be debated on the floor.  39-4

The Chair: Thank you very much.  40

Senator Stewart Olsen: I have a few quandaries, you could call them. This change would require real diligence in the leadership of the various groups, and it will have to be leadership of the various groups. For instance, if you're going to put the scroll out to everyone, then people have to meet at a reasonable hour and get the scroll out to people's offices before the session. If we're going to say, "Oh, we can change this at the last minute,'' it will require discipline from all senators. We have to look seriously at that because I don't think we can be spoon-fed with a lot of this stuff.  41

Senator Massicotte's statement on the possibilities of debate is a very good one.  41-1

I do disagree with Senator Cools on the length of speaking time because in this day and age, we have an attention span of about 2 minutes. So 45 minutes of listening to someone go on making the same points over and over and over again is just way too much. I would suggest that instead of having this amount of time, we instead allocate a certain amount of time for a speech and increase the amount of time for debate.  41-2

Right now, we speak out the time so that there are no questions allowed at the end. If you don't want to hear anybody talking about your bill or your issue, then you just speak out the debate ad nauseam, usually.  41-3

If the will of this committee and the Senate is to listen to debate, and I agree that's the most interesting part, then limit the time for reading the speaking notes and increase the time that we would have to speak to the issues so that everyone in the chamber could get up and speak if they wished to.  41-4

I agree with the scroll coming out early, but it can only happen if our leadership that says, "We're going to meet at eight in the morning; it's going to come to you and there aren't going to be changes.'' I don't know how easy that would be to do.  41-5

Senator Lankin: My understanding is that the scroll as prepared does get changed right up until Question Period. What is expected to happen at least is there, and it contains some useful information, although there may be changes. That is currently shared in some format with lots of senators but not all senators.  42

The question you raise about whether sharing with all would require more discipline than we currently have, I'm asking you to explain that. I don't think that's the case. It may be advisable to have more discipline so we are sure of the scroll and following it. I didn't understand if that was an argument not to share what's currently there with all of us.  42-1

Senator Stewart Olsen: The scroll meeting times are not always set in stone as they may vary as to availability. As well, people may come late in the various groups. It just requires a bit of discipline that the meeting will happen.  43

I wasn't aware that not everyone could get the scroll. You just have to ask the Speaker's office for it, but I could be wrong.  43-1

Senator McCoy: That's one of the ways we have been subjected to unfairness.  44

Senator Stewart Olsen: I didn't know that at all. I thought every senator could request it if they wanted it.  45

Senator Cools: The scroll is created for the Speaker. It is a document intended for the Speaker. The leaders of the respective caucuses work on producing the scroll on a daily basis. It is rare that they do not inform the respective caucuses about what they are agreeing to for that day.  46

Ms. Lank: I have one comment on that, Senator Cools, just to be clear. The scroll produced out of the deputy leaders' meetings includes the information that we have at the time we meet, including Orders of the Day. The Speaker needs information on the items under Routine Proceedings, which are put into the document that most of you have seen. It doesn't have an impact on needing to be ready. It's important to distinguish between that more limited scroll which I think is the one before you for discussion and what the Speaker at the end needs because he has to be ready for reports coming in and Notices of Motions and all sorts of other things. His office isn't responsible for producing the scroll. The Chamber Operations and Procedure Office is.  47

Senator Cools: Maybe caucuses have changed, but when I served in a caucus last, the caucus leaders, especially the government leaders, made sure that their members knew everything that was happening that day and in the opposition. It was usually deputy leaders who went to the scroll meetings. That information was widely shared among caucus members.  48

Independents didn't get it, but I used to make sure that I spoke to the staff of the respective leaders so I had that information every day. As a matter of fact, I didn't have to ask for it as their staff used to phone and tell me what was happening. It's a pretty important thing to happen because if they were asking for something like unanimous consent and I didn't know what it was about, I would say no. These worked.  48-1

We are talking about communicating information to people, but that's a separate matter from actually structuring the flow of debate on a daily basis. The information is widely available.  48-2

The Chair: Dr. Lank may have to go to complete the scroll shortly, and we have one final questioner.  49

Senator Pratte: I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what the solution is, but I want to emphasize the point made by Senator Eggleton from the perspective of a televised debate.  50

Yesterday, Senator Plett spoke to a bill about dolphins and orcas living in captivity, and Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium. That's a topic that everyone has an opinion about. Unfortunately, I didn't know he would speak on that, but had I known, I would have prepared because it's a very interesting topic. I'm pretty sure others would have had questions.  50-1

I see that as a missed opportunity because that's a topic the public would have watched had it been televised. If there had been questions, it would have made a great debate, but no one was prepared. If we had known ahead of time, it would have made for a great debate that a large audience could be attracted to. This would go hand in hand with good debates that could be televised eventually.  50-2

Senator Cools: Had Senator Plett not told his leaders he was planning to speak? Senators usually do. Routinely, if you're planning to speak, you tell someone, but maybe he didn't tell anybody.  51

The Chair: Essentially it's about giving notice. At the legislature I was in, on the night before the next day's sitting, the house leader would stand up and say, "Tomorrow we will deal with this, this, this and this, and if we have time, we shall continue with this and this.'' That's essentially what it's about, and I think that's what Senator Joyal and Senator Eggleton have been talking about.  52

The key is to let other senators who may want to speak have some notice. That's what this is about.  52-1

I'm most anxious to have Dr. Lank back with her proposal, which I'm sure will be an improvement.  52-2

SenatorGreene: The issue of notice is really important. I'm wondering if the notice we are capable of giving could effectively be only three or four hours if we're going to be on the scroll on that day. Is that actually enough notice? Perhaps it ought to be five days or—  53

Senator Cools: They're on the Order Paper every day.  54

SenatorGreene: There should be some minimum amount.  55

Senator Joyal: I think, Dr. Lank, it would be very easy to have the scroll document on the Internet so that each one of us around this table would have the scroll in front of him or her. We could follow and see the adjustments being made immediately on the Internet, the work-in-progress, in other words. If you were to learn at one o'clock that Senator X will finally speak on Item 12, it would be easy for the table officers to have the name. The scroll could easily be dispatched and connected with an email address.  56

I think we have to adapt the procedure to 2016 and make the senators computer-friendly so that they can be easily informed of what is coming. You might want to consider that. It may be something we want to revisit at that point.  56-1

Senator McCoy: You might also wish to reinforce the point that we are talking about a practice, and it's a convenience. It's not official notice. Every senator has the right to speak when the Speaker recognizes him or her, without five days of notice, et cetera, on a motion that's already on the Order Paper. We don't want to jeopardize any of those fundamental rules of freedom of speech.  57

Senator Eggleton: No we don't, but we want to make it easier for people to get information.  58

Senator Cools: Dr. Lank, you should offer to take the Order Paper one day and go through and explain to the new senators exactly what is happening there. For people who are new and are not familiar yet with the structure, it is difficult. Maybe somebody should spend time with them to go through it. Then again, I know senators who have been here for five years and still can't read it.  59

The Chair: One of our recommendations, obviously, will be an orientation program, which you may be part of.  60

On behalf of the committee, Dr. Lank and Mr. Walker, thank you very much for your participation. We look forward to having you back in the very short term.  60-1

(The committee continued in camera.)  61

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