STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES FINANCES
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, May 2, 2000
The Chair (Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua
(Vaughan—King—Aurora, Lib.)): I'd like to call the
meeting to order. Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) and
the order of reference of Tuesday, February 29, 2000,
we are resuming consideration of the main estimates for
the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001. Votes 1, 5,
L10, and 15 under Finance are referred to the Standing
Committee on Finance.
Before we begin, there was a point that was raised by
Mr. Brison, which I will entertain.
Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): Thank you,
There were discussions today between the government
House leader and the Minister of Finance relative to
the minister's appearance before the Standing Committee
on Finance to discuss the estimates. The minister has
said he will appear before the committee to discuss the
estimates. I just became aware that the discussions
occurred earlier today. I would suggest that prior to
voting on these estimates, the minister appear before
the committee to discuss the estimates, as is
consistent with procedure.
The Chair: Mr. Cullen.
Mr. Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North, Lib.): Mr.
Chairman, I'm not aware of any such discussions. In
fact, the minister asked me to appear in front of the
committee on his behalf, which I did this morning.
Mr. Scott Brison: I'm emphatic that the
discussions occurred today. The government House
leader approached the Minister of Finance asking him to
consider appearing before the committee and the
minister agreed. Therefore, can we table this until
there is a confirmation of that?
Mr. Roy Cullen: I can make a quick call. I have
been in discussion with the minister and the minister's
office on this issue for the last couple of weeks. I
very much doubt that's going to happen and I think to
delay.... I can make a quick call if that would—
Mr. Scott Brison: Either to the government House
leader or to the minister.
The Chair: Hold on. I have to take your word for
whatever's going on. Unless it's told to me or to the
committee, it's absolutely meaningless.
What I know for certain is that Mr. Cullen, who is the
parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance,
appeared in front of the committee this morning on
behalf of the minister. Of that I am certain because I
was here and I saw him. Also, Mr. Cullen did contact
myself and the clerk to say that in fact he would be
representing the minister. Logic would lead me to
believe that Mr. Cullen, being the parliamentary
secretary, didn't one day get up and decide to go and
appear on behalf of the Minister of Finance. I don't
think that's the way things work around here.
This is my opinion on this particular issue. I'm just
going to go ahead with the votes.
If anybody, whether it's the
House leader or the minister, is having their own
conversations, well, that's fine and dandy, but they're
not very valid unless they're brought to the committee.
It's just that simple.
Mr. Scott Brison: Mr. Chairman, I have no interest
The Chair: No, absolutely not.
Mr. Scott Brison: I'm just wondering if it would
be possible to confirm that with respect to Mr. Cullen
but also to the minister's....
The Chair: The fundamental question I have is what
was Mr. Cullen doing in front of the committee this
morning? Mr. Cullen, were you representing the
minister or did you just decide you were going to be
minister for a day?
Mr. Roy Cullen: I didn't just decide that I was
going to come here; I came here on behalf of the
minister. This was discussed—
The Chair: Did he know about that?
Mr. Roy Cullen: Absolutely. In fact, I talked to
him briefly at 3 o'clock today and it was not
mentioned. I'm not disputing that you had a
conversation with the House leader and maybe the
minister was there, but I think this has been discussed
quite at length with the minister.
I think you're absolutely right, Mr. Chairman; we
should proceed with the....
Mr. Scott Brison: Mr. Chairman, with respect, a
phone call could confirm and validate that in fact it's
the minister's intention to appear before the committee
to discuss the estimates.
Mr. Roy Cullen: Mr. Chairman, on reflection, to
track down the minister where he is at this particular
Mr. Scott Brison: Or the House leader.
Mr. Roy Cullen: —may not be very fruitful. I can
say categorically that I was asked to represent the
minister at the committee this morning.
Mr. Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil—Soulanges, Lib.):
For the estimates?
Mr. Roy Cullen: Yes, for the estimates, which I
did. As I said, I talked with the minister briefly at
3 o'clock. I think we should proceed with this.
Mr. Paul Forseth (New
Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Canadian Alliance):
Just pertaining to that, perhaps there could be an
alternate discussion beyond that just to see if we can
get the minister to come but at another time. This is
not directly tied to this vote, but it's always good to
have the minister come and be more specific on minutiae
rather than the generalities of budget and what goes on
in the House. Ministers should be coming to their
appropriate committees at least once a year. Perhaps
as a commitment, you could explore with the minister
the idea of having him come at a later time.
Mr. Roy Cullen: Yes, I could do that.
I went through the Hansard transcript from when
the minister was here, I think two years ago. I don't
know why.... I'm not suggesting that the reason he
didn't come here was because of what happened at that
meeting, but I read the transcript, and frankly, if the
Canadian taxpayer got anything out of that meeting,
they'd have to be pulling at straws. It was a very
antagonistic meeting and nothing was really
accomplished. So I would think for me to take it up
with the minister....
I don't know why he couldn't make it this morning; it
was a scheduling issue. If you want to take it up
again, I think you want to be able to assure him that
there would be a certain amount of decorum at the
committee. If you read the transcript from two years
ago when he came for the estimates, it just went back
and forth from partisan rhetoric to insults. It was
really not very productive.
Mr. Paul Forseth: I would just discuss in
generalities the issue of committees. The ministers
who are generally associated with those committees come
to those committees to discuss estimates. As a
principle I think we should—
The Chair: The committee is the master of its own
destiny and can control itself.
Mr. Scott Brison: May I just nip this in the bud?
I'd like to move that the committee ask the minister to
appear before the committee to discuss the estimates
before we actually vote on the estimates and that we
table the voting until later.
The Chair: It's kind of a redundant motion because
the minister was invited already. We already have a
motion that covers that. It was approved and the
minister was invited.
Mr. Scott Brison: May I move that motion? It can
be voted down if individual members of the committee do
not agree with it. I would like to move that the
minister be invited at this—
The Chair: We have another challenge here. We
don't have quorum so we can't entertain your motion,
but once we do get quorum we will.
Mr. Scott Brison: Okay. I would move that the
committee ask the minister to appear before it to
discuss the estimates prior to our voting on these
The Chair: Can I just comment on that. If I were
to read your motion in the record, it would imply to me as
a reader—let's say the Canadian public is reading that
motion—that the committee did not previously invite
the minister to appear in front of the committee to
discuss the main estimates. That's not the case at all.
Mr. Scott Brison: The committee didn't invite the
minister on May 2. My motion of May 2 would be that
the committee invite the minister to appear before the
The Chair: Are you saying that the minister be
Mr. Scott Brison: That the minister be—
The Chair: Because he was already invited.
Mr. Scott Brison: Okay, then be invited again
to appear before the committee. We can add a
word if you'd like. I have no difficulty with that.
The Chair: But it is a significant point.
Mr. Scott Brison: I move that the minister be invited for
the second time to appear before the finance committee
to discuss the estimates prior to our voting on the
Mr. Nick Discepola: We had a quorum when we
An hon. member: It's up to the discretion of the
chair. The chair can choose to see if the quorum still
The Chair: The chair's not blind, though, and
can count at least up to nine. After 10 it gets a
little bit difficult.
Mr. Nick Discepola: We've done that in other
Mr. Paul Forseth: Don't confess that.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chair: So we have this motion that Mr. Brison
would like to invite the Minister of Finance to appear
in front of this committee to discuss the estimates.
Mr. Marceau, you'll probably recall that we already
have invited the minister, and that is the reason
Mr. Cullen was here this morning representing the
minister, just so we're clear on what we're doing
So we are once again inviting the minister. I
think the point has been well raised. I think we'll
just move to a vote.
The Chair: Now we'll go back to
consideration of vote 1.
Economic, Social and Financial Policies Program
Vote 1—Operating expenditures ...... $75,022,000
The Chair: Shall vote 1, less the amount of $18,755,000 voted
in interim supply, carry?
(Vote 1 agreed to)
Vote 5—Grants and contributions ...... $330,000,000
The Chair: Shall vote 5,
less the amount of $82,500,000 voted in interim
(Vote 5 agreed to)
Vote L10—Issuance and payment of demand notes
to the International Development Association ...... $1
(Vote L10 agreed to)
Vote 15—Transfer Payments to the Territorial
Governments ...... $1,479,000,000
The Chair: Shall vote 15, less
the amount of $862,750,000 voted in supply,
(Vote 15 agreed to)
The Chair: Shall I report the estimates to the
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you.
That deals with the estimates.
Now we have the
budget submission. We have to go back to the
committee that deals with the budgets on our prebudget
and also the expenses we'll incur for the whole round
table discussions on various subject matter.
You have the
budget submission where it shows a total of $215,575.
Does everybody have that?
Some hon. members: Yes.
The Chair: Then there's the comparative table of
travel budgets, one with points and one with full-fare
Also there's the cost breakdown to bring all the PBC
witnesses to Ottawa, which is based on the costs for the
1999 PBC. Now, the reason we have this is to tell you
that if at any point in time people think it's cheaper
to bring witnesses to Ottawa for hearings, we just want
you to know that it would cost the Canadian taxpayer
$645,591.10. Meanwhile, to do a full-fare economy trip
for members of the committee, it would cost $492,150.
Also we have to vote on the budget of $215,575 for the
various studies of bills, round table hearings, and
So these are the three items we have to deal with.
Mr. Roy Cullen: Sorry, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Yes?
Mr. Roy Cullen: Did I hear you say it's $65,000 if
we brought the witnesses here?
The Chair: No, it's $645,000, almost $646,000.
So it seems to me, from a
taxpayer's point of view, it's probably more expensive
for this committee and the Government of Canada to
bring people here. Also, it denies the committee
the opportunity to meet with Canadians in their
own regions. I don't know if I'm being biased here,
but I don't think it's a very good idea that we stay
here in Ottawa. This was only brought up to illustrate
to you the difference. We've already decided we're
going to travel, so it's not even an option, quite
Can we approve these two budgets, then, the $215,575,
which would be known as the operational budget, and the
other one for the prebudget consultation?
Mr. Roy Cullen: I so move.
The Chair: Do we have a motion?
We basically approve these two budgets. We will go
with the full economy fare on the travel and
obviously with $215,575 for the operational budget.
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: Thank you.
The meeting is adjourned.