Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals):
I want to get Senator Bellemare to give us a little more explanation, because she’s about to embark on what I would say may be mission impossible in this place. I’ve been a member of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament now for about six years. It’s easy to remember all of the meetings I’ve been to in those six years because there have been two. At those meetings, both of them, I had my hand up to ask a question. By the way, the meetings that they did have were to elect a chair from the House of Commons or to elect a co-chair from the Senate. As soon as that was over, bang, the gavel went down and everybody left.
Not to be partisan, but it was the Conservatives who did it the first time I went; it was the Liberals who did it the next time I went. Nobody wanted to hear what I had to say as a senator. My purpose in interjecting in the meeting at the time was to ask for the committee to do its job and, at that time, to invite the Parliamentary Budget Officer to appear before the committee. At the time, on both of those occasions, in fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported to Parliament through the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. He no longer does that because they changed the rules. However, tomorrow at noon, the Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament is going to meet again. They’re going to elect co-chairs from both the House of Commons and the Senate. I have already indicated to the clerk of the committee that I would like to say something after the election of both of those co-chairs. At the same time, I’m going to ask the committee to do exactly what I’ve been trying to get the committee to do now for six years.
My question is this: You’re proposing to send this piece of legislation to the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament and that they be asked to examine and report on the expenditures of the Library of Parliament. However, if they don’t have a meeting, if they don’t recognize one of our colleagues — in this case me — at the meeting, I think it’s a waste of time. Quite frankly, to go back to the argument that Senator Ringuette was making about privilege, perhaps I should come back from the meeting tomorrow — that is, if I’m ignored again — and raise a question of privilege that I am being slighted by the committee — not me personally, but me as one of your representatives on that committee.
The Hon. the Speaker: The question would be, Senator Mercer?
Senator Mercer: Do you actually think that the committee will do this work? How is that?
Senator Bellemare: I have no idea, Senator Mercer, what the committee will decide. We have had several opportunities to ask the Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament to study these expenditures. In the past, we did not refer the votes to the Library of Parliament. The National Finance Committee studied them.
This time, given that the Committee on the Library of Parliament is to meet tomorrow, we decided to have it study Vote 1. If this committee does not conduct a proper study, the matter will automatically return to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance.
That is why we took the liberty of proposing that this chamber have the Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament study the votes.
Senator Mercer: I’m going to give you all fair warning that tomorrow afternoon, the committee meets at 12 noon in Room 237-C in the Centre Block. I would advise all of you that at about 12:15 p.m., you should not be anywhere near the door because there will be a stampede coming out and you could get hurt. I’m doing that for your own good because that’s what happened last time. A couple of times before that there were Conservatives stampeding out the door; the last time there were Liberals storming out the door. God knows what will happen this time. Fair warning: Don’t be in front of that door tomorrow at noon. You could get hurt.