Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Acting Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable colleagues, I’m a long-standing member of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. I’ve also been a long-standing critic of the activities of that committee, because for years, it didn’t meet. For years, they had the committee, and the only time we would meet would be to select the joint chairs. Indeed, successive governments, Conservative and Liberal, were not anxious for the committee to meet. As a matter of fact, at one committee meeting, I went with a specific motion to put forward, which was that we were there to elect a chairman from the House of Commons. We went into the meeting. A nomination was made of someone for the position, a vote was taken, a person was elected and the other joint chair immediately took the gavel and said, “We stand adjourned” while I still had my hand up, trying to get the attention of the chair.
A group of members of Parliament, all from one party — I’m not going to talk about which party, because we don’t want to be partisan — stood up and left the room, and ruined quorum so that we didn’t have a quorum to proceed.
This went on for years, by both parties. I kept saying, “Why are we doing this?”
At one time, when I first joined the committee, the best reason you were on the committee was because once a year, they had a meeting at lunch time, and they had a nice lunch. That was it.
It’s an important part of what we do here. The analysts at your committee meetings are employees of the Library of Parliament. The information you get from the Library of Parliament that helps you pose questions, et cetera, at your committees and does research comes from the Library of Parliament. These are important people. This is an important budget.
While I understand what Senator Marshall is saying, it’s important that, for the first time in my memory, we’re actually going to look at the Library of Parliament. We’re actually going to ask, “Are the expenditures enough? Are the expenditures the right expenditures?” Are we going to do due diligence on the budget of the Library of Parliament? Ultimately, the whole budget comes back to the chamber, but I think we should be happy that we’re now actually going to look at the budget of the Library of Parliament.
I salute them for doing this, and we should proceed with this.
I agree with Senator Marshall: I would worry that they add something to the list next year, and if they do, I will vote against it next year.
We have a joint committee, which is an unusual thing, to study the Library of Parliament, so let’s get the job done. Let’s put those parliamentarians from both the House of Commons and the Senate to work doing the job they were appointed to do.