[ SkipToMainMenu ]

Duration of Membership on Committees


Honourable senators, let me start my speech and continue after the break.

Honourable senators, last week we adopted the Selection Committee report that results in the formation of Senate standing committees. The first report of SELE named senators to the various standing committees according to the proportions that each group constitutes in the Senate.

The ISG received roughly 48% of the seats on each committee, the CPC received about 20%, the PSG 17% and the CSG 14%. Non-affiliated senators who wanted to be on committees were offered seats from the allocations that were assigned to the various groups.

Every senator who wanted to sit on a committee was offered one or more seats. No one was excluded. But how did a senator get the particular seat on the committee that he or she was assigned? Did that senator have a special claim to the seat?

Does any senator have a special right to a seat on a given committee? The answer is obviously no. We know this because all of us went through a process in the last two weeks of selecting committees that we wanted to sit on, and working through the inevitable conflicts that arise when there are more senators wanting to be on a committee than there are seats available on that committee.

Different groups use different protocols for allocating seats to their members. But I am sure every group had to deal with some overlapping interests among members, with the result that most senators did not get all the committees they wanted to be on. That is certainly true of the ISG.

While every ISG member got their first choice of committee, few also got their second and third choices.

Which brings us to the subject of the second Selection report that we are currently debating.

Let’s be clear, firstly, that this is a report of the Selection Committee, duly adopted by a majority of the members on that committee, consisting of members from all groups including nonaffiliated senators.

The reason Selection issued a standalone report on this issue as opposed to incorporating the issue into the first SELE report is because the PSG insisted on separating the issue of portability from the issue of committee formation.

The leaders of the other three groups — the Conservatives, the CSG, and the ISG — agreed with nonportability of seats, as they had for sessional orders in the previous parliament.

Listening to the polemics on Tuesday night, you might have come away with the impression that the suspension of portability is an ISG plot, masterminded by power-hungry facilitators at the helm of this group. In fact, three of the four groups in the Senate have supported some version of this report in previous sessions, and the Senate has voted in favour of non-portability each and every time it has come up in this chamber.

Honourable senators, the committee seat you obtained last week came through a negotiated process within your group that very likely deprived another member of the same group from having that seat. To put it in reverse, the seat you really wanted but did not get is because of the selection process your group established and that you willingly participated in. As they say, “You win some; you lose some.” However, that was the process you agreed to. It therefore follows, I believe, that if you choose to leave the group, you should, as a matter of fairness, return the seat to the group so that, if needed, the seat can be allocated to a member who is waiting in the queue.

This is why, honourable senators, the issue we are debating today is not about the independence of the Senate or the equality of senators. It is about the much more mundane — but foundational — concept of fair play and procedural integrity. Every time we have to reconstitute committees, as we are doing at the start of the Forty-fourth Parliament, we have to solve the problem of scarcity — scarcity of committee seats in the face of excess demand from senators. You can tell I’m an economist.

As it turns out, we have decided to solve this problem by allocating the seats by proportionality to recognized groups in the Senate and then leaving the groups to work out how they divvy up the seats they were assigned. This is about boring math, not some high-minded principle as the dissenters to the Selection Committee report have asserted.

On the subject of math, let me offer a rebuttal to Senators Mercer, Cordy and Bellemare who have made claims based on math without actually doing the math. They state correctly that any movement of senators from one group to another will change the proportionality of groups in the Senate, and they use that as a point to argue for portability. If you actually do the math, however, you will find that the movement of one or two senators does very little to change the actual allocation of seats on our committees. I have done the math, and I can confirm that the Independent Senators Group, or ISG, would have exactly the same number of members on committees of 9, 12 and 15 if one or even two members were to leave our group. This is akin to the retirement or passing of a senator, which does not precipitate an immediate change in the distribution of seats on a committee.

If a large number of senators were to leave a group, the proportionality numbers would be materially impacted and a change in seat distribution would be warranted. However, this is not unlike the appointment of new senators, which also affects proportionality calculations.

The point is that we don’t recalculate proportionality every time there is a shift in numbers — not even, I would say, when the shifts are quite large as was the case during the last Parliament when the ISG grew by nearly 20% even as our allocation of seats on committees remained static.

So much for math. Let me now return to the high-minded arguments that my honourable colleagues made on Tuesday night about the independence and equality of senators.

We heard from Senator Mercer that “a senator is a senator is a senator.” As tautologies go, this is especially seductive, but what does it mean? More to the point, how is it relevant to the debate at hand?

Senator Mercer would presumably argue that a senator deprived of his or her particular committee seat is less equal compared to other senators. But from what dispensation did the senator derive the right to have that committee seat in the first place? Did the Governor General grant it to him? Is it written in her summons? Do we have a rule that makes that claim? Of course not. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t believe there is even a rule that says senators must sit on committees.

To be clear, I believe that all senators have a right to sit on committees, but I do not believe that any senator has a right to sit on a particular committee.

We heard again on Tuesday night the mistaken assertion that this report deprives senators of the right to sit on a committee. It does not. All senators have the right to sit on a committee, including senators who are not part of a group or caucus if they want to sit on a committee. There is no violation of the equality principle.

The dissenters would have you believe that equality extends to a senator’s right to a particular committee seat. However, why should that be the case? More importantly, how can that possibly be the case when there are more senators desirous of committee membership than there are seats on that committee?

The underlying point here, colleagues, is that while senators may have a right to sit on committees, they do not have an entitlement to any particular committee seat. Seats on particular committees can only be assigned through what is essentially a process of negotiation. For a senator to then assert his or her unalienable right to that seat is a contravention of the negotiated agreement, a fallacy of logic and an abuse of procedural fairness.

I would go even further to say that this conception of portability actually violates the equality principle and undermines Senator Mercer’s mantra that “a senator is a senator is a senator.”

The dissenters also argue that this report is about the independence of senators. This is another red herring. Insofar as I am concerned, senators lose their committee seats when they leave a group not because of their views, but because of the agreement they signed up for when they joined a group. To put it differently, the seat is retrieved from a senator because it wasn’t theirs to start with.

This is not to say that seats will be taken away each time a senator leaves a group. If there is no pent-up demand for the seat from within the group, there is no need to retrieve the seat. The departing senator can continue to serve on it. Retrieving seats is not about vengeance or punishment. It is about respecting a process and working on a case-by-case basis.

I would add that the same applies when a senator joins a group after committee seats have already been assigned as will be the case when the new appointments to the Senate — which we are likely to see in the weeks ahead — take place.

If any of the new members join the ISG, I know the new leadership will make all efforts to find seats for them that correspond to their interests. That, too, is a process of internal negotiation that requires an equal measure of a clearly defined process and senatorial collegiality.

You will recall from Tuesday night’s debate that a number of senators dispute my view that we get our seats through our groups by way of a negotiation process. They claim that committee seats don’t come from groups; rather, they come from the Senate. Ergo, there is no need to return the seat to the group if a senator should choose to leave that group. I expect that some of our newer colleagues are puzzled by this argument, so I will explain it. However, that may have to wait until after the dinner break because I’m looking for the Speaker to now rise and invite us to see the clock.

The Hon. the Speaker: Pursuant to rule 3-3(1), I’m required to leave the chair until 7 p.m. unless there is leave that we continue. Accordingly, the sitting is suspended until 7 p.m.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Honourable senators, the point at which I relieved you from your hunger pangs was when I was explaining the difference between my view of how we get our committee seats and the dissenters’ view. If you are puzzled about the dissenters’ view, it is the following: That whatever deal caucuses and groups may negotiate and, how that deal may be expressed in the Selection Committee report, it is the Senate that must give its blessing before the report and the deal can be effected.

The argument we heard on Tuesday night from a number of colleagues was, “No, no, no. The groups have nothing to do with giving you seats; it’s the Senate that gives you committee seats.”

But let me ask you this: Did the Senate as a whole come up with the deal? Did the Senate establish the criteria for prioritizing one senator over another for a given seat on a committee? Did the Senate as a whole establish the process by which conflicts over seats on a committee would be resolved? Of course not. All of the difficult work was left to the groups and caucuses. There is no escaping the fact that it is the groups that came up with the mechanism for allocating seats to members.

Indeed, that is why the Selection Committee exists: as a way to formally introduce agreements to the Senate that have been made by the groups and caucuses. To then say that one has no responsibility to the group because the Senate made the final decision is, at best, a dodge or, worse, a dereliction.

It’s a little bit like saying, “You don’t have to pay the real estate brokerage a commission on the house that they helped you negotiate a good price on because the ultimate decision to sell the house was in the hands of the previous owner.”

Now, if you still need convincing, let’s imagine a scenario where the Senate actually rejects a Selection Committee report on the formation of committees. In fact, think about what would have happened if last week’s first report of the Selection Committee had been rejected by the Senate. Do you think the Senate would then resolve into a Committee of the Whole to try and decide who sits on which committee? Of course not.

What would happen is that groups and caucuses would have to go back to the negotiating table to hammer out a fresh deal to assign seats to their members based on the new deal, and they would have to again bring it to the Selection Committee as a report to be tabled in the Senate.

There is no escaping the fact that committee seats are negotiated among groups, and the filling of those seats is a process that is internal to the group. It is in this sense that a committee seat belongs to the group rather than to the senator.

This is not a statement about favouring groups over individuals. It is a statement about the reality of how Senate committee seats are allocated.

Colleagues, I will grant that there is a way in which one could argue that portability is an issue of independence, as our Progressive Senate Group colleagues have argued, but it is in the narrow sense that senators insist on being liberated from any responsibility to the group from which the seat was obtained. In effect, these senators believe that they have an absolute right to that particular seat on the committee regardless of how the seat was obtained, never mind that other senators were deprived of that very seat because they too followed the agreed-upon protocol for seat assignment within the group.

In my opinion, though, this is not senatorial independence; it is senatorial libertarianism.

For most observers outside the Senate, this debate is arcane and seemingly trivial, but I think it gets at some important underlying questions about what it means to have a more independent Senate.

A good way to begin thinking about this question is to consider the phrase employed by Senator Mercer and Senator Cordy: that the group exists to serve senators, not the other way around. That sounds almost as good as a senator is a senator is a senator. But what does it mean?

Is it that senators join a group solely for the purpose of extracting benefits that are distributed by the Senate via that group? Is the purpose of being a member of the Conservatives or a member of the Independent Senators Group or the Canadian Senators Group or the PSG principally to get a committee seat? Is it to get on the executive of a parliamentary association; to be considered for overseas travel; to access prime office space in the East Block or Victoria building? Is that what you mean by “the group is there to serve the senator”?

Colleagues, is it not conceivable, even desirable, that a senator should think about his or her membership in the group as one which includes serving the purposes of the group? Have we become so atomistic and self-absorbed that we see our role only as freewheeling independent senators with no responsibility to a larger collective?

Is the future of the Senate one in which groups are purely platforms to assist members in carrying out transactions? That would seem to me to be a very shallow view of Senate reform, and a self-centred one too.

Perhaps I’m betraying my cultural roots, but I believe in the importance and value of a collective and of the responsibility that comes with belonging to a group. I joined a group not just because of what the group could do for me but for how it gave me the opportunity to become a better senator by working with like-minded colleagues.

Now, this is the point in my speech where some of you may be thinking, “Senator Woo wants to take us back to the bad old days of caucuses.” Since I’m the outgoing facilitator of the ISG, what I say has little bearing on the future direction of my group. But in any case, the bogeyman argument that stronger groups translate into abusive caucus behaviour is yet another red herring.

I understand some senators are still recovering from the PTSD of abusive caucus behaviour. But it is entirely possible for senators to exercise independent decision making on bills and motions while belonging to a group that values working together and has rules to foster collaboration based on fairness, respect and decency. That is in fact how I would define the ISG. Fairness, respect, collegiality and democratic practices, even in the context of a highly structured group, are not antithetical to an independent Senate.

In this context, I was troubled to hear in Senator Cordy’s speech her insinuation of some sinister motivation behind the Selection Committee report that is before us. She suggests that in supporting this report, the ISG is trying to prevent senators from being more independent. I reject this insinuation categorically. In what universe does fair play have to conflict with independence? Are senators who respect and abide with fairness of procedure not exercising a form of independence that includes the responsibility that comes with it?

Some of you probably feel that portability is a necessary condition for a more modern and independent Senate, and you are inclined to vote against the report because of that sentiment. You know, the very term “portability” has a nice ring to it. It has positive connotations, and it seems to go with the concept of independence. I can in fact think of situations where portability would be the desired model for committee seat assignment. But that does not mean portability is right for all models of committee seat assignment and certainly not for the current model that we employ.

The fact is when portability clashes with fairness, I think fairness should prevail. Another way of putting it is as follows: Does your right to stay on the committee of your choice trump your responsibility to the group from which you derive your seat? How you answer this question will depend on your relative weighting of individual versus group rights. This is an ancient problem in philosophy. I accept that some of you prioritize your individual rights, and that is fair enough, but I do not accept that this report undermines the independence of the Senate or the equality of senators.

Let me move to the next red herring. What should we make of the fact that the current rules allow for portability? Previous speakers have pointed out that portability is a decades-old practice of the Senate, and they are right. But defending portability on the grounds that it is tradition is very different from defending portability on the grounds that it makes sense. With due respect, I have heard a lot from senators about the importance of adherence to a traditional practice, but they have said very little about why the practice makes sense in the current context of how we actually assign seats to senators. It would seem that they are arguing in favour of tradition for tradition’s sake, which is a curious position for pro-modernization senators to take.

At best, the argument in favour of portability based on the fact that it’s currently in the rules isn’t really an argument. It’s simply a restatement of the status quo. If you are for modernization, then you have to be open to the idea that some of our rules are not fit for purpose. Rule 12-2(3) on portability is one such rule that is ripe for reconsideration.

It is even more curious that the proponents of this rule 12-2(3) are generally silent on rule 12-5. Allow me to get a little technical here. Rule 12-5 allows the leadership of a caucus or group to replace a senator on the committee with the stroke of a pen, regardless of whether that senator is leaving the caucus or group. In the hierarchy of draconian actions, rule 12-5 surely trumps 12-2(3). But it is in the rules, and it has been in the rules for at least as long as rule 12-2(3). In fact, portability would be useless to a senator who was stripped of his or her seat before that senator had a chance to leave the group.

I’m not advocating for or defending rule 12-5 as such, but I’m pointing out the inconsistency in an argument that is dogmatic in its defence of the portability rule but silent on the potentially more insidious twin rule that is 12-5. In fact, Senator Cordy has previously argued that 12-5 is an acceptable exception to the portability rule 12-2(3), which is tantamount to saying, if we’re really worried about senators who may be thinking of leaving with their seats, let’s take those seats away before they do.

Even if you take Senator Cordy’s more evolved position that she articulated on Thursday, in which she says she’s open to revisiting rule 12-5, one has to question how she can defend 12-2(3) on the grounds of tradition while challenging 12-5, which is no less steeped in that tradition.

I want to clarify that I’m not against the concept of portability. In fact, I can think of a scenario where portability of committees is justified because it does not violate procedural integrity and fairness among senators. That scenario is where senators are assigned their seats through an all-Senate process, rather than through group negotiations. In that situation, one could make the case that seats belong to individual senators for the duration of the session. But that is not how we assign committee seats currently.

Portability, you see, is an attractive concept. I would say it’s even a seductive concept, but it has to be fit for purpose. Perhaps we can move towards a selection process that is more fit for portability, but that is some ways off. In the meantime, we should design rules that fit the actual circumstances of our practice rather than an idealized version of what that practice could be.

To sum up, much as some would like to make this report about Senate independence and senatorial autonomy, the less glamorous reality is that committee seat assignment is a routine scarcity problem that has to be solved through negotiations. Negotiations only work if the parties subject themselves to the rules of the negotiated agreement and respect both the outcomes and the procedures that led to those outcomes.

If there is a principle at stake in this motion, this report, this debate, it is the principle of procedural fairness. Senators do not have a divine right to a given committee seat. They receive that seat on a particular committee by willingly participating in a group process that resulted in a favourable outcome for them but at the expense of other senators. If they leave that group, the seat should not go with them. That is the intent of the Selection Committee report we have been asked to vote on, and that is why I support it. Thank you.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: May I have a question?

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Woo, there are senators who wish to ask questions. Will you take questions?

Senator Woo: Yes, of course.

Senator Patterson: Thank you, Senator Woo, for the thoughtful and erudite speech; I have got to remember senatorial libertarianism.

You spoke in praise of the system for assigning committee seats to senators, but this also includes the very important question of selecting chairs and deputy chairs. That’s not an easy task, being a chair or deputy chair. I don’t need to tell anyone. You need to have a rigorous understanding of the parliamentary process and respect for a balanced and respectful approach and order in the committee. Yet we’ve had total rookie senators appointed to important committees with no experience whatsoever in these areas in the parliamentary process.

Senator Woo, would you say that the current selection process and, in particular, the selection of chairs and deputies, is based on merit or is more based on group affiliation and a kind of popularity-contest vote from the groups, regardless of experience or merit, to date?

Senator Woo: Thank you, Senator Patterson, for your question. I cannot speak for your group, but I can tell you definitively that, in the ISG, chairs and deputy chairs that are designated to the ISG through the negotiation process are selected through a democratic process by the members of that committee. They know that the important criteria have to do with expertise. They have to do with the ability to chair meetings. They have to do with real-life experience.

I’m very confident that ISG members make wise decisions in choosing their chairs and deputy chairs.

Hon. Diane Bellemare: Senator Woo’s speech was very convincing. He has a way with words, but I would like to ask him a question about the following problem. It would seem that the entire issue stems from the fact there is excess demand for certain committee seats, so when a senator leaves a group, they breach the privilege of another one of their colleagues by taking the seat with them when they go.

In economics, the problem of excess demand is usually resolved by addressing supply. Supply is increased. The problem that we are having with excess demand has nothing to do with the solution proposed by Senator Woo, which is to restrict senators’ mobility to resolve the problem of excess demand.

Would you agree with me, Senator Woo, that another rule does exist for a committee or group that feels aggrieved by the departure of a senator? Rule 12-2(4) stipulates that it is the Senate that allocates committee seats and can take a seat away from a senator. Rule 12-2(5), which you cited, seeks to change the composition of committees when the senators in the group all agree. When a senator must be absent for a day, he or she must have a replacement. That rule is purely administrative. Why not use rule 12-2(4) when there is an issue related to movement, that is, if a senator leaves a group and there are any concerns about the group being harmed?

Senator Woo: Thank you, Senator Bellemare.

Those of us who are unilingual heard that the interpreter had some difficulty with the translation, but I think I got the question. I will repeat the question as I understand it.

Senator Bellemare is asking whether there’s another way to solve — let’s call it — the procedural fairness problem that I’ve articulated, whereby if a senator leaves a group and there’s excess demand in the group, rather than stopping portability why don’t we get the Senate to use its powers through rule 12-2 to basically reappoint some senator to redress whatever imbalance resulted from the movement of that said senator. I hope, Senator Bellemare, I have accurately summarized your question.

The answer to that question is that you are, in effect, proposing renegotiation. That’s what it boils down to. If you are saying that every time a member from one group leaves that group and takes a seat with another and that the remedy for the imbalance in the group that used to have the senator’s membership is for the Senate to then make a fix, writ large, then we are essentially talking about the Senate as a whole trying to find the solution to filling one or more seats in the absence of a comprehensive solution. Where that will lead, I am sure, is essentially a wholesale renegotiation of Senate seats.

There may be special circumstances where the Senate can agree, for some extenuating circumstances when someone has to vacate a seat, they will unanimously agree to appoint somebody else into that seat. But in the event that it cannot be done, it essentially boils down to the problem I articulated before which is that you will force the Senate as a whole to try and solve a problem that is best solved by groups and within groups.

That’s why, Senator Bellemare, I don’t think rule 12-2 is the solution to the portability problem.

Senator Bellemare: I have a supplementary.

No, my question was around the idea that it’s very difficult to intervene in the paradigm of Senator Woo’s that takes into account that the group owns the seat, the group negotiates and the senator doesn’t have any role to play. Also, the Senate, especially, doesn’t have a role to play in that.

The truth is that, in the old system, if there was a rule that protected independence, it was the rule of portability.

So my supplementary question to Senator Woo is this: What would the Senate be if it were more independent and less partisan, as the ISG charter has claimed that it wants to be — how do you imagine a vision where the senator will broach privilege in their capacity to independently exert their work in the Senate?

Senator Woo: Thank you for the question. I want to thank Senator Bellemare for her consistent reflections on how to modernization the Senate and how to make it more independent. She is one of our deepest thinkers on these issues, and I salute her for that.

Before I answer her specific question, let me challenge one of her premises. She said that the group negotiation process and the group committee allocation process essentially leaves the senator out of that decision making. That is not true. It is not true in two respects.

First, I speak for the ISG. ISG members designed the process. I am the servant of the process. ISG members agreed on what the process would be and asked the facilitators and the secretariat to administer it so that they had a say in the very shaping of the process.

Second, having shaped the process, they expressed their views on which committees they wanted. I’m sure it’s the same for other groups; they have some similar system — first choice, second choice and so on. So they had a lot of say.

But once they did that, then they subjected themselves to the rules that they designed — many of them, because not everyone was there at the creation of the rules — but most ISG members were involved in the design of a system that they signed on to, which they then participated in.

That is why there is an obligation to be respectful and responsible in following the process.

Before I get to your actual question, my second point is this: While I have described a kind of iron logic that requires seats to be given up when a senator leaves a group, you may have heard me say that this is not a logic that has to be employed every time a senator leaves a group. In fact, there could be, and perhaps likely would be, many circumstances where a senator leaving a group — I can only speak for the ISG — would not be asked to relinquish that seat because there’s no excess demand within the ISG, or maybe there is such a compelling case for that member to stay on the committee that there is no need to apply the non-portability rule.

But it is the principle of non-portability that has to be put up front, because that is how the system can have integrity.

Let me get to your question of how we see a more independent Senate. This is a huge question, of course, and I thought I touched on some aspects of it, but let me repeat my central point: There’s no incompatibility between a group that is cohesive, that has strong rules of procedure and conduct — no contradiction between a group that implements its procedures in a disciplined and rigorous way — and senators being independent to vote as they please, to say what they please and to introduce motions and bills. There is no contradiction between having strong groups and strong senators. That is basically the point I’m trying to make.

Some people think that having strong groups means a diminution of the individual senator’s rights. This is the view we heard. A group is there to serve the senator; the senator is not there to serve the group. Obviously, there is a balance. But if you ask me where I lean, I lean in the direction of having well-functioning groups based on strong principles which protect the independence and the equality of senators.

Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Would you take a question, Senator Woo?

Senator Woo: Yes.

Senator McPhedran: Thank you very much. I want to go back to something I referenced in my speech last evening, and thank you very much for your communication when you acknowledged that you had listened to my speech. You then will recall I referenced a Speaker’s ruling on rule 12-5. I won’t go into all of the detail, but there is one very specific statement I’m going to ask you to interpret, based on the position you have taken about group ownership of the individual member’s position. It says that if a senator withdraws from a caucus, rule 12-5 would cease to apply. The senator would retain any then current committee membership, unless removed either through a report of the Committee of Selection or a substantive motion adopted by the Senate.

Senator Woo: Thank you for that question, and thank you for accepting our offer of a seat on the Fisheries Committee. I was distressed to hear last night that you had not gotten any committees. It was my understanding all groups, as part of the negotiations, would look after senators who are non-affiliated. As soon as I found out, I gave you some options and I’m glad you’ve accepted one of them.

With respect to your question, I may be mistaken in my interpretation of the rules, but if we were to pass this Selection Committee report, then I think that application would no longer be in effect, because a senator who was named under the auspices of a group would be subject to the non-portability of that seat. Of course, that’s a decision for this chamber to make, and I won’t prejudge our vote on this report.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Woo, your time is just about up. Are you asking for five more minutes? I see there are more senators who would like to ask questions.

Senator Woo: Yes, with leave.

The Hon. the Speaker: Anybody opposed to leave, please say no.

Senator McPhedran: On this theme of clarification and your interpretation, it’s my understanding from our correspondence that when I wrote back and set out a scenario whereby if I accepted your offer, which I did very much appreciate, that it would be under the current rules because we had not yet voted. So could you explain, please, the conditions you set on your offer of membership?

Senator Woo: I’m hesitant to share private correspondence, but you are inviting me to, so by all means. I believe what I said to you was that we are pleased for you to have the seat, and it would be subject to whatever decisions the Senate makes as a whole on the portability or non-portability of seats.

To me, that would imply that if this report is passed, then seats would stay with the group, should you choose to leave.

I’m certain I also said in my email to you, and I don’t want to say it would be extraordinary, but we should not expect that we would take seats away willy-nilly. In fact, I have an expectation that, should you choose to do something different, and the question of your seat came up, we would talk to you about it and we would try to find you another seat. But that is only if perhaps by a new member joining the Senate maybe we’ll get somebody with extraordinary fisheries experience, even better than Senator Manning’s, joining our group, and that person really wants to join fisheries. In that circumstance, we may say to you, “Senator McPhedran, can we work something out?”

But this is not about punishment or vengeance. It’s not about some kind of a power trip. It’s about finding solutions. We are all about finding solutions, but we need tools to find solutions, and I believe this Selection Committee report gives us one of those tools.