Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We'll call the meeting to order.
This is the Legislative Committee on Bill C-2, the accountability legislation, and meeting number two. The orders of the day are Bill C-2, An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on elections financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability.
Our guests this morning are the Honourable John Baird, President of the Treasury Board, and two representatives from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
What I'm going to do, Minister, and representative from the Department of Justice, is to ask you at the appropriate time to introduce the people who are with you.
So we will proceed.
Minister, you will make, hopefully, a presentation to the committee and then we will have some questions. Minister, good morning.
Good morning. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Colleagues, I'm very pleased and happy to be here to briefly introduce the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2.
There's a real desire, I think, on behalf of all Canadians to see their parliamentarians work together to make this important piece of legislation one that will rebuild the public trust of Canadians in their government. Over the coming weeks you will deliberate on each of the 317 clauses of the bill and you will hear many witnesses with different points of view. I urge you to consider them carefully and to remember what Canadians said on January 23, that they want an honest and accountable government they can trust. The Federal Accountability Act, I believe, is a starting point for rebuilding that trust.
Before I go into the details, I'd like to say how pleased I was with the debate on second reading in the House last week. There were many interesting ideas put forward, and I know the committee will have time to consider all of them. I was particularly interested in the genuine support and cooperation in the speech by the member for Vancouver Quadra,
my colleague from Repentigny's comments and
the speech of the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has obviously worked on this issue longer than most of us. They were very thoughtful.
I'd like to briefly go through the bill. Part 1 is about making significant political reforms to ensure that elected representatives and public office-holders make decisions in the very best interests of Canadians. These proposals would enshrine the Conflict of Interest Code into law.
This is the practice in the province of Ontario, where I gained a great deal of experience. The Members' Conflict of Interest Act is part of the law, and is not merely something written by the premier of the day.
The bill would significantly reduce the influence of big money in politics. These are reforms that were undertaken in Quebec more than 25 years ago, and also in the province of Manitoba. By eliminating corporate and union contributions, we believe we can make the political process more open and more democratic.
There are major lobbying reforms in the bill. The ban of five years for senior public office-holders, ministers, and ministerial staff is significant and designed to end the revolving door between senior government officials and lobbying firms.
In section 2 of the bill, the provisions are intended to support the institutions of Parliament in their duty to provide a responsible government.
By establishing a parliamentary budget authority, the legislation would ensure parliamentary committees have access to independent and objective analysis on economic and fiscal issues.
Part 3 of the bill is about making government more open, ensuring the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions and protecting those who report wrongdoing.
The bill proposes expanding the coverage of the Access to Information Act for the first time to 17 new organizations, including seven agents of Parliament, seven crown corporations, and the three foundations created by federal statute. Each of those foundations has a budget of approximately $1 billion.
We're committed to going even further to strengthen the Access to Information Act, through consideration at committee of the draft proposals based on those put forward by the Information Commissioner late last year and further changes to the discussion paper presented by Minister Toews on April 11.
The bill also provides a new public appointments commission to oversee, monitor, and report on the selection process for Governor in Council appointments to agencies, boards, commissions, and crown corporations. This proposal would ensure that government appointments reward merit while respecting the values of fairness and openness.
Also, in the spirit of ensuring that appointments are merit based and reflect fairness and openness, the bill would give the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer the authority to appoint returning officers. This is something that would help depoliticize the process and ensure greater political and public perception of the way our elections are run. I know this is an issue that has been very big for our colleague from Lanark--Frontenac--Lennox and Addington and also for a number of our colleagues from Quebec in the past.
Because openness and transparency are the heart of accountability, we must create a federal public sector culture where people feel comfortable in coming forward to report wrongdoing. The proposed act strengthens the former Bill C-11 by hopefully creating a greater degree of certainty in the minds of public servants when they see wrongdoing, waste and mismanagement, or even criminal behaviour, that they'll have the genuine confidence to come forward and report that knowing they don't have to fear a reprisal and there will be a genuinely independent process for protecting them. The development of this proposal was led by the member for Nepean--Carleton and certainly builds on what the committee heard on Bill C-11.
I believe the proposed act is a good bill for public servants as it does not establish more red tape, more bureaucracy, or more rules.
Some have said our proposed amendments to the whistle-blowing legislation may imply that we believe abuse is rampant in the public service. Let me be clear and say for the record that the government knows the vast majority of people in the federal public service uphold the highest ethical standards.
Part 4 of the bill focuses on public sector reform by enhancing administrative oversight and accountability. Within the framework of a minister's overall accountability to Parliament, the roles and responsibilities of deputy ministers must be clear. The bill before us proposes to designate deputy ministers and deputy heads as accounting officers for their department, without taking anything away from the responsible minister's accountability to Parliament.
Finally, the last part of the bill is about reforming procurement and contracting. This is obviously real and significant in terms of the concerns that the Auditors General have raised in recent years, and among the public, particularly small businesses. The Auditor General plays a key role ensuring that public funds are spent wisely. That's why the bill before us would give the Auditor General increased authority to audit individuals and organizations that receive federal funding.
The measures I have described here give a good sense of our commitment to instill a culture of accountability within the public sector. These measures before us would affect everyone, from the Prime Minister to parliamentarians, to public service employees, to Canadians directly, and to companies that receive federal funding. By ensuring these proposed reforms make it into law, Parliament would go further than any government in Canadian history with respect to accountability.
At the beginning of this minority Parliament, I think working together to rebuild the public trust in government and its institutions and in the political process would perhaps be the greatest legacy the 39th Parliament can give to Canadians.
In the Ottawa Citizen, I saw a poll that looked at professions. At the top of the list were farmers, nurses, and firefighters, in the middle of the pack were public servants, but at the very bottom were politicians and elected officials. I think we all share a responsibility to help rebuild that trust, which has declined over many decades in this country, under the stewardship of many political parties, I would also add. That can perhaps be the greatest gift for the 39th Parliament, I think, to show the importance that we all place on strengthening accountability.
I was very pleased to read recent media reports from my good friend the member for Winnipeg Centre, where he suggested it would be a great gift to Canadians to put these measures into law before we break for the summer recess. That would allow us to quickly move forward in terms of getting these new offices up and running and getting these new measures in place to strengthen the trust that Canadians have in their government.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am now prepared to answer your questions and hear your comments.
Let me begin by reiterating what I said in the House, that the official opposition supports the proposed Federal Accountability Act. We see it as a continuation, a natural evolution of many of the accountability measures that have been introduced by the former government over the last decade, including a continuing strengthening of the Lobbyists Registration Act and practices, whistle-blowing legislation, reform of procurement, the extension of the Auditor General's reach into crown corporations, the setting up of the independent Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer, having a code of conduct--and I think the intention of this bill to put that code in legislation is a very positive, forward, further step--and certainly around the whole question of ensuring, and I'll paraphrase, because I don't remember the exact phrase you used, that we stop the revolving door between people in influence in Ottawa and lucrative careers advising people on how to have influence with their government. I think that's an area that all of us would like to see properly cleaned up.
Minister, as we go forward with this commonly held revolving-door concern, as you've said, how might we ensure that this proposed act protects against not only people leaving public offices and going into the lobbying or influence-contracting business, but also people who have held high office in an opposition that now becomes government going out and practising the same thing, and perhaps with even greater influence since they're now speaking to the people who were their former colleagues and are now in government? That may be something we together will want to think carefully about, because governments will come and go over the years and we want to make sure the principle is effective.
To give you a brief example--not to embarrass anybody, but this is a public posting on the Lang Michener website, from their Vancouver office--with respect to a new senior strategic adviser who of course is well known to all of us, John Reynolds, they say on the website: “John's wealth of experience and connections further adds to our ability to serve our clients.” Then they go on to name his numerous shadow cabinet roles in federal politics: official opposition whip and House leader, leader of Her Majesty's official opposition in 2001, chair of Stephen Harper's leadership campaign, and co-chair of Prime Minister Harper's 2006 election campaign.
I don't want to focus too much on Mr. Reynolds, but rather on the type of situation we are seeing with a number of people who were senior advisers and officials in the official opposition, which is now the government--and there are dozens of them--registering as lobbyists. I wonder if you can help us with any suggestions on how we can deal with the principle but ensure that it applies all the way around, so that the people with potentially the most influence... and in the attitude of the public, which you've so properly raised, of cynicism towards people in political life, how we can ensure that there isn't even the appearance of undue influence through these very close connections.
I think that's something we have to work towards collectively, and it's so important that we work towards that because of the attitude of the public that you mentioned, but it being actually contrary to the facts.
Of course, after the Gomery inquiry, which was one of the longest fact-finding inquiries in modern Canadian history, Justice Gomery came to the conclusion in his report that “Canadians should not forget that the vast majority of our public officials and politicians do their work honestly, diligently and effectively, and emerge from this inquiry free of any blame”.
Now, that is certainly not, as you've correctly identified, the general impression that the public has of public servants and politicians. I see our task in this committee as a solemn one to help improve areas of accountability wherever we can, but to also help correct the misconception in the public that things are routinely corrupt, inefficient, or inappropriate in some way in public life in this country, when we know they are not.
Oh, shadow cabinet. Sorry.
On the five-year ban on lobbying, I think if there has been one criticism, one huge criticism is that it goes too far, not that it's not strict enough. I heard many comments. Your comments in the scrum, after we released the bill on the day we tabled it, on April 11, indicated we were going too far.
Through the conflict of interest code and the lobbying reforms, we've sought to regulate the executive branch of government, not the legislative branch. I'd be very open if you have any proposals on regulating the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, the staff of members of Parliament who are not working in the executive branch. If you think these don't go far enough, we would welcome any ideas or suggestions that you think could strengthen the bill.
Thus far, we haven't gone into the legislative branch on the conflict of interest side. We've only looked directly at the source of power in this government, and this act identifies the executive branch. We've sought to bring in fairly significant reforms so that people don't lobby the person who used to work in the office next to them, the people they used to work with on making important decisions in government, for five years.
If you have suggestions to go further and you would like to present amendments, I think we'd all welcome a good discussion on that. If you would like to discuss making them retroactive, we're open to discussing that too. We would want to make them retroactive for the former ministerial advisers in the previous government too, if we made them retroactive for the former opposition.
Thank you, Mr. Baird, good morning and welcome.
I have several questions for you. I would ask you, if possible, to give me brief answers, because we only have eight and a half minutes at our disposal.
I will begin my comments by paraphrasing the Auditor General, if I may. And I want to say clearly that this is a paraphrase and not a quote. When referring to the sponsorship scandal, she said something along these lines: every rule in the book was broken. The rules therefore existed, and they were broken. I congratulate you for creating new rules, but these rules will be respected if and when the political will exists to ensure it.
On the highway, the speed limit is 100 km an hour. We can go ahead and adopt a new rule to further control speeders, but if it is not respected or no penalties are imposed... We can have all the lovely rules that you are proposing and this big document with 317 sections covering 250 pages, but what is needed is political will. And only time and experience will tell whether it is present. That was not a question.
Here is my first question. Alfonso Gagliano told us that a minister is not responsible for his department. Reg Alcock told us that a minister is responsible for his department. In your opinion, is a minister responsible for his department and his actions or is he not?
I think that as an initial step, when the current Prime Minister presents his first bill to Parliament, the bill will go farther than any government has in Canadian history to expand it to all agents of Parliament, the three big foundations, and the seven big crown corporations that weren't covered. That's welcome news.
Second, we put forward a draft discussion paper and the draft bill. When the Information Commissioner came forward to Parliament—I think it was in October of the last Parliament, and as you know I wasn't here—he said that he hadn't done a lot of consultation on his proposals and welcomed that from the committee. That's one thing.
Also, whenever you are expanding the act, there's a significant amount of due diligence that you have to do to recognize the different circumstances of those you bring in. One example is the CBC. Obviously it's unique, and we would all, I think, unanimously want to ensure that there's a 100% concrete guarantee to journalists that their journalistic sources would be protected, not for five years or twenty years, not at the whim of whoever the commissioner of the day is, but continuously.
When we put the election officer underneath, is it our intention to Americanize our system by having the ballots be subject to access to information? No. So there's a significant concern, as you bring in more organizations, that there's some due diligence and some work to do. We're working on a very tight timeframe. We didn't have the input that the Information Commissioner suggested. He also suggested that our proposals were radical and went farther than he even had asked for.
I'm a believer in access to information. We've talked about that. You know the commitment that I give to it.
I think it's important. With respect to whistle-blowers, I think the real win will be if a process is not used. I think the real win will be if a public servant has the confidence to know that they can come forward with no fear of reprisal. That will be the real win.
We had a lot of discussion about Bill C-11. The institute did not want us to scrap it. That was the advice we got from Michèle Demers. So we didn't do that. There was a lot of discussion that we'd be better to just start from a clean slate and build a new regime. The PSAC had significant concerns about the integrity of the whistle-blowing measures.
Time didn't allow me to answer, but the good news is that we have a new government and we have a Parliament that I think is prepared to go farther than Bill C-11, and to strengthen it.
The measures we're proposing for whistle-blowers really are a home run for the public service. They send out a very serious message to any manager who would... they'll think twice before committing a reprisal. It's actually now a crime, and there will be significant adjudicative remediation for any circumstance where that goes on.
For the sake of clarity, the portions of this bill with respect to whistle-blowing are really not new issues for Parliament. In the 38th Parliament I think there was about a year or a year and a half of discussions on them. This, by and large, takes measures exactly from that committee process in strengthening it.
Even most of the union leaders would acknowledge that this is a pretty significant win. I can certainly commit to you, the member for Nepean—Carleton, that we will move expeditiously, when this bill passes, to get this new regime in place as quickly as possible to demonstrate that we're serious about protecting whistle-blowers and going after people who commit reprisals.
I've certainly taken the time to be with Mr. Reid to talk about his concerns. I think in many respects he thinks the existing blanket protections for certain sorts of information are sufficient and don't require new exemptions; the CBC is one example I raise. We certainly have agreed to work with him to hear any concerns he has, to look at what amendments might be brought forward to satisfy him.
I think in three areas there will not be agreement, at least with the government. One is a concrete, iron-clad guarantee for journalists that their sources are fully protected and not reviewable by him. Two, because we're going so far on the whistle-blower protections, I don't believe that if a charge is made against another public servant, if there's no basis in fact for it, in fact if it's false... that should not be made public; we should protect people's reputations and their careers. Third, we've accepted a recommendation from the accounting community, and I believe the Auditor General as well, in order to protect draft audit documents before the main audit report comes out. In some respects, deputy ministers would be able to request a draft copy of the Auditor General's report before she even goes to Parliament, as one example. Those are three areas where we have significant disagreements with him.
As for the rest of his concerns, I've said we're prepared to work with him and see if we can't satisfy his concerns. He obviously has a significant amount of expertise.
I do find it problematic, because one day he says we're going too far, we're radical, and the next he says the exact opposite.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the minister. I'm sure the committee is unanimous in its appreciation for you being here today.
Chairman, would it be possible for the minister, through staff, to provide the committee with a management chart that would focus the role, under the legislation, of the deputy minister as accounting officer and the role of the deputy minister with respect to his or her relationship with the internal audit committee, and then the relationship of the internal audit committee to the Comptroller General and the Auditor General with respect to closing that accountability loop?
From the perspective of the government, what is the role of oversight through the respective committee that that deputy minister would be responsible to, through the minister?
I ask for that on behalf of the committee, Mr. Chairman, because I think Judge Gomery pointed out the systemic breakdown in the checks and balances, that we're really here to try to make sure there is transparency, accountability, and follow-through in decision-making. All of that was seriously flawed, as Mr. Cutler pointed out during the public accounts hearings.
I wonder if the minister might like to make a comment on that, and would it be possible to provide the committee with a management chart?
The second question is about this public accountability culture. I wonder if the minister could acquaint the committee with the $1,000 aspect of the proposed whistle-blower legislation. What was the government's thinking behind that, and does the minister think that that really will contribute substantively to a professional culture that we're all trying to inculcate in our own actions and in the actions of appointed public servants?
There are two questions, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
There is very little difference regarding the changes made by Bill C-2, because the Public Service Labour Relations Board already exists and the reasons invoked by the government do not justify the delay in implementing these protections.
It is therefore clear that Bill C-11 would be completely eliminated after the application of Bill C-2, but from a legislative perspective, it is doable, realistic and would not be overly problematic. We will see a little later on what the will of the various stakeholders is.
My second question deals with another area. I have not yet studied Bill C-2 thoroughly enough to be able to answer this question. Could certain decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal be subject to Bill C-2?
Let us suppose, for example, that a department puts out a call for tenders, that a company or organization is chosen, but that another organization realizes that the call for tenders was biased, skewed—think of Earnscliffe, at the time, for example—and that the other competitors working in the field realize that there is a problem, that they take the case to the Canadian Trade Tribunal and that they win their case alleging that the call for tender was biased.
Could this decision be subject to Bill C-2, when it becomes law, that is to say the decision to investigate the bad administration in the case of the competitive bidding?
I can give credit to my ADM, Susan Cartwright, who led a huge team of talented public servants who worked hard to put this proposal together. I also give credit to Joe Wild, from the legal side, who worked with a dedicated team of folks from the justice department to help draft it.
I suppose like any legislation, we may say “six” where other people prefer “half a dozen”, and we may say “tomato” where people would rather say “tomahto”. We are open to doing things that can strengthen the bill or clarify it or provide a greater degree of comfort. I think I spoke to Mr. Owen about that. We're certainly open. We're open not just because we're a minority government; we're open because if we can make the bill better, or clarify it, that's a good thing.
There's no doubt it's a comprehensive bill, I acknowledge that, but in terms of its thickness, a lot of it is designating, for example, all the deputy heads, listing who they all are for the agencies within government. One of the things we've done is to separate the chair and CEO positions for crown corporations--the Dairy Commission, the National Capital Commission, and other things. So when you look at that, the bill is a little bit smaller than it might at first seem.
In addition, a lot of the proposals in this are ones that have been discussed. Mr. Owen spoke at great length at the beginning of his comments about the work that the previous government had done. A lot of it builds on that work. There have been substantive discussions around this place. We just talked about former Bill C-11. We had a huge number of hearings in the previous Parliament on that issue. We also have the benefit of the Auditor General's report.
I am satisfied that this is a pretty good bill, but like everything else, we're all human beings, and no one is perfect. I've often found that in the legislative process we may come forward with a proposal wanting to accomplish acts, and people may have concerns that this may not be the best way to accomplish it, or would have greater comfort if it were done a different way. That's why, if members of the committee have advice, or you hear other advice on these things, we're certainly open.
I want to thank my colleague Pat Martin for providing some time for me to ask some questions. I also want to thank Mr. Baird for being here.
I'm going to turn right to whistle-blowing, because that's been a concern of mine. I want to get straight to the point about the $1,000. I won't engage in a long discussion other than to say that I don't think this was something that the people I talked to who blew the whistle and suffered the consequences wanted. In fact, each and every person I have spoken with and dealt with around whistle-blowing has said that they did it because it was the right thing to do. It was the ethical thing to do.
However, those people have had their lives destroyed, torn apart, and they are currently still suffering for it. I'm thinking of a couple of people from within Health Canada, at the veterinary branch, who still, to this day.... You know, we talk about taxpayers' money, but taxpayers' money is being spent putting people under the microscope for blowing the whistle.
Does the government have any provisions to deal with those people who have blown the whistle, to turn the attention toward supporting them, and to not continue what's been going on within government to go after them? I don't see any of those provisions in Bill C-2.
I want to talk a bit about compensation. I want to talk a bit about suspending, if you will, the process that people are now engaged in. I would prefer that we didn't say “that's in the courts”, or “that's in the tribunal”. If you want to do the right thing, the right thing to do right now is to call off the dogs, so to speak, on these people. I'll say that out front.
The other thing I want to suggest is that when we look at whistle-blowing, we have to look at how far the reach goes. When we look at the federal dollars that go into research within universities, I can tell you that I've talked to many people who are engaged in research. They're concerned that they aren't going to be protected. Notwithstanding the fact that federal dollars, taxpayers' dollars, go to universities for research, when they speak out or blow the whistle on issues that have to do with public health--we know the situation with drinking water, we know it with drug research--they're isolated and left out in the cold.
I'm wondering if you could respond to those two points.
If I have a couple more minutes, I'd like to turn attention to the fact that there are some other concerns--and I've voiced them before with your colleague--about making sure there is still an avenue for people to appeal after that fact, notwithstanding that there is this tribunal proposed.
But I'm going to turn my attention now to lobbying. There has been a lot of discussion in this town about how to strengthen the Lobbyists Registration Act and to have further oversight. Indeed, it's in this tome right here.
My concern is something that had been proposed by my predecessor, Ed Broadbent, and that is that when someone has been lobbying government they should not be in the queue or be given government contracts. I think the reason is pretty obvious, that if you have this kind of revolving door....
In fact, I've spoken to a couple of people in this town who lobby government, and they said that it's pretty clear: you decide what you're going to do, you set up an office and a business, you stick to that, and you don't have the.... It should be a separate circle instead of a vend diagram between someone who is being paid to lobby government and who then turns around and receives government contracts.
So to have clear lines here in terms of who does what and who receives government contracts--I'm just wondering if you could speak to that.
Mr. Wild, I'd like to explore a bit the reasons behind and the workings of the proposed Director of Public Prosecutions. I'm not sure if this is your legal field, but perhaps through your involvement in drafting you can shed some light on this.
I'm aware of only one Director of Public Prosecutions Office in the country, and that's in the province of Nova Scotia. In all other jurisdictions, including the federal jurisdiction, under constitutional practice and tradition, the Attorney General of the jurisdiction is the chief law officer of the Crown. That person is also the Minister of Justice, and is sometimes called under the dual role or sometimes just under the title of Attorney General. But there is both a political policy-based role as a member of cabinet and this quasi-judicial office of Chief Law Officer of the Crown. It is in that role, as Chief Law Officer, that this person takes responsibility to ensure that government acts within the law and that prosecutions are conducted in the appropriate way. And I think constitutionally--but I'd like your opinion on this--it's not actually possible for the Attorney General to divest himself of that responsibility and give it to another person.
We have in the federal government an Assistant Deputy Attorney General for criminal prosecutions. And I think, as the President of the Treasury Board said, there are about 640 employees in that branch of the Justice Department.
I'm wondering, first of all, if you are aware of any issue or problem with those prosecutions, with the role of the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, that would lead to containing in an accountability act provisions to separate that out from the direct responsibility of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Second, I'm interested to know that in the wording in Bill C-2 we have something very similar to the Crown Counsel Act in British Columbia, which says that the Attorney General may intervene--which he may by convention in any event, as Chief Law Officer--with criminal justice policy or the conduct of a particular prosecution. But if he or she does, it must be done in writing, and gazetted perhaps, with a delay to make sure that an ongoing trial isn't affected.
That language is in the Crown Counsel Act of British Columbia. It's the same wording as here. But it doesn't require a separate department of a Director of Public Prosecutions. It simply states clearly what the role and process are for an Attorney General intervening in a prosecution.
Can you shed any light on why we would set up a whole separate department rather than just making explicit the language that is in Bill C-2, for the Attorney General and the Assistant Deputy Attorney General?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My question will be brief but very important, because it addresses some problems in Bill C-2.
I would like to start off by getting back to last session's Bill C-11. If the committee decided to have a safety net in place until we finish considering Bill C-2... In my opinion, in light of the time it takes to get other bills through the House, there is no way the consideration of C-2 will be finished before the month of June; that would be practically impossible. It is a very dense, very long bill which affects a number of departments. Several amendments will be brought forth by the various political parties. If we want to have a bill that makes sense and works, we're going to have to take the time to do it right. By having a safety net in the form of Bill C-11, we may be able to see the flaws in Bill C-2 and correct them even before we are done considering the bill.
My question is the following: we know that there currently is a Commissioner of Official Languages, and a commissioner of responsible for the protection of human rights. When someone wants to file a complaint, he or she may do so directly with these commissioners. In Bill C-2, a similar position would be created, except for the fact that complaints would be made through one's member of Parliament. The complaint would come to us and it would then be up to us, members of Parliament, to follow up with the commissioner.
Do you not see how that simply won't work? It will mean an incredible workload. I think this should be done directly with the commissioner, and not through the members.
I want to go back and explore a little further the questions I asked the minister about Information Commissioner Reid, who tabled a report in Parliament critical of this bill on a number of fronts.
The minister gave me three examples of where this legislation differed from the views of the Information Commissioner, and I want to know if there are more, and if so, why the differences? As an example, he explained that if the Information Commissioner wanted the CBC to reveal a source, this legislation would prevent it by upholding the current provisions regarding the media, which protect disclosing sources.
The second example was that if a complaint was laid by one bureaucrat against another under the whistle-blowing provisions of this act, and if the investigation found there was no basis for the complaint to have been raised, that information would not be given to the Information Commissioner.
What other specific examples did the Information Commissioner provide in his report that were critical of this legislation? Why were there any differences, and what was the rationale in your legislation?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm going to ask more questions about the Director of Public Prosecutions. Before I do, I think it might be a great idea, from a research point of view, for us to have available either some of the acts or articles, or a workup of some of the items mentioned today, such as the Crown Counsel Act of British Columbia, the example of how it works--or not--in Nova Scotia, and anything else that's been reviewed by the department or independently in Australia or the U.K., and I'm sure that'll be forthcoming.
We started out with the idea of the Director of Public Prosecutions having a separate name and a separate office, which sounds to me like the public expects that he or she will have independent powers and be a beacon of independence, power, ethics, and credibility. I think that's our intent, and I think that's great.
However, in the details and in your testimony, Mr. Wild, it becomes clear that the DPP has the power to make binding and final decisions as to whether to prosecute—unless the Attorney General directs otherwise. In your comments, you said that perhaps the DPP will be physically separate from the Department of Justice, but it seems that he or she would be under the Attorney General's umbrella.
The public might say this would be like the Auditor General, who is independent, having a separate office but becoming part of the Ministry of Finance, which of course is not what we expect.
My question is, to make sure that this DPP role is necessary—and we'll get into that in the weeks to come, I'm sure—but also has that public credibility.... You're probably going to say this is political, but do you not think the DPP should have separate powers? It should not be under the aegis of the AG for the laying of charges and should not be seen as.... I'll use a genetic allusion, because it's been brought up here twice: the DNA is the same for the Attorney General and DPP. In fact, they're part of the same being; one is an arm of the other.
That's not the impression the public got when a man I respect very much, Peter MacKay, made some announcements during the election that the DPP would have independent powers. I think we were all dreaming of Rumpole and that there was going to be a great independence. The point is that in this document so far, there doesn't seem to be that independence—or I've got your comments wrong, Mr. Wild, or I'm reading the précis of the act wrongly. How much independence does the DPP, as it is, have?