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House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Finance


NUMBER 001 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
43rd PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, October 8, 2020

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (1535)  

[English]

     Honourable members of the committee, I see we have quorum.
     I must inform members that the clerk of the committee can only receive motions for the election of the chair. The clerk cannot receive other types of motions, cannot entertain points of order, nor participate in debate.
    We can now proceed to the election of the chair. Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the chair must be a member of the government party. I am ready to receive motions for the chair.
    Madam Chair, the Liberal side wishes to nominate the honourable Wayne Easter.
    Thank you.
    It has been moved that Mr. Easter be elected chair of the committee.
    Are there any further motions?
    I declare Mr. Easter duly elected chair of the committee.
    You may take the chair.
    Thank you, all. It should be interesting times going ahead. Certainly, thank you for your support.
    I welcome the new members to the committee. Pat Kelly has been on the committee before and has often served as associate to Tamara Jansen. Welcome.
    Ted Falk has been around for a little while, too. Ted, it's good to see you here as well. Welcome.
    I welcome the new clerk, Evelyn Lukyniuk. As everyone knows I'm a real name pronouncer, so I hope I got that right.
    Before we go to regular proceedings, is there basically consent to go to the nomination of vice-chairs?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: Madam Clerk, I'll turn it back to you.
    Thank you.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the first vice-chair must be a member of the official opposition. I am now prepared to receive motions for the first vice-chair.
    I nominate Pierre Poilievre as first vice-chair.
    It has been moved by Mr. Kelly that Mr. Poilievre be elected first vice-chair of the committee.
    Are there any further motions?
    Seeing none, I declare the motion carried and Mr. Poilievre elected vice-chair of the committee.
    We may now proceed to the election of the second vice-chair. I'm prepared to receive motions for the election of the second vice-chair.

[Translation]

    Madam Clerk, I would like to nominate Gabriel Ste-Marie as the second vice-chair of our committee.
    It was moved by Mr. Julian that Mr. Ste-Marie be elected second vice-chair of the committee. Are there any further motions?
    I declare the motion carried and Mr. Ste-Marie elected as second vice-chair of the committee.

[English]

    Mr. Chair, now that the election of vice-chairs is through, I wonder if I could put forward routine motions.
    Madam Clerk, are we done with the vice-chairs? We are complete?
    Yes, we are done. Thank you very much.
    Thank you very much, Madam Clerk.
    We'll go to routine proceedings.
    Go ahead, Peter.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's great to see colleagues again, and I'm looking forward to working with new colleagues along the way.
    First of all, on analyst services, I move:
That the committee retain, as needed and at the discretion of the chair, the services of one or more analysts from the Library of Parliament to assist it in its work.
    Is there any discussion?
     I don't see any dissent. The motion is carried.
    Go ahead, Peter...Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Mr. Chair, Peter is fine, too.
    The second routine motion to be introduced here is for the subcommittee on agenda and procedure:
That the subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be established and be composed of five members; the chair, one Member from each Party, and that the subcommittee work in a spirit of collaboration.
     Is there any discussion?
    Mr. Julian.
    For further clarification, it's one member from each recognized party.
    Okay.
    That's probably a friendly amendment.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
    If Mr. Julian wants to emphasize that the NDP is indeed still a recognized party, that's fine with me.
    Are we all agreed to the friendly amendment?
    (Motion as amended agreed to)
    The Chair: Mr. Fragiskatos.
    This routine motion relates to meetings without a quorum:
That the chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including two members of the opposition and two members of the government, but when travelling outside the parliamentary precinct, that the meeting begin after 15 minutes, regardless of members present.

  (1540)  

    Is there any discussion?
    Mr. Julian.
     If Mr. Fragiskatos is saying that in the case where we are travelling across the country for pre-budgetary hearings that it start regardless, then I would agree. I'm not sure I want to give a blanket ability outside the parliamentary precinct, but I believe what he's proposing is in the case of pre-budget hearings where it does make sense. Outside of the parliamentary precinct during pre-budgetary hearings, I would support that if he accepts it as a friendly amendment.
    Is there any discussion?
    I am not sure what other committees do in this regard, but we only travel for pre-budget anyway.
    Are you okay with that, Peter?
    I am.
    Mr. Julian is basically saying that when travelling outside the parliamentary precinct on pre-budget hearings that the meetings begin. Are we okay with that?
    Yes, that is very much in line with what we had in the previous session under the same routine motions for this committee.
    All those in favour?
    There's no one opposed.
    (Motion agreed to)
    The Chair: Mr. Fragiskatos.
    This relates to time for opening remarks and the questioning of witnesses:
That witnesses be given five minutes—
    —which was previously 10 minutes in the last session—
—for their opening statement; that, at the discretion of the chair, during questioning of witnesses, there be allocated six minutes for the first questioner of each party as follows: First round: Conservative Party, Liberal Party, Bloc Québécois, New Democratic Party; For the second and subsequent rounds, the order and time for questioning be as follows: Conservative Party, five minutes, Liberal Party, five minutes, Conservative Party, five minutes, Liberal Party, five minutes, Bloc Québécois, two and a half minutes and New Democratic Party, two and a half minutes.
    I see Mr. Julian first, and then we'll go to Mr. Poilievre and then Mr. Ste-Marie.
    I don't have any problem with the time allocation, but what procedure and House affairs has adopted, and what committees are being urged to adopt is for the second round. The first round is fine. The second round would actually be Conservative Party five, Liberal Party five, Bloc two and a half minutes, NDP two and a half minutes, and then Conservative Party five, and Liberal Party five.
    That would be the amendment I would propose to Mr. Fragiskatos. That's what procedure and House affairs has adopted. Hopefully, it'll be a friendly amendment.
    Just to be sure I got this right, the first round would be as is, six minutes. The second round would be Conservatives five, Liberals five, Bloc two and a half, NDP two-and-a-half, and then into the next round starting with Conservatives five and Liberals five.
     Yes.
    Okay, we'll leave it at that.
    Mr. Poilievre, you had your hand up.
    Before I speak, can I just confirm, has Mr. Fragiskatos accepted that friendly amendment?
    I have not, Mr. Chair.
    Okay, so you're going onto another issue.
    Is there a discussion on the amendment as proposed by Mr. Julian?
    We'll go to Mr. Ste-Marie and then Ms. Dzerowicz.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I wanted to raise the same point as Mr. Julian. I will support his amendment, as agreed to by the whips. I believe this is the way the committee should proceed.

  (1545)  

[English]

    Ms. Dzerowicz, are you speaking to this amendment?
    I just need to understand why the proposed change, Mr. Julian? Things went so swimmingly in our first part of the year. Everything went well.
    Go ahead, Mr. Julian.
    The reason that procedure and House affairs adopted that format—even though the third and fourth party have much less time—the way the rotation worked, they are suggesting this and committees are adopting it this way for the second round to ensure that those two and a half minutes actually make it. If you put it right at the end, it's doubtful that the second round actually could be completed, whereas this way, the third and fourth party actually get a second way to ask questions. That's why procedure and House affairs proceeded this way. It's basically a supplementary round for things that come up.
    That's why it was proposed by procedure and House affairs. That's why other committees are adopting it that way. We've already seen a number of them over the past. I don't think finance should be an outlier. We deal with very important issues, so having that supplementary question can make a difference, even if it's only two and a half minutes.
    Ms. Dzerowicz.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    My understanding, Mr. Julian, is that the chair can be empowered to shorten the time to ensure everybody gets two rounds. I think it was traditionally done so that the government party gets first crack at the second round and then the leading opposition gets second crack. I believe maybe PROC, for some reason, specifically decided to agree to this, but I'm not sure that all other committees are going to follow suit.
    Peter.
    The ones that have so far, yes, they have.
    You can certainly talk to your whip about why procedure and House affairs recommended that format. I'm sure it came through discussions.
    My point is that if procedure and House affairs is recommending it, all parties agreed to it for procedure and House affairs, and other committees are adopting it this way, why would finance then put the third and fourth party possibly without the ability to ask any supplementary questions? In a minority Parliament all parties have to work together. That's why procedure and House affairs is strongly recommending the format that I proposed.
    I'm sure Mr. Fragiskatos was aware of that as well.
     Mr. Chair, Mr. Julian has made it seem that the endorsement from PROC was a unanimous one. It was not.
    This is an independent committee. Committees are masters of their own destiny, as we all know. This was—and when I say “this was”, I mean what I originally suggested a few moments ago prior to Mr. Julian seeking to put in place a friendly amendment—an approach that we followed in the previous session and it worked quite well. Everybody had the ability to be given time. Time was allocated very fairly under your leadership, Mr. Chair. I really don't see why that would be a problem henceforth.
    I think that what was originally suggested, with due respect to Mr. Julian and Mr. Ste-Marie, is completely fair. I'm not sure why they want to keep pressing this point.
    All right, there doesn't seem to be an agreement.
    Is there any further discussion? Then we'll have to go to a vote on it.
    We'll have Mr. Ste-Marie, and I think Mr. Poilievre wants in.
    Gabriel.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I would say to Mr. Fragiskatos that, so far, it hasn't worked very well. During the consultations regarding COVID-19, my colleague Peter Julian and I were given our first two-and-a-half-minute slot. However, because there were so many guests and witnesses and we were discussing very important issues, it was not uncommon at the end of the meetings, if we were lucky, that we could only get a short question because the chair didn't have time to give us our second two-and-a-half-minute slot.
    What is being proposed and what has been passed in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs aims to finally secure those two and a half minutes, as my colleague Mr. Julian says. In my opinion, it is not true to say that it has been working well and that, so far, it has been fair. Committees are independent and can determine their own procedures, but sometimes their operation can be cumbersome, lengthy and painful.

  (1550)  

[English]

     Okay.
    I do think, unless I see agreement, we will have to go to a....
    Oh, sorry, Mr. Poilievre. Go ahead.
    I gather the only difference here is that in the second round, the Bloc and the NDP would split five minutes right smack in the middle of the round. Do I have that right?
    Yes.
    That is effectively the only difference versus what we have right now.
    I just want to make sure we understand what we're voting on here. Under Mr. Fragiskatos' motion, the first round is six minutes for the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP. The second round is five minutes for the Conservatives, five minutes for the Liberals, five minutes for the Conservatives, and five minutes for the Liberals. The third round is when the Bloc and NDP get their last opportunity to speak.
    Is that what Mr. Fragiskatos is proposing?
    Well, following that we're back into Conservative, Liberal, Conservative, Liberal. I believe when we've had time, we've brought in the NDP and Bloc after that. It's basically up to the chair, but in the third round normally we're back to the regular order as in the first round, only with less...and often we split that down to three minutes instead of five, depending, in trying to get everybody in.
    Mr. Julian.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    The difference, Mr. Poilievre, is that if we lose the five minutes, as we often do when we're doing our rounds, in the case of Mr. Fragiskatos' proposal it would be the Bloc and the NDP that would lose their supplementary question. If we lose that five minutes, there's no possibility for two of the three opposition parties to ask supplementary questions. With what I'm proposing as an amendment, every party gets supplementary questions. If we lose that five minutes, it's the government who chairs the committee, and the chair intervenes quite often. The Liberal Party will have several rounds before that.
    It's a difference of equity. Either the government loses the five minutes or two of the three opposition parties lose the five minutes. That's actually a pretty substantial difference, I would suggest. That's why procedure and House affairs has made the recommendation, which I believe we should follow.
    Peter, just to clarify, you're saying that under the Fragiskatos model that we followed before, the Bloc and NDP only get their two and a half minutes after the first two rounds are completely finished, and only if the chair finds there's time for that to happen.
    If we're doing an hour-long hearing, depending on the number of witnesses, and we lose that last five minutes from the second round, with the Fragiskatos proposal it's two of the three opposition parties who lose that opportunity also for a supplementary question. Under my proposal, it may mean that the government gets one fewer round, but they will have had several rounds earlier.
    That's the difference. It's whether you believe the government should basically override, if we have to lose five minutes, or if the two opposition parties should be able to ask supplementary questions in that same time.
     Ms. Dzerowicz, do you want in on this one?
    I just want to point out a few things. I love that we're calling it the Fragiskatos motion or method. It's great. I think we should trademark it.
     My understanding is that this is just the traditional format that has always existed. My sense is that it is because the governing party tends to have first crack and then the leading opposition party has the second crack in the third round. I think it really is just because we have a majority rules government and that's the format that has always existed.
    I know that Mr. Julian has pointed out a number of times that PROC has approved it. I will tell you that the Liberal members did not support it. It did not receive unanimous support. It was not meant to be seen as setting a precedent for all the committees.
    Those were the two points I wanted to make, Chair.

  (1555)  

    We'll go to Mr. Fragiskatos, then maybe we'll have to go to a vote.
    Thank you, Chair.
    I appreciate the call for a trademark.
    Perhaps I'll be accused by my colleagues across the way for being quite rigid here, but I still fail to see and have not heard a compelling reason as to why we can't follow the convention from the previous session which worked very well, Mr. Chair. Why can't we leave it in your very capable hands to make sure that two rounds come to completion?
    In the previous Parliament, I don't recall one single time where opposition members complained about not having fair time. This was a committee that dealt with some very challenging issues as far as COVID-19 and the economic response was concerned, and of course we dealt with WE Charity. As we all saw, the opposition was very able to raise issues in any way they wished.
    We have an existing format that worked well then. Suddenly you come here and now propose a change. It's not about anything that I proposed. I appreciate Mr. Julian and Mr. Poilievre characterizing this as the Fragiskatos approach or structure or whatever they called it. It's not about me here. I think we have a tradition that we followed on this committee. Why not simply continue with that?
    It's a bit perplexing, Mr. Chair.
    I see Mr. Poilievre has his hand up, too.
    I was going to go to you, Mr. Julian, for the last word, so I'll go to you, and then to Mr. Poilievre and Ms. Jansen. Hopefully then we can go to a vote.
    Mr. Julian.
    Thanks, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Fragiskatos has put a very eloquent argument forward for my amendment, which is that you, Mr. Chair, do have the ability to ensure that government members get that final question in. That's terrific.
    I think the third and fourth parties have very clearly spelled out that they believe they need to have that guarantee of a supplementary question. Mr. Chair, as you know, the reality is that often you're not able to provide that, so you're very effective in juggling things. If Mr. Fragiskatos believes in what he just said, he should vote for my amendment. Then we can lock in what procedure and House affairs is recommending we do and what other committees are doing as well, in the interest of fairness in a minority Parliament.
    I'll go to Mr. Poilievre and then Ms. Jansen.
    Before the vote on the subsequent rounds, I'm going to ask you, Mr. Julian, just to explain to me where we are on that, so at least I understand whichever way it goes.
    Mr. Poilievre.
     I appreciate Mr. Fragiskatos' humility and modesty in turning down the namesake of the motion, which we tried to ascribe to him. That appellation, I think, is something he could have been proud of and even advertised amongst his constituents: that he has created and invented a procedural innovation at a parliamentary committee. Not many Canadians can say that.
    On to the substance of the matter, I think that there is nothing wrong with giving our two opposition compatriots—I hope the Bloc doesn't mind being called a compatriot—an extra two and a half minutes each. I know that the Liberal party would be charitable enough to grant that. The argument that the Fragiskatos model is more established would suggest that we can never improve, but a wise man once said that in Canada, better is always possible. I think there is some room for improvement.
    We hope that the NDP, in using that 2.5 minutes, won't simply serve Liberal purposes with it. We are trusting that they will honour their constituents who voted for an opposition party when they elected New Democrats in some of the ridings of the country. We know that they will be mindful of that when they speak out, because we certainly don't need anymore fealty to the government from opposition parties.
    I'm inclined to vote in favour of that amendment from Mr. Julian. Hopefully, it will lead to an even more productive finance committee in this Parliament than the one that preceded prorogation.

  (1600)  

    All right, we have Ms. Jansen and then Mr. Fraser.
    Mr. Falk, was your hand up? You were just waving papers.
    I was wondering if it's possible that we raise hands rather than waving at the cameras. It feels very disorganized because people are waving. It's difficult to work like that.
    You can use that little hand thing if you like. The problem here is that I'm working from a small screen, on a Surface Pro.
    I'm just wondering if we could use that as a regular way of doing business. It's a bit confusing when people are waving and I'm looking at the list of hands and they're not up. I just think it will ensure that everybody is given the right turn in the right order.
    We can do that.
    Mr. Fraser.
    I have a question for Mr. Julian.
    During your presentation for the proposed amendment, you indicated that there was a precedent set, more or less, that committees are being encouraged to adopt. I'm curious if there's been any movement or discussion around the practice that committees have adopted where the chair is a member of the opposition and whether, in those circumstances, to meet the suggestion that the chair could accommodate, the same precedent would apply within this case, given where we are in Parliament with the Conservatives last in the round that we're discussing. Has that been discussed in other committees?
    Mr. Julian.
    I don't actually know the answer to that question.
    What we're proposing here doesn't have the Conservatives last in that second round. It has the Liberals last in that second round. For subsequent rounds it would be the same. I think the chair was asking that question earlier. It would be the same for subsequent rounds if we were going for a two-hour session. It would be Conservative for five minutes, Liberal for five minutes, Bloc for two and a half minutes, NDP for two and a half minutes, Conservative for five minutes and then Liberal for five minutes.
    Go ahead, Mr. Fragiskatos.
    I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Chair. I'm still trying to figure out where the “raise hand” function is. I've used it a few times on Zoom, but that's why I interrupted there.
    I think that Mr. Fraser's question is a very relevant one. I'm not sure if Mr. Julian understood it, with all due respect to him. As I understood him, Mr. Fraser was talking about what happens in cases where the opposition holds the chair if, as in our case and most committees' cases, a Liberal chair is in place.
    What Mr. Julian is calling for here, and one would assume in other committees, is that the Liberals finish off questioning. In cases where the opposition is in chairmanship, is he also calling for the opposition, in the form of the Conservatives, to wrap up questioning there, too?
     It's a red herring. I don't have the answer. I'd prefer to go to a vote, Mr. Chair.

  (1605)  

    Mr. Chair, I would remind my honourable colleague that he is helping to establish a bit of a precedent. I'm not sure it's a precedent that he would be entirely comfortable with.
    We're ready for the vote.
     Did I see you shaking your head, Mrs. Jansen?
    I'm sorry, but I do still see hands up.
    Mr. Chair, I had my hand up.
     I don't want to debate this too much further, but Mr. Julian's point is correct. It's a red herring in terms of us setting a precedent for an opposition-chaired committee. That will be a question for opposition-chaired committees to determine.
     I also agree with Mrs. Jansen that just for order on this, monitoring the participants' hands up would be an orderly way to keep a speakers list.
    Are we ready for the question?
    Madam Clerk, perhaps we could turn to you, on the amendment by Mr. Julian.
    (Amendment agreed to: yeas 6; nays 5 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: We'll go on to the next motion. That will be the new order.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Mr. Chair, the proposed routine motion here is on document distribution. It is as follows:
That the clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute documents to members of the committee only when the documents are available in both official languages and that witnesses be advised accordingly.
    (Motion agreed to)
     Peter.
    The next routine motion is on working meals.
    On a point of order, did we vote on the original motion as amended?
    No, we didn't. We'd better do that.
    Thank you, Julie.
    We'll go back a step and vote on the original motion as amended.
    (Motion as amended agreed to)
    The Chair: Okay, now we're on working meals.
     Mr. Chair, the motion reads as follows:
That the clerk of the committee be authorized to make the necessary arrangements to provide working meals for the committee and its subcommittees.

  (1610)  

    Is there any discussion?
    (Motion agreed to)
    The Chair: Next is travel accommodations.
    Thank you, Chair. The motion reads:
That, if requested, reasonable travel, accommodation and living expenses be reimbursed to witnesses not exceeding two representatives per organization; provided that, in exceptional circumstances, payment for more representatives be made at the discretion of the chair.
    Is there any discussion?
    (Motion agreed to)
     The Chair: Next is access to in camera meetings.
    On access to in camera meetings, Mr. Chair, the motion reads:
    
That, unless otherwise ordered, each Committee member be allowed to have one staff member at an in camera meeting and that one additional person from each House officer's office be allowed to be present.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I'm looking at the raised hands and there are three raised hands. Are they because there are questions, or is it...? I know in my case I've raised my hand because I would like to present a motion after the routine motions are over, but I don't know whether that was the appropriate thing to do.
    I have three requests following the business: one from Ms. Dzerowicz, one from Mr. Julian and one from Mr. Poilievre.
    On a point of order, my hand was up first, so I just want to remind you of that, Mr. Chair.
    I think my hand was up first, Mr. Julian.
    We'll argue about that later. Let's get back to the routine proceedings.
    Go ahead, Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Mr. Chair, if it's helpful, I think I did see Ms. Dzerowicz's hand go up first, but in any case, as you said, we can discuss that in a moment.
    This is the second-last motion. It relates to transcripts of in camera meetings:
    
That one copy of the transcript of each in camera meeting be kept in the Committee clerk’s office for consultation by members of the Committee or by their staff.
    Is there any discussion on that?
    (Motion agreed to)
    The Chair: Now, we'll go to some motions.
    Mr. Chair, as you know, this one, on notice of motion, is a lengthier one, so just bear with me here:
    
That a 48 hours’ notice, interpreted as two nights, shall be required for any substantive motion to be considered by the committee, unless the substantive motion relates directly to business then under consideration, provided that (1) the notice be filed with the clerk of the committee no later than 4:00 p.m. (EST) from Monday to Friday; that (2) the motion be distributed to Members in both official languages by the clerk on the same day the said notice was transmitted if it was received no later than the deadline hour; and that (3) notices received after the deadline hour or on non-business days be deemed to have been received during the next business day and that when the committee is travelling on official business, no substantive motions may be moved.
     Is there discussion on this one? I see none.
    (Motion agreed to)
    Point of order.
    I do have the three other motions on the screen. Mr. Julian's hand came up first. I was informed first by Ms. Dzerowicz.
     Mr. Fraser, you have your hand up too.
    I do, for a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    My point of order, Mr. Chair, is that with the “raise hand” function, you can actually see the order in which people raise their hands, so all members of the committee can see that I'm first up after the routine motions.

  (1615)  

    I'll be honest with you, Mr. Julian, that I haven't figured this system out yet and I lost you once. I'm going to go offline and try to figure this system out when this meeting is over.
    There is a point of order from Mr. Fraser first, if it's a point of order.
    It's actually on the same point of order, Mr. Chair, about going through the “raise hand” exercise, which I think could be a good practice, though one we're not used to. I thank Mrs. Jansen for the suggestion.
    I used the “raise hand” function myself to make a previous comment when I posed a question to Mr. Julian. After I had asked that question, I saw that Ms. Dzerowicz had her hand up as well previously. They were both cleared. I didn't clear it myself. I'm curious to know whether the chair or someone else has the ability to do that. Both of ours were removed and Mr. Julian used the “raise hand” function subsequent to that.
    What I don't know is whether Ms. Dzerowicz's initial hand raise was for her intended motion or for a comment she was making in the previous debate.
    It's obvious this is not a rule that existed. We don't really know how to work this, but I thought I would offer my own testimony, I suppose, because I checked when Mrs. Jansen said we had to lower our hand and mine had already been lowered.
     Okay.
    Can I just answer the—
    I'm going to let Ms. Dzerowicz come in here, because I was informed by Ms. Dzerowicz first by the old way of doing things, and now we're into a new way of doing things.
    Go ahead, Ms. Dzerowicz, and make your point, and then we'll have to make a decision here on which one we're going with. I have Mr. Julian up as well. I want to be fair.
    Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
    To be after routine motions, I did raise my hand. Then Ms. Jansen mentioned we should raise and drop and raise and drop. I think there was a bit of a use there of the raise and drop. And then I put it back on again, and then—this is to Mr. Fraser's comment—I think it was taken down. I think I had spoken, but whoever took it down didn't understand that I was trying to raise my hand to speak as soon as the routine motions were over.
    It's unfortunate that we're left where we are here, but it was very genuine. I actually had it up for the most part even before anybody else was putting up their raised hand, and then I think it was eliminated when we were going into the raised hand and dropping hand. Once I noticed it was eliminated, I put it back up right away, so I've been there from the beginning.
    I really see no reason why we can't deal with all three.
    We have committee time till what time, Madam Clerk?
    The notice of meeting per se says 5:30.
    Okay.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, we're talking about the “raised hand” function, which as far as the efficiency of meetings is concerned could prove to be a very valuable tool. However, where in the Standing Orders, where in the very good text that all members of Parliament are assigned when they become MPs, in the chapter on committees, does it say anything about the Zoom “raised hand” function? That sentence has never been spoken in committee before, Mr. Chair, which proves the point that we can't make rules on the fly, as Mr. Julian is trying to do.
    A point of order.
    On a point of order, Mr. Poilievre, I'll hear you, but getting to the first motion as quickly as possible and then maybe dealing with all three is where I'm trying to go.
    Mr. Poilievre.
    I'm sure our constituents would be very proud to see us dealing with this important matter of state. I'm reminded that the definition of a committee is a group of people who by themselves can do nothing and who together agree that nothing can be done.
    I don't believe that is a point of order.
    I am going to go to Ms. Dzerowicz first, then Mr. Julian and then Mr. Poilievre.
    Ms. Dzerowicz.
    Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
    I'd like to present a motion on pre-budget consultations.
    As Mr. Poilievre said, those witnessing us today will probably find this to be a very important motion for us to be presenting.
    I do have it translated into both languages and my staff should be sending this over to the clerk as we speak. I'm happy to read it in French as well.

[Translation]

    I can speak both languages. In addition, it allows me to practise my French.

[English]

    It goes as follows:
That, pursuant to its mandate under Standing Order 83.1, the Standing Committee on Finance begins the Pre-Budget Consultations 2021 on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, and that

a) the Deputy Prime Minister and departmental officials appear before the committee;
b) the evidence and documentation received by the committee during the first session of the 43rd Parliament on pre-budget consultations be taken into consideration by the committee in the current session;
c) the committee allow witnesses to change their testimony if they feel so obliged based on the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19;
d) each party submit a preliminary witness list no later than 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 14, 2020;
e) each party submit a final witness list no later than 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 2020; and
f) the committee request permission from the House to table its report on Pre-Budget consultations no later than Tuesday, December 8, 2020.
    I wonder—

  (1620)  

    Point of privilege, Mr. Chair.
    There is no point of privilege, but go head.
     There is a point of privilege, and I gave notice to your office that I would be raising one.
    Yes, you gave me notice a little while ago. I have three notices of motions: one from Ms. Dzerowicz, one from Mr. Julian and one from you.
    My point is with regard to the breach of privilege that the government has carried out with respect to the finance committee. I do have the floor, and this is in order.
    The Speaker has referred this matter back to the finance committee for it to be dealt with here. This is the proper forum, and privilege is the proper point under which it should be raised. So it is a point of privilege, and that grants me the floor to raise it.
    Point of order—
    I think that is out of order.
     I will proceed. Points of privilege take precedence over points of order.
    They do take precedence, Ms. Dzerowicz, so we will allow it to go to the point of privilege, I believe.
    But is the point of privilege actually a point of privilege?
    Yes, it very much is.
    Well can we maybe have the clerk define that, as opposed to the person who is raising the point of privilege?
    If I may, it's impossible for the clerk to rule on whether it's a point of privilege until the clerk has heard the point of privilege.
    Okay, let's hear your point of privilege.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    This committee, prior to prorogation, required that the government provide a series of documents in relation to the WE scandal. That request was very specific. It included a long list of items that would be required to fulfill the motion.
    The motion specified that it would be the law clerk of the House of Commons who would be responsible for redacting any documents that were necessary to redact as a result of national security, cabinet confidence or any other legitimate purpose.
    As you can appreciate, Mr. Chair, members of the committee were extremely disappointed and shocked to see that the documents submitted to the law clerk of the House of Commons were preredacted. Members of the government had covered up hundreds of sentences and at least dozens of pages through redactions, with black ink on page after page after page.
    The Prime Minister promptly prorogued Parliament before this matter could be addressed at this committee, preventing me from bringing this motion then. Thus, I am bringing it forward now.
    The member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands, Michael Barrett, raised a point of privilege on the floor of the House of Commons in respect of this matter. The Speaker responded by saying that the matter had to be raised at the aggrieved committee, which is this one.
    This represents a breach of the privileges of parliamentarians to receive any and all documents that the committee requests. Parliamentary privilege is absolute. The government does not have the right, in our system, to withhold information that Parliament has requested.
    I note that the original request was extremely generous towards the government, in that it provided a mechanism for the law clerk, who is bound by solicitor-client privilege, to remove or redact any information that would violate the government's right to cabinet confidence, protection of national security, commercial sensitivity and personal privacy.
    We have a respected legal team. We have, simply put, a lawyer for the House of Commons whose job it was to carry out that work. The law clerk has informed the House that the office of the clerk was prevented from doing that job by the government's decision to do the redactions before the documents were ever handed over.
    As remedy, I have a motion that I wish to introduce into the record for committee members to vote upon. Let me begin reading it.
That the Chair be instructed to present the following report to the House forthwith, provided that dissenting or supplementary—

  (1625)  

     Mr. Poilievre, before you go to your motion, I want to have this straight, because if it's a point of privilege, I have to allow it and go to the motion. But your point of privilege, if I understand what you said, is that you're saying the request that the finance committee made for documentation in the last Parliament was not abided by as we had requested that it be abided by. Is that what your point of privilege is?
    Yes, and thus the privilege of committee, which is a privilege of Parliament, was breached. The government breached the privileges of committee, the committee being a creature of Parliament, and thereby breached the privileges of parliamentarians. That is the basis for my point.
    Okay, but what I need to know, before I rule for or against the point of privilege, is this: What part of the motion are you saying wasn't adhered to?
    The documents requested were redacted before they reached the law clerk, and therefore Parliament's unlimited ability to acquire documents from the Government of Canada, or any other entity for that matter, was breached.
    And your evidence for this is what the law clerk said?
    Yes.
    Okay.
    Furthermore, my motion actually contains additional evidence that will be read into the record formally, as soon as you allow me to continue.
    Could I have point a order?
    No, you can't.
    Can we suspend for two minutes? I want to confer with the clerk on this one; I really do.
    Well, no, I don't think there is unanimous consent to suspend the meeting.
    Well, I can suspend the meeting and confer with the clerk, so I am going to do that. I want to be sure I am on safe ground with where I'm going here. I don't want to deny your motion if it shouldn't be denied, and I want to approve it if it should be approved under the rules.
    I am going to suspend for two or three minutes and talk to the clerk.
    Okay.
    The meeting is suspended for a couple of minutes.

  (1625)  


  (1630)  

    All right. I will allow the motion. Go ahead.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    It reads as follows:
That the Chair be instructed to present the following report to the House forthwith, provided that dissenting or supplementary opinions, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(b), shall be filed with the Clerk of the Committee within 24 hours of adoption of this motion.
    Mr. Poilievre, could you slow down a little? We do have to write this down.
    Absolutely. I'll be happy to provide the motion in writing to your office thereafter so that you will have a copy. My staff is in the process right now of emailing it to your team and to the clerk so that you will have a copy.
    The motion continues as follows:
The Standing Committee on Finance, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), has agreed to report the following.

Standing Order 108(2) empowers your Committee—
    Mr. Peter Fragiskatos: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Hon. Pierre Poilievre: It continues:
“to study and report on all matters relating to the mandate, management and operation of the department or departments”—
    I can't take a point of order until we get through the motion, Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Go ahead with the motion.
    I will have to reread that sentence, then:
Standing Order 108(2) empowers your Committee “to study and report on all matters relating to the mandate, management and operation of the department or departments of government which are assigned” to it, among other things.

Additionally, on May 26, 2020, the House adopted an order of reference permitting your Committee to meet virtually to consider matters “related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters” and empowering it, “in relation to [its] study of matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic”, to “receive evidence which may otherwise exceed the [committee’s] mandate under Standing Order 108”.

  (1635)  

[Translation]

    On July 7, 2020, the committee held a virtual meeting. It adopted the following motion:
    
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the committee order that any contracts concluded with We Charity and Me to We, all briefing notes, memos and emails, including the contribution agreement between the government and the organization, from senior officials prepared for or sent to any minister regarding the design and creation of the Canada Student Service Grant, as well as any written correspondence and records of other correspondence with We Charity and Me to We from March 2020 be provided to the committee no later than August 8, 2020; that matters of cabinet confidence and national security be excluded from the request; and that any redactions necessary, including to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents whose names and personal information may be included in the documents, as well as public servants who have been providing assistance on this matter, be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.

[English]

On or about August 8, 2020, several deputy heads of government departments provided the Clerk of your Committee with documents in response to the order for document production. These documents were, in accordance with the order, referred to the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel for review and redaction.

On August 18, 2020, the documents were released to the members of your Committee. The Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel also wrote to the Clerk of your Committee stating, in part:
the letters and documents indicate that the departments had also made redactions to protect personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act, to protect third party information and information on the vulnerability of their computer or communication systems, or methods employed to protect their systems. These latter grounds for exemption from disclosure are contained in the Access to Information Act..
Upon reception of the documents on August 9, 2020, you provided them to my Office so that we could make the necessary redactions to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as public servants as contemplated by the production order. However, as mentioned above, the documents had already been redacted by the departments to protect personal information and on other grounds. As my Office has not been given the opportunity to see the unredacted documents, we are not able to confirm whether those redactions are consistent with the order of the Committee....
    It goes on:
As mentioned above, the departments made certain redactions to the documents on grounds that were not contemplated in the order of the Committee. We note that the House’s and its committees’ power to order the production of records is absolute and unfettered as it constitutes a constitutional parliamentary privilege that supersedes statutory obligations, such as the exemptions found in the Access to Information Act. The House and its committees are the appropriate authority to determine whether any reasons for withholding the documents should be accepted or not.
    

[Translation]

Parliament was prorogued on August 18, 2020, preventing your committee from meeting to study the documents and the government's failure to comply with the July 7, 2020 order.

A question of privilege was raised in the House on this matter at the beginning of the new session of Parliament. In his decision of October 1, 2020, the Speaker of the House said:
As of today, it is not possible to know whether the committee is satisfied with these documents as provided to it. The new session is now under way. The committee, which has control over the interpretation of its order, has an opportunity to examine the documents and decide what to do with them.[...]

Given these facts and circumstances, it is my view that this is a matter for the committee to consider. If it believes that its privileges have been breached or has any other concern with respect to the situation, it can report to the House.

[English]

At its October 8, 2020, organizational meeting, your Committee considered the government’s response to the July 7, 2020, order.

Your Committee has concluded that the government’s response failed to comply with the order, and, accordingly, wishes to draw the attention of the House to what appears to be a breach of its privileges by the government’s refusal to provide documents in the manner ordered by the Committee.

Your Committee, therefore, recommends that an Order of the House do issue for the unredacted version of all documents produced by the government in response to the July 7, 2020, order of the Standing Committee on Finance, provided that these documents shall be laid upon the Table within one sitting day of the adoption of this Order.
    That, Mr. Chair, is my binding motion.
    Having concluded the filing of that motion and having instructed my staff members to provide your and the clerk's office with a full copy of it in order to ensure rapid precision in its recording, I will state the rationale for the motion very briefly.
    We asked for documents. The documents were blacked out. We have the right to see those documents unredacted. We have a law clerk, a lawyer, who represents all of us, who has the ability, the expertise, and the confidence of this committee and our House to determine what we should and should not publish. That is the role of Parliament. My motion is now before the committee.
    I look forward to our going to an immediate vote on it.

  (1640)  

    I have to go back to a point of order by Mr. Fragiskatos, and then I need a clarification from you on your motion.
    Mr. Fragiskatos, you have a point of order. I had to wait until Mr. Poilievre was done reading the motion.
    What's your point of order?
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I'm having a difficult time understanding the substance of Mr. Poilievre's motion.
    The reason for that is that we're in a new session of Parliament. Since this is our first meeting, there has not been, by definition, a motion adopted to review any documents. There haven't been, as far as I know, documents received by the committee. The clerk has not received a relevant letter.
    The member, Mr. Poilievre, talks about a breach of privilege, which the Speaker did not find on the matter that he raises. When such issues come up, Mr. Chair, even in a case of a point of privilege, they go to the—
     I think, Mr. Fragiskatos, you're more into debate than a point of order. The motion is debatable. I'll allow those points to be made in debate.
    However, before I get into debate, Mr. Poilievre, I just want to be clear so I understand it. Here in your motion, you say at one point—and for committee members, the clerk has now sent that motion to members on their units, so you should have it—that the documents be unredacted. You mean unredacted as they go to the law clerk, because there have been some motions floating around, which I've seen here and there, that basically said cabinet documents, etc., unredacted.
    Maybe I can explain it this way. You're saying that the original request, after the finance committee met, was that the documents that would go to the law clerk be unredacted and that the law clerk could make the decision regarding what's redacted and what is not. Is that correct?

  (1645)  

    I will quote directly from my motion so that you don't rely on a secondary interpretation of it. It says in the final paragraph:
Your Committee, therefore, recommends that an Order of the House do issue for the unredacted version of all documents produced by the government in response to the July 7, 2020, order of the Standing Committee on Finance, provided that these documents shall be laid upon the Table within one sitting day of the adoption of this Order.
    Therefore, with the possession of these documents, the committee then can have the clerk remove any information that would violate personal privacy or national security rules, though I suspect there is no such information, and then the rest can be made public.
    Okay. The motion is debatable.
    Please raise your hands, because I still haven't figured out this hand thing. My apologies for that.
    I have Mr. Fragiskatos first, Mr. Julian second, and Ms. Dzerowicz third, and we'll go from there.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    Pat Kelly is next.
     Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    The motion makes reference to the Speaker's ruling on October 1, but it neglects to mention the part of the ruling that said “the Chair cannot”—cannot—“find that there is a prima facie question of privilege”. That, I think, is a very relevant point in addition to everything I raised earlier. There was a bit of commotion there, so I'll repeat what I said: We are in a new session of Parliament. A motion has not been adopted to review documents. The committee has not received relevant documents. The clerk has not received any relevant letter.
    I would also remind the member, who's an experienced member, that these matters, as we know from the guidebook on parliamentary procedure specifically relating to the conduct of committees, are issues to be taken up by the Standing Committee on Procedure, the PROC committee. I think that's a highly relevant point. I would point my honourable colleague to a relevant section in the chapter on committees and also relating to questions of privilege. It says as follows: “If the Speaker finds there is a prima facie breach of privilege”—again, he did not find it in this case, but the text is making a general point—“the member raising the question of privilege is asked to move a motion, which is debatable, usually requesting that the matter be examined by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.”
     That is the convention, Mr. Chair. Mr. Poilievre wants to bring these matters to the finance committee. Again, I made this point many weeks ago, when we were meeting in the previous session. Canadians are deeply anxious right now about COVID-19 and its economic impact. I think that's where our focus ought to be. We are again today embroiled in a debate over documents, over technical matters. I'm not dismissing the substance of those. As I put on the record many times during the WE hearings that we had, I thought serious questions had to be asked of the government. I asked, along with other Liberal colleagues, very serious questions of the government. We did not hide from that responsibility or shirk that responsibility. However, I worry that here again too we have given in, or could be giving in, to a tendency to look at matters that are not specifically relevant to the committee on finance. We need to begin to think about the pre-budget deliberations that are going to, or ought to, seize this committee. In fact, that is a responsibility of the committee if we follow the Standing Orders.
    I think colleagues around the table will hold that same view. If they wish to raise their perspective on this matter, on the matter of pre-budget deliberations, I would welcome that. It would be great to get that on the record. I think it's a very relevant point. I know that a number of stakeholder organizations have expressed a deep interest in letting this committee know about where the country ought to go, where the federal government should go and what advice this particular committee should provide to the government on economic matters going forward.
    For all these reasons, Mr. Chair, I have a tough time understanding the special relevance of the motion introduced by my honourable colleague. He knows conventions very well. I think it would have been more instructive and appropriate for him to raise these matters, or rather for a Conservative member to raise these matters, in the PROC committee.
    I'll leave it there for now, Mr. Chair. I'm glad I had a chance to put my views on the record.

  (1650)  

    Okay.
     I will find the hand function before the next meeting, Ms. Jansen.
     Next on my list are Mr. Julian, Ms. Dzerowicz, Mr. Kelly, Ms. Jansen and Mr. Fraser.
    Do any others want in? Ms. Koutrakis and Mr. Poilievre do, hopefully to wrap it up. Then we'll go to a vote.
    Mr. Julian.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate being recognized.
    I will start off by giving the committee a notice of motion. The notice of motion is for a subsequent committee meeting:
That, in light of troubling allegations of misuse of public funds by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, the House appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the government’s spending in response to the pandemic, including, but not limited to—
    An hon. member: Chair, a point of order.
    An hon. member: A point of order.
    The Chair: If I could—
    Mr. Peter Julian: It continues:
the Canada Student Service Grant, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, and the procurement of personal protective equipment:
     Mr. Julian, we're in a debate on the motion that is before us—
    Yes, and it is absolutely in order to read a notice of motion, Mr. Chair, as you know. So I'll just complete that and then I will speak to the motion.
    Okay, but the points you're raising with your motion relate to the subject we're on?
    No.
    Well, yes, it's a notice of motion that—
    If it relates to this debate, you're on and you're basically suggesting whatever, and that yours is better. Okay, let's hear it.
    It continues:

(a) that the committee be composed of 11 members, of which five shall be government members, four shall be from the official opposition, one shall be from the Bloc Québécois and one from the New Democratic Party;
(b) that changes in the membership of the committee shall be effective immediately after notification by the whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
(c) that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
(d) that the members shall be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee no later than November 15, 2020;
(e) that the Clerk of the House shall convene an organization meeting of the said committee for no later than November 20, 2020;
( f) that the committee be chaired by a member of the official opposition;
(g) that notwithstanding Standing Order 106(2), in addition to the Chair, there be one vice-chair from the government, one vice-chair from the Bloc Québécois and one vice-chair from the New Democratic Party;
(h) that quorum of the committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118 and that the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including one member of the opposition and one member of the government;
(i) that the committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders;
(j) that the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings;
(k) that the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, and other ministers and senior officials be ordered to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit;
(l) that the committee report no later than February 15, 2021.
    Mr. Chair, on the point of privilege, it is very clear the direction we've received from the Speaker. He stated on October 1 that this committee, the finance committee, which has control over the interpretation of its order, has an opportunity to examine the documents and decide what to do with them. As you have stated, this motion of privilege is in order and I'll be supporting it.

  (1655)  

    Ms. Dzerowicz is next and then Mr. Kelly.
    Ms. Dzerowicz, you may speak on this motion.
    Just to be clear, we're debating a motion read after a point of privilege after I introduced a motion. So I feel we're several levels down.
    No, the motion relates to the point of privilege. When a member makes a point of privilege, if the point of privilege is allowed, we're obligate to allow the member to move a motion related to that point of privilege. Once this is out of the way, we will go back to your motion.
    All right.
    But we will have to make a decision on the motion that relates to the point of privilege.
    So, on Mr. Poilievre's motion related to the point of privilege, you're on.
     Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
    I want to also reiterate that we have prorogued. We have just reconstituted our committee today. We have you as chair, and we have vice-chairs. My understanding is that we as a finance committee have not accepted the documents that were indicated by Mr. Poilievre. I don't think there is any question of privilege that should be considered at this point.
    I want to indicate that there was a substantial amount of time allocated to looking at the CSSG and the WE situation. It was important for us to do. It was important for us to make sure that we validated whether there was any money misspent or wasted. We've confirmed and proven that was not the case. We have also eliminated a number of the myths that were promoted by the opposition throughout the summer, including that the Liberals were giving money to their friends. That was completely not true. That the Prime Minister or the ministers had picked WE intentionally was not true, and that was confirmed by a number of our very senior leaders and bureaucrats within the government. There were a number of other things that we completely dispelled throughout the many hours during which we actually looked at this particular motion.
    I don't know why the opposition would want to bring this back onto the table. I agree with my colleague Mr. Fragiskatos that we as the finance committee have an obligation to hear from stakeholders on pre-budget consultations. I don't know why this would not be the absolute number one priority for all of my colleagues in opposition on this committee. It's my understanding that almost 800 submissions have been made. To my understanding, the number of submissions made is historic. There are many people who are very anxious to present to our committee.
    I know many of them have called our offices. I know many of them have ideas on how we can ensure that Canada has a competitive economy going forward as we come out of this pandemic. They have ideas on how we can attract more direct investment, how we can accelerate growth and how we can invest in productivity-enhancing capital, many ideas.
    I know they want to make sure that, after they've heard about the Speech from the Throne, after they've heard about our vision and our direction and what our goals are moving forward, there are a number of specifics they want to be able to provide to us in terms of information, in terms of things they think we might have missed. They have ideas about how we can implement the specific commitments we've outlined in the Speech from the Throne.
    Mr. Chair, I truly believe this is where we should be focusing our attention. I'm very disappointed with our opposition members that this is not what they want to be focused on. We also know there are many industries that are disproportionally impacted by the COVID pandemic. We need to hear from them. While I'm hopeful that our government has plans under way to help them in the interim, we need to hear from them on how we can help them pivot after this pandemic.
    We also know there are a number of industries that are in transition. We heard an announcement by Premier Kenney last week about new industries that Alberta wants to be transitioning into. I think there are many who want to relay to us the kind of support they'd be looking for and that they need in the transition. The world is changing. We will have changed after this pandemic. We all want to be getting the very best ideas and providing the platform that's needed so that we can hear back from stakeholders, whether our industries, our companies or our non-profits, about how we can get Canadians and Canada back on track to succeed in a more sustainable and equitable way.
    Mr. Chair, I'll end there.

  (1700)  

    There will probably be other opportunities to come in.
    We have Mr. Kelly, followed by Mrs. Jansen.
     Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Both of the interventions we've had from the governing party members have really not addressed the question of privilege raised by Mr. Poilievre. Both spoke at length about the necessity of this committee dealing with COVID response measures, for example. That's a bit of a rabbit hole to take away from the motion itself.
    I'm going to go there and point out that the questions raised by the WE debacle are very much questions of COVID response measures. The government had announced these measures as part of its COVID response, and Canadians need to know the extent to which corruption and the rewarding of friends have extended into its COVID response measures. This is an important question.
    This question of privilege is directly tied to how the Government of Canada addresses the COVID emergency. When we are talking about the disruption of the absolute and unfettered privileges of a committee to examine and receive evidence, this is not something that can simply be shrugged off because the government and its caucus members on this committee would simply rather talk about something else.
    The Speaker, in his ruling, referred the matter back to this committee, and this committee is going to consider this. I wanted to make that point quite clearly. These issues are all tied together. For Canadians who want and need their government to look at the emergency response measures, the manner in which money is put out and the lengths to which the government would go to deny a committee the evidence that it needs to examine this matter cannot just simply be shrugged off. This committee is an appropriate place to have this discussion.
    Next is Mrs. Jansen, followed by Mr. Fraser, Ms. Koutrakis, Mr. Poilievre, Mr. Ste-Marie and Mr. Falk.
    Coming from the health committee, I want to give an example. We had a very similar situation there. I know Ms. Dzerowicz is wondering why we would be doing this. It's because the Liberals had started making it a norm to hide information. They did the exact same thing. They redacted before it went to the law clerk. We're in the middle of a pandemic. We want Canadians to trust us. If we want Canadians to trust us, then we need to be transparent with our information.
     Mr. Trudeau consistently says he wants to be transparent. In December 2015, he said, “We are committed to open, honest, transparent government.” On April 3, 2019, he said, “We believe strongly in the importance of access to information and transparency”. On May 1, 2019, he said, “Under my leadership, we have raised the bar on transparency.” On June 10, 2020, he said, “We will continue to demonstrate openness and transparency.” On June 16, 2020, he said “Mr. Chair, throughout this unprecedented pandemic, we have been open and transparent about all of the measures we've put forward.”
    I said the same thing at the health committee. This is not transparency when you redact and you do not allow parliamentarians the privilege of seeing the documents as they were written. There appears to be secrecy that absolutely needs to stop if we want Canadians to trust that we are doing our very best for them. We have got to support this motion.

  (1705)  

    Thank you, Mrs. Jansen.
    Next is Mr. Fraser, followed by Ms. Koutrakis.
     Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll cut to the chase.
    I don't really care what information gets shared if it's within the rules. I do want to get on with the pre-budget consultations. It's my view, after having looked at Bosc and Gagnon's interpretation of privilege debates before committees, that we don't actually have the authority to consider this as a point of privilege.
    I don't intend to take too much time. It will take me a couple of minutes. I'll read the relevant section where it discusses specifically matters of privilege raised before committee.
Unlike the Speaker, the Chair of a committee does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege. Should a Member wish to raise a question of privilege in committee, or should some event occur in committee which appears to be a breach of privilege or contempt, the Chair of the committee will recognize the Member and hear the question of privilege, or, in the case of some incident, suggest that the committee deal with the matter.
    Mr. Chair, I would suggest that you've carried out that portion of your duty by allowing Mr. Poilievre to make his motion.
    I'll continue with the language:
The Chair, however, has no authority to rule that a breach of privilege or contempt has occurred. The role of the Chair in such instances is to determine whether the matter raised does in fact touch on privilege and is not a point of order, a grievance or a matter of debate. If the Chair is of the opinion that the Member's interjection deals with a point of order, a grievance or a matter of debate—
    Here's the key part:
—or that the incident is within the powers of the committee to deal with, the Chair will rule accordingly giving reasons. The committee cannot then consider the matter further as a question of privilege.
    The remaining part of the argument has actually already been made by members of the opposition. Mr. Poilievre, I believe, pointed out the good work of the parliamentary law clerk and counsel, who previously indicated in the letter that was referred to—I'll read from that letter if I can bring it up here momentarily—that:
In the circumstances, it is for the Committee to determine whether it is satisfied with the documents as redacted by the departments.
    Further, both Mr. Kelly and Mr. Julian correctly pointed out that the chair in the House, who is master of this committee, save and except in its own uncertain circumstances, has actually referred this matter specifically to the committee.
    Under my interpretation of the plain language explanation outlined in Bosc and Gagnon, you are required, Mr. Chair, to determine that this is within the power of the committee and not to be the subject of a report subjected to the House.
    Moreover, Mr. Chair, should you not accept my argument, I would like to propose a simple amendment to Mr. Poilievre's motion. I would propose that, at the bottom of the motion, we add the words, “and that pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests a government response to the committee's report.”
    However, that's only required should you find against my argument.
    I've already allowed the motion.
    You can always challenge the chair as well, but your amendment is in order.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    I'm not sure that your allowing the point of privilege and motion to be put is conclusive in the present instances. I believe that you were correct to allow the motion to be made and to have it be debated. Having had the debate, I believe you would be entitled to find—and, in fact, are required to find—that if the issue of the redaction of the documents is within the power of the committee, then this can't be heard as a point of privilege.
    That's my interpretation of Bosc and Gagnon. It doesn't take much interpreting; that's actually what it says.

  (1710)  

    You and I will have a debate here.
    What you're suggesting, then, Mr. Fraser, is that the issue of whether the documents were redacted beyond what the committee requested—or improperly redacted—is within the authority of the committee and should not be a point that is going to the House. Is that what I'm hearing you say?
    That's precisely the point.
    The rule says that if it's within the power of the committee to deal with—and I'm paraphrasing here—then the point of privilege must be dismissed. The committee would be free to deal with the substance of that issue in due course. However, in this instance, we have both the letter from the law clerk and the direction coming directly from the Speaker of the House of Commons that, in fact, this matter should be dealt with by the committee. That direction should prevent this committee from going through the exercise of finding that there should be a report submitted for the House to then consider.
    The whole point of both the Speaker's and the law clerk's directing the issue to the committee is for the committee to deal with it, not for the committee to bring it back to the House.
    There's a reason that these rules exist. This is not procedural trickery. We're actually trying to have the right group or person make the right decision. In this instance, the committee should be empowered to find whether the redaction complied with the order that has been issued by the committee. According to Bosc and Gagnon's description of the rule, you should be required to find that this is beyond what should be permitted through a motion that's been debated on a point of privilege.
     We're going to need more information from our own clerk to get into that kind of discussion, I feel.
    Where are you suggesting we go, that we leave this with the committee, that the committee would hold the meetings, get the original request, the original documents, the orders from the Speaker, and then make a decision as a committee as to whether what we had asked for was abided by?
    Mr. Chair, I don't think that's quite what has been suggested. I believe it's already been made clear by the Speaker that this is a matter for the committee to determine. If the committee does not believe that the government complied with the order, then when there's an opportunity for us to have that debate, we can do so.
    My point is that using a point of privilege to effectively jump the queue is not permitted under the rules of the House of Commons. I think there was an attempt by Mr. Poilievre to put this on the agenda, knowing that there was a motion coming forward to conduct pre-budget consultations. In fact, the rules have contemplated this specific kind of use of procedure and do not allow it, unless it's a true point of privilege and not instead something that the committee is empowered to deal with.
    When both the Speaker and the law clerk have indicated that this is squarely within the powers of the committee to deal with, I think the conclusion is obvious.
    Mr. Chair, can I just ask a question of Mr. Fraser to determine whether or not—
    Yes, you can ask a question.
    I think Mr. Fraser made an interesting point, but we're into it now.
    Go ahead with your question to Mr. Fraser. I'll hold the order for others.
    Mr. Fraser, are you saying that the Speaker referred the matter to the committee but he did not want the committee to refer it back to the House? Is that what you're saying?
    I'm saying that both the Speaker and the law clerk indicated it is within the power of the committee to deal with this issue. I'm saying that Bosc and Gagnon says that what is within the—
    No. To be clear on that, though, are you saying that the Speaker indicated that, because it's with the committee, it should not be reported back to the House? I'm just clarifying.
    No, I don't believe the Speaker made that ruling.
     The Speaker is all right with us reporting the matter back to the House, then.
    Mr. Chair, I don't think they've specifically made that...either. I think they've—

  (1715)  

    Actually, they have. I'm quoting the Speaker now: ““If it believes that its privileges have been breached or has any other concern with respect to the situation, it can report to the House.”
    I'm quoting from the Speaker. You're quite wrong. The Speaker did rule on that matter, and I am acting in accordance with his ruling.
    We're going to go back to the list.
    I believe that Mr. Fraser is right. I don't have the right to rule on the question of privilege, and I don't intend to, but we do have the right to debate the motion and report back to the House.
    I'll go back to you, Mr. Fraser, unless you're complete. Did you not make another amendment at the end of your remarks?
    I proposed an amendment to the motion as well.
    If we didn't overrule the privilege point....
     Go ahead. What's the amendment, so that we have that, and we'll see where that goes?
    Certainly, Mr. Chair. Let me just bring up the simple language again.
    I've already moved the amendment to Mr. Poilievre's motion, that it simply add the language “and that pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests a government response to the committee's report.”
    Okay. Would that be a friendly amendment, by chance, Mr. Poilievre?
    It would not.
    We are on the amendment, and I see that Mr. McLeod's hand is up to speak.
    I'll go back to my list and then come to the amendment.
    Ms. Koutrakis.
     Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Where do I begin? At the risk of repeating what many of my colleagues have already said, as per the Speaker's ruling and as of today, it is not possible to know whether the committee is satisfied with the documents it was provided. The new session is now under way. The committee, which has control over the interpretation of its order, has an opportunity to examine the documents and decide what to do with them.
    On September 23, the House adopted an order setting out a specific procedure to re-establish committees, including the Standing Committee on Finance. Given these facts and circumstances, it is my view that this is a matter for the committee to consider. If it believes its privileges have been breached or has any other concern with respect to the situation, it can report it back to the House.
    For these reasons the chair cannot find there is a prima facie question of privilege. We have not received the documents. The documents were released on August 18, which was the same day Parliament was prorogued. As a consequence, the committee could not sit, could not review the documents nor report to the House, so the documents have not been reviewed by the committee.
    All Canadians are watching us. We're in the second wave of COVID. They're concerned about their families. They're concerned about their health. The finance committee has very important work to do. As my colleague, Ms. Dzerowicz, mentioned earlier, we've received just south of 800 requests to appear before our committee. There is a deadline to report to the House.
    I can't believe, and I'm disappointed actually, to see that parliamentarians who were so hard at work throughout the whole summer.... In the previous session, this finance committee did very important work, and we received a lot of relevant comments. It's time to start working on the very important work we have before us, without getting caught up in points of privilege and technical issues.
    The average Canadian is looking to us for leadership. They're looking to us for solutions. They're looking to us to help them through this difficult time. They're looking to us to come up with recommendations on how we're going to recover from this terrible time.
    I respectfully request that everybody around this table, including colleagues on my side of the aisle and all my colleagues around the table, do the important work Canadians have asked of us. It's time to move on. It's time to stop trying to trip each other up over technicalities and get to the real work that Canadians are expecting from us.

  (1720)  

    In order for me to be proper on this, we really need to debate the amendment before we come back and make a decision on the proposed amendment.
    If I could have Mr. Fraser read the amendment again, I'll take a speakers list on that, or we'll go to a vote on the amendment and then come back on the motion as amended.
    It was basically that the government report back to the committee. Is that right?
    It was, yes. That's effectively the proposed amendment.
    Is there any discussion on that, or are we going to a vote on the amendment?
    Mr. Poilievre wouldn't take it as a friendly amendment, so we're going to have to debate it.
    The reason for the proposed amendment is with regard to the accusation that the government's conduct violated members' privileges. It would be appropriate, in our parliamentary democracy, to give the government an opportunity to respond to those allegations.
    Any further discussion?
    Seeing none, we'll vote on the amendment.
    (Amendment negatived: nays 6; yeas 5)
    Going back to the list on the original motion, we have Mr. Poilievre, followed by Mr. Ste-Marie, Mr. Falk and Mr. McLeod.
    It feels like we're back in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Let's start with the circular logic. The Speaker of the House received a point of privilege about the cover-up of these documents. He said he couldn't deal with this and that it should be sent to the committee. Here we are at committee, and now Liberal members are arguing that the committee can't deal with this and to leave that with the Speaker.
    In Orwell's great work, these loudspeakers used to yell out to get people into the rhythm of circular thought and confuse them. The poem they would repeat over again was:
    

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.

    Here we are, under the spreading chestnut tree, listening to the circular logic of Liberal members who try to bounce this issue back and forth, keep it out of everyone's hands so that it's nowhere and nothing. We want the truth, and we're going to pursue the truth.
    Speaking of the truth, the second argument of our Liberal colleagues here is that the truth no longer exists because of prorogation. Not only did prorogation shut down the debate, but it erased history. Now they are telling us there never were any documents, they didn't exist, the committee never received a thing, and what are you talking about? That page of history has been erased by the ministry of truth. The officials there went through and erased that out of existence. There have been no documents. There is no WE. The Kielburgers, we don't have any record of their existence. “Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.”
    That's what we have before us right now.
    Mr. Chair, if you are still with me here in the real world, I think you will agree that we did receive documents, they were covered in ink, they did not respect the will of this committee, and a breach of our privilege has occurred. It is now only up to us to report it to the House, where it can be voted upon by members and ruled upon by the Speaker. Let us go forth and do our job. Let us put an end to the circular logic, the erasure of history and the silly games played by the members of the governing party.

  (1725)  

    Next is Mr. Ste-Marie, followed by Mr. Falk.

[Translation]

    Mr. Chair, these are a critical times.
    The pandemic is having unprecedented health and economic consequences.
    Millions of people and hundreds of thousands of businesses are experiencing great difficulties and we have a duty to listen to them and ask the government to better adapt its programs.
     All the members of this committee are convinced of that. This is our raison d'être and this is what we do.
    It's not just the job of Liberal MPs to do that.
    At the same time, because the government is managing programs of unprecedented magnitude, it must be trustworthy.
    Did the government act ethically, beyond all suspicion, to avoid creating doubt in the population?
    This is another issue that is crucial and essential. It is our duty as committee members to address it. We have asked the government to provide us with documents, and they have provided us with documents that have been redacted and censored. Hence the motion of privilege that has been moved by our colleague Mr. Poilievre, which is entirely appropriate and which I will be supporting.
    Will the committee suggest, as Mr. Julian asked earlier, that the House be asked to create a special committee to continue to shed light on the We Charity scandal?
     I would like us to move and adopt this motion so that we can look at the pre-budget consultations and continue to hear from stakeholders on the economic impact of COVID-19.
    All of this is essential, but we must not forget—this is really important—that the government must be trustworthy and beyond suspicion. This includes the documents we ask for. We want it to provide them to us, not redacted or censored.
    That is why I fully support the motion presented here by our colleague Mr. Poilievre.

[English]

     Thank you, Mr. Ste-Marie.
    We'll hear from Mr. Falk, Mr. McLeod, Ms. Dzerowicz and then Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I, too, want to draw attention to the fact that we are in a time of COVID and that this committee was seized with very important work. It's certainly part of the mandate of this committee to explore whether government monies, whether the funds allocated for specific projects, were properly dispatched and whether there was any corruption involved in the dispatch of those funds.
    The committee made a request of the government to provide documentation. The government didn't respond in good faith. In fact, the government tried to hide the truth. It's incumbent upon this committee to get to the truth.
    A point of privilege was raised in the House. On October 1, the Speaker made a ruling that this committee needed to deal with the point of privilege. A point of privilege was made. Mr. Chair, I think you've recognized that. A subsequent motion was made that this committee continue on its quest for truth and ask to see a copy of those unredacted documents presented to the committee in the time frame of one day.
    I am going to be supporting the motion. I think it's the right thing for this committee to do.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

  (1730)  

    We go to Mr. McLeod followed by Ms. Dzerowicz.
     Mr. Chair, I want to point out that I'm not having much success using the robotic hand to wave at you. I keep pushing it and it doesn't seem to work. I had to do it the old way and use my own hand to get your attention.
    I also want to say welcome to all the new members who have joined us. It's good to see some new faces around the table. Some are not so new, but welcome.
    It looks like we're back in business with the finance committee. We've spent the last two hours talking about rules and procedures and documents, and about what's not a document and what should be on the table. Of course, we're in the middle of a pandemic, and COVID-19 should stay at the forefront. We also need to do the budget consultations. That can't be pushed to the sidelines. We've had many, many submissions made on pre-budget consultations. I don't want to lose sight of that.
    I think people who are watching us are probably assuming that in the last session we had an opportunity to sit down and really analyze the documents, the response that the government made on the request for the WE Charity issue. I think it should be clear that our committee at that time, during that session and now, since it is our first meeting, has not had the response tabled, put in front of us as a committee, where we walk through it, analyze it, make comments and where we see things that are redacted that maybe shouldn't have been or anything of that nature.
    In my opinion, that step is important. I think Pat Kelly indicated that a lot of this is tied to what the government response is. Well, let's take a look at what the government responded to. We did prorogue. That, of course, throws a twist into what this means. Prorogued means that all committee work and everything on the table comes to a standstill.
    I think the motion, the point of privilege, is premature. I don't think we have taken the necessary steps to make a full assessment of what was provided. We have some new members. It's unfair to them to be voting on something where they didn't have an opportunity to really have a good number of sessions to get together and really get into the detail of this. If there's going to be a forensic look, then let's do it together as a committee. That's my point. I think we jumped a couple of steps ahead of what we need to do. I hear what the Speaker has said, that he can't deal with it and it has to go back to the committee, but how can the committee make a determination about documents that were really not formally discussed in this committee at this point?
    Those are my comments, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you, Mr. McLeod.
    Ms. Dzerowicz, Mr. Fragiskatos and then we'll have Mr. Julian. Hopefully, that will wrap it up.
     Mr. Chair, I'm going to start where Mr. McLeod ended off.
    A key point is that we at finance committee can't assess what we have not yet received. That's the first point.
    The second point is that I have heard a couple of comments from Mrs. Jansen and other members of this committee about transparency. I will tell you those are not just quotes about us being transparent. I think we sometimes have a bit of a short memory and the prorogation might have shortened our memory even more.
    There was an enormous amount of transparency around the dollars we have spent through this COVID crisis. There was an extraordinary effort by our former minister of finance to ensure that we had a biweekly report on every single dollar that we spent. It was given to us every two weeks, On top of that, our minister of finance came before this committee to answer any questions about the spending. Then we had government officials stay an extra hour, which was extra time to answer even more detailed questions.
    There has been accountability. I don't want any Canadians listening to think that the federal government has been spending upwards of $300 billion with zero accountability. There has been a lot of accountability, and there will continue to be. It will be accountable; it will be transparent, and it is a huge commitment of our government. It's not just in words; it's also in action.
    I will also say that we gave a lot of time to the Canada service grant matter. There were some very legitimate questions about whether or not there was wasting of money and whether there was any attempt by certain government leaders to select WE Charity on the side. There were some legitimate questions about why WE was selected.
    An extraordinary number of hours were spent on answering those questions. We brought senior bureaucrats before this committee. For a historic moment in time we brought the Prime Minister of our nation before this committee.
    We have heard very clearly—it is documented in the record of this finance committee—that there was no money wasted. It all came back. There was no money misspent. Even in the agreement that was signed with WE Charity there was no way for them to profit from it.
    It was also very clearly stated that the Prime Minister and the ministers had zero hand in selecting WE Charity. We heard from the Clerk of the Privy Council, Ian Shugart. We heard from Rachel Wernick and we heard from Gina Wilson, who are both very senior bureaucrats within our civil service. We also heard from the Kielburgers under oath that none of the ministers, nor the Prime Minister, nor anybody, directed anyone to pick WE.
    We responded to every single point that was brought forward. It was responded to. It is documented and it remains as part of the official record.
    Did we behave in an ethical manner? I believe that the people who should make that determination are not a partisan committee such as ours. A couple of very important people, who are independent, highly competent and outstanding public servants, are looking into this matter. Can I please remind everyone that we have the Auditor General looking at our finances and how we are spending it; it's an independent person who is doing that. We also have the Ethics Commissioner looking to see whether or not any unethical actions were committed on behalf of our Prime Minister as well as our former minister of finance, or anyone else.
    On the issue of the redaction, it seems like what has come up in the last go-round is that there is a desire from some members for us to convene another special committee, external to this body, to further investigate the WE Charity matter. I think this may be a good idea. If there is a group that believes this needs to be looked at even further, my humble and personal belief is that there is not one person who has approached me over the last few weeks who has any more questions about the WE matter right now.

  (1735)  

     What people care about right now is their kids going to school, keeping them safe, having a safe Thanksgiving, being able to continue to keep their jobs, and somehow being able to give someone a hug after this.... That is the hope. That is the stuff they care about right now. If there is a desire for a special committee, that is something that needs to be decided outside of this committee.
    At committee, I proposed a motion to begin pre-budget consultations, which is what Canadians want us to focus on. They want us to focus on how to restart our Canadian economy in the best way possible, and to listen to over 800 groups. People are knocking at our door and saying they have some really great ideas. They want to make sure we have the information we need, so we can not only restart our economy in the strongest fashion possible but also build a better, more equitable, more sustainable future for our country.
    I will leave it at that. I really hope we can get back to my pre-budget consultation motion, and back to work on what Canadians are asking this committee to focus on.

  (1740)  

    Thank you, Ms. Dzerowicz. Hopefully, we will get back there.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Ms. Dzerowicz raised a pertinent point toward the end of her comments when she talked about special committees. I would just advise all members, as I am sure they know, that anything relating to the creation of a special committee cannot be decided upon by a committee. That is a matter to be decided on by the House. That is really critical in case colleagues in the opposition are contemplating that. Again, it's not about trying to avoid difficult issues, but from a procedural perspective, any discussion of a particular focus through a special committee needs to go through the House.
    I again refer to Bosc and Gagnon. As we just heard, matters of privilege raised at the committee level are difficult, and it is difficult for me to understand the relevance of Mr. Poilievre's motion. I will read directly from the text itself. With respect to matters of privilege being brought forward at the committee level, it reads:
Since the House has not given its committees the power to punish any misconduct, breach of privilege, or contempt directly, committees cannot decide such matters; they can only report them to the House. Only the House can decide if an offence has been committed.
     It continues:
Most matters which have been reported by committees have concerned the behaviour of Members, witnesses or the public, or the disregard of a committee order. Committees have reported to the House on the refusal of witnesses to appear when summoned; the refusal of witnesses to answer questions; the refusal of witnesses to provide papers or records; the refusal of individuals to obey orders of a committee;
    —and it gives other examples.
    We are going around and around discussing a matter that has been brought forward on a question of privilege. Again, the committee cannot examine what it has not seen, and we are in a new session of Parliament
     I put this to you, Mr. Chair, and to my colleagues on the committee, that we're not in a position to be debating these matters. The motion introduced by Mr. Poilievre is of questionable relevance for all the reasons outlined.
    Does anyone else want to speak?
    Mr. Julian.
    Mr. Chair, I have to say that I disagree with my Liberal colleagues on virtually every interpretation they have tried to put forward in terms of what privilege means and what committees are supposed to do to deal with that. It's almost like there needs to be a remedial course on rules of order.
    The reality is that the Speaker gave to the committee the ability to report back on this question of privilege. That's point one. We have that responsibility to choose to report or not. That's the committee vote. I think the majority of committee members have said that they believe privilege was breached. That is sufficient to report to the Speaker and to report to the House.
    Also, we have had a number of months now to look through the documents. I've looked through the documents. There is no doubt to my mind that over a thousand pages that have been completely or substantially censored is simply inappropriate for any committee.
    As members of this committee, we have a number of responsibilities. It's true that we wear a number of hats. However, one thing that is foremost, and that should be foremost in the minds of every single committee member, is the importance of maintaining our parliamentary institutions. Committees have the right to request documents, and the government does not have the right to intervene and censor those documents, particularly when a motion directs that any redaction that takes place takes place through the law clerk. We have a responsibility to report to the House and a responsibility to say that this was a breach of privilege. There is no question. I think we will find that the Speaker will take a report from this committee very seriously, and I think we will see the interpretation that he makes based on parliamentary precedents.
    My final point is this. A number of members have indicated that they are supportive of the idea of a special committee to investigate allegations of misspending. I'm very cheered to hear that. I just gave notice of motion, and I will be bringing this forward forthwith so that we can put in place a special committee.
     Now, how does that happen? Mr. Fragiskatos is absolutely right. We report to the House. The House will have a concurrence debate, and a majority of the members of the House of Commons will decide whether or not that special committee is put into place. It's two stages. We have now given notice of motion. Hopefully at our next meeting we will be able to have that debate, make that decision and then report to the House. That would be important to do what Ms. Dzerowicz has talked about, which is to get to the pre-budget hearings as well. I would say, though, that we would be doing pre-budget hearings now if it weren't for the fact that the Prime Minister prorogued this committee and prorogued Parliament back in August. We would already be doing that.
    That's all I have to say. I will be supporting, of course, the motion of privilege. It's defending our committee responsibilities and rights.

  (1745)  

    I do not have any other speakers on the list. The—
    An hon. member: Go to the vote.
    The Chair: We will go to the vote. I just want to read the two points at the end:
Your Committee has concluded that the government’s response failed to comply with the order, and, accordingly, wishes to draw the attention of the House to what appears to be a breach of its privileges by the government’s refusal to provide documents in the manner ordered by the Committee.
    Mr. Chair, there are a couple of speakers.
    Hon. Pierre Poilievre: We're prorogued. It's too late.
    An hon. member: Mr. Chair—
     Just hold on:
Your Committee, therefore, recommends that an Order of the House do issue for the unredacted version of all documents produced by the government in response to the July 7, 2020, order of the Standing Committee on Finance, provided that these documents shall be laid upon the Table within one sitting day of the adoption of this Order.
    Did I miss someone on the speaking list?
    No. The speaking list was exhausted. We're in voting. It's too late.
    No, I didn't call the vote. I was reading the motion.
    On a point of privilege, Mr. Chair—
    It's not a point of privilege; at this stage it might be a point of order.
    In any event, it may come back to the “raise hand” function we discussed. I see there are currently five hands up on the list, if you weren't monitoring that. I know that some members, after Mrs. Jansen's suggestion at the outset of the meeting, have been using that function.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair—
    I wanted to be sure people knew what they were voting on, if we get to the vote, because it's been a long while since people heard the meat of the motion.
    I do see Mr. Sorbara.
     I have a point of order.
    What's your point of order, Mr. Poilievre?
    The meeting cannot be adjourned until there's a vote. The opposition will not grant consent to adjourn, thereby ensuring that no matter how many speakers we have, there will be a vote before we adjourn. I just wanted all members to get their coffee and get comfortable, because we can be here for as long as they want to talk.
    From the chair's point of view, I do want to go back and deal with Ms. Dzerowicz's motion, even if it's at midnight.
    It probably will need to be.
    Mr. Sorbara, we have you first.
    Mr. Chair, first of all, it's great to be back with my colleagues on the finance committee. I remember this from the summertime.
    Pierre, it's nice to see you again. It's always a pleasure.
    Mr. Chair, it's always a pleasure.
    I see Mr. Kelly there, MP Kelly, and many good friends, so hello to everybody. There's Mr. Julian. It's wonderful to see everyone.
    I do have a question. I've been following along this afternoon. This is my second committee of the day, so it seems that a lot of procedural things have been going on. We've made some headway in some committees, and in some committees it's sometimes like making sausages. You love eating the sausage, for those of us who like to eat sausages, but in order to get there, it requires a little work and effort, that's for sure.
    I do wish to ask the clerk this. Is the committee in possession of or in ownership of these documents?

  (1750)  

    Madam Clerk, can you answer that question? I can't.
    Right now, in the 43-2 session, the committee does not have the documents.
    What are the implications of not having these documents? Wouldn't it require a new motion to be put forward, or something to that extent, to obtain these documents? It's not like you can just go out to the next room and pick them up.
    A motion could be adopted by the committee to have the evidence from 43-1 brought forward to 43-2.
     Okay. I just needed to clarify that the clerk is not currently in any sort of position to have these documents and does not have these documents.
    This leaves me, in listening to this conversation today...and I do believe in transparency and accountability on all levels. Obviously one of the reasons I ran to be in politics and to be a public servant is that I believe in representing my constituents to the best of my ability and obtaining all the answers I need to obtain.
    Having participated in the proceedings in the time we spent over the summer, a lot of information came out. I believe a lot of information came out that the Prime Minister's Office did a lot of due diligence on the Canada service student grant. It asked a lot of very, very tough questions, a lot of secondary questions, I would say. Where I worked in a prior life we would say it was a “data room”. You went through the data and you answered and made some tough questions and looked at things from top to bottom.
    The impetus for this committee, I believe, is to really get at these documents that are related to the pre-budget hearings, to start looking at that. That should be the focus for the committee, to look at the submissions from all of these organizations from coast to coast to coast, at the submissions from our wonderful energy sector, how we can ensure a competitive energy sector as we move forward in Canada, whether it's in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland or northeastern B.C.
    I grew up in Prince Rupert, where we have the grain elevator and coal port. Also, Pembina has a facility there. AltaGas has a facility there, exporting liquefied—what are they—the secondary condensates, the secondary derivatives. There are a lot of good things happening in our economy.
    At the same time, we need to ensure that we remain competitive. The world is changing and innovation is driving that. The onus is on the committee members to continue on that track even more so. We've seen across the world, in developed and developing countries, fiscal policy, monetary policy working to support our economy, support Canadians.
    I reference this, and I'm understanding that there's been some noise about forming a special committee, in terms of looking at programs that were put in place. This takes me back to a conversation I had with the committee when I sat in a few months ago when they were looking at investments we were making in the corporate sector. I brought up one sort of investment that we made in Mastercard, creating several hundred high-tech jobs in Vancouver, and how it was important for us as a government to partner in that.
    Fast forward to today, and I don't think any of the opposition MPs would complain about or object to the investment made by the Province of Ontario and our government into the Ford motor facility in Oakville, Ontario.
    I look today to the pre-budget submissions we've garnered here on committee, and the number of ideas and suggestions is incredible. I look at the programs we've put in place, which have been referenced by our opposition members, and suggestions that have come from constituents across this country, coast to coast, not just public servants, not just elected officials. I look at the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the regional relief recovery fund. I look at all of those programs and how we've supported business—the Canada emergency business account—and how we continue to support businesses.
    As a finance committee, we need to go through those submissions to now, in this recovery phase, move forward. I think that should be the focus of the committee. Nonetheless, if there are questions asked on what this government has done in the last seven or eight months for Canadians, again from coast to coast to coast, I'll be very happy to participate in that endeavour. I'll be very happy to point out how we've helped Canadians receive benefits of $2,000 a month on an advanced basis, and how we transitioned the income support system we have here in Canada, the recovery benefit on the EI side, the sickness benefits.

  (1755)  

     As someone who's an economist and has worked in the financial markets for 20-some years doing many things, I'm very pleased to see what our government has done not only in terms of the supports on the income support side but also in terms of making sure our economy is competitive and moving forward in the right way.
    Mr. Chair, with regard to the motions today, first going back to what Mr. Poilievre was referencing this afternoon, I always find Mr. Poilievre to be a very eloquent individual from whom I learn quite a bit and for whom I have a great deal of respect. We're friends and so forth, and I always wish him the best in all of his endeavours, but sometimes I think that the focus needs to be on what everyday Canadians are thinking and experiencing and what their worries are when they go home to their families at night.
     Their worries are about where we are going with this economy and how all levels of government can work together. We're seeing that happening with the Ontario government headed by Premier Ford and our Prime Minister and our Deputy Prime Minister all working together with our regional partners and our municipal partners. We continue to do that. That's what the focus should be for the finance committee. It should be how finance committee members can generate ideas to move this committee forward, drive the economy forward and create those good middle-class jobs, independent of sector.
     It doesn't matter to me where we create those jobs, but we need to be creative and we need the private sector to grow. We need them taking risks and we need them investing. We need to ensure that those conditions are present in this economy. Yes, we have opened up our fiscal firepower to assist Canadians and assure Canadians that we've built a bridge, and we've solidified that bridge until we come out of COVID, but we are seeing the second wave, Mr. Chair, across the world, whether it's Europe, the United States, or Southeast Asia, and we need to prepare for that. Our testing is ramping up today in the province of Ontario. There were 48,000 tests completed. We are doing that. We are working expeditiously. Obviously we are in a brave new world. That's why you're seeing this fundamental co-operation.
    I keep referencing that, Chair, because I think the committee, in its endeavours over the next few months.... I've done pre-budget consultations, I believe, for five years in a row on this committee. I enjoyed every single minute of it, because I got to travel the entire country and see it from coast to coast to coast, and I say literally from coast to coast to coast, because we did go up to see Deputy McLeod, and I want to congratulate him on becoming a grandfather; that's awesome. We did go there and listened to those stakeholders. It's important that we continue as a committee to do that.
    Now, if the opposition members—and I don't blame them, since that's their job—wish to ask other questions and focus on things that Canadians are not focusing on, that's their prerogative, and they make those decisions.
    I am an MP who tries to work across party lines, chat and have conversations with all members of Parliament. I see Ms. Jansen.
    Ms. Jansen, you seem to be on my screen. It's like you're looking at me right now. It's kind of weird. Everybody else has gone, so I'm not sure what's gone on, but you seem to be there. I tend to work well with everyone. I think that's what this committee does.
    Mr. Chair, I can go on for a while longer, but I'm hoping that we can continue this conversation. I would like to suggest that we suspend for five minutes, Mr. Chair. Would that be all right?
    I'm thinking of that because I need a washroom break, to be honest with you. I'm going to suspend for about eight minutes.
    I would be happy to take the chair.
    No, we will suspend for eight minutes—
    I don't mind.

  (1800)  

    —and come back to the next speaker.
    I know you don't mind, but I remember one time when my lights went out, Pierre.
    With that we will suspend for eight minutes.
     I can recommence when we get back, Mr. Chair.
    No problem. We're suspended.

  (1800)  


  (1825)  

     We'll reconvene.
    I want to make sure everybody is on. Do I have everyone? Okay.
    I've had a little break. I've also had some communication with the clerk. There is some question about whether the motion is procedurally in order. I am going to have to get further advice from some of the clerks to find out where we're really at technically.
    With that, I'm suspending the meeting until further notice—
    Mr. Chair, I have a point of order—
    The meeting is suspended.
     I officially call the meeting to order.
    We are now resuming the meeting that started on Thursday, October 8, of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The committee is continuing the consideration of committee business.
    Today, we are going over a few things in case we get rusty, since we haven't been at this for a while. Today's meeting is taking place by video conference, and the proceedings will be televised and made available via the House of Commons website.
    I would like to mention a few rules. Interpretation will work much like a regular meeting. You have the choice of floor, English or French. It's critical, to get the best sound for those doing the interpretation, that members wear their headsets. If you plan to alternate from one language to the other, you do need to change the interpretation channel to the language you are speaking. It may be best to pause briefly when you're switching over to give the interpreters time to catch up.
    I know all members knew these points in the spring, but as a refresher, all comments should be addressed through the chair. Should members need to request the floor outside of their designated time, for questions or comments, they should activate their mike and state they have a point of order.
    If members wish to intervene on a point of order that has been raised by another member, they should use the “raise hand” function. That will signal to the chair and the clerk your interest to speak. In order to do so, you should click “participants” at the bottom of the screen. When the list pops up, you see, next to your name, that you can click “raise hand”.
    Please mute your mike when not speaking. If technical problems arise, like audio, translation or other, please advise me, and we will wait until that is resolved.
     I will now turn to the suspension of the meeting. There was some confusion over this. You will recall I stated on Mr. Poilievre's point of privilege that there was a procedural technicality with his point, and the motion following his point.
    We suspended for a few minutes, and I did not get complete clarity on what was really an unusual development to a great extent related to the fact that this is a new session of Parliament. I'll get to that in a moment. The meeting was not adjourned, as some implied, but was suspended by the chair. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, page 1098, states:
Committees frequently suspend their meeting for various reasons, with the intention to resume later in the day. Suspensions may last a few seconds, several hours, or span even more than one day.
    On the question of privilege, some people have asked me, “How can you interrupt a motion and go to another motion?” When you're discussing a motion, the question of privilege does take precedence, and the chair has an obligation to deal with that. The chair, under parliamentary procedure, must hear the point. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, page 1060, states:
If a member wishes to raise a question of privilege during a committee meeting, or an incident arises in connection with the committee’s proceedings that may constitute a breach of privilege, the committee Chair allows the member to explain the situation. The Chair then determines whether the question raised in fact relates to parliamentary privilege. If the Chair determines that the question does relate to parliamentary privilege, the committee may then consider presenting a report on the question to the House. The report should:
clearly describe the situation;
summarize the facts;
provide the names of the people involved, if applicable;
state that there may be a breach of privilege; and ask the House to take such measures as it deems appropriate.
Ordinarily, presentation of a report to the House is a prerequisite for any question of privilege arising from the proceedings of a committee.
    Mr. Fraser did raise a point from parliamentary procedure during the discussion, but he didn't challenge the chair on that point.
    It's not in the rules, but running through my mind at the time was the problem that a point of privilege could be used to jump the queue on motions.
    You'll recall at the beginning of the meeting that I stated the order of motions would be Ms. Dzerowicz's motion on pre-budget consultations. We operate under a standing order of Parliament that we must do those in the fall and report by December. That's an obligation for the committee.
     I spoke with Mr. Julian and I told him I would have his motion dealt with second at the committee, as the proposals came forward. His motion was on privilege and documents as well. Mr. Poilievre's staff emailed me to say that Mr. Poilievre would be putting a motion. It didn't say it would be a point of privilege. That was the way the motion came to me.
    My thinking was to get to the pre-budget consultations, so that our staff, the clerks and others, could start the process and line up witnesses and meetings while we continued to discuss these other issues.
    Finally, the reason I said that the motion had a technical procedural problem related to the fact that we're in session two of the 43rd Parliament and there was prorogation of session one.
     On prorogation, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, pages 975 and 976 reads, “as soon as Parliament is...prorogued...parliamentary committees (with certain exceptions) lose their orders of reference, mandates, powers and members.” All studies undertaken by committees lapse.
    Also in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, page 977, under the topic “Resuming Proceedings in a New Session”, it states:
Standing and joint committees that wish to resume a study they initiated themselves can do so by...adopting a motion to this effect....
If occasion arises and they consider it appropriate, committees that have the power to do so may re-adopt orders for the appearance of witnesses or the production of papers.... It is quite common for the House or a committee to adopt an order stating that evidence heard and papers received in a preceding parliamentary session be taken into consideration in the new session.
    That leaves us with the current motion from Mr. Poilievre on his point of privilege. It doesn't technically have the evidence to make his point, because the evidence doesn't have a motion in it and there hasn't been a motion to bring that evidence forward from the previous session. Therefore, the Speaker could kick it back to us and say that the evidence isn't there.
    I see Mr. Julian shaking his head, but those are the facts of the matter. We all know, those of us who were on the committee, what it means, but technically that's where we're at.
     I'm going to go with a couple of options.
     I'm going to rule the current motion as written out of order and ask Mr. Poilievre to bring it in order by putting in an amendment or bringing it back with a proposal to bring forward that evidence from the previous committee. However, I would rule it out of order as written.
     I think that these are the options. Mr. Poilievre can take the motion back, sit in position three, and we'll go back to where we were, with Ms. Dzerowicz's motion first, and then come through the line and deal with his motion as amended. He could challenge the ruling of the chair. We'll see where that goes. We would have to deal with it in that respect.
    I'll give members a moment to think about that. As I said, as written, I have to rule it out of order. It can be fixed, and I would suggest that Mr. Poilievre bring it back later in the meeting.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, given that I continue to have the floor—I had the floor when you suspended the meeting—you have now suggested an amendment and I accept that suggestion. Therefore, the evidence that you require is considered amended into the motion. We can continue taking a speaking list on that premise.
    That is, if we get there. The next witness speaking—
    No, sorry, I do have it, Mr. Chair.
    No, you don't.
    I move a motion to challenge the chair. I challenge chair.
     That's fine. That's what I was going to suggest. To go that way, you have to challenge the ruling of the chair.
    I'll ask the clerk to take a vote on the ruling of the chair.
    (Ruling of the chair overturned: nays 6; yeas 5)
    The Chair: It makes me procedurally happy that we're back in procedure.
     Mr. Poilievre, the next speaker on the list is Mrs. Jansen. I think we were going to her, but I do believe you had the floor. You should also move the appropriate amendment at the appropriate time, when you get a chance.
    The floor is yours.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    If there is any confusion about what documents the committee is referring to, I am going to have my staff send a specific reference to the clerk electronically. We will give that body of evidence an official name that is identifiable and recognized by the committee so that there is no confusion about the documents in question.
    As you know, Mr. Chair, committees can receive evidence in a variety of ways. Sometimes it's through documentary submission. Sometimes it's through testimony. Sometimes it's just through acknowledgement of what's happening in the world. For example, a committee can publish a report and include in that report observations made from what's in the public realm. It doesn't need to be formally submitted in the process of the committee for the committee to be aware of its existence.
    I will make sure that you have a reference to the documents. As you correctly pointed out, we all know which documents we're referring too. On that basis, we will clarify.
    I now cede the floor to Mrs. Jansen, who I believe is next on your list.
    Before you start, Mrs. Jansen, could we establish a speaking order here?
    You can click on your speaking order as we roll along here. The clerk can notify me who's next, maybe by email.
    Mrs. Jansen, the floor is yours.
     I was very concerned about the fact that this exact process happened at the health committee. We made the exact same type of request. We wanted to get documents that were unredacted and that would then move to the law clerk for redaction. When we received those, what we actually got were documents that had been redacted by staff and had so much missing. How do we, as parliamentarians, do our jobs if...?
    The interesting part about that was that the original argument against getting any of the documents was that, in a pandemic, the staff were incredibly busy—too busy too collect up documents for the committee. When we saw that the staff had been tasked with not just collecting the documents but redacting them, we were very shocked. To see the way that these documents were redacted for this committee was absolutely shocking. I mean, it's almost like they did it in health and they doubled down in finance.
    Last week when I was speaking and I was interrupted, I was shocked again by the process. I've been elected to come to this place and to serve the citizens of my riding. It's shocking to see how we are cut off. The information is not given. We're basically told that, sorry, we have to stop; we're done here.
    At this point in time, I'm going to yield the floor for the time being because I'm trying to wrap my mind around how it is that we find ourselves in a place like this. Our inability to actually be able to see any of the information is very shocking.
    I yield the floor to my colleague, Mr. Poilievre.
    Mr. Poilievre is not next on the list. The next on my list thus far is Mr. Julian first, followed by Mr. Fraser.
    I do hope that people have Mr. Poilievre's motion in front of them. If you don't, notify the clerk and she can certainly see that you get a copy of that motion.
    Mr. Julian, the floor is yours.
     Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    First, I appreciate the committee ruling the way it did. I simply disagree with the ruling that you gave, Mr. Chair, with respect. I find you largely fair in what is often a difficult environment. The reality is that there is no doubt this is a breach of privilege. Given that every single member of this committee voted for the NDP motion in July asking for the documents, every single member should be supporting this motion of privilege.
    If the committee had ruled otherwise and had upheld your decision, Mr. Chair, I had a privilege motion that had been vetted by the table and I would have brought that forward. We simply can't sweep this under the carpet. We have to deal with this. We have to pass this motion for many reasons. It is outrageous that over 1,000 pages of the documents we asked for were wholly or substantially redacted—in other words, censored—so that a committee in a democratic parliament has actually been denied access to information that the committee requested. It's pretty outrageous and that's why the motion of privilege is so important.
    Second, the fact that every single member of this committee agreed to the motion means that we have a duty to uphold the responsibilities that come from making that decision as a committee.
    Third, Mr. Chair, the Speaker has asked us to bring a report back. This is something that we cited a few days ago, but it bears repeating. The reality is that when the Speaker ruled, he said that the committee of finance has the ability to rule and bring this back to the House of Commons. For the moment, he was not able to rule when this was raised in the House of Commons prior to the committee being reconstituted, because he said it's not possible at this point to know whether the committee is satisfied with these documents, as provided to us. The Speaker says he doesn't know whether or not the committee actually agrees with the substantial censorship that took place.
    We have a duty as a committee to report back and clarify to the Speaker that we are not satisfied with over 1,000 pages being substantially or wholly censored. We have a responsibility to pass this motion and to move on.
    I believe firmly, Mr. Chair, that the Speaker will see this as a clear violation of privilege. We have a responsibility to move forward quickly on this. I hope that my Liberal colleagues, who seemed to want to delay a decision on this matter last week, will move promptly, so that we can have a vote, refer the proper report to the Speaker and then the Speaker can make the ruling and the House of Commons can make the decision about privilege.
    This is an important matter. We shouldn't be spending a lot of time on it. We should be moving forward.
    I have a point of order.
    The hands have to be removed again once you're finished speaking. Normally the speaker can do it themselves.
    Thank you. I don't think I can. I'm not sure.
    Good. Mr. Julian removed his.
    We have Mr. Fraser, followed by Mr. Gerretsen, followed by Mr. Kelly.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Your suggestion that we should have the clerk circulate the motion would be helpful. I don't have the written copy of Mr. Poilievre's motion in front of me. Madam Clerk, if you wouldn't mind circulating that, it would be helpful.
    One thing I wanted to raise—and, Mr. Chair, you got into this during the onset of your remarks—was the nature in which the various points were made and the order in which we've been dealing with things. Obviously, the first motion on the table was for Ms. Dzerowicz to move forward with pre-budget consultations, which will be required to table a report should we choose to do pre-budget consultations several sitting days before the House rises. There is an urgency to it.
    In my view, and respectfully, I think there are committee members who take a different point of view. Mr. Poilievre's point of order, in my opinion, was an attempt to jump the line in order to have this matter dealt with in advance of Ms. Dzerowicz's. You correctly pointed out that a point of privilege would take precedence in the order of discussion.
    There are two points that I will make, the first quickly because we got into it during our last meeting. The second I'll try to flesh out a little.
    The first really touches upon the—
     I hate to interrupt, Mr. Fraser.
     Mr. Falk, just in case somebody comes into the room yelling at you or something, note that your mike shows as open, on my end.
    I think I have it muted on my device here.
    Thank you.
    Go ahead, Mr. Fraser.
    If anybody walked into Ted's office, I don't think they'd be yelling at him. It's quite all right.
    The first point is just to reiterate the question about whether there is in fact an issue of privilege to be dealt with.
    My view upon reading the section immediately following the portion you quoted from Bosc and Gagnon is that because the committee has the ability to deal with this grievance or issue in another way—namely by reaching out to the government and saying we're not satisfied and that we can do this a different way—I think we have the ability to deal with it that way. It would make it not a point of privilege but instead an ordinary motion of the committee or a point of debate or grievance, which would negate the possibility of this committee's hearing a point of privilege.
    If, however, I am incorrect on that particular issue, I don't view this to be a violation of the committee's privilege. There may be issues concerning the disclosure of documents we want to prod further into, but following the adoption of the motion in July at finance committee, the motion gained—to speak to Mr. Julian's point—significant support from all parties. Public servants got together to work really hard to gather relevant documents. They provided the committee with literally thousands of pages.
    The motion adopted by the committee stipulated:
that matters of Cabinet confidence and national security be excluded from the request; and that any redactions necessary, including to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents whose names and personal information may be included in the documents, as well as public servants who have been providing assistance on this matter, be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.
    Later I'll get into who was responsible for dealing with which aspect.
    Exemptions were, in this instance, applied by our professional and non-partisan public service. The deputies at ESDC stated in their transmittal letter that the approach adopted was to disclose as much information as possible within the scope of the committee's motion.
    No exclusions were made on the grounds of national security. A substantial amount of information that would normally fall under cabinet confidence was provided to the committee in keeping with public disclosures made by members of the Queen's Privy Council of Canada. Information that would fall under cabinet confidence but that was not related to the Canada student service grant request and, therefore, was not relevant to the committee study was in fact withheld. This was reiterated in the transmittal letter sent to the committee by relevant deputy ministers.
    The motion clearly states that cabinet confidence should be excluded from the request. That's as clear as day in the way it's written. When I read the motion as it is written, it doesn't say that those particular exemptions should be made by the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons. Cabinet confidences were never in fact requested by this committee, so there would have been no duty upon the government to disclose them—which is obvious: I think we all want to protect cabinet confidences.
    As outlined in the other transmittal letters to this committee, departments are obliged to protect personal information under the Privacy Act, unless the individuals to whom that information relates consent to its disclosure or disclosures otherwise authorized in certain specified circumstances, or the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any resulting invasion of privacy.
     Information that would have constituted personal information was released in certain instances when these documents were disclosed, wherever it was determined, including by the Clerk of the Privy Council, that the public interest outweighed the invasion of privacy.
    The clerk also made the decision, as was communicated in his transmittal letter, that for personal information in certain instances, such as the names of a public servant's family members and the phone numbers of employees at WE who were not Craig or Marc Kielburger, the public interest did not in fact outweigh the invasion of privacy in those circumstances.
    The deputy minister of finance, for his part, noted, “The type of personal information that remains protected consists of the identity of unrelated third parties where their opinion or view relates to an unrelated matter to this inquiry, as well as personal e-mail addresses and phone numbers.”
    The deputy minister went on to note with respect to page 190 and pages 194 through 213:
...further to consultation with the originating stakeholder, authorization to disclose this information was not given as it constitutes personal information as defined under Privacy Act. Furthermore this information is considered proprietary to the third party. The contents of this information is not relevant to the funding agreement or the Student Grant Program therefore, it has been severed in its entirety.
    Additionally, the transmittal letters from the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Department of Employment and Social Development note that a limited waiver of solicitor-client privilege was issued because they believed it was in the public interest to do so.
     The question of parliamentary privilege is not a black and white question. Committees no doubt can request what documents they wish, but they can't compel their disclosure. The public servants who have custody of these documents have a duty to hold in confidence some of the information that comes into their possession in the course of their duties. There is legislation that binds them.
    As outlined in the document “Open and Accountable Government”, a natural “tension” exists “between that obligation and the request of parliamentarians for disclosure of that same information” that the public service feels the need to protect. They further note in that document that, “In practice, officials should endeavour to work with Members of Parliament...to find ways to respond to legitimate requests for information...within the limitations placed on them.” This comes back to my earlier point that I think we can engage in a conversation with government, rather than jump to a question of privilege before the House.
    Members of the committee should also note that in 2010, the previous government reaffirmed the long-standing principle from 1973 governing the production of documents as part of their response to a report to the public accounts committee at the time. Those principles include criteria under which documents should be exempt from production, which, of course, include cabinet documents and those that include Privy Council confidence. Cabinet confidentiality, for what it's worth, is not some label you stick on something to prevent disclosure of documents. It's fundamental to our system of parliamentary democracy. It allows ministers to have candid conversations and, when appropriate, to shift their minds and be persuaded by others. It's essential that these deliberations remain private. That's recognized by the privy councillors oath. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the importance of cabinet confidentiality. In fact, the court noted that judicial independence, parliamentary privilege and cabinet confidentiality all contribute to the ability of each branch of government to perform its respective role without undue influence. It's a natural tension.
    On personal information, while parliamentarians are not subject to the Privacy Act restrictions, it does apply to the government institutions from which the committee sought information. This also creates tension. Providing unredacted personal information, even to the law clerk, would consist of a disclosure under the relevant legislation. As such, it requires the care and attention afforded to it by public servants. This personal information might lawfully be disclosed under certain scenarios, including when the individual at issue authorizes the release of the information and when the public interest clearly outweighs the privacy implications, as was the case, as referenced previously, in this instance.
    Additionally, the information could be released for the purpose of complying with an order by a body with the jurisdiction to compel that information, but we made it pretty clear previously, as I think everybody would agree, that a House committee doesn't have such jurisdiction, so it doesn't fall under that scenario.
    With all of this in mind, I find it important to note that the committee's motion asks the law clerk to make redactions in relation to information about public servants above and beyond what the government, in fact, made. These are redactions that officials did not make and would not have made in accordance with the Access to Information Act. Despite what's being suggested, this isn't a breach of our privileges as committee members.
    The opposition seems to be claiming that the only option in front of this committee right now is to report the matter to the House. With great respect, I don't view that to be correct. The committee has not yet asked the government for the information that public servants applied exemptions to—and that are outlined above, in the remarks I just gave—under very narrow and specific grounds. For example, if members of the committee want information pertaining to family members of public servants, they could ask, but we haven't done that as a committee. Parliamentary privilege in no way, shape or form absolves the government of its obligations to protect personal information and cabinet confidences. In fact, the motion we put forward specifically excluded a request for cabinet documents. Despite this, the public service made a serious effort, and I would say a sincere effort, to provide as much information as possible.
    In light of this information and the examples I've used, this doesn't appear to be a breach of privilege, let alone raise a matter of privilege at all.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you, Mr. Fraser.
    We will turn then to Mr. Gerretsen. Next up will be Mr. Kelly.
     Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak.
    I have a lot to talk about when it comes to this motion specifically, and I have quite a bit to offer. I'm really interested in hearing what some of the other members have to say before commenting on that. I guess I'll defer talking about that until a little later.
    What I really want to talk about right now, Mr. Chair, was what we just witnessed, and that was a successful challenge of a ruling from a chair. To start with, I believe that you handled that in an extremely fair way. You pointed out the problems with the ruling, which no doubt came from discussions that you had off-line with clerks and people who understand the rules even better than somebody like you who has been around for a long time. I mean that will all due respect.
    The reality of the situation is that you didn't just make a ruling. You also provided an avenue for how the motion could be corrected. I find it extremely troublesome that we are now on to the second time in a committee that members of the opposition, not happy with an outcome, decide to challenge the chair. It does a massive disgrace to the institution that we have, the procedures that we have and the parliamentary establishment from where we've come.
    I saw Mr. Julian shaking his head the entire time that you were making that ruling. Then, when Mr. Julian went to speak, he didn't once address a procedural problem with your ruling. In fact, he just went on to say why the motion was important to pass. That's fair enough.
    Mr. Chair, you gave an avenue as to how we could get in order and put the motion in order. Mr. Julian should have taken the lead of Ms. Blaney in the PROC committee, the other time that a challenge occurred, where she too had a difficult problem in terms of wanting to see the motion passed, but she understood that the content of it was out of order. It's unfortunate, Mr. Chair, that Mr. Julian could not bring himself to see the same way Ms. Blaney did.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair. That personal attack, sir, is absolutely inappropriate. The member should know that I am well versed in parliamentary procedure, and I simply disagree both with his comments and also with your ruling.
    I think that's basically a debate.
    Mr. Fragiskatos, go ahead on your point of order.
    Mr. Chair, I fail to see how the point raised by Mr. Gerretsen constitutes a personal attack. If we can't engage freely in debate—
    I think both your points, Mr. Fragiskatos and Mr. Julian, are not real points of order.
    I'll go back to Mr. Gerretsen and continue the debate.
     Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    If I offended Mr. Julian I want to take the opportunity to say I can understand how he would be offended by that. There's probably a little bit of truth to what I'm saying that's getting to him and he feels the need to lash out against that. I understand that, but Mr. Julian perhaps should have consulted a little bit more and thought about this a little bit, or, when it was his turn to speak to it, he could have actually taken the time to tell us why he thought it was procedurally incorrect. He didn't. All he did was tell us why the motion was so important to pass.
    That's why I started this off with my introductory comment by saying that you did an incredible job as a chair of not only ruling it out of order.... You could have just left it there, but you provided a path and an avenue to make this motion in order. Rather than take you up on that offer, which would have been extremely easy to do, the opposition members of this committee chose to instead use it as an opportunity to overturn your ruling.
    In my opinion, that shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the importance of the chair's position and what the chair is supposed to do. Much like the Speaker, they're getting their information and they're making a ruling based on where, procedurally, things are deemed to be correct and incorrect. Ms. Blaney was able to see that in the PROC committee. She did take a lot of heat for that in the media. I imagine that Mr. Julian was concerned about the same thing. He was worried that even if it was procedurally correct, if he went down this road he'd end up looking like he was trying to support a cover-up or something like that. I understand politically why he did it. It makes perfect sense.
    It's extremely disappointing to see that not just Mr. Julian—I know I'm picking on him a little bit now and I don't want to hurt his feelings as I clearly did a few minutes ago—but all members of opposing parties here would use the opportunity to challenge the chair to advance a political objective. That's exactly what they did and it's extremely discouraging to see that.
    As most members know, I've only been a member of Parliament for about six years now. Before that I was involved with our city council here in Kingston. I was a city councillor and I was the mayor. At times I was in the position of having to vote on a challenge of the chair and on the receiving end of being challenged. I can honestly say that I cannot remember a time when there was a challenge that was successful. At the end of the day most members understood that the chair's job is to use the information and the advice that they receive from their clerks in order to make the best decision on behalf of the committee.
    What we see today is that all members of the opposition, despite the fact that the chair laid out the reasons very clearly and the chair provided an avenue and a path to make it procedurally correct, still voted to dismiss the chair's ruling because they're motivated purely from a political agenda.
    I don't know if we're going to see more of this, quite frankly. I don't know if it is indicative of parliamentary process that this happens quite a bit. This is my first time being in a minority Parliament situation, where I'm actually getting to see this unfold, but I can say that in all my years of being involved in politics and sitting around not-for-profit boards, committees and council tables, I've never seen people use a challenge of the chair in such a politically motivated way, especially when you have a chair who takes the opportunity to not only explain in detail but also provide avenues and paths to get out of this later on.
    Like I said at the outset—and I have a lot more to say on this—there's a great deal to be discussed in this. I will definitely come back to it.
    At this time I really want to address this point. I really find it discouraging to see members do this, especially after being on the PROC committee. There I witnessed the NDP standing up for parliamentary procedure the way that chairs are supposed to engage and the way that procedure is supposed to be interpreted, not using procedure for political motives.
    Thank you, Mr. Gerretsen.
    Mr. Kelly, the floor is yours, followed by Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    There were some interesting comments from both of the last two speakers. The curious part here is that Mr. Fraser pointed out the urgency of getting on to the business of Ms. Dzerowicz's motion. Nobody denies the fundamental role of this committee on pre-budget consultations, so we do wish to get to that. It's curious that in the last meeting we listened to lengthy filibuster speeches from the other side, which had the effect of delaying getting to this other business. It really was a bit rich coming from the governing party members on the committee to suggest that it's the opposition that doesn't want to move on to those pieces. It's important business that we need to get to.
    I noticed in Mr. Gerretsen's speech he said that to support the motion of the chair might have made one look like they were participating in a “cover-up”—his words to describe what's at play here.
    To the point, and your ruling on this, Mr. Chair, I am prepared now to fulfill the remedy that you had proposed to us. I will move an amendment to Mr. Poilievre's motion that the motion be amended by adding, after the word “That”, where it first appears, the following: “the evidence heard and papers received by the committee during its study on government spending, WE and the Canada Student Service Grant, during the first session of the 43rd Parliament, be taken into consideration by the committee during the current session and, accordingly”.
    If we make that change, that would bring us into order per your ruling. I move that amendment. I understand that the clerk likely has that from us.
    The amendment is in order, Mr. Kelly.
    We have a point of order from Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Could Mr. Kelly clarify? He said beginning with the word “that”. Which paragraph is he talking about? Could he be more specific about where he's looking?
    I'm sorry. I might need a moment to put these together. I'm looking at different screens right now.
    I'd like the paragraph and the line, please.
    I'll need a moment to place that.
    You can take the moment, Pat.
    It's where it first appears. It's the first “that”.
    Can you repeat that one more time? I'm sorry.
    It's where it first appears. The amendment would be added after the first “that” in the motion.
    With all due respect, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Chair, it's a long motion and therefore—
    It's in the first paragraph, where it first appears.
    Thank you.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I just want to know, if we're on an amendment now, are you going to set the existing speakers list aside and then start a new list? How does that work?
    No, I will work from a new list on the amendments and then come back.
    Mr. Gerretsen, is your hand up a second time?
     I'll take that down, sorry.
    If people can take their hands down and then put them back up, I will need a new list for the amendment.
    Mr. Kelly is this in the first line that starts, “That the Chair be instructed to present the following report to the House forthwith, provided that”? Does the amendment go in there?
    Yes.
    Okay.
    I have a point of order.
    I'm looking for certainty as to whether or not a French text has been provided.
    I'll have to ask the clerk about that.
    Madam Clerk, I think Mr. Poilievre's office is sending you the amendment in both official languages. Do we have that yet?
    Yes, we received it in English and I'm just turning it into French.
    The amendments...?
    Yes, the amendments.
    Could you get that to members as soon as possible.
    Is that it for your point of order, Mr. Fragiskatos?
    That answers the question I had. Thank you.
    The amendment is on the first line, at least in the English text. The amendment would go in after “provided that”.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    When will the committee receive the documents, if this motion is passed, in their digital binders? Will committee members be given time to review the documents to see if they do in fact meet the original production order?
    I don't see that as a point of order at this time, but I think it's a sensible question to maybe ask the clerks and the parliamentary procedure people at some point. I know what Mr. Poilievre's motion states in various places in terms of times. We need to make sure with the parliamentary procedure people that this is in fact doable. I think it's a legitimate question at some point in time to someone.... I'm not sure who. I guess it's the parliamentary procedure people.
    Is there anybody who wants to speak on the amendment?
    Mr. Kelly.
    If I may, I want to be clear. When you repeated the motion I'm not sure you got it in the first place. It's under the first “that.”
    It is “That” and then the amendment follows: “That the evidence heard and papers received by the committee during its study on government spending, WE and the Canada Student Service Grant, during the first session of the 43rd Parliament, be taken into consideration by the committee during the current session and, accordingly, the Chair be instructed to present....” It goes on from there.
    I did say it in the wrong place.
    Mr. Chair, I have a point of order. Can you read the whole paragraph please with that amendment included just so I can make sure that I have it right? I'm so sorry, but I want to make sure that I have it right.
    On the motion, Mr. Kelly, could you perhaps count the paragraphs down on the motion, what paragraphs it is you....
    You had it right, Mr. Chair. It's in the first paragraph.
    Okay. If you could read that whole paragraph with the amendment in it might solve our problem.
     I'm having trouble juggling with this, Mr. Chair, but you have it correct. I think the clerk has it. If there are any questions about that they can go through the clerk.
    Okay, but you do have the wording...?
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Kelly is a new member and one I have a sincere respect for, but I think he knows better than to ask the clerk for clarification on his proposed amendments. He was asked a very clear question to read the amendment that he's put forward. It is Mr. Kelly's amendment. Therefore, I think we need certainty and clarity from Mr. Kelly. To put the clerk in what would be a political position would be grossly unfair and very inappropriate.
     That's not what I—
    I have a point of order.
    I do think it's reasonable to have the entire paragraph read out. It is absolutely normal that we ask the clerk to do that. As long as I've been in Parliament, we've asked the clerks to make sure that the table has the correct amendment in the correct place, so I think having the clerk read out that paragraph is absolutely legitimate so that we can all note it and write it down. It is something that we normally ask of the clerk.
     That is fine.
    Madam Clerk, are you in a position at this time to be able to read the whole paragraph with the amendment in?
    I'd be prepared to read it into the record.
     Okay. Then we'll go to Mr. Falk and then we'll come back to the clerk, if she has anything to add.
    Mr. Falk, go ahead.
    The first paragraph will now read, “That the evidence heard and papers received by the committee during its study on government spending, WE and the Canada Student Service Grant during the first session of the 43rd Parliament be taken into consideration by the committee during the current session and, accordingly, the Chair be instructed to present the following report to the House forthwith, provided that dissenting or supplementary opinions, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(b), shall be filed with the Clerk of the Committee within 24 hours of adoption of this motion.”
    That, sir, would be the first paragraph.
     Thank you. I think that's very clear.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    I don't mean to continue to raise points of order. I do so whenever I notice something important that needs rectification; let's put it that way.
    This is a bilingual country. The federal government operates in a bilingual fashion. This is an important issue, and I think that we need to hear, as a committee, the amendment read in French as well.
     Can somebody read the amendment in French?
    Mr. Ste-Marie, do you want to read—
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    With all due respect to my colleague Mr. Ste-Marie, this is a Conservative motion and not a Bloc motion. I think it would be more appropriate that the French translated motion be read by one of the Conservative members.
    I'll go to Mr. Kelly next and then Mr. Ste-Marie.
    This motion was made at a committee, and a motion may be made in either official language. I did make the motion in English. Mr. Fragiskatos is absolutely correct that we must ensure that all members—
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
     There's a point of order on the floor.
    Go ahead, Mr. Kelly.
    It's a point of order to what Mr. Kelly is saying, Mr. Chair.
     He has to finish his point of order first, and then I have Mr. Ste-Marie.
    Mr. Kelly.
    I trust that there was interpretation when I made the motion. If the question to either Mr. Ste-Marie or anybody else on this committee is whether or not they received interpretation when this motion was made, then fair enough, but I understand interpretation was working and that my amendment was interpreted. It was read.
    We had it reread by Mr. Falk. I would ask the clerk or an interpreter if there was an interpretation problem. That will ensure that all members understand the motion, but this motion was made at the table, it's in order and the interpretation service is there to ensure all members understand the motion.
     I have a point of order.
    Okay. I'm not sure whether Mr. Ste-Marie was on a point of order or not. I'm taking the point of orders in order.
    Mr. Chair, I have some terrific news. I do have the French version here and I understand the clerk's office is sharing it with everyone. I gather that will make all members extremely happy. I am happy to read it.
    Mr. Poilievre, I'm going to Mr. Ste-Marie first, because he was up first, then Mr. Fragiskatos and then Mr. Gerretsen and then you.
    Okay, but just so you know, we do have the translation.
    We hear you.
    Everyone does. Everyone has the translation.
    Mr. Ste-Marie has the floor.

[Translation]

    Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the folks from interpretation services. They are doing an extraordinary job.
    With respect to what Mr. Poilievre just added, I would also like to remind everyone that Madam Clerk emailed us the amendment in both official languages. So we all have it. In my opinion, we don't need to read it out in French again, given that we have an official version in both languages.
    Point of order.

[English]

    Mr. Fragiskatos is next.

[Translation]

    Point of order.

[English]

    I have a whole bunch of points of order here. Next was Mr. Fragiskatos. I think Mr. Poilievre has made his point. Mr. Fragiskatos is first and then Mr. Julian.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I meant what I said earlier about Mr. Kelly. I do remember when he served on the committee as a member. I remember pre-budget deliberations that were carried out a couple of years ago. I travelled with him. I do have respect for him. I will overlook the fact that he mispronounced my last name and I hope his Greek constituents would extend the same courtesy.
    I don't think—
    I'll leave that aside. Much more important is the fact that this committee ought to embrace bilingualism.
    Okay—
    Mr. Kelly, running around and making technical arguments about what the interpreter said doesn't suffice. It's surprising to me that the Conservatives have not—
    That point has been made, Mr. Fragiskatos.
    —forwarded the French text with the amendment in English.
    I'm going to Mr. Julian.

[Translation]

    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    If the Liberals are saying that an English-speaking member must read his motion in French and French-speaking members must read theirs in English, we are setting a very disturbing precedent. That's not what the principle of bilingualism is about.
    The principle of bilingualism is about having interpretation and distributing written materials so that everyone understands. I am very concerned to see Liberal members insisting that members are required to speak in the language that is not their own. That's not what the principle of bilingualism is about.
    I really hope they will stop making this kind of argument. It is extremely disturbing.

[English]

    We are back on the amendment. The discussion is on the amendment and we will eventually get to a vote on the amendment.
    The only list I have is on the original motion. Is there anyone to speak on the amendment?
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Yes, I'll speak on the amendment.
    I'll take the point of order first and then Mr. Poilievre on the amendment.
    I'm just confused. Are we supposed to be raising our hands right now? Are the hands raised in Zoom on the amendment or are they back on the main motion? How are you expecting us to raise our hands for the amendment part when there are already hands raised for the motion part?
    Unless Ms. Jansen knows more about these raised hands than me, the ones that are up are on the original motion. I will just take the hands as I see you raise them like this on the amendment.
    First up on the amendment I have Mr. Poilievre, and if somebody could give me a show of hands who wants to go next, we'll go with that.
    I think we want to listen to what he has to say first and then we'll decide.
    I have Mr. Poilievre and then Mr. Fraser on my list so far. Keep your hands up when you're putting them up because I have a very small screen.
    Mr. Poilievre, go ahead, on the amendment.
    Yes, in the spirit of Parliament and co-operation, we have assuaged your concerns, Mr. Chair. You have claimed that the committee does not know to which documents we are referring because those documents were submitted to the chair in a prior sitting of Parliament and prorogation has erased our collective memories.
    This amendment simply refreshes the official memory of the committee, so that now we all remember those documents that you ruled were forgotten. Now, just to show how willing we are to co-operate and collaborate with Liberal members who are suffering from procedural and documentary amnesia, we are refreshing your memory, their memory and the corporate memory of this committee. Therefore, I am proud to support this amendment, which makes it a friendly amendment.
     Okay. That's your point. Mr. Poilievre, you didn't quite catch my ruling entirely.
    My concern is not about those of us who are on the committee. I don't think any of us has forgotten. If the original motion gets to the Speaker, however, I expect that without the documentation there, he'd look at me if I ran into him in the corridor and say, “What are you folks doing on the finance committee? You didn't provide me with the documentation from which to make the point of privilege.” That was my concern, not forgetting that if this gets to the Speaker, then he has to rule.
    Go ahead.
    Now everyone's memories have been refreshed and it's all clear what documents we're talking about, so I think we'll get unanimous support for this newly amended motion.
    I think we're on a roll.
    Mr. Fraser is next. Who wants to come after him? I see Mr. Gerretsen.
    Mr. Fraser.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    It's perhaps a good segue. This really builds upon the point that my colleague, Ms. Koutrakis, made a few minutes ago. It's one of the things that I'm trying to figure out from a technical point of view. You initially ruled that we don't have the documents, and I made the suggestion that this could be remedied. As it stands officially now, the committee doesn't have documents in its custody, and that's the shortcoming that the proposed amendment seeks to remedy. When I see what's taking place with the motion from a very technical point of view, we're now being asked to adopt a series of documents into the evidentiary record and simultaneously pass judgment that we're not satisfied with them, more or less, and to move forward with the argument as it stands on a point of privilege.
    Mr. Chair, is it your opinion—or perhaps you've taken advice from the clerk—that we actually have the technical ability to do that? Even having passed a motion, we would still be passing a main motion that would precede the adoption of the evidence on which the motion is based. That's a very roundabout way of saying that I don't think including the amendment in the main motion solves the original problem of the committee's still passing judgment on a series of documents that we technically don't have.
    I'm wondering if you could explain the workability of the proposed amendment, given the fact that we're still going to be in the same position we faced at the outset of this meeting.
    My objective is to chair the meeting and to try to stay out of the discussion, but I did raise that point myself: whether the time frames within the motion could be met.
    Somebody—maybe within the clerk's office—may be able to answer that question. I do know, and I think all of us who were on the previous finance committee know, that not quite all the documentation got uploaded to the digital binders before prorogation took place. It happened fairly shortly before prorogation, and that may be a problem. It's a question that I can't answer, and I just put a flag on it because in the motion, when we bring those documents forward, there are certain time frames within 24 hours of the adoption of this motion. I just want to raise a flag that this may or may not be possible by the parliamentary people who deal with this issue.
    I just don't want us blaming them if it doesn't get done within the 24 hours because it may not be technically possible. That was why I raised the point.
    Back to you, Mr. Fraser.
     What I'm still not clear on.... Frankly, I wasn't expecting, before Parliament resumed, to revisit considerations of the government's compliance with the document production order that I was supportive of back in July. I'm going to find myself in a bind where we agree that everything gets adopted. Practically speaking, if I'm going to go through the documents and determine whether there has, in fact, been compliance with what the committee asked for, I'm more or less being asked to pass judgment on the sufficiency of the redactions made for documents that I do need an opportunity to revisit if this committee is going to pass both this amendment and the main motion.
    There's a further issue on the specific subject of the amendment. You mentioned just a moment ago that some of the upload of documents may have been interrupted by prorogation. I'm curious. I think the proposed amendment reads, “That the evidence heard and papers received by the committee”, etc. I'm curious if we can gain clarity specifically on how the interruption of any upload would be impacted if we're dealing with evidence heard and papers received.
    I can't answer that question until this motion is either passed or lost and we talk to the clerk of the committee and others who would be involved in terms of the documents that were uploaded in the last session, and where there might have been a shortcoming in terms of those documents being uploaded. I can't answer that question.
    It will be a bridge we have to cross. I understand your concern about not having the ability to compare them. It is an issue that I, as chair, can't answer. I have to deal with what's before us.
    Mr. Fraser, do you want to add anything further? Then we'll go to Mr. Gerretsen.
    I don't at this time. I'll have you go to Mr. Gerretsen. It's fine, thank you.
    I don't know if the clerk or the analysts have anything they can add on this. I would welcome their interventions if they want to give people clarity on the document upload.
    Did anyone else in the queue put their hand up on this amendment? The last one I see before we go to the question is Mr. Gerretsen, but there's ample time to come forward if you want to speak.
    Mr. Gerretsen.
     Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    It's reassuring to hear Mr. Poilievre speak of the spirit of collaboration right after challenging the chair.
    Where we effectively ended up with this amendment is the advice that you gave to the committee at the beginning in terms of how this motion could have been done in a way that was procedurally correct. For those procedural nerds who are paying close attention to this right now, what we've just witnessed was a full 180 from the committee. First, all opposition members challenged the ruling of the chair, and were successful in that, and then they came back and did exactly what the chair was recommending that they do. That would leave anybody watching this to conclude that the motive for challenging the chair was none other than a political motive to, in some way, have some vindictive purpose served in showing that they could challenge a ruling from the chair. The very position of a chair is supposed to be extremely and completely non-partisan, in which case I think, to what Mr. Julian said earlier, this chair does a very good job of being fair.
    We've now seen this committee move an amendment, which we're talking about right now; it does exactly what the chair recommended doing in the beginning. Rather than take the ruling from the chair and then bring forward another motion, which is exactly what ended up happening through an amendment, the committee chose to overturn the ruling of the chair. I think that speaks volumes in terms of the political motive of the opposition on this committee using procedural tools to advance those political objectives.
     I have no problem with the amendment, because the amendment seeks to do what the chair was suggesting we do at the outset, and that is to make sure that the documents required for this motion are brought over from the previous session of Parliament. And that's what we're seeing right now. I think it's extremely important to point that out because at the end of the day, this comes down to this whole issue of WE. It's about inflicting as much political damage as possible with a complete disregard for any collateral damage that might happen in the process, as long as it creates absolute political carnage around the Prime Minister and other members of Parliament as much as possible. That's really what this comes down to.
    The amendment we're seeing right now...which by the way was introduced by Mr. Kelly, but then suddenly Mr. Poilievre had the French version and there was some confusion as to whether or not Mr. Kelly knew what the amendment was really all about, and he was all over the place with it, and then Mr. Poilievre jumped in and said he had the French version right here. This just underscores the fact that this is politically motivated. This entire charade is politically motivated.
    I see Mr. Julian shaking his head. By the way, Mr. Julian, thank you for keeping your camera on when you're not speaking, unlike Mr. Poilievre, who does the equivalent of hiding under the table in a committee room by shutting off his video as soon as he's done talking. I appreciate your at least staying on. It's always nice to have the audience.
    I have a point of order.
     Mr. Julian, go ahead.
    Mr. Chair, Mr. Gerretsen has the right to his opinions, but he needs to treat all members of Parliament with respect. I find his comments immensely disrespectful. He can make his point without personal insults or attacks.
    I have a point of order.
    The point has been made.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
     I made this comment earlier, when Mr. Julian raised a point about personal attacks, which I disagreed with. I disagree here, too.
    I think Mr. Gerretsen puts his finger on a very important issue. I see that Mr. Poilievre is missing. I see Mr. Kelly is thankfully back at the right moment. Either way, I want to remind all colleagues, Mr. Chair, that it is expected that we be on screen during virtual meetings.
    Let me quote directly from the Speaker, Mr. Chair. His findings ought to guide how we carry out business at the committee level.
    On September 24, Speaker Rota said, as follows:
Before we continue, I want to take this opportunity to remind hon. members, as we get into something new, that the members in the House have to stand to be recognized, which has been done for years. I would ask those at home to please turn on their cameras...
    —those at home being members of Parliament, of course—
...well in advance and not wait until the last second. That is their way of standing up remotely. It makes it easier to deal with any technological problems that we may incur as we go on.
    Mr. Pat Kelly: I have a point of order.
    Mr. Peter Fragiskatos: This applies to committees as well, Mr. Chair.
    The Chair: You're next, Mr. Kelly.
    Mr. Peter Fragiskatos: It's interesting that Mr. Kelly has now chosen to join the meeting and offer an opinion through a point of order. Mr. Poilievre is still missing, and all Liberal members have been here throughout. I'll give that courtesy to Mr. Julian as well and Mr. Ste-Marie. They've been here throughout. They have not disappeared.
    Mr. Kelly, go ahead.
    Mr. Chair, first of all, this is debate.
    Second, I note he's singling me out for maybe 90 seconds or so of being off camera.
    Third, Mr. Gerretsen is way off topic. I ask you to keep members in order. Let's finish the debate on this and get to a vote on it.
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: Do I still have the floor?
    This is a point on relevance.
    You still have the floor, Mr. Gerretsen.
    Thank you.
    I am actually extremely to the point, Mr. Kelly. If you had been paying attention, you would know that.
    I'm explaining why this amendment that you've put forward is problematic, in the sense that you ruled against the chair when he offered to you to use an opportunity to accept his ruling and bring forward another motion that covered this. You challenged him, you won the challenge, and now you're coming back and bringing forward the exact same amendment. That points to nothing more than political motive in challenging the chair. The chair is there to exercise the procedure, to make sure procedure is followed in a committee and to use their best judgment in an impartial way. Mr. Julian said in his comments earlier that this chair does a really good job of that.
    You didn't like the ruling, and you challenged it. You don't challenge the chair because you don't like the ruling; you challenge the chair because you think that they've done something procedurally incorrect. It is something, Mr. Kelly, that you and the rest of the opposition are not grasping—
    Are we ready—
    Excuse me, I still have the floor. I have a lot to say, okay?
    The Chair: Okay, I was just going to ask whether we were ready for the question, but you have the floor.
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: No, we're not ready for the question yet.
    I want to address Mr. Julian's point.
    I'm sorry if I'm coming across in a way that you're interpreting to be disrespectful. I have a lot of respect for you. You have served many years in the House, and I respect that. I respect when you get up. You and I probably see eye to eye on more issues than you realize when it comes to things like basic income and a lot of other issues. I'm sure that we do. But I think, respectfully, you're interpreting my explaining the situation clearly in a way that maybe is getting under your skin. Tell me that I'm procedurally wrong. Tell me what is wrong with what I'm saying and the way I have addressed this.
    I have just laid out exactly what happened—
    I have a point of order.
    I know, Mr. Chair—
    I'm sorry, Mr. Gerretsen. Mr. Julian has a point of order. I have to allow that.
    Mr. Julian, you have the floor on a point of order.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Your ruling, of course, was that the motion of privilege be disallowed. The only way to actually get it through the amendment—
    This is debate—
    Mr. Peter Julian: —was to override the chair.
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, he should put up his hand and he should debate me. He has an opportunity to debate me.
    Hold on, Mr. Gerretsen—
     With his vast experience, he knows this better than anybody on this committee, maybe with the exception of you, Mr. Chair. He knows he's debating right now.
    Mr. Gerretsen, order. I will determine whether it's a real point of order or not, in a moment.
    Mr. Julian, let's hear you.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Overruling your decision allowed for the amendment, which Mr. Gerretsen now says he supports, so let's have the vote.
    I'll go back to Mr. Gerretsen.
    If you want people to take your word, Mr. Julian, then at least raise a legitimate point of order. That wasn't a point of order; you were trying to respond to what I had to say, and you're doing it in a way that you're just trying to throw one-liners out there. Do you know who does that a lot? Donald Trump. Somebody says something and he just goes, “Wrong”. You don't have to justify what you had to say there; you're just throwing out things, saying “Wrong” and you're not justifying it. Get on the speakers list and tell me why I'm wrong; that's what I'd ultimately like to hear.
    Nonetheless, I just want to say, and this is what I have been saying.... Multiple points of order have been raised because apparently people are offended by the way I talk to them, but then we shouldn't take offence from what this committee witnessed towards the end of its last meeting before it was suspended. I am trying to get at the point that the chair quite clearly laid out a path to putting forward a procedurally correct motion. The majority turned that down and then basically, through this amendment—Mr. Kelly, that's how I'm addressing this point—are trying to come back and do exactly what the chair said, but you ruled them out of order in the first place. I think this is a slap to the parliamentary institution and the democratic procedure that we have, the manner in which all opposition members, not just Mr. Julian, conducted themselves on this.
    I have Mr. Julian and Mr. Fraser. I'm not sure whether you're on the main list or this list. Mr. Julian, you were on the main list originally, I believe. Your hand is up here; I'm just wondering whether you're on the amendment.
    Yes, I am, Mr. Chair.
    As am I, Mr. Chair.
    I have Mr. Julian first, and then Mr. Fraser.
    Just to indicate to committee members, the clerk sent me a note, in case anyone wants to have a look at it. The documents and evidence from the previous session are still on the finance committee's public website. I'm not 100% sure, Madam Clerk, whether all the documents were uploaded or not.
    The floor is yours on the amendment, Mr. Julian, and then Mr. Fraser.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    Again, for folks who might have listened to Mr. Gerretsen's very wildly inaccurate interpretation of what's happened at the committee.... As you know, Mr. Chair, you made an interpretation that did not allow us to amend the motion, and that's why members of Parliament decided to overrule your decision, because otherwise we wouldn't have been able to amend it. We have now heard from a number of members of Parliament from all parties that they support the amendment; they now support the motion.
    I think the logical conclusion is, rather than continuing this filibuster, which I think has been very unfortunate, particularly with the personal attacks I've heard.... I don't think that's appropriate. In any committee and in Parliament, we should be treating all members with respect, even if we disagree.
    Given all of that, I call the question, because obviously all members now agree with the amendment, and agree with the motion. We should proceed to the vote.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, Mr. Julian is assuming a lot.
    I still have others on the list to speak.
    I'm going to Mr. Fraser.
     Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I keep getting hung up on what evidence is actually before the committee. Look, maybe I'm stuck in my previous career as a litigator, but the evidence that actually makes it formally on the record is what can be considered. This amendment tries to adopt the evidence that was before this committee in the previous Parliament. I have great difficulty around the subject of what evidence is actually before the committee, or what's purported to be before the committee, should this amendment pass.
    I actually question whether it's in order, given the nature of the evidence that was actually placed on the record previous to prorogation. Frankly, if I'm going to be put in a position to pass judgment as to whether my privilege has been violated or if the government has complied with a document request from this committee, I think that ask, in and of itself, would violate the privilege of members who have not received all the documents but who nevertheless have to make a finding that the government did not comply with the order.
    I would ask for your guidance as to whether an amendment that contains such uncertainties is properly in order or is, in and of itself, a violation of privilege on the basis that we're going to be asked to make a finding about information that we have not received.
    Does that exhaust our list now? Can we go to the question?
    No, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
     I notice that Mr. Poilievre is still absent, in contravention of what Speaker Rota made very clear to all of us on September 24. I'll overlook that in a spirit of cordiality, if you want to put it that way, or any other way that Mr. Poilievre was talking about earlier, but he is still not here.
    That's because he's like Polkaroo: He just pops up every once in a while.
    I have Mr. Julian on a point of order.
    On a point of order, Mr. Fragiskatos has a lot of experience. He knows that in the House, as in committee, you cannot point out the absence or the presence of members of Parliament.
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: A point of order—
    Mr. Peter Julian: When we look at the Speaker's ruling that Mr. Fragiskatos quotes, that is for electronic voting. I don't want the public to be misled by him trying to extend an interpretation on electronic voting to committee hearings or House hearings.
    I have a point of order.
    We have Mr. Gerretsen on a point of order, and then we'll go back to Mr. Fragiskatos.
    On the topic of trying to extend things from one area to another, Mr. Julian is doing the exact same thing by suggesting that you cannot point out somebody's absence in a committee. That is absolutely incorrect. You can call them by their first name or last name, as he just did with Mr. Fragiskatos. It is not the case that you cannot point out somebody's absence.
    I mean, I'm certainly in favour of Polkaroo showing up again, because he's been absent for a little while. It would be great to see him back on the screen.
    Mr. Gerretsen, I am going to tune you up a little bit. I don't believe we should call people names other than their actual names.
    He was a lovable character from my youth. He was from Polka Dot Door.
    That may be true.
    Mr. Fragiskatos, continue your remarks.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    I would go back to the point raised by Mr. Fraser. I think he raised something incredibly important. How are we, as committee members, going to look at this in a meaningful way and a serious way? We haven't received all the documents, and therefore nothing is really reviewable here. In fact, if you want to extend the idea further, it's hard to see how there are no questions of privilege being raised here if we're being forced to vote on this.
    For all these reasons, Mr. Chair, I have a real challenge with where the amendment wants to take us.
    Okay.
    We're ready to call the question on the amendment.
    Madam Clerk, I will go to you to take the vote.
    Keep in mind that this is a vote on the amendment to the original motion.
     I have a point of order.
    Could we have that read out again, Mr. Chair?
    Yes. I would ask you, Madam Clerk, to read out the amendment as inserted in the paragraph, and just quote the amendment when you get there. It reads better that way.
    Mr. Chair, just as a point of order, was this supposed to be available on the website at this point? There is nothing there right now.
    No, it's only at committee. It hasn't passed, so it wouldn't be on the website.
    Madam Clerk, could you read it, please?
    The amendment by Mr. Kelly reads, “That the evidence heard and papers received by the committee during its study on government spending, WE and the Canada student service grant during the first session of the 43rd Parliament be taken into consideration by the committee during the current session and, accordingly”. And then we would go back to the first paragraph from the motion by Mr. Poilievre: “that the chair be instructed to present the following report”.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Are you complete in your reading there, Madam Clerk?
    Yes.
    Okay.
    Mr. Fragiskatos, do you have a point of order?
    Mr. Chair, nothing has been received. There are no documents on the website. I know it was mentioned before that there are no documents on the website. I looked at it just now, so it's hard to see how we're proceeding here.
    We may have to get clarity on this. I think the clerk has indicated that the documents and evidence are still on our public website, so we will have to look into that—
    Point of order.
    —to make sure they are. We are on the question—
    Point of order.
    —at the moment.
     Ms. Dzerowicz, go ahead on a point of order.
    Is it possible for the clerk to maybe take a moment to find the link and perhaps ensure that we have it?
    We'll do that following this vote, because it really amounts more to the original motion that the documents be available.
    On another point of order, Mr. Chair, would it be possible for us to suspend just for a few moments for the clerk to be able to do that?
    That is possible, if that is your wish.
    No, that's not the committee's wish.
    No, it is.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, that would make me comfortable. I think that would bring assurance to the issue.
    Okay.
    I note that Mr. Fragiskatos's comfort is not part of the committee's mandate.
    We will suspend for five minutes.
    Point of order, Mr. Chair.
    It's great to see Mr. Poilievre back, but proper procedure is part of the committee's mandate. We need assurances on whether or not the documents are on the website.
    This is publicly available information. This is not proper procedure.
    Gentlemen, we're going to try not to get into an argument here over the virtual lines at the moment.
    We will suspend—
    Point of order, Mr. Chair.
    We will suspend for five minutes—
    Point of order.
    —and would the clerk check if the documents and evidence are still on our public website and make the link available, please.
    We are suspended for five minutes. We will be back at exactly 13 minutes to one, your time.

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     If we could gavel ourselves back in without a gavel, we're away. I see members are starting to pop up.
    Point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Wait until members come on, Mr. Poilievre.
    I'll make one point first. The clerk of the committee sent an email. You should have it in your system. It says:
Members of the committee:
Please find below, the link to the documents from the Committee Government Spending, WE and the Canada Student Service Grant that are available on the Committee website, from the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session:
    The link is below that.
    Mr. Poilievre, please go ahead with your point of order, and then we'll go to the question.
    Thank you.
    There is no implied consent to, at any point, move to adjournment. I just want to make sure that's clear. A vote would have to be held before an adjournment were to happen.
    Thank you very much.
    That is a point of information. I recognize that, thank you.
    On a point of order, go ahead, Mr. Fraser.
    Sorry, there is one thing I'm still not clear on. I received the email, and it looks like it has links to the various meetings we've had. I haven't seen, on a quick scan through the links in the half a minute or so I've had to look at it, whether my concern has really been addressed around formal receipt by this committee of the documents that the government had disclosed, in response to the committee member.
    I'm curious if you or the clerk can confirm whether the total disclosure was formally made, because that's unclear to me. I'm not trying to be tricky. I don't enjoy the idea of voting on documents that I don't know we have. If you could still clear that up for me, I'm still searching for that information.
    You've had the documents for two months now.
    Madam Clerk, can you respond to that? Are the documents there on that link?
    The documents that are available on the House of Commons committee website for the finance committee are all the evidence heard from the 43rd Parliament, 1st session and also the documents that were tabled with the committee.
    Through that link, the documents asked for by the committee that the law clerk redacted are available on that site. Is that correct, Madam Clerk?
    The redacted documents are on the website.
    Okay. Immediately prior to prorogation, I don't think they had all been uploaded. They are all there now, I assume.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    I would like to get an answer from the clerk.
    Yes.
    Okay, thank you.
    Go ahead on a point of order, Mr. Fragiskatos.
    I am still struggling to see the documents. I don't know where they are.
    I also call the attention of colleagues to parliamentary procedure and practice. We're being asked to make a decision here through a vote. We're being asked to put forward a view when papers and records are not present and made available to us. House of Commons Procedure and Practice specifically mentions that questions of privilege arise on matters of papers or records that need to be made available in order for members of Parliament to come to a decision.
    We don't have access to those papers or records. Therefore, I think there are issues of privilege that are present here. I think it is incumbent on us to look at this more closely.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    I think we're into debate here, but go ahead.
    Just for the information of Canadians watching, these are documents that Mr. Fragiskatos, Mr. Fraser and all members of the committee have had since summertime. If they've lost those documents through carelessness, the clerk might do them the favour of re-emailing them the same documents. Let's be clear. These are documents that they know about and that they've possessed, albeit blacked out by their own government. They know exactly what documents we're referring to.
    I would ask them to send an email to the clerk and say, “Hello, Madam Clerk. We've lost these documents that you gave us all these months ago. Would you please help us rectify our error and send them again?” That way members of the Liberal side can be up to speed on the documents that they've possessed for the last couple of months.
    I heard a point of order from someone else.
    Go ahead, Mr. Gerretsen.
    For the record, I don't see how Mr. Julian finds what I said offensive but not what he said offensive, especially since he's been doing all the heavy lifting for the Conservatives today.
    In any event, I don't have the documents. I wasn't here in the summertime on this committee. I'm new to this committee.
     Do your homework.
    My homework? You just introduced this amendment. I'm supposed to do my homework—
    Read your briefings. It's not my job to brief you.
    Okay, folks—
    Mr. Chair, this information is based on an amendment that Mr. Poilievre gave to Mr. Kelly to bring forward only 45 minutes ago.
    Do your job.
    It doesn't even make any sense. I certainly was never given these, Mr. Chair. It would be great if you could make sure that all members of this committee.... I know Mr. Samson is here as well. I don't know if he has these documents. Maybe he wants the documents.
    There's no hand-holding. You're an adult. Do your own job.
    Mr. Chair, I think it would be incumbent upon you to ensure that those are delivered via the clerk.
    Thank you.
    I have a point of order.
    When you shut the meeting down, I tried to say I have the documents and I'm also new. Perhaps somebody should have done their homework.
    Someone's on the ball.
    I believe, according to my information and the clerk, this went to all members. It says to please find below the link to the documents from the committee, government spending, WE and the Canada student service grant that are available on the committee website from the 43rd Parliament, first session.
    There is the link. I would encourage members to look at that website and see if they are satisfied. I do hear that some believe that they don't have access to the redacted documents by the law clerk. Just check on that to see if you're satisfied.
    Mr. Julian, your light came up there. I'm not sure whether you're trying to get in or not.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I don't think I have anything further to add.
    Are we now ready for the question?
    Mr. Fraser.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    With respect to some of the interventions that have been made, there is a key point that I've referenced a few times that is still unclear to me, not having had time to review the links that were sent out and only becoming aware of the proposed amendment during this meeting.
    The hitch that I'm running into is this. There was an abnormality in the disclosure process because of the timing of prorogation previously. I'm unclear about whether the documents that have been circulated by a link—which I had trouble finding on the public website; I don't know if that's exclusively an internal link, in which case we wouldn't have seen them here—are identical to those that were formally disclosed to the committee before prorogation.
    The amendment discusses papers and evidence received by the committee, or something to that effect. I'm not clear on whether the documents available at the link provided can be accurately compared to ensure that they're the same documents that are being proposed to be adopted before this committee now.
    I don't know, Mr. Chair. I doubt you have that information on hand.
    Madam Clerk, I'm wondering if you can confirm that the documents you circulated by link are in fact the same ones that were uploaded. David Gagnon, I believe, indicated the uploading of the documents couldn't formally be completed because of the timing of the prorogation.
    I'm aware there are many documents. I've reviewed thousands. I'm unclear on which set of documents we're voting on, which is really the source of my difficulty with the proposed amendment.
    For the information of the new members here, David Gagnon was the clerk for the committee in the first session of the 43rd Parliament. Evelyn is now our clerk.
    Can you respond to Mr. Fraser's concern, Madam Clerk? I don't want to put you on the spot. If you can't, we'll have to raise the question with somebody at the centre of the parliamentary bureau there to answer for us at some point.
    The link I shared with the members is the link that Mr. Gagnon had shared with me when I took over the committee.
     Go ahead, Mr. Fraser.
    I'm still unclear. I appreciate that you weren't engaged before this session began, Madam Clerk. Did Mr. Gagnon provide any information to you about whether the links prepared were the same documents that, in fact, were formally put on the record for this committee?
    That was my impression, yes.
    I really don't mean to be difficult or to put you on the spot. Do we actually know that or is it just an assumption based on the conversation you had?
     Madam Clerk, I don't want to put you on the spot either.
    Go ahead.
    That is the link I received. Whether other documents exist I would not be aware.
    Okay.
    One of the reasons I raise it, Mr. Chair.... I clicked one of the links. I'm trying to scan this in real time. I don't even see something as basic as the transmittal letters that were included in the correspondence that, in some instances, actually explain the nature of why certain redactions would have been made. I feel like we're dealing with two separate evidentiary records, potentially. One has been submitted through a link, very kindly, by our clerk just minutes ago. Madam Clerk, please accept my apologies; I do not mean to put you on the spot or ask for information that would be nearly impossible to have front of mind.
    I still am struggling with the fact that, when we're talking about the papers and documents received, that's going to mean something. A person is going to interpret that as something. I don't have confidence, upon a quick review, that the information that you just shared with us through those links, Madam Clerk, actually matches up with the evidentiary record that was before this committee in the first session of the present Parliament.
    In the absence of that certainty, I can't know specifically which documents are in or out so I can compare them with the motion to determine whether the redactions were made in an appropriate way to comply with the request of this committee. Is there a potential path forward that you see that would allow us to actually confirm that the documents we're about to vote on—which are the subjects of the present amendment to the main motion—are what certain members of this committee are saying they are?
     I'll go to you again, Madam Clerk. I don't know whether we have to bring in the others from the parliamentary branch or not. I don't really want to put you on the spot, but answer as best you can.
    I believe Mr. Poilievre wants in as well.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    The documents in question are very clear.
    The amendment you have basically refers to the conversations around WE Charity and the Canada student service grant that happened in the 43rd Parliament. It doesn't say anything about what's on a website somewhere. [Technical difficulty—Editor] website or web link. There's nothing in the motion that deals with a website or a web link. It deals with the record, which is permanently crystallized into parliamentary history from the 43rd Parliament.
    It is very clear what the documents are. They are published. They are contained in something called the blues, which members should be familiar with. The documents were turned over to this committee. At that time, there was a record of receipt of those documents and transmission of those documents to all committee members.
    All of that is in existence. Whether or not the clerk has put them on a website somewhere or whether there is a web link where Liberals can go and find it is absolutely irrelevant to this debate. The documents and the testimony are now permanent matters of public record. That is what the amendment refers to. When this motion is reported to the House of Commons, then the Speaker and all MPs will be able to refer to those records. There is no confusion about that.
    I find it a little bit embarrassing. I feel badly for my Liberal friends who kind of embarrassed themselves by saying they haven't done their homework on what happened only a few months ago right here in this committee prior to prorogation. To say that they are oblivious to those conversations or that they have been unable, in the six or seven weeks since, to pull up those documents and look at them is kind of embarrassing. Use the basic rule that you come prepared.
    Ms. Jansen, who is a new member of this committee, seems to be more informed than Mr. Fragiskatos and Mr. Fraser, who are completely oblivious to what happened right before their eyes in committee meetings they attended. I'd like to congratulate Ms. Jansen for—
     I have a point of order, Mr. Chair. This is the example of a personal attack—
    I'm in the middle of a point of order.
    We're already into a point of order. We'll get to you next, Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Mr. Poilievre.
    I'm merely pointing out what Mr. Fragiskatos has admitted. He has admitted that he is unprepared and that he has no idea what happened in meetings that he attended. That is the very basis for his argument that he can't vote.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair. It's another personal attack. It's completely unacceptable.
    If he and Mr. Gerretsen are confused, then that is a matter of poor preparation and not a matter of parliamentary procedure. We can't hold everybody's hand because they haven't been able to do their homework. Canadians expect a high level of competence from their committee members. That's why they send us here. That's why parliamentarians get paid. If they can't do their homework, maybe they should call up their whip and ask to be replaced by someone who can.
     Ms. Jansen has demonstrated she can show up to work prepared, so I ask that all members of the government side follow her example.
    Thank you.
    We have Mr. Fragiskatos on a point of order.
    I believe we're straying from the discussion.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
    I appreciate that, Mr. Chair. I will keep it focused. It is long-standing practice, not just in Canadian parliamentary tradition, but Westminster parliamentary tradition writ large that, as a basic way of engaging in debate, members have to be collegial. Mr. Poilievre brings this point up about collegiality when it suits him, but all too often goes on the attack.
    I'm not insulted personally, but I think it establishes a negative precedent. He went after me and said that I haven't been prepared. I've been prepared for each meeting.
    He went after Mr. Fraser as well. Mr. Fraser is modest and won't speak about himself. He's one of the first MPs that I met after being elected in 2015. I know he takes the job extremely seriously. When Mr. Poilievre attacks my friend Sean Fraser, I have to stand up. He's done it to other members at this committee as well, not just on the Liberal side, but throughout his tenure as a finance committee member. He has gone after each member of the committee. He has heckled and thrown insults. It's not becoming of what an MP is all about. We have to keep in mind that, yes, we will agree and disagree, but when we disagree, we must do so reasonably. It's very unfortunate that Mr. Poilievre has decided to engage members in that particular way. I'd call your attention to it, Mr. Chair.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, please, call the question.
    I do have Mr. Gerretsen first on this point, and then Mr. Fraser.
    Mr. Chair, I just want to say that, although Mr. Kelly would love for Mr. Poilievre to have the last word on that, I would like to weigh in on that as well.
    I am a new member to the committee. He was trying to insult me by saying that I should have done my homework. I would have had no way of knowing that the Conservatives were going to bring forward this particular amendment to a motion. Therefore, there's no way that I could have been able to somehow in advance try to figure out what they were doing.
    Mr. Poilievre criticizes members of this committee for not being prepared and perhaps doing other things. I'll be the first to say that I was doing something else, Mr. Chair.
    I'm not sure if Mr. Poilievre is aware, but there's a global pandemic going on right now. We are in the second wave of it. Canadians are looking for assistance. I've pulled staff from my Ottawa office back to my Kingston office to assist members of my community, my constituents, in accessing a lot of the programs that they need right now, stuff that they rely on and that they're looking to the federal government for.
    I apologize to Mr. Poilievre if I wasn't paying attention when he was grandstanding and waving papers around in the air trying to get attention from the media. Some of us were back in our constituencies actually helping Canadians who are looking for help right now, who are looking to access programs like CERB, and small businesses that are looking for—
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I was doing the same thing and was able to prepare my homework.
    We're already on a point of order, Ms. Jansen.
     Call the question, Mr. Chair. This is a delay tactic.
    No. I think it's—
    Mr. Gerretsen and then Mr. Fraser.
    It's extremely germane to the discussion, Mr. Chair, because what Mr. Poilievre is accusing members of this committee of doing is basically of not doing the work that he deems to be so important, which apparently is predicting what his next move will be so that we can properly prepare for it.
    On the contrary, I would argue that most members of this committee—and I would put my Conservative, NDP and Bloc colleagues into that as well—are working on behalf of their constituents. I have small businesses in my community that were looking for access to the wage subsidy for their small businesses—businesses that are literally about to close.
     For some reason, Mr. Poilievre feels as though the most important thing for Canadians right now is to get in front of a podium and grandstand and wave around papers, as though that's the only thing Canadians care about right now.
    Mr. Chair, I do sincerely apologize to him and to the other colleagues on this committee that I did not somehow anticipate what their moves were going to be so that I could magically prepare for them, because I was caught up doing other things on behalf of my constituents while we're in the second wave of a global pandemic.
    Next is Mr. Fraser. Then I'll go to Ms. Jansen, and then we'll call the question, hopefully.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    With respect, the accusations Mr. Poilievre is lodging don't really bother me. However, one of the things I'd like to draw attention to is that no one—including him, with his criticism of my request for clarity on this—has actually clarified the one piece that I keep repeating. The issue here is that there are different batches of documents that we are talking about.
     I understand that some were disclosed on USB keys to critics of different parties. I understand that some have been uploaded to the website. I also understand that there was a very specific and unique thing that happened during the upload of the documents, which was prorogation.
     This is not a matter of not having done homework. I've been able to look at many of the documents that, in fact, I expect are the subject of the proposed amendment, but I don't even know how we can consider the amendment in order if it doesn't make clear which documents we're actually looking at.
    Perhaps because I was paying attention, both at the meetings and to the various pieces of correspondence that have come through to committee members, I would say that the unique piece is whether the documents that the motion is actually going to further adopt are effectively an incomplete version of the disclosure, because of the timing of prorogation. If that is the case, obviously the right approach would be to ask the government to please table the full disclosure of documents as it was asked to do. Then we would presumably have an opportunity to look at those documents, compare them to the request we've made, and make a determination at that time as to what is appropriate.
    Perhaps Mr. Poilievre is choosing not to understand that particular point, but the issue at play, from my perspective, is the fact that the amendment does not make clear to me whether we're dealing with all the documents the government had intended to disclose because of the very particular nuance around the prorogation at the time they were being uploaded.
    Next is Ms. Jansen, and I believe that is the end of my list.
    I'm good, thank you.
    I just wanted to remind Mr. Gerretsen that I was doing all the same things. I was out there, got my flu shot and went to Thanksgiving dinner. All of that helped businesses. I also met with veterans at the Legion and got ready for the meeting.
     That's our work. That's our job.
    I guess we're ready for the question. Madam Clerk, I wonder if you could call the vote on the amendment to the motion.
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Fragiskatos.
    The vote was called. There are no points of order—
    I said that I would not bring up points of order unless—
    The vote is already called. We're in the vote—
    —the issues were important. The point of order was recognized.
    That's not true. The clerk has not started the roll call yet, nor has the chair read out the motion, so technically it hasn't begun.
    Mr. Chair, a point of order right now is completely in order.
     Mr. Fragiskatos.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll continue.
    As a member of this committee, I do not believe—and I think my Liberal colleagues would echo my reservations—the points that Mr. Fraser and other Liberal members have brought up here have been dealt with. I understand that certain members in the opposition want to move towards a vote; it sounds as though they're unanimous in that on the opposition side. However, I still think we have not dealt with the matter that has been raised before the committee, which, as I stated in my remarks, based on what we find in House of Commons Procedure and Practice by Bosc and Gagnon, are questions that hinge on and relate to privilege—
    This is debate, not a point of order.
    This is not debate. These matters relate to privilege as well.
    Mr. Chair, with all due respect, we have not dealt substantively and meaningfully with the issue at hand.
     What I can say on that is what both the clerk and I have indicated on the message, that the documents in evidence are on our public website and the link has been sent to members. You will have to determine whether that's adequate or not.
    Mr. Chair, on a point of order—
    I have a point of order.
    Mr. Fragiskatos on a point of order, and then Ms. Dzerowicz.
    Mr. Chair, perhaps it could offer some guidance to our decision-making and I suggest very humbly that we look at whether there's a precedent for this particular situation.
    I'll turn it over to Ms. Dzerowicz.
     Ms. Dzerowicz.
    Mr. Chair, my point of order is that I think Mr. Fraser made some very good points in terms of there being some information on a memory stick and some information that was part of the link. I wonder whether it's possible to perhaps have the clerk address that specifically. If it's appropriate to be able to do so, I'd love to hear from her in terms of whether there are indeed different bits of information in different places. I do think what my colleague Mr. Fraser has raised is a very important question of privilege for all of us.
    I have a note. I think I did say ”on the public website”. The documents are on Our Commons website through the link that the clerk has sent.
    Ms. Dzerowicz, do you want to rephrase your question to the clerk? I didn't quite get the context.
    Absolutely.
    I'll probably just bring it to the point where we've raised a few things.
    One is that I would like to know whether all of the information that was submitted, I believe the 5,600 pages, and the transmittal letters, as well as anything that was on memory sticks, is all provided to us as part of the information that was sent to us via a link within the last hour.
    Madam Clerk, I'm not sure again whether we're putting you on the spot.
    Only certain documents get posted on our website. Items such as correspondence usually would just stay in the clerk's office, but they are available for the public to consult. Any confidential documents would be circulated to MPs during one session and not posted on the websites.
    Specifically for the transmittal letters, because they are critical in terms of us understanding what was redacted, what was included, and why it was included or not included, would you be able to confirm whether the transmittal letters are actually part of the documents we have received?
    I do not know if they were included in that link.
     Okay.
    Mr. Chair, on a point of order—
    An hon. member: On a point of order—
     I see Mr. Fraser and Mr. Samson, and I heard someone else.
     Ms. Dzerowicz has perhaps articulated the point more accurately than I have. I'm scanning these sheets as we go. I can't find.... I've been looking for the transmittal letters because the purpose of their inclusion was more or less a covering letter to explain whether and to what extent and reasons certain portions of documents would have been redacted. If we know that those documents are not in the documents that we're about to adopt, then we will know that we need to engage with government to encourage them to re-disclose the full package of information on the committee's record.
    I don't think it would be a violation of privilege, which is not for this committee to find, but it strikes me, Mr. Chair, that if we know that the documents referred to in the amendment have not been fully disclosed on the record for this committee because they're not on the website that contains the evidentiary record, I'm curious as to whether the proposed amendment could be construed as being in order if we know, in fact, that the documents referred to do not reflect the complete version of the documents that the government disclosed to members but is not before the record on this committee.
    Go ahead, Mr. Samson.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate the opportunity to make my point of order.
    I've been listening now for about half an hour and I'm very disappointed with the opposition trying to let Canadians think that we are not prepared.
    Let's be honest with what's happening here. This is an amendment that was just put up in this meeting. How can you be prepared for an amendment about documents? Now the question mark is that you're asking me to vote on an amendment about documents that may or may not all be there as they should. Now I'm listening to the opposition say, “Oh, I did all my reading; I was prepared. I did all my other work.”
    Listen. Let's be honest with Canadians here. We are not expected to vote on something that we.... I'm not. How can I vote on something when I don't know for sure those are actually the documents?
    Then I have to share this as well. I've been listening in the House of Commons now for a number of weeks since we started again. All they talk about in the media is budget, budget, budget, budget. Let's get to the budget. Where's our budget? We have a standing order that clearly indicates that, as soon as Parliament took over in September, we have to be working on this budget, doing pre-budget consultations. I've been—
    I have a point of order. This is just debate, Mr. Chair. It's time to call the vote. This is not relevant to the motion. It's not relevant to the debate on the motion. Call the question, Mr. Chair. Restore order.
    We cannot respond to those documents unless we move forward on them. Mr. Julian, with all due respect, has brought some very important points to the table in the House of Commons about tax inequalities and tax evasion. I enjoy when he shares his perspective on tax evasion, but he's not talking about that.
    We're never going to get to those points unless we move on to what is important for this committee, and that is pre-budget consultation, as the standing order clearly indicates.
    You are straying considerably from the amendment, Mr. Samson, but I think—
    Nonetheless, it's very true.
    —the question really is.... I don't know whether, Madam Clerk, you have to contact somebody in the parliamentary branch there, but I believe what members are asking—
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Just a moment. Can somebody give the assurance that all the documents that the committee asked to be uploaded to the website prior to our digital binders—I guess that's the proper word—prior to prorogation, including the transmittal letters, are there in that link.
    I think that's what members are asking.
    Go ahead on your point of order, Mr. Fragiskatos.
     I think, Mr. Chair, you suggested something there that could provide guidance. I have enormous respect for all public servants, including those who perform the role of clerk. The clerk is incredibly able. Otherwise, she would not be tasked with being the the clerk of probably the busiest—and with due respect to many of my colleagues serving on other committees, the most important—committee on Parliament Hill, or if not the most, then one of the most important. This is particularly so now, as we deal with the challenge of COVID-19.
    Your suggestion a moment ago that perhaps the clerk could go back and confer with other parliamentary colleagues on the matter could be a useful suggestion.
    I also think we have to be remarkably careful here when we see a mention, in what basically counts as our guiding bible, if you want to put it that way—House of Commons Procedure and Practice—making very clear that matters of privilege do relate to papers and to records.
    When those papers and records are not present and accessible, then issues of privilege arise, in my view.
    I think Mr. Samson also put a very good point forward when he just spoke, saying that—
    This is repetitious, Chair.
    No, it is not, Mr. Chair. I said before that I have enormous respect for Mr. Kelly, but I wouldn't want to accuse him of violating my privilege by interrupting me on a very important point of order as an MP.
    I'll continue, Mr. Chair.
    It's too late. You've already said it.
    He already did it, but I'm going to ignore it in the spirit of collegiality, which Mr. Poilievre so ably talked about before.
    By the way, I still see his absence here at the committee.
    We need assurances. We need certainty—absolute certainty—that we are seeing the documents we ought to see as they've been put forward. We can't play guessing games, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Fraser talked about that; Mr. Samson talked about it as well; Ms. Dzerowicz raised this point earlier. I do not believe that we're ready to move forward to a vote here until all of these issues have been looked at thoroughly and analysis has been exhausted on the matter.
    I have another point of order to add to that, Mr. Chair, if I may.
    Go ahead.
    Thank you.
    Just in line with what Mr. Fragiskatos has said, I wonder whether voting on this motion is in order, when we don't know that we have the full document. I think that's really what I'm left with.
    Assumptions can be a problem. I'm operating under the assumption that the information that went to the digital binders and the documents in the transmittal letters are as the clerk maintains. Whether or not we've seen them, we certainly expect them.
    I'm going to suspend for five minutes so that I can talk to the clerk on the side, because we need assurance that this information is available now or is readily available. I'll suspend for five minutes and will call you, Evelyn, offline.

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     Okay. There's nothing like saying that life is complicated.
    In any event, from the clerk's point of view in discussions, the committee will see exactly what they saw in session 43-1. They're restoring the e-binders. They will be brought forward and made available to this session. Part of the problem here is that if we want to see the evidence from session 43-1, we really don't know that evidence until we ask for it. Certainly, some of us who were on the previous committee have seen that evidence. That is the link that was available prior to prorogation. Everything that was available to the committee in 43-1 is there.
    I don't have an answer on it. I don't think all the evidence was in the digital binder on the documents at the time of prorogation. I know that David went a few hours after prorogation to try to get it in the digital binders.
    So I can't answer on that question, but basically what I can say is that the committee will see exactly what they saw on session 43-1. This amendment is asking for that evidence. As I said at the beginning of the meeting on my order, the Speaker would definitely need that evidence in order to make a ruling.
    That's where we're at on the amendment. I know there may be some objections to that—
    Hon. Pierre Poilievre: A point of order.
    The Chair: —and I'll go to Mr. Poilievre's point of order, but that's the best I can tell you at this time. The transmittal letters and some 5,000-plus pages of documents should be in that e-binder that was in the last session.
    Mr. Poilievre.
    Can you clarify where the e-binder was mentioned in my amendment?
    No, the e-binder wasn't mentioned.
    It wasn't. Oh, good. So then that's irrelevant to the debate.
    But I think in fairness, Mr. Poilievre—
    Mr. Poilievre should do his homework if he doesn't know what his motion says.
    Hold on.
    The clerk could restore the e-binder and make available all evidence that was in the last session and bring it forward to this one as well.
    To end my point of order, so what part of that evidence has not been made public yet?
    I might have to ask for clarification on this from the clerk, but I think all of that evidence was made public in the last session.
    Hon. Pierre Poilievre: Thank you.
    The Chair: I believe that to be true—
    Good. That settles that.
    —but we need that evidence to go to the Speaker as per this motion as well.
    To conclude my point, that's great. All the documents are public, and the Speaker, therefore, can acquire them. If he needs someone in the clerk's office to point him in the right direction, that can happen too.
    Thank you very much. Let's go to the—
    Are we ready for the question?
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Fraser.
    Hon. Pierre Poilievre: I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    I'm still—
    Mr. Fraser and then Mr. Poilievre.
     Mr. Chair, I apologize for coming back to this. I understand that there are documents in an e-binder that should correspond to what the committee had on record. I understand from your explanation following the recent suspension of this meeting that there is an ability to provide whatever was provided at the time the first session of the current Parliament was prorogued.
    The question I still don't understand is whether the complete disclosure package that the government did in fact provide to members of this committee is actually included in what this committee will have.
    This is not some nuanced technical point. One reason I'm concerned about it is that, upon a review of the documents that the clerk directed us to during suspension, I remain unable to locate the transmittal letters. I suspect that other things that were disclosed by the government are in fact not going to be made available.
    Having incomplete disclosure, particularly....
    I keep drawing your attention to the transmittal letters because those are the documents that explain why certain portions of documents were redacted. For example, they may have included information about the family members of public servants or just a list of email names of public servants who had personal information.
    It seems foolhardy for us as a committee to demand production that we know or expect is incomplete not because the government chose not to disclose information but because it may not have been fully uploaded.
    Is it possible to have someone do a comparison of the documents that were in fact provided to committee members directly—say, by the USB keys—and any information that would—?
    I have a point of order.
    Ms. Jansen, I have the floor.
    Mr. Chair—
    We can't have a point of order when there is a point of order on the floor, so I will go to you next, Ms. Jansen.
    This is point of order day for sure in finance committee, I can tell you that.
    Mr. Fraser.
    Thank you.
    To finish my point, Mr. Chair, it would be very helpful if the clerk could do a comparison to ensure that we're not on a fool's errand here, demanding production that we know will be incomplete because we know it wasn't properly uploaded.
    Is it possible for the clerk, perhaps, to do a quick review of the two sets of documents to ensure that the same number of pages are in each, for example, so that we can verify that we are looking at a complete body of information?
    What I would love to avoid is setting the stage for a false accusation that the government failed to meet the order or request of this committee, when in fact they did their best to but, due to a technical reason during the timing of the upload, the complete package wasn't put on the table.
    Okay. I'm going to go to Ms. Jansen's point of order, but to your point of order, this may be something to think about. You can put an amendment to the amendment to ensure that the documents include transmittal letters, if that's a huge concern.
    Ms. Jansen.
    Given that it has been established that everything was made public and that Mr. Fraser is talking about a fool's errand, I think most Canadians watching this—if anybody is still watching—would probably consider this committee meeting to be the fool's errand he is talking about.
    It's really time to take a vote. Let's get on with it so that we can get on with business.
    On a point of order, Mr. Chair—
    I can't take a vote until the committee allows me to take that vote, Ms. Jansen. That's the problem.
    Mr. Fraser, you have another point of order.
    Sure. It's related to a comment you just made.
    My concern is not solely the presence or absence of transmittal letters. That's one concern, and it's a serious one. The bigger picture concern I am worried about, when looking at this motion, is that I know certain documents were made public. What I want to ensure is that all the documents that the government disclosed are part of the record.
    No one has been able to clear up for me whether the documents that are the subject of the proposed amendment to the motion we're currently debating actually mirror the documents that the government provided. If we are not talking about the same set of documents, then of course the government will have failed to meet the request of this committee, but it wouldn't be because they chose not to disclose information.
    You suggested it might be by amendment of the amendment, but is it possible to have someone, before we take a vote on the existing amendment, actually confirm that the two packages are identical?
     The only person I could ask that is the clerk, who may be in communication with the analysts. Do you see a—
    Can you make that request, Mr. Chair?
    We're talking about 5,000 pages here plus. Could the clerk and the analysts take five minutes to look into this, and we'll come back to it?
    I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
    Yes, go ahead.
    No, we're not going to suspend again to run on a fool's errand, as Mr. Fraser—
    It's not a point of order.
    —improbably gave it the appellation.
    It's not a point of order.
    We are now ready to vote.
    It's not a point of order.
    It's really—
    It's now time to go to the vote.
    I think, Mr. Poilievre, it's really not. I don't have to move to vote.
    Motion to challenge the chair. Challenging the chair. I'm challenging your ruling.
    I can't move—
    Motion to challenge the chair. I'm challenging your ruling.
    An hon. member: On what? I don't know if there was a ruling to challenge.
     There wasn't a ruling, Mr. Poilievre.
    Your ruling is that you can't move to a vote, and I'm challenging that.
    I can't move to a vote until there's satisfaction among committee members to move to a vote.
    I challenge that ruling.
    That's not a ruling.
    A point of order.
    I challenge that ruling.
    I am going to ask the clerk and the analysts to meet for five minutes, come back with as best an answer as they can give us, then maybe we can get to the vote. I have no other choice but to do that.
    Take five minutes, Evelyn and the analysts, to see when you can come back to us with.
    The meeting is suspended for five minutes.

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     We'll come back to order.
    Madam Clerk, have you a response to what we asked you to look into?
    Yes. In that link to the documents that were shared with the committee members are the documents that were sent from the department. They do not include the transfer letters, those were separate files, and the letter from the law clerk, but all the other documents that were transferred as part of the request are in that link.
    Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.
    I see two hands up. I first have Mr. Gerretsen and then Mr. Fraser.
    Go ahead.
    I would like to move an amendment to the amendment, Mr. Chair, in light of the fact that we heard this information.
    My amendment to the amendment would be at the end and would read, “and further that the clerk of the committee do a complete analysis of the documents provided to the committee by the law clerk and compare them to that which was provided to members by the government.”
    Can you roll that by me again? I'm not sure it's in order.
    I have it in French, and I can forward the French text as well to the clerk. Maybe my staff could do that right now.
    I will read it again more slowly so everybody can take that in. This would be an amendment to the amendment, Mr. Chair, to follow what is currently proposed. It reads: “and further that the clerk of the committee do a complete analysis of the documents provided to the committee by the law clerk and compare them to that which was provided to members by the government.”
    I have to find the original motion.
     I believe the amendment to the amendment is in order. We're on that. It has been moved.
    Mr. Fraser.
     Thank you very much, Mr. Chair; and thank you to any staff involved with the comparison.
    One of the things that's really important is that the transmittal letters in particular are included in the package of documents that will find its way for consideration by the committee.
    You'll recall the original motion back in July that, again, gained support from both sides of the aisle, which said:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the Committee order that any contracts concluded with We Charity and Me to We, all briefing notes, memos and emails...from senior officials prepared for or sent to any Minister regarding the design and creation of the Canada Student Service Grant, as well as any written correspondence and records of other correspondence with We Charity and Me to We from March 2020 be provided to the Committee no later than August 8, 2020;
    This next part is key to the importance of the transmittal letters, and forgive my taking a bit of time to get there, but this piece is important:
that matters of Cabinet confidence and national security be excluded from the request;
    Before I read the rest of the motion, I think it's important for it to sink in that the government was not requested to give documents that touched on cabinet confidence or that compromised national security.
    It went on to say:
and that any redactions necessary, including to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents whose names and personal information may be included in the documents, as well as public servants who have been providing assistance on this matter, be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.
    I argued earlier in this meeting that it doesn't relieve the non-partisan public service of their obligations to comply. In any event, I'll set that argument aside for now.
    The point here is that, for items that are not relevant to the committee or motion request for documents that were redacted by the professional public service, those redactions took place for good reasons. They may have involved items that were on the agenda of a cabinet meeting, the cabinet meetings in fact, perhaps, that the Prime Minister and his chief of staff testified to at the finance committee in the previous session; matters of national security and sensitive procurement that could hurt the government's ability to act in the national interest; or matters that, if released, could be damaging to Canada, which is frankly what we're trying to avoid the disclosure of under ordinary circumstances.
    I am always in favour of protecting our national reputation and our national security before anything else and allowing government to make decisions knowing that they can have, in certain circumstances, confidential conversations.
    In my view, the redactions that I've seen strike the right balance between releasing relevant information as the committee has requested and protecting cabinet confidence, which, again, this committee did expect would be respected.
    In the Privy Council Office document release that the clerk circulated today, there is a synopsis of a cabinet meeting. Frankly, it's an extraordinary document, when you think of it, that would rarely be released. I don't think previous governments would have allowed that type of document disclosure of things that should be subject to cabinet confidence. The synopsis here of an entire cabinet meeting has been made public, though there are obviously items that are protected by cabinet confidence.
    Items that related to the Canada student service grant were still disclosed. I don't know what other topics were discussed. There could be national security issues—we'll never know—and cabinet confidences that are not related to any of this ought to be protected for good public policy.
    This was determined by the Clerk of the Privy Council, in reference to my point, in his transmittal letter specifically. These transmittal letters give context to the documents to explain precisely why certain things were redacted or not redacted.
    Frankly, there are reasons that documents such as this are not normally public until long after a government's mandate has come to an end. Ensuring the confidence of cabinet deliberations is essential to peace, order and good government, which our colleagues often reflect upon publicly in their comments.
    These confidences are essential to the operation of responsible government, yet in a rather extraordinary move the Clerk waived privilege on sections of this particular document as they related to cabinet discussion on the Canada student service grant. These confidences are amongst our country's most protected information. Here it is for everybody to read.
    If opposition colleagues want to view documents that are subject to cabinet confidence, they should form government and be appointed to cabinet and they will have their access to cabinet confidences there, and frankly, I would defend their right to have those confidences, even in opposition.
     Until then, Mr. Chair, the release of this relevant cabinet information as it relates to the Canada student service grant is going to have to suffice.
     Through the PCO release, once again, what do we actually find redacted? It's a personal phone number of a staff member, an item that never would have been released in an access to information request. I think that kind of protection is important and necessary.
    To conclude the point in support of the subamendment, the transmittal letters we now know were not included amongst a few other documents that were just referred to, and are not actually captured by the motion. It's difficult to imagine how we can determine the appropriateness of disclosures made by the government when we simply accept the documents but purposefully exclude the government's explanation as to why certain redactions may have been in place. As such, I would be supporting my colleague's subamendment that he's placed before the committee.
    Okay.
    Ms. Jansen is next on my list.
    The amendment to the amendment is the issue we're on now. We'll have a vote on it, then get to the amended motion, or not, and then to the original motion.
    We're on the amendment to the amendment.
     Ms. Jansen.
    Yes, thank you.
    I find it very, very interesting how we were talking about how very important it was. The Liberals wanted us to get moving on to the next most important item of business. Mr. Fraser is actually putting a motion forward that is going to ensure that it takes weeks for us to go forward, when we know that all of these documents are already public.
    Regular Canadians are going to say, “This doesn't feel like openness and transparency to me.”
    Again, as I say, it's going to take weeks. Can you imagine how long this is going to take?
    The clerks have all been working hard and doing their job. We know they're very competent. We're very thankful for the work they do. This amendment as it stands just boggles the mind. This absolutely stands in the way of our getting anything done.
    Just so you know, regular Canadians who don't talk lawyer-speak are going to be quite shocked at this amendment.
    Thank you, Madam Jansen.
    Ms. Dzerowicz, and then Mr. Gerretsen.
    I will be supporting my colleague's amendment to the amendment to the original motion. I just wanted to respond to Ms. Jensen's comments.
    Let Canadians be very clear. I put a motion on the table for us to begin pre-budget consultations. During an unprecedented pandemic, I can assure you that if there's anything that's wasting time, it is the original motion that was actually proposed by the opposition. It is not us.
    If you can wave a magic wand, Ms. Jansen, and get us right back to the pre-budget consultation, I think that is where we're raring to go. We know that Canadians want to talk to us. Canadians want to share their ideas. We know that economists want to provide some advice on how we create a competitive environment in Canada.
    How do we best restart the economy so that we can support our businesses moving forward?
    How is it that we can make sure that we continue to support those industries that are most impacted: tourism, arts and culture, hospitality?
    I can unequivocally tell you that it is not us who is wasting anybody's time. It is the original motion that was put before us. I will tell you that there is a motion that I read first. It's on the table. It's on pre-budget consultation. We were ready to start it at our last meeting.
    Thank you.
    We have Mr. Gerretsen, then Mr. Poilievre.
    Mr. Chair, I think I was next in line there.
    No, the names that come in are from the clerk.
    My hand has been up.
    What I've seen from the clerk is Mr. Gerretsen first, then you, Mr. Poilievre.
    Mr. Chair, I would very much enjoy hearing what Mr. Poilievre has to say. I would be willing to let him go first, if I could follow.
    Okay.
    We'll let Mr. Poilievre go first, then Mr. Gerretsen.
    I thank my distinguished colleague for that concession.
     I heard Ms. Dzerowicz's comments, and I couldn't agree more. Let's get on with the rest of the committee's business. I totally agree. I want to move right to her motion. If we could just vote on the motions before us, we could probably get through the votes on the two amendments, plus the main motion in about five minutes. I'm happy to actually stay and discuss her motion as well. We could easily get through it all today.
     Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.
    What's your point of order?
    Is Mr. Poilievre saying he is withdrawing his original motion and going right to the pre-budget consultation motion?
    Mr. Poilievre will be able to answer that.
    That's what I was proposing.
    No—with a minor tweak, which is that we would just vote on these motions that are before us right now and then we'd go right to your motion. If you're really interested in....
    Mr. Chair, we're in a pandemic. Canadians are suffering. They've lost livelihoods. Some have lost their lives. Let's get back to work on that. Let's vote on these motions, so we can get them out of the way and get back to discussions on how we can rebuild Canada's economy. Let's do it now.
    We'll go to Mr. Gerretsen and then Mr. Julian.
    Here is the problem with what Mr. Poilievre just said. He is basically saying, Mr. Chair, that he recognized that Ms. Dzerowicz's motion was on the floor, but didn't like the fact that we had to deal with hers, so he tried to use some procedural moves in the last meeting to jump ahead of her so we would just vote on his motion to get it out of the way, and he is happy to go back to hers.
    If he can't see the problem with that, Mr. Chair, then I think he really needs to reassess his participation in this committee. It is not all about him. Maybe it is just about him on the Conservative bench, because he seems to be running the show there, which is very respectable, and his soldiers are doing a great job on his behalf.
    The reality is that there was already a process in place with Ms. Dzerowicz's motion and Mr. Poilievre tried to jump ahead of it. Now he is trying to use the rationale of us voting on it to push it out of the way and then we can go to her motion, as long as what is important to him is dealt with first. I find it extremely unfortunate that he has chosen to go down that road. If he has an issue with members of the Liberal caucus taking a position on that and being offended by that, I would assure him it is a legitimate position, in my opinion at least, for Liberal members to be taking.
     That is how I end up supporting the fact that maybe it is in the best interest for Mr. Poilievre to withdraw his motion, to get in the queue where he belongs and let his motion come forward properly. I believe that even Mr. Julian had one in between the one that was on the floor and his, but somehow he is the most important asset to this entire committee and the parliamentary process writ large and therefore his issues should be dealt with in great haste.
    I'll just go back to the amendment we are discussing, which is my amendment to the amendment, Mr. Chair. I want to emphasize why these transmission letters are essential.
    It's already a rare occurrence that cabinet confidences of a sitting government are released. The clerk took the extraordinary step to release all information as it relates to the CSSG while also maintaining that he would protect necessary and unrelated cabinet confidences. He detailed that process, as did other deputy ministers in their transmittal letters. Everything present here has been done in the spirit of that promise while respecting the committee's motion for information.
    Let me give some examples of that. In the PCO release we have a summary of a full cabinet meeting. The discussion could have been related to a vaccine or PPE procurement, national security or other matters. A cabinet document such as this is rarely, if ever, made public. Cabinet confidences unrelated to the Canada student service grant are redacted per the terms of the motion adopted by the committee. Keeping with the spirit of this committee's motion, the CSSG items in particular were visible.
    The second example of this is in a PCO release. We have a second cabinet note, Mr. Chair, where the document is redacted. It is the latter cabinet meeting in May of 2020. The CSSG implementation was discussed and is unredacted as ordered by this committee and agreed to by the Clerk of the Privy Council; however, the rest of the information is still redacted as it falls under cabinet confidence. Again, we do not know what the topics of discussion were. There could have been talks related to national security matters, legal discussions that are under solicitor-client privilege or key discussions related to further personal protective equipment and vaccine procurement that would have put our competitiveness at risk if released.
     Mr. Chair, in conclusion, I think we have demonstrated, in an exhaustive manner, that the redactions the opposition members have been turning into political theatre are, in fact, in line with the motion that they proposed at this very committee.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you, Mr. Gerretsen. It was really nice of you to get back to the amendment. That's where we all should be.
    Just before I turn to Mr. Julian and then Mr. Samson, Mr. Ste-Marie, if you do want in, you're probably going to have to wave both arms, because you're nearly in the dark there. I don't want to miss you if you want in.
    I'll go to Mr. Julian and then Mr. Samson.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    From the very beginning of this meeting, we've seen Liberal members try to find technicalities to try to delay what is very clearly a breach of privilege and to deny the instruction that we've received from the Speaker. The Speaker asked to find out whether the committee is satisfied with the documents as provided to it. The documents have been provided to the committee, and with slight exceptions, all of that information was available in August in the public domain. The media were very clear in reporting both the law clerk's letter and all of the other details relating to the massive censorship of these documents.
    This search for a technicality I find very disturbing. This meeting now has gone on, according to the House of Commons website, for 180 hours. I know we've been suspended for much of that time, but basically, government members of Parliament have been delaying for 180 hours a clear question of privilege that we have to decide upon as a committee and then provide that decision back to the Speaker. That is our role: to defend the committee's decision. The fact is that the government clearly did not adhere to it—and the law clerk has been very clear about this—by censoring documents that they were not entitled to censor. We have that important response to give back to the Speaker. That's this motion that Mr. Poilievre has suggested, with the amendment that I think we all accept. I think any other amendments are distinctly unhelpful.
    I am very frustrated and dismayed by the attitude of the government, and we've seen this in other areas. Within days of the pandemic striking, $750 billion in liquidity support was given to Canada's big banks, yet people with disabilities have been waiting now for seven months to get one cent of support from this government. The government delays when the people's interests need to be taken into consideration. When there are lobbyists, they just move right ahead. I find this deplorable.
    If the government members were really interested in what has been raised as various points, given the fact that we have put forward an amendment and that the amendment was put forward in a way that should provide consensus from all members, we should be voting on the amendment and voting on the main motion. I will be voting against the latest amendment because I think it is basically a delaying tactic. We should be proceeding to inform the Speaker about our opinion on the documents that were so heavily, wholly and substantially censored. We should be able to move on to other important items.
    I'm very dismayed that government members have now held up this committee hearing for 180 hours. We're in the midst of a pandemic. We should proceed to the vote. We should move on to other business.
    Okay.
    The final one on my list is Mr. Samson, on the amendment to the amendment. That's the one we're on.

[Translation]

    Thank you.

[English]

    I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Chair. As a point of order, I'm also on that list. I thought I had raised my hand too. I'm glad to speak whenever it's appropriate.