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Minutes of Proceedings

43rd Parliament, 2nd Session
Meeting 1
Thursday, October 8, 2020, 3:31 p.m. to Thursday, October 15, 2020, 10:16 p.m.
Webcast

• Leona Alleslev for Hon. Pierre Poilievre (Conservative)
• Vance Badawey for Julie Dzerowicz (Liberal)
• Vance Badawey for Annie Koutrakis (Liberal)
• Chris Bittle for Annie Koutrakis (Liberal)
• Garnett Genuis for Pat Kelly (Conservative)
• Mike Kelloway for Sean Fraser (Liberal)
• Hon. Mike Lake for Ted Falk (Conservative)
• Hon. Mike Lake for Tamara Jansen (Conservative)
• Cathy McLeod for Pat Kelly (Conservative)
• John Nater for Ted Falk (Conservative)
• Darrell Samson for Annie Koutrakis (Liberal)
• Warren Steinley for Hon. Pierre Poilievre (Conservative)
• Adam Vaughan for Michael V. McLeod (Liberal)
• Karen Vecchio for Pat Kelly (Conservative)
Library of Parliament
• Andrew Barton, Analyst
• Brett Capwell, Analyst
• Sylvain Fleury, Analyst
• Michaël Lambert-Racine, Analyst
 
House of Commons
• Alexandre Roger, Procedural Clerk
• Erica Pereira, Procedural Clerk
• Christine Lafrance, Procedural Clerk
• Marc-Olivier Girard, Procedural Clerk
Pursuant to Standing Order 106(1) and the order of reference of Wednesday September 23, 2020, the committee met for the purpose of electing a chair. Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the clerk of the committee presided over the election of a chair.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — That Wayne Easter be elected Chair of the committee.

At 3:33 p.m., Wayne Easter took the Chair.

Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the clerk of the committee presided over the election of the vice-chairs.

On motion of Pat Kelly, it was agreed, — That Pierre Poilievre be elected First Vice-Chair of the committee.

On motion of Peter Julian, it was agreed, — That Gabriel Ste-Marie be elected Second Vice-Chair of the committee.

The committee proceeded to the consideration of matters related to committee business.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — 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.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be established and be composed of five (5) members, namely the Chair and one member from each recognized party; and that the subcommittee work in a spirit of collaboration.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — 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, when travelling outside the parliamentary precinct for prebudget consultations, that the meeting begin after 15 minutes, regardless of members present.

Motion

Peter Fragiskatos moved, — That witnesses be given five minutes 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.

Debate arose thereon.

Amendment

Peter Julian moved, — That the motion be amended by replacing the words “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” with the following : "for the second and subsequent rounds, the order and time for questioning be as follows: Conservative Party, five minutes, Liberal Party five minutes, Bloc Québécois, two and a half minutes, New Democratic Party, two and a half minutes, Conservative Party five minutes and Liberal Party five minutes" .

Debate arose thereon.

The question was put on the amendment of Peter Julian and it was agreed to on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Ted Falk, Tamara Jansen, Peter Julian, Pat Kelly, Pierre Poilievre, Gabriel Ste-Marie — 6;

NAYS: Julie Dzerowicz, Peter Fragiskatos, Sean Fraser, Annie Koutrakis, Michael V. McLeod — 5.

The motion, as amended, read as follows:

That witnesses be given five minutes 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, Bloc Québécois, two and a half minutes and New Democratic Party, two and a half minutes, Conservative Party, five minutes, Liberal Party, five minutes.

After debate, the question was put on the motion, as amended, and it was agreed to.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — That only 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.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — That the clerk of the committee be authorized to make the necessary arrangements to provide working meals for the committee and its subcommittees.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — 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.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — 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 motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — 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.

On motion of Peter Fragiskatos, it was agreed, — 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.

Motion

Julie Dzerowicz moved, — 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

  1. the Deputy Prime Minister and departmental officials appear before the committee;
  2. 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;
  3. the committee allow witnesses to change their testimony if they feel so obliged based on the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19;
  4. each party submit a preliminary witness list no later than 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 14, 2020;
  5. each party submit a final witness list no later than 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 2020; and
  6. the committee request permission from the House to table its report on Pre-Budget consultations no later than Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Motion

Pierre Poilievre moved, — 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.

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 “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”.

On July 7, 2020, your Committee met virtually and 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.”

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....

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.

Parliament was prorogued on August 18, 2020, preventing your Committee from meeting to consider the documents and the government’s disregard of the July 7, 2020, order.

A question of privilege was raised in the House early in the new Session of Parliament concerning this matter. In his October 1, 2020, ruling, the Speaker stated:

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.

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.

Debate arose thereon.

At 4:29 p.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 4:33 p.m., the sitting resumed.

Peter Julian gave oral notice of the following motion:

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, the Canada Student Service Grant, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, and the procurement of personal protective equipment:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
  4. 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;
  5. that the Clerk of the House shall convene an organization meeting of the said committee for no later than November 20, 2020;
  6. that the committee be chaired by a member of the official opposition;
  7. 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;
  8. 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;
  9. that the committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders;
  10. that the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings;
  11. 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;
  12. and that the committee report no later than February 15, 2021.

Debate resumed on the motion of Pierre Poilievre

Amendment

Sean Fraser moved, — That the motion be amended by adding the following: “That, Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this Report”.

Debate arose thereon.

The question was put on the amendment of Sean Fraser and it was negatived on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Julie Dzerowicz, Peter Fragiskatos, Sean Fraser, Annie Koutrakis, Michael V. McLeod — 5;

NAYS: Ted Falk, Tamara Jansen, Peter Julian, Pierre Poilievre, Gabriel Ste-Marie, Karen Vecchio — 6.

At 6:28 p.m., on Thursday, October 8, 2020, the sitting was suspended

At 11:06 a.m., on Thursday, October 15, 2020, the sitting resumed.

RULING BY THE CHAIR

The Chair ruled the current motion, pertaining to privilege, raised by Pierre Poilievre, on October 8, 2020, out of order, as it relates to proceedings before the Committee in a previous parliamentary session. The Chair ruled that the debate on the motion moved by Julie Dzerowicz, on October 8, 2020, regarding the pre-budget consultation now resume.

Whereupon, Pierre Poilievre appealed the decision of the Chair.

The question: "Shall the decision of the Chair be sustained?" was put and the decision was overturned on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Julie Dzerowicz, Peter Fragiskatos, Sean Fraser, Mark Gerretsen, Annie Koutrakis — 5;

NAYS: Ted Falk, Tamara Jansen, Peter Julian, Pat Kelly, Pierre Poilievre, Gabriel Ste-Marie — 6.

Debate resumed on the motion of Pierre Poilievre

Amendment

Pat Kelly moved, — That the motion be amended by adding the following: “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”.

Debate arose thereon.

At 12:42 p.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 12:47 p.m., the sitting resumed.

At 1:28 p.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 1:38 p.m., the sitting resumed.

At 1:50 p.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 2:07 p.m., the sitting resumed.

Subamendment

Mark Gerretsen moved, — That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “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”.

Debate arose thereon.

The question was put on the subamendment of Mark Gerretsen and it was negatived on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Julie Dzerowicz, Peter Fragiskatos, Sean Fraser, Mark Gerretsen, Annie Koutrakis — 5;

NAYS: Ted Falk, Tamara Jansen, Peter Julian, Warren Steinley, Gabriel Ste-Marie, Karen Vecchio — 6.

Debate resumed on the amendment of Pat Kelly

Subamendment

Mark Gerretsen moved, — That the amendment be further amended by adding the following “and further that the clerk and analysts prepare a page annotation that enables members and the Canadian public to easily find pages in various versions of the document disclosure requested by the Standing Committee on Finance.

Debate arose thereon.

The question was put on the subamendment of Mark Gerretsen and it was negatived on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Julie Dzerowicz, Peter Fragiskatos, Mark Gerretsen, Mike Kelloway, Annie Koutrakis — 5;

NAYS: Ted Falk, Tamara Jansen, Peter Julian, Warren Steinley, Gabriel Ste-Marie, Karen Vecchio — 6.

Debate resumed on the amendment of Pat Kelly

At 4:15 p.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 4:27 p.m., the sitting resumed.

Subamendment

Mark Gerretsen moved, — That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “That the committee requests the complete package of documents provided to the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons by relevant Deputy Ministers or the signatories of the transmittal letters, as well as the final package of documents that the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons approved for release, that both of the document packages be provided to the Committee no later than October 19, 2020, and that after the committee reviews the two different versions of documents, the committee invite each of the relevant Deputy Ministers or the signatories of the transmittal letters, as well as the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons, to give testimony regarding the redactions applied to the documents that were requested and granted in the motion adopted on July 7, 2020, and that until such a time as this testimony is complete, debate on the main motion and amendment from Pierre Poilievre be suspended and that the Chair be authorized to schedule these witnesses, and convene a meeting to resume debate on Pierre Poilievre’s motion once these meetings have taken place”.

Debate arose thereon.

Motion

Sean Fraser moved, — That the meeting be adjourned.

The question was put on the motion and it was agreed to on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Vance Badawey, Julie Dzerowicz, Peter Fragiskatos, Sean Fraser, Mark Gerretsen, Gabriel Ste-Marie — 6;

NAYS: Tamara Jansen, Peter Julian, Cathy McLeod, John Nater, Pierre Poilievre — 5.

At 10:16 p.m., the committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.



Evelyn Lukyniuk
Clerk of the Committee