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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
I call to order the 42nd meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. I would like to remind colleagues that today's meeting is webcast and will be available through the House of Commons website. The committee is meeting today because of a request that I and the clerk received from four members of the committee, pursuant to Standing Order 106(4), to discuss a request to undertake a study of members' expenses related to Data Sciences and NGP VAN.
Now, given the ongoing restrictions here in the province of Ontario and in the House of Commons, based on the recommendations of health authorities, I'd like to remind members that there is a two-metre physical distancing requirement. Members must maintain masks when circulating throughout the rooms. Proper hand hygiene is encouraged as well. Hand sanitizer is available here in the room. As chair, I will be enforcing those measures. If you as members have any requests in terms of these requirements, please let me or the clerk know. Thank you for your co-operation.
I see that I have a speaking list starting to develop. Mr. Barrett has indicated he wants to go first, followed by Mr. Carrie.
Mr. Barrett, I will turn to you.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Thanks very much, Chair.
The reasons for the 106(4) letter that you referenced, which has us here today, are some concerning revelations that have been reported in the media, specifically The Globe and Mail, that deal with contracts involving Data Sciences, which is a company that was founded by an individual named Tom Pitfield. This individual is a personal lifelong friend of the Prime Minister, who is a member of the Liberal caucus. This individual is also a senior Liberal campaign strategist, and that organization, Data Sciences, has been an integral part, as publicly reported, of the Liberal Party of Canada's electoral campaigns and their voter contact database known as Liberalist. It helps with things like digital engagement for its campaigns.
Furthermore, NGP VAN is a company that the Liberal Party of Canada licenses to run its political database. NGP VAN and Data Sciences are reported by the folks who have been contacted by The Globe and Mail to do the same thing. We've seen the contract between the Liberal members who have signed and NGP VAN, and we know that Data Sciences is being contracted by Liberal members. The rationale once given by the company for the contract with Data Sciences is that it provides technical support for the services provided by NGP VAN. The problem with this is that the contract that was published in The Globe and Mail details the service-level agreement including technical support for its own software, which raises the question, what is Data Sciences doing for the Liberal members? What are they getting from this contract?
When asked, some members of the Liberal caucus responded—and here I'll refer to a June 21 Globe and Mail article entitled “Liberal MPs’ budgets pay same firms that help run party’s digital campaigns”—as follows. The article reads in part:
Mr. Easter [the member for Malpeque] was unable to explain what Data Sciences did for his office in managing social media. “I do my own,” he said. “I quite honestly don’t know what [Data Sciences] does,” he added.
Liberal MP John McKay also said he had no idea why money from his office budget was going to Mr. Pitfield’s company. “I haven't got a clue,” he said. “I can't explain it. I vaguely recall that once a year we write a cheque and it's always been explained that it is within the ethical guidelines, so we all kind of sign up for it and it just goes into some oblivion”.
The concern as it relates to this committee, Chair, is that this places some members of the government—members of the Liberal caucus—in a conflict of interest based on their relationship with Mr. Pitfield. We have individuals who have personal friendships with public office holders. They're then given contracts by those public office holders, and, what's more, those individuals, in this case a minister, are in a position to direct or coordinate other members to retain those services for purposes that the members are unclear about.
Certainly in the context of our fiduciary responsibility to manage the funds that are entrusted to us in the exercise of our role as members of Parliament and to dispense funds from what we know as our MOB, our members' operating budget, it's important that we first of all understand why we're retaining the services of others. I also think it's important for Canadians to understand that signing contracts is not something a member can delegate. Members have to personally sign and authorize those contracts. There needs to be an understanding and certainly a basic awareness of what a contract is for. That's exercising a basic fiduciary responsibility.
When there is all of this context of those personal relationships, of that connection to a political organization, and when in these contracts it's very clear that there's an exclusivity, that the company will only deal with members of one political affiliation, in this case Liberal members, it raises all kinds of questions. The functionality of the software also raises questions about whether there is an ability to engage in very specific voter-related activities.
It's for those reasons that we initiated the call for this meeting. It's very important, when there seems to be an inevitable election coming this summer.... I welcome the Prime Minister's proving the speculators wrong on that, because now is not the time for an election. I think it's important that we understand whether or not taxpayer money from members' budgets has been used to subsidize the political operations of a political party in Canada. It's very important that we know that there's been no misappropriation of that money and that we understand that there have been no conflicts of interest in members' and ministers' exercise of their duties. That's what brings us here today.
With that said, Chair, I would like to move the following motion:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h)(vii), and in light of recent media reports, the committee undertake a study on conflicts of interest relating to taxpayer-funded contracts with Data Sciences Inc; and that the committee do invite Mr. Tom Pitfield to appear and testify before the committee at a time and date of the Chair’s choosing and no later than seven days following the adoption of this motion.
Mr. Chair, that motion is available in both official languages in paper format, and it's been provided in electronic format to the clerk, so it's whatever your comfort or members' comfort is with receiving that in paper. Once that's been distributed, I just have a few final comments to make before other members speak to or against the motion.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, can we have some time to study the motion, since it's the first time the committee is seeing it? Can we have 10 minutes?
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
What we'll do is circulate it. I will suspend the meeting until such time as it's been circulated. I'm not sure it will be for a full 10 minutes, but it will allow for members to at least read it before debate. I believe Mr. Barrett had some further comments to make, so it will allow members to read through that as well during that period of time.
We'll now suspend for just a moment....
Mr. Dong.
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View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Han Dong Profile
2021-07-12 11:10
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I believe it's the order that once a member moves a motion, he pretty much loses the floor. The floor is ceded to the next speaker.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Barrett did not cede the floor. He did make it clear that he was circulating the motion to allow him to speak to it.
If it's the member's desire, we can continue and not suspend, if that's more helpful for members. I think there's a difference of opinion.
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View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Han Dong Profile
2021-07-12 11:10
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Is Mr. Barrett officially moving the motion?
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
He's moving the motion, and he's made it clear that he has some comments to make with regard to the motion.
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View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Han Dong Profile
2021-07-12 11:11
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He has further comments. He isn't done moving the motion. That's part of the moving of the motion process.
Okay. Got it.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
We will suspend until such time as the motion is circulated.
The meeting is suspended.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
I call this meeting back to order.
I believe the copies have been circulated.
Mr. Barrett, we will turn to you.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, with respect to the concerns about a conflict of interest, this is something that's been discussed in the last year—certainly the appearance of a conflict of interest—but we need to be, of course, cognizant of actual conflicts of interests as well. Mr. Pitfield's personal relationship and the question that it raises.... As I initially identified, there is that relationship with the Prime Minister, but there's also a relationship with other ministers of the Crown as well—Minister Miller, Minister O'Regan. The connection to the Liberal Party is as close as you could get, because at the time these contracts were initially signed, Mr. Pitfield was married to the then Liberal Party of Canada president. Moreover, the Prime Minister's principal secretary at the time, Mr. Butts, was also a personal friend of Mr. Pitfield.
These close relationships, when awarding a contract.... We talk about the magnitude of the two contracts, but whether it's tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, we are responsible for ensuring that not only do we spend the money wisely so that we can serve our constituents with those members' office budgets, but that we also make sure that we're not undermining the public's confidence in what we do here and how we got here.
As I mentioned before, in the context of an election, if members of a party are taking the funds from those office budgets to help subsidize the political operations of a political party, which will ultimately be the same banner they run under in the next election, well, that is going to give rise to concern among Canadians about the independence of and the confidence they can have in their elected officials and public institutions. It's that perception, but also that real conflict when we have those close relationships.
There's also the dynamic of when the party whip, as reported in the newspaper, is the one coordinating or directing members to all procure the same service provider. Members aren't given a whole lot of leeway. You know, the party whip has one job, and it's to get people to do what the government wants them to do. The whip assigns committee roles. The whip assigns your seat in the chamber. Certainly, if things aren't going well between you and the party whip, you're not going to find yourself on the front bench or serving as a parliamentary secretary or a committee chair if you're in a party that is first or second in the House.
It's certainly concerning. It creates the perfect storm for conflict when you have those personal relationships with members at the cabinet table and you have a member at the cabinet table directing or coordinating other members to all procure the services of this individual and their company. Then, what is that company actually doing? Is there a benefit for service? Well, that remains unclear. We have two Liberal members saying they have no idea what the services are for, and then we have the response from the Liberal research bureau as to what the company is doing for them, while those very same members have also signed a contract for a company that's providing the identical service, in terms of technical support, as NGP VAN is for them.
That's the crux of the matter here. I do think this is something that we can deal with rather expeditiously. I think we can address this issue. If it's simply miscommunication, or a lack of information, perhaps members today will be able to enlighten us on exactly what this contract does in their office. That might go a long way. It might shorten the length of time we would need to devote to this. Perhaps, if Mr. Pitfield were available, if this motion passes, we could dispense with this matter before the end of the week. I know that folks have travelled to Ottawa. We could get this done over a couple of quick meetings after today.
I think that would go a long way to reassuring Canadians about what's happening in their democratic institutions on the eve of an election.
Thank you.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I have a speaking list that has developed here: Mr. Carrie, Mr. Boulerice, and then Mrs. Shanahan.
Mr. Carrie.
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View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-07-12 11:19
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank Mr. Barrett for bringing this up. This really speaks to the fundamental transparency of our electoral system. I was extremely concerned when I read about this in The Globe and Mail, especially now as we are wading towards an unnecessary election. Canadians deserve to know where their money is going. It's very clear that Mr. Pitfield is a partisan actor here. He did the work for the Liberal Party in the 2015 and 2019 political campaigns, and my understanding is that he is going to be doing the same thing again. However, he is being paid by Liberal members out of their operating budgets. As Mr. Barrett pointed out, and what many Canadians don't understand, is that our operating budgets are for our constituents.
In my office we look after seniors, veterans, people who are looking for benefits, and immigration. To have their taxpayer dollars, especially during this pandemic, going for partisan purposes is something that concerns everyone, because it does speak to the fundamental transparency of our system. What's extremely disturbing to me is what appears to be the connection here, in that these are more Liberal insiders. In other words here's Mr. Pitfield, who is one of the Prime Minister's best friends. Let's just talk about this relationship here. He grew up with him. Their fathers were best friends. He went to that illegal vacation with the Prime Minister and his wife, with his wife, who was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Then we find out through the media about these secret agreements, these contracts. Even Liberal MPs don't even know what his company is doing. We have a copy of the contract with the company that is supposed to be doing it, NGP VAN, and we found out that there was a centralized campaign that was steered by the party whip. Mr. Barrett clearly pointed out—and I don't think Canadians realize who the party whip is—that the party whip is the guy who has the whip. He tells you about discipline, about what to do and what not to do, and when he presents a contract to members to sign, as The Globe and Mail reported, 97% of Liberal MPs signed that thing.
I just wonder what kind of pressure there would be for me as a member of Parliament if my whip came up and said, “sign this”, because our functions here at the House and everything is determined by the whip's office. Whether we're sitting on a certain committee or whether it's in terms of the influence to become a minister or a parliamentary secretary, the pressure on members of Parliament would be enormous. I would just look at which members of Parliament didn't sign this and what they're doing right now. That will be interesting as we investigate this further.
The government has been asked these questions, and it hasn't been forthcoming. The situation we're in right now is one of pre-election. We see the Prime Minister going out and spending taxpayers' money right, left, and centre. As I said, members' operating budgets are for our constituents. This is something that was organized through a minister's office, through the whip directive to other ministers and members of Parliament, and if this is true, Mr. Chair, a conflict of interest has occurred. Liberal ministers having a relationship with a company and forcing contracts to be signed between members of Parliament and a personal friend of the Prime Minister for services that apparently are being covered by another company is an outrageous abuse of our privileges here, Mr. Chair.
This is something on which, as Mr. Barrett says, there may just be a miscommunication. I think Canadians deserve to know where their tax dollars are going, and given the history of this Prime Minister, we need to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Boulerice.
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View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, everyone.
Obviously, we in the NDP were also disturbed when we learned from media reports that almost the entire Liberal caucus had given a portion of its parliamentary funding to a company called Data Sciences, which is in part responsible for running the Liberalist database. Another company, NGP VAN, is also paid by the Liberal Party of Canada to run the database.
The lines have been blurred; this is a grey area. People are rightly asking questions. Is the Liberal Party of Canada spending parliamentary funds on a database that it uses for partisan purposes? It is entirely appropriate for us to ask that question, especially since Data Sciences is owned by Thomas Pitfield, a personal friend of the Prime Minister. It feels as though the record got stuck at the same spot and history is repeating itself: the Liberals are helping friends of the Liberal Party and making no bones about reportedly using taxpayer money to do so.
Questions have to be asked. The facts have to come out. No stone should be left unturned in getting to the truth.
We agree that Mr. Pitfield should appear as a witness. We need to hear from him. We have questions for him. However, we don't want this to turn into a free-for-all or some flagrantly partisan spectacle. In light of the unanswered questions before us, we think two hours with Mr. Pitfield would probably be long enough to ask the necessary questions, and obtain the clarity and information to either reassure Canadians or worry them even more.
We are amenable to the motion that was put forward by the member and is currently before the committee, but we would like it to specify that the committee will hold only one meeting on the subject. With only one witness, two hours should be plenty of time for the committee to examine the issue. We are not interested in spending all summer on this. It would be a misuse of taxpayer money to drag this out doggedly if the issue could be dealt with in two hours.
We are in favour of holding one meeting with Mr. Pitfield as the witness.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
We'll turn to Mrs. Shanahan.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Usually, it's quite nice to see everyone in person, but to be honest, I don't sense much enthusiasm in the room today, and I wonder why. In the past, we have seen Mr. Barrett muster up a lot more passion for other issues. Perhaps the reason is that there is nothing to this issue, so it can hardly arouse any passion.
I do, however, want to take this opportunity to answer a basic question. What does Data Sciences do? Allow me to explain.
I, for one, know that the firm provides my office with technical support. Mr. Gourde, Ms. Gaudreau and Mr. Boulerice will probably understand when I say that finding IT support in French is really tough, especially for English-based software. Data Sciences provides that service. It is a Canadian company that hires bilingual employees with the skills to provide us with the service we need.
I went over the monthly invoices, and they look like any other invoices for technical support: $200 here, $149 there. The company provides a valuable service for my French-speaking constituents and staff. That is what the company does. An American company can't provide services in French. As for the company's anglophone services, the fact that it's Canadian makes it that much better.
Those of us on this side are wondering what the point of all this is, but at the end of the day, we know full well why we are here. We know exactly why the members across the way don't want to let the summer go by without summoning us to Ottawa. Suddenly, it's no longer time to talk election, even though they have repeatedly voted against the government. In their minds, it's time for the fake scandal of the summer, as I like to call it, and they are doing their darndest to stir one up.
I feel really sorry for everyone out there who hung around Mr. Trudeau in the schoolyard when they were children. I imagine that, right now, someone is compiling a list of all the Prime Minister's friends from school. “Found one; let's investigate. Here's one who owns a business; let's check it out.”
We've seen it all before on this committee, haven't we? Luckily, we were meeting virtually then, not in person. People with the slightest hint of a connection to anyone in the Liberal Party were called as witnesses. They were hauled before the committee so members could pick holes in their story. They were regular folks. I'm sure everyone recalls the appearance of Martin Perelmuter, one of the owners of Speakers' Spotlight. I found it uncomfortable to listen to the questions asked of him and others. He was simply doing his job—hiring people to give talks—but he had the misfortune of doing business with someone connected to the Prime Minister. That was all it took to unleash the name-calling. It was all over social media.
Mr. Chair, I'm still waiting for certain members of the committee to apologize, for that matter. Luckily, the chair apologized at the time, but I'm still waiting for their apologies.
I won't get into all that, though, because I would have a whole lot more to say on the subject.
I was glad, however, to see the media report on political parties' collection and use of data. That is already an important issue here, in Parliament, but it does not fall within this committee's purview. Matters pertaining to the activities of political parties are normally dealt with by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs or the Board of Internal Economy.
This committee deals instead with public office holders, in other words, those who hold the position of minister or top public servants. It is not the committee's job to investigate what goes on in this person's or that person's office. I'm looking at you, Mr. Gourde, but it could just as easily be my, your or Ms. Lattanzio's office. That is not the committee's job.
In a moment, I'm going to ask the clerk to recap the committee's mandate for us. It's been a long time since we've all reviewed it together. I know that you, Mr. Boulerice, have experience and know exactly what I mean. Every committee has a specific mandate and purpose. This committee examines matters pertaining to four commissioners, the Ethics Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbying and I forget the fourth one. Can anyone help me out?
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View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
The Information Commissioner.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
That's it, the Information Commissioner. In fact, we had plans to study access to information issues. We wanted to do more work in that area.
That said, the news articles before us mention more than just the Liberal members and poor Mr. Pitfield, who has the misfortune of being Justin Trudeau's friend. The Conservatives are also mentioned. According to the reports, the Conservatives have their own system. If I understand correctly, it isn't paid for by the House, but the purpose is to reach out to citizens who are not necessarily donors or voters. It's combined. I'd like to know more about the system; I think it's very interesting.
I'll tell you something, Mr. Barrett. Ten years ago, I donated $50 to the Conservative Party. That was in Jim Flaherty's day.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
That's the truth. Jim Flaherty was working on financial literacy. Do you know that I still receive emails from certain members sent from their Assistant 1 accounts? I made a donation to the party, but I receive emails from constituency offices. Interesting, isn't it? Perhaps we should look into that. I think it's very important.
Let's get back to the information before us relating to the Liberal Party. We've had contracts with these two companies for years. The company with the odd name—what is it again? Here it is. It's called NGP VAN. That company provides the software. It's a long-standing contract. It's the same company we deal with for the Liberalist database, but there's what they call a firewall between the two systems. All the big IT companies have that because of all their different clients. If another party ever wanted to do business with the company, it could have the opportunity.
Nevertheless, we've seen all the attempts by the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes—what a lovely name for a riding, by the way. He and his party are going out of their way to find the name of every single business person who is a Liberal. It's actually not a crime to be a Liberal. We all have our political allegiances in life. We want people to engage in civic life. We want people to be politically active. That's what democracy is all about. According to Mr. Barrett, however, it is unacceptable to own a business and do business with our party. Clearly, this is yet another witch hunt. They have found nothing. Isn't that right? The Ethics Commissioner released his report, but the findings probably weren't what the opposition members were hoping for.
As I said earlier, I'd really appreciate having the clerk talk about the mandate of this committee and that of the Board of Internal Economy. It may not cover everything, but I have a snippet here.
This is what the Standing Orders say about this committee's mandate:
(h) Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics shall include, among other matters:(i) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with the operational and expenditure plans relating to the Information Commissioner;(ii) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with the operational and expenditure plans relating to the Privacy Commissioner;(iii) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with the operational and expenditure plans relating to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner;(iv) the review of and report on the effectiveness, management and operation, together with the operational and expenditure plans relating to the Commissioner of Lobbying;(v) the review of and report on reports of the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbying and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to his or her responsibilities under the Parliament of Canada Act relating to public office holders and on reports tabled pursuant to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, which shall be severally deemed permanently referred to the committee immediately after they are laid upon the table;
That brings me to Standing Order 108(3)(h)(vi):
(vi) in cooperation with other committees, the review of and report on any federal legislation, regulation or standing order which impacts upon the access to information or privacy of Canadians or the ethical standards of public office holders;(vii) the proposing, promoting, monitoring and assessing of initiatives which relate to access to information and privacy across all sectors of Canadian society and to ethical standards relating to public office holders;and any other matter which the House shall from time to time refer to the standing committee.
It's clear, then, that the committee's mandate relates only to the work of those four commissioners or a special project, such as the one on the security of personal information or the one on new technologies, which we tried to undertake and hope to have a chance to complete. Nevertheless, the parliamentary institution that deals with issues of a more political and partisan nature, and matters relating to the expenditures of members is the Board of Internal Economy.
We have all seen cases where members misused their funding and had to go before the Board of Internal Economy to defend themselves. They faced fines or restrictions as a result of their actions.
As we all know, the Board of Internal Economy is made up of members from every recognized party. That is one of the principles of Parliament: members are to settle issues related to the activities of other members.
Here we all are, meeting today. I'm not sure what things are like in your neck of the woods, but we are probably all trying to enjoy a bit of downtime with our families. In my province, things are good and we are able to go out. I've even participated in a few activities put on by not-for-profit organizations. Businesses have been able to hire students. Things are good, and we are able to serve our constituents. That is the whole point of using any software to manage constituency work. For instance, these systems help us identify where farmers who need to be consulted are. Right now, I'm consulting with stakeholders and organizations that work with people with disabilities. It's really important to have access to systems like these, which help us do our job. I hope no one here is going to dismiss the importance of having access to service in French as well. I hope everyone understands just how important it is to have this type of technical support available in both official languages.
It's hard to stop once you get going, but I will leave it there. Now I'll switch to English to explain what I'd like to do.
I will now move the following amendment:
Whereas section 52.6 of the Parliament of Canada Act states that, in relation to the BOIE, “the Board has the exclusive authority to determine whether any previous, current or proposed use by a member of the House of Commons of any funds, goods, services or premises made available to that member for the carrying out of parliamentary functions is or was proper, given the discharge of the parliamentary functions of members of the House of Commons, including whether any such use is or was proper having regard to the intent and purpose of the by-laws made under subsection 52.5(1)”, I move that the motion be amended by adding, after the word “That”, the following:
the issue of contracts related to Data Sciences be referred to the BOIE. That the issue of the CIMS system which facilitates partisan election related actions to be taken from constituency offices and parliament hill offices to determine if they are in compliance with the rules set out by the Board also be referred to the BOIE.
I have it in English only. Can I send it to you?
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Mrs. Shanahan, if you have that sent over to the clerk so that it can be circulated, I will review it then.
Members, we will suspend for a couple of minutes until such point as....
Monsieur Boulerice, you have a point of order.
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View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
I do, indeed, have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
The Liberals' amendment is in English only. Is there a French version? If not, it is out of order, in my view.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Usually, we have it translated, but this time, I have only the English version. My apologies.
If you give us a bit of time, we can have the amendment in French. I should say that it's largely based on the wording from our package.
Should we work on it, and...?
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
It would be helpful if you would supply it to the clerk in both official languages.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Great.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
That makes it much faster, in our experience.
We'll suspend until such time as it has been distributed in both official languages.
The meeting is suspended.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
We'll call the meeting back to order.
The amendment has been circulated. It would insert the text sent by Ms. Shanahan between the words “That” and “pursuant”. Based on the amendment, it would add to the motion proposed by Mr. Barrett. That is the amendment.
As the chair, I'm in a little bit of a conflicted position in that I don't know that it's out of order for us to do this, but I do know that that is not done: Committees don't tell other committees, and don't have the power to tell other committees, what to do. So we are restricted. This amendment, based on the way it has been proposed, would simply be an addition to the motion and the instruction that Mr. Barrett's motion would provide. It would effectively make simultaneous or concurrent investigations by two separate committee, if in fact BOIE took up the recommendation. We aren't able to instruct other committees what to do.
I do have a speaking order on this. We have Mr. Barrett, Ms. Lattanzio, Mr. Fergus, Mr. Carrie and Madame Gaudreau.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I'm sorry, but my amendment would remove everything afterwards. It is a request that it be moved that—
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
That wasn't what was submitted.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Okay.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Would you like to withdraw your amendment?
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
No.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
We will debate the amendment as it has been proposed.
Mr. Barrett.
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View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
2021-07-12 12:04
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On a point of order, Mr. Chair, could you just read the amendment, then, and the motion as it would be amended?
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
I believe you all had it sent to you. Effectively, Ms. Shanahan's amendment would be inserted, as it prescribes, after the word “That” of Mr. Barrett's motion. Ms. Shanahan's amendment would be inserted there as per her instructions.
Mr. Barrett.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
This is on the same point of order, Chair, before you recognize me in the speaking order.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm recognizing you on a point of order, Mr. Barrett.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
The amendment seems to deviate from the scope of the original motion. It seems to me that by referring it to another committee and including other elements that are not included in the original motion and that are not part of members' disclosures because they are not paid for by members' office budgets, we've really gone off track here from the original motion.
I'm not sure, Chair, if you can give us a definitive ruling, but if you're ruling this motion in order, because based on that, I question whether or not it's within the scope of the original motion.
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View Patricia Lattanzio Profile
Lib. (QC)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I understand what my colleague just said, but in terms of the interventions that have been made here this morning, the original motion of my colleague speaks to “in light of recent media reports”. Well, media reports, if we base ourselves on the various articles of The Globe and Mail, have discussed not just the ones that are pertinent to what my colleague is putting into his motion. We've spoken about the CIMS and Populus and about other data that have been used by all of the various parties. I think on that point, the amendment of my colleague Ms. Shanahan is very much on point.
Mr. Barrett, you make reference to “in light of recent media reports” on this issue. The issue, if I'm understanding you correctly, is with regard to using constituency data for political purposes. The participants this morning have referred to these media reports. I think that's why you came up with this motion.
In all fairness, Mr. Chair, I think the amendment is very pertinent.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm recognizing Mr. Carrie on the same point of order.
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View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-07-12 12:07
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Yes. I wanted to speak to this point of order, Mr. Chair. What I'm concerned about is that we've seen this tactic before by the Liberals. They like to talk out an issue that they really don't want to address. I'm concerned because the amendment is, in my viewpoint, ridiculous. To be sending....
She mentioned CIMS in her statement. My colleague mentioned taxpayer dollars versus partisan dollars. It seems the Liberals have no idea about the difference between them. The CIMS is not using taxpayer dollars. The original motion that we're talking about is about the Liberal Party using members' operating budget dollars, taxpayer dollars, to fund partisan activities. That's what we're talking about. The scope of her amendment is entirely beyond the scope of anything we would be doing here. I would submit that even the Board of Internal Economy wouldn't be looking at it, because they look after members' operating budgets. They don't look after partisan activities at all.
Mr. Chair, I think we're going to end up talking this out because the Liberals just don't want to deal with this—again—and I'm worried about a cover-up.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
On the point of order, gentlemen, I will go to Mr. Fergus.
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View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2021-07-12 12:09
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
On the point of order raised by my colleague Dr. Carrie, I would just like to make sure that we understand, that everyone understands, that CIMS is paid for by the party to be used for partisan purposes. The real issue is that CIMS is also being used by constituency and Hill staff, who are paid with taxpayer dollars. Therefore, who pays for the actual database is not relevant. It's that the staff, paid by taxpayer dollars, are doing partisan work by using that partisan database from their offices or from their equipment, which is also paid for by taxpayer dollars.
Mr. Chair, that's the reason. I'm just clarifying that for Dr. Carrie.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
It seems that we've gotten into a point of debate. I believe the point of order was Ms. Shanahan's originally. She was making a point of order with regard to whether her text would be inserted or whether it would replace existing text. I have ruled that, based on how she submitted it, it would be inserted between the words “That” and “pursuant”. This would be an addition.
It is not common—it is something that actually is impossible—for one committee to tell another committee what to do, but I am going to allow this amendment to be voted on by the committee members to determine. Whether or not they appreciate our instruction, if in fact it passes, that's up to them. I think it would probably be best to move to a vote on the amendment, if the committee would allow for that. Then we can get on with debate on either the amended motion or the original motion.
We'll move to a vote, unless members want to....
We still have a speaking list. Okay. We'll go back to a speaking list on the amendment.
I'm getting different signals here. Some don't want to go back to the speakers—
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View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
I have a point of order.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
We can go to a vote or we can have—
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View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Before you call the vote, could you please tell us again what we are voting on, so we know exactly what's what.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
The debate right now is on the amendment. It's just on the amendment. It's not on the motion but on the amendment from Ms. Shanahan.
If members want to speak to that, I do have a list of members.
Mr. Barrett.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Thanks very much, Chair.
Let me go back to some of the remarks Ms. Shanahan made. She called this a fake scandal. I wonder where we've heard before the Liberals say that the story in The Globe and Mail is false. Well, of course we know that this came directly from Prime Minister Trudeau when they laid out the case that ultimately saw him found guilty, for a second time, of breaking ethics laws. That's the commentary we get from the Liberals when they say that they don't believe the story, that they don't believe The Globe and Mail reporting. It's as close to calling it fake news as we might get, but they call it a fake scandal. Well, that's certainly their purview.
I mean, I wonder if Mr. Easter, who's quoted in that original article, is getting real bang for his buck with that French-language translation service, if he's really digging deep with that. I wonder if all of the dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of Liberal members are availing themselves of that. We have seen before that the Liberals will procure the services of a company that is completely unable to fulfill their obligations in the service of French-speaking Canadians. We saw that with the WE scandal. They said there was only one company in the world that could deliver the CSSG for them, and it was this WE group, but they were going to need—
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View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
2021-07-12 12:13
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I have a point of order.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm recognizing a point of order.
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View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
2021-07-12 12:13
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Is this on a point of order? Are we—
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
No, we're on the speaking list. We're on the debate—
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View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
2021-07-12 12:13
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It's on the amendment.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
It's on the amendment.
Go ahead, Mr. Barrett.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, I'm glad that we have Mr. MacKinnon joining our show already in progress. Welcome to the committee, Mr. MacKinnon.
Yes, you may not have had the opportunity to hear all of the outrageous claims that were made by your colleagues on why the WE organization was selected to deliver a program that it couldn't possibly deliver on, which was why the government had to sub out French language services if it were to deliver the CSSG in Quebec. We have a real pattern here. The Liberals say, “Yes, we have this great service provider, but they can only do half the job. They can't serve French language constituents, so we're going to pay somebody else to deliver on that service as well.”
Ms. Shanahan also talked about the committee's ability to handle this matter. The Standing Orders are very clear in subparagraph 108(3)(h)(vii):
the proposing, promoting, monitoring and assessing of initiatives which relate to access to information and privacy across all sectors of Canadian society and to ethical standards relating to public office holders;
Therefore, this study is quite clearly within the mandate of our committee. I'm sure they'd like to talk about lots of other things, such as what Conservatives do, so if we're going to talk about what we do in our offices, I'm glad that we brought it up. I'm happy to tell the members of the committee that in my office we use a program called CivicTrack. We don't use any other software.
I'd be very interested to hear about their data management practices. You've heard mine. You can see that disclosure and you can talk to my staff. In fact, some are here. If we wanted to get this under way today, I'd be happy to have my staff talk to the committee about how we exercise our function and how we are appropriately stewarding taxpayer dollars.
I have a lot of questions about what's happening on the other side of the table. That's why it's so important that we hear from Mr. Pitfield. This amendment that we have from the Liberals is a red herring. They want us to chase this amendment and run out the clock.
We're here to deal with something. We can deal with it very quickly. I would be very happy to support an amendment to the main motion that, as Mr. Boulerice suggested, would see us meet for two hours. Once we've dispensed with this, I'd be pleased to deal with that idea. If the intention is that members want to add all of the parties' data management software and all the independent service providers they use and give the Board of Internal Economy lots of work to do over the summer, I guess it would be up to BOIE if it wanted to take up the task, but let's talk about what this committee can do. This committee, today, can decide to deal with this issue.
I think it's very serious when we have a potential conflict of interest and we have a minister of the Crown directing other members on how to spend their office budgets. Those members have no idea how it works. Let's not fall for any parlour tricks today. Let's instead focus on what we're here to discuss, and that's taxpayer dollars being spent on a contract that's very problematic for the Liberals. Let's deal with that.
Once we've dealt with the amendment that's on the floor, Mr. Chair, I'd be pleased to move an amendment to the motion in support of Mr. Boulerice's suggestion that we deal with this issue expeditiously, potentially even concluding it this week.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm going to continue down the speaking list. If members don't want to speak to the amendment but would like to speak to something else, just indicate that you no longer desire to speak to it.
Madame Lattanzio, you have the floor.
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View Patricia Lattanzio Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Formally, I'd like to say hello to my colleagues, whom I haven't seen in person in a while. It feels good to see each and every one of you here today.
I'm not exactly sure why we're here, Mr. Chair. For the past few weeks since the House has—
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