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View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Robert Aubin Profile
2019-05-15 17:27 [p.27861]
Mr. Speaker, it is an immense pleasure to speak to the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, whom I have admired immensely since arriving here in 2011.
I will quickly remind members of the motion, which states:
That, in the opinion of the House, a special committee, chaired by the Speaker of the House, should be established at the beginning of each new Parliament, in order to select all Officers of Parliament.
On October 21, Canadians and Quebeckers will vote in the next Parliament. The first and perhaps most important distinction to make is that, when people go to the polls, they will not only elect a government, they will elect 338 men and women who will represent them in the House and form the next Parliament.
Naturally, every member of every party works hard to ensure that theirs has the largest number of seats and forms the government because that is the system we have. However, we could very well find ourselves in a situation where, to keep the government going, several parties could be called on to collaborate if the people, in their infinite wisdom, decided to elect a minority government.
That speaks to the primordial importance of parliamentarians. First and foremost, Canadians will elect a Parliament; then, there will be a government, which will form a cabinet. We all know how it works. I just want to make it clear, because we hear so much nonsense about the role of opposition members. By the way, for anyone that follows my podcasts, that will be the subject of my next one.
The role of opposition members is different, but just as important as the role of government members. Again, in their infinite wisdom, Canadians want their government, regardless of political stripe, to be responsible and to allow all different perspectives to be expressed in the House.
When we talk about officers of the House, we are talking about parliamentarians' staff. For those who do not really know what is meant by “officers of Parliament”, I will give a few examples that should sound familiar.
First there is the Auditor General. If there is one report that people look forward to every year, it is the Auditor General's report. The Auditor General has the team and resources needed to keep tabs on the government's actions. He or she raises any issues of concern.
The Chief Electoral Officer is another example. Thank God we have a Chief Electoral Officer who ensures that our voting system is impartial, neutral and functional and that it operates without interference from foreign countries.
We could talk about the Commissioner of Official Languages. We could talk about the Privacy Commissioner, especially now, when personal information is such a sensitive topic. We could also talk about the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
I would like to make one very important point. We have been saying this all along, but it is still just as true, that in all situations, these officers of Parliament must not be associated with a conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict of interest, so that they can do their jobs and also be perceived as having no ties to the executive.
What is happening right now with the appointment process? The whole process, or nearly all of it, falls entirely to the executive. It is all very well to say that the process is legitimate and fine, that there is no influence, that it is truly a coincidence that appointees are also on the Liberal Party donor list and that no one saw that coming. There is, at the very least, an appearance of conflict of interest there, which undermines the very credibility of these officers of Parliament, whose work is generally impeccable.
Before they can get to work, however, we need to make sure the appointment is impeccable. The existing process only requires the executive branch to consult the opposition parties. The word “consult” is open to interpretation. We recently saw that consulting can be as simple as sending the opposition party leaders a letter stating the name of the proposed candidate, not even a short list.
There is already a problem here, and there is an even bigger problem with the voting system, which needs to change. As we saw with the Conservatives, and again with the Liberals, a government is getting elected with 39% of the popular vote. That, however, is 39% of a total turnout of about 50%. That government suddenly ends up with 100% of the power and the responsibility of appointing 100% of the officers of Parliament. This is a clear procedural flaw that needs to be addressed.
Thank God we have this extremely simple proposal. Notwithstanding the member for Hamilton Centre's indisputable talent, his motion does not reinvent the wheel. We are not the first to notice this problem with potential conflicts of interest or apparent lack of neutrality. New Zealand and other parliaments have already taken steps toward what the member for Hamilton Centre is proposing, in order to give full authority back to elected officials via a multi-party committee.
We got a taste of how this could look when a committee made up of members from all parties was created to study electoral reform. Thanks to the NDP, this bill went a bit further to allow members of political parties that are not officially recognized in the House to serve on this committee. This brings all parliamentarians together and ensures that a single party is never making the final decision, which is instead based on a broader consensus among parliamentarians. This is, after all, about their employees.
These are our employees. When the government introduces a bill at 3 p.m. and I have to comment to the media at 3:45 p.m., it is difficult for me to analyze a 200-page document. Fortunately, the Parliamentary Budget Officer works full time, 365 days a year, minus vacation, on this and many other budget issues, to give us credible, objective and partisan-free information. We want more emphasis on ensuring that this information is free from any appearance of political involvement. This is truly a step in the right direction.
The member, in his infinite wisdom, particularly thanks to his experience in parliamentary procedure, and because time is running out as the session comes to an end, was not sure what the outcome of the motion would be, even if we all voted in favour of it. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would think this is not a good idea. I tried to find a reason, just to play devil's advocate. Perhaps someone would want to yield power to the executive in the hope of winning the election and getting that power to make choices. This would be a bad idea, since it would undermine nearly all of the principles I have been talking about today.
We could say that this is how it has always been, that it must be a British tradition and that we will not rock the boat. Well, no, we must move things along and go further. I believe that this motion is a step in the right direction. We could tell ourselves that we do not have the structure to do it. That is exactly what this motion does: it gives us the structure to do it, and it is up to us to find the means to move forward. I would like to point out that this costs nothing. All it takes is an ounce of common sense to recognize the merits of the proposal we are debating.
In my research, I could find no reason for voting against this motion. I look forward to hearing different points of view. What I am hearing so far already suggests that we seem to be headed for a broad consensus. However, I would like to present an amendment to the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, who saw that time was passing and thought that perhaps we should move beyond the issue of principle and set up a pilot project that would take us further.
This is what the amendment says:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “in the opinion of the House,” and substituting the following: “during this Parliament, a special joint committee co-chaired by the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament should be created as a pilot project to begin undertaking the selection process for the vacant Auditor General of Canada position”.
Note the term “Parliament” rather than “government”.
This is a golden opportunity to take the first steps towards this new arrangement and open the door wide for the next legislature.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2019-05-06 14:51 [p.27400]
Mr. Speaker, there are some unanswered questions about the Prime Minister's trip to the Aga Khan's island.
The letter sent to the RCMP is vital to conducting a thorough investigation to assure all Canadians of the integrity of their government and reaffirm their confidence in the administration of justice.
Will the Prime Minister agree to co-operate in the investigation process? Canadians want to know the truth.
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-05-06 14:51 [p.27400]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and our government will always co-operate with our institutions. We know that the commissioner will do his job. We know that he submitted a report and the Prime Minister took responsibility. He accepted the recommendations.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2019-05-06 14:52 [p.27400]
Mr. Speaker, much has transpired since the Ethics Commissioner found the Liberal leader violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act in accepting an illegal vacation from a lobbyist. A federal court has now ordered the Commissioner of Lobbying to reopen investigation of that lavish and illegal gift. I have asked the RCMP commissioner that, on the basis of original and new evidence, she consider a criminal investigation.
Has the Prime Minister been contacted by either the Commissioner of Lobbying or the RCMP in regard to that illegal gift?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-05-06 14:52 [p.27400]
Mr. Speaker, the member knows very well, because he spent much time asking questions on this file, that this matter has been thoroughly looked at by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. We know that a report was tabled and the Prime Minister accepted responsibility as well as the recommendations.
What is clear is that the Conservatives will continue to talk about something that has already been looked at by our officers of Parliament, because they have never had regard or respect for the work that they do. On this side, we recognize that our institutions are intact. We know that officers of Parliament do important work, and we believe that they should be able to do that independently of this place.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2019-05-06 14:53 [p.27401]
Mr. Speaker, no one was surprised that the Liberals continue to attempt to minimize and trivialize the seriousness of the Liberal leader's guilt, chronic ethical lapses and disrespect for the law, but from the illegal vacation to his actions and reactions in the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal, and half a dozen lesser scandals in between, he has shaken Canadians' confidence in the integrity of government and the administration of justice.
Again, will the Prime Minister co-operate with a criminal investigation by the RCMP or the Ontario Provincial Police?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-05-06 14:53 [p.27401]
Mr. Speaker, I will state once again that we will always respect the work of officers of Parliament and the independence of the police forces. We on this side will always co-operate with the work they do, because we recognize that Canadians deserve to have confidence in their institutions, just like we do. When it comes to our agents of Parliament, we know they do very important work, and we will let them do that important work.
While the Conservatives continue to rehash items that have already been addressed, we will continue to focus on Canadians and the things that matter to them in their everyday lives. That is why we have a program and a plan that is working, unlike the Conservatives, who continue to mislead Canadians.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve to have confidence in the integrity of their government, and right now they do not. My colleague from Thornhill has written to the RCMP to ask it to investigate whether the Prime Minister broke the law when he accepted the gift of a vacation to a tropical island from someone who was lobbying the government.
Canadians deserve answers, and they deserve them now. Will the Prime Minister co-operate with any such investigation?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-05-03 11:38 [p.27338]
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to officers of Parliament and the independence of the police force, we on this side will always have the utmost respect for them and we will always co-operate with them. As I said yesterday, it is only the Conservatives who would have to ask that question, because for 10 years under Stephen Harper, they spent their time undermining officers of Parliament. Unfortunately, under their new leader they continue to do the same.
When it comes to this matter, there was an investigation and a report was issued. The Prime Minister accepted responsibility and accepted the findings. We have confidence in our institutions, and I encourage the Conservatives to have a little confidence in them as well.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2019-05-03 11:38 [p.27338]
Mr. Speaker, in our glorious 152 years of existence, never in the history of Canada has a sitting Prime Minister been found guilty of ethics violations. This Prime Minister has been found guilty of violating the ethics code five times, four of which involved his relationship with the Aga Khan.
The Aga Khan Foundation is lobbying the government. That is why we are calling for an RCMP investigation.
Could the government ensure that the Prime Minister fully co-operates with this investigation?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-05-03 11:39 [p.27338]
Mr. Speaker, as I said, when it comes to officers of Parliament and the independence of the police force, we on this side will always have the utmost respect for them and we always will co-operate with them. We are certain that they can do their work independently from the government.
As we saw yesterday, the hon. member for Carleton and other Conservative members called into question the independence of our officers. We respect their work. We know that the commissioner did his job and submitted his report. We accepted the findings of these—
View Alain Rayes Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alain Rayes Profile
2019-05-02 14:34 [p.27299]
Mr. Speaker, Canadians thought that after the sponsorship scandal the Liberals would turn over a new leaf. What we are seeing today is that the Liberal organization has not changed its culture. The Prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party was found guilty of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act four times. Furthermore, the Federal Court wants to reopen the investigation into his family trip to the Aga Khan's island.
Will the Prime Minister agree to reopen the investigation and collaborate?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-05-02 14:34 [p.27299]
Mr. Speaker, we know that the commissioners work at arm's length from the government and the House of Commons. On this side of the House, we respect the work that the commissioners do. The Prime Minister has accepted responsibility and what the commissioner put in his report.
With respect to inappropriate donations to two political parties, we know that the commissioner of Canada elections conducted an investigation and that both parties returned those donations.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2019-05-02 14:35 [p.27299]
Mr. Speaker, it was illegal, not inappropriate.
Earlier today I wrote to the RCMP commissioner suggesting an investigation of the Liberal leader's illegal vacation to the Aga Khan's island. Recent confirmation of the RCMP's deep involvement in the planning of the vacation, as well as lingering questions involving the Liberal leader's behaviour in the SNC corruption scandal, underscore the need to assure Canadians that there is only one law that must be followed by all Canadians.
Will the Prime Minister cooperate in any belated criminal investigation into his illegal vacation?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-05-02 14:36 [p.27300]
Mr. Speaker, as we know, this matter has been thoroughly studied by the former conflict of interest and ethics commissioner. The Prime Minister has accepted her findings. The Prime Minister has accepted responsibility when it comes to this matter.
The member opposite should very well know that ATIPs are handled completely separately from political staff. I should not have to remind the Conservatives that they were the ones who were found guilty of politically interfering with the ATIP process. It is unfortunate, because they actually rehired the person who was responsible and was found guilty.
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