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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks to the committee for the opportunity to speak.
Thanks to Mr. Poilievre's intervention, I don't have to recite the jobs questions I asked at the justice committee.
I'm deeply troubled by what faces us. All of you around the table I regard as friends, and I try to approach things in a very non-partisan way, which is very hard on the eve of an election. Everybody goes into hyper-partisan mode then, and this is, in a lot of ways, red meat right before an election. I know that, but something is really wrong here. Something is deeply wrong here, and I beg my friends around the table to allow Mr. Dion to speak to us.
I thought I knew what had transpired in the SNC-Lavalin mess based on the testimony of our former justice minister and former attorney general. Her chronology, her notes, I thought covered everything that had occurred, and I believed her every syllable, but Mr. Dion's report has shaken me far more than our former attorney general's testimony, and I'll tell you why.
We now know there were meetings that took place on the edge of other international gatherings, like in Davos, including the Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau and the CEO of SNC-Lavalin, and that the idea of changing our law to insert a deferred prosecution agreement into the Criminal Code came from SNC-Lavalin for their use specifically.
No wonder the machinery of government began to panic when the plan wasn't working out. There was a hiccup because the justice minister and attorney general at the time respected the principle of prosecutorial independence and wouldn't intervene against the section 13 report of the director of public prosecutions.
This is a critical point: There were other ministers involved. I thought and still think, because I bend over backward to be fair to everyone concerned, that part of the reason the Prime Minister doesn't realize what he did was wrong is that he didn't receive a decent legal briefing from his Clerk of the Privy Council. None was provided to him by the clerk or by his staff, but he did receive a decent legal briefing from Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former minister of justice and attorney general, who told him, “Watch what you're doing. You're interfering in prosecutorial independence”. I know she didn't sit him down and get out a chalkboard and explain it. She didn't think she had to.
What I find really troubling about what Mr. Dion uncovered is the idea that in any government governed by the rule of law a minister of justice and attorney general's position would be so deeply undermined by her colleagues.
I know that a lot of Liberals have said it was wrong of her to tape Michael Wernick. I understood why, under the circumstances, she felt it necessary, but the deeper distrust is to imagine that a report from a former Supreme Court judge, a very respected jurist, John Major, peddled by SNC-Lavalin's lawyer, also a former Supreme Court judge, Frank Iacobucci, blinded people around the cabinet table—because of the power of those justices' titles and the previous work they have done on the Supreme Court—to the reality that the only legal advice they should have been taking was from their own lawyer, the attorney general.
However, what is really shocking to me is that they peddled this report undermining the judgment of their cabinet colleague, the minister of justice and attorney general. They peddled it without even sharing it with her. I ask my Liberal friends to imagine for one minute a scenario in which Jean Chrétien allowed his cabinet colleagues to circulate a memo undermining Irwin Cotler. Can you imagine Pierre Trudeau allowing his cabinet colleagues to circulate a memo undermining the judgment of John Turner?
This is really scandalous. The Prime Minister is guilty here of the kind of offence for which resignation is appropriate. I leave it to him. I'm not calling for his resignation, but it does strike me as beyond belief that this kind of thing could go on. It's not a small matter. It shouldn't be covered up. We really do need to ask Mr. Dion what he uncovered. We need to hear his opinion on the nature of further remedies and how many steps we should take to ensure that cabinet confidentiality is removed so that those nine additional witnesses can be heard.
I also want to say very clearly that I don't think this is a partisan issue. I think it is systemic. It is shocking that the senior civil service of this country could be manipulated by a transnational corporation in this fashion, and I think lots of other transnational corporations may have the same kind of access. This is systemic regardless of who is in the PMO. Regardless if it's a Conservative or a Liberal government, we have to ensure that the machinery of government, our civil service, is not at the disposal of transnational corporations to do their bidding.
I don't think it's about the Prime Minister and making this a political football in the election campaign. I think it's a much larger issue and I think it is systemic. I'd like to hear from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
I think we now have a moral obligation to protect our democracy against the power of large global firms.
Right now our democracy looks weakened by this. We need to get to the bottom of it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just want to make a couple of quick points in response to some of the points put forward by my colleagues. I am not a voting member at this table, of course.
First of all, it's a really hard issue for all of us here around the table, but I have to say that—following somewhat from your point, Mr. Erskine-Smith—I found it unhelpful to describe this case as the Prime Minister telling people that he wanted them to break the law. For what it's worth, I maintain that, to this day, I don't think the Prime Minister understands that what he did was wrong, which is maybe equally troubling or more troubling. I think he's maintained that view because the people around him were overwhelmed by the fact that former Supreme Court judges were telling them what to do and were undermining their Attorney General, who happened to be a younger woman and indigenous, and this part of the story bothers me.
What should the former attorney general have done? I want to remind my friend Mr. Erskine-Smith of her testimony to the justice committee. She said to those lobbying her on behalf of SNC-Lavalin that if they have additional evidence, that goes to the decision-maker, who in this case is Kathleen Roussel, director of public prosecutions. Our former attorney general said, on the evidence, that she had told those lobbying for SNC-Lavalin that if they had a representation on a threat to jobs and they send it to her, she would ensure that it is put before the director of public prosecutions so she can take it into consideration. Such a letter was never sent.
It's also disturbing to me that so many people—and I would like to have before the ethics committee many of them who were mentioned in the testimony of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould—were given access by our former attorney general to the section 13 report, which is highly confidential, of the former director of public prosecutions. They declined to read it and seem to have lost it, including a number of political staff in the PMO, the deputy minister of the Department of Justice herself and the former clerk of the Privy Council.
To Mr. Erskine-Smith's point that a corporation can have good people and bad people, that's all true, but this corporation is charged in its corporate state; it is charged as a corporate person. There are no individual officers charged. The corporation must face full trial, which is why I go to one last point, Mr. Chair.
If we're looking for a real motive, we don't have to look far. Some of the most celebrated corporate giants in this country are businessmen with good reputations, people like Gwyn Morgan, former chair of Encana and a major fossil fuel lobbyist against climate action, who was chair of the board throughout the time the alleged bribery took place, and chair of the governance committee. There were a lot of people on the board of directors—whom I won't list—whose reputations could be hurt if what I suspect might be heard in the evidence in open court is actually heard, because these are not just bribery charges of a small nature. This is about working hand in glove with the Gadhafi regime and paying millions of dollars.
By the way, as to the whole idea that SNC-Lavalin has been washed pure as snow, they haven't changed their auditor. Deloitte was their auditor then and Deloitte is their auditor now, and somehow never noticed that $50 million went missing in bribes in Libya.
I think what we're looking at is corporate Canada exerting its influence to not have to face a full trial because reputations would be harmed. I think that's enough of a motive to start leaning on the Prime Minister, the finance minister, the President of Treasury Board and all their friends.
We need to ensure that Canadians understand that this isn't about small things and the Shawcross principle. That's a bridge too far for most Canadians to care about, and I accept that; I get that. But it's really important that Canadians know that no future government, no future prime minister, should ever allow pressure to be brought to bear to stop a full and open trial of the alleged criminal activities of this corporation.
Under the principles of deferred prosecution agreements, as understood in international law, economic disadvantage to the corporation is not a relevant factor. We need to understand that we should protect workers always, but we must not protect criminality because the people whose reputations could be hurt are powerful. You bet they're powerful: They've blocked climate action for quite a while.
I am afraid that this corporation needs to face a trial on the evidence that Kathleen Roussel, as director of public prosecutions, decided under a section 13 report disqualifies them from a deferred prosecution agreement by law.
That's what our former attorney general looked at. That's why she exercised her due diligence to ensure the decision by the director of public prosecutions. I agree with Mr. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith once again. It was a very good move that the former Conservative government brought in the director of public prosecutions and insulated that office from political interference. That's all quite right and good. Canadians need to know that this is about a corporation charged with crimes we don't know, up to and including killing people—we don't know. Evidence is under the section 13 report. We need to have it come before an open court.
That's why I think the pressure was brought to bear. Powerful men have powerful friends. I still think that our Prime Minister needs to understand—and I don't think he does—that what he did was wrong, and he needs to apologize to Jane Philpott, Jody Wilson-Raybould and the people of Canada.
View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
This amendment would specify that neither current nor former officers nor employees of the Canada Border Services Agency may sit on the public complaints and review commission. This amendment does not appear in Bill C-98, but in the parent act, the RCMP Act. The ineligibility paragraph under subsection 45.29(2) of that act would exclude current or former members from service on the PCRC, and under that act, “member” has a specific definition that means an employee of the RCMP. Presumably, current and former agents of the CBSA should be excluded from sitting on the PCRC as well. This amendment would make that crystal clear.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This is such a really wonderful opportunity to have a chance to talk to PROC about some of these fundamental issues. I'm deeply grateful for the chance, and I thank Frank, and there are a lot of you around the table who also helped in working on these proposals.
Frank asked me to speak to this one specific piece, which is around the Speaker and questions and identifying who speaks, and the roles of the whips. I'm just going to back up by saying that I find, now that I'm on the brink of turning 65, that I'm sometimes cursed with a really good memory. I also have the benefit of oral history from MPs who have passed on, so forgive me for being somewhat of a storyteller. Thinking about the continuity of our Parliament and actually knowing how it used to be is something that vanishes very quickly. A newly elected MP has no idea that it wasn't always like this.
I have the great good fortune to have worked in the Mulroney administration—I wasn't a member of the party that was in power at the time—as a senior policy adviser to the minister of the environment. I was frequently in the House and working with the Speaker of the House at the time, John Fraser, to try to see if there was a way to get all-party support for something that we were doing. On a marvellous day, we got unanimous consent through to save the lower third of what was then called the Queen Charlotte Islands but is now Gwaii Haanas National Park in Haida Gwaii.
I have a bit of institutional memory, and I find myself often feeling that I wish I didn't have such a good memory; it would make it easier to tolerate what's going on.
In any case, I also want to share with you a reminiscence about Flora MacDonald, because I adored Flora MacDonald. She was my role model and hero. For those of you who don't know, she was the Progressive Conservative member for the Kingston area and served in the government of Joe Clark briefly. She would never have tolerated heckling around her, that's for sure. I said to her, Flora, do you think so-and-so is doing a good job as Speaker? She said, “Ha. We haven't had a good Speaker since Lucien Lamoureux.” I went back to figure out who Lucien Lamoureux was and when he was Speaker. It was from 1966 to 1974.
So someone who had an even better memory than mine, but who has now passed on, had that view. When you go back and look, you realize that the history of our Parliament and our democracy in terms of the role of MPs and what we do when we come here to serve is one of a continual progression...I wouldn't say that it's democracy versus autocracy, but there is an element of that, of diminishing the role of the member of Parliament at the cost of the rise in the power of organized political parties. Organized political parties, and particularly back rooms, decide that what we actually do in Parliament is just a precursor to when we go back to fighting with each other in election campaigns, so the business of Parliament gets overtaken by the party whips or backroom party people in a way that didn't happen in the 1980s, for example.
Now, focusing on the issue of the Speaker's authority and how we can enhance decorum, improve the quality of debate and restore more power to the individual MP, we can serve a lot of goals all at once by observing a rule that we already have. I want to cover this off very quickly because I know that we all want to talk about these things.
When Lucien Lamoureux was Speaker, the Speaker's control over who was recognized in the House was the Speaker's alone. He also had powers—as the Speakers continue to have, but they have fallen into disuse—and members who ignored the Speaker in the way that happens on a daily basis now would have been named, expelled from the chamber and not allowed to return for a period of time, at the Speaker's discretion—a week, a couple of months, six months.
The Speaker was also massively impartial. One of the things for which Lucien Lamoureux is known is that he tried to follow the British practice. He had been elected as a Conservative. Once he became Speaker of the House, which wasn't then a position that we voted for, he ran for re-election as an Independent. The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives stood down and did not run against him as an Independent. The NDP did run against him. He was re-elected as an Independent. The next time he ran as an Independent, all the parties ran against him. Over time, he gave up on his effort to replicate what happens in the U.K.: the Speaker should be 100% impartial.
As for what happened under Jeanne Sauvé, who was Speaker from 1980 to 1984, she did have eyesight issues. It was legitimate.
She couldn't quite see. You're supposed to catch the Speaker's eye. That's our rule confirmed by former speaker Andrew Scheer in his ruling on Mark Warawa's question of personal privilege when he was denied his S.O. 31. We know that the rule is that you catch the Speaker's eye. According to former speaker Scheer, there is no party list that must be observed by the Speaker. You just catch the Speaker's eye. You couldn't catch Jeanne Sauvé's eye. She said she couldn't see everybody well enough to know who was standing at the far ends of the chamber. She asked for the list from a party whip just to make it easier for her. That has now become so entrenched that the Speakers don't want to go back to just saying that they don't have to follow the party list.
What happens in the U.K.? John Bercow is Speaker in the U.K. I'm sure we've all watched him for great entertainment. He receives a request to ask a question in writing from a member of Parliament earlier in the day. He decides what questions will be asked. You're not quite catching the Speaker's eye—of course the Parliament of Westminster has over 600 MPs; they can't fit in the space—but you know ahead of time you're going to be able to ask your question. It's the Speaker's call.
Where does power reside, then? With the Speaker. Are you going to thwart the Speaker, break protocol, break the rules or act contemptuously towards the Speaker or the decorum of the House? No. The power in that House resides with the Speaker.
I think we all want to talk about these issues and how you feel about the proposals that we've put together as a group. In closing, I just want to thank some other people who have informed this process. I was very much educated by and enjoyed working with Brent Rathgeber when he was the Conservative from Edmonton—St. Albert. He really stood on these principles of defending the rights of an individual member of Parliament in this place. There's also Kennedy Stewart, who took the lead working with a number of us. I won't list everybody in the book; proceeds go to Samara. Of course, Scott and Michael Chong were involved. We all played some role in turning Parliament inside out.
Out of that book effort—just to share this because this is on the record and Canadians may be interested to know—we actually have an all-party democracy caucus. The thing that brings us together is how we make progress, despite our party affiliations, to reduce the power that political parties have over individual MPs. I think it's a fascinating project. Anita Vandenbeld is the current chair of the democracy caucus, but we are all-party, so anybody who wants to join who hasn't already.... We're already thinking about what we do after the next election, depending on who's re-elected and who isn't. How do we keep this going?
Anyway, PROC is the official committee of democracy, our rules and how we conduct ourselves in this place. I want to thank you for this opportunity to make a public plea in this committee for you to encourage the Speaker to not be afraid of the wrath of the party whip. The Speaker could just decide to say, “I don't need your lists; I can see everyone just fine from where I'm sitting; I know everybody by name and I will decide as Speaker”, or we could go to the U.K. practice of submitting the questions to the Speaker in advance and seeing which ones the Speaker chooses.
It would certainly serve multiple goals of improving the independence and the power of individual members of Parliament. It would certainly improve decorum in the House and it would serve the very salutary purpose of rebalancing through no change in the rules because these are our rules. Respecting our rules, I'd love to add “don't read speeches”, but that's not part of our current package.
I'd love to dig into this and see what we can do in the remaining days of this session of Parliament to advance the noble effort of respecting the fact that no one gets elected to be a member of Parliament in this country if they haven't already done considerable work of service in their community. I think all of us are people who care about our communities and have a head on our shoulders. We really don't need to check our brains at the door the minute we become a member of Parliament because of the power of the back room.
Thank you.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
I would like to add that, across the Commonwealth, Canada is the only country in the world where the Speaker of the House has lost his or her own power to political parties. We are the only country in this situation.
I also spoke to John Fraser, who was Speaker of the House. He also used lists of members. Jeanne Sauvé—
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
[Inaudible-Editor] was the longest serving.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Number one, I just want to say that even though we may not get this motion.... I mean, with getting those first-hour and second-hour debates, I'm fighting to try to find a second hour for getting Bill S-203 through, for example—which is widely supported—on ending the keeping of whales in captivity.
The goal of what we all worked on here, as far as I was concerned, was to get a good chance at procedure and House affairs committee to talk about it and work on it and to try to do it together. I'm happy about that. That's one reason for optimism: We're talking about it here.
The other is that Canadians want it, but I don't think.... When I'm knocking on doors, people don't say, how is it that the Speaker doesn't have control over who gets recognized in question period? It doesn't come up. They do say, how can you stand it when people all around you are yelling all the time and banging on their desks? That doesn't look right. I know we've all had this experience of school groups coming in, and they took the kids out because they they didn't want them to see that. They were horrified.
We want high voter turnout. We want a healthy democracy. We want respect for the institution. We would also rather that people didn't think the fact that we are politicians means we were a subclass of human beings, somewhere below—I don't know—the paparazzi. I mean, I was a lawyer and now I'm a politician. It just doesn't get worse. Where do I go from here?
It would be nice to feel we have done something that our voters wanted us to do to elevate the discourse and make them proud of what they see, as Canadians, happening in Parliament.
We know the mechanics that can make that happen, so I think if we work for our constituents in the way that they would like to have the House be more respectful, have our work be more productive.... And for me, the single biggest issue—and there are a number of places that aren't even in this motion where I'd love to see the change—is to reduce the power of the back room over the conduct of what happens on the floor.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
“Let the member now be heard”, “that this House do now adjourn”—dilatory motions of that type are not the individual member's choice. Again, it's the party whips deciding, “This is warfare. This is not Parliament. We want to get the other guy. We want to catch them off guard. We want to waste time, mess up the government's agenda.”
I would say another piece that isn't in this package but I would like to mention is not in our rules—actually, it's against our rules—is to read a speech in the House. People read speeches in the House.
By the way, we're the only country in the Commonwealth that has this notion of “recognized party”. In other parliaments in other democracies, you don't have to have a minimum number of seats, but never mind. Because of that rule that was created in 1963, which was about giving larger parties money that they voted for themselves and smaller parties wouldn't get the money, over time these other rights accrued to those who were in parties with more than 12 seats.
It means I'm not in the House leaders' meetings, so this is massive speculation. What I assume is going on in the House leaders' meetings, when the House doesn't function very well and we are able to spend five or six hours debating Canada-Latin friendship week or month—what was it we were debating for five hours one night, not long ago? It was Canada-Latin friendship month. People were down to reflecting on how much they like sombreros and tacos. They had nothing to say. But there was no time for bills that really matter. The House leaders in the back rooms are able to say, “Well, we can put up any number of speakers, but we won't tell you.” If we didn't have that, if we updated our rules that you had to actually speak without notes, only people super-knowledgeable on that issue would take the chance to rise to speak and try to fill 10 minutes.
To your question if it would happen, as long as the party whips, in the back rooms of political parties, are able to dictate what happens on the floor of the House, it would still happen, but it's a modest step toward recreating our real system. Sir John A. Macdonald used to refer to the members of his own caucus as loose fish. He never knew where they were going to go. Our fish are really nailed down—sorry about that, Scott.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
My hope, and this is a big hope, is that we can actually discuss this in an election campaign, so that after the election, when people are back, we are able to say to whoever is running for Speaker—and I assume our current Speaker will run again—that we have public support for you to, for instance, tell the whips that you don't need their lists. You heard it in the election campaign.
I know it's a very obscure topic, but I think the notion of, “Would you like to see us work to create greater decorum, when we get back to Parliament?”.... Political parties after an election, should go away. Let the people who are elected do their work. It will never happen completely, but it used to be a lot more like that. Even in the eighties, it was a lot more like that. In the nineties, it was a lot more like that. It's the hyper-partisanship of day-to-day life in Parliament that is an obstacle to progress, on a wide range of issues.
For me, it's about a lot more than decorum, but the decorum is a part of how we have a Parliament that functions in all of our interests, instead of in the interests of inventing a fake wedge issue for use later.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Let me, first of all, say that your contributions to democracy in this place, Scott, are much appreciated by me personally. I love working with you. You are one of the people who have their eye on the ball and have a historical framework for understanding what we need to do to protect parliamentary democracy, and I appreciate that.
I love the fact that Scott's idea around S.O. 31s is that, as you mulled it over, there is a solution—we make it a lottery, they all come in order and then everyone gets their own S.O. 31. I just wanted to say that was great.
I did propose changes to the Standing Orders in response to those put forward by the government House leader back at the beginning of this session of Parliament. It was frustrating for me that, having put a ton of work into something....
I happened to be travelling to the U.K. for another reason. I spent some time in their Parliament, met with my colleague, the only member of the Green Party in the Parliament of Westminster, and found out how they did things there. It was fascinating, really fascinating, not just reading the book but asking what it's like.
I would have loved to have had some response from anyone to the work I put into my 26 pages of suggestions for how we could improve our Standing Orders.
How do we actually do it? I think it would be best to have real consensus, which is very hard to get to. To stop the parties from having the control to stop us from reducing the power of the parties is the problem. So where is the consensus? Where does it really lie? Is the consent with the individual member? Or is the consent with the party brass that really does not want to relinquish control over how much they're able to dictate the way bills go through the House? It's more than just when we get to speak. The ultimate thing is the control, a lack of productivity in the effort to create kabuki theatre—and that's a credit to Michael Chong for this particular phrase about what we do in Parliament.
I would love to see, maybe, an anonymous ballot, some really good workshops at the beginning of Parliament. As I said, we have newly elected people. They have no idea what these issues mean day to day. The reason we're all here is that Frank came in and said, “This isn't good. I don't like this. I'd like to see it changed.” So maybe workshopping it through with individual MPs, and then testing for consensus, which is.... The Green Party makes decisions by consensus. We wouldn't usually put it to a secret ballot, but given the role of political parties overseeing everything the other—
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
The secret ballot is what I was suggesting as a way to test for consensus in this situation. What we do in the Green Party is say, “Okay, we've fought this thing out. People were in vicious and violent disagreement. Are we now at a point where we've heard each other enough that we have to compromise here?” Then we test for consensus. Do we have consensus, which is basically unanimous?
If we don't have consensus, then we ask people, “Would you stand aside to allow the consensus to be accepted?” Then generally speaking, when people realize that the hill they want to die on is occupied by only themselves, they'll generally say, “I will stand aside”, and this is accepted by consensus.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Yes, but the easiest way to make sure that people are delivering their own words is if they're not reading a speech. I would go to Scott's point about the timing. For instance, in the British Parliament, the Speaker is more flexible about the time, but we have these hard and fast rules around timing. It's 30 seconds to ask your question in question period. That's not what happens in the Parliament of the U.K. So a bit more flexibility on the part of the Speaker would allow for someone to actually speak extemporaneously.
The only time I ever read anything in the House was when I did a very detailed point of order, with loads of quotes, in the 41st Parliament to try to stop Bill C-38, that it wasn't truly an omnibus bill. The only time I read something is when I have a detailed legalistic point. I have a little clock in front of me. When I start speaking for my 30 seconds and then it gets to 20 seconds, I know I have to wrap. When I start speaking for 10 minutes and it gets to nine minutes, I know I have to wrap. So I don't ever read; I'm lucky that way.
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