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View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
I'd just like to welcome everybody here to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, meeting number 160. We are dealing with committee business and two motions: the first from Mr. Kent and the second from Mr. Angus.
I would like, first of all, to welcome some members with us today who aren't usual members of the ethics committee. Ms. May was supposed to be here but I don't see her yet. We're going to welcome her here today, as well as Ms. Raitt, Mr. Poilievre, Ms. Ramsey and Mr. Weir. I think that's everybody. While the extra members are not members of this committee, as a courtesy we typically give guests the right to speak.
Having said that, I'll turn the floor over to Mr. Kent.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Just to be clear, he said he'd make himself available on short notice. Based on some questions from all parties here, he has made himself available today by video conference so he is standing by if a motion is passed.
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 Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
It will be a recorded vote. The motion is as follows:
That, given the unprecedented nature of the Trudeau II Report, the Committee invite the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to brief the Committee on his report, and that the Committee invite any further witnesses as required based on the testimony of the commissioner.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
We are good to proceed with the vote.
(Motion negatived: nays 5, yeas 4)
The Chair: Mr. Kent's motion is defeated.
That said, we have a motion from Mr. Angus still to discuss.
Go ahead, Mr. Angus.
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 Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
We'll have a recorded vote.
(Motion negatived: nays 6; yeas 3)
The Chair: Ms. Raitt, do you have a comment?
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. MacKinnon, it's one of those things in committee. It's nice to do, but it's not required that she give notice of her motion.
The motion has come up on the floor today. She is therefore in order to present that motion.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
To be in order as well it's not required that it be in French. She is completely in order to present her motion as she is stating.
Continue on.
Is this a point of order, Mr. Angus?
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
It's a recorded vote.
(Motion negatived: nays 7; yeas 2)
The Chair: Is there any further discussion today?
I believe we've exhausted the motions and are ready to head home. Thank you, again, for coming to Ottawa.
We're adjourned.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
I think that's an excellent motion and I support it.
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Not to repeat this, but I did write Commissioner Lucki on February 19, and she responded on March 20, so the other reason I think it would be appropriate to call her is that it's not as though she's not aware of this or is coming in cold. This issue has been drawn to her attention. I think she would be the appropriate person.
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