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Results: 1 - 15 of 234
View Peter Kent Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Good afternoon, colleagues. You'll recall that on January 10, 2018, this committee met in a special session with the former Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, enabling her to brief us on “The Trudeau Report”, which turned out to be Trudeau report number one, the results of her investigation into the Prime Minister's illegal vacation.
Ms. Dawson spent two hours with us, providing important relevant details on how she came to find the Prime Minister guilty of four violations of the Conflict of Interest Act. The findings of “The Trudeau Report” number one detailed unacceptable ethical lapses by the Prime Minister. However, Trudeau report number two, the scathing report released just last week by current Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, details many more serious violations of the Conflict of Interest Act, up to and including, by any reasonable measure, attempted obstruction of justice or as Commissioner Dion concludes, actions “contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”
This is why, colleagues, Mr. Gourde and I wrote the following letter to the chair of our committee, Mr. Zimmer:
Yesterday, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner released the “Trudeau II Report”. The report found “The Prime Minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson-Raybould. The authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown's chief law officer.”
This is incredibly concerning. These findings show that Justin Trudeau used the power of his office to reward his friends and to punish his critics.
This is a grave situation. Not only is Mr. Trudeau the first Prime Minister to have been found guilty of breaking the law, he is a repeat offender.
Canadians deserve fulsome answers to the many remaining questions. We ask that you urgently convene a meeting of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics for the purposes of receiving a briefing from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
We would be prepared to move the following motion:
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.
Colleagues, in this committee's previous consideration of opposition motions regarding the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Mr. Erskine-Smith, speaking for all Liberal members of this committee, characterized those motions as premature until the justice committee completed its study and the Ethics Commissioner completed his investigation. The Liberal majority voted against all opposition motions.
Now we know the chair and Liberal members of the justice committee shut down their study prematurely, and a week ago, the Ethics Commissioner published the “Trudeau II Report”, reporting to parliamentarians and to all Canadians that their Prime Minister broke the law by improperly attempting to influence the Attorney General in “many ways”. It confirmed Canadians' decisions and suspicions and much more.
It is a weighty report, even though the commissioner states that his investigation is incomplete and even though he reports he was prevented by the Clerk of the Privy Council from accessing relevant witness testimony under a blanket confidentiality shield, thus blocking him from looking at the entire body of evidence. Despite all of those challenges, the Ethics Commissioner declares he gathered sufficient factual information to properly determine the matter on its merits. He has itemized those facts in great detail.
Again, as the commissioner writes in his conclusion, the Prime Minister's actions were “improper” and “contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”
Colleagues, these detailed findings of fact on a Prime Minister's actions are unprecedented in Canadian history. I hope that you will agree that a debriefing session with the Ethics Commissioner as soon as possible is as appropriate now as was the debriefing session on “The Trudeau Report” number one with the previous commissioner last year.
Thank you, Chair.
View Lisa Raitt Profile
View Lisa Raitt Profile
2019-08-21 13:06
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I echo the comments made by Mr. Kent with respect to the desire for this committee to move forward by hearing from the Ethics Commissioner.
I am here today because I was a member of the justice committee that was shut down in March of this year in favour of the Ethics Commissioner's conducting his study. A letter was sent by the Liberal members of the committee on March 18 to the chair of the justice committee. Those members were Randy Boissonnault, Iqra Khalid, Ali Ehsassi, Ron McKinnon and Colin Fraser.
They said their conclusion, after the testimony heard at the justice committee, was that all of the rules and laws were followed. They also said they believed that the ongoing study of the Ethics Commissioner was the appropriate way forward and that they had faith in the Ethics Commissioner. They also noted that the opposition parties rushed to judgment before hearing all of the relevant information.
Following the shutting down of the justice committee, the ethics committee then tried to raise the issue for discussion. On March 26, the matter was again blocked. As a result, we were left with the office of the Ethics Commissioner being the only venue where an investigation was taking place. Indeed, if you look at Hansard for April and May of 2019, when asked questions by members of the opposition, the Prime Minister said and then reiterated continuously that he had faith in the Ethics Commissioner conducting his study.
However, most recently the Prime Minister, in commenting on the “Trudeau II Report” issued last week, said two things that caught my attention. The first was “We fully cooperated with the Commissioner” and the second was “I disagree with that conclusion”. These two statements carry great weight. They're by the Prime Minister of Canada and they are the only statements regarding the Ethics Commissioner's report on record by the Prime Minister on this matter. It is unfair that the Ethics Commissioner has no voice and no venue to be able to respond to these two assertions made by the Prime Minister.
There is a provision in the Conflict of Interest Act to allow somebody who is being investigated to appeal a ruling of the Ethics Commissioner. We find ourselves in some uncharted territory because what the Prime Minister seems to seek to do is to change the report of the Ethics Commissioner by saying that he doesn't agree with it and that he fully co-operated.
The evidence of the Ethics Commissioner in his report is that, to the contrary of the Prime Minister's statement, they did not fully co-operate with the commissioner at all. Indeed, the commissioner went to great lengths to note his concerns with respect to the appropriateness of the way in which the Prime Minister sought to produce documents, be interviewed and, at the end of the day, determine whether or not a waiver would be extended to allow the Ethics Commissioner to have access to all of the information he deemed appropriate for the study.
Where we find ourselves in uncharted territory is this: The Conflict of Interest Act does not allow for the Ethics Commissioner's report to be changed. No committee of Parliament, no vote in the House of Commons can change the contents of a report by, or the decision of, the Ethics Commissioner. The report is what it is and stands as it is, yet the Prime Minister is now trying to say the report is wrong.
The good news for him is that if he chooses to in fact go ahead and appeal the ruling of the Ethics Commissioner, he has the ability to do so. He can do that by launching a judicial review at the Federal Court of Appeal. That is the appropriate venue for the Prime Minister to challenge the Ethics Commissioner, not in the court of public opinion, which he is seeking to do right now.
Why does this all pertain to a visit by the Ethics Commissioner to committee? Well, I do believe, as a lawyer, that there are rules regarding procedural fairness. Clearly, the Prime Minister is not going to be seeking judicial review of this ruling. He hasn't said he is going to do that, and in fact it doesn't seem as if he has any plans to even address that question.
That being said, it is still fair for the Ethics Commissioner to be able to respond in some way, shape or form to questions by the committee, by members of Parliament who seek to understand the discrepancy between what the Ethics Commissioner found and what the Prime Minister is attempting to assert to the Canadian public.
That is the issue of public interest that is so important in having the Ethics Commissioner come to testify. It is the foundation of our rule of law that accusations are allowed to be responded to and rebutted. That, I believe, is something, as parliamentarians, we owe to the Ethics Commissioner, who does his work at the request of all parliamentarians and indeed is voted on by all parliamentarians to sit as an officer of Parliament.
In summary, Mr. Chair, I would say that, after months and months of the Liberal members of Parliament on the justice committee, on the ethics committee, the Prime Minister himself and every minister who answered a question in the House of Commons answering with the refrain that they trust and believe in the independence of parliamentary officers and will listen to them and will co-operate fully, it is owed to the Ethics Commissioner, due to all of these comments, to have the ability to come in and respond to the two things the Prime Minister has said about this report, which are, first, that he fully co-operated with the commissioner, which the commissioner says is not the case, and second, that he disagrees with the conclusion, without telling us which conclusion he disagrees with.
With that, Mr. Chair, I pass the floor to the next individual, and I hope that my colleagues on the other side will, in fact, allow for the Ethics Commissioner to appear today, in fairness, in justice and to uphold the administration of our procedure.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
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 Pierre Poilievre Profile
There are three things we're seeking, Chair. One is that the minister be here for three hours, which I gather the government delegation has accepted. The second is that his opening remarks be limited to 10 minutes. The third is that we have licence to ask him about any matters related to his work as finance minister. Those are the only three things that we ask for. They seem pretty reasonable, and not out of line with what typically happens at a committee.
Given that this is a budget bill with 350 pages of content, and that this is perhaps the only time the minister will appear before this committee, I can't see any justification for not allowing that kind of openness under any subject for the entire session. I'll leave it at that for now. If members want to further litigate any of those three, I'm happy to do it. If they can offer those things, we can offer quick passage of the motion without any additional changes, and proceed from there.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess I missed a thrilling morning when this was being debated.
In anticipation of this meeting, I looked at the previous motion that was passed last year. As you'll remember, eventually that motion hamstrung the committee when the issues of DPAs came up on one really late night. Then we had a lot more questions, and a lot of members around the table weren't happy. I had a kids' school group that was coming through. Late at night I went to speak to someone, and when I returned this was on the table.
I know that we're at this point again. We're dealing with a programming motion. It is slightly different. One thing I'll mention is that nothing in here says that any of this has to be televised. I would like to see that as part of this motion. In actuality, the word “televised” doesn't even appear in this motion.
View Blake Richards Profile
Some of you will know this and others may not. In my previous career, before I got into politics, I was in real estate. I helped folks sell and buy homes. This reminds me, actually, of some of the situations I found myself in, in those circumstances. Sometimes what you'd get is that someone would say, “I know we have a contract here that says X, Y, and Z, and this is the price of the home and this is the closing date, and all the conditions that go with that, but you know what? Don't worry about that. Yes, we'll get the walls painted for you, or, yes, we'll leave some of the furniture, or whatever the case might be.” They'd say, we don't need to throw that in the contract, though. It will just be an agreement between us. For obvious reasons, I wouldn't accept those kinds of things. This reminds me of those same situations.
Mr. Poilievre has made a suggestion. It's been said a couple of times on both sides, but I will point out that this is a fairly significant compromise by the opposition, I would argue, because we're letting the government have exactly what it wants, which is to limit the amount of time there is for consideration and debate and amendments or anything else related to the budget. In return, the expectation is that there be three hours for the minister to come here to be held accountable for any matters related to his finance portfolio, and that his opening remarks limited to 10 minutes and that the meeting be televised.
What we're hearing, essentially, for the most part, is yes, we agree to all of that, but we don't want to put it in writing. Whenever I have someone tell me they agree with me and they're willing to give me something, but they don't want to put it in writing, I have to question the motivation for not being willing to put it in writing? If it's okay and you're agreeing that you're going to allow it, why not just put it in writing? What's the harm? As I say, it hearkens me back to my days in real estate, when somebody would say, “Yes, no, no, don't worry. We'll leave the freezer. We don't want to put it in the contract—let's not do that—but we'll leave it, we promise.”
You never want to doubt someone's sincerity, and I'm not saying I do, but why not put it in writing then? What's the problem here? I just feel that we're in a spot where it's almost like there's disagreement for the sake of disagreement, or something like that. I wish we could end that. If that's what everyone's saying is—
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
Mr. Chair, I believe you are a man of your word. I've known you for a long time. I've never once known you to violate your word, and so I take you at your word today that we will be allowed to question the minister, not just on the BIA but also on his broader finance portfolio. I give you my word that my questions will focus exclusively on his work as a finance minister, not on anything unrelated to that job.
As a result, I am prepared to withdraw my earlier amendment and propose a different one.
(Amendment withdrawn)
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: With my new amendment, paragraph 7 would be transformed to read:
the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and that his opening statement be limited to ten minutes, and that the meeting be televised;
View Peter Kent Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Colleagues, you'll recall that a couple of weeks ago, when I first brought a motion suggesting that we provide a safe and civil venue for witnesses to appear to discuss some of the unknowns—and, so far, unquotables—with regard to the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal, the Liberal vice-chair, Mr. Erskine-Smith, made it very clear that, as he said, he's voiced and voted for a more public inquiry to get at the truth. He said, “I think everyone on this side [the Liberal side] cares at getting to the truth. It's just a question of how we can best do that.”
We accepted, with some disappointment, Mr. Erskine-Smith's characterization of the motion as “premature”, but he did make the point that we should wait for the justice committee to make a decision on whether to reopen their study or not, and they didn't. He said that he would be pleased “to, if necessary, revisit this conversation.” Mr. Erskine-Smith said that, given that the waiver had been provided to the justice committee, it was appropriate to hear more about this.
I'm hoping today that those on the Liberal side of this table will consider this motion, which I'll read into the record:
That, given the new information on the matter of political interference in a criminal prosecution by the Office of the Prime Minister disclosed in documents tabled by Jody Wilson-Raybould and Gerald Butts, the Committee:
a. Instruct the Chair to write a letter to the Prime Minister requesting that he waive all constraints that may prevent individuals invited to appear before the Committee from speaking freely;
b. Invite Justin Trudeau to appear prior to April 12
c. Invite Jody Wilson-Raybould to appear prior to April 12
d. Invite Jane Philpott to appear prior to April 12
e. Invite Katie Telford to appear prior to April 12
f. Invite Elder Marques to appear prior to April 12
g. Invite Mathieu Bouchard to appear prior to April 12
h. Invite Amy Archer to appear prior to April 12
i. Invite Ben Chin to appear prior to April 12
j. Invite Justin To to appear prior to April 12
k. Invite Jessica Prince to appear prior to April 12
l. Sit extra hours in order to conduct these additional meetings.
Mr. Gourde, could you repeat that in French, please?
View Jacques Gourde Profile
It is my pleasure to repeat my colleague's notice of motion, which I am happy to support, in French.
That, given the new information on the matter of political interference in a criminal prosecution by the Office of the Prime Minister disclosed in documents tabled by Jody Wilson-Raybould and Gerald Butts, the Committee:
a. Instruct the Chair to write a letter to the Prime Minister requesting that he waive all constraints that may prevent individuals invited to appear before the Committee from speaking freely;b. Invite Justin Trudeau to appear prior to April 12;c. Invite Jody Wilson-Raybould to appear prior to April 12;d. Invite Jane Philpott to appear prior to April 12;e. Invite Katie Telford to appear prior to April 12;f. Invite Elder Marques to appear prior to April 12;g. Invite Mathieu Bouchard to appear prior to April 12;h. Invite Amy Archer to appear prior to April 12;i. Invite Ben Chin to appear prior to April 12;j. Invite Justin To to appear prior to April 12;k. Invite Jessica Prince to appear prior to April 12;l. Sit extra hours in order to conduct these additional meetings
Mr. Chair, you understand that it is always our hope that, on the opposite side, some are listening attentively. We hope that light will be shed and that we will be able to give all of these witnesses the opportunity to present their version of the facts for the benefit of all Canadians, who want to hear the truth about this truly important matter. So, the sooner this matter is resolved, the better it will be for everyone.
I hope that my voice will be heard.
View Peter Kent Profile
I fully support my colleague in all he has said, and all that has been said in support of my previous motion.
With a scaled-down motion and with fairly powerful arguments, we have no hesitation on the Conservative side in supporting the NDP motion.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
We'll have a recorded vote, Mr. Angus.
(Motion negatived: nays 6; yeas 3)
The Chair: Thank you, everybody.
We'll get on with our witness today. I'll just explain a bit of the plan. We have only one witness, and we still have committee business at the end. It should take us until about five o'clock to get everything done, as we have only one witness.
Go ahead, Mr. Kelcey, for 10 minutes.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
I haven't had a chance to finish my own remarks. You'll recall, Mr. Chair, that I just finished reading the motion.
Members would benefit from hearing the English version a second time, given that the break for the vote interrupted the flow of our discourse earlier. Just in case members have forgotten the motion as it's written now, I'll read it in English.
The motion is:
1. the Committee begin a subject matter study of Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019, and other measures on Monday, April 29, 2019, if the Bill itself has not yet been referred to the Committee;
2. the Committee hear from departmental officials on the subject matter of Bill C-97 on Monday, April 29, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.;
3. if Bill C-97 is referred to the Committee by the House during the subject matter study of the Bill, all evidence and documentation received in public in relation to its subject matter study of Bill C-97 be deemed received by the Committee in the context of its legislative study of Bill C-97;
4. the Clerk of the Committee write immediately to each Member of Parliament who is not a member of a caucus represented on the Committee, to inform them of the beginning of the subject matter study of Bill C-97 by the Committee and to invite them to start working on their proposed amendments to the Bill, which would be considered during the clause-by-clause study of the Bill;
5. Members of the Committee submit their prioritized witness lists for the study of Bill C-97 to the Clerk of the Committee by no later than noon on Thursday, April 18, 2019, and that these lists be distributed to Members that same day;
6. the Committee hear from witnesses on Bill C-97 from April 29, 2019, to May 16, 2019;
7. the Committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear on Bill C-97 on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and that officials appear from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., if necessary;
8. proposed amendments to Bill C-97 be submitted to the Clerk of the Committee in both official languages by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at the latest;
9. the Committee commence clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-97 on Monday, May 27, 2019, at 11:00 a.m., subject to the Bill being referred to the Committee;
10. the Chair may limit debate on each clause to a maximum of five minutes per party, per clause; and
11. if the Committee has not completed the clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill by 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, all remaining amendments submitted to the Committee shall be deemed moved, the Chair shall put the question, forthwith and successively, without further debate on all remaining clauses and proposed amendments, as well as each and every question necessary to dispose of clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill, as well as all questions necessary to report the Bill to the House and to order the Chair to report the Bill to the House as soon as possible.
Let us go through some of my concerns with the motion as currently written.
First of all, we would like to see the minister testify from 3:30 until 6:30 on May 1, 2019, rather than just from 3:30 to 5:00. We'd like to specify, or we want the wording to specify, that members may pose any questions to the minister related to this bill or his conduct as finance minister, and that the chair shall not interrupt such questioning. Three hours is a more reasonable amount of time than an hour and a half. Furthermore, we would limit the finance minister's opening remarks to no more than 10 minutes so that we can focus on questioning. The finance minister had a chance to give a speech in the House of Commons. He doesn't need to repeat it here. Any members who are concerned about his opening statement can refer themselves to his very lengthy opener during the budget introduction in the House of Commons. If they have any confusion whatsoever about either what's in the budget or what the finance minister thinks of the budget, that speech can answer those questions. Therefore, we don't need to burn committee time listening to him speak for half an hour. That is our principal request.
Second, points 10 and 11 are particularly objectionable, because they restrict our ability to properly debate this omnibus budget bill. Last year, we all stumbled upon a very strange section of the previous omnibus budget that gave us deferred prosecution agreements. Few in this room understood the consequences of that amendment.
To your credit, Mr. Chair, you acknowledged that deferred prosecution agreements did not belong in the budget bill. Mr. Fergus likewise, and very presciently, acknowledged the problems with that section of the bill. The foresight that Mr. Fergus exhibited in that debate is quite startling, now that we have seen events unfold subsequently. I don't know; maybe Mr. Fergus can jump in on this discussion and tell us if he was able to foreshadow just how important his predictions of trouble would become. If you look at the last three months of discourse in this country and you match that discourse with Mr. Fergus's observations, you can only conclude that he has a degree of clairvoyance that is quite frankly terrifying. That he could have foreshadowed so much trouble in so few words is really impressive....
What's that?
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
Seriously, I'm here all night.
The reality is that we did not have enough time to properly discuss that section. I think we would all acknowledge that privately. I know there is probably some desire to avoid putting that on the public record, but to have such an important amendment to the Criminal Code appear before a finance committee out of nowhere and then to discuss it in just a few short minutes is not in the public interest.
We do object to the idea that the chair would limit debate on each clause to five minutes. We also object to this hard deadline. There's no rush here. We know that there are many months for the committee and the House to return a bill for passage. There's no reason why Parliament couldn't meet in the summer months to work on the budget as well. It is not unusual for a budget implementation act to be passed in the fall, because none of the measures are particularly time-sensitive. If we were to have a debate here that lasted a little longer than normal, we could simply reconvene meetings in July and August. I know I would be prepared to attend those meetings. I think most Canadians would think it reasonable that we do our jobs in the summer as well, not just in the spring. Being an MP is a full-time job. We can't expect to be at the cottage from June 24 until September 15 or 16. We have to be prepared to show up for work. If it takes until beyond the end of June to get the BIA passed, then I think we would do well by Canadians to show up and do our jobs. Some members have pointed out that they don't have cottages, which is even better. It means the recreational opportunity cost of being here will be particularly small for them.
I know that Mr. Sorbara, as an economist, will appreciate the reference to opportunity cost.
That is my intervention, Mr. Chair. I think there is a speakers list. I'll let the member go on.
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