Thank you, Madam Chair.
I think that over the last number of months there have been allegations that have been substantiated about political interference directed by the PMO with respect to the appointment of judges. Those allegations surfaced last year, first by François Landry, a political aide who worked directly on the judicial appointment process in the office of the Minister of Justice, David Lametti.
Emails of his surfaced that warned of partisan considerations that have created the “potential for a scandal”. He later publicly denounced those practices and noted that they “raised serious ethical issues.”
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould validated those concerns of political interference directed by the PMO when she noted, “During my time as minister, there were people in the centre, the Prime Minister's Office, other ministers, Liberal partisans, who would take great interest in the appointments process”.
She went on to say, “There is a sense that some people still carry that appointments, whether they be to the bench or otherwise, that you can curry favour if you are a partisan or if you have done something to benefit the party”. That is, of course, the Liberal Party.
Last fall questions arose over the appointment of Philippe Bélanger to the Quebec Superior Court, who, in 2014, donated $1,400 to Minister Lametti's nomination campaign and another $1,500 in 2018 to Minister Lametti's Liberal riding association of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun. That's almost $3,000 donated to the minister's riding association and nomination campaign, and then suddenly there was an appointment to the Quebec Superior Court.
The minister has said that there was no partisanship in his decision-making process. He has claimed that only he has made recommendations as to who is appointed to the bench, but it turns out that simply is not true. We have received confirmation and reports, as of last week, that, in fact, the Liberal Party's donor base Liberalist was routinely used by the PMO. This is a list of Liberal Party members, supporters, volunteers and donors.
This raises questions about whether certain candidates for appointment were being given preferential treatment. In other words, the chances of being appointed to the bench increase based upon who you know and how much you donate to the Liberal Party of Canada. The fact that a private list was being used for the purpose of making public appointments raises serious ethical concerns.
I note that Patrick Taillon, a professor of law at Université Laval, characterized it as “a serious problem involving duelling roles...a private party database that was used in the government's decision-making process.”
Similarly, it was denounced by the Canadian Bar Association, when the allegations first surfaced, in a letter of November 6 that said that the federal process is “open to speculation about political interference” and that, “By continuing a process that is open to speculation about political interference, the government risks eroding the confidence of the public in the independence and fairness of the justice system itself”.
Madam Chair, Canadians deserve to know that the judges who are appointed are the best qualified to serve on the bench. They deserve to know that candidates are not being preferred or that the scales are not being tilted in favour of certain candidates based upon how much they donated to the Liberal Party of Canada.
At the very least there is a perception that the process has been tainted by politics, that it has not been fair, that it has not been transparent and that it has been entirely politicized. On that basis, I think it is entirely appropriate that we convene at least one meeting to investigate, to inquire, to call the minister before us so that the questions Canadians have can be addressed.
I have to say that in the face of these substantiated allegations the minister has been less than forthcoming and less than transparent. He has more or less tried to deny that anything untoward took place, and said that, no, Liberalist was not being used, and that, no, partisan considerations were not involved, until the evidence continued to mount. Now we know that for six years Liberalist was used to vet 100% of candidates for judicial appointment. We further know that 25% of the judicial appointments made by this government just happen to be Liberal donors. What a coincidence.
In the House over the past week, in light of the confirmation that Liberalist has been used and now it's supposedly not being used, the minister has, instead of providing fulsome answers, instead of addressing the issue, been regurgitating talking points asserting that the process is open, transparent and fair.
Madam Chair, very simply, that isn't good enough. This committee has a responsibility to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. That starts by convening at least one hearing where we can hear from the minister.
Thank you, Madam Chair.