I'm not sure why we are here today, and I'm going to get to the amendment. I think most of us are busy in our constituency offices, meeting our constituents and doing our work. Having sat on this committee, albeit as a new member, I've seen what has transpired in the last year and the witch hunts that have been brought about time and time again. We are essentially using taxpayers' dollars to go on these witch hunts, but even beyond that, we have mandated this committee to conduct investigations that are concurrent with those of other committees. Talk about a waste of time and talk about a waste of taxpayers' money.
We've seen these attempts time and time again from the member from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes while the government has been focused on delivering the vaccine and helping Canadians recover from this pandemic. However, we are here today. We have met solely in service of the Conservative ambitions many times over the course of the past year, but what clearly makes this time different from the last is the clear-cut fact that this committee doesn't even have the jurisdiction to investigate what Mr. Barrett is bringing forward.
He spoke a few minutes ago, and I heard him, when he quoted our committee mandate in access to information, privacy and ethics, which is subparagraph 108(3)(h)(vii), I believe. I'm going to read it again for the benefit of our members here today. It says:
the proposing, promoting, monitoring and assessing of initiatives which relate to access to information and privacy across all sectors of Canadian society and to ethical standards relating to public office holders
In his motion, he wants to have Mr. Pitfield present here. Mr. Pitfield is not a public office holder, so it has become quite clear what road we are embarking on: This is basically not to fulfill the mandate of this committee but to go yet again on another witch hunt.
Our committees are neither investigative nor judicial bodies. You cannot simply call this committee together and propose on a whim to undertake a political witch hunt because it happens to be a politically self-serving issue of the day. This place is governed by the rules and statutes that were constituted when this place first began sitting as the Parliament of Canada and established the long-running traditions by which we operate today.
The amendment proposed by my colleague—and I won't read it, because she has—is, I think, the appropriate forum for this issue, if there is an issue. Again, the motion states quite clearly, almost makes an allegation, that there is a conflict of interest. It makes that allegation without even having any basis for it. I think the amendment would allow the committee to be able to investigate and do its work, and look at not just the Liberal database but also the CIMS. If we are to be transparent—and in the words of my colleague Dr. Carrie, we need to be transparent—then let's be transparent and let's do it with the other software being used.
Anyone reading this section proposed by my colleague can clearly deduce that the Board of Internal Economy retains complete discretion to determine how members use parliamentary resources. There is no mention here of any other parliamentary committee in that section. In fact, it has long been an accepted fact that the board can handle these types of matters.
I'm a little confused, Mr. Chair, as to why my colleague and his colleagues seem to think that we have the jurisdiction to even investigate this matter. The Board of Internal Economy itself, as we know, is composed of members of all recognized parties, and it is they who set out the rules and regulations by which we conduct ourselves. As to how members discharge the public funds they are entrusted with, the board has compiled the Members' Allowances and Services Manual, which lays out very clearly how we are to conduct ourselves as members in regard to our budgets, and how organizations like our research bureau, the whips' offices and the House leaders' offices should also conduct business with public funds.
The rules and guidelines laid out in the members' services manual are very clear about how we should conduct ourselves in expending public funds. I believe that each and every member in the House, and indeed around this table, strives to ensure that they follow the rules as laid out in the said manual.
When disputes have arisen in the past about the use of funds within our budget, these matters were taken up by the BOIE and handled accordingly. I think we have to ask ourselves, “What is different about this situation, such that we should diverge from past precedence in how these matters are handled?”
The truth is that nothing is different—nothing but the political opportunity that is present for the opposition.
I think we can all agree that we are here today in service to the constituents who elected us to represent them. It is a humbling job—especially when you are first elected, as I am—to know that you are responsible for advancing the best interests of your community in making decisions that will affect your family, friends and neighbours. As members of Parliament, we are required to help anyone in our community, no matter their political affiliation, whether they voted for us or not. Our service to our communities is to blind ourselves to partisan interests, and it should be so.
In our duties as members of Parliament, we are often required to help our constituents access the many resources of the federal government and to triage the issues that arise out of that assistance. I think we can all agree that with roughly, more or less, 70,000 constituents in each of our respective ridings at a minimum, keeping orderly track of casework and requests for assistance is essential to completing our work as members.
All parties here freely admit that we maintain constituent management systems to help us track requests for assistance from constituents and to ensure that we are able to provide all necessary assistance and follow up afterwards to ensure that casework has been handled to the constituents' satisfaction. A constituent management database is there to help us organize case files and track the progress of constituency issues or constituents' issues to ensure that they are followed up and completed properly. It is not out of the ordinary, nor is it inappropriate. It is an expected part of our job as parliamentarians. It is not out of the ordinary for parties to operate their constituent management databases on software similar to their electoral databases. Frankly, it makes sense. Members and staff are already familiar with electoral databases. Basing constituent management databases on the same user experience enables members and staff to quickly access and operate a user-friendly and familiar system.
The important distinction here is the presence of a complete firewall between these databases to ensure that the information collected in an official capacity is not mixed with partisan databases. That's what's important here. Our caucus maintains the highest standards in this regard, as has been noted, and we work with the contractors who manage our databases to ensure that there is no crossover between the two.
We are not the only party that operates this way. Both the NDP and the Conservatives do the same. The NDP openly admitted this on July 9 of last week in a Globe and Mail article that quoted a member who also sits on this committee. It's been a well-known fact for well over 15 years now that the Conservatives' CIMS database operates in a similar capacity as well.
I'd like to quote the member as cited in The Globe and Mail: “I am not sure they are using it in a way that would actually contravene rules. It would have to be established that they are turning constituency data over for political purposes. Every political party has a data wing and a constituency wing.” The member from the NDP also said his party also uses the database provider Populus for political and campaign work, and a different version from the same company for constituency casework. “There is a pretty clear firewall” between the two services, he said.
I find it very disingenuous that all of a sudden the Conservative members of this committee have decided that there is something inappropriate or nefarious with members' tracing casework with constituency and constituents, especially when they do it themselves. Ms. Shanahan has given you an example of how she's been contacted time and time again from an A1 account after a donation that she made many moons ago. Therefore, the question arises as to who's doing what and who's using what database.
I think, Mr. Chair, in the words of my colleague Mr. Carrie this morning, let's be transparent. Let's examine everything, but this committee does not have the mandate to do so. I think it's appropriate that it be sent to BOIE. Thank you.