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Results: 1 - 15 of 2573
View Peter Julian Profile
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and in an effort to avoid yet another vote this evening, if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That the opposition motion scheduled for debate later today be amended in paragraph (b) by replacing the word “10 a.m.” with the following: “11 a.m.”
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
View Michael Barrett Profile
That, with a view to support the authority of committees in their important inquiries of public interest:
(a) regarding the study on questions of conflict of interest and lobbying in relation to pandemic spending by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics,
(i) an order of the House do issue for due diligence reports, in the care, custody or control of the Privy Council Office, respecting the Canada Student Service Grant, and that these documents be deposited, in both official languages, with the Clerk of the Committee no later than Thursday, April 1, 2021,
(ii) Rick Theis, the Prime Minister's Director of Policy and Cabinet Affairs, be ordered to appear before the committee on Monday, March 29, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.,
(iii) Amitpal Singh, the Deputy Prime Minister's Policy Advisor, be ordered to appear before the committee on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.,
(iv) Ben Chin, the Prime Minister's Senior Advisor, be ordered to appear before the committee on Thursday, April 8, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.;
(b) regarding the study on addressing sexual misconduct issues in the Canadian Armed Forces by the Standing Committee on National Defence, Zita Astravas, formerly the Minister of National Defence's chief of staff and the Prime Minister's Director of Issues Management and currently the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness's chief of staff, be ordered to appear before the committee on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, at 10:00 a.m.;
(c) should the Prime Minister instead appear before the committees mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b), at any of the dates and times mentioned, for at least three hours, the witness otherwise scheduled to appear, and any other witnesses scheduled to appear before the same committee at a later time, be relieved of their obligation to appear pursuant to this order; and
(d) it be an instruction to the Chairs of the committees mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) to convene televised meetings of their respective committee, at the dates and times mentioned, for at least three hours, for the purpose of receiving evidence from the individuals then ordered to appear or the Prime Minister, as the case may be, unless the individual has been relieved from attending under the provisions of paragraph (c), provided that the witnesses be required to appear until discharged by the committee.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, we are here today to move along business that we started last summer.
It was last summer that Canadians first learned about the WE scandal involving the Liberal government. This is the scandal of the WE organization paying members of the Prime Minister's family half a million dollars and then being awarded, in an untendered agreement, half a billion dollars of taxpayer funds as part of a proposed or planned pandemic relief program for students.
We heard many different things at the time, both from the PMO and from the WE organization, including that members of the Prime Minister's family had never been paid. Then, of course, that story changed over time.
When hearings began last summer and members of the opposition began to get answers for Canadians, the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament, effectively killing the work of those committees. At the time he said that when the House resumed in the fall, there would be lots of time for questions. There was certainly lots of time, and that time was spent by Liberal members filibustering across multiple committees.
At the ethics committee alone, the filibuster lasted for the equivalent of 20 meetings. When that filibuster finally ended and we were able to order witnesses to appear, it was December. In December, we initiated that process, but the government's partners in this deal, the founders of the WE organization, Craig and Marc Kielburger, took until March to agree to appear at the committee, and then eventually said they would not, even if summoned.
A summons was issued to them, and they did appear. During that appearance, we heard more contradictions to previous testimony and sought to have more witnesses called as a result.
The Prime Minister's testimony in the summer was before the heavily redacted document dump that came on the eve of the cover-up prorogation in August, and so here was no opportunity for members to compare and contrast the answers given by the Prime Minister, his chief of staff, other witnesses from cabinet, and the information that was in that document release. As more information has come out, the need for more questions to be asked has come to pass, and we need these witnesses to appear.
I should note, before I mention the defence committee, that I will be sharing my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. He sits on the defence committee and is the shadow minister for defence.
This is happening at the same time that the defence committee is dealing with the study with respect to sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. The allegations it is dealing with concern the former chief of the defence staff. The former chief of the defence staff is alleged to have perpetrated sexual misconduct. It was reported to the Canadian Forces ombudsman in 2018. That information was relayed to the Minister of National Defence and to the Prime Minister's Office, at which point one would expect that a thorough investigation would be undertaken, one that would include the appropriate authorities.
However, a blind eye was turned. Instead, the alleged perpetrator was given a raise by the Prime Minister, and the victims were left without justice. Other members of our Canadian Armed Forces are left wondering what protections are being afforded them by the government that they serve with unlimited liability.
It is important to note that members of our Canadian Armed Forces serve this country with unlimited liability. They ask very little of us in return, but guaranteeing them a workplace that is free from sexual misconduct, particularly when it is perpetrated by Canada's top soldier, seems like the least we could do for them. However, that is not the case, so members of the defence committee have looked for a witness to appear. Those efforts have been blocked.
There was a due diligence report with respect to the Canada student service grant that was committed by the Privy Council. That report was not tabled with the committee, so we are seeking that information as well with this motion.
It is important to note how we came to this point. With dozens of hours wasted to filibustering and dozens of meetings lost to delays and obstruction, parliamentarians were not able to fully engage in the defence, finance, PROC or ethics committees, among other committees. I was going to make it an either/or between the defence and ethics committees, but the filibusters were across multiple committees.
The study at the ethics committee has to do with pandemic spending. We had intended to wrap this study up in the fall, but of course those obstructions prevented us from doing so and prevented us from getting on to the other important work that the committee intended to undertake, such as to protect victims of sexual exploitation online and to examine emerging technologies, such as facial recognition, as is the mandate of our committee, and the defence committee barely has its feet under it in the study with respect to sexual misconduct in the military. It is facing a brick wall from the government.
It is tremendously concerning that when it comes to accountability and how the government spends the public's money. Half a billion dollars in support for students was originally billed as $912 million, but members of the Liberal Party do not want answers and accountability for Canadians.
It is alleged that this program was designed to help students. They could have devoted those funds to the Canada summer jobs program, which was already in place, with some modifications that were made to it last year, but instead of committing those funds to an established, tried, tested program, the Liberals cooked up something new and gave it to friends of the Prime Minister. They let down all of those students who did not have employment opportunities, and in fact let down the business owners who could have benefited from having the labour of the students who would gain experience when they were already facing hard times. These businesses would have had subsidized labour in that time, and the charitable sector also missed out by not having the volunteers that were promised in that program. The Canadians who were let down in that process make up a laundry list. It is incumbent on us to get answers on how that came to pass. We need to find out what happened so that it does not happen again.
We are looking at another budget. It is the first time I have been able to say that in years. We have not had a budget here in over two years, and we want to make sure, when we go through that process, that that we do not see the government set to repeat the same mistakes that we have seen over the past year in particular.
The opposition is looking for a very measured result from today's motion, and that result is to have witnesses appear at committee to testify on studies at those committees. We have to devote a supply day to this. Earlier this week we used one of our opposition supply days to talk about what the government's plan was, asking for it to table a plan for the House and for all Canadians to see on coming out of the pandemic. A year ago, it was reasonable to say that there were some things the government might not have planned for. There was some things it could have planned for and did not, but now, with a year's experience, it ought to have a plan.
Today we are looking to make committees work and we are looking to make the House work, so we are asking for these witnesses to appear. Of course, if it is the position of the government that these witnesses should not appear, then there is the option for the Prime Minister to appear at committee. The choice is certainly the government's to make. The opposition has made the choice to make Parliament work, and I hope that all members of the House vote with us to make the House of Commons work and to make committees work so that we can get answers for Canadians on how their money was spent and so that we can ensure that we have a safe, respectful work environment for all members of our Canadian Armed Forces.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have just been reviewing the motion. I know that the opposition motion is calling forward a whole laundry list of individual people and I realize the member said that the Prime Minister could come instead. It would appear as though the member is trying to hold these people hostage at the expense of the Prime Minister, but I would refer him to a quote: “Mr. Speaker, our precedents and practices are very clear. It is the ministers and the ministry at large who are responsible to the House and to its committees, not their staff members. Their staff members are responsible to the ministers and members for whom they work.”
I have another quote: “Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, when there is a question about conduct in a minister's office, the committee obviously can call the ministers and the ministers will answer those questions.”
Do members know where those quotes are from? They are from May 25, 2010, and the Right Hon. Stephen Harper.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Mark Gerretsen: Mr. Speaker, I am so glad that the opposition members would agree that Stephen Harper had it right, so why do they have it wrong—
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, I find myself agreeing with the member opposite. Stephen Harper had it right about a lot of things, and when it comes to this matter, if the ministers came to committee and provided forthright answers to the members who are asking them questions, it would be a different story.
A minister of the current government, under questioning at committee by me, provided a misleading answer. When we cannot get forthright answers from ministers, when we have contradictory information in documents that are released, and when we have obstruction from the government with illegally redacted documents, as verified by the parliamentary law clerk, we are going to continue to call witnesses. We cannot count on the ministers. We are going to have to hear from their staff.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2021-03-25 10:34 [p.5229]
Mr. Speaker, I received an extraordinary letter on Twitter last night from the lawyer representing WE's financial people, attacking us on Twitter for the fact that they have not answered a number of key questions about how the organization works, about financial connections and about how many schools were actually built. I would say for any member of the House that after eight months, Parliament has no clue as to how the financial operations of WE work.
However, I would like to raise a question that was in the letter. The lawyer stated that answering the question about how many schools they actually built would require months of work and an analysis of thousands of pages of documents. This is a group that told children to give them $10,000 and they would build a school, and that for every $10,000 they would build a school.
I ask my hon. colleague if he does not think that a multi-million-dollar charity would simply have a list of how many schools it has actually built, and that it would be fairly straightforward to say that it was given this money and built these schools? Instead, we are getting these letters from lawyers on Twitter.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, the manner in which that letter was received via Twitter is extraordinary. The government said that this organization was the only one in Canada that could administer $912 million—or, later, half a billion dollars—in taxpayer funds, so the claim that it does not even keep a list of the projects that it has built is extraordinary.
If this individual, as stated in this public letter, is unable to answer those questions, I would expect that Craig and Marc Kielburger would be able to furnish members of committee and this place with that answer, because they were the only organization, as claimed by the government, that could administer half a billion dollars. Let us see how they administered all the money they took from school kids.
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague. I want to compliment him on his speech and get him to comment on the latest rendition of the Liberal cover-up.
Yesterday at the public safety committee, I asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness if he would have his chief of staff, Zita Astravas, who is avoiding the defence clerk, to come and speak and testify, as she should be required to do as a member of staff when an officer of Parliament is asking it. Of course, the Liberal chair of the public safety committee blocked the question and would not allow the public safety minister to answer.
Could this member comment on the fact that there continue to be cover-ups on all committees and on the sanitization of the corruption in this party?
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, there has been evidence across multiple committees of the lengths to which Liberal members will go, under instruction from the Prime Minister's Office, to prevent accountability and to prevent the truth from coming to light.
We were told, in 2015 and earlier, by the Prime Minister that sunlight was the best disinfectant. Let us let the sunlight shine on the testimony of these witnesses. Let us let the sunlight shine on the due diligence report that the Liberals failed to table. Let us let the sunlight shine on all of the redactions in those illegally redacted documents. Canadians deserve answers.
View James Bezan Profile
Mr. Speaker, my thanks to the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes for bringing this motion to the floor. I think it is important that we demonstrate to Canadians that the Liberals are blocking the work of parliamentary committees, and that they are stopping us from getting to the bottom of some very serious scandals within the Liberal government, including the WE scandal and the sad case of sexual misconduct by the top officers in the Canadian Armed Forces.
There is talk about ministerial accountability, but then we have ministers who refuse to be accountable. That is why we need to hear from key witnesses, including their staff and chiefs of staff, so that we can shine the sunlight and show Canadians the truth.
Looking at the coordinated effort by the government to stop committees from hearing from witnesses and getting to the bottom of what is actually taking place, it is evident that Liberal members would rather protect their political skins and their political staff than protect those who serve us in uniform. It has become abundantly clear. With revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against the former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, and the allegations against the current Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Art McDonald, it is all too obvious that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have a serious and ongoing problem with stomping out sexual misconduct.
We ask a lot of the brave men and women who serve us in uniform and, in return, we as parliamentarians have a duty to protect those people who have sworn an oath to protect all of us. We cannot allow our daughters, sisters and mothers to work in these unsafe environments. No one should ever be subjected to sexual harassment when they show up to serve our nation.
I want specifically to address the part of the motion calling the former chief of staff to the Minister of National Defence, Zita Astravas, before our national defence committee. She is currently the chief of staff to the minister of public safety. On February 9, revelations had already come to light that General Vance was alleged to have not conducted himself with honour: he had sent an email to a subordinate that was sexual in nature, and that information had been presented to the Minister of National Defence on March 1, 2018. When those revelations came out in early February, we had an emergency meeting of the national defence committee and we brought forward a motion calling a number of witnesses to appear, including Zita Astravas. Nothing ever came of the invitation that was extended to her, dating back to February 9.
Fast forward a month, and we had a situation with allegations coming out against Admiral Art McDonald. We had expanded the study and we brought forward the motion to again call Zita Astravas to appear. Originally we asked to summon her, because it had already been a month since she had actually been at committee and she had refused to appear, so that time we wanted to issue a summons. That was amended by members of the committee to invite her once again. Here we are, almost a full four weeks after that time, and she has not yet appeared.
On Monday, March 22, we brought forward a motion at committee to summon her, to ensure that she did appear to speak to this issue. Again, the Liberals stood and filibustered for a couple of hours to prevent the motion from being carried. It is a sad state when we have government members stopping witnesses from appearing on something as disgusting as sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces. They would rather block hearing from witnesses than stand up for the brave men and women in uniform.
I can also confirm that the clerk of the national defence committee has called Ms. Astravas's office at Public Safety. He has left voice mails, he has gone through the PMO switchboard and he has also sent emails. Ms. Astravas has not returned any of those calls or emails. That is why it is so important that today's motion passes: so we can finally get to the bottom of what Zita Astravas knew.
We know that on March 1, 2018, when Gary Walbourne, the former ombudsman, presented the evidence to the Minister of National Defence, the minister pushed away from the table and said no. He mumbled something about maybe having the ombudsman take it to the National Investigation Service. We know the very next day that his chief of staff, Zita Astravas, reached out to the PCO, Privy Council Office. We know that they also talked to PMO senior adviser Elder Marques, who has agreed to appear before committee.
There is mounting evidence that Zita Astravas was involved in what happened with that information after the meeting, when it was presented in confidence by Gary Walbourne to the Minister of National Defence. Rather, she took that information and shared it with who knows who. We need to talk to her about everyone who was brought into the loop. It could have included Katie Telford, who is chief of staff to the Prime Minister. It definitely could have involved the Clerk, and we know it involved the Deputy Clerk of cabinet in the Privy Council Office. There is so much out there that we need to dig down on.
The stories from the Prime Minister and the defence minister on the sexual misconduct allegations against General Vance continue to change. When this news first broke on February 4, the Prime Minister and the defence minister were pretty much saying that they were not aware of these allegations prior to what was reported in the news. That is false, because we know that evidence was presented to the minister on March 1, 2018, and the Prime Minister later said that he and his office were aware on February 24. They keep changing their stories. He admitted in question period on March 10 that he knew there were allegations, but did not know the content of the allegations. That is not good enough. If they were aware of those allegations on March 1, 2018, why did they extend General Vance's contract by three years and why did he get a raise of $50,000? Where are the facts on this?
If we look at the testimony of Gary Walbourne, the minister refused to talk at committee about private conversations with the ombudsman, and then he pushed away from the table when he was presented with evidence. He now admits that he would not look at the evidence and said it would have been political interference if he had gotten involved in the investigation. Gary Walbourne said yesterday that was “bizarre” and “weak”. That is not a proper excuse.
Yesterday, the Minister of National Defence directed the Royal Canadian Navy to look into an investigation they did of a comment about a red room on a Zoom call, which implied sexual misconduct. The Minister of National Defence cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that he cannot be politically involved and then give instructions to review an investigation. This is a cover-up at the highest levels. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence refuse to be accountable. There was the big raise and the extension for General Vance, who was overseeing Operation Honour, which was signed off on by the Prime Minister.
We need to find out if Zita Astravas waved any red flags to the minister, the Prime Minister's Office, the Prime Minister or the PCO to stop the raise. Was she complicit? Were all of them complicit? We cannot forget about the role of Richard Fadden in all of this. When we heard about these rumours in 2015, the national security adviser, Richard Fadden, investigated them. When this happened with the current Prime Minister's Office and the PCO, they did not even talk to Daniel Jean, who was the national security adviser.
All of this is so sad, and it is important that we address this going forward and have witnesses appear at committee so we can get to the bottom of the facts and to the truth.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-25 10:48 [p.5231]
Mr. Speaker, a little later I will get the opportunity to talk about the destructive parliamentary force the Conservative Party tends to want to play, but my question is specific to this member.
I will quote from a CTV News article, which says:
When considering Vance’s appointment for the military’s top post, Ray Novak told the House of Commons defence committee on Monday that, in March 2015, the National Security and Intelligence Advisor briefed then-PM Harper that the general was in a relationship with a subordinate U.S. officer who was “not in his chain of command” during a NATO deployment in Italy.
If we are going to start to have these types of investigations, would it not be appropriate to maybe even call Stephen Harper before the committee for his behaviour or lack of action?
View James Bezan Profile
Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Winnipeg North often has trouble understanding how investigations work, how national defence works, and for that matter, the roles and responsibilities of Parliament.
Ray Novak, the former chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper, was actually very candid in his comments about how we investigated General Vance. When we contrast that to the Liberals turning a blind eye, we see that they talk about having zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, but they took zero action.
It is a testament that yesterday we learned from Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, the acting chief of the defence staff, that he had to cancel Operation Honour because it did nothing to protect the women of the Canadian Armed Forces from sexual misconduct. That is an indictment upon the government and the Minister of National Defence.
View Taylor Bachrach Profile
Mr. Speaker, I find this remarkable. We know now that Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, when he was defence minister, were aware of the allegations and investigated them back in 2015. However, they then went on to appoint General Vance to lead the program to stamp out sexual misconduct in the military with Operation Honour.
In hindsight, do the Conservatives believe it was an error to appoint an individual to head up a military operation meant to stamp out sexual misconduct, when that individual was in fact alleged to have been involved in precisely that kind of behaviour?
View James Bezan Profile
Mr. Speaker, back in 2015, I was the parliamentary secretary to the then minister of national defence. We thoroughly investigated the rumour and the allegations of fraternization when General Vance was posted in NATO at Naples. Based upon the investigation and all the advice we received, no evidence could be found of wrongdoing. Essentially, the person he was investigated about in Naples was his fiancée at the time he was appointed as chief of the defence staff.
Unlike the Liberals, we talked directly to General Vance about it. Unlike the Liberals, we carried out an investigation that lasted months, and we were prepared to delay the timeline of holding the change of command ceremony. Looking back, I question if General Vance gave us all the details and facts. I do not think so. We also know that at the end of the day, the Liberals renewed his contract in 2018, after they knew about actual evidence of sexual misconduct.
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