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View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
Because we can't get a definitive answer from the government, we're trying to get a sense, municipality by municipality, of how much has been spent.
We do know now, Mayors, that the federal government is demanding, as a condition of receiving federal infrastructure money, that these billboards be erected in front of any project that it has a dollar in. We know that 9,850 signs have gone up and that it has cost just under $30 million. We also know that the government spent over $15,000 per car by putting up shrink-wrapped economic action plan advertising on GO Transit trains in downtown Toronto. We're very concerned about the kinds of expenditures that are going on here when we have so many important needs.
This brings me to my second theme, which is the Canada 150 infrastructure program announced by the Prime Minister last Friday. Can either of you tell me whether or not you qualify, and will you have the time to submit a bid for any of the money that's been announced or re-announced?
I just want to put a few things on the table for you. One of the top municipal infrastructure experts in the country at McGill described it, “It is an election stunt by the Prime Minister, and should be criticized as such”.
The problem is that it's managed by six regional development agencies now—broken up. There are different rules around the country and varying deadlines, as early as June 9, for example, in southern Ontario. Most of the southern Ontario municipalities are saying there is absolutely no way they will make any kind of deadline of that kind in making submissions. There are different projects that qualify. Western Canada is different from Quebec. Quebec is different from Atlantic Canada.
This really appears to have been cobbled together, rushed out, and poorly thought out in advance of the next election. It really smacks of timing, to allow different folks to announce projects in advance of the October 19 deadline.
Can you give us a sense—if you know anything about this project—of your thinking about this new fund that was rushed out last Friday, without any rhyme or reason, by the Prime Minister?
Derek Corrigan
View Derek Corrigan Profile
Derek Corrigan
2015-05-26 16:12
I'm happy to comment on that because the announcement was made in my city. Unfortunately I wasn't invited. It may be because I'm a friend of Jinny Sims.
I was surprised that the announcement was made locally and that they didn't invite the local mayor to attend, and we, my entire staff, were surprised by the nature of the announcement. We have been rushing around trying to cobble together an application and trying to find suitable projects, because the 150th birthday of our country is a very important event and we want to participate in that. We want to ensure that whatever we do is significant as a statement about our respect for Canada's history and Canada's future.
In my view this was cobbled together at the last minute. It smacks of politics to me, as opposed to being a plan that looks for communities to be able to develop something that will be meaningful. That in fact was the tenor of my statement to you, that consistently there's this political overtone to anything that is done in terms of moneys being dispensed to communities, as opposed to an open process that all of us are aware of and can participate in in a way that is fair.
View David Sweet Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Chair.
Your testimony was very good. With only five minutes, I'm just straining to see exactly what track I want to take. Maybe I'll just go with the protests right now, rather than the Friday marches.
The BNP has been calling for these protests. I'm trying to get from your testimony, are you implying that there's an Islamist influence behind the BNP? Are they victimizing everyone, from political views that they disagree with to religious minorities, or is there a difference between those kinds of persecutions?
Anuradha Bose
View Anuradha Bose Profile
Anuradha Bose
2015-03-26 13:27
Well, Mr. Sweet, the BNP is in a 20-party alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, which is a parliamentary Islamist party, and probably one of the oldest on the subcontinent. Many of the other 20 parties also have an Islamist orientation. The idea of bringing the government to its knees goes beyond religion. It has to do with the fact that during the last election in January 2014, they boycotted and of course Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League won something of a victory. We certainly did not support the idea of a boycott.
But having done this, they now want to bring the party to its knees. They want a snap election, which they think they can win. The minorities are even more fearful of leaving their homes now because they fear they may be arrested by the police just for getting out there, if a petrol bomb doesn't do them in. It's a very perilous time for everybody.
View David Sweet Profile
CPC (ON)
I see. Both of you are. Can you help all of us here to understand? You're talking about indigenous minorities: Buddhists, Christians, Ahmadiyya—
A voice: Hindus.
Mr. David Sweet: Hindus, but there are Ahmadi Muslims as well, I believe, who are part of the religious minorities that are being persecuted. All of this is happening within the context of great political strife going on right now, so it's a real polarization.
My understanding is that the government goes back and forth between the AL and the BNP. Do both of those parties, when they're in government, act the same way towards indigenous people and Christian minorities, or is it different when one of them is in government or not?
Kirit Sinha Roy
View Kirit Sinha Roy Profile
Kirit Sinha Roy
2015-02-24 13:35
As far as I know, for minorities like Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, the BNP and their allies—I mean their Islamist allies, Jamaat-e-Islami, Hefajat-e-Islam, and all of these—are the worst kind. In 2001, about 200 women were raped in broad daylight during the tenure of the BNP government. Now it's not stopped at all. The thing is that when anything happens, this government takes the initiative to arrest or to do something—but only after the incident happens. It's not to protect those minorities; after anything happens in the village or subdivisions or subdistricts, after the incident happens, then the police go there and arrest two or three people. But none of the perpetrators are brought to justice.
That's the irony of this country, Bangladesh.
Aditya Dewan
View Aditya Dewan Profile
Aditya Dewan
2015-02-24 13:36
May I say something?
Mr. David Sweet: Yes.
Dr. Aditya Dewan: In terms of our indigenous people or religious minorities, I think both parties have said that there is no difference between them. My perception is that, in fact, Bangladesh is a kind of failed state. What I'm saying here is that the political parties, one after another, have come to rely completely on the army.
In 2009, when there was an election, a caretaker government had to supervise the elections. The United Nations peacekeeping department threatened the army that if they didn't support that, they wouldn't hire the peacekeeping force. Then the army supported the caretaker government, the election was held, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came into power.
My guess is that the political parties are very weak. They are very much dependent on the army and on government bureaucrats. They are basically subordinated to those; they have to listen. On the indigenous issue, the army went to Sheikh Hasina on the fact that, with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there would be a harmful outcome if they called indigenous people indigenous. So the government said that the term “indigenous” should not be used. The government had used the term in many of their documents, had used it everywhere, but after the army pressed them on it, they banned the term from being used. They erased the term “indigenous” from all government documents.
This is exactly what makes the army the more powerful one inside. I believe the army cannot be controlled, because all the parties are hungry for power all the time. This is my assumption as an academic observer; this is what's happening there.
View Jim Hillyer Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Hillyer Profile
2015-02-24 13:55
With regard to the country of Bangladesh not wanting publicity—they like the fact that they're low on the radar screen—do you think, besides putting the pressure on with our foreign aid, etc., visits from parliamentarians would make a difference?
Aditya Dewan
View Aditya Dewan Profile
Aditya Dewan
2015-02-24 13:56
Of course it would make a difference. It would be more powerful and forceful if parliamentarians could raise this issue in the House of Commons. Any kind of discussions would very greatly help. That's my view.
Once it became known, too, they would think, “Well, we can't keep them silent anymore.” If some of the actions taken against the indigenous people became known, and reached the top in many important places, they would think about that. I think it would make a great difference.
View Tyrone Benskin Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, gentlemen, for your presence here.
One of the things about participating in this committee is the things you learn. I would first like to apologize for my own ignorance in terms of the plight of indigenous people in Bangladesh. I guess I suffer from the limitations of western existence in thinking that the problems we see are the only ones that exist. I thank you for bringing your situation to our attention. I'm glad this committee was able to facilitate that.
I guess my question comes on the heels of Professor Cotler's. I'm particularly concerned and fascinated to a certain extent by what you were saying in terms of what the government does in striking the term “indigenous people” from all their documents, as if striking those words from the documents make you non-existent.
How are you referred to, then, in terms of your existence, your actual existence, in Bangladesh? Could you elaborate on some of the work you're doing in order to raise awareness of your existence and the trials and tribulations that you as indigenous people face in Bangladesh?
Aditya Dewan
View Aditya Dewan Profile
Aditya Dewan
2015-02-24 13:58
In 2011 I sent a memorandum to the Bangladesh prime minister on the constitutional amendment work that was going on. It was the 16th amendment to the constitution of Bangladesh. We requested or appealed that indigenous people, their identity as indigenous people, should be enshrined in Bangladesh's constitution. The Bangladesh government completely denied that appeal. Hasina's government could do that under the constitution, because they have more than two-thirds of the majority. They can do whatever they like right now because of the majority they have in the government.
I'll give you just one example. At the airport there were lots of billboards with pictures of smiling indigenous women. When the question later came up about the UN with regard to indigenous people, they removed the billboards. The indigenous women were erased. Subsequently there were government orders that all the foreign aid agencies and government agencies must not refer to indigenous peoples. Government officials were ordered to erase the term “indigenous” from all government documents, when previously....
So they said one thing one day and another thing the next day. They completely changed overnight because whatever army-loving group went to the prime minister and said, “If you recognize the indigenous people, we'll have to give up our land to them”, and this and that. As I said, there was the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Bangladesh was one of the signatories. Even the ILO, the International Labour Organization, in conventions 107 and 169 recognizes Bangladesh as a signatory.
If they say that indigenous people are just there, there will be a big problem because of the money and some other things they get from UNESCO, from the United Nations, from the World Bank. This is the reason they are very much denying why there should be indigenous.... They are saying that we are indigenous.
That is my understanding.
View Laurie Hawn Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
Mr. Tabler, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment that when you get people together, people won't change unless they have to change. People won't change unless they can be made to believe that it is in their national interest or in their personal interest to change.
We can say that about Putin in Russia. Until we convince him that it's in Russia's national interest to stop doing what they're doing in Ukraine, it won't happen.
This is obviously a loaded question that you can't answer quickly, but how do you convince people in that part of the world, the Middle East—Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and so on—that it is in their national and personal interest to knock it off?
Andrew Tabler
View Andrew Tabler Profile
Andrew Tabler
2014-12-04 9:19
Well, it would depend on the process.
First of all, I would agree with Professor Legrenzi's statement. There's no sense in investing in something, unless the basis of it is sound, unless it makes sense. The problem with Iraq and Syria is that they don't make any political sense, and the responses of the governments oftentimes make less sense, not only overall by western standards, but by global standards as a whole. Corruption is certainly a big aspect of it, and I think that was raised in why these states are ineffective.
Getting to the point of your question, I think what has to happen is that we need to put in place, both in Iraq and in Syria, a process that really settles this and takes into account all of the communities inside both countries. We need a process that provides a basis of safety for them, and a basis of protecting their human rights, and also taking into account their political aspirations. As I said, in Iraq, it is slightly easier because you have a government in place; there's some flexibility in the composition of the government. They're susceptible to outside pressures, not only by Canada and the United States, but also by Iran, which is next door.
It's in Syria where the real problem still remains, and I think probably will remain for years because you do not have that transition of government there. No one else has ruled Syria but a member of the Assad family since 1970, longer than I've been alive.
It's there where we do not really see concessions from the government, and I think it's there that the international community is going to have to come up with a settlement that tries to put the pieces of Syria back together again, along with their neighbours in Iraq. Or, at a certain point in the future, and I think this is really only in a de facto sense, but in a de jure sense...we're going to need to think about the modalities of de facto partition of these countries. I don't advocate it as an end state; I think it would be better if they could come back together.
In the meantime, we're going to have to think about these countries as divided entities, as broken states, and we'll have to think about what to do in the short term. The only thing I know to do in the short term is to bring different parties together to see if you can hammer out arrangements that will at least lessen the violence. In order to do that, you will need political will on both sides in terms of the international community—and here I'm speaking between the United States and Russia—to force both sides to make real concessions. I'm not sure that each side is either willing or capable of doing so. We'll have to see what comes in the coming months, as more diplomatic attention is paid towards dealing with ISIL from the ground up.
Thank you.
Matteo Legrenzi
View Matteo Legrenzi Profile
Matteo Legrenzi
2014-12-04 9:53
Yes, I can address that.
Unfortunately, we sometimes have these misconceptions. We all started studying the Middle East, or at least the people who are old enough, when the peshmerga were considered a formidable military force, and Mustafa Barzani, and all of that, going back all the way to the time of the Shah. That was our preconceived notion. But unfortunately the peshmerga of today are 20, 21, or 23-year-olds who have not had the military experience of their predecessors. This is why even the famed peshmerga were not really in a position to contain the advance of the Islamic State without the air strikes that they called upon.
The Kurdish regional government itself is now behaving de facto as an autonomous entity, and you very correctly pointed to what is the key aspect of this de facto sovereignty, which is the fact that they are able to dictate the terms of energy agreements, something that the central government in Iraq had always prevented previously. But now they're in a position to do that because, even in Baghdad, the people are battling for their lives and so on and so forth, so this is it.
This goes back to the previous dilemma. Certainly, air strikes prove important to steady the nerves on that front, but the Kurdish regional government itself needs to get its act together in terms of military training and military efficiency, because these are not the peshmerga of 20 years ago.
View Paul Dewar Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I want to continue with this thread, the relationship between the Kurdish regional government and Baghdad.
We are cautiously hopeful that we'll see al-Abadi be more engaged. When Mr. Garneau, Minister Baird, and I met with officials back in September, including the president and the foreign affairs minister there as well as Barzani, the message was consistent that we want to see inclusion. I think that message is a good one, for reasons that we all know. But it was interesting that not that long ago we had Barzani musing about separation.
So we can see the cards being played. You mentioned energy; we also look at their threat to separate. But we now have people coalescing. Unfortunately it is around ISIS, but it is an opportunity.
We need to see confidence building, obviously. The oil deal, if it is true, is helpful. But if it is just seen as the regional government taking advantage of a vacuum, I think that could be a problem. I think I'm reading between the lines of what you're saying and I agree.
But what about the issue of the devolving of powers? One thing that has been brought up, and it touches on this whole notion of ghost soldiers and the problem with the military, is that we see regional entities taking care of security, obviously with governance support. There was the idea of a sort of “national guard”. I would try to avoid that language, because it seems just an import from the Americans, but it's the idea of making sure that security will be based on a reflection of the population but also have some accountability in the region they are trying to protect, so that we don't see a repeat of the disaster in Mosul.
What are your thoughts on that? Is it a national guard, or is it also police? Obviously, security can take different forms.
That question is to you, Professor Legrenzi.
Matteo Legrenzi
View Matteo Legrenzi Profile
Matteo Legrenzi
2014-12-04 9:58
I think you are absolutely right. On the other hand, the situation there is such an emergency one; it was in the past as well. Look at all the corruption that we overlook in the Kurdish regional government areas because basically they were the only ones who were functioning and were providing a decent level of security for the people living in them. From that point of view it's a dilemma, and I don't have the answer. It's not that this part of Iraq is less corrupt, but at least it has been functional in terms of providing basic security to the people living there, and this has been going on for a while.
At a broader level, you cannot rob many Kurds of the dream of independence. That is something that is passed from father to son. Having lived in Canada and all being Canadians, I am sure you know what I am talking about. From the point of view of this dream or of backing forms of the culture—literature and so on—they are not going to get rid of it.
On the other hand, it must be said that it's very difficult to change myths. It's not in their interest, and they demonstrated this by on the one hand creating what you correctly stated is a de facto government and on the other hand trying to grab as much influence as they can in Baghdad. They've been pretty successful at that. Now they can play on two fronts. This is a technique that is also used in other parts of the world.
This is the situation. If you are asking me whether the Kurdish regional government is less corrupt than the central Iraqi one, the answer is no, it is corrupt. At the same time, it has been able to provide a level of security and in some ways also well-being to its population that is unparalleled in the rest of the country.
View Paul Dewar Profile
NDP (ON)
View Paul Dewar Profile
2014-12-04 10:00
This is a quick question to our guest Mr. Allos; it's shifting gears.
I think we have an obligation to adhere to the UN Security Council resolution with regard to ISIS Iraq. One thing you touched on was dealing with things here at home, with incitement.
How would you deal with it? I note that recently we made changes to hate speech laws. There was a private member's bill that the government supported. But what would be the tool in the tool kit? Some of us were concerned at the time—no one predicted ISIS, let me be clear—that when we took out those provisions it would be more difficult to go after people who are inciting. I think you know what I'm referring to—oversight and the tools in the tool kit relating to human rights tribunals.
What tool can we use? Do we need to put that tool back in the tool kit, or do you have another idea for dealing with incitement and extremism here in Canada?
Matteo Legrenzi
View Matteo Legrenzi Profile
Matteo Legrenzi
2014-12-04 10:12
Yes, technically that's a good idea. I don't think the time is mature for a conference. You're absolutely right.
My only advice would be to try to deal as much as possible with the people on the ground. Exiled groups, I remember, quickly develop an agenda of their own, and it's very difficult and murky then to try to establish what exactly they control on the ground in Iraq, particularly in areas that are controlled by the Islamic State. So as much as possible, you have to work with the people on the ground.
I remember, before the fall of Saddam Hussein, these people in Oxford claimed to represent the true Iraqi opposition in exile and so on and so forth, assuring us that in the event of a regime change, they would have everything under control. They said that they were very much in charge of many opposition groups, and then look at what happened right afterward.
It's a worthy effort. It's the right thing to do, but always be very skeptical and realistic about exiled groups who do not interact directly with the people who are on the ground.
Andrew Tabler
View Andrew Tabler Profile
Andrew Tabler
2014-12-04 10:15
I would not advise it. I think the current policy of uncoordinated deconfliction, or whatever it's referred to as, is when we fly over Syria and President Bashar al-Assad pretends not to mind. The reason why he's doing this is of course that it is coordinated with the Iraqi government, an entity we coordinate with extensively. The Iraqi government has spoken with the Syrian regime, and it speaks to them all the time about this. It's because President Assad benefits and has overwhelmingly benefited from U.S. air strikes on Syria to date.
That means that, yes, we're degrading ISIL, but we're making that settlement in Syria—a real settlement that solves this problem and doesn't generate more terrorism, extremism and suffering—that much more elusive.
I would say that for the moment it seems wise to focus activities in Iraq, to look at Syria, and look at not only what we're doing there. I think it's important to protect individuals along the way, but we need to protect all individuals, as many civilians as we can, minorities and majorities.
The problem until now has been that for the United States in particular and the western countries, their policies have been held up by extremists who say, “If you watch very closely since September 11, 2001, the west only kills Sunni Arabs. If you're anything else but Sunni Arabs you get every break and you receive even direct military assistance in exchange for a de facto alliance with the west.”
Such policies don't benefit the people of the region and they don't benefit western countries. It would be one thing if the Sunni-Shia or Sunni minority balance in the Middle East was 50-50. It's not even close to that. We need to be much more understanding of the political balance inside these countries and come up with a real solution that protects majorities and majority populations.
In Syria, unfortunately until now, I see that the bombing of ISIL has only strengthened and made more elusive that final settlement that truly takes care of this problem.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to go in a little different direction than we've talked about this morning. I think it was Mr. Tabler who said that people and governments don't change without a reason to, and you need to create a necessity for change.
There are two ways that can happen. One is by pressure and the other one is by reward. I'm wondering if there are any kind of fiscal, financial considerations that some of these nations and governments would take into consideration that might lead to an end or at least a lessening of the hostilities. I'm interested in that. Is there anything that would be of enough benefit to some of the players in this area that they would say, “We need to find some solutions here because we're going to benefit in some ways that we're not benefiting from right now”?
Anyone can take it.
Andrew Tabler
View Andrew Tabler Profile
Andrew Tabler
2014-12-04 10:18
I'll just make a comment. In terms of financial arrangements, one aspect of this that was pursued early in the Syrian conflict but was not followed up on in any kind of real way concerned sanctions on the Assad regime. Those were taken in tandem with increased sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran. While those two sanctions regimes took care of the problem of where Syria in particular sold its oil, they actually did not take care of the fact that Iran and Syria trade extensively in oil products and other products as well and support each other.
I think we'd have to think a little bit about how we would interrupt that assistance going forward, at what time, and how useful it would be. Obviously we're having conversations with the Iranians over what to do in Syria, but the question is, are the conversations going in the right direction?
Until recently—or until now—I don't think the Iranians would like to go with anyone else but Assad. It doesn't mean that they're married to him, but they don't see the necessity of getting rid of him in the midst of this crisis and in the midst of the threat from ISIL, but how could this be incentivized along the way?
If negotiations with Iran fail, then we would to look at stronger measures to isolate both the Assad regime as well as the Islamic Republic, but that is in the distant future and the subject of a long homework assignment for us all, I'm afraid.
Matteo Legrenzi
View Matteo Legrenzi Profile
Matteo Legrenzi
2014-12-04 10:20
I take this cue from the latest comment. I think that an understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran would really help in the short term and the medium term from a practical point of view. I like to use the word “understanding”. I don't really like the word “agreement” because then people can seize on an agreement and can take it apart, and so on and so forth. If anything, when discussing the situation in Iraq and in Syria, I think it will be beneficial to reach an understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I know this is a much broader question because the main fault was there. There is no proliferation, which is a global strategic issue, and we're not yet to talk about that. We should take an entire.... If you want, we can have one next week or so on Iran in particular. I want to stress that it would be quite beneficial because otherwise we come up with this fairly whimsical formula like the one that was...big conflict, whatever it was, and non-cooperation deconfliction. So that even when our interests align, we cannot be seen as working together. That's a bit perverse.
So I know it's a much broader question but I just want to send the message that it's crunch time right now in the negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, without going into the whole issue of proliferation, an understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran, or even an agreement would definitely help the situation in Syria and in Iraq.
Matteo Legrenzi
View Matteo Legrenzi Profile
Matteo Legrenzi
2014-12-04 10:22
Well, I'm fairly pessimistic but maybe that's because I've been at this for too long. The part where the negotiations were prolonged was good. What we do not have to expect is a “Nixon in China” moment by which we do reach a technical agreement and then trade starts flowing, and so on and so forth. It's a lot more complex. There is a lot of history there, but if we find an agreement, or even if we do not find an agreement but we keep negotiating and we can find an understanding on Syria and on Iraq, that would be very beneficial.
How many countries are we trying to contain? We do need to start finding an understanding. It's beyond even our reach and our capability. We are putting our soldiers on the ground and our men and women in the air.
Andrew Tabler
View Andrew Tabler Profile
Andrew Tabler
2014-12-04 10:36
I think that while security-centred reform is key and the linchpin in Iraq, the overall key to solving the ISIL threat concerns a real settlement in Syria. I think it's important to look at the fact that there are real settlements, and then there's window dressing. I would encourage you to not invest money and efforts in window-dressing types of summits or arrangements where we try to sort of cut the baby down the middle. I'm afraid that, in the case of Syria, it will take real concessions from each side, on the part of the opposition as well as on the part of the Syrian government. I think beyond that, if we set that as a goal, you will find that when people see a real settlement in sight they will invest in it.
But, again, it's another example of how wishing for problems to go away and further isolationism doesn't work. It doesn't make us safer and it doesn't alleviate human suffering, not only in the Middle East but overall in the world. Instead, we've made the world a much less safe place to live. I would encourage all of us, in all like-minded democracies, but also regional allies, to work towards a common and sustainable end to the Syrian conflict.
Rick Stewart
View Rick Stewart Profile
Rick Stewart
2014-12-03 15:59
I may be able to add something to that.
We have measured or taken stock of the number of formal complaints concerning political activities of charities that we have received since 2008-09. They range between 20 and 159 complaints of some sort. I do not have information that breaks down the nature of those complaints, just the fact that we received complaints.
What I would say is that we receive information from a variety of sources all the time in support of our compliance activity. We receive information internally,
from departments through their programs and activities.
We also receive information through our own monitoring of media reports and web postings—that sort of thing—and self-declarations by charities on their annual information returns.
As part of our general activity, setting aside whether it's a political activity allegation, we look at all of this information. That's not to say that we then proceed and pursue discrete actions in all of those cases. It's incumbent upon us, I think, as responsible regulators to at least look at information that is brought to our attention to determine whether or not there is an issue. The existence of a complaint does not necessarily imply that there will be some kind of follow-up CRA action.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-12-03 16:14
Mr. Stewart, how much of the $13.4 million of additional money to audit political activities of charities has been spent to date?
Rick Stewart
View Rick Stewart Profile
Rick Stewart
2014-12-03 16:15
I'll find that answer, so as to not take up your time. I'll come back to it.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Huppé.
I want to switch topics just a little bit around the $13.4 million spent on auditing charities. Is there a working definition that you can give to the committee of what “political activity” is, which the CRA is using?
Rick Stewart
View Rick Stewart Profile
Rick Stewart
2014-12-03 16:24
Yes, there is.
Political activities are those that seek to:
...further the interests of a particular political party; or support a political party or candidate for public office; or retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country.
You'll find that information on the CRA charities website.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Has that definition changed at all over the last five years or is that consistent?
Peter Milliken
View Peter Milliken Profile
Hon. Peter Milliken
2014-12-02 11:10
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It's a pleasure to be here and to see many former colleagues again.
I think this bill is a very interesting one, and certainly one of the things I've been speaking about in the course of lectures, and so on, that I've been giving since my retirement is the importance of the control that leaders are exerting over parties. It's something that has shifted during my time in Parliament. When I was first elected in 1988, I don't remember all these controls being in place or being enforced in such a vigorous way as they seem to be now. It causes me concern because we've switched to a system where party leaders are elected now by all the members of the party voting nationally. So the leader is claiming greater authority than any of the other elected members of the House because he or she was elected by a group of voters who were all members of the party, admittedly, but were national in scope. So it's hundreds of thousands of voters instead of a smaller number that's the situation in every constituency in our country.
Because of this leadership vote, they're saying, we have authority over the party and we'll decide who's in and who's out, and we'll decide who's going to be the candidate and who isn't. I don't think this is something a leader should be doing. In my view, our system has worked as a successful parliamentary system, as does the British one, by the fact that we have members elected by their constituencies. The candidates are chosen by members of the riding associations in each constituency, which choose the candidates and then put them against one another, and we have our electoral battle on a local level in a constituency. I think that's made our system work extremely well.
I think it's really important that the party not dictate who the candidates are in these ridings; and by the party, I mean the leader or any person under his or her control who then can say that this is the only person who can run in this riding. If anybody else wins, we won't allow them to be the party candidate.
I think the bill is beneficial in that respect. Now, there may be arguments as to whether it could be improved or whether there are other solutions to it, but I think it's important that the local association have the right to choose. I don't know why the president of the local association couldn't certify to the Chief Electoral Officer that so and so is the selected candidate at the nomination meeting they held in that riding. To me, that's the way it might reasonably work, rather than have some official in the party doing this on a provincial or a national basis—or whatever geographic basis we want. The riding presidents could do it, and I believe the ridings—and I'm not an expert in the law in this regard—are registered as part of the electoral process and are allowed to work with the candidate during the election campaign and all that sort of stuff, in terms of fundraising and all that sort of thing.
I think Elections Canada should be able to tell who the president is and then accept a certificate from the president rather than the party leader as to who the candidate is.
Similarly, I believe the right of the party to have the caucus have some say in who would be the leader is also important. Now, whether it has to be embodied in statute is another matter, but there's certainly an argument for it because I think if we're going to have this national election, the caucus ought to have a veto if the person who is chosen is unacceptable to the caucus for some reason. For example, suppose someone's elected leader who isn't an MP, runs to get a seat, and doesn't make it. How's the party going to continue without that person in Parliament, if that's the situation? Stuff like that can go on, and I don't know why the caucus shouldn't have the right to say, okay, you're no longer the leader because you're not an effective person for us and we need somebody who can do the job here, and we'll appoint an interim and the party can have a convention and choose someone else. To me, that's reasonable. It's just a matter of whether it has to be in the law or not.
I'm not an expert in this. It might be something that could go into party constitutions, but it could also, I suppose, be part of the law. So those aspects of it, to my mind, are important for furthering a more democratic operation for our Parliament, because I don't think members should be dictated to by a party leader on every issue and told, if you don't vote this way, you're out of the caucus.
Yes, we need some independence of voice for members because the interests of our constituents do differ from place to place, never mind party to party, and members may sometimes feel they have to represent those interests and vote in a different way. But we can do it, in my view, without incurring the position where we're thrown out of the party and not allowed to be a candidate in the next election.
I think it's important that members have that kind of independence. I don't think it's offensive to our system, and never has been. I know some leaders may think that it is, but I think we should be looking at that, and if we have to embody this in law to do it, away we go.
View Scott Reid Profile
CPC (ON)
A House of Commons tie...all right.
I wanted to just go back actually to what Mr. Simms was raising.
He raised the example of a candidate who had been opposed to official bilingualism and while he was doing his comments, I looked up the actual history on Wikipedia and the candidate was Leonard Jones, who was in 1974 nominated to the Progressive Conservative party. He was disallowed by Robert Stanfield. It says, “After Jones won the nomination, party leader Robert Stanfield refused to sign Jones' nomination papers, citing his opposition to the party's policy of bilingualism. Jones ran instead as an independent candidate, and won with 46 percent of the vote. He decided not to run for a second term.” That's the history there.
It raises a question that I'd intended to ask anyway. I was thinking of a different set of examples. I thought of the boll weevil Democrats in the United States who in the middle of the 20th century were opposed to their party's position on civil liberties. I thought of David Duke, who won his party's primary for, I can't remember now if it was for senator or governor for Louisiana. Ultimately he lost the election, but he did not reflect the Republican Party's views on civil rights, either. For those who don't remember, he was the former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
What I'm getting at here is, if you remove all limitations of who can run for party then I think you have to accept that you're adopting a version of the American primary system. You're going to get people who are fundamentally opposed to the views that a party holds and ultimately they may actually be people who are electable by the standards of their local constituents. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad, although none of the examples I said are terribly positive. But I throw it in your lap to see whether you think that's something our system is able to handle.
Peter Milliken
View Peter Milliken Profile
Hon. Peter Milliken
2014-12-02 11:49
Yes, I think it did handle it for a very long time. I don't know why the shift has occurred. Fortunately, the control that leaders exert has not been very dramatic until recently. There is this one in the 1970s, but you don't hear many others from the 1970s or 1980s.
It's only in the last decade that we've had much more control exerted in this area and that's what concerns me. That's why I think the proposed changes are helpful. I'm not sure it's going to solve the problem in the current drafting, but still I think it's very important that the parties be able to attract candidates and you don't have to sign up to every single item that the party has on its platform and say I agree with everything and will vote for everything or else. I don't think it should be that rigorous.
I think that we should be encouraging people to get in and have debates about what things are good and what are not. Some of the things in the platform can be enacted exactly as worded and others you might make some shifts and modify them somewhat to get them to appeal to a greater percentage of the population that's reflected in the caucus. Some of the members there are going to have different points of view.
We have this on a regional basis in our country and have had it since Confederation. Members from the prairie provinces sometimes have different views on certain issues from members in Ontario and Quebec. There's nothing new in that, not at all. I think it's a natural thing given the different demographics and geographics in which we live.
That's bound to reflect itself in the way the parties agree on proceeding on issues. There may be a difference between the parties, but there may be differences within the party too that result in shifts in the way the party goes and the way legislation gets drafted on a cooperative basis, even in the House.
For that reason, I think it's important that the member be chosen locally as the representative for that area, because his or her views are ones that appeal to people that sign up for the party and make the choices as to who the candidate will be in each one of the small demographic sections of our country—although some of them are quite large—on the constituency basis.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for being here.
I'd just like to follow up a little on Mr. Reid's thought. I guess the question becomes: should there be some kind of safety net, if you will, something that would catch the extremes?
I would ask you this. We are in a climate right now, if you think about some of the recent campaigns—I can think of certain party examples—such that things have happened during the course of a campaign or things have become known in the course of a campaign, and the first thing the national media does in the middle of that national campaign is swing over and ask the leader, “How about this?”
If they have no say at all, is what we would expect them to say to the country, “I don't like their position on things either, but I didn't pick them.” That's a bit of a tough one.
Just to take it to its extreme to make the point, I would ask you how you see us handling that part of it, because we would shift some aspects of what the leader can do, but we haven't changed the national view of what it is that leaders are supposed to do. That is, when a riding picks a candidate who is against a lot of the policies of the party and something comes up and they swing to the leader to ask “What do you think?”, where are we at that point? Where does that leave us?
Peter Milliken
View Peter Milliken Profile
Hon. Peter Milliken
2014-12-02 11:53
I think the leader can say that we welcome diversity of opinion within the party, that we'll have a debate about it and the member can raise the issue if he or she wins the election, but that our party position was adopted at a party conference and this is the position that was agreed on, so it will take some persuading to shift our position on this issue.
That's all you need to say.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
What is the rationale for subjecting Canadian high Arctic research station employees to part 7 of the Public Service Employment Act rules concerning political activities?
Stephen Van Dine
View Stephen Van Dine Profile
Stephen Van Dine
2014-11-05 16:33
Part 7 applies to all federal public servants today. We're aligning that specific provision to that departmental corporation, so that it would be subject to the same requirements of all public servants in the federal public service.
Stephen Van Dine
View Stephen Van Dine Profile
Stephen Van Dine
2014-11-05 16:34
I'm unable to confirm that right now. I'll have to get back to you to see whether that's the case.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Chair.
I have a question and it may be hard to get at, but has the effect of the mandate of the combining of the agencies changed the amount of money being allocated to various types of research being done in the Canadian Arctic?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2014-10-30 11:44
Thank you.
It's a pleasure to have you here today, Mr. Chong.
I do appreciate the remarks you made at the opening, which I know in fact to be very true, which is the fact that you have done a lot of work to consult with your colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I know I personally had some conversations with you about some of the concerns I had with your original bill. I know that many other members have done the same. Certainly that is something we can all appreciate, that you have done a lot of work to try to ensure that you've got the support of members from both sides toward what you're trying to accomplish. I think we all appreciate what you're trying to accomplish. In some cases, in some parts, we may disagree on how you're trying to accomplish this, but we certainly can all agree on the fact that your motivations are very laudable.
You've mentioned the amendments that you've proposed. We've seen those in the media and are all aware of what they are, but you didn't really have a chance in your opening remarks to tell us a little bit about them. Just so it's on the record here with the committee, could you maybe briefly tell us a little bit about what amendments you are proposing? Can you do that fairly briefly, because I do have a couple of other questions I'd like to ask you.
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Sure. Broadly speaking, there are two sets of changes that I've proposed to this bill. The first concerns party nominations, for which I'm proposing that the bill simply remove from the Canada Elections Act the party leader veto over party candidates and leave the determination as to who would endorse a candidate for the purposes of an election to the registered political party.
The second set of changes that I propose concerns the governance and structure of party caucuses. The change there is quite simply this: that before each of the four sets of rules can be put into force—those being the rules for review and removal of the party leader, the election of an interim leader, the removal and re-admission of a caucus member, and fourthly the election of a caucus chair—a caucus as its first item of business after each and every general election would have to vote in a recorded manner on each of these four sets of rules, either adopting or rejecting them.
In the event that they rejected a rule, they could choose to revert to the unwritten status quo or alternatively adopt a modified written rule.
These changes, announced on September 11, were done to address the real concern from all party caucuses here on the Hill that the bill was too prescriptive and didn't take into account unique circumstances or special situations.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2014-10-30 11:47
I appreciate that. You would know that those are some of the concerns I had and that I know many others had as well in regard to the bill as it was originally written, and even in the second form.
I certainly would agree with you that the amendments you are suggesting are valuable amendments. You have three areas that you seek to reform with the bill, the first being the rules about party nominations, which you have just mentioned. I think the concern was that the bill was too prescriptive, that Parliament was deciding for the political party how it would conduct its affairs. You've put back the ability of the political party to make the choice, prescribing that there must be something in the political party's rules, but that it's their choice as to how they would conduct themselves, and this gives them the power to govern themselves.
The same goes for the caucus provisions. You're allowing the caucus to make a choice as to whether it wants to utilize the rules in choosing its leadership and deciding who can and can't be a member of the caucus, again allowing the caucus to make choices about how it would govern itself. These are principles that I think we all would agree make some sense.
The case that becomes a little foggier arises when you talk about the provisions for the party leadership. The leader of the party is of course the leader of the caucus and therefore should be accountable to the caucus in some way, but also is the leader of the political party and therefore should be responsible and accountable to the members of that party in some way.
The one concern that I think remains with the suggestions—including the amendments—that you're proposing would be whether in fact the changes, even with the amendments, still put too much emphasis on the caucus and therefore remove some ability for the political party to have the same accountability.
Obviously this is something that every political party views somewhat differently, but at the end of the day, both the caucus and party members feel that there is some need for accountability to them. The concern would be whether this, then, by tipping the balance of power more towards the party caucus, removes some ability for there to be accountability to the political party, putting the control more—
And I know this is a philosophical debate. Some people believe that maybe it should be more the one way, and some believe it should be more the other. But that's the concern: should every political party have the ability to make that decision for itself?
Do you not feel that maybe, by allowing a caucus to make the decision to take this power for itself, the bill removes some of the control from the party and the political party members? I'd want to hear your thoughts on that.
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Richards.
The first thing I'd say is that the bill doesn't affect the power of the registered political party and its members to elect the leader as they currently do, or to review the leader as they currently do. All the bill does is recognize—
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2014-10-30 11:50
I don't mean to interrupt you, and I agree that technically it does not change that. By virtue of the fact that it does give more control to the caucus, and when you're talking about barriers of 20% and these kinds of things, does that then remove some power from the members because you're giving more to the caucus members?
That was the question I was trying to get at.
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
All that the bill does is to clarify the existing unwritten constitutional convention, parliamentary convention, that caucuses have the right to review the leader and to replace the leader of the party within the House of Commons if they see fit. I think there are plenty of examples to illustrate that unwritten convention.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Great, thank you.
I just want to go back to one of the other rule changes that I and my colleagues have one particular concern about. When the rules that you had set out were prescriptive, it would have been impossible, other than through a very indirect mechanism, for a party to maintain central rules with respect to diversity, promotion, and equality goals in nomination. The NDP has very strong central policies that are intended to make sure that the best possible efforts are made to ensure that the pool of nomination candidates reflect equality and diversity goals. There would have been a way to get around it, and we talked about it, but it wasn't specifically possible in the bill as written. So I appreciate your responding to those concerns. My only question is that in doing so the mechanism seems to have been to remove the local nomination rules entirely, the local control over timing and the process. I'm just wondering if you had considered simply having a clear rule to the effect that the central rules of the sort we have would not be ousted by the local rules.
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
I think the changes proposed on September 11 to leave it up to each registered political party to decide how to go about party nominations was the right thing to do. Ultimately, I believe that party members want to empower themselves. In every cycle of nominations that we go through as registered political parties, there are controversies in each of the parties about candidate nominations. These are usually centred around the central party imposing its will and authority over the local party. My view is that even though the changes proposed on September 11 aren't prescriptive in regard to party nominations, I think the long-term tendency will be for party members, through their national conventions and the adoption of changes to their national constitution and bylaws, to move toward greater local control over party nominations. This bill will allow parties to do that because, for the first time since October 1970, it will remove the statutory requirement that party leaders approve or endorse candidates for election.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you for that. I sincerely from the bottom of my dear heart would like to say thank you very much, and it's good to be back here to see everyone again. I feel like we went through good times together and we'll continue to do so. Is that enough? Have I greased the wheels enough, sir?
Mr. Chong, you know, we started here about 10 years ago, you and I, and we've had this conversation spanning probably five or six years.
The first time we spoke about this you talked about that one rule, which was the first rule, I guess, that inspired you to do this. I believe it was in 1970 when it was decided that the only way you could get your name affixed to a party—or should I say a party affixed to the name—was to have the signature of the leader, period. This was also brought up as something problematic by former Speaker Milliken, after retirement, in the Travers debate.
You didn't just do that, though. You went another route and became, as the word's being thrown around, “prescriptive” in many respects. It was illustrative, a learning experience, for all of us because other jurisdictions around the world use these types of measures, Australia most notably and, of course, the U.K. given the fact that they have Westminster systems like we do.
But why didn't you just stick to that one change? Effectively, you have changed it, right? So let's be clear: It's no longer just a leader but we as a caucus now who will have have the power to decide who the nominee will be, correct?
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Yes, the bill encompasses change but not just to the Canada Elections Act but also to the Parliament of Canada Act in respect to parliamentary party caucuses.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
One of the problems from the beginning, as some of my colleagues have pointed out but I'd like to point out again, is that there seemed to be a disequilibrium between the selection of a leader of the party within Parliament itself and the removal of one. The party has its process by which to choose a leader, and it's a very long one. It involves a lot of people, of the citizenry, but the removal of one requires few.
That obvious became a problem for all the major parties, and even the minor parties, for that matter. What are your thoughts on that?
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this. I didn't have enough time in response to Mr. Blake's question to fully address it.
The power for caucuses of the House of Commons to review the leader currently exists, in my view. The problem is that these rules have never been written down on paper, and so they are opaque and generally unavailable to members, because of a great deal of confusion about what the exact process is.
There are many examples to prove that the convention exists, because of the behaviour of actors in our political system. We can look to provinces in which, just in the last 12 months, this power of caucus to review the leader has been executed.
Premier Dunderdale was premier at the beginning of this year; she no longer is because of such action. Premier Alison Redford was premier at the beginning of this year; she no longer is because of caucus action. Mr. Hudak, leader of the official opposition, is no longer leader of the official opposition because of caucus action. So at the provincial level we've had numerous examples in recent months.
At the federal level we've also had examples in recent years. Mr. Dion was replaced by Mr. Ignatieff between two general elections through the actions of caucus and other actors.
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
That's right; we're now seeing the same issue play out in Manitoba.
Even O'Brien and Bosc, the bible of parliamentary procedure, makes reference to the fact that in the absence of a leader of the official opposition, it is up to caucus to select the new leader of the official opposition.
So there is long precedent in Canada to demonstrate that caucuses currently have the power to review the leader. Here is the central problem. The central problem is that we have yet to clarify these rules in writing, and as a result there's a great deal of opacity—and this is vitally important—because the corollary to the removal of a party leader is the election of the interim leader.
In a democracy, few things are more important than how power transitions. We don't live in an absolute monarchy, wherein it transitions through hereditary means; we don't live in a dictatorship, wherein it transitions through the will of the leader. We live in a democracy, wherein we need great clarity and transparency on transitions in power.
I put to members of caucus that, in the event that a head of government were, heaven forbid, suddenly to die or suddenly become incapacitated or suddenly resign from office, the next day the Governor General would need to appoint a new head of government. Currently, the way that process is to take place within party caucuses and within the House of Commons in general amongst leading parliamentarians is not as clear as it should be. So we also need to clarify the rules concerning the election of the interim leader, because as I said before, in a democracy few things are more important than how power transitions in between elections.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2014-10-30 12:07
Thank you. I have another question I want to move to, but actually I want to pick up on the conversation that was just happening.
You mentioned a number of examples of leaders being removed in provinces. I could add a couple to that list that we've seen in the Parliament of Canada in the last couple of decades as well, with a couple of different political parties that were able to remove their leaders.
Now, I may be mistaken, but I don't think in any of those cases there was any prescriptive legislation that provided for it to happen; it just happened generically. It was able to happen because the support wasn't there for the leader any longer.
Am I mistaken in that?
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
No, that's correct. We inherited in 1867 a constitution that was partially written and partially unwritten, and much of the way we operate here is based on unwritten conventions.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2014-10-30 12:08
So given the fact that this was able to happen without legislation being in place, what are your thoughts on that? Could we not continue the situation as it is now?
I'll add a second part to that question as well. Obviously in most if not all of those cases—and this goes back to what we were talking about earlier—the fact is that there is some accountability of the leader to caucus and some accountability to the party membership. The leader is leader of both the caucus and the party. It goes back to that whole principle that in most if not all of those cases, the majority of caucus and the party membership would I think have held the same views, that it was time for the leader to go. They lined up.
Of course, there could be instances in which that wouldn't be the case. My only concern—and I want to hear your thoughts on it—is that in that case the onus is put far more strongly onto the caucus.
Now, if their views were to differ from those of the party leadership, do you have concerns that the difference would then remove power from the party members as a result?
View Michael Chong Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
In response to the first part of your question, which is that the current rules, being unwritten, are used from time to time, I would say that the problem with the nature of the unwritten rules we have today is that there's a great deal of confusion as to how they are to be used, because there is a lack of clarity about the details of how they are to be used. As a result, a leadership crisis tends to be a drawn-out affair in the Canadian system.
We're seeing, for example, recent cases in the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba that have put the efficient functioning of the administration of the government into question, and instead of being a swift affair dealt with in a matter of days, the resolution of such a situation tends to be long and drawn-out. I think that is a direct result of the opacity of these unwritten rules.
In response to the second part of your question, which concerns the role of caucus and the role of the party, I would say that the party still has tremendous powers. It still would elect the permanent leader of the party, and caucus members would be accountable for their actions, because the bill is specific, along with the changes that I proposed on September 11, that members vote for or against these rules in a recorded manner. So they could be held accountable not only by their constituents, but also by party members in their riding.
View Alexandrine Latendresse Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chong, thank you for being here today to speak to your bill, which contains a number of interesting elements. In fact, I've already talked about it in the House.
We have numerous questions for you today. Although more specific, my first question is along the same lines as what Mr. Richards was saying.
Every two years, all the members of our party must vote on the leadership. We have to say whether our leader is doing a good job and should continue leading the party. Just since 2011, we have done that twice: in 2011, for Mr. Layton, and in 2013, for Mr. Mulcair.
If we record in writing the rules so that a caucus can decide whether or not to hold a review process, how would it be possible to reconcile a situation where the members of the party expressed overall satisfaction with their leader but the caucus did not agree?
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