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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It’s simple: no one is above the law. It’s a fundamental principle in Canada. The obligation to ensure ethical standards for all parliamentarians is the role of this committee. Mr. Dion’s report is clear: Mr. Trudeau broke Canadian law. He set up a plan to undermine the role of the former attorney general of Canada to help his friends at SNC-Lavalin. It’s not acceptable in Canada for the Prime Minister's Office to be an open bar for lobbyists. We have an obligation to abide by the codes and ethics of the Parliament of Canada.
Mr. Chair, it is my understanding that Mr. Dion is ready to speak. Is that correct?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
He reports to our committee. He's an officer of Parliament and, as an officer of Parliament, his job is to ensure that every parliamentarian meets the highest ethical code. When you are the Prime Minister of this country you are expected to meet the highest ethical code. We have the commissioner ready to speak and to respond to the report, as his normal function is to come to our committee and present that report.
We need to hear from Mr. Dion because to have the Prime Minister of the country found guilty of breaking the law to aid very powerful people by writing a piece of legislation that existed only for that company—it was written for one purpose, to give them a “get out of jail” card—and then by having a campaign involving so many key people in the Liberal government to put pressure on the Attorney General and the independent prosecutor, this is not acceptable.
Either we have the rule of law in this country or we don't. That is the fundamental question. For the Prime Minister to invoke the Mark Zuckerberg defence, which is “Hey, thanks a lot for finding me guilty. I'm just going to blow you off....” Mark Zuckerberg may get away with that because he lives in another jurisdiction and he is a gazillionaire, but Justin Trudeau cannot blow off the Ethics Commissioner of Canada. If he wants to do that, then he needs to come back and bring in a law that says he's no longer bound by any laws. However, right now he is bound by the Conflict of Interest Act and he's been found guilty.
We see there is a pattern of interference by his office and the Privy Council, which prevented nine potential witnesses from giving testimony. We need to know who those nine witnesses were. We need to know how extensive the interference in and the obstruction of the work of the Ethics Commissioner was, because the Ethics Commissioner reports to us. It is our job to go back to Parliament whenever there is a problem with lobbying, with the work of the Privacy Commissioner, the work of the Information Commissioner or the work of the Ethics Commissioner. When their work is being interfered with for political purposes, it is our job to put our partisanship aside and say that we have to have a standard that all parliamentarians meet and the Prime Minister has failed to meet this.
Mr. Chair, you have the power to ask the commissioner to report to us. I'd like to see you exercise that. He has to report to us. This is his job. Any attempt by the Liberals to stop that will be continuing a pattern of interference in and obstruction of the fundamental principles of the parliamentary system.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-08-21 13:34
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the committee members for having me at the committee today.
I am having some serious déjà vu. Having sat on the justice committee along with some of my other colleagues here on the other side, this experience right now feels very familiar to me, with silence from the Liberal members and opposition members laying out the reasons why we'd like to hear the truth.
I am certainly appreciative of Mr. Dion's report, but it leaves many questions. There are still questions to be answered that are incredibly important to democracy in our country, as my colleague mentioned.
My son is 18 and will be voting for the first time this year. I can't imagine a country where the Prime Minister can break the law and not admit it and not apologize for it, but thinks that, quite frankly, somehow Canadians are going to accept it. Is this Canada's future now? Is this the bar we're setting, that the individual in the highest office in the land can break the law and nothing happens in response? He doesn't have any accountability for that. The players who are involved have no accountability for that. Mr. Morneau has been mentioned at this table. There are many questions surrounding his involvement, which he now in some way tries to say he can't recall, which seems incredibly unbelievable to Canadians.
This matters. This is about the Prime Minister trying to corrupt the Attorney General's office. This report is incredibly important to Canadians. I think it's a mistake if there are those sitting around this table who think this does not matter to Canadians, that they don't understand enough about it, and there are members who want to get stuck talking about the McLellan report, or different things, such as the DPA, that surround this.
The Prime Minister of Canada has broken the law. We have questions for the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner that need to be answered and that Canadians deserve the truth about. The pursuit of the truth and getting answers to questions that people have in this entire thing has constantly been blocked by the Liberals.
All of us walked in through the press today and were asked questions because this report leaves things hanging, and we can't leave those questions hanging because this is an incredibly serious thing, regardless of who will be Prime Minister of Canada come this fall. We need to know who was involved and to have other people come forward, and we can't accept that it is now okay for the Prime Minister to break the law in Canada.
I implore the Liberal members of this ethics committee, as I have done many, many times at the justice committee, to allow the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to speak before us.
I understand, Mr. Chair, that he is waiting, so I move that we go to a vote so we can allow his testimony to begin and ask questions of him. I move for a vote, please.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.
The justice committee shut down their study. If the Liberal members want to have Anne McLellan, they can go back to the justice committee. This is about the ethics committee. To bring in the report of Anne McLellan, a former Liberal, go back to the justice committee that you shut down. This is about the ethics committee and Mr. Dion's report.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
This is all fine, but we're talking about a specific report. The only job that is referenced as being at risk in the report is where the Prime Minister said he was speaking as the MP for Papineau.
Since Mr. Morneau had no evidence of job losses, I would ask my colleague why he's making up facts now when we're talking about a factual finding of guilt against a Prime Minister who improperly used his position to further the interests of a very powerful corporation. That is the issue before us, not this spin and falsehood about jobs that has been proven to be false by the Ethics Commissioner.
If the member has evidence that wasn't supplied to the Ethics Commissioner—perhaps from one of the nine witnesses who were not allowed to testify, who might know all about these jobs—I'd ask him to put it on the table, or spare us these Liberal talking points that have been proven to be false and that continue the falsehoods of the Prime Minister.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I have a point of clarification. I have great respect for my honourable colleague. I worked with him for four years. He's very complex. I just need to hear whether he is voting against or voting for having Mr. Dion speak to our committee. I just need to clarify that.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, my friend.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I left home at 5 a.m. yesterday morning to catch my flight here. Ms. May comes from a little farther west than Thunder Bay. I know you come from some place out in the far west.
This has been a fascinating discussion, but it has taken 81 minutes of our meeting. I am here to hear from Mr. Dion and we have good arguments. If Mr. Erskine-Smith puts his arguments, I'd rather they be put to Mr. Dion than to me, and I'd rather that Mr. Poilievre put his questions to Mr. Dion than to the Liberals, so I would ask that we get down to the business at hand and have Mr. Dion speak because we're running out of time.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I just wanted to get it on the record so we could stop beating around the bush, because we knew with the appearance of our friend, the former head of the Liberal Party, at our committee for the first time in four years, this was going to be a whipped vote, and they were going to let our friend Erskine-Smith off the hook because he's from Beaches and he's a nice guy. They did the math. He had to explain why he was more than willing to shadow box with the Ethics Commissioner. I'm glad that at least we have it clear now.
I'd like to bring my motion forward because there are a lot of witnesses that I think need to be heard.
Do you want me to read out the motion?
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
It reads, first, that the committee invite the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to present his findings of the “Trudeau II Report”, which I think has been cancelled out by the committee vote.
Therefore, I move:
That the Committee invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, and senior adviser to the Prime Minister and former Chief of Staff to the Minister of Finance, Ben Chin, on account of their intimate connection to the matters at the heart of the report; And that the Committee invite the Clerk of the Privy Council to appear to explain his decision to not share critical Cabinet confidences with the Commissioner, who felt that his investigation was hampered by the refusal.
Why is this important? It's because we saw throughout this whole scandal the Liberals shut down the justice committee and not hear from other witnesses. They shut down the ethics committee and the Prime Minister stood in the House day after day and stated that they were going to work with and trust the Ethics Commissioner. What we've learned from this report is very disturbing because we actually now know that this plan to tailor-make a law.... Now, Mr. Erskine-Smith is a lawyer and I didn't go to law school, but from watching all of my law shows on TV, can you write your own laws if you're the defendant? Well, apparently if you're really powerful, yes, you can.
Who fixes it for you? According to the evidence Mr. Dion has brought forward, very early on in the new government the Prime Minister met with the CEO of SNC-Lavalin and they discussed writing a law to get them a get-out-of-jail card. It was the Prime Minister who began the direction. That's one of the reasons we need to hear from Prime Minister Trudeau. Why is that important? It is because the Liberal line out there is, “Hey, it hasn't hurt us in the polls, so who cares?” Well, I hear from people all the time about this, people who are appalled that the Prime Minister could break his word so easily to Canadians.
The Prime Minister said he was going to be open and transparent. I think of the promise the Prime Minister made to the people of Grassy Narrows. I've been in Grassy Narrows. I've seen children suffering from Minamata disease and I saw the Prime Minister say that his government would clean that up once and for all—and he did squat. Actually, he did something else. He made fun of Grassy Narrows at a gathering of his rich, elite friends. Now if only Grassy Narrows had lobbyists, they could say, “We want this fixed”. How much would fixing the health centre at Grassy Narrows cost a government that is this powerful? It's chump change, it's peanuts, yet in four years he couldn't move to help children suffering from mercury contamination.
However, after the CEO of SNC-Lavalin said, “Hey, we want a get-out-of-jail card”, the Liberals over there now have the gall to tell us that he only ever cared about the public interest, that he only cared about jobs, that there were 9,000 jobs at stake. When we look at the report, we would think that it was the responsibility of the finance minister of this country, Bill Morneau from the famous Morneau Shepell. If they cared about jobs, they would have cared about Sears workers, but no, the Sears workers are now being looked after by the family company Morneau Shepell.
If it were 9,000 jobs, you would have thought they would have done due diligence. This is what shocked me. With Bill Morneau, I thought, “Okay, the guy wears very expensive suits and surely to God he knows how to run a business if he's really concerned about 9,000 jobs.” They wouldn't pull that number out of thin air, and yet the report shows that they had done nothing to prove this. My Liberal colleagues say it is actually the role of the justice department, that it should have been Jody Wilson-Raybould who undertook an assessment of the impacts.
Again, I didn't go to law school so I ask, when you're the defendant, do you expect the prosecutor to have the responsibility of figuring out what it's going to cost if you get charged and convicted? What's the cost to the economy? Say you're a businessman and you're a corrupt businessman, is it the responsibility of the Attorney General to do a cost analysis? Well, I guess it only is if you're powerful enough to have the law written for you.
Let's just go through some of the questions that were really concerning.
Why do we need Bill Morneau here? I know I've been sort of picking on Bill, but what really shocks me is that Bill Morneau flies to Davos, Switzerland to meet with the head of SNC-Lavalin—a week after the so-called public consultation period on the SNC deferred prosecution agreement, a specific get out of jail card is given—and Bill Morneau tells the Ethics Commissioner he doesn't remember what they talked about. He doesn't remember that he flew to Davos, Switzerland to see the head of SNC-Lavalin and doesn't remember what they talked about. That's a month before this get out of jail card was slipped into an omnibus piece of legislation, and Bill Morneau doesn't remember that. This is what we're talking about here—the fact that they were able to write a law, a specific law, to help SNC in a specific case to get off its charges.
Now, we learn from this report that once this law was put in, Ms. Wilson-Raybould was very concerned as the Attorney General that this law had been rushed because it was a law for one company for one case. She tried to distance herself from it. Why? She felt it would compromise her. I would love to have heard from Mr. Dion about this, but obviously we're not going to be allowed. The fact is that the Attorney General had raised concerns that a law was being implemented without proper due regard for the fact that a law must represent the interests of all Canadians. It cannot be written tailor-made for the defendant.
Mr. Morneau again appears to interfere in this process when Ben Chin starts calling the Attorney General's office. Ben Chin says that the company's perception is that the process of negotiating a remediation agreement is taking too long. Oh my God, it must be really hard to be so powerful as to be able to write your own laws and then say, hey, how come we're not off the hook yet? So they phone the Attorney General's office to say, speed it up. Jessica Prince responds to Ben Chin that he is really close to being far over the line on the improper interference in the independence of the judiciary. That report is made available to Bill Morneau, and Bill Morneau tells the Ethics Commissioner that he doesn't remember seeing it. I mean, poor Bill. How could you have such a dodgy memory if you have to have so many facts and numbers and jobs? You can't remember that you've been told by your chief of staff that you are improperly interfering in an independent prosecution investigation. You know, when you speak to the Ethics Commissioner, you are under oath.
Is Bill Morneau truthful that he doesn't remember the key meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that he doesn't remember what they talked about, that he doesn't remember receiving that email from his chief of staff that he was improperly advising? I can't believe that Bill Morneau didn't know that this concern had been raised. I would like to ask Bill Morneau why he told the Ethics Commissioner he never read it. It says one of two things: either Mr. Morneau is incompetent, or Mr. Morneau is not telling the truth to the Ethics Commissioner. Each of those is very troubling.
We know the Liberals have told us that they got a report from Anne McLellan and everything would be rosy if we just followed that. Well, everything would be rosy as is, because you don't have to change the rules to stop interference in the independent prosecution; you just have to respect the rules. That's what the Liberals don't understand. Justin Trudeau doesn't believe the law of the land applies to him. We don't need a new report to say anything about the independence of the prosecutorial system in our country. It is established. It is based on a principle, and that principle is that you don't cross that line.
I'm amazed at how many people were involved in this. This is where Ben Chin needs to talk. Why in God's name was Ben Chin calling the Attorney General's office demanding that they start to move more quickly on getting their pals at SNC-Lavalin off the hook? Who gave him that authority? They were discussing this agreement with industry, the Treasury Board, procurement, and not once with the Attorney General's office, so when Ms. Wilson-Raybould read the report, she said she was very surprised at the extent of the interference. There was a whole pattern, of everybody. It was all hands on deck in the Liberal Party. They all knew. They were all involved, and they were all breaking the law of Canada because Justin Trudeau told them to break the law, because Justin Trudeau said, “Hey, I'm the MP for Papineau and there's going to be an election soon.” Bouchard said, “Yeah, laws are great, but we have to get re-elected.”
We have my Liberal colleagues putting the falsehood out that he was concerned about jobs. I think Mr. Erskine-Smith, whom I have great respect for—I don't like his shoes, but everything else I have great respect for—just told us that it was perfectly okay for the MP for Papineau to stand up for his region, just like Mr. Erskine-Smith would stand up for issues in his region and just like I stand up for jobs in my region. The difference is that I am a single member of Parliament, a backbencher. I am not the Prime Minister of this country, so I can stand up and say, hey, I need to help jobs in my riding. That's part of my job. That's part of Mr. Erskine-Smith's job, but the Prime Minister can't say, “I have an election up ahead. I have to get re-elected, and you have to rewrite me a law.”
Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Jim Flaherty was the finance minister, I think I was the one who went after him over the fact that he had written a letter in support of a business while he was finance minister. Mr. Flaherty said he was acting as a local MP and that was his job. They ruled that you cannot do that as a finance minister, because you have so much extra power, a power that Mr. Erskine-Smith or Madame Fortier or I don't have. That's the difference.
That's what the Conflict of Interest Act is based on. The higher up you are in terms of political power, the more responsibilities you have. So when Justin Trudeau says that he is the MP for Papineau and has to defend his patch, he is already breaking the Conflict of Interest Act and furthering someone else's interest.
Having been on this committee for a number of years, I note Mr. Erskine-Smith's belief that you can only claim that financial interest is a personal financial interest—that if someone gives you money, you are advancing their interest. This has been a long-standing debate in terms of the role of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner—what defines interest. Mary Dawson, our previous one, was much more vague about this, and certainly when there were issues of people paying money into a riding association, she was saying, is that direct or indirect?
Mr. Dion has given us a ruling, and that ruling is that the Prime Minister was furthering the financial interest of SNC-Lavalin, not furthering the interest of thousands of jobs and not furthering the interest of the Canadian people. If the Liberals believed he was wrong, they would have let him speak, but they're not letting him speak. They have shut him down. They have shut down our committee. They've obstructed the work of our committee, so we have to go to other witnesses, which is another reason why Mr. Trudeau is very essential to this.
One of the most staggering statements I found in Mr. Dion's report is that we have an SNC lawyer, Mr. Prichard, talking to the former president of the Treasury Board about the case that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was overseeing. Mr. Prichard states:
We are also considering other ways to make it easier for the Minister to engage and reverse the [Director of Public Prosecutions'] decision. In the end, however, it will take a deliberate decision from the center....
That there, my friends, is collusion. That there is conspiracy, and that there is the lawyer for SNC-Lavalin phoning the head of the Treasury Board and saying they are going to corrupt the decision of the Attorney General and “make it easier” for them to overturn this, but it's going to come from the centre. Who is the centre? The centre is the Prime Minister of this country, Justin Trudeau, who in that moment is involved in the collusion and conspiracy to undermine the rule of law in this country. That's why the Liberals voted against Mr. Dion presenting his report, because once that's on the record, all other questions become much less important.
Then out of this is that Ms. Wilson-Raybould seems to have done her job. She was told that it would be extraordinary, unprecedented for her to bring other people in. The idea that Beverley McLachlin should be brought in was cooked up by SNC's lawyer, who is a former Supreme Court justice, who then reached out to another former Supreme Court justice to get an opinion.
In Canada, we trust the independence of the Supreme Court. We believe these people are representing our interests, but when you're SNC-Lavalin, you can hire someone from the Supreme Court and he'll phone one of his buddies on the Supreme Court and they'll get you a tailor-made opinion, and then they'll go to Beverley McLachlin. Did anyone tell Beverley McLachlin, “Listen, Jody Wilson's not playing ball here. We need you to give us something so that we can put pressure on her”? As I said, this lady was not for turning. She did not give into it because, knowing that the law had been written specifically for SNC, she was concerned that if she acted, it would have compromised her role as the Attorney General of this country. That was what she said, which leads me to the other reason we need to hear from Justin Trudeau.
Mr. Dion's report states that when Mr. Trudeau's attempt was thwarted, he set out to professionally discredit the Attorney General of Canada. We know this from seeing how, when this became public, one story after another was leaked by the Liberal war machine painting Ms. Wilson-Raybould as troublesome and as taking orders from her father. What a diminution of the role of a woman attorney general. There was one attack after another. They actually lined up a whole bunch of the Liberal caucus to go out to the cameras and trash Jody Wilson's reputation, to blame her, to say that she was a troublemaker, that she didn't play well with others, that she wasn't good enough because she wouldn't go along.
The Prime Minister has said it's really important to be open and to be feminist, but you have to play ball. She didn't play ball, and it says here in the report that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted to discredit her. I think it's staggering that if you're standing up for the rule of law in this country, they will orchestrate a campaign to trash your reputation. That needs accountability.
I would have preferred to ask Mr. Dion about this directly, because Mr. Dion is not making these statements out of thin air. He's making them on the evidence he found, and we don't have access to him to hear him speak because the Liberals are obstructing this, just as they obstructed everything else. That is what got them into trouble, but we could ask Mr. Trudeau.
Finally, Mr. Chair, I just want to end on the issue of obstruction, which we've seen today and which has been the pattern, as everybody in the media has been saying would happen because you can see the pattern of obstruction. What's very shocking is that nine witnesses were blocked from giving testimony, nine witnesses were denied having access to speak to the Ethics Commissioner. The Ethics Commissioner should have been allowed to come to our committee because it is our job to be the oversight committee for the Ethics Commissioner, and if someone is interfering with the work of an ethics investigation, that needs to be reported to Parliament. The problem is that it's the Prime Minister of the country who is being investigated. As I said earlier, the principle of the Conflict of Interest Act and the code and the lobbying code is that the more powerful you are, the higher your standard of ethical accountability must be.
You can be a newbie MP and make a mistake and you can get into trouble, but there's a difference when you're the Prime Minister of this country. Why did they interfere? They claim cabinet confidence. Well, obviously cabinet confidence didn't mean all that much when Jody Wilson-Raybould was meeting Gerry Butts and SNC was pretty much sitting under the table and listening in. They didn't seem to think cabinet confidence meant diddly-squat then. They silenced Ms. Wilson-Raybould. They silenced Jane Philpott's ability to speak. They've attempted to use cabinet confidence to interfere with the work of the Ethics Commissioner. If this stands, then what the Prime Minister's Office is saying is that he is above the law of the land because the only law that applies to the Prime Minister is the Conflict of Interest Act. If you're going to use the power of the Prime Minister's Office to forbid the Ethics Commissioner from gathering evidence, then he can't do his job.
We need to find out. I would like to ask Justin Trudeau what he meant when he said, well, we don't want to create any “troublesome” precedents. Well, yeah, I bet. When you're under investigation, it's troublesome. It's the same when you're the defendant—and my colleague Mr. Erskine-Smith can correct me if I'm wrong because I did not go to law school—because my understanding is that generally the defendant doesn't get to write the law. The defendant doesn't get to call the prosecutor's office and say, “Hey, speed it up and get me off the hook. I'm important”. That's not how it works.
SNC, as the defendant, should not be allowed to write its own laws. And the Prime Minister, as the person under investigation, does not and should not have the right to obstruct the investigation because he finds it troublesome.
Since they're so concerned about Mr. Dion being able to testify about what he found, I would say that if we are not allowed to hear from the commissioner who reports to our committee and we're being obstructed on this, then the reasonable thing would be to have Mr. Chin come, because he got promoted, didn't he? For all his interference with the independence of the prosecution, he got promoted.
Gerry Butts is back on the campaign bus, so obviously they're all laughing and slapping each other on the back, because breaking laws is what Liberals are doing and they're getting away with it.
The Prime Minister needs to come because he's the one who said, “Yes, thanks for the report finding me guilty, but whatever, I'm carrying on”, as should Bill Morneau, the man with the amazing disappearing memory. On that, I do remember that Bill Morneau forgot he owned a villa in the south of France, so I guess it's possible. Who among us has not forgotten that we own a villa in the south of France?
Frank, I know, a couple of times you just dropped it and never even mentioned it, and then it was like, “Oh yes, geez, I can't remember where I put my keys.” So maybe he flew to Davos to meet with the head of SNC-Lavalin just prior to this omnibus legislation and maybe he forgot. But maybe he didn't, and that's why Mr. Morneau needs to testify before our committee.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
On a point of clarification, he just attacked me. Tell him to stop.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-08-21 14:54
I just want to pick up on a lot of things said by my colleagues here, many of which I agree with.
I would like to talk a little bit about the importance of having Minister Morneau and Ben Chin appear before the committee. This is something that we attempted to do at the justice committee. Of course, we were unable to, and I really reject Mr. MacKinnon's characterization of those meetings as being comprehensive or that we had enough testimony at the justice committee. Nothing could be further from the truth. There were multiple attempts made to have many other people come before the committee, because, quite frankly, we still have only a part of the story. I believe I even heard a reference made on the other side today to Ms. Wilson-Raybould saying she didn't have anything else to say. That was because what she had said was within the scope of what she was allowed to say. She certainly has more to say, and I think we all accept that now.
I would also like to echo my colleague and say that the Prime Minister owes an apology to Ms. Wilson-Raybould, to Ms. Philpott and to Canadians. The Prime Minister has repeatedly stood up and said he's never understood this as being some type of political interference, yet when we look at the report by the Ethics Commissioner, we see that starting back in mid-August 2018. Ben Chin was going to Jessica Prince, and right away she was saying to him that it could be perceived as improper political interference. Therefore, at the very beginning of this, someone was laying out that this could be perceived as political interference.
Now, I don't believe that Mr. Chin was operating on his own behalf, that he just decided to go over to speak to the Attorney General's staff. I believe he was under the direction of the minister he works for, Mr. Morneau. If we could hear from Mr. Chin, I anticipate that being one of the questions. What was the direction given to him in those conversations that happened with Jessica Prince? In mid-August 2018, we already have two staff people having a conversation about potential political interference. Then we move on and as we go through the story, we see that on September 19 Jody Wilson-Raybould went to Mr. Morneau in the House and told him quite clearly that his staff needed to stop contacting her office on the matter because they were undermining the fundamental tenets of democracy and prosecutorial independence.
Here's Minister Morneau again involved in the story, who, again, was being told directly about political interference. Are you telling me that the Minister of Finance, when being told by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice that he is potentially even touching that line, does not go to talk to the Prime Minister? This is what we need to know. We need to know and understand what was said at that cabinet table, because clearly there are a lot of players, and potentially they did notify the Prime Minister and say, “Listen, you're getting very close to something dangerous here; you have to stop what you're doing.” Are you telling me that no one at that cabinet table, including Mr. Morneau, whose fingerprints and those of his staff are all over this report, notified the Prime Minister that what he was doing was wrong? I cannot comprehend that happening.
For the Prime Minister to repeatedly stand up and say that he doesn't believe he did this, that he doesn't know what this would be interpreted as, whatever it is he's trying to say, is incomprehensible. Quite frankly, it is incomprehensible for him to say that he accepts the report and some kind of responsibility but doesn't understand this, when clearly there were many people within the circle who were aware of this and had an obligation and responsibility to go to the Prime Minister and tell him.
Then we get to November 2018. On November 20, the PCO sent a memo telling him not to meet with Mr. Bruce or any representative from SNC to discuss the case in order to avoid public perception of political interference. Again, he's notified, this time by the PCO. It appears as though there were people trying to inform him. I hope they were, because it's their obligation and they should be doing that, and yet he's ignoring that. There's another reference to it on November 22. Again, PMO staffers were involved—Bouchard and Marques. Are you telling me they were all just out there operating independently and not reporting back to the Prime Minister, not reporting back to the minister, and that the Minister of Finance isn't reporting back to the Prime Minister of Canada? These are some serious systemic problems.
I know we don't have the answer, because now we're not going to be able to have the Ethics Commissioner come before us. I would implore us to listen to and hear from all of these players. We need to hear from Minister Morneau.
I'll leave my comments at that.
I think there's such a strong argument. I don't understand how the Minister of Finance in our country is pretending that he doesn't remember. He's directing his staff to do things that they're apparently not telling him about or having conversations with him about. There are many questions.
One of the questions we have for the Ethics Commissioner is whether or not he thinks Mr. Morneau acted improperly. Canadians have a right to know, and this committee should pursue that effort.
I'll leave my comments at that.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I want to address a few things. First, I want to remind my colleague Mr. Erskine-Smith that actually we are an investigative body here. We have subpoenaed evidence, we've issued summonses, and we've seized documents. We have been more than willing at this committee to use the force we have, but the fundamental job we have is to have the officers of Parliament report to us, and today the Liberals voted not to allow the Ethics Commissioner to present his report.
One of the other officers of Parliament who report to us is the lobbying commissioner. We've had very little relationship with Madame Bélanger, the new commissioner, but the previous commissioner, Karen Shepherd, was an extraordinary force for accountability, and I'm hoping Madame Bélanger will do the same thing. I have written to her because I am very concerned.
Something we've raised numerous times as the New Democratic Party is the problem with the difference between the conflict of interest obligations and the Lobbying Act. How is it possible that the Prime Minister can be found to be privately furthering the interests of a corporation, yet that corporation is not found to have been improperly lobbying or vice versa? We've had situations where the Lobbying Act has been ruled against individual lobbyists but not against the public office holder.
I really think it's important for Madame Bélanger to investigate, given that we have not been able to get answers from Mr. Dion because the Liberals have obstructed his speaking. However, the pattern of intense lobbying that involved writing an actual law while they were the defendant is very concerning. The Lobbying Act is clear. You cannot put a public office holder in a conflict of interest or in a compromised position, and that's what was being done, right down to the statement that they needed the power “from the center” to put that pressure on to force Ms. Wilson-Raybould to change her mind. The issue of lobbying is something that we really need to deal with.
I want to go to Ms. May's point about the international implications. I think this is very important, and I'm really glad that she framed it in this manner. The idea that this was about Canadian jobs and Canadian pensions is ridiculous when we see the pattern of corruption and bribery charges that have been brought against SNC-Lavalin in jurisdiction after jurisdiction. To be barred by the World Bank, you have to be pretty bad. We're dealing with a lot of jurisdictions where the rule of law is very tepid, to say the least. The allegations that have come out of Libya are shocking, and Canada has to have international credibility that we believe in the rule of law. To that end, we now know that the OECD anti-bribery unit is putting the Trudeau government on watch because they've seen how this government has attempted to shut down the SNC-Lavalin investigation.
I agree with Ms. May that what we're looking at here is not about the jobs of individual Canadians, because the construction work has to be done. They are bidding on projects that many companies are bidding on in Canada. This is certainly going to be about some very powerful people, going back 20 years at least, who are very tied to both the Liberals and the previous Conservative government.
Do I mention Arthur Porter here? Here was a man who ended his days in a Panamanian jail. He was given a position by former prime minister Harper to oversee CSIS. That's the power of these people. In terms of Arthur Porter's involvement with the McGill hospital scandal, those court cases still have to come, but the international implications of Canada's shutting down an investigation into one of their own companies, which has been found to be involved in corruption and bribery internationally, make Canada a country that is not credible on the international rule of law. That is what the OECD anti-bribery unit has announced. It's why they are investigating.
What we are witnessing today is the obstruction of a committee, forbidding an officer of Parliament from doing his job, which is to report to a committee on a finding of guilt against a prime minister of Canada for furthering the interests of a corporation facing corruption and bribery charges. This is a company that has been barred around the world because of its repeated violations. This is very serious, and we can see the power they have.
It is the corrosive power of the one per cent to be able to call the Prime Minister's Office to say, “We want you to write us a law.” It is the corrosive power of the one per cent to get a former Supreme Court justice as their lawyer, and then to have him call another Supreme Court justice to say, “We need your help. Give us legal advice.” They were undermining the Attorney General of this country.
I don't know if I need to point it out, but Mr. Iacobucci, of whom I think Mr. Wernick said that he was no shrinking violet.... They wanted to please him. They wanted to keep him happy, yet he is representing a defendant against the Government of Canada and he has also been chosen by the Liberal government to be the key point person on the Trans Mountain consultations.
How can you be so incestuous with the powerful and the rich that you could have someone who is fighting Canada in court also calling the Prime Minister's Office saying, “Hey, I want you to change the law so I don't have to go to court, and by the way, I will be your voice in negotiations with one of the most important factors”, which is the first nation consultations on the pipeline expansion.
Clearly, if this goes to court, a lot of very politically powerful people are implicated. That's what the Prime Minister was concerned about, because if the Prime Minister was concerned about people's jobs, he would have done something for the Sears workers. He did nothing. He would have done something for the auto workers in Oshawa. He did nothing. However, when it came to the rich and powerful who were connected to SNC, who have been found in many jurisdictions to be involved in some reprehensible behaviour.... Building torture prisons for Gadhafi and making money out of that is not acceptable. There are international implications.
This is why I want the Prime Minister to come to explain why he was so apprised, from the get-go, of passing this law. It is not just something that's going to get shut down in the short term because the Liberals have to get to an election. This is going to be a stench that hangs over Canada's international reputation if SNC is allowed to have that much power to interfere in the independence of the prosecution system of this country.
We have to have the rule of law. We have to be able to show it because we are a country that is involved around the world and we cannot be seen, in any manner, to be favouring our own corporations over the rule of law and their obligations to meet the highest standards of ethics and legality around the world, whether it's in Montreal at the McGill hospital, in Bangladesh or in Libya. All corporations must have respect for the rule of law, and the Prime Minister must have respect for the rule of law.
What we've seen here, and what we are seeing today, is that they don't have respect for the rule of law. To them, it's about helping the rich and powerful. That is the corrosive power of the one per cent, and that's what has to be called out.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. You've been an excellent chair these past four years. I want to thank you for being non-partisan and keeping everybody on the straight and narrow. I have enormous respect for your work.
I have enormous respect for Ms. Raitt, but I have to vote against this in the strongest terms.
We cannot use our power as parliamentarians to target journalists. We cannot demand that journalists turn over evidence. We cannot demand that journalists testify before us. That is not the role of our committee. The role of our committee is to hold parliamentarians to account, not journalists. Sometimes they don't write the nicest things about me. I can't bring them forward and ask them why; that's their role. There has to be a strong separation between the role of journalism and the role of parliamentarians, and that's our committee's role.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, everyone, for your intriguing testimony on this issue. I'm going to ask you about a couple of things that haven't been talked about here yet, but I'm thinking that this is extremely germane now and is a modern problem that we have. I know that it was brought up in terms of the rise of nationalism with Hinduism. I guess it's for all of you.
I want to start with you, Ms. Kuo. Can you talk a bit about how social media is contributing to how those narratives are set up? On the misinformation campaigns and mob violence, is there something there that we should be contemplating as a government? It is something that we're thinking about here in our country and in our legislative environment in terms of where social media fits in. I'd just like to understand how social media is actually a factor in these phenomena.
Could we start with you, Ms. Kuo? Then I'll give everyone chance to comment in my time allocation. Go ahead.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay. Ms. Michels, do you want to...?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay.
Mr. Brobbel.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay.
Ms. Stangl, do you want to add anything?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Are any of you aware of any situations in which one Christian community that is sanctioned by the state helps or reaches out to another Christian community that isn't? None of you...?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay. That's very interesting. Thank you.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I have listened to all of your comments. You have mentioned private and public diplomacy, and where the future hot spots will be. China and India are the two most populous nations in the world. Where does what's happening there fit in with Canadian diplomacy, when you look at issues as a matter of a state's capacity to deliver on human rights, such as religious freedom, and with the persecution of Christians as something that people need training and education on or as a matter of will?
I don't know if that's too much for my five minutes, but aside from targeting sanctions at specific people, what can we be doing in terms of the public diplomacy? Do you see some opportunities there that we haven't maximized yet or that we could be doing a little better on?
Do you want to start, Ms. Michels? Go ahead.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
Ms. Stangl, do you want to add anything to that?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
Ms. Kuo.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Brobbel, quickly.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to go back to where there are some clear opportunities for Canada. If we are looking at the issue of targeted sanctions, are there areas or places where, in your studies of the situation, they probably would have the most ripple effect? Sometimes these individual actors are part of something larger. Strategically, what places would you see where this is better suited, where there are certain state actors that are enticing or where there is impunity with some non-state actors? How do you think that fits in?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Yes, I'll go to you, just because you're the.... It's hard to tell when you're looking at people on a monitor. It's very satisfying when you have actual interaction with people. That's why. It's not that I'm trying to put more pressure on you.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Ms. Kuo, on the issue of targeted sanctions, looking at the areas that you've studied and at state actors and non-state actors, where do you think we need to go? Is there an area in China or a specific person who you think would be a start?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
It's someone who would be strategic and would have a ripple effect, not just for the sake of getting them out of circulation. That's what I am getting at. Impunity is one issue, but if you're looking at strategy as to how we can help turn certain things around, sometimes there are people who are more involved or influential. That's the point I was trying to make.
Ms. Stangl, do you want to add to that?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Yes.
We will wrap up with you, Mr. Brobbel, if you would like to add something.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
I'll differentiate now, because I agree with that statement. We're talking about targeted sanctions on individuals, not necessarily....
Okay. Thank you.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for this opportunity at the last of our meetings and the mandate of this subcommittee of the foreign affairs committee in the 42nd Parliament.
It's been an honour to serve with everyone on this committee. Each of us has our own way of coming at the passion and the desire of this committee, and it's really touched me and helped me to grow as a social justice activist and somebody who wants to see Canada's place in the global meaning of human rights and the well-being of all of the planet's citizens. I think this committee's doing tremendous work on that.
It is also for that reason that I think it's important to go on record to say here today that we had a turning point, I believe, on this committee. When I first came here, there was great pride in the operation of this consensus model. I would like to differentiate, because there are people who follow this committee who do take a scholarly approach, and I think it's important in our public sphere to differentiate what is actually happening now. It's not a consensus model. We're operating on unanimous consent, and there is a big difference in that.
It started with the Uighur study, and then some of the tremendous latitude, as other members of the committee who have more history here have discussed, didn't happen towards the end. That is a concern to me, because I feel that this committee has a role and a responsibility that's higher than each of us. Even though we think we're magnanimous and our views are broad, we're always challenging ourselves to be broader. I think we do a disservice if we continue to call this consensus. I certainly hope that those who are returning for the next Parliament will take up that mantle and really truly consider what consensus versus unanimous consent means. The dissenting voices are not always evil and bad, or just people who don't want to get along. It's challenging us, which is why the consensus model was held up with such pride at one time.
The other thing I want to add is that we do have a little bit of unfinished business. I wonder if the rest of the committee has also thought about the recommendation from Dafina Savic to do a unanimous motion and a recommendation for the government with regard to having August 2 as an official day of commemoration for the Romani genocide.
I don't know if anyone else here had planned to do this, so if I may, Madam Chair, I will just read this motion, as per the request of our witness at the last meeting, to the committee. It is that the committee issue a recommendation for the government to adopt a unanimous motion declaring August 2 as the official day of commemoration of the Romani genocide and commit to combatting anti-Roma racism, discrimination and violence.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 9:07
Thank you so much.
Thank you to our witnesses. It's a diverse panel, and it's nice to see different interests being represented, because there are certainly different sides to the CUSMA and the way that Canadians are feeling about it.
I will start with the egg farmers.
If I understand you correctly, you said the amount of market share that's going to be open would represent the entire annual egg production from the Atlantic provinces.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 9:08
Wow. That would be the elimination of all egg production essentially in four of our provinces, which is quite stunning.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 9:08
People in rural ridings like mine wouldn't have farms to go back to, and those farms that support the local economies would suffer as well in small towns like the ones I represent. Also the vintners, I have vintners in my riding as well.
I want to talk to you a little bit about the TRQ. This provision that has now been included in the agreement for eggs says that 30% of the import licences for shell egg imports will be made available to new importers. I know this was a big issue previously, under the cheese quota in the CETA. I wonder if you can speak to the importance of that coming to actual egg farmers and those who are being impacted versus being dispersed across retailers and everyone else in that space.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 9:10
One of the other things that's concerning around supply management is regulatory oversight that the U.S. is seeking and has achieved in dairy. I'm wondering if the same is true in terms of your egg producers. Really, this is woven throughout this whole chapter 28, when we're talking about regulatory co-operation. The fear is that not just corporations but the U.S. will have a say over any changes that could be made to our supply-managed system.
Have you looked at that in more detail and is that a concern of yours? If Canada tries to change our system or look at our system differently, will the U.S. have the oversight to change that?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 9:12
Right. This speaks to our sovereignty, which is what we've been hearing from farmers. It's the concern around sovereignty and our ability to manage our supply management system.
My next question is for the vintners.
Dan, you've painted a picture here of a lot of losses that were incurred by vintners in signing the original NAFTA. The amount of imports now that come in, the percentage of those imports.... Could you talk about the importance of dropping this escalator and supporting our vintners?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 9:41
It's so difficult to do something in three minutes.
This renegotiation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In my neck of the woods, in southwestern Ontario, we saw over 400,000 manufacturing jobs bleed out of our country over the course of NAFTA. It has had a very real impact on people, on my community, on people who work in the auto sector, as well as in other manufacturing. There's a lot of anxiety right now about what is happening around this deal, and the things that, quite frankly, the Liberal government won't even discuss with people are what's causing a lot of it.
I want to talk a bit about enforceability and the work that's being done in the States around the Democrats. We need effective enforcement tools, not just for labour and the environment, which are certainly incredibly important, but across the entire agreement.
If we don't have enforceability, which we have seen has been very poor in the original NAFTA, has not worked well, has resulted in a lot of both job and economic losses, we really put ourselves at great jeopardy. I applaud the work the Democrats are doing in Congress to address this critical issue for the entire agreement.
My question is whether you think there's value in waiting for the Democrats to achieve improvement in enforceability, and then Canada being a party to that?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 9:43
However, I think the issue, which the Democrats have raised as well, and so have New Democrats here in Canada, is the fact that the enforceability of side agreements, the eligibility of those, is quite weak. We saw that in the original NAFTA, that when things are in side agreements, we haven't been able to enforce those provisions. That's the fear, that if we add on, after the fact, in side agreements, we won't be able to actually enforce them at all.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 10:31
Thank you so much.
Thank you to all of our witnesses here today.
My first question is for Ms. Dey because she's the first person to raise chapter 20, the intellectual property provisions around the cost of pharmaceuticals. New Democrats have been raising this. Quite frankly, this impacts all Canadians.
You raised the types of drugs, biologics, that are being looked at or that the extension is for, such as insulin, things for Crohn's, rheumatoid arthritis. These are extremely expensive drugs for Canadians. Even if they have some sort of pharmaceutical or drug plan from an employer, typically it won't cover the cost of these drugs. They're so incredibly effective. A lot of people say they will be the future of drugs.
I want to ask you about that and the concerns that not just the New Democrats have, but as you said, the PBO has as well. My colleague Don Davies is our health critic. He asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer to study the impact of pharmaceutical costs in the new CUSMA and the PBO came back with the stunning number of $169 million per year.
I wonder if you can speak to that. To me, this is a TPP hangover. The U.S. wanted this in the original TPP. It was removed in the new CPTPP, but here it is back again because—no surprise—big pharma in the U.S. and Canada is pushing hard for this.
Can you comment on the implications of this for Canadians?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 10:36
Thank you.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 10:36
That went by so quickly.
I would just add a comment, then, that no Canadians believe the cost of drugs should be raised through a trade agreement. If there's an opportunity to join the U.S. right now to remove this provision, it's something that Canadians would strongly support the Liberal government doing, and I would encourage my colleagues to do the same.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 11:06
Good luck trying.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 11:06
Thank you.
I'll pick up on that theme of my colleague. You know, 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Canada. It's so significant, and without government at the table in a real way to attract that investment, I don't know that anything we put in any agreement will be able to address this really serious fundamental challenge that we have.
For my question, I want to go to Ms. Dey.
We talked about regulations, about regulatory co-operation and practices, which is chapter 28. Trade deals routinely limit the ability of countries to regulate and limit how we regulate in certain areas, such as public health, food safety, rail safety, and workers' health and safety. There are a lot of rules in trade agreements on how governments can make policy and regulations. The new NAFTA, the CUSMA, has been criticized for going even further.
I wonder if you could comment on this, please.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 12:04
Thank you so much, and thank you to another very diverse panel on this massive and important agreement.
Mr. DiCaro, to me, as a former Unifor member, it's been interesting to see the government attempt to paint everyone in labour with one brush and say that they fully support this deal. I think what you brought today was a balance, along with some of the concerns that labour has with portions of this deal.
One of those things that I'd like to have you weigh in on a little further is what you alluded to in your remarks. For all of these efforts—and I do thank labour for the efforts, certainly, that were put forward to see some movement in labour—it's a bit of a best guess as to whether or not in practical terms this will play out in a way that benefits working people.
I say that because I know that the enforcement is very much up in the air as to whether or not there will be any ability to enforce any of the labour provisions that have been sought. I wonder if you would comment on the precariousness, perhaps, of that, and the risk in it when we've seen so many jobs lost under the previous NAFTA.
Also, could you comment a bit on the efforts in the U.S. by Congress and whether there is any attempt to improve labour provisions, the ones that you weren't able to achieve when you were at the table? Does Unifor believe that we should be a partner in that, in trying to achieve even further than what we were able to in the original negotiation?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 12:09
The words on gender obligations in the original text have disappeared in the scrub. Can you comment on that?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 12:37
Thank you so much.
My questions are for Chief Bellegarde.
I take your point that this was the most inclusive deal to date, but certainly we'd like to see a true, nation-to-nation.... We would like to see indigenous peoples at the table as full partners in the negotiations.
Well, first of all, I want to say thank you for your push on those important pieces of legislation, including Bill C-262, Romeo Saganash's bill. It's very important that this bill pass.
When you were here previously on the TPP in June 2016, you brought the issue of a development of a human rights impact assessment for all trade agreements. You talked about the recommendation from Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur, to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a basis for assessing the impact of all trade agreements. I wonder if you can speak to whether that was a consideration in this agreement, or if there was any movement made in this agreement towards that important step.
Also, I look at your document here, and the first item of article 19 states that indigenous peoples must have free, informed and prior consent. I'm wondering if that's been obtained around this agreement. If not, were there conversations towards how that would be implemented in further trade agreements?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-18 12:40
It's going to be gone by the time I say another sentence.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your work and for your insights here today.
I want to go back and talk a little about moving forward and how Canada can be more vocal, more impactful, in the international community. It was suggested that we need to stand up and we need to raise voices and as an international community we have to leverage certain things better. One thing that intrigued me was that you talked about the mobile clinics and about this issue of medical supplies.
Has Canada or has the international community spoken out effectively so far on ceasefires or humanitarian corridors or identifying the support that's needed specifically to get, let's say, medical supplies to a specific area, or have we just been speaking in generalities thus far?
I'd like both of you to explore and talk a little about how we can be moving the needle, so to speak, or advancing, if we look at specific issues or specific areas. Another one would be whether there are areas where we could be concentrating on deactivating landmines or other specific work. I'll leave it at that.
Maybe we can start with you, Doctor, and I'll give you both the remainder of my time to comment on ways that we can specifically work towards providing that access.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Windsor.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
Doctor, maybe you can just expand on that a little. I don't know if we'll have time for Mr. Windsor to chime in. Just talk to us about these rebel groups that are in Idlib and what the potential is. You discussed a political solution earlier. Are there opportunities there that we should be looking at if we look at these groups?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
My question will be for the both of you. I'll set it up and then you can use the remainder of my time. We'll split it up. We can start with Ms. Agbahey, and then I'll let you know when your time is up.
I'd like to ask you about the human rights commissioner's view that there is a window of opportunity for de-escalation of the conflict. Where do you think we should be going? Cameroon is a member of the Commonwealth. Has anyone been vocal? Is there something Canada should be doing to follow suit or should we be engaging that community specifically, and how can we basically de-escalate?
Part of what we're doing here in hearing different testimony on the issue is preparing to make recommendations, and the recommendations would have to be about what we think Canada's role should be. Thinking about that, how would you like to contribute?
We'll start with you, Madam.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Yes. Thank you, Madam Chair.
I just have a point of order. I would like to submit a copy of written testimony from the study that we had on Iran accountability for someone who wasn't able to be at the committee. That was Dr. Pars. I have the English and the French translation of a written submission that I'd like to submit to the committee.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
That is amazing. Who arranged for that? Thank you so much.
An hon. member: You're famous.
An hon. member: Is it bilingual?
The Chair: Oh, yes, we can't present this: It's not bilingual.
An hon. member: It should be in braille too.
An hon. member: Hey, David, if you want to share that cake, it has to be in two languages.
Mr. David Christopherson: I wonder how much sugar is in it.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
You're very kind.
Listen, thank you to whoever did this. I'm blown away.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thanks, John. I know that.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
It's not the Senate.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Christopherson: When I speak, I'll discuss that.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
“Goodbye” would be the end of the sentence.
You almost have me speechless, which is quite the accomplishment. I'm blown away. I just confess that, for all the passion I bring to the issues, I don't handle emotional issues real good. This just overwhelms me. Nothing means more to me than words like you've given today, words from colleagues who walk in the same shoes. No matter how close you are, it's not until you've walked in those shoes and know what it's like to be a parliamentarian that you fully understand, when fellow parliamentarians compliment you, what it means, especially when they're people you respect.
I've been blessed, especially this last Parliament, with being on two committees whose mandates I thoroughly enjoy: public accounts and PROC. It's also given me an opportunity to spend time with some of the finest parliamentarians that I've met. The hardest thing for us to do is to climb past partisanship, yet it's the critical part where we actually make a difference, where we find a way to move forward for the country—that ability to set that aside. I'm guilty of not doing it all the time, too, because our passions do drive us, but at the end of the day, that ability means everything.
With the people I've been able to serve with, the two chairs that I've served under—you, Mr. Larry Bagnell, and Mr. Kevin Sorenson.... I've been blessed with fantastic chairs who were only interested in the best for Parliament and Canada.
I thank all of you.
I thank my fellow Hamiltonian, David Sweet. We know that nobody gets up every day and says, “What can I do for Hamilton”, unless they're Hamiltonians themselves. I've always believed that when we're on home turf, it's important for those of us from different parties to make their city the priority and that we, as much as possible, come here and have a united front on the issues that matter. When we disagree, we do it respectfully. If we're going to have a knock-down, drag-'em-out fight, we do it here in the context of Parliament. However, when we go home, we're home, and we treat each other with respect. That means a lot.
I can't address everyone individually, as I know that I don't have enough time, but, Mr. Reid, definitely you'll be the first invitation to that dock, and I'll have a cold one ready for you, sir.
There are a number of people who I'm looking forward to continuing to work with.
I'll just also mention that on the issue of parliament's security that matters to us, Mr. Blaney today, who was the minister at the time, just stopped by me after our public accounts committee—I don't think I'm telling tales out of school; I hope not—and said to me, “Look, you need to understand that, at the time, we were under a lot of pressure. There were a lot of crises. I think we made the wrong decision. I think we made a mistake. I want you to know that if I'm here in the next Parliament, I'm committed to changing that and putting it back to the way it should be.”
I know that people like Mr. Graham and others care about that, and that's a good sign. It means a lot because it's the way Parliament should run.
Just to end, I was asked if I'm going to still be around. Yes. It turns out that sitting around on the public accounts committee for 15 years suddenly qualifies you as an expert. There are people around the world who would like me to come and do some work with their public accounts committees and their auditor general systems, and I'm now on the board of directors of the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation. It's the main non-profit NGO that we use at the public accounts committee for their expertise and assistance. I'll be joining their team and travelling. So, I'll be continuing to do that. Hopefully it's not more than half time. I still want to put my feet up for the other half. I'm tired: I've been working for 50 years, and that's sufficient.
Those are my plans going forward. However, I'm also aware that plans, like war plans, change. The first thing that goes out the window when the war starts is the plan, so we'll see what actually happens.
What I would like to do, if you'll allow me, is.... This is very difficult. You guys have really, really thrown me for a loop. What's interesting is.... You mentioned the filibuster, and a lot of you have commented on the non-partisanship. I have a present that speaks to both those issues. It speaks to the filibuster, but it also speaks to non-partisanship and extends beyond us as parliamentarians.
You all know Tyler Crosby, who is without question, in my view, the most amazing staff person on the Hill, bar none. You often see me talking to him. He's my right hand. I couldn't do this job without him, at least not the way I'd like to. However, he's not always there. Sometimes he nips out to get something, and then I have nobody else. It's just me here, right?
Yet, when we were in a filibuster, when it was time to unite and fight the good fight, those lines didn't matter, and the partisanship didn't matter.
The Hill Times actually had a picture. I'll just read the cutline that goes with it. It says, “NDP MP David Christopherson consults with an opposition staffer ahead of resuming the filibuster at the House Affairs Committee on April 5. He alone spoke eight hours in all that day, and for another four hours on April 6.” The other person in that picture is Kelly Williams.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Christopherson: I want to present to Kelly a frame of that picture as an indication of the way that we can be non-partisan not only as politicians but as staffers.
I thank you for the unpaid work that you did for me. You assisted me to do what I did.
With that, colleagues, there aren't enough words to properly say what this has meant to me. This will stay with me forever. You really touched me in a way that I can't express, and I thank you very much. It means everything to me.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
No, I didn't. No.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Oh, wow. I've now achieved it. There's the phone call.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 9:24
I strongly support this motion. I would like to see this removed from the record as well, and I think that being specific in this case would be helpful. We can name the date, the time—
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 9:24
That's all I'm saying. I think we should add that in here to be specific, and absolutely the NDP supports the removal from the public record. It should never have been on the public record. It certainly wasn't a name that I knew or any of us knew until it was read into the record here, because there have been great efforts in New Zealand and elsewhere to not share the name of this person. I think if we could be more specific about the things that need to be removed, then absolutely that's something that we should do.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 9:27
I couldn't disagree more with my Conservative colleague. I think we have an obligation to remove this. Given the fact that Mr. Cooper is no longer sitting at this committee, obviously the Conservatives have recognized that this should not have happened at this committee. I don't imagine he was removed for anything but those particular comments and the fallout.
This is an opportunity for the Conservatives to stand and say that we do not support the sharing of a manifesto of someone who murdered Muslim people in New Zealand. That never should have been read into the record. It was completely inappropriate. It was very shocking to have that read into the record in the middle of a study trying to prevent online hate.
Regardless, Mr. MacKenzie, I believe it's beneath you to involve the witness personally and talk about what he personally was doing. If you want to talk about his testimony, I think that's fair, but you're now saying something about his being some sort of campaign manager for a member of Parliament. That has nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Cooper read into the record something he should not have read. I believe your leader has even said so. I believe he has publicly said that it shouldn't have happened, and that's why Mr. Cooper is no longer sitting at this committee.
To sit here and say we shouldn't strike this from the record.... This is extremely serious. Canadians are talking about it. They are paying attention to it. I believe if the Conservative Party of Canada wants to stand up for people, this is your opportunity to do it. If you're going to say you don't want this to be struck from the record, that speaks volumes to Muslims and to Canadians about what you're willing to do in order to create controversy on the backs of vulnerable people.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 9:30
I have a point of order. A point of order.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 9:37
Mr. Chair, throughout this study we've been talking to a lot of groups who feel that they're not safe online, that they're not safe because online hate is turning into real-world hate, violence and murders. In Christchurch, that's exactly what happened.
I don't know what the intention of Mr. Cooper was in bringing this into the public record initially, but what I haven't heard from my Conservative colleagues today are the reasons they think it should still be part of the record. For the life of me, I can't imagine what those could be. Why should this manifesto of hate, with this person's name attached, be part of the public record? Why is it so important to Conservatives that we leave this on the record?
I can tell you that Muslims in my community are horrified and frightened, and legitimately so, because of what happened in Quebec City and Christchurch.
What I have yet to hear from the Conservatives in this very baffling “this is a stunt” type of rhetoric is what the argument is to leave it on the public record. How does this help the safety of Canadians, online or anyplace else, or as a witness at this committee?
For the life of me, I can't imagine or fathom what that reason would be. I encourage you to dig into your conscience to say that this should be stricken from the record, because this individual's name should not have been brought into Canadian media. It's shameful that the Conservatives did that. They have apologized. Mr. Cooper and your leader have apologized, and now you're going to sit here at this committee and try to still keep this on the public record.
That's shameful. It really is.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 11:16
Thank you so much.
I want to echo my colleagues' comments and certainly some comments made by you all as well. For the NDP, alleviating the stress and suffering for victims and families is of paramount importance. Progressive crime and justice legislation is something that we would like to see pursued here, but we do have concerns similar to the ones that have been laid out by Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Bebbington.
I want to ask if any of you believe that this bill could be applied retroactively to offences that were committed before the legislation comes into force?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 11:17
My other question is this. Do you believe that allowing judges to increase the parole ineligibility in the cases that are set out here encroaches on the function on the Parole Board of Canada? How would that work, when that currently falls with the Parole Board of Canada?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 11:18
Mr. Bebbington, would you comment?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 11:19
Can you speak a little bit about how this would apply to a youth, to someone who is 18 years of age or under?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 11:19
It wouldn't apply. Okay.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 11:19
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2019-06-13 11:20
Thank you so much.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thanks, Chair.
To follow up what you said, I want to give my thanks and appreciation.
Colleagues will remember that in the beginning, we were dealing with the previous government's audits. We were doing great stuff, but it's a lot easier to do that when it's the former government.
I said to the government members at the time that the day would come when it would not be easy for us to do the right thing as the public accounts committee and to be non-partisan and only look at the issue of government spending and efficiencies and waste, etc. They were going to get a lot of pressure from their government not to give anyone a wedge.
What happens is—and you know it ahead of time—that the issue of voting unanimously on something that's in any way critical or not supportive of the government becomes weaponized in question period, and the parliamentarians know that. The job here is difficult. It's one that's different from any other committee, and we have to be non-partisan. When we're partisan instead of non-partisan, Canadians aren't getting the oversight that we are mandated to provide.
I want to give a special shout-out and thanks and appreciation and respect to the government members who, in spite of the politics outside this room, grew to the full parliamentary responsibility of this committee. They were fully prepared, and weeks before an election set aside their partisan membership and said that in the interests of Parliament and the work of the Auditor General and this committee, they thought this was the right thing to do and that they would deal with the politics outside. That's exactly what they did, and I have the greatest respect and admiration for them.
Anyone who wants to use that as a clip or to give their material some oomph, you're welcome to it—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Christopherson:—because the government members, in particular, on this issue of the underfunding of the Auditor General rose to the occasion and deserve the respect of all of Parliament for doing the job that's expected of them, in spite of the fact that, politically, it was going to cause them a problem.
Thank you, Chair.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you all for being here. I particularly want to thank you, Mr. Leswick. I don't know whether you drew the short straw or you did something wrong and somebody's punishing you, but they sure threw you to the wolves—potentially. Thank you for being here.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
—in light of the fact that others aren't, but here you are facing the fire. But also, I thank you for your tone, your approach and your acknowledgement of the legitimacy, at least, of the issue here. I appreciate the way you're defending the job you did, and I compliment you. This could have gone sideways really quickly. I think you've done an excellent job, and I want to personally commend you. I hope you continue to provide the kind of contribution that you do.
Chair, I think the Auditor General has outlined the case as well as can be expected. What I'd like to do in my first round is just provide some context, and I'll reserve my right to shore up any arguments later, if that should be necessary. I'd like to put this in context.
Let's understand that in the world of democracies, and particularly accountability, Canada is a world leader. We fight for that in as many categories as we can. Given our size, we don't normally make number one or two in too many things; we're usually in the top six or 10 on things that matter. But I have to tell you, in terms of auditing and our Auditor General process and the work of the public accounts committee, we are world renowned. Particularly, this committee, in this Parliament, stands out so much. Again, I compliment the government members. It's a much more difficult decision for them than for us in opposition, yet you rose to the occasion. I can't praise and respect you enough for doing that, because without that, we're nowhere. Thank you.
Conversely, something like this jars the international community when they go, “Wait a minute. I'm hearing something about the Liberals. Trudeau, in Canada, is not giving the Auditor General the money they need. What's this all about?” It'll have an effect—a negative one. It breaks my heart. We're down to the last couple of meetings. I leave here so proud of the work we've done, yet here's this great big stain on the work of the public accounts committee.
Mr. Leswick went out of his way to point out the processes involved. Again, I have great respect for what he said, and particularly how he said it. But understand, that's the problem. It shouldn't be looked at the way every other department is. Right now part of the argument being put forward by the government is that they didn't treat the Auditor General any differently from other departments. Well, that's a red light; there's a problem and a flag on the field. It isn't other departments, regardless of how we structured it. Keep in mind, this was recognized by the government and personally by the Prime Minister, who gave a mandate to his House leader to stop this way of funding it because this is how you end up in crisis—exactly this.
Had the House leader done her job and put that mechanism in place, we wouldn't be here. In fact, I would be complimenting the government on making a significant advancement in protecting the independence of Parliament's officers. Let's remember, these are not just any bureaucrats. They answer to Parliament. Parliament hires the Auditor General. Parliament fires the Auditor General—not the government. Yet it's the government process that decides funding.
To get into a little bit of the politics of this, I am, very much like my friend, Mr. Davidson, at a complete loss— and have been from the beginning—as to why the heck this is happening at all, given that it's never happened before. I can come up with only three potential motivating reasons, and I haven't heard a single one from the government. I don't mean the government members here; I mean the government in the House of Commons. You've done your job, and now it's for us to put the pressure on the government through the House. That's how this works.
If the Auditor General had a process, an independent way of getting its funding, I wouldn't need to raise this. But we don't, even though they were supposed to do it.
First, it was specifically to avoid the cybersecurity issue. The political calculation is that it's better to take the hit now for underfunding the Auditor General, especially when nobody in the media's paying any attention—except Andrew Coyne and Postmedia. I give them full marks.
I wish it were somebody else driving this than I, because for us it often looks like we're trying to generate a headline. I'm trying to do the opposite: to fade away and disappear. This is not the way I wanted things to be. But I have to tell you, I just wish the national media would pay a little more attention to this. With the greatest of respect, this bloody well matters.
Anyway, was the political calculation to avoid the cybersecurity issue because it would be so devastating? I was here for the first cybersecurity audit and it was devastating. It shook me to the core. Is that why they're underfunding the office? Is it to make sure that that particular audit doesn't come forward because they're arrogant enough to believe they're going to get re-elected and they know the damage this might do to them in the second mandate? That's one possibility. Is another—and with the greatest of respect, I don't you mean you personally, Mr. Leswick—that it is retaliation and revenge on the part of the bureaucracy who ended up having a rather negative audit?
The Auditor General audited the very people who help decide whether or not they get full funding. So was it revenge or retaliation? I want to say that I find it hard to believe it's either one of those two, particularly given that I know the individual members of this government. I find that really hard to believe.
But I'm at a loss. The last one seems to me to be the most likely, and it's also the one that we can fix the quickest. It looks to me like there was a mistake, that this slipped through and now they've doubled down because they don't want the embarrassment of having to change their mind. If anyone can offer me any motivation beyond that, I'm willing to listen, because I really can't think of any other reason why the government would do this except for those three reasons.
Thanks, Chair.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
First of all, I just want to mention to Mr. Whalen who used a sort of common-sense approach—and I appreciate that—in the comments to say, hey, maybe politicians should decide what gets studied. I appreciate where that's coming from, but I can assure you that one of the golden rules of public accounts is the independence of the Office of the Auditor General to choose what it goes into. Otherwise we're into a whole other nightmare scenario in which it is being guided by politics. That independence is crucial, and I think that's what the chair was emphasizing, but I understand where you're coming from. I just needed to make that point. That's a golden rule with us: we can recommend, and when it's unanimous that office pays serious attention to it, but, at the end of the day the law says the office is independent and decides where to go, not us.
I had, I think, actually criticized the media—which is really stupid if you're running again, but I'm not. However, when I am trying to get something, doing that is just as stupid, and I don't want to do that. I'm imploring—that is more the tone I should have taken—the national media to please help us and pay attention to this. We need the public to focus on Parliament's plight here.
I want to give a shout-out. I mentioned Andrew Coyne, and he was good enough to tweet it, but Marie-Danielle Smith was the one at Postmedia who did a story immediately afterwards and then a follow-up one. I could have lived without the hook that created the story, but it got the story out there. That's what matters, and it's much appreciated.
I can tell you that within the auditing, accountability, oversight and transparency of government community, it was noted and appreciated. So, hopefully, we can get others to understand the importance of this.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
I appreciate that very much, Chair.
I was talking about justification. The only justification we're getting in the House of Commons is from the government minister, who is standing up and going back to 2011 and condemning the Conservatives and using that as justification for what they did. First, even if it were true, it's not justification to underfund the Auditor General. Secondly, it's not true. We've got it in writing; we've heard it from our Auditor General. It was voluntary. I can tell you that it was my friend Tony Clement who was the president of Treasury Board. I know that he was actively working the phones and talking to the Auditor General's office because he knew that if they said no, they would have a bit of a problem. He was showing respect and doing what he could to avoid that.
That is not what the government is saying that the previous government did. I don't belong to either party and I was here for both Parliaments. It is absolutely unfair and unjustifiable that the government would make up stories about the previous government to create a phony fig leaf to hide behind.
Next, I want to point out again that while we have a majority government, we often lose track of the fact that Parliament is supreme—not the government. Parliament decides who is the government. Parliament decides who is the Prime Minister by a majority vote. Whoever can get 50% plus one in the House of Commons is the Prime Minister, but at the end of the day, the executive council—the Cabinet—has no legal right to spend one penny that Parliament hasn't approved. Parliament controls the purse strings, but because we have a majority government and the government wins every vote and when they put the budget forward it carries, it looks like the finance minister is calling the shots. At then end of the day, though, structurally.... You really see this play out when you're in a minority government. You and I have been there, Chair.
The reality is that here we are going, cap in hand, to a subordinate body to ask them to match the funding that we recommend and yet we control the purse strings. That's the absurdity of where we are.
I also want to point out the following, because it just jumped in my head, and I thought it was a good point. We asked the question—I think it was Mr. Arseneault who asked the really good question—whether there are any other jurisdictions that do that. Nine times out of ten, Mr. Arseneault, when other jurisdictions around the world ask that question of their auditor general, guess who gets held up as one of the one or two best in the world? The answer you heard was New Zealand and the U.K., because when you remove us from the equation.... We like to fight with the U.K. about whether we're one or two. It's a lovely fight to have, but I just want to point out to you that that's the respect we have in the world and that's what's at stake, too. Internationally, this government had a mandate to reposition Canada on the international stage and here you are damaging our reputation in an area where we already are seen as world leaders. I just wanted to put that on the record.
With the greatest of respect, if the government would change its mind and acknowledge and say that it was going to respect the agents of Parliament and it said it was going to respect the standing committees of Parliament and now the agent of Parliament and a standing committee by unanimous vote have called for this $10.8 million to be put back in. As much as it was question period yesterday and I was full of rhetoric and everything else, I do beg the question: Where is the respect?
I have one absolute last point I want to make and then I will be completely finished on this subject.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
I don't have it right in front of me, so it can't be that important.
All right, thanks.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Ms. Savic, I'd actually like you to continue to elaborate on that, because I have to be honest with you that if we're going to educate people and be candid and be respectful of Roma, I want to understand more about using terminology like “gypsy” and what we can do on social media.
Go ahead.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
That's really interesting. I was just signalling, because I think the members of Parliament who are from the Montreal area need to have this explained to them. Even a best-case scenario would have the restaurant change its name, but you understand a small business person's perspective; they put a lot of investment into the name. They can also use social media to talk about what they're embracing and what they're denouncing. They can do that.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
That's so intriguing. I'm so glad you spoke to us about that, because there is a lot we can do.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Can you tell us what we should be taking away in terms of this issue of the designated country of origin list and removing the countries? Where do you think we should be going with that moving forward?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
I need to clarify that in May of this year, all the countries were removed from the list.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
This is really interesting. Just in continuation of that, you talked a bit about what some of these groups are doing in talking about the elimination of gypsy crime. Can you give us some examples of the structural racism that you've talked about? I know that would be in Europe, but how is that a ripple effect and what is structural even here in western countries, including Canada?
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
NDP (ON)
How problematic is it when you think of the goal of your organization and the goal of achieving recognition not just of the genocide but also of human rights for the Roma?
You mentioned that your family changed its name. How common is that? Also, do you see that being a problem in the future or as something we're going to have to make better known—I'm speaking hypothetically now—if we think this has affected 200 people when, in fact, it's affected 200,000 in a community?
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