Committee
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
Results: 1 - 60 of 215
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam, thank you for joining us today. I appreciate all the work you're doing on behalf of Canadians and transparency.
On April 28, you wrote to the TBS president, warning that we were at a breaking point for federal transparency. How did he respond? Did he respond with any actual actions or just mere words?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:03
So far, I've had a couple of conversations with Monsieur Duclos and his team. They've been promising to.... They were saying they were taking this very seriously. They understand that this is a serious matter.
I've noticed that Monsieur Duclos has sent a letter to all institutions reminding them of their responsibilities and the need for openness and transparency in government. I am optimistic, but I am still waiting for actual, real, concrete actions.
As I said in my opening statement, some institutions have since reopened their business, so I think the message is getting through slowly but—
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Chair.
In the spirit of the transparency discussion around today's session, I was hoping that the government members would have supported the motion of my colleague Mr. McCauley when it comes to getting some reports from the PBO. It's too bad.
Speaking of which, my question is for Mr. Cutler on anti-corruption and accountability in Canada. Would you be able to shed light on corruption in Canada, please, on the status quo, how much we've fallen compared to the past and where we're heading?
Allan Cutler
View Allan Cutler Profile
Allan Cutler
2020-06-19 12:55
There are no actual statistics, but I can give you a personal opinion. We're going downhill, and we're going downhill fast. The anti-corruption perception index done by Transparency International Canada has seen us dropping positions, but nobody who talks about it considers white-collar crime corruption. In Canada, for white-collar crime, you get a slap on your wrist and it's “go back and don't do it anymore, please”. It is really sad.
Brad Birkenfeld, who is the one who tried to expose $1 billion in unpaid offshore taxes in 2008—and we're still trying to get that looked at—literally has stated that Canada is the most corrupt economy he knows of. He goes around the world. This is a person who goes into every country. He is in Italy. Malta is where he lives now. He goes into Asia. The one country he will not go into is Canada. When asked, he said it was because he felt that if he went across the Canadian border they'd find a reason to charge him for something. That gives you an attitude of an outsider who is an international expert in what goes on in the whistle-blowing community and the corruption that goes around.
Sean Holman
View Sean Holman Profile
Sean Holman
2020-06-19 12:57
I think Mr. Cutler is absolutely right. We need to have a broader conversation about the issue of corruption in this country. We need to have a broader conversation about the issue of accountability in this country. We need to protect those who are best-positioned to blow the whistle on these kinds of problems.
As I said before, we often talk, and have often talked during the pandemic, about the need to recognize the bravery of first responders. A first responder who provides information about something that is going wrong in society, in our public or private institutions, should be respected.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
To the panel as a whole, I have heard concerns that because some of the screening that happens under the ICA happens under a division of Global Affairs that is also responsible for the promotion of trade, this might be an actual conflict of interest within the government department.
Do you think the responsibility for screening should be separated out from any department that has responsibility for the promotion of trade?
Mitch Davies
View Mitch Davies Profile
Mitch Davies
2020-06-18 15:24
Madam Chair, perhaps I could address the question.
The screening process is initiated in part by notices. Some 900 notices are received under the Investment Canada Act each year. There were over 900 the last fiscal year. Those are all made available in the system to our investigative bodies. They are able to come to their own conclusions and review the information—
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
That is not the question I asked. I asked if you thought there was a conflict of interest in having screening happen in a department that also has a mandate or deliverable where they are measured on the attraction of trade and FDI.
Mitch Davies
View Mitch Davies Profile
Mitch Davies
2020-06-18 15:25
Madam Chair, in this case the two ministers involved in the process are the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Those are the two ministers who are involved in the identification of cases for which notices need to be offered, and also the recommendation of the Governor in Council. So to that extent—
Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner: Thank you. That's [Inaudible—Editor].
Mr. Mitch Davies: —that's a strong process built into the law.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Davies.
My last question is for Mr. Rochon.
Mr. Rochon, you say there are two options: give the green light to the investment and impose mitigation measures, or prohibit the investment.
Wouldn't it be better to be more transparent in the interest of Canadians?
Dominic Rochon
View Dominic Rochon Profile
Dominic Rochon
2020-06-18 15:39
Thank you for the question.
I think we have enough transparency in place with regard to reporting on decisions that are being made through annual reporting and such. Obviously, national security matters have a certain level of classification that needs to be respected.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's estimates week in Ottawa, so I thought I would take a look at some of the government's spending.
We had an Order Paper question come back recently, listing thousands and millions of dollars of Canadian taxpayers' money spent on hospitality in a period of just a couple of months.
I want to start with the CRA. In their departmental plan, they state that they're deeply committed to open and honest communication and to transparency. In the Order Paper, there are 620 items of hospitality listed and over $1 million of spending, without a single detail released about the description of goods, number of employees, attendees or hospitality, except to mention a $2,100 order for Subway.
Why is the CRA transparent on nothing except for Subway sandwiches?
View Diane Lebouthillier Profile
Lib. (QC)
I can tell my colleague that, at Revenue Canada, we are very proud of the work that we have done, whether it is on the issue of tax evasion or in terms of customer service. This is also National Public Service Week. We have arranged for 8.5 million people to be able to receive the CERB.
View Warren Steinley Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Chair, I'd say they've responded, but they haven't answered one question over the last three months. I wouldn't say they've answered anything, and no one in Saskatchewan and Alberta thinks they answer a question any day in this chamber.
If the Minister of Foreign Affairs can go to New York City for an in-person vote and the Prime Minister can take a drive to an Ottawa business for a campaign stop, then surely the House should be able to operate safely in full Parliament.
When will the Liberals admit that shutting down Parliament was about avoiding accountability and hiding from Canadians, not about safety?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Chair, again, we answered almost 3,000 questions from the opposition, way more than in regular sittings, with our colleagues on the screen. Why is the member against the participation of his colleagues on the screen?
View Ted Falk Profile
CPC (MB)
View Ted Falk Profile
2020-06-17 12:17
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Last week I posed a question to the Liberal House leader, who tried his best not to answer any questions on behalf of the Prime Minister. I asked if the Prime Minister really believes that Parliament works best when elected officials hold government to account. Why did he shut down Parliament for months on end? The response was lots of words, but no answers.
During this time of COVID-19, Prime Minister Trudeau told Canadians to go home and stay home. I asked Minister Rodriguez if the Prime Minister really said that. It was a simple question. That question too was met with no answers.
Finally, I followed up with “Did the Prime Minister disregard not only provincial regulations but his own directives when he crossed provincial boundaries for his weekend trip to the Quebec cottage?” Again there were lots of words, but no answers.
Canadians are tired of all these nonsensical responses. Mr. Chairman, the non-answers that Canadians are receiving from Liberals expose the Prime Minister's blatant disregard for truth and transparency. It's no wonder that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government won't let Parliament sit.
View Raquel Dancho Profile
CPC (MB)
[Technical difficulty—Editor] in Winnipeg. In fact, constituents of Liberal members in Winnipeg have reached out to me, because they have received no response from the Liberal members of Parliament. That answer really doesn't come close to being adequate to make up for the hardships faced by these couples from the Liberals' inaction.
You know, I just find it really disappointing, although not surprising, that much of this Liberal government's action over the course of the pandemic has been a lot of substance over style, gestures over concrete actions. They're spending money like it grows on trees, and yet the Liberal finance minister seems completely incapable of doing his job and telling the truth to Canadians about the country's finances.
To make matters worse, they've shut down Parliament for the summer during the worst crisis in living memory, so we will have no opportunity to fix these broken programs or the new problems that are surely to emerge this summer.
My constituents depend on the competency of this government and the programs they announce. On behalf of them, I say this to this Liberal government: Do better. Canadians deserve it.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, I just want to point out to the member that the measures we've put in place for Canadians have had an enormous impact on people's situations and an enormous impact on our ability to weather the storm. When eight million Canadians are on the Canada emergency response benefit, I think we can see the scale. When more than 660,000 small businesses get loans, I think we can see the scale.
To say that these measures have not been materially important is actually completely missing the point. We will continue to support Canadians even when Conservatives tell us not to. Even when they say the programs are not working, we will look at the real impacts they are having on Canadian families and on Canadian businesses. We will continue to provide support in the face of irresponsible challenges.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Okay.
Mr. Purves, in terms of Treasury Board, you're applying your regular rigorous oversight to spending, whether it be regular spending or exceptional spending under COVID, such as those items contained in these supplementary estimates.
Glenn Purves
View Glenn Purves Profile
Glenn Purves
2020-06-16 18:54
Yes, absolutely. Everything that's in these supplementary estimates has been through Treasury Board ministers.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
For the benefit of the members of the committee, can you outline the process of how departments would bring these proposals to you, and how they would construct their cases for spending the money that has been allocated to them, either by Parliament or by virtue of a law passed by Parliament?
Glenn Purves
View Glenn Purves Profile
Glenn Purves
2020-06-16 18:55
Sure. It's been a little more unusual this time around, just because of the urgency of the COVID-19 response. Typically, you have statutory authorities that exist for a whole host of different initiatives. Transfers to people and transfers to other levels of government are typically done through statutory authorities. Then a lot of the direct program spending is done, as we say, through the main estimates and through supplementary estimates as additional funding is required.
In terms of dealing with the COVID-19 dislocation, there really was a combination of statutory authorities sought, as well as voted authorities. For the items you see in respect to these supplementary estimates, they've gone to Treasury Board in submissions, as they normally would, and they go through the rigour that they would normally go through. In terms of the statutory items, despite the fact that they may not be getting expenditure authority and then going for voted appropriations in Parliament, if there are programs, terms and conditions that require Treasury Board policy issues, that require Treasury Board oversight, Treasury Board has been doing the regular due diligence and rigour that they normally do on these instances.
I would say that Treasury Board as an institution has been operating very efficiently, has been very busy over the last few months and has been having a lot of rigour on many of these items that go through and that would normally go through Treasury Board, given program authority parameters and so forth.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
That's not true.
I'm going to talk about another issue that shows the lack of transparency of the Liberal government.
In January 2019, Minister Carolyn Bennett signed an agreement with the Huron-Wendat Nation and Grand Chief Konrad Sioui, obliging the federal government to consult with the nation for any project on a territory about the size of half of Quebec. This agreement was signed in secret and was not revealed until December 2019, when municipalities received a letter from Grand Chief Konrad Sioui advising them of this obligation. The municipalities were never notified by the federal government or advised on this new approach. Dozens of projects under the Fonds pour l'infrastructure municipale d'eau, or FIMEAU, the municipal water infrastructure fund program, are currently stuck on the minister's desk because no consultation has taken place. Work was expected to begin soon.
Madam Minister, how many projects are stuck on your desk because of this unacceptable situation?
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
We take our obligations to indigenous peoples seriously. It's too bad the former government didn't do the same.
As I said in my introduction, we've implemented hundreds of projects.
Harriet Harman
View Harriet Harman Profile
Right Hon. Harriet Harman
2020-06-12 11:09
Thank you very much for inviting me to contribute to these proceedings. When we met in February seems like many lifetimes ago. I wish you and all the members of Parliament well. As you know, we've had more than 40,000 lives lost in this COVID crisis. Thank you for asking me to give evidence to you.
The starting point is to recognize that Parliament is of increased importance in the COVID crisis. Sometimes people thought it was all about government, that the government had to do things and Parliament was irrelevant. But when government decisions are literally a matter of life and death, when millions of jobs are at stake, when people's lives are affected, from the schooling of children right through to the care of the elderly, accountability is really essential.
There's also a hugely increased level of government activity. Decisions are being made across every sector of public, private and commercial life. Decisions are being made in all sorts of areas that government would not have previously been engaged with.
You have to have intense scrutiny, because decisions made at speed and behind closed doors can go wrong. Accountability is absolutely crucial in this COVID crisis.
Also, members of Parliament are the eyes and ears of government to tell them what is going on, on the ground. You can be locked in the room with your civil servants, your scientific and other experts, and interest groups, but as government, you need the MPs to be saying what is going on in their ridings.
Parliament obviously can't do business as usual because of travel restrictions, meeting restrictions and because our buildings are unsuitable for social distancing, so big changes have been necessary.
At the outset, government committed itself to continuous parliamentary scrutiny. Some people said Parliament needed to close down and get out of the way of government, but government committed itself to continuous parliamentary scrutiny, albeit in a different form. It proceeded to work with the key actors here, with the leader of the House, the other opposition parties, the procedure committee and the Speaker. Who knew what a centre of activity and importance the procedure committee was to become. It had become a real focus of interest, and no doubt I'm sure it is with your Parliament. There was an attempt to work by consensus, and rightly so.
Right from the outset, select committees began to meet remotely. Even though Parliament went into recess for Easter, select committees were working all the way through, meeting remotely and scrutinizing government, calling ministers to give evidence. That was all online.
After Easter, the House returned, and we all voted online. If you had a smart phone, you had an online voting system. Having been a member of the House of Commons since 1982, I thought there was no way we were going to be able to get everybody to vote online—everything would go wrong; people wouldn't get to vote or they'd vote the wrong way—but it was amazing how quickly the procedures were up and running, and they worked flawlessly.
Speaking was done remotely except for the front benches who were in the chamber. Everybody else was on the TV screen. The difference was that there was no yahoo in the chamber, obviously, because there was hardly anybody in the chamber. There was none of the usual rowdiness and interruption, and everything happened, so it felt very different.
It lent itself to more forensic questioning and more forensic answers. I feel MPs asked clearer and more lucid questions, as there was no interruption, jeering and jostling and people trying to cut across them or cheer them on. I think people felt more empowered doing it from their own riding. They had the whole TV screen; they could ask their question.
Also, the whole country saw MPs in their own homes in their ridings, as I've just seen the members of your committee. It brings to life how Parliament is not just one institution in the capital but the coming together of 650 constituencies. I think that's been very important.
It also changed the balance between the backbenches and front benches in favour of the backbenchers, because when Parliament is televised, in normal circumstances the person standing at the front bench is the biggest one in the picture. When it comes to the backbench asking the question, they are a microdot, an anonymous person up in the shadows of the fifth row of the backbenches and they are marginalized by virtue of that position. Actually, when you have the front bench in Parliament and you have the backbencher with a whole TV screen, they are more salient and look less junior and deferential. It has really changed the balance of power. You get your own full picture on the TV screen and you're not just a microdot somewhere on the backbenches.
Also, MPs had less time in the Westminster bubble. We've all become remote from the Westminster bubble and it has made us more grounded.
At the start of June, when the government was pushing for schools to come back and wanted more vocal backbench support for the Prime Minister at the Prime Minister's question time, the government broke with the consensus approach and announced without prior consultation that Parliament would return to business as usual. This caused a big row. Public Health England said that it was just not going to be possible. You can’t use our division lobbies. The chamber is too small for all MPs to attend and stay two metres apart, so consensus broke down, which is very disappointing.
There were particular objections from MPs over 70 years of age or those with underlying health conditions who were saying, “I can't come back to Parliament, so the people living in my riding are being disenfranchised,” so the government had to agree to amend the procedures.
We now have a hybrid parliament, so that Parliament is back but no more than 50 MPs out of 650 are allowed in the chamber at any one time. Speakers and questions have to be decided by the Speaker in advance. There's no more catching the Speaker's eye or just deciding that you're going to get into a debate because you heard something said and you want to join the speeches. Basically, it doesn't have any spontaneity. You have to book your slot in advance.
Votes are not in the division lobbies but in a long queue. It takes about 30 minutes. You might have seen the pictures. It looks like the fences they have in cattle markets. In fact, they have all those fences snaking around the parliamentary estate with MPs at two metres' distance waiting for them to be able to file past. At the moment, you can pair, that is, not vote, and you're balanced off with a member of another party.
If you need to be shielded, which is somebody who is over 70 or with an underlying health condition, you can apply to have a proxy vote, which means another MP votes for you. Fortunately, we already had that system, because we'd just introduced proxy voting for pregnant members of Parliament, members of Parliament who've just had a baby, and new fathers. If you have a proxy vote, you can speak remotely.
In terms of lessons learned, on the downside, in a hybrid remote Parliament it is more stilted. There are no interventions or interactions, and there's less atmosphere during speeches. It's less spontaneous. There's no ability to gauge the feeling across the chamber and no informal mingling in the tea room.
On the upside, there's no braying and shouting. Ministers have to answer the questions.
I'll stop there.
View Corey Tochor Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
With regard to some of the tools that your opposition parties have, were there any restrictions on questions asked in your Parliament?
This is the difference between how our mother Parliament has approached things versus Canada's Parliament. In your words, this is the time for accountability and “eyes and ears”, but as opposition parties we have seemingly been put in the position of not being allowed to use the tools that are usually at our disposal. Have you had such far-reaching restrictions put on opposition parties from the government?
Harriet Harman
View Harriet Harman Profile
Right Hon. Harriet Harman
2020-06-12 11:52
I think it's a question of the government benches and the accountability to the backbenchers from their own party as well as opposition parties. I think that although it's more clunky when it's done remotely, and it's less spontaneous because you have to apply in advance and because there has been less sitting time, and therefore not so many people have been able to contribute to debates, I don't feel the government has been trying to evade accountability. I think that's just part of the problem of—
View Corey Tochor Profile
CPC (SK)
We have limited time here. They haven't limited the scope of questions you can ask ministers?
View Corey Tochor Profile
CPC (SK)
Would that be part of the partnership of parliamentarians that you seemingly enjoy, maybe at different degrees, as this pandemic goes on? At the start, though, there wasn't partisanship from the government, so there's that trust that we can hopefully find a solution that works for everybody.
Your experience in Westminster is that the government hasn't restricted access to questions and tools that you usually have. Would that be fair?
Harriet Harman
View Harriet Harman Profile
Right Hon. Harriet Harman
2020-06-12 11:54
In the normal way of doing things, the government is not able to restrict questions, because that is a matter for the Speaker. They therefore didn't seek to try to change that and try to rule questions out of order or restrict them. Obviously it was restricted time-wise, but no, they haven't done that.
I think it's always important for governments to recognize that while sometimes it feels it would be much better without Parliament and you could just get on with the business of running the country—
Harriet Harman
View Harriet Harman Profile
Right Hon. Harriet Harman
2020-06-12 11:54
Parliamentary accountability—and I say this as somebody who's been in government—means that sometimes you can be heading towards a mistake, and it's Parliament rather than your civil servants or the experts who will tell you that you're heading for a mistake. You'll suddenly find your arguments deteriorating in front of your own eyes when you have to make them in public in Parliament, so it's important in time of crisis to have Parliament even stronger than ever, because the decisions the government is making are so huge.
View Corey Tochor Profile
CPC (SK)
It is massive. We're looking at some of the expenditures and what our society is going to look like after this, and we need more scrutiny, not less scrutiny, of our government. Would you agree?
Harriet Harman
View Harriet Harman Profile
Right Hon. Harriet Harman
2020-06-12 11:55
Yes, although I'm a big fan of Trudeau, I have to say.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the minister for being here, as well as her departmental officials.
I believe we are going to be judged by how transparent and accountable we have been willing to be in managing this pandemic, so I'm grateful for the fact that we have the blues, the Hansard and the evidence from all these meetings so that Canadians can see how forthright or not forthright our ministers are willing to be when questions are put to them.
With that, I'll ask a question of Minister Anand.
During this committee's meeting last Friday, we passed a unanimous motion calling on your department to provide Canadians transparency by supplying this committee with documents related to the sole-source contracts for PPE.
Will you commit today to meeting the deadlines set out in that motion?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you so much. I appreciate the kind words at your opening, and I'm very pleased to be here also.
I will commit as much as I am able to meet those deadlines.
View Ted Falk Profile
CPC (MB)
View Ted Falk Profile
2020-06-09 14:12
Does the Prime Minister actually believe that COVID-19 excuses him from regular parliamentary accountability?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Chair, for four days a week there is an hour and a half of questions. We have nine committees working and being able to ask questions on anything. We are going to meet four times—
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you so much.
Ms. Cuevas, I am curious. You're obviously doing amazing work, watching what other parliaments are doing. I think you're right; a lot of innovation will come out of this for further discussion.
Could you tell us about how different parties within parliaments are keeping a balance of power? One of the concerns is that the governing body will say this is the way it's going to be, and then there is frustration and concern.
Do you have any examples of other parliaments that are keeping that level of accountability high during this time?
Gabriela Cuevas Barron
View Gabriela Cuevas Barron Profile
Gabriela Cuevas Barron
2020-06-09 13:19
Thank you very much, Ms. Blaney.
I will be absolutely honest, transparent and politically incorrect.
We receive the reports that the national parliaments want us to receive. We receive beautiful news from most parliaments.
The IPU study has a bias, to be honest. If I review the notes I have received, some very authoritarian countries are saying they have lovely parliaments, and we all know that is not true.
First, the measures that governments are taking must be based on their constitution.
Second, those measures must be proportional to the emergency because emergencies are not the same in all countries.
The measures must be temporary. We cannot think that this state of emergency is going to be there forever and some parliaments are facing that authoritarian temptation.
For example, there seems to be another challenge that I think we must legislate urgently because authoritarian regimes are never going to legislate [Editor—Inaudible], but democratic governments are apparently afraid of legislating about technology.
Let me go to an example. There was a very good article by Yuval Noah Harari of the Financial Times about two months ago when he was explaining how technology and the technology about COVID monitoring can also be used for monitoring our feelings when we are listening to, for example, a politician's speech.
For authoritarian regimes, it's going to be very easy to use our cellphones to see if we love or hate the politicians when they make their speeches.
We need to prevent those situations. Canada has a very strong democracy. I am not saying this because of Canada, but clearly there are countries that are using the people's fears to restrict liberties and freedoms, and of course restricting parliaments.
Again, I can tell you about a lot of different experiences, but those cases are the reports we receive from the same actors. We don't have an independent study at the IPU.
View Omar Alghabra Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to thank our witnesses for being here today.
My comments and questions are for Mr. Power and Ms. Griffiths. What we're having here in the Canadian Parliament is an ongoing tension or a debate between one group of MPs who are saying that we need to accommodate public health advice and make adjustments to how Parliament works, obviously on an interim basis just during this pandemic because it's an exceptional circumstance, and another group of MPs who are saying that if we make these short-term changes, is this going to make permanent changes and affect how we do our work forever, and are therefore resisting any type of short-term adjustment.
As a member of Parliament from the governing party, I can tell you that I hear your calls that governments need to make sure that Parliament plays its role to hold government to account and that Parliament plays an important role that holds government accountable. However, what would you say to MPs who are refusing the idea of introducing short-term measures to accommodate the pandemic we have so that Parliament can function and ensure that MPs represent their constituents?
Greg Power
View Greg Power Profile
Greg Power
2020-06-09 13:40
I think Sue's leaving me to answer that one. Is Canada the same as Serbia and Hungary? I can't give you a quick answer to this question, in that I think it's just the nature of parliamentary politics.
If you're in government, inevitably you see that the pressure's on governing and the need to get stuff done, and get stuff done quickly, because if you do not you will be held to account by the public for your failure to deal with these problems. If you're in the opposition, you will inevitably treat any changes to Standing Orders with suspicion, whether they are permanent or temporary, because of the sense of what you might lose by accident by giving away certain powers to the government.
I think there is inevitably a tension, and that's the nature of parliamentary democracy, which sounds like a very pat answer. It's not a great answer, but....
Sue Griffiths
View Sue Griffiths Profile
Sue Griffiths
2020-06-09 13:41
If I could perhaps give one example, standing orders are only permanent until they're not, once it's not written into tablets of stone that standing orders can never change.
I think of a previous experience of a completely different crisis, for example the expenses crisis that we had a few years ago in Westminster. A lot of things were changed as a result of that crisis. Some of those, I think, perhaps were regretted afterwards, but others were not.
Short-term changes can be short term, can be limited, but they will still stick in people's minds as a memory of the thing that happened that was good or bad or indifferent. It will alter people's views of how Parliament should work, having had it work in a slightly different way for a while.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I think one of the biggest challenges we hear, and especially today in committee, is that the decisions we make today could have influence on how Parliament works tomorrow. There's a lot of concern around that. I think it's an important concern.
This question is for all three witnesses. Do you have any recommendations, or do you have other examples to demonstrate the ability to have the checks and balances in place? I don't know if I'm making it very clear, but for me, the real point is this: What do we need to put in place so that when we come back to Parliament, we're not fundamentally changing how we do things without a thoughtful process during the time that is not in a middle of a pandemic?
Gabriela Cuevas Barron
View Gabriela Cuevas Barron Profile
Gabriela Cuevas Barron
2020-06-09 13:46
I will be super brief and say that I think we need to set the rules—rules that are built by the majority and the opposition and rules that will satisfy all of us with regard to, for example, opposition days. We need not only the rules but also the technology solutions. It is not only for health emergencies. What happens in other emergencies?
We are about to face an economic emergency, and I really hope that parliaments will be prepared to respond to this crisis in terms of jobs and salaries. We are starting an economic crisis. Regardless of technology, parliaments must be there. We need to be prepared.
Sue Griffiths
View Sue Griffiths Profile
Sue Griffiths
2020-06-09 13:47
I would add sunset clauses or temporary standing orders that lapse unless they're renewed; all of those kinds of things can provide a safeguard. I'm sure that after the crisis there will be a number of reviews of the different ways and the different aspects of the experience.
I think particularly parliamentary committees like this one will probably play a very crucial role in that and in taking a measured view of what happened and whether there are things that worked better or that wouldn't be appropriate to carry on or that should be preserved for crisis situations. I think that's very appropriate for the role of a parliamentary committee.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Chair, this viral pandemic has brought two opposite responses: one from the people and one from the federal government. People across Canada have soldiered on, accepting limits on their freedoms to protect vulnerable neighbours; parents have home-schooled; strangers have brought groceries to seniors; and first responders were honoured for their efforts.
All the while, the federal government has been doing its very best to hide information and ignore Parliament.
The access to information system has ground to a halt. All my ATIPs have been delayed by months, and Global Affairs Canada refuses to answer. The federal government is starving the Auditor General's office of millions needed for performance audits on the $300-billion deficit in spending. It sole-sourced a $105-million contract for two new executive jets from Bombardier. It went ahead with a secret $8.6-million renovation of Harrington Lake, the so-called “caretaker” house. The infrastructure minister claims privacy to hide from Parliament over 20,000 missing projects worth tens of billions of dollars.
This Liberal government believes that we only deserve the information that the Prime Minister deigns to give us.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
I think the minister's excuse that providing a bit of transparency to Canadians would jeopardize our supply chain just doesn't wash.
Has her department found a secret PPE manufacturer that no other country has heard of?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, let me assure the member opposite and all members of the House that our country is facing unprecedented needs as we fight COVID-19. This is an urgent time. Contracting under the national security exceptions, including for sole-source contracts, has been done in the interest of Canadians—
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
On the one hand, Minister Anand highlights agreements with Canadian companies that are making PPE, but on the other, she refuses to name foreign manufacturers that have been awarded sole-source contracts totalling hundreds of millions of dollars. Why the disparity?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, as you and the member opposite are aware, we are procuring millions of items of PPE across a range of goods. In some cases we are disclosing names of suppliers, but this is done in conjunction with the permission we are being given by a supplier. We need to be careful in these times—
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Many, many Canadians were shocked to see the violence surrounding the murder of George Floyd. George Floyd's murder is a grim reminder that anti-black racism still exists and that it hits hard.
Anti-black racism isn't only in the United States; it's here in Canada, too. Systemic racism against blacks, indigenous people and many other visible minorities is alive and well: racial profiling, economic inequality, social inequality, discriminatory hiring, trivialization of violence, excess incarceration, and so on. Things aren't moving forward because one government after another prefers pretty words to concrete action. When the time comes to act, they don't have the courage, they don't have the will to act.
People are feeling a lot of grief and frustration, but we can turn that into action and justice. We must not just call for peace. I believe that we have to call for justice. Justice is the only way to create a better world.
When people around the world saw the killing of George Floyd, it left all of us shaken to our core. It was chilling, the casual violence of anti-black racism, the callous taking of another human being's life. It hurt to the core. There was pain. There was sadness. There is anger, and rightly so. There is frustration.
This isn't just an American problem. This is just as much a Canadian problem as well, and something that continues to exist across our country. Anti-black racism and anti-indigenous racism are real. People have suffered violence. Indigenous people and black people have suffered violence and have been killed at the hands of police here in Canada. I think about Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto and the calls for justice for Regis. A black trans woman was killed in suspicious circumstances in an interaction with the police. I think about Stewart Kevin Andrews, a young indigenous man killed in an interaction with the police in Winnipeg.
The anger and frustration are about this: How many more people need to die before there's action? How many more speeches will be made? How many more protests need to happen before something is done? How many more times will people plead to breathe? How many more times will they plead to live?
What we're talking about is basic human dignity. How many more voices have to ask, demand, plead, beg for basic human dignity? People are angry. They're feeling like enough is enough. Why do they need to keep on asking? Why do black people, why do indigenous people need to keep on asking to be treated like humans? Why?
You know, people are done with pretty speeches, particularly pretty speeches from people in power who could do something about it right now if they wanted to.
I'm standing in a hall of power, the chamber of the Commons, with a Prime Minister who has the power not just to say pretty words but to actually do something about this. The Prime Minister of this country has the power to go beyond pretty words and pretty speeches and do something.
I don't have all the answers. I don't think any one person does. We're going to have to come up with those solutions together, but there are certainly some things we do know.
Martin Luther King said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” That's what we need. We need justice.
Killer Mike extolled that people should plan, plot, strategize, organize and then mobilize. Cardi B put it this way: “Another way for the people to take power—I don't want to make everything political but it is what it is—is by voting.”
So what do we vote for? We vote for a government to take action.
I call on the Prime Minister, in this hall of power: If the Prime Minister believes that black lives matter, will the Prime Minister commit to ending racial profiling in our country? If the Prime Minister believes that black lives matter, will the Prime Minister commit to ending the over-policing of black bodies? If the Prime Minister believes, truly believes, that black lives matter, will the Prime Minister commit to ending the over-incarceration of black people in this country? If the Prime Minister truly believes that black lives matter, will he commit to ensuring that there are race-based data to make better decisions? Will he commit to ensuring that there's access to education and to health resources?
The Prime Minister has the power to do all these things right now. The Prime Minister simply needs to get it done.
If the Prime Minister truly believes that indigenous lives matter, then similarly the Prime Minister must commit today to ending the racial profiling of indigenous people, the over-policing of indigenous people and the over-incarceration of indigenous people. If the Prime Minister truly believes that indigenous lives matter, the Prime Minister could stop taking indigenous kids to court; the Prime Minister could stop delaying the action on the calls for justice for the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. If the Prime Minister believes that indigenous lives matter, he could ensure that there's clean drinking water and access to justice and to education and housing right now.
People are angry because they are frustrated and done with pretty words. People are angry because they're done with pretty speeches from people in power who could do something about it right now. People don't want peace. They don't want an absence of tension. People want the presence of justice. People want justice. People deserve justice. People need justice, and justice is what people will get. Nothing less will do.
Thank you.
Gregory Smolynec
View Gregory Smolynec Profile
Gregory Smolynec
2020-05-29 14:22
Good afternoon.
Following from the commissioner's opening remarks, appropriate designs of technologies, such as tracing applications, depend on respect for some key privacy principles recommended in the OPC’s “Framework for the Government of Canada to Assess Privacy-Impactful Initiatives in Response to COVID-19”, and in a joint statement by federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners on contact-tracing applications.
In the interest of time, we will focus on six of these principles.
First is purpose limitation. Personal information collected through tracing applications should be used to protect defined public health purposes, and for no other purpose.
Second, these applications should be justified as necessary and proportionate, and therefore be science-based, necessary for a specific purpose, tailored to that purpose and likely to be effective.
Third, there must be a clear legal basis for the use of these applications and use should be voluntary, as this is important to ensure citizens’ trust. Use should therefore be consent-based and consent must be meaningful.
Fourth, these exceptional measures should be time-limited. Any personal information collected during this period should be destroyed when the crisis ends, and the applications decommissioned.
Fifth is transparency. Governments should be clear about the basis and the terms applicable to these applications. Privacy impact assessments or meaningful privacy analysis should be completed, reviewed by privacy commissioners, and a plain-language summary published proactively.
Sixth is accountability. Governments and companies should be accountable for how personal information will be collected, used, disclosed and secured. Oversight by an independent third party, such as privacy commissioners, would enhance citizens’ trust.
While governments have stressed the importance of privacy in the design of tracing applications, several of the principles I have mentioned are not currently legal requirements in our two federal privacy laws. For instance, nothing currently prevents a company from proposing an app that is not evidence-based and using the information for commercial purposes unrelated to health protection, provided consent is obtained, often in incomprehensible terms. A government could partner with such a company.
The current health crisis has made clear that technologies can play a very useful role in making essential activities safe. This meeting is about contact tracing, but potential benefits are much wider. For instance, let us think about virtual medicine or e-education.
What we need, more urgently than ever, are laws that allow technologies to produce benefits in the public interest without creating risks that fundamental rights such as privacy will be violated. Because of the growing role of public-private partnerships in addressing situations such as the COVID crisis, we need common principles enshrined in public sector and private sector laws.
Thank you. That concludes our statement.
Teresa Scassa
View Teresa Scassa Profile
Teresa Scassa
2020-05-29 15:23
Thank you, Madam Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to address this committee on privacy in Canada's COVID-19 response.
We're currently in a situation in which Canadians are very vulnerable economically, socially and in terms of their physical and mental health. Canadians know that sacrifices are necessary to address this crisis and have already made sacrifices of different magnitudes. Most Canadians accept that this is necessary to save lives and begin to return to normal. They accept that some degree of privacy may need to be sacrificed in some contexts, but there is no binary choice between privacy and no privacy. Instead, there must be a careful balancing of privacy with other public interests.
There are two overarching privacy concerns when it comes to Canada's response to the pandemic. The first is that there's a risk that poorly thought-out collection, use or disclosure of personal information will create privacy and security vulnerabilities with little real benefit, or with benefits disproportionate to risks and harms. The second is that the pandemic may lead to the introduction of data gathering or processing technologies that will create a new normal, leading to even greater inroads on privacy, dignity and autonomy. Importantly, surveillance often has the most significant adverse impacts on the most vulnerable in our society.
The pandemic context raises a broad range of privacy issues, from government or law enforcement access to location and personal health information to contact-tracing apps and beyond. As we begin the return to normal, we will also see issues of workplace surveillance as well as tracking tools and technologies used to help determine who gets into stores, who receives services or who gets on airplanes. Personal health information, generally considered to be among our most sensitive information, may become a currency we're required to use in order to carry out ordinary daily activities.
Since time is limited, I'd like to tease out three main themes. The first theme is trust. Trust is referenced in the digital charter and is essential when asking Canadians to share personal information with the government, but trust is complicated by a pandemic context in which issues evolve rapidly and are often unprecedented. One thing that trust requires is transparency, and governments have struggled with transparency, whether it's with respect to sharing data that models the spread of COVID-19 with the public or, as was the case with Alberta, launching a contact-tracing app without releasing a privacy impact assessment. Transparency is essential to trust.
The second theme is necessity and proportionality. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, along with his provincial and territorial counterparts, supports an approach to privacy based on necessity and proportionality. This is derived from the human rights context. Necessity and proportionality provide a robust analytical framework for balancing privacy rights against other public interests and should already be part of an amended Privacy Act.
The importance of this approach cannot be overemphasized. We are in a data-driven society. It's easy to become enthused about technological solutions, and innovators promise that data analytics, including AI, can solve many of our problems. We need to remember that while technology can provide astonishing benefits, there is already a long history of poorly designed, poorly implemented and often rushed technological solutions that have created significant risks and harms. Novel technological solutions often fail. This is becoming a reality, for example, with many recently launched national contact-tracing apps. Rushed, flawed schemes to harvest personal data, even if for laudable goals, will erode trust at best and cause harm at worst. This is why clear guidelines, such as those developed by the commissioners, are crucial. There should be an emphasis on purpose and time-limited solutions that minimize privacy impacts.
The third theme is human rights. Privacy is closely tied to human rights, but this relationship is increasingly complex in a data-driven society. Privacy laws govern data collection, use and disclosure, and it's increasingly common for data uses to have significant impacts on human rights and civil liberties, including freedom of association, freedom of speech and the right to be free from discrimination.
Until recently, public conversations about contact tracing have been predominantly about government-adopted apps to deal with public health and disease tracking. As businesses reopen and people go back to work, the conversation will shift to contact tracing and disease monitoring in the private sector, including the possible use of so-called immunity passports. We will see workplace surveillance technologies, as well as technologies that might be used to limit who can enter retail stores, who can access services, who can get on airplanes and so on.
While there are obviously serious public health and safety issues here, as well as issues important to economic recovery and the ability of people to return to work, there is also significant potential for harm, abuse and injustice. Much of this private sector surveillance will be in areas under provincial jurisdiction, but by no means all of it. The federal government must play a leadership role in setting standards and imposing limitations.
I'll end my remarks here. I look forward to your questions.
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
Right. The reason I asked is because I'm just concerned that, in the Constitution, private property isn't really a constitutionally protected element.
Anyway, I'm going to move on to my next points here.
There were already concerns about the freedom of the press in the last couple of years, prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately, with Parliament suspended and its powers limited, there is much more of a need for the media to openly follow and question the government's decisions and activities.
Are there any barriers or concerning trends for Canadian media to access or challenge the government, especially since lockdowns began?
Michael Bryant
View Michael Bryant Profile
Hon. Michael Bryant
2020-05-29 16:00
There's no question that there's an absence of accountability.
For example, I'm concerned that when there are announcements made by government ministers—we'll just talk about the federal government—when announcements or daily updates are provided, how much of that has legal authority, versus how much of it is just the person's opinion?
What would be helpful in these daily updates is, “The cabinet has passed the following orders in council. Here is what they are. Here is where you go find them on a website. Now let me tell you my personal opinion about things that have no legal authority.”
Because we don't know what is law and what is not, the rule of law is thrown into question, accountability is certainly thrown into question, and democracy is not aided by all that. That would be what comes most urgently to mind that threatens accountability of the executive to the legislature. The extent to which the legislative members feel shut out by that is something that I guess is for the members to decide how to remedy.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. That's very helpful.
Mr. Bryant, I've been a parliamentarian for several years now, and it's a learning experience. I've been on both sides of the aisle. What I've noticed in my tenure is that over this period there has been a big centralization of power within the PMO. I question the rights and abilities of parliamentarians under current operating situations, and what has happened in the last several months really concerns me as a parliamentarian and as one who represents over 80,000 electors. I want your thoughts on that.
For example, there are a couple of headlines that really disturbed me. One was in The Globe and Mail: “Health Minister Hajdu stops Dr. Theresa Tam from answering question about Canada’s emergency stockpile”. Also, my understanding is that the federal estimates, which are going to have about $150 billion of new spending, will only have four hours of debate. One of the things your organization does is it protects the right to vote. I have a right to vote on behalf of many of my constituents.
Are you concerned about the state of democracy and civil liberties with regard to how Parliament has been operating throughout this crisis? What are your recommendations to us on that?
Michael Bryant
View Michael Bryant Profile
Hon. Michael Bryant
2020-05-29 16:11
I'll just repeat what I said before about accountability. There should be some clarity and transparency with respect to what the government is doing when it's considering a particular order, what the timeline is for an executive order and what the executive is doing at any given time. When a decision has been made by cabinet, it should release it immediately and be explicit about this, not putting it in the can, getting the communications ready and then making it available to the public. The—
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Great.
Now, let me ask you, with the change with Parliament basically being suspended until September, what are the consequences of simply having the supplementary estimates deemed reported without any committee review? What would you recommend be done to offset basically the oversight of the supplementary spending?
Results: 1 - 60 of 215 | Page: 1 of 4

1
2
3
4
>
>|
Export As: XML CSV RSS

For more data options, please see Open Data