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Results: 1 - 22 of 22
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
NDP (QC)
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
2015-03-12 11:37
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This meeting has significantly changed. We were supposed to have here the new commissioner, who is nominated for a six-month period. It is fundamental to our democracy that commissioners appear in front of committees when they're nominated. This last minute decision not to appear is a contempt for the importance of our parliamentary institutions.
I also noticed that the Privacy Commissioner has not been allowed to appear in front of the committee on Bill C-51. This is a habit that the Conservatives are getting into, of muzzling commissioners. It is fundamental to ensure, when we make nominations of this importance to Canada and to Canadians, that we have a chance as parliamentarians to question the competencies and the quality of the nominee. I think it's unconscionable, Mr. Chair, that the commissioner is not here today.
What happened? I need to know what happened, first of all. This meeting has been cut in half, and something fundamental to the health of our democracy has been tampered with. I expect some kind of justification. The commissioner just cannot decide, “I'm going to wake up this morning, and Parliament doesn't matter.” He or she, depending on the commissioner, has a responsibility to come here when called upon and to be questioned.
I think this is a serious matter that we need to give full consideration to before we hear from our other invitees today.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-12 11:39
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Thank you, Mr. Ravignat. I understand your point. We did have a meeting scheduled to hear from the newly nominated integrity commissioner today, and at the last minute he has notified our committee that he will not be attending.
I have a speakers list.
Mr. Byrne, you wanted the floor briefly.
I'm going to ask—when you're done, Mr. Byrne, and perhaps Mr. Warkentin as well—the clerk to explain exactly what he was told by the office of the integrity commissioner as to why he can't attend.
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Jean-François Lafleur
View Jean-François Lafleur Profile
Jean-François Lafleur
2015-03-12 11:40
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Thank you.
I had a conversation yesterday with the commissioner's office, and there seems to be some confusion around his appearance concerning what he was appearing under. He was notified that he was to appear as interim commissioner, and on the notice of meeting we always write where he is coming from. It said that it was from the office of the commissioner.
So the confusion could have come from there in the sense that his office was probably thinking that he was asked to appear as a commissioner. But underneath, there was the name of the commissioner, Mr. Friday, and it said “Interim Commissioner”, so it was in that capacity that he was invited to appear.
It seems that at his office there was some confusion about that fact, and what I received as information is that he would probably be nominated later, and there was an absolute willingness from his office to appear later as the commissioner—a permanent commissioner, if you wish.
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View Gerry Byrne Profile
Lib. (NL)
Yes. This is getting murkier, Mr. Chair. If I understand it, the requirement under the Governor in Council is for an order in council to be issued for his nomination to be extended as the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
Work with me, Mr. Chair, if you can, because I think we need to get this clarified. As I understood it, the nomination of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner was forwarded to this committee because we have an opportunity as a committee to oversee and to make a recommendation about this particular appointment. The referral was required because the commissioner's former appointment had expired and he is being renominated. Is that—?
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-12 11:42
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No. The former commissioner, Mario Dion, is no longer there, and in the interim Mr. Friday was nominated to a six-month term to be the interim integrity commissioner.
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View Gerry Byrne Profile
Lib. (NL)
Therefore, he is acting, so it's fairly clear that—
Has he not yet obtained the order in council? Has the order in council been authorized?
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-12 11:43
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No, he is interim commissioner for six months and he's about three months into that six-month appointment. But still, this committee is allowed to and in fact is obliged to vet that appointment.
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View Gerry Byrne Profile
Lib. (NL)
This makes absolutely no sense. That's why I wanted to work this through, so that we're communicating to Canadians that there is a new commissioner who has never been vetted by a parliamentary committee. The commissioner has been invited, we understand, under very specific directions to appear concerning the nomination itself, and the interim commissioner is saying, “No, I don't think so.”
Mr. Chair, with all due respect to those who have made a decision in this matter—and those decision-makers are not in this committee, but outside of this committee—we have had a very serious breach of trust already occur with a former Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. That commissioner was never allowed to appear before this committee. That commissioner was never asked.... The report of the Auditor General was never allowed to be heard by the public accounts committee, which interfaces with the Office of the Auditor General.
Now we have an interim commissioner who holds a very important office—important not only to us as Canadians, but to our parliamentary system and to our system of governing the public sector in a fair and responsible way—and this person has just said he won't appear before us because he's a bit confused.
I am very confused, Mr. Chair. I would like to have the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner come before us so that we can meet him.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2015-03-12 11:46
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Thank you, Mr. Martin. I appreciate that.
It is clear to me, based on what the clerk said, that that there was some confusion about the invitation. We are very confident in the ability of Mr. Friday, and I'm certain that when he does come before this committee we will all be satisfied that he has conducted and will continue—
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View Greg Kerr Profile
CPC (NS)
View Greg Kerr Profile
2015-03-12 11:48
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Mr. Chair, I know a lot of us have been through a lot of committees and a lot of processes before, and certainly know how to detect the bit of posturing that's going on. That's part of what politics is about, but I understand that if you are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, because obviously a lot of comments are being made without knowing some of the background....
I think what Mr. Byrne was suggesting is to let him know that we'd really like him to appear and that we expect him to appear, and leave the door open for him to respond back that the committee would like to hear what he has to say. I think we all would like to hear what he would say, but to put motive in that sort of way, I think, is just absolutely irresponsible. I'd rather give this individual the chance to explain to us in detail what he sees his position is and what's expected. To condemn him blind, I think, is just absolutely irresponsible.
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View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
NDP (QC)
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
2015-03-12 11:49
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Condemning him is not the issue here. The issue is that something went awry.
Why did he—and I haven't heard an explanation for this—confirm that he was going to come, knowing very well the content of the letter and that this was about him being appointed for an interim period? All I'm asking with the motion is that he come to committee to explain himself, and talk about his capacity as the commissioner during the six-month interim period. We have a responsibility to review nominations.
The motion is to ensure that the commissioner is at the next meeting and that we have the chance as parliamentarians to do our job and ask him the difficult questions that he needs to answer.
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View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
NDP (QC)
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
2015-03-12 11:51
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Who answers to whom? Do we answer to the commissioner? The commissioner answers to this committee. The message that needs to be sent to this commissioner and to all commissioners is that they are responsible and accountable to parliamentarians. This is just a fundamental issue about how our Westminster Parliament functions.
I understand the spirit of Mr. Byrne's amendment, but I think that we need to be clear about the nature of the relationship between commissioners and Parliament in the motion.
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-12 11:52
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I think Mr. Byrne may have been pointing out as well that it's not quite as simple as saying this committee shall summon the witness. The process is such that I would have to report to the House that a witness was unwilling to attend, and the House—the Speaker in fact—would have to direct a vote in Parliament to compel that witness to attend. It's a multi-step process for the standing committee to exercise their extraordinary powers to compel the attendance of a witness who is otherwise unwilling to attend.
I believe Mr. Byrne's amendment may have been in that vein. It may be a more achievable outcome if we in fact rephrase it to inform him that his attendance is expected.
Mr. Ravignat, and then we really must move on, I believe.
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View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
NDP (QC)
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
2015-03-12 11:53
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Well, it may be more achievable, but what the official opposition is concerned about is that this is becoming a pattern. This isn't the first committee that this has happened in. In fact, the Conservative government has instructed the Privacy Commissioner not to attend the discussion going on in committee on Bill C-51.
If this is going to become a pattern, then there needs to be some commitment on behalf of the committee, and maybe this is the place to do it, that all the commissioners be reminded that they have a responsibility to be in committee and to defend themselves and their position.
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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Chris Warkentin Profile
2015-03-12 11:54
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Yes.
This is getting absolutely ridiculous, to impugn motive without having heard from the interim commissioner. It's absolutely unfortunate and certainly below the office to which the member opposite has been called.
We expect and look forward to hearing from the commissioner, but this has turned into a bit of an unfortunate circumstance. We'll be voting against it, but we look forward to hearing from the commissioner in due course.
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View Gerry Byrne Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Chair, this is where we move into murky waters because those who would suggest that we should be careful about our relationships with officers of Parliament, and that we should understand that they are the masters of the House, not us, does no service to the work we do in this committee or as parliamentarians.
An alternative, a reasoned amendment, was offered to collapse the situation and provide some diplomatic resolution to this, which was refused by the government, clearly for a good reason, because while they may protest that this is inflammatory and unnecessary and that their motives should not be impugned here, it is clear to everyone listening to this and watching us and hearing our words that there's more to this than meets the eye.
Mr. Chair, the government was offered a reasoned solution to a diplomatic problem that has now morphed into something clearly much larger because now the government wants us to invite. We are going to the lowest common denominator now because a meeting was offered and rejected, and now this committee is left to simply invite an officer of Parliament to appear before us, as opposed to expressing the expectation that they must appear before us.
This has become escalated at this point in time, and unnecessarily so. I'm not very comfortable about the notion of inviting an officer of Parliament to come before us so that we can examine the nomination and offer a report to the House of Commons as to whether or not we agree or disagree with the nomination. It is our fundamental responsibility as a committee to examine this nomination and to report to the House, not to invite, to expect an appearance by someone who would assume such an office.
I'm not very pleased right now. I thought we had a reasoned opportunity to de-escalate the situation, but now I think we are getting very clear instructions from the government as to who is in charge. Is it the executive or Parliament? The government is telling us it's the executive.
I will not support this.
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View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
NDP (QC)
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
2015-03-12 11:59
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I fully agree with my colleague, Mr. Byrne. This has become about clarity, and it's about clarity to the Canadian public with regard to who has the right to call an officer of Parliament. Is it the officer of Parliament who decides, just on a whim, whether or not he's going to show up and be accountable to the Canadian people whom we represent? Or does the committee have the power to make sure that this person is accountable? This is just a fundamental issue of our democratic institutions.
I'm sorry that my Conservative colleagues don't see this. They were elected to represent their constituents. That's the fundamental role we play. That means that you have responsibility like I do to ensure that officers of Parliament are accountable. The relationship between the executive, the officers of Parliament, and committee, is a fine balance. That relationship is essential to the health of our democracy, and that's not an exaggeration. That's just political science 101. You have to make sure that there is a check and balance between the power of committee, the power of the executive, and the officers of Parliament.
The reality is that they are accountable to us. Whatever the executive would like to do to interfere in the nomination process—and that's a whole other issue, the transparency and accountability for the nomination process—but at a minimum you would think that when a letter is sent to a commissioner, that letter is positively received.
It stinks. Something happened. I think Mr. Byrne is right. These are murky waters and we have no clarity as to why, unless the clerk has more information as to why the commissioner decided to come, and then suddenly.... What was it, the day of the meeting, Mr. Chair? No, the day before, it was yesterday, right?
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View Greg Kerr Profile
CPC (NS)
View Greg Kerr Profile
2015-03-12 12:02
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Mr. Chair, because we have witnesses, we can get on with it. We could continue the hyperbole for a long time here.
What I suggest we do then, if you want, is to make a motion to reinvite the witness and give the witness a chance to come here and explain, as opposed to condemning him before he's even before us.
If it's in order, I will move a motion to reinvite the witness, and you set the date, as chair, as to when the witness appears.
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View Tarik Brahmi Profile
NDP (QC)
View Tarik Brahmi Profile
2015-03-12 12:05
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm trying to understand this motion and look at it from a French perspective. I feel that the word “invite”, which I would translate as “inviter”, does not express the agent's obligation to appear before Parliament. It does not remind him of his obligation to appear before Parliament.
I know that the word “summon” was initially proposed, and that would probably be translated as “convoquer”. However, I would translate “convoquer” as “convene” or “call”. The word “summon” may be too strong. It may be lacking the diplomacy and the respect due to the position, but I think the word “inviter” absolutely doesn't render the idea of a legal obligation to report to Parliament. I don't think that term is appropriate. That is why I will vote against the motion.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2015-03-12 12:07
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Thank you, Mr. Brahmi.
Just for information, we could not return to the word “summon” because it has already been voted down within the context of the same meaning. We can't vote again on the same issue twice.
Is there any further debate? Seeing none, the question is on the motion by Mr. Kerr.
(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: The motion is carried and I believe the issue is resolved for the purposes of this meeting.
We will move on then to the orders of the day.
I offer my great apologies to the representatives here today from Shared Services Canada. First they were made to wait until the vote had finished in the House of Commons, and now they've had to suffer through a prolonged debate about committee business.
One of the witnesses was forced to leave already. Elizabeth Tromp, the acting senior assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer for corporate services, unfortunately had to excuse herself. Perhaps someone else can read her presentation.
Mr. Radford, if you wouldn't mind, introduce the rest of your panel and proceed with Ms. Tromp's presentation.
Thank you.
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