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Results: 1 - 100 of 303
View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2020-08-13 13:01
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Let me begin by challenging Mr. Hardie's suggestion that there was a lot of conflicting evidence from our witnesses on the problems with the wild salmon fishery. That simply is not the case. In fact, there's been a great deal of consistent testimony. Indeed, except for allocation of fisheries and perhaps access to the different fisheries, there's remarkable consistency in testimony. We've heard consistently about a dysfunctional DFO. We've heard about a lack of stock assessments, failure to base decisions on science, lack of consultation with stakeholders and broken governance models. Much of that has been reaffirmed today at this meeting.
Mr. Edwards, you said that we need to dismantle the entire organization. I just want to be clear about what organization you are referring to. Are you referring to DFO's Pacific region or the regional aquatic management board or some other organization?
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Dan Edwards
View Dan Edwards Profile
Dan Edwards
2020-08-13 13:03
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I was talking about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, specifically Pacific region.
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2020-08-13 13:03
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That is, of course, consistent with testimony we've heard at other meetings where we're reviewing the decline in salmon stocks.
Could you tell us what that dismantlement would look like in practice? If you dismantle, you have to replace it with something that's going to be effective. Be as brief as possible, because I have one other question.
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Dan Edwards
View Dan Edwards Profile
Dan Edwards
2020-08-13 13:03
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That's a very important point.
The Government of Canada has done all kinds of reorganization. It did it with INAC recently. There are all kinds of ways to do it. Significant study has been done on proper governance models that can be utilized by government in order to put proper consultative and governance frameworks together.
B.C. has a lot of thinkers who have done that over the years. I worked with one for years, Craig Darling, who has done all kinds of work for government on how to properly re-engage government with its stakeholders and with first nations. That work needs to be done.
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Brad Mirau
View Brad Mirau Profile
Brad Mirau
2020-08-13 13:06
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You could answer that yourself by going to the DFO website and then looking at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website. There's much more transparency, predictability about run size, communication with fishermen and communication with industry. Industry knows beforehand what the plan is and what the allocation process is.
In B.C. here, we are increasingly in the dark. Sometimes DFO officials tell us they're not allowed to tell us because of court decisions or reconciliation discussions. It's a lack of information, a lack of proper stock assessment and a lack of data, culminating.... You may know that B.C. no longer has marine stewardship certification on our salmon. Yes, we suspended it as an industry, but it's because DFO has not followed up on its end of the bargain to provide stock assessment and data required for us to hold it.
You can see it by looking at the websites. It will become clear to you.
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View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blaine Calkins Profile
2020-08-13 13:17
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I have a question for Ms. Scarfo, and maybe Mr. Mirau. There has been a lot of discussion about investments and how the department and the governments of the day invest their money. There's a litany of investments—some small, some large—on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website, announcements made by local MPs and/or the minister. Many of these I look at and go, “I don't see these as being issues directly related to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or the enhancement of fisheries at all. These seem to be tangential issues meant more to appease special interest groups.”
Would any of you care to talk about whether or not you think the department is actually investing in things that will make a consequential difference?
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Brad Mirau
View Brad Mirau Profile
Brad Mirau
2020-08-13 13:18
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I can speak on that briefly. I'm sure that the larger the government, the worse some of the spending is, but I would like to see more spending on the counting of the fish because you can't catch what you can't see.
I will give you an example about the Alaskan fish being caught. Southeast Alaska will catch the chum that we won't catch. We're not allowed to catch them because the stock assessment is not there. Our DFO will not let us catch American chum in the Prince Rupert area because they have insufficient stock assessment.
We need more and better stock assessment on the grounds, counting of the fish, and monitoring of the fish, for sure.
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View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-08-13 13:27
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question is for Mr. Mirau, Ms. Scarfo or Mr. Edwards.
In your introduction, you mentioned—I can't remember who did, but I know that Mr. Mirau mentioned it—the issue of conflict of interest at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Could one of you elaborate on that?
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Brad Mirau
View Brad Mirau Profile
Brad Mirau
2020-08-13 13:27
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I can answer that. One potential massive conflict would be DFO managing fish farms as well as wild fisheries. If there is a question and the science isn't settled about the safety of fish farms, then I think there's at least the perception of a conflict of interest there. In all of the allocation agreements, there is a conflict if the fish managers are actually in the discussion and they're the ones making the decision. I think it's a conflict—
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Brad Mirau
View Brad Mirau Profile
Brad Mirau
2020-08-13 13:28
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I'm happy to reply in writing also.
I mentioned the example of DFO being responsible for fish farms as well as wild-capture fisheries. I believe there is the potential for massive conflict on decision-making with those two files.
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Dan Edwards
View Dan Edwards Profile
Dan Edwards
2020-08-13 13:28
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There's another major conflict as well, and it has to do with the federal government's fiduciary responsibility to first nations. It's been very clear, in court cases here in British Columbia, that because of that conflict, when discussing the management and the allocation of resources within the fishing industry, the stakeholder interests need to be at the table. Otherwise, the Government of Canada and its bureaucracy cannot, without being in a conflict, actually represent our interests. That's a conflict.
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Kathy Scarfo
View Kathy Scarfo Profile
Kathy Scarfo
2020-08-13 13:29
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I would like to follow up on that.
Yes, fish farms are definitely a conflict. Maybe they should be in the agriculture ministry and allow fisheries to be managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I think the buying of licences, the transfer programs where DFO manages opportunity and then tries to manage buying licences at best value for dollar, is a major conflict of interest. They basically starve you out and then offer to buy your licence in a reverse bid where you compete with each other. That's just unquestionably a conflict of interest. As well, I think DFO being the lead in negotiations on reconciliation and also providing fishing opportunities and allocation should be removed from the department.
Just to follow up on that, I said something before about social engineering. Who, where, when and how fish are caught determines the cultural and coastal community quality of life in so many ways. If the department is now engaged in who, where, when and how to the degree that they are, more than, “There are fishing opportunities, and therefore let's figure out how to harvest them”, then you've changed the role of the department and they are in conflict with their primary mandate.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Tassé. That is one of the things that have come out in the last few days.
You talked about all the various issues related to transparency. When a government gives contracts, is it important that this be done in a transparent and accessible way for everyone and that all non-profit organizations or all businesses be able to submit their bids for a program like that?
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Marc Tassé
View Marc Tassé Profile
Marc Tassé
2020-08-12 17:47
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Yes, transparency is one of the fundamental rules.
First, the information must be documented and gathered. Then, it must be circulated, meaning to ensure transparency. We must not disclose only the information that we deem favourable to our decision, we must disclose all the information. So transparency is crucial.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay.
In addition, people who manage other not-for-profit organizations, not just a few people who have that knowledge, might be able to bid.
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Marc Tassé
View Marc Tassé Profile
Marc Tassé
2020-08-12 17:48
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Yes, of course it is always better.
That is why we said that we issued an open call for tenders. It is therefore open to everyone.
Earlier, I talked about accessibility. It must be accessible to the majority of businesses that have the minimum necessary qualifications.
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View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2020-08-11 14:37
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Madam Chair, members of the committee, Canadians, I appreciate your inviting me today to appear before you. With me is my senior associate deputy minister, Gina Wilson. I will refer to her as my deputy.
We are here, as requested, to provide you with information on the safeguards that have been put in place within the federal government to avoid, mitigate and prevent conflicts of interest. These safeguards apply to the federal government policies on procurement, contracting, grants and contributions, and all other federal spending policies.
I would like to begin by pointing out that the Government of Canada is committed to open and transparent governance. What I mean by that is a government that gives all Canadians broad access to its data and information. Since 2014, the directive on open government has promoted transparency and accountability across all departments.
As Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, I received a very clear mandate letter from the Prime Minister. That letter is available publicly online. It states that, like all of my cabinet colleagues, I am committed to building a government that is transparent, honest and accountable to Canadians; upholds the highest ethical standards; pays close attention to the management of public funds; and exercises the utmost care and prudence in this regard. These values guide me every day in my work. That's true for me, it's true for my colleagues, and I hope we would agree that it is even true for my departmental officials. All the ministers received these guidelines in our mandate letters, and we are all subject to the same laws.
Whatever our role, there are mechanisms in place to guide us. All members of Parliament must comply with the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries must also abide by the regulations and measures set out in the Conflict of Interest Act. Our staff must also meet the high standard of probity and integrity as set out in the “policies for ministers' offices”.
It's in this context that I'm fulfilling the mandate I have been given and that I am passionate about: namely, to build a more open, diverse and inclusive country where all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed.
My responsibilities also include policies and programs in support of LGBTQ2 people and youth. It's a broad mandate that involves working with several ministers and departments, particularly Employment and Social Development Canada, Canadian Heritage, Women and Gender Equality Canada, Health Canada, Public Safety Canada and Justice Canada.
Public servants in all these departments are also bound by strict rules of integrity. They must all comply with the public service values and ethics code for the public sector. The public servants at Employment and Social Development Canada who support me through, among other things, the Canada Service Corps program. are governed by this code as are all the staff at Canadian Heritage who support me in the delivery of programs to promote multiculturalism and fight racism. They all receive training in this area. As well, employees involved in the delivery of transfer payment programs receive additional training to help them identify and deal with potential conflicts of interest. It's also important to note that all Canadian individuals and organizations applying for funding are required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest at the time of application.
The distribution of financial support is governed by the Financial Administration Act and the federal government, as a whole, is governed by the oversight and accountability procedures of the Treasury Board Secretariat. Without naming them all, I would like to single out the policy on financial management, the policy on transfer payments, and the policy on results, evaluation and internal audit.
Unlike how the Conservatives are choosing to portray this, the policy on transfer payments, in particular, allows the government to ensure that these payments are managed in a manner that respects sound stewardship and the highest level of integrity, transparency and accountability. Government programs also have terms and conditions approved by the Treasury Board Secretariat. The anti-racism action plan, for instance, includes terms and conditions to ensure that all organizations have equal access to funding. In this particular case, we are required to publish the program guidelines at least six weeks before the application deadline. There are also guidelines for communicating clearly with funding applicants.
Allow me to touch briefly on a few points that I am sure will be of interest to the committee.
The first is risk management. The Financial Administration Act helps us strike an appropriate balance between the high-risk decisions, which require input from senior management, and those that are more operational. Risk-based decision-making models allow us to assess the risks associated with, among other things, the funding applicant and the activities being considered for funding. They reduce program delivery costs, alleviate the administrative burden and reduce the time it takes to notify recipients.
The second is conflict of interest. I've already touched on the subject, and I'm coming back to it because it's important. Mechanisms are in place in all departments to prevent the risk of bias or conflict of interest. At Canadian Heritage, for example, the decision to approve a grant or contribution is never made by a single individual. In addition to regular internal assessments, they can call on peer reviews or reviews by internal or external committees. Government employees can also work with the office of values and ethics to address any apparent or potential conflict of interest situation. There are requirements to disclose the involvement of former public servants who are subject to the conflict of interest and post-employment guidelines.
The third is internal controls. In addition to government controls such as the policy on government security, several departments have internal control frameworks that outline financial management roles and responsibilities. These frameworks are designed to provide reasonable assurance that public resources are used prudently and that financial management processes are effective and efficient.
The fourth is transparency and accountability. Via the open government portal at Canada.ca, all Canadians can view grants and contributions that have been awarded. Canadians can also consult the various departmental websites for information on those departments' plans, outcomes, costs incurred, contracts awarded, consultations and evaluations undertaken, and a wealth of other information about government and public sector representatives. Mandate letters and transition materials are also freely accessible.
As stated in the Clerk of the Privy Council's 26th annual report, the public service of Canada has received “clean, unqualified audits” for two decades. It tied with the United Kingdom for first place on the 2018 open data barometer and is recognized internationally as one of the most effective public services. I would like to acknowledge and appreciate their work.
I would like to conclude with a concrete example that illustrates the rationale behind all these measures and safeguards.
Last May, in response to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada adopted a series of measures to support individuals and organizations in many sectors of our economy. For my part, I insisted that my programs be adapted, whether by streamlining processes or speeding up payments, in order to support organizations that advance multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion and opportunities for youth in Canada. Thanks to the rigorous mechanisms that frame our actions, we've been able to respond quickly and effectively to the pressing needs of Canadians, but we are not out of the woods yet, and we have a lot more work to do.
We have adapted to the situation without compromising our rigour, and together we are continuing to build a government that is open and transparent to all Canadians.
Madam Chair, members of the committee, I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your questions. I've tried to keep my comments brief so that we can answer as many questions as possible.
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Duff Conacher
View Duff Conacher Profile
Duff Conacher
2020-08-10 14:15
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Thank you very much.
Democracy Watch is calling on the members of the committee today not only to recommend many changes to prevent conflicts of interest in government decisions with regard to spending but also to work together and actually draft and propose a bill, and to introduce it in the House of Commons this fall. Hopefully it will pass by the end of the year in this minority government.
You could easily work together to sponsor a bill that would lower the political donation and loan limit to $100, as in Quebec, to stop the unethical influence of big money in Canadian federal politics and to close loopholes that allow for secret, unethical lobbying, excessive government secrecy, spending without competitive bidding, and politicians and top government officials profiting from their decisions in secret. The bill must also strengthen enforcement by establishing an independent commission to appoint our democracy and good government watchdogs; requiring the watchdogs to audit everyone regularly and issue public rulings on all questionable situations instead of making secret rulings or ignoring complaints; allowing anyone to challenge the rulings of any watchdog in court; extending whistle-blower protection to everyone in federal politics, including political staff and the staff of political parties; and imposing high fines for ethics violations, including dishonesty.
Secret and unethical lobbying, excessive government secrecy, unethical big-money influence campaigns, and unethical decision-making and spending are all legal in federal politics and generally across the country. Canadians are more likely to get caught parking their car illegally than politicians are to get caught violating key ethics rules and spending rules. Incredibly, across the country, the penalties for illegally parking your car or vehicle are higher than are those for serious ethics violations by federal politicians and top government officials.
This dangerously undemocratic and corrupt system is the scandal, and it's not surprising that it encourages dishonest, unethical, secretive, unrepresentative and wasteful decisions by politicians and government officials. It must finally be cleaned up by closing all the loopholes, increasing transparency, strengthening political ethics and spending rules and their enforcement, and increasing penalties.
I have been before this committee about 15 times in the last 20 to 25 years. I'm not going to say anything very different from what I said those other 15 times, but I'm going to go through a few of the details, based on the summary I just gave, of the six key areas that need to be cleaned up in order to actually prevent conflicts of interest.
First of all, stop big money in politics. Stopping big money in politics is key because the favours organizations and their lobbyists can do for parties and candidates by funnelling and bundling donations unethically influence the decisions of cabinet ministers and other decision-makers in the federal government. Clinical testing by psychologists worldwide has shown that even small gifts and favours have influence and are the best way to actually influence someone's decisions. The only way to stop the unethical influence of big money in politics is to stop big-money donations and loans, as Quebec has, to ban gifts, including sponsored travel, which it is illegal for MPs to accept even from lobbyists as the lobbying commissioner ruled last year, and to restrict and require disclosure of all favours, including volunteer help on campaigns.
There are many other detailed changes that would democratize our political finance system. Democracy Watch issued a news release today, which has also been submitted to the committee with all the links, including one to the testing done by clinical psychologists showing that giving gifts and doing favours, including making donations, is the best way to influence someone's decision because it creates a sense of obligation to return the favour. That's why it's deeply unethical and has to be stopped through lowering the donation limit and banning gifts, including sponsored travel.
Stopping secret, unethical lobbying is the second of the six key areas.
The House ethics committee—this committee—recommended some of the changes back in 2012 to close secret lobbying loopholes, but not all of them. They need to be closed.
If even some of the loopholes that allow for secret lobbying had been closed years ago, everyone at WE Charity would have been prohibited from lobbying the Prime Minister's Office and the finance minister's office and department, because of their connections to those ministers. However, because the loopholes are open, not only did they not have to register the lobbying for this funding that they received, but it's also legal for them to be giving gifts, doing favours, campaigning and helping on political campaigns for any federal politician. Only registered lobbyists have to follow the lobbyists' ethics code. If you don't stop secret lobbying, you will not stop unethical lobbying because those who can still legally lobby in secret will also be able to lobby unethically.
Secret lobbying is only a part of the excessive federal government secrecy. The Trudeau Liberals promised that government information would be open by default and promised to apply the Access to Information Act to ministers' offices. Neither promise has been kept. Past governments have also not kept their open government promises.
There are many loopholes in the Access to Information Act. It really should be called “the guide to keeping information secret act” because that's really what it is—it's so full of loopholes. Those loopholes must be closed to end the culture of excessive secrecy that often hides wrongdoing and wrongdoers in the federal government.
The fourth area is to stop unethical decision-making. It is legal under the Conflict of Interest Act for ministers and top government officials to profit from their decisions. As long as the decision applies generally, which 99% of their decisions do, they are not required to step aside when they have a conflict of interest. They are actually allowed to have a financial conflict of interest and still participate in making the decision. This was proven most recently by finance minister Bill Morneau, who introduced a bill that would have helped his own family's pension management company make more money. Since he was a shareholder at the time, Mr. Morneau would have made more money. The Ethics Commissioner ruled that this was all fine because of this giant loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act. That loophole also exists in the MPs' ethics code and in the Senate ethics code.
The Conflict of Interest Act is a key law that protects the public's money and protects our democracy. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1996 that if it is not strictly and strongly enforced, along with other laws like the Criminal Code anti-bribery provisions, we do not have a democracy. This key law does not apply 99% of the time to decisions made by the most powerful people in the federal government. This loophole must be closed and everyone in federal politics must be prohibited from participating in any decision-making process when they have even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
As well, a rule requiring honesty should be added to the federal ethics law and to the codes, to ensure that politicians and government officials are penalized if they mislead voters about anything, including their own wrongdoing.
Unbelievably, the rules and codes that cabinet ministers have imposed on the lowest level of government employees in the federal government, who have very little decision-making power at all, prohibit those employees from participating in all decisions if they have even a potential or apparent conflict of interest, even when the decision applies generally. Those lower-level employees are also required to be honest and to provide honest advice. They can be suspended or fined if they break those rules.
This is a truly perverse system, where the lowest level, least powerful people in the federal government and in federal politics are the ones who actually have the highest ethics standards and the highest penalties.
As well, so-called blind trusts must be banned, as was recommended by the 1984 Starr-Sharp report, as well as the 1987 Parker commission. The person who sets up a trust knows what they put in it, so it's not a blind trust. It's a complete sham. It's a facade. Instead, politicians and government officials should be required to sell their investments while in office, as again the Parker commission recommended.
Conflict of interest screens should also be banned because they are smokescreens that hide whether someone is actually stepping aside from decisions when they have a conflict of interest.
Then the last two areas—areas five and six—are, first, to stop questionable sole-source spending. There are far too many loopholes that allow for sole-source spending. A way to check them is to close some of them, but also to require, if it is significant spending, that the institution doing the spending check with the Auditor General and do a little compliance check before it actually initiates the spending process. Then the Auditor General could say, “No, you can't do that. You have to have a competitive bid or I'm going to rule when I audit it five years from now and find that you've broken all the rules.”
Finally, we need to strengthen enforcement. The watchdogs are hand-picked by the cabinet ministers and top government officials they watch over. They usually don't have the power to impose penalties. They're allowed to do secret rulings, and, as a result, it's not surprising that they have acted like lapdogs, letting many people off the hook. Everyone needs to be able to challenge their rulings in court. They need to be chosen by an independent commission. They must be required to conduct audits and issue public rulings on every questionable situation, and they must be empowered to impose high fines for violations of these key good government rules.
Finally, whistle-blower protection, as I mentioned, must be extended to everyone who works as political staff or for political parties. A House of Commons committee unanimously recommended in June 2017 several key changes to strengthen the whistle-blower protection system. The government ignored those recommendations, as they ignored this committee's recommendations to strengthen the Access to Information Act, and as the Harper Conservative government, back in 2012, ignored the recommendations made by this committee to close many of the secret lobbying loopholes.
I welcome your questions about any of these six areas. All of these changes are needed to close the loopholes and to stop conflicts of interest in government spending decisions. I hope committee members will work together to draft a bill, propose it in the House and, in this minority government, recruit your colleagues to pass it this fall and finally clean up this undemocratic and corrupt—
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
I have just a couple of seconds left, so it's a quick question.
What grade would you give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his adherence to ethics laws since being elected in 2015?
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Duff Conacher
View Duff Conacher Profile
Duff Conacher
2020-08-10 14:33
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On ethics laws and also in terms of breaking open government promises, the Liberals rate an F in both cases, for sure. It's been a complete failure. He sent a great letter to ministers with great talk in terms of saying that they have to meet the highest ethical standards that will bear the “closest public scrutiny”. That was in November 2015, but Prime Minister Trudeau has not walked his own talk ever since.
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View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
View Matthew Green Profile
2020-08-10 14:51
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Sure. I would also like to publicly state that I think there is some confusion around the relationship between the Trudeau family and the Kielburgers. One said they were friends. One said they weren't friends. It was kind of awkward, quite frankly.
This idea of plausible deniability seems to underscore the circumvention of the act as it's applied. This is subsection 6(1):
No public office holder shall make a decision or participate in making a decision related to the exercise of an official power, duty or function if the public office holder knows or reasonably should know that, in the making of the decision, he or she would be in a conflict of interest.
Plausible deniability says, “I didn't know.” What do you consider to be reasonable? Please be brief, as I have only another three minutes.
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Duff Conacher
View Duff Conacher Profile
Duff Conacher
2020-08-10 14:51
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Again, I think if your staff are acting on your behalf...of the top government officials, which cabinet appoints and which, unfortunately, makes the top level of the public service partisan, because they're all serving at the pleasure of the cabinet. If those people are acting on your behalf, then I don't think the plausible deniability defence should be allowed unless you can truly prove that they went rogue.
That's the key. It's part of our whole notion of ministerial responsibility and accountability. It's stated in the Prime Minister's code and the Treasury Board code that staff are acting on behalf of ministers and have no authority to act otherwise.
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View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
This will be my last question. The Prime Minister in the 2015 campaign talked a lot about sunny ways, transparency and all of these things. We saw a few virtue-signalling measures like public mandate letters and that sort of thing. Can you comment on any substantive changes that have taken place over the last number of years since the current government formed office in 2015, other than those very public attempts to make things look transparent?
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Duff Conacher
View Duff Conacher Profile
Duff Conacher
2020-08-10 15:12
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The Access to Information Act enforcement has been strengthened by making the Information Commissioner able to order the release of documents, but the Liberals in 2015 did not promise any changes to strengthen ethics rules, lobbying rules or whistle-blower protection and have ignored recommendations from committees since then on this.
That's about it. That's why I say there's a failing grade on both the ethics file and the open government file for this government.
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View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Han Dong Profile
2020-08-10 15:17
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I just want to return the favour. What's your rating on Prime Minister Harper's government?
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Duff Conacher
View Duff Conacher Profile
Duff Conacher
2020-08-10 15:18
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Democracy Watch's final report card on the Conservatives, issued in 2014, rated them an F for their government accountability and democratization record, essentially failing to keep more than half of their promises made in 2006 in the Federal Accountability Act, and also taking some huge steps backwards by gutting the ethics rules in a few key ways.
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Robert Czerny
View Robert Czerny Profile
Robert Czerny
2020-08-10 16:24
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Thank you very much.
Thank you for this opportunity to address you on important matters of proper relationships and conduct of work in Canada's national government.
My strong interest in federal government matters dates back nearly half a century. I was a public servant from 1973 to 1994. After that, much of my work as a management and communications consultant was for federal government clients, including Parliament itself. I have been very active at the Ethics Practitioners’ Association of Canada for the last 10 years, including five years as president. We have workplace and retired members from the public and private sectors, and our educational activities have been much appreciated by public servants wishing to reflect on the ethical dimensions of their work.
This background allows me to highlight various dimensions of ethical conduct of public servants in relation to Parliament, ministers and cabinet, but I'm not an expert in conflict of interest legislation, structures and procedures or in the details of the present case. Rather, I hope to elucidate the context of the work done by public servants in a professional and ethical manner.
I'll end with five recommendations.
First, trust is essential to a successful public service. The public must trust the government in order to have smooth, constructive relationships between government and society. Without trust, you can't have peace, order and good government any more than you can have an efficient commercial marketplace. This is why it is essential to keep private interests out of government decision-making and operations. Conflict of interest, whether real or merely potential or apparent, can destroy the public's trust in the government to act in its interest. Therefore, avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest is no less important than avoiding its actual occurrence.
Second, non-partisan public servants and elected representatives must collaborate in the work of government. There needs to be clarity about their complementary roles and operating principles. That relationship was articulated in a careful and inspiring manner in “A Strong Foundation”, a 1996 report on public service values and ethics. Besides stating values that you want to find in every workplace and pursuit, such as integrity and respect, it sets out what it means to be a professional in public service within Canada's democratic system.
Third, key mechanisms have grown in this area since that time. There are, for instance, mechanisms for accountability, conflict of interest of both politicians and public servants, and protecting individuals who disclose wrongdoing from reprisal. There is also a solid set of best practices to encourage ethical conduct in organizations. Some of these are the articulation of values and codes of conduct; training and dialogue; counselling and mediation services; and how to manage conflicts of interest in, for instance, small communities where officials frequently have to deal with friends and relations. Ethics officials throughout the federal government have a network through which they share insights on all of this. Our association gives them the opportunity to do the same and to learn from the experiences of those in other sectors.
Fourth, an organization can have a code of conduct, a statement of values, or both.
Codes of conduct spell out a bottom line of rules and norms. Compliance is the issue, and we ask if this or that behaviour passes or fails a norm, if it obeys or contravenes a rule, and what the sanctions or consequences are for transgressions.
Statements of values, on the other hand, articulate the aspirations of an organization. The right questions to ask for these are about how well this or that behaviour embodies our ideals, and how we could do better. This is the realm of learning, improvement and celebrating excellence.
To my mind, an organization needs both. Being serious about ethics requires having a bottom line of acceptability and sanctioning what falls below that line, but organizations must aim higher than mere legality; otherwise, they won't inspire initiative and excellence in their personnel.
Fifth, what happens in an organization reflects its culture. Culture exists at all levels and is constantly shaped by behaviour at all levels, but the key factor is leadership, the tone at the top. Culture cascades; the ethics of senior leaders is signalled by their actions even more than by their words, and it filters down throughout the organization.
Sixth, a key spot where the ethics rubber meets the road is in speaking up, in raising an issue that could meet with resistance and could make the speaker unpopular or worse. A teacher and researcher in the United States named Mary Gentile discovered that people often know what's right and want to do it, but feel awkward about speaking truth to power even if the culture accepts it. Her “giving voice to values” practice involves a person reflecting on their moral courage, developing personal scripts for speaking up, and then rehearsal and practice. Her approach has a worldwide following, including in some business schools and in other uptake in Canada. The capacity to speak truth to power is needed at every level from junior staff with supervisor problems to interaction between a minister and his or her deputy. By the way, I have nothing personally to gain in publicizing her work.
Seventh, speaking up is necessary for cleaning up. Secrecy allows things like bullying and fraud to continue in the dark. However, secrecy is entirely different from confidentiality. Confidentiality is an absolute necessity for public servants to be able to give honest advice to ministers and for ministers to seek it.
Now I will share my five recommendations. The first two are specific to conflict of interest.
Number one, lest conflict of interest ever be overlooked, it should be standard procedure for all cabinet meetings that the chair of the meeting begins by raising the issue of conflict and inviting recusal.
Number two, there could be a similar process at the departmental level. When helping the minister to prepare for a cabinet meeting, the deputy minister's written or personal briefing of the minister could include a reminder along the lines of “please assure yourself that you are not in conflict of interest regarding these agenda items”. This should be seen as part of the deputy's support to a minister.
Number three, requests to a department from a minister or cabinet can be as broad as “provide feasible options for achieving x”, but the request can also be as narrow as “conduct due diligence on choice y for achieving x”. In order to give the best possible advice, in order to speak truth to power and protect ministers from possible risks, the deputy's response to a narrower request could add any other pertinent intelligence that departmental staff can generate.
Number four, public servants sometimes feel inappropriately pressured when making decisions or providing information or analysis. Of course, they should respect their values and ethics code and resist pressures to contravene it. At the same time, other parties should also respect the code and not try to have public servants deviate from it. A statement should be added to the code addressed to anyone who deals with the public service to the effect that “it is a violation of this code to pressure a federal public servant to contravene it.” This is compatible with current instructions to ministers and ministerial staff.
Number five, an ethical culture is sustained by constant dialogue concerning “the good” as well as specific instruction on norms, values, structures and processes. Senior leaders should provide the tone from the top by supporting and participating in such dialogue and training constantly.
In conclusion, I believe that Canada's public service has the capacity to provide expert and ethical service. If that is what parliamentarians want, they should support it, they should insist on nothing less, and they should never ask for anything else.
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View Élisabeth Brière Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Élisabeth Brière Profile
2020-08-10 16:44
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Thank you.
In a 2002 study you co-authored on conflicts of interest in charitable organizations, you make recommendations for situations where decision-makers can't recuse themselves. The country's top public servant said a few weeks ago that, given the size of the program, not informing the Prime Minister of what was going on was not an option. One of the solutions you recommend is using an honest expert, someone with experience, to ensure impartiality.
Do you think the public service fits that description?
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Chris MacDonald
View Chris MacDonald Profile
Chris MacDonald
2020-08-10 16:45
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One of the standard ways to mitigate the effect of conflict of interest, if you can't make it go away, is to involve more people in the decision-making. If you're the only relevant expert in some field and you need to be part of this adjudicating committee, then, if we can't remove you, what we need to do is bring in additional people so that more people are party to the decision.
No one is going to think that's a perfect situation, but it might be the best we can do in a given situation.
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View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
It's not the deputy minister's job to tell the minister that they have a conflict of interest. The minister should realize it themselves. If they can't see it on their own, then, they don't deserve to be minister. It's as simple as that. Ethics and conflicts of interest go to the heart of politics. Canadians put their trust in politicians. If that bond of trust is broken, our democratic system falls apart.
Do you agree?
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Robert Czerny
View Robert Czerny Profile
Robert Czerny
2020-08-10 17:06
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I think it's a good question, and I'd say you answered your own question.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you so much to our two witnesses today for giving us a broader framework to work with. It certainly is very educational.
Mr. MacDonald, you brought up COVID-19. It is a thing and it is happening. For my part, it's been a very intense session with all the new programs that have been rolled out in various ways and forums.
In a context like that, or we can think of another example, thinking about conflict of interest, is that something that is affected by the situational context in which the decision-makers are acting? There's especially this idea that good people can honestly believe they're doing good things and not necessarily be aware or have some sort of cognitive bias about what they're doing.
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Chris MacDonald
View Chris MacDonald Profile
Chris MacDonald
2020-08-10 17:18
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Certainly, this is the kind of situation where one of the standard difficulties for senior leaders and other kinds of decision-makers in organizations is the feeling of “My mission comes first: I've got to get this thing done.” Sometimes, or often, that is entirely well intentioned. There's the perception that they're trying to get something important done. Of course, that is precisely why we have things like the Conflict of Interest Act, as reminders that we need to take a moment and say that it's not just what we get done but how we get it done.
That's what makes this kind of complicated and interesting from an educational point of view. Thinking that a mistake was made here doesn't require thinking that the decision-makers were bad people, and thinking that things went perfectly in this case doesn't require thinking that the people involved were angels. It's a lot more complicated.
I have the luxury of saying “interesting”, because it's interesting from an academic point of view, but it's challenging for you folks.
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View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Certainly, that's why this committee is meeting. Our motion before us is looking at the safeguards that are in place exactly for these kinds of situations, because we do want to do better. It's important to realize that even in the case of a perceived conflict of interest versus an actual conflict of interest, it's the trust in our institutions that is important.
Mr. Czerny, with regard to the public service, in the context of a perceived versus an actual conflict of interest, do you think there are things we can do as a committee that would help the federal public service do a better job of avoiding those situations? Do you think we need a thicker rule book?
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Robert Czerny
View Robert Czerny Profile
Robert Czerny
2020-08-10 17:20
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I think the general reaction on the rule book is, the thicker it is, the less useful it is, because you want people to make ethical decisions. The more you complicate life, you end up pretending you have perfect or almost perfect foreknowledge of all the permutations that can arise, and that you've got rules and sub-rules to deal with each one of them. Then it's more or less a mechanical process, expedited nowadays by using keywords, for example, and you find the right sub-sub-sub-rule for the extremely rare circumstance, that nevertheless, despite its rarity, you were able to anticipate.
You can tell from my involved sentence with long words, I don't think a lot more rules are necessary. I think that people operate better and more maturely when they're challenged to understand principles, and then go through enough iterations of applying those principles. We can look, for example, at the kinds of simulations that Mr. MacDonald talked about. They should be very rich simulations and not just a few sentences about “if this arises, what do you do; if that arises, what do you do”. They should be the sort of thing that a good playwright would give you in a one-act play. You do a lot of those, and then you become sophisticated in how to think of principles and ideals. Then you'll come up with the best possible answer.
It's a grey world, and it's not as if at the end of this somebody else has the correct answer and is going to check whether you got it or not. No, you have to have a really good answer and really plausible reasons why you brought it up, and somebody else has to do a darn fine job of coming up with a better scenario than you did.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Mulroney, for your past service and your ongoing engagement. I've heard you on a few different radio programs, as well as on a podcast. It's helpful to have a plethora of different views here, because the Canada-China relationship has many different components, as China expresses itself differently under the current leadership.
My concern is that you have made public statements in regard to the government and its interactions with you. In a Globe and Mail piece on July 24, 2019, you expressed the following regarding a request that was made to you by a public servant:
“I am deeply concerned about the way foreign policy is being managed, and don't wish to be silenced or co-opted,” Mr. Mulroney said. He added any effort to discourage Canadians with expertise in foreign relations from speaking freely is “fundamentally an undemocratic idea.”
I haven't heard very much from the government on this, other than it saying that no elected official caused that call to happen, but I'd like you to maybe take a moment to address that.
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David Mulroney
View David Mulroney Profile
H.E. David Mulroney
2020-08-06 17:46
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Sure. This is what happened. Last summer, I got a message from someone who was on the special China task force that had been set up to deal with the crisis. It's someone I had met with before, an old colleague. We exchanged ideas, and the message was, “Can we talk again?” I'm always happy to do that. I can tell them what I'm thinking and they can bounce ideas off me, because I spent five years running the branch that they're in. I am always happy to do that.
On the day of the call, I got a message saying, “Oh, Paul Thoppil is joining the call.” It was a little odd, but it was okay. At the start, Paul was very effusive, saying that he was running the branch, that he knew that I had run it in the past, and how honoured he was. It was even a little over the top, but I got a sense that the conversation was about to change. It wasn't going to be an exchange of ideas.
He then said, “Before you speak to the media, you should feel free to check your ideas with us and find out what we think.” I got a little mad just because of the way it was expressed, and I said, “Paul, what's the issue? Who asked you to call me?” He said that the issue was with comments I had made about the travel advisory and that the people in PMO were not happy. That's what happened.
I said, “Paul, I'm not going to do that. I'm happy to exchange ideas with you guys, but I'm not going to feel constrained to call you. I'm a private citizen now.” I said that because I think I know what the objective was. It's to kind of intimidate you before you put pen to paper.
So that's what happened. I was disturbed by it, and I've remained concerned. Paul, in his testimony, said that he calls people to compare notes and exchange ideas. That wasn't the nature of our conversation.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay. Well, you claimed in your opening remarks that you had basically no idea what was happening in your government. Who are you holding accountable for this decision?
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Barrett, over the past number of months, as a government and as a Prime Minister I have been involved in the decisions around CERB, around the wage subsidy, around helping Canadians through this extraordinary time of crisis. We've been involved in working quickly and flexibly, with an extraordinarily professional public service, to deliver tremendous programs to help Canadians—
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
The organization that you approved, sir, was....
You had a massive contract given to a shell company with no experience running a government grant program. That's a problem. Someone should be held accountable. Who are you going to fire?
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Barrett, the public service has delivered extraordinary programs, including with third party organizations. When we wanted to help out shelters, we went through United Way. When we wanted to help food banks, the public service reached out to Food Banks Canada to make sure they could get that money out. They have consistently worked with third party organizations. As part of their decision to do that, they have done full due diligence on that organization's ability to deliver the program, and—
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Prime Minister, cabinet is responsible for decisions, not the public service. A major mistake was made. Someone in cabinet should be held accountable. Which minister will you fire: Minister Morneau, Minister Chagger? Which minister?
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
The decision in cabinet was not as to which organization should deliver the Canada student summer grant. The decision in cabinet was, should we have a summer grant program or not? That was the binary choice given to us by the public service and the minister. Cabinet made the decision that making training opportunities for young people to serve—
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2020-07-30 16:16
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Mr. Trudeau, you were blamed in the Aga Khan matter and blamed in the SNC-Lavalin matter. You are now under investigation. Your Minister of Finance is under investigation.
When are you finally going to make the decision to step aside and ask Mr. Morneau to step down as Minister of Finance?
You are the one who is accountable. It is all very well to tell us that due diligence is up to public servants, but you are responsible for it.
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Fortin, over the past four or five months we—the government and the Minister of Finance in particular—have provided assistance to millions and millions of Canadians who were in a terrible situation.
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
We are delivering programs that make a huge difference to Canadians and that remains our focus.
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-30 16:24
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The time has come for the Prime Minister to stop blaming public servants. He is the one who was elected to be accountable to Canadians and who was responsible for ensuring that the money was well spent. Public servants are not the ones who forced him to pay nearly half a billion dollars to a group that had paid his family nearly half a million dollars.
Is the Prime Minister taking personal responsibility for approving this huge amount of money that he spent by giving it to his friends?
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
First, I want to set the record straight. I have nothing but admiration, respect and deep gratitude for the public service that has been able to professionally launch extraordinary programs during this pandemic to help millions of Canadians. These programs have had a real impact because of the work that public servants have done and continue to do, and their excellence is thanks to these youth services that make it possible to launch youth programs. I am sure that they made the appropriate recommendation, which is to launch this program in the best possible way. Unfortunately, in part because I did not recuse myself from the process, there was a perception that prevented us from launching this particular program. However, all the programs that we have provided to Canadians—
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
The Prime Minister testified today that the option given to the cabinet was WE or nothing. Ultimately, the outcome was nothing.
Why did the cabinet accept this supposed binary choice? Why not ask for options? Is this a government run by the public service, or is it run by cabinet? The accountability rests with the head of government. It rests with the cabinet.
I am getting pretty frustrated hearing how much respect the members of cabinet have for the public service while throwing them under the bus instead of taking accountability for their decision.
Why wouldn't they have required options?
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Katie Telford
View Katie Telford Profile
Katie Telford
2020-07-30 16:54
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I want to address two things you said. First, no one is throwing anyone under the bus. I am explaining, and I am happy to explain, what happened. We relied on the public service and their recommendations, and their recommendation was to proceed.
The question you're asking about your your being frustrated that it was a binary choice is exactly the kind of question that the Prime Minister and I were asking on May 8, which caused it to be pulled from the cabinet agenda that morning so that we could confirm that that was truly the case.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
In your office, are people typically held responsible for errors? Who in government do you think has been held responsible for the errors that led to where we are today?
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Katie Telford
View Katie Telford Profile
Katie Telford
2020-07-30 18:31
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Look, as I've already said, this obviously didn't roll out in the way we would have liked. A number of us, including me, share in that responsibility.
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Jesse Zeman
View Jesse Zeman Profile
Jesse Zeman
2020-07-23 12:16
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Thank you for the opportunity to present.
I would like to discuss the future of Pacific salmon, using my experience with interior Fraser steelhead, in particular the Thompson and Chilcotin fish.
The history for angling was a catch-and-kill fishery, then a catch and release, and then no fishing at all. The trouble is that these fish comigrate with pink and chum salmon, and in the worst years, steelhead experts estimate that half of these fish were caught in a net as bycatch, and up to half of those died. Populations were considered in severe decline in the mid-1990s, when 3,000 to 4,000 spawners made it. There were an estimated 62 Thompson and 134 Chilcotin fish this year. They're endangered.
In 2017, the alarm bells were going off and we were in crisis mode. Despite this, DFO still opened net fisheries on the Fraser. ENGOs pushed for an emergency assessment under the COSEWIC, which was undertaken. In 2018, COSEWIC announced that two of these populations were at imminent risk of extinction and that the main threats include bycatch of adults by net fisheries targeting Pacific salmon, as well as poor ocean conditions.
That triggered the Species at Risk Act process. As part of this process, there's a science advice document. It was put together by three scientists: one from the province, one independent, and one from DFO. It went through the peer review process by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, and later freedom of information feedback indicates that it was vetted by 42 experts and managers. This document has never been released to the public.
After the RPA, the recovery potential assessment, correspondence was obtained from the province, going to DFO, which says the DFO summary is no longer scientifically defensible. What we've found through FOIs, freedom of information requests, is that the peer-reviewed science document findings had been edited in a science advisory report ostensibly to downplay the effects of nets on steelhead.
In 2019, the federal and provincial governments created a recovery plan. B.C. recommended that protecting 95% of these fish would require a period of 84 days without nets on the Fraser. DFO committed only to a 27-day moving window. In September, DFO killed its first two steelhead in its test fishery. On September 16, the Province of B.C. closed its statistically insignificant trout fishery on the Fraser, likely as a quid pro quo with DFO, only to find the next day that DFO had opened an economic opportunity fishery for pinks using beach seine, allowing chum to be retained. It should be noted that at that time, DFO had calculated a 1% probability of meeting its escapement target of 800,000 chum in the Fraser, and it still allowed fish retention.
DFO again used its own model, which was later and before found to be invalid, to justify opening this fishery. We had to file an ATIP request to find out what had gone on behind the scenes inside of DFO for the entire two-year process, and we were told it would take 822 years to get our ATIP back from the federal government. This was refined down to two and half months, and it will take two years to find out what went on behind closed scenes.
For this year, in 2020, the plan is the same: The steelhead experts say you need 77 days without nets, and DFO's plan is to take the nets off for only 27 days. That means we are pushing these fish into extinction.
At this point, the science advisory report is the only document available. The peer-reviewed science is still not out and we still don't have our ATIP. That is the DFO that people in B.C. know. There are dozens of structural and cultural issues within DFO that have resulted in a failed ministry and agency.
Steelhead are not the only victims. Interior Fraser coho were put on life support in the 1990, and a number of our chinook and sockeye runs are headed for the same place now. DFO's response has been to change the fisheries regulations and manage these fish to zero. This has failed our fish and the people who care about them.
Here are some things that can be done to stop the bleeding.
You can fund habitat restoration. There are only six restoration biologists for the entire province of British Columbia. They have no base budget.
We can move to selective fishing methods. Not only are steelhead a victim of nets on the Fraser; so are salmon, and I'm sure over the next year we'll find that sturgeon are being driven into a decline that is largely attributed to nets. Nets need to go.
On poaching, there are pictures of endangered chinook and steelhead and at-risk coho in illegal nets that surface almost daily. They are reported to DFO, and no one even calls us back. Charges are rarely pursued. Fisheries officers have become experts in cutting gillnets out of the Fraser, as opposed to protecting salmon from poachers.
Fisheries monitoring must be improved for all sectors. There is no illegal harvest accounted for in run reconstruction models, and we are aware that fisheries-related induced mortality of Fraser chinook are not even included in the river. What that means is there are thousands of fish, if not tens of thousands, that are killed in the Fraser every single year, which, according to DFO, never even existed.
We can deal with fish farms, we can deal with pinniped predation, we can deal with fish passage, and internationally we can deal with ocean ranching to reduce the number of hatchery pink and chum fish that are being dumped into the Pacific on an annual basis. These are all things that can be done.
DFO is culturally and structurally broken. It is a fishing management agency. It's not accountable to the public. Getting data from them is almost impossible. We are constantly referred to ATIP because people are worried they will lose their job if they share data with the public that was paid for by the public. Scientists, habitat staff and enforcement staff are rarely listened to. The prescription of the day is fishing, fishing, fishing.
Now, on the broader picture around natural resource management, whether it's water, air or fish, you need three things. You need funding, science and social support.
First, funding has to be dedicated. This facilitates leveraging, line of sight for ratepayers and an ability to plan on annual, five-year and 10-year bases.
Science's role is to set objectives for fish and habitat population to identify threats and barriers and establish the allowable catch. That is not management's function; that is a science function.
Finally, there's social support. The agency needs to be accountable and transparent and to make decisions based on evidence, and those who care about the resource have to see themselves as part of the process. That is what DFO should look like, and currently couldn't be any further from.
Thank you for your time.
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2020-07-23 13:04
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Dr. Walters, I noted your comment on predation. One of the work items that our committee will be undertaking in the future is a study on predation on both the west coast and the east coast. We hope to have you come back to committee to talk about predation specifically.
In the meantime, I note that three of our witnesses—Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hwang and Mr. Hill—expressly referenced dysfunction in DFO, and Dr. Walters implied it. Mr. Hwang referenced an independent oversight body.
I want to throw this question out to all of our witnesses. What structural changes would you make to DFO to make it more responsive to stakeholders and more effective in addressing the very real challenges facing our west coast salmon stocks?
Any of you can respond.
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Carl Walters
View Carl Walters Profile
Carl Walters
2020-07-23 13:05
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I'll start. Having dealt with DFO a lot over the years, and having lots of its people being students of mine, I think the basic structural problem is there's no accountability. So this pinniped harvesting proposal is allowed to sit on one DFO manager's desk long enough to have probably cost the sport fishing industry of B.C. something like $40 million, and yet he's not in any way held responsible for that inaction. That's happening, whether it's initiatives like the one I'm talking about, habitat industries or fisheries—
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2020-07-23 13:07
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I did want to hear from the other three witnesses as well. What are the structural changes you would make if you had a chance to restructure or reform DFO? Be very quick, because I have a couple of other questions.
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Jason Hwang
View Jason Hwang Profile
Jason Hwang
2020-07-23 13:07
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Mr. Fast, I would suggest that one of the recommendations from Cohen was around having an associate RDG position that would be responsible for implementing the findings.
One of the challenges that DFO has is the integration of a lot of the good work that happens within the department. I would say that helping with that integration, having some independent oversight, would really help with the accountability. I was a long-time public servant. Working in the space between what the political and public pressures are and the realities of what you can do with the money you have is very difficult, and it's hard to have a voice in terms of what is possible to change and make better. Having a place that can test that and check that can help us get the best that we can out of the department.
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Aaron Hill
View Aaron Hill Profile
Aaron Hill
2020-07-23 13:08
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I would support what the other two witnesses have just said.
I would mention the other recommendation in the Cohen inquiry of splitting out the mandate of promoting salmon farming from the responsibilities of DFO, because it's charged with both. They have a conflicting mandate of conserving wild salmon and promoting salmon farming, which is untenable.
With respect to accountability, there's also a disconnect between the mandate to conserve wild salmon and the mandate to promote fishing. The wild salmon policy says conservation is the number one priority in resource management decision-making, but we don't see that operationally within DFO. The priority is fishing. That needs to be a top-down change in terms of priorities there.
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Jesse Zeman
View Jesse Zeman Profile
Jesse Zeman
2020-07-23 13:09
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Briefly, as I mentioned around natural resource management, the three things are funding, science and social support. I'm going to really focus in on the science piece because there is an internal conflict within DFO in terms of who is the decision-maker and who makes decisions.
Science's role is to tell us what's available, what's possible, and how to get to that place. After we calculate all of that, science's role is to tell us what can be harvested.
Currently, the approach is, let's figure out a way to harvest things. There is no focus, or very little focus, on restoring fish populations or conserving them. You're constantly going to have this structural issue where you talk about fishing a lot and you don't talk about fish very much. I'm sure you can trace that back to the east coast cod. You can trace it back to interior Fraser coho and to Thompson steelhead.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
As I think all of the witnesses will agree, this feels overwhelming, because we know we have climate change coming at us. We haven't even mentioned ocean acidification. We also have the problem of various degrees of fishing effort, and we have predation.
This set of hearings is looking at the Big Bar slide, and of course as everyone here knows, that happened in a year with the lowest-ever historic returns. In prioritizing things, I think it's helpful for us as a committee to know what measures have the largest implication in terms of approaching all of these problems.
I'll put my question to Aaron Hill, and I'll go to Mr. Zeman as well. Is it actually about fixing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans itself, around accountability? Is that our number one task? I ask because it seems to me this might be one change from which many other changes will flow.
Mr. Hill.
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Aaron Hill
View Aaron Hill Profile
Aaron Hill
2020-07-23 13:27
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Absolutely. I think Mr. Zeman and others have spoken to that. There is a tremendous lack of accountability and transparency within the department and, as I mentioned, a disconnect between the priority in the wild salmon policy of putting conservation first and what we actually see in terms of decisions around fisheries management, habitat, salmon farms and other things.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-07-23 13:31
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Thank you.
Mr. Zeman, you talked about some of the gaps in DFO's communicating with stakeholders. Can you give a grade? How do you feel DFO is doing in terms of consultation, reporting to stakeholders and listening to stakeholders on their work with regard to wild salmon?
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Jesse Zeman
View Jesse Zeman Profile
Jesse Zeman
2020-07-23 13:32
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If I had to give a grade, it would be an F.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-07-23 13:32
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Okay, thanks. Can you cite some opportunities for DFO to change that?
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Jesse Zeman
View Jesse Zeman Profile
Jesse Zeman
2020-07-23 13:32
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Yes, absolutely.
When we talk in the wildlife world provincially, if I want to know something about endangered mountain caribou, grizzly bears or anything, I can pick up the phone, send an email, or get a hold of someone and they will send me what they have. When we call the department, we are told, “Sorry, you have to ATIP that—I can't provide that because I'll get into trouble.”
In terms of this business of hidden data, even with this recovery potential assessment document that went through the peer review process, the public can't even see that. The public paid for that. It went through a rigorous scientific process, and the department refuses to list it. We're talking about fish that have gone from thousands down to 62 and 134, and the department cannot even show what the scientists said. I mean, it's unbelievable that this is happening in Canada.
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-22 15:12
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Thank you so much.
Thank you, Minister, for presenting today. Thank you for your remarks at the outset.
The first thing I would like to say is that 70 programs and over $200 billion in direct support to Canadians.... I know that during March and April, Davenport residents were super stressed. They were enormously happy with the programs as they were being announced. It gave them comfort that there was a government that was caring after them and was trying to help support them as we were going through an unprecedented pandemic that no one really knew how it was going to unfold. Thank you for that.
I also want to thank you for your apology, or both apologies: one is about recusing from the cabinet decision and then also for the $41,000 payment.
I have three key questions. The first one is, can you make it clear to the committee whether there was there any direction from you, your team or the finance department to select or suggest WE as the choice for the Canada student service grant?
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View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-07-22 15:14
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Thank you for your comments.
I think it has been a particularly challenging time, and I'm pleased to hear that you're receiving positive feedback from your constituents. I want to acknowledge that we are still in a pandemic, so these challenges will continue and we will continue to be thinking about how we support people.
The decisions around the programs to support students were very important, and those were decisions that were taken together with other departments. They were working together on what the right approach was to deliver, but the final recommendation for how the program was to be administered came from Employment and Social Development Canada, and that was their role, in thinking about how we could best deliver for students.
That is the approach. It was not up to me or my team to come up with those recommendations or even to do the direct analysis on the capabilities.
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-22 15:15
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Was there a direct suggestion from you or your team to suggest that WE should be the choice for the Canada student service grant?
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View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-07-22 15:15
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No, my team would not have directed that.
I certainly have no awareness, no first-hand knowledge, of the capabilities of either the public service or the WE organization to deliver that program.
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-22 15:15
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There's a lot of concern around the signing with the WE Charity Foundation, as opposed to WE Charity. Can you just make it clear for the committee that it was the responsibility of Minister Chagger to actually sign the final contract, and it wasn't with yourself or the finance department?
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View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-07-22 15:15
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Your assertion is correct. It was not my responsibility to sign any of those agreements, nor to consider which organization would be receiving those contracts.
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View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Morneau, let me say that your situation may not have been well known, but that everyone was aware of Mr. Trudeau's situation, if only because Ms. Grégoire had just returned from London and had contracted COVID-19 as well.
Was there no one in cabinet who focused on this and wondered whether this situation should be disclosed?
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View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-07-22 15:20
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The policy was very important to students. So that was our goal. The administration of the program was done on a recommendation from the public service, and that's important. They decided how we were going to implement this program for students, and it was an important issue for them. We received and considered their recommendation.
In the end, our approach was to support students. I made a mistake and the Prime Minister was said to have made a mistake, but our intention was really to find the approach required to respond to the pandemic.
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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2020-07-22 15:21
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Thanks so much, Wayne Easter, my good friend and seatmate.
Minister, I'm glad your colleague clarified that it wasn't actually your department that was working out the details. It was Bardish Chagger's office, yet WE was talking to you. The Prime Minister began talking to you in early April, and you had the WE report. You said that the report was circulating.
Who in the Privy Council had that report? Who in the Prime Minister's office had the proposal, and had the Prime Minister seen it?
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View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-07-22 15:22
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Thank you.
I think what's important to know here is that what you're taking about is a proposal for a different program that apparently went to a number of ministers' offices. It came to me directly. I didn't review it at the time.
I don't have any way of knowing, but I would be very surprised that it would ever go to the Prime Minister. That would not normally be something that he would see—
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Ian Shugart
View Ian Shugart Profile
Ian Shugart
2020-07-21 11:05
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This would have been one minister; if I remember correctly, Minister Chagger.
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-21 11:06
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The lead public servant we are told in this matter was Madam Wernick, who works at Employment and Social Development.
Why is it that the minister for employment and social development, Minister Qualtrough, refused to sign on to this memorandum to cabinet?
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Ian Shugart
View Ian Shugart Profile
Ian Shugart
2020-07-21 11:06
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I wouldn't use the word “refused”. It's because Minister Chagger is the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and this was a youth program, and the Department of Employment and Social Development supported that minister in the development of the program.
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-21 11:06
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What is the name of the official who assigned Rachel Wernick to work on the Canada student service grant?
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Ian Shugart
View Ian Shugart Profile
Ian Shugart
2020-07-21 11:06
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It would have been the natural placement of responsibility. As the senior ADM in that area of the department, the responsibility would naturally have fallen to her.
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-21 11:07
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What was the name of the Finance official who assigned Michelle Kovacevic to work on this file?
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Ian Shugart
View Ian Shugart Profile
Ian Shugart
2020-07-21 11:07
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It is the same answer, Chair. This would have fallen within Michelle's responsibilities as the relevant ADM.
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-16 16:51
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Then I have just one more question on the contribution agreement, just for the layperson, particularly given the way the opposition presents it. We went to a contribution agreement because of the expediency of this. However, I don't want to give the public the impression that there was no oversight, no performance measurements and no accountability for the dollars.
If you can, Ms. Wernick, could you just to talk to that because I don't want people to feel that we didn't go to service agreements? A service agreement would have to go to an RFP, which would have taken a lot of time. We understand why that option was off the table and we stayed with a contribution agreement.
I want to give confidence to Canadians that there was oversight, there were performance measurements, and what those elements in place were.
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Rachel Wernick
View Rachel Wernick Profile
Rachel Wernick
2020-07-16 16:52
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Mr. Chair, if I could call on my colleague Ms. Hébert to answer, she has the details of the contribution agreement.
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Stephanie Hébert
View Stephanie Hébert Profile
Stephanie Hébert
2020-07-16 16:52
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak to the contribution agreement.
As noted, there were a number of checks and balances that were integrated into the contribution agreement. We did have a clear payment schedule. The payment schedule was very clearly tied to the program activities that WE Charity was to undertake to support the design and delivery of the program. As well, the payment schedule also was aligned to, and very commensurate with, the expected uptake of the program. Therefore, we worked closely with WE Charity to negotiate that and to determine what payments would be made at what moments.
The other point I would like to make is that the contribution agreement is subject to monitoring. It is subject to regular reporting. WE Charity was responsible to provide regular reports to the Government of Canada, like we do in all contribution agreements. Similarly, it was subject to all of the other requirements that contribution agreement recipients are subject to—things like audit, evaluation and different program oversight measures—because it is, ultimately, a performance-based agreement that we are entering into with recipients.
Thank you.
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View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2020-06-19 11:03
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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?
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Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:03
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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—
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View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
2020-06-19 12:54
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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?
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Allan Cutler
View Allan Cutler Profile
Allan Cutler
2020-06-19 12:55
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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.
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Sean Holman
View Sean Holman Profile
Sean Holman
2020-06-19 12:57
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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.
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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?
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Mitch Davies
View Mitch Davies Profile
Mitch Davies
2020-06-18 15:24
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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—
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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.
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Mitch Davies
View Mitch Davies Profile
Mitch Davies
2020-06-18 15:25
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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.
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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?
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Dominic Rochon
View Dominic Rochon Profile
Dominic Rochon
2020-06-18 15:39
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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.
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View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2020-06-18 13:56
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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?
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