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Results: 1 - 100 of 476
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to come back to Ms. Travis, Ms. Cardona and Ms. Dhillon.
Ms. Dzerowicz, who's a good friend, asked a very disingenuous question about the amounts in federal subsidies that have gone to Pacific Gateway, because she knows full well that the federal government has refused categorically to release the amounts. Mr. Trudeau has been keeping those amounts secret. I wrote to the finance minister in January—January 5 actually—and have still not received a response to that.
Given that it's your taxes that paid for these subsidies that are going to the CEOs and are being, in some cases, misused, do you not believe that the government should be transparent and let Canadians know how much of the subsidies have gone to these companies so that we can compare whether there have been layoffs, whether there has been respect for the collective agreement or whether the amounts have been used for dividends and executive bonuses? Isn't that transparency important?
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Michelle Travis
View Michelle Travis Profile
Michelle Travis
2021-05-21 13:43
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Yes, the transparency is critical to understanding who accesses the program, how much they're receiving from the program and how long they used the program. The only way we find out any information about how much is used is through public companies that have to put that information into their corporate filings.
For example, I mentioned the Sheraton Ottawa. They fired 70 out of their 85 workers. We note through a public filing that the owner pulled $500,000 from the wage subsidy program. They just eliminated the full staff. There's another hotel that they're using it for too, but still that's a lot of money for two hotels and I think the bulk of it was for this one. That's a problem. We don't know how much the owners from the Pacific Gateway pulled out of the program. We don't know how much was pulled for the Hilton Metrotown. The transparency is critical, but we also think rules and conditions on any sort of public funding are critical too.
Again, look across the border. They've been very imperfect in the way in which public money has been given out, but they have done a little bit of a better job in terms of having some transparency about how much money has been pulled out of the government. You get a sense of whether that money has actually reached workers. That's helpful to know.
Frankly, there are a lot of programs that are out there at the federal level, and we don't know which companies are tapping them, like the HASCAP program. Which companies are getting low-interest, fully backed loans from the government and how much are they getting? That's information that the public should know because the government's absorbing the risk and, again, these are employers, some of whom are eliminating their entire staff.
We're not talking about small mom-and-pops a lot of times. We're talking about wealthy investors, real estate developers and major private corporations who are very sophisticated and they're real estate owners. The hotel industry is a real estate industry and these are valuable assets. You have to have deep pockets to buy a hotel, and I think it's a little bit of a misconception to think these are just small operators.
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View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
View Pat Kelly Profile
2021-05-21 13:48
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I'm going to go back to Ms. Travis, for a quick moment, about the whole notion that she mentioned in the last round about transparency.
Canadians want to see those who cannot work and whose businesses have been closed due to the pandemic to be supported. It's the right thing, when governments shut down a business to ensure that people are supported, but when Canadians think that money is being misspent, or that money is going out the door and failing to reach those who are being targeted by these programs, they get very upset.
Can you talk about the need for transparency for these programs?
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Michelle Travis
View Michelle Travis Profile
Michelle Travis
2021-05-21 13:49
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I agree. Transparency is critical. This is public money being given to employers to subsidize the business to keep workers attached to their jobs, and that isn't happening. If we don't know how much they've received and if we don't know how many workers have actually been covered under the program, how much of their pre-COVID staff have been retained or furloughed and put on the program.... We have no idea.
When we ask employers to tell us about the wage subsidy program, they say, “We don't have to tell you that information.” That's very challenging. Given that the stated purpose of the program was to keep workers attached to their jobs, frankly, we don't see that happening.
Rarely do we hear of employers that have used it cover their entire staff, and that's a problem. We're concerned that the federal hiring subsidy is going to be more of the same. Will there be any conditions on the program? Will we know who has used the program or how much they received? How many of their workers who were laid off because of the pandemic are they bringing back by using this subsidy, before they look elsewhere?
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Angella MacEwen
View Angella MacEwen Profile
Angella MacEwen
2021-05-20 12:34
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Thank you very much. It's nice to be here with all of you.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada's largest union, with over 700,000 members. Our members work in a broad cross-section of the economy such as health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, emergency services, transportation and airlines.
With regard to this budget, we want to reiterate that investment in the care economy, including health care, child care and social services, will have social and economic returns far higher than the current cost of borrowing. A vibrant, accessible care sector ensures that everyone can participate in the workforce, which will be essential throughout the economic recovery. Government investment in care improves labour market outcomes for women and overall productivity, allowing governments to recoup the upfront costs at the end, so we're very glad to see the investment in child care that was proposed with the provinces.
To make sure this reaches its full potential, we need to see a strong workforce development plan alongside the proposed child care spending to make sure that we have enough trained workers and to ensure that the lower costs of child care we want to see for parents is not being subsidized by pushing the wages of workers even lower than they already are.
In terms of employment insurance, CUPE has long asked for some of the reforms to employment insurance that we see temporarily implemented here such as the lower-paying Canadian entrance requirement and the extra five weeks in high unemployment locations.
We were disappointed to see that the promised extension of EI sickness benefits to 26 weeks has been delayed until the summer of 2022, because that leaves a substantial number of long-haul COVID patients without the economic supports they'll need. They will have exhausted all other benefits, and implementing the EI sickness benefits right now would have been a way to kind of bridge that gap for a lot of people.
We are happy that there is substantial money for training; however, nearly all of it is being targeted for employer-led and employer-developed training. There is no direct support for workers themselves and no support for worker-selected training. The need for training supports and flexibility on training will only grow more urgent as Canada's economy transitions to create more green jobs.
On the minimum wage, CUPE is happy to see the federal government establish a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour. We recommend that the federal minimum wage be adjusted upward annually faster than CPI for the first five years, recognizing that the costs of essentials such as food, water and shelter are increasing faster than the overall rate of inflation, and the $15 rate is what was proposed several years ago and has already been eaten away by several years of inflation.
In terms of tax fairness, this budget was a big disappointment. Tax cuts since 2000 have reduced federal revenues by over $50 billion annually, and the major beneficiaries of these tax cuts have been large corporations and the wealthiest Canadians. These cuts have left a huge hole in federal budgets and have had a ripple effect across provincial budgets as the federal government stepped back from funding essential public services.
The federal government could have increased revenues by over $50 billion without increasing tax rates on middle- and low-income Canadians with fair tax measures like restoring the federal corporate tax rate to 21%; eliminating wasteful and regressive tax loopholes; changing how we tax capital gains deductions, the benefit of which goes to the top 10% of income earners; cracking down on tax avoidance in ways that we know will make a difference rather than just continuing consultations; and introducing a wealth tax on estates over $20 million. The federal government should also still consider introducing an excess profits tax that could raise up to $8 billion, even if it's only on 15% of excess profits for one year.
In terms of transparency and accountability for public supports, unions asked the federal government, when it was implementing supports such as the wage subsidy, to make sure the rules for this program were fair. What we've seen is that did not happen, so lots of very profitable companies have taken public money at the same time as they were paying out big bonuses to executives and dividends to shareholders, laying off or locking out workers and using the wage subsidy as a way to push workers to accept lower working conditions and wages.
There's substantial room for improvement in terms of the transparency of corporate support to ensure the effectiveness and fairness of public spending. CUPE has recommended several ways in which the government could strengthen these conditions and improve transparency and accountability. These include clauses that mandate labour protections for workers, including protection of benefits and health and safety protocols, and ensure protections for whistle-blowers. When there is a union in the workplace, include them in the negotiations for wage subsidies and other supports. For a year after a corporation receives public subsidies or loans, implement prohibitions on dividend capital distribution and share repurchases.
As well, make information about all of this, about how public money is being spent, clear and publicly available.
Thank you.
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View Ted Falk Profile
CPC (MB)
View Ted Falk Profile
2021-05-06 17:47
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Senator, I'd like to ask you a question. In the Prime Minister's 2019 mandate letter to the Minister of National Revenue, the minister was instructed to “seek new ways to counter tax avoidance and evasion by wealthy individuals”, “enhance our existing tax avoidance and evasion whistleblower programs”, and “look for more opportunities to invest resources that help crack down on tax evaders”.
When you look at the last five years, how would you describe the government's progress in these areas?
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Percy E. Downe
View Percy E. Downe Profile
Hon. Percy E. Downe
2021-05-06 17:48
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Well, it's much more than five years. It goes back at least 20 or 25 years. We're just finding out about the leaks over the last number of years. These disclosures virtually didn't happen until recent years, and then the CRA had to adjust to that new reality, as did the government.
For example, with regard to the Liechtenstein list of disclosures of 106 Canadians who had accounts there, that leaker sold the list to the Government of Germany, and then the Government of Germany offered it to other countries that had citizens on the list, so the Government of Germany gave it to the Government of Canada.
The point I would make is the one I made in the opening remarks: Look at other countries and what they have done. I think the Australians were the first off the mark. They quickly recognized that once you start charging people and convicting people and see names of friends and neighbours going to jail, the appetite to invest and to hide money overseas drops dramatically.
It's that culture of resources and criminal activity that has been under the radar screen. It's been going on for a very long time.
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View Ted Falk Profile
CPC (MB)
View Ted Falk Profile
2021-05-06 17:49
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Thank you.
What would your recommendation be to correct that problem?
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Percy E. Downe
View Percy E. Downe Profile
Hon. Percy E. Downe
2021-05-06 17:49
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There are a number of things that have been done. Originally I was part of the group that felt we needed more funding for CRA. The funding has been given over the last number of budgets. Granted, all of it hasn't been spent, but it's a significant influx of funding. We find that some of that has not gone towards overseas tax evasion, as the CRA said it was going to. I've come to the conclusion of late that we need supervision over the CRA and that it should come from the Department of Finance.
We saw in the recent budget that the Minister of Finance—on her own initiative, I understand—did the most significant advance on tax evasion, the beneficial ownership initiative, on which she indicates that over the next four years they've committed $2.1 million to set it up. If this can be done sooner, it's even better.
As others have mentioned, we need co-operation of the provinces, but this is the most significant development to fight tax evasion in the years I've been looking at this file. We just need to have it completed and implemented.
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Kevin Sammy Sampson
View Kevin Sammy Sampson Profile
Kevin Sammy Sampson
2021-05-05 16:23
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Thank you very much for the question, Ms. Wagantall. It's wonderful to see you again too. Thank you very much for the invitation.
In 1994, Rwanda came up. Section 32 of the National Defence Act requires members of Parliament to sit in the House of Commons “within 10 days” for a period of 10 days to discuss openly, transparently and democratically the “active service” mission that Canada is planning to take on. From an accountability perspective, members of Parliament.... I go way back to 1991, when Canada went to the Gulf War. Members of Parliament came to visit us in the Gulf War. They sat and discussed the Gulf War for 10 days to determine whether Canada should or should not participate, but then they also asked questions to ensure a lot of necessities: who's coming, how many units are going to be there, when are they arriving, what's the safety, what's the security and what's the UN chapter and so forth.
Today, the Government of Canada no longer observes section 32, because they do not think it's relevant. I'm not sure how federal law works, but I understand that section 32 is a law, and it does require—it's almost obligatory—that you go and discuss our rights and freedoms under the charter and how they're going to be affected by the active service that Canada is placing us on.
Today, the Liberal government likes to make all of its decisions in secret. The Governor in Council, however, provides the active service legislation, and it's exactly at that point when you are all supposed to sit in the House of Commons for 10 days and discuss it.
Now we've just basically put Europe back on the table, in Latvia, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea, and I don't think any of you sat for active service legislation to determine whether that's the best thing for Canada or whether that's the best thing for our troops and so forth.
Section 32 is found in BP-303. It talks extensively about it, and I encourage all of you to read it. You're going to find out some very interesting information about your obligations.
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View John Barlow Profile
CPC (AB)
View John Barlow Profile
2021-04-30 14:29
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Is Transport Canada not talking to Health Canada on this issue at all? Is this something none of you are aware of in terms of how that will be used or implemented?
No? Okay.
Minister, you had a number of scathing audits on your performance, and they continue to pile up. Your own department's internal report from September has shown a slow response to the pandemic. The external review panel's interim report outlines the failure in cancelling the pandemic early warning system before COVID. Certainly there is the Auditor General's report on the lack of pandemic preparedness, surveillance and border control measures. Most recently was the Auditor General's report pointing out gaps in the oversight on the natural health products.
Two weeks ago my colleague, Mr. Davies, asked if you accepted any responsibility for the failures outlined in the Auditor General's report. You avoided any accountability. Do you now accept some responsibility for the failures of the departments of which you are in charge?
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View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, we've been very clear to accept all the recommendations of the Auditor General. Accepting the responsibility includes, for example, appointing independent investigators into what happened with GPHIN and making commitments to restoring the Global Public Health Intelligence Network.
This government has been clear that there is much to learn by this country. There is much to learn by every country. We will be very focused on those recommendations and indeed on ensuring that we have a world-class Public Health Agency of Canada and a world-class global pandemic response system going forward.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I think what's clear to us now is that the phenomenon that Madame Deschamps identified of there not being a good path for complainants and not being consequences for perpetrators of sexual misconduct in the military was definitely illustrated by this allegation against the chief of the defence staff. It would seem to me that, as I said, alarm bells should have gone off when it was a possible complaint of sexual misconduct against the chief of the defence staff, and it would seem to me that this should have been job one for the Minister of Defence.
I had a look at the mandate letters that were issued by the Prime Minister to the Minister of Defence. The first one makes no mention of a sexual misconduct issue whatsoever, even after the previous government had already received Madame Deschamps' report. The next two, in 2019 and 2021, make a bland statement about making sure there's a workplace free of sexual harassment. At no time did the Prime Minister direct the Minister of Defence to implement the recommendations of the Deschamps commission.
Can you explain why this direction was not given to the Minister of Defence?
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Katie Telford
View Katie Telford Profile
Katie Telford
2021-05-07 13:58
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Unfortunately, I don't have the mandate letter from 2015 in front of me, but I actually do believe there is language, not perhaps specific to the Deschamps report, but there is certainly language around efforts around inclusion. I believe it's even as specific as—I'm going on a bit of a distance of memory here—addressing, certainly, inclusion issues and perhaps even harassment. Regardless of what was in the mandate letter, I can tell you about the work that was being done over the course of the first mandate, and I referenced some of that in my opening statement.
We actually had a stocktaking with the leadership of the S and I community, security and intelligence services. Actually, it was a meeting led by the Prime Minister, with Minister Sajjan and a number of other relevant ministers who were there. I can remember Minister Sajjan speaking at that committee about the enormity of pulling everyone together to specifically talk about inclusion, and looking for plans. We asked for the numbers in advance so that we weren't simply looking at numbers, that we were looking at action plans.
As I said in my opening statement, I am not here to say any of that was perfect. There is clearly so much more work that needs to be done. I've been doing a lot of reflecting on that meeting, and the meetings that followed and the work that followed, on what more could have been done. You're right, more needed to be done and more needs to be done.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Just quickly, when mandate letters are issued, is there any follow-up later? Does the Prime Minister go back to ministers on issues like this one, on which he said, three times, to work on a harassment-free workplace? Has the Prime Minister gone back to the minister to say, “You clearly haven't accomplished what I asked you to do here”?
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Katie Telford
View Katie Telford Profile
Katie Telford
2021-05-07 14:30
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Absolutely, there is follow-up on mandate letters. Actually, there is a unit within the Privy Council Office that was brought in under this government and under the leadership of the former clerk. It's the results and delivery unit. Part of what they do is keep track of work against these different projects.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I too want to thank the witness for being with us today. I know we're asking him about events of three years ago, and I do have a couple of specific questions, but I want to start by going back to the general situation that the committee finds itself in and that I think the government finds itself in. To state the obvious again, we're trying to make sure women can serve equally in the Canadian Forces, and that requires the confidence that those at the top both understand sexual misconduct and will act on allegations of sexual misconduct.
What we had in the case of General Vance was a chief of the defence staff who we now know had been investigated at the time of his employment by both the U.S. military and the Canadian military on accusations of sexual misconduct. We also know that General Vance's sexual misconduct indiscretions were thought to be widely known among the senior leadership. We've had testimony at the status of women committee saying that, and I've personally been told that a great many times. The third thing we have was an accusation of sexual misconduct brought against that serving chief of the defence staff.
It's a bit disconcerting that no one seems responsible for the government finding itself in that situation. How could this be true? It gives credence to the arguments that have been made—again, by many former members—that somehow the senior leadership was subject to different standards and not held as accountable as the ordinary members of the Canadian Forces would be.
In our system, there's always a minister responsible, so, Mr. Marques, who is the minister responsible for the failure to investigate and the failure to follow up on the accusations against General Vance?
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Elder Marques
View Elder Marques Profile
Elder Marques
2021-04-23 13:41
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There's a lot to unpack in what you said, so let me try to do my best.
First of all, let me say I am not here to say that I am in any way an expert in these issues, and I don't want anything I say to be taken to be claiming that I am qualified to opine on what the next steps should be in terms of how we fix these problems.
I can say as an observer, in the way that Canadians are observers, that it is very obvious that very serious reforms, not just institutional or structural but cultural, need to take place. That's not going to be easy. That's going to take time. I think you are hearing the evidence you need to shape those recommendations, and you're hearing it from survivors. You're hearing it from experts. I think, for those reasons, the work of the committee is very important.
In terms of responsibility, taking it back to this case, I certainly was not aware of any other information that was relevant. I've shared what I was told. I was told there was a complaint. I was not told what that complaint was. I was not aware of any previous complaints. I did not at any other time learn about that and would not in the normal course of my work, frankly. That's not surprising. This is not a sort of a file that I was dealing with in the sense of dealing with issues around military leadership. However, I think those issues are real. I think the responsibility of someone who has the information, the responsibility of somebody who has learned something, is to make sure that information, to the extent they're able to share it, goes to the right place.
In this case, I think that's what we were certainly trying to do, and again, I don't want to speak for the minister or his staff, but my understanding is that, possessing limited information, the instinct there, and I think the right judgment, was to say, “Let's make sure we put this in a process.” How do you do that in the best way? How do you make sure you're doing it in the best possible way? Well, you probably want to rely on the Privy Council Office. They're better placed than anyone else, and they're not going to have some specific agenda or angle. They are there to try to solve the problem.
These are really serious problems. That's why I hope—and I'm confident, frankly—that the members get that just from listening to what we all in the public realm are listening to about the situation. That's why this study is so important. I hope you use that opportunity. There are experts and there are people who have lived experience who can hopefully help to suggest a better way forward so that these things don't happen again and so that, when they happen, there is a process that everyone feels confident in and feels able to participate in without worrying about reprisal, embarrassment or anything else.
Those are complicated issues, but they are issues that everyone is grappling with and has to grapple with. I think the committee has an opportunity here to really help shape that for the Canadian context. I hope you seize that opportunity.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Perfect, so who holds PCO accountable to do a good job, to do the job that needs to be done to govern, and look after Governor in Council appointments and all the things that PCO is responsible for? You gave a very good outline of what PCO's responsible for. Who holds PCO accountable for doing that job?
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Elder Marques
View Elder Marques Profile
Elder Marques
2021-04-23 13:49
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Again, now that I'm a private citizen I'm going to leave the questions of politics to the politicians and those who play in that arena. That's not the arena I'm playing in now. I'm here to just tell you what happened, what we were thinking, what we tried to do and why we were doing what we were doing. I'm happy to be as helpful and candid as I can be to let you have those answers. I'm not here to talk about things that are better suited to other meetings of this committee, or the House of Commons or a press conference.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay, but you did work in the Prime Minister's Office. Therefore, you could be viewed as being more knowledgeable about authorities and accountabilities in our democracy than, say, the average person on the street. For us to understand elected responsibility versus public servants, who is the elected—in our democracy—minister or prime minister who holds the public service head, the Clerk of the Privy Council, responsible and accountable?
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Elder Marques
View Elder Marques Profile
Elder Marques
2021-04-23 13:51
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I don't want to engage in a political science lecture on ministerial responsibility. You are all very capable. I'm not here in that capacity. I'm going to leave it for you to very ably, no doubt, make your arguments in the House and in the public realm about how to understand what happened. I'm just trying to explain to you what was in our minds at the time, how we approached it and what we did to really make sure that PCO was fully engaged in what was then a very unusual situation.
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View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Marques, since we began to study this topic, almost everyone that has come before the committee has told us that it wasn't their fault, or that it was not their responsibility, or that they did not know whose fault or whose responsibility it was. They have all been somewhat passing the buck.
People also said that they were not able to see evidence or obtain information. Actually, the Minister of National Defence is the only decision-maker who had the opportunity to have the information in his hand and to see the evidence, and he refused to have anything to do with it.
The result was that the proper decisions were not made and the Chief of the Defence Staff stayed in his position for another three years in spite of this unacceptable situation. Would that not be the problem?
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Elder Marques
View Elder Marques Profile
Elder Marques
2021-04-23 14:31
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What I don't know and I don't want to speculate on is the terms under which Mr. Walbourne said he was sharing that information. What I think we can agree on is that the minister certainly shouldn't then receive information and take some kind of effort to investigate it. I think what you want to do is make sure that the information that's going to start the investigation goes to the right place.
I don't think the minister is the right place, ultimately. I'm not suggesting anyone did anything wrong, but it's not the minister himself who is somehow going to conduct an investigation or review. I think we would all agree that this would be not a very good system—
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View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
When the Armed Forces ombudsmen appeared, the former one and the new one, they both said that it would not have been interference on the part of the Minister to become apprised of the information as presented. So did Lieutenant-Colonel LeBlanc, who is the commander of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service. But the Minister said that he was not the right person to come to.
However, both ombudsmen and Lieutenant-Colonel LeBlanc also told us that the Minister could very well have asked for an investigation to be launched or have suggested taking the matter further. It was not up to him to conduct the investigation but he can ask for one to be conducted. He could have shared the information he had at hand, but he refused to consider it.
Basically, he was the one with the best chance to communicate the appropriate information, because everything became stuck afterwards.
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Elder Marques
View Elder Marques Profile
Elder Marques
2021-04-23 14:33
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I don't want to speculate or offer a view. I'm not an expert in what authorities the different players would have had, so I just don't want to speculate unduly.
What you want to ensure happens is that this information ultimately goes to the right place. As for what routes would have facilitated that and whether they would have facilitated that, I think you are hearing all the evidence, so I imagine you will be in a position to make that judgment. I don't feel I'm equipped either in terms of understanding the various authorities or, frankly, because I have heard all the evidence, because I haven't. I don't want to be speculating or making judgments—
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View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
BQ (QC)
Just so I understand, if departments have trouble communicating with each other, would it have been more effective to have the Canada emergency response benefit managed solely by the Canada Revenue Agency or by Employment and Social Development Canada?
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Karen Hogan
View Karen Hogan Profile
Karen Hogan
2021-04-15 12:26
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I don't feel ready to answer that question. There has been an incredible amount of benefit claims. The number of employment insurance benefit claims that Employment and Social Development Canada normally receives has multiplied. I don't know whether any agency would have been able to properly handle this. This may be a question for the government. That said, there was an incredible amount of claims at the start of the pandemic.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Canada is part of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Lots of Asian factories burn mercury to dispose of it. It doesn't happen in Canada, but it does happen, and it floats up into the stratosphere and ends up falling on the second-largest land mass in the world. A lot of that ends up getting into indigenous women. It gets into men as well, but at higher levels in women. ECCC did a very extensive study that they revealed last year.
If you have something like that happening, will you then say that this is happening and we need to make recommendations? Aren't you telling yourself that you have to do better on that? What happens if, again, Global Affairs is responsible for dealing with the convention? Do you then recommend that they do a better job? How does that work?
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Laura Farquharson
View Laura Farquharson Profile
Laura Farquharson
2021-04-14 18:27
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I would say that we're not unfamiliar. I mentioned gender-based analysis plus in bringing that kind of lens to the thinking, but certainly, as you say, it's a whole-of-government effort sometimes.
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View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Ms. Jones.
I'll ask you one last quick question.
In this situation, do you find that the federal government and its various senior officials and ministers are sufficiently accountable?
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Laura Jones
View Laura Jones Profile
Laura Jones
2021-04-13 12:13
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The simple answer is no.
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View Len Webber Profile
CPC (AB)
View Len Webber Profile
2021-04-13 12:20
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Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Ms. Hogan, for your wonderful work and thank you to your staff the good work they do.
I want to focus on a couple of comments you made in your opening remarks, particularly the remarks on the Investing in Canada plan and the $188 billion for that plan. You've indicated that you found that Infrastructure Canada's reporting was very poor and excluded “almost half” of the government's investment. You said that it did not capture “more than $92 billion” in funding.
The fact that it cannot report on these amounts I find incredible.
You mentioned that “the absence of clear and complete reporting on the Investing in Canada plan makes it difficult for parliamentarians and Canadians to know whether progress is being made against the intended objectives.” That is absolutely the case.
What reason did they give you for this “absence of clear and complete reporting” when you did the audit?
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Karen Hogan
View Karen Hogan Profile
Karen Hogan
2021-04-13 12:21
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Thank you for the question.
When we look at the Investing in Canada plan, I think it's important to highlight that it includes three buckets of information: projects that were announced in the 2016 budget, those in the 2017 budget, and then a group of projects that we'll call “legacy projects”. These legacy projects represent half of the $92 billion you mentioned, and they occurred before and were announced before the Investing in Canada plan was launched.
On the horizontal initiative, which includes over 20 federal departments, because this initiative didn't include those legacy programs when it was designed, they were not conceived in order to be able to report against the objectives of the plan. It makes it difficult when half of the information isn't designed in such a way as to be able to demonstrate whether it's achieving the objectives.
What we then saw was that there was also inconsistent information coming from the federal partners. They weren't always reporting in the same fashion. In fact, Infrastructure Canada was not reporting year after year against the same programs and projects or against the same measures. Hence, it was confusing in trying to identify whether or not progress was being made.
That's why we have many recommendations in the report to highlight the importance of outlining the clear measures of progress and then ensuring that all the partners can report against those measures on a regular basis.
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View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Purves, the information that we are currently obtaining in response to our questions casts even more doubts on the transparency. Two factors could explain that: either you do not have the organizational capacity to provide the information, or you do not want to provide the information. Along those lines, we know that a number of contracts have remained secret from the outset, and that is still the case today.
If information is not provided, or is sent out in dribs and dabs, is it because of a directive to hide information, or is it incompetence?
Those are the two possible reasons; there can't be 40 of them.
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Glenn Purves
View Glenn Purves Profile
Glenn Purves
2021-04-12 16:57
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From March 10 to March 17, we put together a report that we thought would be transparent, which would be [Technical difficulty—Editor] to be able to engage departments on the spending momentum of COVID-19, and that would be timely.
We have no issues with providing the disaggregated data attached to it. When we collect this disaggregated data, though, we [Technical difficulty—Editor] comments, so you can imagine—
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
Mr. Dufresne, in this particular order of the House, was there a provision for ministerial accountability included in the order?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 13:25
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There was a provision in the order that gave the alternative that the Prime Minister could appear, if I read the order correctly, and that should the Prime Minister appear instead of the named political staffers, those employees would be released.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 13:25
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That's a determination to be made by the committee and ultimately the House.
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-04-12 13:35
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I would actually like us to talk about ministerial responsibility. As I understand it, this principle implies that, before the House, and even before the public at large, ministers are accountable for the management of their offices. They are responsible.
But am I to understand that they are the only ones who have this obligation? In other words, the House could not hold anyone else accountable except the minister.
I also understand that a House committee would not be able to review, with other witnesses or with other documents, the position taken by the minister.
Is that actually the case?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 13:36
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In my view, committees and ultimately the House have the authority to determine what reasons they will accept. There is a great incentive to—
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-04-12 13:36
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I apologize, Mr. Dufresne. It was not my intention to interrupt you. We are not being very polite, but we have very little time. I think I misspoke.
Here is what I meant to say. The minister, because of his accountability, could describe his position to us in several points. But because of the principle of ministerial responsibility, would the committee be unable to check the facts with other witnesses? Could we, for example, subpoena someone to confirm what the minister has said and to tell us whether they agree with what he has said?
Do we have the right to do that or not?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 13:37
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According to the decision of Speaker Milliken in the Afghan detainee case, the House is sovereign and can decide whether or not to accept the reason given, including by the government. In the Afghan detainee case, the government was invoking national security. In the current situation, ministerial responsibility is being invoked. A dialogue needs to take place.
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View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Han Dong Profile
2021-04-12 13:54
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I'm glad we're talking about this. In my opinion, ministers' political staff are tasked by ministers with understanding the various implications of options presented to them for decision-making. Some staff serve as political advisers, advising on different impacts of political options presented to a minister. Some serve as communications staff, working to help the minister to effectively communicate the decisions they've taken.
However, in the end, these staff [Technical difficulty—Editor] are just staff. They're advisers and they provide advice, but they don't make the decisions. That's why, in the end, ministers are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make.
Do you believe that this model of ministerial responsibility is a good one and should be followed?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 13:55
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I can say that responsible government is based on that. It's the ministers and the government itself that [Technical difficulty—Editor] and to Parliament, and the staffers and the employees are serving and are supporting [Technical difficulty—Editor] and this government. I see that certainly as a very valid principle.
On the other side, there is also the authority of the House as the grand inquest of the nation, and its constitutional powers to determine what it needs in terms of information.
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-04-12 13:59
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Okay. Let me ask you one more question, Mr. Dufresne.
Clearly, if the House sanctions an individual for failing to testify, that is one thing. The individual did not obey the order and there are consequences for that. I imagine there are precedents for those kinds of situations.
However, are there precedents for the sanctions that the House might impose on a minister who orders someone not to obey an order of the House?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 13:59
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We have discussed the precedent in 2010. In that case, it wasn't an order of the House, it was an order of the committee. But a motion to report the situation to the House was still introduced. That motion was defeated but it did raise the same kind of concern.
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-04-12 14:00
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So I gather that there is no precedent for the sanctions. Could the Speaker of the House tell the minister that he is guilty of contempt of Parliament and remove him from his position or consider that he's no longer a member of Parliament, for example?
Are there consequences of that nature? Has that ever happened?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 14:00
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As for the sanctions when a concern is raised about the information provided, the House can refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
In the 2011 precedent I mentioned, the government had not produced the information that was asked for and had invoked Cabinet confidence. Basically, there was an order from the House and a motion stating that the government had lost the confidence of the House.
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-04-12 14:00
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Okay, Mr. Dufresne. I will move to another question.
At this stage, we have established that people have not obeyed orders from the House, and we are going to report to the situation to the House.
Do we have to suggest sanctions or consequences for that, or do we simply report the situation to the House and leave it to the House to decide itself on the consequences as a matter of privilege?
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Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2021-04-12 14:01
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It is up to the committee to decide what it wants to include in its report to the House. On page 154 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, mention is made of describing the situation, summarizing the events, naming any individuals involved, and indicating any concerns as to a breach of privilege or contempt. If the committee wants to suggest any measure to the House, it may do so.
Ultimately, the House will have to decide on the matter and determine whether it has enough information to do so.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I thank the minister for being here today to talk about ministerial responsibility. I think this gets at the crux of the problem in the failure to attack sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.
When Operation Honour was announced in 2015, I was among those who gave credit to the Canadian military for recognizing the problem and setting out to solve it, but what we heard multiple times is that Operation Honour actually failed. We heard multiple times in this study from witnesses that members of the Canadian Armed Forces felt that there were two different standards, and that senior leaders in the Canadian military were not held to the same standards as rank-and-file members when it came to Operation Honour. This is the crux of the problem. None of the actions can have any credibility in assuring women that they can serve equally if there's no action when there's misconduct at the highest level.
Minister, my question is a very direct question. General Vance was allowed to continue serving as chief of the defence staff after credible allegations of sexual misconduct had been raised against him. Who is the minister responsible for him continuing to serve as chief of the defence staff under those circumstances?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, as I stated before, any time information is brought forward, regardless of rank or position.... In this case, it was about the GIC appointment of the former chief of the defence staff. It was about making sure that the information brought forward, the allegations, were taken extremely seriously, and that's exactly what was done. It is important to make sure that the proper process is followed by the book. If you do not follow the proper process, you may interfere in a just outcome.
I have taken very seriously my responsibility to the Canadian Armed Forces, from the day I came in. The focus that we put on our people, the focus that our government has put on dealing with all types of systemic misconduct, especially sexual misconduct...we have taken steps.
Now, when it comes to Operation Honour, yes, it has run its course. It was started before we formed government. What we are doing is looking at what worked, what things we need to keep and what things we need to change. Our team has been working aggressively, even before the allegations on the former chief of the defence staff came forward this year. We wanted to work towards a complete culture change, something that we were already discussing. We were looking at all forms of misconduct. We had a panel put together made up of former serving members who had lived experience that includes systemic racism all the way through to gender bias and sexual misconduct, so that we could actually move forward.
Madam Chair, one of the things I will always champion with all of the senior leadership is to work forward and create that inclusive environment. No, it's not going to be easy, but one thing I can assure you is that no one is going to rest. Everybody within the armed forces, including the acting chief of the defence staff and our deputy minister, and all of you will continue to work to make the necessary changes.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Well, Madam Chair, I'm not sure how that answers the question of ministerial responsibility. Vance continued to serve under a cloud of allegations about sexual misconduct, and nothing happened.
Now, the minister always leans on investigations. No investigation happened in 2018, so I want to go back to ministerial responsibility. Who is the minister who was responsible for making sure that an investigation took place? When the minister found out that PCO was not investigating, when the Minister of Defence found out that the ombudsman's office was not investigating, was he not the minister responsible—not to do an investigation, but to make sure an independent investigation was conducted? Why was the matter dropped? Is the minister responsible for this failure to conduct an investigation or not?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, regardless of the assertions that were posed in the question, in our society, in our system, we have due process, and that process has to be followed. Regardless of what position one holds, we cannot just make a decision and try to get an outcome; we have to follow the absolute process. Just like in any other police investigation, if you don't follow the absolute process here, in this case, when information was brought forward from a GIC.... And GIC appointments are the responsibility of management by the Privy Council Office, so in this case, that was the reason information was sent to the Privy Council Office to conduct that immediate follow-up.
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
That immediate follow-up was conducted, and then from there, multiple follow-ups continued. The information that was provided to this committee, from what I understand, from a production of papers, outlines the actions that actually took place and also states that the reason why the former ombudsman did not provide any further information was that the complainant did not want to come forward.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Minister, you seem to be saying that the Prime Minister, then, is responsible for the fact that there was no investigation, because the Privy Council Office reported to him. When the Privy Council failed to proceed with an investigation, the Prime Minister should have acted. Is that what you're telling us under ministerial responsibility?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, I'm not sure how the member or his party decide on what type of power politicians should have, but one thing I can assure you is that—
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you.
No politician, Madam Chair, should ever be involved in an investigation. What we need to do is allow for independent public service members to look at the facts and then decide which direction it needs to go. If you don't follow that process, you will undermine a potential just outcome for the person who has come forward.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
To follow on that question, Minister, is a minister, a politician—or, in this case, you—responsible to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces has a chief of the defence staff who is above reproach and has not carried out and is not carrying out any sexual misconduct?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, it's all our responsibility, including the person, anybody who's—
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, first of all, when it comes to any type of sexual misconduct, it is all our responsibility. When it comes to the Minister of National Defence, under the National Defence Act, I have the direction, a ministerial responsibility for the direction the Canadian Armed Forces goes. That direction we put in our defence policy, and we put it in our defence policy to make sure that we have a workplace free from harassment, and we put our people number one, Madam Chair. We know that we have not—
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Minister, you had said that the Prime Minister is the minister responsible for the PCO. Since the PCO did the investigation, are you saying the Prime Minister is responsible, then?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Minister Sajjan, you've spoken at length today about ministerial responsibility. You referred to it as the reason why your staff wouldn't be allowed to speak to this committee. Yet you've denied any responsibility for the failure to investigate General Vance and for the fact that he remained in office for years, despite the allegations against him.
Let's face it, under your government, Operation Honour was a failure. The Admiral McDonald scandal also took place under your government, as did the scandal involving the person responsible for human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Given all these accumulating factors, do you think that this ministerial responsibility, theoretically, should apply to you?
Do you accept responsibility for all these situations?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Let me make it very clear. From the day I became Minister of National Defence, my number one priority has always been to focus on our people and to make sure we have an inclusive environment regardless of the colour of someone's skin or someone's sexual orientation or gender. I joined in 1989, when women were being allowed into combat. I've seen some of the challenges they have faced directly. That's why, when we started the consultations for a defence policy, we made it very clear that we wanted to be focused on our people. That's exactly what we did. The changes we have made are part of that progress. We knew we couldn't get everything right. We knew at that time, and we discussed it many years back, that there were survivors who had not come forward. We said that we wanted them to come forward and that they would be looked after.
As Dr. Preston has stated, we want to make sure we empower them. That's why we passed Bill C-77, which the previous government let die on the order paper. That's why we put resources and made policy changes to make sure—
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View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Minister, it's your position, then, that you wouldn't have done anything differently, in hindsight now, from what you did, you wouldn't have done anything other than turning this over to the Privy Council Office. If that is the case, it seems to me that under ministerial responsibility, you're laying this at the feet of the Prime Minister. The chief of the defence staff remained in office for three years after a substantiated allegation of sexual misconduct was raised, and no investigation was done. If it was not you, under ministerial responsibility, then wasn't it the Prime Minister who was responsible for that? Doesn't that affect how confident women serving in the Canadian Forces can be about their ability to serve equally?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, with all due respect to the member, as I stated, the Prime Minister was not aware. It's about no politician, whether that's the Prime Minister or a minister, ever getting involved in an investigation. Madam Chair, our Prime Minister was the one who named the first cabinet that was 50% women, who actually put a focus on things—
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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank my colleague Mr. Garrison for that line of questioning.
I can tell you, Minister, that it doesn't seem as though you're at all apologetic for what has transpired. Especially since 2018, this matter has lain at your feet, and General Eyre talked about how there's been a loss of trust in the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces, and that includes in you as minister.
Minister Sajjan, do you have any regret that you left General Vance in charge of Operation Honour?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, I understand where the member is going. Every time there is any type of misconduct by a member, it is extremely painful. I wish we could immediately do a fast-forward and get the just outcome that they deserve. One thing I have done right from the beginning is to make sure that regardless of the case, we have given the right resources to our folks, and that's exactly what we did.
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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Do you have any regret, Minister, about leaving CDS General Vance in charge of Operation Honour?
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, in hindsight, if I had known what I know, things obviously would be very different. When it comes to Operation—
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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
You knew in 2018 that there was an allegation. You knew there was an allegation against General Vance and you still left him in charge of Operation Honour.
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, if the member wants to go there, you knew about something in 2015. Of course, when it comes to it, all I can do is follow the proper process—
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
The member knows there was an investigation in 2015. I take responsibility for what—
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View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
I take responsibility for the work that we need to do and I take it very seriously, Madam Chair. I made sure that we put in place the right resources when we did and that we changed policies. We have made the progress that we have made, even though right now it is not the progress that we all need and want and that our members deserve. We have a lot more work to do.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Mr. Wernick, in your opinion, then, who has overall responsibility to ensure that the position of the chief of the defence staff is filled by someone whose behaviour is beyond reproach and doesn't include sexual misconduct or harassment?
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Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 15:08
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The appointment is the recommendation of the Minister of Defence to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister would agree or not to the recommended appointment. Minister Kenney recommended the appointment to Prime Minister Harper, and then subsequent issues about his promotion and tenure would have been decisions recommended by Minister Sajjan to Prime Minister Trudeau.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
So the Minister of National Defence is responsible to ensure a CDS whose behaviour is representative of the values of the Canadian Forces, etc.
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Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 15:09
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Every minister is responsible for the portfolios for which they're answerable to Parliament.
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View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
When there are allegations of inappropriate behaviour by a senior military officer, such as the Chief of Defence Staff, whether they are criminal in nature or not, who is ultimately responsible for their actions?
People often say it's the Privy Council Office. The Minister has stated many times that he sent the information to them.
Is the Privy Council Office or the minister responsible for that?
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Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 15:50
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I'm not sure what the answer is. I believe you would have to ask a lawyer.
As I understand it, the Privy Council Office still has an obligation to do an initial screening, a review of the facts, and to decide what procedures to follow afterwards. As someone suggested, it may be to call in the national security advisor. If early indications suggest the possibility of criminal activity, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are called right away.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Wernick, for your apology, but ultimately, if I understand this correctly, ensuring that the military has a chief of the defence staff who is beyond reproach lies with the Minister of National Defence. Was that not your testimony?
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Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 16:06
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These positions are chosen by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Minister of National Defence, yes.
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James Cohen
View James Cohen Profile
James Cohen
2021-04-01 14:57
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Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak today. My name is James Cohen, and I am the executive director of Transparency International Canada. TI Canada is a registered charity and is the Canadian chapter of Transparency International, the world’s leading anti-corruption movement.
Canadians and the world have gone through a difficult, sad and exhausting year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are not done yet. In order to react to the pandemic, the federal government has had to spend unprecedented amounts of money in a short time. These funds were needed to procure essential medical supplies and equipment and to support Canadians experiencing economic distress.
In this time of need to fight the pandemic and support Canadians, it is also critical that transparency and accountability are preserved and even strengthened. In this rapid movement of large amounts of money, there is the risk of not only the misuse of public funds, but also the erosion of public trust. The public needs to be reassured, with evidence, that decisions are being taken with caution and integrity, and that they are executed with the same care.
To this end, I would like to address three topics today: procurement, beneficial ownership transparency and economic recovery.
First, transparency in public procurement is fundamental to ensuring that goods are procured at a reasonable price and in a fair manner. While the pandemic can allow some measures to be expedited in a procurement process, these principles must remain.
While it took considerable public pressure for the government to release some pandemic-related data, such as Canada emergency wage subsidy recipients and vaccine distribution timetables, there is procurement spending data available—namely, on the Public Services and Procurement Canada website. This data is in the aggregate, though. Spending in different procurement categories and the recipients of the contracts are available, but there is no breakdown of how many contracts each party received. While the aggregate data is a start, TI Canada implores the government to go further and make successful contracts available. This is particularly important for the roughly $1 billon spent on Canada’s vaccine contracts.
The second point I would like to raise is on beneficial ownership transparency—that is, the transparency of the actual physical person who benefits from a company. We remind the committee that Canada received negative reviews from the financial action task force's 2015 mutual evaluation and is viewed by many experts and other bodies as a destination for money laundering. This makes it all the more important for the public to know who is actually benefiting from COVID procurement contracts.
TI Canada was pleased to provide commentary to the government’s public consultation on establishing a public registry of beneficial ownership last spring. A public registry would help Canada fight money laundering—or “snow washing”, as it's referred to. We have been waiting for one year, though, for the results of those consultations. While we understand that the pandemic monopolized much of the government’s attention, surely the consultation results should be released by now.
Corporate beneficial ownership transparency is just as urgent for Canada during the pandemic as it was before, perhaps even more so. Beneficial ownership disclosure should be a requirement for all government contracts, licences and permits so the government knows whom they are doing business with. A public registry can also help Canadians protect themselves from fraud such as fake job offers and fake medical supplies.
This leads to my third point: economic recovery. Anti-corruption and anti-money laundering compliance and, indeed, transparency and accountability measures cannot be paused as a means to economic recovery. Here again, a public beneficial ownership registry will help, especially as designated non-financial businesses and professions like real estate agents and money service businesses will be required to conduct beneficial ownership due diligence as of June this year.
In the mining sector, TI Canada has observed provincial governments citing the pandemic as a reason to fast-track public consultation processes for environmental assessments in an effort to speed up economic recovery. TI Canada recently assessed EA processes relating to mining in Ontario, B.C. and Yukon, and our findings were that public consultations are already less than adequate. More transparency is needed, not less, especially with Canadian jurisdictions eyeing rare earths for green tech as an engine of economic recovery.
The Government of Canada has had to react quickly, with unprecedented resources and powers, to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. While perfection in the response may not be reasonable to expect, transparency in decision-making and adherence to accountability during and after the pandemic are in our view non-negotiable.
Thank you.
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Tara Shea
View Tara Shea Profile
Tara Shea
2021-03-30 11:09
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Good morning, Mr. Chair, members of the committee and fellow panellists.
I'd like to start by acknowledging that I'm participating from Ottawa, which is traditional Algonquin territory. Kara is participating from Edmonton, which is Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Métis people.
Thank you very much for the invitation to be here today to share our members' views on Bill C-15.
MAC members have a strong record of establishing respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with Inuit, Métis and first nations peoples. Our members are among the largest industrial employers of indigenous peoples in Canada and a major customer of indigenous-owned businesses. Across the country, there are examples of partnerships between mining companies and communities that are advancing reconciliation and contributing to the implementation of the UN declaration.
As an association, we looked to the UN declaration and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for guidance when we were drafting our recently updated indigenous and community relationships protocol as part of our sustainability initiative, “Towards Sustainable Mining”. We established a good practice level that includes a commitment to aim to achieve free, prior and informed consent for new projects or expansions where impacts to rights may occur. This is among many other criteria in the standard designed to facilitate strong relationships through effective engagement and decision-making processes.
We are supportive of the objective of incrementally and thoughtfully implementing the UN declaration through collaboration. We see potential for Bill C-15 to improve relations between the Crown and indigenous peoples and to help advance reconciliation, but this will require additional clarity on certain key issues, effective implementation and adequate resourcing.
Our understanding of Bill C-15 is that it is enabling legislation that will require the federal government to work with indigenous peoples to co-develop an action plan to ensure that the progress made to date continues. It acknowledges that the declaration is already used as an interpretive tool but that it is not meant to give the declaration direct, legal effect in Canada.
We raise our interpretation of the bill today because we recognize that there are differing views as to the purpose of this bill, and this growing spectrum of interpretations is creating confusion about what this bill means and what it is intended to do. We are concerned that, in the absence of a common understanding of the intent of the legislation, there will be unintended consequences, including unmet expectations, legal challenges and increased uncertainty, all of which impact the viability of natural resource projects and their associated benefits to indigenous individuals, communities and businesses.
To help avoid expectations diverging further, the federal government must be transparent with how it interprets the declaration and what obligations it sees arising from Bill C-15. This includes enhancing communications on the bill’s intent in Parliament with indigenous peoples, provincial governments, other Canadians and the investment community.
Clarity on the federal government’s approach to free, prior and informed consent and its relationship to existing duty to consult obligations is particularly important. There have been recent statements from the Minister of Justice and others explaining what FPIC means in principle and notably that FPIC does not grant a veto over government decision-making.
We believe there is an urgent need for further clarity on process, beyond whether FPIC equates to a veto. In particular, this includes the circumstances that give rise to the obligation to consult and, in some cases, to seek consent and the specific processes for each; the government’s approach when efforts to obtain consent have been unsuccessful or when consent is provided by some affected indigenous communities but not all; and whether existing indigenous engagement processes may change and the specific changes being contemplated.
While we recognize that, to some extent, government decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by considering issues such as strength of claim, impacts on rights and overall project benefits, the current lack of clarity does create uncertainty for investment, and these issues need to be clarified before the legislation is passed.
In our submission we recommended that guidance, policies and training be enhanced to ensure that federal officials are able to effectively engage in relationship building and consultation with indigenous communities. The current “Aboriginal Consultation and Accommodation: Updated Guidelines for Federal Officials to Fulfill the Duty to Consult” are extremely outdated.
In addition to updating these guidelines, there are other practical steps that can be taken now to help ensure there is consistency across the federal government, including issuing a directive to federal officials informing them of the government’s interpretation of FPIC and the intent of Bill C-15. This should be done now to ensure there is no confusion at the working level about what Bill C-15 means.
Additional steps include incorporating the government's interpretation of FPIC and the bill into guidance training and policies; implementing oversight mechanisms to ensure that guidance and policies are consistently followed; and committing resources for ongoing training initiatives to respond to high turnover in key federal roles. This cannot be deferred any further. This guidance is needed now.
In looking ahead to the action plan, it will be critical that the process to develop this plan be transparent and well defined, given the wide spectrum of expectations with respect to this bill and the range of outcomes that are possible. This includes establishing a meaningful consultation plan, determining how actions will be identified and prioritized, and ensuring that the required resources are in place.
We respect and support the intent for the action plan to be co-developed with indigenous peoples, and we have asked to be engaged in the development and implementation of the action plan on any elements that may impact our sector.
With that, Mr. Chair, thank you again for the invitation to present today.
We look forward to the committee's questions.
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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-03-29 15:04
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Minister, can you tell us why Mr. Theis isn't here today?
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