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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:05
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I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 46 of the Standing Committee on Finance. We're meeting at the request of four members of the committee pursuant to Standing Order 106(4).
Today's meeting is taking place by video conference and the proceedings are being televised and will be made available via the House of Commons website.
This meeting was requested by four members of the committee to discuss the testimony and logistics of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his chief of staff Katie Telford's appearance, and to address the production of communications.
I'm not sure which of the four is proceeding to make the argument.
I see Mr. Poilievre waving.
Mr. Poilievre, the floor is yours.
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-29 18:06
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Before I begin, I'd like to briefly note that we could have settled this at the last meeting, but you shut that meeting down in violation of the rules. There was no vote. To adjourn a meeting, the chair needs to have a vote of the majority of members of the committee and you had no such majority. Those rules are clearly laid out in the Standing Orders, which read that the committee chair cannot adjourn a meeting without the consent of the majority of the members. That's in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition.
The Chair: Just to—
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: I still have the floor, to my knowledge.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:07
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Yes you do, but just to make a point, Mr. Poilievre, it's my understanding that when we reach the adjournment time, we need unanimous consent—
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-29 18:07
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No.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:07
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—of the membership to continue. We'll ask the clerk to give us some advice on that at some point.
The floor is yours.
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-29 18:07
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Thank you very much. The reason for today's meeting is to prepare the ground rules for tomorrow's hearings, and the motion that I want to put forward reads:
That the Prime Minister appear for no less than three hours alone as a witness, on his own panel, and that Katie Telford appear for no less than two hours, alone as a witness, on her own panel, provided that the two appear separately.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:08
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Are you finished?
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-29 18:08
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I moved my motion. I just want to make sure that you've registered the motion and I'd like to be on the speaking list to address my motion.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:08
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All right. You're on the speaking list. Go ahead.
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-29 18:09
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Mr. Chair, there are obviously a lot of questions surrounding this controversy. The Prime Minister's family has received over $500,000 from the WE group, almost all of it since he became Prime Minister. He has admitted that he should have recused himself, an omission that will almost certainly be accompanied by a conviction by the Ethics Commissioner. The same group received a contribution agreement worth $543 million, of which $43 million was to go to the organization's expenses. The obvious conflicts related to this matter have led to the entire thing being cancelled.
This is a case where a half a million dollars went from WE to the Prime Minister's family, and then half a billion dollars was going to go from the Prime Minister's government back to WE. There are myriad meetings, conversations and discussions and exchanges that led to the creation of this bizarre program, and we need to know who met who whom and what deliberations occurred that led to the decision.
The organization in question is now coming under scrutiny for extremely unusual developments in its Kenya office. The Prime Minister needs to indicate what he knows about those developments. We also have learned that the organization is linked, through its principals, to a myriad of numbered companies, for-profit enterprises, foundations and real estate holding entities, all of which are involved in a series of strange relationships with the principal entity. Finally, we've learned that the contribution agreement was directed not to the principal charity but to a real estate holding foundation, a shell entity, that was created for the purpose of nothing more than holding real estate.
These are extremely complicated issues, Chair, and we can't simply slough them aside with 10 minutes of questioning by each party. Most parties under the current plan that you've created without consultation would get less than 10 minutes to ask questions, and that does not include the time the Prime Minister has to answer them. Furthermore, yesterday you displayed that you are going to interfere with members' ability to keep the witnesses focused on the questions asked and that you're going to allow witnesses to basically give rambling speeches unrelated to the questions asked, which will further burn down the clock and prevent the Prime Minister from providing any answers.
I will conclude by saying that if the Prime Minister doesn't answer the questions, then he's going to be called again. This time it would probably be through a vote of the House of Commons, and it would probably mean that he would end up before another committee with an objective chair, who would preside over the meeting without jumping in to rescue the witness. It's in the Prime Minister's interest to just come and give fulsome and complete testimony now rather than trying to come in and put on a dramatic performance and hide behind a favourable Chair and sneak out the back door before anyone gets answers. Do it once, do it right, because if you don't you'll be back doing it again.
Thank you.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:13
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Are you done?
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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-07-29 18:13
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Yes.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:13
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I would just point out that I will not get into an argument over my chairing, other than to say that the rules of questioning were laid out at the initial meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance. There's six minutes for the first four members in the first round; five minutes for the next four in the next round; two and a half minutes in the next round for the Bloc and the NDP. If you want to go back to look at the rules, and go back to look at the record, you'll find that you usually get more than six minutes. In fact I'm very kind to you.
I have Mr. Julian next, but I see a number of hands are up.
We'll go to Mr. Julian, Mr. Sorbara, Ms. Dzerowicz, Mr. Fortin and then Ms. May.
Mr. Julian please.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will try to be brief because I know that we want to get to a vote in this meeting.
First off, the four hours yesterday only really hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of the questions being asked. I can tell you I literally had another dozen questions I wasn't able to bring forward. It makes sense then to have the Prime Minister available for a number of hours so that these questions can get answered. I was dismayed by the evasiveness of our witnesses yesterday. I think a number of times they could have just answered honestly, and they chose not to. It's unfortunate because I think in that respect they're doing a disservice when we're trying to get to the bottom of this controversy and scandal.
Therefore, I support the idea of three hours for the Prime Minister and two hours for Ms. Telford. That makes sense. It won't by any means exhaust the questions that my colleague Mr. Angus and I have, but we'll get a start at asking the most important questions with that.
I'd also like to reference two other things, Mr. Chair. First off, I normally find you very fair, and I've certainly worked with you for a number of years. Yesterday, I found that you intervened quite often to reinforce points that were not valid. I'll give just one example. The issue of the shell foundation is a fact and not in dispute, and the evasive response by the witnesses was not something the Chair should have been repeating. I shouldn't be into an argument with you, Mr. Chair, because the facts are quite clear and the witnesses were quite frankly wrong. I would appreciate your not repeating wrong answers that are not factually correct. I think your role is very important: you just have to govern us, and the key aspect of making sure there is a rough time allocation is important. As we've seen in the House with the COVID-19 committee, it is absolutely essential.
My final point is that you're right about the rotation in the first, second, and third rounds, but we then go back to the first round. That means that in a first round at about two and a half hours into the meeting, each of the opposition parties and the government party have a right to a six-minute round, and that was simply neglected. If we're going with a three-hour format tomorrow, when we get back to the first round, it should again be six minutes for the Conservatives, Liberals, the Bloc, and the NDP. I hope we stick to that. I didn't want to interrupt the proceedings with a point of order and a dispute, because we were already not getting all of the questions answered that we needed answers to. However, that is the rotation when we go beyond the two-hour framework, and I hope we will stick to that tomorrow.
That's it for the moment. Thank you.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-07-29 18:17
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Thank you, Mr. Julian.
There is no problem with a point of order. We can always ask the clerk on those matters.
I'll go to Mr. Fortin and then Mr. Sorbara.
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