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Results: 1 - 15 of 2632
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
That is amazing. Who arranged for that? Thank you so much.
An hon. member: You're famous.
An hon. member: Is it bilingual?
The Chair: Oh, yes, we can't present this: It's not bilingual.
An hon. member: It should be in braille too.
An hon. member: Hey, David, if you want to share that cake, it has to be in two languages.
Mr. David Christopherson: I wonder how much sugar is in it.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
You're very kind.
Listen, thank you to whoever did this. I'm blown away.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thanks, John. I know that.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
It's not the Senate.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Christopherson: When I speak, I'll discuss that.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
“Goodbye” would be the end of the sentence.
You almost have me speechless, which is quite the accomplishment. I'm blown away. I just confess that, for all the passion I bring to the issues, I don't handle emotional issues real good. This just overwhelms me. Nothing means more to me than words like you've given today, words from colleagues who walk in the same shoes. No matter how close you are, it's not until you've walked in those shoes and know what it's like to be a parliamentarian that you fully understand, when fellow parliamentarians compliment you, what it means, especially when they're people you respect.
I've been blessed, especially this last Parliament, with being on two committees whose mandates I thoroughly enjoy: public accounts and PROC. It's also given me an opportunity to spend time with some of the finest parliamentarians that I've met. The hardest thing for us to do is to climb past partisanship, yet it's the critical part where we actually make a difference, where we find a way to move forward for the country—that ability to set that aside. I'm guilty of not doing it all the time, too, because our passions do drive us, but at the end of the day, that ability means everything.
With the people I've been able to serve with, the two chairs that I've served under—you, Mr. Larry Bagnell, and Mr. Kevin Sorenson.... I've been blessed with fantastic chairs who were only interested in the best for Parliament and Canada.
I thank all of you.
I thank my fellow Hamiltonian, David Sweet. We know that nobody gets up every day and says, “What can I do for Hamilton”, unless they're Hamiltonians themselves. I've always believed that when we're on home turf, it's important for those of us from different parties to make their city the priority and that we, as much as possible, come here and have a united front on the issues that matter. When we disagree, we do it respectfully. If we're going to have a knock-down, drag-'em-out fight, we do it here in the context of Parliament. However, when we go home, we're home, and we treat each other with respect. That means a lot.
I can't address everyone individually, as I know that I don't have enough time, but, Mr. Reid, definitely you'll be the first invitation to that dock, and I'll have a cold one ready for you, sir.
There are a number of people who I'm looking forward to continuing to work with.
I'll just also mention that on the issue of parliament's security that matters to us, Mr. Blaney today, who was the minister at the time, just stopped by me after our public accounts committee—I don't think I'm telling tales out of school; I hope not—and said to me, “Look, you need to understand that, at the time, we were under a lot of pressure. There were a lot of crises. I think we made the wrong decision. I think we made a mistake. I want you to know that if I'm here in the next Parliament, I'm committed to changing that and putting it back to the way it should be.”
I know that people like Mr. Graham and others care about that, and that's a good sign. It means a lot because it's the way Parliament should run.
Just to end, I was asked if I'm going to still be around. Yes. It turns out that sitting around on the public accounts committee for 15 years suddenly qualifies you as an expert. There are people around the world who would like me to come and do some work with their public accounts committees and their auditor general systems, and I'm now on the board of directors of the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation. It's the main non-profit NGO that we use at the public accounts committee for their expertise and assistance. I'll be joining their team and travelling. So, I'll be continuing to do that. Hopefully it's not more than half time. I still want to put my feet up for the other half. I'm tired: I've been working for 50 years, and that's sufficient.
Those are my plans going forward. However, I'm also aware that plans, like war plans, change. The first thing that goes out the window when the war starts is the plan, so we'll see what actually happens.
What I would like to do, if you'll allow me, is.... This is very difficult. You guys have really, really thrown me for a loop. What's interesting is.... You mentioned the filibuster, and a lot of you have commented on the non-partisanship. I have a present that speaks to both those issues. It speaks to the filibuster, but it also speaks to non-partisanship and extends beyond us as parliamentarians.
You all know Tyler Crosby, who is without question, in my view, the most amazing staff person on the Hill, bar none. You often see me talking to him. He's my right hand. I couldn't do this job without him, at least not the way I'd like to. However, he's not always there. Sometimes he nips out to get something, and then I have nobody else. It's just me here, right?
Yet, when we were in a filibuster, when it was time to unite and fight the good fight, those lines didn't matter, and the partisanship didn't matter.
The Hill Times actually had a picture. I'll just read the cutline that goes with it. It says, “NDP MP David Christopherson consults with an opposition staffer ahead of resuming the filibuster at the House Affairs Committee on April 5. He alone spoke eight hours in all that day, and for another four hours on April 6.” The other person in that picture is Kelly Williams.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Christopherson: I want to present to Kelly a frame of that picture as an indication of the way that we can be non-partisan not only as politicians but as staffers.
I thank you for the unpaid work that you did for me. You assisted me to do what I did.
With that, colleagues, there aren't enough words to properly say what this has meant to me. This will stay with me forever. You really touched me in a way that I can't express, and I thank you very much. It means everything to me.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
No, I didn't. No.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Oh, wow. I've now achieved it. There's the phone call.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thanks, Chair.
To follow up what you said, I want to give my thanks and appreciation.
Colleagues will remember that in the beginning, we were dealing with the previous government's audits. We were doing great stuff, but it's a lot easier to do that when it's the former government.
I said to the government members at the time that the day would come when it would not be easy for us to do the right thing as the public accounts committee and to be non-partisan and only look at the issue of government spending and efficiencies and waste, etc. They were going to get a lot of pressure from their government not to give anyone a wedge.
What happens is—and you know it ahead of time—that the issue of voting unanimously on something that's in any way critical or not supportive of the government becomes weaponized in question period, and the parliamentarians know that. The job here is difficult. It's one that's different from any other committee, and we have to be non-partisan. When we're partisan instead of non-partisan, Canadians aren't getting the oversight that we are mandated to provide.
I want to give a special shout-out and thanks and appreciation and respect to the government members who, in spite of the politics outside this room, grew to the full parliamentary responsibility of this committee. They were fully prepared, and weeks before an election set aside their partisan membership and said that in the interests of Parliament and the work of the Auditor General and this committee, they thought this was the right thing to do and that they would deal with the politics outside. That's exactly what they did, and I have the greatest respect and admiration for them.
Anyone who wants to use that as a clip or to give their material some oomph, you're welcome to it—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Christopherson:—because the government members, in particular, on this issue of the underfunding of the Auditor General rose to the occasion and deserve the respect of all of Parliament for doing the job that's expected of them, in spite of the fact that, politically, it was going to cause them a problem.
Thank you, Chair.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you all for being here. I particularly want to thank you, Mr. Leswick. I don't know whether you drew the short straw or you did something wrong and somebody's punishing you, but they sure threw you to the wolves—potentially. Thank you for being here.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
—in light of the fact that others aren't, but here you are facing the fire. But also, I thank you for your tone, your approach and your acknowledgement of the legitimacy, at least, of the issue here. I appreciate the way you're defending the job you did, and I compliment you. This could have gone sideways really quickly. I think you've done an excellent job, and I want to personally commend you. I hope you continue to provide the kind of contribution that you do.
Chair, I think the Auditor General has outlined the case as well as can be expected. What I'd like to do in my first round is just provide some context, and I'll reserve my right to shore up any arguments later, if that should be necessary. I'd like to put this in context.
Let's understand that in the world of democracies, and particularly accountability, Canada is a world leader. We fight for that in as many categories as we can. Given our size, we don't normally make number one or two in too many things; we're usually in the top six or 10 on things that matter. But I have to tell you, in terms of auditing and our Auditor General process and the work of the public accounts committee, we are world renowned. Particularly, this committee, in this Parliament, stands out so much. Again, I compliment the government members. It's a much more difficult decision for them than for us in opposition, yet you rose to the occasion. I can't praise and respect you enough for doing that, because without that, we're nowhere. Thank you.
Conversely, something like this jars the international community when they go, “Wait a minute. I'm hearing something about the Liberals. Trudeau, in Canada, is not giving the Auditor General the money they need. What's this all about?” It'll have an effect—a negative one. It breaks my heart. We're down to the last couple of meetings. I leave here so proud of the work we've done, yet here's this great big stain on the work of the public accounts committee.
Mr. Leswick went out of his way to point out the processes involved. Again, I have great respect for what he said, and particularly how he said it. But understand, that's the problem. It shouldn't be looked at the way every other department is. Right now part of the argument being put forward by the government is that they didn't treat the Auditor General any differently from other departments. Well, that's a red light; there's a problem and a flag on the field. It isn't other departments, regardless of how we structured it. Keep in mind, this was recognized by the government and personally by the Prime Minister, who gave a mandate to his House leader to stop this way of funding it because this is how you end up in crisis—exactly this.
Had the House leader done her job and put that mechanism in place, we wouldn't be here. In fact, I would be complimenting the government on making a significant advancement in protecting the independence of Parliament's officers. Let's remember, these are not just any bureaucrats. They answer to Parliament. Parliament hires the Auditor General. Parliament fires the Auditor General—not the government. Yet it's the government process that decides funding.
To get into a little bit of the politics of this, I am, very much like my friend, Mr. Davidson, at a complete loss— and have been from the beginning—as to why the heck this is happening at all, given that it's never happened before. I can come up with only three potential motivating reasons, and I haven't heard a single one from the government. I don't mean the government members here; I mean the government in the House of Commons. You've done your job, and now it's for us to put the pressure on the government through the House. That's how this works.
If the Auditor General had a process, an independent way of getting its funding, I wouldn't need to raise this. But we don't, even though they were supposed to do it.
First, it was specifically to avoid the cybersecurity issue. The political calculation is that it's better to take the hit now for underfunding the Auditor General, especially when nobody in the media's paying any attention—except Andrew Coyne and Postmedia. I give them full marks.
I wish it were somebody else driving this than I, because for us it often looks like we're trying to generate a headline. I'm trying to do the opposite: to fade away and disappear. This is not the way I wanted things to be. But I have to tell you, I just wish the national media would pay a little more attention to this. With the greatest of respect, this bloody well matters.
Anyway, was the political calculation to avoid the cybersecurity issue because it would be so devastating? I was here for the first cybersecurity audit and it was devastating. It shook me to the core. Is that why they're underfunding the office? Is it to make sure that that particular audit doesn't come forward because they're arrogant enough to believe they're going to get re-elected and they know the damage this might do to them in the second mandate? That's one possibility. Is another—and with the greatest of respect, I don't you mean you personally, Mr. Leswick—that it is retaliation and revenge on the part of the bureaucracy who ended up having a rather negative audit?
The Auditor General audited the very people who help decide whether or not they get full funding. So was it revenge or retaliation? I want to say that I find it hard to believe it's either one of those two, particularly given that I know the individual members of this government. I find that really hard to believe.
But I'm at a loss. The last one seems to me to be the most likely, and it's also the one that we can fix the quickest. It looks to me like there was a mistake, that this slipped through and now they've doubled down because they don't want the embarrassment of having to change their mind. If anyone can offer me any motivation beyond that, I'm willing to listen, because I really can't think of any other reason why the government would do this except for those three reasons.
Thanks, Chair.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
First of all, I just want to mention to Mr. Whalen who used a sort of common-sense approach—and I appreciate that—in the comments to say, hey, maybe politicians should decide what gets studied. I appreciate where that's coming from, but I can assure you that one of the golden rules of public accounts is the independence of the Office of the Auditor General to choose what it goes into. Otherwise we're into a whole other nightmare scenario in which it is being guided by politics. That independence is crucial, and I think that's what the chair was emphasizing, but I understand where you're coming from. I just needed to make that point. That's a golden rule with us: we can recommend, and when it's unanimous that office pays serious attention to it, but, at the end of the day the law says the office is independent and decides where to go, not us.
I had, I think, actually criticized the media—which is really stupid if you're running again, but I'm not. However, when I am trying to get something, doing that is just as stupid, and I don't want to do that. I'm imploring—that is more the tone I should have taken—the national media to please help us and pay attention to this. We need the public to focus on Parliament's plight here.
I want to give a shout-out. I mentioned Andrew Coyne, and he was good enough to tweet it, but Marie-Danielle Smith was the one at Postmedia who did a story immediately afterwards and then a follow-up one. I could have lived without the hook that created the story, but it got the story out there. That's what matters, and it's much appreciated.
I can tell you that within the auditing, accountability, oversight and transparency of government community, it was noted and appreciated. So, hopefully, we can get others to understand the importance of this.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
I appreciate that very much, Chair.
I was talking about justification. The only justification we're getting in the House of Commons is from the government minister, who is standing up and going back to 2011 and condemning the Conservatives and using that as justification for what they did. First, even if it were true, it's not justification to underfund the Auditor General. Secondly, it's not true. We've got it in writing; we've heard it from our Auditor General. It was voluntary. I can tell you that it was my friend Tony Clement who was the president of Treasury Board. I know that he was actively working the phones and talking to the Auditor General's office because he knew that if they said no, they would have a bit of a problem. He was showing respect and doing what he could to avoid that.
That is not what the government is saying that the previous government did. I don't belong to either party and I was here for both Parliaments. It is absolutely unfair and unjustifiable that the government would make up stories about the previous government to create a phony fig leaf to hide behind.
Next, I want to point out again that while we have a majority government, we often lose track of the fact that Parliament is supreme—not the government. Parliament decides who is the government. Parliament decides who is the Prime Minister by a majority vote. Whoever can get 50% plus one in the House of Commons is the Prime Minister, but at the end of the day, the executive council—the Cabinet—has no legal right to spend one penny that Parliament hasn't approved. Parliament controls the purse strings, but because we have a majority government and the government wins every vote and when they put the budget forward it carries, it looks like the finance minister is calling the shots. At then end of the day, though, structurally.... You really see this play out when you're in a minority government. You and I have been there, Chair.
The reality is that here we are going, cap in hand, to a subordinate body to ask them to match the funding that we recommend and yet we control the purse strings. That's the absurdity of where we are.
I also want to point out the following, because it just jumped in my head, and I thought it was a good point. We asked the question—I think it was Mr. Arseneault who asked the really good question—whether there are any other jurisdictions that do that. Nine times out of ten, Mr. Arseneault, when other jurisdictions around the world ask that question of their auditor general, guess who gets held up as one of the one or two best in the world? The answer you heard was New Zealand and the U.K., because when you remove us from the equation.... We like to fight with the U.K. about whether we're one or two. It's a lovely fight to have, but I just want to point out to you that that's the respect we have in the world and that's what's at stake, too. Internationally, this government had a mandate to reposition Canada on the international stage and here you are damaging our reputation in an area where we already are seen as world leaders. I just wanted to put that on the record.
With the greatest of respect, if the government would change its mind and acknowledge and say that it was going to respect the agents of Parliament and it said it was going to respect the standing committees of Parliament and now the agent of Parliament and a standing committee by unanimous vote have called for this $10.8 million to be put back in. As much as it was question period yesterday and I was full of rhetoric and everything else, I do beg the question: Where is the respect?
I have one absolute last point I want to make and then I will be completely finished on this subject.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
I don't have it right in front of me, so it can't be that important.
All right, thanks.
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