Evidence of meeting #50 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • William V. Baker  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Safety
  • Doug Nevison  Director, Fiscal Policy Division, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Ned Franks  Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, As an Individual

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

I'll let you go that route.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Contempt, Mr. Chair, isn't some abstract concept, nor is it an indication of some sort of procedural violation. Through you, Mr. Chair, to the ministers, it's about how a government acts. It's about its entire approach to Parliament. Theoretically, Mr. Chair, this government shows contempt to Parliament in almost every single action it has taken related to this file. Mr. Chair, this has never happened before in Canadian history. In fact, it's never happened before in Commonwealth history.

So let us, Mr. Chair, for the sake of the record, for the ministers to respond to the single question I will pose, recap. The government has failed to acknowledge that documents were requested by the finance committee until long after the first deadline. They claimed they couldn't provide any information because of cabinet confidence, then later providing the information and admitting it was never cabinet confidence, Mr. Chair.

They waited until the House of Commons was actually debating a motion about their failure to deliver the documents to produce the first document. Then they attempted at that time to claim that they fully complied with the very detailed document request by providing three pieces of paper.

Then the government tried to argue that it had complied with our demands and, in doing so, had provided detailed documents. All they provided were three pieces of paper at the very last minute, Mr. Chair, right before we moved our motion on supply day.

The government then said they were going to cooperate with the committee and then announced that two ministers would show up for an hour, and they would be accompanied by an army of highly dedicated senior public officials, whose time is being wasted--

March 17th, 2011 / 10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Whose fault was that?

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Yesterday, they did not hand out their 726 pages of documentation to the committee until 17 minutes before the minister made his remarks.

Then they tried to suggest that there was no real difference between these 726 pages and the three pages previously provided, even though some of the numbers are distinctly different. Then they tried to suggest that this document dump fully answered the document request, despite the fact that it provided no information, for example, about the F-35s, and it only, at best, provided 15 of the 72 documents requested with respect to the crime bills.

Then they send to committee the junior finance minister, Mr. Chair, who doesn't have the power or decision-making capabilities of the government, while the real finance minister is in Ottawa and available to attend. Then we find out they're refusing to send the Minister of National Defence to answer for the government's failure with respect to the F-35 documents. Then they confirmed that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence would show, and then they had him pulled.

So here's the question--

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

A point of order, Mr. Chair.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Sure, I'll take another point of order.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

It's a clarification as much as a point of order, but my understanding is that in the motion first presented by Mr. Brison, there was no mention of the F-35s.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

I don't find it in what's been brought to this committee either. It's not in our order of reference.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Except, Mr. Chair, it's in the opposition day motion to which the Speaker referred substantively.

I have a single question for the ministers, if I could, through you, Mr. Chair.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

I think I made a statement.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Given all of this litany of conduct, the question is simple. Why shouldn't Canadians find your government in contempt?

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Mr. Nicholson.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Chairman, I completely disagree with the premise upon which that question is based. If we accept what the committee is asking for, that you're genuinely interested in the cost of our crime bills, to say that the public servants who head up each of those departments are wasting their time appearing before a parliamentary committee...I want you to know, I completely disagree with that.

If it's only about procedures that you're talking about, I guess the Liberals could make that point. But if you're sincerely interested in what it costs the federal government in terms of its crime prevention and the crime bills, then I think it is entirely appropriate that public servants, who have an in-depth knowledge of each of these areas, get the time to respond.

This is the second time that I've been asked about the F-35s. Again, I'm not the defence minister, but anything that equips our men and women in uniform and gives them the very best equipment in the world has my complete support. I completely agree with my colleague, the Minister of National Defence. So inasmuch as this is the second time that this has been raised with me, I want you to know, Mr. Chair, that I completely support having first-class equipment for the men and women in uniform in our Canadian armed forces. I want to make that clear, since it's been raised twice with me.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you, Minister, but it is beyond the order that's been referred to us.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

To be fair, Mr. Chair, I've been asked twice now about this, so I just wanted to make that clear. I didn't want anybody to think, by reason of my silence, that I'm not an enthusiastic supporter of having outstanding, first-class, world-class equipment for the Canadian armed forces. I want to make that very clear.