Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you Minister, Mr. Stewart and Monsieur Poliquin, for being with us tonight.
While, you were not there in the 40th Parliament, Minister, I was. I think this may be a question you might have for me if you got to ask us questions—and I sometimes think you should be able to. It's this: why did I abstain on the opposition-day motion that has called you to be here?
I abstained because I believe fundamentally and profoundly that Parliament has the right to call for papers and persons. I also believe that parliamentarians and Parliament has the responsibility not to call for certain papers at certain times. That was the dilemma of the 40th Parliament when the Afghan detainee papers were considered. The Speaker did rule, but he did not give unfettered access to parliamentarians. Instead, he demanded a creative approach to review those papers carefully with certain criteria being placed on them.
That was the 40th Parliament. The 41st Parliament with Mr. Harper as the prime minister did nothing, despite the opposition's call then for a process in that situation. However, in the 42nd Parliament.... While I thank you for your presence here and I thank the former minister Ralph Goodale for his work in ensuring that, should a situation happen like that again, we would have a process by which a minister could refer these requests and papers. That is what we've done. We've set up that process. To honour Parliament, you have actually, in effect, done what Parliament has asked you to do. I want to thank you for that.
As I say, Parliament is supreme. I will argue that forever. I'll also argue that parliamentarians have to be responsible. In our wisdom, parliamentarians set up that committee. What the opposition is asking you today to do is to be in contempt of the previous Parliament that set up this committee.
I think that what you have been able to do is balance the need for information to go to parliamentarians to review—who are not hired and fired by the prime minister. That is incorrect and unparliamentary language. They are appointed as order in council appointments. Yes, they will dissolve when this Parliament dissolves, as will this committee. The argument that was made by Mr. Harris doesn't make sense either because both of these committees will dissolve.
Here we are in this situation in the 43rd Parliament where we're attempting to find out what happened. We're attempting to find out with privacy laws established by this Parliament, with a committee of parliamentarians established by a previous Parliament to do those things. I think it is absolutely appropriate for parliamentarians to be concerned about what happened in the lab in Winnipeg. We are absolutely concerned about that, but at the same time, we recognize that there is a place for that to be done. It is at the NSICOP, where we have one former member of this committee as a member of that committee.
When you're asked whether or not you have doubts about us and our abilities to handle this process, I would say that you don't have doubts—and I don't want to put words in your mouth. It's not about us as individuals. Could you clarify that? This is not about us as individuals. It is not about the parliamentary system. It's about honouring what Parliament has done to create an expert committee with security clearances that will do the work that we want done as Canadians.