Because that does not solve the problem, Mr. Chair. We've asked for a full two hours, and I think that something very, very troubling has occurred here—very troubling.
When I go back to the first motion we put to this committee, it was passed after Mr. Warawa withdrew his friendly amendment, after I explained that the motion was passed, voted on unanimously by all members of this committee—including the government MPs who sit on this committee—to do precisely what the motion asked for. After that motion was passed, a notice of meeting was sent out, and a unilateral decision was made to change the agenda to not reflect the decision of this committee.
In the wake of that decision to unilaterally change the decision about the agenda, we came back. The will of the committee hadn't been respected, so we came back with yet a second motion, which was debated openly on Tuesday of this week, just two days ago. We had another motion put, 48 hours ago, asking again for the minister to graciously come to be with us here for two hours to talk about last year—the year ending March 31—looking backwards, holding the government to account, as the minister knows. This is his job. Any minister of the Crown comes to do this sort of thing at committee.
Once again, I clearly explained that the motion was to call on the minister to testify exclusively on last year's expenditures, not on next year's predicted main estimates. Here's what I said last Tuesday to this committee before the vote on the motion, and I quote:
I think we're going to have plenty of time, Mr. Chair, until May, I believe, to do a proper review of this year's main estimates and I think the committee will want to follow through with a separate study when the time comes. But I think what we need and what the committee has asked for is a timely review of last year's performance, a reasonable request I think, last year's performance by the government.
The committee had a chance to debate the motion on Tuesday. At the end of the meeting, it was adopted seven to four—seven to four. So imagine my surprise when, an hour and a half later, I receive yet another revised notice of meeting that again mentions the minister will be discussing the main estimates for next year. For a second time, Mr. Chair, the will of the committee was not respected. I would even say that this was perhaps a premeditated act of defiance against the will of the committee.
So here we have a situation. I go to you on Tuesday afternoon after the votes. I explain to you my concern about this issue. I discuss it with you on Tuesday evening, Mr. Chair. You said to me that you were approached by the minister's office or by the minister directly—I can't recall which one in fairness—and that he wanted to discuss instead the main estimates today.
Now, if that's not political interference in the work of this parliamentary committee, Mr. Chair, I don't know what it is. We invited the minister. He graciously accepted to come and testify. I thank him for his time. We want to get to the bottom of what happened in the last 12 months. That's our job. We are elected as members of Parliament to hold government to account, and estimates is the primary vehicle at parliamentary committees.
Now, committees are masters of their own destiny. This is a well-established practice in parliamentary practice. Members decide together which direction the committee will take, what issues will be discussed during meetings. No one but the members of this committee can take those decisions. No minister of the Crown of any department can come to a committee and tell the committee what he or she wishes to discuss. It doesn't work that way.
So before we go any further in this meeting, I need a clear explanation, and I'm asking for a correction. I'd like this order of the day to reflect two consecutive motions that were passed, the first unanimously with government members' support, and a second one on Tuesday that asked the minister to graciously attend and speak to the last fiscal year ending nine days from today, because that is how you conduct an estimates process review, by holding the government accountable for what has happened and not trying to hold the government accountable for what might happen in the future. I am strongly in support of having the minister come back, if he would graciously accept, some time before the end of May so we can review the main estimates.
I have a question for you, Mr. Chair, in closing. Why was the will of this committee simply ignored? Why did you attempt to attach our signatures to this agenda, which in no way reflects two open debates in this committee pursuant to two motions tabled by the official opposition?
Canadians would be forgiven for thinking that the minister doesn't want to be held accountable. I don't know if that's the case. I doubt it very much. I think he wants to be held accountable for the millions of dollars that were spent in the last fiscal year. We need two hours to be able to do this. We need two hours to be able to ask the probative and pertinent questions.
So before we go any further and without wasting any more of the minister's precious time, I'd like a clear explanation. Did you, for example, have any political pressure put on you from the minister's office or from the minister to change this agenda, without informing the members of this committee, without putting it back to a vote, without bringing a subsequent motion to the floor?
How did it come to be that twice in a row what we specifically asked for here in this committee has been changed unilaterally by the chair? This is something Canadians who are watching want to know. This is a subversion of a very well-established democratic process, right here on Parliament Hill: standing committees. I asked you the other day when we spoke, in your 14 years of distinguished service, had you ever seen this happen before, and your answer to me at that time was no, you had never seen an agenda move without the acquiescence and support of the committee members.
So I'm deeply troubled by this.