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Evidence of meeting #15 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was study.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Chad Mariage
Dara Lithwick  Committee Researcher

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

But this would just be a very informal briefing—not as a witness, but a briefing—about the background of the Lobbying Act, what its implications are, and what it's all about. So it would be a briefing provided to members just to prepare them to go into the study.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Just to be really clear, what we would actually then have is not really a formal committee meeting, we would have an in camera briefing from Treasury Board.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

In camera briefing, yes.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Great, thank you.

Mr. Angus.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I have a couple of things.

We were under the understanding we had to have our witness list together for today, so we have one. I prefer, for developing witness lists, that we actually have a time when the witness list is handed around to all committee members, so that nobody ever feels they're being jumped at the last minute. We could read off our list and you might be asking, “Why? Who? What?”

I don't think it gives people adequate preparation, so I support Mr. Del Mastro. Let's put in our witness list, and then we can pass it around. We might have common witnesses. It gives us all a better understanding in preparation to go in and choose the witnesses.

I don't know what my colleagues think about the eight sessions for this. They might have differing views. I'm inclined towards an initial agreement. I don't know if that's—

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

That would be great.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

If we find that we need to expand, I prefer that.

I'm uncomfortable about charting out now whether we're doing 50,000 feet or ground at this point. Whenever you get into a study, you need to see where you're going. We need to start out high, I think, because we need to see what the general lay of the land is, and whether there are lessons to be learned, and then we will go into the Lobbying Act. So I would be worried about prescribing it.

My question to Mr. Del Mastro is about this briefing in camera. I'm concerned about it, because if we're briefed about background and then we're doing our work at committee, if we've been told something in camera, then inadvertently we might end up damaging the committee because we say something based on what we were told. I just want to understand why he thinks it would be better to do in camera, rather than just do a briefing.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Before I go to Mr. Del Mastro, there's a point of clarification for Mr. Angus. The proposal is that people would submit their names by 5 p.m. on Friday. We would then circulate those names to everybody and on Tuesday we would come back together and have an agreement.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Yes. I totally agree with that. I think that's a good way to do business.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

So before I go to Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Del Mastro.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

The thinking on this is that it would just be a very free forum for members. Rather than it being a formal committee meeting, it would be a free forum for people if they have questions, if they're not sure of something. I want people to be free to ask whatever questions they want without being concerned as to whether or not there's going to be a story written on it tomorrow about your lack of understanding of the Lobbying Act when we're really just getting into it.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

[Inaudible--Editor].

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

I'd like it to be a platform whereby people feel free to ask any questions they've got. As I said, we can bring these folks back later as formal witnesses to the committee, to provide recommendations or what have you, but I think initially it would be good for members just to get a good understanding, or at least an introductory understanding, of what the Lobbying Act is, to provide some background, that's all.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

If I could, Mr. Del Mastro, that's a fairly common occurrence. This is not really a committee meeting. It's more a briefing for members who are interested, so it's different. It's not like having people come as witnesses.

Mr. Trudeau. Welcome to the committee.

December 1st, 2011 / 8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Thank you.

I just want to support what the general consensus is. I think it makes sense not to define too much what the study is going to be, what level it will be at. We should allow that to flow a little with a certain amount of flexibility to pursue avenues of interest or inquiry that are perhaps brought in by witnesses at one point, or specifically by the information commissioner.

I'm not opposed, but I'm a little wary of the idea of a briefing by the same people who we're going to be asking to testify possibly and challenge as witnesses. It's not necessarily a terrible thing, but if we're having them first as teachers and then we're having them as people we're perhaps cross-examining a week later or two weeks later, I think we need to be mindful of the dynamics we set up. Perhaps it does help to have it in camera, or perhaps it is counterproductive to have it in camera. We could discuss this a little further, that detail, on Tuesday. But certainly having them in on Thursday to give us all a grounding.... If I'm still here next week I'm going to want to have a little more knowledge on it, and I'm sure some others won't mind.

So I'm supportive of that, as long as the plan of eight meetings is potentially expandable as a duration. That's important, because we don't yet know what sort of scope or details we're going to be studying. But I'm supportive.

9 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Ms. Davidson.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Yes, thanks.

I'd like to ask the clerk something. This is the statutory five-year review that we are obligated to undertake. That's what we're going into right now. So are there any parameters that are in place from the letter that is requesting us to do it? I can't recall what was in that letter.

9 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Chad Mariage

Thank you.

Madam Chair, I'll defer to my analyst colleagues on that question. In the act it's pretty vague, but I'll let them answer.

9 a.m.

Dara Lithwick Committee Researcher

In terms of the reference for the review, the order of reference itself.... I'm just opening it up right now. The order of reference itself does not specify any aspects of the act to focus on. It's just that by unanimous consent it was ordered that the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics be the committee designated for the purposes of subsection 14.1(1) of the act, which is the statutory review portion. So it's as open or closed as members wish.

9 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Thank you.

Are there any other speakers?

Monsieur Dusseault?

9 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

I would just like to add one thing. If we plan to have eight meetings, it would be a good idea to allow for the possibility of additional meetings if necessary. Say, for instance, we realize that certain things in the legislation need to be amended or that a more thorough study is called for, we need to be able to hold 10 or 12 meetings, as the case may be, instead of 8.

Furthermore, I have a problem with the idea of going in camera when we meet with the commissioner and the Treasury Board officials. I think there is going to be some repetition. I am having a hard time seeing the difference between the in camera briefing in preparation for the study and the questioning of the witnesses afterwards. If I have questions to ask in private, I will ask them directly. I don't need an in camera meeting to do it.

9 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

With your permission, I would say something about that.

These are not the witnesses who we would call to the committee. It's actually background information. It's not intended to be the place where you would be asking more questions about the statutory review. Particularly for many members who haven't been involved with this committee or with this piece of legislation before, it's intended really to give you the background rather than the detail that would normally be here, and I would suspect it won't be the same people who would come for the briefing. In my experience, it's never the same people who come for the briefing who actually come when they're called as witnesses. So it is intended as an informational piece, as an educational piece, rather than as a witness piece.

Monsieur Dusseault.

9 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Why couldn't the public receive that same background information before we begin our study?

9 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Jean Crowder

Often what happens with these briefings is they're not held during committee time. They're often held outside of committee time and members can choose to come or not. They're much more informal, much less structured. They're a way to let committee members really get at the information they need in order to question the witnesses when they come before committee.

It happens to be convenient to hold it within committee time, because we actually don't have a witness. So it's not going to be a formal committee meeting. It's a committee meeting, but it's a different kind of committee meeting.

Mr. Trudeau.

9 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

I just have a question then, perhaps for clarity. It doesn't really matter, because we've indicated the willingness to expand it, but perhaps we could not consider that meeting as being part of the eight meetings we've allocated to that and that would perhaps make it clearer.