Evidence of meeting #74 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was expenses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Hugues La Rue
Robert Mundie  Acting Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Michael Olsen  Director General, Corporate Affairs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Dan Proulx  Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Canada Border Services Agency
Audrey White  Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Pierre Bienvenu  Lawyer, Senior Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada, Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association
Robert Ramsay  Senior Research Officer, Research, Canadian Union of Public Employees

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

I call the meeting to order.

Welcome, everybody, to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, meeting 74. Today we're going to hear from the Canada Border Services Agency, represented by Robert Mundie, the acting vice-president, and Dan Proulx; and from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, represented by Michael Olsen and Audrey White.

First, though, there is a motion to be made by Mr. Cullen.

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Chair. I'll try to be quick out of respect for our witnesses' time.

I talked briefly about this the last time, and some committee members had commented on it as well.

This is a motion I submitted on Friday, October 20, 2017:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h)(vi), the Committee undertake a study of the Conflict of Interest Act and how it relates to public office holders; that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner be invited to discuss her 2013 recommendations provided in the context of the five-year review of the Act; that the Finance Minister be invited to explain decisions he has made in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Act; and that this study begin as soon as possible.

As reference for those who haven't committed it to memory yet, the mandate of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics says, under Standing Order 108(3)(h)(vi):

in cooperation with other committees, the review of and report on any federal legislation, regulation or Standing Order which impacts upon the access to information or privacy of Canadians or the ethical standards of public office holders

That is what Standing Order 108(3)(h)(vi) does.

That's it.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Is there any debate?

Go ahead, Mr. Kent.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Certainly we would support this motion and would call for a recorded vote.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Go ahead, Mr. Erskine-Smith.

October 30th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

This is a bit of déjà vu, because I made this comment last week as well, but I don't think anyone on this side has concerns about inviting the Ethics Commissioner. It's certainly within the purview of our mandate, and certainly to discuss her 2013 recommendations. If we can improve the law, we ought to improve the law, but we also don't want to turn this into question period and further politicize a particular individual. I don't think that's particularly fair or the right thing to do.

I have a friendly amendment: to remove “that the Finance Minister be invited to explain decisions he has made in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Act; and that this study begin as soon as possible”, and instead insert, after “year review of the Act”, “and that this study begin in January or February 2018”.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Mr. Cullen.

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I totally understand the Liberal member's concerns about the Finance Minister piece there. I think it was pointed out by Mr. Kent previously that under the rules of the different committees, when it's behaviour of an individual around ethics, it actually may fall under the purview of the procedure and House affairs committee, PROC. I can understand the government not wanting Mr. Morneau in front of us under these conditions, so while it would be more ideal to hear from Mr. Morneau, because I think he has a story to tell, the only quibbling I would have is with the delay on what we're doing.

In a previous meeting...was it in camera or not? We've talked about the calendar previously. It was in camera.

I suspect that there might be space in our calendar prior to Christmas. I don't know for certain, but from my recollection and any public utterances from the committee's chair, I don't think I remember any moment in which our calendar was filled up right to the end docket of Christmas. I don't suspect a full study would even be possible prior to Christmas, and that's not what I'm suggesting. Having someone such as the Ethics Commissioner come in could certainly answer some questions we might have, but it could also help committee members with what a scope of study might be, and then prepare us well going into January or February if we were to dive deeply into this, if the committee chose in one of those in camera meetings to look at the ethics and Conflict of Interest Act. That could be something, but at least we could get going now with that initial scope, and then allow committee members to put forward something broader as we went ahead.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

We have an amendment on the floor.

Go ahead, Mr. Erskine-Smith.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I don't think it makes sense to start something and then return to it in a month and a half. We have things to do. We have to deal with the estimates before we rise as well. Frankly, rather than trying to jam this into one or two days that we might have at the very end, let's start fresh when we return in the new year and deal with it as seriously as we can and deal with it all at once.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Mr. Cullen.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

It sometimes happens that I completely understand the perspective of the Liberal members. I'd vote in favour of going ahead and voting on this. Then if Mr. Erskine-Smith wanted to propose his amended piece, we would need unanimous consent to allow it to be introduced and voted upon today as a new motion.

3:35 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Hugues La Rue

Please say that again.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Would we require unanimous consent of the committee to allow a new motion that had a different scope?

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

It would be a friendly amendment.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Yes, but it has to be accepted as “friendly”.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

If we don't put a timeline on it.... I don't think we are going to have space to start on this matter until the new year anyway, so I'm happy with removing the last two provisions and saying to remove the finance minister and start immediately. I thought it would make sense to start in January and say as much so that it doesn't get delayed down the road, but if you'd prefer that we don't say anything, I think that's sufficient as well.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Right now we can vote on the amendment. That's fine. We can do that right now and have a recorded vote. If the amendment passes, then we can vote on the main motion and proceed.

What would you like to do, Mr. Cullen?

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I wouldn't mind hearing from Mr. Kent as well.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

I would like to see an eventual recorded vote on the motion as it stands, but I do agree and I understand the logic. We would support the simple removal of that phrase after the semicolon to the end of “the Conflict of Interest Act”.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Just for the record, you would support it if that very last section that begins with—

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

It would be “That the finance minister be invited to explain decisions he has made in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Act”.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

You're suggesting to strike that all?

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

I would strike it all.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Okay.

I thought it was poetry the way it was written, but okay.