Evidence of meeting #84 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 office.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Mario Dion  Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Thank you, Mr. Erskine-Smith.

Next up, for five minutes, is Mr. Gourde.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Dion, thank you for appearing today, despite the short notice.

I was very impressed by your career and your curriculum vitae, which describe your experiences in the last 30 years.

In addition, congratulations on the work you have done for our country.

In your opinion, in the future, will the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner increasingly use the new communication technologies, such as Twitter or Facebook? Do you think it’s necessary?

4:10 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

The two media you mentioned are a bit superficial. I do not think we can use Twitter or Facebook to communicate very important things. The office is already using Twitter to communicate raw information, and we will continue to do so. However, it is not a platform for disseminating complex issues. I do not think much can be done about that.

I was thinking of videos or tools that we can use for presentations. Today, videos are completely accessible. They cost nothing and they are easy to make. Those are the kinds of things I would like to be able to do.

However, this is not the case for Facebook, which is about social relations. It’s not serious.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

In your presentation, you talked about the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's relationship with the 338 members of Parliament, and with public office holders. There is a difference between the two groups.

Can you tell us about the additional obligations for public office holders?

4:10 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

In fact, the code applies to all the MPs, including the Prime Minister and ministers. It contains obligations that are similar to those contained in the act, but many of the obligations in the act do not apply to private members.

The only members the act applies to are ministers or parliamentary secretaries. There are several additional obligations, but I would have a hard time listing them. I brought the table of contents of the act. Many aspects that were not regulated in the code are regulated once the individual is appointed as a minister or parliamentary secretary.

However, the question you are asking me is very complex. It would take a seven- or eight-page comparative table to try to answer it.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

I admit that the question is very complex. In fact, it is so complex that it can confuse some members of Parliament and cause them major problems.

How will you advise them? How will you check that public office holders have fully understood what the act and their obligations mean?

4:10 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

Just now, I mentioned a comparative table, a table defining obligations and differences, among others. I don't think this has been done.

There are also caucus meetings and potential cabinet briefings. The Privy Council Office could organize a meeting with cabinet so that we can discuss it with the ministers. More specifically, there are meetings with parliamentary secretaries. They would deal with factual matters and would include a description. It would be a sort of legal education. That's how I would like to do it.

This work could be done one-in-one, but also in groups, because discussions are sometimes conducive to understanding. Adult education is not done in a lecture hall. You must be able to take part in a discussion with other participants. We must organize short meetings.

It's complex and it's abstract, until a practical situation arises. So we have to give concrete examples, just as practical cases are used in teaching at university.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Even when someone loses their title of public office holder, they still have obligations for a while.

Can you tell me how many months or years those obligations may stay with us?

4:10 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

It varies according to the nature of the position we have held. In some cases, it can be forever. In other cases, it is for five years, two years or one year.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Okay.

For a while, people have an obligation to maintain discretion with respect to their communications. It could also be for life.

4:10 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

It's for a five-year period, or depending on the last position the person has held in the government.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Could that hurt them in subsequent jobs?

4:10 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Okay.

4:10 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

When you accept a position, that's why it's important to understand the consequences that it could have on a potential job.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

The people appointed to certain positions are not necessarily always well informed. At the end of the career, the consequences may be less, but when the person is about 40 or so years old, the consequences can stay for the next 25 years. You should pay particular attention to that, so that people accept a position knowingly. They may want to be protected. Political life can be very long or very short. The consequences can last a long time afterwards.

4:15 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

In terms of conflicts of interest, I would like to provide another piece of advice: once a year, it is important to reread the code and the act. It's a little tedious, but it's important to do so. We cannot assimilate that information in a few minutes, it's complex.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Thank you, Mr. Gourde.

Next up, for five minutes, Mr. Baylis.

December 12th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Thank you, Mr. Dion, for being here.

I'd like to give you a chance to clear up some of the points that Mr. Kent and Mr. Cullen brought up. They mentioned a black mark on your impeccable resumé.

It reminded me a little of my mom. One time I came home with 99% on my math exam, and she looked at me and said, “Frank, why didn't you finish the job?” I think they're holding you a bit to that level.

If I understand correctly, the Auditor General had looked at two out of several hundred files. Is that correct?

4:15 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

Yes, it was two.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

There were just two files.

You probably had 99% too, if I had to guess.

4:15 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

The Auditor General basically did not audit anything else. He only reviewed....

He had received a number of complaints. I don't remember the precise number—five or six—and he decided to investigate two of them. Nobody else complained.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Do I understand that those files existed before you came in? Is that correct?

4:15 p.m.

Nominee for the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, As an Individual

Mario Dion

One of them was before. The other one arose after I was appointed.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

With that one that existed before, you couldn't impact it anyway. There was a delay that had nothing to do with you. You weren't even there.