Evidence of meeting #86 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 friend.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Mary Dawson  As an Individual

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

We'll tell them.

12:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

—but I have said many times that they should allow the conflict of interest office to do guidelines without having to go through the procedures committee. The procedures committee can always negate them after the fact or something. The trouble is that I sent guidelines and gift guidelines to the procedures committee a couple of years ago, and nobody ever responded.

The other thing that's silly is that the forms have to be put through the procedures committee. Again I'm talking to the wrong committee, but I don't have a forum in front of me. There's no way I can put proper guidelines out under the code. What I say to people under the code is to go and read the guidelines under the act; they're sort of the same.

We have had quite a focus on promulgating guidelines so that people do know what the rules are, but there's no way that you can cover every instance in your guidelines.

January 10th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

What leeway do you give MPs with regard to the interpretation of or the reasonable nature of such events?

The members have to deal with the circumstances as they are in the beginning, and must be able to react appropriately to changing circumstances. The members have good guidance and there are a lot of guidelines they can follow. However, in the same way that we value and respect the work of the Office of the Commissioner, I imagine that the office for its part must take it for granted that all members can show good judgment in the face of changing circumstances that add a particular or exceptional character to an event. Sometimes things were not anticipated in the beginning, but one finds oneself in different circumstances. Seeing the results and realizing that that can happen, the members, whatever their capacity, must have the ability to assess a situation accurately and decide on how to act as events unfold.

What leeway or latitude do you give elected representatives?

12:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

That's the role of talking to your advisers and bringing the matters forward. The other thing is that we've always offered a session to every caucus every year. Anyway, I don't know what else I can say.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Thank you, Mr. Picard.

Next up is Mr. Gourde, for five minutes.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Dawson, in 2014, during his first trip, Mr. Trudeau was invited as the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada; the Aga Khan invited the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau. I'm talking about the first trip in 2014.

12:50 p.m.

As an Individual

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

For the second trip, Mr. Trudeau was invited as Prime Minister. I'm talking about the 2016 trip, probably in the summer. The Aga Khan was inviting people who occupied high-level positions. First, he invited the leader of the Liberal Party, and then he invited the Prime Minister on the second trip. If Marc Garneau had won the leadership race of the party, he would have received the invitation, and not Justin Trudeau. Personally, as a member of Parliament, I have never received any invitation from the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan invites people who occupy high-level positions in a country. He must also have invited people from other countries.

Ms. Dawson, the discussions the Prime Minister had with the Aga Khan, whether he says they had any or not, do not relieve the Prime Minister of his responsibility with regard to the Aga Khan's foundations that are registered as lobbyists in Canada. Everything is interrelated.

The Prime Minister says that he is not the one who deals with the foundations and all of that. In fact, he may not deal with this personally, but he nevertheless has the responsibility to provide funds to these foundations. This money comes from Canadian taxpayers.

Why is he avoiding responsibility in all of this affair? You said in your report that this was not his responsibility and that he did not deal with these matters personally. However, the matter has been discussed in the media for close to a year now. I know from experience that when this type of issue is discussed in the media, the members put questions to the Prime Minister in the House, and he must answer. The Prime Minister has to make this a priority. He has to have intimate knowledge of the issues that come up regularly in the news in order to be able to answer questions. This becomes the responsibility of the Prime Minister and of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Why did you say that he did not have to deal with this, and that it was not important that he do so? It is as though you relieved him of any responsibility for all of the files involving funds given to the Aga Khan's foundations.

12:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

Sorry, I think I'm missing something. Are you saying that I said that it wasn't his responsibility? I'm missing the point here. I'm sorry. Maybe I'm getting tired. Maybe I'll listen to it in English or something. Try again, please.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

No problem at all.

You said that the Prime Minister had not taken part in any decision concerning the Aga Khan and his institutions.

I understand that the Prime Minister does not deal personally with this file, but this is nevertheless his responsibility given the media circus around it. This file would have wound up on the desk of the Prime Minister, inevitably, because he has to answer questions in the House. We asked an enormous number of questions on this topic during question period. He can no longer distance himself from the dossier concerning the money provided to the Aga Khan's foundations. That is impossible in light of the fact that the Aga Khan's foundations are registered as lobbyists in Canada.

12:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

I'm just not with you. I'm sorry.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

You said in your report that the Prime Minister had not taken part in any decision-making and that he had not taken any position on any issue concerning the Aga Khan's foundations.

12:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

Yes, that is true.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

However, the Prime Minister was invited by the Aga Khan because he was the Prime Minister, and not because he is Justin Trudeau.

12:55 p.m.

As an Individual

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

And so the Aga Khan no doubt spoke about future visions and of what Canada should provide to the foundation, and other things. We will probably never know the content of those discussions. We would like the Prime Minister to share them with us. It is not up to you to reply. We can't speak to him, but we will put the question to him later. He cannot deny the responsibility he had in these meetings.

12:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

He has to actually take part in making the decision, if that's what you're talking about, to be found to have contravened the decision-making. The distinction in the two circumstances was that in one case, he took part in a discussion and had the capacity to have an effect on it. The words are “an opportunity” to affect it. He should recuse himself from that, but in fact, I found that he did not make any decision.

I don't know if I'm answering your question at all, but there are two different overlays there. One is making the decision and one is participating in the discussion and having the opportunity to affect the outcome.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Thank you, Monsieur Gourde.

We have about three minutes left. Last up will be Mr. Erskine-Smith.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

First I want to say thank you for coming for two hours. It's rare we have a witness for two hours. I appreciate your time.

I have two questions specific to our study of the act more generally. You recommended that section 17 be amended to cover cases in which controlled assets are held indirectly as well as directly. That seems an obvious change. We have a rule in the House of Commons that one cannot do something indirectly that one cannot do directly. You said that should be at the top of our list. I think that's right.

Are there other recommendations in that 75-recommendation report from 2013 that you would say should be at the top of our list? If nothing jumps out, you can send us—

12:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

There were five or six, and I've stated them on a number of occasions. You'd think I could remember them right now. If I had the list in front of me, I would have....

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

That's okay.

12:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

There are five or six of them that I identified not too long ago.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

We'll look for that. I think it might be in the executive summary there.

The second question I have is about the de minimis. I'll give an example.

When we first got elected, I don't know if it happened for Conservative or NDP MPs, but every Liberal MP got a gram of marijuana from pot activist Dana Larsen. I think you had recommended that it be returned, on the basis that it might be reasonably seen to influence us. That strikes me as de minimis. It's $10 or less. Do you think there's a concern that when we get into amounts of $10 or less, we're distracting from the bigger problems? Should there be a de minimis consideration here?

12:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

I've established a notional de minimis of about $35. I've done that somewhere.