Evidence of meeting #12 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was charity.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ian Shugart  Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office
Gina Wilson  Deputy Minister, Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Department of Canadian Heritage
Benoît Robidoux  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Employment and Social Development
Mary Dawson  As an Individual

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

This Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

A number of times, from the time he was just an MP, as a matter of fact, but—

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Did he ask your advice on scenarios where he went ahead and proceeded to violate ethical conflicts of interest?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Did you ever volunteer advice without having received a request from him?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

If some facts were drawn to my attention or, for example, if his staff came and asked something, but it's not that often.... Similarly with Mr. Harper—

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Because what we've heard here is that, even though you're suggesting that perhaps this act is good enough.... It's pretty good on the global scale, and you've referenced Russia, China and others. We have scenarios where there is just a habit, a culture, of repeated ethical violations.

Out of your 75 recommendations that you presented, none of which were accepted, would any of them have prevented the situation we're in right now?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

Probably not. You know the thing about—

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

My last question is this: Why have an act if it's not going to prevent the ongoing ethical violations we've seen?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

Because I think it prevents many, many ethical violations; it may not get them all.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

In your opinion, has there been learning from this? Has the Prime Minister learned from the three or four times he's been under investigation?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

I have no idea, but the three times, in fact, are quite different. Each of them is a different sort of circumstance. It's not as if the same mistake was made twice. I think all of those—the two that have happened, and I assume the third decision—will shed some light on some ethical rules. What more can I say?

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

That's okay; shed some light it will.

Thank you.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you.

We're moving into the final round here, each for five minutes.

Mr. Kurek, you're up first.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Again, it's been very interesting, so thank you, Ms. Dawson.

There are a couple of different topics I'm hoping to cover here, the first being gifts. Could free travel given to a family be seen to influence or advantage a minister of the Crown if that minister, for example, were given free gifts or travel by an organization?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

Sure, if there was something afoot there that they might want from him. In fact, that was one of the situations in the Aga Khan case.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

With your unique experience related to this, and with the understanding of the situation the current finance minister is in, and the paying back of the $41,000 the day he was set to testify before the finance committee, I'd be curious to hear your comments on his family's travel related to that, and that being seen as influence, his daughter working for the organization, etc.

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

I don't really want to comment on Mr. Morneau's case. I think that has to be looked at, but certainly a gift of free travel would fall under section 11 if it was inappropriate.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Okay, I appreciate that.

I want to touch on the friends issue. Again, you have very unique experience in that definition. Based on what you've seen and read in media accounts about the ongoing WE scandal, would it be your opinion that Mr. Trudeau would be friends with the Kielburger brothers?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

I have no idea. I've been up at my cottage a good part of the last two weeks, and I haven't been listening. I haven't been glued to the television, but I have been following it to some extent. That is a fact issue.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

I appreciate that, and I'm sure you've had a lovely time up at the cottage. As a prairie boy, I'm having trouble dealing with this Ottawa humidity in the middle of summer, but—

5:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

Yes, me too right now.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

As a matter of general practice, if a public office holder were to consult the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, looking for some sort of blessing or approval on outside activities, would you normally use this opportunity to reiterate the public office holders' ongoing obligation to recuse themselves should the circumstances change or require it?

5:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Mary Dawson

I might, or might not, but I should say that usually the people who come for advice talk to some of the staff in the office, because one can't.... The commissioner is always available to speak to them, if necessary.

It depends. If they asked for a little bit of a lecture on stuff, you'd give it to them. If they were asking a specific question, you wouldn't necessarily take their time to talk about everything.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

I appreciate that.

May I ask how much time I have?