Evidence of meeting #6 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was chair.

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On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Chair, I have a point of order.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Mr. Angus.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you.

It's been fascinating. I think I'm at the 21st century, but I'm not sure because I keep losing my place with his....

I think the issue of ethics is really important. Could he explain to us, if the ethics committee is so important to the Liberals, why they shut down the Ethics Commissioner from coming to give his last report on the Trudeau findings of guilt? If they believe we're supposed to work with the Ethics Commissioner, how come they continue to interfere with the work of our committee to find out the recommendations of the Ethics Commissioner every time Justin Trudeau's found guilty?

That would be very helpful, but maybe he's not at the 21st century yet.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you, Mr. Angus.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

I think Mr. Angus is not following the procedure.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Mr. Scarpaleggia.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Again, Mr. Angus is a good debater. I will give him that.

I think this committee has important work to do. I'm told it's supposed to be reviewing the law governing the Ethics Commissioner, the Conflict of Interest Act. Because, as a Liberal, I believe that we must always look to reform our systems and make them better, I think that would be an important task, to have a look at the Conflict of Interest Act. I don't know the last time it was looked at and amended, but like all institutions, like all laws, it merits to be reviewed and improved.

Madam Chair, again I appreciate the professional manner in which you chair this committee. I know we've debated in the House a couple of times and I know you to be an ardent and articulate debater. I thought when I came here maybe you would bring that ardour to your role, but you have managed the committee with a firm hand and made sure that people respect the rules. For that I thank you and I think, for that, the committee is well served.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

I will move down my speakers list to Mr. Barrett.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Thanks, Madam Chair.

I would like to address each of the points the Liberal members of the committee made, but to do so we'd certainly need to clear our calendars for the weekend, which I'm prepared to do. I'm not sure if that's the hardball that Mr. Fergus was promising that they would play if we pursued this motion.

With respect to the Conservative members on this committee, it was implied that they were not in compliance with the conflict of interest code for members with respect to filing their disclosures. As is reported on that website by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, all members are completing the process as required. Two members' results have been published, and one result is awaiting publication by the commissioner's office. If anyone is curious enough to know who I have the privilege of co-owning my house with and through which financial institution, they are welcome to take a peek. That's the case for the Conservative members, so I'm not sure if that was the hardball that we were promised.

Also, it is apples and oranges. We are not talking about the conflict of interest code for members. We're talking about the Conflict of Interest Act. These are different. I am also not going to give a lecture to the members today about that. I'm not going to read to them sections of the Criminal Code that may have been violated by Justin Trudeau.

I'm not going to reread “The Trudeau Report” into the record. I'm not going to reread the “Trudeau II Report” into the record. Those are the findings of how Justin Trudeau had broken that law under the Conflict of Interest Act, earning the distinction of being the first Prime Minister in Canada to have been found guilty of that. He's in the company of his finance minister, Bill Morneau, who broke that law under the Conflict of Interest Act and who is now under investigation again.

We're here to talk about this first motion. I heard from multiple members about how it would be inappropriate to call family members of an elected official to this committee. Again, it was implied that this is what was on offer here. It is absolutely not.

I'll tell you that the only member of the Trudeau family that I want to see at this committee is Justin. If he wants to come to this committee, that would satisfy me to no end, but that's not consistent with the behaviour of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He obstructed the Ethics Commissioner's investigation in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. That is a fact. That is a matter of public record. It is in the “Trudeau II Report”. He invoked cabinet confidence. According to Minister Chagger in the House, when I asked her at committee two weeks ago, that was not the case. It's a fact. He did not waive cabinet confidence as promised. That's what needs to happen here. We need the facts.

I would love to know why asking for these documents, when we have this nearly one billion dollar agreement—you can really call it whatever gives you comfort or whatever satisfies the Prime Minister's Office in their direction to you, but it's a billion dollars of taxpayers' money going to an organization with direct financial dealings with the Prime Minister's family. I heard people talk about Stephen Harper. I know that when the Liberals start talking about Stephen Harper, they are panicked, and that's what's happening today.

I want to reference then prime minister Stephen Harper who, first of all, laid this—

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Élisabeth Brière Liberal Sherbrooke, QC

On a point of order, Madam Chair, can you add me to the speakers list, please?

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

I know the Liberals are in trouble when they start talking about Stephen Harper. It's like in a cartoon when you lay a rake on the lawn for another cartoon character to step on and it whacks them in the face. That's the Conflict of Interest Act with these Liberals. They can't help but not step on this rake. It hits them in the face over and over again. Prime Minister Harper had the foresight to lay out this very transparent law for public office holders to follow. The Liberals can't help themselves but to break the law in this case.

With respect to Prime Minister Harper, I'd like to reference his decision to recuse himself from any decisions dealing with Talisman Energy. It was reported in 2012 in the Ottawa Citizen that the prime minister recused himself, and the reason was that his brother was an employee there and he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

We don't need to go back to Plato and we don't need to practice our Latin to look at very recent and relevant examples of why what we're doing here is essential to preserve public confidence in our institutions.

Let's look back to 2017. Justin Trudeau—and the Liberal government—gives more than a million dollars to his friends at WE. Campaign contributors, the founders of that organization, donated to his leadership. They employ members of his family. He hands them a million bucks to have a July 2 event on the stage here in Ottawa, and he'll bring his mom. Why won't they tell us if she was paid? Those are taxpayer dollars.

I'm not looking for Margaret Trudeau to come to this committee, nor am I looking for Ms. Grégoire Trudeau or his brother Alexandre to come to this committee. But he's put them in a terrible position by not recusing himself from this decision. He apologized for it, so he recognized what he did was wrong. Now he needs to follow through and be transparent, and he needs to appear at the committee. We're requesting him to come. My motion is not asking for anyone to appear at this committee. It's looking for records, documents as reported on in media. There's no fishing expedition or witch hunt. This is a matter of public interest and it's a matter of preserving confidence in public institutions.

We're going on the slow roll through this meeting, and I know we're going to hear more from the government members of this committee, and that's fine. I just wonder what they have to hide. Why the attempt at a cover-up? Why not just vote on the motion? Have the courage of your convictions. Don't run out the clock. Vote, if you disagree with it. We've heard from all members on your side now. We'll hear from Mr. MacKinnon in a second—I can't wait. Then let's have a vote.

I know there's other committee business to deal with. I look forward to seeing how you vote. We've heard what you think. You're confused by the motion. I hope I clarified that for you. We're not looking for these people to come to committee. There's one Trudeau I would want to come here, and it is Justin, and I would like him to not invoke cabinet confidence. I would like him to bring all relevant documents.

If someone is proposing that we bring a Trudeau here, I'm not today, but sure, if we're going to bring a member of Justin Trudeau's family, let's bring him. If that's an amendment the government would like to move, to have Justin Trudeau come to this committee, I will tell them now that I will vote in favour of their amendment. If they are not moving that amendment, let's talk about the motion.

The motion is for these records pertaining to speaking appearances. I think that's pretty innocuous. We were going to give the organization a billion dollars to hand out. They were going to benefit by $43.5 million. If there's nothing to hide, let's see them. I'm not looking for their tax returns. I'm not looking for their pay stubs. These folks are being dragged into this by virtue of the Prime Minister's failing to recuse himself from these deliberations, which he admits was wrong.

Just because you say sorry after you get caught robbing the bank doesn't mean that there isn't an investigation. It doesn't mean there won't be a trial, and it doesn't mean there won't be consequences.

This committee is the master of its own domain. We've heard that the government members want us to respect the mandate of this committee and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. It certainly wasn't the case when we wanted to bring him here to report on his work on the “Trudeau II Report”, on his finding that the Prime Minister broke the law, the Conflict of Interest Act, for a second time. We didn't see any support for that from government members, which is inconsistent with what they're saying here today.

Let's talk about this. We've had a history lesson, thank you. I hope that I get credit from Madame Brière's alma mater. I will apply it to future learnings. I have a college in my riding, St. Lawrence College. I'm happy to have them. Since we're doing academic shout-outs, they're great. It's higher learning for sure.

We've had some fun. We've heard about people's pasts. We've heard about ancient history. We've had linguistic lessons, but let's instead talk about this. I've heard no amendments from the government. I've heard no effort to call Justin Trudeau, because they said that there's someone from his family that someone wants to come here. Yes, invite the Prime Minister to testify at this committee, and I will support your amendment. That would show that there has been an examination of conscience in the Liberal caucus room, that it's not just about politics, that it's about doing what's right.

I agree with my colleague who said we should depoliticize....

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Chair, I'd like to put a motion on the floor that we do now adjourn.

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

I'm sorry. During a point of order you cannot put a motion forward. Thank you.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Isn't this a privilege motion?

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

During a point of order you cannot put that motion forward.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Okay, so I withdraw my point of order and I am putting forward a privilege motion that we do now adjourn.

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

You cannot do that unless you are on the speaking list, at which point I would call upon you and then you could move a motion.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Okay.

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Do you wish to be added to the speaking list?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Yes.

July 17th, 2020 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

It's laid bare for everyone to see that the Liberals have attempted to filibuster this committee. Mrs. Shanahan has demonstrated the Liberal cover-up.

You talk to the clock until two o'clock, and now you don't want to deal with any of this committee's business—for shame.

That's politics, Mr. Scarpaleggia. That's naked, partisan politics. That's exactly what you said we shouldn't do here. Vote on the motion. Have the courage of your convictions, but that's not what we're seeing here. I thought we respected the committee's mandate. Is the committee's mandate not to vote on the motions put forward by the members? That's fascinating to me.

We read from procedural texts. We read historical texts. We've written new texts. I wonder how that translates in the streets of your constituencies. Would you feel the same way about another party that had a prime minister who awarded a non-tendered contract worth nearly $1 billion to an organization that paid his family hundreds of thousands of dollars? Would you feel the same way? I'd wager you wouldn't, but here we are looking to clean up another one of Justin Trudeau's messes.

It's the third time he's under investigation, and though it may not concern members in the Liberal caucus room, it concerns constituents in my riding. It concerns people across this country—non-political people. It's an embarrassment to have a prime minister who has been found guilty of breaking the law multiple times and is under investigation again. There's great smugness we often hear in the attempt to contrast the head of government in our country against the President of the United States. So often...oh, the smugness that comes! I feel no moral superiority to any nation when this is what we see here in Canada.

Again, to go back to Mr. Fergus's point, if hardball is to read from the public disclosures on the website, which, for Mr. Gourde and I, the results have been published from our public disclosures, or that Mr. Kurek has completed his on time.... He has completed his disclosure with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's office. Like for everyone else, like other public servants, there are technological limitations to their being able to discharge their duties in the same time they normally would, but he filed on time. If there is an issue to be taken, I encourage government members to raise that, but as far as resources go, that's not for the opposition members to have to seize themselves with at this committee. We're talking about the Conflict of Interest Act, but with respect to that other code, members here, members on the Conservative side, have met their obligations.

If playing hardball is filibustering the committee, running the clock until two o'clock and slyly moving a point of order to try to adjourn the committee, it's clumsy, but I'm not sure if that's hardball. It's consistent with my experience during the hearings on the SNC-Lavalin scandal and the cover-up that the majority Liberals tried to affect there. That's consistent with my experience. It's consistent with Canadians' experience with Justin Trudeau.

Liberal members have demonstrated that should this committee look to be the master of its own domain, should they wish to exercise their mandate to review ethical matters dealing with public office holders, they will filibuster when it's their Prime Minister they're trying to protect. They saw Gerry Butts fall in disgrace. They saw Michael Wernick fall in disgrace under Justin Trudeau. They saw their majority reduced to a minority, a distinction, again, that Justin Trudeau has.

First-term majority governments usually become second-term majority governments. If they are first elected by a majority, they probably will be re-elected a second time with a majority. That is not the case for Justin Trudeau because Canadians put the Liberals on a shorter leash, having had those ethical violations the first time.

It should be concerning for all Canadians that the government members don't want that accountability and don't have the courage of their convictions to vote on the motion on the table, knowing that their other colleagues gave notice of the motion in advance of the meeting to give them time to prepare a response and to articulate that to their fellow committee members and to Canadians. That's not accountability. That's not the government open by default that you all ran under. That's not using sunlight as the best disinfectant, as you promised. That's not the sunny ways that we heard from Justin Trudeau. It's obstruction. It does a disservice to Canadians. It does a disservice to your constituents.

Mr. Scarpaleggia mentioned the testimony we heard yesterday at the finance committee and the contention that WE Charity was the only organization in the country that could carry out this sole-source deal. When you only ask one person, if you don't ask anybody else what their capabilities are, guess what the answer is going to be. If you ask Google to give you a document that says whether they are the best search engine and here are some of the requirements you would like them to show you so you can endorse them as the best search engine, but you don't ask anybody else, they're going to demonstrate the standard that you asked for and they're going to get your endorsement. WE Charity was the only one who responded to this. It wasn't competitive.

We heard also that Ms. Wernick came up with this on her own. She testified yesterday that a finance official proposed WE Charity. We heard from Mr. Scarpaleggia that there's a crisis in Canada, that young people aren't volunteering. That's not what the head of Volunteer Canada said at committee yesterday. She said young people in Canada are very generous with their time. We also heard yesterday that this call for 100,000 volunteers is not consistent with what she understands in her industry, in her sector, as being the need. It's a vastly inflated number.

That was the testimony in finance yesterday.

However, here we are at ethics, having just endured a multi-hour Liberal filibuster as part of the cover-up into Justin Trudeau's third ethics scandal. Selective reading of texts and ancient history lessons have got us no closer to any transparency, but you know that when we hear about hardball and about assuming that the better angels are on the government side of the table, there's something more here. We're onto some trouble.

That's something that I heard at finance committee yesterday too. I heard one of my colleagues say that we're onto some trouble here with this Liberal government. I think he's right. Multiple investigations by independent officers of Parliament and here we are today with government members, Liberal members of this committee, in a coordinated effort, engaging in a cover-up to not allow this committee to do its work.

Mr. Fergus said that you play hardball. Well, Mr. Fergus, I think if you check the record, you'll see that's what you said and—

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.

I think Mr. Barrett has made six references to hardball and attributing that to me. If you take a look at the record, I certainly didn't say that in English and I certainly didn't, at least as far as I know, use that term in French. It's not a term I regularly use. Perhaps it had been translated that way, but that certainly wasn't the intention of what I meant.

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you, Mr. Fergus.

Mr. Barrett, go ahead.

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

I'll clip it for you and send it to you later, Greg, because that's what was said.

Obstructionist tactics are not what Canadians look for. We had the dare, I guess, that you'd play hardball. Well, I dare you to vote on the motion and have the courage of your convictions. It's a motion to adjourn. For shame.

Let's wrap up. Let's vote on this motion and then the other motions that committee members want to bring forward. You seem eager to have someone from Justin Trudeau's family come. Let's bring Justin Trudeau. I dare him.

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you, Mr. Barrett.

Moving down my speaking list, we have Mr. Angus.