Evidence of meeting #16 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chinese.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Stephen R. Nagy  Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Distinguished Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Paul Cardegna

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

I'll welcome the member to the committee.

Dr. Nagy, what we've seen is that we absolutely, of course, need to have China in a rules-based international order. I take your point very seriously that Canada needs to work with other powers, maybe through the TPP and through other fora, in terms of engaging China, but China must be dealt with.

I wonder whether you want to answer Mr. Genuis' last question and perhaps address that point as well.

2:35 p.m.

Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Distinguished Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

Stephen R. Nagy

The key aspect of your question is, do we continue engaging with China? I say, absolutely we need to continue to engage with China. As you mentioned, it is one-sixth of the population. If we're going to deal with global climate change or the next global pandemic, or if we're going to deal with North Korean denuclearization or the militarization of the East China Sea and South China Sea, we have to discuss things with the Chinese. We have to create crosswalks in terms of policy discussions and we have to develop a better understanding of what's happening within the party and what's happening within the country. To not do so would put Canada and other middle powers at great risk.

The question is, which I think goes to Mr. Genuis' discussion, what's the best way to engage in China? Going back to my initial comments, we need to do it collectively; we need to work with like-minded countries; and we need to have a strong, rules-based approach that is backed up by the United States. This goes back to one of my key points, that we need to pull the United States back from an America-first point of view.

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

Let me move on, if I might.

In terms of the infrastructure bank, Mr. Genuis' argument seems to be that we're too small to be bothered with this. Wouldn't you flip that argument on its head and say that this is cheap at twice the price for having influence in such a burgeoning and emerging series of investments where Canada can be present, be a participant and also get a front-row seat in terms of this growth?

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Sir, answer just very briefly.

2:40 p.m.

Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Distinguished Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

Stephen R. Nagy

When we look at the governance of the AIIB, we should be clear that it's not just Canadians there and Chinese. There are British, French, Germans and others. We work as a force multiplier to push our views, and this is why Canada should be a part of this organization and why Canada should continue to work with other like-minded countries to ensure that it functions through international standards.

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you very much.

We'll now go to a four-minute round of interventions.

Mrs. Block, I have you up first, but I understand you're going to be splitting your time with Mr. Genuis.

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. My apologies for joining the committee late.

I am going to start off my time by moving the motion that I put on notice last week. It's a lengthy motion. I do not intend to read it into the record, but I would just read the first part:

That, in the context of its study of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the committee send for the following documents to be provided by the government by Friday, June 26, 2020:

I believe all members have the 11 points that make up my motion. I acknowledge that it's a broader quest for documents, but transparency during this time is very important. It's important all the time, but certainly during this unprecedented time. There is a deadline that I think reflects the importance of that transparency. It allows for reasonable time for the documents to be collected.

I table that motion for consideration by the committee today, and then I will turn the rest of my time over to my colleague Mr. Genuis.

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you.

Colleagues, the motion is in order. It is debatable, of course, if you have comments to make, and it is amendable. Therefore, I'm looking for anyone who might want to speak to the motion presented by Mrs. Block.

Mr. Drouin, you are first.

June 1st, 2020 / 2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We want to signal that as the motion is written right now, we will not be supporting it. There are a few issues that we recognize could be problematic.

Along the same lines as Mr. Green's motion last week, we note the timing. As you know, we proposed an August 30 timeline, and we would propose a friendly amendment to that. We also want to add the phrase “senior officials and matters of cabinet confidence”.

Also, given the way the motion is written, we could potentially divulge the names of all of the commercial suppliers. I'm assuming that Mrs. Block wouldn't want to do that. As we know, personal protective equipment is not in abundant supply as we speak today, and we wouldn't want to potentially affect the supply chain to Canada. By Canada, I also mean the provinces. We know that 80% of the material that is currently procured for Canada is then transferred to the provinces.

I would like to propose a friendly amendment, and I will read it into the record. I propose, “That, in the context of its studies of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the committee send for the following documents from senior officials, and that matters of cabinet confidence, national security, commercial sensitivity and matters that could jeopardize Canada's ability to procure and distribute personal protective equipment and other life-saving medical equipment to provinces and territories be excluded from the request, and then to be provided by the government by August 30, 2020”.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you very much.

We will now debate the amendment.

Mr. Green.

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm seeking clarification on what the extension of cabinet confidence is as it relates to legal opinions and the relationship this has with our parliamentary privileges as members of Parliament to be able to seek adequate clarification or adequate information to make decisions.

Does the amendment exclude any type of legal opinions, and if so, on what basis?

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Are you asking a question of Mr. Drouin, Mr. Green?

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Yes, if he has an answer, but I suggest the clerks might be better positioned to answer. I don't know if there's....

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

I'll go to Mr. Drouin first, and then we'll turn to—

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

I think I know what his answer is going to be, but that's okay; we can hear it.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I'm sorry. I missed part of that, Mr. Green. Are you wondering if the amendment we are proposing excludes legal advice?

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

That's correct. I'm testing what the extension of cabinet confidentiality is as it relates to legal opinions versus our parliamentary privileges as members to have access to adequate information to be able to make decisions.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Chair, as I don't have the initials LL.B. at the end of my title, I would defer to the clerks. However, I imagine that there is a client-solicitor privilege here. Normally when legal advice is provided to any client, which in this case would be the government, that may be excluded, but I'm not sure.

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

I don't know if Milliken has some jurisprudence on this, but I would like to know.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Madam Vignola.

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I think the question was referred to the clerk for a response. I haven't received one. I got a personal opinion from Mr. Drouin, not a legal one.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

I have not referred it to the clerk for any response yet, Mr. Green. We're going to hear all comments first and then we'll come back to that.

Madam Vignola.

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

If Mrs. Block is okay with extending the deadline, that's fine by me.

Obviously the confidentiality of some elements concerns me too because of the last-minute problems. Brown envelopes and brown suitcases were left lying around and, all of a sudden, our documents disappeared at the airport.

If there were some way to get the information while ensuring security, I would be fine with this motion.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you.

Mr. McCauley.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Thank you very much.

It would be perhaps fine if we maybe delayed it to the end of July. I would like to see these documents before the House rises for the full summer. I understand we are going to have a couple of August sessions. It would be nice to have this information to perhaps debate even in the fake House of Commons that's going on.

I see nothing wrong with bringing to light the names of these suppliers. Let's be blunt here. These suppliers overseas have ripped off Canadians. They've sold us bad product that could put Canadian lives at risk, and we've seen PSPC repeatedly defending these suppliers. In fact, in our first meeting, in defending these suppliers of contaminated goods, Mr. Matthews said that they have long-standing relationships with them.

Canadians have every right to know who these companies are that are putting Canadian lives—nurses, doctors, seniors—at risk. I have no idea why the Liberal Party would decide to choose secrecy and protect these frankly disreputable companies instead of standing up, again, for the health and safety of Canadians and health care workers.