It gets back to the point of our motion. A number of witnesses, some representing departments that are here in front of us again today, have indicated that there were significant meetings and working groups in the lead-up to this. I believe one witness even said that each day there is a call within all departments on this file. It is certainly a file where I think a lot of Canadians are looking for that transparency right now, because there has been a significant amount of confusion from the beginning on what Canada is doing in relation to the rest of the world when it comes to this.
We would certainly not support removing things like emails, text messages and summaries of phone calls, largely because we know, as history will show through the SNC-Lavalin communications, that there were a significant number of text messages, which were really a preferred way to communicate by certain ministers and certain senior-level bureaucrats. We want to make sure that we have those three in there.
With regard to the rest of the motion, the addition of “that matters...”, we are okay with that, with the exception that we would remove the “cabinet confidence” piece of that, because with an issue as serious as this, as we have seen, the nation is essentially seized with daily updates on what's going on. The reasons for full transparency and accountability, I believe, are second to none.
We would accept pieces of this amendment, however, with the pieces I have highlighted, Mr. Chair. I would suggest a subamendment to his amendment: that the amendment be amended to replace the words “request briefing notes and memos” with the words “order all documents, including briefing notes, memos, emails, text messages, and summaries of phone calls”;
The amended motion would read:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the committee order all documents, including briefing notes, memos, emails, text messages, and summaries of phone calls prepared for the Minister of Health, Minister of Transport, Minister of Public Safety, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of National Defence regarding the outbreak of the coronavirus, no later than March 3, 2020; that matters of cabinet confidence and national security be excluded from the request, and that any redactions to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens whose names and personal information may be included in the documents, as well as public servants who have been providing assistance on this matter, be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.
I'll quickly speak about the date we've indicated there. We put this motion on notice a number of weeks ago. This is certainly something that we've been made aware that the ministers' offices have been aware of. There should be no hesitation in terms of getting those emails, text messages, briefing notes, memos and summaries of phone calls, as there has been significant time in the lead-up to this.