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Evidence of meeting #50 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

William V. Baker  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Safety
Doug Nevison  Director, Fiscal Policy Division, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Ned Franks  Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, As an Individual

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

I didn't hear a question there, so I'll go to Mr. McGuinty's round.

On a point of order, Mr. Reid.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I don't mean to be unkind to Mr. Martin here, but my understanding is that there's one New Democrat member on the committee, so he's not actually sworn in as a member and therefore doesn't have the ability to speak, unless Mr. Godin is sworn out and Mr. Martin is sworn in. I just think we should be respectful of the rules and have only people who are sworn in--

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

The committee can agree on what it will do. But if that's....

On that point of order, Monsieur Godin?

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

On that point of order, Mr. Chair, it was established with all whips at the last Parliament that we would be able to bring one of our members to the committee. He will be able to raise questions, but he will not have the opportunity to vote. That has been respected since the opening of this Parliament. I hope that Mr. Reid doesn't want to create new rules here. It has been established and accepted at every committee, and I think you've been advised of it.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

On the same point of order, Mr. Chair--

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

If not, I'll get the whip from the Conservative Party very soon on the agreement we had.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Reid, to finish this.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

On the same point--

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

We are taking time away from the witnesses.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I understand.

On the same point of order, Mr. Chair, I was unaware of that rule. I haven't been in a committee before now where this has occurred. I offer my apologies. I was simply unaware of that rule.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Mr. Reid.

Let me finish this one. As you noticed yesterday, we certainly allowed it to happen. As long as the committee agrees, the committee is the master of its own destiny. We certainly had Mr. Martin make some great interventions yesterday, as he's wont to do.

Mr. McGuinty, it's time for yours, for five minutes, please.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, I want to go back to where you started this meeting and ask for your indulgence.

I would like to ask a single question, just one question, of the ministers. I'd like them to take, through you, Mr. Chair, due note of the points I'm going to make in advance of the single question I'm going to ask them. They may want to write these down, because I think they're going to have to address them, but we'll work through you, Mr. Chair, if we could.

Quickly, before going into this, I want to correct the record on something Mr. Toews said. I think, Mr. Chair, if we look, we'll find that the Speaker has never found deficiencies in the motion that was brought here. I think there was an allusion to that, so I just wanted to make that very clear.

I want to go back to where I left off yesterday, Mr. Chair, because we are here today, we will be tomorrow, and we were yesterday to deal with the issue of contempt. I want to read once again for the ministers the definition of contempt. It is where “a person or a thing is beneath consideration or worthless, or deserving scorn or extreme reproach”.

Mr. Chair--

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I'm going to interrupt you, because nowhere in the motion that has come before this, or in the study of privilege we're doing, was the word “contempt” used. You did this yesterday. I'll let you go through with it, but it is not in the motion of privilege that's currently before us.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

And we're not going to be debating the issue of contempt, Mr. Chair...?

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I can't predict what the committee will debate after the fact--

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Right.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

--but you keep referring to how “it's been referred to us”, and it has not been referred to us.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Well, let's talk about contempt theoretically, then, Mr. Chair, if we could.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

You may.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Great.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I'll let you go that route.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Contempt, Mr. Chair, isn't some abstract concept, nor is it an indication of some sort of procedural violation. Through you, Mr. Chair, to the ministers, it's about how a government acts. It's about its entire approach to Parliament. Theoretically, Mr. Chair, this government shows contempt to Parliament in almost every single action it has taken related to this file. Mr. Chair, this has never happened before in Canadian history. In fact, it's never happened before in Commonwealth history.

So let us, Mr. Chair, for the sake of the record, for the ministers to respond to the single question I will pose, recap. The government has failed to acknowledge that documents were requested by the finance committee until long after the first deadline. They claimed they couldn't provide any information because of cabinet confidence, then later providing the information and admitting it was never cabinet confidence, Mr. Chair.

They waited until the House of Commons was actually debating a motion about their failure to deliver the documents to produce the first document. Then they attempted at that time to claim that they fully complied with the very detailed document request by providing three pieces of paper.

Then the government tried to argue that it had complied with our demands and, in doing so, had provided detailed documents. All they provided were three pieces of paper at the very last minute, Mr. Chair, right before we moved our motion on supply day.

The government then said they were going to cooperate with the committee and then announced that two ministers would show up for an hour, and they would be accompanied by an army of highly dedicated senior public officials, whose time is being wasted--

March 17th, 2011 / 10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Whose fault was that?

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Yesterday, they did not hand out their 726 pages of documentation to the committee until 17 minutes before the minister made his remarks.

Then they tried to suggest that there was no real difference between these 726 pages and the three pages previously provided, even though some of the numbers are distinctly different. Then they tried to suggest that this document dump fully answered the document request, despite the fact that it provided no information, for example, about the F-35s, and it only, at best, provided 15 of the 72 documents requested with respect to the crime bills.

Then they send to committee the junior finance minister, Mr. Chair, who doesn't have the power or decision-making capabilities of the government, while the real finance minister is in Ottawa and available to attend. Then we find out they're refusing to send the Minister of National Defence to answer for the government's failure with respect to the F-35 documents. Then they confirmed that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence would show, and then they had him pulled.

So here's the question--

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

A point of order, Mr. Chair.