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Evidence of meeting #40 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was process.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Vikram Vij  Provincial Member, British Columbia, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments
Jeannette Arsenault  Provincial Member, Prince Edward Island, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments
Brian Francis  Provincial Member, Prince Edward Island, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

If you could do some other work for 45 minutes or an hour. The technicians will be in touch with you.

11:20 a.m.

Provincial Member, British Columbia, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

Vikram Vij

Okay, thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We will suspend.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We're back.

We were just in discussion on a point of order when we broke. We will call Mr. Richards to reply to the point of order that was being made.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Although I appreciate the attempts being made by the Liberal member to prevent the questioning, I think it is quite relevant to the witness's qualifications, and I'll explain why.

A very standard and typical question on a job interview—and this isn't exactly a job interview, but it's assessing someone's qualifications so it's a similar type of situation—and a very common question, which I use and many people use in job interviews, is to assess the candidate's ability to deal with conflict. You ask them how they deal with a conflict situation. It's very typical. I know Mr. Vij would have hired many people, and it may even be a question that he himself uses to assess a candidate.

Given that, what I was obviously asking about is a situation with potential conflict, or it may even be a situation that has already occurred and in which there has been real conflict, because they have actually undertaken some assessment of potential senatorial candidates already.

What we're faced with is a situation in which I'm using this to determine the candidate's ability to deal with a conflict situation, whether it be a perceived one or a potential one, by virtue of which the PMO would not choose to appoint the candidate who had been recommended by him and other members of the board; or it may be, a situation that has actually already occurred in respect to which he may be able to tell us how he addressed that situation in reality.

Maybe the PMO didn't choose to appoint the people who were put forward. It would be about my ability to assess the ability to deal with that potential conflict, or what may have been a real conflict already, if the PMO has not appointed the candidates who were recommended by him or his fellow board members.

I think it is a very pertinent question to be able to assess the candidate's qualifications. Frankly, Mr. Chair, as much as I respect your position and I like you as a person, I think if you choose to rule anything other than to allow the question, it would seem to me to show a lack of impartiality here and something that would be seen to protect the government. I really hope, Mr. Chair, that you'll allow the question to proceed.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

I'm not going to allow this debate to go on too long and take time from the witnesses, but we'll have Ruby respond.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I think what should be appreciated is the leniency shown on the first question. There was a point of order right there as well, but some leeway was given. There was a good response that I think was beneficial to this committee.

However, the question, if we go back into the record, that Mr. Richards has asked was not, “How would you deal with conflict in any situation?” The question was a lot more pointed at what has happened in the process, and it was very particular to what the PMO did or did not do.

This is not the place for a question of that sort. This is not under our mandate—what we have according to the Standing Orders—which is asking about their qualifications.

If the question is “What would you do in a conflict situation?”, go ahead and ask that question. But that was not the question asked.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Chair, if you could give me an opportunity to respond, I would need, obviously, an equal opportunity.

The question was obviously driven to determine the ability of the candidate to deal with conflict. That is a very typical question. In this case, the reality of the matter is, Mr. Chair, that the board has already undertaken some of the work we're doing of assessing their qualifications, so it may be in fact that this situation has already occurred; or it may be something that's hypothetical. Either way, I would want to be able to have the witness's take on how he has or how he would deal with the situation.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Reid.

November 17th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Chair, we've dealt with this in the past. On the previous occasion, it was me rather than Mr. Richards who found himself being denied the right to ask a question.

If a witness chooses not to answer a question, that's the witness's business. But the rules, as far as I'm aware, do not preclude our asking questions. I would recommend to you that you could pass that advice on to the witnesses, that if they choose not to answer, that's their business. But that does not, as I say, extend to prohibiting the freedom of speech of members of Parliament.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

I did pass that on to them at the beginning.

Mr. Richards, you have one minute left. I'm going to give you a chance to rephrase the question. We'll see whether it's acceptable, and then I'll rule.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I have a point of order on that as well, Mr. Chair.

This leaves me with a limited amount of time, given that you've asked me to rephrase the question. I know that you were lenient with the time allowed for the witness to respond to the Liberal member who asked the first set of questions, so I would assume you'll be giving the same leniency to allow the witness to fully respond, given that there won't be a lot of time left for him to respond. I assume that would be correct.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Sure.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

What I'm asking, and I think you have a pretty good sense of what it is—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

On a point of order, if I may.... For the record, I've been timing our rounds and in actual fact, Mr. Richards used up over his five minutes. He used a minute and 20 seconds for his point of order, and that wasn't counted.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

A point of order is not part of my questioning time. I was responding to a point of order that your side made. That does not count as part of my questioning time. The chair had indicated I had a minute or more at the time that I asked the question, so I know there is time left.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

I'm going to rule against that and allow you to get your question in. We have to have some respect for the witnesses here, guys.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Of course. Exactly.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We can do points of order when they're not here.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I appreciate that, Mr. Chair.

I think you have a pretty good sense of what I'm trying to ask here. It's judging your ability to deal with a conflict situation. It may have arisen already. If so, you can respond to how it has arisen. If not, how would you deal with it if it did arise?

If the PMO has not chosen, or does not choose in the future to appoint the people you have recommended as part of the board, how would you deal with that situation? What would your advice be on that?

12:15 p.m.

Provincial Member, British Columbia, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

Vikram Vij

Fortunately, there was no conflict that arose from our deliberations.

As a true leader, if I were asking somebody to do something and they didn't agree with me, I would still want to have the last word, because I am the leader of what I'm doing. In a true democracy, that's what it takes.

If I gave my recommendations and the PMO was not accepting them, then I would humbly accept their decision. At the end of the day, I would know full well that my job was to give the recommendations, to narrow it down to five people. That's what I did and that's what I gave him.

There was no conflict at all, and as a person of integrity, I wouldn't want to have conflict, even if I disagreed. At the end of the day, it is a democracy and the right is his and his office's to choose.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

Before we go to Mr. Dusseault, now that we're back, you can ask your questions of any of the witnesses.

You have five minutes.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank the witnesses for being here this morning. We apologize for the setback. This was due to a vote in the House.

Let's get back to our topic, starting with Mr. Vij, in British Columbia.

Why do you think you were chosen for this position? Did you propose your name when you heard about this process, or did the government contact you? Why do you think you were approached for this?

12:15 p.m.

Provincial Member, British Columbia, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

Vikram Vij

Thank you for the question.

I believe my role as an immigrant who came to this country, having started as a commoner and still as a common human being who was a chef and now has done entrepreneurial work, has given me the way of thinking, of understanding somebody who is in the grassroots of our communities in northern British Columbia, or in British Columbia, and has gone through those ranks.

For me, I felt that honour was given to me because I had done, pragmatically, a service to the nation and I was going to do a service by making sure that the best candidate would be put forward by me. Bestowing the honour upon me was, I think, in recognition of my contributions to Canada and to the community, and also to my ability to siphon through the best people who would apply for this honour and this great position.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Thank you.

I would also like to ask the witnesses who are here why they think they were chosen.

Did you submit your candidacy? Do you know someone in government who could have recommended you? Do you have any idea of how your name came up and why it was put forward?

Ms. Arsenault, do you want to begin?