Mr. Speaker, on February 23, my question for the government concerned the lack of transparency from the government with respect to the listeriosis outbreak.
The question related to why the Prime Minister's office has refused to release the notes from conference calls related to its role in managing the listeriosis crisis of last summer, a crisis that resulted in the largest food recall in Canadian history which came about as a result of contaminated meat products that led to the death of 20 people.
We know there were concerns about the increase in listeriosis as early as June of last year and that it was not until mid-August that CFIA appears to have become involved.
We also know that at a July 24 meeting involving CFIA, the issue of listeriosis was discussed when it was originally denied. I want to be clear that although this discussion was, in a general sense, not a specific situation, it was information that was withheld and I want to note that the issue was discussed.
We know a number of meetings between representatives of the company involved and senior government officials, including ministers, took place through the summer and into the fall. The question is: What was discussed during these meetings?
The fact is that the PMO is denying access to information as required by law. As well, increasingly there are questions about the Prime Minister's investigator.
As I said in my original question, the investigator has no authority to subpoena documents, no authority to subpoena witnesses and, in fact, reports to the very minister who is in charge of the food safety system in this country and that minister will decide whether or not all or parts of a report will be released.
Perhaps the government would care to provide the House with answers to the growing questions concerning the independent investigator. For example, under the section “Conduct of the Investigation”, it states that the independent investigator will “not have any personal or other conflict of interest or any bias in relation to any of the matters relating to the investigation”.
Is it not also important that there be no perception of a conflict of interest and, if so, how does the government explain that the investigator occupies offices on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Experimental Farm site, that the investigator remains active on the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service and that two senior staff members are seconded from the federal government?
Does this lady have a coffee with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Boardin the morning? They are within sight distance of each other. This is not the perception that we want to instill. The other point is that she can allow individuals who will be interviewed to attend the interview with counsel.
What authority does the investigator have then to compel witnesses if legal counsel instructs the client not to cooperate? According to the guidelines, there is no authority.
Why is the Prime Minister's office denying information and why does this investigator have no authority to do what she ought to do in an investigation?