Yes, I am, Mr. Speaker, if I may.
I have noticed that two days have now passed. The Minister responsible for CIDA, the Minister of International Cooperation, has chosen not to participate in the discussion. She is directly involved in this issue in ways that I think require the minister to respond.
Let me be very clear for the benefit of members of the House as to why the minister should respond. I think my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood has made very clear in his statement, and it has been backed up today by my colleague in the Bloc Québécois, what constitutes a question of privilege and why this is an issue that the House has to deal with.
There are really two questions. The first one is the issue of how the government chose to explain the decision on KAIROS. The government chose to explain the decision on KAIROS by saying that the government and CIDA looked very carefully at the KAIROS application and CIDA decided that in fact the KAIROS application did not meet the priorities of the government. This statement was made not only by the parliamentary secretary at the time, but also by the minister. That is the first foundation of the point of privilege.
The reason that is a point of privilege is because it is a direct contradiction of the facts and therefore represents a contempt of the House. It represents a contempt of the House because the distinct impression is left with the listener that the decision not to fund KAIROS was a decision made by CIDA, when it is crystal clear from the record, as my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood has stated, and in fact the president of CIDA is on the record and stated again very emphatically at the committee last week, that the agency had recommended that the grant be given.
That point would be bad enough, and that in itself would constitute a question of privilege because the minister is in fact mischaracterizing how this decision was made and on what basis. There can be little doubt that this decision was a political one. We are not clear who made the political decision, and I will come back to that point in a moment, but it is very, very clear that it was a political decision that was made, over and above and against the very clear recommendation not only of the president of the agency, but of the entire agency, whose file can be carefully examined by the committee when the committee has an opportunity to consider the question of privilege.
That is only the first point and the first aspect.
The second aspect is a point that has to be clearly understood. Both the president of CIDA and the minister testified that their signatures are contained in the document, which was the recommendation from the agency that the grant application of over $7 million over four years for KAIROS be approved. The president of the agency testified that when she signed the document, the date upon which she signed the document, the document contained a recommendation that the application be granted and that the $7 million be allocated to the KAIROS organization.
When we look at the record, at the document that was signed by the president of the agency, the document also contains the signature of the vice-president, Mr. Singh, and those signatures are dated September 25, 2009. Just below those two signatures is another signature, and that is the signature of the minister, dated November 17, 2009.
The reason this is important, that it is not a trivial matter at all, is that the document was altered after it was signed. It was certainly altered after it was signed by Margaret Biggs and by Mr. Singh. Of that there is no doubt because that is exactly the testimony that has been given by Margaret Biggs.
Margaret Biggs testified that at the time she signed the document, the document said, “Recommendation: that you sign below to indicate your approval of a contribution of $7,098,758 over four years for the above program”. The problem is that the word “not” is now contained in the copy of the document which is available to us, so that the document reads “that you sign below to indicate you not approve a contribution of $7,098,758”.
This document was altered after it was signed. There is no indication anywhere that anyone approved of the alteration. There is no indication as to whether or not the minister approved the document and then somebody put in “not” at the political level or in the Prime Minister's Office or somewhere else, or whether the minister herself put in “not”. But the minister has denied that she put in “not”. If the minister did not put in “not”, which completely changes the meaning of the document, then who did? How is it that the document came to be altered in this particular way?
This is not a trivial matter. The parliamentary secretary to the minister of industry and international trade is making light of this question. I do not think the alteration of CIDA's document to change the thrust of a recommendation from the president of CIDA, and to make it look as if the president of CIDA and Mr. Singh in fact recommended that the grant not be given, is a trivial matter.
The evidence is very clear. The government was covering its tracks. The government was trying to make it look as if the agency had in fact agreed not to recommend approval for the grant when the opposite is clearly the case.
I do not think one can just simply turn away from this and say it is a political disagreement. It is not a political disagreement. It is about the rights and privileges of the House to receive accurate information from a minister when she is asked questions, and when she gives answers in the House that the answers she gives be truthful and a clear factual response to a question from a member.
When a minister or a parliamentary secretary says that he or she did not have the approval of the agency, that the agency had recommended and that the minister had reached an alternate decision, that should have been made clear at the time. I think the fact that it was not made clear amounts to a claim of privilege by the House, and that by its conduct the government has shown a degree of contempt for the House that is worthy of attention.
I would hope that you, Mr. Speaker, would allow the member to send this matter to a committee where we can get at the facts and understand how this came to happen and how a document of this nature came to be altered by someone for political purposes.