Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with my dear colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I am pleased to speak today on the Conservative motion to invite Daniel Jean to provide the same briefing that he gave to the media, following the chaos of the Prime Minister's trip to India.
As I informed my Conservative colleagues on the committee when attempts were made, and as I informed the media, I will say again today that I support this motion. I do believe that parliamentary committees obviously have a responsibility to ask questions and obtain, at a minimum, the same information given to the media.
Regarding the national security advisor, concerns about having him brought before a parliamentary committee are legitimate, given how his appearance before a committee affects the ability of people who, inevitably due to the nature of their work, must work in the shadows. I understand the concern, and I take it very seriously.
However, first we need to acknowledge that greater transparency is being asked from these agencies and those working there. That goes without saying. After all, these individuals have their hands on the switch that controls very important powers that have an impact on Canadians.
Given what has been said in the media, these individuals have significant influence over public opinion and even diplomatic situations.
We saw it in 2011 when then-CSIS director Richard Fadden made controversial public comments about a situation involving Chinese spies. Without rehashing all the details, he was called before the same committee that had reported on the matter and had called for his resignation. The Liberals supported the report then. There was not just Richard Fadden; there was also a Privy Council official.
So we do not need the Liberals coming here and shedding crocodile tears about the reputation of public servants, since these officials must be held to account. We agree with the Conservatives on this. Of course, we must always be careful to ensure that these calls for accountability do not end up preventing people from doing their jobs. That is understood.
However, when someone in this position feels free to make public statements and in any circumstances—there is nothing more public than commenting to the media—, I believe that it is entirely appropriate for us to feel free to have this individual appear before a parliamentary committee to provide essentially the same information.
I must say we understand that it is problematic given a trip that went nowhere. Ultimately, we are talking about an eight-day trip, which is already a very long absence for a prime minister, since in the meantime other matters are not being taken care of.
It would have been nice if they had come back with something concrete to offer us. They did not discuss the chickpea tariffs, nor did they discuss the issue of innovation and technology development, in which India is a key player. They did not discuss certain human rights situations in the region. We have learned that very few meetings were held during the eight-day trip, considering the number of staffers who accompanied the Prime Minister and the number of days they spent there. I think there were more photos than meetings during this trip. That is the problem.
We understand that there is a certain superficial aspect to a prime minister's foreign trips. The Prime Minister is representing Canada abroad and wants to project a positive image. That is fine. I have no problem with that. However, once the photos have been taken and the nice family moments are over, which, again, are things I have no problem with, then it is time to get to work.
The results leave something to be desired.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister seems to have been using his imagination when he talked about a $1-billion investment in Canada, because it was closer to $250 million. That is not a paltry amount, but it is only a small fraction of $1 billion.
In short, the trip was a disaster from start to finish. I have been an MP for seven years, and never before have I heard so many comments about a prime minister's trip abroad. It goes to show just how much this trip has captured the public's attention. The Liberals missed a golden opportunity to talk to one of the world's largest economies about the many important matters that require discussion, including not just economic issues, but all kinds of geopolitical issues as well, such as human rights.
Getting back to the question of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the Minister of Public Safety raised a possibility during the infamous media scrum that took place under some rather crazy circumstances, and again when he appeared before the committee. He talked about the new committee of parliamentarians as a possible avenue for examining this matter. This poses a number of problems.
First of all, this committee was only recently formed. It is still finding its bearings and only recently began its work and determined its mandate. Its mandate exists, but it will be further clarified by the work it does. We cannot start throwing every file that makes the headlines at this committee. There is a lot of work to be done. Ever since the bill passed and the committee was created, barely one year ago, every time something winds up in the news, the minister says that it does not matter because the committee of parliamentarians can study it. That is worrisome for several reasons.
First of all, the committee needs to be free of all partisanship. If it starts looking at really politically controversial issues or only the ones raised during question period, it will never get anywhere and we will never have the rigorous reports we expect to get, like Commissioner O'Connor's report on the Maher Arar affair. Those are the kinds of recommendations we want to see from the committee of parliamentarians. It should not be examining every controversial issue that makes the headlines. That might be the case one day, but not in this instance. I am not saying that it would be inappropriate for the committee to examine these files, because in some cases, it would definitely be entirely appropriate.
Secondly, there is the fact that the government is using the minister to try to get out of sticky situations. The same thing happened when CSIS was taken to court for workplace harassment, discrimination, homophobia, and islamophobia. When I asked the minister about it, he initially told me he would not comment because the matter was before the courts. Then, to get out of being accountable, he said that it was not so bad since the committee of parliamentarians was going to look into it. No matter how important it may be, the committee cannot constantly be used to get out of being accountable.
The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security has a mandate to address certain issues after all. It is not always appropriate to address the issues of the day, but in this case, it would be quite appropriate to devote an hour or two to a little meeting so that we can hear something that has already been said in public. There are some questions that we as parliamentarians have every right to ask, questions that Canadians have. No matter our opinion on the veracity of such statements, they remain important and the hon. members do have a responsibility in this regard.
Earlier, I was heckled by a Liberal member when he told me that the members had voted to adjourn debate and reject the motion moved by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, because national security issues are sensitive. Let's call Mr. Jean before the committee, and once he is there, if we deem that the discussion must remain confidential because it deals with sensitive and confidential matters that concern national security, then we can decide for ourselves. There is no need to use this secrecy as an excuse for flat out refusing to have him testify. In conclusion, I would say that this trip was a disaster, and the government missed opportunities to advance some important issues.
Now, here we are, and we are dealing with these issues that are very problematic. At the very least, I think that we can request to have someone appear before parliamentarians.