House of Commons Hansard #416 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, as the Prime Minister has stated in the House and as I have stated in the House on a number of occasions, committees work independently of my ministry, they work independently of the government and they make decisions on their own.

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Chair, the minister says that the government has satisfied its disclosure obligations in the Vice-Admiral Mark Norman case. It turned over 8,000 documents, but 144,000 documents were identified.

Does the minister believe that 5% is an adequate rate of return?

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, once again, I would point out for the hon. member, as I pointed out a number of times this evening, that we put together a process. Our only role in the process, in the Department of Justice, was to meet the third party records obligations. We put together a process that was effective, fair, that identified this potential scope of documents and then put together a process that would then analyze the complexity in a non-partisan way, in the sense that the final decision was going to be an officer of the court.

I would remind hon. members that the court supervised this process.

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Chair, on various occasions, both the minister and the Prime Minister cited a desire to protect SNC-Lavalin jobs in Canada as the motivating factor as to why they unethically, and possibly illegally, interfered in a criminal trial.

However, no less of an authority than the chief executive officer of the company said that it was not true. What is more, the lion's share of work done by SNC-Lavalin would not be impacted by any potential ban the federal government might impose on conviction. For example, its work on Bruce Power or Ottawa LRT—

7:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

I am just wondering, Mr. Chair, is the floor mine or am I sharing it with my colleagues across the way?

Who misled the minister to think that jobs were at risk and that it was appropriate for the government to put its finger on the scales of justice?

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, I reject the premise of that question.

First, I do not believe I was ever someone who cited the jobs figure in any sort of way. Having been Minister of Justice and Attorney, I maintained a certain distance from the file for the same reasons I have already given this evening, which is there is ongoing litigation and anything I can say might have an impact on the course of the litigation, and therefore I will not say anything. It is covered by litigation privilege and the sub judice rule.

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Chair, I see one of the hon. members for P.E.I. is over there and he has a lot to say, so maybe he can help the minister with this.

Gregory Cann was appointed as a judge in Prince Edward Island. His wife has been a Liberal donor, perhaps to that member, and was on the judicial advisory committee that appointed him. Is it a normal practice for this to occur?

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, we have set up a rigorous process of judicial advisory committees across Canada that are made up of a variety of different people from different walks of life, including members of the bar. That is the first step, the first winnowing that allows candidates to progress.

The quality of our judicial appointments is outstanding. People are entitled to make contributions to political parties in Canada, and it is not a factor in their appointment.

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Chair, did the member for Malpeque speak to the minister about that appointment?

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, I do not believe I was minister at the time.

May 14th, 2019 / 7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Chair, in a matter related to SNC-Lavalin, the Federal Court ruled that the independence of the Attorney General was essential and fundamental to our criminal justice system. Retired Justice Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond did appear at the justice committee. She also said that she believed that what occurred in the SNC-Lavalin affair was a “constitutional crisis”.

We also heard from former Liberal attorney general Michael Bryant. He said that it “confirms the public’s worst fears about the justice system.”

Does the minister agree with these accomplished legal minds?

8 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Chair, I will neither agree nor disagree, because, as I have already said, anything I say in this matter could be used in ongoing court proceedings.

I will point out that there are competing versions of the interpretation of the Shawcross principle, and they were evident at the committee.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Chair, the disgraced former Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, told the minister's predecessor that the Prime Minister was “quite determined” to see SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal trial.

Has a similar message been relayed to the minister?

8 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Chair, as I have said on a number of occasions this evening, I was not privy to the conversation in question. I have said publicly on more than one occasion that I have not felt any such pressure in this or any other matter.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Chair, some have mused about a plan to prohibit certain firearms by an order in council to be announced prior to the election. Since this is a regulation that would fall under the Criminal Code, I would like to know if the minister is aware that any such actions are planned.

8 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Chair, that question would fall under the usual strictures of cabinet confidence.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Chair, there are currently more than 50 outstanding judicial vacancies, largely in Alberta and Ontario. Is the problem that the minister cannot find enough people with positive rankings in the Liberalist to provide recommendations of names to appoint?

8 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Chair, I want to add one thing to the previous question. Cabinet privilege means I am not going to discuss whether we discussed it or did not discuss it. I would counsel the other side not to draw inferences other than that I am not going to answer the question because it might be covered by cabinet privilege.

With respect to justices, we have put together a process across Canada with judicial appointment committees in both Ontario and Alberta. We have made a number of appointments there. We are working through those appointments. We had a number of very good applicants, and we have made a number of outstanding appointments.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Chair, I have a two-for-one question for the minister.

Has the minister explained to the Prime Minister why it is important not to politically interfere in cases before the court, or does that fall outside of his description of his role to the Ethics Commissioner as purely “ceremonial”?

8 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Chair, I think the question is evidence as to why two-for-ones are never a good deal.

If there were two questions there, I reject the premise of both of them.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Chair, at least the minister did not say he could not recall.

The chief of defence staff met with the Prime Minister and his chief of staff, disgraced former operative and best friend Gerry Butts, to discuss the Vice-Admiral Norman case, but he kept no notes of the meeting.

Is this normal and in keeping with access to information procedures?

8 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Chair, I was not privy to that meeting. People have different practices with respect to the way they take part in meetings.

8 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Chair, I expect there are standards that need to be applied, and perhaps this is another case in which someone experienced things differently from the law.

During hearings on Mark Norman, the judge presiding over the case said, “So much for the independence of the PPSC.”

Can the minister stand here and say he truly believes there was no political interference?

8 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Chair, as I have said a number of times this evening, the director of the Public Prosecution Service has said on at least two occasions, including at the announcement of the stay in proceedings, that she felt there was no political interference of any kind whatsoever in the proceedings and in the decision to either lay or stay the charges. The prosecutor in charge of the file herself has said that there was no political interference.