Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Thursday, February 4, 2016 Chair

Standing Committee on Procedure and House
Thursday, February 4, 2016
The Honourable Larry Bagnell
Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Thursday, February 4, 2016
● (1105)
The Chair (Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)): I call the
meeting to order. Good morning, everyone.
Just so everyone knows, this meeting is televised. This is meeting
number 6 of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House
Affairs for the first session of the 42nd Parliament.
Today, first of all, we're going to examine the order in council
appointment of Huguette Labelle to the position of chair of the
Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments. We'll review
her qualifications. Second, we will return to our study of the
initiatives to make Parliament more inclusive, more friendly, and
more efficient, with an informal report from our researcher on what
other parliaments around the world do. Last, we will work on our
agenda for the next meeting, which we haven't set yet.
The witness is going to make a few statements, and then I will just
make a comment before we go to the questioning, unless anyone has
anything they want to raise at this time.
Pursuant to Standing Orders 110 and 111, we are examining the
order in council appointment of Huguette Labelle to the position of
chair of the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments,
as referred to the committee on Friday, January 29, 2016. I welcome
the witness.
Thank you for coming on such short notice. This committee seems
to be moving so fast that we can't give people very much notice. You
only had a day or so, so it's fantastic that you could make it. I started
to read your CV this morning. It's as long as the meeting. That's
I'm looking forward to hearing from you, and then we'll have
some questions from the committee.
Ms. Huguette Labelle (Chair, Independent Advisory Board for
Senate Appointments): Thank you very much, Chair. It's been quite
a long time since I appeared in front of a parliamentary committee,
something I used to do quite frequently as a deputy minister, so I'm
looking forward to the discussion this morning.
As you know, our mandate is to make non-binding, merit-based
recommendations to the Prime Minister for appointments to the
I would just like to say a few words about my background so that
it can perhaps help you with your questions.
As a deputy minister for 19 years, I was able to see the work of
Parliament first-hand, because there are many pieces of legislation
that come from various departments, as you know. As a deputy
minister, you have to follow the process as it goes through the House
of Commons and through the Senate, and be able to work, and
rework sometimes, with the minister and the Department of Justice,
some of the content of that legislation. That is one area where I was
able to see first-hand the, let's say, architecture of the Parliament of
our country.
I was also brought close to the work of the House and the Senate
when I was president of CIDA. Many countries around the world
wanted to learn from our own experience here. I'm thinking in
particular of South Africa, for example, with which we worked very
closely on their constitutional review. They were very interested in
our form of federalism but also in how the institutions of the state
were working in Canada. They were looking elsewhere, of course,
but we were the key supporter to help them learn from the rest of the
world, and then, of course, to adapt and make their own decisions at
the end.
I'm using South Africa, but there were many other countries that
were in the same situation. Especially after 1989 and the fall of the
Soviet Union, many countries in central and eastern Europe were
also interested in what we were doing. We were able, during that
period, to do some twinning with various institutions of our own
country to help those countries to think through how they could
improve the situation in their own country.
Perhaps the last point I would like to make is that when I was
chair of the board of Transparency International, which is an anticorruption organization, people used to tell me that I would have
work for the rest of my life to deal with this issue. However, one has
to be an optimist, and we worked very hard in this very important
area to try to help countries around the world build the kinds of
institutions that could prevent corruption and deal with it when it
happens. Also, to ensure that the rule of law works in the countries
where corruption is high, we worked on conventions and
recommended legislation. Again, there was quite a lot of work in
this regard, which I think will be helpful to the work that we need to
do at this time.
That's all I'd like to say, Mr. Chair.
● (1110)
It will be my pleasure to answer your questions.
Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I want to make one quick comment before we go to questioning.
I'm hoping this committee will show great leadership and
cooperation. It's the first committee meeting, and I hope we continue
in this way. Personally, I am focused on two things. One is for this
new Parliament to show a good example of respect and appreciation
to outside witnesses as they come before us,, whoever they are and
on whatever committee, because we appreciate them. The other is
that we perform the task that Parliament assigned to us. I'll just read
it again. I read it at the end of the last meeting.
This meeting is being held pursuant to Standing Order 111, which
"The committee, if it should call an appointee or nominee to appear pursuant to
section (1) of this Standing Order, shall examine the qualifications and
competence of the appointee or nominee to perform the duties of the post to
which he or she has been appointed or nominated."
Members may also refer to pages 1011 to 1013 of House of
Commons Procedure and Practice.
We will start questioning with Ms. Petitpas Taylor, who will be
followed by Mr. Reid.
Ms. Ginette Petitpas Taylor (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe,
Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Labelle, thank you once again for joining us this morning. We
know this meeting was called in a hurry, and we are extremely
grateful that you were able to find the time to participate.
I also want to thank you for your contribution to Canada over your
entire career. Your resumé is so impressive that we're not sure where
to begin.
February 4, 2016
I will raise another point. I have also worked closely with the
OECD, where I still work. I sit on a committee of the OECD
Secretary General where we are trying to figure out what the OECD
can do to ensure greater integrity among its members, but also
beyond. In fact, the OECD also works closely with developing
countries. Its work is not only focused on OECD countries. The
committee is tasked with reviewing the work done by the OECD so
far in terms of integrity and the fight against corruption, as well as
giving the Secretary General relevant recommendations. For
instance, we are trying to determine whether the OECD could
increase its impact if it moved toward different or additional options.
I will stop here.
● (1115)
Ms. Ginette Petitpas Taylor: Great.
Can you tell us about your studies and university degrees? We
know that witnesses are a bit embarrassed to talk about that, but we
want to understand properly.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Yes.
I have always thought it was important to continue our studies for
as long as possible. In my case, I mostly went to school part time,
because I had a family and a job while I was doing my master's
degree and my doctorate.
Every department I have worked for has had teams of researchers.
Therefore, in order to better understand how those researchers
worked, what they did, and to ensure that I had the right people in
place, I told myself that I should earn a doctorate. That helped me
learn a lot more about research, research methods, statistics, and so
Finally, I want to thank you for accepting to chair the Independent
Advisory Board for Senate Appointments. That's a very important
role and, once again, we appreciate you agreeing to chair the board.
That is why I continued my studies. In fact, I did not earn my
doctorate until the age of 40, while being the Assistant Deputy
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
That is why I wrote my thesis from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., but it was done.
We sometimes ask witnesses to tell us about their credentials,
qualifications and all accomplishments. They're often a little
embarrassed to be putting their resumé on display like that.
However, in order for the committee members to get a good
understanding of your accomplishments, we would like you to give
us a detailed account of your credentials, contributions, and so on.
I have been a mentor to many young and not-so-young Canadians.
I always encourage them to continue their studies, not only because
it helps them acquire additional knowledge, but also because it gives
them more confidence in themselves and in what they could do in
the future.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Thank you, Ms. Petitpas Taylor.
In addition to what I mentioned in my introduction, I was also
chair of the Public Service Commission of Canada during my career.
Back then, just like today, the law stipulated that our role was to
ensure that public service appointments were based on merit. Over
those five years, I spent a lot of time making sure we could be proud
of our public service. We had a system that enabled us to ensure that
the candidates applying for a position met the selection criteria. That
helped me realize how important it is to select individuals for
important positions based on their merit, their qualifications, their
experience and their knowledge. And that is something I wanted to
bring up.
Ms. Ginette Petitpas Taylor: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, CPC): Thank
you, Mr. Chair.
First of all, Madame Labelle, welcome to our committee. It's a
pleasure to have you here. I'm very interested to learn more about
your mandate and some of the things you're expected to do in that
mandate, and to find out exactly how you go about them.
February 4, 2016
I wanted to ask about phase 1 of the Senate nomination and
appointment process, which is under way right now. It was
announced on Friday, January 29, at 6:30 p.m. that all applications
under this process must be submitted by noon on February 15, at
which point your role would kick in. I recognize that you have no
role at the moment while the applications are under way.
I have concerns about the constitutionality of the phase 1 process.
In particular, I am concerned that the way in which it's structured
may result in a compromise of the independence of people being
appointed to the Senate unconstitutionally. I wanted to ask you about
The Chair: We have a point of order.
Mr. Arnold Chan (Scarborough—Agincourt, Lib.): Mr. Chair,
I have some concerns that this goes beyond the premise of today's
review of the competency of the witness before us. An examination
of the mandate of this independent Senate appointment committee is
not within the scope of the particular standing order by which this
witness was called.
● (1120)
The Chair: Yes. If Mr. Reid could stay on the competence of the
witness, that would be appreciated.
Mr. Scott Reid: Mr. Chair, I'm just going to ask that this point of
order, which has taken, I think, something in the nature of a minute,
not be taken off my time. Is that reasonable?
The Chair: Yes. It is not being taken off. We stopped the time.
You still have about six minutes left.
Mr. Scott Reid: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Here's what I'm wondering about. You are being submitted
nomination and application forms, which will, after they have been
submitted and filled out, be considered “Protected B”. I'm just
wondering whether that means that the names of the nominated
individuals and of the agencies will remain confidential and whether
you will regard yourself as being bound to not reveal the names of
the agencies or organizations that have put forward the nominations.
Will that be something which you will not be able to—
Mr. Arnold Chan: Mr. Chair, my point of order is on the table,
and he's continuing the line of questioning. I think you need to rule
on my point of order.
The Chair: Mr. Reid, if you could stay to the qualifications and
the competence of the witness to perform this role, that would be
We stopped the time again.
Mr. Scott Reid: Just so I can be clear, Mr. Chair, what I'm doing
is trying to deal with the fact that we may have a witness who is
being drawn, not through her own fault by any stretch of the
imagination, into a process that is unconstitutional and does
irreparable harm to the credibility and independence of people
appointed to the Senate of Canada. This might be a process that will
be kept confidential and secret so that we cannot confirm whether
that compromise of independence has occurred. This is due to a
process that she is being embroiled in whereby she would be
required to treat certain information as secret. That information
would be absolutely essential in determining this critical matter of
public interest, that is, whether the independence of newly appointed
senators has been compromised by means of the nomination process
and the tight links that must be formed between the individual
making the application and the nominating agency.
This is a process that has never occurred before in our
Confederation, and it could well, as I say, violate the requirement
that senators not be appointed in a manner that compromises their
independence. It's something the Supreme Court is being very strict
about. It is of concern to me, and I think it should be a concern to all
of us. This is our only chance to ask her before the appointment
process is actually over, and at that point the harm will have been
done. I think it's reasonable to ask in this form and in this way.
The Chair: Mr. Reid, that is a process question. The committee
could look at that process if it so willed, but today's meeting is to
look at the qualifications of the witness to perform this role. If you
want to pursue process questions, it doesn't mean the committee can't
proceed with those in its committee business, but not today. This is
just to ask the witness about her qualifications for this particular job.
Mr. Scott Reid: It's my understanding that we would be able to
ask the witness any question that is germane. I don't recall having
decided that we would only be able to ask her questions that were
related to her own competence. That's something, quite frankly, I'm
not challenging. I have no qualms about the witness's competence or
ability to perform her task. I think Madam Labelle is eminently
qualified. What I'm worried about is that she is being drawn into a
process that will be unconstitutional and that we will not be able to
Mr. Chair, if I may go on for a moment here, the critical point here
is that we're about to go on break. When the break is over and we
come back, it will be February 16, and the nomination process will
be closed at that point. It will be of no use to ask her those questions
I didn't design this. The government decided to rush it, and we are
now limited in a way that we can't correct unless we have a special
meeting next week to ask her these questions. It's problematic, to say
the least.
The Chair: Mr. Reid, we're operating under a standing order of
the House of Commons, which this committee has no authority to
change or to expand at this time. If you like, you can to continue
with your last five minutes on the qualifications of the candidate, and
if you want to discuss those other items.... We have to start the time
soon, because other witnesses will lose their time.
Mr. Scott Reid: Mr. Chair, are you saying that we are incapable
of holding a meeting at which we ask her the kinds of questions I'm
trying to ask about the constitutional ramifications of how she
performs her job and so on? Is that literally outside the remit of this
committee? Are you saying that when we adopted a motion to hold
this meeting, the motion forbade the asking of these questions?
That's important, because if it's just that we moved the motion in a
certain way that forbade us to ask these questions, then I will seek
the consent of the committee to open up the questions so that I may
ask her about these critical issues, which really need to be dealt with
before February 15th.
The Chair: I've read this twice to you, Mr. Reid, so you should be
aware of this. You've been on the committee before. Standing Order
111 states:
If the committee decides to call the appointee or nominee to appear, it is limited
by the Standing Orders to examining the individual's qualifications and competence
to perform the duties of the office sought.
That's the understanding of all the committee members who are
here and the witness who is here. Because our time is going to run
out, we're going to have to limit your time, and unless you want to
continue asking on the competence of the member—
● (1125)
Mr. Scott Reid: You know—
The Chair: —we'll go on—
Mr. Scott Reid: Madam—
The Chair: —to the next questioner.
Mr. Scott Reid: Madam Labelle is ostensibly an individual who is
independent. That's been emphasized over and over again in the
government's statements with regard to her and the panel that she
chairs. “Independent” must mean—
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.): On a point of
The Chair: Mr. Lamoureux.
Mr. Scott Reid: I'm actually on a point of order, Mr. Lamoureux.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: No, you're not.
Mr. Scott Reid: Kevin, I am.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: No. You didn't start off by saying “On a
point of order”.
The Chair: Mr. Lamoureux.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Chair, sitting back here, it looks
more as though Scott is just arguing with the chair.
You raised a point of order. The chair made a determination on
that point of order. Now you're choosing to dispute the point of
order. You haven't stated “On a new point of order” or anything of
this nature.
Let's put this thing into proper context. The Standing Orders allow
for the committee to call a witness of this nature. The chair has been
very explicit, both at the beginning and now twice to you, in
explaining what the standing order allows us to do. It was actually a
Liberal member of the committee who moved the motion, believing
that the will of the committee was to do exactly what it is the
standing order dictates: deal with the competence and qualifications
of an appointment.
If you wanted to question the policy aspect—and that's really what
you're getting into—it would have been more appropriate to possibly
suggest that it be debated in the House or in another forum.
The standing order is very, very clear, and I think we should
respect the standing order. Scott, you've been very respectful of the
rules in the past. I would suggest we just continue to ask questions
related to the standing order.
The Chair: I have ruled already, Mr. Reid. You have one last
February 4, 2016
Mr. Scott Reid: My concern, Mr. Chair, is that we are not
respecting the Constitution of Canada, which, because of the tight
deadlines in this committee, can only be defended at this meeting. It
was after our January 29 meeting that we learned this process would
occur and it would be finished on February 15. This is our only
opportunity to ask some critical questions about whether or not
information will be kept secret from us permanently with regard to
whether or not the independence of future senators is being
compromised by the nomination process.
The Chair: Mr. Reid, we—
Mr. Scott Reid: If you shut me down, you are shutting down the
only opportunity we have to find the answers to these critical
question. We're talking about the independence of a body of the
Parliament of Canada. That surely deserves the opportunity to be
The Chair: Mr. Reid—
Mr. Arnold Chan: On the same point of order—
The Chair: Okay, there will be no more points of order. We're
going to move to Mr. Christopherson. The committee has lots of
time. If people want to talk about the process, the committee can
decide that in committee business, but that's not the grounds for this
particular meeting.
Go ahead, Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP): Good.
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you again, very much, for your time today. At some point I
hope we get to you.
I don't have a lot to say on the qualifications side. I mean, the
paper speaks for itself. The only thing that struck me was that when
you were going through your regular day-to-day background, you
said you really thought you needed a Ph.D. and then you went out
and got it, like you buy a shovel over at Canadian Tire. That's
impressive. For me, somebody with a grade 9 education, that looms
large in terms of your qualifications.
Competency takes us into some other areas. Let me just say,
though, Chair, before I get into the area of competency questions,
that the little skirmish we just saw between you and Mr. Reid, to me,
right from the get-go, is a perfect example of the absolute
impossibility of jamming the square peg of appointments into the
round hole of democracy. No matter what part of this process we
dissect, it's never going to add up because it doesn't work. It doesn't
fit in a democracy.
Having said that, and being left with no alternative—and it's a
shame, because we could use some real common sense on this whole
issue—I want to ask about your thinking, madame, the criteria you
February 4, 2016
You, through the appointment of the Prime Minister, replace what
Canadians do during an election, which is to make a merit-based
evaluation, usually on the doorstep or on the phone or through an
email exchange. We repeat it thousands and thousands of times,
trying to convince people that we would meet their merit
qualifications as they see them. The cumulative effect of that is
that we have an election, and as tough as it is, it's usually very clear.
Canadians decided who was merit-based and who wasn't. The beauty
of the system is that if they get it wrong, if the Canadian people in a
riding feel they got it wrong, then they get a chance in the next
election to do something about it.
We don't have that. Once you're a senator and you're appointed,
you're there till you're 75, and that's it. I'm wondering what process,
what talent, what experience, and what training you are looking for
that, in your view, would give Canadians the ideal lawmaker. This
isn't just about having a gilded life on the red carpet; it's also a fact
that senators make laws. In fact, their vote is worth more than our
vote, because there are fewer of them.
What qualifications are you looking for when you're trying to
replace the process that Canadians go through on the doorstep? What
are you looking for when you're trying to choose a person Canadians
would consider to be their ideal lawmaker?
● (1130)
The Chair: Ms. Labelle.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Thank you.
I must tell you that I have had many employees who had grade 9,
and they did much better than I did because they had used their own
lives to become experienced people.
to ask senators the kinds of questions they ask us on a day-to-day
basis—so there is some accountability starting there—what traits are
you looking for that would indicate that senators-to-be understand
there is some element of accountability in this process somewhere? I
mean, it's the greatest lottery win in the entire world. You not only
get a beautiful paycheque and pension until you're 75, but you get to
make laws. How great is that for a G7 country? What traits are you
looking for that would give you the sense that future senators
understand there is some element of accountability? It's not there
structurally. What would you be looking for in their personalities to
give you a sense that they understand there is accountability? Do you
believe that's a part of it?
I ask because you didn't mention that as one of your criteria.
● (1135)
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Thank you very much.
I think that this is a very important part. It can be demonstrated by
the track records of the individuals in what they have done, how they
have done it, how they have accomplished the responsibilities they
have had in the past. Words take you only so far in this regard, so it
is very much the background. It is what they have done and how
they have done it, how they have succeeded in demonstrating
accountability in the responsibilities they have had in previous
In terms of the criteria, we have those that are in the Constitution
already, which are age, residency, property—
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. David Christopherson: But really, that's not much more than
a pulse.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Yes.
I'm sorry. Your time is up.
Then what we also are looking at, and this is public, is, first of all,
people who have a very strong ethical background, extensive
knowledge and experience, and hopefully an understanding of the
institutions of our country. We're also looking for the identification
of people with diversity, be they women or men. We're looking for
cultural diversity and linguistic diversity in addition to professional
diversity, so that more than the same kinds of professions being
recommended. The list is longer, but these are the kinds of criteria
we use.
We're also looking at people who are ready to work in the Senate
on a non-partisan basis, which is part of the mandate that was given.
These are the kinds of things that we're looking at. We look for
recognized leadership in the field they are in. We look for people
who have been strong in serving their community.
We have quite an extensive list of public criteria, and those criteria
are known to everyone who wishes to be considered.
Mr. David Christopherson: Thank you for that.
Given the fact that there is no built-in structural method of
accountability and it's really only now that the media are beginning
Mr. Scott Reid: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, Mr.
Christopherson asked a number of questions about how Madam
Labelle is conducting herself in the role of chair of the advisory
committee, which is precisely what I was trying to deal with.
He was permitted to go there, whereas I was not. I agree with
letting him go, but the fact is that if you ruled me out of order, he
should have been ruled out of order too. He did not ask a single
question about Madam Labelle's own qualifications. Therefore, it's
clear that you think it's okay to ask questions about how she will
conduct herself and how she regards her mandate, which are
precisely the kinds of questions that I was seeking to ask.
I assume, therefore, that if we now, on the Conservative side, ask
those same questions, you will permit them, and that the Liberals
who did not object to Mr. Christopherson's questions will not object
to those questions from Conservatives.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reid. If you want to use up all the
time of the committee, the witness doesn't get any questions.
If it's okay with the committee, since the Conservatives did not get
time yet to get their competency questions in, I'm going to move Mr.
Richards' five-minute round ahead, and then there will be two
Liberal rounds. That's just to give them a chance to get some
questions in on the topic of this meeting.
Mr. Blake Richards (Banff—Airdrie, CPC): Madam Labelle, I
appreciate your being here today. With regard to this process, I think
Canadians have a lot of concerns about the fact that there's a lot of
information that won't be made available to Canadians. Mr. Reid has
raised some questions today that I know are of concern as well.
Certainly the idea that you'll be making recommendations to the
Prime Minister that will never be known to the public—and no one
will ever know whether the Prime Minister chooses from that list or
not—and the secrecy around that are things that I know many
Canadians are quite concerned about, so we certainly do appreciate
the fact that you are here today so that Canadians can at least have
some sense of and confidence in the people who are appointed to this
The subject matter we have today indicates that in the transitional
process, your advisory board would undertake some consultations
with groups, and it lists a number of these. I would like to get a sense
of your experience in being able to undertake such consultations.
Obviously, there are a lot of questions around these consultations,
such as how they'll be undertaken, whether groups will be
approached or whether they'll be able to apply to come forward,
under what criteria those groups are going to be chosen, how the
board would interact with those groups, and whether those groups
will be made public so that people are aware of who they are. I
wonder if you can give us some sense as to how that process will be
undertaken, how the consultations will be undertaken, and whether
the groups will be made public. That will allow us to assess that
against your previous experience undertaking similar types of
The Chair: Ms. Labelle, you can tell him your qualifications to
undertake that process.
Mr. Blake Richards: Just to be clear, Mr. Chair, are you
indicating that the witness will not be allowed to answer my
questions about how that process would look?
That's important, because if we have no sense as to what the
process of the consultations would look like, what types of
consultations are being undertaken, and whether those groups are
going to be made public, etc., we have no way of being able to assess
the witness's abilities to undertake those processes. If we don't know
the description of the job, we cannot assess whether someone can do
the job.
The Chair: The witness can answer what she likes, but she knows
she's not compelled to answer questions about anything outside of
her competency and qualifications for this job. The witness can go
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Briefly, Mr. Chair, what we do first of all
is to put up a website so that it can be available to any Canadian.
Second, we have worked very hard through press releases and media
advisories to ensure that more and more Canadians and organizations are able to understand and, hopefully, make recommendations
and apply.
February 4, 2016
In terms of the organizations, which was your question, we're
reaching out very widely to organizations around the country. We're
doing this as we're talking, whether we're talking about business,
labour, non-governmental organizations, arts, culture, or development. I could go on; the list is very long. There's law, employment,
and so on. We are really reaching out very widely at this time, and
we are continuing to do that.
They will be reporting—
● (1140)
Mr. Blake Richards: Sorry to interrupt, but the Chair's indicating
that I don't have much time left, and there's something else—
Ms. Huguette Labelle: I'm sorry, I just want to say that we'll also
be reporting on a regular basis, and I would presume that our report
would be public.
Mr. Blake Richards: Thank you.
It's been made quite clear today that some of the questions that Mr.
Reid had, which are very critical questions, have not been allowed.
Some of the questions I'm asking, which I believe are very important
to be able to assess the qualifications, are not being allowed.
Mr. Chair, I would like to put forward a motion. Given that the
committee has called the chair of the Independent Advisory Board
for Senate Appointments to appear before this committee to examine
her qualifications and her competence to perform the duties for this
post, to which she has been appointed under Standing Orders 110
and 111, and given that the full process has not been launched or
made public, how is the committee to properly be able to question
the witness?
Therefore, I would like to move a motion:
That the Committee invite the Minister of Democratic Institutions
to appear before it to respond to questions concerning the
Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments.
In this way we can get a better sense of the process involved and
properly assess the qualifications of the individuals on this board. I
would ask that the clerk be instructed to invite the Minister of
Democratic Institutions to appear before this committee to answer
those questions so that we can properly conduct our duties here.
The Chair: Okay, Mr. Richards, when we get to committee
business later, we will.... We're not going to take time from the
witness right now.
We'll go on to Ms. Vandenbeld.
Ms. Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Thank
you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Madame Labelle, for taking the time to
come here today.
February 4, 2016
I have looked through your CV. It is incredibly impressive. You
have 13 honorary degrees. You've been on numerous advisory
boards and have been the chair of a number of organizations,
including the WHO, the United Nations, and Transparency
International, and there's all of the work that you've done on anticorruption. I think that's tremendously impressive. I particularly
wanted to also note that you were the chair of the board of
Algonquin College, which is in my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean,
and also of the Ottawa-Carleton United Way, which has done a lot of
good work in my riding. I thank you for the tremendous
contributions you've made.
This particular position will require a competence to be able to use
good judgment, to look at merit-based appointments, and to use the
judgment to be able to do that independently. I would like to go
through some of your qualifications and background that will allow
you to be able to be competent to perform the tasks you will have.
In terms of the laws of our country, when I was in the Privy
Council, but also beyond that when I was working with organizations, I was able to see the importance of the privacy law in
protecting private information for people.
● (1145)
Ms. Anita Vandenbeld: That's wonderful.
I also see that you're a Companion of the Order of Canada and
you've received the Order of Ontario. You've also been on the
Advisory Council to the Order of Ontario, where you had to make
selections, look at people's qualifications and merit, and draw from a
wide variety of people with professional backgrounds.
Can you tell us a bit about that?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Yes, thank you.
I notice that your understanding of governance is obviously very
strong. You've been deputy clerk of the Privy Council and a deputy
minister. You were on the board of the International Centre for
Human Rights and Democratic Development, which did a
tremendous amount of work until it was disbanded. It was a very
effective board that promoted international best practices of good
governance. Also, of course, all of the anti-corruption work you've
done also goes to your understanding of democracy and of
Also—I'm adding to your question here—when I was deputy
minister of the Secretary of State, which is now Heritage, by virtue
of the position I automatically sat on the selection advisory body for
the Order of Canada. I was there for five years. Basically, what I
learned through these two processes and a number of others was very
Could you talk a little bit about how you would be able to use
your qualifications, your background, and your expertise in order to
do the tasks that we've asked you to undertake?
I'm also chairing a panel to select young people from developing
countries to study at the master's level in sustainable energy
development so that they can go back to their country and deal with
that big issue in their own sphere.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Thank you very much.
First of all, you raise the position of deputy clerk of the Privy
Council. The deputy clerk, of course, works very closely with the
committees of Parliament, because in the position of the clerk, you're
assisting as the secretary to cabinet in this regard. That, I found, was
very useful in giving me an overview of the government as a whole
and in getting closer to the institutions of Parliament as well, to the
infrastructure of Parliament.
My work at the UN has been ongoing for many years, but more
recently, in the last six years, I have been on the board of the UN
Global Compact, which is chaired by the Secretary-General and
which really has 10 principles that it is trying to promote around the
world in working with governments, with business, and with various
organizations. They include human rights, labour, development, and
the tenth principle on anti-corruption as well.
I'm still working with some of the staff of the UN Global Compact
on one aspect, the Business for the Rule of Law framework, which is
trying to get businesses around the world to not just live by the
minimum standard but to be ready to top it up and be ready to make
representations to those governments that are weak and help in the
work they can do. That's one aspect of it.
Also, of course, when you chair an organization, you have to look
at the overall functioning of that organization, which I've had to do a
number of times, not just with Transparency International but with
other institutions in Canada and outside the country. I think that has
been very helpful to me.
You need to ensure you have the broadest information possible
about individuals so that you're then able to work as a committee.
We have an excellent committee, the advisory board, with Indira
Samarasekera, who is the former president of the University of
Alberta and a research scientist and engineer. We have also Daniel
Jutras, who is dean of the faculty of law at McGill University. Again,
he's someone with a tremendous background. Then we have two
people for each of the three provinces that we're looking at right
now; they are also outstanding people. With these people together,
we have the wisdom of more than one individual coming to the table.
Each one of us identifies who, from all of these people who have
surfaced, these individual candidates, are the top people that we
could recommend.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Graham.
Mr. David Graham (Laurentides—Labelle, Lib.): Mr. Chair,
my colleagues across the room seem to be far more interested in the
process than in the phenomenal quality of the candidate before us.
I'd like to go a little bit deeper into these qualifications in
understanding the context of the role she's getting herself into here.
How do you, Madam Labelle, see the historical role of the Senate
as the House of sober second thought?
● (1150)
The Chair: This is not on your qualifications; it's a point of order.
You can relate it to your qualifications, or you can answer whatever
you want, but you don't have to.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Perhaps my answer would be that as a
deputy minister I of course had to appear before the House of
Commons, but I also had to appear before the Senate. I was able to
see, as the senators reviewed legislation, how sometimes particular
aspects were identified and how they were able to improve the
legislation in the long run. It's been mostly through that kind of
experience that I've been able to witness the responsibility of the
Mr. David Graham: That's fair. The question does tie into your
qualifications in that having experienced the Senate and seen it, you
understand the type of person you're looking for. You have the
experience needed to have the judgment to do this. I think that was
the purpose of the question.
Through your career you've also had to keep a lot of secrets, and I
guess when you're hiring somebody in any role you don't want to
make public the names of the people you didn't hire. It's sort of bad
for them and bad for you. Can you talk about your background in
keeping secrets at high levels of government?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: We have to look at conflict of interest
here. You also have to go back to the order in council, which means
that you are bound to keep the information that is there in front of
you. I think it's through those instruments that one learns to keep
information that cannot, either because of the privacy legislation or
otherwise, be made public.
Mr. David Graham: I see that you understand the requirement
for privacy for these applicants very clearly.
I'm reading your CV. I'm amused by two words at the very bottom,
where I see “January 2016”. I was wondering what the previous
months looked like.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Graham: When you started, where did you see your
career going? Was helping to guide this country the type of thing
you'd hoped to do as you built your career up?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: I started my life in Health Canada and
moved on to Indian and Northern Affairs in the Government of
Canada. I was able to discover the rest of Canada, discover our
country and its people, to a greater extent than what I had known
before. Basically, this was an impetus to stay as a public servant for
as long as I did. When I left, I could have stayed as a deputy
minister, but I had had 19 years in that position, and I felt it was time
to leave the space to others and also to give back to the country and
to the international community.
You will see that most of what I have done is voluntary. It has not
been paid work, and that's fine. That was part of the decision. It also
meant that it gave me an opportunity to see our country in a very
broad way, through the departments I was responsible for. Before
being a deputy minister, I was in Health Canada and in Indian
Affairs and Northern Development, and I did a lot volunteer work
both outside the country and in Canada.
February 4, 2016
It was a personal choice, but I felt there were many other
Canadians who were also doing the same thing. I think all avenues
can contribute to our country, whether you're in business, a member
of Parliament, or in a non-governmental organization.
Mr. David Graham: I have 20 seconds left.
I note that in your plethora of honorary degrees, you have some
that are not from Canada. I was wondering if you had some time to
address your international experience, but I think we're out of time.
Just tell us a bit more about what you did outside the country.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: About countries—
Mr. David Graham: What you did outside Canada. We'll have to
come back to that later.
● (1155)
The Chair: No, I'm sorry. You'll have to answer that later.
Mr. Reid, you have a five-minute round.
Mr. Scott Reid: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question follows on Mr. Christopherson's questions about
how, given your previous role in Transparency International, you
would treat confidential and secret information, and it follows on Mr.
Graham's question on how your experience as a public servant
would cause you to treat confidential information.
The nomination forms for senators, filled out by organizations in
the phase 1 process, are Protected B once completed. Do you regard
this as meaning that you would be unable to reveal not only the
content but also the name of the nominating organization for a
person who's applied to the Senate, and has been accepted by the
Prime Minister, and then placed in the Senate? Would the
information regarding who the nominating agency was be something
that would itself be protected and be information you would be
unable to reveal ex post facto?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: I think there would not be any problem in
revealing the names of the organizations that have been consulted as
widely as possible. I think if we linked the name with the candidate,
then we would get into the privacy issue, because one would have to
deal with the name of the individual.
This is one of the things that our committee will need to work at as
soon as this first phase is completed and we prepare our report. We
will need to work at how to best include what we should include in
our report. As I said before, we are consulting very widely at this
time. The wider the better, because it makes it possible for more
outstanding people to be identified.
February 4, 2016
Mr. Scott Reid: I am only referring to the phase 1 process, in
which I assume you're not actually consulting. I could be wrong
here, but I'm assuming you're not consulting and that you have to
wait for organizations to send nominations to you. That doesn't
really create a capacity to reach out. I'm not talking about what
happens after phase 1. Am I correct that in phase 1 you have to
simply wait for the nominations and applications to be submitted to
you, and then see if you have two that match up?
The Chair: Ms. Sahota.
Ms. Ruby Sahota (Brampton North, Lib.): On a point of order,
I think we've been quite fair. There have been a lot of lines of
questioning about process, and this one is completely and utterly
about process. It is not tied into Ms. Labelle's qualifications or
experience at all.
The Chair: Ms. Labelle, do you have any comments on your
qualifications in dealing with protected information?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: I guess I need to go back to my time in
the Privy Council and as a deputy minister. We had to respect the
laws we have but also respect the individuals. In that context, private
information is private and needs to be protected, based on the
legislation we now have.
Mr. Scott Reid: Based on your experience dealing with issues of
conflict of interest, how would you determine whether or not
someone has effectively had to solicit an organization to support
them or has been chosen by an organization because that
organization believes this is the person who will best represent that
organization's interests in the Senate, a problem that clearly would
violate the constitutional injunction that senators be independent?
How would you deal with that concern?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: If you look at our website, you will see
that the applications do not come only from organizations; there is
also a need for three separate reference letters in relation to the
candidate. That broadens, I think, the extent of what the individual
can bring, and brings us more information in looking at the
credentials of the individual. The organization makes the recommendation, but at the same time letters of reference are part of the
The Chair: You have 50 seconds, Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid: Thank you.
I'm not sure I understood that. Are you saying that you can go
back to the individual and say, “Please submit additional information; what you submitted in your application form piques our
interest, but it's insufficient for us and we require further
information”, or does it all have to be submitted at one shot by
noon on February 15?
I'm asking about the phase 1 process.
● (1200)
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Sure.
The Chair: You don't have to answer process questions, but
answer what you want.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Again, Mr. Chair, the information may
not all come at the same time, as long as it is in by the deadline that
has been provided. You can get the recommendation, you can get the
letter, but then you can get the letters of reference afterward. It
doesn't all have to come together in one package, as long as it is
completed by the time that's been set.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Chan.
Mr. Arnold Chan: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just want to clarify how much time I have. I do note that the
clock is past 12 o'clock.
The Chair: We started late, so you have a five-minute round.
Hopefully we can get to Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. Arnold Chan: Great. Thank you. I appreciate that, Mr. Chair.
I want to echo my colleagues on the government side in terms of
first thanking you for appearing before this committee on such short
notice. We are all duly impressed by the incredible.... I mean, I
couldn't even get past the first paragraph before I started asking
myself, “What have I done with my life?”
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Arnold Chan: Like you, I'm an individual who actually got
his fourth degree by the time he was 40. I take to heart that learning
is a lifelong process. I appreciate that we want to encourage younger
individuals to pursue that as part of their own career development.
Madam Labelle, this wasn't necessarily clear when I had the
opportunity to review your curriculum vitae, so I'd like you to
expand a little bit on your experience as it relates to bicameral
parliaments or bicameral institutions. Obviously your experience
here with the Parliament of Canada, dealing with the House of
Commons and the Senate, is clear. Are there other experiences you
bring to the table, through your international work, that you feel
contribute to your role and competency to serve on this particular
advisory board?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Thank you, sir.
I think it was more as president of CIDA that I had the opportunity
to work on and listen to requests regarding issues around the world,
because we were working in over 100 countries. Not every request
was focused on their parliament, but many were, and sometimes they
had to decide how to reconstruct what had become very
dysfunctional in their country or sometimes rebuild from close to
I'm thinking of a number of countries that are still really struggling
to see if their parliament can work much better than it does. I'm
thinking of countries like Haiti and a number of states that are
currently in a failing situation or are fragile. They have worked very
hard, but somehow....
That's one aspect of people who were looking to benefit from our
experience, and we were always able to match them with a number
of countries that had a bicameral system, because that was what they
were looking for.
Also, through the OECD and through the European Commission
work that I was brought in to do, especially in the last few years, I
was able to see how a number of countries that have parliamentary
infrastructure similar to ours were asking themselves a number of
I think it is not so much in having focused only on that but also in
seeing how those parliaments were able to try to find the best way
forward. Some that did not have a bicameral system might have said
that it would be better for them to go that way.
I think that's all I can say at this time on that, but that international
experience was very useful to me, and a number of G7 or G8
counties, as you know, have bicameral situations.
● (1205)
Mr. Arnold Chan: Thank you, madam.
How much time do I have, about a minute?
The Chair: You have one minute.
Mr. Arnold Chan: I wanted to very quickly follow up on
whether, in doing part of that review, particularly through your work
with the OECD or other institutions, you ever dealt with a situation
like the one we have here in Canada, where one of the Houses of
Parliament is an elected body and the other one is an appointed body.
If so, how did you see that within the frame of democratic legitimacy
as you looked at these countries that were facing the particular
challenges you just described?
Ms. Huguette Labelle: I don't think, sir, that I can say.... Whether
we look at Germany or the United States or Australia or France, they
are all in very different time frames, as you know, in terms of what
they have and what they are trying to do at this time. The U.K.
Parliament is the one I've been closest to. We've looked at it in terms
of what they have been doing with their House of Lords, so that's the
one I think I'm more familiar with.
The Chair: Thank you.
We'll close with Mr. Christopherson with a three-minute round.
Mr. David Christopherson: Chair, I do appreciate the extra effort
to make sure the full rounds were completed. Thank you.
Madame, just to come back again to competency, in terms of what
you would be thinking about as you have each of these in front of
you, my understanding is that a person would have to be
recommended by an organization to get their name in the hopper.
I'm not 100% sure on that, but if someone could find a way to get put
on the list unilaterally, here's my concern. Are you not worried at all,
when you think about applying this, that there is the potential for an
elite body—and all of us here qualify as elites—to appoint other
people through the lens of that elitism, so that we end up with more
elites? I say that as a person with a working-class background.
Although I've been in electoral politics for over three decades, I'm
just from the working class. If my resumé went in to you the first
time I was elected, it wouldn't even stay on the table, let alone be
My concern, then, is how you go about selecting candidates that
may not even find themselves in front of you. If we use the benefit of
democracy, people like me can get elected, because there are certain
traits that electors want in a lawmaker. There are a lot of other things.
I know there are lots of lawyers and doctors, and that's good, but I'd
like somebody in there who knows what it's like to get up every day
and have to get their fingernails dirty to make a living.
I'm wondering how we avoid the continuation of the view that the
Senate is full of elites—because they are all connected to somebody
February 4, 2016
—and how this process and your thinking and your colleagues'
thinking are going to give us a different result. Can you help me
understand how you think we can get there?
The Chair: You have one minute to answer the question.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: Thank you, sir.
I think we're dealing with the first phase of five appointments.
After that, when we move into a more regular period, it will be
individuals applying. That will give, I think, a very broad capacity,
and hopefully it will also give us a broad capacity. As I mentioned
before, I think it's very important for diversity to prevail.
Mr. David Christopherson: But the diversity would be by your
definition and that of your colleagues, and that's it. Diversity as
defined by Canadians doesn't come into it. Do you not think that's a
problem we'll end up with in the Senate, given our trouble in the
Ms. Huguette Labelle: I hope we can demonstrate that when
we're talking about diversity, we're also talking about diverse
backgrounds as well as individuals from—
Mr. David Christopherson: But you'd be the one to decide what
that mix is. You will decide what Canada looks like in terms of
diversity. That small group of people will replace the thinking of all
Canadians. How on earth could we possibly end up with a Senate,
under that process, that reflects the will of the Canadian people?
The Chair: This is your last chance. You have 10 seconds left.
Ms. Huguette Labelle: I think that will be what people witness
eventually. I hope our work will demonstrate that we can recommend
the kinds of diverse individuals a Senate needs to have. I guess it's
once the nominations are made and recommended by the Prime
Minister to the Governor General that you'll be able to see whether
we've done our work in the way you're talking about, sir.
● (1210)
The Chair: Thank you—
Mr. David Christopherson: I hope you get it right, because
there's no way to get rid of them if you're wrong.
Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Labelle, for coming on short notice
and being here a little bit past 12—
Mr. Arnold Chan: Mr. Chair, I would like the witness to hear this
before you dismiss her. I just wanted to move a quick motion. We
can dispense with the motion afterwards, but I did want her to hear
I'd like to move: That the proposed chair of the Independent Advisory Board
for Senate Appointments, being Huguette Labelle, is deemed qualified and
competent to perform the duties to which she is being appointed.
I have Ms. Sahota seconding the motion.
The Chair: That's a standard motion; we'll deal with it after we
suspend. Then we'll go to the Library of Parliament report.
February 4, 2016
● (1220)
The Chair: Thank you, and we'll thank our library researcher for
doing a report. We look forward to hearing from him.
Because he's not a called witness, this will be very informal. As he
discusses, if you have a question, we'll just interrupt him while he's
Mr. David Christopherson: I apologize for interrupting you, sir.
I'm just not clear where we are. We had a motion, and then we
dropped it, and now we're talking about the next piece of the agenda,
so I'm a little unclear.
The Chair: There are a number of things under committee
business. We'll do that, the motions and all of that, after we hear the
Mr. David Christopherson: You say the report. I'm sorry; the
analyst was bringing a report for the second part of the meeting.
The Chair: Yes.
The other question is whether the process of ultimately appointing
senators hinges on this committee giving this approval, or is this
something that runs parallel to the actual process of them sitting
down and doing their work, and what we say is maybe interesting to
somebody but doesn't have any role in the trigger point of decisionmaking?
The Chair: To answer your second question, if the committee
makes a motion—sometimes they do and sometimes they don't—it
doesn't have any effect on that. It's just giving feedback from the
committee, but it doesn't have any effect on whether the appointment
goes ahead.
Mr. David Christopherson: Okay.
The Chair: As you probably know, after having such a witness in
an order in council appointment in the past, sometimes committees
have made a motion saying that they had the person before them—
Mr. David Christopherson: So if that motion failed, it would
have no impact on the process?
The Chair: Right.
Mr. David Christopherson: Interesting.
Mr. David Christopherson: But we're not there yet. We're still on
the first part of this meeting.
Just as a matter of housekeeping, then, when are you suggesting
that we would deal with that motion and Mr. Richards' motion?
In other words, we had the witness, and there was a motion that
flowed from that, and then that's when we broke. Are we in camera
The Chair: I think it's up to the committee, but my suggestion
would be, in respect of the researcher who's done this work on the
report and who was expecting to start at 1 p.m., that we do that and
then we do all of those committee business types of things in our
next agenda at the end.
The Chair: No.
Mr. David Christopherson: Are we in public? Yes. We're still
public. Okay, that's what I thought.
You had a break for a moment, as the witness excused herself, and
now it seems to me that we should be dealing with the motions in the
proper order, or we would say that we're finished with that part of
our agenda and we're moving to the second part, in which case we'd
pick up at the next meeting where we left off, and that would be the
placement of the motions in the proper order.
I'm just a little unclear where we are, Chair.
The Chair: What's the committee's will on that?
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Thinking about what David just finished
commenting on, the first part of the meeting's over. The second part
was to settle on the agenda. We deal with that, and after that's dealt
with we go into new business, at which point in time I understand
that there's the potential for a couple of motions. Even Mr.
Christopherson had something that he wanted to potentially get on
to the table.
In fairness to Mr. Christopherson's comments, I think we should
just continue on with the pre-set agenda.
Mr. David Christopherson: Sorry, Chair, can I ask for another
The motion that was moved by the government was that this
committee—I'm paraphrasing—affirms or agrees with the appointment. Do we have to deal with that motion before we have
concluded our business with this witness?
Mr. David Christopherson: Very good. What I would leave you
with is just this thought. It sounds as though it doesn't matter whether
we pass that motion or not. Fair enough. However, Mr. Richards'
motion was critically important, because it spoke to us wanting to
have a second step in our process of approval vis-à-vis inviting in the
minister to talk about the context of the appointment.
When would that be dealt with? Do you not see us dealing with
that now?
Here's the option, Chair, and then I'll shut up. We can deal with
that now, as a continuation, because this hour of the meeting is ours
to control. It's our staff reporting to us. It's not like we're tying up
witnesses or there are timelines that we have to meet.
I would leave with you one suggestion: that there is some merit in
at least seeing if we can deal with those two motions to put paid and
finished to the file on this witness, but I leave it with you and,
obviously, the will of the committee.
● (1225)
Mr. Arnold Chan: I would propose that we deal with my motion
first, then.
First of all, let me ask the question. Did you receive my motion?
You suspended right after I moved it.
Mr. Blake Richards: Mr. Chair, obviously, that would be
inappropriate. My motion was moved first; therefore, it would be
first in the order of precedence.
The Chair: My preference is, as I said before, to go on with the
report. I don't think Mr. Chan's motion is time sensitive, but your
motion and a number of other things we have are part of potential
committee business, so we have to do that today. I'm not saying we
won't do it, but there are a number of other things related to it. We
could do that all in the discussion at the end.
Go ahead, Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid: We're down to 35 minutes before the end of our
meeting. I suppose we could agree to continue on past one o'clock.
Failing that, I suggest that we actually deal with motions first, and
then with Andre Barnes and his report later.
I apologize, Andre. I guess you're used to our doing stuff like this
from previous parliaments.
I would strongly recommend that. There is a matter of urgency
here. Of course, unless we create a special meeting, which I'm going
to recommend in an amendment to Mr. Richards' motion, it would be
impossible for us to meet until after the phase 1 process is completed
and all nominations are in, which, as you know, is very important. I
say we stay on the motions.
The Chair: Are there any other comments? The other thing we
can do is have a subcommittee meeting. We have a lot of potential
agenda items now. Mr. Richards, we have your motion, and then we
have the electoral officers item and a few other things.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Richards, can you provide us with a
copy of your actual motion? Did you move the motion already?
Mr. Blake Richards: I did move the motion, yes.
Mr. Arnold Chan: Can we have the clerk read back the original
motion, please?
The Chair: Madam Clerk, do you want to read the motion back?
Do you have it?
Mr. Richards, maybe you could read your motion again.
Mr. Blake Richards: I'm glad to do that, certainly.
The motion I would move is:
Given that the committee is unable to properly examine the qualifications and
competence of the appointees of the Independent Advisory Board for Senate
Appointments without first knowing the full mandate and process involved for the
new Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments; and given that the
full details of the transitional and permanent Independent Advisory Board for
Senate Appointments' process have not been made public; that the committee ask
the clerk to invite the Minister of Democratic Institutions to appear before the
committee to answer questions and give details regarding the Independent
Advisory Board for Senate Appointments' process.
The Chair: Are there further comments on how we proceed at
this time?
Mr. Arnold Chan: On a point of order, I just want the chair's
clarification that the matter was in fact moved and seconded.
The Chair: It doesn't have to be seconded, but it's moved.
Whether it was moved then or moved now, it's moved.
Go ahead, Mr. Lamoureux.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Chair, not to make matters more
complicated, but all I heard earlier from Mr. Richards was that he
would like to move a motion to have the minister appear before a
committee. What we just heard was a detailed motion. That's the first
February 4, 2016
time I heard the detailed motion. That's why I'm questioning. Was
there in fact a formal movement of that motion? I don't think you can
say, “I'm going to move a motion on X”, and then an hour later say,
“Let me provide the details of that motion.”
What Mr. Chan had moved was actually the detail of a motion,
and the record would clearly demonstrate that to be the case.
The Chair: I don't want to get into all this arguing about who
proposed what and when. There was a lot of preamble, but the
motion is that we bring the minister.
What I need to know now is the order in which we want to do
things. Do we want to carry on with motions? Do we want to go in
camera to do committee business? Do we want to hear the report?
Go ahead, Mr. Christopherson
● (1230)
Mr. David Christopherson: Chair, my sense is that somehow
we'll manage through the next 30 minutes and do whatever. I think
you can see that we desperately need a subcommittee meeting to
start getting some of these ducks in order.
There's a little bit of partisanship in some of it, but there's still a
whole lot of other work that is non-partisan that we want to get to. I
urge you to please call a subcommittee as quickly as possible to help
sort out this whole thing. Hopefully, we can make recommendations
back to the full committee.
The Chair: Is the committee in agreement with that?
Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid: On that, before we agree, as long as we don't
have the effect of causing Mr. Richards' motion to be shunted off to
the subcommittee—
Mr. David Christopherson: No.
Mr. Scott Reid: That wasn't the intention—
Mr. David Christopherson: You can't do that anyway.
Mr. Scott Reid: In that case, I think that's a good point now. A
subcommittee would be very handy, and I'd like us to move if
possible directly to consideration of the motions after that.
The Chair: Okay. It's agreed that we're going to have a
Now, let's quickly pick a time when the members on the
subcommittee.... Are you talking about this week, which is basically
the rest of today, or the first day back?
Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. David Christopherson: Well, I guess common sense would
dictate it would probably be the day we get back.
The Chair: Are people in favour of that? Okay.
Mr. David Christopherson: Quite frankly, until we actually sort
out a time, and that can't happen till we all sit down—
February 4, 2016
The Chair: Right, and look at your calendars.
Mr. David Christopherson: —I'd be prepared, Chair, to see if
you could try to work with the other appointees, because there are
only a couple of them, to find a time that works.
The Chair: Okay.
Mr. David Christopherson: Use your judgment, call the first
one, and then see if we can come to an agreement on a regularized
time for the subcommittee.
The Chair: Okay, so we'll likely have a subcommittee meeting on
the Monday when we return. We'll figure out a time with the people,
and we'll—
Mr. Arnold Chan: I would simply note that we're actually not
returning on the Monday. We're returning on the Tuesday—
Mr. Blake Richards: Mr. Chair, I would argue that because mine
was moved first, it should be dealt with first.
The Chair: Are there any objections? Okay.
We'll read the motion as the clerk feels that she has been able to
collect it:
That the Committee invite the Minister of Democratic Institutions to appear
before the Committee to respond to questions concerning the Independent
Advisory Board for Senate Appointments.
Is there discussion on the motion?
Mr. Lamoureux, and then Mr. Chan.
The Chair: Oh, sorry—
Mr. Arnold Chan: —because of Family Day, so we're not
scheduled to return on the 15th.
Mr. David Graham: That means we sit the day we come back.
The Chair: We might see if we can meet before the committee
meeting that day.
Mr. David Christopherson: Otherwise, Chair, we're going to be
repeating this same circular discussion.
The Chair: Okay.
Now, for the rest of this meeting, we could do motions or we can
do our report.
Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. David Christopherson: As much as I want to get to the
report because it's an important matter and we're all trying to get that
moved as quickly as possible, I still think that in this case, because
that motion flows directly from the witness we just heard, we should
probably hear Mr. Richards' motion first. It did come first, and it's
germane to the matter that we've had in front of us for most of this
meeting. Maybe we'll wrap that up by one o'clock.
It'll put us a little bit behind, but at least we would have completed
totally the work of the witness and ensuing motions today, and we
can move on to the next meeting instead of bouncing all around.
Those are just my thoughts.
The Chair: Are there any other comments on where we go now?
Mr. Arnold Chan: Mr. Chair, my only comment is simply that we
have two motions before us on the floor. If we're going to dispense
with them, we should try to dispense with both before one o'clock.
The Chair: Okay. Is the committee in agreement that we'll try to
dispense with both motions by one o'clock?
Mr. Scott Reid: What was that again?
The Chair: Let's try to dispense with both. I guess we'll have you
at our next meeting.
Okay. We have two motions. One was saying that we had the
witness and the other was on the committee meeting with the
Minister of Democratic Institutions.
Which motion does the committee want to do first?
● (1235)
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do have some questions
with regard to that. I thought it was interesting. Through good will,
we're trying to work with the opposition. At the last meeting, I sat
and observed a member of the Liberal caucus actually move a
motion, by using the Standing Orders, our rules, to have an
appointment come before us, and everyone seemed to be quite
encouraged about it. The Standing Orders provide the details of what
we're able to ask and not ask.
This is something, Mr. Richards and Mr. Reid, that you would
have known. You guys are not new to this system. I thought the idea
of the qualifications and competence had validity. That's what the
rule said. That's what we asked them to do. My concern is that we're
saying we didn't really want that, and that is what I'm hearing. I'm
hearing you didn't really want that, and that what you really wanted
was to talk about government policy, government process, and to
take an issue and debate it before the PROC committee. If you were
to use that same process, you could take a wide variety of different
issues and say, “Well, today we want Minister X; tomorrow we want
Minister Y”, and where does it end?
I can understand and appreciate that there might have been some
frustration on your part in terms of not necessarily getting to ask the
types of questions you really wanted to ask, but maybe that should
have been raised on Tuesday, when there was a sense of good will
and good faith with regard to trying to accommodate an
We went in good faith, believing that members were genuine in
wanting to get a better understanding of the qualifications and the
competence. I was actually quite pleased to see that the chair was
able to make herself available to come to committee within 48 hours
of the board making that decision. The issue of process wasn't being
dealt with, and that seemed to be your primary concern. Why did we
even call for the chair? Why didn't you just express at the outset that
you would rather have the minister? If legislation is referred to our
committee or if the House, as a whole, refers an issue to our
committee, then there is a lot more validity in calling the minister to
February 4, 2016
I'm just not clear. Mr. Richards, I would look to you to provide
some clarification so that all the committee members understand.
Even though I'm not a committee member, I am obviously very
interested in getting a better understanding, because maybe it's
something we should be taking into consideration on rule changes.
We're looking at rule changes. Maybe this is something that's suited
to a discussion we should be having. I don't quite understand your
motivations. At one time you were leading the committee to believe
that all we would do is talk about qualifications and competence of a
particular appointment, and then somehow you turned that around to
wanting to talk about the process of Senate appointments.
Mr. Blake Richards: Yes, it sounds as if the parliamentary
secretary certainly has a number of questions that he wants to have
responses to there, so I'm happy to provide those and I think that's
precisely the point. Their government doesn't seem to want to
provide answers to questions, and I'm happy to do that.
You have many other forums in which that can be done. Today in
the House we are debating one of the official opposition's motions.
The debate that's taking place on the floor of the House of Commons
today could have just as easily been about the Senate. You, and
particularly Mr. Reid, have posed numerous questions in question
period to the minister you're trying to call before the committee.
There are many other forums, and I'm just questioning why it is that,
on the surface, 48 hours ago you were suggesting we would like to
review the qualifications and the competence of an appointment, and
we bought into it. That's the reason we were the ones who actually
moved the motion to have her come before the committee. That was
a gesture.
In order to be able to assess those qualifications and determine
their ability to perform those duties, we must have a good sense of
what those are. Because the government has been very secretive in
terms of what the process would look like—sure, there has been
some detail provided—there is a lot of detail lacking in terms of the
consultation process with a variety of different groups, as one
example. There are a number of examples.
We talk about parliamentary reform, and two or three days into it
we're already calling a witness. We weren't trying to hide anything.
The witness comes and performs, and then right away you're
deviating away from competence and qualifications, wanting to pick
up a line of questioning that would have been better posed to the
minister of democratic reform, quite possibly.
● (1240)
I'm beginning to think that maybe this was your original agenda,
the original purpose for having the discussion. That's why I think at
the very least, if not to me but to committee members, you need to
better explain why you even wanted to have this particular
appointment come before the committee if your real intent was to
talk about process and mandate.
If it was to talk about process and mandate, I would highly
recommend that there be, at the very least, some discussions to make
it clearer what the committee is being asked to do. That's at the very
least. If you couldn't develop that consensus, then there's a
responsibility, as an official opposition, to raise the issue. Instead
of talking about deficits and whether there was or was not a deficit,
we could have been talking about this issue today. If we'd actually
had the minister come before the committee, we could have had that
discussion then.
My concern is on whether or not you have other intentions. Are
there other ministers that you ultimately want to be able to call?
I would appreciate it if you could comment on the real reason you
wanted the appointment to be called. Do you not believe there are
other ways in which you can achieve your questioning on process?
The Chair: Do you want to respond, and then go later again?
Mr. Blake Richards: Yes.
The Chair: Okay. Go ahead.
The bottom line here is that under Standing Orders 110 and 111,
this committee has the duty and the ability to have a nominee come
before us so that we can examine their qualifications and assess
whether they are able to perform the duties of the post they have
been appointed to.
The problem here is that we have a government that has created
this process to appoint senators, which they claim is some kind of a
reform to the Senate, but it's a very secretive process. Canadians
won't even have any idea at the end of that process whether any of
the people who have been selected by this board would even be
appointed by the Prime Minister. There will be no way to ever know
whether the committee was actually able to perform its duty.
To be able to properly assess this, we have to have a better sense
as to what that process is, what those consultations would look like,
and what the outcomes would be, because when you look at the
permanent phase of the program, you see that it's the board that
would be providing recommendations on what that permanent
process would look like, and we have no idea what that would look
like now.
If we aren't able to assess the board, we really have no way of
knowing whether those changes that are being recommended by the
board are going to be based on any kind of logic, so we have to
actually have a sense as to what this process is and what the process
will look like.
If you listened to the questions I had for the chair who was before
us today, you'd know I was trying to get some sense as to what that
process would look like so that I could assess the ability for the
board and the members to be able to do the job, but we weren't able
to get any answers because we were told that she couldn't answer
that part of the questioning.
There were other members who had questions. Mr. Reid had some
very significant and serious questions. If it isn't the job of a
committee like ours to be able to have a sense as to whether the
Constitution of Canada is being followed in a process the
government is trying to set up, I think that's a pretty sad statement
about this government. If they are not interested in knowing whether
the Constitution is being followed in a process, that's a pretty sad
statement. For us to be able to properly assess this, we must have a
far better sense of the process, which the government is trying to
keep secret.
February 4, 2016
The question I have for the parliamentary secretary is this: is it the
position of this government that this minister shouldn't be
responsible for this process to ensure that Canadians have
confidence in it? How can they possibly have confidence in the
work that's being done if we have no sense as to what the work is
supposed to be, and what it will look like, and if it's going to be held
secret from Canadians? That's exactly what the government is doing
It's like asking us to do an assessment of someone's ability to do a
job without giving us the job description. That's what this
government is doing. It's keeping the process a secret, the
consultation process a secret, and therefore we cannot properly
assess the qualifications. It's not questioning anyone's duty. It's the
ability to do the job. We have no way of being able to assess that,
because we don't know what qualifications they need, because we
don't know what the process is.
To bring the minister here and properly assess the process so we
can lay that against the qualifications of the people who are charged
with doing that process is the only way we can properly discharge
our duties under these two standing orders. That's why it's so vitally
important that the Minister of Democratic Institutions appear before
this committee. It's so we can properly do our job.
The Chair: I agree with the point of order, so don't touch on the
qualifications of the person.
If the government is going to try to prevent us from doing our job
as a committee, that's also a pretty sad start on what they would call
“real change”.
● (1245)
While we're dealing with points of order, I want to ask, Chair, if
you think this is acceptable in terms of the regular business of this
The Chair: Before I go any further, in a minute we'll have Mr.
Lamoureux respond to the question he was just given, and then the
order is Mr. Chan, Mr. Reid, Mr. Richards, and Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. Reid and Mr. Richards, when it does come back to you, the
clerk has pointed out that she's not sure where this would fall in our
While you have some time while they're talking, would you look
at section 108(3), which describes our committee's mandate, to see
whether this actually falls in the mandate and just describe to us
where it does.
Mr. Lamoureux, could you reply to the question from Mr.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: I appreciate the answer, Blake, I really
do, but I think that in good part it's somewhat misguided.
In the type of questions that you're putting on the table, you're
raising issues about constitutionality. You're talking about the
process. You're talking about the kinds of consultations. These are
all questions, and I'm not going to say whether they're good
questions or bad questions. That's fine. You're entitled to ask
whatever questions you want.
My concern is that we had this discussion 48 hours ago when
concern was initially raised by the official opposition in regard to the
qualifications of one of the appointees. In a gesture of goodwill, you
made reference to the committee doing things differently. It was a
committee member—Ruby, was it you, or one of—
Mr. Blake Richards: Mr. Chair, I will be very brief on this point
of order.
The parliamentary secretary has just indicated that we had
expressed concerns about the qualifications of one particular
employee. Nobody expressed concerns about the qualifications of
any one particular employee. We're simply trying to get a sense as to
the qualifications to be able to do the duties that are asked of them. If
we cannot be given the information by this government about what
those duties are, how can we possibly assess the qualifications?
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Richards, you—
Mr. David Christopherson: I have a point of order.
Mr. Lamoureux is not even a member of this committee. The
government members went out of their way to say how grown-up
they were, that they were quite capable of leading themselves, and
they didn't need Mr. Lamoureux for that. The guy's not even a
member of the committee. He represents the government, the PMO.
He's leading all the discussions, and the real members of the
committee are just sitting there.
Is that regular business to you, Chair? Is that a new era? Do you
see anything a little bit amiss here with this kind of dialogue?
The Chair: Mr. Christopherson, the official opposition asked Mr.
Lamoureux a question, so I can't refuse him that opportunity.
Mr. David Christopherson: I'm not pointing just to this one
question. He's the only one who's been talking all along.
The Chair: Well, we have a long list, actually, of—
Mr. David Christopherson: This is ridiculous. This government
said they were going to do things differently. This is not different. At
least Mr. Lukiwski had the legitimacy and decency to sit in the
driver's seat when he was driving. This member is not even a
member of the committee, and he's driving the committee.
● (1250)
The Chair: We have a list of five members, so he will finish
answering the question.
Mr. David Christopherson: This is just ridiculous.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Just to do a very quick response to Mr. Christopherson, we had a
witness here today. I did not even ask a question. At least four
members of the committee asked the question. I wasn't the one who
moved the motion to ultimately call upon the witness. I didn't move
the motion, David.
Mr. David Christopherson: You did.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: No, I did not. I said a member of the
Mr. David Christopherson: Sorry. I thought you said “I move”. I
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: So in good part I'm responding to a
question currently. I raised the issue earlier, prior to the question,
based on my experiences from the chamber and the committee.
This is what I'd like to go back to, Mr. Chair. There are changes.
Mr. Richards, you raise some valid points, but the points you raise
are more on policy and process. If I understand what you were
saying in your last statement, you're saying we need to have a better
understanding of a number of issues in order to be able to question
the qualifications and the competence.
If that is the case, then in all likelihood maybe we should not have
called for the appointed individual to come before us, since the
official opposition was not actually questioning the qualifications.
You were right when you made the statement that you're not
questioning the qualifications or assessing whether or not that
person's qualified. I think we heard—
Pardon me?
Mr. Blake Richards: We want to assess the qualifications. It
doesn't mean we're questioning them. That's different. That's a very
big difference.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: That's right. It's a big difference.
Mr. Blake Richards: We want to assess the qualifications, not
question them.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: And there's nothing wrong with that, and
that's the reason the government members on the committee had
agreed to it. It's not only that particular member. If you will recall the
discussion we had within the last 48 hours, it was about seeing if we
could get some of the appointments to come before the committee,
and that it would be better to have it Thursday, even if it's one or two,
as opposed to waiting the extra period of time so we might be able to
get a larger number. That was the compromise.
At the end of the day, once it's all said and done, I think the first
hour was fruitful in the sense that it provided members of this
committee—as Mr. Chan had put forward in a motion—confidence
that the person who's chairing it does have qualifications and does
have the competence to do the task that has been asked of her. In
regard to the process, well, let's debate that. Let's debate it in the
House of Commons. Let's debate it in many different venues. I'm just
not convinced this is the venue in which we do that, unless the
committee ultimately decides they want to do this.
However, keep in mind that what we do in PROC might have
ripple effects that affect other committees. Then you could have
other committees saying they want Minister Y or Minister Z. There
are occasions when different committees will get those ministers,
whether it's the estimates or legislation or something else.
The Chair: On a point of order, Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid: I get the impression that Mr. Lamoureux, who is
not a member of this committee, is engaging in a filibuster designed
to take us past our concluding point. I couldn't help notice that you
were looking at the clock. You must have the same inquiries.
Therefore, I wonder if you could wrap up his comments and let us
Mr. Chan. I'd be happy to forgo my comments if we can come to a
vote on this motion. There are only five minutes left. Alternatively,
February 4, 2016
we could agree to extend the time that we are meeting today in order
to provide a more extensive discussion. One way or the other, let us
deal with this motion.
The Chair: Ms. Sahota, is this on the point of order?
Ms. Ruby Sahota: Sorry, it's not on the point of order.
The Chair: Our list is Mr. Chan, Mr. Reid, Mr. Richards, Mr.
Christopherson, Ms. Sahota.
Mr. Chan.
You were finished, Mr. Lamoureux?
Mr. Arnold Chan: I want to back up quickly because I recognize
the time here. The government side is prepared to drop all our
comments on this motion before you and bring the matter to a vote,
but let us simply note that it's weird that we're in this situation. We're
in this situation because your government didn't deal with 22
appointees for over two years, and now, constitutionally, we have to
fill those vacancies. Otherwise, at a certain point the Senate simply
cannot function.
That issue aside, at the end of the day a constitutional requirement
sets this body in the Constitution. It needs to operate. It was getting
to the point where it was becoming dysfunctional because the
previous government chose not to fill those vacancies.
That issue aside, can I simply ask the clerk to read back the
motion again? On this side we're prepared to vote on the motion
right now.
● (1255)
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Joann Garbig): The motion
That the committee invite the Minister of Democratic Reform to appear before it
to respond to questions concerning the Independent Advisory Board for Senate
The Chair: We have not yet determined whether it fits in the
mandate of the committee, but....
Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid: Thank you.
Mr. Chair, with regard to the mandate of this committee, which is
laid out in Standing Order 108(3)(a):
Procedure and House Affairs shall include, in addition to the duties set forth in
Standing Order 104, and among other matters:
Then it has a list. The “among other matters” means that we have
a mandate that can be interpreted as expanding to include not merely
the narrow objects laid out in section 108(3). In other words, there's
no problem in hearing from the minister.
I'll just point out, Mr. Chair, that under our Constitution from time
immemorial, or at any rate since the development of responsible
government both here and in the mother country, all ministers have
to report to the House of Commons. The House of Commons has
oversight over all of them. The Minister of Democratic Institutions
and her predecessor, the Minister of Democratic Reform, always
reported to this committee. That's an established practice, so that is
the authorization for doing this.
February 4, 2016
I have a final comment here on a somewhat different subject. It's
critical that she be invited here—so this is going to you, since you're
in charge of timing—to meet with us during the break week, unless
she can meet with us tomorrow, because of the fact that the phase 1
appointment process closes. It's a process that I'm arguing is
unconstitutional. I asked her about this in the House of Commons,
and she did not answer when I said I thought it was unconstitutional
and asked if she had legal advice.
That process closes on family day, on the Monday before we
reconvene, so this must be a special meeting. Therefore I am
imploring you, as chair of the committee, to set a special time
between now and February 15 and not wait for our regularly
scheduled meeting, which will be too late. Our regularly scheduled
meeting will be on February 16, after that process, which may be
unconstitutional, is closed, and after the damage done by following
that process has been done.
The Chair: Mr. Richards, you're up.
Mr. Blake Richards: I'll forego my spot, although I will point
out, Mr. Chair, that I really believe it's important for us to deal with
this motion and have a vote on it before the conclusion of this
meeting. If that requires a little extra time, we should take it.
The Chair: Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. David Christopherson: Chair, in that regard, I have a few
things to say—I really do mean a few—but I would like to get them
on the record. If we can agree on a small extension, my purpose
would be to come to a conclusion and have the votes.
The Chair: We're at the time when we need a committee decision
on whether we're going to extend the meeting.
Are there any comments?
Ms. Ruby Sahota: I'm sorry, but comments on what? I missed the
last sentence.
The Chair: The time is up. Does the committee agree to extend
the time? We're past one o'clock now.
● (1300)
Ms. Ruby Sahota: For how long?
The Chair: How long do you suggest, Mr. Christopherson?
Mr. David Christopherson: I only need five or six minutes. I
really don't have a lot. It's just a couple of things that I want to get on
the record on the motion, and that's it. I don't know about anybody
else. Otherwise, we don't pass motions. It's that simple.
The Chair: Mr. Graham.
Mr. David Graham: I'd like to amend it so that the end of the
motion concludes with “subject to the availability of the minister”.
The Chair: You're amending the motion. We have to vote on the
time first, though. We're past the time.
Mr. David Christopherson: How about an end time? Availability
could be “never”.
A voice: Make it 1:15.
Mr. David Christopherson: No, I mean the availability of the
We're talking about the motion, right?
Mr. David Graham: I'm talking about the motion. We've already
agreed to extend, haven't we?
Mr. David Christopherson: Yes.
The Chair: You are proposing that the committee extend to 1:15?
A voice: Yes.
An hon. member: We could do it in blocks of a few minutes.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Why are you extending it, David?
Mr. David Christopherson: Because you, the government, seem
to want to get these motions passed today. We in the opposition are
not looking to delay that, but it's partly because you took the floor
for so long that there's not enough time to get the comments in
before one o'clock.
All I'm asking for individually is about four to six minutes, or five
minutes, to get my piece on the record, and then I'm ready to vote,
but we can't do that if we don't get an extension. I can't speak for my
colleagues, but that's where I am. They've already indicated that they
are looking to see this come to a vote.
It's up to you. If you want the motion, you have to give us another
15 or 20 minutes. If you don't care, let's adjourn.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Go ahead and start speaking, then.
Mr. Chair, I suspect.... I don't want to speak on behalf of the
Mr. David Christopherson: Ha. Why not? You speak on behalf
of that half.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: David, you're not—
Mr. David Christopherson: Go ahead. What's your point?
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: You're not being fair, David, on this. It's
now past one o'clock—
Mr. David Christopherson: I'm not being fair? You shouldn't
even be here.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Typically, every member has a right to
sit in the committee. Every member has a right. Don't try to deprive
Mr. David Christopherson: Nobody's buying that. Say it.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Chair, all I'm trying to do is just help
Mr. David Christopherson: Yes, yes, yes, you're a big help.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: I appreciate it. Thank you.
If you want to speak for another three or four or five minutes, fine,
go ahead. I don't have a problem with that. I don't think any other
committee member does.
The Chair: Okay. For now we'll extend for five minutes for Mr.
Christopherson to make his comments.
Mr. David Christopherson: Thank you. I appreciate the PMO
allowing me to have a few words.
February 4, 2016
All I wanted to say in support of the motion was that it sounded as
though there might have been a compromise in the works, and if
there is, that would be excellent. That would mean that the
government really is trying to make committee business different.
Therefore, if the government said, “No later than five calendar
days after returning” or something—
● (1305)
Here's my point. I'll tell you one of the reasons I would support
this idea. I don't always support bringing in a minister, because the
politics are such that you could always haul in a minister and play
politics with it, but as a rule we do not. I try to be judicial about
when I support calling in a minister, because ministers have their
own table, the cabinet room, and this is ours, the committee room.
However, in this case, given the importance of what's going on, how
quickly everything happened, and the fact that there really hasn't
been a lot of public discussion, I do.
Mr. David Christopherson: There's a February 15 deadline.
Well, so be it. That's their problem, not ours. They created the
process. We can't change the calendar. We can only do what we can
do. If the government's actually looking for a compromise and
looking for a little flexibility about when we would bring the
I stand to be corrected if I'm wrong, but I don't believe there was a
motion with a full debate in the House about this whole process. I
don't believe there was a bill in the House with a full process that
allowed full debate about it, so really, as Mr. Richards pointed out,
this thing has been created in the dark, in secrecy. The end result is
that the rules have been made public, but there's been no opportunity
to have discussions on things such as why it's okay that a small
group of people gets to decide what the definition of “diversity” is in
Canada and why a small group of Canadians gets to decide whether
someone's personality traits are such that they're going to be
democratic and accountable or not.
Remember, Chair, that these are fair questions to ask when we're
talking about appointing a chamber, each of whose members has
more legal weight than each of ours does, because there are fewer of
I think it's fair for the official opposition to ask the government to
bring in the minister to bring us up to speed. When we say “us”, we
know, give or take some of the details, that means the public. Again I
come back to the fact that this government said they were going to
do things differently—that they were going to be more democratic,
more transparent, more accountable—and I will not stop coming
back to that fact. It's a reasonable motion to bring in a minister to talk
about what the government has done so far, given that we haven't
had the other usual opportunities, those being House discussion or
committee discussion, to get at those answers.
Therefore, I think there's good reason to think this process here at
this committee would serve the public interest. If we had the minister
come in, we could ask some of the questions we have and the public
has, before even getting into the partisanship aspect. They would just
be legitimate questions about the process. We've had no opportunity
to do that. I would argue that is legitimately Canadians' right, as well
as the right of the opposition, particularly in light of this
government's platform that they were going to be different and
were going to provide accountability.
I heard Mr. Graham ask a minute ago if we would accept it
depending on the minister's availability. That sounded like the
beginnings of negotiations, an attempt to listen to what the
opposition was saying and to try to accommodate it. I would
respond to Mr. Graham that I certainly would be open to that kind of
an amendment, as long as there's a deadline on it. Otherwise, guess
what? The minister's never available, and therefore the intent of the
motion would be negated through passive-aggressive measures.
Mr. Scott Reid: It could even be before the deadline. There's a
I don't think you can say this is really a partisan attempt. In light of
the fact that there's been so little public discussion, I think in this
case you can legitimately make the case that the minister should
come in somewhere in our democratic process and give detailed
answers about why they did certain things, why they didn't do other
things, and what the expectations of the government are. All those
things are quite legitimate.
Before I go any further, Chair, I would just ask if Mr. Graham and/
or any other members of the government are interested in trying to
find a motion that we could all agree on, or whether we're just
heading for a majority vote and the rest of it's just smoke and
The Chair: Ms. Sahota's next on the list, but we'll let Mr. Graham
Mr. David Christopherson: I was saying before that I was just
seeking clarification from Mr. Graham, but I'll take clarification from
Ms. Sahota.
Ms. Ruby Sahota: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I must state for the record that we are more than willing to
compromise on the government side. We've shown this time and
time again since this committee started.
First of all, a few days ago we were asked to bring in the chair of
the committee for the advisory board. We did that with very short
notice. I believe the official opposition wanted the whole committee
to come in. We were more than willing to try to get as many people
in as possible.
Today I witnessed that we had the chairman here, and the whole
time, barely anybody was listening to her qualifications and her
On the record, I want to state that as I sat here watching this
process—I am new to this committee—I found it really interesting
that the opposition was so interested in bringing somebody in to
question their abilities, but then, when she was here, they didn't care
to listen to her abilities. I found that a little bit appalling, actually.
Once again, I'm not opposing what you're saying, and we are more
than willing to compromise on this one as well. I just hope that going
We have another witness we were supposed to question today.
He's been sitting here all day, prepared to give his answers and
prepared to speak today, so we've been showing a lot of compromise.
February 4, 2016
I think we are ready to vote on this side and to continue to show
that we are more than willing to cooperate and make things work on
this committee.
Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Graham, do you want to answer Mr.
Christopherson's question?
Mr. David Graham: I'm certainly willing to compromise. That's
why I'm suggesting that we make it subject to the availability of the
minister. We can't prescribe when that is.
Mr. David Christopherson: You can't leave it completely openended, David. There has to be some kind of deadline. I mean,
suddenly the minister is just never available.
Mr. David Graham: It's much more likely to happen if you give a
deadline than if you don't.
I moved the motion, but I don't know how to make it go to a vote.
Can I put the amendment to a vote?
I'll end with this. I think the motion has legitimate value. I think
it's quite legitimate. I was very pleased to hear Mr. Graham; it
sounded as though they were interested in having the minister in, and
we just had to agree on the time frame. It can't quite be the way
they're suggesting, but I think it would just take a minor tweak to get
a unanimous vote.
I remain optimistic that it will happen, but whether it does or not, I
think it has great merit. I'm pleased to support that motion.
C'est tout.
Mr. Arnold Chan: The only point I—
The Chair: Hold it. You can't speak yet. We have to extend the
time. We're out of time again.
Is there agreement to extend the time another five minutes?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. David Christopherson: You can't. What are you doing?
Mr. David Graham: I'm asking what I can do. Is that fair?
Mr. David Christopherson: That's fair, yes, as long as you don't
try anything. Asking is fair.
Mr. David Graham: David, this is how we get along. I like it.
The Chair: Could you repeat the amendment?
I think we're going to have to agree to extend the time some more,
because we're past the five minutes.
Mr. David Graham: It can't go too much longer, or we'll end up
running into tomorrow.
The amendment was simply to add, at the end of the original
motion, “subject to the availability of the minister”.
Mr. David Christopherson: That's all well and fine, but I have
the floor.
The Chair: Okay, we're back to you.
● (1310)
Mr. David Christopherson: I would say we're probably close,
but when you leave it to “availability of the minister”....
I just finished dealing, for the better part of 10 years, with a
government that played every single game possible. I haven't seen a
lot of indication that you will do things a whole lot differently, so I'm
sorry: I'm quite prepared to accept that motion as one member of this
side, but I have to hear a deadline. There has to be some kind of end
to it, rather than just “availability”. Otherwise, the minister
miraculously is never available when we're meeting, and as I said,
it effectively negates the motion.
Mr. Arnold Chan: Can I speak to this—
Mr. David Christopherson: I said I would take only a few
minutes to make my point. I will do that and let it go.
Madam Sahota was trying to move it along, saying, “We're
listening, but now we want to vote.” Well, that's just using their
majority, waiting until everybody is finished talking so they can use
their majority to shut everything down.
The Chair: Okay. We're extending another five minutes.
Could you keep the time, Clerk?
Mr. Chan.
Mr. Arnold Chan: We're prepared to put it to a vote, but the issue
for us, on our side, is that we simply need to consult to see when the
minister is available.
In terms of the time frame you're talking about, Mr. Richards, we
don't know. We're on break next week. It's constituency week, right?
We just want the opportunity to go back and actually ask the minister
when she is available. We have no issue with the minister appearing.
That's why I said I'm prepared to bring this to a vote. We're prepared
to bring the minister before this committee, but we have to be able to
consult and have her check.
Mr. David Christopherson: Let's come back for a day next week
and hold a hearing.
Mr. Arnold Chan: I don't know if she's available.
An hon. member: I drive right through her riding. I'll pick her up.
Mr. Arnold Chan: I yield the floor. The amendment is put.
The Chair: Is there any more discussion on the amendment,
which is subject to the availability of the minister?
Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid: It's always subject to the availability of the
minister. I've never yet seen, except in the most extraordinary
circumstances where there was an attempt to bring down the
government over allegations of a contempt of Parliament, a situation
in which we were saying we were effectively issuing a writ for the
minister to be forced to testify here. In fact, the only time anything
like that has ever been done was when we brought in Schreiber.
Remember that?
Mr. David Christopherson: Yes.
Mr. Scott Reid: That's it. It's always subject to availability. We
expect her, morally, and she must know this, because I assume this is
on CPAC, so she can watch it if she wants to. Someone is monitoring
it in her office. She knows that we, on this side, want her here before
February 15 and that we'll make ourselves available. I'm confident
the government can find enough members to be available, even if the
specific individuals here can't be here.
I will be voting against the amendment, but not because I don't
think we should try to accommodate her. I do think, however, she
should try to accommodate us and allow us to be assured that her
process is constitutional before the clock runs out on the 15th. I think
she can understand the importance of that.
The Chair: Is there any more discussion on the amendment?
Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. David Christopherson: It doesn't sound as if the government
is going to give the assurance we need so I have two choices: I either
take them at their word that the minister will come in, in a timely
fashion, or not.
Given that we've done this in public—usually we get screwed
over when we're in camera and these things don't come out publicly
—at least this time everybody has seen the discussion, and if the
minister is still not here weeks later, then we have a lot of grounds to
make a case. Therefore, I'm going to trust the government that the
minister will make herself available in a timely fashion vis-à-vis our
needs too, and we'll be supporting the amendment.
The Chair: Ms. Sahota.
Ms. Ruby Sahota: I don't understand why, if it's always subject to
her availability, there is any opposition to this amendment.
The Chair: Mr. Reid.
Mr. Scott Reid: It's simply because while it's subject to her
availability, any minister who is unwilling to appear before a
committee to deal with the constitutionality of the system that she
designed, on a deadline she designed, before that deadline expires, is
February 4, 2016
not formally in contempt of Parliament but is acting contemptuously
before Parliament. Morally, she can clear anything off her agenda,
aside from some kind of personal health crisis or tragedy in the
family, to be here. Therefore, she should darn well make herself
available, and I want to make that point by voting against this
That said, if the government pushes the amendment through, I'll
then be voting for the main motion as well, and I'll be asking that we
make every effort to get her here next week.
● (1315)
The Chair: Mr. Christopherson.
Mr. David Christopherson: We'll support the amended motion at
the end of the day.
Mr. David Graham: Can I put the motion?
The Chair: Do you mean your amendment?
Mr. David Graham: Yes, it's the amendment. Thank you.
The Chair: You've already put the amendment.
I will call the question on the amendment, which says “subject to
the availability of the minister”.
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Now we are on discussion of the motion, as amended.
Mr. Scott Reid: Just call the question on the motion.
The Chair: Is there any discussion?
Mr. Scott Reid: I would like a recorded vote, Mr. Chair, if you
don't mind.
The Chair: We will have a recorded vote.
(Motion as amended agreed to: yeas 9; nays 0)
The Chair:The meeting is adjourned.
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