STANDING COMMITTEE ON
INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE
L'INDUSTRIE, DES SCIENCES ET DE LA
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, April, 3, 2001
The Chair (Ms. Susan Whelan (Essex, Lib.)): I'm
going to call the meeting to order. I would ask the
cameras to please leave the room. Thank you.
Pursuant to the order of reference of the House dated
February 27, 2001, our order of the day
is main estimates for the fiscal year
ending March 31, 2002, votes 1, 5, L10, L15, 20, 25,
30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95,
100, 105, 110, 115, 120 and 125, under Industry.
I am very pleased to welcome here today the Honourable
Brian Tobin, the Minister of Industry, to discuss
I want to remind committee members that we have
invited both the minister and the ethics counsellor to
appear to discuss and consider the report on the 2001
and 2002 main estimates, as well as to provide
information relating to future expenditure plans and
priorities of the department. All my previous rulings
on what's in order and what's not in order are still
binding on this committee.
The minister will begin with an opening statement, and
then we'll move to questions.
Minister, I turn it over to you.
The Honourable Brian Tobin (Minister of Industry): First of
all, Madam Chairman, may I thank you and members of the
committee for the speedy way in which you have invited
me back to this committee to address the issue of
estimates and the plans and spending priorities of the
Department of Industry. We are very grateful for the
early opportunity you have so kindly provided.
I thank members of the committee for their presence
here today, so I can elaborate on the plans and
priorities of the department. I note as well, in
passing, something I would seldom, if ever, do, Madam
Chairman, the interest of the media in the plans and
priorities and spending estimates of the Department of
Madam Chairman, when I was here three weeks ago, I
spoke at length to members of the committee about the
government's vision for Canada's future in the new
knowledge economy. That vision contained two
priorities: creating an innovative culture in Canada,
and branding Canada a world-leading innovator. I'm
here today, at your request, to outline Industry
Canada's plans and priorities, as found in part III of
the main estimates, and to explain how they support the
vision I outlined several weeks ago on behalf of
Industry Canada's mandate is to help make Canada a
more productive and more competitive society in today's
global knowledge economy and to improve the standard of
living and the quality of life of all Canadians.
Industry Canada has a leadership role in establishing
and helping to implement the government's
micro-economic agenda, which supports these objectives.
We believe our work at Industry Canada has had a very
positive effect on all Canadians, and that's part of
the reason the shorter version of the report on plans
and priorities is entitled Making a Difference.
Industry Canada's main estimates for the fiscal year
2001-2002 total $1.2 billion, compared to $4.5 billion
for the entire industry portfolio. The department
employs, Madam Chairman, some 5,600 employees, compared
to a total of 17,000 for the full range of the
Our work at Industry Canada is focused on five
strategic objectives. All of these, while they
function separately, at the end of the day work
together to create and support an innovative economy.
The first of these is innovation. Our goal is to help
build a world-leading economy driven by innovation, by
ideas, and by talented Canadians. Research and
development all across this country is fuelling
productivity and economic growth, and at the end of the
day that research and development, when the knowledge
that flows from it is commercialized, creates jobs for
Although the pace of innovation has been faster in
Canada relative to other G-7 countries, our level of
innovation capacity still remains near the bottom. So
while it's important for us to trumpet our success in
the movement that we've seen, it is equally important
for us to acknowledge that Canada, if it stands still
relative to our main trading partners, runs the risk of
being left behind.
We need to become more innovative at an even faster
pace. Our competitors are not standing still. Indeed,
there is a significant innovation gap between Canada
and our main competitor, the United States. As we saw
last week in a report in one of the major national
newspapers, the productivity gap between Canada and the
United States also continues to grow. That in part is
attributable to our relative position on the innovative
Industry Canada is promoting innovation as a critical
success factor across all sectors of the economy. It's
playing an instrumental role in renewing our knowledge
infrastructure. Industry Canada is promoting strategic
partnerships between the research and business
communities to encourage a higher level of
commercialization and the adoption of innovative
products and services. We're supporting the
development and application of practices and
technologies that will benefit the environment as well.
But more needs to be done faster to narrow our
innovation gap and to make Canada a world-leading
As this committee well knows, no discussion of
innovation would be complete without reference to the
Canada Foundation for Innovation. Madam Chairman,
there have been many comments, some in support of this
program, others designed to make it more relevant, more
effective, more present in a greater number of areas
all across this country. We have taken those comments
on board, I want to assure members here, at Industry
To date the government has awarded $3.15 billion to
CFI to support infrastructure renewal in our
universities, colleges, research hospitals, and
not-for-profit institutions. The CFI has three special
funds that are specifically designed to help small
universities and colleges build their research
capacity. They reserve a certain amount of funding for
each small university and college, and applications
from these institutions to gain access to the reserve
funds must pass peer review assessment. These
financial resources ensure that small research
institutions can build excellent research capacity.
I think it's worth noting that when we talk about this
ongoing debate between the smaller number, if I can put
it that way, of universities that have had more success
in accessing CFI funding, as opposed to the many across
the country that haven't felt they've had an equal
chance to participate, that equal chance to
participate, or the lack of it, is probably more a
function of capacity than it is a function of fairness
in the basic program, given that the program is
designed to reward excellence through a peer review
So, Madam Chairman, we'll be talking more about and
working more towards building capacity everywhere in
this country. Just yesterday, Madam Chairman, in
Montreal my colleague the Honourable Martin Cauchon, on
behalf of Technology Partnerships Canada, Industry
Canada's program, announced two initiatives designed to
help small and medium-sized Canadian aerospace and
defence firms better meet the challenges of the global
economy. These programs will invest a total of $39
million to fund what we anticipate to be 40 or more
projects over the next three years, assuming full
I want to assure the committee that Canada's
innovation efforts are paying off. Last month, at the
California State University at Northridge Technology
and Persons with Disabilities Conference, a piece of
Canadian technology called Victor, which is a talking
book machine, won a head-to-head duel with its only
competitor, a machine from Japan.
Canada was an early partner in this with Visuaide,
a small Montreal company that employs some 52
At the same conference, a new video telescope for
low-vision people came onto the market. Industry
Canada was also a partner in this new technology, which
allows people with very low vision to see faces, very
often for the first time.
Our second objective is to make Canada the most
connected nation in the world. New technologies are
transforming the way we communicate, the way we
learn, work, and play, and it's essential that all
Canadians have access to the opportunities that such
innovations offer. Industry Canada is working to make
sure that Canadians have affordable access to the
Internet through the Connecting Canadians Initiative,
and this is an area in which I think
we've had some substantial success.
Through the SchoolNet, we connected all our
schools and libraries to the Internet over two years
ago. Indeed, we were the first country in the western
world to achieve that circumstance. The Community
Access Program is providing affordable Internet
access in rural, urban, and aboriginal communities.
Another way in which Industry Canada is
contributing to the connectedness agenda
is through Technology Partnerships Canada.
For example, we invested $6.2 million in MOSAID
Technologies here in Ottawa to help it design more
powerful and economically efficient computer chips.
This will lead to better access and more secure
data communications, which is a critical success
factor for electronic commerce.
If one looks at where
the next generation of substantial capital investment
is going to be in this country, in terms of the
spectrum option and the next-generation personal
communication devices, clearly the movement, the
commercial use of data and data transfer, represents a
striking opportunity for Canada and for Canadian
Speaking of commerce, building a fair, efficient, and
competitive marketplace is our third objective. This
is critical to attracting investment, enhancing trade,
and encouraging innovation. Both businesses and
consumers must have confidence in the products,
services, and transactions of the marketplace.
Industry Canada is responsible for the marketplace
frameworks that directly affect Canada's ability to be
in the forefront of the knowledge economy, including
intellectual property, competition law, and consumer
protection frameworks. As we know, with respect to
some of these items, legislation is now working its way
Our fourth objective is making sure that the world
knows that Canada is a world-leading location for
investment. International investors are making their
decisions based on such factors as the availability of
talented people, a sophisticated knowledge
infrastructure, a competitive business climate, and
dynamic companies driven by innovation.
Although we're doing well in these areas, we must
remember that the United States is our major
competitor. It's the largest and most dynamic
knowledge economy in the world today. We can't afford
just to do well vis-à-vis the U.S.; quite frankly, our
objective, as the chair of the Toronto-Dominion
Bank said recently, must be to do better.
Industry Canada is working with the Department of
Foreign Affairs and International
Trade through Investment Partnerships Canada to
develop and coordinate an investment strategy targeted
at key global markets.
Working with Canadians to increase Canada's share of
global trade is our final objective. Canada is the most
open of the G-7 countries, and we rely on trade for
jobs and growth more than any other industrialized
country. The knowledge economy has resulted in a
growing global market for knowledge-intensive,
innovative products and services. Industry Canada is
working to familiarize Canadian companies with these
global markets and to encourage more companies to make
their products and services export-ready.
For example, Industry Canada was one of the founding
members of Team Canada Inc., Canada's trade promotion
partnership that now includes 23 federal departments
In the Speech from the Throne, the government
promised to make Canada one of the most innovative
countries in the world, to make Canada one of the top
five countries in the world for R and D performance by
2010. The magnitude of the society-wide effort
required to reach this target, I submit to you, has not
been seen since the creation of Canada's modern social
Government saying it, government wanting it,
government prepared to do its part will not move Canada
the distance it must go unless there's a buy-in by
provincial government, by the private sector, and by the
community at large, a commitment that understands that
unless we are innovative, unless we are technologically
advanced, unless we invest in R and D, unless we pursue
and reward excellence, then Canada
runs the risk of falling behind.
The government will need to more than double its own R
and D spending, and Canada will need over 100,000 new
researchers and scientists. But as I said, we here in
the Government of Canada can't meet the challenge
alone. We need a national action plan. We need to
engage other partners all across the spectrum of
governance, the private sector, and university
institutions. Our collective actions must be more than
incremental; they must, in short, be transformative.
As Minister of Industry, I've been given the task of
bringing this cause to shape and to top of mind
with the people of Canada. It's an area where this
committee, the industry committee, can play a critical
Whenever someone thinks of Canada, I want them to
think of innovation. I want them to call to mind
things like this month's space mission on April 19. As
members will know, Canada's next-generation robotic
arm, the Canadarm2, will arrive at its new
home, the international space station. This highly
advanced piece of Canadian robotics, which is
world-leading, is our country's newest icon in space
technology and innovation. Without it, the space
station quite simply could not be built. It will be a
proud moment for all Canadians when the Canadarm2 hands
over its pallet to the original Canadarm, as two
generations of Canadian-made space robots, emblazoned
with the Canada wordmark, work together for the first
As outlined in our report on plans and priorities,
Industry Canada's goal has been to help Canadians make
the transition to the knowledge economy. We've been
doing this through targeted actions based on five
strategic objectives: innovation, connectedness,
marketplace frameworks, investment promotion, and
trade. But there remains a gap between the scale of
the challenge and our actions in train.
In order to meet the goals we've set for Canada, we
need to drive home to all Canadians the importance of
innovation to achieving a higher standard of living and
quality of life. We need to communicate our commitment
to creating a culture of innovation. We need to
inspire key stakeholders with the vision, show
leadership, and take action; and we need to brand, or
rebrand, Canada as a world-leading innovator. As a
country, we quite simply cannot afford
to fail with respect to these objectives.
I look forward to working with my colleagues
around the cabinet table, with colleagues in
governments across Canada, and with this committee
to help make that vision a reality.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Minister Tobin.
We're now going to begin with questions, and for those
who came in later, I'll just remind everyone that we
are here on estimates and plans and priorities. Those
are the questions today.
Mr. Penson, please.
Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance):
Thank you, and welcome to the minister and his staff.
I know the minister has certainly been busy talking
about a lot of industry issues in the House of Commons
the last few weeks, including the Canada Business
Corporations Act, the ethics counsellor, and the
Business Development Bank. I know that's a huge
department, and I'm not sure how you keep up with the
challenge. There are 13 departments.
I'd like to talk about the productivity issue at some
point, but I think we have some unfinished business
that needs to be talked about here first.
The Canada Business Corporations Act, as I see in the
plans and priorities, is one that you've identified for
some challenges and changes in the next year. I have
serious reservations about the enforcement. I have a
few questions I'd like to ask and then get
you to react.
On several occasions I've asked you in the House of
Commons about the Grand-Mère Golf Club's
compliance with section 50 of the act, and I haven't
received an adequate response. I would ask that you
address this issue today to tell us whether the
Grand-Mère Golf Club was within full compliance of
the Canada Business Corporations Act, including the
registration of obligations.
I also want to ask you about the Business Development
Bank. We know the Prime Minister was actively involved
in talking to the former president of the Business
Development Bank on several occasions about the loan
sought by Yvon Duhaime. I'm wondering whether you
believe it's appropriate for people in the position of
the Prime Minister to be phoning and talking to the
Business Development Bank about loans for constituents.
Would you encourage other MPs? Is there a process by
which the other MPs can also be involved in phoning
the president of the Business Development Bank?
The Chair: Mr. Penson, I have a point of order.
Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): On a
point of order, the concern of MPs speaking on behalf of
constituents, I humbly submit, has
nothing to do with estimates.
Mr. Charlie Penson: Madam Chair, the Business
Development Bank appears four times in the
The Chair: Mr. Penson, Mr. Cannis is quite correct
about that, so if you have a question about the
estimates, could you please address it?
Mr. Charlie Penson: I have a question about the
estimates. The Business Development Bank is mentioned
four times in terms of Team Canada's strategy, subject
to the Business Development Bank's mandate review in
Parliament and the Business Development Corporation
I think it's pertinent to ask whether the
minister intends to set up a process so that ordinary
members of Parliament can phone and have direct contact
with the president of the Business Development Bank,
reminding the minister that this is a crown corporation
of government that he's responsible for.
I would ask the question whether—
The Chair: Mr. Penson, we've a number of questions
on the table, and since we each have five minutes—
Mr. Charlie Penson: That's why I'm getting my
questions on the table—
The Chair: Well, no, we have five minutes for
questions and answers, so I have to let the minister
answer your questions that are on the table.
Mr. Charlie Penson: I'm asking the questions—
The Chair: Mr. Penson, you're out of order right
Mr. Charlie Penson: —the Business Development
The Chair: Mr. Penson, you are out of order.
I'm going to allow the minister to answer the
Mr. Charlie Penson: I'm asking the minister if I
can phone the president of the Business Development
Bank, like the Prime Minister does.
The Chair: Minister Tobin, would you like to answer the
Mr. Brian Tobin: Thank you very much for your
very thoughtful questions on the estimates. I do
I have a couple of comments. First of all, you've
made many statements and I think asked a number of
different questions, including about the BDC, the
mandate of the BDC, and how the BDC is to function.
In response to your earlier questions on
whether members of Parliament have the right to make
representation to organizations like the BDC, the
answer is yes. In fact, I didn't come here today
prepared to table, nor do I think it's necessarily
appropriate to table, but many members of Parliament on
all sides of the House have made representations either
directly to the BDC, or through the minister regarding
the BDC, seeking to put forth the case of a constituent
or a proponent. So there's nothing unusual about a
member of Parliament, be they sitting in the opposition
side or be they sitting on the government side, or
even be they sitting in the government, making
representation on behalf of constituents.
Mr. Charlie Penson: To the president?
Mr. Brian Tobin: Well, you'd have to ask the
president, or you'd have to have the BDC here and ask
how many people make representations at what level.
But there is, quite literally, within BDC an outreach
program that's designed to make the organization
accessible to the community at large and also to
members of Parliament. My colleague, the Deputy
Minister of Industry, sits on the board of BDC and
may want to add a word about that program for greater
information of members of the committee.
Second, the new chairman of BDC, Mr. Cedric Ritchie,
among his other duties is looking at the operation of
BDC. Certainly in his discussion with me he is very much
aware of my interest in seeing that BDC be accessible,
on a business-like basis, to small and medium-sized
businesses across Canada in particular.
If BDC were to function just as a private bank
functions, there really wouldn't be a case to be made
for an organization called the Business Development
Bank. The purpose of the bank is to be out there in
communities and places and with proponents of private
sector development and innovation who might otherwise
not have access to a commercial lending institution.
To finish my comment, Mr. Ritchie certainly
intends—he's told me so—to move across the country in
as many locations as possible, to talk with members of
the business community and in particular the small and
medium-sized business community, to listen, to put his
ears on, to come back, and based on that kind of
experience, to recommend changes if any are appropriate
in the way in which the BDC operates. And, by the way,
I'm sure he'd be ready to come and talk to this
I should say the BDC—
Mr. Charlie Penson: You can't have 301 members of
Parliament phoning the president of the Business
Development Bank and lobbying them or putting pressure on
them. Certainly the Prime Minister was the ultimate
employer of the Business Development Bank's president,
and he ended up losing his job, I guess, as a result of
The Chair: Mr. Penson, you're out of order now.
Mr. Brian Tobin: If you're looking to engage me
in debate such as would occur in the House of Commons,
my natural reluctance to engage in such exchange
prevents me from participating. I'm trying to answer
your questions because there are some substantive
questions there, and I think they deserve a response.
With respect to two other issues that you raised—or
one other issue certainly—one was the issue of how the
corporation's directorate functions, how it does its
work, and what information flows out of that work, etc.
As you know, because I think I said so in Parliament,
precisely because this has been a very partisan debate,
precisely because members of several opposition parties
have asked from day one,
“How can we rely upon the information
forthcoming from that review when the Minister of
Industry, who's been defending the Prime Minister,
ultimately will have the review report to him?”....
That's the question that's been raised.
Because that question was raised, the deputy minister
and I, in discussing the matter, came to the conclusion
that for greater certainty, the corporation's
directorate's review of the files and the actions that
flow from that ought to be done under the direction of
the deputy—not under my direction or that of any
member of my staff. So I'm going to ask the deputy,
since he's carried out that responsibility, to respond
to your question.
Mr. Peter Harder (Deputy Minister of
Industry): Thank you, Minister.
Mr. Penson, in answer to your question, let me make a
couple of points.
I would refer you to the press release of March 27,
2001, which had appended to it some of the
correspondence that's relevant in the particular case
But your question is in a broader context, and I'll
answer more broadly and then get to the specific.
The corporation's directorate has a budget of $4.792
million and 74 employees. The Canada Business
Corporations Act makes very clear what its
responsibilities are and how it engages in those
responsibilities. There are approximately 150,000
small, private, Canadian business act corporations that
should file under the act, and they do. Compliance
activities regarding these filings by corporations are
limited to the filing of annual returns and
examinations following written complaints from
We do not have within our resources nor within our
mandate the compliance of issues pertaining to internal
governance of private corporations. We do act on
specific requests, and in the case that you raised, you
will know that Mr. Howard Wilson wrote to Richard Shaw
in consequence to a letter that the leader of the
opposition sent Mr. Wilson with respect to a particular
corporation, the Grand-Mère Golf Club. That
examination was undertaken under section 21
of the Canada Business Corporations Act.
And you will know—
Mr. Charlie Penson: And the result of that is
what we want to know.
Mr. Peter Harder: That is what I was discussing,
if you would give me a moment.
As you will know from the news release, what we are
able to say publicly—the act makes very clear what
we can say, and all of the examination was of course
conducted in accordance with the act—is that the
company was not in compliance with all of the aspects
of the act, and that we sought to ensure that they
would be in compliance. They responded by saying
they would do that within days. They have complied, or
they have responded to that, and as you might
know—because you visited our website at
Strategis—that has taken place.
I should also point to a letter from the lawyer
representing the corporation, which, while sent to
Richard Shaw in the corporations directorate, was
tabled by Howard Wilson—I believe it was document
7—and was released not through the Business
Corporations Act, because it's prohibited, but
because the corporation gave its consent. That
document describes and answers some questions with
respect to the state of the documents.
I am unable to
comment any further in respect of the examination or
comment further on the letter from Mr. Paquet
to Richard Shaw.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Harder.
Mr. Alcock, please.
Mr. Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South, Lib.): Thank you
very much, Madam Chair.
Minister, I want to thank you. It's not that long ago
that you were here and we raised a number of questions
with you, in particular, one regarding the activities
of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. I
appreciate your noting that in your opening remarks and
your willingness to engage with us on that.
I thought you might be interested to know I actually
brought my little machine down here simply because I
downloaded, in anticipation of the meeting with the
president of the CFI this morning, the latest
information from their website at seven this morning—if
you want to check the time, Mr. Harder—just to see
whether my assumptions could be proved out here. It
turns out that to date, the foundation has distributed
One of the concerns that has been driving some
of the members here is this issue of building an
innovative capacity in Canada, a Canada-wide innovative
capacity. There is a concern that some of the tools
we're using right now have, for one reason or
another, become focused on a very old model.
I draw your attention to the meeting you had this
morning with Michael Dell, who has probably one of
the most innovative companies certainly in North
America if not the world today in making very rapid use
of networking technologies and rapid response to his
markets. Yet we have an institution that we have given
an extraordinary amount of money to that seems to
function in accordance with a very old model of where
innovation is found and where research is funded.
I thought you might be interested to know that
according to their website, the University of British
Columbia is one of the five universities that they
indicate as being the sorts of places where innovation
is found. It's interesting that they're all very
old-style, large universities, and it's interesting that
those who drove this decision tend to be presidents of
them. But that one university received more money to
date than all of the universities in six of our
provinces—Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the four Atlantic
When we talk about building innovative capacity
across this country, in all regions of this country, I
think we have the wrong tool. I appreciate your
willingness to take on a review of this. I certainly
think this committee has an appetite to raise some
pretty serious questions as we move down to the road to
a broader innovation agenda. I think it's fair to say
that we support what you want to do, but there are some
serious questions being raised about the tools we
have currently chosen.
The Chair: Mr. Minister.
Mr. Brian Tobin: I certainly think the
information that has been relayed to the committee by
Mr. Alcock speaks for itself with respect to the issue
that has been raised by members of Parliament across
the country—and by the way, not just by members of
Parliament from the western provinces or the Atlantic
provinces. Indeed, we've had members of Parliament
from Ontario and Quebec—and Madame Jennings has been
one of those who raised this issue as well. I think it
must be said there has not been a representation that
says let's lower the bar in terms of rewarding
excellence, or let's change the method of analysis in
terms of peer review, but rather, let us find a way to
reward excellence wherever it is found, even if it is
in small centres.
I would say two things to you. One, it is clear
to me that in some circumstances some of the smaller
universities have not been successful in accessing
funds in the way they would like because there is a
capacity problem. In fact, I flew back here after the
weekend, shared a plane with the chief scientist of
Health Canada, who also happens to be the
vice-president in charge of research for Memorial University
of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I asked Dr. Kevin
Keough, in that circumstance, why Memorial wasn't
participating more than is the case with respect to
The answer, which I thought was a courageous and
clear-headed answer from Dr. Keough, wasn't that
they're not getting a fair shake. His answer was,
“Minister, I have to be honest and tell you, we do not
have the capacity we need to have in that particular
area if we're going to stand peer review and if Canada
is going to invest in excellence. So what we need from
you and from the Government of Canada, through its
programs, is the ability to build our capacity so that
we can apply for and receive on a competitive basis a
share of the funds that are available.”
That describes that circumstance. That won't be
true, Mr. Alcock, in every circumstance, and I think you
I am very much seized by the issue you've raised.
I think, given the example you just gave us, we can't
afford as parliamentarians not to be seized by this
issue, and I won't prescribe an instant solution.
I will say that I share your view. There has to be
an opportunity for smaller centres of excellence—and I
stress the word “excellence”—to participate in these
national programs without
losing the desire and the need of Canada,
with the dollars we have, to reward excellence. That's
the conundrum. I certainly would be open to advice
from the committee as to how we can achieve both these
objectives—excellence and presence—in a great many
more places across Canada.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Pierre Brien (Temiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Minister, here goes
my first question. There are other issues that interest me, but I
am not convinced that we would be able to discuss them as I would
like to see them discussed.
You made $3.1 billion available to the Canada Foundation for
Innovation, an organization independent from the government that
you have no influence over and whose projects are evaluated
independently. Could you briefly explain to me why it is
advantageous for an organization to be independent from the
Mr. Brian Tobin: Well, for the same reason that...
A voice: [Inaudible—Editor].
Mr. Brian Tobin: That is impossible for the time being, but
Next time out.
Next time out.
For the same reason that, in virtually all of the
funding programs that the Government of Canada
provides, we seek, in order to ensure transparency and
confidence, a process of peer review. That's true of
Mr. Charlie Penson: Well, that's what we want.
Mr. Brian Tobin: Well, that's true of Genome
Canada. With respect to Genome Canada, for example,
selecting the five regional centres, that's being done
by an international panel of experts—not even
individuals from this country—so that what's being
supported is the science, the research, and the
possibilities arising from it, as opposed to some
notion of giving a share to every jurisdiction based on
Let me give you an example of where this can work for
you sometimes. Fifty-two percent of all Technology
Partnerships Canada's funding in the last year has
found a home—a good investment—in the province of
Now, you might be tempted to say to me that this is
improper because it's a larger percentage of funding
than is the population of the province of Quebec, but I
would argue with you. I would say that because the
program is designed to support the aeronautics and
defence industries, we ought to support those
industries where they exist, and we ought to support
excellence where it occurs, and we ought to invest in
areas where the return will be greatest.
Notwithstanding the position taken by some—perhaps
not you as an individual—that everything ought to be
done on a per capita basis, it happens that sometimes
the per capita system, when we're talking about
rewarding excellence, will work for you. Sometimes
it will work against you. In the case of TPC, Quebec has
a contribution, if one looks at geography, greater than
its population, but it's one that's warranted based on
peer review. I know you're delighted to hear that.
Mr. Pierre Brien: Yes. The second part of your answer did not
necessarily relate to my question, but I do take note of the
numbers, that we are aware of.
You stated that confidence and transparency are important for
the Canada Foundation for Innovation to retain its credibility.
Could we not apply the same reasoning to the case of a person who
reports to you, namely the Ethics Counsellor? According to
strategic planning, the Ethics Counsellor reports to you. Could we
not apply the same principles of trust and transparency and to
appoint someone who is independent from the minister or the Prime
Minister and who reports to Parliament, this in the name of the
very principles you invoke, transparency and efficiency, to give
out money to organizations such as the Canada Foundation for
Mr. Brian Tobin: Let me respond to you by saying
this. I think members of this committee—members of
Parliament generally—should think about some of the
language that has been used in the debate on both sides
back and forth over the last period of time, as
emotions have run hot. But the ethics counsellor is
independent. I report to the ethics counsellor, just
as every other parliamentarian and every other minister
reports to the ethics counsellor in exactly the same
manner. The ethics counsellor is charged with making
judgments independently—entirely of his or her own
I have been the premier of a government. I
have formed cabinets. I have had a conflict
commissioner or ethics counsellor, in effect, report to
me whether ministers are in
compliance or not in
The judgment is to find an
individual whose judgment is unquestioned and whose
career, background, and reputation for fairness and
integrity are such that.... The role that is
required is not an easy one. It can be difficult, as we
see in circumstances like this one in the last period
I would ask the question whether it's appropriate,
because you don't like the answer being given, to
question the integrity of the individual involved.
Some people wrote the RCMP and asked for an
investigation. The RCMP said they'd look into it. Some
time later the RCMP said they had looked into it and
there's no basis for any further investigation; they've
closed the file. Rather than accepting that judgment
by the RCMP, some questions were then raised about
whether or not the RCMP knew what they were doing.
We're in a partisan, adversarial environment. It's
quite legitimate to come after me. It's quite
legitimate for me in the context of Parliament to go
after you. I think it is not legitimate, and I don't
think it takes any courage at all, to attack the
impartiality and the credibility of an individual who,
by definition, cannot respond in kind in the same
manner. I would ask the member whether he's attacking
the integrity of the individual who is the ethics
Mr. Pierre Brien: I am pleased that you asked me the question.
I will be able to answer.
I do not believe that an individual who reports to you or to
the Prime Minister, for some of his duties, is capable of being
totally independent. If that were not true, you would keep the
Canada Foundation for Innovation under your wing and you would not
let the Auditor General be independent from the government as well.
There are therefore ways to ensure greater transparency. I am
answering your question and you will answer mine afterwards.
There are ways of ensuring that an individual, or the
institution he or she is in charge of, inspire greater confidence
and enjoy greater credibility. This is what I wanted to say to you.
If you apply this logic, as you have in the case of the Foundation,
of the Auditor General and of other organizations, you create an
independent position. It suits you that this official not be as
independent, and no one...
Mr. Brian Tobin: I want to say to the member I'm
delighted to hear his words, because, in making the case
you're making, I think you've supported the position of
members on the government side of the House. Because
just as CFI reports through Parliament and the budget
of that agency through me, so too does the ethics
counsellor, who is quite independent of me. I don't
tell him how to make judgments. I have no idea what the
many thousands who file with the ethics counsellor have
filed. I have no idea what arrangements are made. I
have no idea what advice is given.
The only individuals that I can comment on in all of
the thousands that come under the jurisdiction of the
ethics counsellor are my own filings. I can't comment
on any other. I'm not consulted about any. He's
completely at arm's length. He's completely
independent, and he reports through me to Parliament in
the same way that CFI does. So if that's the basis of
giving you a measure of confidence, you can leave here
positively hopping on your heels as you go out the
The Chair: Thank you very much,
Thank you, Mr. Brien.
Mr. Savoy, please.
Mr. Andy Savoy (Tobique—Mactaquac, Lib.): Thank
you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you for coming, Minister.
I want to speak to value-added. You've made
value-added a priority, and I'm talking about expected
results in relation to Industry Canada's goal for
value-added. In my riding, at McCain Foods—probably
the pre-eminent value-added agrifood company in
Canada—they've taken value-added to a new level with
agricultural products. And I cringe every time I see a
load of unsubsidized logs crossing the border, because
we know that it could be further processed down the line.
I know that you were talking about accelerating the
commercialization of R and D—and certainly I applaud
that—through use of laboratory services and
specialized equipment at the CRC innovation centre.
To what extent are the SMEs and
start-up companies prepared to use these facilities, and
has Industry Canada looked at a regional approach to
providing these services—for example, subcontracting
out to private firms who have similar capacities
because one CRC innovation centre does not effectively,
in my mind, serve the entire country? So has subcontracting
these services to private sector firms in the various
regions across Canada been looked at as a possible
Mr. Brian Tobin: Thank you very much, Madam
Chair, and I'd like to thank the member for his
question. Of course his own experience in the
private sector and as an innovative private sector
participant is certainly well noted, Madam Chairman, by
Let me just say, with respect to the particular
issue you raise, that some of those questions
perhaps could be better answered or better addressed by
my colleague, the minister responsible for the Atlantic
Canada Opportunities Agency.
Without wanting to prejudge without talking to my
colleague, Mr. Thibault, I agree with your notion
that we have to do whatever it takes in this country to
accelerate the pace of innovation. That means looking
at all options, and looking to the private sector
as a delivery agent is important.
Quite frankly, Canada has done well in embracing new
technologies—e-commerce, e-business, e-learning—but
we shouldn't be smug. We run the danger that if we pat
ourselves on the back too hard about how well we do
things, we may create a sense of complacency that could
Mr. Alcock in an earlier meeting talked about Michael
Dell of Dell Computers. Dell Computers is doing a
$50-million-a-day business online—$50 million a day
online. Of their business, roughly 50% is online. This
is a company that started in the early 1980s, out
of a college dorm room. He had $80,000 a day by the time
he left an academic environment and went into business
full-time. He has made this notion of
e-commerce not something sexy, or interesting, or
exciting, or innovative, but reality. It's what separates
him from the competition.
In Canada, we've taken the first steps with the
private sector. Larger companies have done a better
job of getting online. Smaller companies have been far
less effective in getting online with their products.
So I would say to the member that if there are
proposals or suggestions that he and the committee
could bring to the table about how we could better
deliver services and integrate the small and
medium-sized business community into an innovative
agenda, then certainly I would be open to any
suggestions he might bring. I think I can say that on
behalf of my colleague, Minister Thibault, as well.
The Chair: Mr. Savoy, another question?
Mr. Andy Savoy: Yes. The second issue is the
sustainable cities initiative, which I think you're
both very familiar with.
For the information of the committee, the sustainable
cities initiative is where Industry Canada goes in with
a Team Canada approach, and then actually stays for a
while and develops contacts in various
municipalities and cities around the world. Then they
actually identify the sustainable challenges of those
specific cities. Then they recruit Canadian companies
or look at identifying Canadian companies with those
resources to solve those problems.
So it positions us very well. I think to date they've
done six cities—five cities, the sixth is on line. To
date, $4 billion in opportunities has been provided.
Not only are we good global citizens with regard to
helping other developing countries and their cities,
we're also good international solution providers. Also
it's good for our economy, because it's good for our
exports. So it's very consistent with your fifth
priority, your fifth strategic objective on trade.
So with that in mind, can you speak to the sustainable
cities strategy, or the sustainable cities initiative?
Does this program fit in with Industry Canada's
Mr. Peter Harder: Yes. In fact, Mr. Savoy, it's
one of the priority areas for the department, and it's one
in which we work with the private sector, as you know.
From work that you have done, you'd know that it's
done an outstanding job of showing opportunities
outside Canada for Canadian innovation and Canadian
There are a couple of events coming up in the near
future that will highlight that program in a broader
sense. I don't think a lot of people are aware of it.
It's one of those candles under a bushel, and we want to
put a little more shine on it.
The Chair: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr.
Mr. Nystrom, please.
Mr. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Thank
you very much, Madam Chair.
I'd like to ask the minister a couple of questions
pursuant to his responsibility for the estimates of the
ethics counsellor, and supplementary to Mr. Brien's
Back about two years ago, I had asked whether or not
there was a conflict between Mr. Chrétien and the issue
in Shawinigan, and I got a response from the ethics
counsellor on May 6, 1999, saying that there was no
conflict. So this is when I first started
getting involved in the issue.
The minister knows that we've not been pursuing this
every day in the House of Commons, but from time to
time we ask questions on it, so I want to pursue it a
I wanted to—
The Chair: Mr. Nystrom, I remind you that
we're here on estimates, and you may not be aware of the
ruling of the chair that the code of conduct under the
ethics counsellor does not come within the mandate of
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: I'm aware of that. I'm only
asking questions on what Mr. Tobin has already
spoken about. I know what the purview of estimates
are. I've been around here for quite a while.
I want to ask him whether or not he thinks it is
proper that the ethics commissioner does not report to
the House of Commons. I have no problem at all with
the integrity of Mr. Wilson. I think he is a fine
gentleman, and I have no problem with his work in terms
of the mandate he's trying to fulfil. But he does
report to the Prime Minister. In many of our
provinces, the ethics counsellors report to the
legislature and not the premier. It seems to me at
least there's a perceived possibility of conflict of
interest there since he's reporting to the very
gentleman that he's investigating.
I wonder if the Minister of Industry, who is
responsible for some the estimates of the ethics
counsellor, would be willing to make a recommendation
to the Prime Minister or to the House that we change
who the ethics counsellor reports to.
It's a very straightforward question, and you're a man
of few words who can answer it directly.
The Chair: Minister, I'll allow you to answer it
if you wish. I would think it's a question that would
be more appropriately addressed to the Prime Minister
at another time.
Mr. Brian Tobin: I would agree with your
observation, and despite having agreed with it, will
risk nevertheless giving a comment.
It's very well known that in Canada there are a number
of different ways in which this office functions in
terms of the reporting mechanism. When I was Premier of
Newfoundland and Labrador, the office was empowered by
Parliament after a
deliberation among party leaders, and reported to
Parliament or to the legislature. But the reality is,
at the end of the day there still needs to be a
reporting relationship or dialogue between the premier
or the prime minister who forms a cabinet
about the compliance of the members of the cabinet,
because the prime minister or premier, who ultimately
makes that selection, has to be aware of whether or not
his ministers have complied with the rules, both those
that have been laid down by the legislature in an act
of legislation and any additional rules or requirements
that may be required by the prime minister or premier,
depending on the province in question.
Quite frankly, I was very heartened by your comment
in acknowledging the integrity of the individual,
because that is what is paramount in having a system
that works, having somebody whose integrity, on the
basis of one's life experience, ought not to be
questioned—or to go further, there is no reason to
give question to that.
As for the Prime Minister and the ethics
counsellor, because that's really where the debate and
the discussion is with respect to these
matters, I'm not privy to that discussion. As to what
advice I may or may not give as a minister of the crown
on these questions, if and when they arise, that's
something I'd share with the Prime Minister.
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: Okay. We couldn't take you
into our confidence? We wouldn't tell anybody if you
tell us what you're going to advise the Prime Minister.
There's nobody here who would report that, I'm sure.
You made a comment on the Business Development Bank,
too, that it's not improper for a member of
Parliament, representing a constituent, to phone the
Business Development Bank and maybe make a case for
that constituent, and so on. But do you think it should
be proper for a minister of the crown to do that? A
minister of the crown is a bit different from an
ordinary member of Parliament, because you're part of
the executive. Or is it proper for a prime minister
who is the chief person in the executive to make that
kind of representation, particularly when the
representation is made on behalf of a former business
Mr. John Cannis: On a point of order, Madam Chair,
I don't mean to be disruptive, and I know my colleague
here is an experienced parliamentarian, but I know they
were kind of late coming to committee, so maybe for
the benefit of all again, you'd be so kind, if it's not
asking too much, as to read the motion we
supported so that everybody is clear on what we are
here to do.
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: I'm only asking the question
because the Minister of Industry had already talked
about members of Parliament being able to talk to the
Business Development Bank, and I certainly agree with
that. But I wonder, then, by extension, if
it's proper for a minister to make the same—
The Chair: Mr. Nystrom, maybe we could try to
limit our questions and how we phrase them. It's a lot
Mr. Brian Tobin: If I might, let me just remind
Mr. Nystrom, who I've known for the 21 years that I've been
around, who is a man who is very careful and selective
and deliberate about his language and the words he
uses, that he has already expressed here his confidence
in the individual, his confidence in Mr. Wilson and his
integrity, and so on, and for that
I want to compliment him.
I don't want to put words in your mouth, but in
essence that's what you said. Then you asked me, do I
have a problem with the Prime Minister and/or ministers
making representation as MPs on behalf of their
The individual you have expressed your confidence in
has in fact addressed that question and has come to a
conclusion about it. He said the Prime Minister, based
on the rules available, had not been in conflict. So
let me draw you to a measure of comfort based on your
own analysis of the character and the integrity of the
individual who made the judgment and remind you of the
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: I asked my question very
The Chair: This is your last question.
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: I said the commissioner or the
counsellor has great integrity based on the rules. Now
I'm asking the minister whether or not he thinks it is
proper that we have rules that will allow a
minister of the crown, or the Prime Minister in
particular, to lobby a bank for a loan on behalf of a
former business associate. Do you think the rules are
the proper rules?
All the ethics counsellor is doing is interpreting the
proper rules and making a judgment based on those
rules. Now I'm asking you, as the person responsible
for the Business Development Bank, whether or not
you would like to see those rules changed.
Mr. Brian Tobin: Madam Chairman, let the record
show that one of the longest serving, most
knowledgeable, most experienced, most distinguished
members of Parliament, and not a Liberal member, has
just indicated here that based on the rules as they
existed at the time, based on the judgment of a man of
integrity, the Prime Minister was not in violation of
the conflict rules.
I thank you for that observation.
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: That's what you said.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Nystrom.
Mr. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, Lib.):
Madam Chair, thank you.
Welcome back, Mr. Tobin.
Minister, I want to talk about something that I
think affects a great number of Canadians. It deals
with something that hits them in the pocketbook and is
currently the subject of deliberations in the
Senate. I'm referring to Bill S-17, the
pretext for that of course being the WTO ruling.
We've come a long way in the past few years with
respect to the great battles between generics and
brand name, and I certainly don't want to invite that
in the discussion here. Rather, I want to deal with
the specific aspect of Bill S-17 that could be, with
your consent, opened up or discussed with respect to
My understanding of law is that based on prima
facie evidence, the question of infringement on a
patent can already be taken before a court. A court
can deliberate on that, yet we have, not by
Parliament's consent and certainly not by this industry
committee's consent but rather by fiat, by a minister
having introduced this at report stage in 1992, a
rather retrograde example of where an industry has been
able to pretty well guarantee that the introduction of
new and innovative products at a competitive price....
You've stated here in your summary about Canada
needing to become more innovative, and even at a much
faster pace than our competitors. Given that no other
country, to my knowledge, has such a provision as
subsection 55.2(4), which I'm referring to in
particular, that allows a brand-name patent holder to
simply declare infringement and tie up potentially new,
less expensive drugs coming into our health care
system, is there not an opportunity for you now to at
least allow this industry committee to do what it was
not allowed to do in 1993 and 1992, to open up and
discuss this issue as a means of levelling the playing
field, ensuring that Canadians have affordable drug
Mr. Brian Tobin: Madam Chair, let the record show,
and if it's not already evident let me declare, that
the member who has just spoken is far more expert on
the provisions governing the regulations associated
with this act than I am. Therefore I am severely
handicapped and disadvantaged in attempting to respond
to him in a manner appropriate to the seriousness of
the question that has been asked.
I understand where he's coming from, and we've had
this discussion before this committee and in other
places. What we're doing now as a government is
attempting to respond, as you've acknowledged, to the
WTO ruling. We have until August to respond, to be in
compliance. So the purpose of the bill is fairly
straightforward. It's fairly clear and contained and
is meant to be purely a response to the ruling of the
The issues that arise out of the question raised by
Mr. McTeague are legitimate and genuine and require a
more proper debate, not one that's hurried by a WTO
deadline. I said the last time that I came before this
committee, and indeed I said it again when I appeared
before the Senate committee, that I thought there ought
to be an opportunity at an appropriate time—in my
mind, later this year, because we now have several
pieces of legislation to deal with before
Parliament—to come back for a broader debate and
Mr. McTeague knows better than I do that
were we to attempt to open up these questions, with the
dramatic difference of opinion between the brand-name
companies and the generic
companies, we would never come to a successful
conclusion of consideration of that bill in time to
meet the WTO deadline. I would ask his indulgence.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Yes. I appreciate the answer.
The Chair: Maybe you could ask another question on
the estimates, because we're here on the estimates.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Yes, that's correct, it is. It
is dealing with this.
Mr. Minister, I appreciate that, but of course
with the deliberations we've already lost probably a
good month's worth of work on this committee. Goodness
knows what will be conjured up in the future and will
detract us from the things that I think Canadians
believe to be important.
You mentioned in your opening statements concern with
respect to the marketplace and the structure. You
confined your comments in terms of competition law.
Could you give us an illustration of—
Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): On a point of
The Chair: Mr. Brison.
Mr. Scott Brison: I assume, Madam Chair, that you
have changed the rules relative to the questioning of
the minister, because Mr. McTeague has gone on at great
length questioning the minister and receiving answers
in fact on questions that have nothing to do with the
estmates. So I assume that in fact there
has been a change in the policy of the committee.
The Chair: Mr. Brison, there has not been a change
in the policy of the committee. Mr. McTeague has been
advised to ask his question on the estimates now.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Mr. Minister, could you give us
an illustration of the resources that you've made
available under the estimates to deal with changes to
the Competition Act?
Mr. Peter Harder: That's a very good question.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Probably the most cogent you're
going to get today.
Mr. Peter Harder: I would report to the members of
this committee that increased resources have been made
available to the Competition Bureau because of their
workload. I don't have the precise details of those
numbers with me. But I should point out that we are in
discussion with Treasury Board on how to handle
workload issues because of the demand nature of them.
The commissioner of competition and I are seeking even
further resources, should they be needed, for exactly
the kind of work that would be envisaged.
The Chair: Mr. Minister.
Mr. Brian Tobin: I have one comment, and it is to
say that unquestionably there is going to be a need to
ensure that Mr. von Finckenstein and his
staff are able to do the work that is required of them,
and in particular the very issue we talked about,
globalization, etc., really puts an extra burden on
that office. The deputy is leading the
discussion with that particular agency, which reports
through Industry Canada.
Let me assure the member that the issue he raises is a
valid one. We recognize it is a question of how much
and over what period of time.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. McTeague.
Thank you, Minister.
I will finish this round, which will entail Mr. Brison
and Mr. Bélanger, before I move on to our next witness.
Mr. Brian Tobin: I thought you wanted to get rid
Mr. Scott Brison: Thank you, Madam Chair.
My first question for the minister is did the Prime
Minister contact anyone at the BDC, a board member or
an executive, after Mr. Beaudoin had made his decision
to pull the loan to the Grand-Mère?
Mr. Brian Tobin: Madam Chairman, is this the same
member who just raised the rule of relevance, or is
this an imposter posing as Mr. Brison?
Mr. Scott Brison: No, there can only be one
imposter at the table, Mr. Minister.
The Chair: Mr. Brison, do you have any questions
on the estimates?
Mr. Scott Brison: The fact is, Madam Chair, as
you're aware, both the BDC and the ethics counsellor
derive their estimates from this ministry, so as
The Chair: You can ask questions about the BDC,
but not the code of conduct, very clearly.
Mr. Scott Brison: No, Madam Speaker, you've made
it clear, you are acting as a partisan puppet.
The Chair: Mr. Brison, you're out of order.
Mr. Scott Brison: You are not acting as a
chairperson of this committee.
The Chair: You're out of order, Mr. Brison. I'm
going to move on, Mr. Brison. Very clearly,
you're out of order.
You can ask questions on the estimates and the plans and
priorities, Mr. Brison.
Mr. Scott Brison: You're
being a partisan puppet.
The Chair: Mr. Brison, you're being very
disrespectful, as usual. You are out of order.
Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa—Vanier, Lib.): Madam
Chair, I've had a chance to look at the documents in
question, part III of the report on plans and
priorities for the 2001-2002 estimates, and one of the
five areas of priority identified is the marketplace.
I want to ask the minister a couple of questions on
First, I want to congratulate the department for
setting up the Canadian consumer information gateway.
It's a very good site available for Canadian consumers
and well used. But there are some things in here
I'm not too comfortable with.
One of them relates to the challenges and the gaps to
be addressed in the planning period.
with “Consumers need more information concerning
whether or not food products are made with genetically
modified ingredients”. And on the flip side, or the
right of the page, where it says “Activities”, you say
“Provide advice to the Canadian General Standards
Board standards committee and participate in developing
a voluntary labelling standard...”.
Are we prejudging the exercise
that is now going on in terms of public consultation
on the need for labelling of genetically modified food
Mr. Brian Tobin: No, Madam Chairman,
we certainly are not prejudging that issue at all. I
want to assure the member that this is not the case.
With respect to consumer advice, or warning, of course
that would flow out of the appropriate determination with
respect to the nature of products. It's meant to be a
consumer service but it's certainly not meant to be
prejudging the broader issue.
Mr. Mauril Bélanger: Fair enough. Thank you,
Mr. Brian Tobin: You're referring to the gateway,
the site you can get into from a variety of different
federal government departments, or through the
Government of Canada online. But I should note that
the particular information you're referring to would
flow from the Department of Health and from the
consumer affairs branch.
Mr. Mauril Bélanger: Thank you.
My second question follows on Mr. McTeague's questions
on the Competition Bureau's resources. It is my
understanding—I've been told this, and if I'm wrong
I'd like to be corrected—that the Competition Bureau
has the ability, as an agency, to appear before other
government agencies, regulatory board bodies, such as
At one point we had, in another committee in the
previous Parliament, representatives from the bureau
appearing before the heritage committee, and I asked
the members representing the bureau if they
could provide us with a list of the frequency with
which the bureau has made representations on behalf of
consumers to the CRTC. I have yet to see this, so I
would repeat that question.
Also, I hope that some of the resources
we will be allocating to the Competition Bureau
will allow them to also make public representations
on behalf of consumers when the need implies they
do so. That's a wish more than a question.
My final question is on what's not in here, Mr.
Minister. There's no reference inside here to the
internal trade secretariat except to maintain its
$550,000 allocation. We have a series of public
initiatives, national initiatives, dealing with freer
trade, yet I'm wondering why we are not treating the
internal trade agreement, which was signed I think
back in 1994, as a priority.
Is it because it's all implemented, or is it because
we've given up?
Mr. Brian Tobin: Thank you for the range of
First of all, with respect to the role of the
Competition Bureau and appearing before other
regulatory agencies, that's a request for information
and we'll assure you that you'll get the information. I
must say it probably has happened, but very rarely.
With respect to the wish you've stated.... I'm sorry,
what was your last point?
Mr. Mauril Bélanger: Internal trade.
Mr. Brian Tobin: No, we haven't given up, but it's
a difficult file, as you well know.
Mr. Mauril Bélanger: You would be very well
positioned to reflect on that.
Mr. Brian Tobin: I could reflect upon that,
There is tentatively another meeting scheduled of
ministers—or it's to be scheduled, it hasn't yet been
formally scheduled—to look at the energy chapter, in
I think one can look at the fact that in our bilateral
relations with the United States, President Bush has
identified privately in his dialogue with the Prime
Minister, and indeed a few days ago identified
publicly, his desire to respond to some of the U.S.
energy challenges by entering into, in effect, a North
American energy accord. He publicly identified
Canadian resources, or assets, as part of the solution
to the U.S. energy problem.
Against that backdrop what you're raising as an issue
becomes all that much more important. We would in this
country find ourselves in a fairly strange circumstance
were we on the one hand to be entering into even more
arrangements to provide fuller and fairer access of
Canadian products into the U.S. marketplace when that
same unrestricted access didn't exist within Canada.
This is something the deputy minister and I, and
others, have discussed literally in the last few days.
It's something we intend to address on a more expedited
basis over the weeks and months ahead. I hope to have
a meeting of ministers from across Canada very soon.
Mr. Mauril Bélanger: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Bélanger.
I would like to first apologize to the members who
weren't able to ask questions on the estimates. We do
have another witness waiting.
Minister, I don't know
if you have any final comments for the committee.
Mr. Brian Tobin: I would only note, Madam
Chairman, the tremendous interest by all members of the
committee in the estimates of the Department of
Industry. This is something that really warms the
cockles of my heart.
The Chair: We appreciate you taking the time to
speed your agenda to be with us this afternoon. We
appreciate your patience with the committee. We look
forward to meeting with you again.
We're going to
suspend while we exchange witnesses.
The Chair: I'm going to remind committee members,
for those who weren't here earlier, that we are here to
discuss the estimates and the plans and priorities.
We've invited Mr. Wilson here to do that. Mr. Wilson
has an opening statement, so I'll invite him to make
Mr. Howard R. Wilson (Ethics Counsellor, Department
of Industry): Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'm
delighted to be here again before the committee. It
seems like only yesterday.
I'm joined, Madam Chair, by Ted Thompson, who is
assistant deputy minister, business law, in the
Department of Justice and senior counsel to Industry
I welcome this opportunity to again discuss the
responsibilities of the Office of the Ethics Counsellor
and to take questions from the committee on our
In June 1994 the Prime Minister of Canada appointed
me as ethics counsellor. As ethics counsellor, I have
responsibility in two related domains: conflict of
interest and lobbying. The Office of the Ethics
Counsellor is responsible for the administration of the
conflict of interest and post-employment code for
public office holders, the Lobbyists Registration Act,
the LRA, and the lobbyists' code of conduct.
First, with respect to the 1994 conflict of interest
code, its provisions apply to members of the cabinet,
parliamentary secretaries, members of ministers'
political staff, and essentially, all full-time
Governor in Council appointees, in other words, the
senior members of the executive branch of government.
This involves approximately 1,200 full-time and 2,100
part-time public office-holders. Full-time appointees
are subject to the specific obligations of the code
regarding their assets, liabilities, and outside
activities, whereas part-time employees are only
subject to the principles of the code. The code does
not apply to members of the House of Commons or the
Senate, except to the extent that they are ministers of
the crown or parliamentary secretaries.
In relation to the Lobbyists Registration Act, your committee
has now launched its review of the Act. We are looking forward to
your report and recommendations.
Since my last appearance before the committee in May 1999 in
the context of the estimates, we have been called upon to examine
and report upon several cases.
At the request of the Prime Minister and the Minister of
Finance, I produced and made public a detailed report regarding
allegations of conflict of interest that had been made against the
Minister of Finance. It was alleged that he was in a conflict of
interest because of his involvement in a Cabinet decision relating
to compensation of tainted blood victims.
Under the lobbyists' code of conduct, after a thorough
preliminary investigation was completed, I concluded
there was no need to undertake a formal inquiry into
allegations that the chair of the Red Hill Creek
Expressway review panel had contravened the lobbyists'
code of conduct.
At the international level, the office has been very
active in responding to requests to participate in both
bilateral and multilateral meetings. I presented a
paper on ethics and governance at the second global
forum “The Democratic State and Government in the 21st
Century”, held in Brazil in May 2000 under the
chairmanship of President Cardoso. We have had direct
dealings on conflict of interest matters with the
Chinese government, and we have provided technical
expertise to the governments of the Ukraine, Namibia,
Morocco, Brazil, and Argentina.
Finally, my office was heavily involved in the
preparation and hosting of the International Institute
for Public Ethics conference held in Ottawa in
September 2000, which I chaired. This conference was
attended by over 350 individuals from the public and
private sectors, including representatives from foreign
governments and international organizations, in all
representing some 30 countries.
The office also participates in an informal network
that groups conflict of interest commissioners from all
the provinces and territories and the federal
government. This is the Canadian Conflict of Interest
Network. We meet annually. We met in Victoria in 1999
and in St. John's, Newfoundland,
Whether we are dealing with conflicts of interest or lobbying
matters, transparency is of paramount importance. In this regard,
we have been progressively enhancing the Office's website. For
example, the website has been expanded to include links to the
provincial conflict of interest commissioners offices and we put
all of our reports on the website.
My office is also currently in the process of improving the
look and ease of access to the Lobbyist Registration Branch's
website. These enhancements are being made in order to make it more
user friendly. We are also in the process of transforming the
Office's Conflict of Interest business processes into an e-commerce
I have a final point. My overall budget allotment for
the 2001-2002 fiscal year is $1.965 million, of which
$1.683 million is for salary and $282,000 is for
operating and maintenance.
The ethics counsellor personnel utilization for the
same period will be a total of 23, which is a reduction
from the 27 we had in 1994.
Madam Chairman, I look forward to the questions of the
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Wilson.
I'm going to remind committee members once again that
the committee passed a motion to invite the ethics
counsellor to appear on estimates and to provide
information relating to the future expenditure of
grants and priorities of his area.
Very clearly we are here to discuss that today. As I
stated at the beginning of this meeting, for
those who weren't here, my ruling of last week applies.
The code of conduct questions about members of
Parliament are clearly out of order and not part of the
mandate of this committee.
I will try to maintain order and decorum at this
committee. The witness is here to answer questions
and not to be maligned. We will try to do this in a
very respectful manner.
I'm not sure who is asking the first question.
Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Canadian
Alliance): Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you also
to the ethics counsellor for being here.
We are here in consideration not only of the
estimates, but of the plans and priorities related to
the department and certainly to the ethics counsellor.
I also appreciate the respect the Prime Minister has
for the ethics counsellor. He even alluded only today
in the House of Commons that in fact you would be here
today, sir, to take questions. He holds you in high
regard. I appreciate his reference that we can ask
questions of you related, actually, very specifically
to the Grand-Mère. He made direct reference to that,
and you're held in high esteem.
The Chair: Mr. Day, I have made a very clear
ruling of this committee. The method of this committee
is such that, with all due respect to the Prime
Minister and what may have been said, I will be abiding
by the ruling of this committee. This committee will
entertain questions on the estimates and plans and
priorities. We will not delve into the code of
Mr. Stockwell Day: In fact, Madam Chair, I
appreciate your reference to that.
In two different places in his opening statement, the
ethics counsellor has in fact reflected upon several
cases he had to report on in the context of the
estimates. Those are his own words.
Further on in his report, he talks about dealing with
conflict of interest, or lobbying manners, where
transparency is of paramount importance. He has
clearly opened the door, as has the Prime Minister. I
know you would not want to overrule either one of those
My first question....
The Chair: Mr. Day, I'm going to tell you once
again, he has not opened the door. I'm being quite
clear on this committee. I was very clear last
Thursday when I talked to the committee members about
what would be happening today.
The motion Mr. Penson put forward is very clear. With
all due respect, you are welcome to phrase questions
with regard to the estimates and plans and priorities.
I'm sure you're quite capable of doing so.
Mr. Charlie Penson: I have a point of order.
Madam Chairman, since you mention my name, I have the
Industry Canada 2001-2002 estimates, part III, in front
of me. It's also a report on plans and priorities.
The Chair: Definitely.
Mr. Charlie Penson: That's exactly why we have the
ethics counsellor here. It's pretty clear from his
opening statement, he has introduced a lot of topics we
want to ask him about. So I think it's perfectly in order
that we continue in that vein.
The Chair: Mr. Penson, I'm just trying to be very
clear from the very beginning, because I will be very
clear throughout this meeting.
Mr. Stockwell Day: I would like to challenge your
ruling, Madam Chair, based on the fact that the ethics
counsellor himself has given a report to us today,
which I very much appreciate, and he has referenced twice
a variety of cases—
The Chair: Mr. Day, my ruling is not debatable.
If you're challenging my ruling, then we'll vote on my
Actually, there is a challenge of my ruling.
Ms. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine,
Lib.): I asked for a point of
order before Mr. Penson did. You didn't hear me so I
allowed you to speak to Mr. Penson.
The Chair: Madam Jennings.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: I was one of the members who
voted in favour of Mr. Penson's motion to ask the
ethics counsellor to come before this committee to
discuss the main estimates, and I find it appalling
that his leader would attempt to go outside of the
scope of the actual motion. I think it's out of order.
The Chair: Ms. Jennings, I think you're actually
getting into an issue of debate.
We have a challenge of the chair's ruling. We'll take
a vote on that challenge. Shall the ruling be
(Chair's ruling sustained: yeas, 8; nays, 7)
The Chair: The ruling is
sustained by a vote of eight to seven.
Now we're going to return to questions on the
estimates. Do you have any questions on the estimates,
Mr. Stockwell Day: Yes.
To the ethics counsellor,
sir, you speak in a number of different jurisdictions
directly on the area of conflict of interest. I
noticed that in your report. Have you ever seen
anything in other countries as
outrageous as you just saw right here?
Mr. Howard Wilson: I'm certainly no expert on
parliamentary procedure, sir.
Mr. Stockwell Day: In further speaking to the
ethics counsellor, I'm just curious why in the
performance of your duties you wouldn't see that the
documents between 1993 and 1999 would be relevant in
terms of the procedures taken by Mr. Jonas Prince and
the Prime Minister.
The Chair: Mr. Day, we seem to be straying once
again. We're here to talk about the estimates and
plans and priorities, and that doesn't fall within
Mr. Stockwell Day: I'll try to live within this
most unrealistic ruling.
As a matter of record, then, sir—
Mr. John Cannis: You have no respect for your own
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr. Stockwell Day: In the performance of your
duties—and I appreciate the pressure you're
under—you sent a letter to Lorne
Nystrom on May 6. In subsequent correspondence
you used the words of Ted Hughes—as you know, he's
a former B.C. Commissioner of Conflict of
exonerate the Prime
Minister for his intervention with the Business
Development Bank, but you left out a paragraph
in which Mr. Hughes said—
The Chair: Mr. Day.
Mr. Stockwell Day: This is a general question
on performance of the duties, Madam Chair.
It's totally realistic.
The Chair: Okay.
Mr. Stockwell Day: He said:
“I have ruled that a minister must not make personal
representation on behalf of a constituent in such a
forum...”—as a commission, board, agency, or tribunal
established by government. “A minister acting in such a
way would always be seen as a minister of government
and that is a position of responsibility that he or she
cannot shed at will and it would be improper to appear
in an advocacy role of this kind”.
You didn't use that when you were
responding to Lorne Nystrom, and I'm wondering why.
The Chair: Mr. Day, we're here to talk about the
estimates and plans and priorities.
Mr. Charlie Penson: This is plans.
The Chair: The estimates clearly deal with year
2001-2002 and future plans and priorities of the ethics
Mr. Stockwell Day: Madam Chair, this has nothing
to do with the Prime Minister. This has nothing to do
with something that you must be sensitive to.
The Chair: I'm just trying to keep us on topic.
Mr. Stockwell Day: You're being a little bit
jumpy there. This is very general and has to do with the
performance of the duties of the ethics counsellor.
Mr. John Cannis: On a point of order.
The Chair: Mr. Cannis.
Mr. John Cannis: Madam Chair, the honourable member
often talks about respect. If he wishes us to all be
respectful, let's respect the motion that was put on
I kindly ask us all to respect the motion. If you
could please repeat the motion for them that we've
supported on our side, then there are parameters to work
Mr. Stockwell Day: Madam Chair, my question is
very general. It's about the future plans of the ethics
The Chair: In fact, although I don't think the
question is in order, I will defer to the ethics
counsellor if he wishes to respond.
Mr. Howard Wilson: Yes, Mr. Day, I do recall quite
I don't have the documents in front of me, but when I
was before the committee in May 1999 there was a
discussion of that point.
The question Mr. Nystrom had posed to me concerned the
involvement of a constituency assistant in assisting a
constituent in dealing with the Business Development
Bank of Canada. So my letter only dealt with that
I was not being selective. I was really addressing
the point at issue in May 1999.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Wilson.
Your last question, Mr. Day.
Mr. Stockwell Day: Then in terms of future plans,
you had referenced Ted Hughes, the B.C. conflict
of interest commissioner, in terms of performance of
the duties of said commissioner. He said very clearly
in the letter you reference that “a minisister acting
in such a way”—that's somebody who had made personal
representation on behalf of a constituent in a forum
such as a commission, a board, an agency, or tribunal
established by a government—“would always be seen as a
minister of government and is in a position of
responsibility that he or she cannot shed at will and
it would be improper to appear in an advocacy role of
The Chair: Mr. Day, your question, please.
Mr. Charlie Penson: Please, Madam Chair.
Mr. Stockwell Day: Do you intend to
enforce rulings along those guidelines?
Mr. Howard Wilson: Mr. Day, during the election
campaign both you and Mr. Clark wrote letters to me
about that issue. I wrote back to you during the
election campaign about the question of whether there
were rules applying to ministers dealing with crown
I also said, Mr. Day, in the letter that in the
coming weeks I would be examining the question of
whether there had been an evolution in the way crown
corporations were being governed since original
decisions had been taken in 1994 on the grounds of
quasi-judicial tribunals. I think it's a matter of
public record that I have made recommendations and they
are being considered.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Wilson. Thank
you very much, Mr. Day.
Ms. Jennings, please.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Wilson.
I want to talk to you precisely about the resources
you have available to you. You've mentioned your
budget and you talk about the fact that your personnel
has actually been reduced from 27 to 23.
I know you have the gentlemen from the justice
department, but what kinds of expert resources do you
have on the legal side to assist you when a question
arises concerning a possible conflict of interest or a
possible violation of the code of ethics where legal
documents are at the root of this?
The Chair: Ms. Jennings, if we could keep our
questions away from the code of ethics, that would be
Ms. Marlene Jennings: Pardon.
The Chair: If we could keep our questions away
Ms. Marlene Jennings: No, my question was
precisely about the resources available. I gave an
example. What resources does the ethics
counsellor have available to him in terms of legal
Mr. Charlie Penson: The chair is out of order.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: I'm much better than you
guys. I'm able to get the information out in a
question that is in order.
The Chair: Thank you, Madam Jennings. I
Mr. Howard Wilson: As mentioned in my opening
remarks, I currently have a staff of 23. There are a
number who have legal training, and others who have had
considerable experience dealing with practical business
issues and questions of how we manage our affairs.
When it comes to formal legal advice, I turn to the
Department of Justice. Mr. Thompson and his colleagues
working within the Department of Industry are available
to me, and we speak frequently.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: Because your legal advice
comes from the Department of Justice, I assume there
are legal counsel. Mr. Thompson, I'm assuming, would
be able to answer this.
Do you have legal advisers available to you who know a
little bit about the civil code of Quebec and how
contract law in Quebec operates?
Mr. Howard Wilson: They are not only expert on
that, but also expert in terms of contract law in the
province of Ontario, where I believe....
Ms. Marlene Jennings: Would it be possible to
provide the names of these expert legal counsel to this
committee? We could then provide them to members of
the opposition, who seem to be sadly lacking in their
knowledge of contract law, both in Ontario and Quebec.
Mr. Reg Alcock: She's straying, Madam Chair.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: I'm sorry. I apologize,
Mr. Howard Wilson: The Department of Justice
provides legal counsel to the Government of Canada.
They aren't in a position to provide legal counsel to
others, although Mr. Thompson would be in a position to
describe the legal status of several documents I
released last week.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Madam Jennings.
Who will be next, Monsieur Brien or Monsieur Duceppe?
Mr. Pierre Brien: I will share my five minutes with
Mr. Wilson, you just said that you are an expert in business
law of Ontario. Do you also know the business law of Quebec?
Mr. Howard Wilson: I have been given advice that
there is essentially in substance no difference in
terms of the contracts that have been discussed between
the province of Quebec and the province of Ontario.
Mr. Pierre Brien: Here is my follow-up question. Do you have
at your disposal all the in-house resources or...? For example, let
us take the hypothetical case of a conflict of interest in which a
Prime Minister or a Minister would be involved. If this conflict of
interest involved complex or seemingly complex transactions, would
you call on external resources for advice on, for example, the
value of a given contract, its real extent and all its
implications? Or would you rely on information provided by that
Prime Minister or Minister?
Mr. Howard Wilson: You should understand that the
23 people in my office are extremely skilled and very
experienced in terms of their responsibilities, which I
have described: conflict of interest code, the
Lobbyists Registration Act, and so on. These are
people who have done this work on a daily basis for
To your broader question, am I in the position to get
the best possible advice from Canadian government
resources? Yes, I am.
Much of this can be done in-house. I will often, as a
matter of course, check the information I may be
receiving or the determination I may be coming to. I
have no shortage of access to the appropriate
The Chair: Monsieur Brien or Monsieur Duceppe.
Mr. Pierre Brien: Do I have time to ask two more questions?
The Chair: You have five minutes.
Mr. Pierre Brien: Regarding your role as Ethics Counsellor,
you mentioned that you provide downstream advice, which allows to
carry out prevention. Would that not be part of the role,
conceivably, of a political advisor to the Prime Minister? Should
there not be also an independent watchdog agency to report after
the fact on any problems and having the independence required to
make judgements? This would not preclude having an in-house advisor
to the government, which is what you do in substance, but there
could also be some sort of external auditor dealing with ethics.
One would not preclude the other. Do you not think this would be
Mr. Howard Wilson: The system we have in
place is analogous to the one in Quebec.
For example, the jurisconsulte,
who is a former Chief Justice of Quebec, has
responsibilities for the provision of guidance to
members of the Assemblée Nationale, but not to cabinet
ministers. Cabinet ministers in Quebec are subject to
rules established and administered exclusively by the
Premier of Quebec, at least since the days of Monsieur
The Chair: Mr. Duceppe.
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): We are
discussing resources. Usually, before voting funds for the next
financial year, we should be able to assess the work that has been
done or not been done, and specifically in the instance we are
concerned with. However, it seems that we are precluded from doing
In view of the very dubious work done by the Ethics
Counsellor, strongly tainted by partisanship, Madam Chair, I want
to move the following motion:
In view of the fact that the Ethics Counsellor does not report
directly to Parliament, I move that the moneys allocated to the
Ethics Counsellor in the budgetary estimates of the Department of
Industry for the financial year ending March 31, 2002 not be
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Duceppe.
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: This seems a good idea.
The Chair: The motion is tabled.
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: Does everybody agree?
The Chair: Mr. Speller, do you have any questions?
Mr. Bob Speller (Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, Lib.):
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
On that motion, as one who has—
The Chair: Mr. Speller, we can't discuss motions.
We have 48 hours.
Mr. Bob Speller: We're not discussing the motion.
I'm discussing the idea of the motion.
My experience with the ethics counsellor, or conflict
officer, has in fact been a very good one. As a
parliamentary secretary I often had questions. Mr.
Wilson was easy to contact on the phone on any day,
which was very nice.
It helped me and would help any person like me in that
position who had a few questions here and there as to
whether or not things were being done in the right way.
Speaking for myself, and I'm sure for a number of
cabinet ministers, the ethics counsellor can in fact be
very useful to us.
I'm interested, though, in something you said, and I
can't remember when. It might have been during the
Mr. Lorne Nystrom: Tough question.
Mr. Bob Speller: Let me say this to the honourable
I've been on that side before, but we do have a right.
We did get a number of people elected, in fact the
majority in this House. We have every right to ask
questions on this committee to the ethics counsellor.
Mr. Gilles Duceppe: Ask questions.
Mr. Bob Speller: In your comments, Mr. Wilson—I'm
not sure when it was, but you were speaking about the
independence of an ethics counsellor and describing a
situation in the United States with Kenneth Starr—you
said that you really wouldn't want
your position to get to the point where you were
Can you elaborate? I'm not sure if you remember
making this statement. I may have misread it
somewhere, but I thought I heard you say that you
would rather be in your situation as it stands today in
Parliament than to get it to that situation.
Mr. Howard Wilson: This dates from a talk I gave
in a lecture series organized by the Australian Senate.
The context of it was that the Howard government,
after being in office at that point for about two
years, had had about four, possibly five, ministers
resign over conflicts of interest. So there was an
interest on the part of the Australians as to how we
had conducted ourselves.
I described our system, which you will remember deals
with the executive branch. It doesn't preclude there
being something for the legislature, if the legislature
wishes. But I described how the system was intended to
avoid conflict in advance. You have had direct
experience with this. I think it works well.
I was asked some questions about independent
prosecutors, and I certainly expressed grave
reservations about how that office had been fulfilled
in the United States. I think it does more damage at
the end to parliamentary institutions. There is a very
real danger, and that's what I expressed in my talk in
Mr. Bob Speller: Thank you.
The Chair: Are you finished, Mr. Speller? Thank
Mr. Scott Brison: Thank you, Madam Chairman, and
thank you, Mr. Wilson, for appearing before us today.
You referred to your speech to the Australian Senate,
and you also in your presentation, at the top of the
second page, referred to some of the bilateral and
multilateral meetings you've presented papers at. I
have a copy of your speech in the Australian Senate
from two years ago on these issues. In that speech you
refer to the definition of declarable assets, and you
say specifically that
Examples of declarable assets are ownership of
family or local businesses. Other declarable assets
are land-oriented. They include farms under commercial
operation, rental properties, vacant land, and on one
recent case involving the Prime Minister, ownership
interests in a golf course.
You have since described the Prime Minister's golf
course interests as exempt assets. Why did you change
your mind over that two-year period?
Mr. Howard Wilson: There was no change of mind.
I was attempting to provide a description of what would
have applied and describe our system to the
Australians. The issue here is that there is an asset
that was a debt, not shares, in a golf course, and that
debt constituted no ownership interests. So you're
pulling a general observation of what would have
happened had the Prime Minister had shares, which he
did not. Had he had shares, there would have been a
Mr. Scott Brison: Mr. Wilson, in your speech—
The Chair: Mr. Brison, we're straying, very much
Mr. Scott Brison: Yes, Madam Chair, but—
The Chair: So I would ask that you try to return
to the estimates and plans and priorities, please.
Mr. Scott Brison: —the ethics counsellor—
The Chair: I'm asking you to try to cooperate,
Mr. Scott Brison: Given that the ethics counsellor
has referred specifically to the speech, Madam
Chairman, and to other multilateral engagements he has
spoken at, I think it is relevant to pursue this.
The Chair: Mr. Brison.
Mr. Scott Brison: In fact, in the speech he does
speak of the definition of declarable assets and the
fact that it does include the Prime Minister's golf
The Chair: You could ask about declarable assets
without involving the Prime Minister. You could ask
all kinds of questions without involving a specific
case. I'm trying to be very lenient, very wide-flung
here—I guess that's probably the best word. Please.
Mr. Scott Brison: But it is all right to talk
about these definitions in general terms?
The Chair: You can ask him in a general sense,
Mr. Scott Brison: I have in front of me the code
from 1985 and the description and definition of exempt
assets. It lists residences, recreational properties,
household goods, works of art, antiques, collectibles,
automobiles, cash and deposits, Canada savings bonds,
home ownership savings plans—
The Chair: Mr. Brison, you are going to relate
this to the estimates and plans and priorities, correct?
Mr. Scott Brison: Yes.
The Chair: Because, I mean, Mr.—
Mr. Scott Brison: That's true, because everything
under the ethics counsellor's activities relates to the
The Chair: No, in fact the code does not—
Mr. Scott Brison: —and by definition, Madam
The Chair: The code does not, and I've been trying
to be very clear on this since the beginning. We're
straying very far now.
Mr. Scott Brison: But the fact is Mr. Wilson
referred to a speech—
The Chair: Mr. Wilson—I understand that—
Mr. Scott Brison: —in which he referred to—
The Chair: It does not change my ruling, with all
due respect to Mr. Wilson. That's what I'm trying to
explain here. The motion is clearly on estimates and
plans and priorities.
Mr. Charlie Penson: I have a point of order, Madam
Chair. I'm trying to figure out how this works. We
can't ask questions, but the ethics commissioner can
talk about that very subject?
The Chair: Mr. Penson, I've been very clear on
what the topic would be at this committee. I didn't
see the statement before the ethics counsellor arrived.
I've been very clear, and I am trying to ask everyone
to keep it to the estimates and plans and priorities.
Mr. Scott Brison: Mr. Wilson, you have presented
recommendations to the Prime Minister respecting
ministers of the crown making representations to crown
corporations and agencies. Are you willing to present
these recommendations to the committee and tell it
about the problems you're hoping to fix with these
recommendations you're making to the Prime Minister in
Mr. Howard Wilson: The recommendations are before
the government, and a decision will be taken. I
indicated in my opening remarks that all our reports
find their way onto our website.
The Chair: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr.
Ms. Barnes, please.
Mrs. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.): Thank you,
Before I ask my question, Mr. Wilson, I
want to thank you and your staff for the professional
help I received when I was formerly a parliamentary
secretary. Your officers did assist me in coming to
conclusions, and I felt that was an appropriate role.
I may not have used your services as comfortably if I
had been concerned about my personal privacy, and I'd
like to ask you, in the performance of your duty,
whether it's a member of Parliament who consults you,
an office-holder, a parliamentary secretary, or another
member of cabinet, what role do you think personal
privacy plays? Where is the line drawn?
Mr. Howard Wilson: Certainly this is absolutely
critical. The government legislation on privacy—
Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Chair, with respect, that
has nothing to do with the estimates.
The Chair: In respect of priorities, yes it does.
Mr. Scott Brison: No, she was talking about the
issue of privacy.
The Chair: That's part of planning and priorities
for the future.
Mr. Scott Brison: Well....
The Chair: Well, Mr. Brison.
Mr. Scott Brison: Please, please, Madam Chair.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Brison. I'm going to
allow Mr. Wilson to answer it.
Mr. Wilson, please.
Mr. Howard Wilson: The question of privacy is
absolutely essential. The Privacy Act itself makes it
a very serious offence at the federal level to release
information that has come into our possession. Quite
frankly, this whole business would not operate unless
individuals who deal with us had absolute confidence
that information was going to be protected. People are
not prepared in this country to go and tell about their
assets, their liabilities, and these matters unless
they know they're going to be considered private.
I have received quite a number of access to
information requests and have been supported by the
information commissioner as to the fact that this is
indeed personal information. It is absolutely
essential that people, when they call us, have every
sense that the conversation is going to be a privileged
one and will not go beyond my office, certainly not to
anybody who pays my cheque.
Mrs. Sue Barnes: I'm going to ask one follow-up
question. In what sense, then—and I've heard you talk
about this in the past—do you see your position and
the priority of that office as being one of prevention
in matters where you are involved?
Mr. Howard Wilson: This is, I think, the principal
role of the office, to try to organize ourselves and
deal with this. Every issue we deal with evolves.
Consonant with the thoughts I had when first coming in,
the plans we now have are to make our instruments
better, make what information we can make available
more easily attainable.
This committee is dealing with
the Lobbyists Registration Act. I'm very proud of the
fact that everything is up on the website, because that
goes an awfully long way towards serving the purposes
this committee in the past has maintained.
On the question of avoiding in advance, I reckon that
probably about 90% of the dealings we have with
public office holders are people dealing with us and
asking us for advice. Yet when there are rumours in
the press that somebody may be in a conflict or
whatever, or not in conformity, in virtually every
circumstance we already know the answer because we have
had those kinds of dealings with these individuals, and
I'm proud of that.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mrs. Barnes.
We appreciate you being here, Mr. Wilson.
As we don't have time for another round, we're going
to have to adjourn now, but we do appreciate you coming
on short notice, and we look forward to meeting with
you in the future.
Mr. Stockwell Day: Is the meeting not for an appointed
time, until 5:30?
The Chair: It's scheduled to adjourn at 5:30,
but it often adjourns before the time period. In
fact we have not enough time for a final round, Mr.
Day, and it wouldn't be fair to all parties.
Mr. Stockwell Day: Madam Chair, how do you know?
You presume on us. We may have a quick, yes-or-no
The Chair: A final round from each party back and
Mr. Stockwell Day: Well, we can be pretty fast if
we have to be, Madam Chair. You're shutting us off
before the appointed time.
The Chair: Okay, Mr. Day, go right ahead with your
Mr. Stockwell Day: Sir, can you tell us in
reference to your speech in Australia, yes or no...?
You say that it is your job to defend the minister's
interests, and you even reference coming back to Canada to explain the
Prime Minister's interest in the golf course. So, yes or
no, do you not see it as a conflict of interest when
you have to defend the very person you're supposed to
be impartial with?
The Chair: Mr. Day, you're going back to the code,
which I have thoroughly said is out of order.
Mr. Day, obviously we can't seem to get—
Mr. Mauril Bélanger: I have a point of order.
I am one one of those who supported Mr.
Penson's motion, which was, and I quote him: “My motion is that
they come on the estimates”. If the honourable
member across does not have the wherewithal to
formulate questions within the estimates, as others have,
then perhaps we should rule that question out of order
Mr. Charlie Penson: What about the member over
A voice: Send him back to school.
Mr. Reg Alcock: We're not asking about Milosevic
The Chair: In fact I think it would be in the
best interest of the committee if we were to adjourn
The meeting is now adjourned.