The Chair (Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)):
This is the 48th meeting of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
The order of the day is the motion, adopted by the committee, that the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics investigate the actions of the Conservative Party of Canada during the 2006 election in relation to which Elections Canada has refused to reimburse Conservative candidates for certain election campaign expenses, in order to determine if these actions meet the ethical standards of public office-holders.
Mr. Goodyear, on a point of order.
Mr. Gary Goodyear (Cambridge, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair. My point of order is procedural and deals with points of order.
A number of times through these proceedings, Mr. Chair, you have recognized the opposition immediately on their points of order and have not required them to define the object of their points of order, yet you continue to delay recognizing points of order on our side. Now, I know you think it's customary to play favourites; I also know that you are a Liberal, but I'm telling you that we need you to change this rule for our side, because recognizing points of order immediately is absolutely necessary to protect against prejudicing what is here before a true and real court of law.
Mr. Chair, my point of order is that you immediately respond to points of order by all members of this committee, not just the jury.
Thank you, Mr. Goodyear.
I believe I've ruled on this already. The chair has the discretion under Marleau and Montpetit, and I'll refer you again to page 539 of Marleau and Montpetit on the rules.
As you could appreciate, if the chair had no discretion whether or not to interrupt someone in the middle of an answer or in the middle of a question.... And if a member were concerned about what was going on, or wanted somehow to disrupt it, they could simply on a point of order. As you know, the vast majority of points of order that members have raised have in fact been ruled not to be points of order.
So thank you for raising that, sir, but under the rules, the chair has the discretion to recognize and to stop the proceedings immediately. If it's not clear to the chair why someone has been stopped in mid-sentence, then the chair has some discretion. I don't believe there have been any negative consequences resulting from the—
Order. Order, please.
Colleagues, as you know, when a committee is having some difficulty with order or decorum, the chair has two options—only two. One is simply to sit there and wait until the situation calms itself. The second is to bang the gavel and suspend the meeting to the call of the chair. I have resisted suspending the meeting to get order in this meeting, simply because it delays the time that we have to get to the work of the committee, which is hearing from witnesses.
Mr. Goodyear, this is not bafflegab, sir.
Colleagues, for the second time in these hearings, I have provided Mr. Goodyear with the reference in Marleau and Montpetit that provides the chair the discretion to take a decision based on whether or not it is clearly an immediate matter, and I've given that ruling. Mr. Goodyear has challenged my reading of Marleau and Montpetit and my statements. As a consequence, as you know, that is not debatable, and I must put it to a vote immediately.
So, Madam Clerk, the question is, shall the decision of the chair be sustained, and I would ask you to call the roll, please.
(Ruling of the chair sustained: yeas 6; nays 5)
Mr. Pierre Lemieux:
Let me make my point of order. You cut me off. You didn't even let me finish it. Now, let me finish my point of order.
My point of order, sir, is that you cannot know, without hearing the member's point of order, whether or not it is relevant to the testimony being given. You cannot know that. If you refuse to hear the point of order, how can you know whether or not it is directly relevant to the testimony being given?
My other point is that the witness can continue with his testimony after you've heard the point of order. Everything is recorded. It's all transcribed. It's all here. It's not as if he was prevented from giving his answer.
You have no excuse for deferring a point of order. If it's relevant at that point in time, you wouldn't know that unless you accepted the point of order. So you should not be deferring it. You should be listening to the point of order. If you rule it out of order, fine. But you must hear the point of order to be able to render your judgment, unless you can read minds.
Mr. Del Mastro, please, I've called for order.
Mr. Lemieux, you clearly stated you wanted to ask me a question. The issue is the same one, about whether I can deal with a point of order immediately or not. This is the second time in these hearings that I've gone through it with the committee, with references to Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 13, under rules of order and decorum. It's the issue of rising on a point of order. I would encourage you to please have a look at that.
We have had a vote on that--sustaining the chair's handling of these matters. I encourage all members, if they're not sure, to please at least check with someone else before disrupting and interfering with this meeting any further. It's not in the public interest.
If it's okay with members, I'd like to proceed with the witnesses.
This morning on the agenda, four witnesses are listed. I will deal with the last one first. Mr. Jean Lecours was the official agent for Mr. Jacques Gourde, who is currently the member of Parliament for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. He contacted us on July 25 to say this--and I quote from the clerk's notes: “On July 25, M. Lecours called to say that, after consulting with Jacques Gourde, both of them will NOT testify before the Committee.” So Mr. Lecours is not here, and he advised us on July 25 that he would not be here.
Our other witnesses are related to the media buy. I want to welcome Mr. David Campbell, who is president and CEO of Group M Canada. It serves as the parent company for RMI, which is Retail Media. I also want to recognize Ms. Marilyn Dixon, who is the chief operating officer of RMI; and Mr. Andrew Kumpf, vice-president, broadcast operations, RMI.
I also want to introduce Mr. Malcolm Ruby. Mr. Ruby is legal counsel to our witnesses. I spoke with Mr. Ruby prior to the start of the meeting. He understands that he is welcome to be at the table and advise his clients but is not permitted to directly address the committee.
The witnesses have now been sworn in.
I can advise the committee that yesterday I dealt with a request from Retail Media to be permitted to make an opening statement not to exceed five minutes. Yesterday Mr. Goodyear raised the point that I haven't been treating all witnesses the same, so this is a slight departure. Therefore, I am going to ask for the permission of the committee to allow Retail Media to make an opening statement. Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you. The committee has agreed and we will do that.
The issue has also arisen about the sub judice convention. All members were provided with the opinion of the law clerk of the House of Commons yesterday, in both official languages. I have been authorized by Mr. Walsh, the law clerk, to provide that to any parties who are interested. I provided it to our witnesses, so they are aware.
I'm not going to read it into the record. The members have the information to understand that when it comes to an issue, because there is a judicial proceeding ongoing that involves RMI, should that touch on a matter currently before that proceeding, they may be making argument why they cannot answer a question you may have asked. It relates primarily to the potential for prejudicing or comprising your position with regard to that proceeding. We'll deal with that if, as, and when it should arise. The chair will make a decision.
I would like to now invite Retail Media to make their opening statement.
Mr. David Campbell (As an Individual):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
As you've indicated, my name is David Campbell, and thank you for the introduction. I'd add that during the time of the 2006 federal election I was the president and chief executive officer of Retail Media. As you've indicated, Marilyn Dixon is the chief operating officer of Retail Media; Andrew Kumpf is the vice-president of broadcast operations for Retail Media; and Malcolm Ruby is our counsel.
We have a brief opening statement.
We look forward to the opportunity today to outline our role in placing media advertising during the 2006 federal campaign. Retail Media is in the business of planning and placing advertising across Canada in all media, including television, radio, and newspaper. Our client, the Conservative Party of Canada, engaged us to place their advertising for the 2006 federal election.
Our relationship with the Conservative Party is purely a business relationship. Our role was to recommend in which medium ads should appear, negotiate with the media for the most effective placement, book the ads, pay the media, and invoice the client. We do not write or produce the ads; others provide those services.
During the campaign, the party approached us to provide media services for the official agents of some party candidates. We insisted on coordinating candidate billings through the party. It was then up to the party to collect money from the candidates.
There were two reasons for our insistence in operating this way. First, the media outlets require cash up front for political party advertising, and there was a short timeframe for cash collections. Second, billing dozens of candidates across the country would have been an administrative nightmare for us. Therefore, the party acted as the contact between Retail Media and the candidates.
This is our preferred operating procedure. It's the same as in the private sector, where we would prefer to bill a single franchisor and not individual franchisees. While we insisted on payment in instructions through the party, we treated the party and the candidates as separate and distinct clients for our purposes of booking media, paying the media outlets, and our own invoicing.
Media budgets were determined by our clients and not by us. The party itself and the party on behalf of the candidates specified the budgets. We then recommended what media to buy in particular markets, booked the media, paid for the time, and invoiced according to the client's instructions. Retail Media bought time at competitive commercial rates. We also provided advice on what media outlets covered what ridings. How the clients chose to divide the cost of a buy was up to them. This is not relevant to us. Our focus was on having the total amount of money available to meet the media outlets' requirement for upfront payment. This is the normal practice in the private sector where, say, franchisors and a group of franchisees determine amongst themselves how much each will contribute to a media buy.
In our role as media buyers, we are not, nor do we claim to be, expert in the federal Elections Act. Our clients provide the budgets; our job is to stay within them. That said, we requested and received confirmation from our client that the candidates' spending was within the allowable budget. We had no reason to doubt our client's interpretation of the Canada Elections Act.
Almost two years after the election, two officials from Elections Canada interviewed us. They showed us an invoice and asked whether we had created it. The format of the invoice shown to us was not the same as the original. However, the media dollar amount for the individual riding was identical to our original invoice, with the GST calculation added.
We've provided the committee with two examples of different invoice formats. Have they been distributed?
An hon. member: Probably not.
An hon. member: We're okay with that, too, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Thank you.
Order, please. Colleagues, please, the witnesses are in the middle of an important statement to the committee. I think it is a good example of why points of order probably should not be entertained in the middle of an important statement. The chair, as under Marleau and Montpetit, has the discretion....
I want to give the floor back to Mr. Campbell so that he can finish his statement. I encourage members, please, to give him the opportunity to be heard by all honourable members.
Please, Mr. Campbell, would you proceed.
Mr. David Campbell:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We have provided to the committee two examples of different invoice formats. The first, on the left side, was rendered by Retail Media to the official agents. The second, on the right, is a sample of what was shown to us by Elections Canada. As you can see, we provided a group invoice that had a number of ridings on the same invoice. It appears that our invoice was photocopied for each riding, showing only the information relevant to that riding.
When information regarding candidate invoices was made public in April, our lawyer wrote to Elections Canada to explain what we saw as confusion in the media. We've brought copies of that letter, in both official languages, which we have left with the committee.
As we previously indicated, the letter says, in part, “While the format of the invoice attached...was not the same as the original “group” invoice issued by RMI...the dollar amount...was the same as it appeared on the original invoice (plus an appropriate GST calculation...”. From the information provided to us, there appeared to be nothing inconsistent about these two invoices.
We hope these opening remarks have assisted the committee in understanding the details of the 2006 election media buys. That concludes our opening remarks. We'd be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
The chair's decision has been sustained.
I must encourage members to please be very judicious in using points of order. I'm not sure whether everybody even remembers the question that was asked, so to interfere between a question and an answer.... Chairs tend to want to address a point of order at a logical or convenient or most appropriate....
Mr. Goodyear, no. You said “convenient for you”. You know, sir, a number of members have raised with me the question why....
Excuse me, Mr. Goodyear. Please, sir. Respectfully, I want to move on with the witnesses.
A number of times I have been approached by members who ask why I do not do something about members who continually disrupt or interfere or say things to the chair that clearly are not parliamentary. I have to tell those members what I will tell the witnesses as well, which is that under the rules of Parliament a chair of a committee does not have the authority to sanction any member of Parliament. If I wanted to do that, I would have to bring the quotations from the member or the description of the activity to the House of Commons and raise my case with the Speaker. It is only the Speaker of the House who can sanction a member for unparliamentary behaviour.
So my choice has been to take the abuse and to hopefully allow the committee to get back to its work. I want to get back to the work and I'm going to ask members to please be respectful of the process of the witnesses and of other colleagues.
Madam Redman, could you repeat the ultimate question that you asked of the witnesses? Then I will ask the witnesses if they would please respond.
Order, please. Order, please.
The first time this same point of order came up I made a ruling, and the substantive point of the ruling was that it's not appropriate for a member to plead the case of a witness with regard to whether or not the witness wants to answer a question.
In fact, Mr. Tilson, I will refer you, specifically under committees, to page 863, where it says:
||Tampering with a witness or in any way attempting to deter a witness from giving evidence at a committee meeting may constitute a breach of privilege.
Those are parliamentary practice and procedure.The point of order, it's interfering or—
I've made a ruling that the point of order is not a point of order. We're moving on.
Mr. Goodyear, my microphone is on and this is being picked up. But as for this idea about allegations of tampering with witnesses, sir, I quoted from Marleau and Montpetit. They are not mine. Please don't attribute motive or whatever to me.
An hon. member: This has nothing to do with the witnesses, Chair; it has to do with requesting.... You knew full well--
The Chair: Order, sir.
The chair has been challenged. I'm waiting for members to behave themselves.
Colleagues, the chair again has been challenged on my reading of Marleau and Montpetit, my ruling based on that. It is not debatable. I must put the vote immediately.
We've had two questions in 45 minutes. Great.
I would like to ask the clerk to please call the roll on the question: should the decision of the chair be sustained?
(Ruling of the chair sustained: yeas 6; nays 5)
I want to indicate that I think the committee should think carefully about whether or not it wants to hear these witnesses and that to disrupt the cadence of the questions and answers tends to take away from the importance of their appearance. I believe it's disrespectful for witnesses to have to sit there with this going on.
I'm going to ask members, please, not to raise points of order in the middle of a question and an answer and to respect the two rulings now that it is not appropriate for any member to plead the case of a witness. They have legal counsel here. As Mr. Walsh, the law clerk of the House of Commons, has laid out in his letter, they have an opportunity to make their case as to why a question may or may not be appropriate to answer, in their view, and the committee will decide.
So we're at the same point again, and I would ask Madame Redman to repeat the question so that the witness will have an opportunity to answer.
Mr. David Campbell:
Perhaps I should handle this one.
Indeed, we did. There were two conference calls in early December. We asked for confirmation, clearly, that the budgets provided to us by the party were within the election limits. As I said, we're not experts in that regard, so we did ask for confirmation.
Now, participating in those conference calls, which I did and Andrew did, were members of the party, but their legal counsel as well. So this may come up with the information that the chairman had indicated, because the legal counsel participated in those calls. But we did indeed ask. We sought and received confirmation that the budgets were within the allowable limit.
Mr. Andrew Kumpf:
Yes, the adjudicator being.... I believe it says there, “contact the Broadcast Arbitrator”. Is it that one?
That's it. Yes, I did send that.
My concern with respect to that was that it had everything to do with the broadcasting guidelines issued by the arbitrator on behalf of Elections Canada. I was not sure, as the media buying firm for the Conservative Party of Canada, whether we could also be the same for the candidate.
As well as that, because we were going to be transferring some time that was booked with broadcasters for the party, over to the candidate level, I was not sure if we could indeed do that, because it's ambiguous in the broadcasting guidelines whether or not that can be done. In essence we were transferring from one client to another. I wasn't sure. I was not sure whether that could be undertaken.
Mr. Pat Martin:
Judging from some e-mails, though, you had a good sense that they had reached or were reaching their maximum legal limit for the national campaign.
Ms. Dixon, one of your e-mails says, I believe, that they are also thinking of switching some of the time over to the ridings. You say it sounded as though the reason was to legally maximize advertising expenditures. But that kind of Enron-style, off-balance-sheet financing is not legal at all.
A voice: [Inaudible--Editor]
Mr. Pat Martin: Off-balance-sheet? They're trying to get these expenses off of their books and put them over onto the books of the local campaign.
That would be wrong in itself, but then to further file a rebate claim for that money that's been transferred or the expenses that have been transferred over is highly wrong at a whole other level and has nothing to do with Retail Media. But even in the business world, that kind of manipulation, whether it was for tax purposes or to mislead the shareholders or whatever else, would be a highly unethical practice, if not an illegal practice.
Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for coming this morning. I have only seven minutes, so I'll go to specific questions.
I have a copy of an affidavit that was signed on October 31, 2007, and Andrew Kumpf's name is on the bottom. I'm assuming you're familiar with it.
It says here in your affidavit, and I want to give you an opportunity to confirm it in front of us:
I further confirm that:
||Advertising buys for the national party were segregated from advertising buys for participating candidates. Retail Media was advised of which Conservative Candidates were interested in participating in additional regional media buys.
Is that still an accurate statement?
Mr. Marcel Proulx:
Thank you. Did you say 25 minutes?
An hon. member: Mine felt like it.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Marcel Proulx: Welcome, again, to the witnesses.
Before I go too far, you've certainly read about this, or you've heard about this. There's been a question of some witnesses having been talked to by the Conservative Party prior to their deciding to come and participate with this committee.
Has any one of you discussed your appearance here this morning, or the contents of your statements, with the Conservative Party? I'm curious.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, witnesses, for coming.
We've heard a number of comments this morning asking whether contracts were signed, whether invoices were given out--I guess this seems to be the angle the jury is going at--when in fact I asked yesterday for documentation of where in the act it says that an individual candidate has to have a contract signed. There is no such thing, so don't be misled by the questioning.
I want to read you an example, very quickly, of some evidence I have from Elections Canada's records. I'm going to read it very specifically. What I'm after is this. I want to know how this is different. I want you to pay attention to the fact that there were no invoices in this thing, that in fact in this example it was an organized national advertising campaign, but paid for and expensed at the local level.
Having said that, let me read from Election Canada's own records. This is actually an affidavit too. It's in an affidavit before a real court. It says: “There was a regional media buy for all New Brunswick Liberal candidates in the 2006 election. The local campaign of Dominic LeBlanc in the 2006 election, where Mr. LeBlanc was elected as a Member of Parliament, apparently”—and I'm stressing that “apparently”—“participated in this regional buy organized by the national party.”
The documentation on record at Elections Canada in relation to one of the participating campaigns is attached as exhibit 30, if anybody wants to look that up. Exhibit 30 is a copy provided by Elections Canada of the cheque from the local official agent in payment of the ad. The cheque is made out to the Liberal Party.
Now, also on that list is Mr. Hubbard, across the way. I can tell you they've been very successful in voting against having any of this information released at this forum. The content of the ads, except for the tag lines.... Monsieur Jean-Pierre Kingsley has said—he is the past Chief Electoral Officer—the content of the ad is not relevant; the tag line is all that's relevant to make it local. So these guys at least did that; they at least put the tag line on. But the ads themselves are entirely national.
Now, here's the interesting thing. Despite the fact that the Liberal Party memo referred to above indicates that local campaigns were to pay for the national party cost of the ad--I want to point this out in defence of Monsieur LeBlanc--there is no apparent listing of any payment for these ads in Mr. LeBlanc's case. Now, I don't know whether that means he did pay it and there's no record of it; I don't know what it means. But what I can tell you is that the ads stated that his campaign paid for it.
Now, this is concerning me, because apart from the non-compliance of Mr. LeBlanc, the Liberal regional media buy was accepted by Elections Canada nonetheless, and it shares identical similarities to what we're talking about here today.
I'm just going to close with a quote from Elections Canada—
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Thank you very much for interrupting me when I was on a roll.
A letter from the director general of the Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta says this:
||During the past election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta transferred funds and/or paid for services in kind directly to the candidate on whose behalf you were acting as official agent.
The letter goes on to refer to an expense incurred by the Liberal Party, the national Liberal Party, which should be claimed at the local level.
This goes to Mr. Martin's constant issue about claiming what should be a national expense at the local campaign. Clearly these ads are local; they're expensed locally. Mr. Martin's NDP party did it. The Bloc did it. The Liberals did it.
Do you have any reason why Elections Canada is not looking into those parties?
Mr. Gary Goodyear: Oh, I'm sorry, I ran out of time. My apologies.
The Chair: I regret that the five-minute time slot has been used up.
Excuse me, Mr. Del Mastro, I'm in the middle of speaking to the witnesses. Thank you, sir.
Our time slots are for questions and answers. Unfortunately, the full five minutes was used for the question, but if you have anything you would care to say, I'll allow you an opportunity to make an appropriate answer.
I'm sorry. If you hear me out, I think you'll understand.
Original documents.... Mr. Proulx had walked through the detailed invoice with GST on the bottom for all the other documents. I've only seen this for the first time and that's the reason I'm raising it, simply for clarification of what your representations were. The individually lined one, which is an invoice that I would have expected the riding of Trinity—Spadina to receive, would look like this. Here is your charge, plus GST as a total.
You indicated that you did not provide this. You produced it on your letterhead. It looked like a regular invoice of yours, but the--
An hon. member: I have a point of order.
An hon. member: Is this a Liberal time slot?
The Chair: The chair can ask questions. If you're going to challenge that--
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Yes, my point of order is, as I said, with respect to relevance, Mr. Chair.
I believe that by raising what you just raised, you are trying to put something into the record—quite tactfully, mind you—or to establish something in the record as an independent party, which you hope to raise as an issue at a future point, or to have your friends raise as a future point, which, quite frankly, is entirely irrelevant. You have an original copy of an invoice that breaks this out and demonstrates that it is in fact identical.
I don't know about you, but sometimes I submit claims for expenses, and what I will use to back those up sometimes is a credit card statement. But I don't provide things like my credit card number with that claim when I submit it. I also will occasionally block out purchases that I've made, things like my mortgage or items like that, and sometimes my balance or what I'm expected to pay on my credit card and what my last payment was. I don't believe those are relevant to the person who's looking for a copy of an invoice to prove that I have paid for something or incurred an expense. I think any reasonable person who looks at this would look at it and say yes, there it is, it's identical.
I know what you're trying to establish, and I think it's a very underhanded way of doing what you are not entitled to do. I question you about the relevance of it because I think you know very well what you are looking to establish, and I'm offended by it. You're trying to say that someone.... Well, I'll leave it at that; but I know what you're trying to establish. It's an underhanded way of trying to act impartially, and you're doing anything but.
Mr. Pat Martin:
I'm not trying to say that you would advise your client to do something illegal so you would get 15% of the $1.3 million. I'm not making that argument. What I would like to ask when it comes to penetration, though, is if you would advise your client--any kind of client, public or private sector--that if you want to get this message across, you need this number of rating points to say that you've really saturated that particular target area in a way that your message penetrated?
One of the things about the Canada Elections Act is that to claim a local expense it has to be at fair market commercial value; it can't be exaggerated or inflated. Yet you have three ridings here that you worked on with your client--Trinity-Spadina, Toronto-Danforth and Vaughan--all clustered in the same general area, and radio ads don't recognize electoral boundaries. They don't stop at the edge of Trinity--Spadina and not creep into Toronto--Danforth. So your clients were billed, by your invoice, $49,900 for Trinity--Spadina, $19,000 for Vaughan, and $29,000 for Danforth.
What is the real market value, then, of getting the Conservative Party message into those three ridings if you yourself say that you can't avoid the spillover from one riding to another? Why are they charged such hugely disproportionate amounts?
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour, Lib.):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the witnesses for coming this morning.
Mr. Kumpf, perhaps I could begin with you. I'm interested in what Mr. Martin asked questions about a few minutes ago, the whole business of allocating different amounts to different ridings. In the documents that were filed with the court in Toronto in application for the search warrant, there was an e-mail from Mike Donison to you, dated December 14, 2005, at 10:36 a.m. I gave a copy to your counsel. I want to make sure you have a copy of that document so that we know what document we're talking about.
I want to read you what Mr. Donison said to you in the e-mail. At the top of the page, it says:
||Andrew: Just so I fully understand- I am still to work with the column marked “Contribution”, and that is what we will be billing each of these candidates- the amount in this column, despite the fact that the actual media buy for that region will be less?
||I will assume that is the case, and that this is the final list. Please let me know otherwise.
I'm wondering what you responded to Mr. Donison. I'm surprised that Mr. Donison is asking you for advice on how to allocate money to these ridings.
Mr. Andrew Kumpf:
I'm glad you brought that up.
I have two points. One is that when I was reviewing or preparing for the appearance in this meeting, I saw that the excerpt from appendix 36—and paragraph 194 on page 47, I believe—was misattributed as being from me to Mike Donison. In actual fact, as I think we've pointed out here, it was from Mike Donison to me.
Now, in respect of that, his question from the chart that we supplied, which had the ridings and the medium and the dollars, was whether or not it should be the contribution. My response to that—which wasn't included in appendix 36—was that, no, he was looking at the wrong column. He needed to look at the column that was the media buy, the amount that we had transferred, and not the contribution. I was not suggesting that he utilize the contribution, which would have been more than the actual media buy.
We have copies of that in both languages, because it was confusing from the application, just showing my response, sir, if—
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc:
No, I appreciate that. Thank you.
I have a final question perhaps for Ms. Dixon.
In the document that you gave us this morning, that large list of ridings outside the province of Quebec and the example of an individual riding, there seems to be a lot of confusion. I think you, Ms. Dixon, explained the four different invoices, and so on, that your company had prepared; but I'm interested in comments that you apparently made to an investigator with the election commissioner's office, Mr. Ron Lamothe. In paragraph 75 of his affidavit, which again was used to obtain the search warrant, he said:
||As an example of the invoices filed with Elections Canada, I showed the representatives of Retail Media an invoice in the amount of $39,999.91 (Appendix 23) filed by the candidate for the electoral district of York South--Weston, who was one of the 14 candidates (paragraph 37) contacted by Elections Canada for additional information.... Upon viewing the document, which bears the letterhead of Retail Media, Ms. Dixon speculated that this invoice must have been altered or created by someone, because it did not conform to the appearance of the invoices sent by Retail Media to the Conservative Party of Canada with respect to the media buy.
I'm just wondering if Mr. Lamothe got it wrong or if your comments today are different from what you said to Mr. Lamothe, which he then swore in an affidavit before the court in Ontario.
Mr. Pierre Lemieux:
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you for being here today.
Now that we're discussing advertising, there are a couple of issues I'd like to bring up. The first is just regarding advertising content.
I'm a candidate, I ran in the last election, and it's up to me to decide what advertising content I should run in my riding. It's not up to Elections Canada to determine what should be in my advertising. In my riding, if I decide to do an advertisement on farmers, it's not for Elections Canada to say, “Well, Mr. Lemieux, you can't include farmers in your advertisement.” If I want to put a photo of my family in there, I can do so.
The reason this is important is that if I choose to run an advertisement in my riding with Stephen Harper and the national campaign issues because that's what I as the candidate determine to be the most effective advertising for me and my riding, Elections Canada has no business saying, “Well, Mr. Lemieux, you can't do that.” They have no mandate to do that, they have no responsibility to do so, and they have no mechanism to do so. This has actually been backed up by Jean-Pierre Kingsley, and Jean-Pierre Kingsley was the Chief Electoral Officer during the 2006 election.
To echo what Mr. Goodyear had said, the content of the ad is not what's important; it's the tag line, whose name is at the end of that ad. That is why I'm glad you're here and I'm glad we have your statement in front of us, where you confirm in your letter of January 15 and state very specifically:
I further confirm that:
||Appropriate tag lines were used in all advertisements, identifying on whose behalf the advertisement was authorized.
So the tag lines were there, and that is the most important aspect of these advertisements.
The fact that your primary client was the national party I don't think is of surprise to any of the other parties here, because they do the same thing. And I don't think it's of surprise to Canadians, because as you said, time is short and it makes sense to have one client buy as much media as they can buy quickly during a short campaign. Therefore, that you would be dealing with the national party and the national party would then deal with individual candidates, to me, makes perfect sense. Quite frankly, I would be astounded to know that my colleagues disagreed with that. Anyway, I wanted to bring up that point about tag lines.
On this business about the value and that the numbers are different, the opposition seems to be very uncomfortable with that. I'd like to ask a few questions on that, because you said you did provide advice, for example, on which TV stations covered which areas.
Is it possible that different TV stations have different areas of coverage?
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Again, thank you to the witnesses.
I'd like to go back to where Mr. Hubbard was. I've never heard of a photocopier being termed a method of “doctoring” an invoice. I thought it made a copy of an invoice, one that, in my mind, is still.... In fact—on a point of order to the chair, because I knew that's where Mr. Hubbard just got cued to go—that's where the chair was intending to go.
I want to raise a couple of things with you.
The chair has indicated that he's going to review this and seek some advice as to whether $37,383.09 plus GST equals $39,999.91. I didn't use the education I got at university in finance and accounting or economics to determine this; I used probably about grade four math and was able to determine that 7% GST is about $2,616.82.
I used my BlackBerry, actually; I'm slipping a little. I used to do this stuff in my head, but I cheated and used my BlackBerry on it.
I came to $39,999.91.
I used an earlier example. I said that this week, for example, I'm incurring some expenses to be here. Everyone is. This is quite costly, actually, this little process. One of the things I'm going to incur is a hotel receipt. On my hotel receipt, when I submit my credit card statement, I may block a few things out: my whole credit card number—I don't see any reason they need that—and they don't need to know that I bought ceramic tiles at Home Depot and installed them myself, which I can assure you I won't be doing again in the near future. But that's it.
I will show them the part pertaining to my hotel, which I believe is materially consistent with the hotel receipt that I will receive. I haven't materially altered it one way or the other, not as far as the House is concerned. Visa might look at it and say, “Hey, that's different; that's not exactly the invoice we gave you.” But for the purposes of the House of Commons, which is going to review my expenses, I haven't altered it one bit. It's perfectly acceptable. It's saying, here's the expense that I incurred, and here's where it is on my invoice. That's exactly what's happened.
And do you know what? When I compare this page to this, I look up York South—Weston and I come out with $37,383.09. When I go to the page to the right, it's identical: it says York South—Weston, $37,383.09.
Would you consider that to be materially changed? With respect to York South—Weston, did it change?
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Identical. Oh, my goodness, identical. And 7% GST—for the purposes of the chair—brings it to $39,999.91. Wow!
Of course now, as Mr. Goodyear has pointed out, that GST amount would only be $1,869, a little more than $700 less. That means the candidates will be able to spend that additional amount, and I'll know that my colleagues across the way will look to do that as they seek to keep their election spending within their election limit as indicated by Elections Canada—as we have done, as you've indicated. No one has ever contended that we went beyond any election limit. Certainly all of the statements that we made for the ridings had these invoices in them, as you provided them to us, and we followed the guidelines put out by Jean-Pierre Kingsley.
In fact, in all honesty, I can't understand why you're here today. We know there's been some concern raised in the House about mandate creep for the committees. I would argue, quite frankly, that we've had no testimony whatsoever today with respect to public office-holders.
Did you get any questions today with respect to public office-holders? Do you remember if anybody asked you about the conduct of a public office-holder?
No, sir, that's not a question. It is not a point of order. It again is a bunch of opinions, which you're entitled to, sir, but not under a point of order.
I would indicate to the committee that the clerk maintains the list of speakers requested by the members. As the members are aware, it's their choice who's going to speak.
We are in the third round, and as always it is our practice to complete a round so it is equitable to everybody. We are now with Madame Lavallée, and I have two other speakers on the list for the third round, and then the meeting will suspend until this afternoon. That has been our practice in all our meetings.
Mr. Wallace, on a point of order.
That's not entirely correct. The projected times on the orders of the day were done on August 1. These were set up after we issued the summons.
With regard to how late a meeting goes, etc., I think the member makes a valid point, which the committee should understand. My only defence to the member about carrying on is that we are in round three, and all four parties submitted names to me to speak in round three. I took that as an indication that all four parties wanted to go to round three.
We have Mr. Hubbard, Mr. Del Mastro, Madame Lavallée, Mr. Martin, and Mr. Proulx.
All four parties indicated they wanted at least one speaker in the third round. I took that as an indication that the committee wanted to have a third round. If I'm incorrect, I apologize. But when all four parties agreed to have additional speakers, I'm sorry, I made an assumption that everybody wanted to move forward.
With that, I apologize, Madame Lavallée, for interrupting. You had only used just over a minute of your time.
Mrs. Carole Lavallée:
Here, Mr. Kumpf, we understand as much from actual answers as from no answers.
On two occasions, December 6 and December 8, you exchanged emails with Conservative Party officials. You had good reflexes in those emails, because you expressed doubt about the legality of something that Elections Canada has in fact ruled to be illegal.
You even raised the question of whether you shouldn't consult the Broadcast Arbitrator. The Conservative Party, which you trusted, said no. From what I understood earlier, even the lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, advised everyone in a conference call, including yourself, saying that it was legal and that you could go ahead.
Is that correct?
Mr. Marcel Proulx:
We were talking about tag lines a little while ago. If you allow me, I will ask you these questions in French, because I'm a little bit more comfortable.
Initially, you said you had decided how the advertising would be placed. I will use an example that I relate to because I know the area well. It is an invoice for $36,359 made out to the Hull—Aylmer riding association, where Gilles Poirier was the candidate. There is a registered provincial tax number or a federal tax number, 1020111221TQ0001. Whom does that number belong to? Is it your company's number with Revenu Québec, the Conservative Party's number, or the tax number of the candidate or his official agent?
We're resuming meeting 48 of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, pursuant to a motion adopted by the committee, which reads:
||That the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics investigate the actions of the Conservative Party of Canada during the 2006 election, in relation to which Elections Canada has refused to reimburse Conservative candidates for certain election campaign expenses in order to determine if these actions meet the ethical standards expected of public office holders.
This afternoon we have two sections. During the first section, we have some candidates and official agents of candidates.
Ms. Cecil Cranston, Mr. Neil Jamieson, and Mr. Harvey Venier contacted us, and for a variety of reasons they weren't able to accommodate us, but they will consider a future date. So they are not here today.
We do have with us Ms. Cynthia Downey. It's Burin—St. George's, but there's a word in front.
With her is her official agent, Mr. Darren Roberts. And we have Mr. Steve Halicki, candidate in the 2006 election for York South—Weston.
Welcome to all of you.
Could we please swear in the witnesses?
While the clerk is doing that, colleagues, I'd like to report to you, as I reviewed with Mr. Goodyear earlier and privately, that I found the 1,000 pages of documents I referred to from Elections Canada on my conference table in my office on Sunday night when I arrived. The letter from Mr. Mayrand was on top of the box.
The letter you received yesterday--there was a copy of it in both official languages--indicated it was carbon copied to the clerk. Today it was confirmed to me by Elections Canada that they inadvertently did not provide the box with the 1,000 pages to the clerk. They have rectified that. In the meantime, having consulted with Mr. Goodyear, I have asked the clerks to immediately make copies of all those documents for each member of the committee. Those will be available tomorrow morning.
These documents substantively relate to the cross-examination or testimony of Ann O'Grady, the chief financial officer of the Conservative Party of Canada, or Madam Vézina, who is a principal at Elections Canada. There are also some other exhibits. Those were offered to Madam Jennings when she was questioning the Chief Electoral Officer. Those documents have nothing to do with any other requests the members subsequently made to us. So you will have those by tomorrow.
All other undertakings or requests by members for documents are still in process. There is nothing we have that we could give to the committee. Everything is in process.
Also, yesterday Mr. Goodyear requested a substantial amount of information. I raised some questions of privacy. We have decided to eliminate the home addresses and private phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all of the persons on there. That document is being translated. So tomorrow you will have the document about the telephone calls made with regard to the 79 proposed witnesses as well.
I just want to confirm to everybody that we have nothing to give you that's ready to be distributed to all members at this time.
Mr. Goodyear, please.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Mr. Chair, with due respect, that is exactly my point. Yesterday you banged the gavel, literally ran out of the room, and held a press conference. You made allegations. You implied that these people had received their summonses. I'm not inferring any problems with the people you used; I'm sure they did your job.
My point is to point out to you again, sir, that you are making statements in front of the media. You banged the gavel, adjourned the meeting, ran out of the room, and held a press conference. Mr. Martin backed you up, and you made all kinds of egregious allegations without any proof.
Now, we can't take that back. But I'm asking you to admit that error. It's not your clerk's fault, sir, that you ran out and made unprovable allegations. Right now, sir, you have been caught in a dirty deed, and I'm asking you not only to admit it, apologize for it, but also to somehow impart some confidence to this committee that you will not mislead this committee or the media again.
You're doing the same thing, Mr. Martin. Let me explain something else, Mr. Martin. Yesterday—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Goodyear, first, yesterday I did not have a press conference at all. Secondly, if you check the transcript of the media reports on what I said, or the audio tape, my specifics words were “I issued summonses to all those people.” I did not say I had confirmed that they had all been served by the bailiff. Therefore, sir, I think you've misled the people who are listening to this committee about what transpired. You've been using words that suit your purpose, not mine.
So thank you. I issued them and I have not received any report yet from the bailiff as to whether or not people went underground to avoid being served.
An hon. member: Some people were...[Inaudible--Editor]
The Chair: Order!
I'm with you 100%.
Now, thank you kindly, colleagues. I'm glad we've got that straightened away.
Now, as is our practice, I want to simply reaffirm this to our witnesses. You have been sworn in. You are appearing before a committee of Parliament. You are protected by parliamentary privilege, which means that nothing that's said here can be held against you in any other forum. We operate on the presumption of honesty, and I thank you all for voluntarily appearing before us today.
Our practice has been to move right to questions, which we will do, and then at the end of the process I will offer to you, if you wish, an opportunity to make a brief closing statement. Do you have any questions? Is that understood? Thank you.
We'll move right to questions now.
Mrs. Redman, please.
Mr. Steve Halicki:
Yes, I do. It's probably not for the reason you might think.
When we finally figured out what it was all about—and we did not agree to participate until we had a thorough understanding of what the mechanics would be—I thought they were doing this to help out the campaign. I thought it would help out the party but would also help us.
You see, we had a lot of what I would call unused expense “headroom”, if you will, and that our bellying up to the bar and helping the party, by their helping us out with the actual expense for the advertising, would allow us to further finance the campaign. York South—Weston is a very poor part of Toronto. That it's probably the second-poorest riding in Ontario is what I'm told. Fundraising is difficult. It was my understanding that this would be an opportunity for the party, then, to be able to help itself that much better, which we did.
Mr. Pat Martin:
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses. I note, Ms. Downey and also you, Mr. Roberts, that you are actually here by invitation. You did not need a summons in order to come here to this parliamentary committee. I want to thank you for coming willingly, of your own free will.
I note, Ms. Downey, you have a long history and experience of public service, both on volunteer boards, etc., and as a town councillor for Stephenville.
Mr. Pierre Lemieux:
Thank you very much.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for being here.
One of the things I'd like to clarify, because I don't think it has been made very clear, is that the processes we're talking about here in committee, and that you've been reading about in the media, are legal and done by all parties. This regional ad buy is done by all parties. We're just trapped in this kangaroo court here, and the opposition wants to make a big case about something that they themselves have done. So I don't want you to think you have done something wrong, because you haven't.
In order to put this into context, I'd like to give you some information that you may or may not be aware of. Mr. Roberts certainly is, because he was a financial agent.
First, it is perfectly legal for a national party to move money to an EDA. There's nothing wrong with that. It's also perfectly legal for the national party to sell goods or services to an EDA. There's nothing wrong with that.
What I have in front of me here is the testimony from July 15. Monsieur Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, was in front of us. He agreed that it is possible for a party to be a supplier of goods and services to the candidate.
I'm sure your campaigns were much like mine. You probably bought signs; they are advertising materials. You probably bought brochures; they are advertising materials. I bet you bought them from two different suppliers, because those who make signs don't necessarily make good brochures. I bought them from two different suppliers. A third supplier, in accordance with this testimony, could be the national party. So you choose to buy television advertising from the third supplier, the national party. That is above board and legal.
One of the questions that came earlier was, did you have the freedom to spend the amount of money that was moved into your account on other things? That question was asked of Monsieur Mayrand. Can the transfer of money be conditional? Can there be conditions on this money being transferred into the party? Monsieur Mayrand said there could be some conditions attached to the transfer.
So it's okay to have conditions. It's okay to say that I'm moving $10,000 to you, but with that $10,000 I'd like you to buy some television advertising. That's all above board.
I think you're starting to see here that nothing wrong has transpired. I think everybody can imagine that all parties have done this. We have actual evidence that's been read into the record--e-mails and letters from the NDP, from the Liberal Party--documenting that they actually did exactly the same thing. Why did they do that? Because it's legal and above board, and there's nothing wrong with it. I think it's very important to clarify that.
The second thing I'd like to clarify is about advertising, and it is a point I made this morning. You may not have been here, so I'm going to repeat the point that as a candidate I have the final say in what and how I should be advertising on my electoral campaign. Elections Canada should not be telling Pierre Lemieux that he can't put a picture of his family on the brochure, that he cannot have a picture of a farmer on his brochure--that's just out and out wrong. They cannot say that. If I choose to put Stephen Harper and the national campaign slogans front and centre on my television ads, on my brochures, I have a right to do that as the candidate. I decide.
You would know that, Ms. Downey, from when you ran in the election. You decided all sorts of things about your campaign. And it's not for Elections Canada to say otherwise. The important thing is the tag line. You can support Prime Minister Harper and his national advertising campaign as long as there's a tag line that says you're paying for it.
In fact, I just want to comment, for Mr. Roberts and Ms. Downey, that in the ad that was run in your area there was a tag line. In fact, our witnesses this morning from Retail Media said there were tag lines on every single ad bought by a local campaign. They confirmed that, because I questioned them on it. I had it in writing that they confirmed it.
There was a tag line, and I'm going to quote this for the record. On the tag line that was used in your riding, Ms. Downey, it said:
||Authorized by the official agents for your Conservative candidates in Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, and Random—Burin—St. George's.
The tag line was there.
So whether or not you saw the ad or the tag line, the ad was run and there was nothing wrong with that. You're allowed to buy advertising from the national party, the tag line should be there, and the tag line was there. That's important as well.
There are just a few other things I'd like to highlight.
With respect to concurrence, were you aware that you had a decision that you could make? For example, you were being asked. Were you part of the decision process?
Let me ask Mr. Halicki this. When the national party called you, did they say, “You absolutely must; you have no choice in this matter,” or were you actually given an scenario and they were waiting for your confirmation? Could you elaborate on that for us?
Hon. Charles Hubbard:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank the witnesses, first, for coming, but I'm rather a bit concerned. Mr. Lemieux just made a long speech, and then he said everybody has agreed. I haven't heard any agreement.
I'd like to go to the first proposition. He talks about tag lines. The Canada Elections Act says that the advertisements must have a tag line saying “authorized by the official agent” of a certain candidate, and usually it also has either the candidate's name or, more specifically, the official agent's name.
Mr. Roberts, were you asked about putting your name or your authorization in any of these so-called tag lines that Mr. Lemieux has referred to?
Ms. Cynthia Downey:
I started my campaign on January 2, and if anyone in this room knows the size of Random—Burin—St. George's, I spent the time on my campaign travelling the district. I put over 5,000 kilometres on my car in about 20 days.
I did not in conversation, because of course we talked daily, mention the fact that there was an amount of money that came to our campaign from the federal Conservatives and that we were rather happy because, being late starting, we did not have a lot of money for advertising or anything else that was going on. So of course we were rather excited and thought, now we can really get some things out there.
Then I got told, a couple of days later, that that money had to go back to the national campaign. To the best of my knowledge, my name was never used on any national campaign. As referred to by this gentleman, it might have been the tag line of Random—Burin—St. George's, but the name of Cynthia Downey was never mentioned. If you want to add to my campaign and give me some recognition, I think the name would have certainly helped, as would any help I received from the national campaign.
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Okay. I guess we're making it up as we go here, so however it comes, we're getting used to it.
Mr. Halicki, I'm going to provide a scenario here. We've cited examples of the parties, and I'm going to cite an example of a specific party, one that is represented by the members of the jury across.
In the year 2000, the Bloc Québécois were legally forced to spend a minimum predetermined amount on advertising that they determined to be of national character. Court documents showed that the Bloc's national executive adopted the proposal to help fund their national campaign. The practice allowed the Bloc to seek larger local rebates—the Liberals established this system of a 60% rebate in 1997, and you've spoken a little bit about it—and help keep the central party below its spending limit.
In the 2000 federal election, 73 Bloc candidates—I think there are 77 ridings in Quebec, though there may have been only 73 then, so virtually every one of them—including 23 MPs who currently sit in the House, paid $820,000 in advertising of national character to a company called Touché Media Marketing. This allowed the Bloc to claim a larger local rebate and ensured that almost $1 million—this is just in the province of Quebec—in national advertising would not count against the party's spending limit.
This is how this whole scheme, if you want to call it a scheme... That's certainly their word, but we called it a transfer from the party, an in-and-out transfer. As a side note, the enhanced local rebate scheme generated funds that were automatically transferred back to the national headquarters. This is why Mr. Duceppe is known as the father of the in-and-out, because this is a method that they used.
In other words, the money went to them. I've seen the spreadsheet on it, and virtually every one was about $10,000 in radio advertising, where the money went in, the money went out, and they received a rebate on it.
Is that substantively different? I'll tell you that I would consider that each candidate who participated in that radio buy of nearly $1 million received a benefit from it.
Would you say the scenario I just outlined for you is substantively different?
Mr. Richard Nadeau (Gatineau, BQ):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Downey, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Halicki, good afternoon.
Ms. Downey and Mr. Roberts, you know that the Prime Minister is in Newfoundland for a visit. I hope it will not cause you too much distress not to see him, knowing you could have seen him there. Nevertheless, we will make life pleasant for you here.
That being said, you have just heard a long diatribe from our colleague across the way about one way of seeing things. Elections Canada has identified irregularities during the 2006 election campaign on the part of only one of the 15 recognized political parties in Canada, and that was the Conservative Party of Canada. They are trying to put all the neighbours and the entire Canadian political family in the same boat as the Conservatives. Don't let the Conservatives pull the wool over your eyes, because they are very good at twisting the truth.
You are not entitled to transfer invoices. You can transfer money, but you can't transfer invoices. Mr. Roberts, if I understood what you said correctly, as official agent for Ms. Downey's campaign, you at no time had the authorization or opportunity to use the $7,700 for the campaign in your riding.
Is that correct?
Mr. Pat Martin:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think one thing we've seen in the last few years is that advertising is absolutely key and critical in an election campaign. If you're going to run a modern, contemporary election campaign, your advertising buy and the application of that buy is absolutely critical.
Canadians have watched two years of agonizing through the Gomery commission with the sponsorship scandal. Now they're watching us wrestle with this advertising scheme, and they must be shaking their heads and wondering exactly what is up with the potential for abuse of election financing associated with advertising.
Let me lay this out. Here's what we think happened. The Conservatives spent the maximum they were allowed to on their national campaign, so they wanted to get more expenses, they wanted to spend more money, but they had to get it off their own balance sheet. So they transferred it to their ridings that had room in their election spending limits.
Now, it may in and of itself not even be wrong to transfer money. Well, we know it's not wrong to transfer money. To transfer expenses is. You cannot claim something that was incurred as a national expense as a local expense. The transfer agreements that you signed...I don't think you can delegate that authority to somebody else and then claim it as a local expense.
By all means, you could give money to your national campaign and they could spend it on a national advertising buy, but you can't claim it as a local expense. They would have to claim it as a national expense. So that's what went wrong here and that's what is convoluted about the pretzel logic of my colleague Pierre. They're trying to spin it their way. But if there was a widespread conspiracy to defraud Elections Canada by the Conservative Party, we're going to get to the bottom of it and it's not going to be tolerated.
Now, some of you were convinced that it was legal. Elections Canada doesn't think it was. In fact, they looked very closely at every riding in the country, all 308, and they found fault with 67 ridings of the Conservative Party candidates. What's galling to me is that we're here today, and nice people like you who offered to be candidates in election campaigns, I think, have been drawn, wittingly or unwittingly, into what is a conspiracy to defraud the Canada Elections Act and to overspend the national spending limit.
Do you agree it would be an unfair competitive advantage for one party to be able to spend $20 million on advertising when all the others are limited to $18 million?
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
And when they didn't provide a refund to you—as they should have, because they provided one to the NDP on the same practice, they provided one to the Bloc on the same practice, they provided one to the Liberals on the same practice.... When they didn't do it, when they singled out the Conservative Party and said, “We're going to pay everybody else who did this, but not you”, we initiated; we went after them and asked, “Why are you singling out the Conservative Party? Why us?”
We cited examples yesterday: with Olivia Chow, who did the same thing, and Mr. Hubbard, the same thing, and got a rebate. Mr. Martin thinks that's immoral. It's suddenly immorality; it's bilking people. My goodness.
Did you know that the Conservative Party actually initiated this? You probably wondered why your riding association hadn't received its rebate, didn't you? Is that right?
I indicated to the witnesses that once we had completed our questioning round they would, like other witnesses, be given an opportunity to make a brief closing statement or comments to the committee, either to correct something that was said or to amplify or to make another appropriate comment for the committee.
So I invite you now. We're not looking for a speech, but a brief comment would be welcome, if you wish.
Why don't I start with Mr. Halicki, and we'll work across the table?
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Let me try to stay with the facts here.
We're not dealing with our witnesses. All of “our” witnesses were not allowed to be here by this committee. These are witnesses who were called by the opposition members on your advice, Mr. Chairman.
You have made assertions in the media and here in committee that summonses had been issued and so on and so forth. Certainly there have been comments that if the summonses aren't honoured, there will be consequences. I was there, not at the press conference-- that was the wrong use of the words--but at the scrum yesterday. I heard exactly what you said. I was very concerned because at that moment I knew that some of these folks who were summoned had not received their summons, but I had no proof.
I have received a letter just now that concerns me, and this is why. With regard to Mr. Brian Hudson, he was not consulted in advance by anyone in your office as to his availability. He was simply invited to attend today. Now, he got this notice late last week, in fact Friday night, and it makes sense that the offices would be closed.
Immediately on Monday he telephoned, he did all kinds of things. It was too short a notice to travel to Ottawa, and so on and so forth. The only response he received from the clerk's office was, “We got your message”.
Mr. Irving Gerstein...frankly, it is hilarious. His housekeeper was given....
Can I get them all out, because—
I understand that, but people who are observing here and some of the members are not aware. You know that I have been derided on a daily basis with the update of communications with proposed witnesses. A flurry of that activity took place after the summonses were sent out.
With regard to Mr. Hudson, on July 28 a letter was dropped off at the Conservative Party headquarters, and an e-mail was also sent on July 31. He was spoken to on the phone. He said he was going to check back with the chief of staff and call back. He works for the Honourable Loyola Hearn.
There was no response. He did not get back to us. On August 1, 2008, as I indicated, I signed the summons, and the summons was sent to Kilrea. On August 8, which would be Friday, we received a call from Mr. Hudson stating he received the summons and asking if the committee would reimburse his expenses.
Then on August 11 we called back to find out whether he would be here today. On August 13 the clerk received a letter from the lawyers, Cassels Brock. They indicated that there were some problems and he wouldn't be able to attend, because of lateness. I accept that.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
We can go through these all together, because you do have the letters. However, there's a lot more in this letter that the clerk's office, through the chair, did not advise.... He was not advised of the procedures in place. He has not received any confirmation, and this is the August 13 letter, of his travel expenses being reimbursed. This gentleman lives in Newfoundland. He requires a little more time to make travel plans.
Let's talk about Mr. Irving Gerstein, whose housekeeper received the summons. Mr. Gerstein is not in the country. I suspect that he'll be in the courtroom, the real one. He was not served with a summons, and this goes to the issue of your making claims that everybody was served.
Now, here's the big one. I'm really concerned.
You don't have the floor, Mr. Hubbard. I'm sure you will have it eventually, but you don't now.
Mr. Muttart has been in touch with your office.
No, no, I'm going through these in my order. It's my point of order. You're not the chair of the committee. I know you want to be. We'll just answer them all at once, right?
I now have the answers to all of them, sir.
One at a time, it sounds like.... Let's tick them off one at a time. There are only 10 of them. Okay?
On Mr. Gerstein, the clerk's staff reports that they spoke to Gaye Raybould, at the number, and they indicated that they would convey the message to Mr. Gerstein. Subsequent to that, there were no communications received from Mr. Gerstein. On August 1, 2008, a summons was signed by me and delivered to Kilrea and Associates, and Kilrea and Associates reports that it was served on Mr. Gerstein's housekeeper when he was not present. So you're correct, sir, I don't know whether or not that's an appropriate service to a witness, but the facts are correct as you present them, sir.
The next one.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Mr. Chair, if I recall, you said to me earlier today that we have all the information you have. You said that, and I'm going to repeat that the only documentation you had that we don't have is in fact a request from Madam Jennings for testimony. We have not received anything we have requested. Now you are admitting information that you told the committee earlier today you don't have. This is so seemingly.... I'm not going to use that word because it's way beyond that.
Mr. Muttart, who was not summoned, is in the court proceeding. He has, through his people, been talking to the clerk's office for a number of days requesting a simple thing. Were you going to offer him the same special backroom deal, the Mayrand accommodation, or was he not going to be afforded that? The clerk sent basically a non-response, “See attached”, which was the letter from Robert Walsh. As a result--and I'm telling you I got this letter just recently--Mr. Muttart is not going to appear because it would jeopardize his testimony in a real court room.
Mr. Chair, I believe you knew this was coming before today. If you didn't, your clerks knew there was a problem. The simple answer was this. Were you going to make another deal with Mr. Muttart, yes or no?
I can respond to that.
Mr. Patrick Muttart, former strategic planner, was contacted, or contact was tried by phone and a letter was dropped off at the Conservative headquarters. We subsequently heard from him that he agreed to appear before us, and no summons was issued for Mr. Muttart.
Yesterday I received an e-mail on my BlackBerry forwarded to me by the clerk, in which Mr. Muttart raised the issue that he would like to have the.... Oh, we also sent Mr. Muttart the response of the law clerk about the sub judice convention, and he came back and said that was not acceptable and he would not appear. So I'm aware as of yesterday...no, this morning I got the confirmation from the clerk that he had said my response to him was unacceptable and he would not appear.
Order, please. Order. I need to just tone this down.
An hon. member: You've been speaking with this guy for 45 minutes. How long will we be here while he's tying up the whole committee?
An hon. member: I have a point of order.
The Chair: I understand that.
Order, please. Order. Please, I'm asking other honourable colleagues to understand that Mr. Goodyear did raise a point of order. I acknowledged it. We have agreed to go through the list. There are only 10 people. Please bear with us. The member's opinions are his opinions and they speak for themselves. I'm not going to debate them with him, but I will try to help understand where I was.
And Mr. Goodyear, with regard to Mr. Muttart, all I can say is that all of this communication and the confirmation to me happened between last evening and right now, so that is not an unreasonable period of time. But nobody has received...other than the chair, because he was communicating through the clerk to me about having some special consideration. This morning it was just too late to do anything. But he had agreed; he was not summonsed. There are no consequences and I hope we'll be able to have him at a future date.
So that's my—
No, sir.... Order, please.
I want to affirm to all honourable members that anything I have circulated to any member has gone to all members, period, 100%. I affirm that.
Just this afternoon, because of the question that was raised, I asked the clerks if they would try to get the affidavits of service from the bailiff in time to deal with this session here. I have some, and they're all dated August 13 from Cassels Brock. Is that right? No, not from Cassels Brock, but the affidavits of service of those who in fact were served.
So I can respond on an individual basis, and I'd be happy to provide you with what I knew, and when, on the next person you have on your list, sir.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Mr. Chair, I really don't know where to go from here except to say...and I respect your clerks. I know they work very, very hard. But I just can't believe we're going through these witnesses unprepared. We are prepared because we have our researchers, but there is obviously documentation we need to prove our case. I don't want to infer that there is obstruction going on here, but we have one day left and we don't have any documentation that the Conservative Party has asked for—simple stuff, simple things. You're not getting it to us. I don't know why.
Mr. Chair, I'm just asking...we've got one day left on this, and frankly I think your witnesses are doing a great job for the Conservative Party. You've actually asked the question of ethics three times and got the answer, “No ethical problem”, three times. You've had one public office-holder here, so it's going well for us. But I'm just saying, for heaven's sake, Mr. Chair, it's just parliamentary tradition to have all the documents in place.
Yes, I spoke to the chair off the record at lunch, and he informed me that he doesn't have the list of the things I requested. I promised I would get you the minutes from yesterday, but I shouldn't have to do that. I shouldn't have to get you the list of the things I requested yesterday.
Fine. Okay, Mr. Goodyear has completed.
I hope I've given him and all honourable members assurances that all the information people have asked for is in process. There is nothing I can circulate at this instant because it's either waiting for translation or printing. I'm going to spend some time tonight personally supervising the process to make sure the members get it as expeditiously as possible. I make that undertaking to all honourable members. There's a lot of information there.
Now, with respect to the last thing, at the beginning of the afternoon session Mr. Goodyear raised statements that I had made. I was very concerned about it because it drew conclusions that hurt me. I made some representations off the top of my head about the facts, because I didn't have my files with me and I tried to recall.
I want to confirm to all honourable members that I've looked at the papers now--I took a quick look during the break--and that my comments yesterday to the media, in the scrum outside after the meeting was adjourned, were with regard only to those four witnesses. My comments about summonses were only about those four witnesses. My statement specifically was that I had issued summonses.
I acknowledge--and Mr. Goodyear, you're absolutely right--I did not know with certainty that they in fact had been served. But we now have the report, and I can tell you. I want you to know, so I'm giving you the information I have.
Heidy Cornejo is the official agent for member of Parliament Sylvie Boucher. The document produced by the clerks for me on the status of communications with proposed witnesses indicates there were three calls to the official agent Heidy Cornejo. There was no response to any of them. A summons was signed by me on August 1, and it was delivered to Kilrea and associates for service. That's all I knew. But from the report we just received from the bailiff, the summons to Heidy Cornejo was served personally to her on August 6--more than a week ago.
With regard to Henri Gagnon, who is official agent for Daniel Petit, member of Parliament, contact was made. The clerk's report of the phone calls indicated they were going to get back to us to confirm their attendance. There was no phone call. On August 1 I signed the summons. It was sent to Kilrea on August 1, and the bailiff's report affirms it was served on Henri Gagnon on August 6--over a week ago. You're absolutely correct. I did not know it for certain, but I knew we had no responses and that a summons was signed by me and that I requested it to be served.
The third of the fourth is André Laurin, who is the official agent for the Honourable Josée Verner. André was contacted on July 24. He wanted to verify with his colleagues--I'm sure with the minister's office--about commitments, etc., for the week of August 11, which is this week. He indicated that he was willing to appear, but he wanted to check first.
We called back to advise that we had booked yesterday morning, August 12, at 10 a.m. as the time to appear. His return call to us was that he declined for all days, and he stated that no one was going to appear.
On August 1, I signed the summons, and it was sent to Kilrea and associates. He was served with the summons on August 6. That was over a week ago.
The final person who was to appear yesterday was Mr. Marc Duval, official agent for Mr. Luc Harvey, MP for Louis—Hébert, I believe. We left messages both at his home and his work. We called him again on July 24, and at work on July 28--four clerks' employees were making the calls--and they spoke to Mr. Duval. He informed the clerks that the party told them to decline all invitations and therefore he declines to appear. On August 1, I signed the summons. It was delivered to Kilrea and associates. Kilrea reported that they attempted to serve the summons on.... I'm not sure, I'd have to see the report. But as it turns out, he has gone on vacation this week, and therefore it was not deliverable. That's in the report.
I want to acknowledge that Mr. Goodyear is quite right, I didn't know with certainty. But the members now are aware of the efforts that were made to determine this. We do have the information, and I undertake to get this information to all honourable members at the earliest possible time. Certainly tomorrow we'll have a lot more answers.
Now, it would appear that none of the witnesses are here. Accordingly, without any business, I'm going to--
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Mr. Chair, on Monday I brought up the point that I was specifically offended by the use of vulgar language here at the committee. That was not dealt with. I have put up with additional use of vulgar language by the NDP member at the table today. He has stepped it up a notch. I shouldn't have to put up with this, and neither should anyone else at the table. If he's frustrated because things aren't going his way, so be it, but he may not....
I'm not going to say what he said, because I don't say it, but I was raised Roman Catholic and go to church, and I don't use the language he used, which was to take the Lord's name in vain. That was on top of the various uses of profanity and vulgar language that he has exploded out on numerous occasions.
I should not have to listen to that. I hope the people at home never heard any of it, because it's offensive. CPAC is family rated, and they shouldn't have to listen to it either.
Mr. Pat Martin:
Well, briefly, I think if the meeting was chaired in such a way that it wouldn't drive the other members of the committee crazy, there'd be fewer outbursts like that. Mr. Chairman, with all due respect--and for the large part I admire the patience you've shown in the administration of your duties as a chairman--you can't allow one member to interfere constantly, over and over again, to make speeches, to criticize you and the committee and the work of the committee and Parliament, etc., any time he feels like it. That's what drives me over the top, and that's what perhaps led to some outbursts.
An hon. member: Well, control yourself.
Mr. Pat Martin: I've been controlling myself. Restraint? I've been using a lot of restraint, believe me.
Mr. Chairman, if you wouldn't mind, stick to the order of the day, stick to the order of business, and don't fall for the goading and baiting these guys are using to try to avoid the subject matter of the study we're undertaking as a committee. I appeal to you. If you do that, I'll stop swearing.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
It's always useful to allow a little bit of venting, and I think members have had an opportunity to express themselves. All honourable members are accountable for their actions, and whether there's any remediation to be done as a consequence of those, they'll have to make those decisions and be judged by and accountable to others.
We're going to adjourn shortly, but about tomorrow, so members can properly prepare, I want to confirm to you that we will have Madame Chantal Proulx and Mr. Beardall. Madame Proulx is the deputy public prosecutor, and Mr. Beardall is the senior legal counsel for the public prosecutor. They will be the first two witnesses. I've forgotten who proposed them. Once the members have discharged all the questions to the public prosecutor's personnel, they will be excused.
Mr. Marc Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer, will be appearing immediately afterwards. He assured me he will be here by 10:30, so if tomorrow's first session is short he will be available right away. So we're forgetting about the arbitrary timing of appearance.
He has advised me that he has no statements to make. He'll be here to answer any questions that may have arisen as a consequence of all the other witnesses or matters and that members would like to pursue with him. He'll be available for the balance of questioning.
Then we'll suspend. We'll reconvene at an appropriate time to have a discussion on the last matter of future meetings and witnesses. I encourage members to give some careful thought to that. We will wait to hear about circumstances where it was determined that a summons, for instance, was served in adequate time for them to appear but was ignored. The chair will need some direction on whether or not the committee would like to do anything further.
It is my personal opinion that there was a great rush. With 79 proposed witnesses, there was a flurry of activity going on, and I fully expected there would be some glitches. I apologize for that. I'm going to ask for a lot more time to prepare to make sure there's proper notice and contact, etc. We did have some problems. I learned a lot from this and will undertake to make sure we have sufficient time so that proposed witnesses have the opportunity to appear when it is most convenient to them.
I don't think anyone here is interested in doing anything but bringing witnesses to help us with our work--certainly not intimidating or doing anything other than operating a healthy, informed committee on a serious matter.
There is a speakers list.
Mr. Pat Martin:
I was simply going to say, Mr. Chairman, that as you are going through future business I want to make sure there's adequate time blocked out not just to talk about future witnesses or to have a conversation about how we're going to accommodate those witnesses who are summoned so that it's at a convenient time for them; I want adequate time staked out at the next meeting to talk about the consequences associated with those who willingly and knowingly ignored the summons to appear before this committee.
Perhaps we will need some time from the senior law clerk for a lecture to the committee on the consequences and the steps taken to invoke sanctions against those people who would knowingly offend and insult Parliament by ignoring a summons to appear before this committee.
By my count, three out of 26 witnesses who were summonsed have actually appeared at the times they were scheduled on the summons to appear. To me that shows a widespread.... I don't think there was some Jungian thing whereby they all woke up with some collective unconscious and said, let's insult Parliament and not go to the scheduled appearance before the committee. I think somebody coordinated this mass boycott of our committee.
The last thing I'll say is that the reason it's so important to deal with this tomorrow is that it sets a terrible, terrible precedent for all future committees if people can thumb their noses at this committee and ignore a summons. What does that say to all future committees that try to have witnesses appear before them? It means that it's optional to appear before a parliamentary committee, even when a summons has been issued. That is not acceptable.
I want there to be adequate time tomorrow for us to vent this idea thoroughly and completely and to make it publicly known that we will not tolerate this kind of insult by the Conservative Party of Canada towards the Parliament of Canada.
As you know, and as I explained to the committee right at the beginning of the hearings, when Mr. Mayrand first appeared, the committee had instructed me to have him come. He had indicated some concern, basically, about the sub judice
convention in that there are ongoing proceedings and this may put him in a position in which he may prejudice or compromise an ongoing investigation or court proceeding.
The chair took a decision to provide him with the assurance that a condition of his appearing would be that he could invoke the sub judice convention, which he did on the second day when it became apparent that, as he put it, in my recollection, the questions he was being asked were in fact the identical questions asked in the court proceedings. His concern was that he would have to answer the questions identically, because they were made there under oath.
Such as it may be, the condition of Mr. Mayrand appearing is that the sub judice convention can be invoked. But he will have to advise us of that and give us the reason, as Mr. Walsh indicated in his letter.
As to the second part, Mr. Tilson, you asked why he is appearing again. I felt that since there were going to be substantial witnesses subsequent to his appearance who may have brought new information to the attention of members and so on, that may have led to further questions the members want to ask him.
He has indicated that he has nothing further to say to the committee. He will be here, and nothing will be said unless members have questions for him that they feel should be answered. It's just an accommodation, because we had him at the beginning and had a whole bunch of other people. If there's anything to be asked, you will have that.
Mr. David Tilson:
Mr. Chairman, just give me one more moment.
I understand what you've said, and you've said it before. A whole bunch of witnesses haven't shown. Perhaps they're not available. The allegation is that they've been told not to show. We don't know that yet. We don't know anything at this point. We're not even so sure how many have been summonsed with affidavits of service, and in due course you will provide that information to us. But it may be that to cooperate with Canadian citizens who are available to come to these proceedings, we have an obligation to oblige them as best we can; and it may be that we should enable further time for them to come, in which case the appearance of Mr. Mayrand, I would submit to you, is premature.
If you're saying that we have heard all the testimony that we're going to hear for these hearings, maybe it's appropriate that Mr. Mayrand comes back. But if we haven't, I honestly believe Mr. Mayrand should wait until we have heard that testimony. Therefore, my assumption is that by your inviting Mr. Mayrand to come tomorrow, you have concluded that we've heard all the testimony that we need here with respect to this hearing.
No. Actually, let me respond.
I think the committee has agreed to adjourn. Let me just indicate that I didn't make the assumption that we had heard all the witnesses we want to hear. That's a decision to be made by the committee, obviously. But he will be here. He has contacted me, and if the members have no questions for him at this point, it'll be a very short meeting tomorrow.
I understand that the committee is now prepared to adjourn. Is that right?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: We are adjourned.