The Chair (Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)):
This is meeting 49 of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. Our order of the day is a motion adopted by the committee that states:
||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 morning we have witnesses, first, from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. We have with us Madame Chantal Proulx, who is the acting deputy director of public prosecutions; and Mr. Don Beardall, the senior counsel. Then, following that, we have the Chief Electoral Officer.
I would ask the clerk to please swear in the witnesses.
Colleagues, Mr. Brian Saunders, who is the public prosecutor, discussed with me late last week the possibility of being able to make a brief opening statement by Ms. Proulx simply to advise the committee about who they are and what their responsibilities are, so that we are guided. I would like to ask the committee for its approval to permit a brief five-minute opening statement by Chantal Proulx with regard to introducing the public prosecutor's office. Would that be acceptable? Thank you.
After that, we'll move directly to questions.
Thank you kindly for appearing. Madame Proulx, I know you and Mr. Beardall are aware that in appearing before a committee you are covered under parliamentary privilege and that nothing you say before this committee can be used against you in any other proceedings. I know you're well aware of that, and I would like to simply ask you to proceed now with your opening statement as approved by the committee.
Mr. Tilson, you want the floor?
Mr. Goldstein is the past candidate in the riding of Trinity—Spadina. I think I should simply advise the committee what transpired in our contacts.
He was left messages on July 28. He finally got back and said he was only available on August 12, which was two days ago. He wanted to be paid up front for his expenses and said he would decide whether to come or not. He asked how many people were coming and if people were being summonsed. We heard nothing further after that. On August 1, I issued the summons. I sent the summons to Kilrea and associates. On August 11, Mr. Goldstein contacted us and said he had received his summons. On August 12, he called again and said he would not appear on his scheduled date. That was two days ago. He said he would not appear on his scheduled date—that being August 12—but would rather come on Thursday.
So we have a situation here where we have had contact with this honourable gentleman, and he did not agree to appear on the date we asked, and so it's up to the committee to determine whether or not....
After we made the determination of the availability of witnesses, we grouped witnesses of like persons so that candidates and official agents would be together, so that questions wouldn't have to be repeated in different panels if you could have like people together, candidates and official agents together.
So we're faced now with a situation where we have the public prosecutor's office. The questions to them will have nothing to do with a candidate per se. Following that, we have scheduled Mr. Mayrand. These two items will take at least, I would think, until 11:30, maybe 12 o'clock, and then we have our meetings with regard to our business for dealing with Mr. Martin's question about discussing our plan to deal with witnesses who did not appear, as well as to discuss future witnesses and future meetings. So that is our plan for the day.
Mr. Goldstein happens to be here. I wasn't aware, but he is here, and some honourable members would like to hear from him today. Now, it's up to the committee to decide whether it will slot him in somewhere and where.
Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP):
I wish we didn't have a motion to that effect on the floor, but I will speak to the motion if that's the basis on which I've been given the floor.
I feel strongly that we should finish the scheduled agenda for today and then consider whether or not to hear Mr. Goldstein, following the same reasoning as we had with Mr. Finley.
You don't get to pick and choose when you appear before our committee. We accommodated him and gave him the date that he said was most convenient—in fact, the only date he said he was available, August 12. That's when he was scheduled. He chose not to be here. His official agent was here and gave a lot of very valuable, important testimony. It was very balanced testimony. The story of Trinity—Spadina's election campaign has been heard, in fact, so there's no compelling, pressing reason to stop us in our tracks and entertain Mr. Goldstein because he feels he wants to speak today.
I'm very concerned that his testimony, given the way he's conducted himself so far, is going to be fairly inflammatory and maybe even disruptive to the committee's work.
And I have the same point as I wanted to make yesterday. We want to book a considerable amount of time today, which may be the last day we have to deal with these matters for weeks, to study and hear from the law clerk to determine just what steps we take to sanction those witnesses who thumbed their noses at our committee and chose to ignore the summons. That's going to take a fair amount of discussion and a fair amount of conversation, because it's a complicated method, as you expressed, Mr. Chairman.
I'm concerned that we will be out of time after we thoroughly deal with the Director of Public Prosecutions. I have many questions for the Chief Electoral Officer. I think that will take us at least the morning session, and I want the afternoon session reserved for the business that we were promised today and that we prepared for.
No one could have foreseen that Mr. Goldstein was going to show up today and ask to be heard. If we are going to be generous and try to accommodate him today, then maybe after the afternoon session, which would probably be from two o'clock to 3:30 or even two to four o'clock—maybe at four o'clock—we could hear Mr. Goldstein and get it in today, but not before what you promised us would be, and what we agreed would be, the agenda items of the day.
So I speak against Madam Redman's motion for that reason. In fact, I would put an amendment to the motion: that we make legitimate efforts to hear Mr. Goldstein today after the scheduled agenda items that were promised to us yesterday.
Mr. Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, CPC):
Thank you, Chair. I would like to comment on this.
This witness should be heard now. You've made a huge fuss about the appearance of witnesses and witnesses not appearing. You've made a huge fuss about your summonses, the summonses you issued. You've gone to the media with all your concerns. You've played it up in the media. And now we have witnesses coming, responding to the summons, and you're brushing them aside: “Take a seat in the back.”
We have Mr. Martin, who wants to put aside a lot of time to discuss the issue of summonses and people not coming. But I think anybody, any Canadian, would realize that if someone received a summons on Monday afternoon in Toronto, to expect them to be in Ottawa on Tuesday morning is not practical. It's not realistic.
You might say that he offered back in July that August 12 was free, but from the time he said that and you delivered a summons to him, his schedule probably changed. I don't know about your schedule, but my schedule changes. I had to make changes to my schedule, and my schedule is constantly changing. Maybe he can enlighten us, but I think we have to hear from him on this matter.
What I want to say, sir, is that you have made a huge fuss here in committee and to the media about witnesses not appearing and about summonses you've issued. We've had Doug Finley come in front of us, and you turned him away. This is the campaign manager at the national level. You turned him away. “He's not our witness.” You turned him away.
We have a gentleman who has been summonsed by you to appear here today and you're turning him away. You're throwing him to the back, as are the opposition. And this after Mr. Martin wants long healthy discussion on what we should do about people who don't respond to summonses.
That's my point. We should hear from the witness now.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Mr. Chair, I will debate the amendment. But before I do that, Mr. Chair, you know full well--well, maybe you don't know full well--that the chair is here to oversee the proceedings, not to steer the committee and offer his defence of his actions at every opportunity.
Mr. Chair, in the last number of meetings on this issue you have spoken 420-something times. If you divide that by the time we've spent on this issue, you yourself have participated about every 90 seconds. That's steering a committee, not overseeing it.
Now, to the point of the amendment--and I'm going to appeal to the committee--I want people to know that when the chair says, “the committee did this”, if you look at the records, it's the tyranny of the majority. However, I'm appealing now to the tyranny of the majority.
Please hear me out. Please, Mr. Proulx.
We had Mr. Doug Finley--not even our witness--show up on Monday. He told the committee that he couldn't come at the time agreed upon. He was offered another time, but he wasn't able to appear at that time. There was an opening for him to sit at the table because a witness didn't show. So there was no reasonable need to not hear Mr. Finley.
We have a gentleman at the back of the room who was summonsed. The fact is very simple. It's a very simple thing. The gentleman was summonsed. He tried to make an accommodation to appear. I would suspect--I'm quite sure--when we speak with Mr. Beardall, who obviously is a senior counsel with an extremely busy schedule, that some accommodations were made, as all chairs make with all witnesses.
We have a gentleman here. We have a seat sitting right there. This gentleman's doing his best to honour the summons in the best way he can. This gentleman is not unemployed. He doesn't have freedom every single day. Mr. Martin might think it means nothing for people to cancel their clients or their patients, to tell their patients, “I'm sorry that you're ill; we'll have to see you another day.”
This is ridiculous. The gentleman's here. It's plain and simple. He's not the witness of the committee; he's your witness. None of our witnesses were allowed by the committee to be here. And we want to hear from your witness.
Is it possible that because the testimony of your witnesses so far is going so badly for you--they're proving our case--you don't want to hear from this witness?
Now, I'm hoping I'm wrong on that. And you can prove I'm wrong on that by allowing this gentleman his right to tell his story, the story you originally wanted to hear, right now, not later. Because--I'm going to tell you something the chair mentioned yesterday--once Mr. Mayrand is up, he's here to close. He's here to wrap it up, to hear any questions we have outstanding. And that, to me, means--you know what?--this game's been planned all along.
I absolutely feel that it's a simple thing. I do not support the original motion. I think this witness was called by the opposition.... Mr. Chair, you summoned the witness. You failed to make reasonable accommodation. The witness is here. There's room. There's time. There's no reason not to hear this witness immediately.
I support the subamendment. I will not support the motion.
Mrs. Chantal Proulx (Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Public Prosecution Service of Canada):
Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members.
We have been asked by this committee to explain the role of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the PPSC, in general terms and specifically in relation to the Canada Elections Act.
Joining me from the PPSC is Don Beardall, who's a senior counsel with the headquarters counsel group.
The PPSC was created on December 12, 2006, with the coming into force of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, which forms part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act. Essentially, the branch of the Department of Justice responsible for criminal prosecutions, then known as the Federal Prosecution Service, became a separate organization. The PPSC's core duties and responsibilities are largely the same as those of the branch of the Department of Justice that it replaced.
Our enabling legislation, the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, outlines our powers, duties, and responsibilities. We are responsible for initiating and conducting prosecutions within the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the crown, and for advising law enforcement agencies in respect of investigations that may lead to prosecutions within our jurisdiction.
The establishment of the PPSC as a distinct organization did not change the way we operate. Prosecutors continue to prosecute across the country, and police and other investigative agencies continue to seek the advice of our prosecutors as they make decisions about their investigations. Prosecutors' decisions continue to be made free of improper or undue influence, unaffected by partisan or political considerations.
Our role as legal adviser to law enforcement agencies is distinct from the investigative role performed by the agencies themselves. The PPSC is not an investigative agency, and our prosecutors are not investigators. Prosecutors and investigators exercise separate and independent roles in Canada. Prosecutors do not initiate, direct, or supervise investigations. That is the role of the police or investigative agency. They are the ones who decide whether to commence an investigation, whom to investigate, how to investigate, and whether, at the end of an investigation, to lay charges. This separation between investigative and prosecutorial authority is well entrenched in Canadian law.
Once charges are laid by the police or an investigative agency, the prosecutor must decide whether to proceed with a prosecution or not. The test we use is as follows. The prosecutor examines the evidence to see whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. If there is, then he or she decides whether, in light of the whole of the surrounding circumstances, the public interest requires a prosecution to be pursued. If the prosecutor is not satisfied that the prosecution should proceed, he or she is required to put an end to it by withdrawing or staying the charges.
Committee members may know that in some territories and provinces of Canada there is a mechanism for prior approval before laying charges, which means that the prosecutor exercises discretion when the investigation is completed, but before charges are laid. The test is the same, except that we must be satisfied that it is met even before the police or investigative agency lays charges.
Although the investigative agencies and prosecution services perform separate and independent roles, they work in collaboration. For example, it is common for police and investigative agencies to seek the advice of prosecutors during an investigation. However, this does not mean that prosecutors assume any responsibility for the investigators' work: the investigation is still their responsibility. They are the ones who decide whom to investigate, how to investigate, and ultimately they decide whether a case will be submitted to a prosecutor.
A general point I wish to make is one that may be well known but is nevertheless worth repeating. Prosecutors in Canada act independently in the exercise of their prosecutorial discretion. The principle of prosecutorial independence is well established in Canada and, indeed, has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as a constitutional principle.
Federal prosecutions and, I might add, those conducted by provincial prosecution services are conducted or ended as a result of decisions taken independently by crown prosecutors. These decisions must be grounded in an independent assessment of the evidence in conformity with the jurisprudence developed by the courts and subject to the publicly available guidelines contained in prosecutors' policy manuals. These guidelines clearly state what considerations are appropriate and which are inappropriate when making a decision about a prosecution.
I mentioned earlier that our core duties are largely the same as those of the branch of the Department of Justice that we replaced. One area, however, where we have jurisdiction to prosecute that the Department of Justice did not is in relation to Canada Elections Act offences. Until 2006, the prosecution of elections under the Canada Elections Act was the responsibility of the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The passage of the Federal Accountability Act changed all that. The Director of Public Prosecutions has been given jurisdiction in this area by provisions in our enabling legislation, the DPP Act, as well as by amendments to the Canada Elections Act.
With respect to Canada Elections Act offences, the DPP Act states that the director initiates and conducts prosecutions on behalf of the crown with respect to any offences under the Canada Elections Act as well as any appeal or other proceeding related to such prosecutions. These prosecutions are not under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Canada. This has important consequences. First, unlike all other prosecutions, the Attorney General cannot issue directives to the director in respect of Elections Act prosecutions, nor can the Attorney General assume conduct of such prosecutions. Second, the director is not required to report to the Attorney General on Elections Act prosecutions.
The Canada Elections Act maintains the separation between investigative and prosecutorial responsibility that characterizes our criminal justice system. Investigations are conducted by the Commissioner of Canada Elections, and the Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether to initiate prosecutions under the act. At the conclusion of the investigation, if the commissioner believes on reasonable grounds that an offence under the act has been committed, he may refer the matter to the director, who shall decide whether to initiate a prosecution. If the matter is referred to the director, the director applies the same decision-to-prosecute test as is applied in all other cases. If the director decides the test is met, the director shall request the commissioner to cause charges to be laid.
As with investigations in other areas, if requested, the PPSC may provide legal advice and assistance to Elections Canada during the course of its investigations to assist it in complying with the rule of law. The provision of advice and assistance during the investigative stage is not determinative of whether a prosecution will be proceeded with at the end of the investigation.
I'm pleased to have the opportunity today to explain the role of the PPSC in general terms and in Canada Elections Act matters. However, before concluding, I do wish to advise the members of this committee that I am unable to comment in any fashion about any investigation that may currently be under way. In addition, the PPSC has provided advice to Elections Canada and continues to do so, but I cannot discuss what advice may have been sought by investigators or what advice may have been provided by the PPSC to investigators. Solicitor-client privilege applies in these circumstances.
That concludes my remarks. Mr. Beardall and I would be pleased to answer any questions. Thank you.
Excuse me, sir, you made a point of order and you asked a question, and I have to answer it.
The committee was apprised that the condition of Mr. Mayrand appearing was that he could invoke the sub judice convention if it was a matter that would potentially prejudice or compromise any other proceeding, and I'm sure that our witnesses are aware of this as well. That was the understanding, and we've had this discussion before the committee three or four times, so everyone understands what the situation is with Mr. Mayrand.
Subsequently I received an opinion from the law clerk of the House of Commons. That has been circulated to all honourable members. Any witness, including Mr. Muttart, I believe Mr. Lepsoe, and a couple of others who had raised this issue—RMI, Retail Media, had raised it—all of them, received a copy of the law clerk's letter explaining the application of this issue of not being able to answer it because it's before another proceeding.
It has to do only with those people who have a direct involvement in the proceeding. They have to be parties to the proceeding. Mr. Mayrand certainly is. RMI was, in regard to another proceeding--not the one that Mr. Mayrand was, but there was a proceeding--but that never came up yesterday and they answered all the questions.
So the question is, then, that should questions come up to these witnesses, there's no special accommodation to them. They are aware of the law clerk. If they have a solicitor-client relationship on certain matters, they will declare that, and of course we can't ask them on that.
With regard to other matters that may come up, which may, for good reason, as Mr. Walsh laid out in his letter, they would indicate that they can't answer it for that reason, and then we would consider the validity of the reason.
That did not occur. The question from Mr. Proulx was posed, the witnesses answered, and we moved on.
So there is no special arrangement for anyone else. The rules of the House are clear. The existence of the sub judice convention is not an excuse for a witness not to answer a question. Okay?
Thank you. That's not a point of order, it's a matter of debate.
I would like to remind the committee members that these witnesses were requested by the committee, and the committee list was approved. That's why they're here. They also fully understand and explained in their opening statement, which was approved to be made by this committee, that solicitor-client matters may arise and they would certainly invoke that, and it must happen.
With regard to whether or not they refuse to answer a question on the basis that it may compromise or prejudice some other issue, they will advise us and be specific as to the nature of why they can't do that, and the committee will have to decide whether or not they want to force the question. But I think we understand where this is going.
That said, it is the committee's decision, whether or not.... The sub judice convention is a voluntarily imposed convention by them.
Mr. Goodyear, again, just as Mr. Tilson was doing yesterday in pleading the case for the witness not to answer a question, as I referenced under Marleau and Montpetit yesterday, actually is interference with witnesses. I think the witnesses are perfectly capable of dealing with issues that come up that may cause them some concern. They will raise it themselves. They're in the business; I'm sure they know what to do.
That said, our next speaker is Madame Lavallée.
Mr. Pat Martin:
I think we can assume, then, that he has yet to decide whether an offence is yet to be committed. That's one hurdle we have to get past.
Second, if he does believe that, then the commissioner “may” refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, because he goes through his own test, I presume, whereby if he has no idea that this could ever be successfully prosecuted or that it's in the best interests of Canadians, he may decide that in his own opinion an offence has occurred but he's not going to submit it to your office.
And then third, you have to decide, through those same tests, I suppose, whether it warrants prosecution.
We're still three fundamental steps away from trying the Conservative Party for election finance violations. My worry is that we're only now convicting and prosecuting and putting in jail Liberals who were involved with the sponsorship scandal, and this is three or four years later.
My question is about timeframes. With a complex case like this, what would be a realistic timeframe, once you get it into your hands and decide that yes, it's worthy of prosecution? Given the court agendas today, could it be a year before it's heard, or eighteen months, or two years?
We've seen the way witnesses disappear too. It could be that you'll have a very uncooperative group of witnesses, as in those Hells Angels trials where witnesses are disappearing all the time. Those 11 principal actors of the Conservative Party who snubbed their noses at our summonses may in fact snub their noses at summonses issued by the federal courts too.
Could you give me, in your professional opinion, a realistic timeframe for a complex prosecution like the one you may be asked to undertake?
I think everybody understands.
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
The Chair: Excuse me, we're on a point of order, sir. You'll have to wait until we complete this one before we can do another one. Would that be all right with you? Okay.
The reason I raised this document, which was circulated to all members electronically by the clerk's office--this was on August 5--was that it included all the dates on which people were scheduled to appear that were agreed upon and included in the summonses. The representations by Mr. Del Mastro about some people not being given a choice is not true. In fact, Mr. Goldstein chose August 12, and he was scheduled to be here August 12.
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
The Chair: Mr. Del Mastro has just said that I didn't give him a choice, and now he wants to appear today.
He also said, and I must respond.... The point of order provided some information that was false and misleading. Mr. Finley was scheduled and summoned to be here--
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
The Chair: Excuse me, I issued a summons to be here August 13 on August 7. After I issued the summons, he first contacted the committee. So to say that I didn't give Mr. Finley any choices.... Mr. Finley walked into this hearing room on Monday morning and said, “I want to appear now.” I can't imagine in a court of law some witness walking in and saying, “Your Honour, I'm here, and I want to appear now.” I mean, that's how ludicrous it is.
I would like to say that if members are going to make allegations, their facts must be correct. In Mr. Del Mastro's case, every point he made was wrong and misleading. I'm going to have to correct every member who does that. Okay?
Now, we have--
You have misquoted what I said. It was that I had issued the summons, not that he was served. If you say someone was summonsed, as opposed to the chair issuing a summons, they're different. When you want to play with words, that's fine.
Mr. Finley was here on Monday. He was here on Monday.
An hon. member: We have a witness here, and we're supposed to be discussing the work of the committee.
The Chair: I understand.
Mr. Goodyear, you raised a point of order--
An hon. member: It was not a point of order.
The Chair: Excuse me. I told you, sir, that I would get the blues from August 12. I got the blues. About midnight last night I finally finished with my responses to each and every point you raised, sir, about information requests you asked for, their status, and can you get this and other things. And I made other statements that you wanted me to explain.
I have them. There are 22 points. I think it would take about a half-hour to present them to you--each and every one--as I had undertaken. I don't want to have to do that now in the middle of our other business. This is a matter I was hoping to deal with after we dealt with witnesses.
If the committee wants me to deal with your 22 questions, I will do that, but I don't think it's the right thing to do.
An hon. member: No.
The Chair: I have the answers for you here. Whenever you want the half-hour to 45-minute presentation of my response to all your questions you issued in a 25-minute speech to this committee, I will do it.
Now, I have no more speakers.
An hon. member: Everybody wants to speak.
The Chair: The last time I looked, they were rubbed out.
Okay. Madam Redman, you have the floor.
Just give me a moment, because I will get you the precise dates.
I was in Durham, North Carolina, visiting my daughter and my granddaughter. I had my granddaughter on my lap, sitting on the couch, looking at hummingbirds.
Excuse me, but I think people will want to understand the tactic that Mr. Del Mastro has tried to pull here.
This was in July, the last week of July, after we had the hearings. Madame Proulx called me because she had been advised that the committee, at its prior hearings, had requested that the public prosecutor's office appear. She asked me the question, “What does the committee what us to do?”
I have never talked to Madame Proulx. It was a call to me out of the blue, and I said, “Three parties have asked for you to appear. The clerk will be in touch with you. I don't know what their interest is.” That was the extent.
In fact, Mr. Saunders, the public prosecutor, called me subsequently, still having some questions about whether or not they should appear, because of their solicitor-client relationship and because of a potential sub judice issue. It wasn't until last week that Mr. Saunders finally agreed to be a witness.
So on this idea that I had misled the committee, I didn't know they were a witness. I make no contacts myself.
An hon. member: On a point of order—
The Chair: Excuse me.
I made no contacts with an approved witness and certainly did not discuss side deals. There are no side deals with anyone. Mr. Walsh's letter with regard to the sub judice convention has been provided to anybody who raises the issue, and that's how the committee operates. That's it.
So as to my role—and I answered that question—with regard to third-party witnesses, you know I have contact with Mr. Mayrand. I was instructed by the committee to do that. But with regard to the public prosecutor's office, I have no idea why people put it on, but I initiated no phone calls.
An hon. member: I have a point of order.
The Chair: That is the answer to it. So all of the information that you provided, Mr. Del Mastro, was false and misleading, and you should apologize for the misinformation. Okay?
Thank you kindly.
The witnesses are excused.
I would call Mr. Mayrand, please, to come to the witness table.
As I indicated to members, Mr. Mayrand has no opening remarks, and I understand from members that there may not be very many questions for him. So we could excuse him as well before we break.
Welcome back, Mr. Mayrand and Mr. Bernier.
Mr. Bernier is counsel for Elections Canada, and Mr. Mayrand is here because, as you know, the committee had requested five personnel from Elections Canada who are participating in the investigation. In a letter from Mr. Mayrand, and in a discussion with him, he laid out the reasons why he felt it was not proper for those five persons directly involved in an ongoing investigation that has emerging developments to appear. But he agreed to come, as the Chief Electoral Officer responsible for Elections Canada, in lieu of those five persons should there be any further questions.
I understand that he has no opening statement to make, and he's available to answer any member's questions.
Go ahead, Madam Redman.
Mr. Marcel Proulx:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, Mr. Mayrand and Mr. Bernier. Thank you for being with us this afternoon. I will be quick.
Yesterday, we heard witnesses from Retail Media. They explained the kind of invoicing they had used for the Conservative Party. At one point, there were questions about how taxes...
Mr. Pierre Lemieux: [Inaudible--Editor]
Mr. Marcel Proulx: I listened to you. Would you mind listening to me, Pierre? Thank you.
... both federal and provincial, were invoiced. On one invoice that you are certainly familiar with, dated January 1, 2006, there was a whole list of ridings all across the country, except Quebec, because in Quebec, it was explained, the invoicing was done differently. That invoice showed a figure of $591,411, with federal tax in the amount of $41,398.77 added, under number 886334549. We wondered how the various provincial taxes could be distinguished, since they are not necessarily uniform across the country, and they are also not collected uniformly. For example, in the Maritimes, they do it differently.
Overnight, I examined the documents and I found charges of $7,385.50 in the invoice, that would apply to the riding of Cardigan in Prince Edward Island.
The people from Retail Media told us yesterday that, in their view, the provincial taxes were included in the amounts billed before the GST, the federal tax, was applied. However, when I examine the return by the official agent in Cardigan, there are no charges that apply to Retail Media. I assume, Mr. Mayrand, that that part of the $7,385.50 invoice was paid somewhere else.
If that amount was paid somewhere other than in Prince Edward Island, how can you connect the credits that may have been given and the taxes that may have been billed in other parts of the country? In other words, what I am asking you is how you were able to consolidate these various amounts without having the individual invoices, particularly in the case of this $7,385.50, which were not reported in the return by the official agent in Cardigan?
Mr. Richard Nadeau:
That answers my question.
To take another tack, some people have been brave enough to appear before the committee. In fact, they were not merely brave, they did their duty by coming to answer questions from the members of this committee.
Personally, I saw that at some point, and this was also the opinion of some candidates and official agents, in terms of the orders they had received from their party for handling certain cases that included transfers of funds, etc., they were not given any explanation. They were told that it was fine, not to worry, everything would be spic and span, there would not be any problems, it will be a piece of cake.
So in my opinion the Conservative Party used these people, by exploiting their naiveté, or their lack of familiarity with all of the laws.
My question is for Elections Canada. Would it be possible for you to allow official agents... We know there are a lot, because there are a number of parties, and so a number of candidates, including some independents. Would it be possible for you to ensure—perhaps that is too strong a word—or at least to allow, to be democratic and in the sense that everybody is given an equal opportunity, to offer training throughout Quebec and Canada so that these people can get as good a grasp as possible, particularly of the important aspects—and I know that the law is important in itself—so that all official agents and candidates, if indeed they wanted to attend, could get non-partisan training from Elections Canada?
Would it be possible to reach all these people? You are doing it at present. Would it be possible to extend that process, to avoid finding ourselves in situations like the ones we are talking about this week?
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
—of the advertising in terms of whether they were national or local, although sometimes the invoices actually admitted they were national expenses.
Now, of the names on the list, the one that pops out right away is Stéphane Dion.
I want to suggest too, however, that in another part of this same court document, Elections Canada's records of invoices of local campaigns from various forms of publicity material and advertising—radio and television, etc.—all were accepted by Elections Canada. The invoices and related documentation for such advertising rarely set out the content of the advertising, in terms of whether it was national or local, although sometimes, as I've indicated, it did indicate that it was national.
The documentation indicates that Elections Canada never suggested, let alone took a position, that the local campaigns of this party, despite the fact that there was a lack of information about the content, or despite the fact that it even indicated straight up that it was national in extent but expensed at the local level....
It further goes on to say that there was absence of full documentation, that some of the ads had no tag lines on them, that official agents did not preauthorize verbally or in writing any of this stuff. And the names that stand out on that list are Stéphane Dion, Mark Holland, Ralph Goodale.... I could keep reading, but my time's limited.
These are examples of parties transferring expenses, which you have said is not allowed, and for doing which you have singled out one party. And of course, this is the essence of the interpretive challenge before the court.
Can you tell me if there are any files still open? Without maybe naming the names—I'm going to ask you that in a minute—are there any files still open? You mentioned the NDP. You didn't say they were being investigated, but you certainly implied that you haven't shut that door yet. Have you shut the door on these Liberals? Have you shut the door on the Bloc entirely?
Mr. Pat Martin:
To compound the offence, then they had the gall to claim a rebate on 60% of those fraudulent expenses, getting a bonus on the proceeds of the crime, so to speak. I think that's where most Canadians would really find fault.
Our election system is funded in a number of very generous ways. In the first place, if I make a donation to a political campaign, I get 75% of the first $400 given back to me; second, we subsidize elections to the tune of $1.75 per vote received in the election campaign given to the party; and third, there's a rebate on the legitimate local expenses of campaigns of 60% of their actual cash outlay—not of in-kind expenses, but of legitimate cash outlays, at fair market commercial value, spent locally. We're very generous.
The Conservatives have developed what they call, what their candidates call, a “creative fundraising scheme” to prop up the bank accounts of ridings—in one witnesses' testimony—in a low-income area because they are pleading poverty and therefore that justifies bilking the taxpayer out of 60% of this phantom money that was dipped into a bank account for about 30 seconds and yarded right back out again.
That scenario would not be allowed. Well, obviously I don't have to ask you, sir, because you disallowed those claims, and I thank you for catching it.
Other than that, all candidates in all 308 ridings had their books scrutinized, and fault was only found with 67 Conservative Party ridings. So the rest is self-evident.
At this point in time, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a motion that we suspend the proceedings after the next Liberal speaker for a two-hour break so that we can get some business done before the end of business day, because I anticipate we're going to have a long evening getting through the other orders of business today.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you very much for getting an answer from Monsieur Mayrand on whether he'll be able to attend this afternoon or not.
Obviously, at the outset I am going to vehemently oppose this motion. This is another attempt to shut down access to a witness who is an absolute expert and at the centre of this entire process. We've seen all of the witnesses we need, and it would be nice to have two hours. Some of the members have indicated they want to spend a few hours to do some preparatory work. I'd like to suspend for 12 hours and get Libby Davis here as a witness. Yes, I know it's Davies. My apology to the member.
I have great concerns about this. I know full well that we don't have the numbers to win this vote. I know full well that it doesn't matter what words come out of my mouth; I will not convince you to allow us to question this witness. There can be no harm in getting at the truth, unless you have something to hide.
We had every single one of our witnesses denied. We asked at the original meeting if we could have eight additional rounds with Monsieur Mayrand. This committee--not this side of this committee, but the opposition side--voted this down and basically shut down our ability to generate questions from Monsieur Mayrand. So knowing that the numbers, the tyranny of the majority, would dictate the outcome, we asked for a number of documents from Monsieur Mayrand. Some of them were just provided this morning--taken back because there was something wrong with them. That's fair. We agreed to give them back, because that stuff happens. We just got them back.
My point is that we've asked for 12 pieces of documentation so we can move forward with our side. Until two hours ago, the Liberals had all the documentation they had asked for; we had absolutely nothing. All of the witnesses we've asked for have been denied their right to appear here to present our side and prove to Canadians that all parties do this in every extent, in every fashion. The only good news behind this is that the witnesses who did show, the witnesses called by the opposition, actually did support our case.
Now we're going to shut down this thing. In some ways it's good to see that this partisan, illegitimate forum is done. We know that when and if any report from this committee hits the House it will be dead on arrival. But we have the opportunity to get more information from this witness. This witness is here before other witnesses.
I really don't know what else to say. We came here in good faith to play by the rules. It's been difficult every day to learn the new rules and how they might change. We've heard you defend yourself and make changes in how you perceive talking to a witness as not talking to a witness. We've seen you backtrack on statements about summonses. This has been a farce. It's a joke. I don't understand how we can now vote to not give us more opportunity to question this witness. I just can't believe this.
One of the witnesses that the opposition called was the chairman for the national party. Did you learn something that he was going to say that would help our case? Is that why you voted to get him out of here? Just this morning we had a gentleman who was summonsed and showed up--
An hon. member: Wrong day.
Mr. Gary Goodyear: It's not relevant. The gentleman's here right now doing his civic duty as an honest Canadian, and do you know what? He's denied, when there's an open chair here.
It has been suggested by an opposite member....
I'm not debating you, Mr. Chair. If you want to have a conversation, then why don't you get on the speakers list?
We're resuming our hearing.
I won't reread the motion before us; I believe the members are familiar with it. But I would like to start by recapping where we are.
Colleagues, I need to explain that, as is permitted under the rules, when a meeting becomes a bit animated—and, someone told me, when you start having audience participation—the chair has two recourses. One is simply to sit back and wait for the committee to bring itself to order; the other is to suspend. As you know, I did suspend for the two hours. I thought it was in the public interest and the committee interest.
We're going to resume. If I may be permitted, I'll finish my statement to the committee.
As the chair—and this is where the chair's job comes into some importance other than that of just being a timekeeper—we obviously want the proceedings to achieve our objectives: to hear our witnesses, or to debate motions, or whatever the order of business is before us. When I suspended the committee, we were in the middle of debating a motion, and Mr. Goodyear had the floor and was in the middle of debate.
The clerk's note shows “That the committee will suspend for two hours after completion of this round of questioning”, which would be after Mr. Tilson. Mr. Martin had finished, so there would be two more speakers, Madam Redman and Mr. Tilson. So the effect of the motion would be that we would hear from those two and then suspend for two hours.
Now you see where I'm going. I knew that a former chair of a committee would understand that we're heading into a problem here, and I think the members will agree that we should resolve this. If this motion passes, we will hear from two people, and then I'm going to have to suspend for two hours, and I don't think that is the wish. We in fact had our two-hour suspension.
We could go through a series of amendments and other good things. I am going to suggest to all honourable members that maybe the best course of action—maybe the one possibility—would be to ask Mr. Martin to withdraw his motion, and we'd just continue where we were. We were in the second round, and if there are people who want to go to the third round, we'd continue. I think that gets us to our witnesses.
We have before us an officer of Parliament who was invited to be here until noon. Most of his day has been spent here. I think we want to respect his time, but members have rights. The chair does not decide these things. This is a chair offering advice to the committee.
So I would seek to know from Mr. Martin whether or not he would find that acceptable and to know whether the committee would be prepared to permit Mr. Martin to withdraw his motion should he wish to do so.
Mr. Martin, please.
Mr. David Tilson:
Mr. Mayrand, I'm going to read some names to you: Brenda Chamberlain, a former Liberal member of Parliament; Olivia Chow, New Democratic Party; Colleen Beaumier, Liberal; Libby Davies, New Democratic Party; Glen Pearson, Liberal; Sid Ryan, NDP; Diane Marleau, Liberal; Yvon Godin, NDP; Raymond Bonin, Liberal; Nathan Cullen, NDP. None of these names, Mr. Mayrand, is posted on your website.
I have additional names—25 names at least—from the New Democratic Party and the Liberals whose returns are also not posted on your website. This is pursuant to the discussion we had earlier with you, prior to the break. Some of the names are Dan Smith, Allyce Herle, Mario Lévesque, Verona Jackson, Isabelle Maguire, Anne Levesque, Stéphane Ricard. I don't think any of those are of members of Parliament. The other names—with the exception of Mr. Ryan, I believe—are, and of course Brenda Chamberlain is no longer a member of Parliament.
This is the testimony we heard from you before the break: you have indicated to us that you're not prepared to talk today about anyone whose returns you haven't posted on your website, because your review is ongoing. Some if not all of these reviews, we believe, relate to advertising expenses claimed by the local candidate, whether a current member of Parliament or a candidate.
My concern, Mr. Mayrand, is that we have made allegations that the other parties are involved in this issue that's before this committee and before the different investigations that are going on. The opposition parties have said no, that's not true. Why? Because you haven't said they're true. And yet their names appear to be still under investigation, for some reason. I understand; you say you can't talk about it. But it certainly would appear that these names relate to advertising expenses claimed by the local candidate.
There are other names that I'd like to refer to. This is from Mississauga—Brampton South.
Mr. Chairman, I know you may not like my doing this.
But I think it's important to show the volume of names that are probably under investigation by you. I believe this committee needs to hear these witnesses. Either the Liberals and the New Democrats and the Bloc.... I haven't given any Bloc names, so you're safe for the moment, but those two parties clearly are under review by you. How can we honestly proceed in these hearings without hearing those people as witnesses?
I'm going to read some of the ridings: Mississauga—Brampton South, New Democratic Party, Nirvan Balkissoon; Ed Chudak, New Democratic Party, Newmarket—Aurora; Crispin Colvin, Elgin—Middlesex—London; Verona Jackson, Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound; Joe Fontana—I remember him—from London North Centre; Gary Burroughs, Niagara Falls. This is just Ontario, sir.
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]...Quebec?
Mr. David Tilson: Well, I haven't gotten to those, because I'm probably going to run out of time. Maybe someone else can read them in the next round.
In New Westminster—Coquitlam, there's Joyce Murray.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Monsieur Mayrand, it's a pleasure to see you again.
Monsieur Mayrand, I was on the committee that had the pleasure of bringing your name forward to the House as the new Chief Electoral Officer. As a result, I know full well that you were not the Chief Electoral Officer during the 2006 election campaign. So I'm going to ask you if you were aware that Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the Chief Electoral Officer who was in charge at the time, has indicated very clearly that the law determines an advertisement to be locally based, based on the tag line and not the content. If the Chief Electoral Officer at the time has that interpretation, then that interpretation should apply to the 2006 election, but I guess that's the issue before the court.
So I'm going to ask you a different question.
I already know you don't have this document, because you've stated you know of no cases where expenses have been transferred, as indicated by an answer. So I'm going to introduce you to a case. Here is a letter from Elections Canada's own documents again. This letter I'm going to read from, sir, is from Elections Canada documents. And I don't suspect you have read every letter in all 308; I'm not expecting that. I appreciate that. But here's my question to you, sir, and here's what the letter says.
This letter is from the director general of the Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta; that's a national party:
||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 an official agent.
The letter goes on to refer to an expense incurred by the national party “for Northern Alberta candidates' ads placed in the Edmonton Journal”, which should be claimed at the local level.
Now, I just want to ask you this. Simply, in your opinion, is that a transfer of expense? How could that possibly be?
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Can we ask you, then, to look into this? This is Anne McLellan's election campaign.
We have another case here too, Monsieur Mayrand, where expenses were transferred. I certainly don't understand your explanation. These are obviously services provided by the national campaign and told to be expensed at the local level.
Now, Dominic LeBlanc, the local campaign of Monsieur LeBlanc.... This is a confusing one because—guess what?—not all the documents are at Elections Canada. The file appears to me to be incomplete, but it went straight through anyway. Apparently he participated in a regional media buy organized by the national party. Records at Elections Canada indicate there's a copy provided by Elections Canada of a cheque from the local official agent in payment of the ad and it's made out to the Liberal Party of Canada.
Now, this one goes on to say...and I'm not going to read all the names involved, but the bottom line is that in fact in this case the content of the ad says it's entirely national. Now, the content of the ad is national. Now, Mr. Kingsley said that doesn't really matter as long as there's a tag line there. But this was a national ad where the expenses were transferred down to the local campaign.
Now, in fairness to Mr. LeBlanc, there's actually no evidence in the filing that he ever paid this. Do you understand? There's no evidence in there. Perhaps he did, perhaps he didn't; the file is incomplete. But it was accepted by Elections Canada and it was put through. There's no prior direct contract, no written contract. The invoicing was processed by the national party, the buy was organized completely through the national Liberal Party, but they were told to expense it locally.
Am I out of time?
Mr. Pat Martin:
Thank you. I wasn't quite ready, but I will take my time, then. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Mayrand, to recap what happened, it seems that sometime mid-campaign, maybe mid-December of 2005, the Conservative Party could see they were going to reach their national spending limit. But their pockets were bursting with money. They had an abundance of riches--an embarrassment of riches--in terms of dough they were sitting on, and it looked as though they were within striking distance of winning this election. It looked like they could actually beat the Liberals.
The Liberals were still reeling with the impact of embarrassing scenes of their humiliation on TV stations across the country, about their involvement with their advertising scam, the sponsorship scandal. There was this parade of rogues being perp-walked across TV screens across the country that was embarrassing the Liberals regularly, so the Conservatives wanted to strike while the iron was hot. They had all this money and they'd hit their ceiling. They couldn't spend any more, so they devised a scheme to divert some of those expenses and list them as local instead of national expenses.
That's just to summarize where we are, because I think the smokescreen being thrown up here confuses people, as it is meant to.
The irony is that the Conservative Party won the last federal election in large part due to their promise to take big money out of politics. They wanted to create an atmosphere, they said, where the party with the deepest pockets shouldn't necessarily be the party that wins; it should be the party with the most popular support. But ironically, they couldn't resist the temptation. At the very first opportunity to put that commitment to the test, they themselves chose deep pockets to win the election--achieving power at all costs, even at the expense of their own ethical standards on which they were elected.
Mr. Chair, I think that summarizes things more to the point.
Let me quickly ask a few questions about the exhibition we saw here this afternoon. They had a professional agitator brought in from Toronto, and they briefed him with speaking notes to come here and disrupt the committee.
An hon. member: I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Pat Martin: My reading of the affidavit here, Mr. Chair, is--
And you can ask me at the end here.
Regarding item four, you were asking about Mr. Finley. The simple answer is that in fact there was a vote at committee not to hear Mr. Finley. Therefore, it was the committee's decision that he not be there. So I'm not going to carry that further.
There was a point about chairs making every effort to accommodate witnesses, which has come up a number of times. But you stated here, “You did not allow Mr. Finley to do that”. Well sir, with due respect, I did, when I spoke to him before the meeting started. I offered to hear him in the afternoon, to which he said no. I also had offered to hear him on Thursday, and he said that was inconvenient. However, I don't think there was anybody around this table who didn't agree that he was a very important witness and that we should hear him. I hope we get that opportunity.
I want to move forward quickly. I don't want to take up too much time.
Number six was the witnesses.... No, that would bring debate. I don't want to do that.
Number seven says, “All of the Conservative witnesses were deemed to be irrelevant by you, sir.” I think the transcripts are fairly clear.
For the edification of those who aren't aware, when the committee considered doing this study, there was an amendment and a subamendment. The amendment was to broaden it to cover all parties. The subsequent subamendment was to extend it to any previous election year. Both the amendment and the subamendment were defeated by the committee—a decision of the committee not to look at other parties or other years.
Therefore, when the proposed witness list came from the Conservative Party, as I explained—and in the transcript it's clear that it related to other parties or other election years, except for Mr. Sears. I had instructed members to provide a rationalization as to the relevance of a witness. All that was submitted with regard to Mr. Sears was a name. As a consequence, I rejected it simply because there was no apparent reason he was relevant to the committee's business.
That decision to eliminate those witnesses was not challenged by the committee. It was accepted by the committee and we moved on. Had it been a problem.... Now, I don't want to carry this any further, but those are the facts.
Number eight was with regard to the fact that we never have closing statements. Well, we had closing statements in this committee for each one of the witnesses of the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings. Yes, and you remember that. You were there.
In number nine, the point raised was, “You have not provided this committee or at least this side of the room with all the documentation.” It is true that no committee member has all the documentation yet. They should before I finish. But in terms of the reference to this side of the room, again I have to assure all honourable members that if one member has it, all members have it. It's not distributed by me; it's distributed by the clerk. I have full trust that the clerk has discharged her responsibilities in the best interests of the entire committee.
Point number 10 is that you would like a list of all the summonses. That was distributed to the members on August 5, more than a week before we started our hearings. Yes, you did, because.... I prepared it myself, in terms of typing it up. It is the one that shows the word “summons” as one column, and it shows the days of our hearings and the witnesses, morning and afternoon. It shows summons, yes or no. That was circulated in both official languages to committee members by e-mail on August 5. So you do have the list of all the summonses that were issued; that was on August 5. We have extra copies, if you'd like to have one.
Copies of all of the summonses have been distributed to the members already? You asked for copies of all the summonses I signed. I believe those have been circulated to members, so we'll discharge that.
You also wanted the script the clerk has given, and I think you've been provided with the letter we would send. The information in that letter of instruction or request is the same information as would be communicated by phone. They don't have a separate telephone script from the letter script; we should actually communicate the same.
So that letter you've received has been represented to me by the clerk as the information they use for purposes of a script. They've been doing it so long that they don't even read it anymore; they know it by heart.
With respect to phone logs or similar records, which is basically the daily report the chair was receiving to monitor their progress.... Again, I did not make any of the phone calls to any witnesses myself.
Just as an aside, the proposed witness from the public prosecutor's office was Brian Saunders . I may have received a phone call from Chantal Proulx, but she was never a proposed witness.
You now have this. We've taken out all the private phone numbers, e-mails, addresses, so should this get in the public domain we will not be causing hardship to cabinet ministers and members of Parliament by putting out their private contact information.
All the other information is up to date as of yesterday.
With regard to the comments of calls, when they were made, what answers were given, etc., that is verbatim from this master copy. You have that in your package. That's called the call log.
You wanted the names of the clerks who made these calls. Of course Miriam Burke and Erica Pereira were two of the four clerks, and they had a number of colleagues. I don't think it was just four people; I think there were more. On Fridays they only have one person there, who is called a duty clerk. And to keep busy, because it is not busy, the duty clerk was probably also making calls.
Whoever made the calls, they're aware of who contacted whom. All the calls were made by employees of the committees directorate, and they work for Parliament. I'm very comfortable with the directorate having made the calls.
You wanted copies of the affidavits of service. You have received those. You also wanted the content of discussions between the clerks and the witnesses, which are actually on the call sheet--the document you received. You have it as two items, but it's all covered by one document.
You also wanted copies of correspondence where accommodations or other arrangements for witnesses were discussed, suggested, or agreed upon. The only one is Mr. Mayrand. There is the letter you have, which was July 28, I believe.
On June 25, I wrote to Marc Mayrand--all members got this letter--advising him of the timeframe and that I wished to confirm that July 15 and 16 were convenient dates for his appearance. He ultimately got back to us. He did indicate in his letter that there may be questions he can't answer. I indicated to him that I doubted the committee wanted to put him in a position where he may prejudice or compromise any other proceeding. I undertook that this would certainly be the case.
As it turns out, the letter from Mr. Walsh, giving the official law clerk's version of how the sub judice convention works, etc., really applies to everybody. When we have a witness before us, we may not even know they are party to a proceeding.
In any event, Mr. Mayrand is the only one who had any discussion, and of course that was our very first witness. His letter was sent to all members on July 3 by e-mail, the Mayrand letter.
I agree with you that the chair shouldn't be spending much time talking to the media.
As to the adjournment, I'm not going to go there.
As to this proceeding denigrating parliamentary procedures, okay, thank you, I accept your thing.
If you'd like to discuss any of these finer points with me, I'd be happy to do it at any time.
Mrs. Carole Lavallée:
First, Mr. Chair, I am going to ask my Conservative colleagues to show a little respect when I speak, that is, to listen to me as attentively as I do when they speak. If they should ever happen not to like something I say, I suggest that they get up, go and get some air and come back, but do not interrupt me. I think that is completely disrespectful. If they are not polite, I am going to read the email we have just received from Mr. Fisher, in Alberta, in which he has some questions about the mental health of the Conservative members.
There are two ways to get reluctant witnesses to testify. I have made a motion, which you have all received, to ask that the Speaker of the House issue the necessary warrants to secure the attendance of the witnesses.
I would say that this approach is the stick, but there is another approach, which I would call the carrot. I want the stick to become a sword of Damocles over the heads of the witnesses, so they will be fully aware that that motion is still possible. I do not want to make it now, but I want to keep it on hold so it can be made today, or tomorrow, or another day.
First and foremost, I invite the people we have summoned to the committee to think about the consequences of their actions. The carrot I am proposing as an incentive for Conservative party workers to appear is the motion I want to make, which consists of asking the Speaker to take all necessary action to set an appearance date, between September 15 and 30, 2008, for all of the people whose names appear on the witness list approved by this committee who have not yet appeared. I am also asking that you, Mr. Chair, provide committee members with a weekly report on the action taken.
Among the people who have not responded to our invitation there are senior officers, Conservative party workers and a number of candidates and official agents. Obviously there are Conservative M.P.s and ministers, but you know that we have no way of compelling them to testify. I want to keep my motion on hold so that the Conservative party workers and senior officers will have to reconsider their decision not to appear this week.
Mr. Del Mastro, could you go out and get some air? Thank you.
This week, in light of the testimony we have heard, we saw that Conservative officials abused the trust of party workers and their media placement agency. The official agents, among others, were misled by their party, and that is a very serious offence. The Conservative Party is the party in power, the party that forms the government and makes the laws. It enforces the law and it has to obey the law itself. Well, it has failed to obey the Elections Act and failed to provide correct information to its workers, by encouraging them not to appear. We know that this is a contempt of Parliament, a violation of parliamentary privilege, but we will come back to that another time.
The Conservative party workers have got to respect the institutions and standing orders of the House, even though their officials seem to be quite lawless themselves and devoid of principles or ethics, and most importantly to believe they are above the law. We know and we are aware that the Conservative party workers, as is to be expected, are being loyal to their party. No one is asking them to be disloyal in any way. Myself, I want to appeal to their sense of duty and ask them to obey the law. Law and order are so dear to the hearts of the Conservatives, so let them come and prove it to the committee.
From September 15 to 30, that is less than a month from now. Using the motion they all have in hand, I want to tell the Conservative party workers to take the time to think about it and get information. No one is accusing you of anything. No one wants to accuse you of anything; we simply want information. Consult a lawyer—not the Conservatives' lawyer, someone who is non-partisan, someone you know and trust. With that person, read the Elections Act, read the Standing Orders of the House. It is clear that at present, the people in the Conservative Party are afraid of the consequences of what they have done and they may be giving bad advice.
As well, take the time to get organized. That is in one month, between September 15 and 30. People will be able to change things in their lives. They may be able to make reservations on the train, or a plane, or whatever. They will be able to request leave from work. They have over a month to make arrangements to come to Ottawa.
I also want the Conservative party workers to think about the effects of their actions and the actual consequences. A motion could be made in the House to compel reluctant witnesses to appear at this committee by force. The Conservative officials who are giving them advice are not the ones who might ultimately find themselves in handcuffs in front of the TV cameras. It's easy for them to advise witnesses not to appear.
I would like the Conservative party workers and organizers to demonstrate that sense of duty that is so dear to their hearts, and do their duty as citizens and appear before the committee. This motion is to give them a month to think about it and make arrangements with you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
There is a reason why this is substantively different, why it is in fact much more powerful than the original motion.
We have maintained on this side of the table that this committee is in fact not authorized to be conducting this investigation. We've in fact had our witnesses rejected. But the members opposite have always maintained that this is a legitimate process, that they were within their right to summarily end debate and to vote against us last June to cause these hearings to occur this August.
We did voice displeasure with the Speaker at that time, and the Speaker did not give any indication one way or the other, except to say that until there is a report from the committee, he could not rule whether any of these hearings were in order.
The committee has gone to an extraordinary degree by issuing summonses to individuals, asking them to come to something that we, the five of us, certainly have been arguing all week is illegitimate. We've referred to it as a kangaroo court. We've talked about the limitations that were placed on us and how this was really framed. The opposition members clearly worked together as a tyranny of the majority to try to force their will upon this committee.
That said, if they believe that everything they have done is justified—and I hope the people with the pens in the back are paying attention—then they should have no hesitation whatsoever to report this to the Speaker and to have the Speaker rule on their side, that people have in fact ignored summonses and that there should be an action that follows that.
In fact, that's what Ms. Lavallée asked yesterday. But then she spoke to you, Mr. Chair, and I don't know who else, and suddenly she doesn't want anything reported to the House anymore.
An hon. member: Shame.
Mr. Dean Del Mastro: That's kind of ironic. Why wouldn't we want something reported to the House from this committee? I came here and spent this whole week here. Why aren't we reporting it to the House? Mr. Martin was jumping out of his chair yesterday that it was so outrageous that these people have ignored these summonses. Then why in the world would you not want to report that at the earliest possible time?
Pat, you know yesterday you were beside yourself with anger.
Through the Chair, Mr. Martin was beside himself with anger yesterday that he wanted these people here—yes, the cussing cowboy, him.
But in any event, if he believes that, if he really believes it—goodness, I hope people in the back are paying attention—then submit this to the chair, vote in favour of this motion, and demonstrate that this is not a kangaroo court. Prove us wrong; vote in favour of this amendment.
That's what I submit to you. And if you don't want to report it to the Speaker, then guess what? What you've proven by extension is that everything we have been saying is true, everything we have been maintaining is correct, that this is nothing but a kangaroo court and you are afraid to have this sent back to the Speaker for him to adjudicate.
Mr. Pat Martin:
Mr. Chair, my first instinct is that we have to send a message to those who willingly and knowingly defy a summons to a parliamentary committee. There have to be sanctions associated with thumbing your nose at Parliament or this committee and, by extension, Parliament and the people of Canada. We're representing the people of Canada here.
There is a list of people who defied this, by conspiracy, by design: Nelson Bouffard, Pierre Coulombe, Michael Donison, Doug Finley, Irving Gerstein, Byng Giraud, Susan Kehoe, Benoit Larocque, Patrick Muttart, and Michel Rivard. At least those 11 were scheduled to be here.
I believe they got some advice from their lawyer, probably Mr. Hamilton sitting right over there--“You don't have to come. Don't bother coming. It's just a parliamentary committee. They'll lose their steam. They'll run out of gas. They won't have the guts to come after you. We'll buy some time, and either there'll be an election or Parliament will prorogue, or something will happen so we can avoid this embarrassing testimony.”
These people have insulted me personally, they've insulted the committee, and they've insulted Parliament. There have to be consequences, because I'm concerned about the precedent. I've made this point. I'm very concerned that all future committees will be neutered, rendered impotent, in terms of enforcing any kind of summons in the future.
We can't allow this to happen. We have an obligation to uphold the integrity and the effectiveness of Parliament, as committee members. We're at the front lines here. We're at the vanguard. Parliament is being attacked by these people. I don't think they're fit to govern. I don't think they're fit to manage a national political party in this country, and they're certainly not fit to be the government of the day. This is the brain trust, the think tank behind the Conservative Party of Canada. If they have that little respect for Parliament, we should find people who do respect Parliament to govern this country, not this gang, not the Darwin's waiting room over here and their bosses.
We've heard Mr. Del Mastro's idea that we report to the House. I sympathize with Madame Lavallée's point of view that we should keep our eye on the ball here.
The real objective is to get these witnesses before this committee. Maybe that will take some humility; maybe we're going to have to swallow our pride a bit. They've insulted us profoundly. We will never forget that. They will answer for that, and there will be consequences, I hope. If our objective is to get those witnesses before our committee where they have to swear under oath what they did or did not do, then I think we should take the path of least resistance towards achieving that objective. Therefore, I support Madame Lavallée's recommendation.
I oppose Mr. Del Mastro's latest mischief, whatever he's up to here. He's a modest man, who has much to be modest about. I understand what he is trying to do here today, but we're not going to be diverted. We're not going to be knocked off our game. The slippery slope that's established by ignoring these people's reprehensible insult to Parliament cannot be forgiven. It cannot be ignored.
We want them here. We want bums in those seats. I want Mike Donison and Doug Finley right in that seat, so we can grill them properly with the fullness of time and do a thorough job of it. So I'm going to vote against Del Mastro and for Madame Lavallée.
Mr. Gary Goodyear:
Well, I'm going to appeal to members to support the amendment, because I don't think it takes away from the actual motion. In fact, I think what it does do is exactly what the committee wants. Certainly, through you, Mr. Chair, I think it does what Mr. Martin wants. Ultimately these folks have ignored this committee, and Parliament has an additional set of powers and authorities to sanction them.
Now, through you, Mr. Chair, Mr. Martin continues to speak of having to sanction these people. He's insulted. What can the committee do? We're certainly not going to suggest we send Mr. Martin out to swear at these people until they get here. So I think we should ask the committee to invite these witnesses again or summons them again, which is the extent of the committee's authority, and if we have indication that they're not going to honour that, then we should absolutely report that to the House. The House would be sitting by then. We need to report that to the Speaker of the House, and the Speaker of the House can throw another level of sanctions, another level of authority.
I hope I'm not interpreting and I very much respect what Madam Redman said. She's absolutely correct. These folks deserve a second chance; maybe there are legitimate reasons. But I think if we try to summons them again and they don't show up, guess who's delaying the process? It's been indicated that somehow there's this conspiracy, that we don't want to get this done before some election that we all know isn't happening. But if that's the argument, then I think we need to move, and as Madam Redman said, no, this isn't a bad first step, and then this other thing could be the second step.
I think the amendment simply says we're doing steps one and two at the same time. That's absolutely reasonable. Without a report to the House, I see this thing dragging out and dragging out, and I just don't think that is the intention of what we need to do here. We've got formidable business going on. I support the amendment, but unless we're going to report it to the House, it basically falls back to the same kind of authority the committee has, and Mr. Martin yelling at people and cussing at them isn't working. These folks actually are getting scared away, in my opinion, by the behaviour of this committee.
So without reporting to the House, I don't see that we would have the additional authority to seriously sanction, and any suggestion otherwise is absolutely false and misleading. I will not support the motion, because it's impotent. I will support the amended motion, where we actually go to the House of Commons and ask the Speaker of the House to step in and lay the hammer down on these folks, and it's as simple as that.
So without the amendment, I won't support this motion, because it's purposeless. It's a political stunt, chapter 13, and I won't continue to do that. We have work to do here. If you're serious about getting to the truth, then the amendment makes sense because it's the double hammer and it happens all at the same time. It speeds things up; it's exactly what you've been saying you wanted. Let's see whether or not that is true or false.
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We've made a number of very strong contentions on this side of the table. We've referred to the tyranny of the majority, and we've referred to this as a kangaroo court.
Mr. Martin, in his statement--which is why I'm back on the speakers list--spoke about how he believes people have disrespected Parliament and therefore, by extension, they've disrespected Canadians. If he believes that, if he truly believes that, I can't see any reason possible, I can't see any reason in the world why he would vote in favour of a motion that he knows in his heart is utterly and completely impotent. It is impotent.
You went to an extraordinary measure, Mr. Chair, by issuing summonses. Now, I would argue that the committee was never authorized to look at this study in the first place. In fact, if you recall, we were moving amendments to the motion that brought us here today. I was one of the members who was doing that when the debate was cut off. We would argue it was done utilizing procedure that was not valid.
But that said, here we are. Here we are. The members on that side of the table, whom you continually refer to as the committee, since they continue to vote as a block against us, have continually suggested that everything they have done has been okay. They are Parliament; that's really what they're saying.
Mr. Martin indicates that they've insulted Parliament. Clearly, by extension, he is therefore indicating that he is Parliament, or that the members on that side are Parliament--because I'm not insulted. I don't think anybody on this side of the table is insulted.
What I would suggest, because there's a number of reasons—for example, we've discussed the special Mayrand deal, the special conditions under which he appeared, and we know that those conditions were not extended to other witnesses, irrespective of what Mr. Walsh's letter says. We also know there may well be other reasons why those witnesses did not appear.
That said, we have gone to an extraordinary extent. We are here in August. We have incurred significant expenses to the taxpayers of Canada in a process that I believe is illegitimate. If it is not illegitimate, if you are that certain, if you're that certain on your—
Mr. Pat Martin: I have a point of order.
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Martin, in his statement, which is what I'm addressing—which is why it's difficult to be repetitive when I'm responding to something that he was talking about—listed a number of names. Indeed, he has been vilifying those individuals for a couple of days. They were vilified by extension of the comments you made Monday morning.
I'm simply saying to this committee, if you are confident in your position, then report it to the Speaker. If this is a valid process, report it to the Speaker. Why bring forward another impotent motion? If people, for whatever reason, didn't respond to the first set of summonses that were issued, why would they do it the second time? It's like standing around the corner, and when somebody walks up, you jump out and say “Boo”, but you don't frighten them, so you try it again to see if it will work.
Look, folks, if you're confident in your position, then you should be voting in favour of this amendment. And I will support it. I will support this being reported back to the Speaker. I will support whatever comes of that. But clearly, the motion that was originally brought is substantively different from the one brought today. And I would suggest to you, Mr. Chair, that is done with a specific design in mind.
Mr. Pierre Lemieux:
Chair, I'm just going to speak very briefly.
My concern is that the opposition—the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the NDP—don't want this reported back to the House because they fear the repercussions of the Speaker. The Speaker has already made comments from the chair on anarchy within the committees. These last four days have been a wonderful, wonderful example of anarchy of the majority, totalitarianism of the majority. I'm looking at six MPs who consistently out-vote five MPs. They make up the rules as they go, Chair. They don't want the Speaker of the House to have a look at this. They don't want that kind of overview. This is what this little debate is all about. That's why Madame Lavallée doesn't want this reported back to the Speaker.
For the last two days, Mr. Martin has been chomping at the bit to get to this part of the business where we can issue sanctions against the people you have summoned, Chair. Now he backs off. Even earlier this morning he was lecturing this committee on points of order and how time was being wasted because we must get at the committee business—“I've got things to say about wanting to sanction those whom you have summoned”. Now he doesn't want to sanction those whom you have summoned. The reason is that he doesn't want overview or oversight of this committee or a ruling from the Speaker.
There have been many problems with this committee, and one of them is that we are operating outside the mandate. This has come up many times during testimony with the witnesses. We have constantly echoed what the chair himself has said on this matter: that we are not authorized as a committee and it is not within our mandate to determine any ethical standards of any party. This has to do only with public office-holders and their duties with regard to ethical standards. These are words from the chair's mouth.
We are not authorized whatsoever to opine on a political party and its activities, yet that's exactly what's happened in these last four days. As I put forward to the committee, chair, through you, the opposition are afraid that the Speaker will rule against them, rule against you, and rule against the committee on the kangaroo court that has basically taken place over the summer.
Mr. Del Mastro made an excellent point. There has been tremendous expense to the taxpayer in our having met over the summer, both in terms of bringing witnesses in front of us and even just the cost of our sitting. In fact, we had to vote on another budget you presented during this session of the committee. It hasn't been free; it's been expensive. There's a cost to this, yet look at the manner in which this committee has been conducted. I think all the grievances are on record as we've raised them throughout these past four days.
I wanted to highlight that point, that there is a fear here, and I see it in the opposition's eyes. That's why they don't want this referred back to the House.
Mrs. Carole Lavallée:
Mr. Chair, the motion comes out of our discussions over the last four days. So I will continue my arguments.
The purpose of the carrot is to say to them: think about it some more, think again, consult the people around you, your lawyers or people you trust. But do not consult the Conservatives, because you have done that already and they gave you bad advice. Go somewhere else. That is my motion.
The Conservative Party can easily tell its workers not to appear, but Mr. Tilson and Mr. Del Mastro and Mr. Dykstra are not the ones who will find themselves in handcuffs and who will be appearing on the news every night. It's easy for them to give advice like that and it costs them nothing. The people directly affected have to think about their own situation and their futures.
I find Mr. Del Mastro's subamendment very difficult to understand. In fact, I don't understand it at all. If he wants to know what to do about the Conservative party workers and organizers who have not appeared at the committee, he doesn't need to report to the Speaker of the House, he needs to ask Mr. Hamilton to phone all those people and tell them to appear here. That is the only thing the Conservatives should be doing. But they have done the opposite.
His motion is completely null and void. My second motion, that one I am going to keep because it is what I called the stick, the sword of Damocles. I do want a report made to the House, but let's do things in order, one after the other. Let's give the party workers, the people acting in good faith, and the volunteers, who gave their time and energy to a cause they believe in, the time to think about the consequences.
The only purpose of this subamendment is to stall for time. Mr. Del Mastro is making a motion solely to stall for time. I would suggest that he instead...
Mr. Chair, why is Mr. Tilson waving his handkerchief in my face? I do not understand his attitude, he is being mischievous but completely contemptuous. I would ask that you call him to order.
We've certainly have had some good debate. Are there any more members who have sought to speak?
Okay, there being no further members to speak, I want to put the question on the amendment. Colleagues, do you understand what the amendment is? Would you like me to try to read it? Everybody is aware of what we're voting on? Read the amendment? Mr. Del Mastro would like that.
The motion, as amended, is that the chair take all necessary actions to report to the House on September 15, 2008, all of the persons on the committee-approved witness list who have not yet appeared before the committee, and that the chair consult the Speaker of the House for direction.
So that is Madame Lavallée's motion with the Del Mastro amendment overlaid, so you have the motion as it would read, with the amendment concurred in.
We're going to vote on the changes that Mr. Del Mastro proposed to the committee. Please call the roll.
(Amendment negatived: nays 6; yeas 5)
The Chair: The amendment is defeated.
Now I'll put the question on the unamended motion of Madame Lavallée. Please call the roll.
(Motion agreed to: yeas 6; nays 5)
The Chair: Colleagues, the Lavallée motion is adopted. Thank you for the additional work for the rest of the summer, but the good news is that I will be spending some time with Speaker and I am very, very interested. Well, I'm reporting to the Speaker because I'll be travelling with him for 10 days.
We've now finished our scheduled business. There was a motion passed that at the end of our scheduled business we would then hear Mr. Goldstein.
Is Mr. Goldstein in the room, ready to appear?
A voice: [Inaudible--Editor]
The Chair: All right. Well, since the committee has passed this resolution, I'll have an opportunity to speak to him to see if I can arrange another opportunity for him to appear. Would that be all right?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: We are adjourned.