I guess this is pretty straightforward. In our view and the view of most witnesses who dealt with this issue, the committee lacks a very basic power, namely the power to compel witness testimony and the production of documents. Both the CSE commissioner and SIRC have that power. Indeed, this committee would have had that power, but as Ms. Sheehy pointed out, we're not a parliamentary committee. Since the committee we're creating here is not a parliamentary committee, it doesn't automatically inherit the powers of a parliamentary committee. We need to specify this very basic power.
My amendment to grant the power is supported by Craig Forcese, Kent Roach, and Ron Atkey, who testified, as well as others. If we don't pass this amendment, then we're forcing the oversight committee to rely entirely on requests to government minsters as their sole channel for getting information. In my view, as well as that of Messrs. Forcese, Roach, and Atkey, that places much too much power in the hands of the government of the day and undermines the faith Canadians would have in this new committee.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I note that this power is necessary on its own merits, regardless of the decisions we take in a few moments on amendments to the committee's access to information, proposed sections 14 and 16. To be clear, it is not inconsistent for the committee to fall short of unrestricted access to information and have the power to call and hear directly from witnesses.
Mr. Atkey said this, when he talked about the power to compel documents and testimony:
This may be necessary where public servants are reluctant to respond to reasonable requests by the committee, or in situations where private sector individuals have particular knowledge about a security activity being carried out by a particular department
For those reasons, Mr. Chair, I think this is perhaps an oversight, but I think it's necessary for us to correct this deficiency.