BY BOB ZIMMER
Member of Parliament
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies
I want to start off by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. I hope that you were able to take some time to be with your family and enjoy each other’s company over the Christmas holidays.
As many of you may have heard, just before Christmas, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson released her report on Justin Trudeau’s family vacation last Christmas. The Commissioner found that Trudeau broke four sections of theConflict of Interest Act, including: accepting gifts that could influence decision-making; not recusing himself from discussions that could further private interests; failing to arrange his private affairs to avoid this opportunity; and accepting travel on a non-commercial aircraft.
With these findings, Justin Trudeau became the first Canadian Prime Minister to break a federal law while in office.
Shortly after the Trudeau Report was released, two Opposition Members wrote to me in my capacity as Chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics. One Member requested that Ms. Dawson appear before the committee to discuss the subject matter in the report and the other Member wrote requesting an ‘extraordinary’ meeting to discuss and then vote on inviting the Prime Minister to appear before the committee. Given the serious nature of the findings in the report, I determined that both meetings should take place.
On January 9, the committee met to consider inviting the Prime Minister to the committee. My colleague MP Peter Kent, who had written the initial letter requesting the ‘extraordinary’ meeting, argued that the committee would be the perfect setting for the Prime Minister to appear and fully explain his reasoning behind the decision to take this trip and what changes his office has made to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Unfortunately, the Liberal members of the committee disagreed and voted against having the Prime Minister appear before the committee and the motion was defeated 6 to 3.
On January 10, Ms. Dawson appeared to discuss her findings in the report. In light of her testimony, Mr. Kent moved another motion to invite the Prime Minister to appear before the committee. Once again, the Liberal members voted against his motion.
Certainly nobody is perfect, however I am disappointed the Prime Minister won’t appear before committee. Not only because I believe that the Prime Minister has a duty as the top office holder in Canada to answer questions regarding this trip more fully, but also out of respect for Parliament and the committee.
It is important to me as Chair that every committee meeting is conducted respectfully and that all witnesses who appear are treated fairly. Having the Prime Minister appear would be no different.
Many hard-working Canadians agree with Mr. Kent’s letter and deserve answers. Answers that won’t be satisfied in 35 second sound bites during Question Period. The vast majority of comments I’ve received have been from people wanting to hear more from the Prime Minister about this issue. It is unfortunate that they will not be able to get these answers in a committee setting.