Liberals break yet another promise

The Liberals promised in the 2015 campaign to take measures to empower individual MPs in Parliament after accusing the Conservatives of centralizing control in the Prime Minister’s Office and thus diminishing the role of lawmakers during their near-decade in power.

Ya, so that’s not happening!!! Once Again, more Trudeau lies come tot he forefront.


The Liberal government is breaking a campaign promise by meddling in the affairs of parliamentary committees, say Conservative MPs.

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Public comments from ministers and departmental staff asking House committees to study issues on certain timelines amount to interference in the work of those committees, and don’t line up with Liberal campaign promises to give the committees more independence, the MPs said.

Kelly Block (Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek, Sask.) said remarks from a ministerial spokesperson, declaring that the Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities Committee would complete a study on the Navigation Protection Act, were inappropriate because the department exercises no control over the activities of the legislative branch.

Transport Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier told The Hill Times earlier this month that the review will be “conducted” by the committee and that its subsequent report and recommendations are expected to be submitted to Parliament in early 2017.

This apparent infringement of committee independence by a federal minister indicates the Liberals are abandoning a campaign pledge to empower individual MPs, argued Ms. Block, who sits on the committee and serves as her party’s transport critic.

“The Liberals promised to remove the influence of ministers and parliamentary secretaries on the committee, and this appears to be a promise broken,” she said.

Ms. Block questioned how the ministry can be announcing prospective timelines for completion before the committee even approved studying the act.

She also argued there are far more important issues vying for the attention of the committee, including the potential approval of a new low-cost air carrier in Canada, Kinder Morgan seeking export permits for its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, and the review of the Canadian Transportation Act.

A Liberal committee member, however, swiftly dismissed allegations that Transport Minister Marc Garneau (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount, Que.) or his department are driving the agenda of the parliamentary body as “misleading and disingenuous.”

The Transport Ministry merely asked the committee to conduct the review, but the decision on this request rested with the committee members themselves, said Sean Fraser (Central Nova, N.S.).

He said that aside from hearing the minister’s request he hasn’t had a conversation with anyone within the department encouraging him to support undertaking the study.

The Liberal-majority committee voted Tuesday morning to devote no more than eight meetings to studying the act, with discussions on scheduling beginning immediately with members of the opposition parties, according to the office of committee chair Judy Sgro (Humber River-Black Creek, Ont.).

Mr. Fraser acknowledged that the department spokesperson’s remarks about completing a report early next year were “premature” as the committee is ultimately responsible for setting its own priorities, though argued that the timeline offered is “probably apt.”

This is because the ministry will “drive the timeline for any new legislation that is introduced in the House,” he said.

“The committee would of course be responsive to the timelines that the government puts forward in terms of its efforts to introduce legislation,” Mr. Fraser said.

“The [Transport department], the minister, and the government would have a good idea on when the timing of a study should be done to suit their own purposes, but I think they have to be careful not to presuppose that the committee’s going to conduct the study,” he said.

Mr. Fraser said he supported studying the act because it regulates commercial activities on waterways, a huge priority in his East Coast riding.

The allegations of ministerial interference seem to indicate a staggering role reversal between the Liberals and Conservatives.

The Liberals promised in the 2015 campaign to take measures to empower individual MPs in Parliament after accusing the Conservatives of centralizing control in the Prime Minister’s Office and thus diminishing the role of lawmakers during their near-decade in power.

Most notably, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) promised to remove parliamentary secretaries from committees and have the chair’s role decided in a secret-ballot vote.

However, it hasn’t appeared to silence opposition complaints of excessive executive control over Parliament.

Conservative members of the House Agriculture and Agri-food Committee raised complaints last spring over Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s decision to ask the committee to study genetically modified animals only days after it had agreed on a study schedule.

“Clearly, the minister is running [the] committee,” Conservative MP Chris Warkentin (Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, Alta.) told iPolitics at the time.

Conservative agricultural critic David Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands, Sask.), who replaced Mr. Warkentin on the committee, said he was “surprised” to see upon joining that the minister appears to be directing the activities of committee.

“It’s not that we shouldn’t be studying these issues, it’s just that the minister’s not the one setting the committee’s agenda,” he said.

“The minister has his own resources to do his own work. The committee is another way for Canadians, for people involved in the [agriculture] sector to be able to get in touch with Parliamentarians, to let them know what their concerns are, and then hopefully the committee will study their concerns.”

Liberal MP Pat Finnigan (Miramichi-Grand Lake, N.B.), the committee’s chair, categorically dismissed complaints of executive-branch meddling, saying committee members were solely responsible for setting the agenda.

“It was a request from the minister [but] it was a decision that our committee made,” he said in regards to the GMO study in an interview from St. John’s, N.L., where the House Fisheries and Oceans Committee, of which he is a member, met on Monday.

Mr. Finnigan defended the decision to study GMOs, saying it’s a “very important issue to Canadians.”

He also took aim at the opposition, labelling Conservatives accusations as “ironic” considering the former government excessively centralized power in the PMO and blunted the influence of individual Parliamentarians.

Mr. Anderson, however, said he never received marching orders from the Stephen Harper-led PMO or cabinet about his committee work on the now disbanded Canadian Wheat Board, while Ms. Block said she has never seen a minister request that a committee study an issue, and then have a department official indicate a timeframe for completion, until the Liberals took over last fall.

Mr. Anderson urged the chairs to ensure their respective committees were setting their own priorities, rather than the PMO or cabinet.

As an example, he cited the contrast between the Agriculture Committee and his experience earlier this parliamentary session on the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee, and its subcommittee on human rights, which he remains a member of.

The Liberal members on the human rights subcommittee appear to be “independently making decisions,” he said, with the body already producing a report accepted by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“It comes down to committee leadership. Within that structure…strong committee chairs can decide if they want to study issues and I think we need to be doing that,” Mr. Anderson surmised.

Reference

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