March 19, 2002 (37th Parliament, 1st Session)


George Baker


Hon. George Baker

That is right and that is the point. That is exactly right and that is why members from the opposition should get it straight. This is Canada. This is not the United States.
Not only in the U.S. under the constitution are the ambassadors examined, but also members of the cabinet and also members of the supreme court in the United States. That is in the constitution of the United States. Now what is in the constitution of Canada? We know that it is the Prime Minister, the executive branch of government, that appoints those three groups of people: the ambassadors, the cabinet and the supreme court.
So the word ethics is in the U.S. senate direction under the constitution that determines what the senate committee will report to the senate and to the government. They have an ultimate veto. In other words, the president of the United States has to go back after the senate determines that someone is not appropriate and the president of the United States has to delay it and go back to it the next year.
What is in the Canadian act? What is in Standing Order 111 in the House of Commons? What are the words found there? I do not hear anybody from the opposition mentioning what the words are. The words were determined by a standing committee headed by a member of the official opposition, supported by the NDP, and were voted on by every party in the House wholeheartedly and passed. What were those words? The words were “qualifications and competence”. That is from Standing Order 111 of our standing orders. It gives the committee 30 days after the tabling of the name of the nominee or the appointee to a position by order in council.
Here is the point. Under our rules, Beauchesne for the Canadian House and Erskine May for the British house, if we look at citation 863, there is a famous paragraph. What it states is that any witness who appears before a standing committee cannot claim not to answer because his answer might incriminate him. He cannot say that. A witness cannot refuse to answer on the basis that he or she took an oath in a cabinet. No, our rules are very clear, as are the rules in the British house, as are the rules in the Australian house. It is in citation 863. Members can look it up. It says a person cannot claim as an excuse a contract or solicitor-client privilege. It also states, in one clear sentence, that in regard to the excuses used for witnesses not to answer in a court of law, because in a court of law there are certain things that a witness can say and refuse to answer, that is not the case before a standing committee of the House of Commons.
That famous Newfoundlander James McGrath, who was a PC but pretty straightforward and a good thinker, chaired the committee in 1986, just after--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Privilege
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