Yesterday morning, Premier Wynne issued this public statement, setting off a wild goose chase.
A key element of that statement is, “I’ve also asked that government members of the Justice Committee work with the opposition members to request all gas plant material from every other ministry as well.”
Wynne’s statement was picked up by the press. For example, Keith Leslie of the Canadian Press reported that the “search for cancelled gas plant documents expanded.”
The Liberal members of the Justice Committee actually did introduce a motion to expand the scope of the committee’s document search.
The problem is that the motion was outside of the power of the committee to pass. The official transcript of the committee hearing is not yet available, but the unofficial transcript is posted below. The validity of the government’s motion was not argued by its movers. Instead, the government member moving the motion sought to delay the progress of the committee even further by asking that a ruling on the legality of the motion be postponed.
An expansion of the investigation was promised, but there was never a prospect that the government would have to deliver.
The Liberal motion and the Premier’s statement about it were elements of the same phoney wild goose chase. The real purpose was to delay the investigation and to further muddy the waters around the gas plant cancelation scandal.
Unofficial transcript of Justice Committee meeting Feb 28 afternoon (Post Script March 6: Official transcript link)
Le Président (M. Shafiq Qaadri): Chers collègues, j’appelle à l’ordre cette séance du comité de la justice.
We’re now reconvening and I thank members for their indulgence, not only with the election, the subcommittee, Vice-Chair, Chair and the entertainment of the motion.
Are there any comments before we consider it? Mr. Leone.
Mr. Rob Leone: Mr. Chair, we would like a ruling on whether the motion that we received this morning, presented by Mr. Delaney, is actually in order.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Leone. Has every member of the committee received the motion in writing? Fair enough.
Mr. Bob Delaney: Chair, on a point of order.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Yes, Mr. Delaney.
Mr. Bob Delaney: I am aware that the House leaders are even now discussing this motion and its implications to the mandate of the committee. May I request that we defer your ruling on whether or not the motion is in order, pending a decision by the House leaders?
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Mr. Delaney has asked, as I understand it, a deferral of the consideration of the validity of this motion.
Mr. Bob Delaney: Correct.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Is that the will of the committee?
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): It is not the will of the committee.
The Chair will now proceed to rule. As I have been edified by the various researchers here, I understand that this particular motion is out of the scope of this committee. There’s some very entertaining reasoning why, and I would turn that over to procedural Clerk Peter for the description.
Mr. Peter Sibenik: Yes. The rationale is that the committee may only deal with matters within its mandate as determined by the House. Consequently, the committee would be restricted to dealing only with the specifics of the motion that apply to the committee.
The committee does not have the authority to deal with any aspect of the tabling of documents.
The committee does not have the authority to deal with any aspect of the tabling of documents.
The mandate of this committee is to consider and report to the House on the matter of the Speaker’s finding of a prima facie case of privilege with respect to the production of documents by the Minister of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority, as ordered by the Standing Committee on Estimates on May 16, 2012.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thanks to our procedural Clerk. That is the official ruling and the justification thereof. This motion is now ruled out of order and now dispensed with.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Chair, I would then move adjournment of the committee until 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): I would respectfully entertain that in a moment. Just before we do that, if I might, Mr. Tabuns, there is a small matter of the assignment of the subcommittee, meaning the next meeting. My respectful suggestion is, we do it in person on Monday at some point and that will arrange that. Is that agreeable to the committee to decide, for example, things like when the committee will meet and so on? All right.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I’m agreeable to that.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): All right. So, duly done. Is there any further discussion—yes, Mr. Yakabuski?
Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes. Well, on the decision of the Chair and with the advice of the procedural Clerk, I think we do have some comments I’m going to let me colleague Mr. Leone speak first and I may have some things to say later.
Mr. Bob Delaney: On a point of order: The issue has been decided. There is nothing to discuss.
Mr. John Yakabuski: ??Actually we have some things to say.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Understood, Mr. Delaney. I think they still have the floor in terms of any further business. Mr. Leone.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: In terms of debate ???
Mr. Bob Delaney: Yes.
Mr. Rob Leone: I do have a few comments to make. I’m very concerned that this committee—
Mr. Bob Delaney: Chair, on a point of order: Mr. Tabuns has a motion on the floor—
Mr. John Yakabuski: And we’re debating it.
Interjection: Regarding adjournment.
Mr. Bob Delaney: —regarding adjournment.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Delaney, for pointing that out yet again.
Mr. Rob Leone: So we are debating the adjournment—
Mr. Bob Delaney: Chair, a motion to adjourn cannot be debated.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Because the motion to adjourn is projected for Tuesday as opposed to any other day of the calendar, it is apparently a debatable motion, which I would now like to engage. So thank you again, Mr. Delaney.
Mr. Rob Leone: Well, finally, I can get this out, Mr. Chair. I’m disgusted about what happened today. We have a motion that was drafted without the consultation of the Clerks and was already ruled out of order. We have seen in the press today a charade of a dog-and-pony show of what we’ll be talking about in this committee or what the scope of this committee is going to be. This is just an unacceptable practice that we’re engaged in right here.
We know that the media is at least reporting—and there’s a couple of articles that we’ve seen—that essentially say that the Liberal Party documents are going to also be forthcoming. In the motion that was presented in this committee there’s no such indication that the Liberal Party has actually been included in the document request—
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Mr. Leone, just before you continue, I’d just respectfully remind all individuals who’d like the floor currently is that we are actually supposed to be debating the motion to adjourn till Tuesday, 9 a.m., and would invite you to do so.
Mr. Rob Leone: In the process of debating that motion to adjourn, Mr. Chair, I do have to express my disappointment that we’ve been waiting for four months to discuss the matters before us. We’ve been waiting for four months and now we’re here debating an adjournment of this debate again till Tuesday, further time being wasted with respect to getting to the bottom of what’s happened with the—I’ll use the words—cover-up in terms of the politically motivated decisions to cancel two power plants. We cannot allow this to continue. I strongly urge this committee to continue to talk about the issues.
We have a number of questions that we have before us. The House has ordered us to meet and I strongly urge the committee members to consider that. Our business is to talk about how this committee will conduct itself. We had a motion that was put before us that’s now ruled out of order. We have another charade that’s happening at House leaders right now. We have to get to the bottom of this, and the more delay, the longer—
… out of order. We have another charade that’s happening at House leaders right now. We have to get to the bottom of this, and the more delay, the longer it will take to get the answers we seek. I just find this whole debate completely unacceptable. People have asked us to do this work. We should be doing this work today.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Leone. Mr. Fedeli has the floor.
Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Chair. I would like to discuss the motion to adjourn on Tuesday, with the following comments: Clearly, this entire charade was all about the spin. Putting forward a motion that’s out of order and clearly knowing in advance that this motion would be ruled out of order was all a charade to delay—I continue to bring up the word delay as I continue to speak about the motion to adjourn, because we’re talking about delaying until Tuesday. This particular spin on the delay was so that the Premier can stand outside and say—and I quote from our friend Rob Ferguson, sitting here, “Premier Kathleen Wynne admits the Liberals made a “political” decision … and has pledged to reveal more government and party documents on the controversy.”
This may indeed be what the Premier told the media, but in the motion that we are now seeing ruled out of order—that we won’t be able to discuss on Tuesday—there is no mention of the Liberal party. That was part of the charade, again. First, the charade was to meet in here. The second charade is to tell the media one thing, but have the actual document be completely different. This was nothing other than intended to cover up the cover-up of the cover-up, and I can’t tolerate that any further.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Fedeli. I would just re-invite all members to engage in what is truly parliamentary language, but anyway, since it’s our first meeting I’ll permit what’s just passed.
Mr. John Yakabuski: We will certainly keep this parliamentary, Chair; I can assure you of that.
The word “disgusting” is certainly parliamentary, isn’t it? Because that’s what we saw today: a disgusting exercise to protect Liberals as opposed to getting to the bottom of the scandal dealing with the gas plants. Knowingly—the staff working for the Liberal Party and the Premier’s office, who—she made a big deal about, calling the media together this morning to say, “I have ordered the committee. I’ve got a motion before the committee that is going to deal with the gas plant issue. I’ve got a motion that says we’re going to reveal even more. We’re going to take this to all ministries.”
They knew then that the motion was out of order. That’s misleading. That’s dishonest. That’s wrong. When you go out to the media and say “We’ve got a big announcement”—
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Mr. Yakabuski, I think I’m going to have to intervene there—despite your sincere attempts—to ask you to please rephrase.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I didn’t accuse anybody in particular of being misleading or wrong—
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): My misinterpretation. I apologize.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I said when “you,” meaning “the Liberal Party”—the Liberal Party is not a person. The Liberal Party is misleading. The Liberal Party is wrong when they produce a document like this, saying “This is what we’ve got,” and a new announcement to be made about how we’re going to be even more transparent and more open in this committee. They knew all along that it was a game; it was a charade to send their three puppets in here to be able to sit here and bring out a motion: “Oh, look at what we’re going to do. Look at what we’re doing for the people in Ontario.” Within a few short hours, we know that it’s completely wrong and out of order.
The people of Ontario want the truth. They want to get to the bottom of what happened here. They want to know who pulled the strings, they want to know who pushed the buttons, they want to know who made the decisions and they want to know how much it has cost them already—the real numbers—and how much it’s going to cost them through the length of the term of this contract. That’s what this committee’s business is, and it’s also to deal with the contempt motion that was in the House earlier this year. Not only has this motion been ruled out of order, it was—I’m trying to think of a parliamentary word—it was just very, very wrong to bring it forward in the first place before this committee.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Yakabuski. Is the committee ready to entertain Mr. Leone?
Mr. Rob Leone: Mr. Chair, in addition to the comments I previously made, there were other issues and matters I wished to bring to this committee today: to talk about the format for which we would produce …
(Mr. Rob Leone)
… the comments I previously made, there are other issues or matters I wish to bring to this committee today: to talk about the format for which these proceedings would occur with respect to—I was prepared to move a motion earlier this morning about putting these proceedings on webcast. All of these kinds of things we could be dealing with today will not be able to be dealt with if we adjourn this committee.
On another matter, Mr. Chair, I do have one question for the legal counsel of this committee, and that is, if we had reintroduced this motion to include the Liberal Party as a party to release documents, would this motion, in fact, be in order?
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): So you’re asking legal counsel formally for a ruling on that?
Mr. Rob Leone: Yes.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Fine. Are you prepared to—
Mr. Peter Sibenik: Well, it’s a matter of order, so if the initial motion has been ruled out of order by the Chair, the addition of such an amendment does not make it more in order. It would still be out of order.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Sibenik.
Are there any further—Yes?
Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you. This is specifically referring now—this is not about the scandal or the charade of this morning. This is specifically referring to the motion to adjourn.
I wish to move an amendment to the motion to adjourn: that all witnesses called before the committee be required to swear an oath or affirm that they shall tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I wish to add an amendment that all meetings of the standing committee on justice related to the matter of privilege henceforth be held in a televised committee room and that committees branch be directed to ensure—
Mr. Bob Delaney: On a point of order, Chair.
Mr. Victor Fedeli: —all proceedings of this committee are web-broadcasted and that Hansard be directed to ensure testimony for this committee be made a top priority behind that of the House, and thirdly, Chair, that the standing committee on justice retain counsel forthwith for the purposes of providing guidance and legal advice to members of the committee and their advisors.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): All right. Before we rule, I’d just entertain Mr. Delaney’s point of order.
Mr. Bob Delaney: First of all, Chair, Mr. Fedeli’s comments had nothing to do with a motion to adjourn. Secondly, Chair, you can’t amend a motion to adjourn. Finally, Chair, the—
Mr. Bob Delaney: Chair?
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): I’m advised, Mr. Fedeli, that those amendments that you just put forward are also out of order. We would now need to—
Mr. Victor Fedeli: Can you explain to me why ??? I’m new here and I don’t understand that.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): I will seek that.
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Tamara Pomanski): I can do that.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Please.
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Tamara Pomanski): Basically, what we should do is that—those amendments aren’t related to the motion that’s before the floor right now. We would have to deal with the motion at the time right now in terms of—if everyone has finished speaking to it, we’ll vote on it.
Another option, Mr. Fedeli: Your concerns and your amendments could be dealt with in subcommittee on Monday, as an option. Then we can bring it back to full committee and vote on it in terms of if you want it to livestream etc. and broadcast and all that. Those are all logistics that can be worked out with the subcommittee on Monday afternoon, and then we can bring it to full committee for a vote the next time the committee meets.
Mr. Rob Leone: Excuse us. Thank you. We were under the impression from the advice that we’ve received that this motion was amendable. Peter, could you comment on that?
Mr. Peter Sibenik: A debatable motion is amendable, but the amendments have to be related to the main motion. That’s the—
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Tamara Pomanski): The main motion is to adjourn.
Mr. Peter Sibenik: The motion is to adjourn.
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Tamara Pomanski): Until Tuesday.
Mr. Rob Leone: All right.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Mr. Wilson.
Mr. Jim Wilson: It seems to me that Mr. Fedeli’s amendments do pertain to the main motion in that we’d like these things in place by the time we—if the motion passes—reconvene on Tuesday. These are things that have to be dealt with by staff, and we’re asking this all to be done: the media broadcast ??and at least a report back by Tuesday. So why wouldn’t it pertain to the main motion?
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): I, certainly, Mr. Wilson, respect your opinion. But as I say, we’ve been advised by both legal counsel and the Clerk that those motions are out of order.
I will now invite us to please move to the motion for adjournment, unless there are any further comments. Mr. Delaney?
Mr. Bob Delaney: Chair, just one final comment after listening to the grandstanding here. The purpose of the motion this morning was to actually offer the PC Party exactly—not only what they asked for, but a superset of what they asked for. The government has offered all of the documents…
… offer the PC Party not only what they asked for, but a superset of what they asked for. The government has offered all of the documents in its possession.
Now, Chair, our remarks are concluded.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Delaney.
I would also respectfully remind the government side—
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Order, please. Order.
Thank you, Mr. Delaney, for your remarks. I also just respectfully remind you that we are actually entertaining reference to the adjournment motion. Are there any further comments directly on that? Mr. Fedeli.
Mr. Victor Fedeli: Yes, I do have a comment related to the motion—especially on the last comment related to the motion, when I don’t see any of that in here, Chair. I don’t see that here. I don’t know why the member has made that up. I just can’t even begin to imagine.
The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you. I think it’s time we proceeded to the vote. Those in favour of the motion to adjourn till Tuesday, 9 a.m.? Those opposed? I believe it’s carried.
This committee stands adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 1421.