IN THE HOUSE – ‘Mr. Speaker, the Atwal affair gets more sordid by the day’

MP Cathy McLeod in the House. (Image: File photo)

Debate in the House of Commons on Friday, March 2, 2018 on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India.

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Hochelaga, QC (NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the bad news keeps flooding in regarding the trip to India.

La Presse is reporting this morning that the government may have extrapolated the job creation figures following the announcement it made while the Prime Minister was in India. Apparently, 2,738 jobs were created, not the 5,800 announced. To think that this was the only good news that came out of that trip.

Can the government remind us all once again what exactly that trip was supposed to achieve?

David Lametti, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. member that the purpose of the trip was in fact to promote trade and strengthen our trade relationship with India.

What we achieved was $1 billion in investments between the two countries, and nearly 6,000 jobs for middle-class Canadians. Let me give some examples. Tech Mahindra, a leader in information technology, is going to invest $100 million in Canada to create a centre of excellence in artificial intelligence.

Erin O’Toole, Durham, ON (Conservative)

Mr. Speaker, the Atwal affair gets more sordid by the day.

Yesterday, in his elevator press conference, the public safety minister suggested that it was okay for the national security adviser to share confidential information with the media, but not okay for that same information to be shared with members of Parliament.

Why was the Indian conspiracy theory okay to share with journalists to help get the Prime Minister out of a crisis but not okay to share with the House of Commons, where Canadians send MPs to hold them to account?

Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, the hon. colleague across has been in the House for a long time and he well knows that we cannot discuss specific intelligence information that is received from national security agencies. He is well aware of that.

The independent, nonpartisan advice that we receive from our public servants is something that we listen to and we act on. Unlike the party opposite, we do not politicize or play games with our public service. We make sure we listen to their advice and act accordingly.

Erin O’Toole, Durham, ON (Conservative)

Mr. Speaker, the point made by the parliamentary secretary is absurd.

The government is saying it is okay for the PMO to share confidential information with journalists that Canadians, including members of Parliament, will then read in the paper, but it is not okay to share that same information with parliamentarians or parliamentary committees to hold the Prime Minister and that member to account for this atrocious trip.

When will the Liberals admit that the cover-up of the Atwal affair is worse than the crime?

Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, that is what that member is saying but that certainly is not representative of the facts whatsoever.

Again, to be very clear, and the member knows this well. We cannot under any circumstances discuss specific intelligence information we receive from our national security agencies. The member has been in government and he knows that very well. That is a rule that must be adhered to.

We follow the advice of our public servants. We stand behind that advice. We do not play partisan games with it. We act on it when we are given that information.

Stephanie Kusie, Calgary Midnapore, AB (Conservative)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has accused the Indian government of being involved in inviting his convicted terrorist friend Jaspal Atwal to a state dinner, yet one of his own Liberal MPs has taken the blame and been reprimanded for issuing the invitation. The Prime Minister does not seem to realize he has created a diplomatic disaster as India has responded by raising tariffs on some products by 50%.

Will the Prime Minister issue an apology to the Government of India or will he continue to allow his accusations to cost Canadians?

Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in this place, the invitation in question should never have been sent and when the information was found out about this individual, that invitation was immediately rescinded. The member of Parliament who advanced that name has apologized and made it clear that an error occurred.

We absolutely and without question stand behind our public servants and the recommendations they make to us. We listen to their advice in this and every instance and act on it accordingly.

Jacques Gourde, Lévis—Lotbinière, QC (Conservative)

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal honeymoon is over. Following the shameful diplomatic incident between Canada and India, a Liberal MP was punished for inviting a friend of the Prime Minister, Jaspar Atwal. As a result, India has once again raised the tariff from 40% to 60%. This is the price Canada will have to pay for this diplomatic disaster. It is going to take a lot more than a little dance in the sun to fix this mess.

What does the Prime Minister plan to do to address this diplomatic disaster, for which he is solely responsible?

Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear. The invitation was a mistake and it was rescinded as soon as information on the individual was available. All input and advice from our public servants are crucial and non-partisan. We have full confidence in them.

Cathy McLeod, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo (Conservative)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s trip to India is best described as the theatre of the absurd.

Mr. Atwal has deep connections with the Liberal Party. The Liberals blamed a backbench MP for inviting him to dinner. Then they brought out this preposterous theory that the Indian government was responsible, trying to embarrass the Prime Minister. The result is a serious diplomatic incident and a punishing tariff on our pulse products, hurting our Canadian farmers.

What is the Prime Minister going to do to fix this mess?

Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear that the invitation that was made should not have been made and that it was rejected.

Here is my problem. When the party opposite, which was responsible for devastating cuts to our national security infrastructure, $530 million from the RCMP, $390 million from CBSA, and the list goes on, stands and gives lectures on national security, when it ignored the advice of Justice O’Connor in 2006 and Justice Iacobucci in 2009, it is a little rich. Therefore, I would ask the Conservatives to rethink their line of attack.

John Barlow, Foothills, AB (Conservative)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister must realize that his antics on the global stage have very real consequences. The casualties for this latest diplomatic nightmare are Canadian farmers. The only souvenir from the Prime Minister’s latest family vacation is the successful derailing of Canada’s trade relationship with India. Yesterday, India increased the tariffs on our chickpeas from 40% to 60%, further jeopardizing Canada’s $4 billion pulse industry.

Will the Prime Minister please explain why he is so willing to sacrifice Canadian farmers just to maintain this ridiculous conspiracy theory?

Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is ludicrous to make the assertion the member is making.

Clearly, we have been working for farmers in Canada, and we are always working for farmers. I was in Regina last week, talking with the people in Pulse Canada, making sure that we work with the Indian government. This is the best we can do to ensure that our farmers will have stability and predictability in the Indian market, and we will continue to do so. I have raised that on every single occasion I have had communications with an Indian official.

That is what the Prime Minister did and that is what this whole government is doing, defending our farmers across Canada.


About Mel Rothenburger (7139 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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