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National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians

September 19, 2023

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

My question is for the government leader, and it also touches on Prime Minister Trudeau’s Senate appointments to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

Over the summer, the Prime Minister filled the last Senate vacancy by appointing yet again one of his very own Senate appointees, meaning that currently the three senators sitting on NSICOP are senators whom he has appointed and picked based on common values. By doing so, the Prime Minister eliminated the balance between the government and the opposition in the Senate. We all know that the Prime Minister wants to strip the opposition of its role of representing the voice of the political minority.

Senator Gold, will you pressure the Prime Minister to correct this mistake?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

It is not correct that it is the intention or the desire of the Prime Minister to strip the opposition of its role. Recent amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act made that very clear, honourable colleagues.

It is not my intention to pressure the Prime Minister. That is not an appropriate exercise, but as I have said, I have made my views clear to the Prime Minister, and he has acted within his mandate and authority.

Senator Martin [ + ]

Senator Gold, 80% of Canadians are unhappy with the Trudeau government. It may be time to re‑evaluate your government’s approach, especially on issues of national security and intelligence matters. Up until your government, the convention has always been to seek the advice of the opposition in naming members to review matters of national security and intelligence. This is for the very good and important reason that it establishes cross-party cooperation, which then assists in building public confidence and national support on such matters. When a government only appoints its friends to sit on the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, there is an imminent risk that Canadians will lose confidence on how matters are being managed and reviewed.

Senator Gold, will your government show some common sense and recognize that excluding the opposition from NSICOP isn’t in our nation’s best interest?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Thank you for your question.

It is incorrect and frankly disrespectful to the integrity of each and every member of NSICOP to insinuate that they were appointed as “friends” or, as was implied by your leader, in order to insulate the Prime Minister and his government.

It would be equally inappropriate to assume that members of the Conservative or NDP or other members of NSICOP from the House or from this chamber do not approach their work in defence of Canada’s national security with the same degree of honour, integrity and diligence that all members do and should do.

My question is also about the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. Leader, I note that only one of the 11 members is francophone. That is less than 10%, even though francophones make up more than 20% of Canadian society. I know that the Prime Minister has been approached about appointing francophone senators and has turned them down. Was it because these senators were Conservatives?

Senator Gold [ + ]

No. As I explained, the Prime Minister looked at the needs, analyzing the committee and the diversity of skills and experience required when the committee was created. He also considered the issues facing Canada and the work the committee would have to do.

Apparently the issues don’t really affect francophones, and they don’t fundamentally affect the Atlantic provinces either. Not one of the 11 committee members comes from the four Atlantic provinces. Again, the Liberals are treating people from Atlantic Canada as second-class citizens, whereas five committee members are from Ontario. I know that during the previous rounds of committee appointments, two senators from Atlantic Canada were put forward as candidates but were rejected by the Prime Minister. Was that because those senators were Conservatives?

Senator Gold [ + ]

It is hard to keep repeating the same thing. Unfortunately, you leave me no choice.

Senators are appointed based on their skills and experience and based on the needs of the committee.

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