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QUESTION PERIOD — Public Health Agency

National Microbiology Laboratory

June 29, 2021

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Senator Gold, I have a final question for the session. I’m sure, all summer long, you will miss the questions that we have been asking you.

My question today, leader, is about an article in the National Post where they recently reported that one of the scientists fired from the National Microbiology Laboratory is named on two separate patents filed in Beijing in collaboration with a Chinese government scientist.

The Public Servants Inventions Act states that public servants cannot file for a patent outside of Canada without receiving written consent from the appropriate minister.

When the Prime Minister was asked about this in the other place last Wednesday, he said:

. . . I also saw that troubling news this morning, so I asked the minister to follow up and figure out exactly what happened.

I don’t know why he wouldn’t have just asked the minister, “Why did you approve this?”

Leader, it has been almost a week since the Prime Minister made this comment. Was the Trudeau government aware of these patents? Yes or no?

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

Thank you for the question. I don’t know. The Prime Minister answered as he did, and I have no further information, senator. I regret that I don’t know the answer to your question.

This happened a week ago. Today, you have no idea. You would have thought that maybe you would know this question might be coming to you and you would have had an answer for us by now.

I’m sorry that you expect us to tell you ahead of time what we’re going to ask you, so you can prepare your answers.

Leader, in response to the questions about the security breach at the Winnipeg lab, you have often referred to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. That committee, leader, as you well know, is not a committee of Parliament. That committee reports to the Prime Minister, and it cannot publish its findings without direct authorization of the Prime Minister. In this instance, it is being deliberately used by the Trudeau government to avoid accountability.

Again, leader, I have a question that, if you didn’t, you should have anticipated. Your government has done everything in its power to avoid revealing what happened at the last lab, including the most recent news about the patents. Which minister gave their consent for this collaboration as required by law, leader, when did this occur and why was this approved?

Senator Gold [ + ]

I can only repeat — and I know that you’re disappointed I didn’t anticipate the question, but I did not — that I don’t have the answer.

With regard to your other comments, I would simply say that the Government of Canada is proud of the work that the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is doing, and it is a historic and innovative initiative to ensure that parliamentarians who have been properly cleared for security have access to information that they otherwise would not have. It’s serving Canada well.

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