Question period - Prime Minister's Office

Trudeau Foundation—Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

February 9, 2017

The Honourable Senator Denise Batters :

Hon. Denise Batters: Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader in the Senate.

Senator Harder, in November you were asked whether individuals associated with the Trudeau Foundation had been rewarded by the Trudeau government. You replied "not to my knowledge." Yet when I look at the Trudeau Foundation website, lo and behold I see many names that are strangely familiar. You, Senator Harder, were appointed as head of the Trudeau government transition team, then you were appointed to the Senate, and then you were appointed as the Trudeau government's leader in the Senate.

Huguette Labelle was appointed chair of the Trudeau government's advisory board on Senate appointments. Trudeau Foundation mentors include Senators Lankin, Bovey and Dupuis, who have now all been appointed to this chamber. Anne McLellan was appointed chair of the Trudeau government's marijuana task force. The Trudeau government appointed Pierre Pettigrew as CETA envoy. It just goes on, Senator Harder.

We found out last week that the Trudeau government's Senate appointee from Manitoba has turned down the job, creating another Senate vacancy. Could you please advise if the new appointee will also be drawn from the ranks of the Trudeau Foundation farm team?

Senator Tkachuk: How do I get on that foundation?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Ask Chuck Strahl.

I want to respond to the honourable senator's question by assuring her that there's an arm's-length process in place for the recommendation to the Prime Minister of all Senate appointments, including the one that she references.

As to the Trudeau Foundation mentor program, it is a long list of distinguished Canadians, quite apart from myself, who have participated in this and will continue to participate in this. I frankly find it hard to believe that anybody would take seriously the accusation that there is a line between being a mentor and being a senator.

Senator Batters: On the independent advisory process, I'm not sure how you can refer to that, given that it's very curious that two of the Senate advisory panel's very members — Huguette Labelle and Dawn Lavell Harvard — are associated with, you guessed it, the Trudeau Foundation. I guess you knew that because they were both on the panel that recommended your appointment to the Senate.

You said last fall that you had no knowledge of any Trudeau government reward given to individuals associated with the Trudeau Foundation. I've now outlined at least half a dozen examples for your benefit. Now that you do have knowledge of that link, will you please now admit that the straight line from the Trudeau Foundation to Trudeau government appointments is undeniable and inappropriate?

Senator Harder: The "inappropriate" is the linkage.

Senator Batters: Yet again, Senator Harder, you didn't answer my question. You are the Trudeau government's leader in the Senate. You style yourself as the Government Representative, yet you fail to answer on behalf of the government in this chamber.

On previous occasions in Senate Question Period, I have asked you about your past attendance at cabinet committees, and you would only say that you attended them "as appropriate and as invited." You refused to answer on your involvement in establishing the Senate appointment process as Trudeau government transition team head, calling it "private advice." You answered a question on the political affiliation of new senators with, "I cannot provide that which I do not have."

It seems what we do not have, Senator Harder, is adequate representation of the government in this chamber. So when will you do the job you are supposed to be here to do and give senators and all Canadians some real answers?

Senator Harder: It's very difficult for me to just respond to a string of accusations and ill-founded statements, and I will not do so.