The New Democrats and the Liberals have raised concerns this past week over what appears to be a concerted push to move Commons committees – as much as possible - behind closed doors.
This is what NDP Opposition House Leader Joe Comartin told reporters after Question Period on Wednesday.
What they’re proposing is a significant expansion, a very significant expansion in what work that does go on behind closed doors. For instance when we’re talking about witnesses, we’re talking about people’s personalities and qualifications and capabilities. It’s appropriate that that information stay behind closed doors because quite frankly at times we might libel people. That’s appropriate.
What they’re talking about here is all debate that goes on, unless there is a witness before the committee, everything else is going to be behind closed doors.
Conservatives have a majority in Commons committees, which gives them a lot of leeway to do what they will.
But I put the following question to Government House Leader Peter Van Loan during a year-end interview on Thursday: “The opposition raised concerns yesterday about committees – where it seems like there’s a push to move more things in camera on a regular basis. Do you think that committees should be by default as public as possible?”
Here is Van Loan’s response:
“It’s been a long time since I sat on a Parliamentary committee, because in the ministry you don’t do that. But when I was in Opposition, when I was a Parliamentary secretary (I did). My recollection was we always went in camera to deal with the agenda, future business, to deal with draft reports. That’s sort of standard procedure. So I know they are trying to make a big issue out of something that seems to have always been the practice in my experience.”