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O'Toole's boycott leaves security panel of parliamentarians with no Conservative MPs

Tories snub security panel

There are no Conservative MPs among the newly named slate of parliamentarians to oversee the security and intelligence community following the party's decision to boycott the body.

Liberal MPs Patricia Lattanzio and James Maloney are joining the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, known as NSICOP, while Liberals Brenda Shanahan and Peter Fragiskatos — as well as Conservatives Leona Alleslev and Rob Morrison — have left.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole pulled his party's MPs from the committee last spring to protest the Liberal government's refusal to hand over unredacted documents related to the firing of two scientists from Canada's highest-security laboratory.

In a Dec. 17 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, O'Toole said the Conservative boycott of the all-party committee would continue in the new session of Parliament until the wraps are taken off those documents.

Opposition parties banded together last spring to order the Public Health Agency of Canada to hand over the documents to the now-defunct special committee on Canada-China relations.

The Liberal government gave them to NSICOP instead, arguing that it was the more appropriate body to review sensitive material that could jeopardize national security.

That committee, created in 2017 specifically to review sensitive matters, submits classified reports to the prime minister, which are later tabled in Parliament in edited form. Its members must have top security clearance and are bound to secrecy.

House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota ruled last year that NSICOP is not a committee of Parliament and, therefore, not an acceptable alternative to having a Commons committee examine the documents concerning the fired scientists.

In his December letter, O'Toole said NSICOP "has become a committee of the Prime Minister's Office" and has been used by Trudeau's government "to avoid accountability and that is diminishing its credibility."

He said changes are required to the legislation creating the committee to establish it as a standing Commons committee that reports to Parliament, not the prime minister.

The Prime Minister's Office said Thursday that all recognized party leaders in the House of Commons and all leaders and facilitators in the Senate were consulted ahead of the latest appointments to NSICOP. It added that O'Toole "chose not to recommend the participation of any Conservative members of Parliament."

The two newcomers to the committee join Liberal MP David McGuinty, who is the chairman, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, New Democrat MP Don Davies, Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron, and senators Vern White, Frances Lankin and Dennis Dawson.



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