As promised, I am conducting a fact-checking inquiry into the recent news report alleging, contrary to routine media reports of growing secrecy under the Harper government, that actually Martin’s brief majority in 2004 was far more secretive, averaging 116 minutes a day of hidden in camera committee meetings.
I am now in a position to call upon the Canadian Press and the Library of Parliament to make available whatever analysis report is the basis of their numbers on this issue. Shortly I will be examining the other sessions referenced, but the easiest one to start with is the Martin government, because it was so short. So far as I am aware, the only way for public citizens to do this kind of research is to go to the Parliamentary committee minutes and count up all the time spent in camera, which is duly recorded there down to the minute.
The results are intriguing.
According to the CP report, 36 hours of secret testimony — or an average of about 20 minutes a day over the entire session — was heard by one single committee: the “joint parliamentary committee on national security.” This committee, as I have stated before, did not exist. Not by that name and not, at least within the jurisdiction of Parliament, by any other name either.
Next, the total given by the CP report actually includes both Senate and House of Commons committees. This is why my own numbers were so dramatically different from theirs, prompting my dissenting report on Monday. 52 of the 182 hours of in camera meetings took place in the Senate. Once these are subtracted, we fall back to about 70 minutes per day of actual in camera discussion inside the House of Commons. That’s about 22.5% of all Parliamentary committee time.
If we want to talk about total time including Senate committee time, that’s fine, but we should be clear about what we’re talking about. To date, the talk about Parliamentary secrecy has not included discussion of Senate committees, just Commons committees. Juicing the statistics by adding in Senate time isn’t necessarily illegitimate, but people do have a right to be informed that that’s what you’re doing.
My next task will be to add up time in the current Parliament. Pins and needles! In the meantime, you can check my math here, if you want to.Tweet