The Conservatives vowed Friday to employ new tactics next week to force testimony from Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser over the prime minister’s recent trip to India.
The Tories made the pledge after ending a marathon overnight voting session that began Thursday and kept members of Parliament answering roll calls in the House of Commons for nearly 21 hours.
Conservative House leader Candice Bergen called a halt to the procedural stunt after MPs had voted on hundreds of motions deemed confidence measures. After she did, the calendar on the clerk’s desk finally flipped over to Friday and the sitting wrapped up.
Bergen thanked parliamentary staff, from the Speaker to security guards to cafeteria workers, for hanging on through the prolonged sitting.
Soon afterwards, the bleary MPs — some clad in sweats and clutching pillows and blankets — emerged from the chamber pumping their fists in the air in a victory gesture.
At issue was the Liberal government’s refusal to support a Conservative demand that national security adviser Daniel Jean be called to testify before a Commons committee about a briefing he gave journalists during the prime minister’s ill-starred visit to India.
Jean suggested to reporters covering Trudeau’s trip last month that rogue factions in the Indian government had sabotaged the visit. Since then, Opposition MPs demanded that Jean explain his reasoning about how one-time Canadian Sikh separatist and convicted attempted murderer Jaspal Atwal was invited to a Trudeau event in India.
Atwal’s appearance, and Jean’s statements about the Indian government, have harmed Canada-India relations, said Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole.
“We’ve already seen the Indian government express outrage, raise tariffs,” said O’Toole.
“We’ve angered a major Commonwealth partner … and the prime minister clings to this conspiracy theory that directly contradicts his own MP, Randeep Sarai.”
While Trudeau has defended Jean as a professional, non-partisan, veteran public servant who only says what he knows to be true, Sarai took responsibility for getting Atwal on the guest lists for Trudeau events in India after Atwal said he requested an invitation.
Only one of those two scenarios can be true, said O’Toole: either Atwal was invited by a Liberal MP or he was an Indian government plant and Jean should be allowed to testify so he can clear the air over the controversy.
But Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger said it was entirely up to MPs on the national security committee — the majority of whom are Liberals — to decide whether Jean should be called to testify.
“The committee should be able to choose if they would like him to come and testify or not,” said Chagger. “And that’s a choice for committee members to make.”
NDP members, however, noted that the committee had not voted on a motion to compel Jean to testify. Instead, committee members adjourned debate before a vote could be called.
Either way, it’s up to Trudeau to “come clean with Canadians about his trip to India,” Bergen said in a statement.
“Canadians deserve to know the truth about what happened during the Atwal Affair,” she said. “Justin Trudeau is trying to hide the one person who can set the record straight. That’s not right.”
O’Toole insisted the fight will carry on next week, although he wouldn’t say what new tactics his party might use.
“We’re going to bring this back in a new way,” said O’Toole.