Another Conservative filibuster in the works over Jaspal Atwal affair
The federal Conservatives are preparing for a second filibuster this week in an effort to force the government to send its senior national security adviser to face questions at a House of Commons committee over what has become known as the Jaspal Atwal affair.
Speaking to Global News on background, a Conservative source said the party is preparing to place between 50 and 100 motions on the notice paper this week in order to derail government proceedings until the Liberals agree to have Daniel Jean provide a briefing to members of Parliament. Conservatives want to know whether Jean made statements to the media that factions of the Indian government wanted to scuttle the recent trip to India by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Members of Parliament have a shortened work week given the Easter holiday, with Thursday being a half-day and the House not sitting on Friday.
The source said the party had not yet decided what business it might filibuster using the motions but was waiting on a ruling from the clerk to make a decision.
“We’ll see,” the individual said.
The Conservatives declared in the House of Commons earlier this month it was Jean who gave the briefing about the trip to several reporters, including a reporter for Global News, after news broke Atwal had been invited to a reception during the trip.
In the briefing provided to Global News, a senior government source said that no reason had been given for why Atwal was lifted from an Indian government travel blacklist not long before the trip by Trudeau.
The source hinted there may be factions within the Indian government who wanted Canada to be seen as soft on Sikh extremism, and that having Atwal, a convicted attempted assassin, seen sidling up to Trudeau and his ministers might have been seen as a way to do that.
However, Global News agreed not to identify the source.
WATCH BELOW: All night long: MPs hold marathon session
The Indian government rejected the suggestion and Liberal MP Randeep Sarai took the blame for adding Atwal to the invite list for the reception.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland later called the whole affair “an honest mistake.”
But Conservatives have for weeks now demanded an explanation from the government for why the source they asserted was Jean could speak to reporters but not provide the same information to members of parliament in a committee.
Two separate attempts by Conservatives on House and Senate committees to call Jean as a witness failed after Liberal and independent members voted down the motions calling for him to appear. Last week, the Conservatives warned that they were prepared to filibuster a vote on the supplementary and interim estimates if a motion they put before the House of Commons calling for the same thing was defeated.
WATCH BELOW: Opposition asks PM to apologize to India over Jaspal Atwal scandal
Their motion failed, however, and the opposition forced an overnight sitting of the House of Commons to get through roughly 100 of about 260 motions opposing individual lines of those federal estimates.
Given the estimates dealt with money matters, each was considered a vote of confidence in the government.
The Liberals had to make sure they had enough members in their seats throughout the 21-hour overnight voting stretch to defeat each motion or risk triggering an election.
The voting was expected to last roughly 40 hours and stretch into the morning of last Saturday but Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen withdrew the remaining motions after trying and failing to get a pause in votes on a procedural matter earlier Friday morning.
On Sunday, the Conservatives revoked travel authorizations for their MPs and recalled all of them back to Ottawa to continue to push for Jean to appear at committee, and attacked the government during debates and question period on the matter through Monday.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, speaking in question period, said officials had made an offer to brief Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on the Atwal affair and urged him to accept it.
“The offer has been made to provide the Leader of the Opposition with the details in a classified briefing,” he said, noting he did not understand why the opposition had refused to accept.
“It’s as if they want to be willfully blind.”
Erin O’Toole, the Conservative foreign affairs critic, said there is no need for a classified briefing if the allegations of Indian government complicity in sabotaging the Trudeau trip to India could be provided to journalists, and pressed the government to say whether the information provided to reporters was classified.
The source who spoke to Global News did not indicate any material discussed was classified and the discussion lasted roughly 12 minutes.