The Conservatives say the government is politicizing a process that the New Democrats say requires a transparent and independent approach.
Tory MP Erin O'Toole speaks at an event in 2015. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
While the opposition parties say they are united in their belief that all parties must work together on the establishment of the committee, they sent individual letters this week to the prime minister and public safety minister.
In a letter Tuesday, Conservative public safety critic Erin O'Toole said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale should know from his consultations in the United Kingdom the importance of ensuring the committee's work is entirely non-partisan.
"The appointment of a chair before the committee is structured and your public pronouncements on the committee without any all-party discussion suggests to both official opposition parties that the government intends to foist upon Parliament a committee that is immediately politicized because of a lack of collaboration and information-sharing," O'Toole said in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
Tories present 18 ideas
The Conservatives presented 18 ideas for the mandate, structure and duties of the committee, including a requirement that it publish an annual report and that all its members should have had some exposure to security, intelligence or defence issues.
Both parties single out NDP MP and lawyer Murray Rankin as someone who should play a major role in forming the body. Before being elected in 2012, Rankin served as legal counsel for the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, the independent body that oversees Canada's spy agency.
Mulcair calls for all-party meeting
In his letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, dated Monday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair urged the Liberals to consider convening an all-party meeting to discuss the committee's work.
The committee itself is essential to build trust in the governance of security agencies while strengthening their accountability to Parliament, Mulcair wrote.
"We are sure that you will agree that it is essential that this process is above reproach in terms of transparency and independence," Mulcair wrote in his letter, a copy of which was also obtained by The Canadian Press.
Formation of the committee was a Liberal campaign promise that followed the passage of a Conservative law extending the powers of spy and security agencies.
The committee would operate outside the normal House of Commons committee structure, given the sensitivity of the material before it.
That's why, the Liberals say, the decision to appoint Liberal David McGuinty as its chair does not break a Liberal campaign commitment that committees will elect their own chairpersons.
That's also why legislation will be needed to create it and set out its mandate, said Scott Bardsley, a spokesperson for the public safety minister.
"Minister Goodale committed to introducing legislation and through the parliamentary process there will be ample opportunities for other parties to feed in," he said.
The legislation is expected later this year.
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