21 Hours of Non-Stop Voting and Why It Matters

You likely heard about the 21-hour voting marathon that took place in the House of Commons two weeks ago.

What you may not have heard is why my Conservative colleagues and I forced this showdown.

The reason is simple: Canadians deserve to know why a convicted terrorist, by the name of Jaspal Atwal, was invited to attend an event in India with Canada’s Prime Minister.

Let’s take a brief moment to recap that disastrous trip. The Prime Minister brought a dozen cabinet ministers and Liberal MPs along with him, but somehow forgot to bring the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

There were endless photo ops of the Prime Minister and his family in traditional attire, but virtually no government business was conducted. During the eight-day trip, only one day was devoted to ‘official business.’

And to top it all off, Mr. Atwal, a man convicted of trying to assassinate an Indian Cabinet Minister, was invited to the state dinner between the Prime Minister of India and Justin Trudeau.

This significant blunder not only embarrassed Canada, but caused considerable harm to our relationship with India. But more importantly, it raises questions with regards to national security. How did a convicted terrorist get to be so close to the Canadian Prime Minister? Assuming proper security measures were taken, how did Atwal’s name on the invitation list get overlooked? Or was it flagged for the Prime Minister and he purposely ignored it?

For one reason or another, the Canadian Government thought it was a good idea to invite Mr. Atwal to the state dinner. He received an official invitation from the Canadian High-Commissioner to India. Invitations of this sort only get sent after they’ve been approved by the Prime Minister’s Office.

A number of stories have been told by the government to try to explain why this happened. Randeep Sarai, the Liberal MP for Surrey Centre, was the first to accept responsibility for inviting Mr. Atwal but the Canadian public was quick to pick up on the fact that this seemed improbable.

This is where Daniel Jean, the Prime Minister’s National Security Advisor comes in. Upon returning to Canada, Mr. Jean publicly alleged that Mr. Atwal’s invitation was the result of “elements” within the Indian Government that were conspiring to embarrass the Prime Minister and make Canada look bad. 

This is a huge allegation to make – that a foreign government is conspiring to sabotage the Canadian Prime Minister.

The Indian government has refuted this claim and security experts have called it a “stretch”.

Nevertheless, when questioned in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Trudeau has stood in his place over and over again to re-inforce these serious allegations.

The only way to get to the bottom of this bizarre situation is to hear directly from the National Security Advisor, but when Conservative MPs moved a motion to have Mr. Jean appear before the Public Safety Committee, the Liberal majority voted it down.

A few days later, Conservative MPs again put forward a motion in the House of Commons requesting that the Prime Minister permit the National Security Advisor to provide us with the same briefing he gave the Canadian media.  The Liberals voted against this motion too.

The chief role of the Official Opposition is to hold the governing party to account. We were reasonable in our approach and gave the Liberal Government a heads up that if they didn’t permit the National Security Advisor to brief us on what took place with Atwal, we would hold them in the House of Commons for hundreds of recorded votes. They shrugged us off.

It was a well-crafted strategy designed to capture the attention of the media and make Canadians aware of the Prime Minister’s contradictions and continued disrespect toward Canadians, the House of Commons, and the Indian government.

And our strategy worked!

While the Liberals didn’t vote for our motion, they have finally agreed to allow the National Security Advisor to brief the Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, and a group of Conservative MPs on the Atwal case.

This isn’t just a matter of the Prime Minister being caught in contradiction; it’s a matter of national security. Canadians need to know if necessary security protocols are in place and being followed by the current government. If not, this needs to be addressed immediately.

When the Prime Minister fails to provide Canadians with a truthful answer, blocks the National Security Advisor from coming to committee, refuses to answer questions during Question Period, and skips out on more than two-thirds of Parliament’s sitting days, Canadians have reason to be alarmed. 

If you have concerns, questions or frustrations you wish to share with me, I invite you to attend my Community Townhall on May 16th from 7-8:30pm at the Royal Canadian Legion General Stuart Branch No 4. Please RSVP on my webpage: www.RachaelHarder.ca. I hope to see you there!