Trudeaus national security adviser to testify before committee on India trip today

OTTAWA – In a rare occurrence, Prime Minister Justin Trudeaus national security adviser Daniel Jean is testifying publicly before a committee MPs on Parliament Hill today.

The televised noon-hour meeting of the House Public Safety and National Security Committee is expected to be dominated by discussion of Trudeaus troubled trip to India, which has dogged the Liberals since February.

Jean has become the man at the centre of a heated political and procedural fight in the House of Commons as a result of the briefing he gave to reporters covering the trip.

Jean’s road to the committee required a parliamentary marathon of votes and weeks of pressure from the opposition in Ottawa. That the Liberals have sunk to second in the polls surely hasn’t helped. Watch Jean’s testimony live here at 12 p.m. ET.

The briefing was given after news broke that Jaspal Atwal, a convicted attempted murderer, was photographed with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and other members of the Liberal cabinet at a Mumbai event attended by officials from Canadas delegation.

Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser will attempt to explain his role in a media briefing gone wrong during the PM’s trip to India. Watch it here.

Jaspal Atwal affair set to heat up as Daniel Jean appears at committee over India trip

During that conversation, Jean suggested that related to Sikh separatism, rogue elements in the Indian government may have tried to damage Trudeaus trip to India in February, a theory others—including the Indian government— have since disputed.

Also on the Hill media circuit today:  Citizenship and Immigration Minister Ahmad Hussen hits the Commons Foyer alongside his cabinet colleagues Kirsty Duncan (Science) and Carla Qualtrough (Public Services) to update reporters on the current policies for dealing with immigration applicants rejected due to medical inadmissibility, a practice that has come under heavy criticism for effectively blocking entire families from moving to Canada because of one ailing member.

Atwal had also made the guest list for a second event in India, at the Canadian High Commissioner to Indias residence in Delhi, but that invitation was rescinded once the government became aware of Atwals attendance at the Mumbai event.

While its definitely far too early to declare the Trans Mountain pipeline standoff crisis officially averted, it would appear that the Sunday morning mini-summit in Ottawa may have put a temporary pause on further escalation of the cross-border hostilities between British Columbia and Alberta, which have been steadily rising in both volume and intensity since Kinder Morgan announced that it would be suspending non-essential work on its planned expansion.

iPolitics AM: PM heads to Paris as Daniel Jean makes much-anticipated appearance at committee

Liberal MP Randeep Sarai took responsibility for inviting him, and Atwal, through his lawyer, has denied being a security threat or having acted on anyones behalf.

Jean, who spoke to reporters on background, was first named publicly by the Conservatives. They have since been leading a charge to have him appear at the committee to give the same briefing he offered reporters. This included a 21-hour marathon voting session and other dilatory tactics.

Citing confidential information in part, the Liberals repeatedly shut down this request to have Jean testify.

Finally, Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford hits the capital for the first time since he ascended to the leadership last month. According to the itinerary provided to the Canadian Press, hell drop by an Orleans restaurant to make an announcement and take questions from the press, and hold a rally for supporters in Nepean later this evening.

However, according to a Canadian Press report, Jean offered himself up to the committee. The meeting was then scheduled for the first day MPs were back on Parliament Hill following a break.

Later this morning, hell kick off a two-day visit to Paris with a visit to UNESCO headquarters, as well as the head office of La Francophonie, where hell get the chance to catch up with former Canadian governor general Michaelle Jean, who now serves as the organizations secretary general.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has also accepted the governments offer of a national security briefing on the matter. Scheer says he will invite members of his caucus and the media to the part of the briefing that will cover non-classified information. The date of this briefing has yet to be announced.

In an interview on CTVs Question Period, Richard Fadden, former national security adviser to both Trudeau and prime minister Stephen Harper, characterizes Jeans involvement in a politically charged story as "rather extraordinary."

On his afternoon agenda: A working lunch with French president Emmmanuel Macron, a one-on-one chat with New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and, eventually, a drop-in at Canadas new embassy.

He predicted Mondays meeting will be interesting, but said Jean will be limited in what hell be able to say to the public.

"He will not be able to reveal any national security secrets," Fadden said. "I suspect hes going to leave the committee relatively unsatisfied… hes only going to be able to repeat whats already in the public domain."

Lets face it: It was always a bit of a long shot — okay, make that a record-breaking, earth-to-the-moon-and-back-again long shot — that Sundays hastily convened trilateral mini-summit would end with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau striding triumphantly down the steps from his Centre Block office, flanked by New Democrat premiers Rachel Notley and John Horgan, each beaming an identical smile of satisfaction as they delivered a joint statement on how theyd managed to negotiate an end to the ongoing standoff over proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that somehow managed to make everyone happy.

Fadden was doubtful that Jean will come out and take full responsibility for the matter, saying it would be unusual for that to actually be the case.

"Theres a general rule in the public service, including for the national security adviser, is that you dont deal with the media, without some measure of clearance from your political masters," he said.

The separate, closed-door National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians has also initiated a "special review" of the trip to India. The security-cleared all-party committee is looking at "foreign interference in Canadian political affairs, risks to the security of the Prime Minister, and inappropriate use of intelligence."

Over the next few weeks, the committee is expected to call in senior executives from across the social media universe as members explore the implications of platform monopolies, as well as what national and international regulatory and legislative remedies might be considered to assure the privacy of citizens data and the integrity of democratic and electoral processes across the globe.

National security adviser Daniel Jean testifies before standing committee of MPs in Ottawa, Monday, April 16 2018.

As far as what hell actually say, well no one seems to know exactly how much light hell shed on what may or may not have been said behind closed doors. The very fact that hes testifying — voluntarily, even — on such a potentially sensitive issue falls so far outside the norm for senior security officials that even the pre-appearance speculation seems more highly speculative than usual.

A pedestrian walks by Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Daniel Jean, Canadian National Security Advisor, attends a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday, January 29, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

For their part, the Liberals insist theyve kept that pledge by only including measures that were announced as part of the budget, so expect to hear that debate continue throughout the week, which is as long as the government seems to be prepared to let it drag on before deploying its majority to wrap it up and send the bill off to committee for further study.

The opposition Conservatives today will again ask for an emergency debate in the Commons on the Trans Mountain pipeline situation.

Jean is expected to provide his perspective on Trudeaus disastrous tour of India — and specifically, field questions from MPs on his alleged role in briefing reporters on the possibility that factions within the Indian government were responsible for getting convicted attempted assassin Jaspal Atwal on the guest list for a reception at the Canadian High Commission in Delhi.

Don Martin talks to people and players who dominate the political scene.

As previewed in iPolitics AM, its fair to say that, as far as Mondays must-see committee schedule, the much-anticipated appearance by Prime Minister Justin Trudeaus national security advisor Daniel Jean at PUBLIC SAFETY is the hottest ticket on the Hill, and will almost certainly be the only meeting to draw a standing-room-only crowd.

Hosted by CTVs Don Martin, Power Play is a must for political insiders.

On the Senate side, the governments planned mid-summer pot legalization roll-out continues to dominate the agenda, although it looks like at least one of the five committees currently tasked with studying the details is ready to wrap up witness testimony.

First off, a caveat: Its pretty much a law of political thermodynamics that the more hotly anticipated a particular committee witness, the more anticlimactic his or her testimony turns out to be, which may very well be exactly what happens when the prime ministers national security advisor submits himself to the parliamentary spotlight today.

NATIONAL SECURITY is set to hear from one more expert panel before going behind closed doors to begin drafting its report on the potential impact that the new laws will have on cross-border relations.

Still, given the lengths to which the Conservatives, in particular, were willing to go to get the chance to question Daniel Jean over that off-the-record briefing he reportedly provided to journalists on alleged mischief-making by factions within the Indian government, theres likely to be a capacity crowd for his appearance before the House public safety committee.

Meanwhile, SOCIAL AFFAIRS holds an extended session to canvass health and medical professionals, addiction specialists and nonsmokers rights advocates, among others.

For those not able to make it to the Hill to watch the proceedings in person, the meeting is set to be streamed online and may even be aired live on at least one dedicated news channel, although that tends to depend on what else is happening in the midday news cycle.

The hour-long session is set to get underway at noon, and will be streamed live on the parliamentary website.

In any case, if you plan on tuning in — in real time, or via on-demand video — heres a rundown of what the Process Nerd will be watching when the action gets underway at noon.

Its far from a foolproof tell, but you can sometimes get a sense of how a witness appearance will play out from the pre-meeting dynamics in the room, starting with the arrival of the witness himself.

Will Jean show up just before the gavel is slated to go down, or will he spend a few minutes settling into the witness seat?

Will he be accompanied by a full entourage of PCO officials and, if so, will they flank him at the table, or join the rest of the audience in the public seating section? On a similar theme, are there any ministerial — or prime ministerial — staffers in the room? Its a good bet that at least one person from PMO will be on hand to monitor the situation, most likely from what they will be hoping is a suitably inconspicuous vantage point along the wall.

If Jean is already installed at the witness table as committee members start to stream in, will any MPs — from the Liberal or the opposition side of the table — make a quick detour to exchange greetings and a quick handshake before taking their seat?

Finally, how much paper — documents, speaking notes or other material — has Jean brought with him to the session?

More specifically, does it look like hes preparing to brandish hard evidence of his purported assertion that the Indian government may have orchestrated the addition of convicted attempted assassin Jaspal Atwal to the Canadian High Commissions invite list? If so, the above prediction of an anticlimactic testimony would seem to be much less likely to beat out.

When the chair calls the meeting to order, do members allow him to move straight to witness testimony, or will there be a quick (or possibly not so quick) round of points of order to deal with before Jean can take the floor?

For instance, will anyone on the opposition side of the table suggest that Jean be formally sworn in?

Such formalities are generally reserved for cases where there is some question — amongst either the opposition parties, or those MPs aligned with the government — as to whether a particular witness will be fully aware that they are expected to testify truthfully.

(Which is, of course, automatically inferred for all committee witnesses, hence the rarity of the practice.)

Raising such a request in relation to an appearance by a civil servant, particularly one in as senior a role as Jean, would effectively serve to preemptively accuse either him or the government of trying to cover up the truth, which would up the stakes dramatically — not to mention carry the risk of a sizeable backlash against the MP and party who pushed for it, depending on what he says.

As for Jean, it will be worth keeping tabs on just how much time he spends on his opening statement, which will likely be capped at either 5 or 10 minutes, depending on how the committee has decided to proceed.

With only one hour booked off for the full session, however, devoting 10 minutes to an opening statement that could simply be handed around the table in print form would seem to be a less than efficient use of the available time, although that, too, will depend on the ratio of information to filler.

On a similar note, once the question-and-answer phase begins, its worth keeping tabs on how heavily MPs pre-load their queries with preamble. As difficult as it seems to be for MPs — of any stripe — to voluntarily use up less than the maximum allotted time, short, targeted questions are usually the best way to actually elicit helpful responses, as it allows for more probing lines of inquiry, including follow-ups.

And while its not hard to predict where the Conservatives — and, most likely, the lone New Democrat — will want to focus their questions, the angle that the Liberal MPs take when their side gets the microphone could reveal how Team Trudeau is hoping to frame Jeans testimony.

Also worth tabs-keeping: How frequently do Liberal committee members interrupt an opposition-driven round of questions to complain that the queries are out of order?

As the clock runs down on his appearance, Jean may find himself asked to return to the committee for further testimony in future, although such a request would require the backing of at least one Liberal MP to be binding, as it will be up to the majority to decide where to take the investigation from here.

And if questions arise that he cant answer on the spot — either because he doesnt have the information at hand, or, alternately, is unable to provide it in a public setting — MPs may ask Jean to send along his response in writing.

Finally, when the gavel goes down to end the session, Jean could, in theory, head out the front doors to the throng of cameras and boom mics in place for the traditional post-meeting scrums, and take a question or two from the press.

Alternately, he could depart by the side door, which would allow him to dodge the media and return to his traditional position well below the political radar, at least for the moment.

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