MPs granted extension for Afghan document deal
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, May 11, 2010 9:05PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:38AM EDT
Commons Speaker Peter Milliken has agreed to extend a deadline for MPs to reach a deal on access to sensitive Afghan detainee documents until Friday afternoon.
All parties involved asked for the extension from today's original deadline.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff sounded confident a deal could be reached this week.
"The key is making sure the government complies with the Speaker's ruling," Ignatieff said. "At the moment we are making some progress, but this shouldn't go on forever. We hope to get a resolution by Friday."
Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said it is "exceedingly important" the parties come to an agreement that balances security with public accountability.
"We've arrived at a point where we think some additional time is both necessary and appropriate and could be productively used," Goodale said after a 90-minute negotiating session.
"It's complex and it's exceedingly important that we get it right, both in defending the public interest and in defending national security and getting the right balance between the two."
According to senior sources, the parties have agreed that there will be a small committee of MPs who will view the secret documents. But the point of contention is over how to release information to the public if it is deemed necessary, CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported Tuesday morning.
Fife said the Opposition has proposed a panel, made up of three eminent persons: one picked by the government, another chosen by the opposition parties and a third independent, to work with MPs to decide which documents can be released to the public in the form of a summary.
"It's pretty clear this review committee will have access to all documents, unredacted and redacted versions of which to compare them. So there will be Parliamentary eyes on these documents. That is the emerging consensus here," NDP justice critic Joe Comartin told reporters Tuesday morning.
"The real issue is what happens in the event that the majority of this group wants to use these document to pursue our obligation as Parliamentarians to hold the government to account and the government ultimately says, ‘No, that's secret.'"
Late in April, Milliken gave Parliament two weeks to come up with a formula to give MPs access to the secret material without risking national security.
On CTV's Power Play, Tory MP Tom Lukiwski said that trust between the Conservative and opposition parties must be "sacrosanct" if the negotiations are to deliver a solution.
"Individuals are going to be charged with examining unredacted documents, if we get to that position, (and) are going to be sworn to secrecy," he said. "All parliamentarians are going to have to be confident that they are going to take that responsibility seriously."
If the parties fail to reach a deal, opposition MPs could lodge a contempt motion against the government, potentially leading to an election or a court case.