OTTAWA – Tony Clement was a charter member of the new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which has access to highly classified information. A look at the committee:What is it?The committee, created by statute last year, is a multi-party forum that includes representatives from both the House of Commons and the Senate. But it is no ordinary committee. It meets in secret and reports to the prime minister on national security issues.What exactly does it do?The committee has authority to review national-security and intelligence activities carried out across the government.This includes activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the cyberspies of the Communications Security Establishment, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency, among many others.Similar committees have existed for years in the United States and Britain, prompting the Liberal government to establish one here to improve oversight and accountability of the intelligence world.The committee submits reports, including an annual review, to the prime minister. Redacted versions of reports are tabled in Parliament.Who serves on the committee?MP David McGuinty (chairman), Sen. Percy Downe, Sen. Frances Lankin, Sen. Vern White, MP Emmanuel Dubourg, MP Hedy Fry, MP Gudie Hutchings, MP Murray Rankin, MP Brenda Shanahan.Are they sworn to secrecy?All members hold Top Secret security clearances and are permanently bound to secrecy under the Security of Information Act. Members swear an oath or solemn affirmation indicating they will obey and uphold the laws of Canada, and will not communicate or inappropriately use information obtained in confidence during their committee work.What were members told about security?Shortly after being appointed to the committee, all members were given a comprehensive security briefing by the Privy Council Office and other security agencies. “In fact, we regularly review our security obligations given how important this is to our credibility,” says Rennie Marcoux, executive director of the committee secretariat.What has the committee been doing?In May, the committee provided a special report to the prime minister on security concerns surrounding his February 2018 trip to India. Members then held further deliberations on the report and provided an updated version to Trudeau last month.The committee is also conducting two other reviews, one examining how the government establishes national intelligence priorities and another looking at the intelligence activities of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.
OTTAWA — The federal government is writing off more than $163 million in outstanding student-loan payments that officials will never be able to collect.New spending documents show the government is giving up on debts from 31,658 students after “reasonable efforts to collect the amounts owed.”It is the fourth time in the last five years that the government has written off outstanding student loans.The government periodically gives up on some of the $19 billion owing in student loans for a number of reasons: a debtor files for bankruptcy, the debt itself passes a six-year legal limit on collection, or the debtor can’t be found.The Liberals have looked to make it easier for graduates to pay off their loans — and the government to collect the cash — by increasing the minimum annual income a person has to make before they are required to make debt payments.The threshold is now set at $25,000.The most recent annual report on the Canada Student Loans Program said that in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the government provided almost 490,000 full-time students with just under $2.7 billion in loans and a further $24.1 million in loans to 13,712 part-time students.The report said that the average federal student loan balance at graduating was $13,306, up from $12,783 in the previous 12-month period, an increase of 4.1 per cent.Borrowers typically take between nine and 15 years to fully pay off their loans and the period usually overlaps with when Canadians are most likely to start families.The Canadian Press