McKenna's office tried to plant friendly questions with senators, Tory alleges

Conservative Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais says Environment Minister Catherine McKenna's office tried to plant questions with friendly senators on the Senate's environment committee to help get the government's message across on its new environmental-assessment legislation.

Dagenais says an email sent in late January shows a co-ordinated effort among senior policy advisers and directors in the departments of environment, natural resources and transport and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to develop questions on Bill C-69 that could be asked of their officials when they appeared to talk about the bill.

The email says McKenna's staff would work with senators to feed the questions to committee members as an opportunity to highlight what they saw as the bill's good points and do some ``myth busting'' against criticism of the bill.

It also says the assistant deputy minister of the environment wanted to review the proposed questions and specifically wanted the officials who would be appearing at the committee to weigh in on what they wanted to be asked.

Dagenais says he would like to know whether this practice of planting questions with friendly senators is specific to McKenna's office or if it is a cabinet-wide practice.

A spokeswoman for McKenna says the minister and her staff work with the government representative in the Senate as well as the sponsors of bills, to make sure senators have the information they need on the legislation but that ``as a general practice, we do not plant questions.''