Combating Terrorism Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Opposition Motion—2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 3:30 p.m.
Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the motion moved by the hon. member opposite regarding chapter 8 of the Auditor General's report on public security and anti-terrorism, the PSAT initiative. I have reviewed the NDP motion, I have read the Auditor General's report and I have heard the AG's testimony on this chapter. After all this, I must reject the premise of the NDP motion.
The Auditor General and his office had full access to all documentation from the PSAT initiative and they were left with a specific conclusion: that the reporting process was not as exhaustive as it should have been. However, the AG said that he “did not find anything that gave cause for concern that the money was used in any way that should it should not have been”.
The government takes Canada's national security very seriously. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we have been actively involved in protecting our citizens.
Recently, our government introduced and passed Bill S-7, the combatting terrorism act. This bill proposed to create new substantive offences that would make it illegal to leave or to attempt to leave Canada to knowingly participate in or contribute to any activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity, knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity, commit an indictable offence for the benefit of a terrorist group and commit an indictable offence that is also a terrorist activity. Our government has been unwavering in its commitment to protect Canadians and support the global fight against terrorism. That is why we work closely with international partners to combat terrorism and its perpetrators.
The proposed new offences would send a strong deterrent message, strengthening the hand of law enforcement to mitigate threats and increase the penalties for this type of conduct. Putting in place safeguards to protect Canadians as they go about their lives in safety and security is not a new focus for this government. That is why the public security and anti-terrorism initiative was put in place to fund measures to enhance the security of Canadians. This initiative involved funding allocated to departments and agencies government-wide to implement a variety of anti-terrorism measures. These measures focus on air security, emergency preparedness and military deployment, intelligence and policing, screening of entrants to Canada, border security and facilitation, and border infrastructure.
Funding for the public security and anti-terrorism initiative rolled out before the end of 2001. It has been scrutinized by parliamentarians according to the proper procedures for examining and reporting on the spending of taxpayer money. As members know, each department must table in its public accounts each item of spending. This is a legal obligation, and that is exactly what has been done.
Moreover, the Auditor General has found nothing in his examination of the spending on this initiative to suggest anything that was done improperly. All the funds are accounted for in public documents presented to Parliament, including the public accounts. There is no indication that any dollars are missing, misappropriated or misspent. The process that departments follow for reporting to Parliament and to Canadians on their spending and results were respected for every year of the initiative.
For its part, the TBS established an annual reporting framework to monitor the implementation of these initiatives. Key components of this annual reporting approach included: funding allocations; progress indicators; emerging issues; challenges and risks; horizontal issues such as capacity, interoperability and partnerships; and audit and evaluation information.
When submissions related to PSAT funding were considered, approval was provided based on two conditions.
One condition was that existing and established reporting and evaluation requirements were respected, and that funding was used for public security uses.
The intent of this condition was to ensure that departments complied with reporting requirements and evaluated security programs to confirm that the implementation of the initiatives was creating the right results.
The second condition helped ensure that funding was used for security purposes while providing the flexibility to reallocate funds if necessary to respond to evolving risks.
Canadians can be assured that government funding tagged for security initiatives was used for that purpose. This was among the conditions for the PSAT funding, and deputy ministers attested that the funding would be used for security-related purposes. Members do not have to take my word for it. The Auditor General of Canada has said that his office, “didn’t find anything that gave [them] cause for concern that the money...was used in any way that it should not have been”.
I do not think the Auditor General could be any clearer than that.
What is more, the Auditor General's audit acknowledges that deputy heads, as departmental accounting officers, are responsible for accounting and reporting their spending through the Public Accounts of Canada. These reporting requirements are in addition to the internal reporting requirement imposed under PSAT.
The Auditor General has been clear that departments had an internal control and due diligence process in place to ensure spending was conducted according to the rules.
The prime concern since September 11, 2001, has been the security and protection of Canadians. We have no more fundamental duty than to protect the personal safety of our citizens and defend against threats to our national security. This has been our objective with regard to this spending. So far, we have been remarkably successful, transparent and accountable to the citizens of this country.
Business of the House
May 9th, 2013 / 3:05 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue the debate on today’s opposition motion from the NDP. Pursuant to the rules of the House, time is allocated and there will be a vote after the two-day debate.
Tomorrow we will resume the third reading debate on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act. As I mentioned on Monday, I am optimistic that we will pass that important bill this week.
Should we have extra time on Friday, we will take up Bill C-48, the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, at report stage and third reading.
When we come back from constituency week, I am keen to see the House make a number of accomplishments for Canadians. Allow me to make it clear to the House what the government's priorities are.
Our government will continue to focus on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. In doing that, we will be working on reforming the temporary foreign worker program to put the interests of Canadians first; implementing tax credits for Canadians who donate to charity and parents who adopt; extending tax credits for Canadians who take care of loved ones in their homes; supporting veterans and their families by improving the balance for determining veterans' benefits; moving closer to equality for Canadians living on reserves through better standards for drinking water, which my friend apparently objects to; giving women on reserves the rights and protections that other Canadian women have had for decades, something to which he also objects; and keeping our streets and communities safer by making real improvements to the witness protection program. We will of course do more.
Before we rise for the summer, we will tackle the bills currently listed on the order paper, as well as any new bills which might get introduced. After Victoria Day, we will give priority consideration to bills which have already been considered by House committees.
For instance, we will look at Bill C-48, which I just mentioned, Bill C-51, the Safer Witnesses Act, Bill C-52, the Fair Rail Freight Service Act, and Bill S-2, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, which I understand could be reported back soon.
I look forward also to getting back from committee and passing Bill C-60, , the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1; Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act; and Bill C-21, the political loans accountability act.
We have, of course, recently passed Bill C-15, the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act and Bill S-7, the combating terrorism act. Hopefully, tomorrow we will pass Bill S-9, the nuclear terrorism act.
Finally, we will also work toward second reading of several bills including: Bill C-12, the safeguarding Canadians' personal information act; Bill C-49, the Canadian museum of history act; Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act; Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act; Bill C-57, the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act; Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act; Bill S-6, the first nations elections act; Bill S-10, the prohibiting cluster munitions act; Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act; Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act; Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act; Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, which establishes Sable Island National Park; and Bill S-17, the tax conventions implementation act, 2013.
I believe and I think most Canadians who send us here expect us to do work and they want to see us vote on these things and get things done. These are constructive measures to help all Canadians and they certainly expect us to do our job and actually get to votes on these matters.
I hope we will be able to make up enough time to take up all of these important bills when we come back, so Canadians can benefit from many parliamentary accomplishments by the members of Parliament they have sent here this spring.
Before taking my seat, let me formally designate, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), Tuesday, May 21, as the day appointed for the consideration in a committee of the whole of all votes under Natural Resources in the main estimates for the final year ending March 31, 2014. This would be the second of two such evenings following on tonight's proceedings.
Opposition Motion — 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time.
I would like to begin by explaining to taxpayers why I have a black eye. We were playing soccer yesterday, and although our wonderful pages are kind enough to bring us water here in the House, on the soccer field, things are quite different. Seriously, though, we had a lot of fun.
I would also ask the House to go easy on me today, because I am a little shaken up. I just learned today that a childhood friend of mine committed suicide. His name was Jean-Maxime Leroux. Mourning his loss are his two children, his family and friends. He will be sadly missed.
Now I would like to move on to the motion currently before the House. It has to do with the $3.1 billion that the government seems to have lost. According to the government, however, that money was not lost; it simply does not know where it is.
That is a huge amount. In fact, $3.1 billion would be enough to build the new Champlain Bridge in my riding. What is really unfortunate is the partisan rhetoric that the government continues to spew. I do not like using such strong words in the House, because it affects how people perceive us. However, everyone sees how partisan this is. When the government loses track of $3.1 billion, questions need to be asked.
The government often quotes the Auditor General, but it does so selectively. What the Auditor General said was that they did not find anything to suggest that the money was used inappropriately and that it is important for Canadians to understand how that money was spent, because the government did not report it properly. Again, this $3.1 billion was for anti-terrorism efforts.
The government does not know if the money was misspent. It does not know if this is the sponsorship scandal all over again. It does not know if the money was misused the way the President of the Treasury Board misused money on gazebos. Nobody knows where this money went and therein lies the problem.
The Conservatives are saying that it is in the public accounts, but even the Auditor General cannot figure out what this money was spent on. When we asked the government to point to where and when exactly this money was spent, it could not. Unfortunately, the answer we got was that it has no idea.
The purpose of the motion is to call on the government to be more transparent and to hand over the documents. Why are we asking for the documents? We want to ensure that the money was spent wisely.
The government says that it gave all the documents to the Auditor General, but this is the same government that was found in contempt of Parliament, which was a first in the history of Canada. The Conservative government was found in contempt of Parliament for failing to do what Parliament asked it to do, which was to provide documents on the F-35s.
Despite the fact that the government's handling of the F-35 file was a real fiasco, he has the audacity to say that the NDP is incapable of running the government. I would like to remind the government that, according to the provinces, all political parties and the federal department's research, the NDP is the party that has the smallest deficit and that is the best manager of public money. The government should take lessons from the NDP. Instead of making empty promises and boasting about being the best manager, it should look in the mirror. It might see that it has a black eye like the one I am sporting this morning.
It really has set a bad example. It has spent $113 million in pointless advertising. Furthermore, Canadians are tired of seeing the ads. We have to wonder: Is this money well spent? The government does not know what has happened to the $3.1 billion. That money could have been used for other things.
We agree that fighting terrorism is important. However, we take exception to how the government fights terrorism, and particularly Bill S-7, which we oppose. This bill goes too far in that it attacks the rights and fundamental freedoms of Canadians by undermining the charter. Unfortunately, the Liberals supported it.
The events of September 11 were very serious. Nevertheless, we should have learned that Canada is safe. In order to ensure our safety, we have to better manage money earmarked for the protection of Canadians. Instead, the Conservatives are cutting funding for border services that keep us safe. That is difficult to understand.
In closing, we must remember that this government is a poor manager of public funds.
Opposition Motion — 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety
Mr. Speaker, I really do appreciate the opportunity to stand today to speak to this opposition motion, especially being in the House over the last few hours and hearing its members stand and, time after time, deliberately mislead the Canadian public and deliberately twist the words of the Auditor General, a highly respected man and office in this country. It is very disturbing. It is troubling. As my own colleague just said, I think it is clear that the opposition is in a panic mode because it has no ideas for the Canadian public. It certainly has no ideas that would benefit Canadians economically and so, instead, the members are actually attacking, indirectly and directly, the very integrity of the Auditor General by twisting his words. I am very pleased that I can stand today to speak against the motion.
As we know, the opposition is calling into question the government's accounting for the money used to fight terrorism both at home and abroad. The fund it is referring to is funding for Canada's public security and anti-terrorism initiative, also known as PSAT. This is a very important initiative, something we have taken seriously, which was proven again last week when we debated Bill S-7, a bill that gives law enforcement the ability to stop terrorism, intercept terrorism and stop individuals from leaving the country to engage in terrorist activity, which is a real threat to Canadians.
That party voted against it, and again today it is using its opposition day, instead of doing something constructive for the country, to twist and mishandle the words of the Auditor General. Shame on it.
We have indicated that all the funds in question have been accounted for in the public accounts, and those are available to Parliament. That is what the Auditor General said, as well.
What is more, there is no indication that any money is missing or that any money has been poorly used or wasted. These are not our words but the Auditor General's. Shame on the opposition for misusing and twisting the Auditor General's words.
Thank goodness. Do members know what I am so grateful for today? The Canadian public is smart. Canadians are intelligent. They know a distortion when they see it. They are not buying that. I think it has even been indicated by all of our offices that we are getting support from our constituents. Thank goodness the Canadian public is smart and does not buy this kind of nonsense.
As I said, these are the conclusions of the Auditor General. He gave the government a clean bill of health in the accounting for these expenses. In fact, he just confirmed, at committee, that the anti-terrorism funding he was reviewing was purely an internal government reporting process.
My hon. colleague from across the way mocked the term “horizontal”, so let me read the words. I guess he is laughing at the Auditor General because the Auditor General said, in his testimony to the committee:
What we were looking for—Again—
And these are his words:
—this was a very large initiative. This was a horizontal initiative.
Again, those are not our words. That is not our description. That is the description of the Auditor General.
We understand that the priority of Canadians and our priorities are aligned together. We understand that there is no more fundamental duty than to protect the personal safety of our citizens and defend against threats to our national security. That is why we did things like introduce and pass Bill S-7 to greater protect Canadians. Again, the opposition voted against it.
This objective to protect Canadians with regard to spending on anti-terrorism measures has been successful. We work with other countries to prevent terrorist acts, to monitor developments in unstable nations and to take appropriate actions to deny and respond to the threats faced by peace-loving people.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed many severe changes in several countries in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East, changes that had an impact upon the stability of many of these countries. We are seeing that terrorism remains a problem in countries like Afghanistan, Algeria and Iraq. We take this very seriously.
Indeed, part of our efforts to combat terrorism includes strengthening our laws to deter terrorist-related activity within our borders and to support Canadians who fall victim to these acts.
That is why, just to reiterate, we passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. This legislation allows victims of terrorism to sue listed foreign states for committing an act of terrorism or for supporting listed entities under the Criminal Code. That is also why we list terrorist entities under the Criminal Code: to send a strong message that Canada will not condone terrorist activity.
That is why it is so disappointing to see the NDP vote against the great bill we just passed last week to combat terrorism. Again, the NDP members are too busy trying to spread mistruths and mislead the Canadian public, which is really shameful on their part.
While terrorist threats may seem to take place far away from Canadian shores, we know we cannot be complacent in the belief that we are immune here at home. We know terrorism is a threat and remains a threat, even here in Canada.
We must be ready to counter threats like these through investments in public security and anti-terrorism measures and other actions. As members know, one of the greatest threats facing democratic nations today is the threat posed by homegrown violent extremists, individuals who seek to harm others in pursuit of overtly political, religious or ideological objectives.
There is real concern that new and evolving conflicts in the world might lure youth to engage in violent extremist activities at home and abroad. Canada, like all nations, has a responsibility to guard against its citizens travelling to areas of turmoil and participating in terrorist acts. That is why our government sought passage of the Combating Terrorism Act, the bill I just referred to, which makes it a criminal offence to leave Canada for the purposes of participating in or facilitating terrorist activity.
We must actively work to prevent individuals from being recruited overseas to learn a terrorist trade and possibly return to Canada or elsewhere to commit further acts of violence. We passed this bill. Again, it is beyond belief and beyond reason that the opposition did not support this initiative. Again, seeing what they are doing today, I guess it is clear that the opposition members are so out of touch with Canadians and what Canadians believe to be important that they spend their time on this kind of nonsense.
To move forward on both combatting terrorism and countering violent extremism, we also launched Canada's counter-terrorism strategy. The strategy is composed of four elements, to prevent, detect, deny and respond to terrorist threats. It sets out a clear approach for Canada to address terrorism with a focus on building community resilience.
We appreciate so much the input from communities across this country that want to see this kind of resilience built into the fabric of their communities. They want to see their young people growing up in Canada, being strong and successful, having families and jobs and not being radicalized by extreme groups. We appreciate so much their help in the work we are doing here in Canada.
A resilient society challenges and rejects the ideas and values associated with violent extremism, and works together to mitigate the impact of terrorist attacks. The success of our strategy relies on collaboration with Canada's international partners, security intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as well as all levels of government, industry stakeholders, civil society and, as I mentioned, communities throughout Canada.
International cooperation on counter-terrorism initiatives is a key component of Canada's counter-terrorism strategy. Since 2005, the counter-terrorism capacity-building program has provided training, funding, equipment and technical and legal assistance to other states. We can see how many great initiatives are going forward in this strategy.
We want to make them capable of preventing and responding to terrorist activities in accordance with international counter-terrorism standards and obligations. We also promote international cooperation in forums such as the G8 Roma-Lyon Group, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forums and of course the Global Counterterrorism Forum, just to name a few.
Here in Canada, much of our work focuses on research, community outreach, training and awareness, as well as engagement with key stakeholders.
As members can see, we are working hard to protect Canadians. We believe that is the job of a responsible government, which is what we are. The opposition members, on the other hand, are trying to manufacture a scandal, a crisis that just does not exist. I would encourage them to respect the words and the office of the Auditor General and get back to the priorities of Canadians, if they can.
Opposition Motion — 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Nickel Belt.
We are talking about $3.1 billion in a $12.9 billion budget.
Government representatives are saying that there was an emergency in 2001, that there was a real terrorist threat. It never went away. Canada could be attacked and be unable to respond. That justified allocating a budget. The government decided that Canada needed to spend $12.9 billion to protect itself.
Now $3.1 billion is missing. Where did it go? There is no way of knowing. That is a pretty big deal.
The Auditor General said that there is no explanation for the $3.1 billion difference between the funds allocated to the departments and agencies and the reported expenditures. In other words, nobody knows what happened to that money.
Fortunately, we have been told that the money has not been diverted to a Swiss bank account by a corrupt public servant or minister. We have that assurance, at least. Still, it is not so bad because, given what is going on in the Senate, we could say that it has rubbed off on the ministers.
Needs were identified. What became of them? It is like cyber threats. No one knows what happened to the $750 million.
The problem with the cyber threat file is that, 10 years after the money was spent, we were blatantly told that our computer systems are not protected from a cyber attack. That is fairly serious.
That is the real problem: there is no accountability. The government chooses to spend money or not. Funds get reassigned, but we are never told whether the critical mission was accomplished. That is the whole problem with this government.
If this $3.1 billion was spent so Canada could be protected from an act of terrorism, that is good, because that is what should have been done. However, we do not have that information. We do not have that guarantee. We were quite simply told that $3.1 billion was missing. We demand to know what happened.
How can we right a situation if the extent of the problem or its very nature are being kept from us? To find a solution, we need to know the exact nature of the problem. That is what we are asking. That is exactly what is at the heart of this motion: we want to know. We do not want relevant information kept from us anymore.
The best part is that in 2010, this government decided to abolish the reporting process. The Auditor General clearly states that that is where their audit stopped. The government did not fix the problem. It got rid of the method for finding out about the problem.
Sweeping things under the rug will not make them disappear. Sooner or later, it will start to get cluttered under there.
In theory, it takes $3.1 billion to keep Canada safe. However, this same government introduced Bill S-7, saying that Canada needs to be protected from terrorism.
What will we use to fight terrorism? The Conservatives have cut public safety spending by $687 million. That must make the terrorists happy. I imagine that representatives and lawyers for the mafia and organized crime are thanking their lucky stars and hoping that this government never gets voted out of power. The election of the Conservative Party is the best thing that ever happened to the mafia.
They have slashed $143 million from the border services budget.
Right now, border posts all along Quebec's border are empty. Fraudsters and people smuggling in illegal immigrants are being asked to pick up the telephone and say they are crossing the border. Life is grand. This government is making every effort to be reckless. It says it will protect Canada and then it asks terrorists to turn themselves in. Well done.
In Granby and Bromont, the RCMP is helping people who crossed the border illegally and claim to be political refugees. That is fine. The problem is that there are some people who do not report to the RCMP. There are some who come straight across the border. Who are those people? We do not know and there is no way we can know, because the Conservatives have cut positions: 626 full-time positions, including 325 front-line police officers and 100 positions directly related to the intelligence directorate. They have cut 19 sniffer dog units that searched for drugs and explosives. That means that they have eliminated, from airports and border crossings, our system to protect against bombs and against terrorists who blow up airplanes. In theory, that should make us safer.
Meanwhile, the government does not know where the $3.1 billion that was supposed to be used to combat terrorism has gone. When I say that the work is not being done, I mean it is really not being done. Another very serious issue is the $195 million in cuts to the RCMP. That is the icing on the cake. It is really no longer able to do the job.
What is more, with regard to search and rescue and aviation safety, we are being told that if a plane ever crashes somewhere as a result of an act of terrorism, if a boat is ever in difficulty or there is a highjacking at sea, the Royal Canadian Air Force does not have the planes or helicopters to intervene, to protect and save the victims of an act of terrorism or any other accident. They no longer have the means to do so.
Yet $3.1 billion has gone missing. It would have been useful to look at any threats against Canada and use the money to counter those threats. Yet that was not done. However, we may have an idea of where that $3.1 billion went.
The G8 and G20 summit expenses raised many questions. Today, the same minister is under scrutiny for the disappearance of $3.1 billion. It that money buried under a gazebo in his riding? It might be worthwhile to go and dig there. We might strike it rich.
Let us not forget that the $50 billion he spent on sidewalks, gazebos and public restrooms was supposed to have been spent on securing our borders. That money was allocated to border protection infrastructure. In order to get re-elected, the Conservatives took $50 million to assure the President of the Treasury Board's friends that they would all get small contracts, that they would all get a little treat. It does not make any sense at all.
It was important to point out that, under the Conservative government, that money was used for purposes other than those for which it was intended. That is clearly what happened in the President of the Treasury Board's case.
The President of the Treasury Board obviously has the makings of a future senator. This seems to be a Conservative government trademark.
This motion calls for something to be done about the $3.1 billion. Is Canada safer from terrorism than it was, when only $9.7 billion of the $12.9 billion allocated for this purpose was spent?
The government has not answered this important question. The loss of this $3.1 billion therefore demands some accountability. That is what Canada needs.
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to this motion.
When I began my parliamentary career, I myself was on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, where I had the opportunity to see various reports by the Auditor General, read the public accounts and see how the process works. That puts me in an even more interesting and beneficial position because I can see just how much of a mistake, a monumental oversight, losing $3.1 billion is. We are talking about billions of dollars here. It makes absolutely no sense.
To begin with, I would just like to say that this is interesting because we are talking about a very large amount of money. However, day after day, we are on the receiving end of somewhat personal attacks by government MPs. They make up stories about this or that and create myths. They say that tax rates will increase because of the New Democratic Party's tax and spend plan. They can call it what they want, but it is this government, and not the NDP, that is mismanaging things and hurting Canadians by increasing their taxes. It is this government that, once again, lost $3.1 billion. I cannot say it enough.
Today, when they get up during question period and say the same things yet again, you will note the irony in their attacks. Their government is in absolutely no position to criticize others about how they spend and manage taxpayers' money. It is quite disgraceful.
What we are seeing today is also a question of ministerial accountability. Each day, the leader of the official opposition, the member for Outremont, has been raising this matter. The members for Welland and Pierrefonds—Dollard, who also serve on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, are also asking about the $3.1 billion. The Prime Minister and the President of the Treasury Board disdainfully reply that they just have to look in the public accounts, that it is all there. That is simply not true; it is not in the public accounts.
I would like to know if the President of the Treasury Board is going to go see the Auditor General and tell him that if he forgot to check something, he just needs to look in the public accounts because it is all in there. He needs to have a bit more respect than that for the Auditor General, his expertise and the work he does, work he was appointed to do. He is perfectly capable of saying whether or not the money is in the public accounts, and that is not the case today.
I would like to thank the member for Pontiac for moving such an important motion, which is asking the government and the House to require that the necessary documents be provided to parliamentarians and the Auditor General so that they can do their work. The member for Pontiac mentioned the Auditor General's quote, which the government is repeating over and over again. It is just the opening of the quote. A teacher would not be too happy if a student were to use only part of a quote in a paper.
I cannot imagine that taxpayers and the Auditor General are too happy that only part of a quote is being used. We have to look at the entire quote to understand what is being said, which is that there is no indication that the money was misspent—on things like gazebos, something the G8 fund was used for—but the fact remains that the money cannot be found. This is by definition a scandal, a disgrace and a very serious problem.
The Auditor General said that the money does not seem to have been spent on anything illegal or inappropriate, but he does say in no uncertain terms that the money is nowhere to be found. He does not know what this money was spent on, which is a very serious problem. The President of the Treasury Board needs to live up to his ministerial responsibilities and submit the documents, not only to the Auditor General, but also to parliamentarians, so that we can exercise diligence and identify the problems.
The funny thing is that this is not a new problem. The Conservative government is not alone in this. This problem started under the Liberals.
We saw this in 2004, when Sheila Fraser issued her report. She is a well-respected auditor general who did an incredible job, including uncovering the sponsorship scandal. I will save that topic for another day, but it was the same kind of mismanagement of taxpayers' money that we are seeing today. Ms. Fraser's 2004 report showed that there were serious structural problems with regard to how spending on the public security and anti-terrorism initiative was being reported and that the Treasury Board Secretariat needed to make some serious improvements.
Nine years later, no improvements have been made and the problem still has not been resolved. This $3.1 billion is gone without a trace. That is a lot of money. What is more, when the Auditor General and his assistant appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, they said that instead of improving the way it accounts for money, the government seems to have stopped counting money altogether. New ways of reporting this money are being proposed for next year, but what do we do in the meantime?
Considering the level of government spending we are talking about, if we spend an entire fiscal year without any mechanism in place or without making any improvements, we will be sucked into a black hole devoid of transparency, ethics and accountability. It is irresponsible.
Yesterday, when the hon. member for Pontiac asked the government a question, I heard the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages jeering. He said that it had only been a year, which is not very long. He was wondering why we were whining. The government has spent that year making billions of dollars in expenditures without knowing where taxpayers' money is actually going. That is shameful and unacceptable.
The public security and anti-terrorism initiative began in 2001 following the September 11 attacks, which is understandable because we were trying to improve public safety by implementing anti-terrorism measures. This is still a relevant issue. Think of the debate surrounding Bill S-7, which seeks to implement new anti-terrorism measures. I gave a speech about this bill about two weeks ago. In it, I mentioned that it is unfortunate that the government is making cuts to public safety resources. I also indicated that, rather than giving more resources to the men and women who protect us, for example RCMP officers, the government decided to make cuts and introduce a bill that violates our civil liberties.
I am asking myself a serious question today. Before making fundamental changes to issues related to civil liberties, should the government not stop making cuts and ensure that the money that is already being invested in this regard has been well spent? We are talking about significant amounts of money. Today, there is a $3.1 billion hole in the Public Accounts of Canada. This money is lost or missing.
On behalf of the taxpayers in my riding and all ridings, since we are here for them, I am calling on the government to take responsibility and start doing some real work to stand up for taxpayers and make sure that their money is well spent. The government must tell us where that $3.1 billion went and give the relevant documents to parliamentarians and the Auditor General.
I hope that they will support this motion and finally take responsibility. It is the least they can do.
May 9th, 2013 / 9:20 a.m.
Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB
Going back to the RCMP, Chief Superintendent Tremblay, recently the government's Combating Terrorism Act was passed, giving police new tools and powers to address the threat posed by terrorism. As much as you can say, politically, what is your view of Bill S-7? Is it going to give you some more tools in your tool belt?
April 26th, 2013 / 11:50 a.m.
Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety
Mr. Speaker, once again, the opposition is completely wrong. They think if they keep repeating an inaccurate statement that it will stick. It is not true. In fact, our government has increased front-line border officers by 26% since we came into office.
As well, we are giving not only front-line officers at the border but those around the country the tools they need, whether it is to enhance RCMP accountability so that it can be modernized and have more funds or when, the other day, we supported and passed Bill S-7, which gives law enforcement the ability to fight terrorist activity. The NDP voted against every one of those initiatives.
The Conservative and Liberal Parties of Canada
Statements By Members
April 26th, 2013 / 11:15 a.m.
François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, we witnessed a sad spectacle in the House. Once again, the Liberals and the Conservatives joined forces to recycle an old, ineffective Liberal bill that attacks people's basic rights. Bill S-7 will not keep Canadians safer. It uses fear as an excuse to impose excessive measures, such as detention without charge and secret interrogations.
These measures conflict with Canadian values and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is strange. Many members of the old parties like to go on about the merits of the charter, but when the time comes to stand up for it, they just sit around doing nothing, and that is when they have the nerve to show up in the House to vote.
Blue or red, they are all one and the same. They vote the same way on Bill S-7 and the trade agreement with China, and they will soon vote the same way on climate change. Canadians deserve better. The only progressive alternative for 2015 is the NDP.
Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act
Private Members' Business
April 25th, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.
Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility).
I would first like to thank my colleague, the member for Gatineau and our justice critic. She has done an excellent job as our critic, as always. It is a pleasure and honour to work with her on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
We heard from the bill's sponsor. I understand his position. We are all moved by crimes when we hear what the families of victims must go through or when we must relive these situations, even if it is only at a trial.
I cannot imagine the feelings and emotions these families must experience. I can understand why the bill's sponsor wants to prevent victims from having to attend parole hearings.
Bill C-478 would increase the term for life imprisonment without parole from 25 years to 40 years in the case of offenders who are convicted of three crimes: the abduction, sexual assault and murder of one victim.
As my colleague mentioned, it is not clear whether this bill is consistent with the charter.
The bill's sponsor mentioned that the Department of Justice had been consulted. However, we recently learned from department employees that the department does not always check to see whether bills are consistent with the charter. There is a problem there. We have some doubts about what this bill does and whether it is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
My colleague from Gatineau said it was very surprising to see the Liberals support this bill, especially when we see what kind of impact it could have.
We have been seeing a shift in the Liberals for a while now. The Liberals supported Bill S-7 and now they are supporting this bill.
Again, I understand my colleague's intent. I know how much everyone wants to avoid making the families suffer.
However, Steve Sullivan, the first ombudsman for victims of crime, said that this bill was all smoke and mirrors. If someone is accused of first degree murder, the Crown generally does not bother to deal with less serious offences. When Mr. Olson was found guilty of murdering 11 children, the Crown did not bother with charges of kidnapping or sexual assault, even though he obviously also committed those crimes.
The Crown would have had to prove each crime and could have used that to encourage a plea bargain, but it always depends on the judge's willingness to give more than 25 years, which he thinks is unlikely. He does not think that many judges would sentence a criminal to life with prison with no chance of parole for 40 years. Judges simply would not do that. If someone is sentenced to life in prison with a chance of parole after 25 years, this already takes into account that if the person represents a danger or a risk, they will not be granted parole. He thinks that this is a false promise, despite good intentions. The measure would be used at most a few times a year, but would change nothing for the families of victims.
That is where our concern lies. We understand the sponsor's intention, but he himself said that judges are not bound by the change and do not have to increase the ineligibility period to 40 years.
Our concern is about the law. Members have mentioned the charter, but we also need to talk about our obligations with regard to international law. Canada signed the Rome statute. Paragraph 110(3) of the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court states that life in prison is the maximum sentence, but that it must be reviewed after 25 years. That applies to all serious crimes.
I can understand why my colleague wanted to mention certain crimes. However, what international law dictates and what Canada decided to apply is a maximum of 25 years for all crimes. Can one crime be considered more or less serious than another? These are crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes. These crimes are very serious.
Our role is not really to say which crimes are most serious. Our role is to define the law. That is why I am really very surprised that our Liberal colleagues supported this bill. Once again, I understand the intention. However, this seems to be a trend with the Conservatives. They claim that they are introducing bills because they want to try to fix a problem. However, they fail to consider Canada's obligations with respect to our legal system and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A former Department of Justice employee made this very clear. He said that the government no longer looks into that. This means that opportunities to determine whether a government bill conflicts with the charter are reduced, if not virtually eliminated.
Members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights asked for a review of the existing system to ensure compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Conservatives voted against that, so we were not able to carry out such a study. As a result, we have no certainty on that point.
The trend is getting worse. We know that the bill's sponsor had the support of the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister. This is yet another trend with private members' bills. We know that this government's policy is to attack law and order by adding more and more offences. Obviously, their main goal is to put more and more people behind bars and build bigger and bigger prisons.
In this case, I understand that our colleague is genuinely trying to protect families. He wants to protect people from having to listen to all the details of a crime again during parole hearings. Unfortunately, as we have said, this bill does not solve the problem. Not only does it not solve the problem, it conflicts with our obligations and violates the integrity of our legal system. This is about Canada's obligation to respect certain basic rights, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our obligations in terms of international law.
We also wonder whether this will open doors, whether it will once again come before the courts. Taxpayers will again have to assume even higher legal fees. All this will go before the Supreme Court, as has happened often already. Since the Conservatives came to power, we have seen an increase in legal fees. Not just in challenges by the provinces, but also from the Supreme Court with respect to the compatibility and constitutionality of certain Conservative bills.
Once again, we support the idea behind this bill. Why not look at another option, such as changing the way hearings are held? Why not try to see what we can do to ensure that families do not need to relive these cases? We do understand the intention, which is to avoid trauma every time families have to attend the hearing. However, even my colleague knows that his bill will not prevent families from having to come back every two years to hear it again. Nothing guarantees that.
There was mention of the very serious case of Clifford Olson. He murdered 11 people between the ages of 9 and 18. Let us look at the facts, though. In the case of Clifford Olson, it does not make a big difference. After spending 25 years in prison, he applied for parole in 2006 for the first time. That application was rejected, and so was his second application, made in 2008. The third application, made in 2010, was also rejected, because the court deemed that he was still a danger to society after 30 years in jail. He died in jail in 2011.
I understand the good intentions of the bill's sponsor. However, the NDP will oppose this bill at second reading. We believe that it is a political move made without considering the rule of law or examining what has to be done to comply with the fundamental rights protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.