House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crtc.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

To the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, with the proper motion in writing, certainly that privilege is his.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

October 19th, 2001 / 12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the visit of the parliamentary delegation led by the Hon. Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons, to Northern Ireland and to the Republic of Ireland from June 23 to 30, 2001.

Canadian Tourism Commission
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Beauce
Québec

Liberal

Claude Drouin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the transition report of the Canadian Tourism Commission, for the nine month period ending December 31, 2000.

Canadian Tourism Commission
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, in accordance with the order of reference of Tuesday, October 2, your committee has considered Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and that of the Republic of Costa Rica and agreed on Thursday, October 18 to report it without amendment.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, it gives me pleasure today to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Olds, Alberta and district in regard to the decision of the supreme court recently.

The euthanasia prevention coalition and the Canadian citizens who signed the petition call upon the Government of Canada to respect section 15(1) of the charter of rights and freedoms and uphold the Latimer decision.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from citizens who are concerned about the huge and growing problem of kidney disease in Canada. The petition, like many others, was initiated by Ken Sharp of my riding.

These citizens are concerned that research into kidney disease in Canada is being restricted by the fact that the national institute concerned is called the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes. They believe that kidney research would be much better served if the words kidney research were to appear in the title of that national institute.

Therefore they call upon parliament to encourage the Canadian institutes of health research to explicitly include kidney research as one of the institutes in its system, to be named the Institute of Kidney and Urinary Tract Diseases.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carmen Provenzano Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from members of my constituency of Sault Ste. Marie petitioning that parliament take all measures necessary to ensure that trafficking in baby parts becomes a criminal offence.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition from my constituents and other members of the city of Windsor and the county of Essex regarding the preservation of an ecologically important area along the Detroit River. It is the last area along the Detroit River that has not been affected by development and it is important in their opinion for this to be preserved. I am happy to table that petition today.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 1 and 2.

Customs Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, as always when interrupted, my eloquence may be less than it was in the first several minutes. I will resume where I think I left off which was on the issue of the adequacy of the bill.

I have already made the points that we are concerned that the bill came from the Senate and was processed through there rather than through the House. It is well indicated that we are in support of the Bloc's amendments.

Beyond that we have some very serious concerns about the bill, particularly with regard to the tragedy of September 11. It is now totally inadequate to respond to the concerns of both Canada and the United States.

In that regard this was supposed to be about the free flow of goods and people across the border. Because it was our border we were looking at, it really was a question of the flow of people and goods from the United States into Canada.

It is important to my constituency and generally to constituencies in Canada that have large manufacturing centres. It is extremely important to those industries because of the nature of that trade that goods flow rapidly and equally so that the people involved in those manufacturing industries, including truckers and business people, are able to move easily across the border. Just on time manufacturing has been instituted in Canada and the United States now for over a decade. In order for that process to work, we must move across the border freely.

This bill was an attempt to deal with problems that existed long before September 11. Unfortunately it is wanting even with regard to the problems that we had at that time. What has happened since September 11 has dramatically increased the waiting periods on both sides of the border but particularly on the Canadian side going into the United States. That reflects the problems on the American side.

We do not do this a lot but I want to praise some of the work that national revenue has done with regard to the advancement of the use of technology and other systems to allow people and goods to move back and forth across the border. However that only works on the Canadian side, that is, it only works on allowing goods and people into Canada. The problem is it does nothing to allow goods to move from Canada into the United States.

It is important to note that 40% of all the trade in Canada moves across the five border crossings between Windsor and Sarnia. There are three tunnels, one for rail, two for vehicles, and two bridges for 40% of all the trade in this country. As a result of September 11 there have been tremendous backups.

I grew up in Essex county. The small town of Belle River is 20 miles, or 30 kilometres, from Windsor. On one day truck traffic was backed up from the Ambassador Bridge all the way to the Belle River Road which as I said is 30 kilometres from the border. Those are the kinds of problems we had.The bill is grossly inadequate to deal with those types of backups.

I want to come back to the praise I was trying to give to the department. It has moved further along both in human resources in the deployment of staff and in the use of technology on the Canadian side of the border. There has not been the same kind of response on the American side. That really is where the thrust has to be to get traffic moving again in an efficient and effective manner.

That is not to say there are no problems. We know that one of the systems, the Canpass system, allows priority to be given to people who hold the pass to move their goods across the border in a more rapid way than others. However one of the things that came out at the committee was that a full 15% of the addresses of people who hold Canpass passes are no longer accurate. The department itself gave that information to us.

Given the situation we have now and the screening that goes on around security, that is no longer acceptable. It should not be acceptable to Canadians and it clearly will not be acceptable to the U.S. government and its administration. We must improve these systems.

There is another system, Nexus, that assists individuals in moving across the border. These are people who move back and forth regularly. This system is similarly wanting in that it is not good enough. No one expects perfection but we are not close enough yet. We need to continue to work on that.

It is obvious that we need a system that both countries will accept and utilize to allow people and goods which move regularly back and forth across the border to have priority. It is the only effective and efficient way to move those goods and people.

We need the government to enter into intense negotiations with the U.S. government for these types of systems to be developed. It could also use the ones we have now and increase their effectiveness, or perhaps develop new systems that take into account the need to balance security and the efficient movement of goods and people.

Bill S-23, quite frankly, does not address these issues anywhere near adequately. It should go back for further review and be brought up to date.

I see that I am getting a signal from you, Madam Speaker, that my time has run out or is about to run out. I will finish with one other comment.

We have serious concerns, quite frankly, with regard to privacy and civil liberties in the bill.

Customs Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, I have listened carefully to my hon. colleague's comments on Bill S-23. I thank the member for his praise of the bill. I am pleased that some members of the opposition recognize the importance of the bill which would modernize and strengthen our customs system. They support the bill and even praise it.

The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency has a solid, professional and credible evaluation program. Evaluations are conducted by the corporate review directorate which is independent of the customs branch. According to CCRA policy all evaluation reports are made available to the public.

The Minister of National Revenue has already committed to having a review annually. We will have internal reviews by professional and independent groups. We will have external reviews by conducting public consultations to seek solutions and make the necessary adjustments.

Therefore the motions in amendment suggested by members of the third party are clearly unnecessary since the Minister of National Revenue has already made a commitment to do an evaluation annually.

I also stress the importance of Bill S-23 as part of the special measures to combat terrorism. We all know that trade and safety at our borders are vitally important to Canada. The new legislation would help us handle the increased volumes. It would move low risk goods and passengers to reduce delays at the border so we could focus on high risk travellers and shipments.

Following the events of September 11 it is important that we move forward quickly. Since fall 1998 the CCRA has consulted extensively to see how we might improve our customs mandate to protect Canadians and promote business and trade.

Our extensive consultations have shown that the business sector wants these positive changes to take place as soon as possible. The Canadian community would benefit from the bill's introduction of pre-approval programs such as customs self-assessment and CANPASS to clear low risk passengers and goods to expedite their movement at border crossings.

CCRA will apply technology to support our new programs to allow customs officers to focus their efforts on high risk people and goods. Recently the Minister of National Revenue announced the government's commitment to increase staff and technology applications for our proposed new programs.

The safety and protection of Canadians is vitally important to the government and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. In the wake of September 11 the government has committed more resources to tools, training and technology.

I heard my hon. colleagues all supporting our vision and action plan for customs. Without unnecessary delay it is obvious that Bill S-23 would provide the necessary action for Canada.

We need to unite together in the House to fight terrorism, for Canada and for the free world.

Customs Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill S-23, although I would have appreciated it if the revenue minister had been here to listen to the concerns of the opposition about this legislation.

The Bloc Quebecois supports Bill S-23 and will be voting for it.

Unfortunately, in light of the events of September 11, the Bloc Quebecois is seeking extra protection by putting forward amendments to ensure that the government will sit down again with the Standing Committee on Finance at the end of the year to review the scope and the enforcement of the legislation.

The Bloc Quebecois wants the services being set up through this bill to be improved upon. It also wants businesses and travellers to respect the regulations that could be made under this bill.

However, we do have some concerns, since we know that all these new Customs measures to expedite the movements of persons and goods and to streamline the security procedures will be taken by regulations. We feel this leaves the minister with a lot of discretionary power.

I will not repeat the arguments raised by my hon. colleagues from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, Verchères—Les Patriotes and Rosemont—Petite Patrie, who have so eloquently spoken to this bill. I simply want to thank all opposition parties who said they would support the Bloc amendments.

To conclude, I will say once again that the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill S-23, but not without some major reservations.