House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 6, 8, 11, 14, 15 and 21 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 6
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

With regard to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) from 1998 to the present: ( a ) by fiscal year, how many loans, grants, and/or contributions has ACOA made in Prince Edward Island; ( b ) in which city, town, village and federal riding was each loan, grant, and/or contribution made; ( c ) who was the recipient of each loan, grant and/or contribution; ( d ) what was the dollar amount of each loan, grant and/or contribution; ( e ) in a brief narrative description, what was each loan, grant and/or contribution for; ( f ) when was the loan, grant and/or contribution approved; ( g ) when was the loan, grant and/or contribution made; ( h ) who at ACOA approved the loan, grant and/or contribution; ( i ) was the final recipient of each loan, grant and/or contribution a legitimate recipient within the rules of ACOA; and ( j ) did the final recipient of each loan, grant and/or contribution use the funds in any way to finance construction or development on property or projects owned or managed by a government department, government agency or Crown Corporation?

Return tabled.

Question No. 8
Routine Proceedings

November 18th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

With regard to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) from 1998 to the present: ( a ) how many offices of any size did ACOA operate; ( b ) in what city, town or village and what province were these offices located in; ( c ) on what date was each office established; ( d ) for each fiscal year, how many staff worked in each office; ( e ) what were/are the names and titles of each staff member in each office; ( f ) how many physical moves of offices were made; and ( g ) when did these moves take place?

Return tabled.

Question No. 11
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

With regard to the amount of government funds expended to assist communitieswith homeless problems: ( a ) what is the total amount expended since 1999; ( b ) which communities have received funds; ( c ) what year did they receive funds and what was the amount; ( d ) how many new shelters have been constructed; ( e ) where were these shelters constructed; and ( f ) how many new beds have become available to shelter homeless Canadians?

Return tabled.

Question No. 14
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

For the last fiscal year, what amounts were allocated by the various federal departments and agencies to the following service categories: ( a ) communication studies (T000); ( b ) market study and opinion poll services (T001); ( c ) communication services, including exhibitions (T002); ( d ) advertising services (T003); and ( e ) public relations services (T004)?

Return tabled.

Question No. 15
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Will the government provide a list for the past five years, by federal department and agency, of companies approved under a pre-qualification process (such as a “standing offer”) to provide the following communications services: ( a ) communications study; ( b ) market study and public opinion services; ( c ) communication, including exhibition, service, ( d ) advertising service; and ( e ) public relations service?

Return tabled

Question No. 21
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

With regard to the transboundary watersheds shared by the State of Alaska and the Province of British Columbia: ( a ) what investigations, reviews, references, studies or plans of study have been initiated, completed, and planned for in relation to the Alsek, Chilkat, Taiya, Skagway, Taku, Whiting, Stikine, or Unuk transboundary watersheds, in relation to provisions or requirements contained in the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act; ( b ) how many authorizations or approvals under section 5(1) of the Navigable Waters Protection Act have been issued for each of the transboundary rivers listed in part (a); ( c ) what is the location of each authorization; ( d ) how many authorizations or approvals under section 5(1) of the Navigable Waters Protection Act have been denied for each of the transboundary rivers listed in part (a); ( e ) what fisheries are located in each of the transboundary rivers listed in part (a); ( f ) what efforts have been taken to ensure the protection of salmon habitat and safe passage as required and in relation to the Pacific Salmon Treaty for the transboundary watersheds listed in part (a); ( g ) what investigations, studies or plans of study have been initiated, completed, and planned for in conjunction with the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game or related United States Departments or Agencies in relation to each of the transboundary watersheds listed in part (a); ( h ) what investigations have been initiated or completed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act or the Fisheries Act for each of the transboundary watersheds listed in part (a); and ( i ) what investigations, reviews, references, studies or plans of study have been initiated, completed, and planned for in relation to the State of Alaska proposal for the “Bradfield Road” transportation corridor?

Return tabled.

Question No. 21
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

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

Question No. 21
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 21
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, an act to amend certain acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Question No. 21
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say a few words on Bill C-17. Many of my colleagues from all the parties here on this side have expressed concern that Bill C-17 is very much like the old Bill C-55, whereby the changes that we hoped to see in the new bill really are not there. There have been some cosmetic changes made, with some changes in time differentials and whatever, but generally speaking in regard to the effect Bill C-17 will have on the privacy of Canadians, there are still a lot of the same concerns that were raised before.

The bill is about one thing and one thing only. It has nothing to do with the threats of attacks against our country. No, the bill is about power. More specifically, the bill is another attempt by the Liberal government to increase the powers of the executive and individual cabinet ministers.

As with its predecessor, the bill concentrates too much power with too few people. Many of us are very concerned when we look at the people in whose hands this power is going to be placed. We have seen demonstrations of how inadequate a number of the ministers have been over the last few years and, more specifically, certainly over the last few months.

When we look at the infighting that is going on within their own party and when we think that these very few people are going to be able to control in their own hands, individually, what goes on in relation to the security of the country, it makes one very nervous.

In so doing, it undermines the authority of this place and the electorate that put us here to represent its views and protect its fundamental rights and freedoms. The power play in relation to security and major decisions affecting our country should lie right here within these hallowed halls, in decisions made generally by the people elected to make such decisions and not concentrated in the hands of a few ministers. It also undermines the legitimate authority and constitutionally enshrined jurisdiction of other levels of government. As my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough stated originally when he spoke to the bill, this bill undermines the very foundation of the country, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the division of powers defined by Canada's Constitution Act.

The one thing that the governing Liberals have failed to do is explain why the bill is actually needed. They failed to do so in the spring and they have still failed to demonstrate to Canadians this time around why such a bill, which threatens the freedoms and civil liberties of Canadians, is required when this country already has adequate legislation on the books in the form of the Emergencies Act.

It is easy for the government to hide behind the threat of terror and international attacks on our peace and security so that it can hoodwink Canadians into believing that such legislation is required. However, if the government were serious about protecting Canadians from such threats, it would invest more in our military instead of watching it dwindle to under 60,000 troops at a time when we need them the most, troops who do not have adequate equipment. Nor are they compensated properly for the fine work they do for their country. If the government were truly serious about security, it would reinvest in our military and make it the proud institution that it used to be.

While the government played politics and cancelled the contract to replace the Sea Kings, our personnel were losing their lives. The first of the Progressive Conservative helicopters would have been delivered already if it were not for the petty politics of the Liberal government. However, millions of dollars and nearly 10 years later, our personnel still risk their lives each time they set foot in one of those beaters. Meanwhile, the government is still looking for a good deal. This is nothing short of irresponsible.

The fact that the current Prime Minister will likely leave office without resolving the Sea King problem shows where the government puts our security on its priority list: at the bottom. What kind of legacy is that? Helicopters that will not fly, military pants that will not stay up, and submarines that will not float. That is the Liberal vision of our military and our security, and what are the Liberals going to do instead of addressing the real concerns of the country and putting money where money is really needed?

They are going to put decision making powers into the hands of ministers. Every day we are getting some hint, mainly through the press, of the security threat to the country. The government cannot answer a question in the House because it does not discuss these things publicly. It does not want anybody to know what is going on. The problem of course, that we fully understand, is that the ministers involved do not know what is going on and that is why they cannot answer the questions. If that is the way they handle such a serious situation we can imagine these same people having, within their hands, the ability to make major decisions as they relate to the security of the country and the privacy of citizens to live there.

The bill is really about something that is high on the Liberal agenda. It is not security but more power. The government has failed to put the proper resources into the military and other agencies of Canadian security. Instead it has come up with this bill that increases the power of cabinet ministers and trounces the authority of Parliament.

When we talk about putting money where money is needed, a few nights ago we had a debate on the Coast Guard or perhaps we should say the lack thereof. Resources to the Coast Guard have diminished over the years and the tremendous work that our Coast Guard has done around the coasts of this country has been diminished.

The security that exists at airports and at the borders of the country may be termed adequate. If one gets on a plane we know what type of security measures one goes through. If people drive across the border into Canada we know the people and their cars are thoroughly searched. However if people have any kind of mechanism that floats, from a raft, to a yacht, to an ocean liner, they can land in about 70% of this country and nobody even knows they are coming.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who is responsible for the Coast Guard delighted the other night in telling us that the government has strengthened up measures because when boats are coming into our waters they now have to give us 96 hours advance notice rather than the 24 hours which was required originally.

How often have we heard of drug pushers or terrorists calling ahead to get reservations in this country? We know they do not call ahead. If we know of all the places in the country that are not covered by radar, certainly we must realize that they also know.

Given that Canada already has the Emergencies Act, why is the bill necessary? The government should not be trying to suspend our freedom and constitutional rights. It should be protecting them. The Government of Canada, which already has too much power, should not be seeking more tools to infringe on the rights of Canadians when legislation already exists.

Question No. 21
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on two things in the bill, the first having to do with the sharing of information, and the second having to do with interim orders. I then wish to comment on whether in fact this is creating an environment of security or one of insecurity.

I just returned from a week abroad and my transfer point was Miami. I was flying in from a foreign country through Miami to Toronto. Frankly, Miami was a horror show. All I had to do was transfer from one airplane to another. It was the same airline in the same constellation of lounges. However, in order to be able to do it I had to disembark from the one airplane, go through U.S. immigration services, customs services, go back through security again, line up in front of the desk going into the gangway of the airplane, and then line up in the gangway of the airplane itself again. It was a nice waste of about two and half hours.

Apparently that is all for security purposes. I was kind of hard pressed to fathom how I would become a security risk by virtue of transferring from one airplane to the next airplane, in the same lounge which is a transit lounge, but apparently I was.

I can see how these so-called security needs lead to great frustration and create air rage on the part of the travelling public. I am hard pressed, however, to see how all of these security measures, as I experienced them in Miami yesterday, relate to security at all. In fact, it gets a little bizarre. Just to add on to the add on, the number of pieces of baggage with the number of passengers could not be co-related, so we sat there for an hour on the tarmac trying to count the baggage all over again.

I find that this kind of environment, particularly in the United States, leads to more paranoia than it does to security. If one ever wants to thank his or her lucky stars to be Canadian, one should travel in the United States now. Everyone there is walking on eggshells and I respectfully suggest that it is a society at war with itself, that in fact it is turning in on itself and contradicts some of the values it prizes the most, namely its freedoms and openness. I feel sympathetic to many of my American colleagues, but I must ask myself whether we in fact, by doing bills such as this, feed into that paranoia.

The paranoia in my opinion is further hyped by those who have a political agenda. For those in the security business these are good times. It serves those folks and they do not seem to be overly fussed about losses to rights of privacy.

Bill C-17 would allow the transference of all of my travel information to all security services around the world, particularly in the United States. They will know with whom I travelled. They will know that I travelled with my wife in this instance. They will know where we went and how I paid for it. They will know how often I travel, where I travel, with whom I travel and how I propose paying for it. That may in itself sound relatively benign except if one is the innocent victim. Make no mistake that this information will never be used for us. It will only be used against us.

I and everyone in the House will have a travel profile which will be gathered here and transmitted electronically around the world. There are no restrictions on how it would be used and who would use it and it could be cross-referenced with other data from various agencies that have information on me.

Our privacy commissioner has likened it to a police state mentality and while I think that is a bit overboard, I want to comment on having actually travelled in a police state, namely Estonia, when I was younger.

I recall vividly going to church on a Sunday morning, sitting in a service and while the minister was preaching, four soldiers from the Soviet army marched into the church, walked to the front and just starred at everybody in an attempt to intimidate those who were still going to church in that country.

The point is not that Canada would become a police state but that it would create an environment of fear. It would be sharing information with countries, some of whom clearly are much closer to police states. It would feed a climate of fear and fear builds on itself. To put an ironic twist on, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a former president of the United States said “You have nothing to fear but fear itself”. It is indeed ironic because all these bills create this environment of fear.

We are proposing this bill even though the results are not in on Bill C-36. One of the provisions of Bill C-36 is that there must be an annual report presented to Parliament on how it was used and possibly abused. We do not know whether the changes in the Criminal Code were actually helpful or a hindrance. We passed Bill C-36 in great haste but we have yet to see a report on its effectiveness.

Files tend to have a life of their own, especially where security forces have already reached a conclusion and like to secure evidence that advances that conclusion.

Bill C-17 would reduce the time a minister would require to make an interim order where immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk to health, safety or the environment.

I suppose the first question is: What is a significant risk?

This would allow the minister to act rapidly to address an emergency situation. Should a threat be identified, the Minister of Health, for example, could impose more stringent controls on the storage and distribution of potentially dangerous biological and chemical products to prevent them from being diverted for terrorist purposes.

What is envisioned here are situations which may not justify a declaration of national emergency but still require immediate action. The scope of the powers that could be exercised under Bill C-17 are more limited than we would get under the Emergencies Act but nevertheless are quite extensive in and of themselves.

I must congratulate the minister who has listened to some of the complaints that would limit some of the timeframes and some of the review processes. I guess the best that could be said here is that it is not as bad as Bill C-55.

However, the cabinet could still extend an interim order for a year. Parliament is not bypassed since an interim order must be tabled with Parliament, which is an unusual procedure and again I congratulate the minister for taking up that concern and tabling the interim orders before Parliament so they can in fact be reviewed within 15 days. This may or may not address the concern expressed by the previous speaker about ministerial excesses but that would largely be up to the vigilance of Parliament.

The interim order would still have to be gazetted within 23 days after it is made, thus ensuring some level of transparency. It is also subject to judicial review, as are other government decisions.

We still have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which we continue to fully apply.

One would hope that as we add up all these checks to these potentially significant intrusions into the security and privacy and freedoms of our citizens we can have some measure of sense that these checks and balances would serve as useful legal instruments to protect Canadians in an emergency situation.

I do not know whether we will end up looking like the United States in the not too distant future. It is certainly not a future I covet as a husband and as a father for my children. I certainly do not covet it as a parliamentarian. I would hope that we here in Parliament act as a significant check on those kinds of intrusions into our rights.

Are we doing the right thing by sharing this information with other security services? I frankly do not think so. Are we doing it because we have to? Largely that is true. We are doing it because we have to. If people want to travel to the United States, those will be the rules of the ball game. Will interim orders be abused? I do not know. I do not think so.

Parliament needs to be at the centre of the vigilance and protection of our rights. Let us hope that both Parliament and the committees will do their job.