House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has received notice of an application for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be heard on what I encourage the Chair to adopt as an emergency debate application. As the Chair knows, this request is pursuant to Standing Order 52. In particular, I draw attention to paragraph 6(a) which refers to the criteria and which calls upon the House to consider “the matter proposed for discussion must relate to a genuine emergency, calling for immediate and urgent consideration”.

For the people of the small town of Canso, Nova Scotia in the riding of Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, this is perhaps the gravest emergency they have faced in a long time. That town is not unaccustomed to these types of emergency situations.

The decision taken yesterday by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to deny an application, a proposal for division 3O redfish, has left the town with very little hope. Its citizens were clinging to some hope that the federal, provincial and municipal governments would come to their assistance. Without the plant operating, the majority of the population of the town has no income, none whatsoever, because of the lack of industry, the lack of opportunity that exists for the town today. The people there have been struggling for generations to make a go of it in the fisheries. There was a time when a very prosperous and lucrative fishery existed in the town.

The mayor of the town, Frank Fraser, along with his counsel, MLA Ron Chisholm, the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op headed up by Pat Fougere, the union, the plant workers and everyone in that vicinity are looking to the government for some solution, some ability to keep the town afloat.

The town is completely reliant on that one industry. The people there are now entering a black hole, a period in time in which they have not worked enough hours. Their EI is running out. They have no access to any other government program. They literally have no means to support themselves and their families.

The small businesses that have existed in that town have closed their doors. Many citizens have already left for places where they can secure employment. Over 30 houses in the small village have been put up for tax sales because of tax arrears. Bankruptcies are looming. A majority of the children in town rely on a breakfast program that is offered by the municipality. It is truly a grave situation.

The responses to questions in the House by the acting minister of fisheries are insulting. It is pathetic to suggest that this is somehow a political issue. Time and time again we have seen Canso in many cases used as a political football.

This is a crisis situation for Canso and there appears to be no ability for the people to get out of it. They are looking to the federal government and to the Parliament of Canada to offer some solutions.

I suggest that by partaking in a debate on the situation it is also indicative of other communities in the Atlantic and Quebec regions, to which the minister referred in his letter. He said that there are other crises. I suggest there is none as serious or as grave as the one facing the town of Canso and its citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I very much urge you to please accept this application. If you need more consideration or more evidence to suggest that it be supported, I hope that at the very least you would hold your decision in abeyance until Monday. There is a town meeting scheduled for Sunday at which all citizens and all representatives will be present. I hope that the Chair will take this consideration very seriously.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Since the hon. member is inviting the Chair really to hold this request over until Monday, I would suggest to him that what he do is file another letter on Monday morning and we will deal with the matter on Monday afternoon.

There is nothing precluding him from bringing in another application in the circumstances if that is his wish. Frankly I think it is probably the better course. Might I suggest he refile his letter on Monday and we will deal with it on Monday afternoon. Is that agreed?

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Anything today is without prejudice of what may happen on Monday. I do not want to make it appear that the hon. member by withdrawing his request today and leaving it until Monday is in some way prejudicing the sense of urgency. I appreciate that he raised it today.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in parliament on December 10, 2001, be read the third time and passed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise I suppose on the bill. I am displeased that the bill represents the 75th time that the government has invoked closure or time allocation since it came to power in 1993, abusing that very significant power to limit and shut down debate in this place more than any other government in Canadian history.

This is parliament. Parliament is derived from the French word “parler” which means to speak. It is the place where the representatives of the common people speak to issues that affect the common good.

For the government to, for the 75th time, prohibit members from speaking on behalf of their constituents and to the national interest on matters of grave concern, such as the budget implementation bill, is yet more unfortunate evidence of the government's growing arrogance and contempt for our conventions of parliamentary democracy.

Bill C-49 seeks to implement the provisions announced in the budget of last fall. First, I will direct my comments to that budget, then to the bill and then specifically address the air transportation tax which I raised in question period moments ago.

The government seems to have no limit in its ability to pat itself on the back for its alleged self-proclaimed success in fiscal policy. However, as we see from even yesterday's contentious remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister, Canada's economy and our standard of living has not in fact made progress under the government in the past 18 months, nor indeed in the past nine years. Canada's productivity and standard of living, its tax rates and its public debt have all taken a turn for the worse. Taxes are up and productivity is down; debt is higher and our competitiveness is down; unemployment is twice the rate here as it is in the United Kingdom; labour productivity grows here at half the rate as it does in the United States.

Over the past 15 years we have lost 20% of our standard of living and the average Canadian family now has a standard of living one-third lower than that of an average American family. We are becoming poorer as a nation as a result.

This ultimately is reflected in the devaluation of our currency which has lost 25% of its value since the government took power in 1993, going from nearly 79¢ in 1992 to the current trading level of around 63¢.

What does the government do? Does it take responsibility? Does it provide us with an action plan for reducing taxes and reducing debt to increase incentives for capital infusion and productivity? Does it do those things? No. What it does do is blame the private sector, the very engine of economic growth in this mixed economy. It blames the private sector for not investing enough.

In the words of the Deputy Prime Minister, “It is up to them, it is up to the private sector, it is up to companies to increase Canadian productivity”. He said “They must make the investments”.

There is a reason Canadian companies are not making adequate investments to include productivity in areas of research and development. It is because we have created an entire economic structure that mitigates against those kinds of investments. We have some of the highest corporate income taxes in the developed world. We have the highest marginal income tax rates among the seven largest economies of the world, the highest income tax to GDP ratio in the G-7. We have the second highest level of public indebtedness in the G-7, federal and provincial debt, at about 80% of gross domestic product, and the third highest in the OECD.

All of these things mean that it is harder to raise capital, which ultimately is the fuel that drives a free market economy, in Canada than it is in our major economic competitor, the United States and many other emerging economies, like the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand, countries that used to be far down the list in terms of productivity and standard of living but which have in the past decade leapfrogged Canada.

I do not really think this is a partisan point because some of the senior members of the government opposite have admitted that there is a problem. The Deputy Prime Minister has been quite outspoken about this and even the Minister of Industry, in his recent innovation paper, has admitted there is a problem, but they do not seem to have a grasp on the solution. The clearest evidence of that was the budget, which the bill before us today would implement.

Remarkably, the government framed the budget at a time of economic and security crisis, post-September 11, a time of recession and drag in the economy. Instead of making the difficult decision to get its priorities straight and re-allocate resources from wasteful and low and falling priority areas to the urgently high priority areas of national security, defence and economic growth, the government did not do that. It failed when it came to getting its priorities straight. In fact it increased overall program spending in that budget by 10%, the largest program spending increase we have seen in the federal budget since the disastrous years of the mid-1970s, a government in which the Prime Minister was a senior minister.

We believe the government missed an enormous opportunity in that budget. It provided no plan for debt reduction over the next five years and eliminated the modest $3 billion to $5 billion contingency and prudence reserves it had originally established for debt reduction. It made minimal investments in national security, such that CSIS and the RCMP will not even be back up to their 1993 funding levels in real inflation adjusted terms after taking into account the cuts imposed on them in 1995. The defence department of course is left out in the cold while Canada will continue to have the second lowest defence expenditure as a percentage of national income in NATO, second only to the tiny duchy of Luxembourg.

Every organization, from the Conference of Defence Associations all the way to the NDP and the Auditor General of Canada in between, have called for an immediate injection of at least $2 billion as an increase in the base budget of the Department of National Defence to bring our military up to a minimal level of operational effectiveness. The government failed the test in its budget to provide for that in the new security environment and, unfortunately, missed the ball completely on tax reduction.

The government implemented some modest tax cuts 18 months ago but this year Canadians will be paying higher taxes than they did last year, particularly in payroll taxes because of the massive 12% increase in CPP premiums which far outstrip the measly 5% reduction in employment insurance premiums.

The decade of economic drift will continue because the government failed to get its priorities straight.

I will turn now to some of the specific provisions of Bill C-49 but I will come back later to the air transportation tax and the air transportation authority.

As I have said before, the official opposition supports the provisions of the bill that deal with extending employment insurance benefits to parents of ill children. We commend the government and the finance committee for having adopted our long standing recommendation to change the provision surrounding the gifting of stock shares to registered charities, and we support that.

However, we have very serious concerns about the Canada strategic infrastructure fund, a $2 billion potential pork barrel slush fund. We have seen in the past how the government has misadministered programs of this nature, how it has provided grants for bocce courts, canoe museums and luxury boxes in hockey stadiums that do not represent real, hard, meaningful infrastructure to improve our economy but rather represent pork barrel projects.

The infrastructure fund is a potential boondoggle of pork. We are very concerned. The finance minister had originally proposed a fund that would be arm's length from politicians but the Prime Minister's Office did not like it. It grabbed it back and now the strategic infrastructure fund will be operating under the direct influence of the government in the person of the Deputy Prime Minister. We have learned from the past that we should avoid politicizing funds of this nature.

On the Africa fund, there is very little in terms of scrutiny or accountability. While we support in principle effective foreign aid, we do not support programs that are not properly accountable to parliament, which cannot be scrutinized by the auditor general and which do not fall under the aegis of the Access to Information Act. We are very concerned about some of the enormous waste that has actually fuelled corruption in developing countries in Africa in the past.

I will now turn my attention to the most contentious element of the bill, the $24 return trip tax on air travel. Immediately following September 11, we in the official opposition called for additional airport security measures, in addition to a whole suite of national security policies. We applaud the government for adopting our recommendation for air marshals. Originally it was not going to do that, stating that it was not the Canadian way, but it listened to public opinion, and we appreciate that. We also understand there will be additional air security measures and costs associated to that.

However, the question is, what would be the most efficient way of paying for those costs? This is very serious. It is quite clear to us and anybody who has looked at this, including the Air Transport Association of Canada, the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association, the travel agencies of Canada , the airlines themselves and the regional airport authorities, that this policy was designed on the fly without regard for the impact it will have on the airline industry.

Shockingly, at the finance committee, government officials actually admitted that they had not done an economic impact analysis of the consequences of the $24 tax. Imagine, a massive new tax on a specific industry already ailing, an industry without competition and an industry that has lost six airlines in the past seven years, is being assessed a new $24 tax which, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Air Transport Association of Canada, could result in a reduction of air passenger loads by as much as 6%, and the government has not engaged in an economic impact analysis.

This is flagrant irresponsibility. The government does not know how negative the effect will be. It does not know whether or not short haul, low cost airlines, like WestJet, Canada's only profitable airline and its principal hope for long term competition in that industry, will survive this discriminatory prejudicial tax.

The transport committee examined the issue at some considerable length and the government, in its typical arrogance, ignored the advice of those parliamentarians, including Liberal members, when they recommended that additional airport costs be paid for by all stakeholders.

Recommendation 14 of the December 7 report of the Standing Committee on Transport to the House stated:

All stakeholders--including airports, air carriers, airline passengers and/or residents of Canada--contribute to the cost of improved aviation security. In particular, the amounts currently spent by airports and air carriers should be continued, with appropriate adjustments for inflation. A ticket surtax could also be implemented, and any funding shortfalls could be financed out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The transport committee looked at this and said that the only way the additional security costs could be financed would be through a blended approach with the airport authorities, the airlines, the passengers themselves and the government's general revenues because airline security was not just an issue for the passengers on those flights. As my colleague for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam pointed out, most of the people who died tragically on September 11 were not aboard aircraft.

We are implementing these additional measures precisely because airplanes can be used as weapons of mass destruction against civil society. We have a collective responsibility to increase security. We should finance it collectively.

Every witness who appeared before the finance committee regarding Bill C-49 opposed vigorously its provision for a $24 air tax. Neil Raynor, director of the Canadian Airports Council, said the council believes the “current fee structure will create disproportionate price increases on short haul and regional flights, unfairly penalizing smaller carriers who provide these services.” Raynor maintained that “acts of terrorism were acts against the state and government bears a major responsibility to fund the essential costs of policing and security.”

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said:

The one-way cost of the Air Travellers Security Charge of $12, represents almost six per cent of the average price of a one-way domestic ticket sold in Canada in 1999...If a one per cent increase in ticket prices represents a one per cent decrease in passenger travel then the average air traveller security charge of six per cent will have a significant effect in terms of the number of air passengers.

The Canadian Air Line Pilots Association said:

The proposed legislation does little but create an expensive bureaucracy that will be unresponsive to the insights and interests of the people on the front lines of aviation security...it will be particularly crippling to short-haul domestic carriers such as Air Canada Regional and WestJet. We find it ironic, to say the least, that legislation intending to improve security of air travel in Canada could assist its very demise--

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada said:

This tax will hurt an industry still recovering from the September 11 terrorist activities and the economic slowdown...The traveling public does not support this tax. Combine this with the major administrative and logistical difficulties this tax will create for the air industry, travel agents...it is clear that a user-pay system to offset costs for security and policing is inefficient and a terrible precedent.

The Air Transport Association of Canada said:

The implementation of this new tax or charge...is frankly extremely complex. We've spent hundreds of hours trying to figure out how to do this. It's not going to be easy.

Mark Hill, the vice-president of WestJet, said it would be prejudicial to his airline. He said:

Once the tax is implemented, we believe the traffic will evaporate off the short-haul routes. Once the traffic goes, we'll have to back out of some of our short-haul flying, and once that begins, the genie is out of the bottle, and it's very hard to stuff the genie back into the bottle once that happens.

The Canadian Automobile Association said the current fee of $12 on a one way ticket appeared high when compared to the U.S. fee of $5.

Even the Liberal member from Prince Edward Island said he was not in favour of the $24 fee. He said he invited the Department of Finance on two occasions to come forward with a detailed analysis justifying the fee and that on both occasions it failed to do so.

The $24 tax would be prejudicial. It would not be sensitive to price. If one flew from Vancouver to Halifax on a $4,800 business class ticket the $24 fee would amount to a .5% tax. If one flew on a $100 ticket from Edmonton to Calgary on, say, WestJet one would pay a total tax burden of 86% after all airlines taxes were factored in.

I urge my hon. colleagues opposite to listen to the facts, listen to the testimony and hear the concerns expressed by their own members about Bill C-49. It could be the death knell for airline competition in Canada.

I ask the government to reconsider the bill. It should look at the constructive amendments we have brought forward to amortize the costs of new infrastructure. It should bring in a pro rata fee to blend the costs the transport committee has proposed. These are not partisan recommendations.

Before the government implements the tax I hope it will seriously consider the fact that even the junior finance minister was not properly briefed about elements of the bill which would be prejudicial.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague from Calgary Southeast reminds me of when we used to have long playing 78 rpm records. We would put them on and they would skip and go over the same thing again and again like some kind of obsessive compulsive thinking.

The point the member made was that the airport security fee in relation to, let us say, a $4,800 fare from Vancouver to Halifax would have a different impact compared to a fare from Vancouver to Kelowna or Calgary to Edmonton.

The hon. member failed to mention that if we travelled from Vancouver to Halifax or from Vancouver to Kelowna and went through security it would be a fixed cost. If we went through the machines it would be a fixed cost. To change the $24 fee and make it dependent on the price of the ticket would be cross subsidization. It would say to people travelling from Vancouver to Halifax “I am sorry folks but you must pay a disproportionate amount. The people going from Calgary to Edmonton will pay a disproportionate amount less”. It would amount to a cross subsidy. There is an argument for that. However the member opposite got so wound up in his own rhetoric he failed to mention it would be a fixed cost. It would be the cost of going through security no matter where we were travelling.

The hon. member knows full well that WestJet has a robust business model. He has talked about it himself. Is he trying to tell the House a return trip from Calgary to Edmonton would decimate WestJet's volume of traffic because of a $24 airport security fee? I doubt it. I would like to hear his comments on that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his questions. It is not me who is suggesting WestJet would be devastated on short haul routes like Calgary to Edmonton. WestJet is saying that. The hon. member should refer to the testimony of Mark Hill, the vice-president of WestJet, at the finance committee. He clearly said:

On our super short-haul routes, that is, Calgary-Edmonton, Vancouver-Kelowna, Hamilton-Ottawa...the flat tax is an enormous percentage of our low fares...Once the tax is implemented, we believe the traffic will evaporate off the short-haul routes. Once the traffic goes, we'll have to back out of some of our short-haul flying, and once that begins, the genie is out of the bottle, and it's very hard to stuff the genie back into the bottle once that happens.

That was his testimony. I do not think it was an idle threat. People who work at WestJet are concerned the tax could be devastating to them.

We are not only assessing a new $24 tax on the industry. On a flight from Edmonton to Calgary with a base fare of $100 there is already a $26 Nav Can fee, a $22 airport improvement fee and $10.36 in GST. There would now also be a $24 flying tax. That would bring the total ticket price to $182.36, 86% of which would be taxes.

The hon. member may not understand this, but if a couple going to Edmonton from Calgary to visit family were given a choice of driving three hours or paying an extra $48 in taxes, which would easily buy a couple of tanks of gas, many people would opt to drive.

The hon. member made a point that the security cost would be applied only once regardless of how far one was flying. That may be true. However the bill would also tax people who get little or no security.

People flying tiny six seat float planes from the south harbour terminal of the Vancouver International Airport Authority to, say, Salt Spring Island now pay $60 for a 12 minute flight. Because the south harbour terminal falls under the aegis of the authority, with the new tax they would end up paying $24 for security even though there is no security at the airport and no need for security.

We are not worried about terrorists hijacking six seater float planes on Salt Spring Island or the damage they could do to civilian infrastructure. Yet we would look in people's bags to satisfy the government the fee was being applied to everyone whether on flights from Toronto to Tel Aviv or from Vancouver harbour to Salt Spring Island. They would all be affected. It is a stupid policy. I am surprised to hear the member supporting it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I think a few days ago a minister from across commented that the reform alliance had pushed the government into putting in place user fees for different things that happen within our society. My colleague just mentioned the numerous taxes on an airline flight. We have airport improvement fees. We have the NavCan fee.

The minister's comments would have indicated that these type of fees were in place because the reform alliance said that anybody who used these services should pay. Now what we have is a security fee or a security tax now being added on as well.

From my perspective, I do not believe there should be any security tax in Canada, not for individual persons. It just should not happen. We are not just talking about the security of the airline itself, or the airport or those passengers. We are talking about looking after our nation's security, not just those people who are on those flights.

I would like the member's comments in response to the minister's position the other day, that the government was doing these things in response to years of requests by the reform alliance to have people pay a user fee for the use of specific facilities and industries.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I really would be surprised if the government is doing things because we asked for it to do so. I only wish that were the case. We would all be paying much lower taxes in this country.

In principle, we support the idea that where an individual gets a direct benefit from a public service, there should be some user pay element in many instances. I support in principle the idea of allowing tolls to be collected on major new infrastructure projects.

This is not comparable to that. As I pointed out in my speech, this security is an advantage which redounds not only to the passenger but to all society. The fact that we have safe airplanes is a benefit to us in this building right now. We know we will not be attacked by a large civilian aircraft that has been hijacked. It is not just a benefit to the passengers flying right now.

The idea of airline security is a general social good which general society should contribute to proportionately. That is what the transport committee recommended.

We should have user pay where the user benefits solely and directly, but not where society as a whole benefits. I think a very compelling case has been made by all of the witnesses on this issue.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, the member opposite in his question to my colleague for Calgary Southeast, the Alliance finance critic, used the fact that a round trip ticket from Vancouver to Halifax was about $4,800 to defend his perspective that the air security tax was a legitimate one.

The fact that a round trip ticket between Vancouver and Halifax costs $4,800 is a startling indictment of the government's air and transportation policy. It speaks volumes about the government's failure to maintain competition in Canadian airspace and to oversee the greatest level of consolidation in the history of the Canadian air industry, with a resultant diminution of services and an increase in the price for ordinary Canadian consumers and traveller. Does the Alliance finance critic agree with me?

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his leading question and I agree with his comments. Very briefly, the government has presided over the death of six airlines. It may with this bill be about to preside over the death of a seventh and the only competitive airline in the country.

People who take flights that cost $4,800 are on expense accounts, often government expense accounts. They are insensitive to the price and the increase of this tax. Average, ordinary, middle class families who fly on short haul low cost carriers are very price sensitive and they will scale back their demand. This means a net benefit to Air Canada and an attack on competition in the airline industry here.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to the legislation as part of the overall government budget and overall government agenda.

When the Minister of Finance presented his budget to the House it focused on two elements: the economic security of Canadians and the personal security of Canadians. They are the themes of the budget because they reflected the priorities of Canadians. When Canadians were asked to define the two most important issues concerning them, they outlined the questions of economic security and personal security.

I do not want to spend too much time talking about the economic front because today we are dealing mainly with the part of Bill C-49 that concerns the security component of the budget.

The government predicted economic growth in 2001-02 in the vicinity of 1.1% to 1.3%. If we look at the international and North American climates our forecasts are very objective and very well balanced. From all economic indicators we have seen so far we are not doing that bad at all. In fact we are doing a lot better than we forecasted.

It is important to note that after 28 years of deficit year after year and government after government missing their forecasts, this government was able to end the deficit. We were able to post close to $17 billion in surplus in the year 2001-02.

As well we were able to pay in excess of $36 billion on the national debt. We balanced our books. We were able to free in excess of $2.5 billion to $2.6 billion on an annual basis, money which otherwise would have gone to pay interest on the debt.

In addition, the government was able to do a tremendously positive thing with regard to interest rates and inflation. Canada has the lowest interest rate and the lowest inflation rate in close to 40 years.

All this came about without hurting the government's commitment to our social programs. On top of what I have mentioned the government has committed in excess of $100 billion in tax reductions. Canadians can see the benefits of good, sound government policies.

Canadians have told us they are exceptionally concerned about their personal security. That is why one component of the budget dealt with this issue very directly. The government has committed close to $7.7 billion over the next five years toward enhancing security for Canadians. Another $6.5 billion has been dedicated to securities and to the Canadian military. More than $1.2 billion were for initiatives designed to make Canada's borders more secure and efficient.

Let us look at some of the specific things the government has clearly stated. The approach of last year's budget was to ensure that security is paramount for Canadians and to ensure that the government has put more emphasis on increasing intelligence in policing, enhancing screening of arrivals at Canada's airports and border points, and to ensure that our people, both civilians and military, are better prepared for cases of emergencies.

On the intelligence and policing side the government has committed in excess of $1.6 billion over the next five years. Some of that money will go toward equipping and deploying more intelligence officers and frontline investigative personnel. This funding will go to federal departments and agencies including the RCMP and CSIS. The government has also provided resources to improve co-ordination among different law enforcement agencies in different parts of the country including the territories and to ensure that there is more sharing of intelligence between national and local security agencies.

The government is ensuring that we have more resources for marine security through greater funding for coastal surveillance and to strengthen the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada so we can deal with some of the offshore terrorist financing.

On the other front, that of the screening of entrants to Canada, the government has invested close to $1 billion to ensure better and more accurate screening of people who arrive on our shores. We will have more resources for detention and removal of those who arrive illegally, a quicker determination of refugee claimants and a system that is fraud resistant when it comes to people wanting to obtain visas or those who arrive in Canada with fake visas.

The third front is emergency preparedness and support for our military. The government has invested, as I said before, close to $1.6 billion. Some of that money will go to doubling the capacity of joint task force 2 which is doing a marvellous job right now in Afghanistan. Part of that money will go toward military funding, including support for participating in the international war on terrorism.

We have put more emphasis on enhancing the different networks to improve on the types of equipment and infrastructure systems our security agencies use. We have put more emphasis on protecting critical national infrastructure such as highway and airport facilities for water treatment, hydro systems and other infrastructure systems across the country.

One of the things that the government came forward with in budget 2001 was a new approach to air security. That is where Bill C-41 comes into the picture. The government has committed to allocate close to $2.2 billion over the next five years to make air travel more secure and to ensure security for Canadians who travel.

Some of the money will go to new air security measures such as armed undercover police officers on Canadian aircraft. The other day members of the opposition asked questions specifically to find out how many armed personnel would be on aircraft. The minister rightly said he would not tell them because those operations were supposed to be undercover and would continue to be undercover in many situations.

Some of the money will go toward training personnel at airports, screening passengers and carry-on luggage, state of the art explosives detection systems at Canadian airports, enhancing policing in airports, replacing aircraft cockpit doors to make them more secure, and enhancing security zones at the aircraft handling facilities on the tarmac.

These measures will be funded by a new air travel security charge to be paid by air travellers effective April 1, 2002, for travel in Canada. The cost of that is $12. That is what this whole debate seems to be about today. It seems to be focusing on the issue of $12, not on the issue of the importance of having a system that responds to the needs of Canadians.

If Canadians were asked whether or not as travellers they would mind paying the additional $12 for peace of mind that they would arrive at their destination safely, the answer from the vast majority of Canadians would be an unequivocal yes.

The bill would provide key air transport security services that are consistent and wholly integrated across the country. As well, it would provide an enhanced security performance standard in services across the country. Bill C-49 sets out a comprehensive strategy that responds to the needs of Canadians.

Bill C-49 would also see the establishment of an authority. That authority would first be responsible for the effective and efficient screening of people and their belongings that access aircraft or restricted areas through designated screening points at aerodromes and regulations.

One responsibility of the authority would be to ensure a highly visible role to reassure all Canadians of the Government of Canada's commitment to security in the air transportation system. It would also be responsible for screening duties which would be carried out by a stable workforce of people with the right skills and equipment. Another part of its responsibility would be to ensure consistency and the seamless delivery of screening across Canada. It would also be responsible for carrying out other security functions as the Minister of Transport may assign on behalf of Canadians.

I do not really understand the fuss being made by my colleagues. Is it the $12 issue or other issues that are bothersome to them? Having heard what I had to say on this issue, it is my hope we will see unanimity in the House in order to pass this legislation as efficiently as possible so that it can go to the other house and become law. Then Canadians would have the peace of mind they have asked for and we would respond to the priorities they have identified not only over the past few months but over the past year or so.

Let us make no mistake about it. September 11 was a tragic event of great proportion. Through this legislation the government is merely responding to what Canadians have asked it to do. I am pleased to have added my voice to the voices of wisdom of my colleagues on both sides of the House and to support and congratulate the Minister of Transport on this wonderful initiative. It is my hope that it will be passed through the House as quickly as possible and become law.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his thoughtful remarks and ask him to comment on the following. One item he mentioned was investment in infrastructure.

As members know, in 1983 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities proposed a national infrastructure program. That program laid dormant until this government came into office in 1993. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister we have had a very successful national infrastructure program involving all three orders of government: federal, provincial and municipal.

The hon. member might be able to comment on how that program has worked in his community and how effective it has been in terms of responding to very real needs.

The member also mentioned the $2 billion plus strategic infrastructure fund which will deal with larger infrastructure programs. Coming from the Ottawa area I know the member is well familiar with issues dealing with transit, one of the extremely important areas the fund can deal with. I would certainly appreciate any comments he could make in terms of how this initiative has benefited his community and indeed Canadians across the country.