House of Commons Hansard #192 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was stem.

Topics

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

May 27th, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is very important to speak to this bill, which deals with terrorism. This bill, which was formerly introduced as Bill C-42, was modified to take into account some harsh criticisms made by the House, by the Bloc Quebecois in particular. Bill C-55 is totally unacceptable as it now stands. That is why we would prefer that it be considered in committee and that significant amendments be made to it.

I will take a different approach to criticize this bill. I am the Bloc Quebecois foreign affairs critic. Some time ago, I had to debate a bill, Bill C-35. All the clauses in that bill had the unanimous support of all parties in the House, except one clause consisting of three elements.

What did the bill say? I will refer to the fact that in these military zones that we have heard so much about, we are thinking about security at Kananaskis. Here is what Bill C-35, that we passed, says:

10.1(1) The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has the primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference in which two or more states participate, that is attended by persons granted privileges and immunities under this Act and to which an order made or continued under this Act applies.

It says “for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference”.

In the following paragraphs, it says:

(2) For the purpose of carrying out its responsibility under subsection (1), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may take appropriate measures, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.

(3) The powers referred to in subsection (2) are set out for greater certainty and shall not be read as affecting the powers that peace officers possess at common law or by virtue of any other federal or provincial Act or regulation.

I want to draw to the attention of the House that the military security zones in Bill C-42, which became controlled access military zones in Bill C-55, are being proposed, among other functions, to protect people or property that would be deployed here during international conferences or when public figures are present on our soil.

At the outset, I could ask the following question: which legislation will have precedence? How will the security measures that the RCMP and the armed forces will provide be negotiated, particularly since, in Bill C-55, clause 260.1(12) says:

(12) The Canadian Forces may permit, control, restrict or prohibit access to a controlled access military zone.

As is also the case for a perimeter determined by the RCMP.

The arguments that are being used are the same. One may ask: who indeed will be responsible? What is even more worrisome is that the spirit is the same. The spirit is to prohibit access. However, on this issue, at the foreign affairs committee, we heard very direct and blunt evidence from some witnesses. We were told that the government cannot prohibit such access without violating the existing rights under Quebec's charter of freedoms and rights and under Canada's charter of human rights. It cannot do so without attacking these rights.

Yet, nothing in these bills, be it Bill C-35 or Bill C-55, can lead us to believe that the citizens would be in a position to defend themselves, to negotiate and discuss things. Even the provinces are in no position to do so.

When we debated Bill C-35, which creates security zones or perimeters, we said “Why change the present dynamics?”. In this respect—let us take the Quebec summit of the Americas for example, where all was not perfect, but lessons were learned so as not to repeat the same mistakes—there were some positive aspects.

There were negotiations between Quebec, the RCMP and the Quebec City security forces. Finally they came to an agreement in a context of respect for the police force which normally enforces the law in Quebec City.

With Bill C-35, this obligation to take into account the local police force no longer stands. Bill C-35 gives full authority to the RCMP.

As far as the creation of controlled access military zones is concerned, the full authority is given to the defence minister. He is the one who can create those zones. Now they say that this authority is more limited than it was in Bill C-42, the previous bill.

However, it is still clear that this boundary can shift. It is always interesting to read legislation. I always enjoy reading it. Although it is sometimes a bit obscure, one can still see the intentions of the legislator.

Subsection 260.1(3) in Bill C-55 provides that:

A controlled access military zone may consist of an area of land or water, a portion of airspace, or a structure or part of one, surrounding a thing referred to in subsection (1),—

This has to do with defence establishments, and so forth.

—or including it, whether the zone designated is fixed or moves with that thing.

So the zone can shift.

The zone automatically includes all corresponding airspace above, and water and land below, the earth's surface.

Subsection 260.1(2) in the same bill provides that:

The Minister may designate a controlled access military zone only if it is reasonably necessary—

Bill C-35 also contained the word “reasonable”. It would be helpful if a court could be asked to determine the meaning of “reasonably” or “reasonably necessary”. But this cannot be done after the fact. And again, we know how long this can take.

This means that these words can be used at the total discretion of the Minister of Defence, in the case of Bill C-55, and of the RCMP, in the case of Bill C-35.

Clearly, a controlled access military zone can be designated. For instance, one could be designated in relation to:

—a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada by virtue of the Visiting Forces Act or otherwise.

Clearly, President Bush's plane in flight may be sufficient grounds for the designation of a military zone.

The public must realize that it makes no sense for the minister of defence to be able to make decisions on these zones alone, to have full discretion and be required to go to parliament only within the next 15 days, and that is if we are sitting. If parliament is not in session, he can take the 15 days but can make the decision and, anyway, we know that any debate will be a theoretical one, thanks to the party over there.

This means that the minister of defence has the full and complete power to create controlled access military zones wherever he pleases, without Quebec's consent—and I speak for Quebec—or that of the province concerned. He can use force to extract from that zone people who should not be there, people who do not have a right to be there even if that is where they live. They are not entitled to any compensation. This is most regrettable.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks I want to commend the previous speaker. She is a member of parliament who always adds a great deal to the debate. She does significant preparation for her remarks which is obvious in her presentation.

This bill, like many others, is one that comes before the House as a result of events that shook the world and carries with it a certain amount of trepidation. The public safety act is a rehash--

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. I regret to inform the hon. member that he has already spoken at the amendment stage of this same bill, so I must seek the floor for someone else to intervene. The hon. member for Prince Albert.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, we have passed Bill C-36 and now we are on Bill C-55. As my colleague was just getting into, these pieces of legislation are designed to deal with a new paradigm, a new phenomenon that we have the world today, the threat of international terrorism which became so evident last September 11.

The problem is we have this new paradigm but how does the civilized world deal with that problem? What are the facts with this phenomenon of international terrorism?

For the past decade or decade and a half throughout various locations in the Middle East thousands and thousands of people have been trained to become international terrorists. They are distributed throughout the world in the form of sleeper cells. It is a highly sophisticated network. It was designed to operate without a central command system. Perhaps we have destroyed or fragmented the central command and design behind the network but the sleeper cells exist.

What has the government's response been to this new paradigm? It seems to think if there is more government bureaucracy, more regulations, more laws, more infringement of the rights and privacy of Canadian citizens and more taxes that somehow the problem will go away, that it will have been dealt with.

The bill is deficient, as is Bill C-36. We are missing the boat. The way to deal with this matter is in the areas of security, our armed forces and immigration and refugee policy. Maybe I am missing something but I have not seen a whole lot of action by the government in regard to those three areas. The military and the security system are starved for resources. The immigration and refugee policies seem to be virtually the same as they were before.

Warren Buffet, the president of Berkshire Hathaway, has interest in some of the biggest insurance companies in the world. At the annual meeting not very long ago he made it abundantly clear there is an absolute certainty that these sleeper cells will strike again and will cause no end of harm and damage to the western world. About 10 days ago U.S. Vice-President Cheney reiterated that it is an absolute certainty that these people will strike again and that they will strike very hard.

A concern I have and one which the government certainly should have is that it has been sleepwalking through this. I think many government members believe that the crisis is over, that it has passed and we can get back to normal business. They seem to think that a $24 air security tax will solve the problem.

What will end up happening, but I hope it does not happen, is that we will wake up some day with a repeat of September 11. Something else will happen. I hope the people behind that action will not have come from Canada. If that were to happen, my prediction is that our trade with the United States would come to a slamming halt within 24 hours. This country would be in serious difficulty. People would look back at this period of time and say that the government had the opportunity to put policies in place to deal with this threat but ignored it. They would say that the government was too busy with cash for contract agreements and all sorts of other things to deal with the issues that were very apparent to Canadians.

I am talking about foresight. I know hindsight is 20:20 but the government has not addressed the real root of the international terrorist threat. It has ignored the core problem and is not dealing with what we should be concerned about. I cannot emphasize it enough.

If we had a repeat of September 11 and it could be pointed out that a leaky immigration or refugee system in Canada caused the problem I am almost absolutely certain the border with the United States would never be the same again. We would pay a heavy price in every sector of the economy. The problems we have experienced in the last year would be minor compared to what we would be facing at that stage.

I wish I could look through a bill like Bill C-55 and see real action by the government with regard to the three areas I have mentioned. However I do not. Creating military zones and giving ministers more power would not deal with the problem. We would be dealing with something after the fact rather than before. The government should be more concerned about taking the necessary steps to prevent something from happening in the first place rather than trying to react to it afterward. Reaction to this sort of problem would be too late. Our country would be in serious difficulty at that stage.

What is a bit perturbing about the legislation is that rather than dealing with the real problems we are facing as Canadians and taking steps to minimize the risk, it would concentrate more power in fewer hands with less accountability. That is not a good thing in a democracy.

Our society was built on being open. It was built on the rule of law and transparency. It was built on giving citizens freedom, liberty and the ability to make decisions. These things are the backbone of our western way of life. Any time governments get more power and are not accountable they can do things in secret, rise above the law and trample on privacy and other issues. That is not a healthy sign. In a democratic society a government moving in that direction like the Liberal government has been doing is in a lot of ways helping international terrorists.

International terrorists want to destroy our way of life. They do not value our individual freedom and liberty. They do not respect our economic or political freedom. They do not respect the rule of law or our open civil society. In their minds it is the enemy and they are out to destroy it.

The government is rushing to create more power for the cabinet and Prime Minister in a secretive, star chamber atmosphere without any transparency. In doing so it is not dealing with important issues like the need to increase our military resources and security forces. It is not taking a hard look at how to close the leaks in our immigration and refugee system. Under the guise of dealing with security the government is seeking to grant more power to the Prime Minister and his little group of people. That is not the answer to the problem. It will not deal with the issue.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There being only one minute remaining for government orders, is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 6.30 p.m.?

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, Liberal ministers have been caught breaking sections of the government's conflict of interest guidelines by helping friends and supporters get government jobs and contracts. The auditor general has called in the RCMP to look at the awarding of contracts by Public Works and Government Services under the scandal plagued tenure of Alfonso Gagliano and his successor in the portfolio of public works who is the Liberal House leader once again.

With new revelations of scandal surrounding the disgraced former defence minister the situation would appear to be the tip of the iceberg. There has been a long Liberal history of such corruption starting with former Liberal minister Pierre Corbeil's conviction for influence peddling and culminating in the recent scandals at public works and defence.

The corruption problems further highlight the lack of ethical standards and integrity shown by the Liberal government. A full and complete investigation needs to be conducted. Canadians deserve the truth about the extent to which Liberal ministers have played fast and loose with taxpayer dollars by giving patronage contracts to their friends and supporters. It is clear that the Liberals should honour their 1993 election promise to have an ethics counsellor who reports to parliament. Mr. Wilson is nothing more than a figurehead with no real power.

Canadians need to know the extent of corruption surrounding the Liberals. This can only be realized through a full and independent inquiry into how the government has abused the contracting process. The extent to which the government's sponsorship program slush fund has been abused by the Liberals is now exposed. It is so riddled with corruption the auditor general has been called in to investigate. Government contracts should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny instead of backroom deals between Liberal bagmen and their supporters.

In question period I asked why it is that when the Liberals were in opposition and there was any hint of conflicts of interest, patronage payoffs or scandals of that nature they demanded full, independent investigations into the incidents but now that they are in government and all these conflict of interest situations are developing they refuse to conduct a full and independent public inquiry.

The minister's response was that my question was as clear as mud. I repeated the minister's own words in the House when he was in opposition. He had demanded that the House examine all aspects of government contracts including those relating to advertising. He had talked specifically about advertising contracts. He had tabled a motion in the House demanding a parliamentary investigation.

I finished my question by asking if the minister would guarantee that all sponsorship program slush fund contracts would be examined by a parliamentary committee and that the government would adopt the auditor general's recommendations regarding the scandal. His response was that my second question was only half as clear as the previous one.

The minister is completely avoiding the questions. They are clear, simple and straightforward. I want to know why there is a double standard. The Liberals called for independent inquiries into conflicts of interest, patronage and scandal when they were in opposition. Now that they are in government and being plagued by the same problems, why will they will not do it? It is a simple and straightforward question. I would like it answered.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the member has raised a number of questions which have been evolving over recent days and weeks.

As the member knows, when these allegations with regard to Groupaction came forward, immediately the former Minister of Public Works and Government Services co-operated in a very forthright manner with the House. He provided documents to all parties. In addition he immediately initiated steps to ensure that there was no exacerbation of the situation, including the moratorium on any further draw downs under standing offers with regard to sponsorship programs.

As that matter evolved there was a question in the minister's mind about whether or not the resources available to him and the information forthcoming was enough to answer all of the questions of all hon. members. As a consequence, the minister concluded no. It was that minister who referred the matter to the auditor general for a complete and thorough review.

As the hon. member knows the auditor general has done her report and has reported back. It is regretful that the auditor general specifically mentioned two senior civil servants who appeared to have broken the procedures of the department, and the whole matter is now subject to an RCMP investigation.

The government has been forthright in responding to these evolving circumstances.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the auditor general she did not say that these individuals appeared to have broken procedures. She said senior public servants broke just about every rule in the book. That is why she referred the matter to the RCMP.

My question has still not been answered. When the Liberals were in opposition, in response to allegations of corruption, political kickbacks, payoff schemes and conflict of interest, they demanded that full independent public inquiries be conducted. Today the Liberal government is ridden with scandals such as the breaking news over the weekend and the resulting resignation of the Minister of National Defence, who clearly broke guidelines by awarding an untendered contract to his ex-lover.

In light of all these scandals, the advertising schemes and all the apparent conflict of interest allegations, why do the Liberals not take their own advice from when they were in opposition and order a complete, thorough and transparent public independent inquiry?

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the auditor general is an independent officer of parliament and perfectly capable of dealing with this matter. The auditor general has committed to a thorough review of this area and will be reporting back in a prescribed timeframe. In addition, for the matter initially looked at with regard to the three Groupaction contracts, an RCMP investigation is underway to determine if there is any illegality, not that there is any knowledge of specific illegality.

I will close by suggesting that the language used by the member about corruption, kickbacks, payoffs et cetera all refer to illegal acts which I would assume someone would have to be not only accused of but convicted. That is not the case. The member should tone down the rhetoric and understand that in this place we have to be respectful.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today because I failed to get an answer to specific questions for three consecutive days from the industry minister. Therefore I feel I have to raise it in the late show. The issue arose at the end of April. It was in a Winnipeg Free Press article concerning the industry minister and his assistant, Mr. Satpreet Thiara. It stated:

Industry Minister...has failed to provide travel records to explain the purchase of more than $5,200 in airline tickets for an aide at the centre of allegations that taxpayers' money is funding [the minister's] Liberal leadership campaign. A three-month Free Press investigation, which involved a request for travel records under the Access to Information Act, found that in the last two weeks of November [the minister's] previous ministry, Health Canada, booked six airline tickets worth more than $5,200 for special assistant Satpreet Thiara. Five of the tickets involved travel to Winnipeg. The date the tickets were used, or whether they were used at all, is not known. [The minister's] office has yet to provide a single expense report showing who authorized the airline tickets, or details of any expenses incurred by Thiara such as meals and lodging. [The minister's] office has refused numerous requests by the Free Press to explain the absence of expense claims and other travel records related to the airline tickets.

Further on the article stated:

Thiara has been a central figure in federal Liberal leadership politics in Manitoba. In an interview last fall, Thiara admitted that [the minister's] leadership campaign spent more than $60,000 to buy party memberships and delegate fees to flood the Liberal party's executive elections in Manitoba on Dec. 1.

Thiara confirmed in that interview he had been in Manitoba frequently during November on government business, which frequently allowed him to work on [the minister's] leadership campaign during his spare time on nights and weekends. Thiara said he had not asked for a leave of absence from his job because he was still primarily involved in government business.

For three days straight the opposition stood in the House and asked the industry minister some very simple questions, basically all coming down to what his special assistant does for him. What does Satpreet Thiara do? What is his job description? Canadians could then know that he is in fact working on government business and he is in fact not just working full time on the minister's Liberal leadership campaign.

I would like the government to give a response to that very specific question which we have asked over and over again. What does this assistant to the industry minister do on official Government of Canada business?

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech by the member opposite with care and I find it a bit baffling. While it is a complex issue, perhaps I could just distill the essential elements for him.

Earlier this spring treasury board clarified its guidelines with respect to the release of personal information requested under the Access to Information Act as it concerns ministers and their exempt staff. Names and expenses can be released. The Prime Minister has made it clear that his ministers and their exempt staff should consent to the release of their expenses when it relates to the expenditure of public funds.

The Minister of Industry has always stated that his office complied with both the spirit and the letter of whatever guidelines were in place.

Let me now turn to the specifics of the member's original question.

Given the short explanation I have just given, members can conclude for themselves that the disclosure made by the minister's office complied fully with treasury board guidelines as well as with the Prime Minister's directive with respect to the disclosure of expenses. In fact the Minister of Industry himself has confirmed this on numerous occasions as was mentioned by the hon. member.

I know that the minister takes his responsibility to account for public funds very seriously. He has explained many times that any expenses submitted for reimbursement at the public expense were incurred on government business and that any expenses not related to government business were not claimed.

All expenses incurred on public business were claimed and the information has been produced. Clearly, the minister and his office have been quite forthcoming.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that information has not been produced. That is what the issue is about.

Beyond that, let us get to the question I asked I believe three times in the House. Could the Minister of Industry tell Canadians today what specific work Mr. Thiara does for the Department of Industry? There has been no answer to that. Will the minister not explain to Canadians what his staffer, Mr. Thiara, does at public expense?

I ask the minister yet again and I do not want to hear whether documents were tabled or not. It is a simple question about his personal staff. What does Mr. Thiara do for Industry Canada? What does he do?

Obviously we in the House who are members of parliament or cabinet ministers know what the job descriptions of our staff are. I do not want to hear anything about documents because there is a disagreement about that. It is a very simple question. What does Mr. Thiara do for the Government of Canada to justify earning taxpayers' dollars?

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I reviewed Hansard . As a matter of fact I was present in the House at least on one of the days on which the question was raised. It seemed to me the question indicated that maybe not enough expenses had actually been claimed. In fact there were questions raised, as has just been raised again, as to why there were not other expenses declared.

As I have already said, the minister takes his responsibility seriously. He has accounted for public funds in an open and positive way, the way which has been defined both by the treasury board rules and by the Prime Minister's directive. There has been a full and complete disclosure by the minister.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, on April 23 the Minister of Justice must have misunderstood my question because he did not answer it. Consequently I ask it again.

The provinces have registered 18.1 million vehicles in Canada, each one with the owner's name on it. The justice department has spent $700 million to register only 3.3 million guns without the owners' names. How can the provinces get it so right and the justice department and the federal government get it so wrong?

The minister went on to brag and I would like to quote from his answer:

The registration, licensing and mechanisms are working quite well.

That is not a joke. That is what he said. This will come as a big surprise to police on the street who continue to ridicule the gun registry and all the bonehead mistakes made by the justice minister and his bureaucrats.

Everybody knows what happens when a police officer checks their driver's licence and vehicle registration. It will be interesting to see what will happen when a police officer checks someone with a gun in their car.

After confirming the identity of the driver of the car and matching it up with the firearms licence, the officer will turn his or her attention to the firearm in the vehicle. The driver will say he is going out to hunt gophers on a nearby quarter section of land. The officer will examine the firearms licence to determine if the hunter is authorized to be in possession of the type of firearm in the car.

Then the police officer will ask for the registration certificate and the hunter will produce the certificate because the law requires it. But the police officer will see that the firearms registration certificate does not have the registered owner's name on it so the officer will ask the hunter if it is his gun. When the driver answers yes or no, the police officer will have to check the computer system to see if the driver is telling the truth.

In this case the driver who is in possession of the firearm will tell the officer that he borrowed the rifle from his neighbour, which is perfectly legal as long as the rifle and registration certificate are together. In order to confirm that the driver is telling the truth, the police officer will be forced to go back to verify this information on the police computer system.

There are two possible outcomes to checking a gun registration certificate on a police computer system. The officer finds the record of the gun or he does not.

In scenario number one, because of the hundreds of thousands of errors in the registry, the officer will not find a record of the rifle in the registration system. The officer will seize the firearm until the ownership can be confirmed.

In scenario number two, the officer's check of the gun registry computers will confirm that the rifle is indeed owned by the hunter's neighbour. To be sure that the hunter is telling the truth, the officer will call the neighbour, but the registered owner of the gun will not be at home and the gun owner's wife will have no knowledge of the firearm being lent to the neighbour. To be on the safe side, the officer will seize the firearm until he can confirm the legal ownership of the firearm with the registered owner.

A week or two later this routine stop by the police officer will be successfully concluded when, first of all, the officer is finally able to sort out the computer errors and confirm that the firearm is in fact registered to the driver's neighbour or when it is confirmed that the hunter did in fact borrow the rifle from his neighbour.

In those scenarios the embarrassed police officer, who has wasted scads of police time checking out the perfectly legal lending of a firearm between two individuals and who has completely irritated and frustrated two law-abiding firearms owners, will be forced to return the perfectly legal firearm to the hunter he took it from and apologize for the mix up.

All this extra work will have been caused by not putting the name of the registered owner on the firearms registration certificate, one colossal bureaucratic blunder caused by politicians trying to meet impossible arbitrary registration deadlines.

Does anyone really think a police officer will go through this complicated, time consuming, useless process a second time? I do not think so.