House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader if he could give the House an outline of the business for the rest of the day, tomorrow and next week.

Also, so we will all know, because all members would certainly want to be here to vote, could he advise us if on Monday there will be time allocation or closure used on Bill C-10A.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the opposition day. On Friday we will consider Bill C-25, the public service reform bill.

Next Monday we will consider the bill that would reduce the cost of gun control, namely Bill C-10A, the amendments to the criminal code, because we want to reduce gun control costs. On Tuesday we will return to Bill C-24 respecting election finances until 4 p.m. when the Minister of Finance will present his no doubt excellent budget to the House.

The remainder of the week, that is Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, I intend to call the budget debates.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As I was a former car salesman, you can understand how important my credibility is to me. The Minister of Transport, in his answer to one of my questions, suggested that my statement was not credible. I would like to table a document to prove that all cities are not treated equally under his job advertisement.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to table the document?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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Government Orders

February 13th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a pleasure to speak on this very interesting topic and the proposal brought forward by the New Democrats today.

Let me state right from the start that the minister's proposal for a national identity card is extremely ill-thought out. On procedural grounds alone it does not merit much discussion. The initial arguments appear particularly weak in terms of travel documents. The Canadian passport and the Nexus card provide very suitable identification.

If there are questions about the integrity of Canadian passports, then he should fix the passports rather than come up with yet another identity instrument. For example, the government may wish to consider a biometric identifier in the Canadian passport. The government has already committed to having such an identifier on the maple leaf card for landed immigrants.

Also, I must add that a government that cannot register five million guns has no business trying to register 30 million citizens. If the experience of the gun registry is anything to go by, the national identity card program would cost $6 billion and still would not work.

My colleagues in their presentations have raised or will raise all these practical objections to a national identity card. During my time I want to discuss the broader security implications of the minister's proposal.

I submit that the proposal for a national identity card is in truth an admission by this government that it is too politically correct to take the necessary steps to pursue an aggressive defence against terrorism in Canada.

The events of September 11 have challenged Canadians and Americans to rethink their choices in the alleged trade-off between freedom and security; that is, to fight terrorism we should cede some privacy and legal the protection to government security agencies to strengthen their effectiveness.

I ask, and my party asks, does the balance between security and freedom have to be a zero sum game? A zero sum game is one where an increase for one side must mean a corresponding decrease on the other, and vice versa. Does greater national security necessarily mean lesser individual freedom or do choices exist to enhance both? If we do have choices, what are they?

Seeking an answer takes us to the very definition of security and freedom and the relationship between them. Security does not mean that threats do not exist.

That some people will seek to harm others is universal and a constant facet of human nature. Security does exist to provide means to defend against attack. Those means may be physical such as a backyard fence or a wall between countries. They may be informational such as a burglar alarm or intelligence gathering.

In a broader sense, security is something bought whether by nations or individuals. I may hire a security guard; a nation raises an army. I may buy a mace can; a nation builds sophisticated weaponry. Security is always relative in scope and degree and varies according to the nature of the threat.

In any given country, some people will be more at risk than others. In the case of the recent terrorist threat, if one lives in a city, one is more likely to be harmed than if one lives in a forest. The nature of the adversary also modulates the degree of danger. Canada would face greater danger from a conflict with Iran than say Iceland.

I am restating the obvious because it is being submerged by the claim that terrorism has now made insecurity an absolute condition given the random nature of the attacks.

However how random is the threat of terrorism really? In the case of the September 11 attacks, while the acts themselves were random in the sense of the unexpected, the identity of the perpetrators surprised no one. They were angry men from three repressive, unstable countries.

While many means of terrorist attacks exist, in an airplane wielding a $1.50 box cutter can lead to the same devastation as a truckload of dynamite. The actual pool of potential terrorists is relatively small and largely self-identified.

The public policy implication is as follows. Given the relative nature of insecurity, defending all people against all threats is not only impossible but also subject to very diminishing returns.

The last $10 billion of anti-terrorist spending will likely not improve security as much as the first $10 billion. The last $10 billion may not only add little security, but may divert funds from areas that contribute as much to physical safety, like roads and public health. That would suggest we need some kind of cost benefit test for the expansion of the powers of security intelligence agencies as we should have for any regulatory regime. However, the inherent difficulties in drawing up the costs and benefits of regulating the environment of terror would exceed that of regulating water pollution or even crime generally.

While such an analysis is conceptually possible, it offends the notion that the government owes an equal standard of protection for all citizens. Still, the basic idea of setting priorities on anti-terrorism spending and activities to achieve greater cost effectiveness deserves our attention. One way to do that is to focus more on the who than on the how.

I cite the remarks of an Israeli expert when asked why Israeli security was more effective than America's. He stated, “The Americans are looking for a gun, Israelis are looking for a terrorist”.

Focusing on potential terrorists rather than possible weapons raises the question of singling some people out for closer scrutiny than others. The argument is made that to do so represents discriminatory behaviour by the government and, therefore, an infringement on everyone's freedom.

The reason why that argument is false stems from the nature of the freedom and the state itself. As usual, Milton Friedman provides us with a succinct definition of freedom, “Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men”. The state, whether absolutely necessary or not, has the role of correcting coercion and preventing harm.

A democratic government under the rule of law should uphold freedom by restraining those who coerce and harm others by following a public test of necessity and applying force sufficient only to that goal.

By this definition, the government cannot treat everyone equally in all respects. Exceptions must be made to deal with known and potential agents of harm. The requirement, nonetheless, is that the exceptions should be justified, transparent and effective rather than punitive.

The principled and consistent exercise of state power to deal with the exception, individuals who threaten harm does not diminish the overall quality of freedom. A government does potentially impair freedom when it expands its surveillance and authority over all citizens simply to avoid being seen to single out any single identifiable group.

Again I cite Milton Friedman, “A society that puts equality...ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom”. He was speaking about economic equality, but the idea applies as well to how a government treats those who threaten life, limb and property.

Exceptions to the equal treatment of all citizens can be justified when dealing with potential terrorists. Ultimately extraordinary measures taken in defence of the country will and should be defended in a court of law. Mistakes and inconvenience may occur. The justification lies not only in the purpose of preventing terrorism, but also in the law's ability to make necessary corrections.

At a practical level, freedom and security can both advance if governments concentrated on the likeliest suspects using its existing powers rather than expanding its blanket powers. Canada already has many resources and the legislative authority to fight terrorism effectively. I wonder if it is using them efficiently. The degree to which the government needs more resources and legislation should be concentrated on fighting terrorism, not on expanding state scrutiny over all citizens for all reasons.

For this reason I and my party find no merit in pursuing further the government's proposal for a national identity card. I know from listening to colleagues on the other side and government ministers who do not agree with this that it probably will not go very far.

The reason I am speaking today is because our immigration critic is travelling with the immigration committee. She sent me some comments that I also want to put on the record because they are very good.

It occurred to my hon. colleague, the member for Calgary—Nose Hill, that a national identity card would do nothing to stop terrorists at our borders. It would only be another card that could be stolen and would prove to be more dangerous. It would be used as conclusive proof of identity.

Do not let the Liberals offer soothing reassurances about security of the card because we have seen how its security against GST fraud works and we saw how its security against HRDC boondoogles worked.

What greater example is there than that of the government telling us to bring in security cards, that they will be good for Canada, when it cannot even do a firearms registry correctly? Most of the people are not registered and those who are registered are registered improperly.

With a number of colleagues from both sides, I was at a dinner of the Canadian Restaurant Association last night. It was a very good dinner and a happy evening, as the association had just announced it had employed its millionth person in Canada working in the hospitality industry. It is one of the biggest industries in Canada, bigger than most others put together.

One of the executives of the association came up to me and told me his story. He said that as a law abiding citizen he registered his gun as soon as the registry came out. Then he was sent back a form telling him he had done something wrong, so he sent back another form. Then he said he received all the forms and his money. He was sent a cheque for the same amount he had sent in. He said he thinks that his gun is registered and he has enough documentation so that if they ever want to arrest him he will show them the receipt. He said he never did find out why they sent back the cheque but he cashed it and has his money back.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

An hon. member

And he never got a licence.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Whatever, it is a mess. It is just all over the place.

We can just imagine what would happen if tomorrow the government said everyone in the country was going to get a national identity card. The cost is enough to scare the heck out of everybody. Let us not listen to any soothing things the minister of immigration says about this issue.

Another thing to remember is that the Liberals hate the idea of a DNA database for criminals, yet they want a card for everybody. They hate the idea of a database for sex offenders, but they want a card for everybody. They hate the idea of identifying predators who prey on children. They hate the idea of putting biometrics on permanent residents' cards. Why then would they want a card for everybody?

Here is what the Liberals do love. They love making honest citizens carry identity cards if they own firearms. It is rather strange. Now they love the idea of making every living Canadian citizen carry a personal identity card. Strange. There is something very sinister about a party, the Liberal Party, that wants to track every single honest Canadian but makes no effort to control the criminal element.

We know there are people all across the country who oppose this. We have heard from the privacy commissioner. I will not go into detail, because I have heard it stated by other members in the House.

Our immigration critic, the member for Calgary--Nose Hill, is in the Maritimes today on an immigration tour. Hopefully she will come back with some great ideas for new legislation for immigration for the country. Heaven knows we need it. She has some comments from the information and privacy commissioner from Prince Edward Island. Her name is Karen Rose. She is opposed to the development of a national identification card, especially with biometrics.

Some of the concerns of the commissioner are as follows. A national identification card would be an unprecedented invasion of the privacy of Canadians, due to the establishment of a national database of personal information, and because it would require Canadians to identify ourselves on demand. Another concern is that there is no evidence that a national identification card would achieve the purposes it sets out to achieve, namely national security, immigration and identity theft controls. Her third point is that the very existence of such a card could open the floodgates to drastically increase police powers as well as the collection of personal information of every Canadian, and would change the nature of our free society.

That is what we really have to be concerned about: the free society. I have no objection to cards with my name and identification on them. I have a passport that I carry when I travel because it could be requested and I think that is a legitimate thing to be asked for at a border when one is going to a different country. I carry a driver's licence. It has a picture on it, so I have another piece of ID. I carry a House of Commons ID card, which is another picture ID. I have loads of other things such as credit cards, but I made the choice to get all of them, even my House of Commons identity card. Nobody twisted my arm and forced me to go into the room. I do not need that. I could get the little key for my office and go back and forth. Nobody insists I do that. If I do not want to drive a car I do not have to, so I do not need a driver's licence. They are my choices.

There are people in this country who want to have those freedoms. That is why some of them live in very small towns in the north, or in the forest. They only go to town once in a while and they hunt for a living. They like their freedom and they like our country because they can be free. However, if we are going to need a card, everyone in the world will know who we are and what we are. Some people just do not want that.

Also, there could be mistakes. How many times have we seen stories in the paper about someone who is arrested because they have the same name as someone else? I remember years ago when I went to the border and got asked questions about somebody. It turned out that there was a fellow with the same name who was a lawyer. They were wanting to talk to him for a reason and I got pulled into a room. They found out I was not that person, but just that name was enough. We can imagine the problems we might have with these ID cards.

Then there are the people in the counterfeiting business. I do not know how many phony passports there are across the world, but I know there are thousands of them. Hundreds of them are missing here. People steal the blanks, and they have done that, from the Canadian government because they are a very valuable tool. These cards would be forged and photographed, and fingerprints would be done and changed. Somebody knows how to do that. It is a very dangerous thing and it certainly would affect our freedoms.

I am happy if things are made available to people and they can go get them themselves, but for the government to say everybody is going to register is wrong in a free and democratic country. Those of us who want to travel the world will get the documentation we need to do that. Those of us who do not want to should not have to do it.

We would be opposed. The minister has told members to go across the country and talk to their constituents. I have talked to my constituents. They are opposed. The minister should get the message from this debate today, from all sides of the House, that this is an issue that he should put to bed. He should forget about it and allow us to sleep better as we go to bed at night.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have to admit I am rather surprised that the NDP and the Alliance are both singing out of the same hymn book when it comes to a national identity card.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

An hon. member

It won't last.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

I know it probably will not last on all subjects, but I want to ask about a certain point. Many people, especially on the Liberal side, fear that if we do not do something of this nature the United States will do something at the border to make it more difficult for trade, commerce and services to go back and forth.

I want to play the devil's advocate for a second. Instead of the national identity card, what would the member propose in order to ensure that we have good and speedy commerce between both countries?

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank that particular member of the NDP for his comments. I know that he and I would probably agree on a lot of things and he could probably be a very comfortable member of our party. He would be on the left side of the fringe of it, but he could be very comfortable in our party because he is from a very democratic party that even votes on issues in caucus. I want to thank him for his question and I respect his views.

What we have right now is quite satisfactory to the Americans. When we are travelling across as individuals they accept passports. There is no problem whatsoever. There is also the Canpass and the Nexus system set-up. We can voluntarily go to the Americans, get our fingerprints done and get our pictures done. They give us a card and we get easy access to the United States.

We have the same thing coming the other way. If people live in Vancouver and travel down to Bellingham or Blaine quite a bit, they can go in on the Canadian side, fill out the forms and pre-register themselves. Then they can go into the fast lane so they do not have to line up with all the other cars to get through the border.

Those processes are there. They are very good and I am sure that they will be improved over the years. I think that is all we need between our countries. It works very well now.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, that was an excellent speech by the House leader of the Canadian Alliance, to say the least. It covered every point. It bears a little reinforcing with the firearms registry and all the troubles that it has. Now we are talking about registering not 7 million people but 33 million people. As for the $2 billion to $3 billion that it would cost to register all Canadians, could that money not be better used to reinforce our military, our RCMP, our police forces and our intelligence services, to actually deal with the terrorists who would attack our country?