House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was new.

Topics

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 81(14) to inform the House that the motion to be considered during consideration of the business of supply tomorrow is as follows:

That this House call upon the government to hold a referendum within one year to determine whether Canadians wish to replace the current electoral system with a system of proportional representation and, if so, to appoint a commission to consult Canadians on the preferred model of proportional representation and the process of implementation, with an implementation date no later than July 1, 2006.

The motion, in the name of the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, is votable. Copies of the motion are available at the table.

The House resumed from September 18, 2003 consideration of the motion that Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees, be read the third time and passed.

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. members on my own side for the warm applause. Obviously people are in a good mood this morning.

It is my pleasure to rise to address Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees. I have to say that this subject is of interest to me. In the past I have brought forward my own private member's bill on user fees in an attempt to ensure that there is some accountability when it comes to establishing user fees as well as accountability when it comes to ensuring that the services provided as a result of user fees are actually providing the public with value for money.

I want to say at the outset that this is an important issue. It is an issue that has been raised by the Auditor General in the past. The Auditor General has suggested that there needs to be more accountability and transparency when it comes to user fees. We completely support that idea.

It is also my pleasure to speak in favour of Bill C-212. My Liberal colleague across the way has done a lot of work on this. That is good. It is an important issue.

A few years ago there was actually a coalition of business groups that got together and demonstrated real concern about it. They felt that the government was not ensuring that people were getting value for money when it came to the services that were provided. As a result of the submission on user fees, typically from businesses, for different services, some changes have been made. The government has tried to react. The President of the Treasury Board has brought down some changes, but as the member for Etobicoke North points out, it really is not enough. The government has not gone far enough. I agree with him completely.

I want to talk about some of the specific things he is proposing in his bill. I will not speak for my party because it is private members' business, but I do think a large majority of people in my party would support some of these measures.

First of all he is calling for notification. In other words, if there is to be a change to a fee, it only makes sense that the people and businesses that will be affected should be notified. In some cases it is critical to a business that the service it purchases from government be provided. In some cases businesses pay a tremendous amount of money to get those services through user fees, so they want to be notified ahead of time if there is to be a change to a user fee. Obviously that is just common sense. It is safe to say that members of the Alliance, if I could speak broadly, would be very supportive of that and I certainly am.

A second point related to this is that there should be input on improving services. This is so important.

Let me give the House an example of a service for which there is a user fee where the public has had really no input at all, and that is on passports. Almost everybody at one time or another has owned a passport. Certainly now in this day and age when there are tighter security controls everywhere, whether it is at airports or crossing the border into the United States or into another country, we almost need a passport. The fees for passports are pretty rich, but on the other hand, the service providing them has become slower. I think people have cause to question whether or not that is appropriate.

It makes sense to me that there would be some input when it comes to determining what is a reasonable amount of time people should have to wait for a passport, given the fact that it costs $65, I think, to get a passport. I am not certain why it costs $65. It seems like a lot of money to me, but there does not seem to be any relationship between what a service costs and what the user fee is and how good the service is. In this case with passports we know that the government was not even meeting its own standards in terms of providing passports and turning them around as quickly as it should.

I remember that there were a number of questions asked of the foreign affairs minister last spring when people were making requests for passports and sending along their money only to find out it was taking a lot longer than they had bargained for and that the government had promised. There needs to be some input on improving services.

Another recommendation in this private member's bill is impact assessment. That makes sense to me. If the government is going to raise a user fee, pretty obviously it is important that the government determine how it will impact businesses, typically it is businesses, that are using that service. If it has a dramatic impact and if it makes those businesses uncompetitive with other jurisdictions around the world, the government should take that into account. Because the role of government of course is not to make the job of businesses harder, but it is in fact to facilitate and to make it easier for them to compete. This is a very common sense proposal contained in this private member's bill, Bill C-212, and I could be very supportive of that.

The bill also calls on the government to explain how a fee is determined. I touched on that a minute ago. Why does it cost $65 for a passport? A passport is a secure document and the government has gone to some length to ensure that it cannot be easily replicated so people cannot use fraudulent passports. It is not clear to me that it actually costs the government $65 to produce it and to process the paperwork when someone requests a passport. The fact is, we do not really know how much it costs because we do not have any information with regard to this. So it makes sense that there be an accounting, that the government must provide some kind of accounting to show that it costs that much money and that government therefore can justify charging that much money. Under the system as it is now, there is absolutely no transparency. We need to know how those fees are determined.

The bill put forward by the member for Etobicoke North suggests that there should be a dispute settlement mechanism. What he means by this is that if there is a dispute between people who use a government service, and pay fees for that service, and the government, in terms of how much it should charge for that service, there should be a way to settle that through an independent third party. That is important, because if there is no independent third party, pretty obviously the government, which gets to make the final call on this, may say, “It's my way or the highway”. It will just go ahead and charge that fee. The government may be doing it for reasons that have nothing to do with only recovering its costs; it may be doing that because it wants to make a profit.

We must remember that user fees bring in more than $3 billion a year to the government. They are a big source of revenue. If the government is using user fees not just to recover costs but to make a profit to be put into general revenues, that is not appropriate. That is not what user fees are for. User fees are there to cover the costs of government in providing a particular service.

Therefore, we very much support the idea of an independent third party who could settle disputes between government and those who are recipients of services purchased through user fees.

Finally, it makes sense that these fees should be comparable to those of other jurisdictions. Canada is in global competition. If services are provided for a company that is in the shipping industry, for example, and the fees are much higher here than for a shipping industry in another country, then perhaps that industry will ship to that other country so it can take advantage of the lower user fees. That should also be taken into account. We have no assurance that this is happening today. In fact, to the contrary, all we have is the government saying it is our way or the highway. We support that aspect of Bill C-212.

We support Bill C-212 in general, if I may speak for my colleagues. I have no authority to do that, by the way, as it is private member's business, but I certainly will recommend to my colleagues that we support Bill C-212. I congratulate my friend from Etobicoke North for bringing this forward.

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand and speak in favour of Bill C-212 in the name of the member for Etobicoke North. Not only has he brought forward this bill, I had a similar bill on the Order Paper and I have removed my bill in favour of his, so it is difficult for me to speak with anything but favour for this particular piece of legislation.

I should correct one thing. The member for Medicine Hat continually said that the cost of a passport was $65. I will clarify that. In fact, let me say for all those people listening, if there are any, that the cost is $85. The fee was increased not that long ago. If the member for Medicine Hat feels that in Alberta the fee is still only $65, he is mistaken. The fee is $85 and it is the same across the country. I ask that my office not be inundated with calls telling me that the people we have been helping with passports over the past numbers of months have been charged the wrong fee. They have not been. It is $85. However, that is the issue here: fee for service.

Conceptually, the idea of a fee for a service is not something that we could not accept. We do it all the time. We have a fee for service when we ride a bus. We have a fee for service when we go to a swimming pool. We have a fee for service when we are provided with any number of services, whether they be municipal, provincial or federal. Conceptually or philosophically, it is not such a bad thing to have a fee for service.

Those people who are in fact taking the service should in fact be the ones responsible for paying a portion of that fee. A passport is a perfect example. If you or I as an individual wish to apply for and receive a passport, which by the way is one of the finest documents that we as Canadians can ever own, then we should be responsible for some of the cost. But this is where the issue comes to a grinding halt. Just what is a fair cost? What is a fair fee for service? What value are we as Canadians receiving for that fee for service, for that cost recovery?

Conceptually what it was is that departments were supposed to recover some of their costs. There is a budget in a department. A department provides these services and attempts to recover some of the costs it has to pay out in staff time, office time and other operating costs. That in itself is fair.

But what is not fair is not being able to tell the people who are paying the fees for those services what they are getting for that service and what portion of cost recovery is acceptable to the department. That is where this whole thing falls off the rails and that is why Bill C-212 is so vital and absolutely important in trying to bring it back on the rails.

There is an advantage there, but there is also a huge disadvantage. I will give members a couple of examples. One that is dear and close to my heart, and why I was putting my bill forward as well, is a operational department within PMRA. It said that it had to recover a certain proportionate part of its costs to operate this department. Those costs to the users have been increasing quite dramatically over the past number of years.

Those users are saying that this is impacting them. It is impacting them now in trying to get a registration from what is now called the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. It has been costing them a huge amount of money to get a registration for a product in this country, to the point where a lot of the producers of those products are backing off and saying it is now not economically feasible for them to go through all the regulatory process and pay all of the exorbitant fees for a very small part of the market. They are backing away, and my constituents, and in particular my farmers, do not have the advantage of these types of pest controls they need in order to continue in their agricultural pursuits.

There are other examples. Certainly with export licences, in agriculture particularly, it is now simply a matter of a piece of paper. There is not even much of an inspection that goes on when a person exports potatoes from Prince Edward Island, for example, into the United States. It is now simply a matter of a piece of paper that costs an extreme amount of money, with no inspection. Effectively it is simply a matter of a tax grab; it is trying to find more dollars to pump into the department. That has to stop.

What has to happen is identified in Bill C-212 by the member for Etobicoke North and it is pretty sound. As a party, we will be supporting it. It says, “Let us do a cost benefit analysis. Let us find out exactly what services are being provided for these costs”. It is quite simple. I agree with that and I think the department should agree with it. If we are providing the service to a group of individuals, then tell us exactly what services they are getting for that cost.

Let us also look at the overall cost recovery budgets of the departments to find out if it is simply a matter of grabbing taxes to pay for their operations without being more efficient in their operations. That is important too. We cannot have inefficiency running amok, which we see happening on occasion, in fact for most of the time in the departments on that side of the House. What we have to do is get more efficiencies built into our organization so we do not have to recover as many costs in the first place and that those licensing fees can be reduced accordingly. That is very important.

The best part of the bill and the worst part in reality is that if I am a user and I have to pay a fee that I object to I have to go to those same people who levied the fee. They may say that I am right, that it is inefficient, it is charging too much and that it will reduce the fee, but that does not happen. In reality those departments do not like to admit their mistakes.

However now Treasury Board is saying that we need an appeal but we need it to go to the same people who levied the fees. That is ridiculous. The bill is saying that we should have an independent adjudicator to whom we can go and, even if I do not win my argument, at least there is a perception that I am listened to, that someone will take this seriously and listen to my arguments so that maybe the fees can be reduced accordingly. That is embraced in the bill. I appreciate that and I think the bill should go forward.

I believe Treasury Board is moving to bring forward another policy statement. Let us not get caught up on this. Let us go forward with this private member's bill. Let us put it on the table and make sure the government has to deal with it because, quite frankly, the new policy that is being brought forward is no better than the old policy.

The member for Etobicoke North as well as others on this side of the House have caused a little bit of concern and consternation in the departments. Individuals are saying that there are some fires so they may as well put them out and bring forward their own policy. However that policy is no better than what is in place at the present time.

Let us not use that idea from the Liberal side of the House to say that they are already working on that so we can just forget about this private member's bill and let the departments come forward. Let us not fall into that trap. Let us make sure the legislation goes forward because it is sound. In my opinion it has better proposals than were brought forward by the departments themselves. Let us not make the mistake that simply because there are people looking at it from the department side it will fix itself. It does not fix itself.

The problem with user fees, as I said conceptually, is sound as long as there are two things: first, a cost benefit analysis for the service being provided; and second, we recognize that there is a certain percentage of the cost recovery based on efficiencies of the departments themselves.

The third issue has to do with the economic competitiveness that we have in the country now. We need to ensure we have the ability to compete in the global market and in order to do that we need to ensure we can control our business costs. This is an uncontrollable cost. This cost is currently workable but not acceptable. However that is not to say that the departments cannot at some point in time arbitrarily increase those costs without anybody having an influence as to why and how.

The question of the passport is a prime example. We do probably 250 passports a month out of my office. Arbitrarily the department made a decision one week to raise those fees from $65 to $85. We were not even notified of those increases until after the fact. When my constituents come to me for a service and I do not even have the right number or any argument as to why that number was raised, to me that is a ridiculous opportunity from a department itself.

I appreciate the bill coming forward from the member for Etobicoke North. It is a similar bill to one I had tabled originally with respect to cost recovery and licensing fees. I would suggest that on Wednesday everybody, not only this side of the House but on that side of the House, should hold the feet to the fire of the departments that arbitrarily increased those fees to an exorbitant amount.

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in support of the bill. I believe it would create more transparency, which is greatly needed in Canadian society right now, for governing fees at all levels of government, be it municipal, provincial or federal. As well, it would provide an opportunity for the public and businesses to have greater scrutiny of the actual fees they pay and the services they receive.

I want to touch a little on my past experience as a municipal councillor because I believe the bill is a very important part of what already happens in some other parts of democracy and is a good example of what the public expects.

A municipal government often has fees for services that cost, not only the general public but businesses. It could be for building permits, for any types of administrative capacity required through a parks department, a public works department, or any of those things. What ends up happening is that those fees are scrutinized every year in a budget.

As part of the budget process the public is invited to come forward as delegations to look at the costs, to see how much the municipality is providing in terms of a service, the cost they will incur as an organization and a bureaucracy, and the value at the end of the day that the residents, the businesses or a community organization will receive for a permit, a fee, or whatever it might be.

That allows everyone the opportunity to be heard. They can come forth at committee levels for the city council, depending upon how they create their own bodies for recommendations to go to the greater body, or it can be actually at a budget hearing process. That also provides that notification that goes out to the public. By mandate of the municipal act they have to advertise their council agendas. It provides that opportunity to be upfront with the different groups and organizations.

I believe what is important about this private member's bill is that it would create that committee atmosphere, which I think would be appropriate, and it would provide that scrutiny.

Nobody has difficulty paying for a service as long as it is fair and just but at the same time it has to be one that provides input. One of the things I have often heard as a criticism of any level of government, including the federal one, is the fact that they feel no empowerment, that they do not have the opportunity to have input and that those fees are just imposed upon them and they can do little or nothing about it. One of the things that would be improved is that we would have a due process to ensure that there would at least be that give and take available.

It also allows the opportunity for the general public to evaluate where their politicians stand on different issues. I know that from the local level, for example our building fees, when there are permits and all those different things that go up in price and cost, if they are subsidized by the general taxpayers they will know how politicians stand on that issue, whether they are actually fair and just, and whether or not the politicians are actually using it as an economic generator. They get a chance to see those types of things which is really important because it creates a democratic debate about where money should come from and how it should be disposed of.

One of the things that has been frustrating as a local councillor, and we have seen this quite efficiently laid upon us by the provincial and the federal governments over the last 10 years, has been the downloading that has happened. The downloading, the cuts in services and grants without having the revenue sources to make up those things, has led to increases on the municipal broad spectrum at an exponential rate. That has been very frustrating. The bill would provide that venue, that opportunity for those things to be publicly vetted.

I want to read the summary of the bill here. It is important to touch upon this for those who did not hear it:

This enactment provides for parliamentary scrutiny and approval of user fees set by regulatory authorities. It also provides for greater transparency in the cost recovery and fee setting activities of those authorities, by requiring them to engage in a participatory consultation with clients and other service users before introducing or amending those fees.

That is the heart of it and that is what I have been talking about. It is above partisan politics. It is about making decisions on where the money and resources should go. People are asking for transparency. If they have to pay a certain percentage of tax people want to know whether it is going to health, to public services or to infrastructure.

We have heard that a lot on issues, for example like the GST which originally was supposed to slay the deficit. Other times we have heard it from people talking about the gasoline tax, that it should go back to hard infrastructure, into roads and improvements, all those different things.

I will wrap up my commentary by once again congratulating the member for Etobicoke North for putting forth this process which I think will instil public confidence and, more important, at least provide a venue. Sometimes people are very critical about the fact that they speak the words but sometimes no one is listening. At least the bill would provide that opportunity and it is a step in the right direction.

If the people who are making the decisions have closed ears then obviously nothing gets done. However if there is no arrogance and there is that opportunity for due diligence for vested interest groups or citizens then we will certainly see confidence restored and more transparency, which I think is very much needed by the Canadian public.

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all those who participated in the debate on Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees. The debate on this topic has been very thoughtful and productive.

I would also like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Finance for the work they did in relation to the bill, and all the witnesses who appeared before the committee to speak to the User Fees Act. Furthermore, I also want to thank the clerk of the Standing Committee on Finance.

Later this week when we vote at third reading of the bill, if we do not vote on it here today, members of the House will have a very clear choice: continue to deal with user fees through government policies, albeit an enhanced policy environment because of recently announced user fee changes by the government, or embrace the legislative approach proposed by Bill C-212.

I submit to colleagues that Bill C-212 is the preferred route for the following three reasons. First, federal government user fees, which currently generate about $4 billion in revenue annually, while not taxes are akin to taxes and need the scrutiny of Parliament.

Second, these same user fees are priced by monopolies, by officials in departments and agencies with limited input from elected representatives.

Third, the policy approach to user fees has not worked in the past and is not working now. There is little likelihood that this approach will produce the needed results in the future.

Some members have said that users are generally satisfied with the government's cost recovery user fee policy. This is not consistent with the facts before us. The vast majority of users are not happy, nor do they have confidence that the government's new policy will make any real difference.

Bill C-212 builds in consequences should departments or agencies fail to meet their performance targets by more than 10%. In jurisdictions, like the United States and Australia, where user fees and performance are linked, service standards are met close to 100% of the time. The same will occur here in Canada if Bill C-212 is adopted. The end result will be a more innovative and competitive economy and better service to Canadians.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance unanimously approved Bill C-212. Over the years, it has reviewed the public policy on user fees and cost recovery a number of times. Members of the committee know the issue very well. Their work should be of great interest to my colleagues.

To enhance the bill I introduced a number of amendments at committee in response to feedback and comments. Some of these changes were more minor in nature but others were more significant. Allow me to comment on the latter.

Some individuals were concerned that Bill C-212 as it was originally written would compromise the ability of the executive branch of government to implement policies because the House of Commons had a veto power over any new user fees or any increase in user fees.

The amended Bill C-212 removes the veto power of the House of Commons but replaces it with a recommending authority. In lieu of this, penalties for non-compliance by departments and agencies for the failure to meet stated performance standards, as I described earlier, have been written into the bill.

Some were concerned that committees of the House of Commons would be inundated with user fee requests. Although a variety of evidence presented at the finance committee hearings seemed to refute this, an amendment was passed at committee stating that if a standing committee of the House of Commons does not report back to the House within 40 sitting days of receiving such a user fee proposal, the committee will be deemed to have approved the proposal. This provides the committees with the latitude they need to manage their workload and priorities.

There were other amendments which were adopted by the House of Commons finance committee and Bill C-212 is a better bill as a result of those changes.

The government, as I said, has introduced a new policy. It comes a long way and I thank the President of the Treasury Board for that. However in my judgment the revised policy falls well short in the following key areas. First, the new policy still lacks real teeth to deal with departments and agencies that fail to meet stated performance standards. With Bill C-212 there are real consequences if standards are not met.

Second, while the new policy improves the process for resolving disputes between users and federal government departments and agencies, this process is still an internal one; whereas Bill C-212 calls for an independent dispute resolution mechanism.

Third, Bill C-212 explicitly states that user fees are appropriate when private benefits are conferred; otherwise they are clearly taxes. The government policy is somewhat silent still on this point.

There are other differences between Bill C-212 and the new public policy. However, the ones I have underscored are the main ones.

Again, the choice is a clear one. I urge my colleagues to vote for Bill C-212 and support accountability, transparency and the legitimate role of members of Parliament.

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

User Fees Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Since we have concluded consideration of private members' business, the sitting is suspended until 12:05 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:38 a.m.)

The House resumed at 12:05 p.m.

The House resumed from May 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, an act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, be read the third time and passed.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on the bill because I am not sure what else I can say. This will be the sixth time the bill has been resurrected.

A little over two years ago, we were in Edmonton attending a caucus meeting when our day, and everyone else's day in our country and probably around the world, was shattered when we saw a plane crash into one of the towers in New York City. While we were watching it and thinking that perhaps it was someone learning how to fly who had lost control, boom, a second one appeared in the picture and we saw a second tower being hit. That day changed the world in many ways and it has not been the same world since.

We often talk about the loss of innocence. Innocence was lost for a lot of us because prior to September 11, 2001, we lived in a different world, certainly when it came to worrying about ourselves in relation to safety and security. We knew there was always a crackpot around. Anything could happen anywhere at anytime, but with the security forces we had the likelihood of it happening were slim to none. We came to work each day not worrying about who was on the bus, who was walking behind us, what was in the knapsack, and who was in the gallery. We just took it for granted.

September 11, 2001, changed it all. All we have to do is come up to the Hill to see an entirely different setting. We see fences, security and screening. When we go to an airport, we see tight security which was not there before. Should it have been there before? Well, maybe to some degree. However, we should not overreact. Really, no one saw the need for it.

September 11 came along and changed the world. A lot of people reacted. Some people overreacted, and certainly, in the sense of the word, that is exactly what happened with our own government. It was completely caught, utterly unprepared, and probably not having the personnel to deal with such an issue in an expeditious, responsible and carefully planned way.

We saw the government react quickly. It said it would bring in legislation which would make us a more secure country. Over two years later we are looking at a piece of legislation that has bounced around all over the place. This spring the government closed the House early when there were lots of things on the agenda. If this were a fine piece of legislation that had to be implemented to ensure that our country was secure, then we should have dealt with it two years ago.

The length of time it has taken, the consequences that have ensued, and the changes that have occurred since put into question whether or not we should even be debating this specific piece of legislation.

Do we need to beef up security in our country? The answer is yes. Is our country secure? The answer is no. However, many of the things that could be done to make our country secure are not dependent on this legislation at all. Security could be done by strengthening a number of the mechanisms which we did, and presently do control.

When the legislation was introduced originally, it sent up a red flag. A lot of people said that what this would do is create a mechanism to give government complete control so that the minister could successfully suspend the rights and freedoms of individuals living in this country perhaps without any reason except his own, which he would not have to divulge.

That is a serious thing in a country like ours, where we so strongly defend the rights and freedoms that we have. We pride ourselves in the type of country in which we live because we have these rights and freedoms.

Should rights and freedoms ever be suspended? Yes, undoubtedly, most of us would say there are times for the good of all of us that these things could occur, provided the reason be serious and the mechanism introduced in such a measure be valid, solid and acceptable. That is not what we see in light of the legislation that is before us.

This legislation has been watered down because as time elapsed, changes occurred and some of the things that were suggested originally are no longer relevant. New incidents occurred around the world that created different issues and different responses.

One of the things mentioned in the legislation is the introduction of protected zones. It is great to talk about protected zones. We would pick areas, key harbours and airports, and ensure that we would create the type of defence mechanism that would ensure that no one could penetrate these zones. This would guarantee our safety.

We would ensure that there would not be any smuggling taking place through the harbours of Halifax or Vancouver or maybe even St. John's--however, St. John's is not mentioned. That is easy enough to say. So we bring in our legislation and we tell everybody about the great mechanisms that we would put in place to ensure no terrorists would come ashore in these areas.

Terrorists are not fools. They know where, when and how they can enter a country. We have in our own country, as admitted to by the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans and National Defence, all kinds of gaping loopholes. We have had immigrants come to our country, land in secluded areas, and nobody would have known they were there except that somebody has accidentally run across them.

In my own riding, in the farthest eastern point in the country, a few years ago a ship just dropped into the ocean a couple or three lifeboats containing a number of Tamils. Local fishermen fishing in the dense fog accidentally ran across them, took them aboard and brought them to shore. This area is the foggiest part of North America.

It was amazing that these people were located by fishermen. If they had not been found and had continued to drift to sea, all of them would have ended up certainly being lost. It was more luck than design that they were found. Undoubtedly, the ship which dropped them off saw fishing boats in the area on the radar and took a chance on the boats finding these people, and they did.

As I say, the skipper is a good friend of mine. As he tells the story, he was sailing along and suddenly saw these little heads appear in the fog. Because the fog was low, the only thing he could see above it were the heads of a few individuals standing in the boat. Then he found the other boats involved and brought them to shore.

Why were they dropped there? Because they knew there was no Coast Guard around. They knew there was no radar surveillance to pick them up. We hear about boatloads of immigrants landing on the other coast in British Columbia. Are they spotted? Not until after the fact. Why? Because they land outside the areas where there is radar surveillance.

When I raised that issue with the minister, he said that they had corrected it. He said the one problem that they had was when boats approached our shore, they were always required to give us 24 hour notice so they then could track them to see where they would go, watch their progress, ensure collisions were avoided, et cetera. That has been changed. Now they have to let them know 96 hours beforehand so it gives them much more time to watch and plan.

This is very good for solid oceangoing traffic when people follow the rules and report as requested. Does anyone think for one minute it makes any difference when a ship is smuggling drugs or individuals into our country, if it calls either 24 or 96 hours beforehand? Of course not. They will sneak in to ensure they avoid radar coverage. If we know where the gaps are, surely they know. It is amazing and certainly not coincidental to see the boats land just a few miles outside the radar coverage in the respective areas.

These people are professionals. They know what to do and how to do it. How can we ensure they do not do it? One way is by greater radar coverage. Another way is to build up and strengthen our Coast Guard. I admire tremendously the work the people of the Coast Guard do with what they have. Their hands are tied. They tell us that security is not their job, however, the very words coast guard basically gives them some assurance that these people are guarding our coasts.

I know their duties are refined, defined and specific. However, we should ensure that the Coast Guard plays an extremely important role in guarding our coasts so that the traffic which frequents our coasts is not polluting our coasts and that oil tankers which travel our waters are solid and will not break up in the smallest storm causing major damage to our coastlines.

They also have to ensure that vessels which should not be in our waters are checked and the issue dealt with in relation to why they are here. If a ship does not have enough fuel to go from one harbour to another or if boats are tied up in port because government does not provide the funding to do the job and people are overfishing on one side or trying to land drugs or immigrants on another, then we have a major problem.

The government for 10 years now has been procrastinating over providing helicopters to our forces, helicopters that would play a major role in the security of this country. We have wasted three times the amount of money that the original helicopters would have cost if the government had accepted the deal instead of cancelling it back in 1993.

Our forces throughout are underfunded and mismanaged. We have major concerns with general security. Is it the fault of the people who work in that field? Is it the fault of the Coast Guard people who go to work every morning? Is it the fault of people who are in our forces? Absolutely not. It is the fault of the government which has totally and utterly neglected the forces and the security generally in Canada.

What we see now is reaction and panic. Instead of the government bringing the bill forward for further debate, it should perhaps scrap it completely, take it off the table, go back to the drawing board, look at the specific needs required to provide proper security in Canada and then put the money where its mouth is.

We are just regurgitating what has been said before, not only by us, but by all parties on this side and many members on the other side of the House. It is about time the government started to do things. Maybe when the new prime minister, whomever he or she might be, is in place we might see something. However that is not a reasonable expectation. The problems I raised such as lack of funding for our forces, cutbacks to fisheries, the Coast Guard trying to operate with practically no budget, show a complete and utter lack of planning. They all depend on funding.

Funding comes through the Department of Finance. The person who passes out the money, the person really responsible for such decisions is the Minister of Finance. The person most people think will be the next prime minister is the individual who for most of the past 10 years was the minister of finance. However it will not be the people who will pick him. He will automatically assume that job because he will win the leadership role in the party. The election might prove something else.

Maybe we should be asking who is responsible? Instead of people expecting so many things to change, they might say that this is not a new entity, that this is a person who has a record and that record should be reviewed. If we want to know what a person is like or what a person can do, we just have to look at what the individual has done. We should not listen to what the person tells us he or she will do.

In campaigning I prefer to tell people to look at what I have done and not listen to what I say I will do. All politicians make great promises. The individual should be judged on his or her record. In this case, as in many other cases, I believe the record of the minister of finance will probably paint an entirely different picture from the one being painted by his spin doctors.

Hopefully the government will do the right thing and bring in legislation with the money involved, legislation that will not take away the rights and freedoms of people, but will ensure that they live in a country where they have rights and freedoms and that they are also properly protected.