House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to point out that, because of this interruption, we were delayed for the last vote, which we are voting on now. This vote was interrupted by another 15 minute bell when we should have voted immediately after the motion on seasonal workers. That is the point I wished to raise.

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Yes, there was an interruption. However, I must also note two things. First, the House adopted a motion yesterday announcing the votes that would be held this afternoon. Second, we received a letter from Her Excellency the Governor General indicating that royal assent would be given at a specific time. Accordingly, we went up to the Senate.

The question is on the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

4:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Older Adult Justice Act
Private Members' Business

4:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Accordingly the Bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, National Defence.

Chief Electoral Officer's Report
Private Members' Business

4:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the administration of the Perth--Middlesex byelection held on May 12, 2003, and the Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière byelection held on June 16, 2003.

This report is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Sponsorship Program
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have the particular honour pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) to table, in both official languages, five letters addressed to parliamentarians, organizations or individuals who have expressed concerns with specific sponsorship initiatives. These letters call upon the individuals to provide any information they may have to the commissioner of the public inquiry, or to the special council on the recovery of funds.

Government On-Line
Routine Proceedings

March 31st, 2004 / 4:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, in addition I have the honour to inform parliamentarians and Canadians about significant progress that has been made on the Government On-line initiative on behalf of the President of the Treasury Board.

I so have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third government-wide GOL report entitled, “Government On-Line 2004”.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton
Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government response to 34 petitions.

Public Service Commission
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton
Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, biographical notes of Ms. Maria Barrados, whom the government is proposing be named as President of the Public Service Commission.

Pursuant to Standing Order 111.1(1), this matter has also been referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-31, an act to give effect to a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, to make related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Security
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, the government has longstanding responsibilities for national security. In the foreseeable future, the evolving security environment will continue to demand our attention and consume much of the effort and resources of our national security agencies and those of our principal intelligence partners. In this environment, the government believes it is particularly important that a body of informed parliamentarians play an enhanced role with respect to national security issues by providing advice and guidance in relation to those issues.

As announced by the Prime Minister, the government is committed to creating a new national security committee of parliamentarians to review national security matters. This is part of the government's action plan on democratic reform.

National security should be reviewed in a non-partisan environment that places both the security of the country and the need for an appropriate balance between security and individual rights ahead of other considerations. These and many other factors will require careful consideration, including the committee's mandate, its relationship to Parliament and to the government, its access to information and safeguards in respect of such access, its reports, staff support, relationships with other bodies and how all these matters could be best addressed. This may potentially involve legislation.

In establishing the new national committee of parliamentarians, the government will be mindful of the following four principal elements: one, current and past Canadian security and intelligence review arrangements; two, current international practices, primarily by close allies in the area of parliamentary oversight and review of security and intelligence agencies; three, input from Canadian and foreign experts and stakeholders on this subject; and, four, the special obligations of parliamentary committees to protect sensitive information.

Members will recall that on January 28 I announced my intention to engage parliamentarians in a discussion of the mechanisms and mandate of this new national security committee of parliamentarians. I have since asked the government and opposition House leaders in both chambers to have this issue referred to the appropriate committees of both Houses with a view to having them work together.

Today I am pleased to table a consultation paper which supplies Parliament with relevant background information, as the committee sets about formulating advice on the proposed status, mandate and structure of the national security committee. The consultation paper provides information on how our closest allies in the national security area have approached these issues. These countries are the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. I encourage the committee to undertake discussions with legislators and experts from these countries, and to seek the views of Canadian stakeholders and experts.

I expect that consultations will be carried out in the coming months and I look forward to the committee's recommendations in the fall of this year.

The government will consider this advice, along with the findings of consultations with our allies, to come up with the best configuration in terms of mandate, structure and mechanisms of the new national security committee of parliamentarians.

National Security
Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition, I welcome this opportunity to respond to the statement by the Minister of Public Safety regarding the consultative process for the creation of the national security committee of parliamentarians.

Quite obviously, the minister has picked a very opportune time to table this report in the House of Commons. It comes only one day after the Auditor General brought down a scathing report regarding the government's record on security. Unfortunately, for the minister this announcement cannot deflect the Auditor General's criticism and it cannot hide the fact that for over a decade the government has failed miserably in most fundamental role; that of the protection of its citizens.

Yesterday, Ms. Fraser revealed that there were significant gaps. She revealed that there were significant errors in national security. She has found that there are major deficiencies in inter-agency cooperation, out of day terrorist watch lists and as many as 4,500 airport employees who have “possible criminal associations warranting further investigation”. Furthermore, border officers are not provided with a list or any other information concerning the 25,000 Canadian passports that are lost or stolen annually.

The Auditor General found:

The government as a whole [failed to] adequately assess intelligence lessons learned from critical incidents such as September 11...

The Auditor General also noted:

--the deficiencies we've noted are serious and need to be addressed on an urgent basis.

The operative word is “urgent”, yet the minister has come today to the House announcing that in the coming months consultations will be carried out with an end to creating a new national security committee of parliamentarians. She has made this statement knowing full well a federal election is imminent, and this will very likely not even come into existence for at least a year or more.

If members do not believe that this is exactly what will happen, one only has to look at the fact that in 1996 the then auditor general pointed out the exact same deficiencies in our security as Ms. Fraser identified yesterday. Yet the government has failed for eight years to address those deficiencies.

We do not have a year. We do not have a month to address all major deficiencies in our security. Canada is a named target now. It is a named target today. Look at the headlines today in the National Post and other papers where al-Qaeda has named Canada as a target. This is nothing new. We know we have been a target for a number of years. While the government continues to consult, plot and plan, Canadian citizens have been identified as human targets by al-Qaeda.

Actions speak louder than words. The time for action is long overdue. Yesterday, the Auditor General confirmed that it is long overdue.

National Security
Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois estimates that there are two reasons for this committee.

In her report tabled in the House of Commons yesterday, the Auditor General of Canada spoke out about serious flaws with regard to the management of security measures and programs, although in its 2001 budget, the federal government announced $7.7 billion for this sector.

Among these flaws, we note: inability to share information between government departments and agencies; information about 25,000 lost and stolen passports that is not readily available to frontline officials; incomplete watch lists at the border, and the need to have names removed from the database. An estimated 4,500 individuals, or 5.5%, holding restricted area clearances at five major airports had criminal associations worth investigating further.

Furthermore, the Bloc Quebecois has on many occasions condemned this government's inability to achieve a fair balance between security and freedom in its legislation on safety measures. Both the Anti-Terrorism Act, rushed through in 2001, and the public safety bill failed the test.

Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois will take part in the consultation process to ensure that the formula retained by the committee will allow it to continue to do its job effectively as an opposition party.

National Security
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I also want to give our party's support for a committee on national security. It would be a positive thing to have.

I also want to register my disappointment that in her remarks today the minister did not make any reference to the charges that were made by the Auditor General the other day about major problems in terms of the work she has done in terms of national security. It would have been very helpful if she would have made a comment today in response to the Auditor General. Those were very serious charges and they should have been responded to by the minister responsible.

We do support the establishment of this particular committee. It comes as part of the democratic reform package of the government. However I want to point out one thing that counteracts democratic reform.

The Liberals are talking about this being a joint committee of parliamentarians, members of the House of Commons and members of the Senate. Members of the Senate are not elected and are not accountable. It is not a democratic institution and this is part of democratic reform. I am sure this committee should be a committee of elected parliamentarians.

I see the parliamentary secretary smiling. He knows the point I make. He knows the member from Sarnia would make exactly the same speech if he were speaking in the House today on this particular issue. If we are serious about parliamentary reform then there is no place in a modern democratic society for a legislative body that is not accountable to the people of the country.

When we appoint people to a commission, such as the CRTC or any other commission, those people are accountable because they have term limitations and are accountable to the government and to the House of Commons. When their terms expire they are replaced by someone else. Some of those commissions review regulations and some issue licences. They are not institutions that are legislative bodies that make decisions on public policy.

I say to the government across the way that the Prime Minister speaks loudly when it comes to democratic reform but he tiptoes through the tulips when it comes to any real reform of democratic institutions. This is another indication today of the Prime Minister not changing anything in terms of democratic reform.

The committee to be established would review security in the country, which is a very positive thing and something we certainly support. We support the idea that it will have broad responsibilities for issues of national security.

The second thing I want to stress is the non-partisan environment. Security is too important an issue to be controlled by a partisan agenda. I want to suggest, and I wish the minister was here, that the committee be composed of an equal number of government and opposition MPs so it will be truly non-partisan in nature. I would like the government to take a look at that as a possibility.

The committee should also have broad access to information because, without that, it will be ineffective and any work it does will be superficial at best.

Finally, the sensitive nature of the information must be respected by all members of the committee but, at the same time, it should not amount to a gag order on members of the committee being unable to speak out about national security.

We support this. I wish the minister had commented on the Auditor General's report. I also wish the government would not put members of the Senate, the unelected and undemocratic body, on this particular parliamentary committee.