House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was harassment.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the debate scheduled for later this day on the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, and I believe you would find consent for the following motion:

That the debate on the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, scheduled for later this day be deemed to have taken place, the question deemed put, a recorded division requested and deferred to the end of government orders on Wednesday, October 5, 2005.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, be read a third time and passed.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, on November 23, 2004, the Government of Canada introduced a bill to regulate the operation of remote sensing space systems. This is a bill concerning satellites capable of taking detailed pictures of the earth and objects on its surface.

On December 7, 2004, Bill C-25 was approved in principle by all parties in the House at second reading, subject to a clause by clause study by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Very recently, the committee tabled in the House a slightly amended bill for us to consider. Today, I will explain once again why this bill on remote sensing space systems is important for Canadians, for the Canadian industry and for our friends in other countries, and why this amended bill should be passed.

However, before I begin, I must express my gratitude to my colleagues who thoroughly examined this bill during its study in committee. Many expert witnesses provided important testimony during the study of the bill. Their testimony led to a number of proposed amendments. Four of these amendments are found in the bill submitted today to the House for approval.

The important point is a new section requiring the minister to cause an independent review of the provisions and the operation of the act to be conducted at least once every five years, and for these reviews to be laid before each House of Parliament. This section ensures that the legislation will be reviewed every five years, so that it can keep abreast of technological developments.

I want to add, however, that three trends in space activity are converging and making this bill imperative.

The first is the increasing availability of this technology to the private sector. Once upon a time, only government labs were able to create amazing technologies such as man-made satellites. Such a monopoly on space technology no longer exists. Today, private sector know-how allows us to create inventions at a rate that challenges the government to promote and regulate these new services in a timely manner. So, we must anticipate our needs and act accordingly.

The second trend is this: like the communication satellite industry before it, the remote sensing satellite industry is developing in Canada. Increasingly, the private sector is entering into partnerships with the public sector, as a prelude to purely private enterprises.

At one time, satellite communications were the sole domain of crown corporations. Telesat Canada is an excellent example of this. Today, Telesat operates as a dynamic private sector corporation, regulated by government and serving all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

During the transition period, satellite communications rapidly evolved from the simple delivery of communications between two fixed points using the first regional communication satellite in Canada, Anik A , in 1972.

Now, satellite communications also allow mobile communications via cell phones and direct broadcast satellite service, or DBS, so residences can receive high definition television. More recently, high speed Internet and other broadband communications have been added to this mix of signals.

Remote sensing systems by satellite might be as successful if operators and investors in this sector could rely on intelligent regulation by the government.

Bill C-25 makes such intelligent regulation possible and does not intervene in the market except to ensure Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests.

It also ensures secure data access for the states in question. Consequently, this bill protects both the public interest and the private interests of Canadians in a new use of space.

Third, the confluence of private financial capital and private access to high technology has resulted in remote sensing space system capabilities that could harm our national security, defence and conduct of international relations were they to go unregulated. Earlier civil remote sensing space systems were limited in their performance by underlying technological and financial constraints. Security interests of government owners also set performance restrictions on the capabilities of the remote sensing space systems.

Research and development activities meanwhile have proceeded apace for military systems, aided by the inventiveness of private contractors. This developed technological base can now produce imagery with resolution sufficient to benefit a 21st century defence force. When sensitive data is distributed on a wide basis, undesirable entities could be emboldened to exploit this new-found information availability as an asymmetric threat for our nation. This could be done without ever making the hitherto necessary space investments themselves.

Were the distribution of satellite remote sensing products and raw data to remain unregulated, timely non-discriminatory access to sensitive data could harm the national security, national defence and foreign policy interests of Canada. On the flip side of these concerns, there is the incredible benefit that timely access to imagery by the government could have for coordinating humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

When disaster strikes, as it did with hurricanes Katrina and Rita recently, or as with the Indian Ocean tsunami before them, it is important that the first responders and humanitarian relief workers can quickly survey the extent of the disaster, decide where best to set up the relief operations and of course aid in the rescue of persons in distress. And over the past couple of months I can say plenty about that. Thankfully, those were all done in a very efficient way.

While there is every expectation that satellite operators in Canada will service this market on their own, Bill C-25, which is before the House today at third reading, provides a power for the government to order imagery on a priority basis, enabling us to help coordinate relief efforts and operations for Canadians and others in need at home or abroad.

Parliament must therefore act to secure these vital interests of Canada while at the same time promoting wide access to satellite remote sensing products and raw data for beneficial uses which are consistent with the peaceful use of outer space. Parliament must also regulate these systems regardless of whether public or private or private-public finances assembled the necessary funds to undertake these promising ventures. Bill C-25 does exactly that by establishing a single licensing regime for the operation of remote sensing space systems in Canada and by Canadians.

This bill is also concerned with the distribution of the data products generated by the operation of remote sensing satellite systems. Much of the benefit of Canada's remote sensing satellites accrues to Canadians, but foreign entities also stand to gain by cooperating with Canada and with Canadians. Under Canada's Export and Import Permits Act, the export of satellite technology, goods and services is controlled by the government. Controlling intangible technology such as remote sensing products and raw data under that act, however, would have generated significant efficiency and effectiveness concerns within the government and, of course, the private sector alike.

Rather than require every Canadian national to secure an export permit for each and every purchase of imagery or data by foreign customers under an amended EIPA, the government wisely chose instead to obtain the same underlying security guarantees by developing this bill with its primary focus on the control of access to such products and data at the source of that information, that is to say, the licensee's operations.

Given that a licensee's satellite operations can be located both at home and offshore and also that such licensees work with international partners to increase global market penetration, these foreign partners must also be able to derive benefit from their Canadian investments. This bill is purposefully designed to enable foreign participation in Canadian systems and distribution of remote sensing products and raw data internationally, provided that Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests are protected.

By piggybacking these security requirements onto a clean licensee's business model, we can obtain an example of smart regulation that is efficient and effective for Canadians and their foreign business partners.

I am also sponsoring this bill in order to fulfill Canada's bilateral and international obligations. By virtue of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, Canada is responsible for the outer space activities of its nationals. Today satellites belonging to, and operated by, private interests are governed by the Telecommunications Act, the Radiocommunication Act and the Broadcasting Act, in order to protect the public interest in a variety of respects.

Passage of Bill C-25 will achieve a similar regulation of remote sensing systems, primarily from the points of view of security, defence and foreign policy. The bill also focuses on protection of the environment, of public health and safety and of private property.

This minimal intervention into the market responds to the concerns raised by this area of economic activity and respects Canada's international obligations.

The bill is also important from the point of view of Canada—U.S. relations. The government's decision to control its own remote sensing satellites, announced in June 1999, paved the way for an agreement between Canada and the United States which was signed in the June 2000, the Canada-United States Agreement Concerning the Operation of Commercial Remote Sensing Satellite Systems. This treaty was aimed at ensuring that private remote sensing satellite systems would be controlled in each country in such a manner as to protect shared national security and foreign policy interests, while promoting the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

Today we can meet the commitments contracted in that treaty. The statement of policy on controlling access that was announced in June of 1999 has become the bill you now have before you.

The launch of RADARSAT-2 from Canada is scheduled for 2006. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill so that we can show that Canada is walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Before I conclude, I would like to mention that there was a lot of discussion, both in the House and in committee, about the private ownership of Canada's next remote sensing satellite, RADARSAT-2, its excellent performance and the need for foreign technology and launching facilities for these Canadian missions. RADARSAT-2 is indeed a good example of the need for this type of legislation. However, the bill must also apply to all future remote sensing space systems. Therefore, this bill covers all existing and future remote sensing space systems, which is exactly what Canadians want and expect from us.

Let me go back to the purpose of this bill to conclude my remarks.

The House should pass this bill that deals with remote sensing space systems because it is much better to create a smart regulatory framework for these high technology satellite systems than to risk compromising our national security, our defence and, most of all, our foreign policy.

We must pass this bill so that Canada can meet its bilateral and multilateral obligations in terms of regulating the space activities of its nationals.

We must pass this bill to ensure that Canadian businesses remain world leaders in the area of remote sensing and related services by setting a clear regulatory framework that can attract technological investments and help our businesses in terms of finding markets.

And we must pass this bill to ensure that every Canadian continues to draw maximum social and economic benefits from the use of space for peaceful purposes.

If we do not do it, other jurisdictions will take the lead and Canada will be the loser.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a few comments on Bill C-25. I heard the parliamentary secretary say that the bill is a matter of some urgency. I also heard him say that it represents a minimal intervention in the marketplace.

We should be very clear that Canadian taxpayers have funded approximately 75% of the development of this satellite, about $450 million, but it is 100% commercially owned.

The NDP has agreed with the intent of the bill, but there are a number of weaknesses in the bill and I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary about them.

We know for example with RADARSAT International and RADARSAT-1 that information was provided to the U.S. military. In fact that information may have been used by the U.S. in its war on Iraq. As we know, Canadians have not supported that war, nor has the Canadian government. I think we deserve to have some ironclad assurances that the government approved sale of RADARSAT-2 imagery will not be sold to the U.S. for wars or other military purposes.

I think Canadians are very concerned about this. This is a commercial operation. The bill purports to give us the protection we need, yet we know from what happened in committee when we sought those ironclad assurances, the government was not prepared to give them.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary why the government would refuse to do that. We have a bill that in our opinion is weak and does not provided the kind of assurance we need that this vital information is not going to be used for military purposes when indeed Canadians have paid so much for this satellite.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I realize the hon. member has not had the benefit of being on the committee and that much of the information she has received of course has come from her colleagues who have done a very good job on that committee, in particular the member for Halifax.

I want to assure the hon. member that this is really about satellite imagery not for defence purposes, although it would have the effect of protecting Canada's interests certainly when Canadian soldiers are involved around the world. The implications that somehow this would then be used for other purposes is clearly inconsistent with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other ministers who are accountable to the House and who are responsible for this legislation. There is much accountability for how this will be forwarded in the days to come, but it is not, as the hon. member's party was suggesting earlier, somehow connected to the issue of ballistic missiles.

The hon. member may not know that her party was also given an opportunity to look at very confidential information. Of course all of us saw this. They may have had more questions after the fact but the reality is that the provisions within the act were given in very abundant and very clear terminology. Once the party had disposed of the concern it had about ballistic missile defence it then went on to another potential.

Of course we need to do this. This is why the government chose to make sure that the bill is subject to review by the House and obviously by the other place every five years. It is an accommodation which I think befits the strength of the bill.

I want to make it abundantly clear to the hon. member that the imaging that we are referring to and the shutter control is for very specific reasons where there is a national interest. I repeated this five times in my speech. Where there are interests that deal with the Canadian government's concerns, whether it be the deployment of troops, whether it be to deal with assets or interests that we may have as a country, as we saw with the case of the tsunami or as we would see in the case of New Orleans, such a satellite would be extremely helpful. Those kinds of circumstances would allow the government to basically use it for its own purposes.

Although there is an understanding of a substantial commitment by the Canadian taxpayer to the creation of this satellite, which we hope will be launched in 2006, the bill has been before the House for almost a year now. We also know that it will be used for purposes from which all of us as Canadians can benefit.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, while sharing the concerns expressed by the leader of the NDP, I would like to raise another problem with Bill C-25.

As we know, RADARSAT-1, which is managed by the Canadian Space Agency, is already in place. This remote sensing satellite has been in operation since 1995 and helps establish priorities for the use of the images it captures. For instance, federal departments have privileged access to these images, as do the provinces and scientists.

There is no mention anywhere in this bill that the provinces will have privileged access to the images captured by RADARSAT-2. There is no explicit mention of possible agreements with the provinces, which are put in the same category as regular commercial customers. Given that RADARSAT-2 will now be managed by a private company, namely MacDonald Dettwiler, it seems to me that it should have been set out very clearly in the bill that the provinces must have privileged access. In fact, under the Canadian Constitution, the provinces are responsible for managing natural resources, and these images are very useful for the management of forests, for example, and farm management as well.

Therefore, I cannot understand why the amendments put forward by the Bloc Québécois in this respect were rejected, and why the bill was not corrected accordingly. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could enlighten us on this.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member who has worked very hard on this bill and shown a lot of interest in this regard.

However, he knows full well that the government has never had any problem with previous satellites and that there were no incidents related to the authority or the need for information further to a request by a province. No request has ever been rejected or denied.

We do not anticipate any problems. There will obviously be consequences because if this satellite is ever used, it will be to further municipal, provincial and national interests. Canada has a lot at stake, of course. In this context, satellite images have always been used in the best interests of our country prior to RADARSAT-2. Provinces have also had access to these images occasionally, on simple request.

I fully understand the member's concerns. We are dealing with a private company with other clients. However, at the government's request, and in the best interest of the government, there should be no problems. If they ever occur, we will deal with them.

In five years, Canada's Parliament, hopefully represented by the member's party, will be in a position to investigate. However, I believe that in five years the member will be able to tell me that there were no problems and that provincial governments requests were not denied.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-25. In June 2000 Canada made a commitment under the Canada-United States agreement concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellite systems. Bill C-25 intends to augment the commitment made five years ago in the form of upgraded technology.

Private remote sensing satellite systems are used to analyze groundwater, agriculture, forestry and oceanography, natural resources and industries that are very important to Canada. They also can be used to map topography, what kind of land is where and what the soil is like.

Remote sensing satellite systems can also be used to monitor forest fires, thus it will hopefully serve to save many provinces money in the forest fire prevention portions of their budgets and even some people's homes. This will be done by locating a fire still in its infancy.

They can also be used to monitor our borders and assist our border security officers. At the same time, they promote co-operation between ourselves and the United States while still firmly establishing our sovereignty over Canadian soil.

Initially it will cost $1.3 million to set this up and it will take eight to nine staff members to run this program through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defence and Canada's National Space Agency. The Conservative Party finds this reasonable and believes it represents good value for Canada. It will allow for ongoing research and is especially beneficial to Canadians because it will ensure that Canada will have the most up to date technology. That means there will continue to be high tech, long term opportunities for our citizens. Our post-secondary institutions will also benefit by this because they will have to continue to teach, research and explore this technology so we can continue to develop.

Ongoing research in space opens up new capacities daily regarding the details of natural and human events everywhere on earth. A few short years ago it would have been inconceivable to think about legislation that would govern satellites in space taking pictures of our movements.

The government has a role to play regarding the privacy matters of its citizens. The government needs to know who is scanning the nation, what kind of information they are coming up with and what kind of capabilities are out there. Originally we had concerns about privacy, but the legislation, as amended, deals with this and privacy is protected.

We also are pleased it has secured a proper place for the private sector and scientific and industrial activity as does its commitment to defence of the nation and the hemisphere from military threats from abroad and from terrorist activities conceived at home or abroad.

The official opposition believes the government has done its job to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens while not compromising the security of the nation by having brought the bill to the standing committee where it was examined clause by clause. We have eliminated any language that we thought detrimental to both citizens and national security.

Given the amendments made to the bill in committee, we support the legislation.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

I want it known from the outset that we will vote against this bill. In fact, a number of problems that we had raised were not addressed in committee. And yet, the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île and I did propose a number of amendments. The NDP also tried to clarify the bill, but the Conservatives and the Liberals were indifferent and treated us to their usual uncompromising attitude that we have grown accustomed to over the past 10 years.

Still, consideration of legislation on remote sensing is very thrilling. It gives every member of the committee a chance to learn a great deal about it. We also saw that since this is a relatively new field, there were a great deal of questions that government officials had not asked themselves. Fortunately, the committee raised these questions. Too bad it did not get any response.

It probably would have been better to postpone the debate on Bill C-25 and to continue the work of the committee in order to ensure that this legislation, made necessary by the fact that the Canadian Space Agency was relieved from one of the responsibilities it had in managing RADARSAT-1, truly responded to the objectives set out in the summary. I will read the summary, since those watching us need to know what we are talking about.

This enactment regulates remote sensing space systems to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

In order to accomplish this, the enactment establishes a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provides for restrictions on the distribution of data gathered by means of them. In addition, the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

That is the aim of this bill. As I mentioned, we support this aim. However, if the Canadian Space Agency had retained responsibility for managing and operating RADARSAT-2, this bill would not be necessary. Instead, the Liberal government decided, in this area, to establish a public-private partnership—Quebec knows that such partnerships are rarely successful either in reality or in the public eye—between the Canadian Space Agency and MacDonald Dettwiler, a Canadian company.

If RADARSAT-1 had been left as it is, that is, having this remote sensing space system under public management, this bill would have been moot. However, we are being presented with a fait accompli, this public-private partnership. So we must establish a framework for this private enterprise, which will be responsible for managing a remote sensing space satellite.

Even if we make a law that every operator of this kind of technology must obtain a licence, the fact is that Bill C-25 seeks to provide a framework solely for the activities of one private company.

I want to mention that I find it troubling, to say the least, that one of the sponsors of this bill, the Minister of Industry, served on the board of this private company in 2000. A number of responsibilities set out in the bill will need to be clarified.

This bill is a first in Canada. As I said, it was made necessary due to a decision taken by the government, under former minister John Manley, to transfer RADARSAT-2 to a private company.

As I recall, and as the leader of the NDP said earlier, RADARSAT-2 was designed and built by the Canadian Space Agency, which is located in Saint Hubert, at a cost of $430 million. In fact, I think that the costs have increased somewhat since then. However, the Canadian company, MacDonald Dettwiler invested only $92 million. It has also committed to paying the satellite's operating costs. But any private company operating this satellite will want to sell the images it takes and make a profit. It will do so at the expense of taxpayers who paid for the system's construction.

In my opinion, this is the first problem in the whole debate, which is not as much focussed on Bill C-25 as on the government's past decision to shed responsibility for administration of RADARSAT-2.

One can, of course, wonder how appropriate it is, from the point of view of governance, to use the taxpayers' money to permit a private company to sell its remote sensing images. No one is questioning the appropriateness of having such satellites. Hon. members will recall that RADARSAT-1 scans the Earth's surface with advanced synthetic aperture radar. Unlike optical systems, this system makes imaging possible day and night, whether the atmosphere is clear, cloudy or foggy. As a result, these satellites are extremely useful for monitoring natural disasters.

As I said in my question to the parliamentary secretary, this also allows for natural resource management. It is, for example, very difficult to assess changes in a forest with the naked eye. With satellite images, however, it is possible to take inventory of the forests, as well as waterways and a number of other things. It is, of course, very useful for both meteorology and cartography.

The novelty with RADARSAT-2 is the markedly higher resolution than was available with RADARSAT-1, varying between two and three metres. This is, of course, where the entire problem lies with the use private interests will make of these ultra high resolution images. I recall that MacDonald Dettwiler, the private company that will be administering this, will sell these images to private interests as well as to foreign interests.

The Americans are worried about the possibility that images obtained by RADARSAT-2 and sold by this private company could have military repercussions. A treaty, to which we could not get access, was signed with the United States in 2000. We therefore share the concerns of the Polaris Institute as to its contents. Do the Americans have some right to veto the sale and use of the images that will be taken?

We know that U.S. law forbids selling images to certain countries. We can understand that. However, will we let the U.S. dictate to Canada how the images should be sold? We would have liked to have seen that treaty. We were told that it does not contain anything that can be cause for concern but I am not ready to blindly accept the government's word. We have concerns. The bill should reflect the complete independence of Canada in matters of foreign affairs but that is not the case.

In addition, there are no provisions in case MacDonald Dettwiler, a private company, should change hands as happened a few months or a few years ago. I think it then became an American company. What would happen if it changed hands? Would its licence be cancelled? Can you imagine a satellite like RADARSAT-2, built with public funds by the Canadian Space Agency, being operated by a foreign private company? It is beyond comprehension that the Canadian government did not find it necessary to include in the bill dispositions ensuring that the company operating RADARSAT-2 remains in Canadian hands. We see it as sheer irresponsibility.

There is another problem which I alluded to earlier in my question to the parliamentary secretary and it is the fact that the legislation does not specify how priority of access to the images will be determined.

The prioritization is not framed in the operating criteria previously used with RADARSAT-2. Members will recall that these criteria ensured priority access to relevant departments—Environment, Natural Resources, Fisheries and Oceans—the provinces and the scientific community.

Now, there is no such assurance. At least, there is no mention in the bill of priority access for the departments, federal or Quebec, which are the largest users of remote sensing data, or for the scientific community.

Previously, with RADARSAT-1, the Canadian Space Agency was the one setting and managing priorities. Now, the management of the satellite will be in the hands of a private company, as I said earlier. This private company might establish its priorities based on the primary objective of private companies: profit. And this primary objective may well be contrary to the interest of common good and Canadian and Quebec interests where the provinces are concerned. So, one would have expected Bill C-25 to clearly provide an order of priority for access to the images, but it does not.

As I said, while several questions remain unanswered, officials have been working on this bill for five years already. I am not criticizing them. The fact is that, clearly, there has been a lack of transparency. The bill was introduced suddenly. There was, on the part of the government and the parliamentary secretary, a feeling of urgency to rush this bill through the various stages of consideration at committee and in Parliament.

As I indicated, the bill was put together so quickly that, when my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île contacted Ferdinand Beaulne, director of the large remote sensing research centre in Canada, therefore someone who is really closely involved with the whole remote sensing file, he was not even aware of the existence of Bill C-25. This means that he had never been consulted by officials or the government on the drafting of Bill C-25.

On the other hand, Mr. Giroux, who is the director of external relations at the Canadian Space Agency, has told us several times that MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates and its subsidiary RADARSAT International Inc., together the Agency's private partner in the RADARSAT-2 program, was consulted extensively during the development of the bill before us. This is somewhat problematic since, as I mentioned to you, the specific purpose of Bill C-25 is to provide a framework for the activities of a single company, namely MacDonald Dettwiler, the only company consulted. In fact, potential subcontractors or clients of MacDonald Dettwiler appeared before the committee to share their concerns about their interests not being taken into account in the industry's development. As far as I can see, everyone in the House agrees that this industry is extremely promising for Canada and Quebec.

Therefore, my party believes that we should have taken a bit more time to involve more people in the process and to have a strong bill.

I mentioned a short while ago in my question that provinces are considered as simple clients and do not have priority access, as was the case before, when they had nearly free access. I want to talk some more about this, since it is the third problem element. The provinces, who are the main buyers of remote sensing images, had even invested in RADARSAT-1. As I mentioned earlier, remote sensing is linked to numerous provincial jurisdictions, such as natural resources, agriculture and the environment. In fact, you, Mr. Speaker, are just as aware of this reality as I am.

As I said, the bill does not explicitly mention an agreement with the provinces, and so we believe it is necessary to change this through an amendment. I think this is a major deficiency in Bill C-25.

There is one other aspect I believe is important, namely, the use that some private-sector or government clients may make of RADARSAT-2 and its remote sensing images. One would have expected the government to comply with the summary, where it is said that remote sensing space systems are regulated “to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces—”. One would have expected a control mechanism on the export of those remote sensing data, just as there still are on exports of products of a military nature in Canada.

In fact, there are guidelines. There is a policy to control exports of military goods and technology to countries we want banned from receiving such exports. I have introduced an amendment which, I thought, simply reflected common sense, that is to say that we make sure that countries that are a threat in terms of Canadian military exports are also covered in the area of remote sensing.

As an example, members know that Canada rigorously controls exports of military goods and technology to countries that constitute a threat to itself and its allies; to those that are involved in a conflict or that might be shortly; to those that have had sanctions imposed by the Security Council of the United Nations; to those where human rights are seriously and repeatedly violated by the government, unless it can be demonstrated that the population is under no reasonable risk.

If it is good for the export of military goods and services, it should also have been good for remote sensing images which the government feels must be covered by Bill C-25.

I admit that I found this very hard to understand. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, I felt that this issue was brushed aside because the government, for reasons that are unknown to me, even though I have a pretty good idea, needs to have Bill C-25 passed as quickly as possible. I think it has to do with the agreement with the United States whereby Canada made the commitment to create a framework for this private corporation, and I am very concerned about that.

Regarding the archiving of data, which will be dealt with in the regulations, we know that this type of high resolution remote sensing can be an invasion of privacy and can be used to compromise the freedom of our fellow citizens. This is why we would have preferred that provisions dealing with the archiving of data be included in the bill itself. The government kept exclusive control over this area by putting it in the regulations. Several experts, including a legal expert and a scientist specialized in Earth observation, pointed out the importance of such archiving of data when they came before the committee.

In the case of the environment and the climate, it is extremely important that all the data be kept year after year. What will that private company do with the images? It will probably consider that the management of these data will cost too much. Consequently, after two years, it will get rid of a whole series of extremely important images.

For example, we were told that in order to be able to measure the warming of the planet or problems concerning the ozone layer, researchers must be able to go back in time to compare series of data. Of course, that will cost money, as I have already said, but a private commercial operator should be required to inform National Archives of his intention to get rid of a number of images. There are no provisions in the legislation in that regard.

In conclusion, we deplore the fact that the Canadian Space Agency has been partly stripped of the management of RADARSAT-2. We believe that the Canadian Space Agency must play an important role. Consequently, because there are no provisions in the bill establishing priority criteria, because nothing in the bill ensures that RADARSAT-2 will not be sold to foreign interests, because there was a lack of transparency at the drafting and consideration stages, because the interests of provinces, particularly Quebec, are not protected, because scientific advances are put at risk by Bill C-25, because there are no consultations with the provinces and the departments involved, as I said in my introduction, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against Bill C-25.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the hon. member did not change his position on the provinces' jurisdiction. On the other hand, the other night, all parties in the House with the exception of the Bloc voted against Bill C-260 which related to provinces' jurisdiction over treaties.

In fact, our Constitution says clearly that space is a federal jurisdiction, not a provincial one. The hon. member knows that. I am not here to give him a lecture on the Constitution and I do not intend to do so either. However, will he recognize that in committee his party proposed an amendment to clause 4.3(c) and that we accepted it? He should say that the interests of the provinces are protected, which would simply reflect reality. Is the hon. member not aware of that amendment that takes into account the interests of the provinces in spite of the Constitution?

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the parliamentary secretary that we proposed an entire series of amendments. Among others, my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île proposed a very specific amendment on the priorities of the provinces and respecting their jurisdictions, but the committee rejected it.

The bill may have been improved over its original version, but it is quite far from respecting the intent of the Canadian Constitution. This bill does not protect the exclusive jurisdictions of the provinces. In fact, it does not even take them into account.

As for the bill that was rejected by the House this week, it was simply a matter, under the Canadian Constitution, of ensuring that, in terms of the exclusive jurisdictions of the provinces or shared jurisdictions, the Government of Canada and Parliament could consult the provinces, which is perfectly normal.

I will give a quick example. When the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, President Clinton asked for two side agreements: one on labour and the other on the environment. Although the federal Liberal government accepted the proposal, it was unable to implement it until a majority of the provinces representing the majority of the public had agreed to do so. For many years, an NDP government in Ontario and one in British Columbia, if my memory serves me correctly, refused. Accordingly, the agreement could not be ratified.

The Canadian Constitution already gives provinces the means to prevent the implementation of agreements signed by the federal government. We were to serve the federal government under the Constitution of 1867. Nonetheless, it seems like the Bloc Québécois is the only party in this House that wants to respect the Constitution of 1867. I am sorry to say so.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the debate, but seven minutes of questions and comments will be given after oral question period.

Seniors
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, October 1 is the International Day of Older Persons. This morning I invite my fellow parliamentarians and all Canadians to join me in celebrating the remarkable contributions of older persons to Canadian society. This year, the United Nations has chosen the theme “Ageing in the New Millennium: Focus on poverty, older women and development”.

The issues presented by an aging population are a high priority for our government. The policies we are developing now will affect the lives of Canadians for generations.

Our government is also responding to the needs of low income seniors. This January, the first non-indexed increase to the GIS in over 20 years will come into effect.

Seniors have earned the right to enjoy a quality of life that we can take pride in. It is the commitment of our government to ensure that the needs of seniors are met. Again I invite members to join me in celebrating the International Day of Older Persons this Saturday.

Lake Simcoe
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the environment of Lake Simcoe is a precious jewel treasured by the residents of York--Simcoe, but its ecosystem is fragile and we need to work hard to protect it.

Local residents are doing their part, including reducing or eliminating the use of fertilizers and pesticides that run off to harm the lake, and disposing of toxic liquids through proper depots.

Local organizations, such as Rescue Lake Simcoe, The Wave, Alliance for a Better Georgina and others, are working to raise awareness and educate people on how to protect the lake.

Local governments are doing their share, investing in expanded water treatment and improved storm water management, but the federal Liberal government is missing in action.

For 12 years we have been waiting for action to prevent the introduction of invasive species that harm the delicate ecosystem of the lake, but we still do not have mandatory rules.

Lake Simcoe needs access to the same environmental funding available to the other lakes in the Great Lakes basin, but the Liberals will not make it available.

The residents of York--Simcoe are working to protect Lake Simcoe's environment for the benefit of generations to come. It is time the federal government stepped up to do its part.

Fafia
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the work of FAFIA, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, whose national symposium and general meeting I had the pleasure of attending in Regina on September 19.

FAFIA is a coalition of over 50 women's organizations whose mandate is to further women's equality in Canada through the domestic implementation of Canada's international and national human rights and policy commitments. FAFIA and its constituent organizations address issues such as violence, poverty and housing, women's trade and economic justice, gender equity in budgeting, and pay equity. Dedicated women and men are engaged to ensure that women from all backgrounds have the opportunity for full participation in all aspects of Canadian society.

At the meeting in Regina, I had the opportunity do a presentation to those attending on the work undertaken to date by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I want to thank FAFIA members for the invitation and wish them much success with their daunting agenda.

Liberal Government
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government and its leader the Prime Minister are not being honest with the public and are not hesitating to leave them in the lurch.

As if it were not enough to ignore the regions' calls for help in the softwood lumber issue, or to abandon Quebec's farmers, whose plight is the result of this government's insensitivity to the realities faced by Quebeckers, the Prime Minister is now refusing to do anything to mitigate the effects of the oil industry crisis on the most vulnerable.

Remote regions do not have public transit systems and are therefore at the mercy of the oil companies' hunger for profits.

What is the Prime Minister doing in the meantime? He is squandering public funds to benefit Liberal Party cronies and protect Gagliano and his gang.

In the words of singer Zachary Richard, “Working is too hard and stealing is not nice”. The decline of federalism continues.

Swansea
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the board of management, staff, volunteers and everyone in the historic village of Swansea on the official opening of the Founders Room in the Swansea Town Hall. The official opening took place on September 17. I was proud to be in attendance.

The Swansea Town Hall was formerly the municipal building for the village of Swansea, which was amalgamated into Toronto in 1966. It now serves as a real community centre, housing the Swansea Memorial Library and various meeting rooms for its many recreational and educational activities.

The Founders Room is its most recent addition and is named for the many residents who over the years worked to ensure that the building was kept open and maintained. With this new addition, the people who played such a key part in its preservation are well remembered. I offer my own tribute to them and to the ongoing vitality of the community and residents of Swansea.

Search and Rescue
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the decision to ground the CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopter fleet in Trenton due to a lack of spare parts and replace it with the CH-146 Griffon helicopter comes as a shock to the families of Captain Colin Sonoski and Captain Juli-Ann Mackenzie.

These brave soldiers died when their Griffon helicopter crashed during a search and rescue mission. It has been over three years since that helicopter crash. The families are still waiting for the final report on rescue 420 to find out what caused the tail rotor blade to fall off the Griffon helicopter in mid-flight, plunging the two pilots to their deaths.

Before any more Canadian Forces pilots are killed because of faulty equipment, this Prime Minister, who is responsible for the budget cuts to our military, owes it to the widow and the families and all the members of the armed forces to immediately release the final report on that crash before using the CH-146 as a search and rescue replacement for a helicopter which is earning a reputation as unsafe to fly.

Iran
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past summer people across the world were shocked and saddened by media reports from Iran which indicated that two young men aged 16 and 18 had been executed.

Independent media reports confirmed that Mahmoud Asgari and Ayez Marhoni lost their lives because they were gay. While Iranian officials tried to make reference to supposed criminal charges, these lacked any credibility.

The reality is that gays and lesbians in Iran are subject to appalling human rights abuse. These young men lost their lives for being gay. The fact that they were as young as they were meant that their execution was in violation of international conventions to which Iran is a signatory.

People across the world must speak out in outrage at these continued abuses of the most basic human rights in Iran.

Trois-Rivières
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, downtown Trois-Rivières received international recognition on September 12 with an award in the special events and promotion category at the International Downtown Association conference in Denver, Colorado.

The purpose of this association is to help its members share winning formulas, whether for drumming up new business, communication and marketing strategies, urban transportation, or for social or other projects to revitalize downtown cores.

Trois-Rivières' success is the result of concerted efforts by several groups including the municipal council, the tourism bureau and the Société de développement commercial du centre-ville.

The award decision was based in large part on the originality of the International Festival of Poetry. Trois-Rivières tied with Los Angeles and beat out New York and Milwaukee.

Congratulations, Trois-Rivières.

Carnegie Gallery
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise in the House today to recognize the 25th anniversary of the Carnegie Gallery, home to the Dundas Art and Craft Association situated in historic downtown Dundas, Ontario.

The mandate of the Dundas Art and Craft Association is to promote and encourage the appreciation and production of Canadian art, especially through local artists in my region of Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale and the environs.

The gallery provides an educational resource both for members and for the community at large and serves as a forum where artists and craftspeople may dialogue and share knowledge and experience.

The Carnegie provides our community with access to art exhibitions of excellent quality and has been a driving force contributing to the vitality and development of the arts in the Hamilton area for years.

Canadian Tourism Commission
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. television show Boston Legal has taped an episode that will feature a world class resort in my riding on Vancouver Island.

This is good news. The bad news is that the episode takes aim at salmon farming, a sustainable industry that employs 4,000 British Columbians, many of them in rural or first nations communities.

The premise that salmon farming and tourism are incompatible is not correct. The Canadian Tourism Commission has rashly booked full page advertisements in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times to promote the show, which will only serve to manufacture polarization.

We have a taxpayer funded commission which is now effectively taking sides at the possible expense of salmon farm workers and their communities. The minister must derail these plans today.

Justice
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been some serious misrepresentations in the House by the opposition against the government position on some very important judicial matters and in particular the protection of children. It is time to set the record straight.

In protecting children, our government has enacted some of the toughest laws in the world against the exploitation of children, against child pornography and against Internet luring.

Bill C-2, which received royal assent on July 20, criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children, particularly between the ages of 14 and 17. It looks at the age difference. It looks at the age of the young person and the nature of the relationship and whether there is any exploitation.

In reality, the age of consent is actually 18 years of age in our country. We will not criminalize the sexual relations that occur between young people. We have also enacted Bill C-27 and Bill C-51, which go further in supporting and protecting our children.

Seniors
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, since being elected as member of Parliament for Windsor West in 2002, I and my office have had many people in my community looking to us for help with seniors' programs and services. It has become evident to me that we have to take action. Too many people are slipping through the cracks.

Over the past few months I have travelled across this country to meet and speak with seniors and seniors' organizations, associations and advocates and other politicians. Overwhelmingly, people have been supportive of the seniors charter of rights being introduced in the House on my behalf and that of my NDP colleagues.

I cannot think of a more important time to introduce a seniors charter in Canada. Too many seniors are getting the short end of society's stick. I have heard of seniors having to choose between food and medication, seniors who need physiotherapy for their knee problems but who cannot get it because of transportation problems, and seniors living in houses that are not secure and are poorly maintained.

Tomorrow, October 1, is the United Nations International Day of Older Persons. Every year, this day reminds us as a society to recognize the important challenges we need to face and the opportunities we need to grasp with regard to the seniors in our country.

The NDP seniors charter will reinforce government's responsibility to seniors, guiding legislation and public services. At the same time, it will make a vivid statement about the important roles that seniors play in Canadian society. It is about time.

Drinking Water
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development faulted the government for incompetency because of its inability to provide Canada's aboriginal people with safe drinking water.

Despite expenditures in excess of $2 billion, the first nations are still consuming drinking water that constitutes a high level of risk.

Now the government plans to spend another $2 billion without having put any regulations in place and without even being in a position to inform Parliament as to whether those in need will have access to safe drinking water. This is just a waste of good money.

All Canadians have a fundamental right to safe drinking water. Unfortunately, the government is doing nothing but waste the taxpayers' money while aboriginal Canadians suffer.

Biennale du lin de Portneuf
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first international Biennale international du lin de Portneuf is nearly over. This is an event showcasing linen through the arts, design, the environment and education.

Activities were held at the Caserne du lin interpretation centre and workshop in Saint-Léonard, at the Marcoux mill in Pont-rouge, the Vieux Presbytère and La Chevrotière mill in Deschambault-Grondines. The international event was attended by artisans and artists from Quebec, France and Belgium.

Colette Matte of Cap-Santé carried off top honours in the textile art category for her work “Mouvement de l'âme”, a light-reflecting pillow of linen and glass.

Congratulations to the partners and members of the organizing committee, in particular: Gilles Girard, chair; Karine Germain, coordinator; Donald Vézina, coordinator of the Association du patrimoine de Deschambault; and Michel Robichaud, designer and spokesperson for the biennale.

Thank you for this first edition, and I am sure that you are enthusiastically working on ideas for the second edition of Portneuf's international biennale in celebration of linen.

Public Funds
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, the most recent Public Accounts of Canada attest, once again, to the mismanagement of public funds by this Liberal government. Theft, vandalism and accidental damages within federal departments have cost Canadian taxpayers over $31 million this year.

This is a 345% increase over last year.

The RCMP alone suffered over $1 million in damages to its fleet.

What does the Minister of Public Works and Government Services intend to do to curb such squandering of public funds? How does the government intend to recover these amounts? Will Canadian taxpayers once again pay the price of this Liberal government's mismanagement?

Firefighters
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, the fire brigade in Saint-Jacques, New Brunswick, celebrated its 50th anniversary of loyal service to the community.

Today, I want to recognize the brave work of firefighters in Saint-Jacques, and all firefighters in my riding and across Canada. They keep our communities safe through their actions and they do not hesitate to put their own life on the line to save the life of someone else.

Without our firefighters, our communities would not be as safe. We must not forget the work our firefighters do in our schools and communities to promote prevention. In short, these people dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their communities.

I encourage all my constituents to recognize what our firefighters do and, once again, I want to thank the Saint-Jacques fire brigade for 50 years of service.

Sisters in Spirit Campaign
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in May of this year, the Liberal government promised $5 million over the next five years to the Sisters in Spirit campaign, an initiative of the Native Women's Association of Canada. Their campaign is intended to raise awareness of the prevalence of violence against aboriginal women in Canada.

Government statistics show aboriginal women with status are five times more likely to die as a result of violence than any other group of Canadian women. However, since May no money has flowed to the Sisters in Spirit campaign and in those five months five more aboriginal women have been reported missing. Who knows how many are missing but not reported. This is just another example of Liberal funding announcements and no action.

The families of these missing women and girls deserve better. I call upon the Liberal government to immediately release the money that has been promised so the Sisters in Spirit campaign can begin in earnest.

Softwood Lumber
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber dispute has been going on for 40 months now. The industry is at the end of its rope, and an aid package is urgently needed.

Technically, the dispute ended on August 10, 2005, when the NAFTA panel ruled that there was no threat to the U.S. industry and that the countervailing and anti-dumping duties should be revoked and refunded.

Unfortunately, for the first time since the free trade agreement was entered into 17 years ago, the United States refused to comply with a panel decision. This choice the Americans made has very serious implications and threatens the integrity of NAFTA, whose decisions are supposed to be binding.

Now the industry has to go before American courts again to obtain justice, which is practically setting them back 20 years.

The Prime Minister and the government ought to show determination and implement the solutions put forward by the Bloc Québécois three years ago now.

The time for talk is over; it is now time to act.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are no rules nor guidelines on how much severance David Dingwall will ding the Canadian taxpayer for. We know that he milks the mint with his expenses. We know the Canadian taxpayer was nickeled and dimed during his time there, even charging for a pack of chewing gum.

The Prime Minister's defence of this decadent behaviour speaks volumes as to the arrogance and sense of entitlement that the government exhibits every day.

André Ouellet, another serial expense account abuser, did not receive a cent, a package, when he resigned in disgrace from Canada Post.

Why is a severance package even being contemplated or discussed with David Dingwall?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, one is innocent until proven guilty. There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Dingwall broke the rules in terms of his expenses. They were all verified by the chief financial officer and subsequently approved by the board. For greater certainty, the board will appoint two eminent outside Canadians to have a second check on this.

In terms of severance, privacy laws prevent me commenting on an individual but I can comment on myself. When I left the Royal Bank voluntarily to enter into politics, I received a severance package. It is normal.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is not normal to charge chewing gum to the Canadian taxpayer.

Former minister David Dingwall resigned following an orgy of reckless spending at taxpayers' expense and after a cloud of suspicion surrounded his past lobbying efforts.

My question is simple. Why should the taxpayers give more money to David Dingwall? Why offer him a golden parachute? Is it to buy his silence?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, there is no evidence that Mr. Dingwall broke the rules. The expenses were all verified by the board, which will appoint two outside parties to do a second check on this. One therefore has to conclude that he did not break the rules.

As I just said also, upon leaving such a position, it is normal to get a severance package, just as one would in the private sector.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Liberals declaring Liberals innocent, what a surprise, Mr. Speaker.

When ad scam administrator, Chuck Guité, was being interviewed for the job, the then public works minister, David Dingwall, said, “Welcome aboard. You won't rat on them, you won't rat on us”. Apparently the code among Liberals in Ottawa is always put your party ahead of the country.

Testimony at the Gomery inquiry and public accounts committee showed that Mr. Dingwall and the the Prime Minister, then finance minister, worked hand in glove, maybe hand in pocket, on a number of contracting issues.

Is the severance package for Mr. Dingwall the Prime Minister's payoff to keep him from ratting? Just what does David Dingwall know that the government wants to keep quiet?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that allegation is so beneath contempt it does not deserve an answer.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Not to mention that response, Mr. Speaker.

Through access to information we have gathered together, the Conservative Party has documents that verify that there is no severance package obligation on the part of the government toward Mr. Dingwall. In other words, this is the Prime Minister's call. This is at his discretion. He has to decide whether he wants to reward the unbecoming conduct of an old crony or protect the interests of Canadian taxpayers.

I am interested in having someone from the government stand up and tell us which it will be.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the privacy law prevents me from commenting on any individual but myself.

In my own particular case, when I voluntarily left my job with the Royal Bank to enter politics, as was normal practice I received a severance package.

In this particular case, I can tell the hon. member that the Privy Council Office is considering this in line with standard practices.

I cannot really comment further except to say that my own example indicates that this is normal under such conditions.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, what is also normal under the government's mismanagement is globe-trotting, golfing, gluttony and gum at taxpayer expense.

This is the Prime Minister's scandal, the Prime Minister's dirty laundry and the Prime Minister's call. He can further hurt the Canadian taxpayers' interests by rewarding, under no reasonable grounds, a crony, or he can stand up for Canadians.

For a change, will he finally stand up and protect the interests of Canadian taxpayers and citizens?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister has been standing up and protecting the interests of Canadians throughout his entire political career. It is this Prime Minister who initiated the review of crown corporation governance that led to 31 recommendations. It is this Prime Minister who opened the crowns to audit. It is this Prime Minister who brought in the strategic management overview that hardened the financial audit committees.

The Leader of the Opposition said, “Why don't you ask the Auditor General to come in”. The Auditor General is the auditor of the Mint, and not only that, in her most recent audit report of June of this year she said--

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the wake of revelations at the Gomery commission, the government has announced that it is upping by $5 million the law suits against the agencies suspected of extra billing. But, we also learned from the commission that the Liberal Party got more money than first thought.

An indepth examination of testimony before the commission indicates that, at the very least, over $5.4 million went to the Liberal Party of Canada. In light of this, does the government intend to demand repayment from this organization too?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities)

Mr. Speaker, we are trying to recover payments that were the result of irregularities. As the amounts are discovered, they are added to the total. We are now demanding repayment of $44 million from groups already identified to the House. We will continue to do so.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, where did the taxpayers' money go?

The government is having serious problems recovering the millions of dollars misappropriated by these agencies since, to date, it has recovered only $1.5 million of the $45 million identified.

In order not to lose the funds directed to the Liberal Party of Canada, will the government admit that it must also take action against this organization so as to be able to recover taxpayer money?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities)

Mr. Speaker, that is why we are waiting for the Gomery report. In the meantime, we will continue to refine our research regarding the amounts that we believe were subject to irregularities. We our revising our figures, and we have already received $1.5 million. Our search continues.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, hon. members will recall that in the aftermath of the sponsorship scandal, the Liberal Party set up a trust and made a commitment to put $750,000 into it.

Since the government decided to step up its demands on agencies in the aftermath of the Gomery inquiry, does it plan to do the same with the Liberal Party of Canada and check whether the dirty money has indeed been put into the trust fund as it promised?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and all members of the House of Commons and all members of the public of Canada can be absolutely assured that in this matter all commitments made by the Liberal Party of Canada will be fully and completely honoured.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to our estimates, the amount of dirty money from which the Liberal Party of Canada benefited is not $750,000 but $5.4 million.

That being the case, ought the government not ensure that there is at least $750,000 of dirty money in that trust account?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities)

Mr. Speaker, that is the reason for the Gomery commission. We will know the exact amounts when its report comes out on November 1. We will then do what is necessary based on that.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence and it concerns Canadian policy in Afghanistan with respect to the handing over of captives, whether that be to the Americans or to the Afghan government.

I wonder if the Minister of National Defence could tell us how the Canadian government intends to ensure that Canadian troops are not in violation of Geneva conventions. Does he intend to work with NGOs, such as the Red Cross and Amnesty International, to make sure that Canada is not in violation of these conventions?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. I appreciate the hon. member's question. I treat this issue very seriously.

Hon. members in the House should know that if we take prisoners in Afghanistan, some are released immediately because they are of no interest whatsoever. Any who are kept, because of suspicion of being involved in terrorist or other activity, are treated by Canada and by our Canadian troops in accordance with all standards of humanitarian and international law. When they are then turned over to either Afghan or American authorities, the Red Cross is notified in accordance with conventions so it can take the inspections. Members of the House have heard the assurances of the American government and others that prisoners will be properly treated in accordance with humanitarian standards.

Housing
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we know that the Americans sometimes take a rather creative approach to international law, so I would urge the Minister of National Defence to keep his eye on the situation.

While Canadian troops are putting themselves in danger in Afghanistan, we find out that many of their families back here at home are also in danger because they are being compelled to live in Zonolite infested homes on base. Last night there was a program about a woman whose husband is in Afghanistan.

Could the minister assure us that he will look into this particular case and others, and get these families into decent housing?

Housing
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's interest in this issue and his general interest in the welfare of the families of our troops. I will work with him and other members of the committee to ensure that.

This Zonolite issue is something we have attacked very proactively. We are inspecting houses. We are scientifically looking at how we can manage this. We are shutting in those areas where they should be shut in. We are demolishing those houses which have to be demolished.

I am not aware of the specific case the hon. member referred to me, but I assure him and members of the House that I will refer it to the agency. I will request immediate information about the disposition of this matter and I will report back.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the technology partnerships audit of 33 companies has been completed and 11 were found to be in breach of contract. The industry minister was informed of this on September 16. That was two weeks ago and yet the minister refuses to reveal the details of those audits.

For two weeks the results of those audits have been kept hidden from this Parliament. Who are the 11 involved? Was Mr. Dingwall one of the 11 or was he not? How much money was kicked back? In the interest of transparency, when will the minister tell the House?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the minister has acted totally responsibly. He will not start naming companies here in the House of Commons. However, he has said there will be zero tolerance in any breakage of any rules that are there. Every penny will be recouped by the government if any violations occurred.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister could save himself a lot of headache and a lot of heartache by simply coming clean on who the 11 are and how much money was kicked back. We will continue to ask the question until it is answered. There are 11 more David Dingwalls out there. The public deserves to know who they are, what these breaches were, and how much money was kicked back.

When will the government come clean on these illegal activities? Who received these kickbacks? How much did they get?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is really unfortunate that the party opposite is trying to criticize the government. The fact is that this government put audits in place. It worked with the Auditor General. It worked with public sector audits to ensure any public misuse of money was recovered and identified. We will ensure there is zero tolerance with it. It is very important for all Canadians to understand the strong responsibility this government shows for public funds.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, abandoning competition, the minister is seeking sole source procurement of Chinook and Hercules aircraft as well as 16 army requirements for Afghanistan totalling billions of dollars. Incredibly, the request for the aircraft is going forward without an approved statement of requirement. The minister is seeking billions of dollars without competition on the basis of someone's personal preferences. This is simply unacceptable.

Without open competition and proper documentation, how do Canadians know they are getting the best equipment and price?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the hon. member knows more than Canadians know and more than I know because I have not yet brought any proposal forward for the acquisition of this equipment. I suggest he is rushing his fences a bit on this one. He should wait at least until we have a proposal to make before deciding to criticize us and on what basis.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister is bringing the thing forward to the PMO on Monday. I am tired of the usual huffing and puffing from the minister. He usually blames a staffer or CDS for his decisions. It is his decision.

This abnormal rush to sole source equipment for Afghanistan confirms that the Liberals made a politically charged decision to commit troops to a high risk mission without ensuring they were properly equipped. This is despicable politics. This sole source is political damage control that will cost Canadians billions without a guarantee of effective cost and performance.

Is this the seed for a future Auditor General's investigation?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, huffing and puffing is one thing, but whistling and sucking is another. The hon. member cannot accuse me of rushing through procurement to get the things we need for our troops and at the same time accuse me of sending the troops out without the equipment.

Of course I am trying to get them the best equipment. This is a multinational mission. There will be other nations there with the equipment. The Chief of the Defence Staff has said that when we go in February our troops on this mission will be one of the best equipped and best led missions of all the multinational forces in Afghanistan, and that will be so.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, the president of the Treasury Board and the Minister of National Revenue came to the defence of their friend David Dingwall, the man who managed to offload on the Royal Canadian Mint a bill for $750,000 for miscellaneous expenses related to accommodation and his BMW. Yesterday, the minister responsible for the Royal Canadian Mint seemed open to the idea of David Dingwall receiving severance pay.

Does the Minister of National Revenue not agree that after living like a king at the Royal Canadian Mint, David Dingwall does not deserve any severance pay?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, there is no evidence that Mr. Dingwall broke the rules on spending. All his expenses were audited by the board. What is more, the board is hiring two outside parties to reassess the situation.

It is common practice to give severance pay for such positions, both in the private sector and the public sector. The government, through the Privy Council Office, will assess the situation. No decision has yet been made, however.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister, who wanted to distance himself from the Chrétien-Gagliano legacy, not realize that by continuing to defend Liberal cronies like David Dingwall he is becoming their accomplice?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, that was not a new question. I have already said that he broke no rules. The board at the Royal Canadian Mint is hiring two highly credible outside parties to re-examine the policy in order to determine whether Mr. Dingwall complied with it and whether parts of it should be changed.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Alain Boire Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, after the sponsorship scandal, after the Dingwall affair, now it is the turn of several departments to suffer because of this government's inaction, as computer theft is skyrocketing and deceased employees continue to be issued pension cheques.

In the face of such troubling revelations, what does the government intend to do to put an end to this squandering?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities)

Mr. Speaker, obviously, we will continue to improve our systems. We will make sure that, when new programs are initiated, any form of imperfection is removed. We are learning from our mistakes, but just the same, we will improve our systems.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Alain Boire Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the list keeps getting longer and longer. After the Ouellets, the Dingwalls, and now the Taddeos, it is obvious that the criteria governing crown corporations need to be seriously tightened.

What is the government waiting for to mandate the Auditor General to conduct an investigation into all the practices of crown corporations?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, this is precisely the problem we have on this issue. We have made that change earlier this year. The Auditor General is now the auditor for all crown corporations, with the exception of the Bank of Canada which has a very specific regime embedded in its legislation.

We have extended access to information to crown corporations. We have required strengthened audit regimes. We have independent reporting of the internal audit to the board. We have required the boards to put in place clearly defined rules of procedure for both the oversight of management and the operation, and it goes on.

There are 31 items on the list. It has been regarded as state of the art in the country. The private sector has said we have raised the bar in corporate governance. The Prime Minister has done a superb job in improving the management of our crown corporations.

Public Service
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of National Defence wants a soldier to go to Afghanistan, he takes all the time in the world to take applications from every province in the country.

When the minister has a good safe job in Ottawa, such as the one he is advertising today that requires an expert in seamanship equipment, that safe job is restricted to only those people with postal codes around Ottawa.

I want the minister to explain to the people of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta and Manitoba, and every other province why they are good enough to go to Afghanistan and risk their lives, but they are not good enough to work in Ottawa?

Public Service
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the member has been raising this issue consistently. There was a discussion about some way that we could fix this process for lower level positions. The point he makes is a very important one and I agree with him completely. For the more senior levels of the public service there should be national competitions.

I can tell the member that I have spoken to the President of the Public Service Commission about this. She has been, as I told him before, working on this and I think he can expect an announcement on this shortly.

Emergency Preparedness
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, surprisingly the Minister of National Defence has said that our level of emergency preparedness in unparalleled. A serious problem has existed for years, but the Liberal government refuses to fix it. Provincially licensed medical staff cannot practise interprovincially in a declared emergency.

Why is the government not willing to cut the red tape to save lives before a disaster?

Emergency Preparedness
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

St. Paul's
Ontario

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Minister of State (Public Health)

Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased to report that in April of this year the public health network for this country was established. The work is ongoing in memorandums of understanding in terms of professional nurses and doctors. This is very quickly in response to David Naylor's report, as well as the other hugely important issue around sharing of information. I think the member should be well assured that Dr. David Butler-Jones, Dr. Perry Kendall and the fabulous new network are doing terrific work with their subcommittees.

Border Security
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, in June the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence reported on the lack of security at the Canadian border. Specifically, it noted the deliberate alteration of an original independent report by the government to delete a reference to the need for an armed presence at border crossings.

Why was the report altered and what action has been taken against those responsible?

Border Security
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would have to take this question regarding the specific reference to an alteration of a report of which I am personally not familiar under advisement on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister.

However, I can assure the hon. member that the matter of arming public officers at the border has been much discussed. The police are clearly of the view that the defence and the proper safety of them and the safety of other citizens is best assured by only armed police officers at our border posts. We have examined this. We have invested enormous amounts of money in securing our border, making it one of the best and safest borders in the world. I can assure the House that we will continue to do so.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, it has been seven months since I exposed the government's dishonest position on the sponsorship of parents into Canada. The Liberal government said that sponsoring parents was a high priority, but a top level immigration official admitted that it was a zero priority with the government.

People are led to believe that they will be allowed to bring their parents to Canada, but the government has not and will not make this happen. Why is the government so dishonest and uncaring when it comes to reuniting families?

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. In April of this year we took several measures. Among them, the most immediate one, was to ensure that parents and grandparents could be reunited with their families by applying for and receiving a multiple entry visa that would have carriage for five years, provided that they meet the condition that all tourists who are going to be here for six months or more must have and that is a medical and to have medical insurance. That was the very first of several measures.

Chief Electoral Officer
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Yesterday, the Chief Electoral Officer made comments to the media on the confidentiality of the voters list, in connection with his report on the 38th general election.

In light of the Chief Electoral Officer's comments regarding the confidentiality of the register of electors, could the minister please comment?

Chief Electoral Officer
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, the recommendation that the member is talking about is one of 48 or 58 recommendations which will be looked at by the appropriate committee of the House. The government will comment on that in due course. As far as the national register of electors is concerned, let us be clear. Its use and non-use is set by law. It is up to Parliament to set law. There is no one above the law including and particularly agents of Parliament.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, recent prescription drug fiascos have Canadians questioning the transparency and accountability of Health Canada and its minister. Now we have another example.

Since 2003, MPs have been asking for the results of an important 1996 study, one that examined thousands of Canadian women with silicon breast implants to see what the health implications were. Where are the results from the study that taxpayers funded and when will Canadians know if these implants are a danger to Canadian women?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

St. Paul's
Ontario

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Minister of State (Public Health)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her excellent testimony at the committee.

The establishment of the expert advisory panel and the hearings to ask Canadians their experience with these is a hallmark in terms of a new way of doing things. The minister awaits the results of this two phase process and will report as quickly as the decision is taken.

Poverty
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, the poor in our country want long term solutions, not just a one-time fuel rebate just before an election.

The National Anti-Poverty Organization wants actions, not words. It wants a special heating subsidy that boosts the value of the GST credit lost through de-indexing, getting on with the low income energy efficiency retrofit program and a federal minimum wage set at $10.

When will the government act on this and start caring for the poor every day, not just talking about it on election day?

Poverty
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, indeed the concern of the government with respect to low income Canadians needs to be an ongoing concern. That is why we have pursued policies to dramatically increase employment within the country, having the best rate of improvement in job creation within the G-7. That is why we have worked year after year improving the child tax benefit. That is why in the last budget we moved to raise the basic minimum amount that will go up over a number of years to $10,000 and take 860,000 of the lowest income Canadians off the tax rolls.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, on July 4 I wrote a letter to the Minister of National Defence informing him that a former employee of the Meaford tank range, in a sworn affidavit, reported that agent orange had been buried there in the late 1960s.

In his reply, just a mere two and a half months later, the minister stated that he had no record of agent orange being buried at Meaford. Of course there are no records. The employee who made the allegations made it very clear that the burial was to be hush-hush.

Will the minister conduct a complete and thorough investigation into these allegations and will he do it now, yes or no?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his letter. As I said to him in my response, our investigation internally did not indicate any records showing any such event. I am now looking at ways in which we could work with the individual who made the comments in question to see whether we could get any further information.

I assure the hon. member that I have this matter still under hand and I will continue the investigation. I do not want anything to go possibly where we could not find out the existence of any substance that is difficult for us to deal with on our bases. I will continue all efforts and work with the hon. member and the person to whom he spoke to find that out.

Energy Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I met with Ellie Chaves, plant manager of Alcoa Wheel Products in Collingwood. Due to skyrocketing energy costs, Alcoa can no longer compete with emerging markets like China, India and Brazil and the plant is scheduled to close.

Terry Geddes, the mayor of Collingwood, Ron Best, president of Local CAW 1995, 430 Alcoa employees and I are fighting to keep the plant open.

When will the government come up with a national strategy and stand up for my constituents to ensure Canadian companies can compete with these emerging markets?

Energy Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, through the summer I had the opportunity to meet with business organizations across the country on the emerging issues that will affect the Canadian economy of the future.

Two issues in particular have emerged. One is the competition from the new international giants like China and India. The other is the major demographic change that is taking place within this country as baby boomers age and retire.

I can assure the hon. member and all members of the House that the government will be very aggressive in pursuing an agenda for growth and prosperity for all Canadians, including her constituents.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House the Minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development said in response to scathing criticism of the government's incompetence in providing clean safe drinking water to aboriginal Canadians, “we are acting on it now”, yet over two years ago the Deputy Prime Minister stated that this was a top priority of the government.

All we have today is inadequate testing, no regulations, no performance measures and zero accountability to Parliament. It has been 12 years. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister this. How many more years do aboriginal Canadians have to drink contaminated water while that polluted government takes no action?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, it is quite the contrary. As I said yesterday, the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Health and I all recognize and accept the report of the commissioner. In fact, actions have been taken.

The first nations water management program only began at the end of her report and we have had great success so far. We recognize it is not enough. More needs to be done, particularly in the area of regulation, and that will happen.

Status of Women
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, last May the government announced it was finally ready to tackle violence against aboriginal women, promising new funding that would help them live free from fear and violence. Yet last week it was revealed no funds have been put to use and will not be until October, at the earliest.

Over the summer six more aboriginal women disappeared. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations issued a warning of the potential risk of abduction. The problem is real; the Liberal reaction is not.

When will the government treat this with the urgency it deserves?

Status of Women
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased with the government's announcement on the $5 million to the Native Women's Association of Canada. Before the funds are granted, since it is new money, it has to be reviewed by Treasury Board and a contribution agreement has to be signed by both parties. We now know that it will be at Treasury Board on October 17. This also adds to the funds in our other programs that we give to combat violence against aboriginal women. They will have their funds after October 17.

Finance
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are still waiting for the government to introduce measures, such as the creation of a petroleum monitoring agency, a significant increase in the investigative powers of the Competition Bureau, and aid for the most vulnerable members of our society affected by the increase in heating costs. All these measures are in the action plan presented by the Bloc.

Can the Minister of Finance give us the assurance that the program for the most vulnerable will be funded in part by a tax on the profits of oil and gas companies equal to at least $500 million, thereby recouping the $250 million in tax cuts they have been granted over the past few years?

Finance
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that opposition party has never seen a tax increase that it did not like. We believe it is possible to respond to the needs of Canadians, helping those at the lowest income levels, providing greater measures for energy efficiency and conservation, more transparency and competitiveness in the marketplace and to do that on a sound basis with fiscal responsibility in mind without increasing the tax burden on Canadians.

Finance
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Coalition to protect fuel consumers organized a protest in Saguenay. This coalition is demanding the immediate adoption of measures to stop subjecting fuel consumers to the spiralling costs of retail gas prices.

Does the minister intend to develop a plan that would, among other things, extend the $3.75 daily tax credit, up to 10% of total earnings, to the residents of regions such as mine? Very remote regions already benefit from this tax credit.

Finance
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, our objective in developing any policy, including policies with respect to the cost of energy, would be designed and intended to help all Canadians everywhere in a fair and equitable manner, everyone included.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, farmers in my constituency were preparing to harvest one of their very best crops until flooding completely drowned out any such hope. This is yet another shock to farmers who over the past four years have experienced two devastating droughts, a devastating frost and BSE.

CAIS provides no relief after 12 years. Why does the government not have a program that provides real assistance to farmers when such disasters occur?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right in pointing out the challenges that Canadian producers are facing. The government understands that and so do all governments. That is why in the first six months of this year $3.3 billion have gone to Canadian producers. It is why the CAIS program has paid $2.1 billion to Canadian producers. It is why we had specific programming to deal with BSE and the impact on producers.

Quite frankly, the government cares about producers and it demonstrates that everyday. There have been large contributions to assist them in meeting what are significant challenges.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, he is the only person in Canada who actually believes that.

Heavy rains have hurt much of Saskatchewan over the last few months and many farmers have seen the value of their crops destroyed. After a bad drought one year, a killer frost the next and now the excessive rainfall, many producers' CAIS margins are well below normal.

The five year Olympic average for CAIS margins means that after just a couple of bad years, a farmer is unlikely to receive a payout from CAIS, so those who need it most do not get the help they need. The minister must listen to Saskatchewan farmers on this. Will he change the averaging system or will he continue to ignore producers?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, the government does not ignore producers. Let us talk about the CAIS program for a second.

Producers suggested that they did not believe the deposit system made any sense. In the budget of the Minister of Finance, we eliminated the deposit. Producers said to us that they needed to have the money come in a more timely manner. What did we change? We changed the advance program so the money would. We were not covering negative margins. Producers suggested that we should cover negative margins. We made that change. Producers said that there ought to be a different way to do negative margin. We listened to producers and did it.

The reality is the government does listen to producers and responds to their needs.

Social Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers.

Tomorrow is the International Day of Older Persons and like all parliamentarians we all know the important contributions that seniors have made to our country. My riding of Davenport has a sizeable and growing number of seniors.

Would the minister provide an update on the direction of the government's efforts on behalf of seniors?

Social Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Trinity—Spadina
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Ianno Minister of State (Families and Caregivers)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his great concern regarding our seniors who helped build this great nation of ours. As we know, tomorrow is the United Nations' celebration of older persons. It is a year of great celebration, considering what they have done in our country and around the world.

In Canada we are developing our national action plan for seniors, with a $2.7 billion increase in GIS, a seniors' secretariat, a new horizons program, affordable housing measures and rent supplements. We continue to do this to ensure that our seniors live with the dignity they deserve.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, school boards in Quebec and Ontario, including one that covers my riding of Cambridge, took the Liberal government to court to prove that they should be exempt from GST and the cost of transporting our children. The courts agreed and a final settlement was reached, but then the Minister of Finance retroactively changed the law, and now refuses to respect the courts.

When will the minister stop manipulating the law to suit government greed and start putting children ahead of surpluses?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we always try to make the tax rules of our country as fair and equitable as they can possibly be. I can assure the hon. gentleman that the well-being of children, preschool, in school and through post-secondary education, is a very high priority in which the government invests billions every year, paid for by the tax revenue that is raised from all our various sources.

Copyright Act
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the education of the students in my riding of Kildonan--St. Paul and across Canada is at risk in this new school year because the government has avoided putting an educational amendment into the copyright law, Bill C-60. Schools cannot afford this added cost of paying for otherwise free materials from the Internet.

Will the government support an amendment to the legislation?

Copyright Act
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, on June 20, we introduced Bill C-60 to amend the Copyright Act as promised. The bill will help clarify the scope of copyright, and it makes it possible for Canada to join other countries.

We are taking this issue very seriously. We want to have material available to students, but we also want to protect the rights of those who are giving that material. We are taking this issue and putting it aside because it needs some discussion and clarification.

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has made a commitment, with the Government of Quebec, to assume half the costs of widening highway 175. When the Minister of Transport was in the region this past August, he said that the additional costs would come from a number of federal programs. Now that same Minister of Transport is reneging on his commitment and refusing to assume 50% of the total costs of widening highway 175.

Does the minister intend to honour his commitment and recognize the 50-50 principle as stated?

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

Noon

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member took the time to read the agreement signed by the Prime Minister and the premier on May 7, 2004, he would know that Canada and Quebec agree that their respective contributions to the project would be 50% of eligible costs, up to a maximum of $262.5 million each, for phase one of the project. That is exactly what was in the agreement signed by the two of them.

For subsequent phases, we are going to negotiate with the Quebec minister of transport. Within a subsequent phase of the infrastructure program, we will—

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

Economic Development
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada.

The Sayabec community in the Lower St. Lawrence is reeling from the announced restructuring of the Uniboard plant and the loss of 200 jobs.

What does the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada intend to do to help this region?

Economic Development
Oral Question Period

Noon

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, the Uniboard plant did in fact announce the loss of 214 jobs in that region. This is very significant and most regrettable.

This is a problem that goes beyond just lumber. It is an industrial problem. The company produces particleboard for building furniture. The Chinese competition has affected this entire market.

My offices are already active on two fronts. First, in the short term, we are supporting local employees by trying to place them in other companies in the region. Our second plan of attack is much broader. It consists in trying to see whether we could support a regional and trans-regional initiative for producing other products with these same resources.

House of Commons Calender
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 28(2)( b ), I have the honour to lay upon the table the House of Commons calendar for the year 2006.

Certificates of Nomination
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table two certificates of nomination.

I am sure the first one should bring joy and happiness to all members of the House. Under Standing Order 111.1(1), I am tabling today a certificate of nomination of Audrey Elizabeth O'Brien to be Clerk of the House of Commons.

Certificates of Nomination
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Certificates of Nomination
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, with the reaction of members in the House perhaps we could proceed immediately to a motion to approve the nomination instead of it going to a committee, but we will leave that for another day.

I am also tabling a certificate of nomination with respect to a position on the Canadian Dairy Commission. This will be referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents, I am pleased to table a petition in the House which draws the attention of the House to the fact that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has locked out 5,500 of its employees since August 15.

The petition calls upon the government to take immediate action to end this lockout. I respectfully ask that the government do so as quickly as possible.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on behalf of my constituents.

The petitioners draw the attention of the House to the fact that the community access program, CAP, is in the last year of its existence. The CAP initiative has greatly increased the number of Canadians able to take advantage of the social and economic benefits of computers and the Internet. The absence of CAP will be a step backwards in the Canadian government's ongoing goal to improve the quality of life for Canadian citizens and will contribute to increasing the current digital divide in many Canadian communities.

Therefore the petitioners request that Parliament refrain from ending the community access program.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present two petitions today. The first petition is from residents of east Vancouver and other parts of Vancouver who are very concerned about the lack of affordable housing.

The petitioners call upon the federal government to make a major investment by dedicating 1% of the next federal budget to affordable housing and also reinvesting CHMC's surpluses, estimated at $667 million, into social housing and ensuring that federal funds allocated to British Columbia for housing are not diverted and there is accountability for these funds.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is from residents who are very concerned about the lack of accountability in our employment insurance program and the fact that there is a $47 billion surplus that has grown.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to change the rules so that when people have 360 hours they will qualify for entry level EI benefits anywhere in Canada, and that the benefit rate would be at 60% of normal earnings, with an increase in the maximum benefit duration to 50 weeks.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting five petitions, two of which are asking to have the unionized employees of the CBC presented with a fair collective agreement in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am also presenting a petition with regard to autism. The petitioners ask that the government amend the Canada Health Act and corresponding regulations to include therapies for children with autism.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the next set of petitions I am presenting asks the government to support the Vietnamese community in its growing network of faith and community groups to recognize the last group of Vietnamese boat people as refugees under the country of asylum class.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the final petition I am presenting is requesting a moratorium on seal hunting.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I have done three times already this week, I am presenting a petition on behalf of Canadians concerned about our adoption laws.

This petition was signed by citizens virtually from coast to coast: from Toronto, Ajax, Woodstock, Waterloo, London and Kitchener, Ontario; Pictou, Antigonish and many other smaller communities in Halifax; from Vancouver over on the west coast; and even from my home town of Fort St. John.

The petitioners want Parliament to take note that on average about 2,000 children are adopted from other countries each year and that children adopted by residents of the United States of America and Great Britain are granted automatic citizenship upon adoption, finalization and entry into the country, or on the date of the adoption order respectively.

Therefore the petitioners are seeking Parliament to immediately enact legislation to grant automatic citizenship to those minors adopted from other countries by Canadian citizens with the citizenship being immediately granted upon finalization of the adoption order.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, be read the third time and passed.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The member for Joliette has seven minutes left on questions and comments.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs has the floor.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, when the member spoke earlier, he minimized the impact of the amendment, which, beyond the Constitution, takes into account the need for provinces to be protected.

It seems that the member forgot or did not understand the wording of the changes made by the committee. I know that, for the member and his party, this all pertains to the broad issue of the impact on the provinces.

Nevertheless, beyond the Constitution, will he not agree that, with this amendment to the bill, the government has obviously taken steps to protect further the interests of the provinces. As far as jurisdictions are concerned, we have seen, in the past, that RADARSAT-1 has always provided the ability to share information with the provinces.

I know that the member has concerns. However, it seems to me that we even respect some overlapping, in accordance with the position of the provincial governments.

Perhaps we could also respond to another point, which was the subject of a debate initiated by the Bloc in November 2004. The Bloc was concerned that this bill would have an impact on the missile defence shield. Does that party still believe that the missile defence shield is related to this bill? Have our witnesses provided enough clarifications to the Bloc?

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the last point of the question, we do think that the remote sensing technology used by RADARSAT-2 is not compatible with President Bush's missile defence shield project as we know it.

That being said, I would like to expand on what I said earlier. The agreement signed by Canada and United States in 2000, when Mr. Axworthy was minister, I believe, includes four sections but also appendices to which we did not have access. Maybe an indirect link to the missile defence shield is established in these appendices. However, considering the testimony of specialists, we believe that the remote sensing technology used by RADARSAT-2 could hardly be directly usable in the missile defence shield project.

We want to believe what the government told us when it said that we are not part of that project. If we were allowed to see the appendices of the 2000 agreement, I think that all doubts in that regard could be dissipated.

As for the provinces, I simply want to remind the parliamentary secretary that my colleague for La Pointe-de-l'Île proposed several amendments that were all rejected, including two on the jurisdiction of the provinces.

I will point out one of them. She had proposed that, in clause 8(1), at line 31, on page 4 — I went to check and the provisions are still the same — the following be added after “Forces” and before “Canada's conduct of international relations”: “jurisdiction of the provinces”. This amendment was rejected by the committee, on the initiative of the Liberal Party and the parliamentary secretary. We could have read instead: “--having regard to national security, the defence of Canada, the safety of Canadian Forces, jurisdiction of the provinces, Canada’s conduct of international relations--”. Consequently, we would have had a bill ensuring the respect of provincial jurisdiction.

I cannot go back on the facts. This amendment was rejected by the committee during the clause by clause study of Bill C-25 and at the time of the vote.

Not only was this amendment by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île rejected, but she had proposed a second amendment in the same vein, once again to clause 8(1) of Bill C-25, on page 5. That amendment was at line 23, in clause 8 (4) (c). The current bill, even amended, goes in the same direction. She had proposed the following: “the government of that country or the provinces of Canada--” However, this amendment was also rejected by the committee.

If the parliamentary secretary does not see any problem in the jurisdiction of the provinces being respected and their having priority access to remote sensing images, I have difficulty understanding why the Liberals and the parliamentary secretary rejected so fiercely both amendments by my colleague from Pointe-de-l'Île.

If we had been able to bring about these two amendments, most of our objections would have been put aside. Unfortunately, we cannot re-write history, and the government does not seem to have the required openness. Consequently, the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-25.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the amendments the member just talked about would have had the same effect as the amendment that was adopted not only by the government but by all members of the committee, including the official opposition.

The most important question here does not refer only to satellites. The member opposite knows very well what happened in the past with the satellites as far as the sharing of data and the capacity to provide the required information is concerned. You cannot say that the provinces have not been consulted. This is quite simply a constitutional matter. Unless the member can propose a way to change the Constitution, I cannot do anything about it.

I can only assure him that the government has accepted what his party has proposed. I will read again, for the benefit of the member, the amendment that was accepted, in subparagraph 4(3)(c): “the interests of the provinces are protected”. I do not know what else the member is looking for.

I know that other elements have been associated with this bill, including the missile defence shield and the fact that the American government is monitoring business and private companies. This relates to Canadian interests. The member should answer to that.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously an amendment was made. It was in fact proposed by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île, and accepted in desperation.

However, in accordance with what the parliamentary secretary said, provisions could have been included throughout the bill to make sure that provincial jurisdictions would be respected and that provinces would have priority access to remote sensing images. Such was not the case.

The only amendment accepted was the one that would have been very difficult to reject. How could the Liberal Party admitted publicly that it was against the interests of the provinces?

When one looks at the details of the bill, one realizes that, in spite of the government's rhetoric, respecting the provincial jurisdictions and giving the provinces priority access to remote sensing images is not among its priorities. Otherwise, the government would have wholeheartedly accepted the changes proposed by the Bloc Québécois.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak on Bill C-25, the act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

Now that we are at third reading of the bill and in the final stages, I want to say at the outset that when we were debating the bill in principle at second reading, the NDP and our critic in this area, the member for Halifax, were actually of two minds about the bill. We were very aware of the critical need for legislation outlining protection for Canadian interests and the privacy of Canadians, and for proper controls and regulations when it comes to satellites, the information used and how it is governed.

While we were very aware of the underlying need for this legislation, when we looked at the bill we became very concerned about the vagueness of the language in the bill. It really began to raise some alarm bells for us in the NDP in terms of exactly how the bill would be implemented and whether or not the public interest would be upheld.

I know that the member for Halifax, our critic, worked very diligently at the committee level. When the bill was referred to committee, she worked very diligently with NGOs and with community representatives who were very concerned about the bill and who in fact brought forward something like 18 solid amendments which would have provided the kind of clarification, accountability and transparency for this bill that would have allowed us in the NDP, had the amendments been approved, to then support the bill.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. Those amendments were not approved. Here we are at third reading, and although we agree with the underlying intent and principle of the bill, we have serious reservations that the bill does not go far enough. It does not do the job in protecting the interests of Canadians and ensuring that there is adequate public oversight of what happens with RADARSAT-2. I will just spend a few minutes detailing what some of those concerns are.

First of all, let us be very clear that it is Canadian taxpayers who have funded a major portion of the development of this satellite. About 75% of the development funds have come from the public purse. That is about $450 million. On a financial basis alone, after what has been invested in this program, we should have a huge concern about what is going on.

The reality is that this satellite, RADARSAT-2, will be 100% commercially owned. It seriously raises the question as to why, as my colleague from the Bloc raised earlier, the Canadian Space Agency, for example, does not have some control and oversight of the development of this satellite and all that it will entail.

Why is it that the Canadian government appears to be moving away from its controlling interest and oversight of this? We will end up with a 100% commercially owned entity where the only connection and accountability will be as a result of this bill, which, as I have said, is very inadequate.

We agree that Canadians must be assured that the information collected by RADARSAT-2, the satellite, will not be used against our national interest and will not violate in any way the privacy of Canadians. In fact, one of the amendments that we sought in committee was to entrench the privacy rights of Canadians, to ensure those rights in view of the imagery collected by this incredibly powerful, highly advanced, state of the art technology. That is what we are told about it by its manufacturer, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates.

We wanted an ironclad agreement that the privacy of Canadians from images and information resulting from this technology would be protected. We know that the images created can come up to within one and a half metres of an individual, an activity or a location. I think people have a really deep concern about that.

We live in an era where data collection is massive. We live in an era where increasing privatization, which has been encouraged and supported by the federal government, infringes upon the rights of Canadians and their protection of privacy. We have to recognize that there is a very deep concern from Canadians about this issue.

One only has to remember, for example, the outcry from Canadians when they learned that Statistics Canada was thinking of handing over our census collection to Lockheed Martin, the largest ammunitions and militarized corporation in the world. When people found out that our census and Canadian data about Canadians, about us individually, was about to be handed over to Lockheed Martin, there was a huge outcry in this country. We were the ones who raised it in Parliament and the federal government had to back away from that because it realized that it had gone down a road where there was a massive backlash.

One only has to remember what is going on in British Columbia, where the Liberal provincial government is working to allow medical records to also be handled by a U.S. corporation. There are huge concerns about the loss of privacy and the lack of adequate oversight and control around the handling of that data.

I mention these two examples because they are very pertinent to this debate today. Here we have RADARSAT-2, a state of the art technology, featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world, to be developed by next year, massive Canadian funds that have been invested in it, yet what hangs on a shred is this bill and the protection of not only individual privacy and rights of Canadians but also national interests.

One of our major concerns about this bill is that it does not include the kind of protection that we would like to see, that we sought in committee, in order to have the protection of privacy of Canadians.

Another serious concern that we have about this bill is that the language that is contained within it now is very vague and unaccountable in terms like international obligations and international relations. Again at committee, we tried to further define this and to get much better assurances from the government to ensure that where there is a conflict, where a conflict may arise in terms of information that is collected by RADARSAT-2, it will in no way violate or impact on Canadian interests or national security.

We have heard from the parliamentary secretary today that of course, there is no question, he is entirely convinced, as his government is, that this bill will adequately protect those interests. However, I must say that from the witnesses who were heard at committee there was a great deal of skepticism. There was a great deal of concern that there were not adequate protections to ensure that information affecting our international obligations or international relations would be protected.

For example, Canada is a part of NATO. NATO makes decisions about engaging in military actions. It may be a military action that involves NATO going to war. It may be a decision that Canada does not agree with, but it leaves us with a scenario where information that has been collected could be used by other agencies and interests that would place in conflict Canada's policies and international relations.

This is an area of great concern to us as well as the language that is within the bill right now. Basically, it is left to the sole discretion of ministers to decide whether or not there is a conflict with international obligations and national interests. We believe that this is something that should firmly rest with Canada. These are big questions and they were canvassed by the committee. They were on the table in committee where there was a lot of discussion.

We heard from Bloc members who had similar concerns. Yet the government chose not to further elaborate and provide protections in the bill to ensure that privacy and Canada's interests are protected.

We are concerned that the bill will now be approved. In fact, the parliamentary secretary earlier in the debate today made reference to a special in camera meeting that was held supposedly to assure members of the committee that the protections that they sought would be there. I was not there. I am not on the committee, but I know from our critic, the member for Halifax, that the meeting did take place.

However, in actual fact what transpired from that was an even greater concern that there may be other agreements between the satellite company and the federal government that were not even acknowledged. That is a very real concern.

This information was not fully disclosed at the in camera committee. We are very concerned that there may be other confidential agreements that exist. We do not know the terms of those agreements. We do not know how it impacts on information that may be divulged to other parties.

Yes, frankly speaking, there is a concern that information that is collected by this technology and this commercially owned operation can be used by other governments, for example, the U.S. for military purposes. It may be contrary to a decision that Canada has taken, for example, our non-participation in the war in Iraq. We know that it happened with RADARSAT-1.

I know the parliamentary secretary is going to get up and tell me, and try to convince me and other Canadians that the government has done the job, that it has protected everyone. However, upon our examination of the bill and hearing from expert witnesses and hearing from people who are tracking the bill and the system, there is no such assurance.

Therefore, we are standing before the House today and saying that we cannot support the bill. Otherwise we would be supporting it because we understand why the bill is needed. However, we cannot support it in its present form. It does not provide the kind of assurances and guarantees that we believe are incredibly important for this kind of highly sensitive, highly volatile information that is being collected.

I would speak further to one other amendment, of which there were a number put forward by the NDP, which was rejected. It recommended that a detailed report be filed with Parliament that would clearly outline for example how many times violations had taken place, how fines were being imposed, and whether the government had collected on those fines. We tried to bring in amendments that delivered on the accountability and transparency side, but again they were not accepted, so we are left in a position where we cannot support the bill.

At the beginning of the debate we heard from the parliamentary secretary that there was a sense of urgency to get the bill through. Maybe there is and maybe there is not. I do not know, but it is a very significant bill because it deals with an area of public policy that really does not get enough public scrutiny.

It is the kind of bill that can just easily slip through and before we know it the landscape has changed and all the rules have changed. Here we have a commercially owned operation where vast amounts of powerful information and images are being collected that can be used in a way that is contrary to Canadian interests.

We have very serious reservations about that. We believe that the bill should not be rushed through. It should be debated. We should have a review of some of the amendments that have been put forward. There are two parties that have very strong reservations about the bill, but as it stands now it looks like it will pass. We do not think that is good enough and so we will be using our votes to clearly voice our opposition to third reading.

I encourage other members to take another look at it and consider their position. We think the bill as it is now is not adequate. It is not good enough. It does not provide the kind of protection that is being sought by members of the community, by our party and by other parties to protect the interests of Canadians.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I understand and have listened very attentively to the list of concerns that the House leader for the New Democratic Part has raised.

I am rather thankful that the NDP has now recognized that this particular type of technology has absolutely nothing to do with ballistic missile defence. It was a very hard nut to crack over there, but we have been able to do that.

I want to address some of the questions that she has raised because I know there will be opportunities for rejoinders at some point.

On the subject of privatization, I know the New Democratic Party has a problem with this, in general. This is a reality however that was passed by this House several years ago on the subject of satellites. There was a debate in this House and the House pronounced itself on this issue.

The subject of how this may be privatized in terms of RADARSAT-2 is a debate of a bygone era but nevertheless an important debate, not because the hon. member has expressed it but because it will be an ongoing concern. Provisions are made in this act, including the amendment which has been accepted by the government that we review this act periodically and that Parliament have the opportunity to do this. On that question, obviously, the hon. member may want to brush up.

On the question of privacy, the member raises a good point as far as understanding that we have very effective privacy laws. The hon. member will know that the government did meet with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner prior to the tabling of this and it had no recommendation for provisions dealing with privacy.

There are of course other safeguards which I want the hon. member to address, not only with respect to the Privacy Act itself. The protection of personal Information and electronic documentations act provides further assistance when we need to be concerned as it relates to who the licence is given to and when the licence is issued. The other one of course is the charter of rights itself. It would be important for us to recognize the importance of the Privacy Act in that the act is not defined in a way that would make the Privacy Act lesser or subordinate to the importance of that act in and of itself.

Does the hon. member believe that in this particular act we should have created a super privacy act? Or is she prepared to rely on the very effectiveness and wisdom of the Privacy Commissioner and the Privacy Act?

Finally, on the question of other nations and priorities, those are established priorities. We want to ensure that when it comes to these cameras, this particular device being used, that they also take into consideration the priorities as established by the government, that they are not inconsistent both with international law and the international obligations as well as the international priorities of this government and of this Parliament.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary did as I predicted; that is, he tried to provide some soothing words to assure me and others that this bill is okay and that it will protect against the concerns that we have. However, I am not reassured by his comments.

If he believes, as he says, that he cares about the privacy of Canadians, then why would the government not have supported the amendments that were put forward by the NDP? We also suggested in committee that we should impose the same rules on this operation, RADARSAT-2, as we do on the defence industry. That was a no go, as well. It seems to me that the government is trying to do as little as it can. It did not adopt those amendments.

I clearly want to state that if the parliamentary secretary is somehow interpreting that we do not have concerns about how information and images from this RADARSAT-2 can be used for military purposes, star wars or anything else, then he is wrong. That is a serious concern that we have and one of the reasons that we sought amendments at committee that were defeated.

Yes, his job is to try and convince all of us that everything is A-okay under this bill, but it is not. The reality is that those concerns still persist from at least two of the parties in this House and certainly from organizations which track and monitor the government's policies and progress in terms of this kind of development and how it can be used for other purposes, so we are not reassured.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I realize the hon. member is quite willing to pursue the argument which suggests that as long as the NDP has proposed it, it must mean that there is a problem and that unless it is addressed, the sky will literally fall.

We have to be serious about this legislation. We have the support from the opposition. However, we also want to take into account the real and variable concerns that the committee had heard, and we did so in a very painstaking way. We took the time to listen to every witness provided by the hon. members.

Both hon. members from the Bloc and the NDP really believed the bill had something to do with directing missiles that might be launched or might be used to defend. The record is very clear. The NDP believed that this kind of satellite had something to do with tracking missiles as they went through the sky at 10,000 kilometres an hour. However, that is fantasy and it is the kind of Buck Rogers response to what is a very serious issue. They got the technology wrong. They got it wrong on the question of privacy because there are plenty of safeguards there. They got it wrong in terms of saying that somehow this was a deviation from previous policy when Parliament already had pronounced itself on this.

While I understand the hon. member's concern and lament, the safeguard about reviewing any of the deficiencies already is in the act. The debate between myself and the member is really one of perspective. However, I want the hon. member to understand that we are basing this on a prima facia case of fact, not fantasy, not what this might do. There are safeguards in the act to prevent the kind of occurrences to which the hon. member believes this might lead.

The hon. member has an obligation in the House to understand that the technology being used not only respects Canada's international obligations, it also respects the very bills that have been passed in the House in previous times.

Therefore, short of the concerns which she has raised, which are really not founded in any basis of fact, short of what we have done to exhaust the witness list of people who have come before us and recognizing the satellite has to come in 2006 because RADARSAT-1 already is five years long in the tooth, I do not want it falling from the sky, nor does the hon. member.

What does the hon. member believe we could do right now that would help her party understand that this technology is important for Canada and for Canada's development internationally? It is also important for Canada's contribution to the kinds of sciences that will continue to make a cutting edge and that will create the kinds of jobs the member and I want in our constituencies.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a very different perspective. For the parliamentary secretary to in effect minimize and trivialize the concerns being put forward is most unfortunate, but I guess that is what he sees his job. This is not just about what the NDP has to say. The bill went through committee where there were significant concerns expressed by NGOs, by people who watched this development and put forward the same kind of concerns.

I am under no obligation, nor is the NDP, to say we have some responsibility to approve this because the government has brought forward a bill. Our job is to critique the bill and point out its shortcomings. The NDP did a very good job of doing that. It is very regrettable that the Liberal government chose not to hear what those concerns were and to act upon them. We now have an important bill going forward. It needs to be done, but it is flawed. It does not have the accountability that is required not does it have the transparency that is required. I think there will be many questions about the bill in the future. I think Canadians were sold short by it.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to belabour the point for the hon. member as I know she has put a lot of time into this. However, it is always beneficial to have a member of Parliament sitting on the committee to know exactly what has happened. I understand the philosophy and the importance of what is being provided here.

There appears to be several amendments that her party proposed at committee which were accepted and were not in essence redundant. I am looking at dozens that were supplied by her party. Some are extremely important to address the concerns of the NDP and to express the concerns that might have some relationship to what we were trying to accomplish here. As much as the government and the opposition have been flexible in this regard, there comes a point where philosophy obscures one's vision of the facts.

I do not blame the hon. member because she never sat on the committee. Perhaps she was there for only a moment or two. She is relying on the good work done by the hon. member for Halifax for whom I have great respect and who has done a lot of work on this issue.

As much as I understand the correspondence between herself and the member who sat on the committee, something has become lost. Not withstanding the objections, in my view there was an emergence on the committee of general consensus that this was not the great satellite detection system that would be used for military purposes in terms of the ballistic missile defence.

Surely the hon. member and her party are not saying now that they are opposing the bill because it could have positive implications for our troops around the world and for people who find themselves in positions of disaster. Surely the NDP is not saying that Bill C-25 should not pass and allow the kind of technology that helps Canadians abroad.

I want to hear it from the NDP. Are those members opposing the legislation because they have some philosophical differences or are they opposing it because they have some kind of reticence to protecting Canadians abroad?

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I found the comments of the parliamentary secretary to be incredibly patronizing. This is not some sort of philosophical debate. The bill exists. This is something concrete. This is about sharp differences between what we saw as a need for amendments to the legislation and that did happen.

The question of needing the bill is not an issue. It is the reality that the bill does not give the kind of protection raised in committee and was warranted. I find it very trivializing for him to pass it off as somehow being a philosophical debate.

If the government chooses not to look at those amendments and adopt them, then so be it. If the government wants our support on Bill C-25, then let it come forward and discuss those amendments. We would be happy to do that. If they were approved, then we would be happy to support the bill.

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-25. The bill is intended to implement the commitment of Canada made under the Canada-U.S. agreement concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellite systems in June of 2000. The purpose of that agreement was to ensure that private remote sensing satellite systems would be controlled in each territory, that is, Canada and the United States, in such a manner as to protect shared national security interests without interfering in the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

From my point of view, the most important portion of remote sensing is the ability to use the system to secure our borders and remain autonomous in our defence decision making. Security in the form of border control is a useful example of the system's advancement. Whether it is curious activity taking place at a particular port or unusual movement or normally unused coastlines, this satellite technology will make us aware.

As we know, the bill has been through the committee stage under intense scrutiny and the private-public partnership that will be used to run the system was addressed. We feel assured that the private sector investment in technology will be beneficial to keeping Canadian satellite technology development progressing steadily, with no need to invest in technology elsewhere.

The images taken by the satellites serve a plethora of purposes. There cannot be one particular environmental field in Canada that would be disappointed with RADARSAT-2's ability now to give them the most advanced information possible to track environmental information. Forest fires, flooding, any type of environmental degradation can be located with this new technology. It is able to produce the most elaborate maps of the earth's surface which will serve other numerous purposes, like irrigation planning and identifying arable land, et cetera.

The accuracy of RADARSAT-2 is truly remarkable in identifying objects on or near the earth's surface. From the movement of people to blemishes on agricultural goods, this sensing system is the epitome of detail.

All principal emphasis in the legislation seems to agree with relevant Conservative Party policies, notably those which uphold the commitment to encourage the private sectors and those which underline the primary responsibility of government to provide for national security. It is intended to provide the Government of Canada with authority to regulate remote sensing space systems and to protect national interests in matters of defence and security. It is seen as an essential prerequisite to further acts of co-operation between government and private firms which intend to operate in these fields.

The present legislation appears to provide an opportunity to secure the proper role for a sovereign Canada in regulating the most advanced systems gathering information from space. The Conservative Party's interest in this matter of securing a proper place for the private sector in scientific and industrial activity leads it to support the legislation, as does its commitment to the defence of the nation, the hemisphere from military threats from abroad and from terrorist activities conceived at home and abroad. Thus, it will support the legislation.

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12:50 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the official opposition's critic on defence issues and very much respect his background and understanding of work with respect to Canada's military and Canada's priorities abroad. I think we have taken a very balanced view on many of these issues. His colleagues who worked on the bill in the committee have supported, in general principle, the idea of moving forward as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with the bill along with some amendments.

One of the amendments that was proposed was the five year review by Parliament to ensure that the legislation meets the requirements we have both internationally and here domestically within this department.

The hon. member will know about the recent disasters that took place in the world, both in terms of the tsunami last December in the Indian Ocean and, more recently, the devastating hurricanes. Does he and his party have a position as it relates to the importance of being able to help signal devastation, to alert our search and rescue and other efforts to find the best ways to get Canadians out of harm's way? Does he believe this technology will assist in that regard? Perhaps he could give some perspectives given his many years working in defence in Canada.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, RADARSAT-2 is improved technology that provides governments, in this case our government, with the ability to sense much of the information that it could not sense before. If a disaster were to arrive, RADARSAT-2 could provide a lot of information to the government so that it could make reasoned decisions on what kind of resources have to be committed to a particular area. We see RADARSAT-2 as a most valuable advance in information technology and information for planning by the government.

As people who believe in the protection of the individual, we feel comforted that the bill contains enough privacy protection for individuals. However when it comes to national security, in the sense of a large scale disaster or terrorists, I think this RADARSAT would be of great benefit, which is why we support this project and why when the bill comes to a vote we will support it.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member who again demonstrated some background and history in terms of work in this area.

Although this has been a public/private type of arrangement, I wonder if the hon. member has examples of where he sees future investments with respect to this kind of technology. How, for instance, may it help our armed forces in certain circumstances?

A very large section in the bill talks about the effective use of shutter control. I am thinking of circumstances where the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence may have a concern to protect our forces, if indeed this kind of technology would have been made available years ago had it been around, whether or not something like this could have helped Canada's military in days past. Does he see this as being a more efficient use of our obligations internationally at a time when they are dearly needed?

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very sensible aspect of the bill to ensure that the Ministers of National Defence and Foreign Affairs have the ability to impose a shutter control on RADARSAT-2.

RADARSAT-2, as envisaged at the moment, will be of great benefit to commercial and private interests. Of course in a time of crisis it may not be in the national interest to provide all this information to private individuals, so it is quite beneficial to have this shutter control.

However one of the most practical purposes that this kind of radar can be put to is the developments in the north. As we know, global warming is proceeding. I will not get into the debate of what is causing global warming, but the ice is melting in the north and it is changing the terrain. We will be having a lot more activity in the north, especially when the Northwest Passage opens up. We will have a lot of transportation from Asia, Europe and America going through our north.

It will be beneficial for our government at the time to be able to sense what is happening on our terrain, especially in the north, as a contributor to our national sovereignty. I see RADARSAT, on balance, as being a great asset for our country and will benefit our country. I also think it is very wise to put a shutter control on in the case of some kind of national emergency.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-25 today regarding remote sensing of space systems.

Three or four years ago, when I was our party's defence critic, I was fortunate enough to visit the RADARSAT facility here in Ottawa. When I went into that facility I knew very little about what this was all about but by the time I left I was terribly impressed. The whole operation of RADARSAT-1 is something for which Canadians can be proud.

It was apparently initiated back in about 1980 I believe when Canada had been using a similar type of radar based American satellite and that satellite failed after only a few days in space. Therefore Canada was looking at what to do in terms of replacing the needs of that time. The government decided to develop its own program and develop its own radar based satellite and RADARSAT-1 was the result of that.

When I visited that facility I was terribly impressed by some of the capability. Most of the capability has to do with areas like the environment and issues like a natural disaster of some kind. I was really impressed when it was explained to me how RADARSAT-1 was actually used to monitor oil spills on the ocean anywhere on earth. If there was an oil spill this satellite could actually monitor the spreading of the oil or other substances on the water.

I do not think anyone could argue the importance of having that RADARSAT-1 capability.

What the legislation would do is determine an appropriate role for government in monitoring satellites like that. RADARSAT-2 is about to be launched over the next few years. I think the need for legislation was partially spawned by that but I also think it was partly because the government recognized that there are times when it has to monitor and regulate the information gathered by equipment like RADARSAT-1, and 2 in the future, in order to be allowed to use information collected for the benefit of national security.

That is really the purpose of the bill. It would allow the Minister of Foreign Affairs to license commercial development of remote sensing satellite systems and regulate the distribution of information produced by these systems.

The bill does have national security implications but it also has important implications in dealing with the environment, natural resources and possibly military use as well.

This is one of those pieces of legislation that comes before the House that does not seem like particularly important legislation and there is a temptation to kind of rush it through the House. The bill has been examined in committee already and many concerns were raised by all parties regarding what was in the bill and some changes were made.

Our party will support the bill but we have some concerns about it and we will be looking for some clarification, particularly in terms of definitions of just what types of satellite systems the government may control. In this case that control is appropriate, as I have stated before, but I think it has to be clearly defined under what situations and in what way a government can take over the use of that system and restrict the agencies from using that information in a way that may harm our country and may harm national security.

This legislation might not sound that important, but I believe it is important and does deserve proper scrutiny. We will continue to do that throughout the process in the House.

Bill C-25 allows Canadian companies to own and operate remote sensing satellite systems under licence from the government. It provides government with priority access if government deems it must interrupt the normal use of the system. Just for clarification, it is not the case that the government will actually be running the system. It is not the case that the regulation will involve the everyday use of the system, so much as allowing, when needed, for government to step in and use the information as required and also for it to limit the use of the information by the private sector or by the agency.

Again it is a situation where it is hard to define clearly which situations would require government to intervene, but it is important that we do the best job we can. The committee has attempted to do that. There is some work to be done and we will certainly continue to try to ensure that the bill is in a form that we can support before we support it at third reading, but we will support it at this time.

When we look at its potential use and how RADARSAT-1 has been used, it is not just about RADARSAT-1 or RADARSAT-2; it could certainly be future satellites that we may not know anything about. If we look at the potential use of these types of systems, we do not want to do anything to discourage the private sector or an agency to become involved and to develop. It is to everyone's benefit in this country that it is developed and that the use is expanded in the future.

Other than the oil spill and the environmental type of situation which I mentioned, we could all imagine the great importance of having a system like this available in the case of a natural disaster, such as a flood or an earthquake. Often in an earthquake, communications systems are closed down. Roads and railways and other access routes are shut down. To have this monitoring ability is extremely important. The use of this type of system is clearly of importance, so we do not want government to get involved in a way that will discourage the private sector from continuing to develop future satellite systems.

As the bill passes through the House, we have to ensure that it will not discourage, but that it will encourage the private sector and the government agencies involved to do their work and develop even better systems in the future.

I will leave my comments at that. I look forward to hearing the debate today. Certainly I look forward to the final form of the legislation when it has passed through the House. It may not be perceived as a particularly important bill, but I believe it is important that Parliament does its job on the bill.

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1:05 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's statement. He is the former defence critic for the opposition and an individual who, as he said, is very aware of the issues surrounding Bill C-25.

It is important to reiterate some of the important points that were touched on by the previous speaker. Not only is this bill important from a security aspect, which I will get to in a moment, but it is also extremely important from an environmental aspect.

Global warming is taking place. We have heard of the contraction of the ice cap in the north and what effect that is going to have. We know about the different changes that are occurring with respect to our waterways, the changing weather patterns that are occurring and the effect on the ground. Vegetation is changing. Vegetation mapping is important from a scientific perspective and an environmental perspective, but it is also exceedingly important to the member's province of Alberta and my province of British Columbia. Understanding the changing environment on the ground with respect to the forest cover is exceptionally important from environmental and economic perspectives.

I also want to touch on an important issue that I know is close to the member's heart, as it is for me and the government. That is the issue of defence. To those who would criticize Bill C-25, I say watch out. This bill is extremely important for our troops, for their protection and their ability to do their work within Canada and abroad. Bill C-25 and the RADARSATs are extremely important for us to enable them to do their work and also to protect them.

I would ask those who would oppose this bill to think about whether it is rational at all to deprive our armed forces, our men and women on the ground who are doing a yeoman's job abroad, of this information and capability. We must have it for their protection and their service to our nation. It is a rhetorical question which deserves but one answer, and that is yes. This bill is important for their security and the work that they do for our country and Canadians here and abroad.

Given the hon. member's experience as the previous defence critic for his party, could he expand upon where this RADARSAT technology may wish to go in the future for our armed forces?

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has made two important points.

One is that any party which intends to oppose Bill C-25 in the end should consider seriously some of the implications of what it can do to help our environment and the military. That is certainly critical. On the other hand, if any political party in the House or any individual in the House sees flaws in the legislation, they should not allow the legislation to be rushed through the House as it is simply because it is something that is good for the country. Each one of us has a responsibility to make any change we feel is necessary to make it a better piece of legislation.

Right now the New Democratic Party is opposing the bill. The NDP members have some serious questions. They also have some questions that I am not sure are that serious. On the other hand, the government has allowed the NDP to prop up the Liberal government for almost a year. Anything negative the member would say about the New Democratic Party, he should be aware that is the party that has propped up the government day after day, week after week. I say the shame is on the government, on the member and his party, if they continue to allow that to happen.

In the military area there is no end to the possibilities. It will be useful. However, I do not want to give the impression that this legislation is primarily to deal with military activities. It is to deal with security, but certainly security also includes natural disasters and those types of thing.

It is interesting that the member asked about the defence possibilities. His government has failed our military. The government has failed this country when it comes to providing security through the military for the 12 years the Liberals have been in office. That is clear. For the member to stand up and say to support this bill because of what it will do for the military is somewhat contradictory.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of Bill C-25.

Support for Bill C-25 has been expressed in terms of different ministerial mandates. In lending support for the bill, I will primarily focus on how it promotes the foreign policy interests of the Government of Canada. I will conclude with some thoughts on why this bill is good for Canadians, good for Canada and good for our international relations.

Before I do that, let me explain how it came to pass that the Minister of Foreign Affairs became the administrator of this bill. This will link the benefits of Canada's foreign policy with the reasoning behind certain provisions of the bill.

Outer space is a domain that borders every nation. Look up from anywhere on earth and outer space is only 200 kilometres or so above our heads. That is approximately the distance between Ottawa and Montreal. Activities that occur in outer space, for good or ill, affect all nations.

It was not long after Sputnik was launched in 1957 that the international community turned its attention to outer space. United Nations resolutions soon began to express the determination that outer space would be used only for peaceful purposes. Certainly military uses of space are consistent with these principles, but not all of them.

Eventually this diplomatic activity culminated in the adoption of the 1967 outer space treaty. The outer space treaty enshrined the international responsibility of states for the activities of their nationals in outer space. States also agreed to ban weapons of mass destruction from this sphere. Canada was an original signatory to that treaty, the Magna Carta for outer space, based on the conviction that winning battles through law was superior to winning by force.

This is the approach taken in the remote sensing space systems act before us today. Reflecting its international obligations, Canada would license remote sensing space systems controlled from within Canada. We would also license the activities of Canadians and corporations in the field, no matter where they chose to establish operations.

This last requirement to cover the activity of Canadians abroad is not unusual in outer space matters, since remote sensing satellites can be operated from any place in the world. The Outer Space Act 1986 of the United Kingdom and the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 of the United States impose licensing requirements on U.K. and U.S. citizens respectively, even when they may conduct operations from sites in other legal jurisdictions.

These requirements may, however, result in a multiplicity of states asserting jurisdiction over the same activities by the same person. To resolve such competing claims of jurisdiction requires the coordination of the foreign ministries of space-faring nations and may ultimately result in the need for formal arrangements among them. This is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The proposed remote sensing space systems act that is before us today asserts a broad jurisdiction. It also, however, grants the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to resolve competing claims of jurisdiction by a ministerial order of exemption.

Under the act, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could exempt persons, systems or data if he or she was satisfied with such a step. The exemption must not be injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada's conduct of international relations. It must not be inconsistent with Canada's international obligations. As well, adequate provision must be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property as well as the interests of provinces.

To ensure that Canada maintains jurisdiction over any remote sensing satellite that it has licensed, the proposed act requires that the licensee maintain direct control of the satellite from within Canada. This ensures that the government has the ability to guarantee compliance with the provisions of the licence by keeping satellite command operations within its territorial jurisdiction.

At the same time, a licence would be required for all remote sensing satellites controlled from Canada, regardless of domestic or foreign ownership, and a licensee or former licensee may not transfer control of the licensed satellite without the approval of the minister. This provision ensures that sensitive technology embodied in a remote sensing satellite, once in orbit, cannot be transferred to a foreign person at odds with Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests. In that regard, the act before this House would be comparable to Canada's Export and Import Permits Act.

By this approach, the bill reflects a favourable attitude toward foreign investment in Canada's high technology industry as long as our security interests are protected. That in turn means jobs for Canadians and opportunities for our own businesses.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is well positioned to help Canadians compete, prosper and make a success of the most international of all activities: outer space. The minister's mandate combines an international security responsibility on the one hand and the responsibility to promote the national prosperity of Canadians on the other.

During the debate on Bill C-25, we heard about the defence interests in regulating remote sensing space systems in Canada. We were also informed about the socio-economic benefits of regulation of the Canadian remote sensing space industry.

Let me assure my colleagues that under the proposed act it would be an important part of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' job to weigh the risks and the benefits of granting a licence, and under what conditions, with the goal of striking a right balance: to encourage Canada's technological development and economic prosperity while at the same time safeguarding our security through smart regulations.

Certain states have implemented similar legislation to regulate remote sensing systems. We propose to join the vanguard of that cause. Other nations will also be following us. With foresight, we lead others to a world view that supports the peaceful use of outer space and all its aspects, a world view that establishes the rule of law and justice on the new high frontier, a world view that permits all nations to enjoy equitably the benefits of the peaceful use of outer space, benefits for international peace and security and benefits for economic development and prosperity.

The bill is also important in terms of our relationship with the United States. Canada's decision to control its own remote sensing satellites, announced in June of 1999, enabled Canada and the U.S. to come to a common understanding concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellites, an understanding codified in a treaty signed in June 2000. This treaty aims to ensure that commercial remote sensing satellite systems will be controlled in each country so as to protect shared national security and foreign policy interests, while simultaneously promoting the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

Today we can conclude a process to honour the commitments made under that very treaty. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill at the earliest opportunity so that Canada's deeds are shown to be as good as its words.

Before closing, I want to touch on one or two additional aspects of the bill that relate directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs' mandate. Let me begin with the minister's powers to interrupt normal commercial service.

No one wants to cause their friends and allies harm by act or omission, hence the provision in the act granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to interrupt normal service, to invoke “shutter control” on a Canadian satellite to assist another state. Shutter control is a power designed for use primarily to protect our own national interests under the most serious of circumstances, but it is also an important element in protecting both valuable alliances and shared interests.

The case is similar with respect to granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to order priority access service in the interests of conducting Canada's international relations. In this regard, we can, for example, foresee the need to assist another state or the United Nations urgently in dealing with a humanitarian emergency. By way of example, it is worth remembering the benefits of Canadian RADARSAT-1 technology in supporting Canada's foreign policy interests during the Rwandan crisis and in responding to the recent tsunami tragedy in South Asia.

Let me conclude by reiterating the core rationale for the bill. The House should adopt the remote sensing space systems act because it is better to provide a smart regulatory framework for these remote sensing satellite systems than to risk injury to Canada's national security, national defence or foreign policy.

We should pass this bill to fulfill Canada's international obligations to regulate the outer space activities of its nationals.

We should pass this bill to ensure that Canadian companies can lead in the provision of remote sensing space technology and services through the establishment of a clear regulatory framework that can attract investment, technology and markets.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville has raised a number of important issues in a very lengthy speech. He has detailed far more than I could have detailed in my speech. There is a lot to say on this issue. Given that the hour is now 1:29 and a half and I have a couple of questions I would like to ask of this member but they will take a lot longer and we will probably be thrown into next week, I wonder if I could seek the consent of the House to have the clock seen as 1:30. I believe it is now 1:30 at this point.

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Whether the member has unanimous consent or not, his point of order is a bit irrelevant at this point because it is now 1:30. He has been successful in indirectly taking up the time he wanted to take up.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from June 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-360, An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this private member's bill.

First I would like to inform the House that I feel very strongly that psychological harassment anywhere, in the workplace or at home, is harmful and should not be tolerated.

Parliament has a duty to identify weaknesses, cracks in our various systems, debate the options to plug those cracks, shore up those weak areas and find protection for all Canadians. In that, I support the intent of the bill, but I cannot support the bill in its present state. To be effective in protecting workers, the bill requires further amendment, I believe, and far more study. As it is, it falls short of what I believe is ultimately a very worthy objective for us in the House to achieve. We are not there yet with this bill.

As well, I cannot support the bill at this time. The bill is virtually a carbon copy, a cut and paste piece of legislation, of what has been implemented in the province of Quebec. That legislation is young. As such, there has not been sufficient time for full input. Further, I am concerned by the idea that a piece of legislation which may or may not be working for a province would, by simple extension, work for a nation.

This private member's bill needs more time for input. In fact, I have a concern that the entire issue of psychological harassment is a much more complex issue than private member's legislation can deal with.

Stress and harassment are difficult to define. Many would agree that they have wide-ranging definitions and can be subject to individual personalities. What is harassment to one person may be jovial play to another. What causes one person stress in the workplace may not for another. Even timing or a particular day can influence one's interpretation.

In fact, stress can be both positive and negative. This fact alone suggests that the issue needs substantial debate from a variety of stakeholders before it should be ruled into law. I do not believe this can happen in the context of a private member's bill. This issue is a valuable one and a worthy one and, as such, we are obligated to address it here in the House formally and fully.

With respect to the issue of what defines harassment, my son and I have a unique and genuine relationship. We have built decks together, we have renovated and landscaped and have done many other work-related projects together. My son continually poking me or tough-talking me while I work is fun; in fact, on some level it is relationship building. Yet an hour later, it may not be that much fun. For me, the same act with the same intent can be received differently simply due to the passage of time or another circumstance, perhaps the pressing nature of my work that day or that particular evening.

How do we define or identify stress? Violence is a physical stress. That of course is a form of harassment that is reasonably easy to identify. If we hit someone or bruise them or cause them to bleed, that is reasonably easy to identify and quantify and, as such, it reasonably easy to teach people to stop it. Chemical stress, which is the exposure to negative agents, is also easy to identify, with respect, of course, to which agents one would be exposed to. As such, we can teach employers and employees to protect each other against exposure.

Stress in the form of sexual harassment or on a broader but no less serious front is much harder to identify, much more difficult to quantify and, as such, much more difficult to teach how to avoid. If we cannot offer employers and employees, and of course our courts, better parameters—and we cannot do that at this point in time—then we risk causing more harm than good.

There are obvious kinds of psychological harassment, such as yelling, swearing, teasing someone or criticizing them with respect to their appearance or dress. Of course these are obvious, but what about the less obvious forms of so-called psychological harassment?

Let me offer a very simple example of just how harassment and stress can cause completely different reactions and yet come from exactly the same stimulus. Let us picture a doctor who walks into each of three treatment rooms and says exactly the same thing to three separate patients.

In room one is a 14 year old female whose father, a hard-working construction man, waits in the waiting room for his daughter. In room two is a 28 year old female who has been married for just three years. Her young husband waits anxiously with the girl's father. In room three is a 78 year old female diabetic who is without a father or a husband.

The doctor walks in and says, “Congratulations, you're pregnant”. The 14 year old bursts into tears and, knowing she will have to tell her father, her anxiety peaks. The 28 year old jumps for joy at the news, runs into the waiting room and tells her waiting husband. The poor woman in room three falls off the table and succumbs to a heart attack.

I do not mean to make light of a very serious issue. I only give a light-hearted example of how difficult it is to identify what constitutes stress and, by extension, what will constitute harassment. It would be very difficult to assign parameters without full, complete and certainly further study. If we do not do our jobs here in the House, we risk adding to the problem.

Let us imagine for a moment—

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville on a point of order.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I introduced a bill on psychological harassment and not on stress. I would appreciate if, out of respect for me, members could stay on the subject of psychological harassment—

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Cambridge.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would inform the hon. member that my background is in health care. I can assure the hon. member that stress and harassment are one and the same.

If we do not do our jobs here in the House, we risk adding to the problem. Let us imagine for a moment the psychological stress, the harassment that causes stress, that we would cause for an accused individual, who may or may not be justifiably accused of psychological harassment, if we do not identify the clear and objective parameters that define psychological harassment. In an attempt to protect one worker from being harassed, we cannot permit the risk of another worker being harassed simply because we failed to do our full job.

I admire the member's efforts. I support the work of the member in attempting to improve the protection of Canadian workers, but I regret that until we are fully able to study this abstract issue, to fully understand the effect of such legislation on a national level, I cannot in good conscience leave employers and fellow employees open for target practice simply because we did not take the time to do the job we were elected to do.

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Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a policy to prevent harassment in the Public Service of Canada. It defines harassment as any improper conduct by an individual that is directed at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment and any act of intimidation or threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Our goal is to eliminate harassment from the workplace. There is no place at all for harassment of any type in any work setting, period. The key to achieving this is the creation of a positive working environment where any interpersonal conflict is managed early and well. The Public Service of Canada has been successful in reducing sexual harassment significantly and our efforts to eliminate other forms of harassment will be equally fruitful.

We take the problem very seriously and we are trying to deal with it from every possible angle. Harassment cases are often very complex and not easy to identify and solve. Our approach aims not only at helping employees who are victims of harassment, but creating a healthy working environment for everybody.

In fact, through the Public Service Modernization Act and our other important initiatives, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada aims to provide the leadership and the focus needed to foster and sustain modern, effective, results-driven people management and leadership across the public service. Through excellence in HR management, the agency's ultimate goal is to enable public service organizations to deliver quality services to Canadians while upholding the values of integrity, transparency and accountability.

A fundamental component of this broad agenda is the development of government-wide leadership to support a strong culture of public service values and ethics. The Office of Public Service Values and Ethics was created to provide authoritative, high level leadership to the public service on values and ethics at a critical time.

In our responsibilities for dealing with harassment, we have focused on prevention and early resolution, and we have taken steps to increase awareness of harassment dynamics. Among other things, we continue to hold workshops in conjunction with the unions and we regularly meet with departmental coordinators for the prevention and resolution of harassment.

As well, we designed a practical online course on the prevention and resolution of harassment. This online course is accessible and free to all public servants. It is based on the key people and ethical values conveyed in the new Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service that came into effect September 1, 2003. Respect, diversity, integrity and responsibility are the key elements of that code.

The Values and Ethics Code sets forth the values and ethics of public service, to guide and support public servants in all their professional activities. Of the four families of values in public service, the cornerstone is people values; that public servants demonstrate respect, fairness and courtesy in their dealings with both citizens and their fellow public servants. We believe that respect for human dignity and the value of every person should always inspire the exercise of authority and responsibilities, and that people's values reinforce the wider range of public service values. Those who are treated with fairness and civility will be motivated to display these values in their own conduct and in return.

Adherence to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service is a condition of a public servant's employment. There are various ways in which a public servant can bring forward complaints about breaches of the code and many avenues for these situations to be resolved. They have the support of their unions through grievance processes. Concerns about wrongdoings can be made to either their internal disclosure office or to the public service integrity officer. Harassment complaints are managed through departmental specialists. Those who are found to be in breach of the code, to have committed a wrongdoing or to have committed harassment are subject to discipline up to and including the termination of employment.

We are aware of the critical role that managers and leaders play in developing harassment-free workplaces. We offer expert advice to managers at all levels on how to address difficult and problem situations before they escalate into harassment situations. Further, we are working to continuously improve the harassment policy and, most critically, its implementation in the departments.

The last policy update goes back to 2001.

It is now the subject of a major review in cooperation with employees, managers, experts and bargaining officers. The objective is to better understand and deal with the circumstances leading to harassment so that we can improve the success of our prevention efforts and so that we can resolve harassment cases more efficiently and more rapidly when they arise.

One new and successful method for leading improvements in departments is the management accountability framework, MAF, which sets out the expectations for sound management in the public service. Expectations are framed in relation to, among other things, people values. With the use of clear indicators, the MAF provides public service managers with a comprehensive and integrated model for assessing process and progress, and measuring results in departments and agencies, as well as strengthening accountability at all levels across government. In other words, not only is creating a healthy workplace for all an established goal, we will measure our progress toward achieving it.

In addition, each department and agency is now required to establish systems to ensure that employees at all levels have access to informal conflict management, ICM, assistance. The mandatory requirement for ICM represents an integral part of the new labour relations regime and a public service-wide availability. The use of ICM is expected to revolutionize the manner in which complaints are dealt with in most organizations. ICM is seen as the driver of cultural change in the workplace.

Informal conflict resolution is a vital method for bringing about the desired new HR management culture, ensuring departments or agencies in the core public administration will have a tailored system in place that enables and supports the informal resolution of workplace conflict rather than strictly adhering to formal redress mechanisms.

In short, we are working to ensure that managers are better equipped with people management skills, such as conflict resolution, facilitation, mediation, conciliation and coaching skills and that employees benefit from access to a wide range of options for dealing with workplace conflict.

We believe that the elimination of harassment depends on the commitment and cooperation of everybody in the workplace. We want our employees to feel free to raise issues without fear of harassment so that the problems can be resolved inside the organization. That objective is also in line with the professional and democratic values enunciated in the Code.

I am proud of the quality of service our employees provide to Canadians. Our public service is a dynamic organization that is continually renewing itself to maintain those high standards of service. It is understood that we can never take our achievements for granted. In this broader context we are placing a greater emphasis on accountability. Senior managers of some departments are being assessed on the basis of our new management accountability framework which is designed to enhance general management performance, including reduction of harassment in the workplace.

In conclusion, our commitment to values and ethics in support of respectful workplaces has been shaping our overall approach. We intend to build our capacity to make ethical decisions in everyday dealings and transactions. We have a new code and a lot of work is being done in departments to weave values and ethics into every aspect of work reality.

Departments are also reviewing their harassment prevention and resolution processes to improve rigour and credibility. We are confident that we are making progress and the numbers will show this progress in the future.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an important piece of public business, particularly when we consider the changing nature of the workplace, both within government and in the private sector.

On a regular basis I talk to people who come to my office, or who meet me on the street or mall. They talk about the nature of the workplaces in which they have worked for a huge part of their lives. They talk about the types of pressure put on them to perform, which I think borders on, if not gets into, the area of psychological harassment. It seems it is a new way of employers to create what they call more efficiencies in the workplace. The government needs to consider that and put in place frameworks to protect our workers who experience this kind of new behaviour. For some, it is totally foreign from anything they have experienced before.

The relationship between a worker and his or her employer used to be black and white, cut and dry. A worker would go to work, put in a good eight hours, would get paid for those hours and everybody was happy. However, with the corporate structure we have in place and the ever increasing pressure on companies to make more money, that does not seem to be the way it is now. As long as they made a profit in a year, they were successful and happy. Now they have to make more than the profit they made the year before. That means companies and employers are forced to create what is referred to as efficiencies, which sounds more humane, in the workforce. That means pressure is put on employees to produce more, to work harder, to work faster and to stay at their jobs longer even when at times, emotionally, psychologically and physically they can no longer do that. They need to move around or have a break, but they are not getting that any more. In my view that can be classified under the heading of psychological harassment. We need to protect people from that.

We have the emergence of more and more individuals, young men and women, experiencing mental health issues. We really do not know much about the area of mental health as compared to what we know about physical health. We need to look at the cause of this. What brings it on? What is behind this growing epidemic of people struggling to keep their heads on straight, to get work in the morning, to work at home, to look after their families and themselves and to participate in their communities. There has to be something out there that is causing this. From some of the conversations I have had with people in my community in particular, a lot of it goes back to the changing nature of the workplace and what happens on a daily basis.

Many people in my community used to work in the steel, paper and wood industries. With new technology and other pressures, those enterprises are changing the way they do business and are employing fewer and fewer people. Those people now find themselves in call centres, for example, where it is all about productivity, how many phone calls they can make or take, how long they can stay on the phone to get their companies' messages through to the people to whom they are speaking.

These people are trying, as they have always done, to work as best as they can, to make the employer happy and to feel good about their work. However, by the end of the day they collapse. At the end of a year they wonder if it is worth it any more, particularly when they consider the level of wages they receive for that kind of work they do. It is difficult and strenuous and they work under pressure.

This is not just happening in the private sector, but also within government. Government is moving more into that kind of workplace as offices that used to provide face to face service in communities like Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and other places across Canada are no longer providing that kind of service. We either have to access information on a computer or phone a 1-800 number. At the end of that phone line somebody has been pressured to respond to the significantly increased number of people who call and that individual cannot feel the anxiety or the sense of emergency in the voice of the person calling.

There is pressure now on our civil servants in what is really a call service approach to delivering public services in Canada, and this has created a whole new atmosphere. We need to be doing things to prepare those workplaces to deal more humanely and fairly with workers. We need to put laws in place such as reflected in this legislation before us today to protect those workers if they find themselves being psychologically harassed to perform in a way they are not meant to perform. We are faced with this in the private sector and we are now seeing it more in the public sector.

The other thing that concerns me is the fact that our public servants are providing public services, but a lot of these services are now being contracted out in the interest of efficiency. That efficiency is delivered oftentimes on the backs of and at the expense of these well meaning and hardworking individuals who are not prepared for this new way of being supervised and they are finding it difficult.

We really do need to be shedding some light on this new reality. As members of the House we need to sit down with the people who work for us as civil servants and who work in our communities in workplaces that are evermore crowded and efficiency driven. We need to get a handle on the nature of this new pressure.

We need to know why the spectre of psychological harassment is becoming more of a concern and why it is being brought forward at employee-management committees. We need to know why it is sometimes not even brought forward. People are afraid to report psychological harassment, but Bill C-360 goes a long way toward covering some of that concern as well.

We have heard in this place and in other legislatures across this country the need these days to put whistleblower legislation in place. We need to take this more seriously. We talk about it but never do anything about it. We do not provide the kind of support that needs to be available to these people. We need to send a message to employers or bosses who use this kind of pressure and make people work in a way that is not in keeping with their best mental health.

The New Democratic Party is very interested in this legislation. I am personally interested because I have heard from a number of my constituents over the last few years as a member of a provincial Parliament and as a federal member of Parliament. The call centre industry is growing rapidly in my own community.

There are people working in those centres who are finding it very difficult. They want to work. They want to provide for themselves and their families. They want to be recognized and rewarded for their work. They are finding it difficult because of the workplace environment and the psychological harassment that often goes on in the name of efficiency. We need to recognize that it is a reality which is growing.

I have been approached in my office on Parliament Hill. I have been approached—

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Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Drummond.

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Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the last hour of this debate at second reading stage of Bill C-360, An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace.

First, allow me to congratulate my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville on her initiative. She has invested a great deal of time and energy in this topic, in which she has long had an interest. She has met with victims of psychological harassment, with unions and with other groups on numerous occasions in order to prepare this bill with its important impact on the health of these victims.

She has also published and co-signed a book on this topic in which she talks about psychological harassment cases in the Public Service. She is currently working on a new book that should be out in the next two weeks, in which she presents cases in the national defence department.

Psychological harassment is not a new phenomenon in our society. It has always existed. In our new work climate, people have to be effective and efficient and to adapt quickly.

How can one tell that one has been a victim of psychological harassment? Physical violence has always been easily identifiable whereas other forms of violence, although they have always been around, have been more difficult to recognize. These forms of violence now have a name: psychological harassment in the workplace.

If you have ever felt excluded, shunned, ridiculed by colleagues or by your boss on numerous occasions; if you have tried by every mean possible to put a stop to demeaning jokes directed at you, but to no avail; if you have felt that your dignity and your integrity, what is most precious to you, were being attacked; if you have experienced any of these situations, you may have been a victim of psychological harassment in the workplace.

Any strategy can destroy someone. However, the strategies used to put a stop to these types of behaviour are often ineffective because the silence, the denial and the tendency to play down what is happening allow psychological harassment to go on.

Again, Quebec has played a leading role in the fight against harassment. The Government of Quebec decided to add a few provisions to its Labour Standards Act. These provisions, which were adopted on June 1, 2004, apply to all employees, whether or not they belong to a union. These new provisions require employers to take measures to prevent psychological harassment and provide a healthy workplace for their employees.

Since that time, numerous complaints have been filed and they are being examined by the Commission des normes du travail. Jean-Pierre Brun, professor and director of the Chaire en gestion de la santé et de la sécurité du travail dans les organisations at Laval University, recognizes also that some complaints stem from a very serious work conflict rather than from a legitimate grievance. He has undertaken a study of 300 complaints to explore this further. His first reading of the situation led him to the conclusion that, despite its flaws, the system that was put in place was necessary.

Let me say to hon. members that more information on this topic is available in a book entitled Politiques contre le harcèlement au travail et réflexions sur le harcèlement psychologique , which I encourage all my colleagues in the House of Commons, and our colleague from the Conservative Party who gave a speech on stress in particular, to read. Psychological harassment leads to stress and affects health; psychological harassment in the workplace must not be denied.

I was saying that the authors, Isabelle and Jean-Maurice Cantin, wrote one of the 56 books nominated for the 2005 Prix du livre d'affaires, an award recognizing the talent of those who write management books in French which are published in Quebec. I should point out that the Prix du livre d'affaires is one of the most significant awards in Canadian literature. The prized book is a serious reference tool for those of us who may want to know more about psychological harassment in the workplace.

Many are faced on a daily basis at their workplace with verbal intimidation, blackmail, exaggerated criticism and abusive comments. Even young school children, children in first, second or third grade, are being taxed by others, and this continues in high school. They are subject to psychological harassment. The book by Isabelle and Jean-Maurice Cantin addresses management approaches and practices used by various businesses and organizations in the private, public and para-public sectors to counter harassment in general and psychological harassment at the workplace in particular. It contains practical advice and models of policies to deal with harassment at the workplace, addresses issues related to the handling of complaints and points to a number of useful references.

The authors dedicated an entire chapter to the consideration of the new psychological harassment provisions that came into force on June 1, 2004, in Quebec. In that chapter, they comment the rights and obligations as well as the remedies that have been included in the Act respecting labour standards, and compare summarily these provisions to those on emotional harassment that continue to be much publicized in France. This is a book for anyone who is interested in learning about harassment at the workplace and steps to prevent it or put an end to it, as the case may be.

On May 19, the Colloque de gestion des ressources humaines took place in the Saguenay; this year it chose to examine the issue of psychological harassment. This issue affects both employers and employees. The chairman of the organizing committee, Sylvain Bouchard, a lawyer, said that Quebec's implementation of the policy against psychological harassment on June 1, 2004, was a great change.

Currently, section 14(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits harassment in the provision of services and facilities in the public federal service and in the federally controlled private sector. But there is no legislation that would make it possible to protect employees in the public service and those governed by the Canada Labour Code. Principles are fine, but we need legislation.

There are several complaints of harassment before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In May 2001, the Treasury Board implemented a policy protecting against psychological harassment, but it is only a policy, and we believe that it is not enough. A law would have more teeth and more weight. Let it be very clear that we do not want a policy or principles; we want legislation.

This is why I invite all my colleagues in the House to reflect on the cases of victims of harassment in the workplace, in the Canadian public service, and to support this bill so that we finally have legislation to deal with harassment in the workplace.

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Terrebonne—Blainville for her bill, Bill C-360, An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code.

Having said that, I have some reservations concerning this bill that I want to talk about today.

This is an issue which is of considerable importance to everyone in this chamber and I do appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on it.

I certainly share, as have other speakers this afternoon, the concerns of the hon. member for Terrebonne--Blainville, but the approach of this bill, in my mind, has certain questionable aspects. Let me explain.

The target group of Bill C-360 is the federal public service. Treasury Board already has in place policies and programs which address the issue of psychological harassment in the workplace. That aspect of the bill has been discussed this afternoon at some length by hon. members who have preceded me. At this stage of the debate I will address the element of the bill that would modify part III of the Canada Labour Code.

First, bringing forward new legislation on psychological harassment at this time would conflict with other major policy work that is already well under way with respect to the Canada Labour Code. As members know, part III of the code deals with employment standards, such as family benefits, parental leave, vacation entitlements and also issues such as sexual harassment. Part III governs workplace standards in the federal labour jurisdiction that comprise sectors of key importance to the Canadian economy, such as international and interprovincial railways, shipping, trucking, airlines, airports, telecommunications, broadcasting, banking, port operations and federal crown corporations. It does not extend, of course, into the provincial jurisdiction, which is by far the greatest area of labour responsibility jurisdiction in this country. This leads me to the key point that I want to underline today.

As referred to earlier, the target group of Bill C-360, the Public Service of Canada, is not in actuality covered under part III of the Canada Labour Code. Instead, it is regulated by Treasury Board policies. Let us have a look at those Treasury Board policies.

Twenty years ago Treasury Board implemented a policy regarding workplace harassment. The policy included personal harassment and abuse of authority in its definition. Similar policies exist within other organizations in the public sector to address this issue.

I said that there was policy work going on, so let me describe what that is.

Part III of the Canada Labour Code is a complex piece of legislation. We have to consider all elements of it and how they work together before making any significant changes to it. It is also very important when proposing changes to this legislation to consider the concerns of employers, unions and workers that would be affected by any such changes.

That is why the Minister of Labour announced a complete and holistic review of part III of the Canada Labour Code in December 2004. At that time he named Professor Harry Arthurs, who is an eminent labour expert, to be the commissioner of the review. Professor Arthurs will be assisted by a panel of experts and representatives of business and labour at the same time. Professor Arthurs has a very broad mandate and will be able to address the whole array of issues that are impacting or affecting the Canadian workplace. He will consider the issue of psychological harassment in that wide-ranging review.

The commission was set up by the Minister of Labour to examine the current labour standards as described in part III of the labour code. Labour standards are a key tool to ensure fairness in the workplace, to protect employees and to provide them with satisfactory conditions of work. This review will cover such issues as the changing nature of work, the growth of the knowledge based economy, competition in the global marketplace, and increased work life pressures referred to earlier by my colleagues.

Part III of the Canada Labour Code has not been reviewed for the past 40 years and this review will take into account the issues that I just mentioned and other factors, and it will lead to recommendations for legislative change with a view to modernizing and improving the relevance and effectiveness of federal labour standards.

The review will take in such things as changing demographics, including the aging workforce, increasing diversity as well as new forms of workplace structures and employment relationships. Included in this last point are issues such as work-life balance and evolving family structures. To broaden our understanding of these issues, research projects have been launched by the commission which are wide ranging and will be made public in order for appropriate comment to be made on them by Canadians who are interested or affected.

An important aspect of Professor Arthurs' work will be consensus building among the stakeholders who will be affected by any changes to Part III of the Canada Labour Code. It is through consultation, discussion and debate among those affected and the stakeholders and government that effective legislation will be developed but that process is lacking in the proposed bill. Therefore I do not feel that it is appropriate at this time for Bill C-360 to be accepted by the House because I believe it might in fact undermine the collaborative process already underway.

I suggest instead that we allow the process already underway, the collaborative and consultative process, to work its way through and in this way we will continue to move forward with the development and improvement of the systemic ways to address the important issue of harassment in the workplace.

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Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to participate in this debate on Bill C-360. I will be brief, but a few words are better than nothing at all. This bill introduced by my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville is called an act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace. Like my colleague from Drummond, I would like to congratulate her, not only for her initiative in terms of the legislation, but also for all her political and social animation work in this area.

We have seen this phenomenon develop in the province of Quebec in the last years, but the world of work has not completely accepted these new provisions for the fight against psychological harassment in the workplace. We know that some complaints have been made. However, Quebec's National Assembly has already showed Canada the way.

My colleague is echoing the efforts made in Quebec to ensure that the Canada Labour Code, where the federal laws apply, including in the federal Public Service, contains provisions against psychological harassment. It is extremely important that we see this debate in the present context, which is two-fold: on one side the positive and negative effects of globalization and on the other side the trivialization of the ideas now in circulation, making us think that all opinions are equal.

I cannot help but mention the horrifying remarks the pseudo-doctor Mailloux made last Sunday on the show Tout le monde en parle . He made statements that have now achieved scientific notoriety. However, we thought that such rhetoric had disappeared over 50 years ago. He said that blacks and aboriginals in Canada had a lower IQ than everyone else. We are familiar with pseudo-professor Mailloux; he has been poisoning the airwaves at CKAC for years. So his comments came as no surprise. However, I still cannot believe that Guy A. Lepage, the host and producer, and Mario Clément, programming director of Radio-Canada, have trivialized his comments.

Imagine an employer who is already prejudiced against one of his employees, who is black or aboriginal, or even co-workers who already hold such prejudices. We know that they are minorities. This is also true in English Canada. I know that people are prejudiced against Quebeckers, who have also been the subject of similar remarks by commentators in Canada. I am thinking in particular of the English version of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada , where one such commentator has been spreading poison for many years. In passing, we have spoken out against him numerous times here.

If the employee is already the victim of prejudice, the attitude of his harassers will be reinforced on a much-watched program like that one, by Guy A. Lepage, whom many of our young people look up to. There must be a counter-balance to this. When something like that happens during a program and the interviewer has no legislated counter-balance, an extremely difficult situation ensues.

The bill before us is intended as that counter-balance. It would not have prevented what happened last Sunday. It is too late for that, anyway. They will try to remedy things on the next program, but the harm is done, and the way they reacted made things worse. A counter-balance like this bill on psychological harassment in the workplace is therefore necessary so that the individual, who has already been victimized and then sees credibility lent to his harassers by the reaction of someone like Guy A. Lepage, will have some recourse.

I spoke of globalization. Interestingly, on that level we are seeing polarization. On the one hand, some jobs require a new way of organizing one's work. That is why there is increasing discussion of psychological harassment in the workplace taking place in symposiums on work organization .

Smart employers—which most of them are, but not all—are well aware that psychological harassment not only has economic costs related to health—as my colleague from Drummond has so aptly pointed out—but also affects productivity. The ones responsible are not the victims of the harassment but the perpetrators of it.

Smart employers, often those in developing new sectors of the economy, want to effectively counteract psychological harassment. This bill will help them do so. Economic activity will benefit as a result.

On the other hand, in all sectors where jobs are becoming more precarious and their quality is deteriorating: declining sectors of service and activity getting very little government assistance—I am referring here of course to the industrial sector—psychological harassment is constantly on the rise.

This bill is needed in order to improve the quality of working life and our collective well-being, as well as to counteract complacency toward racist and prejudiced comments, which are unfortunately still far too common, even on our state-owned television network.

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Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank my colleagues in the House who spoke on this bill. Even though some really surprised me, others have shown me that psychological harassment is indeed a little-known phenomenon.

I was surprised to hear a doctor talk to me about stress when, as the hon. member for Drummond was saying, stress follows psychological harassment. I now understand why victims appealed to me. In fact, I am speaking in this House this afternoon on behalf of the victims.

Victims have a hard time getting diagnosed for psychological harassment simply because this phenomenon is little known. It is little known by doctors, who are not able to give a diagnosis. They call it burn out or depression, but not psychological harassment.

There is another reason doctors dare not give a diagnosis of psychological harassment and that is because they dare not take a stand. This House will be no different than these doctors if it does not pass this bill at second reading.

My colleagues in this House and I have no time to lose. If there were Canadian laws to help these people, a more comprehensive Canada Labour Code and a policy on psychological harassment with authority and power, we would not be here talking about an act to prevent psychological harassment.

I challenge any lawyer in this House, no matter how smart—from the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party—to take on a harassment case, see it through and win. I challenge them to do that.

There is no law to help a person who has been psychologically harassed. There is bureaucracy. Any lawyer will take on these cases at $150 or $200 an hour. He will rack up a bill for $12,000 and at the end of the day will say he did everything he could. I have seen that happen for five years now.

I am not here to waste my time or yours. I am here to tell you that there is a problem. At least pass this bill at second reading stage. Then, look at it more closely in committee, amend it, listen to what those people who were victims of harassment have to say. Many have experienced that and we will introduce some of them to you. However, do not reject this bill out of hand.

I am saying to myself that if we ever have a law, lawyers will make money at the government's expense because of its flawed policy.

It is a fact, a lot of people are victims of psychological harassment. There are some in your ridings. I challenge you to tell me that it is not so.

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Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

An hon. member

They may have some in their offices.

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2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Indeed, they may have some in their offices. However, try to at least give a fighting chance to this bill that seeks justice for those who are victims of harassment. If we already had something in that area, I would not be bringing forward such a bill.

On behalf of those who are seeking justice, I would ask members to reflect on this so that they do not end up supporting a system that may look perfect but is in fact totally flawed.

Our Liberal colleague pointed out, and rightly so, that a policy has been in existence since 1994.

I want to know why, even if that policy has been around since 1994, Canada is considered by the International Labour Organization as ranking third in the world for psychological harassment. I want someone to explain that to me. It simply should not be this way. We are supposed to have a good policy.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

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Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 5, 2005, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 2:33 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:33 p.m.)