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

September 30th, 2005 / 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.