House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary simply ducked and escaped my question about what efforts the government made with the Americans to look for reciprocity.

The fact of the matter is, there are far more American flights flying over Canadian airspace. A sensible negotiating approach would have been to ask the Americans to provide us with the same information we are providing them. Clearly, if they have some security concerns about airplanes going over their airspace, surely we, who share the continent with them, would have similar concerns and would want to be able to process their information.

Had the government done this, we might have been looking at getting an exemption because of all the blowback the Americans would have received from their airlines and American passengers, because there are 2,000 flights flying over Canada versus only 100 over the United States. I just think that reciprocity would have been something the government would have asked for, if it were negotiating properly.

The parliamentary secretary says that we could not afford to process the information. How he knows this, I do not know, but it will cost the Americans half a billion dollars in computer systems to handle all of this information that we will be giving them. By extension, we could not afford the computer system to process their information because there would be so much of it. That was his answer.

In direct response to my question, he did not answer it at all. He simply attacked the air passenger bill of rights and misrepresented it. He could not even remember what was in that bill when misrepresenting that part of it and not answering the question.

Maybe the hon. member could fill in some of the missing answers the parliamentary secretary could not give.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly not my role or function to defend the parliamentary secretary.

We did receive a briefing from transport officials, and it is true that the United States has said that it would not require us to provide this information if we had our own equivalent system that would take that information. According to the transport officials, to develop the same kind of system that the Americans have would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have spent a lot of time downplaying this bill, saying how bad it is, and I get the sense from my Liberal colleague and from them in general that it is some sort of awful necessity. They are going to vote for it, however, even though they do not like it. They are going to vote for it for practical purposes even though they are worried about it.

The fundamental point here is the sovereignty question. How can Canadians protect their own information? How can we protect the privacy of Canadians we represent here in the House of Commons?

The member pointed to one alleviation of concern that we can somehow control what the U.S. will do with this data once it gets it. There is nothing that we have been shown that says that is true. One has to imagine a future where Canada's Parliament will tell Congress that we do not want it to pass on any of our information. We will not even get in the door and my hon. colleague knows that. The Americans have had a slow and serious downgrade in their own civil rights over the last dozen years, certainly since 9/11.

We have to imagine a future where all of the information on passengers on a flight from Vancouver to Toronto, or from Montreal to Halifax, that flies over U.S. airspace will be in the hands of our American colleagues.

The problem that many Canadians will have with this is that the Americans need to know who is on the passenger list a full 24 hours in advance. Some people will want to get on a plane that same day. Can my hon. colleague imagine a future in which Canadians are denied access to a plane not going to the United States but another Canadian destination because the Americans insist on 24 hours notice? That is in the agreement.

I just do not know why the Liberals are so trusting of the Conservatives on such a Canadian fundamental and sacred right as privacy.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

As usual, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is confused on questions of fact. They talk about giving this information to the Americans on flights that go over American airspace between Toronto and Vancouver. That is false. That information is not required to be given for domestic flights within Canada even if they do pass over the United States.

The second point I would make is that the reason I do not particularly like this law is because I would rather we did not have to give the information to the United States.

What the member keeps forgetting to mention is that under international law, every country has sovereignty over the airspace above it. We could ask for the information. The U.S. could ask for information. The UK could ask for the information. Every country has legal sovereignty over the airspace above it.

We cannot deny that the Americans have the right to request this information. They have the right to deny access to their airspace if we do not comply. This would create huge problems, huge costs, and much inconvenience for millions of Canadians who want to take flights to Mexico or to other places that require flying over U.S. airspace.

That practical reason is the reason why we did in the end support the bill, even though I would be happy if there were no such bill. That is why at the same time we strengthened the bill in three specific ways to alleviate concerns that others, including us, were having.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have a chance to speak to this bill again because I am deeply concerned about this whole issue.

Clearly, the history of aviation security since 9/11 is one of continual movement toward more authoritarian structures and continual movement toward less privacy for Canadians. This is the movement that took place and we are all part of it. This Parliament has been part of it over the last decade.

I have seen a break in that, though, in the last week where we finally saw some rationality applied to one particular segment of our aviation security. It is not a rationality that is popular with everyone. People are concerned about it. Of course they are.

However, we do see that the dam is starting to break on the whole issue of aviation security and what is actually required by Canadians, by international travellers, what is useful to do, and what is something that makes sense in this age rather than simply a knee-jerk reaction to perceived incidents that may occur.

Why do we not want to support this bill? It is because we do not think the government has done enough to deal with the issue of sharing information with the United States. That is quite clear. We feel that what has happened here is invading Canadians' privacy, invading their rights in a way that we cannot completely understand. We do not know what the impact of this information is. We have not been given assurances. There are no provisions within the bill that outline how this information is to be shared. None of that was part of this bill.

This bill was very simple, a few lines changing the Aeronautics Act. It is a few lines. It is really very limited. With the negotiations that took place and what we heard in committee about the negotiations, there certainly were a number of issues that came to light. One of them was that the U.S. could provide a complete exemption for Canadian flights. If we matched equivalent security, the U.S. would provide that exemption.

Another one was the issue of reciprocity, which we have talked about quite a bit. That was not brought to the table. That was not used as a lever in the negotiations, quite clearly.

Then we talked about the famous exemption that was given. This exemption, domestic to domestic flights, that was provided by the United States for Canadian flights leaving one destination in Canada and going to another was given by the U.S. That raised even more questions about security. Of course, with any flight that goes domestic to domestic, the security requirement for the information is simply a photo id, something that could be forged by the simplest of techniques and which really does not provide the same layer of sophistication in terms of the information that a passport on an international flight provides to any airline that is dealing with a particular passenger.

We saw the U.S. give an exemption for flights that would pass over the United States that had less security on them than international flights. This did not make sense. The exemption did not stand up to rationality. That always brings something into question. When rationality does not apply, what are the reasons?

Did we understand the reason last week when the Prime Minister went down to Washington to work on a perimeter security deal? Was the reason for an exemption on domestic to domestic that we are going to see traveller information shared completely within our countries, between intelligence agencies for the two countries? Is that what is going to happen? How are we going to determine the nature of that information? How are we going to determine how that information is going to be used?

We can see quite clearly that there is no control over the information we are giving out right now. There is none at all. It is simply give the information and let it be.

That information does include the passenger name record. When it includes the passenger name record number, the U.S. government has access to the information on the computers, the Sabre and Galileo servers that are held in the United States. That is information that was also given at committee.

Whatever information airlines have on passengers would be instantaneously accessible to the United States intelligence service through the beauty of computers. The seven day requirement that the information will be taken out after seven days really is quite meaningless in our computer age. There is plenty of time to do whatever we want with that information, the data mining that the European Union was so against, the data profiling was the real harmful thing that could go on with that type of information.

So, we have no recourse and no limitations on the information that we are giving. For Canadians falsely accused of something in the United States, there is no recourse. One of my colleagues talked about that with the existing system. It is not going to get any better. Many witnesses spoke in front of the committee. Many witnesses indicated their disquiet with what was going on here, with the impacts on the invasion of privacy.

We proposed some amendments. I put forward an amendment for a drop dead clause, as we did in the early part of this decade, where with contentious invasions of privacy through things like the Terrorism Act, we put in drop dead clauses. We said if there is a perceived need for information that goes beyond what is normal, if there are considerations that we put on the Canadian population that go beyond what we expect as our basic rights, then let us put a time limit on it.

I put forward that amendment. The support for that amendment was not there from the two opposition parties and that amendment died. That actually has brought us to the point we are here in debating this bill.

In the last days since the Prime Minister's trip to Washington, the Liberal Party adopted two positions on information. One position was that it was going to vote to support the bill. The other being when, publicly in question period, the Liberal leader says things like: “Why is the Prime Minister even contemplating the surrender of Canadian privacy rights to U.S. Homeland Security?”, “What biometric information on Canadians will the Conservatives surrender to the Americans?”, and “When will the Prime Minister tell Canadians and Parliament the truth?”

Yes, we are after those answers, as well, on this particular bill. We wanted to see the agreements. We wanted to understand the safeguards that should be in place for any Canadian information shared with another country.

Did we get it? No.

What do Canadians think? There was an interesting online poll in the Globe and Mail, which is not terribly reliable, but 67,000 responded to that online poll. The question was: “Should Canada and the U.S. collaborate more deeply on surveillance and data-sharing in the name of a so-called North American perimeter? Ninety-two per cent of those respondents said no; 92% of the 67,000 Canadians who had the opportunity to see the poll and to respond to it said no. That is a fairly significant margin of Canadians who are concerned about their personal privacy rights vis-à-vis information.

This is why the Liberal Party right now is quite conflicted on this issue. It is voting for a bill that is not tolerable to Canadian values, for whatever reason, perhaps the perceived threat to the Canadian aviation industry.

Members were told there was a great need to bring the bill forward and get it completed by December 31 of last year so the U.S. would not stop the overflights of Canadian planes. That has not happened yet, and we are still a ways away from completing this bill. The NDP will continue to work on trying to get opposition members to come onside and recognize that the bill does not provide for a safe and secure use of Canadian information.

There are many other issues that tie to the bill. My colleague spoke of one that was really never mentioned, which is the inconvenience of the bill and the information shared according to the 24-hour requirement of the U.S. government for any of these overflights. If, for instance, Mrs. Jones is in Cuba enjoying the sunshine, her husband dies at home or becomes very ill and she has to return very quickly on a flight that day, what will happen to her? Will she be blocked from taking that flight?

This is a very important point. If the government had talked about putting in some reciprocity on the U.S. 2000 flights through Canadian airspace and the U.S. understood it would have to give 24 hours notice for any passenger on that plane, we would quickly be in a much more advantageous negotiation position with the United States.

Quite clearly, the government did not think this information was required when it went into the negotiations because it did not want to do this. It said in committee that it did not want to do this. The Minister of Public Safety said, “I didn't want to do this”. If he did not want to do this, then he must understand this is not required for security.

What is it required for? Is this simply more of a knee-jerk reaction to the events of a decade ago and we cannot get our heads out of the sand and recognize that we are in a different time when we can look at security rationally and work with our neighbours to ensure the security we provide is useful, functional and it does not take away the rights of Canadians or Americans?

The NDP wants that. We want security that works for Canadians, not security that takes away the rights of Canadians.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I have several questions for the member.

He said something at the end of his speech about not wanting to take away the security of Canadians. By not passing this law, is it not fair to say that we are actually impeding the ability of the Americans to guard their own sovereign space? The opposite would be true. If we do not respect the rule of law and the Chicago convention in relation to the right of Americans to have sovereignty over their airspace, how can Canada then say that it has a sovereign right over its airspace?

By not passing this law and filibustering, as NDP members seem to be doing, though I am not certain of that, is it not fair to say that they will impede the ability for Canadians to remain secure? It seems to make a lot of sense. If they cannot respect the U.S. law, how will the U.S. respect Canadian law?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I defer to the perceived logic of my hon. colleague on this issue. I think that the logic may not be particularly well expressed by the member.

At committee, the minister said quite clearly that the government went into this saying this was not a security issue. It did not see the need for the U.S. to have this and that it obviously did not need the information for itself. Its determination, as Canadians, through Canada's security services, said this was not required. However, the U.S, it was required and the government submitted to the demands and that was what happened in the negotiations.

This was the evidence presented to us in committee. If the parliamentary secretary wants to change that evidence, he can come up with something else, but that is what we heard and I will leave it at that.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the protection of privacy is certainly a key element in any free and democratic society. Each week, we receive warnings on television, from our banks or from our credit card companies about the importance of not giving out our personal information because of the high incidence of fraud.

I would like to ask the hon. member a question. Since September 11, 2001, paranoia has become prevalent, and it seems that the fear of terrorism has led us to take things too far. Under this bill, personal information would be given not only to the United States but also to other countries. Is the hon. member not concerned that giving out this information could lead to situations of abuse and could take us in a direction that is not at all in keeping with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I cannot disagree with my colleague in any way. Whenever we, as a country, as a government, provide information to another country where there is no security to that information, where there are no treaties that have been signed that say quite specifically how that information is to be used, then we put the information of our citizens at risk. If the agreement is in a letter, in a form that the government cannot even share with the committee, what is it?

When we saw the letter from the U.S. ambassador, it was hardly comforting when he said, ”This information will not be widely used for other purposes”. What does that mean? Does that mean that 90% of the information will not be used for any other purpose, but 10%, or 99.9% or 0.1% will? This is hardly a thing that confidence is built on.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Minister of State (Seniors)

Mr. Speaker, I was not planning to rise, but I did hear a number of trigger words that piqued my interest.

In my earlier life I also was the chairman of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police aviation security committee and worked widely with police leaders and security executives in this country and internationally, including the United States.

I am afraid that talking about paranoia that emanates from an event that happened 10 years ago is basically putting blinders in front of our reality of today. It is absolutely critical that today we work co-operatively across borders and jurisdictions to ensure the travelling public, especially those who are actually travelling and those involved in the aviation industry, have every reasonable opportunity to be protected from what in fact is an active pursuit of terrorism. It is a reality and it is global in nature. If it is a small compromise to the entrenched rights and entitlements we all have, to be protected from unreasonable abuse or unreasonable sharing of information, it begs to say that we need to ensure we do all we can to make the aviation industry safe.

I do not understand how any of this could be a knee-jerk reaction, certainly not from the world I come from where I can speak directly to the kinds of information, the kinds of investigations and the kinds of issues that not only Canadian security agencies work on and are very concerned about but are equally co-operating and working with our international partners because of this being an international threat.

I just do not think there is a reality happening here when we hear comments that portray what we are trying to do in the interests of Canadians is as a result of paranoia. It is an absolute legitimate responsibility governments have, given rise to the very serious threat that exists today, to engage in these kinds of activities.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I feel honoured that my colleague has asked me that question. However, I would like him to know as well that through forum that we organized during the prorogation on aviation security and through the work the transport committee has done, we did make some changes this year, and I referred to those. What we heard from the witnesses who presented to us, and people from places that have gold-plated security like Israel, was that we were not necessarily doing all the things we should be doing and we may be doing many things that we did not need to do. That is the purpose of review and of anything we do.

I know after 9/11 there was an incredible angst in North America about the nature of security. It is funny that did not come after the Air India tragedy, but it did not. There were some things that happened after it, but 9/11 was an enormous personal affront to almost every North American. We have to recover from that and we have to look at our lives rationally because Canadians are the true north strong and free. We want our Canadian citizens to have the kind of lives that we all envisioned when we were younger, when we had freedom, the ability to travel and to work in many locations. Canadians were respected around the world for our openness. We do not want to lose that. Canadians are not about that.

I am willing to work with anyone to reduce the impact of world events on Canadians when it comes to their personal liberties and freedoms because I believe in those so strongly.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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5 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-42, which we examined carefully at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I would like to begin by congratulating all of my colleagues on the hard work they did in an effort to strike a fair balance between two conflicting yet fundamental notions. I was going to say “to get at the truth”, but that would not have been the right expression.

When I was a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Board of Internal Economy, we took a very similar approach. There we talked about the safety and protection of people and goods. In this case, this bill is about aviation security. At the time, following the tragic events of September 2001, we had to ask ourselves what kind of security was needed within the parliamentary precinct, here on the Hill. What kind of security check should pedestrians be subjected to? For vehicles, it was pretty easy, but for pedestrians, it was a different matter.

On the one hand, the people watching us here this evening, our fellow citizens, my colleagues and their family members must have access to the place that exemplifies democracy. On the other hand, security measures must be in place to protect people. It is not just parliamentarians who need to be protected, but also pages, security staff and everyone who works in the parliamentary precinct. That is enough of the analogy I wanted to make with security here on Parliament Hill.

I will not say that I suffered terrible insomnia or that I woke up at night in a cold sweat from anxiety, but I did put a lot of thought into this bill. I sometimes have the opportunity to go home to my riding by car. It is a 475 km drive from my office on Parliament Hill to my house. I usually use that time to decompress and reflect on many things.

When we studied this bill, we heard from opposite ends of the spectrum. We heard from those defending civil liberties, who stand up for the protection of personal information. There is a strong temptation, for a government or organization that receives personal information about people, to use it for inappropriate purposes. We joke about Big Brother watching you.

One of the fundamental elements of this bill is that it would have Canada provide the Americans with certain personal information about passengers on board aircraft flying over American territory. Those who defend civil liberties are very level-headed; they were not on a witch hunt. They told us that parliamentarians, members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, should think about the type of information that would be provided to the Americans.

As I mentioned in a previous speech, since the unfortunate events of 9/11 at the World Trade Center, no one has been crazy enough to say that the Americans got what they deserved. Anyone who says that has serious mental problems.

The young woman who worked for Xerox Corporation on the 85th floor, who was about the same age as our assistant clerk—the one who notes what we say off mike—and who was typing a report for her boss, did not deserve to have a plane hit her. She did not ask for that. She went to work that morning to support herself and perhaps to support her family.

Since that event, the Americans have been seized by panic, a phobia, a psychosis about terrorism. I am not an expert on terrorism. However, we should ask ourselves whether we believe that terrorists will again use the exact same tactics they used on the World Trade Center.

The planes that crashed into the World Trade Center were American planes making domestic flights. In addition, the terrorist pilots were trained in American flight schools in Miami, Florida. Since that time, the Americans have developed such an obsessive fear that they see terrorism everywhere. It is true that protection is needed and that we must always be vigilant.

Supporters of individual freedoms and civil liberties asked the committee to ensure that there were certain protective rules. Apparently, the information that we will be providing to the Americans under this bill could potentially be given to 16 other American agencies that do not necessarily need it. Supporters of individual freedoms and civil liberties expressed another concern: what guarantee do we have that this information will be destroyed?

I spoke about Big Brother. Personally, I am not a conspiracy theorist and I do not think that our information is put on file and that we are monitored. That is being paranoid. I watched the Super Bowl and, when members of one team formed a huddle, I did not think that they were talking about me. I knew that they were planning their strategy. We must not think that Big Brother is always watching us. However, this does not change the fact that the Americans will have our personal information. What guarantee do we have that this information will not be shared and that it will be destroyed after a certain period of time?

The Minister of Public Safety testified before the committee. I asked him, without getting angry—a rarity—what guarantee we have that the Americans will destroy this information after a certain period of time.

He replied that the Americans had told him so. How reassuring. What guarantee do we have that our hair will grow by the end of the week? The dermatologist said so. The Americans told him so. What a great answer.

The committee members were split between two approaches. We met representatives from Canada's tourism industry and representatives from airlines. We organized a meeting with Air Transat, Canada's leader in vacation travel. When I was elected in 1993, I was the transport critic. We had Canada 2000, and since we were getting close to the year 2000, I think it became Canada 3000. They realized that the name would be outdated. Later, the company went bankrupt. Then we had Nationair, Nordair, Intair, which all shut down. Now, the number one company in vacation travel in Canada is Air Transat, a company whose head office is in Montreal, whose primary language of work is French and which has an important base in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and a lot of pilots and flight attendants who are able to provide services in two, three or even four languages. Quebec is very proud of this.

We met with these people and they told us that, because the U.S. is a sovereign country, if we did not pass this bill, the Americans would prohibit us from flying through their airspace. Charter flights to the south or flights to London or Nice, for example, that leave from Halifax and take the Atlantic route do not fly through U.S. airspace. I am not picking destinations off the top of my head. Those are all destinations served by Air Transat. To go to Mexico or the Caribbean, for example, via the south corridor or the Atlantic corridor, the plane does not need to fly through American airspace. It is the same for Vancouver. Via the Pacific corridor, there is no need to fly through American airspace.

The people from Air Transat told us that if this bill is not passed, it will no longer be able to serve central Canada. It will no longer be able to offer flights from Calgary to Cancun, from Winnipeg to Puerto Vallarta or from Edmonton to Montego Bay, Jamaica, because those cities are in central Canada. They have no choice but to fly over the U.S. It would take four hours to fly to the Pacific Ocean and then fly south. A flight that normally takes three and a half or four hours with an Airbus 330 or 320 would take seven or eight hours. That makes no sense.

Something I thought of and have talked about before, but that bears repeating because some members were not here, is that we cannot forget that the Air Transat fleet includes Airbus 310s and 320s, and I believe it also has some Airbus 330s.

As it turns out, an Airbus with 350 passengers on board requires a little more time for taking off and landing. It is not like a Cessna that can touch and go and land in 150 metres. When landing in Montreal, depending on the runway being used—24 or 32—the pilot has to turn and fly over the U.S. It is the same thing in Toronto at Pearson airport. In other words, because of those flights, Air Transat would be doomed to bankruptcy.

As the Bloc Québécois transport critic, and with my colleagues who agree on this position, we had to take individual freedoms into account, but we also had to take into account feasibility and the viability of air carriers that have to use U.S. airspace. I moved an amendment that called for reciprocity. Many Americans fly through Canadian airspace and if the U.S. is requiring us to provide a passenger list, then we should be demanding reciprocity with the U.S. Unfortunately, my amendment was democratically defeated in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I accept that, but I find it unbelievable. If it is good enough for the Americans, why would it not be good enough for us?

In any case, we are at third reading stage and, in closing, I confirm that the Bloc Québécois is voting in favour of Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I thank the member across the way for his many hours of thought on the final outcome and how we arrived at where we are today.

My friend said, and the NDP also alluded to it, that if the Americans ask it of us then why do we not ask it of the Americans. Some people may not want to get into that debate. Hundreds of thousands of people a day travel the skies. Who will pay for the cost of taking that data from the United States and assembling it, and for what purpose? Just because the Americans ask for it should we ask for it?

Canada has a great tradition of protecting human rights, standing up for the world at large and standing up for people. We are in a different threat situation than the United States, but no less serious. However, if we do ask for that information,what will we do with it? Are we going to get it because we gave it to the U.S.? What is the purpose of that?

My understanding is that it would cost billions of dollars over time to get that data and to do something with that data. For what purpose? There is no purpose that I could defend to the people who voted for me to get me here today.

I appreciate the member bringing forward that amendment but I would like to know exactly what we would do with that data, because I see no great conclusion in relation to it if we were to receive it.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I am greatly disappointed by the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. He is saying that it would be expensive and would cost millions of dollars. In other words, because the Americans have the means, they can do it, but it would be far too costly for us. Yet the Conservatives bought full body scanners for airports. That cost money and that money was wasted. They should search people as they did before, by making us take off our shoes and belts. That would be just as comfortable as full body scanners.

The Conservative government is using money as an excuse. It prefers to buy tanks and warplanes instead of getting its priorities straight. With this government, everything is expensive, except when it comes to buying tanks or warplanes for Afghanistan, even though we have no business being there. Then money is not a problem.

I will calm down because otherwise my supper will be ruined.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

February 9th, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, it would appear that members are still exercised about an issue that they have already agreed has passed. In fact, the Americans gave us notice some 16 months ago that the legislation that led to Bill C-42 would be implemented and put into effect in the United States last December.

This is not an issue of security. It is an issue of the government now trying to backtrack because it presented this last June and only now wants to put it into law. Just imagine being unable to protect Canadian sovereignty for all that period and then to come forward and say that it is a question of security. It is not.

The member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord has just indicated rather eloquently that this is a commercial issue. It is to prevent airlines from being sued for breach of privacy legislation by Canadians on Canadian carriers. It is an issue of sovereignty ceded to the Americans because of the government's incompetence and inability to negotiate what the Americans asked it to negotiate on 16 months ago.

I would like the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord to elaborate on this. What this shows is that the $40 million spent on those special machines in 11 locations in Canada to provide greater aviation security meant nothing to the Americans and that the legislation to impose another $3.2 billion in aviation tax for security measures was unimpressive to the Americans, and therefore we have to go to this because our airlines will be exposed to harassment by Americans. That is what this legislation is about.