Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me say that I will be using up all the time left for this sitting of the House.
I would like to continue the debate on the all important Bill C-42. It is very important because it received such broad media coverage last week. All that happened because, basically, the Minister of Transport introduced a bill that was a hidden attack against our democracy and our freedoms. Those were very important points that were raised, in particular by Bloc Quebecois members.
This is all the more serious because Bill C-42, which is now before the House, was not even on the order of business for today. We were supposed to be discussing Bill C-37, Bill C-39 and Motion No. 20 under government orders, as well as Bill S-31.
Why then is Bill C-42 before the House today, a situation which probably forced the minister to quickly react and address the House, as I had to do because I am the Bloc Quebecois critic? It happened very simply because the House did not have enough work for today.
It is a cause for concern. It comes after the difficulties encountered by the Liberal government last week. The week started very badly with the introduction of Bill C-42, which was almost a knee-jerk reaction, if I may use the expression, to the airline safety bill introduced two weeks earlier by the U.S. congress.
The Canadian government, because it was not ready to introduce a bill on airline safety, decided to introduce a bill on public safety.
Again, I have trouble understanding the minister when he says that these powers already exist. He is not the only one who said that in the House. The Prime Minister said so too, as so did the Minister of National Defence.
If they already exist, why insult us by introducing a bill that is a serious threat to democracy and the rights and freedoms of Quebecers and Canadians? The reason is very simple: these powers simply did not exist.
The government is fine tuning these powers and introducing new ones. It is coming here with emergency directives, with military zones, with a lot of provisions which the Minister of Transport has taken great care today not to elaborate on.
He has elaborated today, of course, on the changes to the Aeronautics Act, for which he is responsible as a minister. He has admitted once again, quite candidly, that there was a lot of opposition to the changes that were put in Bill C-42, because the opposition thought there was not very much in this bill.
Of course he has told us that there still is no money. Funds will be announced during the budget speech that the Minister of Finance will give on December 10.
Thus, we will have fine tuning of the whole air safety policy and we will have the funds. The minister said that he was still negotiating with the Minister of Finance to determine the amounts that would be allocated to air safety.
Concerning this bill, the Bloc Quebecois asked the Prime Minister the following question “What could you not do on September 11 that such a bill would allow you to do?” The Prime Minister responded by letting the Minister of Transport answer and, once again, he could not say today what he could not do.
He elaborated earlier on what he did exactly on September 11, with the existing laws, and for which new laws to intervene were never asked for.
The attacks coming from the opposition were, among other things, about representations, statements and actions of the Minister of Health, who decided to award a contract to a company, namely Apotex, which did not have the rights. It was Bayer that had the rights on the anthrax vaccine.
Of course, these are government mistakes. Today, in response to a question from the leader of the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative Coalition, the Minister of Health seemed once again to laugh at the fact that this bill would give him new powers.
I can perhaps try to explain, to help Quebecers listening to us to better understand the new powers that would be given to the health minister. It is quite simple:
11.1 (1) The Minister may make an interim order that contains any provision that may be contained in a regulation made under section 11 if the Minister believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to health or safety.
Hence, by way of an interim order, a new power has been given to the health minister. In the case of the anthrax vaccine or the protective inoculation, this power would have entailed the minister to give his officials the power to buy the necessary vaccine and to compel every Canadian to receive it.
These new dispositions all give more powers and this is what makes it so serious. It is not done simply by giving the minister more powers, because we do not simply give him more powers, we tell him that now “An interim order is exempt from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act”.
This means that the minister could adopt interim orders for all sorts of emergency purposes and be exempt from the application of sections of the Statutory Instruments Act, and I am not talking about any old section, either. I will read a part of section 3, which would no longer apply to the Minister of Health in the case of interim orders. This section states:
- (1) Subject to any regulations made pursuant to paragraph 20(a), where a regulation-making authority proposes to make a regulation, it shall cause to be forwarded to the Clerk of the Privy Council three copies of the proposed regulation in both official languages.
Now, it would no longer be necessary to send them in both official languages. I read on:
(2) On receipt by the Clerk of the Privy Council of copies of a proposed regulation pursuant to subsection (1), the Clerk of the Privy Council, in consultation with the Deputy Minister of Justice, shall examine the proposed regulation to ensure that
(a) it is authorized by the statute pursuant to which it is to be made;
(b) it does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which it is to be made;
(c) it does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not, in any case, inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—
If the Minister of Health is empowered to make interim orders, to purchase vaccines, of whatever kind, exempt from the application of the provisions of enabling legislation, he could very well acquire unacceptable vaccines, vaccines whose patents are held elsewhere. This is no problem. He could then require a group to be vaccinated without complying with the charter of rights and freedoms. All this is effective for 23 days. After 23 days, the regulation must be published.
If this does not infringe on individual rights and freedoms, I do not know what they can be thinking. If the minister had all these powers, why write in black and white in a bill that now he will be able to make interim orders without the House or the usual regulatory procedure requiring him to meet the test of the charter of rights and freedoms?
This is the type of regulation now proposed by the Minister of Transport. These regulations were of course tabled like any major bill. The minister said it earlier: This is the second phase in the fight against terrorism. He said it solemnly, in camera.
The transport officials who tabled the draft regulations in camera, and I was there, were not able to explain the content of the regulations. They were accompanied by officials from DND, who were there to explain what was happening with national defence, and from each of the other departments. There were 10 officials representing the various departments to explain to us the part of the bill involving their department.
So if the official representing the Department of Transport is unable to answer questions on a bill sponsored by his minister, I can understand why the minister himself could not answer questions in the House on this bill. This is the harsh reality.
While we are confronted with emergency situations, situations as serious as the events of September 11, officials from several departments are trying to fulfill their dreams. It is unbelievable that a minister would agree to defend a measure as important as this one. This is a measure that amends 19 acts, of which officials do not understand the operation.
Therefore, it was really easy for the Bloc Quebecois to attack this bill relentlessly in the House. I am proud and I am confident that my leader has made important gains for Quebec society by finding in the legislation all these irritants for democracy and for the respect of Quebecers' rights and freedoms. Today we thought the battle was practically over.
We managed to make the government realize that the only really urgent issue was what was made into a distinct bill, Bill C-44, amending the Aeronautics Act. This was the only really urgent matter in the 98 pages of Bill C-42. We needed just one page, because we have to meet the American requirements concerning the information airlines have to provide on passengers. These are American requirements.
Concerning Bill C-44, we have been told regulations would be provided, and we were supposed to get further explanations. The House leader of the Liberal Party told us, when he answered a question by the Bloc Quebecois, that he would table the regulation amendments or the draft of these amendments so we could study them in committee. We were supposed to get them last Friday, but we are still waiting. Tomorrow, the committee will examine Bill C-44, but with this Liberal government I am sure we will still not have these amendments.
This concludes this part of my remarks. I hope I get another chance to take the floor, because I intend to use all the time I am allotted to explain the defects in Bill C-42.