Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the transport minister on at least waking up the justice minister to his wonderful display of arm waving which was good.
First, I want to comment on his final comments with regard to airport traffic. I will move specifically to Bill C-55 in a moment. The minister said that airport traffic is back after September 11 and somehow that is a great feat by the government.
First, airport traffic is back because people already bought their tickets prior to April 1, so they did not have to pay the $24 tax. Second, people are booking their flights today for the summer to avoid paying the $24 tax and it is the travel season. Third, the vast majority of air carriers are having broad seat sales right now because they are scared of going under because the government is taxing them into the ground.
I rise on Bill C-55 which is an act to amend certain acts of Canada and to enact measures for implementing the biological and toxin weapons convention to enhance public safety. It is also known as the public security act.
Bill C-55 gives cabinet members acting alone outrageous and broad new powers with limited checks and balances. If these powers were exercised to their fullest possible extent, they could represent a grave threat to the notion of parliamentary democracy that Canadians hold so dearly.
We were glad that the Liberals withdrew their Bill C-42, but they seem to have missed the entire reason why so many members of the House and so many members of the public were exercised with concern about the problems of Bill C-42.
Specifically, the concerns that Canadians had with Bill C-42, which are still present in Bill C-55, are the capacity of cabinet ministers to invoke a number of interim order measures and the capacity for the minister of defence acting alone to create military security zones. Both of those aspects of Bill C-42 are alive and well in Bill C-55. It is because of those aspects that a number of Canadians will continue to have concerns about the bill and that the official opposition will oppose the bill and encourage all others to do so as well.
As I said, the government can still create a military security zone to protect, as the bill says, “property that is provided for the armed forces for the department and is situated outside a defence establishment”.
In the old bill the government could have declared an area like Kananaskis where the G-8 summit will be a military security zone. It still can in Bill C-55. All it has to do is put some military equipment like a jeep or a helicopter in the zone and they can therefore declare it a security zone under section 260.1(3) which reads:
A controlled access military zone may consist of an area of land or water, a portion of airspace, or a structure or part of one, surrounding a thing referred to in subsection (1) [basically equipment and personnel]...The zone automatically includes all corresponding airspace above, and water and land below, the earth's surface.
This power should not be in the sole, arbitrary hands of the minister of defence.
A recent poll has shown that 69% of Canadians see our federal political system as being corrupt. Canadians are unlikely to be thrilled by this legislation such as this, where the government grabs more unchecked power for ministers. At present the public's faith in democracy is tainted more than ever by the Liberal government's track record on things such as imposing a $24 air tax, despite the fact that air security at most airports has not been improved as the minister says and that the transport committee recommended against such an extreme airline killing measure.
Also, the government invoked closure to impose the legislation, Bill C-49, and which imposed the tax. These things do not build confidence with Canadians. The government also has a lack of respect for free votes in this place and the treatment of private members' bill. It has a lack of commitment to a democratically elected Senate. It has muzzled politically free speech for their own backbenchers. It has a lack of free votes allowed by Liberals in this place. There are also countless other examples and they do not build the confidence of Canadians.
The government should be building the confidence of Canadians in democracy and governance. Bill C-55 will only work to continue the downward spiral of public faith in the institution of governance.
Bill C-55 is a vast and comprehensive bill affecting some nine federal departments. It amends 20 federal statutes and implements in domestic law an international convention that Canada ratified back on March 26, 1975. That treaty is the biological and toxin weapons convention and it shows a stunning lack of vision that it has taken us a quarter of a century to finally make it part of our laws.
In times of trial lucky nations remember great leaders. The British remember Winston Churchill. His unbroken spirit strengthened British resolve during the darkest days of the second world war. Americans remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the president who led their nation to great victories across two different oceans at a time when freedom itself was at stake.
All those who are alive today know that President Bush, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Prime Minister Blair will fare similarly well with historians. As we struggle to deal with the aftermath of September 11, now roughly eight months ago, these three leaders have set the standard by which the world will judge political courage in a time of crisis in the years to come.
Those standards are tough. They mandate a committed ongoing and continuous fight against terrorism and the defence of our way of life, the rule of law, pluralism and democracy. Tougher still, they will require respect for diversity and understanding through dialogue so that in our zeal to protect the democratic Liberal values, which the western world so shares, we do not inadvertently diminish or deny that which we are striving to protect.
Finally and perhaps most important, those standards require firm, principled leadership. That leadership requires two very simple things: a clearly identified goal and a precise way of reaching it.
In the immediate aftermath of September 11 President Bush led. He set a goal of making America safe against further terrorist attacks and of restoring the confidence of Americans. He launched six different initiatives.
The first was the office of homeland security to deal with threats against American territory and appointed Vietnam veteran, former army ranger and former Pennsylvania governor, Tom Ridge as its director.
Second, he created a military campaign to fight terrorism abroad and involve America's allies in that campaign.
Third, he launched an aggressive worldwide campaign to identify and prosecute those who were responsible for the September 11 attacks.
Fourth, blocking of terrorist financing was a priority and access to international banking networks was fought.
Fifth, he launched a concerted diplomatic effort with America's allies to secure the co-operation of the United Nations Security Council, NATO and the Organization of American States in collectively fighting terrorism.
Sixth, he established a fund to help Afghan children, recognizing that they too were victims of the events of September 11.
Each of President Bush's initiatives were and are distinct and well designed, rather like the blades of a Swiss army knife. Each has a specific purpose but the six together are a powerful and comprehensive combination. Quite simply, they have been designed like a Swiss army knife, to work well together so as to be greater than the sum of their parts and like a Swiss army knife they are designed to get the job done.
If we think of President Bush's initiatives as a Swiss army knife, this government's attempts to deal with the aftermath of September 11 are rather like the tools we might find at the bottom of a box at a rummage sale. Some are good, some are missing pieces, some are quite beyond redemption and even the ones that work are not necessarily designed to work together.
Of all the governments on this continent, the Canadian federal government has by far the most legislative and administrative power. An arrogant Prime Minister can appoint his cabinet ministers and he can make them do his bidding or face political exile in the obscurity of the government backbenches. His decisions are supported by 170 plus Liberal voting machines. Their unquestioning support of every piece of government legislation gives the Prime Minister a degree of concentration of power unseen in other liberal democracies.
Given the vast powers of the Canadian Prime Minister, virtually any bold incisive solution was possible in response to September 11. Whatever measure, whichever regulation desired would have easily become a legal reality. Given such latitude, it is sad, perhaps even a bit frightening, that with respect to the public safety act this is the third time in three attempts that the Liberal government has dropped the ball.
When after September 11 Canadians clamored for a collective sense of security, the government increased taxes on air travellers. Today in reaction to polls showing that Canadians do not trust government, the federal Liberals offer up not accountability but a power grab for the cabinet.
Bill C-55 is another omnibus bill that the government has tabled since September 11 and the tragedy therein. The first was Bill C-36 which the government introduced on October 15, over a month after the tragedy and which amended over a dozen statutes and added a new one.
Bill C-55, the public safety act, is just as cumbersome and every bit as complex as Bill C-36. Indeed this bill's complexity and the ham-fisted way incompatible themes have been duct taped together into one bill is obviously a sign of a government unable to and arguably incapable of leading in a time of crisis.
On November 20, 2001 at about 5.25 in the evening the government House leader sought unanimous consent to suspend the standing orders and introduce a government bill at 2 p.m. the next afternoon. The bill, “An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety”, would be complex and a briefing to staff would be offered. After two months of hibernation on aviation security legislation, there was now a flicker of hope that our government would finally react.
At 2 p.m. on November 21, 2001 the promised bill was nowhere in sight. Last minute problems delayed its introduction. Bill C-42 was introduced the following day on November 22 and contained some 19 parts dealing with everything from money laundering to the implementation of a 1977 treaty on biotoxins. A miniature section on aviation security was thrown in for measured optics.
With the same deft touch that marked the bill's introduction on Wednesday, November 28, within a week of its first reading in the House, the government House leader was again on his feet to state that unanimous consent had been required and obtained to delete clause 5 which dealt with section 4.83 of the Aeronautics Act regarding the provision of information. The clause was to be reintroduced in Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, which was ordered for consideration at second reading a mere two sitting days later.
Examination showed that the clause which was deleted had been written to comply with section 115 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act which had been signed by President Bush days prior. In short, airlines would not be able to fly into the United States after January 18 unless they provided certain information to the U.S. customs service.
There was one problem. The clause allowing Canadian airlines to comply with the U.S. legislation was buried deep in a massive omnibus bill and there was no hope of getting the omnibus bill passed before January 18, 2002. The government took the only possible option. It took the useful clause out of Bill C-42 and introduced it as Bill C-44, a one clause bill which was passed in the House on December 6 and received royal assent on December 18.
The Liberals' stunning mishandling of the public safety act is underlined by the fact that more than five months after Bill C-42 was introduced we are discussing and debating a virtually identical bill with most of the same problems. The government seems to have learned nothing.
Bill C-55 addresses a number of totally unrelated ideas. It should be broken up. Just as it made sense last November to put clauses of Bill C-42 into a separate bill, Bill C-44, it now makes sense to break Bill C-55 into separate bills so they might in turn get the committee's scrutiny. This is what our system of government was designed for. It is what Canadians expect. It would allow the various committees of the House to study the relevant parts of the bill instead of sending the entire bill to a single committee, in this case the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.
Bill C-55 deals with money laundering and the implementation of a 1977 treaty on biotoxins, topics which would hardly be considered the domain and responsibility of a transport committee. Having said that, I will deal in specific terms with the sections of the bill that deal truly with transport. It is our intention to give each of our party's critics the opportunity to speak to the parts of Bill C-55 that would affect the departments they monitor. It is also our intention to allow our justice critic the hon. member for Provencher to address the parts of the bill that would give ministers the power to make interim orders with respect to unforeseen threats in their departments.
I will address the key areas with respect to transport. The first is the apportionment of security costs. As members opposite may notice, this is not dealt with in Bill C-55. That is part of the problem. Bill C-42 which Bill C-55 replaces was also called the public safety act. It contained a clause which would have introduced a new subsection to the Aeronautics Act. Proposed subsection 4.75(1) read:
The Minister may apportion the costs of any security measure between the persons to whom it is directed, or by whom it is carried out, and any person or persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, would reasonably be expected to benefit from the security measure.
In the context of passenger screening this might have apportioned costs among the flying public to whom it was directed, the airlines and airport authorities who carried it out, and any person who could have reasonably benefited from it. Given that the September 11 victims were mostly in office towers and on the ground, this might well have been the general taxpayer.
These sentiments were expressed in recommendation 14 of the report of the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations, “Building a Transportation Security Culture: Aviation as the Starting Point”, which was released on Friday, December 7. I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport is here because the report which tabled 15 recommendations on airport and airline security was supported unanimously at committee.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, the hon. member of parliament from Chicoutimi, said the government should not impose a $24 tax and put it all on the shoulders of passengers. He said we should spread out the costs. The view was supported unanimously but the government rejected it. It rejected its own parliamentary secretary and the hard work of the committee.
The recommendation I am referring to reads:
All stakeholders--including airports, air carriers, airline passengers and/or residents of Canada--contribute to the cost of improved aviation security. In particular, the amounts currently spent by airports and air carriers should be continued--
They are not now continued by law. The recommendation goes on:
--with appropriate adjustments for inflation. A ticket surtax could also be implemented, and any funding shortfalls could be financed out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The initial apportionment of security costs was a good idea. It was in the spirit of what the transport committee had recommended. I was surprised the clause was not included in the new public safety act Bill C-55. After all, we read constantly in the press that the Liberals want to listen to Canadians and their concerns.
When I heard WestJet was cutting 13 weekly flights between Edmonton and Calgary and dropping its Victoria-Kelowna service as a result of the oppressive impact of the Liberal government's air tax on short haul carriers, I hoped the Liberals were listening. I thought maybe they were having a change of heart. Then I noticed the apportionment of costs clause was gone from Bill C-55. If Bill C-42 had not been withdrawn and had been reintroduced in virtually its original form with only a number change, the apportionment of security costs would have ended up being debated and scrutinized by the transport committee which had recommended an apportionment of security costs model in the first place.
Given that the model was rejected by the finance committee after the Liberals who supported it were removed and by the Liberal voting machine which heeded the Prime Minister's orders on Bill C-49, the government did not want the apportionment of security costs clause going back before the committee. Since it was the only way to avoid having such a clause debated by committee the government pulled the bill, deleted the clause, renumbered the bill and reintroduced it as a brand new piece of legislation in Bill C-55. After all this government members wonder why 69% of Canadians think federal politics is corrupt.
The second transport related clause of Bill C-55 that I will address is the new anti-air rage provision. Clause 17 of Bill C-55 would introduce a new section to the Aeronautics Act, section 7.41. In many ways the section would build on concepts contained in the 1963 Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft which Canada ratified on November 7, 1969, and the 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation which Canada ratified on June 19, 1972.
Essentially these treaties make interference with cockpit crew an international offence. Clause 17 of Bill C-55 would make it an offence punishable by a $100,000 fine and/or up to five years in jail to interfere with any crew member in the performance of his or her duties or anyone who is following the instruction of a crew member. We in our party fully support clause 17 of Bill C-55 and applaud its introduction by the government.
Clause 5 of Bill C-55 deals with the type of information an airline or other transport authority may provide to authorities. It would modify sections 4.7 and 4.8 of the Aeronautics Act. Under clause 5 of Bill C-55 the new subsection 4.82(4) of the Aeronautics Act would read:
The Commissioner, or a person designated under subsection (2), may, for the purposes of transportation security or the identification of persons for whom a warrant has been issued, require any air carrier or operator of an aviation reservation system to provide a person designated under subsection (2), within the time and in the manner specified by the person imposing the requirement, with the information set out in the schedule
(a) that is in the air carrier's or operator's control concerning the persons on board or expected to be on board an aircraft for any flight specified by the person imposing the requirement; or
(b) that is in the air carrier's or operator's control, or that comes into their control within 30 days after the requirement is imposed on them, concerning any particular person specified by the person imposing the requirement.
The modified subsection 4.82(5) of the Aeronautics Act would enable the RCMP to share this information with CSIS. These powers, correctly used and perhaps modified by committee, might give Canadian intelligence authorities access to the same type of information the Americans have in their Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System or CAPPS. It is imperative that this be the case.
For years Canadians have bragged about having the world's longest undefended border. We have had access to America like no other nation. Those days are over because of the government's mismanagement since September 11. Armed national guardsmen now protect the previously undefended border. That single fact, breaking with years of tradition, is a damning indictment of the government's post-September 11 record. By guarding the border the Americans are sending Canada a simple, four word message: “We don't trust you”.
Sunday's 60 Minutes report may help convince some of the voting machines opposite of the urgent need to act. We face a choice as a nation. With regard to the new fortress America we can either be inside looking out or outside looking in. We are on probation. It matters greatly what we do in the coming months.
It is critical that we build computer system like the one America has, the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System or CAPPS. This would show we were serious about protecting our border from terrorism and those who would use our tremendous support of legitimate refugees as a cover for criminal acts. A cornerstone of CAPPS is getting information from airlines. Bill C-55's modifications to subsections 4.82(4) and 4.82(5) of the Aeronautics Act are a step in the right direction.
It may come as a surprise to members of the House that airlines maintain two types of files on their passengers. First, they maintain a passenger name record or PNR. This is the file airlines create when they reserve a seat for a passenger. It contains information such as the passenger's name, address, phone number and form of payment. It also contains reservation information such as boarding city, destination, connections, flight numbers, dates, stops and seat assignment. Based on this information the manifest is prepared for each flight showing who is sitting where. Routinely at present this is the information handed over to authorities when there is an airline accident.
Second, airlines maintain the APIS or advanced passenger information system data. It includes five fields: passenger name; date of birth; citizenship, nationality and document issuing country; gender; and passport or document number. Other than the passenger's name this information is not normally collected by the airlines. Unless passports are machine readable much of the information must be entered manually. For this reason airlines only collect it when they must provide it to immigration authorities.
The U.S. currently requires this type of information for U.S. bound Asian passengers transiting through Vancouver under the Canada-U.S. memorandum of understanding which allows such passengers to go through U.S. customs without first passing through Canadian customs. It is not immediately clear whether the modified subsections 4.82(4) and 4.82(5) of the Aeronautics Act would apply only to PNR information which airlines normally have in their reservations systems or also to APIS information which may be collected as passengers board flights overseas destined for Canada.
In the U.S. the new aviation and transportation security act mandates that the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration require air carriers to expand the application of the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System or CAPPS to all passengers regardless of baggage. In addition, passengers selected under the system are subject to additional security measures before boarding including checks of carry on baggage and of their person. Both the PNR and APIS information is sent electronically to the U.S. customs supercomputer in Newington, Virginia where the CAPPS system enables the passenger profiling that keeps America's skies safe.
The U.S. is actively fighting a war on terrorism. It is walking the walk, unlike the Liberal government. Given that page 95 of the budget allocates $76 million to improving co-ordination and information sharing among government agencies, I call on the government to follow America's lead and send both PNR and APIS information to a single agency so Canada can create its own CAPPS system to enhance intelligence gathering on would-be terrorists. This would keep Canadians safe in the air and on the ground. More importantly, it would help restore America's trust in Canada's commitment to fighting terrorism as opposed to merely talking about fighting terrorism which is all we have seen from the government. It would be nice if the government would make the real legislative and budgetary commitments to send that signal. With a view to enabling this type of information gathering the Canadian Alliance will be tabling amendments at committee.
I conclude by calling on the government to divide Bill C-55 so the appropriate standing committees may give the bill proper examination. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “that” and substituting the following:
“this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-55, An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, since the Bill reflects several principles unrelated to transport and government operations rendering it impractical for the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations to properly consider it”.