Remote Sensing Space Systems Act

An Act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Pierre Pettigrew  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

March 5th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you.

My thanks to the witnesses for being here. I have a bit of déjà vu in reverse, recalling Bill C-25, when I was parliamentary secretary, to see Mr. Byers and Mr. Staples again on this.

I guess I'm scratching my head wondering whether this is the best committee or the best vehicle in which to raise the concerns about this particular sale.

We are looking at it from the narrow perspective of the Canada Investment Act, but I'm concerned more abundantly about Bill C-25, the guarantees that may or may not have been in there. Mr. Byers and I would not have anticipated—though perhaps we should have—the future developments that could take place, the buy-out. But I do recall one thing that has not been raised by any of the witnesses at this point, and I'd like to get your comment on it.

Shutter control remains the authority or the purview of the Governor in Council, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, all of which is in the act and the undertaking. I am wondering if any of you could expand on the undertaking and agreement, or on what might be a question of assignment should this company find itself sold to another company. The Canadian government retains some authority from the limited perspective of shutter control, if I recall the legislation well enough.

It seems to me that the deal cannot be a sale without the covenants that were guaranteed and agreed to by the Canadian government when, in 2005, the satellite was conceived and the legislation passed.

Mr. Byers?

March 5th, 2008 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

If I could just interrupt for a second, something that I had brought to the attention of the committee the other day was a press release from the government when this satellite was launched on December 14. It said that launching the satellite strengthened the government's ability to protect our north, and that it “...sends a clear message to the other nations of the world that, after thirteen years of Liberal neglect, Canada is once again serious about protecting our Arctic sovereignty”. So it does seem ironic now that this technology is being sold.

My question is whether we can we still get this satellite when we need it. Does Bill C-25 protect us in that regard?

March 5th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses for coming here today on fairly short notice.

Mr. Byers, my first question is to you. You talked about the importance of being able to get the satellite when we need it, and my understanding is that this was covered under Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, which was designed largely with RADARSAT-2 in mind. Clearly, the government in 2005 felt that controlling this technology was a matter of national security. So what has changed, and are these provisions no longer important?

March 5th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Former President, Canadian Space Agency, As an Individual

Marc Garneau

Yes. Let me first of all correct something, or not correct, but clarify something you said previously, which was that in 1998, MDA was a wholly owned subsidiary of Orbital Sciences.

I just want to make the point, for the benefit of the committee, that the MDA of 1998 was not the same-sized MDA that exists today. In particular, the considerable manufacturing capability of MDA, which was used heavily in building RADARSAT-2, which is located in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, was not part of the MDA of 1998 and is an extremely important element in the current space systems package we're talking about selling.

The RADARSAT program, of course, started way back in 1998, even before I was there. Just to put it in context, the United States was initially unhappy that Canada was going to work this public-private partnership whereby, ultimately, the control of the satellite would go to a Canadian commercial company. They felt that there was a threat that the data might fall into the wrong hands if a commercial company were marketing the imagery, as opposed to it being under the control of the government. And that, of course, led to Bill C-25, I believe it was called, which was passed a couple of years ago by Parliament.

Another significant thing, though, is that the United States said you cannot, in building RADARSAT-2, use a U.S., an American, bus. A satellite bus, if I can use the analogy to a body, is the torso. It's not the arms or the legs or the head, which are the other parts of the satellite. It's just the torso. The bus is central to all satellites. Consequently, in the end, MDA had to go to Italy to get the bus for RADARSAT-2. This is an example of the United States not being entirely comfortable with Canada proceeding with the RADARSAT-2 program. However, we did go ahead with it and successfully launched it.

February 26th, 2008 / 12:13 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The motion reads:

That the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology recommend that the Minister of Industry, Jim Prentice, utilise his discretion under the Investment Canada Act to halt the proposed sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. to Alliant Techsystems until such time that a full hearing into the sale is conducted by this Committee.

My rationale for this is that the minister has the ability to okay this sale under the Investment Canada Act. There are many questions that need to be raised about the sale, some of which perhaps the minister can answer, some of which perhaps others should be answering. They are questions related to the investment that Canada has made into the technology that's being sold. We've spent hundreds of millions of Canadian tax dollars in developing a RADARSAT technology.

There are questions about how this is going to be used. Will Canada get the access from this technology that it was intended to get under Bill C-25, passed by a previous government, concerning the operation of remote sensing space systems? There are questions about the company that this technology is being sold to or that the business is being sold to and what that means in terms of our compliance with international treaties, such as the land mine treaty. Are there other international conventions that may be affected by that? We've already been told by other members of this committee that the proceedings of the Investment Canada Act are confidential, for the most part, so we won't necessarily get answers to these questions. We'd like to know about the impact on employment. There are 1,900 employees in this company. What will it mean under ITAR? If this technology, if this process, comes under ITAR, will Canadians be able to work on this technology or will it in fact have to shift to the U.S.?

There are a number of concerns about the sale, the technology, the economic impact, and the time factor. The minister has 30 days once an application has been submitted. I understand the application for sale has been submitted. He may enact an extension, but we don't know if he's going to do that. I'd like to know why the need for a sale when this is technology that was designed primarily to provide surveillance of the land mass of Canada in the Arctic and surrounding maritime areas.

There are many questions that need to be answered. The fundamental rationale is that the minister could very quickly okay this deal and then it's too late for us to ask these questions. If we have concerns or if we believe it's not in the interests of Canadians, it's too late for us to act.

Access to InformationOral Questions

November 14th, 2005 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, absolutely nothing. The reality is that it is the Privy Council that led an unprecedented release of documents to Mr. Justice Gomery. It is the Privy Council that was absolutely forthcoming with the committee when it came to Bill C-25, giving all manner of documents.

It is the Prime Minister who led the proactive disclosure program that is putting more information on public view than ever before.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 5:29 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-25.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour and pleasure to follow the member for Burnaby—Douglas. He laid before the House some of his concerns and the concerns of others which were raised in a very sincere and thorough fashion by the critic for our caucus in this area, the member for Halifax. She still is very concerned that the government has not listened to the concerns brought to the table by her. These are not her own concerns. These are the concerns of people who she spends a lot of time and energy to be in contact with as she does her job as critic in this place.

I do not think there is anybody in my experience so far who does such a comprehensive job of being in contact with and connecting with those individuals, organizations and groups that follow these kinds of initiatives by government in a very close and concerned fashion. They spoke to her very clearly about what they saw as good in this bill. Most important, they spoke to her about some of its shortcomings and failings.

Alas, at the end of the day the member for Halifax came to the conclusion that the government had not listen. Our experience in this place over the last 16 months is that the government does not listen very often. The Liberals were sent a message by the electorate in the election of June of last year that they wanted things to be different. They wanted this place to be run differently. They wanted more collaboration and cooperation. They wanted more inclusion and discussion with not only members, but with people in the larger society. They wanted a minority government to work differently. They wanted the government to move quickly away from a position of majority and having its way. They wanted the government to drive an agenda, no matter what. They wanted it to start listening, incorporating and taking seriously some of the very important perspectives, thoughts and ideas from all sides of the House, including people across the country. However, time and time again in this place and in committee often that this is not the case.

Although, there have been some instances where we have been able to get some things done with the government. When that happens, it is so irregular and rare that it becomes a very momentous occasion in the life of the country. I speak specifically of the better balanced budget that was passed last June before we rose. Out of some sense of desperation and its wont to hang on to power, the government listened to the NDP when it brought forward some of its concerns with the budget, in particular the corporate tax breaks which had not been raised during the election. We felt they were not in keeping with the real needs of Canadians. Therefore, we brought to the table some alternatives, options and ways to which the government might respond constructively, and it did in that instance.

We are disappointed that the government was not willing to do the same thing with Bill C-25. It was not willing to sit down with the member for Halifax and others who had some very sincere and genuine concerns about the bill. We might have found ourselves in a different position of being able to support the legislation.

We are here to get things done. We are here as a caucus not to be obstructionists, not to continually be adversarial and not to be critical all the time. We are here to find a way to hammer out legislation in committees, or informally at round tables or over dinners perhaps. We want to find ways to put in place bills, rules, regulations, new initiatives that would serve all who call themselves Canadian citizens and who have some concerns. They want to build a nation that is cognizant, proud and protective of its sovereignty, while at the same time work cooperatively with its partners and neighbours.

This is a very delicate, serious, difficult and painstaking exercise, something that we in the New Democratic caucus have had a lot of experience with over the years. We have tried to bring our perspective and intelligence to this place. We have honed an ability to find ways, places and means to have our thoughts and perspectives heard and considered. At the end of the day, in some instances, they are taken into account become part of bills.

However, in this instance that has not been the case. Therefore, we stand today in opposition to the bill, not because we want to but because we have been unable to find an openness in the government to accept some of our suggestions.

On one hand, we recognize the bill has ramifications in a number of different ways. One is the question of ownership. The government has made a significant investment in technology of which we should have more ownership. With that ownership, we should have more control and more say in how it will be used and how the information gathered will be used. Turning over the ownership of something we have invested in so generously to the private sector will not take us down that road. There are no guarantees in the private sector where something like this will ultimately end up.

At the beginning we may have confidence in the private sector enterprise that takes over this delicate piece of technology. Who knows in a week, or a month, or six months or a year where the ownership of that technology will end up. There are no guarantees, unless someone can tell me differently, that this important new development will not be sold to some foreign interest, an interest whose only interest is the bottom line. The valuable information that has been collected could be sold. We have some real concern about that.

Canada has seen that happen. We have had governments, which lean to the right, involve the private sector in the public affairs of our country. We know from experience that this does not work. Information has disappeared, or has been sold or has ended up in the wrong hands. At the end of the day we have paid a big price for that. Individuals have paid a big price. Our society has paid a big price in terms of our privacy and our concern about where our information goes. We have sincerely and seriously put that concern on the table over the last number of months.

The member for Halifax has worked so very hard on this. She has tried diligently to get the government to listen to the concerns she has brought to the table on behalf of the organizations with which she is in contact. However, we have been unable to get a positive response that would give us the confidence that the government understands those concerns or will do anything about it.

People need to understand that our government has invested a significant sum of money in a piece of technology which cutting edge, some of the best that is available. Why would we not own that? Why would we not continue to retain control over that, the functions it performs and the information it gathers and with whom that information will be shared? I am concerned about information going into foreign hands.

That leads us then to the question of protecting our own interests, our national security and our sovereignty. How will these play out? We are not convinced that the government has really thought this through. We have not been given satisfactory answers. We have not been made to feel confident that our interests, national security and sovereignty will be protected in this piece of work. This is more relevant now than it has ever been, particularly since 9/11.

The new focus now is on terrorism and security. People are concerned about who is coming in or going out of their country. People want to know what action their country will take in response to the fear that has been generated and that so often drives what we do these days, sometimes in inappropriate fashion.

Where we might decide to do something in a particular way in response to terrorism and in response to the whole question of security, another country like the United States of America might respond differently. We will be sharing this technology. Who will have access to the information generated by this technology? If a country enters into an activity in response to terrorism, or some security issue or some fear that has been raised, do we have any say or control over how information will be shared? Do we have any control over it being used inappropriately?

We only have to look at our difference of opinion with our neighbours to the south on the question of the Iraq war. The United States went into that war without the sanction of the United Nations. We felt that was not an appropriate thing to do. Canada chose a different path. In choosing that path, we kept to ourselves the information that we needed in order to defend that decision and to do what we felt was appropriate, given what was happening in the world.

If we set technology up now that will gather information that could be taken by another country like the United States and used in an inappropriate way as far as our government is concerned, how does that affect our sovereignty? How does that affect our ability to go our own way or to have our own view? How does that affect the kind of change we feel needs to happen if we are to see the world evolve in the manner that we as Canadians feel it should so we can maximize the impact that we can have as a country on international affairs?

How could we as a sovereign country interact with other sovereign countries? How could we as a sovereign country intervene in another sovereign country's affairs in order to protect human rights for example? How would this affect the organizations from which would take leadership or to which we belong? How would this affect the information we share with others?

Anybody who exercises any leadership in the world today knows that one of the most important elements of leadership is information. If we have information and some other country does not, then we go to the table as a sovereign nation from a position of strength. If we go to the table knowing that the other country has more information or information that we do not know about, then we go from a different position. We would not have the same potential for impact and change that we otherwise would.

Those are some of the things that we as a party are struggling with as we try to participate out there in the international realms of the world, with the new technology coming on stream. The private sector is not going to put up the initial seed money for this kind of technology to be developed. It is usually countries that do that kind of thing, countries that see their own interests served in the long haul by making this kind of investment.

In my view, it is certainly problematic to turn it over almost immediately to the private sector and, by doing so, to make the information it will gather and the effect it will have available to other countries that may not agree with our approach to what should be happening out there. This is something that we need to spend more time thinking about. It is something on which we need to do more work in seeing this through and finding out just exactly what the concerns are.

This is a huge leap of faith. We are being asked to take a huge leap of faith at a time when there are not many others doing so in the world we live in today. We are being asked to believe that the private sector will use the information gathered in the best interests of our country and our citizens and in the best interests of our international relationships at a time when we have seen over and over again, and recently, that the private sector is not always correct.

When it comes to ethics and how private sector companies operate, how they look after our investments, what they do with the money and the information they receive and the business they deliver, they are not always correct. In this country we all know about Nortel and some of the big scandals that have happened out there with regard to some of our huge multinational corporations.

It should give all of us reason to step back and take a sober second look. I served in the provincial legislature at Queen's Park and I remember when Mike Harris came to power. He talked about the discipline of the private sector. He said we needed to impose on government the discipline of the private sector. That was all fine until one day we woke up and read the paper and found out about Bre-X. Bre-X became a red flag for us in terms of the discipline of the private sector.

There are other examples. Martha Stewart got herself in a little difficulty because she walked the line and stepped over it ever so gently at one point in terms of whose interests she was serving.

That is the discipline of the private sector. Should we be taking this leap of faith and handing over this very valuable and important piece of technology to the private sector?

For example, should we be turning that information over to the American government? That is what will happen with this information. We in this country have had the experience of entering into agreements with the United States on all kinds of fronts, most particularly the free trade agreement and North American Free Trade Agreement. Time and time again we have been disappointed when the United States, in its own best interests, made decisions not in keeping with either the spirit or the law of those agreements, to the detriment of this country.

How could anyone suggest for a second that we should, with this new initiative we are working on putting in place, simply turn over that information without any strings attached? How can we simply turn this information over on a handshake or on goodwill or, as I said, in a leap of faith, when we have been disappointed so many times by the United States in terms of agreements we have signed with the Americans, agreements that they did not honour at the end of the day?

I look at my own community of Sault Ste. Marie and at northern Ontario and the people who labour up in those parts of the country. I look at the effect that the fight we are having right now with the United States of America on softwood lumber has had on them. The fact is that we bring that debate, that disagreement, to the courts time after time, and the courts decide in our favour, yet the United States continues to act as if it did not matter. It is as if American law trumps our law and trumps the North American Free Trade Agreement law. The United States gets its way.

We have a concern about that for this piece of technology. We have a concern about the information it will gather and the impact it will have in terms of what the United States will in fact do with it. So far we are not satisfied. Nothing in this agreement gives us the confidence or a sense of acceptance that the Americans will in fact live up to this.

In my own backyard, we have farmers who got into the cattle raising business over a period of years because they were told that through the signing of these free trade agreements they could move their beef into the United States. Slowly but surely we integrated our industry with the American industry and we ended up with less and less capacity to process beef here. With the BSE that showed itself a couple of years ago, we saw again the attitude of the United States to Canada, its trading partner, its neighbour, its best friend. When the chips were down, the Americans just shut the border down. They would not let us ship our beef.

I have talked to farmers in my own riding, in east Algoma, close to Sault Ste. Marie. Because of that decision by the United States, which we did not seem to be able to get overturned—the Americans themselves went to court to block our entry into their country—we saw the family farm, which is so fragile these days and so at risk—

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the thing that makes me fearful is just the process. We heard from many witnesses, individuals and organizations at the committee and their concerns were not addressed by the legislation or by the amendments to the legislation. They were not addressed in the original legislation and they were not addressed by the amendment process. Eighteen of the amendments proposed by the member for Halifax, the NDP representative on the committee, were not accepted.

All of that testimony went for naught. All of the concerns, even the concerns of RADARSAT International that were raised about the vagueness of the legislation in key areas did not get addressed through that part of the legislative process. That raises a serious question about the legislation and about the commitment of the government around the legislation. For me that is the most serious failing and that causes me great concern about Bill C-25.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak in this debate on Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems. This is an important piece of legislation before the House and one in which the NDP's foreign affairs critic, the member for Halifax, has taken a very keen interest. She participated in the various discussions in committee on this legislation.

The summary of the bill states:

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.

It is clear that this is important legislation and covers an important piece of technology that is very sensitive in our world these days.

There are some very important issues that must be raised in relation to this bill. At second reading the NDP did not take a clear position on the bill. We wanted to hear what the discussion was at committee. We wanted to hear from various organizations and individuals about what they saw was important in this legislation, although we did understand the basic underlying need for the legislation. We agreed with some aspects of the bill, but the vagueness of the language in this bill raises alarm bells about how the government intends to use the legislation.

The member for Halifax was impressed by the many arguments and witnesses who appeared before the committee. She believes that had the government truly listened to the many witnesses who raised serious concerns regarding things like transparency, accountability and the privacy of citizens, the NDP would not be voting against Bill C-25 at third reading.

One key aspect of that is the privacy of citizens. Everyone will notice that when I read out the summary of the bill it outlined many of the causes of concern that this bill was intended to address, but the privacy of individual Canadian citizens was not part of that list. We think that is a serious omission from the legislation.

I want to be clear that RADARSAT-2 is a commercially owned satellite. It is billed by its manufacturer, MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates, as incorporating state of the art technology, featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world. That is a pretty dramatic claim and technology that we understand is not over-embellished. This satellite will do what it is billed as capable of doing.

We also want to be clear that the Canadian taxpayers have funded approximately 75% of the development of the satellite. That is $450 million of Canadian tax dollars that were invested in the satellite that will be 100% commercially owned.

I know that raises other serious concerns. What is the involvement of the Canadian Space Agency or why is there not any involvement of the Canadian Space Agency in the control and development of this satellite? I know other opposition members have also raised that concern with regard to RADARSAT-2.

We agree with the government that Canadians need to be reassured that information collected by RADARSAT-2 would not be used against our national interest and that is why we agree with the overall necessity of this legislation. However, as I said, we are concerned with the way it has been presented.

We want to make sure that the purchasers of RADARSAT-2 imagery are subject to licensing requirements but within that we also believe some clarity was desperately needed. To that end, the NDP put forward 18 amendments that would have helped clarify the intention of this bill and the requirements of the use of this technology and the information that it provides.

In committee, the NDP proposed that we define vague and unaccountable terms like “international obligations” and “international relations” more clearly and definitively. The NDP supports the government in having priority access to RADARSAT-2 images, but the vagueness of the two terms “international obligations” and “international relations” leaves the door open so wide that apparently even RADARSAT International, which was consulted several years before parliamentarians had access to the bill, requested that these terms be better defined. When RADARSAT International believes that there is a vagueness in the legislation and a vagueness in the proposal it behooves us to be very clear and respond to that concern.

The NDP, as part of our work and our critic's work at the committee, suggested that this required cabinet decisions and not solely ministerial decisions on issues where international obligations and Canada's national interest collide. We wanted to make sure that these decisions around these important issues would be taken at the highest possible and not by individual ministers.

The NDP also proposed that the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of International Cooperation have the same privileges as the Minister of Foreign Affairs since the majority of RADARSAT-2 images would be used in cases of national disasters at home and around the world.

We wanted to make sure that the ministers who had direct responsibility in the situation of responding to a natural disaster had equal call on the information provided by this technology and that they did not have to work through another department an all that it implies.

The NDP also suggested that we subject the sale of RADARSAT-2 images to export control guidelines to ensure that images are not sold to nations that work against Canada's best interest. I think that is a clear and straightforward suggestion and for the life of me I do not understand why it would not have met with some success at committee.

The NDP also put forward an amendment at committee which did not go forward that a detailed annual report on corporations that violate controls on the use of RADARSAT-2 images and the government's effort on an annual basis to prosecute violators be required. In other words, we were pressing for better accountability and transparency on matters of national importance.

Given the sensitivity, the ability of this technology to zero in literally on the everyday activities of Canadians and indeed people around the world, I think accountability and transparency given the national importance and national interest in this was desperately required.

It is important to note that RADARSAT International has sold imagery from RADARSAT-1 to the U.S. military. This information may have been used by the United States in its war in Iraq. I think that is a concern that many Canadians have. This is a war that most Canadians do not support and we want to make sure that Canadian technology is not being used to support the illegal war in Iraq. If the legislation does not address these kinds of issues then it is severely flawed.

Canadians deserve to have an ironclad assurance that the government approved sale of RADARSAT-2 imagery will not be sold to the U.S. for war, for promoting war or for any other military purpose that Canadians do not support. I think this is the bottom line with many Canadians. We do not want to participate in any way in an illegal war like the one that is currently being fought in Iraq.

It is worrisome that the government also saw an obvious link that one can make to the use of RADARSAT-2 as part of the U.S. ballistic missile system. It raised this directly. It is no wonder that the first words out of the mouth of departmental officials were words assuring us that there was no connection between RADARSAT-2 and missile defence.

It is interesting that this concern was the first issue raised by departmental officials when they appeared before the committee to discuss the legislation. It goes to show why we need absolute clarity and detailed assurance within the legislation that this RADARSAT-2 technology would not be used as part of the U.S. ballistic missile system, as part of the star wars proposals that come out of the United States.

Canadians have also been extremely, utterly and absolutely clear that they do not want any part of the star wars program.

The NDP also urged the government that it must be clear in the House and in committee when it states in the priority access clause of Bill C-25 that such access is warranted if “the minister believes on reasonable grounds it is desirable for the conduct of international relations or in the performance of Canada's international obligations”. Those were the terms that were not defined sufficiently to allow us the ability of supporting the legislation.

I mentioned earlier the privacy of citizens. Given the ability of this technology to zero in on individual activities and on individual locations within the space of about a metre and half, I think it is really important that Canadians be assured that their privacy is a high priority within the legislation but there is not a clear delineation of that in the legislation.

A little while ago a colleague from the Bloc Québécois raised the whole question of foreign ownership and whether technology like this should remain 100% under Canadian control. That is an important concern and one that should have been addressed as well in the legislation.

Unfortunately, in working this bill through the parliamentary process and through the committee process, the government chose not to work constructively with opposition members on the committee. In fact, apparently some government members even objected strongly to holding hearings on the bill, which I think is very troublesome. Given the absolute importance of the legislation, the strong implications for privacy and for participation in military actions, I cannot imagine why any government member would try to block holding hearings and hearing from people who know this technology, who know its capacity and who have opinions and testimony to offer about the legislation. Thankfully, that did not carry the day.

Unfortunately, however, a lot of that testimony was ignored by the government, especially when the member for Halifax put some of those concerns into amendments to this legislation. They were turned down and did not go forward, so a lot of that important testimony was ignored.

Some of that behaviour just goes to confirm our concerns about the bill. It goes to show that those concerns perhaps are justified and that there is more going on here than meets the eye. We want to make sure that there is transparency and the attempts to block transparency, even in the discussions on the bill, certainly do not make us rest any easier about the legislation.

The government's refusal to take into account the advice of experts before who repeatedly expressed concerns with the vagueness of the legislation, the lack of transparency and accountability, and the exclusion of the Ministers of the Environment and International Cooperation from having any priority access to images unless they ask the permission of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to act on their behalf, is a very serious concern. That is a bottom line for the NDP. We have many concerns but those things form our bottom line and lead us to not support the legislation at this reading. The NDP will be voting against the legislation.

It is important legislation. It is important technology and very sensitive technology, and the NDP, after the process that we have gone through in the House of Commons and in committee, remain concerned about the legislation. We see many questions unanswered and still much vagueness in the bill which is less than helpful in the long run for Canadians.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

Mr. Speaker, minus the facial hair, I did have a past existence as somewhat of an expert on the matter of weather. I still do as weather is still an issue in my riding.

I had the honour of meeting RADARSAT during the genesis of it. I was astounded by the technology of it for many reasons. It provided us with far better images and clearer technology that allowed us to be in the weather game in a much better way. It allowed for early warning systems to advance our cause.

As weathermen will tell us, the greatest tool for them is not necessarily a finger in the air or a weather vane or a weather balloon. The greatest tool is a satellite. It is able to do more than just tell us the weather. It also can give us a gauge of our climate, which is of grave concern to not just all Canadians but everyone around the world.

RADARSAT-2 provides us with a far clearer image than what we had before and it allows us to assess situations as they become more imminent, such as the hurricane of which my hon. colleague spoke. With this new technology, the benefits of it far outweigh anything that someone may bring up for nefarious reasons. This is one for the environment. This is one to gauge our climate. It affects our children and everybody in the world.

This bill would help us get closer to the goal of being a contributor internationally. As Canadians, we have contributed scientifically and technologically. I urge the rest of my colleagues in the House to pass Bill C-25 bill to advance the cause not just for Canada but internationally as well.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

Mr. Speaker, during committee review of the bill some hon. members sought changes to incorporate the protection of unspecified provincial interest in the bill. One of these amendments serves as a point of additional clarification. I speak of the addition of clause 4(3)(c) which adds that “the interests of the provinces are protected”, when the responsible minister must weigh whether to grant an exemption from the act or any person, remote sensing space systems or data. Even without the phrase we may rest assured that provincial interests would have been given full consideration, but if a more explicit expression is needed to provide reassurance then so be it.

As an hon. colleague elaborated on September 30, the responsible minister is granted the power of exemption under the act for several reasons, one being to deal with competing jurisdictions laying claim to the same remote sensing space system. A private remote sensing space system controlled by Canadian persons or operated from within Canada would either need a licence granted under section 8 or an exemption order issued. Given that Canadians could operate from a foreign jurisdiction, which may want to licence the system under its own laws, Canada needs this power to release Canadians from obligations under the proposed act where appropriate.

It was successfully argued during the review of Bill C-25 by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade that the responsible minister would naturally factor into a licensing decision the issue of whether a clarification of section 8(4)(c) had to be specified within the licence to ensure that the provinces had access to data sensed by a Canadian licensed satellite.

The government accepted an amendment for section 4 in this regard. The amendment clarifies that the minister would ensure that the provinces had secure access to data gathered over their territory, pursuant to Canada being a sensed state as understood in the UN Principles concerning the Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space. This would apply both to a satellite operated and licensed from Canada and to satellites controlled from other countries by Canadian operators.

In the latter case, a foreign jurisdiction seeking to license a satellite controlled by Canadians in that jurisdiction would have to honour the relevant UN Principles before the minister responsible would agree to release the Canadian operators of their obligations under the act. In this way the provinces of Canada can be fully assured of access for data sensed over their own territory.

On the issue of data archiving, I want to flag an amendment to section 20 defining the regulation-making authority on this issue. Section 20(1)(g.1) now provides for regulations “respecting the archiving of raw data, including the public access to the archived data”. This amendment was accepted as a point of clarification further to existing section 8(4)(c), codifying Canada's ability to fulfill its commitments under United Nations Principles concerning the Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space, mentioned earlier in my remarks.

Similarly, the system disposal plan required under section 9 would delineate how the data would collected by the licensed system will eventually be disposed after a set shelf life. These two provisions of the act result in an implicit data archiving requirement on the licensee. The government further envisions regulations placing notification requirements on the licensee to notify the minister prior to disposing of any raw data. It also envisions requirements specifying an opportunity for the minister to acquire such data for archive and public access within a government operated data archive. The amendment accepted by the government helps to reinforce this sound practice.

I turn now to the issue of privacy protection and the rationale for the lack of additional elements on the issue in the bill. First, it must be understood that the bill does not stand alone in isolation from other laws in Canada enacted to protect the privacy interests of Canadians. Bill C-25 exists fully within and is governed by the existing strong framework of privacy laws in Canada. Foremost among these is Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically section 8 of charter guarantees that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure”. In addition to the charter, existing legislation such as the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act provide excellent privacy protections from all sorts of technologies, including those involved in remote sensing satellites.

It must also be understood that major technical and cost impediments will limit just how sensitive remove sensing satellites licensed under Bill C-25 will be. No one will be reading newspapers over our shoulder from space. Indeed individuals do not even show up in images taken by the sort of remote sensing satellites expected to be licensed under this bill.

Should future satellite technology evolve sufficiently that performance capabilities generate privacy concerns regarding law enforcement or other uses, new practices and procedures would be developed as an outgrowth of existing legal jurisprudence. In fact, jurisprudence already is being formed in Canada with regard to the use of airborne remote sensing systems by law enforcement agencies, including requirements for prior judicial authorizations for uses in which a reasonable expectation of privacy would exist.

As a consequence, there is no need for additional privacy protections to be considered specifically for remote sensing satellites beyond those already put into practice under Canada's existing laws to limit the more intrusive airborne or terrestrial sensing systems.

Some hon. members also questioned the protection afforded under Bill C-25 against foreign acquisition of Canadian licensed remote sensing satellites. The approach adopted in Bill C-25 in this regard draws no distinction between domestic and foreign investment in Canadian remote sensing space systems. All potential licensees, from whatever country, must meet security standards established to protect Canada's national security against injury, whether from a Canadian or a non-Canadian investor.

Under the proposed bill, the licensing power of clause 8 and the proposed disposal plan required under clause 9 enable the minister to specify conditions under which the licensee would have to notify the minister when it experienced a change in operational control. This notification would enable the minister to ensure that the security aspects of the system and the disposal plan or other operational plans could be implemented to protect Canada's national security with regard to the proposed investment.

The bill also includes clause 16 which would prohibit a licensee or former licensee from transferring the control of a remote sensing space system without the approval of the minister. This adds to the protection afforded under clause 8(9) in which a licence is not transferrable without the minister's consent.

I now wish to raise the issue of ensuring that conditions in an operating licence under the act will permit protection for the export of sensitive items, comparable to those found in Canada's Export and Import Permits Act. In other speeches by my colleagues, it was explained why the bill was better than amending that act. I will not repeat what has already been said. Instead I will simply emphasize that Bill C-25 does for the control of data what the Export and Import Permits Act does for the export of military and dual use goods and technology.

Under present policy guidelines set out by cabinet in 1986, Canada closely controls the export of military goods and technology to: first, countries which pose a threat to Canada and its allies; second, countries involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities; third, countries under United Nations Security Council sanctions; and, fourth, countries whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.

These fundamental policy statements are implemented as guidelines but are not found as explicit language in any legislation. Existing powers afforded under EIPA are adequate to enable them to be implemented. The powers afforded under Bill C-25 can and will be used to do the same for remote sensing satellite capabilities. Let me again show members how.

In Bill C-25, clauses 8(6) and 8(7) would allow the minister to specify mandatory distribution rules for all types of remote sensing imagery, both data and products. High resolution or rapidly accessible products are the ones most likely to arouse security concerns. Products involving coarser resolution and slower delivery times are likely to be viewed as benign. In between these limits will fall dual use products.

The powers afforded under this act would allow the responsible minister to specify customer access profiles that would define what quality of data or product could be released to what class of customer and how quickly. These profiles would reflect the same sort of underlying policy goals elaborated by the government for the export of military of dual use goods under the Export and Import Permits Act. Indeed, the ability of the minister responsible to change these rules on his own motion foresaw the policy needs I elaborated before, since the internal or external security situation of a given country can change rapidly and rapid response to such changes is equally necessary.

Finally, I wish to speak to a final amendment that was accepted during the review of the bill by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The last amendment added the requirement for the minister to conduct an independent review of Bill C-25 five years from entering into force and every five years thereafter. The review would keep the bill forward looking in terms of Canada's conduct of international relations and in terms of the evolution of remote sensing technology. Such reviews could also provide Parliament an account of the administration of the act and could document, mindful of national security limitations, the circumstances surrounding the use of any of the extraordinary powers granted under the act.

On that basis, I continue to urge hon. members to pass the bill at third reading so the useful work that it mandates can begin.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to explain to hon. colleagues how many of the concerns expressed regarding Bill C-25 have been met with the amended bill that we asked the House to pass.

I will concentrate on five major concerns that have been raised: provincial access to sensed data; the archiving of data; the adequacy of protections afforded for privacy; protections in the bill regarding foreign ownership of licensed operators in Canada;, and, similarities with the provisions of Canada's export control laws on the export of military and dual use goods and technology.

In doing so, I will also discuss the impact of certain amendments added to the bill during proceedings before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. With my explanation added to the thorough discourse we experienced through the committee's review of this bill, I hope to make clear to all members of the House why this sound bill, so valuable to both the national security and economic prosperity of our country, should be passed.

Let me begin with the protection of the interests of provinces. When one drafts a bill, one must select an overarching legal mandate to the guiding light for its development. Bill C-25 was based on the defence and international relations powers of the Canadian Constitution. The bill's emphasis on national security, the defence of Canada, the protection of Canadian Forces, the conduct of international relations and the observance of Canada's international obligations thus reflect a federal mandate. Outer space is also a domain of exclusive federal jurisdiction. On that there is no disagreement. Thus, the language of Bill C-25 fully accords with exclusive federal powers.

During committee review of the bill, some hon. members sought changes to incorporate the protection of unspecified provincial interests in a bill that had been drafted reflecting the exclusive responsibilities of the federal government. One of these amendments serves as a point of additional clarification. The addition of section—

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is good to participate in the debate on Bill C-11. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

This bill is an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose those wrongdoings. That is the long title of the bill. The short title is the public servants disclosure protection act, but I think we all know it as the whistleblower legislation.

Today we are on the verge of passing this legislation. In fact, we may finish the debate today and finally see this important legislation move through the House of Commons. That would be an occasion to celebrate. It has been a long time coming. Many people in this place have worked very long and hard to see the accomplishment of some whistleblower legislation. This legislation is not perfect, but it has been long needed. Today if we get the bill through the House, it will be an accomplishment indeed.

I want to pay tribute to my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, one of the people who have worked hard on this legislation. He has worked hard on this legislation from the very moment he arrived in the House back in 1997. His first private member's bill focused on the whole issue of whistleblowing and the need for an accountability mechanism that would allow public servants to raise important issues of wrongdoing in government and not suffer the consequences for their courage in raising those issues.

That came from my colleague's background in the trade union movement. For many years he represented workers and the difficulties they faced in the workplace, not the least of which would be how to deal with wrongdoings on the part of an employer. His work and initiatives which started back in 1997 have contributed to where we are today on this issue.

Members from other parties have contributed as well. We have heard today that the Bloc Québécois back in 1996 introduced a significant private member's bill on this issue. This was an important contribution and included important principles that have finally seen the light of day in the legislation we are debating today. We have also heard of attempts from the Conservative side of the House on this issue.

We are taking an important step to finally get a bill through the House. This kind of legislation is a crucial part of any government's approach to ethics in government, accountability in government and a response to wrongdoing in the conduct of government. Even though there are still some problems with this legislation, it will take us to a new level of accountability. It is something we can all celebrate.

In the past there have been other attempts. Bill C-25 in the last Parliament was an extremely flawed bill. It was so flawed that some folks came to believe it was an attempt to protect ministers from the disclosures of whistleblowers and that it had nothing to do with the protection of people who took that strong step and made the commitment to expose wrongdoing in government. It is a good thing that is behind us.

I think it is because there is a minority government situation in this Parliament that we have been able to make progress on this issue. The government has been convinced of the importance of proceeding along these lines, perhaps egged on by some of the other scandals that face the government today.

Whistleblowing is not an easy thing to do in any workplace, particularly a government workplace. We know the power dynamics of the workplace. Workers often feel they do not have the resources and huge power that managers and the people who are in authority over them have, which often puts workers in a terrible position.

There are huge risks involved in whistleblowing, such things as the loss of jobs and relationships people build in organizations and the workplace. There are subtle reprisals people can face, such as changes in holiday times or access to other benefits in the workplace. We have also heard in the past of concerns around frivolous complaints that might be made because of other disputes in the workplace.

When the Canadian Labour Congress appeared before the committee, it talked about many important issues and cited a study from the October 2004 issue of Policy Options . Researcher Donald Rowat highlighted a study done in the United States on the fate of whistleblowers. This was before the U.S. had strengthened disclosure law.

Mr. Rowat studied 161 workers who had made a wrongdoing disclosure. He found that 62% of them lost their jobs, 18% were harassed or transferred, including being subject to isolation tactics and character assassination, and 13% had their responsibilities or salaries reduced. In addition, many of them experienced mental breakdown and family breakup. Those are very high prices to pay for speaking out on wrongdoing in government.

I am glad that we have finally made progress on this and that we are taking steps to ensure good management and to encourage public servants to make this kind of disclosure, to encourage government to engage in the problems that have been raised, and to encourage action to resolve those problems.

Bill C-11 almost died in this Parliament. It took the hard work of many opposition and government members to keep it on track. We have ended up with a piece of legislation that is a good attempt at addressing these important issues. It is a good example of how a minority Parliament can work.

We have worked hard in this Parliament to ensure fairness to see that not only the interests of the government are addressed, but also the interests of opposition parties, of Canadian citizens and of the workers in the public service. We successfully reached a conclusion of which we can be proud. It took a minority Parliament to convince the government of the need to move in this area. Clearly, the earlier attempts had been unsatisfactory and in some cases extremely disappointing.

Bill C-11 saw some major changes from that which was introduced originally by the government. Those changes have enabled the bill to go forward. Those changes include an integrity commissioner who would report to Parliament and not to a minister. That is a significant improvement to this legislation.

Changes have been made to the list of exempted organizations of government. Significant deletions were made from the long list that was originally part of the legislation. All crown corporations, agencies and institutes are now included. Those that are not included are those that have clear measures around wrongdoing and whistleblowing already in position.

Many whistleblowers have lost their jobs because of that, including a number at Health Canada who are very important to this whole process. This legislation is a tribute to the risks that they took and the punishment that they received. I am glad that we are on track with this legislation. I look forward to its final passage.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with some satisfaction that I rise on behalf of the NDP to speak to Bill C-11 at third reading. It has been eight long years that I have been seized of this issue and trying to develop some satisfying amendments regarding the protection of whistleblowers. It looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel. By the end of this business day in fact we may pass a significant, satisfactory whistleblowing bill. It is very gratifying for me to address this one last time, I hope, in my career.

I emphasize the words “a bill for the protection of whistleblowers”. I should point out at the outset that that in itself is progress. The original bill that we dealt with in the previous Parliament, Bill C-25, a bill which my colleague from Mississauga South touched on in his remarks, was all about putting in place a system by which people could blow the whistle on wrongdoing. It made very little mention of and had very little emphasis on the protection of the person who blew the whistle on wrongdoing. It struck me that the emphasis was all about protecting ministers from whistleblowers, not about protecting whistleblowers. We were critical of that from the outset. We raised it a number of times. It would seem that our presentations on that issue resonated because we now see that Bill C-11 is titled “an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings”.

In a perfect world I would even reverse those points and say that this is an act to protect whistleblowers. Without going into the technical details of the bill, the biggest challenge we have now is to convince the public sector that it is going to be okay. Somehow we have to mitigate a century of distrust on the part of the public servants. The empirical evidence to them has been that if they open their mouths and blow the whistle, they are putting their jobs at risk and nobody can really protect them. That has been the prevailing wisdom, well deservedly I am afraid.

As a former trade union leader, if I were a union leader in the public sector and one of the people I represented came to me for advice saying, “I have evidence of a wrongdoing here; I am tempted to go forward and blow the whistle”, my advice would have had to be, “Keep your mouth shut because I cannot protect you. Your employer may persecute you, discipline you or make your life difficult as a result of your coming forward and blowing the whistle”. My advice would have had to be not to do it.

Even though I am well aware of the legal obligation to report breaking the law, there are other things that can be categorized as wrongdoing. Employees may be made aware of maladministration of funds that fall short of criminal behaviour, just fundamentally silly activities.

We hope to learn a great deal after this bill is in place, but as I said, our first challenge and the issue I am seized with now that I am confident this bill will pass, and where I am directing my attention is on how we can get the message out there to assure the broad spectrum of public servants that they are safe now, that they can come forward with the confidence that they will not suffer reprisals just for doing the right thing. That is what it boils down to, doing the right thing.

With any kind of luck, this new officer of Parliament that we are putting in place by virtue of this bill will be like the Maytag repairman and maybe will not get a lot of business. That would be everyone's first hope.

Let us put this in perspective. This whistleblowing legislation should be only one element in a series of bills in a suite of legislation that will augment and enhance the accountability, transparency and openness, and the freedom of information that are the characteristics and earmarks of a western democracy that we can be proud of.

If we had true open government, if we had better access to information and freedom of information laws, there would not be the corruption that whistleblowers would have to report because the government would be operating in the light of day. It is the culture of secrecy that allows corruption to flourish. That much we have learned, and we have learned it the hard way in my years in the House of Commons.

In the context of the current culture of secrecy for which the government is famous, we need whistleblowing legislation. There are activities going on in the shadows without the scrutiny and oversight of Parliament, much less the general public. We would not have unearthed any of the recent corruption scandals were it not for the courage of whistleblowers who came forward at great personal risk and without any personal benefit. I do not know of a single whistleblower case, and I have studied many, where the whistleblower was motivated by self-interest. That is just not the motivation. The motivation is values, morals, ethics and knowing the difference between right and wrong.

I want as an employee the type of person who cannot sleep at night if he or she knows of a wrongdoing in his or her working environment. That tells me we have a decent person. Someone who is decent enough to feel bad about wrongdoing is the kind of employee that we want, that we want to reward, and ultimately that we want to protect.

Here we are in this chamber all of us speaking in lofty language about values, integrity and ethics, but we have been derelict in our duties to not protect those very values within the public service and not to reward those values. If anything we have cut those people adrift and have not given them the support they have needed in recent history. Until the advent of this bill they were on their own.

I have cited this example before. My colleague from Mississauga South, the vice-chair of the government operations committee that developed the bill, will remember it well. During the Radwanski scandal, we would never have known about the wretched excess and the abuse of privilege that was George Radwanski without whistleblowers. The most significant thing and the thing that still bothers me to this day is that those whistleblowers who had clear abundant evidence of wrongdoing within Radwanski's office did not feel comfortable in coming forward to a standing committee of the House of Commons without their lawyers present.

It was at midnight in the East Block behind closed doors at an in camera meeting and they still did not feel comfortable about talking to us. They insisted on bringing their legal counsel with them to defend them. As soon as they left that room they were vulnerable people. That is atrocious. Honest people who were doing the right thing felt they needed legal counsel to be able to report gross misuse of funds.

That illustrated to me more than ever the urgent need for whistleblower protection but as I say, as an interim measure. I am optimistic that within a short period of time the pent up demand may abate. There may be a number of wrongdoings of which people have knowledge. The floodgates may open briefly for the first year or two years, but in the fullness of time as we develop other complementary legislation about access to information, freedom of information and transparency, there should not be a great deal of need for the whistleblower officer. I hope his or her phone does not ring off the hook because we will have a self-correcting regime. Sunlight is a great disinfectant and when we shine the light of day on an issue, it is the natural enemy of the culture of secrecy that allows corruption to flourish. That is the next logical step for those of us who are interested in this issue.

It is not hard to see where the justifiable apprehension about coming forward came from within the public service. I came across a research paper in October 2004 which talked about the United States. Prior to it passing similar legislation, a survey was done of 161 workers who were disclosed wrongdoings. Of those 161 workers, 62% lost their jobs, 18% said they were harassed or transferred against their will, including being subject to isolation tactics and character assassination, 13% had their salaries and the terms and conditions of their employment reduced and many experienced a mental breakdown or family break up. Those people sacrificed an enormous amount to report wrongdoings. Granted, this is an American study, but it is a recent study. I think it is a snapshot of the experience in Canada.

We heard heart-rending testimony from a number of prominent whistleblowers who came before our committee. They could not even hide from the spotlight on this issue.

Ironically, the very week that the latest incarnation of the whistleblower bill was introduced, the three most prominent whistleblowers in Canada were fired, three officials at Health Canada who blew the whistle on the bovine growth hormone. They were under pressure by industry and by Health Canada to approve the agricultural nutritional supplement for milk in cows. However, because they were not satisfied it was safe, they blew the whistle on it.

These individuals went through five years of misery. They went through all the things outlined here today. They were transferred to different offices farther from their homes. They were transferred to places where there were no computers. Imagine a scientist being asked to work without a computer. The department could never seem to get them hooked up. They were denied meaningful work and given only insignificant work. All of a sudden holidays were not available when for years they took their holidays at a certain period of time. This was punishment by subtle harassment. It does not have to be as overt as firing somebody.

Before I run out of time, I caution the government about another thing. In the earlier incarnations of Bill C-11 we were very critical of the government's language which spent more time and attention contemplating punishing those who would make a false report or a complaint that was not in good faith, a malicious or vexatious report. There was very clear, specific, harsh, swift discipline for those who would do that, but there was no corresponding language to punish a manager who might impose punishment upon a whistleblower. It seemed completely out of balance. The government clearly stated that it would not tolerate false or malicious complaints.

Some people say that whistleblowing could be used as a form of industrial sabotage. For example, if people hated their bosses, they could blow the whistle on them in false ways. That was dealt with in Bill C-11, but there was no corresponding discipline contemplated if management was just mad that somebody blew the whistle on it and disciplined the employee. The only recourse for employees would be to file a grievance with their union, wait in line at the Canada Industrial Relations Board to have their grievance heard, and two years later they may or may not achieve satisfaction. That is not good enough.

We now have it clearly stated that punishing a whistleblower is in and of itself a wrongdoing and an individual may be disciplined or fired for doing that if it can be demonstrated. We are comforted in some way that balance has been reintroduced into the bill. However, I caution the government in the application of this bill once it becomes law. Far greater attention and resources should be dedicated to ensuring that managers do not discipline employees wrongly rather than employees wrongly reporting mischievous grievances.

Those are some of the cautionary notes I point out to the government.

We should use these final moments of this debate at third reading to reflect on two things.

It takes enormous courage for a worker to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing. Inversely, it takes a lot of courage for a government to introduce meaningful whistleblowing legislation. I think that is why governments, and not just this one, around the country and the world are reluctant to allow true whistleblowing legislation to come into force. In fact, when we pass this bill, we will be the eighth developed nation, of which I know, that will have meaningful whistleblowing legislation. That is not very many. It is an act of courage on both parts. It is an act of courage on the part of the whistleblower and on the part of the government.

The fact that we are debating this much improved Bill C-11 today is evidence of a minority government situation working as it should. This is a graphic illustration of the advantage to ordinary Canadians of minority parliaments. We saw the type of whistleblowing legislation introduced by the majority Liberal government. Every witness who came before our committee rejected it out of hand. I believe there were 14 leading authorities, from university professors, to union leaders, to people who studied this issue from one end to the other. They rejected it unanimously. That is the kind of bill we get from a majority government. As soon as it was a minority situation, things started to open. Log jams were broken. All of a sudden things that we were told were impossible were in fact possible, and we have a better bill as a result.

I believe it is a case study for the advantage of minority governments, especially as it pertains to issues that affect the general population. Minority governments are good for ordinary Canadians. That is my point and I stick to that.

It was worth the time it took to get the bill right the first time. As opposition party members, we could have said that we were getting half a loaf with Bill C-25, that at least it was a bill about whistleblowing and that was better than nothing. We could have voted for it and had it introduced by now. However, we did not. We stuck to our guns and said that it was not good enough, and I am glad we did.

Nobody could have used a crystal ball to foresee this, but that party lost its majority status as a government. All of a sudden we had some influence. All of a sudden there was consultation and cooperation. All of a sudden my phone would ring and a minister would ask me what it would take for me to support this kind of thing. That did not happen in the majority situation. Believe me, nobody cared what we thought about then, no matter how relevant and valid our contributions could have been.

It is interesting to go back and think about the money we could have saved and the quality of administration we could have enjoyed had we had whistleblowing legislation quite some time ago. Maybe we would not have had to endure the terrible sponsorship scandal that is ripping the country apart.

My Saskatchewan colleague from the Conservative Party said that the sponsorship scandal was the biggest scandal in Canadian history. I disagree with him somewhat. When the dust settles, it may earn that position in the history books. However, to this point in time, the biggest scandal on record, dealing with the malfeasance of politicians, is the Conservative Party government of Grant Devine. Most of its cabinet ministers were not only charged but convicted and sent to prison in massive numbers.

Until such time as the last Liberal is led away in handcuffs, the Devine government in Saskatchewan is holding the record for malfeasance, and I presume that scandal was revealed by a courageous whistleblower.

We are proud to support Bill C-11. We are proud of the role we played in it. I take great satisfaction and some pride in the fact that we will have a bill under which public servants will be protected and feel comfortable in telling us what they know. We will ensure that no one harasses them or persecutes them for doing the honourable thing.