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.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to give credit to this member who was vice-chair of the government operations subcommittee on whistleblowing two Parliaments ago. He had, as usual, always done his homework before coming to committee and has a great deal to celebrate along with the rest of us with regard to making this a good bill.

He is quite right and I agree fully. The implementation is going to be vital, just as it was with the modernization of the public service under the previous Bill C-25, not the whistleblower bill. We are dealing with sensitive matters. We understand the morale issues, and the support and confidence levels within the public service.

The important issue here is that we have partners throughout all of the so-called stakeholders and those under schedule 1 now. They all have a job to do, which is to educate their employees. The real test and the real confidence indicator will be the appointment of a clearly, highly qualified and supported commissioner for this post. If Canadians and public servants have confidence in this new commissioner, we will have gone a long way to achieving what the member wishes.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on clause 55, the request for information under access to information, the member certainly knows that those requesting the information can appeal and that appeal goes through the access to information officer, another honourable officer of this Parliament.

At some point in time we really have to trust someone because an investigation would be done to ensure that the point that is made in the bill, and that is protecting the identity of the whistleblower, comes first before the availability of information.

Second, with regard to the schedule, the member well knows that if it is an order in council it gets gazetted and there will be new crown corporations. There may be some that are consolidated et cetera. They may have to be amended. It can be done instead of having a new bill to amend it and tying up Parliament. It is housekeeping in nature. If somebody just changed the name and everything else was the same, would we really want have a bill go through all stages of Parliament?

Finally, I wish to comment on the quality of witnesses and what they told us on Bill C-25. We heard witnesses that told us some things during Bill C-11. If we took everything that everybody said, we would have a very bad bill. I think that quite frankly the government's referral of Bill C-11 to committee after first reading was a recognition that there was still not 100% consensus on some of the sticky points. It was important that the committee had the opportunity to hear from those witnesses and others to fill it in to make a final determination of consensus.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member across for his statement and I would like to say that I am up to tenderize some more turtles, as he put it. He talked about the Conservative Party using little bits of information or using lack of information. I would like to help him with a few of the statements he made.

Certainly, under clause 55, the anonymous protection against reprisal, that is exactly what the clause says and it is there to do that, to protect the privacy of the person making the allegation of wrongdoing. All we are trying to state is that it also points out a very convenient place to hide wrongdoing if indeed that is what we wanted to do. Because it can be hidden for five years, that clause will allow it to be done. It is not that we do not trust the government to be forthcoming with wrongdoing when it discovers it, but it has proven itself not to be able to do so.

Under schedule 1, the list of the crown corporations and departments of government that are in the bill, he states that it is only there simply for housekeeping, simply to allow them to opt out if someone was to change the name of a crown corporation or if a crown corporation went private, it would be cleaned up that way. I hope that is truly the only reason for that clause. It certainly could have been handled by simply saying all government and crown corporation employees do not need to have a schedule. Perhaps then we would not have the opportunity in the background where people could make a decision on order in council to opt out of a crown corporation or a government body simply because wrongdoing was found there. We are not saying that is the purpose of the clause; we are saying the opportunity is there for it.

On the last little bit there was talk of the commitment to quality, the commitment to a good bill, and the commitment by the government to bring forward whistleblowing legislation as promised in 1993. In talking about quality, all of the witnesses who we saw on Bill C-11 also talked about Bill C-25. They asked for the same types of changes including an independent office on whistleblowing and yet protecting public servants was completely ignored in this version until it was massaged in committee. I would like him to comment on that.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 11 a.m.
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Bloc

Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Mississauga South to comment on the following points. He has talked about—I always listen to speeches in the language used by speakers—cleaning up Bill C-25. Perhaps he could tell us whether one of his reasons for wanting a cleanup could have something to do with the appointment of an independent agent, an officer of Parliament. The entire committee insisted on this, and that includes the hon. member since the recommendation was unanimous. I would like to hear him on this first.

Second, at the beginning of his speech, he said that he was convinced—and I share his conviction—that employees in the public service had such fear of reprisals that this became a stumbling block to disclosure, up until now, without legislation to protect them. The hon. member even mentioned a specific case to illustrate his point.

I would like to hear the hon. member on that and to know what he thinks of the nature of some of the actions that, unfortunately, we have been witnessing in the past two or three years in particular. Given the wrongdoings, abuse, weak governance and the government's misspending of public money, does he believe that the nature of such actions will be even more of a disincentive to disclosure by employees? Will they feel fully protected and free to make disclosures? We can think of the sponsorship scandal, the gun registry scandal and the outrageous spending. Will this raise similar fears among employees, or will the employees feel sufficiently protected to make disclosures, even in the context of scandals like those ones?

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-11 which has a long-standing history in this place.

A former colleague, Mr. John Bryden, was very instrumental in getting this process started. It actually goes back to the creation of the government operations committee and the time when George Radwanski was the Privacy Commissioner. That was the first instance when a whistleblower came before parliamentarians under the protection of the committee. The person who came forward with information told the committee that he or she would appear only if the meeting was in camera and only if he or she could be there with a lawyer. That event in a prior Parliament was most significant in terms of being the catalyst in bringing forward whistleblower legislation such as Bill C-11.

If we were to identify one specific reason why employees in the public service were reluctant to come forward, it was the fear of reprisals. It really has to do with the issue of anonymity. It really has to do with people who want to discharge their responsibilities within the public service in a way which is in the best interests of all Canadians.

The genesis was there. In the last Parliament a subcommittee of government operations looked at this matter. The member for Ottawa West and the member for Laval East were the co-chairs of the committee. From that subcommittee came the principles which we were hoping to see in the first bill on whistleblower protection. In the last Parliament Bill C-25 was sponsored by a minister other than the minister who is currently sponsoring Bill C-11. We debated the bill but it died on the order paper as a consequence of the election call.

Bill C-25 of the day came on the heels of another bill, a bill which was also numbered Bill C-25 in the prior session, which was on public service renewal. It was a massive overhaul. I think it was the first in some 20 years. There were still many issues.

We have just dealt with 47 report stage motions, all sponsored by the President of the Treasury Board. They all had to do with one thing which was how to change the bill that parliamentarians saw at first reading so that the person who was responsible for the whistleblower protection act was changed from the president of the Public Service Commission to an independent commissioner who would report to Parliament.

If members looked at the bill which was referred back from the committee, they would still see in the bill reference to the president of the Public Service Commission. The bill was sent to committee after first reading. This is very significant and shows that the commitment of all parliamentarians and certainly the government to having a good bill was so enormous and important that the committee did not have the authority to make it itself.

It took a change in the direction and the approvals of cabinet. It was a question of having a new officer of Parliament equivalent to the access to information officer, the Privacy Commissioner and the Auditor General. The committee felt it was very important, not because the members on the committee thought that this should be done; all of this came about as a consequence of the Radwanski hearings and the witnesses that the committee heard.

We heard time and time again that the anonymity issue was the stopper. The concern was that if employees were to say something, would they in some way be faced with a reprisal and their careers put in jeopardy? Do we have to relegate people who want to bring information forward to delivering plain brown wrappers or envelopes to parliamentarians to try to do something?

Under the Criminal Code, it is the obligation of every party who becomes knowledgeable of a criminal act to bring forward and report that act. However, members will see that is not mentioned in the bill, but it is. It is covered in the oath of office that all public servants take.

I use the term “public service” very generally. People may think that means the bureaucrats. Let us look at the bill very carefully. We now have a new definition of who, under this umbrella, would be covered by it. Every crown corporation is now included under that umbrella for the purposes of this bill, even though they are not public servants as we would understand it in our local jargon. It means every organization, agency, crown corporation, department, name it, the people who deliver those services in those departments and companies now have the protection of the act once it is passed. That is extremely significant.

There are a couple of exceptions such as the military, CSIS and the Canadian Security Intelligence Review Committee, I believe. The committee understood that within those groups there were administrative personnel who probably should have protection, et cetera. However, it was also important to understand that in this very narrow band of interests, being the military, national security and security interests, there already was a code of conduct and provisions whereby these matters could be dealt with.

Notwithstanding that, it also should be understood that even suppliers to the government would have access to go to the public sector integrity commissioner to bring forward information. The public at large, if they want, probably could do that too. There is no prohibition on information going to this officer. However, it is extremely important to understand that the new officer would have to be recommended for appointment by the government and scrutinized by parliamentarians before the appointment. After that time, this person, just like we have the powers of the Auditor General as a parallel, would have full authority and jurisdiction to make decisions, and that means the officer's decision would be the final one.

It is also important to understand that we are not talking about everybody's complaint. This is not to be the complaint department. The essence of the bill is to provide protection for whistleblowers. However, it also has to provide an orderly mechanism for this to happen.

There was concern about what would happen if we set up a separate commission and all of a sudden a wave of complaints came forward that could swamp the commissioner. The important thing for people to understand is what the area of interest is with regard to whistleblowing in this act. It is included under clause 8. For the purposes of this act, these wrongdoings would have to do with breaking some law of Canada, putting employees at risk or gross mismanagement. We are talking about the kinds of things that we experienced with the former privacy commissioner, Mr. Radwanski, where there were very serious problems. His whole department was terribly dysfunctional. There was gross mismanagement.

This is not a human resources body for employees who think they did not get a promotion they were entitled to or who think the employer had it in for them, and therefore they can go to the new commissioner thinking the he or she will take care of it. The commissioner will say that this is a human resources concern. There are mechanisms to deal with human resources issues throughout all government departments, agencies and crown corporations.

I have listened to all the debate. At the outset, the opposition has done a good job of its principal responsibility, and that is to deliver blows that would tenderize a turtle. Members of the opposition have to be as critical as possible and as selective as possible with information in order to bring up their point. They have done a good job of that. However, there is a fine line when someone takes information either out of context or do not provide it in all its glorious detail.

In most of the speeches provided to those members to read, reference has been made to the amendment to the Access to Information Act in clause 55 of the bill. This has basically been referred to by those members as the cover up clause. This provision, which was formerly a 20 year protection on disclosure of information, was amended down to 5 years in committee. The opposition has said that the government wants to have this in the bill so it can cover things up.

If they look at clause 55 in the bill, they would see it says that if the record came into existence less than five years before a request for information was made, the head of a government institution, and that is any of the various departments, agencies, crown corporations that are covered under this, including the RCMP, can refuse to release the information, “if the information identifies, or could reasonably be expected to lead to the identification of, a public servant who made a disclosure under that Act or who cooperated in an investigation under that Act”.

That is a bit different than what the members have been representing. I understand that it is very easy to take that little leap. They have to understand that clause 55, the consequential amendment to the Access to Information Act, is extremely important. The essence and the fundamental underpinning of the bill is to protect the identity of the whistleblower. That anonymity allowed the person to come forward in the Radwanski case. That individual came forward as long as they were provided with in camera proceedings and a lawyer.

There has to be some restriction on investigation notes and information relating to a whistleblower's statement or documents corroborating their statements so there can be less chance of reprisal against the person. We want to protect whistleblowers. We want to protect those who come forward in good faith to provide information which may identify a real wrongdoing as defined in the bill. The new commissioner has all the powers of investigation and resources available to do the job properly. Although those members like to talk fast and loose, clause 55 is extremely important.

I should remind members as well that when the Auditor General does an investigation, the information collected is protected for 20 years. It was set up that way to make absolutely sure that any information that came out could not somehow go back on the person who directly or indirectly was responsible for having that information come out.

Members have said that if we want to make the legislation better, we have to get rid of this clause. When it is put in the context of protecting the whistleblower, those members will not vote against it.

Another item that was raised with regard to the government by order in council possibly could eliminate a crown corporation for example, or anybody on schedule 1, which is the list of organizations covered by Bill C-11. Everybody is under this except the military, CSIS and the SIRC.

We have to think about this. I think Patrick Watson said that we should privatize the CBC, that we should put it out to tender. If we did that, we would save lots of money. What would happen if the CBC no longer was a crown corporation? What would happen if it were sold off like Petro-Canada to a private supplier? I think we probably should amend the bill in schedule 1 to delete the CBC from the list. Why would we do that? Because the CBC no longer would be a crown corporation. There could be a consolidation, or a name change or something else. What if we had a new crown corporation? Would we want it to be under this umbrella as well? Should we not have a clause in the bill that says that by order in council we can add another one?

Orders in council are not these secretive little things that people somehow squirrel away and frustrate the parliamentarians.

The member may laugh, but the member probably should get a lesson on gazetting. He should understand that order in council decisions are put into the Canada Gazette . They are there for all Canadians and parliamentarians to see. The member should clearly understand that if there were any change whatsoever to the addition or exclusion of any agency, department, crown or whatever, we would hear about it that very same day because employees would then know about it.

I do not see this as a threat. It is a housekeeping clause. It means that names change or consolidate, that people are added or deleted. It allows it to be done by order in council without raising a new bill to amend the act that was formally passed. It is an efficiency tool the government has to ensure we keep things up to date without having to tie up Parliament on things that are obvious. Let us be very careful about this.

I also was very interested in a few of the other points that were made. Members said that the government had to be pushed and that it did not much care about whistleblowing. I think that issue has been on the table since I was elected in 1993.

Bill C-25, which was introduced by another minister not the current minister sponsoring Bill C-11, was brought forward late in the Parliament. We had input and some opportunity to debate that bill.

Then Bill C-11 came forward. Members said in their speeches that it was the same dead bill, that it was lousy, et cetera. They have said that because they fixed it, it is okay and reasonably acceptable. Members should take the opportunity to look at the bill as returned from committee. All the changes that were made at committee are underlined. The most substantive change was to add the RCMP under organizations covered by the bill. While some members take credit for salvaging a terrible bill, if we look through it, the changes were housekeeping in nature. They were fine tuning the bill. As one speaker recently said, the broad strokes, the bill values, which push the foundations of the bill, were in the bill when we got it.

The other aspect is the bill was presented to us before second reading. It is a credit to Parliament to have the confidence in ordinary members of Parliament to send the bill to committee before there has been a vote in the House and before that approval in principle which really restricts the amount of changes a committee can make. What has happened with the bill is an excellent example of how Parliament works. I give full credit to all members of the committee who participated, full members and those who came in from time to time, for helping us to do a good job with the opportunity that was given to us. This was an excellent model.

Back two Parliaments ago when we had Bill C-25 on the modernization of the public service and public service renewal, one key issue that had to be addressed was the confidence level and morale of the public service. We are working on those things very slowly. Bill C-11 is part of what we can do to help to improve the confidence level and morale within the public service.

Public servants understand right now that this bill was about one thing and one thing only, and that was helping them to do a good job in order to bring forward information if they felt it was important to help them do a better job. I believe that Bill C-11 is an excellent bill and I thank all members for their support.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's last comment was probably the most telling. I applaud the Auditor General, not the government.

The government has been dragged kicking and screaming by the exposure of its own corrupt misdeeds into making changes. It was forced. The Liberals are not forthcoming. It was not that the Liberals said that they were going to clean up the way government was done and that there would be great openness and transparency. That is not what they did. They were forced into it because of the damning disclosure of the wrongdoings that were going on under the Liberals' watch.

I applaud the Auditor General, not the government. It is too little too late, quite frankly. It deserves some real consequences. Every time I hear technical arguments, there is often the candid admission that the government does not want people to look at the broad strokes. It gets everybody to focus on this or that little detail in order to miss the big picture of what is going on.

What is going on here is that the Liberal government does not want any consequences. The bill has been radically changed. In fact, the member for Peterborough did not even want to defend the original bill, Bill C-25, quite frankly, giving credit to everybody in the House that it has been changed. That is a candid admission of how bad Bill C-25 a year ago and Bill C-11 really were.

They were fake attempts at whistleblower protection. It is sad that the government could not muster the courage to get protection for all whistleblowers this time. That is what should have happened. The government did not do it. It does not deserve any credit.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. I am convinced that since the government introduced a Bill C-11 which was almost identical to Bill C-25, it is obvious that the complaints would have been filed with the President of the Public Service Commission, who reports to the President of the Treasury Board. That means that a minister would have dealt with the complaints. That was totally unacceptable.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, the member touched on this, but something that is very clear is had there been a majority Liberal government, we would not have had this legislation now. I am not just saying maybe; it is clear that is the case. We know because in Bill C-25, the Liberals' first version of the bill, some of the major changes that have been made, such as having an independent office for whistleblowers to report to and many of the other changes, simply were not there. Even when they came back with Bill C-11, their second opportunity with the new minister, they still left that out. It was only in June, 24 hours after a member of the Conservative Party stood in the House and presented an ultimatum to the minister, that the minister agreed to have an independent office. Clearly, there was no intention on the part of the government. It was this committee, the opposition members, that made it happen.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, clause 3 in the bill authorizes by order in council that schedules can be amended by adding or deleting, for instance in schedule 1, any of the organizations listed, which include all the crown corporations. Some concern has been raised that the government could unilaterally eliminate some from the list. I do know that order in council changes to schedules to make additions or deletions are gazetted for public notice. As well, there are circumstances such as name changes or consolidations or when something is rolled into something else, when we have to have the ability to add or delete. I wonder if the member has a concern that the schedules to the bill could be amended.

I wish the member would also comment with regard to the fact that we had Bill C-25 in the last Parliament under another minister which came back in this Parliament as Bill C-11 under a new minister. The one difference was that this bill was sent to committee immediately after first reading. This gave the committee the latitude to change the bill in any way, shape or form. This is something which cannot be done if the committee receives the bill after second reading debate when general approval in principle has been received.

Would the member care to comment on whether or not the process of referring an important bill like this one to committee after first reading is the preferred route? At committee there is a lot of input and a lot of witnesses. Receiving the bill after first reading ensures that the input from all stakeholders is reflected in a good bill.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I have the pleasure of speaking on Bill C-11. At the outset, I would like to thank my colleagues in the Bloc, my colleague from Repentigny and my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who sat in committee and who represented our political party. In conclusion, we came up with a bill which must still be improved, but which is a totally new bill with its 47 motions in amendment. In the final analysis, it gives us a fairly accurate and acceptable picture of what members of the public service want in order to be able to really do their job.

Everything boils down to a matter of confidence. Civil servants must have confidence in the system and in the processes so that they can make disclosures.

Allow me to fill you in somewhat as to the history of the bill. There was indeed consensus in the House of Commons. In committee, a motion was unanimously adopted for the tabling of motions in amendment and modification. This bill was thus completely changed.

On the other hand, the somewhat surprising element is that Bill C-11, which was tabled by this Liberal government, was tantamount to a carbon copy of Bill C-25, which was considered in the previous Parliament and which had received disparaging comments, among others, by representatives of the public service. Indeed, from the outset, they did not feel that they would trust the proposed process. The cornerstone was the intention to give to the president of Public Service Commission the power to receive complaints.

The president of the Public Service Commission is a civil servant himself and he answers to the government, namely to the president of the Treasury Board. It turns out that this was something else along the lines of the Ethics Counsellor, Howard Wilson—as people will recall—who answered to the Prime Minister and who reported to the Prime Minister on the goings-on among ministers.

Obviously, we did not want a repetition of that. After the Liberals came back as a minority government, one might have expected them to have at least grasped the importance of the promise to create whistleblower protection legislation. One might also have expected greater transparency, since the public service, as well as the other parties aspiring to be the party in power, in short, everyone during the election campaign wanted to support the public servants. Finally, the government again introduced Bill C-11, virtually a carbon copy of Bill C-25. Once again, it gave the President of the Public Service Commission the power to receive complaints. All, or virtually all, witnesses before the committee spoke out against this—I realize some will point out that there was one dissenting witness on that. Nevertheless, the vast majority of witnesses before the committee both this session and last criticized this situation and eventually the government came around to proposing an amendment.

The President of the Treasury Board tabled an amendment creating the position of public service integrity officer. So this position at last became that of an independent commissioner. The government backed the right side on something that had been proposed and defended by all opposition parties, the Bloc Québécois, the Conservatives and the NDP. Why? Purely and simply because it is a minority government and thus not in majority in committee. Those listening to us will find that easy to understand.

In a minority government, the opposition parties are in majority in committee. As a result, even if the government had not bowed to the obvious, the amendments would have been passed, not unanimously, but with a majority. The bill would therefore have ended up amended. If the government had not wanted amendments, it would not have tabled this bill. That was the other solution: not to table it. This would have run counter to all the government's campaign promises.

It is therefore a pleasure for me today to commend my colleague from Repentigny, my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, and all the other opposition members on the committee from the Conservative Party and from the NDP, who stood their ground and got the message across to the Liberal minority government that if it did not come on side with them the bill would be amended regardless and the outcome would be the same.

The committee was unanimous. It is a pleasure today in the House to see all the members of all the parties shake hands and say that things are good. Yes, it is true, especially because there is a Liberal minority government. I hope that there will never again be a Liberal majority government. That is my wish. Obviously, we will see what happens in the next election, but that is still the reality. Why? Because I represent the riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. One part of my riding covers the Papineau region. I want to say hello to the people of Papineau, which is in the Outaouais region. I have one foot in the Outaouais and the other in the Laurentians. Sometimes, I get requests or complaints relating to the government. I want to give two examples, because I can attest to what is happening.

Somebody calls me in confidence and says that they do not wish to give their name. They say that they are a public servant. Immediately after the budget speech of March 31, on April 4—I looked in my agenda because I made a note of it—they say that in their department, they became aware of the purchase of computers by Public Works Canada before the deadline of March 31. It was a large purchase of several hundreds of computers. They ask me if I can do something. They ask me: “If I give you the name of the department, can you do something as a member of Parliament?” I want to look into it, make a request through the Access to information Act. The person than tells me that the computers have already been ordered. They are for new offices that have not been fitted out and when the new computers are installed, they will already be obsolete. This is how they described the situation. They know the situation well since they work in that department. I said to the person: “Listen, you must tell me what department it is.” I had to know. The problem the person had is that if they were to say what department it was, people would know who made the complaint. I want to be able to criticize, but it is difficult for me as a member of Parliament because public funds will be spent for nothing. Imagine, all I know is that computers were purchased by Public Works Canada for offices that have not been fitted out. You can understand that I examined all the requisition files. It is a huge budget. It was impossible for me to find a few hundred computers in the budget without knowing in what department to look.

A second example was provided to me by a journalist from the electronic media. If he is listening to me, he will know what I am referring to. He called to tell me about a situation that occurred just before the adjournment, at the end of June. A public servant had phoned to inform him that a lavish reception was taking place at a ritzy restaurant in the national capital region, at taxpayers' expense. He asked me what could be done about this. I told him, “Listen, it will be difficult to know what went on if we do not know which department is involved. With the date or the restaurant's name, something could be done”. Finally, the journalist called me back to say that he had contacted his source, but the person did not want to say which department was involved, because he did not attend the reception and managers will immediately know that he is the one who blew the whistle. That person did not want to participate. In the end, we never knew who was involved.

This is why we must have bills such as this one to help public servants who are prepared to disclose wrongdoings. The one who called me and the one who called the journalist were prepared to make such a disclosure. The problem was that they did not trust the protection process. That was clear, because there was no legislation such as today's bill. We must defend those who do not agree with these wrongdoings and who do not take part in them. Surely, these individuals must have told some people. They do not want to reveal their identity because they did not participate. For example, that person was not present at the department's lavish dinner. People probably knew why. That person did not agree with the way things were done. We hope that once this bill is adopted, those public servants who are prepared to disclose wrongdoings in the spending of public funds within the public service will feel safer with the process.

Once more I would like to thank my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, the members for Repentigny and for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and all my NDP, Conservative and Liberal colleagues who sat on that committee. The Liberals finally understood. Through political pressure, the opposition parties impressed upon the government the importance of bringing forth a bill allowing whistleblowers to deal with an independent commissioner who reports to the House of Commons, pointing out that, should problems arise, these people could call us and we would be proud to come and defend their position in the House.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, the simple answer is yes, flawed legislation was given back to us again, Bill C-25 in the last House and Bill C-11 this time. Not much has changed between the two. Witnesses were heard on Bill C-25 and, as I and the previous member stated, they said almost the same thing, which was that the legislation was fatally flawed and that there was enough wrong with it that we would be better off without the legislation than with legislation that had those flaws in it.

However what came back when this 38th Parliament came to work? It was Bill C-11 which said almost exactly the same things over again, things that had been testified about by the public sector employee unions and other whistleblowers from the past. It came forward with almost exactly the same recommendations in it.

Is that the government's answer? The government shows itself as a white knight after ad scam. It says that it will put forward whistleblowing legislation so that it will look like it is trying to clean up government. If the way to become a white knight is by putting forward flawed legislation that would put whistleblowers in more danger when they come forward, then the government wins the prize.

The government brought forward legislation that took the opposition groups to put it to together as a plausible piece of legislation and here we are today.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, in his presentation, my colleague described the situation and the pressure on the government to amend the bill. I would like to add that Bill C-11 is the continuation of Bill C-25, which had been introduced in the previous Parliament. As a consequence of the sponsorship scandal, the Liberal government wanted to redeem itself. Civil servants wanted to disclose information, but knew that they could not do so without being subject to reprisals. Thus, the bill was introduced but never passed, since an election was hastily called.

Nevertheless, Bill C-11 emerged during the election campaign. The Public Service Alliance of Canada clearly told the government and other politicians that the bill, as introduced, was inconsistent with the needs of civil servants. Indeed, there was no independent commissioner. The responsibility was given to the president of the Public Service Commission, who is a civil servant reporting to the government. Still, the government introduced Bill C-11 as a slightly modified copy of Bill C-25.

Will my colleague agree with this? Since the government was in the minority on the committee and since it was subject to pressure from the opposition parties, the Conservative Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, it was forced to amend the bill to make it acceptable. The bill could still be improved, but it is acceptable. Will my hon. colleague agree with this statement?

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak to Bill C-11 and talk about some of the work it took to get this bill where it is today. The previous speaker talked about the number of witnesses that came before the committee. Some of them had been before the previous session's committee on Bill C-25, which was also whistleblowing legislation.

Bill C-11 is an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings. If we could turn that into normal talk for people who are not in the public sector or work in the government, it simply means that when someone sees something wrong in their workplace, they can come forward and report it, and fear no reprisal for having done so.

In a perfect world, there would be no reason for this type of legislation. Public sector employees and all employees would come forward with suggestions and point out areas where their workplace could be a better place to work. Employers would always be open to those suggestions, open to the points being made by their employees that maybe a better way was there, a more legal way was there. In a perfect world there would never be a need for whistleblowing legislation. Welcome to a non-perfect world.

We do not live in a perfect world. We have had some examples of scandal in this government and in our public sector workplace that calls for the need for legislation such as Bill C-11. We need to have the ability to protect workers who come forward. I guess the granddaddy of them all are the brave employees who brought to the light of day the current advertising scandal that we are dealing with, the wrongdoing that was done, the money that was paid to advertising firms for no work being done, and the money then being in fact kickbacked to a governing party to use in elections.

These brave employees that came forward, so that this could be brought to the light of day today, are protected by Bill C-11. If we look back to the testimony given by public servants such as Mr. Cutler, one of the persons who brought forward the sponsorship scandal, he was being subjected to a reign of terror in his workplace after only doing what he thought was right. Employees should not be punished for doing what they think is right in their workplace.

We also have examples of mismanagement and scandal going back to the HRDC situation. The previous speaker mentioned problems at Health Canada, where employees hoping to protect the health and safety of Canadians came forward and said that they did not think this was right. They thought that they could protect Canadians if things were done differently. Were they given medals? Were they given certificates? Were they given any sort of accolades? No. They were sacked and sent home.

This is what we are trying to protect with Bill C-11. We are trying to make it so that it is an open place for an employee to come forward and yet not be reprised against or punished for doing so.

We have examples of the previous privacy commissioner's spending and travel habits coming to light through employees coming forward. We have examples of crown corporation executives with big spending habits, some of them being even very recent, that most Canadians find appalling. This spending was brought to light because employees are willing to come forward and say something.

With a background of the types of scandals that I have mentioned, it is not a wonder that Bill C-11 is needed. Bill C-11 was badly needed to help protect our public service workforce.

In committee many whistleblowers testified that they came forward not for reward. They did not come forward for spite. They came forward because it was the right thing to do. They felt someone should know what they saw occurring in their workplace. After the fact, almost every individual regretted doing it because of how they were dealt with. Initially, they came forward because it was the right thing to do.

We need Bill C-11 to protect employees from a government that believes behaviours of this type are acceptable. Our employees deserve better than that and this is why Bill C-11 can help. We as the Conservatives have always called for effective protection for public servants who expose corruption and we will continue to do so.

As was stated earlier today, this bill in its original form could have done more harm than good. It was fatally flawed when brought forward to the committee to work on. With the number of amendments that are now in place, the fatal flaws are out of it. Is it flawless? No, it is not, but the fatal flaws are gone.

There were some major reversals by the government. I believe the President of the Treasury Board admitted today that he had to listen to the committee about the structure of who whistleblowers would answer to. It was not an easy fight. He started off not wanting to listen, sure enough, but was forced at the end of the day, by unanimous representation by the witnesses, other than one, that it was the right thing to do, and so it was.

The bill still has some flaws, one being, what we have been calling today, the cover-up clause. We still see that departments can refuse to release information about internal disclosures of wrongdoing for up to five years. In our amendments, we moved that from 20 years to 5 years but nonetheless a department could still hold that information secret. The Conservative Party would like to see this provision completely removed, not just reduced from 20 years.

As was said earlier, it is very important that we protect the privacy of the people coming forward to disclose, and if in fact that is what this clause is for then I ask that we work harder to do so. If the protection of the identity of the discloser also protects the person who is committing the wrongdoing, then it is wrong and it needs to be fixed.

Another flaw, as I see it, is that cabinet or a governor in council can still add or remove government organizations and crown corporations from the list of employees who are covered by Bill C-11. We have been told that is not the case but I read the bill again today and it is still in there. They are saying that it would not be used for that, to trust them, that it would not be used to remove a crown corporation or a body of government from Bill C-11. They say that it is just there so that if they ever close down an organization, they could take that organization off the list.

It comes to mind that if that is the only reason that that clause is there and we end up having redundant organizations somewhere on a list, I would rather take that than risk the non-protection of an employee just because there seems to be a bit of a scandal brewing at crown corporation A and it could be put on the exclusion list so they would never have to deal with it. I would like the government not to have the opportunity for that out. I believe it is still there and the Conservative Party would like to see it removed. It is one of the flaws still left in this bill.

There are other areas of concern. We had witnesses before committee on Bill C-11 who talked about whether there should be rewards or some way of helping employees who have gone through the struggle of coming forward with whistleblowing. It could still be there but it is not yet in there. It also is not stated yet in the legislation what the punishments or further punishments may be for committing a reprisal against a whistleblower.

As I said, most of the whistleblowers we had before committee came forward just through the goodness of their hearts. They came forward because they felt it was the right thing to do and then there were reprisals against them. Certainly the ultimate punishment for someone who commits a reprisal is termination but there are even times when simply terminating the supervisor or manager who committed the reprisal against the employee may not be enough. There may need to be some more punishment besides that. The commissioner should have the power to do this.

In conclusion, we would like to celebrate Bill C-11 in the areas in which it shines. Because of pressure from opposition parties and the Conservative Party, the bill now includes an independent commissioner reporting to Parliament. It is something everybody asked for, except for one witness. It is great to have it in there. Of course, we had to convince the President of the Treasury Board that it was the right thing to do.

The inclusion in the bill of the RCMP for coverage was something we in the Conservative Party had to fight for very hard. We think there are people missing from protection but the RCMP are still in there.

The last one is that there would be a review of the bill in five years. That is positive if in five years we find it has been working and people have been coming forward to disclose wrongdoing in the workplace. Let us hope that in five years we have not found other flaws in the bill.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, the member did go at length into some of the testimony that was heard before the committee on Bill C-11. There was almost a year's worth of testimony to get us to the number of amendments we have today. If we look back to the last session of Parliament, Bill C-25 was there and almost word for word the same testimony was given by the same health department officials or the same representative organizations that the member spoke of early in her remarks. Those witnesses gave almost exactly the same type of testimony about what they would be looking for in whistleblowing legislation and yet the legislation that was brought forward was called by them, during some of their testimony at committee for Bill C-11, as fatally flawed, as being worse than not having it.

The government brought forward legislation that had to be amended. I agree that we have some very good amendments now. Does the member believe that if we were not sitting in a minority Parliament right now, that Bill C-11 would not look anything like it does?

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that my hon. colleague feels that the bill still does not go far enough. However, I would just like him to realize that we started off with Bill C-25, which then became Bill C-11, and the changes that were made in committee, the 47 amendments brought forward by the government as unanimously recommended by the committee. We have had to consider what had been done. This is therefore a very significant change, compared to Bill C-25 in the last Parliament and the initial version of Bill C-11.

I would like the hon. member to describe the context, because we have to understand that the Liberal Party introduced Bill C-25, the predecessor of Bill C-11, in the midst of the turmoil caused by the sponsorship scandal. In fact, it introduced legislation to get good press before calling an election. That is what happened. In the end, it became obvious that the disclosure legislation was not creating an independent integrity commissioner, as recommended in the amendments approved by all parties. I acknowledge the excellent work done by our colleague from the Bloc Québécois, the hon. member for Repentigny. All our colleagues on the committee have managed to agree on a pretty decent bill.

I realize that, for my colleague from the Conservative Party, the bill still does not go far enough. Yet, the committee has taken it one step further. Pressure by opposition parties has transformed a bill that was simply smoke and mirrors when it was first introduced by the Liberal government. I would like to hear the hon. member on how the Liberal Party was able, before the election, to use smoke and mirrors and introduce bills C-25 and C-11, which did not really offer much protection at all. As my hon. colleague said, they could even do more harm than good to whistleblowers. How is it then that we now have a bill that was improved by the opposition parties, namely the Conservative Party, our party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP?l