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.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, while sharing the concerns expressed by the leader of the NDP, I would like to raise another problem with Bill C-25.

As we know, RADARSAT-1, which is managed by the Canadian Space Agency, is already in place. This remote sensing satellite has been in operation since 1995 and helps establish priorities for the use of the images it captures. For instance, federal departments have privileged access to these images, as do the provinces and scientists.

There is no mention anywhere in this bill that the provinces will have privileged access to the images captured by RADARSAT-2. There is no explicit mention of possible agreements with the provinces, which are put in the same category as regular commercial customers. Given that RADARSAT-2 will now be managed by a private company, namely MacDonald Dettwiler, it seems to me that it should have been set out very clearly in the bill that the provinces must have privileged access. In fact, under the Canadian Constitution, the provinces are responsible for managing natural resources, and these images are very useful for the management of forests, for example, and farm management as well.

Therefore, I cannot understand why the amendments put forward by the Bloc Québécois in this respect were rejected, and why the bill was not corrected accordingly. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could enlighten us on this.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a few comments on Bill C-25. I heard the parliamentary secretary say that the bill is a matter of some urgency. I also heard him say that it represents a minimal intervention in the marketplace.

We should be very clear that Canadian taxpayers have funded approximately 75% of the development of this satellite, about $450 million, but it is 100% commercially owned.

The NDP has agreed with the intent of the bill, but there are a number of weaknesses in the bill and I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary about them.

We know for example with RADARSAT International and RADARSAT-1 that information was provided to the U.S. military. In fact that information may have been used by the U.S. in its war on Iraq. As we know, Canadians have not supported that war, nor has the Canadian government. I think we deserve to have some ironclad assurances that the government approved sale of RADARSAT-2 imagery will not be sold to the U.S. for wars or other military purposes.

I think Canadians are very concerned about this. This is a commercial operation. The bill purports to give us the protection we need, yet we know from what happened in committee when we sought those ironclad assurances, the government was not prepared to give them.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary why the government would refuse to do that. We have a bill that in our opinion is weak and does not provided the kind of assurance we need that this vital information is not going to be used for military purposes when indeed Canadians have paid so much for this satellite.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Pickering—Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, on November 23, 2004, the Government of Canada introduced a bill to regulate the operation of remote sensing space systems. This is a bill concerning satellites capable of taking detailed pictures of the earth and objects on its surface.

On December 7, 2004, Bill C-25 was approved in principle by all parties in the House at second reading, subject to a clause by clause study by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Very recently, the committee tabled in the House a slightly amended bill for us to consider. Today, I will explain once again why this bill on remote sensing space systems is important for Canadians, for the Canadian industry and for our friends in other countries, and why this amended bill should be passed.

However, before I begin, I must express my gratitude to my colleagues who thoroughly examined this bill during its study in committee. Many expert witnesses provided important testimony during the study of the bill. Their testimony led to a number of proposed amendments. Four of these amendments are found in the bill submitted today to the House for approval.

The important point is a new section requiring the minister to cause an independent review of the provisions and the operation of the act to be conducted at least once every five years, and for these reviews to be laid before each House of Parliament. This section ensures that the legislation will be reviewed every five years, so that it can keep abreast of technological developments.

I want to add, however, that three trends in space activity are converging and making this bill imperative.

The first is the increasing availability of this technology to the private sector. Once upon a time, only government labs were able to create amazing technologies such as man-made satellites. Such a monopoly on space technology no longer exists. Today, private sector know-how allows us to create inventions at a rate that challenges the government to promote and regulate these new services in a timely manner. So, we must anticipate our needs and act accordingly.

The second trend is this: like the communication satellite industry before it, the remote sensing satellite industry is developing in Canada. Increasingly, the private sector is entering into partnerships with the public sector, as a prelude to purely private enterprises.

At one time, satellite communications were the sole domain of crown corporations. Telesat Canada is an excellent example of this. Today, Telesat operates as a dynamic private sector corporation, regulated by government and serving all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

During the transition period, satellite communications rapidly evolved from the simple delivery of communications between two fixed points using the first regional communication satellite in Canada, Anik A , in 1972.

Now, satellite communications also allow mobile communications via cell phones and direct broadcast satellite service, or DBS, so residences can receive high definition television. More recently, high speed Internet and other broadband communications have been added to this mix of signals.

Remote sensing systems by satellite might be as successful if operators and investors in this sector could rely on intelligent regulation by the government.

Bill C-25 makes such intelligent regulation possible and does not intervene in the market except to ensure Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests.

It also ensures secure data access for the states in question. Consequently, this bill protects both the public interest and the private interests of Canadians in a new use of space.

Third, the confluence of private financial capital and private access to high technology has resulted in remote sensing space system capabilities that could harm our national security, defence and conduct of international relations were they to go unregulated. Earlier civil remote sensing space systems were limited in their performance by underlying technological and financial constraints. Security interests of government owners also set performance restrictions on the capabilities of the remote sensing space systems.

Research and development activities meanwhile have proceeded apace for military systems, aided by the inventiveness of private contractors. This developed technological base can now produce imagery with resolution sufficient to benefit a 21st century defence force. When sensitive data is distributed on a wide basis, undesirable entities could be emboldened to exploit this new-found information availability as an asymmetric threat for our nation. This could be done without ever making the hitherto necessary space investments themselves.

Were the distribution of satellite remote sensing products and raw data to remain unregulated, timely non-discriminatory access to sensitive data could harm the national security, national defence and foreign policy interests of Canada. On the flip side of these concerns, there is the incredible benefit that timely access to imagery by the government could have for coordinating humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

When disaster strikes, as it did with hurricanes Katrina and Rita recently, or as with the Indian Ocean tsunami before them, it is important that the first responders and humanitarian relief workers can quickly survey the extent of the disaster, decide where best to set up the relief operations and of course aid in the rescue of persons in distress. And over the past couple of months I can say plenty about that. Thankfully, those were all done in a very efficient way.

While there is every expectation that satellite operators in Canada will service this market on their own, Bill C-25, which is before the House today at third reading, provides a power for the government to order imagery on a priority basis, enabling us to help coordinate relief efforts and operations for Canadians and others in need at home or abroad.

Parliament must therefore act to secure these vital interests of Canada while at the same time promoting wide access to satellite remote sensing products and raw data for beneficial uses which are consistent with the peaceful use of outer space. Parliament must also regulate these systems regardless of whether public or private or private-public finances assembled the necessary funds to undertake these promising ventures. Bill C-25 does exactly that by establishing a single licensing regime for the operation of remote sensing space systems in Canada and by Canadians.

This bill is also concerned with the distribution of the data products generated by the operation of remote sensing satellite systems. Much of the benefit of Canada's remote sensing satellites accrues to Canadians, but foreign entities also stand to gain by cooperating with Canada and with Canadians. Under Canada's Export and Import Permits Act, the export of satellite technology, goods and services is controlled by the government. Controlling intangible technology such as remote sensing products and raw data under that act, however, would have generated significant efficiency and effectiveness concerns within the government and, of course, the private sector alike.

Rather than require every Canadian national to secure an export permit for each and every purchase of imagery or data by foreign customers under an amended EIPA, the government wisely chose instead to obtain the same underlying security guarantees by developing this bill with its primary focus on the control of access to such products and data at the source of that information, that is to say, the licensee's operations.

Given that a licensee's satellite operations can be located both at home and offshore and also that such licensees work with international partners to increase global market penetration, these foreign partners must also be able to derive benefit from their Canadian investments. This bill is purposefully designed to enable foreign participation in Canadian systems and distribution of remote sensing products and raw data internationally, provided that Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests are protected.

By piggybacking these security requirements onto a clean licensee's business model, we can obtain an example of smart regulation that is efficient and effective for Canadians and their foreign business partners.

I am also sponsoring this bill in order to fulfill Canada's bilateral and international obligations. By virtue of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, Canada is responsible for the outer space activities of its nationals. Today satellites belonging to, and operated by, private interests are governed by the Telecommunications Act, the Radiocommunication Act and the Broadcasting Act, in order to protect the public interest in a variety of respects.

Passage of Bill C-25 will achieve a similar regulation of remote sensing systems, primarily from the points of view of security, defence and foreign policy. The bill also focuses on protection of the environment, of public health and safety and of private property.

This minimal intervention into the market responds to the concerns raised by this area of economic activity and respects Canada's international obligations.

The bill is also important from the point of view of Canada—U.S. relations. The government's decision to control its own remote sensing satellites, announced in June 1999, paved the way for an agreement between Canada and the United States which was signed in the June 2000, the Canada-United States Agreement Concerning the Operation of Commercial Remote Sensing Satellite Systems. This treaty was aimed at ensuring that private remote sensing satellite systems would be controlled in each country in such a manner as to protect shared national security and foreign policy interests, while promoting the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

Today we can meet the commitments contracted in that treaty. The statement of policy on controlling access that was announced in June of 1999 has become the bill you now have before you.

The launch of RADARSAT-2 from Canada is scheduled for 2006. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill so that we can show that Canada is walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Before I conclude, I would like to mention that there was a lot of discussion, both in the House and in committee, about the private ownership of Canada's next remote sensing satellite, RADARSAT-2, its excellent performance and the need for foreign technology and launching facilities for these Canadian missions. RADARSAT-2 is indeed a good example of the need for this type of legislation. However, the bill must also apply to all future remote sensing space systems. Therefore, this bill covers all existing and future remote sensing space systems, which is exactly what Canadians want and expect from us.

Let me go back to the purpose of this bill to conclude my remarks.

The House should pass this bill that deals with remote sensing space systems because it is much better to create a smart regulatory framework for these high technology satellite systems than to risk compromising our national security, our defence and, most of all, our foreign policy.

We must pass this bill so that Canada can meet its bilateral and multilateral obligations in terms of regulating the space activities of its nationals.

We must pass this bill to ensure that Canadian businesses remain world leaders in the area of remote sensing and related services by setting a clear regulatory framework that can attract technological investments and help our businesses in terms of finding markets.

And we must pass this bill to ensure that every Canadian continues to draw maximum social and economic benefits from the use of space for peaceful purposes.

If we do not do it, other jurisdictions will take the lead and Canada will be the loser.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, be read a third time and passed.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

September 29th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to lay out the business for the next week.

We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-55, which is the wage earner protection program. Then we will proceed to the second reading of Bill C-57, the financial institutions bill, followed by second reading of Bill C-54, which is the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act.

Tomorrow we will consider report stage and, if possible, third reading of Bill C-25 respecting Radarsat. I understand as well that there are some ongoing discussions about the disposal of Bill C-63, amending the Canada Elections Act. We would also like to deal with Bill S-38 respecting the spirits trade and Bill S-31 respecting autoroute 30.

On Monday we propose to commence report stage of Bill C-11, which is the whistleblower bill. We would like to give this bill priority all week in the hope of completing all of the remaining stages.

We would then return to any business left over from this week and, if there is time, begin consideration of Bill C-44, the transport bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; Bill S-36, the diamonds bill; and Bill C-52, the fisheries bill.

With respect to the business of supply during the present period, Mr. Speaker, I will reconfirm that you confirmed to the House that there will be seven allotted days during this period. In response directly to the opposition House leader's question, as per our discussion at the House leader's meeting this past Tuesday, we understood we would schedule the supply days after the Thanksgiving break.

In any event, it will be a topic that I look forward to discussing with House leaders at our meeting this coming Tuesday, so that we can in fact schedule all the required opposition days.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 16th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, our principal legislative objectives continue to be Bill C-43, the third reading vote of which will take place after question period, and Bill C-48. The government believes these bills reflect public interest and the enactment of both of these bills is required before the House adjourns for the summer. As the hon. member mentioned, if the House does not pass Bill C-48, we will be here in July and August. Consequently, we will continue to give these bills priority until they are disposed of.

We will then consider report stage of Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill; Bill C-25; Bill C-28; Bill C-52, the Fisheries Act; Bill C-47; Bill C-53; Bill C-55, the bankruptcy bill; and Bill C-37, the do not call legislation.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2005 / 11:35 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at report stage of Bill C-25. The question is on the motion.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 9th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion. I wish to designate Tuesday, June 14 as an allotted day, which means that the main estimates shall be dealt with that day.

Tomorrow we will begin report stage of Bill C-43, which is the first budget bill. This bill will be our priority until it is disposed of. When Bill C-48, the second budget bill, is reported from committee, it, too, shall be given our top priority.

There are discussions among the parties concerning the early disposal of Bill C-2, the child protection legislation; Bill C-53, the bill respecting proceeds of crime; and possibly Bill C-56, the Labrador-Inuit legislation.

The other pieces of legislation that we can anticipate debating in the next week are: Bill C-26, the border services bill; Bill S-18, the census legislation; Bill C-25, RADARSAT; Bill C-52, the Fisheries Act amendment; Bill C-28, the Food and Drugs Act amendments; Bill C-37, the do not call legislation; Bill C-44, the transport legislation; and Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 2nd, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, before I get to the weekly business statement, I said at that time that I would begin to schedule opposition days before the end of May and that is exactly what I have done. There are a number more to schedule.

Today and tomorrow, of course, are allotted days. I also wish to designate next Tuesday and next Thursday as allotted days.

When the budget bills, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 are reported from committee, they will certainly become our highest priority.

In the meantime, we will proceed with third reading of Bill C-22, the social development bill; report stage and third reading of Bill C-26, the border services legislation; second reading of Bill S-18, respecting the census; and Bill C-52, the Fisheries Act amendment.

We will then turn to report stage and third reading of bills that have been or are soon to be reported from committee. These include Bill C-25 respecting RADARSAT; Bill C-37, the do not call bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; and Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill. If there is time during the next three weeks, we will also start to debate the legislation that has been introduced during the last few weeks.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 19th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member was attempting to show some civility. He has great difficulty in doing that.

After completing the debate on the budget bills, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, the House will take up third reading of Bill C-9, the Quebec development bill; Bill C-23, the human resources legislation; Bill C-22, the social development bill; and Bill C-26, the border services legislation.

We would also like to deal with the census bill, Bill S-18 and the RADARSAT bill, Bill C-25. If there is time, we would start Bill C-46, the corrections and conditional release bill; Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill; and Bill C-28, the food and drugs bill.

This list of legislation will carry the House well into the week of May 30, the week in which we return from the break.

In addition, three days that week shall be allotted days, namely May 31, June 2 and June 3. On May 31 the House will go into committee of the whole to consider the estimates of the Minister of Social Development.

I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in the House because I know, and all members know, it is in the interests of Canadians to get this Parliament working on the issues that are important to them.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8. I am a little disappointed by the lack of response from the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Bill C-8 affects mainly two aspects, one of which is very important and that is official languages. My colleague from Sudbury emphasized this very well. I think she would agree it is sad to see that the Conservative Party critic has no idea how the Official Languages Act will apply or influence the new tenor or philosophy in the federal public service.

I gave them a chance to say a few words about it. During the election campaign there was some bad press, but sometimes people are quoted out of context. We thought we would give our opponents a chance and allow them to say a few words about this. We will have to wait for the next time to get an explanation on their party's position on this.

This is the second time I am speaking to Bill C-8. As I was saying, I listened closely to the speech by my colleague from Sudbury, who summarized this bill very well. I will mostly repeat what she said. However, I will try to make concrete arguments on certain aspects of the changes made by this bill.

One of the main objectives of Bill C-8 is to amend the Financial Administration Act to establish the office of the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada. That is clause 1. This bill only makes official what has already been done. Indeed, on December 12, 2003, Michelle Chartrand was appointed by order in Council, order PC-2003-21-13, President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada.

The president of the agency has the powers of a deputy head of a department and is appointed by cabinet and can be removed at any time. This is not so for the Commissioner of Official Languages or the Auditor General, which is not a problem, I simply want to clarify that there is a difference in terms of their status and independence from the House.

The powers of the president are assigned to him or her by the Treasury Board, not by Parliament. Clause 1(2) provides that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination of the activities of the Secretary of the Treasury Board, the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada and the Comptroller General of Canada. As I recall—correct me if I am wrong—this provision was amended in committee to add that he or she is responsible for the coordination but must also be accountable. I thought that was what I heard the hon. member for Sudbury say.

Why should the president be accountable? Hon. members know that the wording is important when amending bills or drafting legislation. Allow me to say a few words about the ambiguous nature of the word “coordination”. Clause 1(2) provides that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination.

I was official languages critic for a few years and I have learned that, in theory, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible for the coordination of the Official Languages Act. In practice however, the minister with the least responsibility in connection with the Official Languages Act is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

If the Minister of Canadian Heritage is the minister responsible under section 42 of the Official Languages Act, this should also be the minister responsible—I realize I am not speaking directly to Bill C-8, but I just want to make a quick point about the word “coordination”—for implementing the official languages action plan. But this responsibility was assigned to a different person at the time, namely the current Minister of the Environment.

The Official Languages Act provides that the Minister of Justice is responsible for part of the act, that the Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible for the coordination, that the Prime Minister shall appoint a minister responsible for the act, that the President of the Treasury Board—as the agency's secretary—is responsible for the act as it relates to the public service, with the result that the individual responsibilities have been diluted to the point that no one is responsible for anything anymore.

When they appear before the committee and are asked why they have failed with regard to some aspect of the legislation, there is full latitude—since there are 22 individuals responsible, so none—for them to say that it is not them and that someone else is responsible.

That is why the Bloc Québécois amended one little word that may seem completely inconsequential. However, given our experience with the Official Languages Act, this little word is extremely important. In fact, this amendment means that the President of the Treasury Board is no longer the only one responsible for coordination of this legislation, but accountable for it too. Consequently, if there is a problem, he cannot say that it was the fault of the commissioner, the president of the agency, his brother-in-law or anyone else; he is the one who is ultimately responsible.

We know too that ministers appeared before the committee—Gagliano, to name just one—and they told us that ministers are not responsible for their department. In this case, the minister responsible is the President of the Treasury Board. This is the first question I asked him when he appeared before the committee, “Are you responsible for your department? If you are not responsible for your department, there is no point in our asking you questions, since you are not responsible for anything”. To my great surprise, he said that he was responsible for his department. If he is responsible for his department, he is therefore accountable for the actions taken during his mandate. That is why the Bloc Québécois sought this amendment—and we are happy that it passed—to subclause 1(2), which provides that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible and accountable for the coordination of activities.

Further on in the bill, they are amending—as I have said, and will keep on saying—the Canada School of Public Service Act, section 2, and the Official Languages Act, section 3, to ensure that the president of the agency is an ex officio member of the school. The second point is an interesting one, The supposed purpose is to ensure that it is the president of the agency, rather than the president of the Treasury Board, who will provide the Commissioner of Official Languages with any reports concerning the monitoring and auditing of observation by the federal institutions of the principles, instructions and regulations originating by either himself or the governor in council concerning official languages.

The purpose of all that verbiage is to say that the head of the agency will be the one to provide the COL with these files.

I have another problem here. When the president of the agency receives these reports and passes them on to the COL, there should be both responsibility and accountability in place. This is not the case. The person who receives them and passes them on is not assigned any responsibility.

I filed a complaint nearly a year ago to the COL about the Treasury Board. My complaint was that the Treasury Board policies and action plans state in black and white that it will not comply with the Official Languages Act. It is not set out in so many words that: “We are going to go against the Official Languages Act”, but it is there in connection with the position designated bilingual. For instance, it indicates that 60% of army positions designated bilingual are staffed with unilingual anglophones, and that in a specific sector, 22% of positions designated bilingual are staffed with unilingual anglophones. Finally, Treasury Board writes that it has an action plan whereby, in the next two, three or four years, they will bring those figures down by 2%, 3% or 4%. It we look at this carefully, what that comes down to is stating “We hereby inform you that we will continue to break the law for the next three, four or five years.”

I thus filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages and that complaint was deemed to be in order and is currently being investigated. Accordingly, when people say that the president of the agency will receive the annual reports relating to the implementation of the Official Languages Act and will be in charge of follow-up, I have a little problem. Indeed, what was done before was not proper. We are renewing what was done before. It will not be proper.

I seem to recall, Mr. Speaker, that you too used to sit on the Standing Committee on Official Languages. You must have heard this part of my pet question, which goes like this, “Why is a unilingual person hired to fill a bilingual position, if the hiring criterion is being bilingual?”

I often asked the question of all the ministers who appeared, namely how many lawyers in the Department of Justice are not lawyers, but carpenters, who managed to get hired on a promise that they would eventually become lawyers. My impression is there are none. How many people who formerly worked at Jean Coutu's have been hired in the Department of Finance as accountants on the promise that eventually, since they know how to operate cash registers, they will become accountants? I think that the hiring criterion to be a lawyer in the public service is to be a lawyer. Similarly, the hiring criterion to be an accountant in the public service is to be an accountant. Why is that the hiring criterion to be bilingual in the public service would not be to be bilingual?

In this respect, I would be willing to accept—it is called non-imperative staffing—that we extend this criterion to the public service as a whole, if we want to apply it this way. In other words, if criteria do not matter, let us hire truck drivers—for whom I have a lot of respect—as management executives or accountants at the Treasury Board, on the promise that they will one day become accountants.

You know that, with exception clauses, some people are being hired in designated bilingual positions, on the promise that they will become bilingual one day. Afterwards, they go through their career as unilingual employees in the designated bilingual position. Then, when they retire, other people make sure that their farewell party is in one language, because they would not understand if it was in another one.

Bill C-8, in transferring the current powers of the President of the Treasury Board to the president of the agency, does not solve this problem, which I think is very serious. I heard Conservative members say there was somewhat of a void. However, this is a problem that we would like to see corrected in a speedy and concrete fashion with the new agency. However, we do not have much hope.

The bill also has a number of transitional provisions, consequential amendments and coordinating amendments to tie Bill C-8 with the coming into force of certain sections of the Public Service Modernization Act, that is Bill C-25.

So, we must make the connection between Bill C-25 and Bill C-8, which I will do briefly. Indeed, I spent too much time on official languages, but it is a subject dear to my heart. Since the essence of the work of the Human Resources Management Agency and of its president is to implement the provisions of the Public Service Modernization Act, it is important to remind the House about the main comments of the Bloc Québécois on this bill.

In the 2001 Speech from the Throne, the government said that it was undertaking:

—the reforms needed for the Public Service of Canada to continue evolving and adapting. These reforms will ensure that the Public Service is innovative, dynamic and reflective of the diversity of the country-able to attract and develop the talent needed to serve Canadians in the 21st century.

Bill C-25 contained four significant measures to reform the public service: it amended the Public Service Staff Relations Act; it repealed the Public Service Employment Act; it amended the Financial Administration Act to transfer certain powers with respect to human resources management to the Treasury Board; and it amended the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act to pave the way for its merger with Training and Development Canada, and the eventual birth of the new Canada School of Public Service.

In fact Bill C-25 significantly changes the legislative and institutional framework for the management of human resources in the public service. The role of the Treasury Board increases considerably with the consolidation of employer responsibilities. The Public Service Commission will refocus its activities on the protection of the merit principle and political neutrality in staffing.

This is an important principle. I have sat on committees with certain Liberals. One of the positions taken by the Bloc Québécois is that returning officers in each riding should be appointed based on their ability, merit and skills, rather than being appointed by the Prime Minister.

The Liberals are opposed. I keep telling them that I am sure that some Liberals will continue to be appointed as returning officers because there have to be a few competent ones in the bunch. They need not worry. I am not suggesting they will be the majority, but there could be five or six appointed in the 308 ridings. They need not worry. People can still be appointed on the basis of their qualifications.

Bill C-25 also dealt with the protection of whistleblowers. It has since been amended and has now become Bill C-11. It is under consideration at the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Estimates. It is designed to allow the disclosure of wrongdoing. The Bloc Québécois has two main reservations with respect to Bill C-11. First, there should be an independent officer of the House—like the Auditor General or the Commissioner of Official Languages—whom the employees throughout the public service could trust and whom they could tell about wrongdoing taking place in their departments or workplaces.

We have seen how difficult working for his department became for Mr. Cutler after he brought the whole sponsorship scandal to light. I am not referring to the minister, because I am not allowed to refer to Minister Cotler by name. I have to refer to his riding. I was talking about Mr. Cutler, the government employee.

Mr. Cutler had problems in his department when he disclosed what happened in the sponsorship program. We want to make sure public servants can divulge such information not to their supervisor, but to an independent officer of the House and that the public servant is protected from retaliation. All of this is laid out in Bill C-25.

Let me come back to Bill C-8. I do not know if I was sufficiently clear, but the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-8, despite our many reservations. We have reservations about certain aspects of the bill, especially when it comes to the Official Languages Act. We support Bill C-8 because its purpose is to refocus some existing legislation and correct some legislative and administrative measures.

We are in favour of this bill because, despite several omissions, it will ensure better cohesion for human resources management within the federal public service. The Bloc Québécois accepts the principle of the bill since it is the first step to improving the coordination activities involved in human resources management in the Canadian public service. However, we will continue to expose the omissions that we feel are far too important.

While we reaffirm our confidence in and our admiration for the federal public service and while we say that it needs Bill C-11 to allow public servants to disclose possible acts of wrongdoing, we would not want to go as far as the President of the Treasury Board, who said on his website that, being the President of the Treasury Board of the very best country in the world, he wanted to have the best public service in the world. I have not checked today, but last October, when I made my first speech, this is what appeared on the President of the Treasury Board's website.

Again, I have a lot of respect for public servants. We must have an exemplary public service, that is respected and that respects itself. I hope that Bill C-8 will give these people better working conditions and that other laws will also allow them to tell us about serious wrongdoing. I know that we are dealing with a huge machine and a huge public service. Unfortunately, as we say “man will do what man will”. There will unfortunately always be wrongdoing. However, serious wrongdoing, such as we have seen lately, must be disclosed promptly to prevent serious situations like that to undermine public confidence in the politicians and the public servants.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act. I participate in this debate to express the concerns that have been brought to my attention regarding this piece of legislation.

I come to this debate with a clear conscience knowing that I voted against Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act. I had a number of concerns regarding that legislation and it would appear that my concerns were well-founded. This piece of legislation, Bill C-8, as has been acknowledged by the governments members, is a continuation of Bill C-25, which is another public service reorganization.

I am proud to confirm my record of supporting the men and women who are members of the Public Service of Canada. When civilian jobs were threatened on Canada's military bases, I joined the picket line to protest a visit by the Prime Minister to my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. That was when he was spending all his time trying to depose Jean Chrétien and not attending Treasury Board meetings.

The Prime Minister was not doing the job of finance minister by his own admission while on the witness stand at the Gomery commission. Canadians will never know, if the Prime Minister had attended some of those Treasury Board meetings he allegedly missed, whether some of the 100 million ad scam dollars would not have gone missing. That protest was our successful campaign to stop the supply chain proposal at the Department of National Defence. Bill C-8 sounds like the supply chain proposal all over again, except this time, rather than just pushing it on to the Department of National Defence, this is the supply chain for the entire public service.

The experience of Canadians, whenever the federal government seeks to reorganize, has been higher user fees, fewer public servants leading to longer wait times for basic services, more regulations, reduced accountability, and a reduction of service and higher cost, ultimately leading to higher taxes.

In centralizing personnel functions, will this allow for greater accountability of public servants or will this allow another sponsorship scandal to occur with no chance of anyone getting caught taking taxpayers' dollars? Is Bill C-8, and Bill C-25 before it, a case of closing the barn door after the horses have already been let out?

Canadians monitoring the Gomery inquiry into government corruption have been shocked while listening to the testimony of former elected Liberals, like the public works minister. He claimed the fraud and corruption schemes described as money laundering as being the fault of public servants.

Today's editorial page of the Ottawa Citizen sees this bureaucratic reorganization as nothing more than shuffling the deck chairs on the SS Liberal , or does it mean the Titanic , as a way to buy votes rather than improve administration of the Government of Canada? This is what the Ottawa Citizen says about the government procurement:

What about government procurement? There used to be two separate departments--Public Works, and Supply and Services. Jean Chrétien combined them into Public Works and Government Services in 1993 and eventually put Alfonso Gagliano in charge. Just ask the Gomery Inquiry how well that worked.

Canadians must ask, will Bill C-8 make it harder or easier for another sponsorship scandal, the worst scandal involving financial mismanagement in this country and perpetrated against the people of Canada?

Canadian confidence in how this country is run is further diminished when Canadians are told by the Prime Minister that once funds are allocated to a program, there is no accountability on how the money is spent and whether or not the program objectives are being met. Where is the justice in a Prime Minister who feels it is more important for the taxpayer to buy golf balls with his name on them to give away to his golf buddies or a minister of public works, who has a box of expensive pocket watches beside his desk to hand out to his political contributors, when there are children in this country who are going to bed hungry at night? There are a million Canadians who do not have a family doctor.

We fight separatism with good government, not monogrammed golf balls and Canadian lapel pins made in China. Where is the justice in that sort of activity?

It was evident from the arrogant testimony of the former Prime Minister that in his mind, his mistake was not in setting up a program that resulted in the defrauding of tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers, but the very way he presented himself to the corruption inquiry made it clear that he and those who supported his way of thinking felt that their mistake was in getting caught. An independent public service makes it far more difficult to perpetrate the type of corruption and mismanagement that Canadians are listening to, which took place at the senior levels of the government.

If Canadians are looking for a single reason to be skeptical when the government talks about costs, programs and how costs are managed, they should look no further than the horrendous example of the bloated out of control Liberal gun registry to understand why a majority of Canadians do not trust the government when it comes to accountability and how it manages programs that involve taxpayers' dollars.

When Bill C-68, the gun registry, was introduced, the Liberal Party assured Canadians that the program would operate at a net cost of $2 million. Where is it today? As of March 31, the hated gun registry will have cost the taxpayers of Canada $1 billion.

One billion dollars would have funded a lot of day care spaces. One billion dollars would have saved a lot of lives with the purchase of needed medical equipment like MRIs. One billion dollars could have been used toward the purchase of strategic lift for our armed forces, so they could deliver humanitarian aid on a timely basis. That first billion dollars is only the direct costs.

Even the CBC, which has supported that program in its newscasts, estimates that another billion dollars has been wasted on the indirect costs of the gun registry. Some $2 billion for a program that was promised by the government to cost $2 million. These are the indisputable facts.

The sad part of this miserable episode is to hear government ministers continue to defend this terrible waste of money. It is with this record in mind that I look at what Bill C-8 really means. This legislation is part of an internal services modernization program that will encompass the whole Government of Canada. The idea of a common infrastructure and service delivery review is now being driven by 9/11.

The federal government found that with so many departments using different platforms, there is a basic inability of the various departments to communicate with one another. With about 800 interfaces to other systems and more than 100 data centres, this means that Big Brother effectively does not know what is going on within its own organization.

Centralizing the functions of government, including the personnel function in this legislation, is meant to increase control. There is no evidence that efficiency will increase as well. The planned layoffs of government employees that will follow this legislation are necessary in order to sell this plan to some elements of the government party.

Bill C-8, along with the previous bill, Bill C-25, is part of a seven year plan to radically change how information technology is handled. That in and of itself is not a negative goal, but will it improve services to taxpayers? Past experience says no.

There is a plan in this internal services overhaul to create an information technology shared service organization as a special operating agency within Public Works. I would remind the minister that Canadians still do not have answers regarding the $161 million that went missing from the Department of National Defence as a consequence of its information technology reorganization changes and the lack of financial controls and proper accountability of how taxpayer dollars were spent.

When the Prime Minister tells Canadians he does not care how dollars are spent, which is what he told the Gomery inquiry, he is sending a clear signal that nobody should care, including the individuals who administer these programs.

I recognize the element of Bill C-8 that restores the comptrollership function that was cut back so extensively by the former finance minister, now Prime Minister, that led to the missing millions from DND and ad scam, but is reinstituting the comptroller enough?

The status quo projection for the next seven years is that the program areas themselves will spend an additional $9 billion performing similar related functions. Program managers and employees will spend approximately $17 billion on administrative matters. The likely spending by identifiable corporate function organizations in the areas of human resources, financial, materiel and information technology services is in the order of $40 billion. That is a lot of money.

What will it cost to implement this internal services modernization program? We can look for an expenditure in the upcoming budget of $2 billion for the corporate administration of this project over its seven year projected life, with a further $1.5 billion over five years to purchase the information technology to go with the program.

What is the human cost of this plan? Bill C-8 is all about human resource management so why does the government feel it needs legislation to supercede orders in council, which is the preferred way of sneaking change to avoid democratic oversight?

When this program was originally presented it was done so on the premise that “harvested savings” would pay for the reorganization. Now it has been determined that the so-called savings do not appear before year four of the seven year plan. The need for new money has resulted in Bill C-8. If the government is going to save $1 billion in annual operating costs, the money has to come from somewhere and once the master plan is announced the last thing the government wants is public scrutiny.

The projected impact of this plan, measured in full time equivalents, is 32,000 people. That means 32,000 positions in the public service will be directly affected by this program. The number of employees expected to lose their jobs is 13,000. Let me repeat that the federal government expects that 13,000 employees will lose their jobs implementing this program.

Moving public servants into the shared service organization that is envisioned by this plan will allow for processing functions to leave Ottawa, which is the carrot to get scared cabinet ministers from vulnerable ridings to sign on to this program.

What this has traditionally meant is pork-barrelling into the areas of the country the government is afraid of losing, as The Ottawa Citizen so aptly pointed out today. The concern is not the lost jobs in Ottawa, and I hope Mayor Chiarelli is listening. It is moving the remaining jobs to ridings outside of Ottawa.

The tactics of this new program have been laid out: get control quickly and centralize that control. Constituents of my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke are already suffering from the effects of the government's reorganization plan.

The federal government has identified the recently reconfigured Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, HRSDC, as a department with a pressing need to transform service areas within that department. HRSDC clients are the latest victims in this current experiment in government reorganization.

What this has meant for unemployed insurance claimants, seasonal workers applying for benefits in my riding, is that a 28 day waiting period for benefits has become, in some instances, a two and a half month wait. That kind of delay is clearly unacceptable.

The federal government knows that come late fall seasonal workers will be coming forward with their unemployment insurance forms. This is not new. This is the reality of certain kinds of employment in Canada.

What is new is when my constituency office is told by HRSDC that somehow it was taken unaware of the fact that for certain types of employment those workers are laid off during the winter and, surprise, surprise, will be applying for unemployment insurance benefits to tide them over to the next season. Two and a half months is a long time to go without any money in a household when one has bills to pay and children to feed.

It is bad enough that the government is running a $46 billion surplus in the employment fund, a fund for which workers pay in the form of a payroll tax. The economy pays for the payroll tax with fewer jobs since dollars that could have been used to create employment are paid out, in a payroll tax, in a fund that has a $46 billion surplus. However the government is trying to make it as difficult as possible for workers to draw from a fund that they pay directly into to protect against times of unemployment. To qualify and to then be told that one has to wait 6, 8, 10 or even 12 weeks for benefits is a symptom of everything that is wrong with the government.

This is the latest bureaucratic reorganization. It is recognized as having the potential to make a few individuals and their companies very wealthy. The number of vendors who will be able to provide services to the Government of Canada will be rationalized, in the words of the federal government. In the process of cutting suppliers, the opportunities will be presented to the favoured few, and that is a lobbyist's dream.

Any human resource reforms must have the support of the people they affect if they have any chance to succeed. What the public servants of Canada do not want is another top down plan imposed upon them without their consultation. Before any of these plans are implemented, I encourage the government to talk to and engage the people they affect before the plans are implemented.

As it has been noted elsewhere, 40 years of restructuring have never produced the results that are promised every time a bill like Bill C-8 is written. If the federal government were seriously committed to managing government more proficiently, it would start with ministerial accountability and it would start at the top with the Prime Minister.

Department of Foreign Affairs ActGovernment Orders

February 11th, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-32. As has been mentioned before, Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 are companion bills, which we will be dealing with over the course of time.

In my role as CIDA critic, I have had the opportunity to take part in a few foreign affairs committee meetings recently while our critic from Halifax was travelling on business related to the committee. It was interesting to hear my colleague from the Liberals say there was no necessity to have international trade as part of the foreign affairs committee.

I was glad to hear my colleague from the Bloc mention that in just the last week, in the only meetings I have attended, we were dealing with issues of trade, specifically Bill C-25 and RADARSAT. That certainly very much was commercialization; that was what we were talking about. It was a commercialized agreement made with the U.S. on dealing with images that come through RADARSAT.

Just as a note on that one before I get into my real discussion on Bill C-32, it was interesting to find out at the meeting that the Government of Canada had given a company $430 million to put RADARSAT in place. The company invested $92 million and said, “Here is a deal”. We thought Joey Smallwood made the best deal in Newfoundland for the sale of power from Churchill Falls, but let me tell members that the government proved it could come up with a better deal. From the Government of Canada, from the taxpayers, $430 million, and from the company, $92 million, so let us guess who owns it: the company that put in $92 million. Let us guess what else: Canada is going to pay for the images. Is that not a deal? As well, if that satellite happens to fall out of the sky and creates some problems, we cover the liability. What a deal for us.

Let me say that we do not want these people negotiating too many things on our behalf. I was shocked. I thought I had heard it all, but it actually gets better. I hope we will have a chance to discuss it more when we debate Bill C-25, but if Canadians want some real fine tuning, they should pay attention to it and ask some questions about that bill when it comes before the House.

Just to get back to Bill C-32, because this is an important issue, I think it is important that I read out exactly what Bill C-32 does.Canadians probably do not realize exactly how a bill comes before us. We get a piece of paper with the name of the bill on the front and it tells us pretty much what the bill will do. Inside the bill there is a recommendation. Here is what the recommendation on this bill states:

Her Excellency the Governor General recommends to the House of Commons the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled “An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”.

I want to specify what “the appropriation of public revenue” is, because there is no question that what we are dealing with here is an additional cost to the Canadian taxpayers. There is no question about that.

This is happening at a time when we have a situation in our country in which the government, despite having a surplus, has taken more and more dollars from numerous programs. As a result we do not have, in my view, enough money in old age security for our seniors. We have taken dollars from the EI fund, so there is not enough money for EI benefits. We have issues with child poverty. There is not enough money to address that. We do not have a national housing policy. There are huge shortages of housing around our nation. They are huge in the first nations communities in my riding, and there are absolutely appalling conditions. There are shortages all over the country, not just in first nations communities.

In this situation, our municipalities and our cities are fighting for infrastructure dollars, trying to get tax dollars back because they have to repair the infrastructure. We have a situation where water and sewer infrastructure is lacking in numerous communities throughout the country. We have shortages in our health care as far as trained professionals and other individuals are concerned. There are shortages of health care equipment.

There are huge issues around the country, but what is the government's priority? It is going to set aside money to have separate departments for foreign affairs and international trade. Some might argue that this would cost only a small amount of money. Even if it is $1 million or $2 million, that would be enough money to put more MRI machines where they are needed. It would be enough money to enable us to give more money to seniors. It would be enough money to give additional assistance in pharmacare programs. It would be additional money for post-secondary education. It is not okay to say that it is just a small amount of money. It is an additional cost, and there other costs as well.

I will go to another section of the bill. It states:

The Governor in Council may appoint two Associate Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs,--

And it goes on:

The Governor in Council may designate one of the Associate Deputy Ministers appointed under subsection (1) to be Deputy Minister for Political Affairs.

We are talking about a whole new bureaucracy being involved in setting up this department. In my view we do not have the exact costs here. I know it is going to be more of a cost and the question is whether we should be putting taxpayers' dollars in at this point in time, if ever.

Apart from that, Canadians need to know that it was just over a decade ago that the federal government merged foreign affairs and international trade. They were merged 10 years ago. Now we are going to spend some money and demerge them. Why are we doing this? One observer said that it was because the Prime Minister wants to. He wants to. There is no real justification for having to do this. It is, quite frankly, the opposite. There is justification for not doing this.

My colleague from the Bloc, the member for Joliette, mentioned a number of reasons. They are very valid reasons. International trade and foreign affairs are tied together. Each and every trip that I have ever gone on, when we are dealing with issues related to another country and we are meeting with the different officials from that country, there is always discussion of issues related to trade and foreign affairs.

I am pleased to say that on a recent trip we had discussions with colleagues in Viet Nam, Russia and China. We dealt with trade issues and had discussions with these colleagues. We also dealt with issues of human rights. All of this comes together and we know that it should.

As my colleague from Joliette mentioned, if we are going to deal in trade and do business with a country, then we should be able to say to that country that it has to do certain things as far as human rights, labour legislation and the protection of workers is concerned. We must talk about human rights and treating everyone fairly in that country.

We must be able to ask if there are practices in place where people do not have the right of religious expression. We must be able to say that we want people to be given that opportunity. We should be able to have those discussions.

I hope my colleagues from the Conservative Party will go a step beyond saying they will look after business and support this because it is the best thing for business and trade.

The reality is that it is not in the best interests for Canada to do business with certain countries. My colleague from the Conservatives has criticized the state of human rights in China. Does that party not think it is important that when we are dealing with trade and foreign affairs that we should be able to say to China that as a country it must make moves in this area? China has one of the most undemocratic and hostile regimes as far as human rights. Do the Conservatives not think that those things should come together? Is that not what doing business together and improving things for everyone throughout the world is about? It certainly is in my view.

My colleague from Joliette also mentioned Wal-Mart. We have seen the situation where the one unionized Wal-Mart in Canada will be closed. We can think that it is not a federal government issue. In itself it may not be a federal government issue. However, the issue is to recognize why Wal-Mart is doing that. We do not want to be promoting that kind of a position within our country. We do not want to be doing that. Canadians believe that the right of representation is there.

More and more I am seeing issues where this government is accepting the crawl to the bottom of the barrel. It is the basis on what the government is willing to accept as far as human rights are concerned. I know of various situations. I have heard of numerous cases in the United States where Wal-Mart pays the lowest wages possible so that all of their workers will be able to get medicaid. Then Wal-Mart does not have to be pay anything from the company.

I was in the U.S. at a time when a story broke where Wal-Mart had signed contracts with a company to do the cleaning of its stores, knowing full well that the company was using illegal workers. Therefore, the company could pay the workers less and, as a result, Wal-Mart paid less for the cleaning.

We do not want to be promoting that. We want to stand behind good, decent values in support of each other and decent wages for individuals. More and more I see this kind of action, saying we do not want to tie human rights with trade because somehow trade is the ultimate. Companies having the right to trade is the ultimate goal. It is not mine. It is not my ultimate goal. I do not see human beings as a natural resource for companies to make a buck off of them. That is not how I base my life and I would hope it is not how others do as well.

I went off on a bit of a tangent, but when one starts to realize what seems to be happening in one's own country, it is starting to look an awful lot like what is happening in some other countries. One wants to ensure that the government is made to face it once in a while and have its members realize exactly what is happening because so often they do not know exactly what is happening in each and every area.

I am going to have to tie Bill C-32 and Bill C-31 together because another issue in this whole discussion is the fact that the government is in the process, so we hear, of an international policy review. It is beyond my wildest imagination why we would be spending money and time on an international policy review when the report has not been finalized and been given to someone to review or had a whole scope of meetings with the country.

The government says it is in the process of an international policy review, but before getting the results of that international policy review it is going to divide international trade and foreign affairs. It seems absolutely ridiculous. We use the terminology that it is putting the cart before the horse. No kidding.

It would be the same as spending a whole pile of money on the Romanow report on health care, but before even getting the report the government would go ahead and implement new programs and do different things in health care. I guess I cannot say it is the same because there was no hope of anything being implemented in health care by the government, so I probably should not have used that analogy.

The reality with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 is that it makes no sense to be carrying out an international policy review. People in my riding from the multicultural community contact me and say they want to have some discussions on the international policy review. There are people who have been actively involved in our communities since they came to Canada. They have taken a personal interest in the workings of our government and country, and want to be part of that international policy review. What is it saying to all those people who were going to do that job quite seriously and get their input in the international policy review if the government rushes to separate two departments with no justification for doing so?

My colleague from Joliette mentioned the 270 former diplomats who think this is a crazy thing to do. Certainly they must be in the know. They are the ones who have been involved in this for years. It is really a strange situation. It has us wondering why the government is doing this. What is the great benefit? I must say that I have not heard a really good reason yet.

I want to talk about an area where the government could have moved. As the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade exists now, we have the Canadian International Development Agency and there is a minister for CIDA, but there is no legislation in this country to mandate CIDA. That is a piece of legislation we should have been dealing with, a mandate for CIDA.

It spends a huge amount of money and is supported by Canadians because we are caring individuals and value our representation, and we support what our country does for the world. Is there a mandate for CIDA spending millions of dollars? There is no mandate for CIDA. The government's priority is a piece of legislation to separate the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. There is no legislation to mandate CIDA. That is unacceptable. It is absolutely unacceptable that this would be the government's priority and not CIDA.

The issue of not having a mandate for CIDA is twofold. First, we do not know for sure exactly what CIDA is supposed to be supporting and what Canadians want CIDA to do. Most Canadians want to see CIDA dealing with the alleviation of poverty. That should be the mandate. The other area that Canadians want to see, and they want to see this in all aspects of government but certainly in CIDA, is the transparency and accountability of CIDA dollars, of Canadian taxpayers' dollars. With no legislation for CIDA, how do we ensure that? How do we ensure that Canadian taxpayers' dollars given to CIDA will be followed through, and have the accountability and transparency that Canadians want?

I say to the government and to all my colleagues in the House not to accept these pieces of legislation. There is absolutely no urgency to do it. It is unconscionable to be accepting these pieces of legislation before the international policy review. I hope the people in all of our communities will come out and say to us that it is not okay to be doing this, it is not okay to be spending taxpayers' money. If the government is going to do this then it should forget the international policy review because there is no point. It is a farce. It is slap in the face. The government does not care what people have to say. It is going to go ahead and do this first. It is not acceptable.

If my colleagues want to really have a priority, they should give CIDA a mandate. Canadians have shown what kind of people they are during the tsunami disaster. They came out wholeheartedly and wanted to help out. We need people to help out on a continual basis and we need taxpayers' dollars, stable funding, and funding that we can tell year by year is going to meet the needs of our assistance in the world. We need a mandate for CIDA far more than we need Bills C-31 and C-32.

Department of Foreign Affairs ActGovernment Orders

February 11th, 2005 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely mind-boggling to listen to the parliamentary secretary. If he were at the Davos Economic Forum, he would be taken for an ultra-right guy. At this very moment, the forum is focusing on social issues and democracy than on commercial issues. Globalization is about opening markets but also about standing up for democracy and promotion rights, namely union, democratic and environmental rights, as well as cultural diversity rights. If the member still does not get that, he is 30 years behind.

Besides, he argues that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade does not deal with commercial matters. The sole fact that the committee decided to study simultaneously Bill C-31 establishing the Department of International Trade and Bill C-32 on the Foreign Affairs Department proves that this the member is wrong. The matter was not referred to the sub-committee on investment and international trade, because it was thought that it was about foreign affairs as well as international trade and, therefore, had to be addressed by the committee itself.

We are presently studying Bill C-25 on remote sensing satellites. This bill is about international trade, since the Canadian industry hopes to sell images throughout the world, but also about foreign affairs because we do not want those images to work against the military and trade interests of Canada.

Members will understand the point I was trying to make about the partition of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Department. It is the result of a retrograde vision of international trade and foreign affairs.

The parliamentary secretary should know that at least 60% to 70% of our foreign affairs are about trade policy and that the best way for Canada to promote its values and vision is to communicate its ideas through its trade policy.

The comments of the secretary parliamentary only served to reinforce my belief that this decision goes against common sense and modernity. I am more convinced than ever that the Bloc Québécois will vote against this bill and I invite all members to vote against those two bills.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-25, the remote sensing space systems bill. I will begin by picking up where the hon. member left off, and that is to remind the House that there are national security implications with respect to the use of satellites. I would like to speak a little more directly to the natural security implications and address some of the important economic and ecological implications around the regulation that is provided through the remote sensing bill.

In tabling the legislation, we are recognizing that Canada has become a force in the highly competitive global niche market of earth observation. It is a major component of Canada's high tech sector and there are, in my region alone in the national capital region, over 1,500 high tech companies, many of which have provided contributions to this very area of remote sensing.

The Government of Canada is committed to using state of the art earth observation satellites, sensors and technology to monitor and manage our crops, forests, oceans and other natural resources. Many of which, we do not even know exist because they have not necessarily been catalogued or form part of any inventory.

These satellites and technology are intended to, for example, monitor climate change as the impacts of climate change are felt on the fragile ecosystem in Canada's far north. These technologies are helping our scientists learn more about our planet. They are providing the government with important information, policy and decision making information.

Through the legislation, we are also acknowledging that space based remote sensing is a critical resource that is helping the Government of Canada ensure the safety and security of Canadians while asserting the sovereignty of our nation from coast to coast to coast. Government departments and agencies are using remote sensing to aggressively monitor and catch polluters, for example, in our coastal waters.

Orbiting some 800 kilometres above the earth, operating day and night, in all weather conditions, Canada's satellite, called RADARSAT, is peering through the darkness and the fog to identify offenders, and alert authorities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the Great Lakes, and on both the east and west coasts of Canada.

Across the government, departments are working together with the Canadian space program, using space technologies and remote sensing to deliver better services to Canadians faster and more efficiently. A host of government and academic partners are studying wetlands, coastlines, the arctic ice sheet and Canada's forests.

Extreme dry conditions in British Columbia in the summer of 2003 led to the worst forest fire season on record. More than 2,400 fires consumed over 255,000 hectares of prime Canadian forest. The final cost was a staggering $545 million just to fight the fires and the loss of more than $5 billion worth of lumber to the Canadian forest industry.

Pilot programs are directing telecommunications and remote sensing resources to mobilize firefighters in real time, dispatching critical resources to save lives, homes, forests and wildlife. In Canada alone, natural disasters in the last 10 years have led to the loss of many lives and caused over $5.5 billion in damages. When the Red River flooded its banks in 1997 and 2000, it forced the evacuation of 28,000 Manitobans.

Images from space helped monitor the flood conditions. They helped plan and speed rescue operations, and determined damage to local infrastructure like the highways. The data produced by remote sensing satellites is also being used to improve the management of agricultural sustainability. This information could one day help our farmers increase their crop yields and implement better agricultural practices such as zero tillage.

Advanced remote sensing in the future could help a sector that annually generates exports worth $24 billion, representing about 8.3% of our national GNP. Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Space Agency have launched a study that looks at sea surface, temperatures, currents and other characteristics of our oceans. Space based remote sensing satellites are providing key information to all levels of government, to the fishing sector and aboriginal groups to better manage our marine resources while protecting our ocean and coastal environments. It is not a small and unimportant feat as we strive to implement our oceans management strategy.

Other departments are working with the Canadian Space Agency to monitor ice flows, sea ice, glaciers, ice caps and frozen ground in Canada's north. The Canadian Ice Service is one of the largest single users of this data. RADARSAT images are helping the Canadian Coast Guard analyze ice flows, directing ships as they navigate through Canada's ice filled waters.

We know that earth observation images will provide important information on the sustainable development of our northern resources and the possible impact of such activities on our aboriginal peoples, their communities and their lands.

Observing our country from space also helps Canada's commitments to the Kyoto agreement by providing the government with critical information. No where is this more obvious than in the environment and sustainable development indicators initiative of the Government of Canada and launched by the Prime Minister when he was the minister of finance in the 2000 budget. He instructed the national round table on the environment and the economy to devise Canada's first suite of environmental and sustainable development indicators, so we could report more accurately to Canadians on the overall health and wealth of our country using measurements other than simply economic measurements.

We know that the data provided by RADARSAT will be of great assistance as we seek, for example, to report on the extent of Canadian wetlands. It is said that Canada possesses 25% of the planet's wetlands. Wetlands are a perfect water and air filtration system. This kind of data will help us diagnose the extent to which we still possess those wetlands, and to what extent if any we are draining them. This is important as we seek to meet our Kyoto agreement targets.

Just last week my colleague, the Minister of the Environment, hosted 51 nations that came to Ottawa as part of an international undertaking called GEO, Group on Earth Observation. Canada and these nations are absolutely committed to pooling their space, scientific, and technological expertise and resources to develop a global system of systems that will literally take and monitor the pulse of our planet.

Canada continues to gain and has gained valuable experience using remote sensing satellites and technologies to provide help way beyond our borders. Canada works with other countries and the United Nations, for example, to provide images from space that could help speed rescue missions and aid mitigating natural disasters like oil spills, earthquakes and landslides around the world. In the last four years the world has called upon space satellites over 60 times to provide critical lifesaving information.

Canada's remote sensing is assisting developing nations by helping locate sources of drinking water in Africa, for example, and by identifying regions at risk from diseases, such as malaria in Kenya. That is not an insignificant matter as malaria sweeps through sub-Saharan Africa. It is also predicting rice crop yields in the Mekong River Delta in Southeast Asia.

Designed by the leading Canadian space companies and launched in 1995 with an estimated lifetime of 5 years, RADARSAT-1 has now entered its 10th year of operation. Through a public-private partnership, RADARSAT International and the Canadian Space Agency have built a solid global reputation for Canada in remote sensing.

RADARSAT International has certified a global network of 24 ground stations and built a market for precision RADARSAT data, serving more than 600 government and commercial clients in more than 60 countries.

Today Canada claims fully 15% of the global market for remote sensing products and services. Canada's next generation of remote sensing satellite, RADARSAT-2, is being readied for launch in late 2005. RADARSAT-2 is being assembled and tested not far from here, at Canada's space qualification facility, the David Florida Laboratory at Shirley's Bay. I take this opportunity to invite my esteemed colleagues from all sides of the House to visit the space agency's lab to see RADARSAT-2, a leading edge satellite that will address the needs of government and the growing global commercial market.

In short, space is a strategic asset for our country. Space and remote sensing are helping our government meet its priorities, especially in areas related to environmental protection, sustainable development, climate change, cities as they grow, and connecting Canadians' security and sovereignty. Space can provide solutions to government policy and service delivery challenges by putting space capability in the hands of our policy advisors and service providers.

Canada's commitment to leveraging the power and potential of space is positioning Canada as a technology leader among nations. Satellite remote sensing is an important and mature industry that provides Canadians and the world with unmatched tools for monitoring the environment and managing natural resources.

This legislation provides a very clear regulatory framework in which private remote sensing activities can evolve, a framework which also recognizes the importance of meeting our security concerns and obligations. This remote sensing legislation will also help ensure Canadian companies remain global leaders in remote sensing technology and services, and help them to continue to deliver social and economic benefits to Canada and Canadians.