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.


Pierre Pettigrew  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.


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

March 5th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
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Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Byers?

March 5th, 2008 / 4:25 p.m.
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Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

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

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

March 5th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
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Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

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

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

March 5th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
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Former President, Canadian Space Agency, As an Individual

Marc Garneau

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

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

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

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

February 26th, 2008 / 12:13 p.m.
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Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The motion reads:

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

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

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

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

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

Access to InformationOral Questions

November 14th, 2005 / 2:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba


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

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

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

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

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

Call in the members.

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

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
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Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

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

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

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 4:10 p.m.
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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

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

The summary of the bill states:

This enactment regulates remote sensing space systems to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

In order to accomplish this, the enactment establishes a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provides for restrictions on the distribution of data gathered by means of them. In addition, the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

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

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

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

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

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

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 4th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

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

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

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

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

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

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 3:50 p.m.
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Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.

This is a very important piece of legislation that deals with an issue at the heart of our parliamentary democracy.

A government press release issued on the same day that Bill C-11 was introduced noted that the bill is an important part of the federal government's broader commitment to ensure transparency, accountability, financial responsibility and ethical conduct in the public sector.

With a long list of deplorable examples of government waste and mismanagement like Ms. Stewart, Mr. Radwanski, the motley crew involved in the sponsorship scandal, and the latest, Mr. Dingwall, how can anyone believe that the Liberals are seriously committed to providing real protection for whistleblowers who might expose the misconducts of their cronies?

In the 1993 election campaign, the Liberal Party promised whistleblower legislation in a letter to the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Twelve years later public sector workers are still waiting for legislation that will thoroughly protect them.

My riding of Carleton—Mississippi Mills is home to thousands of public sector employees who work all over the National Capital Region and who, to this day, remain vulnerable to reprisals from their employers should they speak out and reveal wrongdoings in their workplace. Whistleblowers play an invaluable role in cleansing our institutions of rot and corruption and we should be encouraging not discouraging them from coming forward with information.

Donald C. Rowat, professor emeritus of political science at Carleton University, an expert on whistleblower laws, stated that whistleblowers should have strong protection for two main reasons. First, if they detect wrongdoing and reveal it publicly, their accused superiors are almost sure to take vigorous retaliatory action against them. Second, if they do not reveal the wrongdoing for fear of retaliation, it may never be revealed and the public interest will seriously suffer.

Having worked inside a large government organization, I know that the potential whistleblower's fear of retaliation is well founded because nearly always, those accused of wrongdoing are higher in the organization. They can easily take action against their whistleblowing subordinates. Because there is a tendency in any organization to protect its reputation by denying any wrongdoing, it normally closes ranks and ignores or even supports the retaliatory action.

Just remember the code we learned as school children, that we do not rat on people. Those who ratted were disdained by their friends. It is no different in the adult world. The individual must bravely go against the powerful organization.

As we know, in nearly every case the whistleblower ends up losing his or her job or suffering some other form of retaliation or both. It takes real fortitude and integrity to be a whistleblower. If we already had effective whistleblower legislation, how many cases of waste, mismanagement and wrongdoing would have been remedied and how many taxpayers' dollars would have been saved?

Professor Rowat noted in his comments on whistleblower legislation that the federal government appointed a public service integrity officer in November 2001 who was supposed to investigate whistleblower allegations of wrongdoing. However, because he was appointed by the government under the policy issued by the Treasury Board, instead of a law passed by Parliament, his powers of protection were weak. He is not independent of the government and does not have the power to make binding decisions or to publicize wrongdoing.

As a result his office has been criticized as feeble and toothless based on a policy of internal rather than public disclosure. In a recent annual report he has admitted that potential whistleblowers' fear of retaliation are so great that very few come forward. Most of the complaints he has received involve personal employment grievances rather than the misdeeds of senior bureaucrats.

The professor went on to say that the provisions to protect whistleblowers in Bill C-25, the predecessor to Bill C-11, were inadequate. Anonymity was not guaranteed and the bill provided no fines or sanctions against employers who retaliated, no financial or other compensation for blatant retaliation, and no rewards for whistleblowers who save taxpayers' money as laws elsewhere have done.

Former Privy Council President Coderre claimed that the bill struck a balance between encouraging public servants to report wrongdoing and protecting against disgruntled employees with an axe to grind. This reveals that he was not clear on the concept. He picked the wrong balance.

Protection against disgruntled employees is a minor problem. The real problem is the protection of whistleblowers. The law must strike a balance between the vast power of the bureaucracy and the weakness of potential whistleblowers by providing enough protection and incentive for them to be willing to risk the wrath of superiors.

Whistleblowers are employees who exercise freedom of expression rights to challenge institutional abuses of power or illegality that harm or threaten the public interest. Whistleblowers are often the best qualified, the brightest, as well as those employees most committed to the longevity of the organization. It is this loyalty that in fact causes them to risk everything in speaking out. They represent the highest ideals of public service and loyalty to the long term interests and sustainability of the organization.

In its original form Bill C-11 would have done more harm than good to whistleblowers. Thanks to a lot of hard work by Conservatives in committee and some major reversals by the government, we now believe the opposite to be true.

The bill originally required whistleblowers to report to the president of the Public Service Commission, who is not independent. Thanks to pressure from the Conservative Party, the government has tabled amendments to create an independent commissioner to hear and investigate disclosures of wrongdoing. He will report to Parliament.

However, the bill remains flawed. The Conservative Party moved several other amendments that were rejected by other parties in committee. Conservatives are not the only ones who find this disheartening. As Ms. Nycole Turmel, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, noted in her appearance before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates last year, “the government's reluctance to go the distance and get it right is more than a little disquieting”. Conservatives still feel that these changes should be made, and if the bill were to pass, we would make these changes when we form the government after the next election.

The bill does not prohibit reprisals against those who make disclosures of wrongdoing to the public, the media, the police, the Auditor General, the Information Commissioner or anyone outside the narrow process prescribed by the bill. A Conservative government would protect all whistleblowers.

Bill C-11 changes the Access to Information Act to allow departments to refuse to release information about internal disclosures of wrongdoing for five years. This was originally 20 years, but was amended in committee. The Conservative Party would like to see this provision removed completely and the Information Commissioner agrees. If this provision had been in effect at the time, taxpayers would still not know that their money had been siphoned off from the sponsorship program and funnelled into the Liberal Party.

Cabinet can arbitrarily remove several government bodies from the protection of Bill C-11. For example, if they choose, cabinet can remove the Bank of Canada, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Canada Council for the Arts, the CBC, the National Arts Centre Corporation, the Public Sector Pension and Investment Board and Telefilm Canada. Conservatives tried to change this in committee, but the other parties refused. A Conservative government would ensure cabinet cannot remove any government body from the scope of the act.

Unfortunately, the scope of the bill is still too limited in its application. Specifically, the Canadian Forces, CSIS and CSE are excluded from the provisions of the act that provides for access to a neutral and independent body. The application of this bill in their work environments will encourage silence rather than disclosure.

Members of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and Communications Security Establishment are precisely the ones that should have whistleblower protection. Their work is veiled in secrecy. What better environment for wrongdoing to take place without consequences?

Members of these organizations need the powers of a neutral third party to protect the privacy and confidentiality of information while at the same time offering protection to whistleblowers. There is no valid basis for the exclusion of any government employees from the protection of the bill.

Since 1999 opposition MPs and senators have introduced 13 bills to protect whistleblowers. If the Liberals were really serious about this matter, they could have adopted the legislation of any one of these bills. Instead, they have waited until they are faced with a huge scandal and have acted to give the appearance that they are doing something.

I support the need for a whistleblowers bill to protect government from wrongdoing and also to protect those brave individuals who place their careers on the line to ensure that justice is done.

Bill C-11 certainly offers an improvement to the current situation, but it is flawed. What is really needed is legislation with no exclusions of any government employees regardless of the nature of their work, as well as real protection from reprisals. Until that happens we Conservatives consider that government whistleblower protection remains inadequate and incomplete.

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October 3rd, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
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Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, regarding the bill that was tabled before the last elections, the committee had an opportunity to hear only a few witnesses. Even though it did a good job, it could not bring its work to completion. We knew that and we knew we would be proposing another bill. That is what the government did. It reviewed the recommendations of the committee that had reviewed Bill C-25, and it based itself on those recommendations.

A bill will always evolve over time. Such is the case with C-11 that was proposed to us. We knew it was not a perfect bill. Accordingly, we brought it forward and we requested that the committee deal with it after first reading. That is a way the government chose to demonstrate that it was expecting major changes. That is what we did. So, we have a bill which, hopefully, will be effective in protecting whistleblowers and in ensuring that we continue having a good government.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus to share our views on Bill C-11, the whistleblower bill. I note technically it has a much longer name, but those of us who have been working on it for quite some time call it what it is. It is a bill to protect whistleblowers in the public service.

Today in debating Bill C-11 in the House we are experiencing a good, graphic illustration of the advantages of a minority Parliament. I hope you will not consider it out of order for me to explain my comment, Madam Speaker.

As recently as June 2005, Bill C-11 was dead. It had been on life support for 18 or so months leading up to that, but clearly by June 2005, the wheels had fallen off the bill. The ruling party was not listening to the wishes of the majority of the members of the House of Commons, which is the opposition in this situation. Because of the unique nature of minority parliaments, the will of Parliament was heard. With a minority Parliament the elected members are able to make manifest the will of Parliament instead of just the will of government.

The important thing to remember as we begin the debate is that through a process of consultation and cooperation with the other legitimately elected members of the House of Commons, we arrived at a package that we could support. We revitalized Bill C-11 by an exercise of cooperation, which is rare in my experience as a member of Parliament.

Let me can compare the seven years that I spent as an opposition member in a majority government situation to the last 16 months as a member of Parliament in a minority government. I can say it is a great deal more gratifying to be in a minority government situation where the spirit of cooperation is what guides us in the best interests of Canadians, instead of the exercise of absolute power vested in the majority party which may hold power at any given time. We should remind ourselves that in our electoral system even that majority party may not represent the majority of Canadians. It is not unusual to form a majority government with 36% or 37% of the vote, but because of the nuances and inconsistencies in the first past the post system, that is the arrangement we have.

In beginning the debate on Bill C-11, we should acknowledge, recognize and pay tribute to this unique moment in history where we actually have all Canadians being represented in the decision making process of Parliament. It is good for Canadians. It is certainly good in this example.

Let me preface my remarks on the specifics of Bill C-11 by saying that in my experience as a working person and as a leader of a trade union in my past life, I know that good managers want to know what is going on in their enterprise and good managers welcome whistleblowing. It is only managers with something to hide who try to resist and oppose any kind of whistleblowing exercise. We should keep that in mind as we go into this process because it is this unique minority government's opportunity that may be leading us toward an era of greater transparency and accountability, ethics, morals and values, reintroducing some of those elements that have clearly slipped away in the exercise of power in recent Canadian history at the federal government level.

My party is committed to good whistleblowing legislation. I had a private member's bill to that effect. When I became a member of Parliament in 1997, one of the first bills I had commissioned by the legislative drafting people of the House of Commons was whistleblowing legislation. In my experience as an advocate for employees as a trade union representative, I know that workers are vulnerable and are put in uncomfortable situations in the workplace where they wish to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing but do not feel safe or able to do so.

I know that is not an infrequent experience in my own workplace, in my own working life and certainly in today's public sector. That feeling was given even more weight in my view when as members of the government operations committee, we were charged with the task of investigating the office of the Privacy Commissioner in what has become known as the Radwanski affair. Never in Canadian history has there been a more graphic illustration of the need for whistleblowing protection for employees than in that glaring example of abuse, maladministration of funds and what has been characterized as wretched excess on the part of a public servant.

Clearly the privacy commissioner of the day broke faith with the Canadian people when he used his authority to his own personal advantage. However, even though the employees in his office knew full well that these abuses were taking place, they did not feel they could come forward to anyone because under the current regime, the person they would have to report it to would be their immediate supervisor who was the culprit himself. It is an impossible, untenable situation for the worker.

Even when we provided the protection of a non-partisan standing committee of the House of Commons to interview these employees about what they knew, the employees felt compelled to bring their own lawyers. Who can they trust if they cannot trust a non-partisan, all-party committee of their elected representatives? We are supposed to be on their side, as citizens of Canada and as employees in the public service. They still could not see fit to come forward and share the information they knew without bringing their own lawyers. That, perhaps more than anything, illustrated to me that the system as it stands is broken, unfair and does not in fact protect whistleblowers. If anything, whistleblowers, if they were looking at their own best interests and the best interests of their families, would keep their lips zipped and not share the information because no one would to guarantee that they could protect them if they did come forward.

We wrestled through that and through a number of incarnations of a proposal from the government side to alter the whistleblowing regime. Successive scandals with the government made it abundantly apparent that there was a need for a change of operations as it pertained to transparency and accountability of the government. It was put off and put off until it could be ignored no more and the public outcry was such that the Liberal government could not ignore the need for whistleblowing legislation. However its first overture toward correcting the regime, which was Bill C-25, was an insult to those of us involved. It was put forward during the period of time when the Liberals had a majority government and it was a farce.

Rather than an act to protect whistleblowers, we called it an act to protect ministers from whistleblowers. It was structured in such a way that the real defence mechanism was to protect the government from people who may come forward. We criticized it in a resounding way. My colleagues from the Bloc did a comprehensive analysis of the bill and also criticized it. All 14 witnesses, the experts in the field, the leading authorities in the rights of whistleblowers, nationally and internationally, came before the committee and said that we would be better off with nothing than with what was being proposed. It was resoundingly condemned and we really had to go back to the drawing table.

At that time we struck a subcommittee. I was proud to be the co-chair of a subcommittee of the government operations committee to revisit the issue of whistleblowing and to at least develop the framework under which we could see an acceptable whistleblowing protection regime developed. I co-chaired that committee with my colleague from Laval—Les Îles and I was proud that our small working group came back with recommendations that had, I believe, captured the sentiment of the nation and the authorities and collective wisdom of the people from whom we sought input.

I think we were faithful to the spirit of the representations made to our small working group but what came forward was not something that we could support.

When we started the round of hearing witnesses on Bill C-25, we heard from people in the trade unions, university professors, lawyers who had represented whistleblowers in the past and even some high profile whistleblowers who said that what was being proposed by the government would not protect them. Even the public service integrity officer, Mr. Keyserlingk, told the committee that even as the integrity officer of the country if he were a civil servant he would not come forward and divulge what he knew because he did not believe he could protect those people. We then knew that we were going nowhere.

The point has been made abundantly clear that any time civil servants disclose wrongdoing it is a very courageous act on their part. They are not doing it out of any self-interest. They are doing it because they feel a moral obligation to report wrongdoing in the public interest.

I should also point out, just to give credit where credit is due, that it is a courageous act on the part of any government to introduce legitimate whistleblowing protection legislation because it is opening the door and inviting people to come forward and tell people what they know that may be critical of the government. I admire any government that puts forward legitimate whistleblowing legislation and protection. It shows a self-confidence and a commitment to honesty, integrity and transparency that should be recognized.

I believe that with Bill C-11 we are approaching the point where I can make that statement, that Bill C-11 will in fact, in this form, with some amendments and modifications, perhaps, or some adjustments in the administration and the application and the regulation of this bill, give public servants the security they need to feel comfortable coming forward.

That came through directly because of this minority government situation, where the opposition parties, in the middle of June, made it abundantly clear that this bill was dead without the adjustments that we were seeking and the key fundamental adjustment was that the integrity officer, the actual commissioner as such, has to report to Parliament not to the minister. It was such a glaring oversight in the first incarnation of this bill that the whole process led to the minister responsible or, in other words, to government. In other words, the poor public servant was put in the position of blowing the whistle on something the government was doing and the report went to, guess who, the government which has the absolute power and control in the employer-employee relationship over that individual. It was completely unworkable.

In the scenario being proposed now by an amendment by the opposition parties, the new integrity commissioner would be a free standing officer of Parliament, an independent officer who reports only to Parliament. That is the fundamental difference that we are proud to have achieved by consultation, cooperation and perseverance at committee.

I am very grateful and glad that the opposition parties had the strength and the foresight to resist the temptation to accept the earlier offers that were made. Those of us who have been engaged in the struggle for true whistleblower protection for eight years were very tempted. It is very seductive to be offered some improvement in the situation. However, wisely and collectively, we disagreed and said that we could do better. We said that if we were going to be one of the eight countries in the world with legitimate whistleblowing legislation that we had to get it right the first time. We did not want to introduce some half-assed version that would still have civil servants vulnerable if they did not read the fine print and then have to revisit that five years from now and try to correct it. It is better that we were patient and waited for a better working environment because we ended up with a better bill.

Bill C-11, as we know it today, has gone through the committee stage. The government referred it to the committee stage before second reading, which is significant. It is much more difficult to achieve substantial amendments after a bill has achieved second reading. The fact that the committee had it in its hands at first reading meant that the House of Commons had never voted to adopt it in principle and, therefore, this substantive fundamental change was achievable at that stage. We are doing a compressed version of debating this at second reading and report stage all at once today.

I think the public servants can take some comfort in this bill. I am hoping that with correct supervision and administration and the right regulations associated with this bill, civil servants will be protected when they come forward with knowledge of wrongdoing and that their anonymity shall be guaranteed. I hope the report does not wind up in their bosses' hands so they would know who the person was who blew the whistle. When public servants put themselves in these situations, it is not just their own futures that they are putting at risk or at stake when they disclose wrongdoing, it is their families. It is their wife's and children's futures if they lose their job, economic security, et cetera, because they came forward for no personal gain. It is a sacrifice that many civil servants would be unwilling to make.

Let us think of the benefit to the public good if whistleblowers with knowledge of wrongdoing, waste or corruption, whatever it may be, were able to come forward. The savings are of unknown benefit to the government and, by extension, to the people of Canada. If we are sincere about eliminating waste, we want to know where waste exists and we want civil servants to feel comfortable in coming forward and sharing that information with us.

It is the culture of secrecy that allows corruption to flourish. If we are sincere about stamping out corruption, we need to create an environment that is transparent and open and where public servants who have knowledge of corruption may come forward and share that without putting their own personal economic stability at risk or fear any kind of subtle reprisals that may come back to haunt them.

I should point out how critical my party was when, within a week of the introduction of the whistleblowing legislation, such as it was, the Government of Canada fired the three most prominent whistleblowers in the country. I am talking about the officials at Health Canada who had the courage to come forward and warn the Canadian public about the bovine growth hormone. Even though they were being pressured by the industry and the government to approve these hormones for general use, they said no, that they were scientists and were fearful for the well-being of Canadians. They went public and blew the whistle on that .

I think those three courageous scientists are heroes and should have been given the Order of Canada, not summarily fired by the Government of Canada. However that more than anything perhaps illustrates the vulnerability and risk that public servants find themselves in if they do divulge knowledge of wrongdoing.

Having analyzed the bill endlessly over the last many years and having watched it evolve, I can safely say that the members of the caucus of the New Democratic Party welcome the opportunity to put forward whistleblower protection in the public service. The onus will be on us, I believe, if we support the bill at these stages, to monitor and follow the administration and application of this new legislation to ensure that the intent and spirit of the legislation is delivered and lived up to by the federal government because we still have to caution public servants that they need to know exactly what their rights and protections are before they come forward.

I am actually heartened by the fact that there is an element contemplated in Bill C-11 that incorporates the office of the president of the Public Service Commission who may in fact advise public servants as to their rights and the process involved in the disclosure of wrongdoing under the context of Bill C-11. Perhaps this new role for the president of the Public Service Commission would be helpful and valuable to public servants who may be offered counsel and advice--

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
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Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this second opportunity to speak to Bill C-11. I will remind hon. members that I spoke on this same bill in this House on Thursday, October 4, 2004. It will be interesting to look at the way the bill has evolved in keeping with the position of the Bloc Québécois and of members of all parties. On Thursday, October 4, 2004, when Bill C-11 was before the House prior to referral to committee, I said:

However, we will give this minority government the benefit of the doubt and see whether the Liberals will listen to us at committee and be open to making a few amendments, as far as the legislative process allows.

Subsequent to that wish, 47 amendments were proposed. There were problems, however, and I will quote myself again on that:

If the Liberals really want to make this a credible position; if they really want to honour part of the promise in their 1993 red book to restore confidence in the public service, elected officials and the government; then they must establish an independent position of commissioner with this bill. We said this about Bill C-25 and we say it again, and so do the Conservatives.

In another part of that same speech, I made reference to clause 24(1) of the bill:

24.(1) The President of the Public Service Commission may refuse to deal with a disclosure if he or she is of the opinion that:

(a) the public servant has failed to exhaust other procedures otherwise reasonably available;

That was the second problem we pointed out in 2004. I ended my speech as follows:

We hope that the Liberals will act in good faith and with an open mind.

Following that speech, there were eight months of discussions in committee. Many witnesses were heard, and 47 amendments have been presented today with a view to improving Bill C-11, to making it better.

A brief aside here, if I may, to mention the contribution made by someone who worked with me throughout the entire committee process and who is no longer here, because he was an intern. I wish to comment on the excellence of the program, and also of the intern in question. Jeff Bell, of British Columbia, was with me in committee for five of those eight months, for which I was very grateful.

We heard a number of very key witnesses, including Mr. Edward Keyserlingk, who gave us his comments on the actual situation. He was the public service integrity officer and he asked that this Treasury Board policy become law, so that the integrity commissioner would have all the necessary tools to do his job properly.

We heard many things regarding Bill C-11, but I think this legislation can be defined in three very specific points. Usually, when I begin a speech, I always remind people of the issue being discussed. We are debating Bill C-11, An Act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings. Let us summarize its content. The public servants who worked on it and who were with us throughout the process might find this summary somewhat simplistic. However, for the general public—those who are interested can read the whole bill—this legislation basically covers the three points that follow.

Bill C-11 provides for the appointment of an independent public service integrity commissioner. My friends from the Conservative Party said that it was thanks to them, to their ultimatum and to their good work, because they are good, strong and powerful. However, I managed to get them to recognize that this measure had been requested by everyone. Indeed, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP asked for it, as did all the witnesses heard, this since the beginning. There is unquestionably a degree of open-mindedness. First, the Liberals asked that this be put in the hands of the Public Service Commission. In response to the hon. member for Mississauga Centre, I will say that the main problem was that it was the minister who was tabling the report, while we want an independent officer of the House of Commons to do so.

Starting with Bill C-25, which was the forerunner to Bill C-11, between Bill C-11 in its first draft and Bill C-11 as it emerged following Committee review, the main victory for all witnesses who appeared before us in Committee, for the Bloc, the NDP and the Conservatives is that an independent commissioner will be appointed along the very same lines as the Auditor General, the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Commissioner of the Environment, with all the credibility and the recognition given to independent officers of the House of Commons. They will independently—however they wish, subject to the regulations governing them—table reports directly in the House of Commons. This is a great victory for civil servants, for public service employees who will be able to report any wrongdoing to a person they trust.

Secondly, this provides a statutory and formal framework to a civil servant who wishes to disclose a wrongdoing. What is a wrongdoing? That is an interesting question the committee discussed at length. The definition can be found in clause 8 of Bill C-11. I will read some excerpts from it.

This Act applies in respect of the following wrongdoings in or relating to the public sector:

(a)) a contravention of any Act of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, or of any regulations made under any such Act;

(b)) a misuse of public funds or a public asset;

(c) a gross mismanagement in the public sector;

(d)) an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment, [other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of a public servant];

The last part was subsequently added, account being taken of military personnel or RCMP officers. Their work can occasionally put their lives in danger.

(e)) a serious breach of a code of conduct established under section 5 or 6;

(f)) the taking of a reprisal against a public servant;

[(g)) knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit one of the wrongdoings set out in paragraphs above.]

The concept of wrongdoing has been defined well. As the Conservatives have pointed out—mind you, I do not want to engage in sensationalism when it comes to Bill C-11—there could be cases of the abusive use of public funds or serious mismanagement. People at the Royal Canadian Mint could have used and benefited from Bill C-11 to disclose this type of problem. The sponsorship scandal and the gun registry scandal could have been avoided if Bill C-11 had been in place.

A third point was made. First, there will be an independent commissioner. Second, wrongdoing was defined and anyone witnessing a wrongdoing now has the legal ability to disclose the situation. Third, and the last main point in my opinion, is that there will be protection from reprisal.

My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville discussed this earlier, as did my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue. What happens to victims of reprisals? This also sparked lengthy discussions in committee. These questions come out in clauses 19, 20 and so on, under “Protection of persons making disclosures” in Bill C-11. Clause 19 states:

No person shall take any reprisal against a public servant.

It is very easy to write that into a bill, but if ever any reprisals are taken, what will happen? What can be defined as reprisal measures? The bill states:

If a public servant realizes 60 days after the date on which they knew, or in the Board’s opinion ought to have known, that the reprisal was taken, then they can make a complaint.

A person discloses a wrongdoing, waits for the entire process to be settled, is transferred laterally or protected because that is the law. They resume their duties. A month or two later, they realize they are a victim of reprisal, whether psychological or otherwise. They can make a complaint to the Board. More than that, the complaint can be presented after the same deadline mentioned in subsection 3, if the Board finds it appropriate to do so under the circumstances.

If a long time has elapsed, six months for instance, and it feels it is appropriate, the board may hear and make a determination on a complaint by a public servant who feels that a reprisal was taken against him or her.

On receipt of a complaint, the Board may assist the parties to the complaint to settle the complaint. The Board must hear and determine the complaint if it decides not to so assist or the complaint is not settled within a period considered by the Board to be reasonable in the circumstances.

What may be considered as a reprisal is also defined.

If the Board determines that the complainant has been subject to a reprisal taken in contravention of section 19, the Board may, by order, require the employer or the appropriate chief executive, or any person acting on behalf of the employer or appropriate chief executive, to take all necessary measures to

(a) permit the complainant to return to his or her duties;

(b) reinstate the complainant or pay damages to the complainant in lieu of reinstatement if, in the Board's opinion, the relationship of trust between the parties cannot be restored;

(c) pay to the complainant compensation in an amount not greater than the amount that, in the Board’s opinion, is equivalent to the remuneration that would, but for the reprisal, have been paid to the complainant;

(d) rescind any measure or action, including any disciplinary action, and pay compensation to the complainant in an amount not greater than—

(e) pay to the complainant an amount equal to any expenses and any other financial losses incurred by the complainant as a direct result of the reprisal.

The committee members and myself sincerely believe that we have covered all bases to ensure that a formal framework is clearly defined so as to prevent frivolous or vexatious complaints. Think of pressure tactics for instance. We have also covered all bases to ensure that any reprisal is minimal and as difficult as possible to take against a person who has disclosed a wrongdoing.

We are not infallible however. My hon. colleague from the Conservative Party mentioned it earlier, and we want to reiterate, even though it is already in there, that this bill must be reviewed five years after coming into force. If we realize that there have been a million disclosures because the definitions are too broad or because everyone is dishonest—which I doubt very much—then we can look at what could be improved and tighten the rules. If reprisals were taken against every person who disclosed a wrongdoing, we might conclude that we misunderstood everything we heard during committee hearings.

After several months of discussions, of hearing witnesses and of negotiations, members of the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Estimates agreed that the three main points are the independent officer, the legislative framework to file a complaint and measures against reprisal. The members believe that these points were serious enough that we could give what I maintain is unanimous support in this House to Bill C-11, as introduced to us at this time. Of course, this support will be conditional to us being able to review this bill in five years to correct the errors that, unfortunately, we did not see while studying it.

We thus created the position of integrity commissioner. In the very unlikelihood that a wrongdoing would be committed in the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, should the Office of the Integrity Commissioner do wrongful things with public funds, a person could file a complaint before the Office of the Auditor General. Thus we believe we have established a framework for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the government.

We also changed some terms and references to give a more positive character to the bill. Indeed we now talk of “disclosure” instead of “whistleblowing” and “person who discloses” ”instead of “whistleblower”. Thanks to the concerted work of Conservative and Bloc Québécois members as well as certain witnesses heard, the RCMP is included in Bill C-11 whereas it was excluded previously. After five years, we will verify whether this is a good thing. However, not all RCMP services are included.

For the Bloc Québécois, this was a very enlightening committee because we worked not only for strictly political reasons, but also to provide a more adequate workplace for public service officers and public servants.

I would not want the bill to cast a shadow over the work of public servants as a whole and I would not want people to think that public servants are all suspicious individuals. However, thanks to this bill, we will be able to keep an eye on the work of each and every manager involved in public finances. While this is definitely not the bill's underlying objective or philosophy, unfortunately, there are still people in positions of authority who mismanage public funds. We saw it with the scandals that were mentioned earlier and that my Conservative friends are happy to remind us about. Some managers misuse public funds. The employees working under these public servants had every reason to fear reprisals for disclosing these wrongdoings.

The committee heard some sad stories. For example, three public servants at the department of Health were fired. These three scientists, who have doctorate degrees, told us that they were fired or shelved because they blew the whistle on bovine somatotropin, while their managers were adamant that they should not talk about this issue. These people are currently appealing to the civil courts, in an attempt to reintegrate their positions. The public servant who denounced the sponsorship scandal told us that he was really lucky to know someone who reintegrated him into another department, otherwise he would have been out of work. We saw how difficult it is to speak out and what the impact could be on the personal lives of these individuals, and on those of their families and friends when, after six months or a year, they would make the decision to disclose a wrongdoing. They had to put up with the reproving look of their supervisor, who would ostracize them because of their actions.

I remember another former public servant who was posted in Hong Kong. He mentioned how computer systems were open windows for those who were prepared to falsify passports for people from Asia who wanted to come to Canada. He too was fired for purportedly falsely alerting authorities when in fact he was justified in making these disclosures.

So we saw the flip side of the coin: how yesterday and today, before Bill C-11 comes into effect, those who witnessed such wrongdoing were forced to painfully disclose it. Even if only 1% or 2% of all public servants are guilty of mismanagement, the employees working under such managers must be given an official and clear framework. In my opinion, there will not be a mountain of complaints. First, the legislation will be tested when it comes into effect. Nevertheless, there will not be many complaints from the public service. Perhaps some of these complaints will be not be relevant because they can be resolved internally. The other complaints will be heard and, initially, no doubt, there will be some leading cases.

Since the government has heard that an independent commissioner is needed and since it amended the bill to reflect what stakeholders asked for in committee, I am hopeful. First, I believe that it was essential to look good after what happened. Second, I am quite hopeful that any public servants who are listening or who will find out about this bill will use it wisely.

In closing, I want to ask the government, which spends a great deal on communication and advertising, to invest a little less—but still invest—in order to inform the public service about Bill C-11 when it does come into effect. I am no expert in BBM ratings and polls, but I do not think that the entire public service is currently listening, at 1:30 p.m., to the debates in the House of Commons. First, I think that they are working. Second, I do not think that they will read Hansard tomorrow morning to see if we discussed a bill that might have a direct impact on them.

I am hopeful that the government will at least promote this legislation so that the public servants know what tools are at their disposal in order to disclose wrongdoing.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 12:55 p.m.
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Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased the House finally has started debate on Bill C-11 to enact whistleblower legislation. This is the second legislation that has come to the House to deal with whistleblowers.

A couple of years ago Bill C-25 was introduced in the House, but it was rejected by the committee because of a few things, one key thing being the independent officer of Parliament to which whistleblowers would report was not in place. In spite of that, when Bill C-11 came to committee, that was still the case. No independent office was set up so whistleblowers could comfortably and confidently report without having the filter of a minister.

This demonstrates better than anything else that we cannot trust the government to make itself accountable for waste and corruption. Should we expect the Liberals to bring forward legislation that could clean up a systematic corruption in their government? I think not. We saw it with David Dingwall last week and we saw it with the sponsorship scandal. The government is not to be trusted with Canadians' tax dollars. It seems to be more concerned about taking care of its friends and quite frankly the Liberal Party.

What the Liberals have done with this whistleblower legislation is no different. Their bill was totally rejected by the government operations and estimates committee and was substantially and fundamentally rewritten. It had to be rewritten before the all party committee of the House of Commons would accept it. When civil servants see corrupt activity, they should be able to blow the whistle without retribution.

Bill C-11 is a triumph of committee work. The committee, consisting of members from all parties, should be proud of the work it has done with the legislation. They have taken a weak bill, which was totally unacceptable, and made it into a bill which is not perfect, but at least it is a starting point. It would allow whistleblowers to come forward with confidence and report wrongdoing. Had the legislation been in place before the sponsorship scandal, it probably would have prevented that from happening.

It is key legislation, probably the most important the government has brought forth in the last two years.

By producing the legislation, which will better protect whistleblowers, the government operations committee has demonstrated how effective committees of Parliament can be. Public servants and members of the RCMP, which was an amendment made by the committee, would have been protected by the new legislation had it been in place at the time of their disclosure. I am speaking about public servants and members of the RCMP who, because there was no legislation like this, had their careers destroyed and their lives torn to shreds. We heard from some of them at committee, and I believe most members of Parliament have heard from others. Again, it is not perfect but it will go a long way to improving the situation.

I am astounded that the government fought so long and so hard to keep the control over the office of the whistleblowers in the hands of a minister so it could filter anything that went to it. I want to talk about what happened in that regard.

Bill C-25 was the first legislation that came forth about two years ago. The committee heard from several witnesses. I was a member of that committee. In fact, the current minister in charge of the Treasury Board was chair of the government operations and estimates committee at that time. Every witness who came before the committee said that the legislation would be worthless if the government did not have an independent officer to whom they could report. What did the government do? It brought back Bill C-11 with an office of the whistleblowers which would answer to a minister, not directly to Parliament.

The committee heard from about 20 witnesses. Again, they all said the same thing, that among other changes it was absolutely essential to have an independent office for whistleblowers to which they could report.

When did the government finally give in on this? It was about June 16. On about June 14 the critic for the Treasury Board, the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, asked a question of the minister in the House. It was a very respectful question, pointing out that the committee was bogged down, that the legislation would be thrown out by the committee if an independent office was not put in place. At that time the minister made no guarantee that he and his cabinet would agree to put in place an independent office.

On June 16 that same member put an ultimatum before the government. The ultimatum was delivered in question period in the form of a question to the President of the Treasury Board. I wish to read it so people can see what happened here. The member said that he had asked the President of the Treasury Board whether he was prepared to create an independent office to protect whistleblowers and investigate their disclosures. He went on to say that the Conservative Party, with the backing of every single stakeholder and expert, had been making this demand consistently both in the House and in committee ever since the Liberals tabled their worst and useless whistleblower bill. Then he said:

The dithering has to end now. I have an ultimatum for the minister: either he amends his bill to create an independent commissioner who reports directly to Parliament, or the Conservative Party will make sure this bill dies in committee. Independence or death, which will it be?

A bit of theatrics, but that is the question delivered by the member. It was an extremely important question. Again, no satisfactory answer.

The member delivered the ultimatum again and said, “Will the minister take it or leave it?” He still would make no commitment. However, less than 24 hours later the government against all of its efforts was forced to do the right, to back up and agree with the committee to put in place an independent office so whistleblowers could report to an officer of Parliament, set up similar to the Auditor General. If it did not, the bill would be defeated.

It is very unfortunate when we have to resort to threats, but when it comes to protecting our public servants and protecting the integrity of the public service, at that time we will use whatever measures we have to use to make things happen. That ultimatum worked. As a result of that, the independent office was put in place. That was a key part to making the legislation work.

There were several other areas which were absolutely needed as well. Allegations without evidence would now be allowed to be brought forth by whistleblowers. That was a key change to the legislation. Otherwise how would the public service get absolute evidence? It is just about impossible. Allowing allegations without having actual evidence proves this was a key change, again made by the committee under pressure.

Another key change was that a whistleblower would not necessarily have to report to his or her immediate supervisor. Imagine how ineffective the legislation would be had a whistleblower been forced to report directly to an immediate supervisor. The Liberals backed off on that one. Now whistleblowers can go directly to the commissioner should they choose. This is an important change.

Reducing the information secrecy period was a great concern to many on the committee. In the legislation there was a 20 year period where information regarding what the whistleblower brought forth and the discussions that went on around it was protected. I believe that was a cover-up protection. It would allow a government to protect the information from the general public and opposition parties for 20 years. That is completely unacceptable. The committee had it changed to five years. It is not a total victory by any means, but it is progress.

These changes and many others were made by the government operations and estimates committee. The committee really demonstrated that a committee of Parliament could work effectively and it did. I am proud of all the members of the committee.

It also went to show that the government will resist any change to make it more accountable. The government will resist to a point that it takes an unbelievable push to make the necessary changes. We did that. The committee should be proud.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
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Wajid Khan Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of Bill C-25.

Support for Bill C-25 has been expressed in terms of different ministerial mandates. In lending support for the bill, I will primarily focus on how it promotes the foreign policy interests of the Government of Canada. I will conclude with some thoughts on why this bill is good for Canadians, good for Canada and good for our international relations.

Before I do that, let me explain how it came to pass that the Minister of Foreign Affairs became the administrator of this bill. This will link the benefits of Canada's foreign policy with the reasoning behind certain provisions of the bill.

Outer space is a domain that borders every nation. Look up from anywhere on earth and outer space is only 200 kilometres or so above our heads. That is approximately the distance between Ottawa and Montreal. Activities that occur in outer space, for good or ill, affect all nations.

It was not long after Sputnik was launched in 1957 that the international community turned its attention to outer space. United Nations resolutions soon began to express the determination that outer space would be used only for peaceful purposes. Certainly military uses of space are consistent with these principles, but not all of them.

Eventually this diplomatic activity culminated in the adoption of the 1967 outer space treaty. The outer space treaty enshrined the international responsibility of states for the activities of their nationals in outer space. States also agreed to ban weapons of mass destruction from this sphere. Canada was an original signatory to that treaty, the Magna Carta for outer space, based on the conviction that winning battles through law was superior to winning by force.

This is the approach taken in the remote sensing space systems act before us today. Reflecting its international obligations, Canada would license remote sensing space systems controlled from within Canada. We would also license the activities of Canadians and corporations in the field, no matter where they chose to establish operations.

This last requirement to cover the activity of Canadians abroad is not unusual in outer space matters, since remote sensing satellites can be operated from any place in the world. The Outer Space Act 1986 of the United Kingdom and the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 of the United States impose licensing requirements on U.K. and U.S. citizens respectively, even when they may conduct operations from sites in other legal jurisdictions.

These requirements may, however, result in a multiplicity of states asserting jurisdiction over the same activities by the same person. To resolve such competing claims of jurisdiction requires the coordination of the foreign ministries of space-faring nations and may ultimately result in the need for formal arrangements among them. This is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The proposed remote sensing space systems act that is before us today asserts a broad jurisdiction. It also, however, grants the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to resolve competing claims of jurisdiction by a ministerial order of exemption.

Under the act, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could exempt persons, systems or data if he or she was satisfied with such a step. The exemption must not be injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada's conduct of international relations. It must not be inconsistent with Canada's international obligations. As well, adequate provision must be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property as well as the interests of provinces.

To ensure that Canada maintains jurisdiction over any remote sensing satellite that it has licensed, the proposed act requires that the licensee maintain direct control of the satellite from within Canada. This ensures that the government has the ability to guarantee compliance with the provisions of the licence by keeping satellite command operations within its territorial jurisdiction.

At the same time, a licence would be required for all remote sensing satellites controlled from Canada, regardless of domestic or foreign ownership, and a licensee or former licensee may not transfer control of the licensed satellite without the approval of the minister. This provision ensures that sensitive technology embodied in a remote sensing satellite, once in orbit, cannot be transferred to a foreign person at odds with Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests. In that regard, the act before this House would be comparable to Canada's Export and Import Permits Act.

By this approach, the bill reflects a favourable attitude toward foreign investment in Canada's high technology industry as long as our security interests are protected. That in turn means jobs for Canadians and opportunities for our own businesses.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is well positioned to help Canadians compete, prosper and make a success of the most international of all activities: outer space. The minister's mandate combines an international security responsibility on the one hand and the responsibility to promote the national prosperity of Canadians on the other.

During the debate on Bill C-25, we heard about the defence interests in regulating remote sensing space systems in Canada. We were also informed about the socio-economic benefits of regulation of the Canadian remote sensing space industry.

Let me assure my colleagues that under the proposed act it would be an important part of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' job to weigh the risks and the benefits of granting a licence, and under what conditions, with the goal of striking a right balance: to encourage Canada's technological development and economic prosperity while at the same time safeguarding our security through smart regulations.

Certain states have implemented similar legislation to regulate remote sensing systems. We propose to join the vanguard of that cause. Other nations will also be following us. With foresight, we lead others to a world view that supports the peaceful use of outer space and all its aspects, a world view that establishes the rule of law and justice on the new high frontier, a world view that permits all nations to enjoy equitably the benefits of the peaceful use of outer space, benefits for international peace and security and benefits for economic development and prosperity.

The bill is also important in terms of our relationship with the United States. Canada's decision to control its own remote sensing satellites, announced in June of 1999, enabled Canada and the U.S. to come to a common understanding concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellites, an understanding codified in a treaty signed in June 2000. This treaty aims to ensure that commercial remote sensing satellite systems will be controlled in each country so as to protect shared national security and foreign policy interests, while simultaneously promoting the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

Today we can conclude a process to honour the commitments made under that very treaty. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill at the earliest opportunity so that Canada's deeds are shown to be as good as its words.

Before closing, I want to touch on one or two additional aspects of the bill that relate directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs' mandate. Let me begin with the minister's powers to interrupt normal commercial service.

No one wants to cause their friends and allies harm by act or omission, hence the provision in the act granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to interrupt normal service, to invoke “shutter control” on a Canadian satellite to assist another state. Shutter control is a power designed for use primarily to protect our own national interests under the most serious of circumstances, but it is also an important element in protecting both valuable alliances and shared interests.

The case is similar with respect to granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to order priority access service in the interests of conducting Canada's international relations. In this regard, we can, for example, foresee the need to assist another state or the United Nations urgently in dealing with a humanitarian emergency. By way of example, it is worth remembering the benefits of Canadian RADARSAT-1 technology in supporting Canada's foreign policy interests during the Rwandan crisis and in responding to the recent tsunami tragedy in South Asia.

Let me conclude by reiterating the core rationale for the bill. The House should adopt the remote sensing space systems act because it is better to provide a smart regulatory framework for these remote sensing satellite systems than to risk injury to Canada's national security, national defence or foreign policy.

We should pass this bill to fulfill Canada's international obligations to regulate the outer space activities of its nationals.

We should pass this bill to ensure that Canadian companies can lead in the provision of remote sensing space technology and services through the establishment of a clear regulatory framework that can attract investment, technology and markets.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
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Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has made two important points.

One is that any party which intends to oppose Bill C-25 in the end should consider seriously some of the implications of what it can do to help our environment and the military. That is certainly critical. On the other hand, if any political party in the House or any individual in the House sees flaws in the legislation, they should not allow the legislation to be rushed through the House as it is simply because it is something that is good for the country. Each one of us has a responsibility to make any change we feel is necessary to make it a better piece of legislation.

Right now the New Democratic Party is opposing the bill. The NDP members have some serious questions. They also have some questions that I am not sure are that serious. On the other hand, the government has allowed the NDP to prop up the Liberal government for almost a year. Anything negative the member would say about the New Democratic Party, he should be aware that is the party that has propped up the government day after day, week after week. I say the shame is on the government, on the member and his party, if they continue to allow that to happen.

In the military area there is no end to the possibilities. It will be useful. However, I do not want to give the impression that this legislation is primarily to deal with military activities. It is to deal with security, but certainly security also includes natural disasters and those types of thing.

It is interesting that the member asked about the defence possibilities. His government has failed our military. The government has failed this country when it comes to providing security through the military for the 12 years the Liberals have been in office. That is clear. For the member to stand up and say to support this bill because of what it will do for the military is somewhat contradictory.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 1:05 p.m.
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Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's statement. He is the former defence critic for the opposition and an individual who, as he said, is very aware of the issues surrounding Bill C-25.

It is important to reiterate some of the important points that were touched on by the previous speaker. Not only is this bill important from a security aspect, which I will get to in a moment, but it is also extremely important from an environmental aspect.

Global warming is taking place. We have heard of the contraction of the ice cap in the north and what effect that is going to have. We know about the different changes that are occurring with respect to our waterways, the changing weather patterns that are occurring and the effect on the ground. Vegetation is changing. Vegetation mapping is important from a scientific perspective and an environmental perspective, but it is also exceedingly important to the member's province of Alberta and my province of British Columbia. Understanding the changing environment on the ground with respect to the forest cover is exceptionally important from environmental and economic perspectives.

I also want to touch on an important issue that I know is close to the member's heart, as it is for me and the government. That is the issue of defence. To those who would criticize Bill C-25, I say watch out. This bill is extremely important for our troops, for their protection and their ability to do their work within Canada and abroad. Bill C-25 and the RADARSATs are extremely important for us to enable them to do their work and also to protect them.

I would ask those who would oppose this bill to think about whether it is rational at all to deprive our armed forces, our men and women on the ground who are doing a yeoman's job abroad, of this information and capability. We must have it for their protection and their service to our nation. It is a rhetorical question which deserves but one answer, and that is yes. This bill is important for their security and the work that they do for our country and Canadians here and abroad.

Given the hon. member's experience as the previous defence critic for his party, could he expand upon where this RADARSAT technology may wish to go in the future for our armed forces?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:55 p.m.
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Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-25 today regarding remote sensing of space systems.

Three or four years ago, when I was our party's defence critic, I was fortunate enough to visit the RADARSAT facility here in Ottawa. When I went into that facility I knew very little about what this was all about but by the time I left I was terribly impressed. The whole operation of RADARSAT-1 is something for which Canadians can be proud.

It was apparently initiated back in about 1980 I believe when Canada had been using a similar type of radar based American satellite and that satellite failed after only a few days in space. Therefore Canada was looking at what to do in terms of replacing the needs of that time. The government decided to develop its own program and develop its own radar based satellite and RADARSAT-1 was the result of that.

When I visited that facility I was terribly impressed by some of the capability. Most of the capability has to do with areas like the environment and issues like a natural disaster of some kind. I was really impressed when it was explained to me how RADARSAT-1 was actually used to monitor oil spills on the ocean anywhere on earth. If there was an oil spill this satellite could actually monitor the spreading of the oil or other substances on the water.

I do not think anyone could argue the importance of having that RADARSAT-1 capability.

What the legislation would do is determine an appropriate role for government in monitoring satellites like that. RADARSAT-2 is about to be launched over the next few years. I think the need for legislation was partially spawned by that but I also think it was partly because the government recognized that there are times when it has to monitor and regulate the information gathered by equipment like RADARSAT-1, and 2 in the future, in order to be allowed to use information collected for the benefit of national security.

That is really the purpose of the bill. It would allow the Minister of Foreign Affairs to license commercial development of remote sensing satellite systems and regulate the distribution of information produced by these systems.

The bill does have national security implications but it also has important implications in dealing with the environment, natural resources and possibly military use as well.

This is one of those pieces of legislation that comes before the House that does not seem like particularly important legislation and there is a temptation to kind of rush it through the House. The bill has been examined in committee already and many concerns were raised by all parties regarding what was in the bill and some changes were made.

Our party will support the bill but we have some concerns about it and we will be looking for some clarification, particularly in terms of definitions of just what types of satellite systems the government may control. In this case that control is appropriate, as I have stated before, but I think it has to be clearly defined under what situations and in what way a government can take over the use of that system and restrict the agencies from using that information in a way that may harm our country and may harm national security.

This legislation might not sound that important, but I believe it is important and does deserve proper scrutiny. We will continue to do that throughout the process in the House.

Bill C-25 allows Canadian companies to own and operate remote sensing satellite systems under licence from the government. It provides government with priority access if government deems it must interrupt the normal use of the system. Just for clarification, it is not the case that the government will actually be running the system. It is not the case that the regulation will involve the everyday use of the system, so much as allowing, when needed, for government to step in and use the information as required and also for it to limit the use of the information by the private sector or by the agency.

Again it is a situation where it is hard to define clearly which situations would require government to intervene, but it is important that we do the best job we can. The committee has attempted to do that. There is some work to be done and we will certainly continue to try to ensure that the bill is in a form that we can support before we support it at third reading, but we will support it at this time.

When we look at its potential use and how RADARSAT-1 has been used, it is not just about RADARSAT-1 or RADARSAT-2; it could certainly be future satellites that we may not know anything about. If we look at the potential use of these types of systems, we do not want to do anything to discourage the private sector or an agency to become involved and to develop. It is to everyone's benefit in this country that it is developed and that the use is expanded in the future.

Other than the oil spill and the environmental type of situation which I mentioned, we could all imagine the great importance of having a system like this available in the case of a natural disaster, such as a flood or an earthquake. Often in an earthquake, communications systems are closed down. Roads and railways and other access routes are shut down. To have this monitoring ability is extremely important. The use of this type of system is clearly of importance, so we do not want government to get involved in a way that will discourage the private sector from continuing to develop future satellite systems.

As the bill passes through the House, we have to ensure that it will not discourage, but that it will encourage the private sector and the government agencies involved to do their work and develop even better systems in the future.

I will leave my comments at that. I look forward to hearing the debate today. Certainly I look forward to the final form of the legislation when it has passed through the House. It may not be perceived as a particularly important bill, but I believe it is important that Parliament does its job on the bill.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-25. The bill is intended to implement the commitment of Canada made under the Canada-U.S. agreement concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellite systems in June of 2000. The purpose of that agreement was to ensure that private remote sensing satellite systems would be controlled in each territory, that is, Canada and the United States, in such a manner as to protect shared national security interests without interfering in the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.

From my point of view, the most important portion of remote sensing is the ability to use the system to secure our borders and remain autonomous in our defence decision making. Security in the form of border control is a useful example of the system's advancement. Whether it is curious activity taking place at a particular port or unusual movement or normally unused coastlines, this satellite technology will make us aware.

As we know, the bill has been through the committee stage under intense scrutiny and the private-public partnership that will be used to run the system was addressed. We feel assured that the private sector investment in technology will be beneficial to keeping Canadian satellite technology development progressing steadily, with no need to invest in technology elsewhere.

The images taken by the satellites serve a plethora of purposes. There cannot be one particular environmental field in Canada that would be disappointed with RADARSAT-2's ability now to give them the most advanced information possible to track environmental information. Forest fires, flooding, any type of environmental degradation can be located with this new technology. It is able to produce the most elaborate maps of the earth's surface which will serve other numerous purposes, like irrigation planning and identifying arable land, et cetera.

The accuracy of RADARSAT-2 is truly remarkable in identifying objects on or near the earth's surface. From the movement of people to blemishes on agricultural goods, this sensing system is the epitome of detail.

All principal emphasis in the legislation seems to agree with relevant Conservative Party policies, notably those which uphold the commitment to encourage the private sectors and those which underline the primary responsibility of government to provide for national security. It is intended to provide the Government of Canada with authority to regulate remote sensing space systems and to protect national interests in matters of defence and security. It is seen as an essential prerequisite to further acts of co-operation between government and private firms which intend to operate in these fields.

The present legislation appears to provide an opportunity to secure the proper role for a sovereign Canada in regulating the most advanced systems gathering information from space. The Conservative Party's interest in this matter of securing a proper place for the private sector in scientific and industrial activity leads it to support the legislation, as does its commitment to the defence of the nation, the hemisphere from military threats from abroad and from terrorist activities conceived at home and abroad. Thus, it will support the legislation.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I found the comments of the parliamentary secretary to be incredibly patronizing. This is not some sort of philosophical debate. The bill exists. This is something concrete. This is about sharp differences between what we saw as a need for amendments to the legislation and that did happen.

The question of needing the bill is not an issue. It is the reality that the bill does not give the kind of protection raised in committee and was warranted. I find it very trivializing for him to pass it off as somehow being a philosophical debate.

If the government chooses not to look at those amendments and adopt them, then so be it. If the government wants our support on Bill C-25, then let it come forward and discuss those amendments. We would be happy to do that. If they were approved, then we would be happy to support the bill.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to belabour the point for the hon. member as I know she has put a lot of time into this. However, it is always beneficial to have a member of Parliament sitting on the committee to know exactly what has happened. I understand the philosophy and the importance of what is being provided here.

There appears to be several amendments that her party proposed at committee which were accepted and were not in essence redundant. I am looking at dozens that were supplied by her party. Some are extremely important to address the concerns of the NDP and to express the concerns that might have some relationship to what we were trying to accomplish here. As much as the government and the opposition have been flexible in this regard, there comes a point where philosophy obscures one's vision of the facts.

I do not blame the hon. member because she never sat on the committee. Perhaps she was there for only a moment or two. She is relying on the good work done by the hon. member for Halifax for whom I have great respect and who has done a lot of work on this issue.

As much as I understand the correspondence between herself and the member who sat on the committee, something has become lost. Not withstanding the objections, in my view there was an emergence on the committee of general consensus that this was not the great satellite detection system that would be used for military purposes in terms of the ballistic missile defence.

Surely the hon. member and her party are not saying now that they are opposing the bill because it could have positive implications for our troops around the world and for people who find themselves in positions of disaster. Surely the NDP is not saying that Bill C-25 should not pass and allow the kind of technology that helps Canadians abroad.

I want to hear it from the NDP. Are those members opposing the legislation because they have some philosophical differences or are they opposing it because they have some kind of reticence to protecting Canadians abroad?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak on Bill C-25, the act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

Now that we are at third reading of the bill and in the final stages, I want to say at the outset that when we were debating the bill in principle at second reading, the NDP and our critic in this area, the member for Halifax, were actually of two minds about the bill. We were very aware of the critical need for legislation outlining protection for Canadian interests and the privacy of Canadians, and for proper controls and regulations when it comes to satellites, the information used and how it is governed.

While we were very aware of the underlying need for this legislation, when we looked at the bill we became very concerned about the vagueness of the language in the bill. It really began to raise some alarm bells for us in the NDP in terms of exactly how the bill would be implemented and whether or not the public interest would be upheld.

I know that the member for Halifax, our critic, worked very diligently at the committee level. When the bill was referred to committee, she worked very diligently with NGOs and with community representatives who were very concerned about the bill and who in fact brought forward something like 18 solid amendments which would have provided the kind of clarification, accountability and transparency for this bill that would have allowed us in the NDP, had the amendments been approved, to then support the bill.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. Those amendments were not approved. Here we are at third reading, and although we agree with the underlying intent and principle of the bill, we have serious reservations that the bill does not go far enough. It does not do the job in protecting the interests of Canadians and ensuring that there is adequate public oversight of what happens with RADARSAT-2. I will just spend a few minutes detailing what some of those concerns are.

First of all, let us be very clear that it is Canadian taxpayers who have funded a major portion of the development of this satellite. About 75% of the development funds have come from the public purse. That is about $450 million. On a financial basis alone, after what has been invested in this program, we should have a huge concern about what is going on.

The reality is that this satellite, RADARSAT-2, will be 100% commercially owned. It seriously raises the question as to why, as my colleague from the Bloc raised earlier, the Canadian Space Agency, for example, does not have some control and oversight of the development of this satellite and all that it will entail.

Why is it that the Canadian government appears to be moving away from its controlling interest and oversight of this? We will end up with a 100% commercially owned entity where the only connection and accountability will be as a result of this bill, which, as I have said, is very inadequate.

We agree that Canadians must be assured that the information collected by RADARSAT-2, the satellite, will not be used against our national interest and will not violate in any way the privacy of Canadians. In fact, one of the amendments that we sought in committee was to entrench the privacy rights of Canadians, to ensure those rights in view of the imagery collected by this incredibly powerful, highly advanced, state of the art technology. That is what we are told about it by its manufacturer, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates.

We wanted an ironclad agreement that the privacy of Canadians from images and information resulting from this technology would be protected. We know that the images created can come up to within one and a half metres of an individual, an activity or a location. I think people have a really deep concern about that.

We live in an era where data collection is massive. We live in an era where increasing privatization, which has been encouraged and supported by the federal government, infringes upon the rights of Canadians and their protection of privacy. We have to recognize that there is a very deep concern from Canadians about this issue.

One only has to remember, for example, the outcry from Canadians when they learned that Statistics Canada was thinking of handing over our census collection to Lockheed Martin, the largest ammunitions and militarized corporation in the world. When people found out that our census and Canadian data about Canadians, about us individually, was about to be handed over to Lockheed Martin, there was a huge outcry in this country. We were the ones who raised it in Parliament and the federal government had to back away from that because it realized that it had gone down a road where there was a massive backlash.

One only has to remember what is going on in British Columbia, where the Liberal provincial government is working to allow medical records to also be handled by a U.S. corporation. There are huge concerns about the loss of privacy and the lack of adequate oversight and control around the handling of that data.

I mention these two examples because they are very pertinent to this debate today. Here we have RADARSAT-2, a state of the art technology, featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world, to be developed by next year, massive Canadian funds that have been invested in it, yet what hangs on a shred is this bill and the protection of not only individual privacy and rights of Canadians but also national interests.

One of our major concerns about this bill is that it does not include the kind of protection that we would like to see, that we sought in committee, in order to have the protection of privacy of Canadians.

Another serious concern that we have about this bill is that the language that is contained within it now is very vague and unaccountable in terms like international obligations and international relations. Again at committee, we tried to further define this and to get much better assurances from the government to ensure that where there is a conflict, where a conflict may arise in terms of information that is collected by RADARSAT-2, it will in no way violate or impact on Canadian interests or national security.

We have heard from the parliamentary secretary today that of course, there is no question, he is entirely convinced, as his government is, that this bill will adequately protect those interests. However, I must say that from the witnesses who were heard at committee there was a great deal of skepticism. There was a great deal of concern that there were not adequate protections to ensure that information affecting our international obligations or international relations would be protected.

For example, Canada is a part of NATO. NATO makes decisions about engaging in military actions. It may be a military action that involves NATO going to war. It may be a decision that Canada does not agree with, but it leaves us with a scenario where information that has been collected could be used by other agencies and interests that would place in conflict Canada's policies and international relations.

This is an area of great concern to us as well as the language that is within the bill right now. Basically, it is left to the sole discretion of ministers to decide whether or not there is a conflict with international obligations and national interests. We believe that this is something that should firmly rest with Canada. These are big questions and they were canvassed by the committee. They were on the table in committee where there was a lot of discussion.

We heard from Bloc members who had similar concerns. Yet the government chose not to further elaborate and provide protections in the bill to ensure that privacy and Canada's interests are protected.

We are concerned that the bill will now be approved. In fact, the parliamentary secretary earlier in the debate today made reference to a special in camera meeting that was held supposedly to assure members of the committee that the protections that they sought would be there. I was not there. I am not on the committee, but I know from our critic, the member for Halifax, that the meeting did take place.

However, in actual fact what transpired from that was an even greater concern that there may be other agreements between the satellite company and the federal government that were not even acknowledged. That is a very real concern.

This information was not fully disclosed at the in camera committee. We are very concerned that there may be other confidential agreements that exist. We do not know the terms of those agreements. We do not know how it impacts on information that may be divulged to other parties.

Yes, frankly speaking, there is a concern that information that is collected by this technology and this commercially owned operation can be used by other governments, for example, the U.S. for military purposes. It may be contrary to a decision that Canada has taken, for example, our non-participation in the war in Iraq. We know that it happened with RADARSAT-1.

I know the parliamentary secretary is going to get up and tell me, and try to convince me and other Canadians that the government has done the job, that it has protected everyone. However, upon our examination of the bill and hearing from expert witnesses and hearing from people who are tracking the bill and the system, there is no such assurance.

Therefore, we are standing before the House today and saying that we cannot support the bill. Otherwise we would be supporting it because we understand why the bill is needed. However, we cannot support it in its present form. It does not provide the kind of assurances and guarantees that we believe are incredibly important for this kind of highly sensitive, highly volatile information that is being collected.

I would speak further to one other amendment, of which there were a number put forward by the NDP, which was rejected. It recommended that a detailed report be filed with Parliament that would clearly outline for example how many times violations had taken place, how fines were being imposed, and whether the government had collected on those fines. We tried to bring in amendments that delivered on the accountability and transparency side, but again they were not accepted, so we are left in a position where we cannot support the bill.

At the beginning of the debate we heard from the parliamentary secretary that there was a sense of urgency to get the bill through. Maybe there is and maybe there is not. I do not know, but it is a very significant bill because it deals with an area of public policy that really does not get enough public scrutiny.

It is the kind of bill that can just easily slip through and before we know it the landscape has changed and all the rules have changed. Here we have a commercially owned operation where vast amounts of powerful information and images are being collected that can be used in a way that is contrary to Canadian interests.

We have very serious reservations about that. We believe that the bill should not be rushed through. It should be debated. We should have a review of some of the amendments that have been put forward. There are two parties that have very strong reservations about the bill, but as it stands now it looks like it will pass. We do not think that is good enough and so we will be using our votes to clearly voice our opposition to third reading.

I encourage other members to take another look at it and consider their position. We think the bill as it is now is not adequate. It is not good enough. It does not provide the kind of protection that is being sought by members of the community, by our party and by other parties to protect the interests of Canadians.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
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Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

I want it known from the outset that we will vote against this bill. In fact, a number of problems that we had raised were not addressed in committee. And yet, the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île and I did propose a number of amendments. The NDP also tried to clarify the bill, but the Conservatives and the Liberals were indifferent and treated us to their usual uncompromising attitude that we have grown accustomed to over the past 10 years.

Still, consideration of legislation on remote sensing is very thrilling. It gives every member of the committee a chance to learn a great deal about it. We also saw that since this is a relatively new field, there were a great deal of questions that government officials had not asked themselves. Fortunately, the committee raised these questions. Too bad it did not get any response.

It probably would have been better to postpone the debate on Bill C-25 and to continue the work of the committee in order to ensure that this legislation, made necessary by the fact that the Canadian Space Agency was relieved from one of the responsibilities it had in managing RADARSAT-1, truly responded to the objectives set out in the summary. I will read the summary, since those watching us need to know what we are talking about.

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.

That is the aim of this bill. As I mentioned, we support this aim. However, if the Canadian Space Agency had retained responsibility for managing and operating RADARSAT-2, this bill would not be necessary. Instead, the Liberal government decided, in this area, to establish a public-private partnership—Quebec knows that such partnerships are rarely successful either in reality or in the public eye—between the Canadian Space Agency and MacDonald Dettwiler, a Canadian company.

If RADARSAT-1 had been left as it is, that is, having this remote sensing space system under public management, this bill would have been moot. However, we are being presented with a fait accompli, this public-private partnership. So we must establish a framework for this private enterprise, which will be responsible for managing a remote sensing space satellite.

Even if we make a law that every operator of this kind of technology must obtain a licence, the fact is that Bill C-25 seeks to provide a framework solely for the activities of one private company.

I want to mention that I find it troubling, to say the least, that one of the sponsors of this bill, the Minister of Industry, served on the board of this private company in 2000. A number of responsibilities set out in the bill will need to be clarified.

This bill is a first in Canada. As I said, it was made necessary due to a decision taken by the government, under former minister John Manley, to transfer RADARSAT-2 to a private company.

As I recall, and as the leader of the NDP said earlier, RADARSAT-2 was designed and built by the Canadian Space Agency, which is located in Saint Hubert, at a cost of $430 million. In fact, I think that the costs have increased somewhat since then. However, the Canadian company, MacDonald Dettwiler invested only $92 million. It has also committed to paying the satellite's operating costs. But any private company operating this satellite will want to sell the images it takes and make a profit. It will do so at the expense of taxpayers who paid for the system's construction.

In my opinion, this is the first problem in the whole debate, which is not as much focussed on Bill C-25 as on the government's past decision to shed responsibility for administration of RADARSAT-2.

One can, of course, wonder how appropriate it is, from the point of view of governance, to use the taxpayers' money to permit a private company to sell its remote sensing images. No one is questioning the appropriateness of having such satellites. Hon. members will recall that RADARSAT-1 scans the Earth's surface with advanced synthetic aperture radar. Unlike optical systems, this system makes imaging possible day and night, whether the atmosphere is clear, cloudy or foggy. As a result, these satellites are extremely useful for monitoring natural disasters.

As I said in my question to the parliamentary secretary, this also allows for natural resource management. It is, for example, very difficult to assess changes in a forest with the naked eye. With satellite images, however, it is possible to take inventory of the forests, as well as waterways and a number of other things. It is, of course, very useful for both meteorology and cartography.

The novelty with RADARSAT-2 is the markedly higher resolution than was available with RADARSAT-1, varying between two and three metres. This is, of course, where the entire problem lies with the use private interests will make of these ultra high resolution images. I recall that MacDonald Dettwiler, the private company that will be administering this, will sell these images to private interests as well as to foreign interests.

The Americans are worried about the possibility that images obtained by RADARSAT-2 and sold by this private company could have military repercussions. A treaty, to which we could not get access, was signed with the United States in 2000. We therefore share the concerns of the Polaris Institute as to its contents. Do the Americans have some right to veto the sale and use of the images that will be taken?

We know that U.S. law forbids selling images to certain countries. We can understand that. However, will we let the U.S. dictate to Canada how the images should be sold? We would have liked to have seen that treaty. We were told that it does not contain anything that can be cause for concern but I am not ready to blindly accept the government's word. We have concerns. The bill should reflect the complete independence of Canada in matters of foreign affairs but that is not the case.

In addition, there are no provisions in case MacDonald Dettwiler, a private company, should change hands as happened a few months or a few years ago. I think it then became an American company. What would happen if it changed hands? Would its licence be cancelled? Can you imagine a satellite like RADARSAT-2, built with public funds by the Canadian Space Agency, being operated by a foreign private company? It is beyond comprehension that the Canadian government did not find it necessary to include in the bill dispositions ensuring that the company operating RADARSAT-2 remains in Canadian hands. We see it as sheer irresponsibility.

There is another problem which I alluded to earlier in my question to the parliamentary secretary and it is the fact that the legislation does not specify how priority of access to the images will be determined.

The prioritization is not framed in the operating criteria previously used with RADARSAT-2. Members will recall that these criteria ensured priority access to relevant departments—Environment, Natural Resources, Fisheries and Oceans—the provinces and the scientific community.

Now, there is no such assurance. At least, there is no mention in the bill of priority access for the departments, federal or Quebec, which are the largest users of remote sensing data, or for the scientific community.

Previously, with RADARSAT-1, the Canadian Space Agency was the one setting and managing priorities. Now, the management of the satellite will be in the hands of a private company, as I said earlier. This private company might establish its priorities based on the primary objective of private companies: profit. And this primary objective may well be contrary to the interest of common good and Canadian and Quebec interests where the provinces are concerned. So, one would have expected Bill C-25 to clearly provide an order of priority for access to the images, but it does not.

As I said, while several questions remain unanswered, officials have been working on this bill for five years already. I am not criticizing them. The fact is that, clearly, there has been a lack of transparency. The bill was introduced suddenly. There was, on the part of the government and the parliamentary secretary, a feeling of urgency to rush this bill through the various stages of consideration at committee and in Parliament.

As I indicated, the bill was put together so quickly that, when my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île contacted Ferdinand Beaulne, director of the large remote sensing research centre in Canada, therefore someone who is really closely involved with the whole remote sensing file, he was not even aware of the existence of Bill C-25. This means that he had never been consulted by officials or the government on the drafting of Bill C-25.

On the other hand, Mr. Giroux, who is the director of external relations at the Canadian Space Agency, has told us several times that MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates and its subsidiary RADARSAT International Inc., together the Agency's private partner in the RADARSAT-2 program, was consulted extensively during the development of the bill before us. This is somewhat problematic since, as I mentioned to you, the specific purpose of Bill C-25 is to provide a framework for the activities of a single company, namely MacDonald Dettwiler, the only company consulted. In fact, potential subcontractors or clients of MacDonald Dettwiler appeared before the committee to share their concerns about their interests not being taken into account in the industry's development. As far as I can see, everyone in the House agrees that this industry is extremely promising for Canada and Quebec.

Therefore, my party believes that we should have taken a bit more time to involve more people in the process and to have a strong bill.

I mentioned a short while ago in my question that provinces are considered as simple clients and do not have priority access, as was the case before, when they had nearly free access. I want to talk some more about this, since it is the third problem element. The provinces, who are the main buyers of remote sensing images, had even invested in RADARSAT-1. As I mentioned earlier, remote sensing is linked to numerous provincial jurisdictions, such as natural resources, agriculture and the environment. In fact, you, Mr. Speaker, are just as aware of this reality as I am.

As I said, the bill does not explicitly mention an agreement with the provinces, and so we believe it is necessary to change this through an amendment. I think this is a major deficiency in Bill C-25.

There is one other aspect I believe is important, namely, the use that some private-sector or government clients may make of RADARSAT-2 and its remote sensing images. One would have expected the government to comply with the summary, where it is said that remote sensing space systems are regulated “to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces—”. One would have expected a control mechanism on the export of those remote sensing data, just as there still are on exports of products of a military nature in Canada.

In fact, there are guidelines. There is a policy to control exports of military goods and technology to countries we want banned from receiving such exports. I have introduced an amendment which, I thought, simply reflected common sense, that is to say that we make sure that countries that are a threat in terms of Canadian military exports are also covered in the area of remote sensing.

As an example, members know that Canada rigorously controls exports of military goods and technology to countries that constitute a threat to itself and its allies; to those that are involved in a conflict or that might be shortly; to those that have had sanctions imposed by the Security Council of the United Nations; to those where human rights are seriously and repeatedly violated by the government, unless it can be demonstrated that the population is under no reasonable risk.

If it is good for the export of military goods and services, it should also have been good for remote sensing images which the government feels must be covered by Bill C-25.

I admit that I found this very hard to understand. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, I felt that this issue was brushed aside because the government, for reasons that are unknown to me, even though I have a pretty good idea, needs to have Bill C-25 passed as quickly as possible. I think it has to do with the agreement with the United States whereby Canada made the commitment to create a framework for this private corporation, and I am very concerned about that.

Regarding the archiving of data, which will be dealt with in the regulations, we know that this type of high resolution remote sensing can be an invasion of privacy and can be used to compromise the freedom of our fellow citizens. This is why we would have preferred that provisions dealing with the archiving of data be included in the bill itself. The government kept exclusive control over this area by putting it in the regulations. Several experts, including a legal expert and a scientist specialized in Earth observation, pointed out the importance of such archiving of data when they came before the committee.

In the case of the environment and the climate, it is extremely important that all the data be kept year after year. What will that private company do with the images? It will probably consider that the management of these data will cost too much. Consequently, after two years, it will get rid of a whole series of extremely important images.

For example, we were told that in order to be able to measure the warming of the planet or problems concerning the ozone layer, researchers must be able to go back in time to compare series of data. Of course, that will cost money, as I have already said, but a private commercial operator should be required to inform National Archives of his intention to get rid of a number of images. There are no provisions in the legislation in that regard.

In conclusion, we deplore the fact that the Canadian Space Agency has been partly stripped of the management of RADARSAT-2. We believe that the Canadian Space Agency must play an important role. Consequently, because there are no provisions in the bill establishing priority criteria, because nothing in the bill ensures that RADARSAT-2 will not be sold to foreign interests, because there was a lack of transparency at the drafting and consideration stages, because the interests of provinces, particularly Quebec, are not protected, because scientific advances are put at risk by Bill C-25, because there are no consultations with the provinces and the departments involved, as I said in my introduction, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against Bill C-25.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
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Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-25. In June 2000 Canada made a commitment under the Canada-United States agreement concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellite systems. Bill C-25 intends to augment the commitment made five years ago in the form of upgraded technology.

Private remote sensing satellite systems are used to analyze groundwater, agriculture, forestry and oceanography, natural resources and industries that are very important to Canada. They also can be used to map topography, what kind of land is where and what the soil is like.

Remote sensing satellite systems can also be used to monitor forest fires, thus it will hopefully serve to save many provinces money in the forest fire prevention portions of their budgets and even some people's homes. This will be done by locating a fire still in its infancy.

They can also be used to monitor our borders and assist our border security officers. At the same time, they promote co-operation between ourselves and the United States while still firmly establishing our sovereignty over Canadian soil.

Initially it will cost $1.3 million to set this up and it will take eight to nine staff members to run this program through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defence and Canada's National Space Agency. The Conservative Party finds this reasonable and believes it represents good value for Canada. It will allow for ongoing research and is especially beneficial to Canadians because it will ensure that Canada will have the most up to date technology. That means there will continue to be high tech, long term opportunities for our citizens. Our post-secondary institutions will also benefit by this because they will have to continue to teach, research and explore this technology so we can continue to develop.

Ongoing research in space opens up new capacities daily regarding the details of natural and human events everywhere on earth. A few short years ago it would have been inconceivable to think about legislation that would govern satellites in space taking pictures of our movements.

The government has a role to play regarding the privacy matters of its citizens. The government needs to know who is scanning the nation, what kind of information they are coming up with and what kind of capabilities are out there. Originally we had concerns about privacy, but the legislation, as amended, deals with this and privacy is protected.

We also are pleased it has secured a proper place for the private sector and scientific and industrial activity as does its commitment to defence of the nation and the hemisphere from military threats from abroad and from terrorist activities conceived at home or abroad.

The official opposition believes the government has done its job to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens while not compromising the security of the nation by having brought the bill to the standing committee where it was examined clause by clause. We have eliminated any language that we thought detrimental to both citizens and national security.

Given the amendments made to the bill in committee, we support the legislation.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2005 / 10:25 a.m.
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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.
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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.
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Pickering—Scarborough East Ontario


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.
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Papineau Québec


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.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


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.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


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.
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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.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


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.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


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.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


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.
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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


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


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


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


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.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 1:45 p.m.
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Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I will try not to be too distracted by the howls of protest and the gush of assurances that this has absolutely nothing to do with missile defence. It was pretty predictable that we would hear that from the member. In fact, I feel a bit unnerved by this kind of “thou dost protest too much”.

Forgive us if we are not fully assured by those words. In our view, there is not enough in the legislation itself that makes that absolutely clear. We are going to be looking at it very closely from that point of view. The Liberal record of broken promises is so long that if we typed out those promises and held them end to end, the tickertape of unkept promises would probably be enough to stretch all the way from here right up to where RADARSAT-1 is now orbiting overhead, so pardon us for not being completely reassured.

I want to specifically speak to the vagueness of the language in Bill C-25 in its current form. Under the application section of Bill C-25, the bill gives the minister permission to “modify” application of the act, that is, to exempt individuals and organizations from any provision of the act if:

(a) the exemption 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--

The parliamentary secretary has been absolutely verbose in saying that this has nothing to do with missile defence, nor would it ever. However, in the act it says that the minister has permission to modify application of the act if he deems it. What if the Minister of National Defence deems it, in Canada's interests, necessary to sign on to ballistic missile defence and then we find that this act can be modified accordingly?

We have as well a provision for another thing the minister has permission to modify. It is that adequate provision will be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property. In other words, the minister has the ability to modify the act to deal with those issues, but where is the definition that would give assurances as to how that is defined? How do we define whether those provisions are adequate? Are there clear regulations that can actually measure what that means? Do our international obligations under Kyoto apply to the provisions in Bill C-25? They are supposed to protect our environment, but could be changed arbitrarily if the minister deems this to be in our interests, and so on.

The parliamentary secretary will know that, in developing RADARSAT-2, the Canadian Space Agency contributed almost $100,000 toward the $150,000 CSA contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Canada for the development of applications in preparation for RADARSAT-2, specifically the earth observation satellite.

He will know that it is Lockheed Martin Canada which will in fact evaluate the capabilities technology for target detection and recognition surveillance. I do not have to tell the minister that Lockheed Martin is very closely associated with the U.S. defence sector and has had huge contracts with the sector.

If the minister decides to modify the provisions of the act, why would he not understand that there would be concerns, with Lockheed Martin so totally and so closely tied to the U.S. defence industry, about the possibility we would end up becoming a handmaiden to U.S. defence policy?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 1:30 p.m.
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Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-25.

However, before I begin my remarks, I simply have to address some of the completely fallacious, false and untrue comments made by the NDP member. She is completely wrong to suggest even for a moment to the Canadian public that Bill C-25 has anything to do with ballistic missile defence, the weaponization of space or star wars. Those are three completely distinct issues and completely distinct situations. For her information, and she should know this, BMD is not star wars. BMD is not the weaponization of space. This bill has nothing whatsoever to do with either of those things.

I also have a question to ask the member. We have threats in this world and the milk of human kindness does not flow through the veins of some people. The people we are talking about are individuals who have the capability of launching ballistic missiles in this world. We wish it were not so, but that is the case, as my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has mentioned. We have a responsibility and a duty above all others to engage in the protection of the Canadian people. That is a responsibility we will not shirk.

On this particular bill it is a pleasure for me to speak on behalf of the Minister of National Defence in regard to enacting this legislation that refers to remote sensing space systems in Canada. I am sure that my hon. colleagues would agree that we have been very successful in taking advantage of opportunities presented by space technologies. From Canadarm's role in the construction of the international space station to our astronauts' participation in several space shuttle missions, Canada is widely recognized as a leader in this area.

An important part of our space activities, of course, has been observing the earth using remote sensing satellites, like RADARSAT-1, which we have operated for nearly a decade, and RADARSAT-2, which will be operational in late 2005 or 2006.

Satellite images serve Canada in many ways. For example, this is an invaluable tool for emergency preparedness and disaster response. These satellites are used to facilitate the safe navigation of our coastal waters by ensuring that we have an accurate measurement of sea ice and the tracking of icebergs.

The Department of National Defence and our Canadian Forces use this satellite imagery to protect our sovereignty and our security day in and day out.

These satellites will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in understanding what is happening to our remote and coastal regions and consequently will be an active participant in securing our security and sovereignty.

For example, DND and the armed forces are, in cooperation with other government departments, currently engaged in an initiative called Polar Epsilon. Under this initiative, Canada's RADARSAT-2 satellite and other sensors will provide all-weather day and night surveillance of Canada's Arctic and ocean approaches.

The emphasis will be on generating information in remote areas where we really do not have any other capability of watching these areas. Increasingly, satellites are a critical part of our defence capabilities, and because effective surveillance of our territories and its approaches are of vital importance, it is important that we pass this bill forthwith. I am certain the defence planners are looking at the essential capabilities, particularly when it comes to our ongoing defence review, which should be coming in front of the committee in short order. Of course, with opportunity comes responsibility. The same capabilities that are becoming so useful to so many could also threaten our own security and defence interests.

If I may, I would also like to take a few moments to speak of the importance of this bill to the ability of our Canadian Forces to respond in a factual and effective fashion to our security needs.

The bill provides a means for our government to help ensure that those who might harm our interests cannot use images taken from our own satellites against us. I would remind my hon. colleagues that it is possible today for anyone with a credit card and Internet access to buy satellite images of striking clarity. I do not think I need to elaborate on what could happen if our adversaries got hold of critical information, particularly as it relates to our defence operations.

This is why the Government of Canada, following the example of our most trusted allies, took on the responsibility of issuing licences for exporting remote sensing satellites and regulating the distribution of satellite images.

Of course, the government has no intention of interfering in the enforcement of these responsibilities, nor is it seeking to limit commercial gains from satellites.

A number of government departments and agencies have worked diligently to respect the rights of Canadians and to strike a balance between Canada's defence, security and foreign policy interests and the maintenance of an important sector of Canada's industries. Let me give an example of how this would work in real terms.

The Department of National Defence would support the Minister of Foreign Affairs in licensing remote sensing satellites by providing advice on the potential impact of the satellite images on our security. DND would also provide threat assessments as the Minister of Foreign Affairs reviews agreements between the operators of remote sensing satellites and those who operate receiving stations on the ground or who want to sell images they produce.

Last, should it become clear that images from our satellites pose a threat to Canada, the Canadian Forces or our allies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the national defence department could temporarily prevent a satellite from taking pictures of a specific area at a particular resolution. This is called shutter control and it can be invoked, but only under specific conditions to prevent the disclosure of information that could harm our interests or those of our allies.

I would stress that it is only the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who can actually invoke this clause. I would also point out that the United States has this very same clause in its legislation and has never used it.

A second objective of our bill is to help ensure that the government has access to satellite imagery in emergency situations. In such cases, the legislation would give government requests for satellite images priority over other requests. The Canadian Forces, for example, might need a quick assessment and view, and they would get this information.

It is clear that the bill will help the government protect Canada's most fundamental interests, including sovereignty and security. It is clear that the government has done its homework in ensuring that the bill is a balanced one.

I will end by reminding my colleagues that Canada is far from alone in working to ensure that satellites are not used for the wrong purposes. Our friends in the United States have had similar legislation in place for over a decade. In 2000 Canada and the U.S. agreed that both countries would establish controls on remote sensing satellites, facilitating cooperation in Canada's RADARSAT-2 program. Several other countries are coming to similar conclusions about the unfettered distribution of satellite imagery.

I hope that this bill receives quick passage in the House and Parliament. To those who believe for a moment that this bill has anything to do with ballistic missile defence or with the so-called star wars program or the weaponization of space, it has nothing to do with either of those situations. I would emphasize for clarity that ballistic missile defence, the so-called star wars and the weaponization of space are entirely different situations.

The government has made it very clear that Canada is firmly against the weaponization of space. It is something that the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have made abundantly clear time and time again. I want to assure the members of the public who are watching that this is a position we will not stray from.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
See context


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to participate in the second reading of Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems. The short title, which also seems like a mouthful, is the remote sensing space systems act.

Although there may be some different perspectives in different corners of the House on exactly what we are dealing with here and what the potential is for good or for the opposite of good, there probably is agreement among all members that it is truly astounding, and it probably makes sense to acknowledge this, that we have such legislation to deal with such a matter.

I am not the only one in the House who can say this but I am old enough to realize that if someone had tried to talk about this, even in my university days, I would not have known what on earth they were talking about. In fact, the very existence of the kinds of satellites that are now hurtling around in the atmosphere would just simply not have been understood or even imagined. There is something a bit daunting and a bit sobering about the responsibility that falls to 308 members of Parliament to now get their heads around legislation to regulate remote sensing space systems. I want to read directly from the summary of the bill. It states:

--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.

We are grappling with a very sobering responsibility.

I want to say at the outset that it would be the intention of my colleagues, the New Democratic Party caucus, to vote for the bill to go to committee. However it is equally our intention to comb through every single dotted i and crossed t of the bill and utilize the best expertise available, the broadest input possible from Canadians, to ensure we fully understand in precisely what way the bill can and will be used to serve those, on the surface of it, very laudable aims and objectives.

One of the reasons I think every member of the House needs to take this responsibility seriously is that we have seen over the last couple of years, in the name of “security”, truly terrifying things to which the government's legislation has now committed us and in which we are embroiled, to our national shame, and to the detriment of what anybody could remotely think of security in the real sense of the word.

I do not actually know who said this but I think it expresses very strongly the apprehensions, concerns and fears that a great many Canadians have, with good reason these days, to remind ourselves that a nation that seeks security through abandoning human rights is bound to end up achieving neither.

What we have watched happen over the last several years in the name of security clearly turned a deaf ear to the prophetic warning of Barbara Lee, the Afro-American congresswoman. In the aftermath of 9/11, when the American president divided the world into us and them and said, “You are either with Osama bin Laden or you are with George Bush”, as if there were no other choices to be made, the world instantly became a less safe place and highly polarized. The advice of Barbara Lee was that in our attempt to defeat terrorism we should not become the evil we deplore. This advice needs to be taken seriously by each and every one of us every single day and every waking moment.

Having said that, being an optimist and always taking my responsibility seriously, we have to ensure the legislation is a positive instrument of public policy and not something draconian or even unintentionally something vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, distortion and so on. I think an important starting point is to understand absolutely, not only the legitimacy of the legislation but why we need such legislation. Sometimes we stand in our place and say that we feel that even the purpose of the legislation that is being pursued is not a legitimate one and we would not vote for it to even go to second reading.

Legislation is a source of pride and we should remind ourselves that Canada is a world leader in remote sensing satellite technology. We do not introduce legislation for the sole and express purpose of ensuring that Canada remains a world leader, but that it can be an important byproduct and in turn can spell future opportunities and challenges for Canada as a whole, for Canadian scientists to contribute toward peaceful and positive purposes for which this technology is earmarked or directed.

However let us also be mindful that there is the potential for such legislation, primarily because of its vagueness, to go off the rails. Many Canadians, and I would include New Democrat members of Parliament among those Canadians, are deeply worried over the potential for this legislation becoming the cloak or the cover for something very different from its intended purposes.

I say that not meaning to accuse any individual member of Parliament of having such intent because he or she votes for the legislation. We will vote for the legislation to go to committee but, because of what can happen in the carrying out of the government's agenda on a parallel track, we could find that the advancing of the missile defence agenda creeps in and overtakes the intended purpose of the legislation that is now before us.

Let me go back to the face value of what this act is about. It would establish a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provide for restrictions of the distribution of data gathered by means of them. I want to add my voice to the concerns we have heard about the privacy of Canadians and the potential use of their data. The bill states that there will be appropriate restrictions and I think we need to hear more about that.

I listened to the parliamentary secretary's response to a question that we raised concerning the application of the Privacy Act, but I am still worried. I hope he will take the opportunity to elaborate further on that . It sounds as if we may have some real homework to do in terms of plugging some serious holes to ensure this proposed act will not lead to the invasion of privacy without proper protections.

I believe I understood the parliamentary secretary to say, and I will happily withdraw my words if I have misunderstood him, or the sense of the response was, that yes we are sensitive to privacy concerns, but that we had to remember that this was now a privatized operation, that it was in the commercial domain and that there was only so much we could do about it.

The first obvious response to that is that if the privacy concerns of Canadians cannot be absolutely assured and protected, then what in the name of heavens would we be doing agreeing to a commercialized privately operated operation for RADARSAT without that being an absolute condition. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could provide some further assurance on that issue.

The summary of the bill goes on to state:

--the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

The devil can be in the details.

Whether or not the kinds of powers that the bill assigns to government and the responsibilities of government in handling RADARSAT-2 are what they need to be will provide the answer as to whether it can be assured that there are protections that the legislation will in fact be used for its intended purpose. We do not want it to be exploited and to find that this is actually dragging us through a back door into a possible future participation in ballistic missile defence.

Canadians in greater and greater numbers are making it clear they want absolutely nothing to do with participation in Bush's missile defence initiative. It is becoming more clear that Canadians are saying no to Canadian participation in missile defence, but are saying yes to our federal government and Parliament providing leadership. Canadians want us to persuade Bush to say no to the militarization of space, the weaponization of space that is inherently built in to the missile defence trajectory that the U.S. government is now launched on.

For anyone who doubts that, the biggest mouthpieces for the Bush administration's policy are the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Those organizations have been on the front lines, in much the same way that the Fraser Institute and the C.D. Howe Institute have deliberately driven the evolution of the reform-alliance, and now no longer progressive conservative party. The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have had a major influence over foreign policy choices in general and the military agenda in particular of the Bush administration. They have been trumpeting missile defence.

Yesterday a spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation appeared before the foreign affairs committee. His testimony will be in the committee Hansard and it is important that people familiarize themselves with it. He said that from the perspective of the Heritage Foundation the issue of weaponization of space and the concerns about the possible militarization of space are ill-founded because, according to him, both are already true. We already have the militarization of space. As we speak, the weaponization of space is beginning to happen. It is not some distant concern.

The previous Liberal cabinet minister who was defeated, David Pratt, used to say, “I do not know why the NDP, why progressives in this country, why people who feel we should be investing in peace and not escalation of war, keep raising militarization of space as if it is a real concern”. For one thing, $200 billion has already been spent in missile defence evolution. Every year we can look at the U.S. budgets and we can see the allocation of resources, $10 billion this year alone, to further develop the weaponization of space.

David Pratt would say that nothing is going to happen on that front until at least the year 2010. What kind of timeline is that? What kind of vision is that? What kind of horizon of planning for the future protection of the human race is that?

I do not want to go too far afield in this but we need to face reality. The government either does not know where it is going on this matter, in which case it is high time it did, or it knows exactly where it wants to go on this and it is walking a tightrope that has a lot more to do with its own immediate electoral fortunes than it has to do with the kind of broad concern about what kind of leadership Canada is going to provide to the world to make sure we do not get on course to the weaponization of space.

Witness after witness appeared before the foreign affairs committee. It is hoped that there are Liberal members of Parliament who read the committee Hansard because hardly any of them are ever there to hear what is being said in regard to these matters. I find that deeply disturbing because I know there are a lot of Liberals who are very concerned at any possibility that they would be attached to a government that would plunge us into Bush's missile defence. However, there does not seem to be much of a presence in terms of expressing concern or of eliciting information and so on.

I want to say one other thing before I deal with a few of the specific concerns about the bill. Those who think it is paranoid to be concerned that this legislation might morph into something that was never intended should think about the anti-terrorism measures that were brought in with Bill C-36. They should think about, in the name of security, the kind of security certificates that are being issued today that absolutely trash human rights, trample civil rights, suspend the rule of law, suspend assumption of innocence, suspend any meaningful legal process. People's lives are being destroyed and are being held in abeyance but they face no charges and have no way to get out of that legal nightmare. Let us be careful that we do not pass legislation that gives powers that we cannot actually deal with in the regulations.

Coming back to the issue of ownership and use, let us be clear that this commercially owned satellite, RADARSAT-2, is billed by its manufacturer, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, as incorporating state of the art technology featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world. I think that is true. We need to applaud that.

We need to be sure that that incredible capability is used for constructive, peaceful purposes. This means we need to take up the challenge to become world leaders even more so in verification matters as they relate to the development of weapons and armaments. Let us make sure that we do not redirect that kind of technology into areas that go against Canadian values and against the promises given.

Let us also be clear that Canadian taxpayers have funded approximately 75% of the development of this satellite. This is another reason that we have to have a major say around the assurances about how it is used and that the regulatory mechanism for doing it has to be used stringently.

It is important to note that RADARSAT International has sold imagery from RADARSAT-1 to the U.S. military in the past. Some of this information may have been used by the United States in its war in Iraq, a war in which Canada did not want to participate and a war in which we have no assurance we were not in fact complicit by having sold information to the U.S. military that aided and abetted the war in Iraq.

We need ironclad assurances about any possible future use of this legislation. It is very worrisome that the government saw the obvious link that one can make to the use of RADARSAT-2 as part of the U.S. ballistic missile defence system. The very first words out of departmental officials were to assure us that there is no connection between RADARSAT-2 and missile defence.

We need to make sure that those are not just empty assurances. We need to make sure that the provisions in the regulations and the actual content of the legislation is such that there is an ironclad guarantee that that is not what ends up happening to be the real use, if not even at this point the intended use, of RADARSAT-2 in the legislation that is now before us.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 11:55 a.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Joe Volpe Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

December 2nd, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will commence with the third reading debate of Bill C-5, the learning bonds legislation. When that is completed, we will return to the second reading debate of Bill C-22, the social development bill. We will then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-9, the Quebec development bill; followed by second reading of Bill C-25, respecting RADARSAT; reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-27, the food inspection bill; and second reading of Bill C-26, the border services bill.

On Monday and Tuesday we will start with report stage and third reading of Bill C-14, the Tlicho bill, before going back to unfinished business.

Pursuant to Standing Order 53(1) a take note debate on credit cards will take place on Tuesday evening, December 7.

The business on Wednesday will be second reading of a bill to be introduced tomorrow respecting parliamentary compensation.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Finally, the government made a commitment to Canadians to treat compensation of parliamentarians separately and apart from that of judges. It is quite logical to take that step in an independent bill that deals only with the compensation of parliamentarians and to deal with the question of judges in a subsequent bill.

The hon. member seems to suggest that parliamentarians and judges should be treated exactly the same. We think that Canadians recognize that their respective duties, tenure and roles are quite different and that in fact they should be dealt with differently and separately. That is why we will be introducing the bill on MP compensation and dealing with it next week.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Joe Volpe Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, having been a member of the government operations and estimates committee since its inception, the issues related to the public service are extremely important to me. I am quite encouraged, and I think Canadians should be very encouraged, by the commentary of all hon. members who have participated in the debate on Bill C-8.

As the members know, it is a technical bill to enact a decision of order in council. However, when I listen to the debate, I hear concerns about harassment, whistleblowing and employer and labour relations. The public service should be encouraged to know that parliamentarians have taken this matter seriously and will work to the best of their ability to address some of those issues.

First, since we are talking about a particular bill, maybe we should say something about it just to reaffirm. We tend to invoke the relevance issue from time to time. The Chair's decision to allow members a little latitude to talk about the importance of the public service is very important.

The bill aims to confirm, by legislative means, the order in council which established the functions of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency and placed it within the Treasury Board's portfolio. It also maintains the status quo and does not modify either the functions, or the attributions or powers that were formally given to the agency by orders in council which had already been put in place.

The main benefits of the bill include: (a) clarification of the role of the agency within the system, including unions, and in particular the relations with the Treasury Board's portfolio, as well as with the Treasury Board which is the employer; (b) it better integrates the activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio; and (c) it provides for greater visibility for the agency, both within and outside the public service, facilitating implementation of its policies, programs and services.

Essentially, the bill proposes to add the position of president of the agency to the Financial Administration Act in the same way the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada are already identified in that act.

It also specifies the nature and powers and functions that may be delegated by the Treasury Board to the president of the agency in the same manner as stipulated in the act for the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada.

Finally, it stipulates that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination of the activities of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the agency and the Comptroller General of Canada.

A number of members have commented so far today that this is basically a technical bill that enacts some of the provisions related to an order in council appointment. However, as I said in my preamble, members have wanted to talk about the public service generally and about some of the concerns.

We talked in questions and comments about the whistleblower legislation, which is now before committee. We have had the minister before us already on this matter to provide some background. However, the important thing for members to know is that the bill has been sent to the committee after first reading. It is a very significant move that it goes after first reading. Once a bill receives second reading, the approval in principle is in place and one cannot start to change the fundamentals of the bill after second reading. The committee has the unique opportunity in regard to the legislation on whistleblowing, Bill C-11, or any other legislation that goes before any other standing committee after first reading, to really get down to the fundamentals.

I think members are familiar with the hon. members who are on this committee, and it is an excellent committee. The committee has expressed its views already in its conversations with the President of the Treasury Board. There is an appetite to look at this much more carefully than we might have otherwise done after second reading. However, the members, the public and the civil service should be assured of this. The important thing for the committee is to hear the witnesses from all the stakeholders.

I had the opportunity to fly home last week with someone who had been a whistleblower, Ms. Gualtieri. She wanted to talk about it. I am sure it will be coming before committee again as a specific example. There are many other aspects to this, the structure, et cetera. It is going to be difficult.

The committee is going to have one problem and that is the current structure of the bill. With all of the provisions that it sets up in terms of addressing matters under the whistleblower legislation, it pervades the entire bill. To change it, and this is the caution, it is going to be virtually an enormous rewrite of the bill. We have to be prepared for that.

I do not think committees have had much success in rewriting bills because there are so many tangents and tentacles that go through them. In fact what has happened historically is that when committees do not like a bill and do not believe they have the ability or the resources to do the rewrite, the bill is simply defeated at committee and the committee sends the bill back to the House, saying that the committee is rejecting it.

That is also a possibility. I do not think it is my preferred route though. I think the committee has the opportunity to do it.

I also wanted to comment very briefly on Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act which came before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The current President of the Treasury Board was the chair of the committee at that time. It was a tremendously complicated bill and had two bills embedded in it, as I said earlier in questions and comments.

The bill was the result of literally years of consultations, expert opinions from right across the country and consultations with all of the stakeholders. It was the best effort. One of the most important things that I found out from the witnesses and from the committee process was that the experts had basically said that the culture within the civil service was such that we could not move fully with the restructuring and modernization of the public service in one step, in one bill.

It was decided that we could only take it so far. The reason was the culture within our civil service. There is a culture of some cynicism. Sometimes things happen. There is experience. There was some cautious optimism that the changes, as we fully implemented the changes that were contemplated under Bill C-25, would improve the environment in which the public service must operate.

This means we are going to go through another wave of renewal and modernization of the public service, once it is determined that we have brought it forward as far as we can under the provisions of Bill C-25. That is very important for members to understand.

Members may be interested to know that the government operations and estimates committee has a significant opportunity in its mandate to go where it feels it should go to deal with these things. From what I have detected so far, the committee members are very interested in pursuing certain aspects more rigorously.

I think there is going to be some special work done within the committee. I hope that once we get through the important process of the estimates and dealing with the whistleblower legislation that we will then formulate our agenda to continue this important work and to have some important input into the renewal process of the public service.

For the benefit of the public service representatives who are watching, the problem we had with Bill C-25 with regard to the whole modernization process was there was some concern that the consultation was not full consultation. We have to make absolutely sure that whenever there are changes being proposed and legislation being formulated that the stakeholders whom it will affect are fully consulted. That is an absolute necessity.

On top of that, the timeline within which we had to deal with that bill was very tight. Many of the witnesses, including PSAC which represents the employees, came forward with a myriad of suggestions and recommendations on how to amend Bill C-25, but it happened to be the day before we were going to clause by clause study on a bill that was the size of a telephone book.

It is extremely difficult for changes to be made to legislation at committee when substantive changes are not brought to the committee's attention until the day before clause by clause study is going to be done. Members need the opportunity to educate themselves about the nature of the changes and how they would impact things. They need to be able to do a little research.

I would simply send the message out to the stakeholders, whoever they may be, that real changes to legislation can be made at committee provided that committee members are apprised of the changes and sought to champion some of those changes themselves. Witnesses should not wait until they are before the committee to inform the committee that they have some concerns. That is a very important part of the legislative process.

Let me conclude by talking about culture. The stopper in terms of Bill C-25 going the full range of change that was necessary to do a proper segregation between management and representation of the employees was that, in the view of the experts, the culture of the public service was such that it could not take all that change. I am not sure whether or not that was the right decision. We can only speculate what it would be like.

In my experience the people I have had an opportunity to meet and work with at committee, people from PSAC and from the Public Service Commission and from other unions, have been very helpful and very sincere. They feel very welcome when they appear before our committee. All of those stakeholders with regard to the public service should know they have a place to go to in terms of expressing their views, and that is the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

That is reflective of the decision that we made to expand the mandate of the Public Service Commission not only to submit an annual report, but to report to Parliament and appear before the committee as often as it thought necessary. That was an extremely important change that we made. I understand it will be effective in December 2005, which is a while off but that is how long it will take before these changes can be made.

There may be some cultural problems within the public service, perceived or otherwise. There are also some cultural problems within the legislators. I want to assure our excellent public servants that the parliamentarians on the front lines who are able to deal with these matters are very open and sensitive to the concerns raised by them to date. I suspect they will be sensitive to other concerns as we move forward in the future.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 5:20 p.m.
See context


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member covered a fair bit of ground but not very much on Bill C-8. I want to make some comments about Bill C-25, the modernization of the public service.

Having been a member of the government operations and estimates committee since it was created some two and a half years ago and having served as its chair and currently as its vice-chair, I can say that the process we have been going through, starting with Bill C-25, has been a very complicated one because it has been 20 years since the public service renewal process was looked at.

The experts who have looked at this and the studies that were done over a two year period prior to the creation of the legislation, brought forward a bill that was not even the full strategy for the renewal of the public service. It went as far as the experts felt we could go in one swoop. Bill C-25 included within it two embedded bills. It was so complicated that very few people had the patience to go through the enormous binder of legislation.

The member seemed to indicate that the PSAC had made a number of recommendations that were rejected. The fact is that the PSAC recommendations were not rejected. They were not presented to the committee until the day that it was going through clause by clause. It was never proposed by any member of the committee to amend the legislation. Therefore the committee did not reject PSAC's proposals. I think I was the only member who actually proposed some changes, some having to do with civil servants seeking public office, some having to do with oaths of office and other matters like that.

I would simply say that this is a technical bill that would give effect to an order in council decision that has been made. There is no new money and no changes in responsibilities but it starts to clarify the position with regard to who is management and who is representing the employees. The problem is that the Public Service Commission still has two hats. It still is an employer and it still has representation in employee responsibilities, and that will not be resolved until we go through the next wave of public service renewal, which may be some five years down the road.

I raise for the member's comment and consideration that our job is not over. This is a work in progress. It has taken us a number of years already to bring us this far and there are many areas to go. Whistleblowing is another bill but it certainly is part of it in terms of addressing the culture issues that I raised earlier with another member. I am pretty sure the committee will address the concerns after we hear the witnesses.

However the government operations and estimates committee already received the bill in the last Parliament, had full witnesses and was prepared to deal with the bill then. Unfortunately, the House rose for the election and now we are dealing with it again.

However I want to assure the member that there is an appetite within the committee, not only to properly address the issues related to the whistleblowing issue, but to continue to work and to invest in improving management-labour relations as well as to boast about the excellent public service that Canada does have.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 5:05 p.m.
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Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the electors of Burnaby—New Westminster for their support on June 28. I would also like to underline the good work of organizations in my riding, such as the Hyack Festival, the New Westminster and District Labour Council and the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

I welcome the opportunity to present my views and those of my New Democratic Party colleagues on Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act. I would like to provide some background on the bill.

In November 2003 the Public Service Modernization Act, Bill C-25, received royal assent. The main intent of the legislation was to modernize the human resources management in the public service by adding the concept of merit, implementing a more flexible staffing system, incorporating learning activities, and this may seem hard to believe given the current state of affairs, improving labour management relations. The NDP supported Bill C-25 in principle but in the end voted against it.

Overwhelmingly, workers in the trade union movement, including the Public Service Alliance of Canada, strongly opposed many aspects of Bill C-25. The government refused to take into consideration their concerns and defeated at committee stage a number of progressive amendments. These amendments mainly dealt with the security of workers.

In came the new Liberal regime and on December 12, 2003, the Liberal government established by decree, or order in council, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada as well as its functions. The agency was placed within the Treasury Board portfolio.

Government contended that the agency was the next logical step for implementing the Public Service Modernization Act, but since the agency was created by order in council, government had to follow up with Bill C-8, which was tabled this month, to confirm by legislative means the decree of the Prime Minister. This is therefore a technical or mechanical bill, as some would call it, which does not modify the functions or the powers given to the agency but which clarifies the role of the agency in the system.

The government maintains that Bill C-8 will allow for better integration of activities relating to the management of human resources within the sphere of operation of the Treasury Board. The government also maintains that this bill will ensure greater visibility of the agency inside and outside public services.

The bill adds the position of president of the agency but says nothing about the terms and remuneration of the president. I hope we can clarify this with officials at the committee stage.

More important, Bill C-8 confirms a potential significant delegation of powers to the president of the agency. The Treasury Board is relegated to the role of coordinator of the activities of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the president of the agency and of the new office of the comptroller of Canada. This office was reinstated after being canned by the Mulroney Conservatives in the early 1990s.

Given the track record of the Treasury Board on human resources issues, this may be a good idea after all. Maybe labour-management relations would finally improve, but it is fair to say it would be difficult for them to be worse. Bill C-8 keeps the door open to Treasury Board involvement. This makes me wonder about the capacity of the Treasury Board to effectively follow up and coordinate what it is supposed to coordinate. Perhaps some in the government think it would be a good thing to combine a junior partner and a senior partner to effectively deal with human resources issues.

Perhaps as part of the study of the bill in committee we should file access to information requests, targeting existing surveys and reports on job satisfaction at the Treasury Board. That information, I believe, would prove to be very interesting.

The president of the agency is provided with lots of powers over human resources management and human resources issues, in fact, as many as the President of the Treasury Board wishes to transfer, including employment equity issues, ethics, and powers conferred under the Public Service Employment Act.

Given all that, would it not then be appropriate that government consult with Parliament before appointing the president of the agency? Why then not make the president of the agency an officer of Parliament? After all, this is supposed to be an independent agency. I would like to see an amendment to that effect in proposed subsection 3.1.

Once again, this is a technical bill. We are trying very sincerely to find valid reasons to support it.

However we must be absolutely certain, first, that the government is not building up unnecessary expenses. The underlying philosophy of Bill C-8, in its potential implicit and explicit costs, must be assessed or reassessed and scrutinized at committee stage.

We must be sure that this will not entail wasteful spending by the government.

Was there any prior consultation on this agency? None that I know of at least. There is no substantial background documentation. One must wonder whether we are making things up on the go.

Is it improvising first and trying to justify the decision afterward?

The onus is on the government to make and prove its case. How can we respect the credibility of the Liberal government on those issues when we all know its dismal record in human resources management. Certainly with the public sector strikes this fall, the fact that many of the contracts were delayed and negotiations left public sector workers without contracts up to a year and a half, the fact of a fall in real wages of public sector workers who have lost about 10% of their real wages over the past 10 years, and the fact that table 2, the one salary survey that was done, showed a wage gap of 20% between public sector workers employed by the Government of Canada and those in the other public and private sectors. All of those facts indicate that there is a serious issue around human resources management and the lack of respect with which the government treats public sector workers.

I have many other questions about Bill C-8. I would like to find out what it will really mean for us and better understand its consequences for the public service.

Is the government attempting to clean up the mess created by the multiple scandals and abuses of the political purse? Is the agency just a smokescreen or an effective tool for management, or maybe, as I mentioned, it is just an improvisation?

First, an agency was announced last December. Then the government created the evidence for its need. Why would the civil service be better off with this scheme? We need evidence. How will the agency affect other departments? We need evidence. How would this agency ensure a better service from and a better treatment of civil servants. We also need evidence.

As an hon. member already mentioned, the Treasury Board website provides an elaborate plan of action for this agency. On paper it looks fantastic. However, the real challenge will be to demonstrate that these changes will translate into positive and tangible results with respect to the way the government does business. That has not yet happened. It will take years after Bill C-8 is adopted to find out whether the outcome is good for the people of Canada.

We must think of the challenge in trying to hold the government accountable to all of this. Again, there is no guarantee that this will work. The government has shown that it has difficulty in many respects controlling its own departments. How can it control the proliferation of agencies and related outcomes? The more separate places that exist, the less transparency we will have and the more difficult it may become to have effective control.

We are concerned about the proliferation of agencies. The Auditor General herself has commented on the lack of control and on the lack of accountability mechanisms. From Genome Canada, $375 million were poured in for just a few dozen genomic research positions, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation and many others. These agencies are not under the same scrutiny. There is always the same pattern, a small overworked staff relying on outsiders, and none of that is subject to Treasury Board accountability and regulation.

We know the Treasury Board regulations themselves are in serious need of overhaul given the scandals during the election campaign, for example, the expenses for staff at Citizenship and Immigration who were put up in hotels here in Ottawa according to Treasury Board guidelines. It was a cost to taxpayers of more than $30,000.

I am not saying that these agencies do not do good work. I am sure that many competent and dynamic Canadian men and women work hard in them. Still, there is taxpayers' money involved, and these agencies do not really have the means for supervision and monitoring.

There is much talk about the all wonderful program activity architecture, or PAA, to regulate accountability and record it. The PAA went ahead with virtually no documentation, no policy backgrounder and no consultation, again making things up on the go. I would not be the least surprised that not all government departments and agencies have officially submitted their PAA with the signature of the relevant minister.

I have another major concern. How will all of this affect the venerable Public Service Commission? We heard, during the introduction of Bill C-8, the President of the Treasury Board state that the Public Service Commission of Canada was moving away from a managerial role to an auditing role.

Effectively, through Bill C-11, the whistleblowing legislation that is currently before committee, the Treasury Board is giving the public commission a new mandate which is to deal with wrongdoing and whistleblowing in the public service.

The government decided not to create an independent body when in the case of whistleblowing there is indeed a compelling case in favour of creating an independent body to oversee the application of this important legislation. Responding to more calls for an independent whistleblowing agency, the Treasury Board president stated at committee that we should be working to modernize existing rules and procedures rather than add a new body to the public service. That begs the following question: Why is the government then creating a human resources agency when it clearly did not provide the rock solid evidence that was needed? Why is the government refusing to create an independent oversight agency for whistleblowing when there is compelling and overwhelming evidence in favour of such an agency?

I have more. During its presentation to the committee on Bill C-11, the Treasury Board admitted that by giving the mandate to deal with whistleblowing to the Public Service Commission, Bill C-11 would create a conflict of interest situation since the Public Service Commission, a body that holds executive powers over the public service, such as hiring staff, would also have to answer complaints of wrongdoings.

Does this confirm that the government is bent on stripping the Public Service Commission from its hiring powers? We already know that the HR agency proposed by Bill C-8 could be the recipient of many of those powers. Is the President of the Treasury Board paving the way for legitimizing the new HR agency that Bill C-8 would entrench into legislation?

It is strange that, while this government has so far been opposed to the creation of an independent agency to monitor whistleblowing, the same government has not succeeded in demonstrating that the agency created by Bill C-8 is necessary.

Canadians know full well that only an independent agency, operating outside the government, can effectively guarantee that public servants who blow the whistle on wrongdoings will truly be protected.

The government has said no. But this is simply a question of common sense. Unless, of course, someone is trying to protect the minister from the employees and not the other way around.

In fact, there could be an even better solution for whistleblowing supervision. Why not give such a mandate to the Auditor General? It would be a natural extension of the mandate of the Auditor General, not the job of the Public Service Commission or a human resources commission. This would mean that we may not even need to spend money on another independent agency since independence is the middle name for the Auditor General's office. It would be a win-win for our rights as Canadian citizens and a win-win for civil servants and taxpayers.

The non-partisan, venerable and effective Public Service Commission is losing influence due to the proliferation of agencies. Why are we tampering and improvising from one patchwork to the next and weakening government institutions?

We owe it to the taxpayers, the civil servants and the citizens of Canada to question the rationale for the creation of the human resources agency and to ask for evidence that its creation will actually address problems and not create them, and relate all arguments to the basic question: Why another agency if the government has difficulty controlling existing agencies and departments?

The case for the human resources agency proposed by the Prime Minister in December 2003, and which Bill C-8 seeks to legitimize, has yet to be made. I am looking forward to having all of these questions answered at committee.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 4:40 p.m.
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Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, whose purpose is to make legislative corrections to ensure the implementation of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency, which was created last December, if I am not mistaken. The main objective of Bill C-8 is to reconcile three acts, namely the Financial Administration Act, the School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act.

At the start, I will say that even though the Bloc Québécois is not entirely satisfied with certain aspects of Bill C-8, we will support the principle of it. I think that it is important to say this right from the beginning for those who are watching us, especially Treasury Board officials who must ask themselves the question. Now they know. They will be able to continue with their tasks or perform others.

That being said, the specifics that we would like to see in Bill C-8 will focus on what I will say now. For example, we read on page 3 of Bill C-8:

(b) section 6 is amended by adding the following after subsection (4):

(4.1) The Treasury Board may, subject to any terms and conditions that it considers appropriate, delegate to the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada

(a) any of the powers or functions in relation to human resources management, official languages--

You will see that, for us, in this bill, everything that has do to with official languages deserves to be specified.

This deals with the Financial Administration Act. Concerning the Official Languages Act, it says:

  1. Section 47 of the Official Languages Act is replaced by the following:

  2. The President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada shall provide the Commissioner with any audit reports that are prepared pursuant to paragraph 46(2)(d).

Consequently, under clause 47, the president of the agency is replacing the president of Treasury Board, who, until now, was the one who had to report annually.

Before I go any further, I need to explain a bit about the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada. and how it will ensure modernization of everything the President of the Treasury Board has said, as well as application of the Official Languages Act.

It would be pretentious to claim to have been searching the Internet, but my assistant has done so to get some information on the agency referred to in this bill. I will read a few excerpts about the agency from Part II. I will comment on them as I go along. You will see that, even in a minority government, they do not suffer from humility. No humility for the Liberals.

The first raison d'être of the agency is set out in a nice little box as follows:

Our raison d'être is to modernize, and to foster continuing excellence in people management and leadership across the public service.

No problem with that, but the problem arises with the second quote.

Thus, the Agency will serve Canadians by striving for--

Hon. members have probably heard the expression “the bestest in the world ” in connection with our public service. In fact everything done in Canada is so described. We do nothing by halves. So, I have added a few words but the quote is officially:

--a workforce and a workplace second to none.

As you can see, there is no humility in this document, nor in this government. They will learn, slowly but surely, in the transition from majority to minority position, from a grand total of x members to x minus all the defeated candidates.

What we want is an efficient and effective public service, and one that is above all respected. I think that those working in our public service deserve better. I was joking about the public service being the bestest in the world, but the public servants in our respective ridings would never write like that. They have far too much respect for their work, and so do I.

I think that this is from the Treasury Board website, not the bill, but certain aspects might be corrected.

Later in the Treasury Board document we read:

Our strategic outcome is a modern, professional public service dedicated to the public interest and supporting ministers in democratic governance, representative of the Canadian public and serving Canadians with excellence in the official language of their choice, with employees effectively and ethically led in a high quality work environment respectful of their linguistic rights.

I will return to the official languages. With respect to ethics, some names have been overlooked, such as Guité and Tremblay, those who were implicated in the sponsorship scandal. Still that is what the Treasury Board Web site says about this agency.

Later on, in Part III, entitled Planning Overview, we read this:

While TBS continues to focus on compensation, labour relations, and pensions and benefits, the PSC focuses on staffing and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) focuses on learning and training services. As a result, the Agency works very closely with each of these partners—

Therefore they set up groups to implement the necessary action. The Treasury Board Secretariat was the agency that was supposed to ensure that everything was going well. This is now delegated to the agency. That is another thing that makes complicating accountability and responsibility in this government possible, but not for the first time. I am sure there was no malicious intent and that the president of Treasury Board at the time was not trying to dilute information by creating the agency. And the same is true of the foundations.

Later, on page 15 of the document, under the heading, “Achieve and preserve official language commitments...”

Following the restructuring of the Government on December 12, 2003, the Agency is responsible for directing and coordinating the official languages policies and programs for the 196 institutions subject to the Official Languages Act.

As a result, through its Official Languages Branch, the Agency will continue to oversee—

I will come back to that later. If the agency oversees the same way the Treasury Board Secretariat did, it will not continue to oversee very well.

—and foster the establishment of an environment that effectively supports each institution in the integration of official languages into the workplace—

This is how it should be in this country. It is important to point out that this is not a speech written by the Bloc Québécois. I am quoting from the Treasury Board Secretariat, under the heading “Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada”. A little further, under the heading “A Representative and Accessible Public Service” the document says:

Progress towards employment equity and a more bilingual public service must continue in order for the government to meet its commitments to deliver effective quality services to Canadians and to develop a workplace respectful of diversity and linguistic duality.

The last two quotes are real gems. They should be included in the annals of the House. Indeed, we read the following on official languages:

On both fronts, considerable progress has been reported over the years. Achievements remain fragile or stagnant, however, and further improvements have to be made.

According to the Treasury Board Secretariat, “considerable progress has been reported”. The last quote is found under the heading “Key Priorities and Results for Canadians” and reads as follows:

The Agency will continue to strive for targeted improvements in employment equity—

This is also true for official languages.

What worries the Bloc Québécois and what worries me personally is when we read that the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada will continue to apply and take pride in the good results and progress achieved in official languages. At the same time, I made four complaints to the Treasury Board Secretariat and all four were deemed in order. These four complaints, which I submitted a year ago, are basically saying that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not complying with the Official Languages Act.

The complaints also say that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not accountable for or serious about its responsibility regarding the enforcement of the Official Languages Act in the various departments. The Treasury Board Secretariat is ignoring a number of regulations it put in place itself. Moreover, the Treasury Board Secretariat—the parliamentary secretary is listening and will certainly support what I am saying, otherwise she would contradict me during the period for questions and comments—has not delivered the accountability required under the Official Languages Act.

In one of the complaints I made, it was said, and I quote:

Regarding exclusion approval orders, if positions in the public service are designated bilingual, such positions or the person in those positions may be excluded from any language requirement, under certain exclusions or certain exclusion characteristics, including continuous service.

In the federal jargon, what is meant by exclusion as the result of a person being in continuous service? It is an order stating that anyone who, before April 6, 1966, had accumulated at least ten years of continuous service and who, since then, has been in continuous service, is excluded from language requirements. To meet such a requirement, and this is still in force, the person must have had 48 years of service in the public service as of April 2004. I bet you cannot find more than two or three of those, Mr. Speaker—and I am certain you are not one of them.

However, the Public Service Commission was monitoring the Official Languages Act provisions and the Treasury Board Secretariat was monitoring compliance with the Official Languages Act. The language rights of francophone communities have been ignored. I am not talking about the number of incomplete files, 2,521 in all—which is not much. According to the Treasury Board annual report, 2,521 persons hold a designated bilingual position in the public service. However we do not know if they comply with their hiring criteria, because their files are incomplete. Groupaction probably took care of their files. That is why they are incomplete.

Following that, I filed another complaint, which said that the Treasury Board is not properly carrying out its responsibilities as far as its supervisory obligations are concerned and which was also deemed in order.

Filling bilingual positions is quite another matter. I used to be our official languages critic, something I found both interesting and important. Therefore, I can tell the House that, since French-speaking Canadians account for close to 25% of the population, about 25% of the jobs are designated bilingual. I think that is quite normal. To fill a bilingual position—quite obviously—one needs to be bilingual. So far, so good.

Did you know, for instance, that over 60% of all jobs designated bilingual in the armed forces are held by unilingual people? That complaint was also deemed in order. I am not talking about 2% or 3%, but rather 60% of jobs designated bilingual being held by unilingual people. Throughout the public service, around 16% of jobs designated bilingual are held by unilingual people. I will not tell you what language they speak, I am going to let you guess.

I used to like to ask the previous President of the Treasury Board the following question, and I might put the same question to the current President of the Treasury Board: how many lawyers in the justice department are not really lawyers? How many income tax experts at the finance department are not really tax experts? None.

So why is it that unilingual people are hired to fill jobs designated bilingual as long as they undertake to taking language courses at some point in the future. That is still going on. Does the parliamentary secretary agree with me?

Why not hire social workers to fill lawyers' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses to become a lawyer at some point in the future? Why not hire mechanics to fill tax experts' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses at some point in the future? Positions are designated as such because they are important.

Why is what is important for a tax expert or a lawyer is not important for a francophone? I would really like someone to answer that some day.

Had the President of the Treasury Board given the agency, through Bill C-8, constraining powers, a real role in terms of accountability, perhaps the Official Languages Act could have started to be respected and enforced, after 35 years. But no, as I indicated earlier, quoting from the Internet site of the Treasury Board Secretariat, they will continue to be content with whatever progress is made.

Sixty per cent of designated bilingual positions in the Canadian Forces are held by unilingual individuals. Sixteen per cent of designated bilingual positions in the public service are held by unilingual individuals. Yet, the boasting is continuing. In making changes to legislation, attention ought to be paid to this sort of thing.

More specifically, in Bill C-8, special attention could have been paid to respecting the Official Languages Act. But no, instead the name of the President of the Treasury Board is replaced with that of the president of the agency, which will continue as before without changing a thing. They are even proud of doing nothing; they are proud when they receive complaints.

The complaints I have filed were not about not having been served in the language of my choice somewhere in Saskatoon. The complaints were against the Treasury Board Secretariat as a whole. I had complaints against DND as a whole. It is not about the priest from Bagotville, in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, who could not work in Moose Jaw, if I am not mistaken, because he was not allowed to speak French on a base that was supposed to be bilingual.

My complaints do not concern a single individual contravening the act in one place. They concern an entire government ignoring the Official Languages Act. At the same time, the Conservatives are telling us that the OLA is too constraining for unilingual individuals. That is the position of the Conservatives.

I cannot wait for the day when more francophones will fill designated bilingual positions in a department. Just try to find a unilingual English position filled by a francophone and you will see that he will have to change jobs quite rapidly. This is not the situation today.

The government will make the legislative reconciliation that must be made to Bill C-8, so this will apply, since it was created in 2000. Perhaps there are other improvements that could be made.

Before concluding, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. I could have talked more about this, but, in this bill, we must refer specifically to everything that has to do with whistleblower legislation, with Bill C-25 concerning the modernization of the public service, which I did not do.

So, as I said, all this will enable my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville to be heard on Bill C-451, which she introduced during previous Parliament and which deals with harassment in the workplace. I talked at length about official languages, but I can also talk about this. Harassment in the workplace affects one public servant out of five, according to a 2002 survey of 95,000 public servants.

This is why my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville introduced a bill to protect victims of psychological and other types of harassment. First, the text defines psychological harassment and abuse of power and then it requires the federal public administration to provide public servants with a harassment-free workplace.

I believe that, if the government protects public servants from psychological harassment, if it allows public servants, through Bill C-11, to disclose wrongdoings in their department and their workplace, and if, on occasion, it complied with the Official Languages Act, Bill C-8 would modernize the public service and the government machinery in a positive way.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 4:35 p.m.
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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suppose relevance is something we could invoke every now and then since we are talking about whistleblowing under Bill C-8. With regard to Bill C-8, the member has already stated that the bill is to basically enact an order in council decision and it likely will receive the support of the House.

The member is a retired civil servant. I thought I would ask him about an issue or a matter that came up when we did Bill C-25, the modernization of the public service. It was with regard to the culture of the civil service, that there was a bias or a cynicism about change and whether or not the change was going to be accepted and acted upon.

The reaction from the witnesses seemed to sustain the fact, or at least the allegation, that the culture of cynicism was still in the public service, one reason being that the Public Service Modernization Act was the first piece of legislation in some 20 years. Would the member care to comment briefly on the culture within the Canadian civil service?

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 4:10 p.m.
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Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member's question goes to the heart of a number of issues with which we have been struggling for some time. He is absolutely right. I think it is fairly evident that some of the processes that we use to manage in government, not just in human resources but in a variety of areas, become somewhat time worn and in need of modernization.

I keep talking about this as the modernization of public management. It represents trends that are going on around the world. We have seen over the years that some of the ways in which we try to solve problems in public management have fallen out of step with the realities of trying to make decisions. Some of our checks and balances in the systems that we have traditionally used to provide checks and balances have become so onerous that they defeat the purpose for which they were first put in place.

A lot of the discussion that has gone on has been how, in a very large organization such as the Government of Canada, do we create a regime that gives us the oversight capacity that we want but allows us to function in a way that really is in real time.

I will give one very real example. This bill is an outcropping of an earlier suite of legislation, which was Bill C-25 three years ago. The bill concerned the modernization of government. One of the examples was when we wanted to recruit the best and the brightest. We went out into the community and told young Canadians that there were careers for them in the public service. However, once we identified someone, we found that it was taking six months before we could offer the person a job. That is unrealistic in today's world. The kids are scooped up immediately. The government was falling behind in its capacity to recruit.

When we look at some of the things, it is just too easy in a place that is built on the kind of conflict that exists here to ignore the needs of people. It is always easy to cut internally and make the public service bear the burden for some of our problems. Many of us recognized that what we needed was an organization that focused on quality in the public service, the development of our human resource because it is so vitally important to the quality of the work that gets done, and that we should de-chain that a bit from the oversight.

The Public Service Commission came into existence, I believe, in 1917 or 1918, to provide protection against political interference and nepotism in hiring. Its central role was to act as a check and balance to unmanaged political activity.

That is an important role and it is a role that needs to be fulfilled. We have made some changes in the Public Service Commission to strengthen it in that role. However, at the same time we need someone who is paying a lot of attention to a labour force that is big, where people are moving from department to department. The reason the agency came into being was to give you a guarantee, Mr. Speaker, that these things would be managed in a responsible and as positive and proactive a way as possible.

I would invite the member, if he wishes, to meet with me at any time on this. I love talking about it.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 3:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba


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

moved that Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand before the House today to move second reading of the bill aimed at giving legislative confirmation to the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada which was created by orders in council as a result of the government reorganization of December 12.

As hon. members know, on December 12, 2003, the Prime Minister made some significant changes to the government structure and organization. The reorganization was intended primarily to advance the priorities of Canadians by improving services and their delivery, but also by making sure that the government has the tools it needs to restore the confidence of Canadians in their public service to sound fiscal management, more rigorous allocation of resources and, above all, implementation of the highest standards of ethics, openness, transparency, accountability and reporting to Parliament.

Such goals cannot be achieved without a modern, professional and responsible public service that is dedicated to the public interest, that is representative of the Canadian public and that serves Canadians with excellence in the official language of their choice.

To achieve these goals, we also need employees who are guided and supported effectively, and in accordance with the highest ethical standards in an effective workplace that is empowering, healthy and respectful of employees' language rights.

In other words, we need an outstanding workforce and a workplace guided and supported by effective and responsible human resource management throughout the public service, the kind of management that reflects best practices in this field.

That is why the government created the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada as part of its reorganization of December 12, 2003.

Created by orders in council, beginning with the transfer of certain functions of the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Public Service Commission, the agency has taken up the functions it needs to modernize and foster ongoing excellence in human resources management and leadership throughout the public service.

For example, with functions that have been transferred to it, the agency will oversee the effective implementation of the Public Service Modernization Act, which received royal assent in November 2003.

It will also work to set up integrated systems for human resources planning, oversight and accountability purposes across the public service.

It will encourage the training of highly skilled leaders who are guided by the highest accountability and ethical standards, and who are evaluated against those standards.

Last, it will continue to make targeted improvements in the area of employment equity and to promote linguistic duality, while putting in place better monitoring and reporting systems that will make results more accessible and transparent for Canadians.

The agency will thus make it possible to give the attention, direction and support needed to promote and maintain throughout the public service, human resources management that is exemplary and leadership that is constantly renewed and consistently more effective and results oriented.

In short, it will make it possible to put in place the conditions that public servants need to provide Canadians with efficient, quality services, while promoting the highest standards of integrity, transparency and accountability.

This is a turning point in the history of the administration of the public service which, for the first time, has a separate agency responsible for human resources management.

The work performed in the public service is of great value to the government and to Canadians. A highly effective public service contributes to the social, economic and cultural well-being of Canadians, as well as to their health and security. It also constitutes a competitive advantage in the global economy. Such a public service is made of men and women who devote their lives to serving the public interest and the Canadian public, and who promote fairness, justice, health and democratic vitality.

The best way to recognize their contribution, which will require increased effort in order to achieve excellence, is to give this new agency a legislative base. That is why I am presenting this bill today. Its purpose is simply to confirm the agency's existence through legislation.

Let us be clear on one thing. The bill does not in any way change the powers or functions already conferred on the agency by orders in council. The bill only enshrines in legislation what already exists in fact.

Essentially the bill does the following: first, it adds the position of president of the agency to the Financial Administration Act, in the same way the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada are already identified in the act.

Second, it specifies the nature of powers and functions that may be delegated by the Treasury Board to the president of the agency in the same manner stipulated in the act for the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada.

Third, it stipulates that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination of activities of the Secretary of the Treasury Board, the president of the agency and the Comptroller General of Canada.

Although they are relatively modest additions to the Financial Administration Act, these amendments constitute a key step for public service administration. With this bill, the agency would benefit from having a legislative basis that sets out more clearly and visibly, both inside and outside the public service, its role and relationships within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer.

As a result of the addition of the office of the president of the agency through the Financial Administration Act, the bill would require two correlative amendments: an amendment to the Canada School of the Public Service Act to appoint the president of the agency as an ex-officio member of the school's board of governors, replacing the president of the Public Service Commission; and an amendment to the Official Languages Act to stipulate that it is the president of the agency, rather than the Treasury Board Secretary, who will provide the Commissioner of Official Languages with any audit reports that are prepared under the responsibility of the Treasury Board.

I want to stress the fact that, in addition to demonstrating the importance the government places on human resources management, the bill would also permit: first, the clarification of the perceived role of the agency within the system, including unions, and in particular of its relationships within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer; second, the better integration of activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio; and third, a greater visibility for the agency, both within and outside the public service, facilitating implementation of its policies, programs and services.

I would like to remind the House that the bill concerns the government's most precious resource, its employees, people who are in the service of Canadians.

I would remind members that as we advance into the 21st century, setting up a true human resources management agency for the federal public service, which is also the biggest employer in Canada, sends an unequivocal signal to all managers, public servants and union reps that sound human resources management is a priority for the Government of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, you will recall as a member of the this chamber the debate that took place on the original Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act. The member to my left was heavily involved in the discussions.

We examined what we believe is a fundamental change in how we organize ourselves around the services we provide to our employees. I have said many times that all organizations lose when they do not pay attention to the people who work for them, that sound human resources management is not simply a matter of checks and balances over hiring, as was the foundation of the original Public Service Commission, but in the modern era it is bringing the tools of sound resources planning, helping people with their own career planning and helping to meet their education needs.

We talk a lot in the House about the need for continuous improvement and life long learning. In government we need a focus for those services, an organization that spends its time working with our employees, with government, agencies and departments to determine their needs and constantly thinking down the road as to how we can become better at what we do as we serve Canadians.

In doing that, we are always caught in this chamber with dual roles, of promoting good quality services to Canadians and also providing a level of oversight that guarantees to the people of Canada that resources are being dealt with properly, that we are paying close attention to the public purse, and that we are managing as efficiently and effectively as we can.

This is a discussion that came up on Bill C-11, an evolution in the role of the Public Service Commission. As we are discussing the legislation that puts in place and empowers the situation to deal with whistleblowing, we have talked a lot of how the role of the Public Service Commission, which traditionally has been the employing authority for government, is evolving and how it relates to other activities in government. This is another piece of that structure.

I believe that after 32 years of working within the existing structure, the government spent some two years studying, speaking to experts from all across the country, looking closely at how it managed its human resources, and then it made a decision that it would separate the functions and create an agency whose focus it was to spend its time working with our employees to ensure that they got the very best that they needed to do their job, the very best training, the very best services, and the very best support.

I think the public servants who are running the agency at this point and who have begun to give life to this vision have done an extraordinary job in a very short period of time at pulling together the resources they need to implement this vision. They believe it will take another year or two before things are up and running fully in the way that is envisioned. And that was contemplated in the act. Then we will come back to the House and ask the House if there is a provision there to review these decisions at the end of that period.

However what is fundamentally important about this is that it is a long overdue change. We spend too much time examining the problems, and rightly so. We need to look at the things that create problems. We need to look at the areas where there is always a need for improvement. We spend too little time celebrating the fact that there are 450,000 Canadians who do very good work on behalf of the citizens of this country and they deserve our support, encouragement and assistance every day.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
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Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today for the first time in the House to speak to Bill C-11. First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the great people of Elgin—Middlesex—London for electing me to the House. I will endeavour to provide the service that I know they deserve.

Let me now speak to the bill at hand. Bill C-11 is called whistleblower legislation. In an ideal world, we would not need protection for our workers because the workplace would be free of wrongdoing. Sadly, this is not the case today. With workplace wrongdoing, a more and more common occurrence, we must have in place a solid plan to ensure that workers who come forward to report wrongdoing are protected.

I will speak to the reprisal piece. We can reasonably expect that men and women of goodwill and conscience will take effort to stop wrongdoing as they see it happen, but only as long as the workplace climate is such that the person attempting to stop the wrongdoing is not endangering his or her employment comfort either now or in the future. It is not easy to report wrongdoing. Recent background shows examples of public servants, like Mr. Cutler, being subjected to a reign of terror.

The Liberal government came to power in 1993 promising whistleblower legislation. It then ignored that promise. Since 1999, many attempts have been made to correct that.

Confronted with the sponsorship scandal, the government introduced Bill C-25 in March. Bill C-25 was widely criticized as an ineffective legislation that would actually discourage whistleblowing. Bill C-25 is the basis for this legislation. Let us see what is in Bill C-11.

In reality, this bill contains all the same problems as the last version. Bill C-11 was to be a major revision of Bill C-25, which was universally panned in the last Parliament.

Public servants will not be encouraged to disclose wrongdoing to the president of the Public Service Commission as they see that position as part of senior management. This bill does not allow the person receiving disclosures to report directly to Parliament. The president of the Public Service Commission would report to a minister, who would then table the report within 15 days. This process creates the same kind of interference that has apparently taken place in the past.

This bill also allows cabinet to add any agency or crown corporation or department to a list that is excluded from this act. This allows government to exclude public servants from protection of retribution when they disclose wrongdoing.

Like Bill C-25, Bill C-11 sets no punishment for those who make reprisals against whistleblowers. Also as with Bill C-25, in Bill C-11 only those who make disclosures through the prescribed channels and whose disclosures meet specific criteria are protected. This sounds like controlling disclosures, not facilitating them.

In conclusion, I could support an act that creates a truly independent body to receive and investigate disclosures made by the public servants. This is an act that falls short and it must be fixed.

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October 14th, 2004 / 12:45 p.m.
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Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak to Bill C-11, the first bill to which I have spoken in the House. I would like to take the opportunity to thank my constituents from Burnaby and New Westminster for having elected me to this august body on June 28, 2004.

I would like to take the opportunity to stress, as my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has, the importance of the legislation for good governance. This is legislation that has been repeatedly promised by successive Liberal governments, first in the red book of 1993, which, as we know, promised the protection of civil servants as a result of the scandals that plagued the Mulroney government.

It was again promised with Bill C-25, which was introduced in the spring of 2002, 11 years later, which was in fact a bill that, to quote my colleague from Winnipeg Centre who has done a tremendous amount of work on this issue, was more aimed at protecting ministers from whistleblowers than whistleblowers from ministers. One can understand the rationale, given that the current scandals that affect the Liberal government are handsomely competing with those of the Conservative government that preceded it.

Bill C-25 had major flaws. All critics agreed that it failed miserably in creating a sense of security to whistleblowers. It failed to cover political staff, the RCMP and national security bureaucrats. It discouraged civil servants from coming out to expose corruption. In fact, when the bill was reintroduced in 2004, some of my colleagues from the 37th Parliament received anonymous calls from public servants who wanted to come out with more information on corruption but who were discouraged by the bill.

Bill C-25 died a good death on the order paper with the 2004 federal election and, of course, whistleblowing legislation was promised again in the Liberal platform. Now we have another reincarnation with Bill C-11.

This new version is indeed improved but I have concerns. There are structural deficiencies which would prevent the desired effect of such a bill, which is to clean up the corruption in government while protecting civil servants. As long as civil servants believe that their organizational culture does not protect them from reprisals or may in fact support reprisal, they will be deterred from coming forward to report misconduct.

I do believe, along with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, that major work needs to be done at committee stage. I compliment the government for referring this bill immediately to committee without having it go through second reading. That would have made major changes impossible since those changes would have gone against the principle of the bill.

The two most important concerns are the following: Bill C-11 replaces the toothless commissioner in Bill C-25 with a complex reporting mechanism involving the Public Service Commission of Canada and a whole array of codes of conduct which, as we now know, are last in, first out, in the case of conflict and deterrence.

The President of the Treasury Board said that the Public Service Commission of Canada was moving away from a managerial role to an auditor role. Why would the Public Service Commission want to get involved in auditing, in issuing subpoenas or setting deadlines for CEOs to respond to recommendations?

As we know, the Public Service Commission has other fish to fry.

When it comes to government and good governance, auditing means the Auditor General. We have seen the good work of this body in which we have full confidence. We absolutely need an independent review mechanism. The Auditor General or another independent officer of Parliament, call it the public sector integrity commissioner or whatever, would be able to do the job and do it efficiently and, most important, report to Parliament.

Bill C-11 has a broader range of coverage and includes employees of crown corporations and the executive, with the exception of CSIS, the uniform members of the RCMP and Canadian Forces. Again, I believe that unless there is an independent review outside the sphere of government, the legislation will not produce the intended effect. We must separate the oversight of the government of the day from the public service.

We need an independent commissioner. The government seems to be in a hurry to set up agencies that can be used as an extension of its policies and where it can hide money for programs beyond the scrutiny of the Auditor General. It is out of the question to give powers to an independent commissioner who would be nothing more than an officer of the House.

Again, why not use the Auditor General? Why not have someone reporting directly to Parliament?

In committee, we need to consider other issues that have something to do with the old saying “The devil is in the details”. Some of these issues have already been raised by the hon. member for Repentigny and my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre.

Let me mention, for instance, the threat of harsh disciplinary action against public servants making unfounded allegations.

In that case, whistleblowers should file a complaint with other bodies, such as the Industrial Relations Board, which could take up to 18 months. The reverse onus is on the victims to prove their innocence, and that is not real protection against undue risk.

What would the legislation do to protect the rights of those who have already paid the price of the government's inertia? My thoughts are with those three doctors who were fired for denouncing the health hazard of the use of BGH, bovine growth hormone. They should have been nominated for the Order of Canada. I am speaking of Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gérard Lambert. We must look at introducing some retroactivity to protect those individuals.

In conclusion I would like to read an excerpt from an article that was written in the Ottawa Citizen about the victims of our lack of legislation. It reads:

Despite the absence of legislation, employees of conscience have spoken out. At Health Canada, Dr. Michele Brill-Edwards sounded the alarm about the arbitrary drug approval process, including a rush to market of inadequately tested products. Likewise, Health Canada veterinarians Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert spoke out and testified at Senate hearings about the risks associated with bovine growth hormone.

Diplomat Brian McAdam and, subsequently, veteran RCMP officer Robert Read revealed corruption in Canada's consulate-general in Hong Kong and risks to our national security through fraudulent visa schemes and penetration of our immigration computer system by organized crime. And Col. Michel Drapeau denounced corruption among senior military brass and was an outspoken critic during the arbitrarily truncated Somalia inquiry.

As one of the most profiled whistleblowers in Canada, Dr. Nancy Olivieri sparked an international debate on the erosion of the sacred principle of university independence from corporate influence. Threatened when she sought to disclose adverse drug trial results to her entrusted patients, she remains, 10 years later, embroiled in costly and draining litigation.

All were fired except McAdam, whose destroyed health forced retirement, and Brill-Edwards, who conscientiously resigned. For Brill-Edwards, employment came at the price of a weekly train commute from Ottawa to Toronto.

These victims of the absence of legislation underscore the importance of the legislation. We have fought hard to bring the legislation forward. We will be fighting equally hard in committee and in Parliament to make the legislation better so that it truly protects whistleblowers in Canada.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 12:15 p.m.
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Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I begin I would like to offer my congratulations on the important position you now occupy and I shall also take a few seconds to thank the people of Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, a riding that has undergone profound changes. Some 65% of my constituents are new and they have placed their confidence in me. I am very happy to represent them. Today, I am very proud to speak about Bill C-11, which revives the former Bill C-25.

During my second term of office, and particularly between February and the election call, I spent hundreds of hours on the sponsorship scandal. The report of the Auditor General came out as our committee was beginning its work. The President of the Treasury Board was eager to tell us about legislation, measures, provisions that would protect public servants who might have been involved or who could have given us clarifications with regard to the work we were doing. And then we never saw him again. He disappeared. He became complicit in all we later heard about the Department of Public Works, that is, a good obedient Liberal who was trying all the time to hide the truth.

Here again, the President of the Treasury Board, reintroducing Bill C-25 as new Bill C-11, is offering the House just half a solution. Once again he is showing this House his lack of transparency. A step has been taken, but just one small step. There is still one giant step to take so that these things do not happen again. In this bill, we do not find the provisions that the Bloc Québécois was hoping for, such as what exactly disclosure is. Could disclosure not be a form of political pressure?

I sat on the public accounts committee. I sat on that committee in camera and I saw dozens of public servants tell us with embarrassment that they had been forced by the Gagliano gang to do things that led to the sponsorship scandal. In Bill C-11 there is nothing to define exactly what a disclosure is.

The bill uses the word serious. I would say that the situation is very serious. In fact, this government must understand that it is now in a minority and that its trademark arrogance will not work any more, because now, the opposition has the majority. This Liberal government must demonstrate that it is taking steps to ensure that public servants are protected for some of the actions they had to take during the Jean Chrétien administration, during the Alfonso Gagliano administration.

I do hope that this bill introduced by the President of the Treasury Board will protect people from political pressure. We all remember the Liberal big wigs who appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. One after the other, Alfonso Gagliano, Canada Post president André Ouellet, Via Rail CEO Jean Pelletier, Marc Lefrançois and many others lied to the committee, and the Liberals tried to put the blame on civil servants. This is shameful! It does not reflect what really happened.

Bill C-11 does not do enough to protect civil servants, who are often under political pressure. They often have to answer to a small time manager appointed by the big Liberal machine. They are afraid to act, to tell the truth. Bill C-11 should do something about that.

Let us not forget about labour relations mechanisms. Civil servants are represented by unions. Whatever measures are stipulated in Bill C-11 must be taken in cooperation with the unions.

The civil servants who have the fortitude to disclose partisan decisions and cover-ups will need the support of their unions. That has not been provided for in Bill C-11.

Yes, we in the Bloc Québécois support Bill C-11 in principle, but we also happen to believe that major changes need to be made to this piece of legislation.

I would like to ask a question of the President of the Treasury Board. We do have something called the Policy on the Internal Disclosure of Information Concerning Wrongdoing in the Workplace. We rarely hear about it, but it does exist. What does Bill C-11 introduced by the President of the Treasury Board add to this famous internal policy concerning wrongdoing in the workplace?

The Liberal government must realize that, with this scandal, which made the headlines not only at home but also abroad, Canada has been discredited. The image of our parliamentarians—not Bloc members but those of the ruling party—has been discredited throughout Canada. During the election campaign, people were asking me what would happen after the work of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the Gomery commission was completed, whether any actions would be taken against those found guilty, at fault or otherwise involved in the sponsorship scandal. The first action taken by the Liberal government is once again only half a solution. The efforts made by parliamentarians, witnesses, the Gomery commission and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts must not be wasted. With no follow-up, the Parliament of Canada will lose its credibility, and our image as parliamentarians will again be tarnished because of the Liberals' past.

The meaning of disclosure needs to be clarified. The people across the way also need to get through their heads what the word “transparent” means. The proposed process is not a transparent one. Once again, the plan is to appoint someone who will be both judge and jury. The president of the Public Service Commission runs the whole public service. Is this the right person to be the judge, receive disclosures, perhaps have to criticize his right-hand, or left-hand man? The most credible person right now is the Auditor General. Through her work, she revealed the sponsorship scandal. If this shortcoming of the bill is to be remedied, the person would have to be independent and accountable to Parliament.

It is time for an end to cover-up and secrecy among the friends of the government. It is absolutely essential that this minority Liberal government understand that things must change, as they said in the 1960s. And it has to show that there is a change. We in the Bloc Quebecois pledge to work hard on the committee to bring about changes that will meet the public's expectations.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 11:50 a.m.
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Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I count it a privilege to rise in the House and speak to the matter of the bill we are debating today. Certainly Bill C-11 is a significant and important bill and we have to give due diligence to it. I appreciate that many of the comments that have been made are valid ones.

Let us look at the purpose of the bill. It is “to establish a procedure” for the reporting or disclosure of wrongdoing and to protect those who so report, and to set a code of conduct. The bill states that the code of conduct would be set by Treasury Board and a minister must consult with the employee organizations' certified bargaining agents. That is well and fine. The bill goes on to state, “Every chief executive may establish a code of conduct applicable” to their particular department. The bill does not give any guidelines as to what that code of conduct ought to be or should be. I find that there is a bit of a looseness there in terms of the definition and who may be involved in that process. I would like to see something that would define what the general guiding principles of the code should be in order that the parties may work toward that end.

When I look at the process, which is one of three important things, I find a fundamental flaw in the process, that is, it happens internally. Subclause 10(1), dealing with the disclosure of wrongdoing, states that “Each chief executive must establish internal procedures to manage disclosures of wrongdoings made by public servants...”. Either the process should be set out in legislation or it should happen altogether independently and outside of the employee-employer relationship. If the employer sets out the process, as we will see in the subclauses following subclause 10(1), it becomes an internal matter and probably will be the reason why many wrongdoings will not get reported. They will not be reported because of this internal process.

Subclause 10(2) states that each chief executive “must designate a senior officer to be responsible for receiving and dealing with” those disclosures. This is again an internal process, and in regard to a lower level officer, this is actually not defined. The definition of senior officer in the definition section of the bill simply states “a senior officer designated under subsection 10(2)”. Clause 10(2) does not define who that is. It simply states that it must be someone appointed by the chief executive officer. We do not even know who that would be. To continue, clause 12 indicates that a public servant may disclose a wrongdoing to a supervisor within the system.

So what do we have in the bill? We have a supervisor, we have a senior officer and we have a chief executive officer. If we look at that process, we will see that it is totally internal, totally within the structure, and it will be the primary reason why public servants may find it difficult to report a wrongdoing, particularly if it relates to that person's department or those levels of employees. It is my view that the bill should provide for an independent, external reporting mechanism and an external person who could receive the disclosures so that they could be dealt with without any fear of reprisal or without any intimidation.

In fairness to the minister, clause 13 indicates that there may be a disclosure of wrongdoing to the president of the Public Service Commission but it preconditions that disclosure and that is where the problem lies. It states, “if...the public servant believes on reasonable grounds that it would not be appropriate to disclose the matter to his or her supervisor...”.

Why should the public servant be placed in the position of a judge or the judiciary to decide if there are reasonable grounds or not? If there were an independent, external person or agency that determination would not have to be made. The very simple question would be, “Is there a wrongdoing?” If it looks bad enough, the public servant could report it to someone and let them decide whether there is a prima facie case to proceed. The onus should not be put on the employee, the public servant.

Clause 13 goes on to state that a public servant may disclose a wrongdoing to the president if there are “reasonable grounds” or where “by reason of the subject-matter or the person alleged to have committed” the wrongdoing, it would be inappropriate to report to that person.

Again, who decides the issue of the subject matter of the wrongdoing and whether the person would justify the reasonable grounds to report to the president? That is far too great an onus to place on an employee or a public servant. All the employee should be required to do is report the matter to an independent person or body which would make the decision on whether the process needs to proceed. That would provide the comfort level people would need in this particular issue.

I realize that there must be balance in this process. I notice that clause 40 of the bill deals with the other side of the coin by saying, “No person shall, in a disclosure of a wrongdoing...knowingly make a false or misleading statement, either orally or in writing”.

I think that is the other part of the balance that we need to be careful of. We need to ensure that those types of things do not happen. In order to ensure that, there must be a consequence for those who knowingly make a false or misleading statement. In the previous Bill C-25, there was a provision as to what would happen to those who would be in that category, and there would be some disciplinary action. This bill does not deal with that in clause 9 and I would suggest that it should.

Finally, as I look at clause 24 of the bill, I see that it states:

The President of the Public Service Commission may refuse to deal with the disclosure if he or she is of the opinion that

(a) the public servant has failed to exhaust other procedures otherwise reasonably available;

It does not say what those procedures are. It does not say that it refers to applying through the supervisor or through the senior officer or executive officer. It just does not say so and it leaves that discretion solely in the hands of the president of the public service. I do not think that is right.

If we were to have a independent body dealing with the matter, a body separate and apart from the employee-employer relationship, we would see that discretion being exercised. The clause goes on to state that the president may refuse to deal with the disclosure if “the subject-matter of the disclosure is not sufficiently important...frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith” or if “there is a valid reason for not dealing with the disclosure”.

What is that? What would that be? And do we want to leave it in the hands of someone who is tied to the employer?

Also, if a decision is made not to hear that process, there is no provision for appeal. There ought to be provision for an appeal. It seems to me that when employees or public servants are required to either go through the internal process or leave it in the hands of the president without having recourse to disagree with that opinion, there needs to be some objective person or body to deal with that.

I feel that when we deal with legislation such as this, when it is far-ranging, when it deals with wrongdoing of various kinds, we must ensure that for those who are legitimate, those who are not acting in bad faith, those who want to bring to the attention of the House the fact that there is something wrong within a department, there must be an easy process. That process must be separate from the internal workings, which have their own machinations of power. If people can have that assurance, the process will flow smoothly. It will be someone making decisions that will be based on an objective basis and not on bias, not on feelings and not on relationships. I think that is very important.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 11 a.m.
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Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton--North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-11, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoing in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoing.

It has taken more than a decade for the government to accept the need for whistleblower legislation. It took a lobby by the whistleblower community, public outcry, official opposition pressure, highlights by the media, my Bill C-205, and a series of scandals including the George Radwanski affair, the gun registry cost overruns, the HRDC scandal, the scathing report by the current public service integrity officer, and the sponsorship scandal, for the Liberals to finally make good on their 1993 red book promise. Even now it is obvious that their hearts and souls are not in this legislation.

Up to now it seems that the Liberal government's policy has been to control occupational free speech rather than permitting it. They have bullied whistleblowers, intimidated and harassed them, fired them from their jobs, and have ruined their professional and personal lives rather than rewarding them as is done in the United States and other countries.

The Liberals have always believed in secrecy, confidentiality and cover-ups rather than transparency, accountability and corrective action.

Bill C-11 fails to respond to the cynicism of public servants and lack of confidence. It fails to provide adequate protection. It does not promote a climate in the federal public service that encourages bureaucrats to expose wrongdoing and corruption in government.

The biggest problem with the bill is that it authorizes the president of the Public Service Commission to report through a minister rather than directly to Parliament. The minister will then have 15 days, five more than in the previous bill, to table that report in Parliament, more than enough time to plan his counterspin.

For over a decade the PSC has been the third party. It had a mandate to deal with harassment complaints, but was given no authority or mandate to provide any restitution for damages. The public interest is served when employees are free to expose mismanagement, waste, corruption, abuse or cover-ups within the public service without fear of retaliation and discrimination.

Under Bill C-11 only those who make disclosures through the prescribed channels and whose disclosures meet specific criteria are protected. That is not good enough. If whistleblowers want to safely make a disclosure under this legislation, they must report to a supervisor first or ensure they have reasonable grounds for going directly to the president of the PSC. This disclosure must not be deemed unimportant, frivolous or vexatious, and the person must not go public. That is shameful. These provisions describe a process for containing disclosures, not encouraging them.

The scope of Bill C-11 has been somewhat improved from the previous bill when it was first introduced. Some crown corporations have been included. However, the legislation still excludes the RCMP, military personnel, CSIS, CSE and others. This means that a whistleblower, like RCMP Corporal Robert Reid, who had to go public when the authorities covered up his investigation of visa selling in the Hong Kong immigration office, would have no protection under this proposed legislation. What good is a whistleblower protection bill when it cannot provide protection to whistleblowers?

Aside from these important exclusions, the bill includes several other government agencies listed in the schedule to the act; however, cabinet may amend the schedule at any time even after the act is passed in Parliament. That gives blanket power to cabinet. As a result the government could create roadblocks anytime as it deems itself embarrassed and federal government employees may find themselves without whistleblower protection.

Bill C-11 prescribes no punishment, fines or sanctions for those who make reprisals against a whistleblower. Reprisals must be reported within 60 days of the time the whistleblower knew or ought to have known a reprisal was taking place. Although this is twice as long as the time allowed in Bill C-25, the timeline is still far too restrictive.

As I mentioned earlier, three years ago, in the face of government opposition, I introduced legislation to protect whistleblowers. That was a time when many members and many people did not know what whistleblower protection was all about. Last year the Liberals refused to support my bill. They simply lacked the political will to provide protection to whistleblowers. When I blew the whistle on whistleblowing, the Liberals had their ears plugged. They did not even want to go there.

Next week I will be introducing that legislation again because the present legislation is not capable of providing legitimate protection to whistleblowers.

My bill is unique and comprehensive. It is unique because whistleblowers like Brian McAdam; Joanna Gualtieri, founder of FAIR, Federal Accountability, Integrity and Resolution; and Louis Clark, executive director and founder of GAP, Government Accountability Project in the U.S. were consulted to take advantage of their experiences. I thank them for their input and help in drafting my bill.

Let us compare my bill and the government's bill. My bill would permit public servants to disclose alleged wrongdoing to public bodies, including the media, whereas Bill C-11 attempts to keep allegations within the department and restricts the person's right to go to the public.

In my bill an employee who has alleged wrongdoing and suffers from retaliatory action as a consequence would have the right to bring civil action before a court, whereas with Bill C-11 employees must take their claims of reprisals to an applicable labour board whose deliberations could be a very long and tedious process.

In my bill every employee would have a duty to disclose wrongdoing, whereas Bill C-11 warns that disclosure must not be unimportant, frivolous, or vexatious.

In my bill a supervisor, manager or other person of authority who harasses a whistleblower would be subject to criminal prosecution and face a fine of up to $5,000. As well, they would be subject to personal liability for any resulting damages that may be awarded to the employee pursuant to any civil or administrative proceedings. Bill C-11 prescribes no punishment for those who make reprisals against whistleblowers. Where is the protection?

In my bill, an employee who successfully blows the whistle would be recognized with an ex gratia award, whereas Bill C-11 makes no reference to these rewards, even though the current public service integrity officer states that rewards are essential. The government forgot about that.

In my bill, written allegations would be investigated and reported upon within 30 days of receipt, whereas in Bill C-11, no deadlines are set. That means it is open ended, maybe there would be an investigation or maybe not. It only says that investigations are to be conducted as informally and expeditiously as possible.

When I drafted my bill, public service whistleblowers were consulted extensively, whereas the Liberals bullied the whistleblowers and they have not even talked to the whistleblower community.

Whistleblowers should be praised, not punished. They should not pay for their public service by putting their jobs on the line. In fact, I would allow the government to steal from my whistleblower bill and put it into its bill. I am a small l liberal as far as my bill is concerned.

I will ensure that the government definitely looks at my bill in committee. I will allow it to liberally steal from my bill as much as it has been stealing part and parcel from the platform of the Conservative Party.

I believe the bill will be amended in committee, otherwise I would be forced to vote against the bill and force the Liberals, as well as all members in the House, to pass my bill and not the government's bill.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 10:40 a.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to rise to speak in this 38th Parliament, I would like to take a moment to recognize and pay tribute to the good people of Winnipeg Center who saw fit to send me back to this honourable place. Every day that I take my seat in the House of Commons, I am reminded of what an honour it is to be here and what an honour it is to serve the good people of my riding.

It is also the first speech that I have the honour to make with you in the Chair, Madam Speaker, looking over this House with your wisdom. Let me add my voice to the unanimous chorus of members of Parliament who are very pleased to see you there in that very fitting place. I can only say that I hope your eyesight is as good as your judgment so that you will continue to recognize those of us who are banished to the far reaches of the House of Commons, although I am one who believes there is no such thing as a bad seat in the House of Commons. It does not matter where we are sitting.

I come from a trade union background, and as a union leader of a carpenters' union I have some personal knowledge of the importance of employees to feel comfortable when bringing forward information and being led to believe that they can do the honourable thing safely. It has always been my view, and it is still my view, that good managers welcome whistleblowing.

Good managers want to know of any wrongdoing or maladministration or any efficiencies they may gain in the enterprise they have control over by this information. It is only managers who have something to hide who are reluctant to put in place a truly free and open whistleblowing regime.

The NDP is committed to good whistleblowing legislation. We are committed to working with this bill to make it that piece of legislation. We do not want to jeopardize this bill going down without some measure of success and without improving the status quo. I want to introduce my comments by making that statement because I do have some serious criticisms of the bill.

I was a member of the government operations committee, as was the current President of the Treasury Board as chair of that committee, when we heard the Radwanski affair. There has never been a more graphic illustration to demonstrate the need for whistleblowing legislation than what we went through in that committee. We would never have learned about the Radwanski scandal were it not for courageous public servants willing to come forward to tell us what they knew.

The sad thing about it, and the reason I raise it, is that those very public servants felt it was necessary to bring their own legal counsel with them in order to come before a House of Commons standing committee made up of members of Parliament, made up of their own representatives in Parliament. They could not be assured that they could speak freely without bringing their own legal counsel. That rang the alarm bell for me that something was tragically wrong with the current status quo. Obviously, public servants in this country did not believe that they could speak freely even when it was the right thing to do.

As a result the government operations committee did undertake a great deal of work leading to whistleblowing legislation. First of all there was a subcommittee struck, which I had the honour to co-chair along with my colleague from Laval--Les Îles. We co-chaired a small working group that came back with recommendations to the larger committee as to what this whistleblowing legislation might look like.

What was presented to the committee, however, in the form of Bill C-25, did not resemble the recommendations of that subcommittee working group. In fact, every leading authority on whistleblowing in the country condemned Bill C-25 which came before our committee, and said that it did not meet any of the tests of a quality piece of whistleblowing legislation. Members can excuse us if we are frustrated on this subject because everyone knew what needed to be done, everyone was clear.

The Bloc Québécois had a wonderful private member's bill in 1996 that achieved second reading. It articulated a good, clear regime which would provide that assurance to public servants. In that articulation the Auditor General would have been the office to whom complaints were made.

We heard from 14 witnesses at the committee, as the President of the Treasury Board pointed out. They all condemned Bill C-25. They said Bill C-25 was an act to protect ministers from whistleblowers, not an act to protect whistleblowers.

We need to emphasize clearly to public servants that we will protect them, that we appreciate them and that we will reward them. I am not talking about a monetary reward, but there should be some sense of reward for doing the honourable thing in coming forward with information. However, I point out that in some jurisdictions in the United States, there are cash rewards for whistleblowers. They get 10% of the money saved by the bringing forward of any wrongdoing. I am not recommending that, but I want to emphasize that if we are to create some confidence in the public service, we have to make it abundantly clear that we welcome and value the information of public servants, that we are on their side in this and that we will protect them. The legislation is about protecting public servants, not just putting in place a mechanism through which the information can be filtered.

We are critical of a couple of things in the bill, which we will have the opportunity to amend at committee stage. I compliment the President of the Treasury Board for forwarding the bill to committee prior to second reading and getting the tacit approval in principle from the House. I am optimistic that it will be easier to effect some of these changes if it hits the committee sooner rather than later.

One of the fears we have is that we are not convinced the Public Service Commissioner will be viewed as a neutral third party to whom information can be brought. I may become convinced. I know there is a possibility we can, as a consequential amendment, modify the act that created the Public Service Commission to ensure that it is more arm's length than what the public perception currently may be. We are looking into that idea.

One thing that has to be clarified, if we are to give confidence to public servants, is that currently in the act there is swift punishment contemplated for anybody who makes a frivolous or vexatious complaint or a complaint in bad faith. People can be disciplined severely, as they should be, if they do that. There is also serious discipline contemplated for any manager who is caught in wrongdoing by virtue of a complaint. However, there is no immediate satisfaction for whistleblowers who may feel they are being disciplined for having brought information forward.

Their avenue of recourse, as was pointed out by my colleague from the Conservative Party, is to file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board or the Public Service Staff Relations Board. As an old union representative, I can tell the House that this can be an 18 month agonizing journey, the result of which is frankly like rolling the dice at the other end because of the arbitrator at the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. Like any court case, we may be perfectly innocent and found guilty or we may be guilty and found innocent. We really do not know, so this is no real satisfaction. How many public servants will risk their jobs, and by virtue of losing their jobs, they lose their homes, their family stability, et cetera, if they are not absolutely guaranteed 100% that if they get persecuted as a result of coming forward with information, the government will back them up. They would not have to roll the dice at the Canada Industrial Relations Board or appear with their legal counsel to argue the case. There would be real protection for whistleblowers. Without that, I would have to advise the public servants whom I know to zip their lips.

The legislation comes on the heels of the firing of the three most prominent whistleblowers in the country. What a glaring contradiction. The government just got rid of three nuisance doctors, whom I call heroes. They should be nominated for the Order of Canada. These people protected Canadians by keeping the bovine growth hormone off the market because they believed it was hazardous. If we cannot protect the three most prominent whistleblowers in the country, what kind of message does that send to the rest of the public service? We have a lot of work to do to build confidence that they will be safe if they come forward.

Imagine the gains, the waste eliminated, the corruption we could reveal and eliminate if whistleblowers felt free to come forward. However, we are not convinced they will as a result of the bill.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 10:30 a.m.
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Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning on Bill C-11.

Before I do, I would like to do what needs to be done during a person's first speech after the opening of a new Parliament: thank those who sent me here. I thank the people of the riding of Repentigny, the many campaign workers and the people who have supported me since my first election in 1993 and continue to do so. I would also like to welcome some new municipalities to my riding, namely the two L'Épiphanies, L'Assomption, Le Gardeur and Saint-Sulpice.

It is important, and appropriate as well, to provide a little background, a brief review of how and why we find ourselves today with Bill C-11 before us, one of the first bills to be introduced in this 38th Parliament.

As the President of the Treasury Board has said, this bill originated with the member for Bourassa, among others, as Bill C-25. Amendments have been made, and a degree of open-mindedness on the part of the Liberals may be seen. Improvements are still needed, however.

As we are all aware, the roots of Bill C-25 lie in the sponsorship scandal. During the hearings of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts we, unfortunately, heard public servants testify that they did not make public what was going on in front of them, for fear of reprisals.

Perhaps in a few months, or a few years, we will find out that other public servants were hesitant to speak out about the firearms scandal. That program was slated to cost $2 million or $3 million, and now is up to $2 billion. This is even more scandalous than the sponsorships. Perhaps this bill will make it possible for public servants to tell us what really went on.

I believe there are good intentions behind Bill C-11. Its purpose is to enable public servants to disclose wrongdoings when they become aware of them in the performance of their duties.

When the bill goes to committee, however, it will be very important to examine whether it will really meet its intended goal: to make it possible for public servants to disclose acts and omissions within their position or work unit.

It is important to know how Bill C-11 will differ from the Policy on the Internal Disclosure of Information Concerning Wrongdoing in the Workplace—a policy that already exists. Too often the Liberal government tries to reinvent the wheel. When something does not work, the government sets out to reinvent something new.

What does Bill C-11 add to the Treasury Board Policy on the Internal Disclosure of Information Concerning Wrongdoing in the Workplace? In committee, we will have to come up with a meaningful answer to this question to avoid simply creating something new again that falls short of the expectations for this bill.

My colleague from the Conservative Party of Canada was quite passionate in expressing our disagreement with certain aspects of this bill. He disagrees with it and so do we. However, we will give this minority government the benefit of the doubt and see whether the Liberals will listen to us at committee and be open to making a few amendments, as far as the legislative process allows.

We also have a serious problem with the fact that the third party—in this case the person ultimately responsible for receiving complaints and disclosures—is the President of the Public Service Commission.

I would point out that two complaints from the Treasury Board and National Defence were deemed admissible in connection with a serious breach in the application of the Official Languages Act within the public service and National Defence.

At that time, the Public Service Commission did have a president. We have seen how, even though there was someone responsible, the Canadian government, the public service, could ignore the rules and administrative procedures and contravene certain acts and regulations.

As my Conservative colleague was saying and as we have been saying concerning Bill C-25—this is not a new position for the Bloc Quebecois—we think it is very important for the designated third party to be independent; it cannot be the president of the public service, or like Howard Wilson, a phony ethics counsellor who has coffee with the Prime Minister to tell him whether he agrees and what it is he agrees with.

We want the person in such a position to be truly independent. Look at the credibility Sheila Fraser has when she presents her reports and the credibility she enjoyed when her report of February 10 came out on the sponsorship scandal. She is an independent officer of the House.

Look at the credibility of Dyane Adam, when she presents her reports once a year—now three times a year, if I am not mistaken—because she is an independent officer of the House.

If the Liberals really want to make this a credible position; if they really want to honour part of the promise in their 1993 red book to restore confidence in the public service, elected officials and the government; then they must establish an independent position of commissioner with this bill. We said this about Bill C-25 and we say it again, and so do the Conservatives.

If they do not want to do this, they must give us rational arguments and explanations. If they refuse, they will be sending the following message, as my Conservative colleague said, to the people: we want to look as if we are solving the problem to get it out of the way, and people will forget about it when something new comes along.

We feel there must be an officer of the House, someone appointed by and responsible and accountable to Parliament, like the Auditor General or the Commissioner of Official Languages.

I wonder about certain aspects of the bill. Take clause 8. I see the President of the Treasury Board is listening attentively. So, we might even be able to get some answers for the beginning of the committee's work: subclauses 8 (c), (d) and (e) read as follows:

This Act applies in respect of the following wrongdoings:

(c) a gross mismanagement in the public sector;

(d) an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life [...];

(e) a serious breach of a code of conduct [...];

Why were the terms “gross”, “substantial” and “serious” used in each case? If I am a public servant, is the fact, for example, that Jean Carle buys for $165,000 worth of golf balls with Jean Chrétien's initials on them serious or not?

For a public servant, is the fact that we buy all our sweaters from Jean Lafleur of Communications Lafleur serious or not? What is serious in a wrongdoing that should be disclosed to a supervisor?

The President of the Treasury Board will have to tell us, at least in committee, what is deemed to be serious. All wrongdoings that can be disclosed by a public servant under clause 8 will have to be serious. What is serious? It will probably be up to the line supervisor, who will unfortunately be the culprit, to decide whether the wrongdoing is serious or not.

I saw some pretty serious stuff in the sponsorship scandal and I hope that everyone would have agreed that these were serious wrongdoings.

We also feel that, in its present form, a second aspect of the bill is flawed. I am referring to the requirement to exhaust other procedures.

Bill C-11 provides, and I quote:

24.(1) The President of the Public Service Commission may refuse to deal with a disclosure if he or she is of the opinion that:

(a) the public servant has failed to exhaust other procedures otherwise reasonably available;

This means that a public servant who is not an expert in parliamentary procedures—in the case of Bill C-11, for example—who contacts the President of the Public Service Commission—if he is the one in charge, although we do not want this to be the case—will be told to go back to square one. It is already difficult enough to disclose a wrongdoing, so if this is the route disclosure will take, we will insist on getting some clarification on clause 24(1).

I will conclude by asking this question: What about the public servant who files a complaint under this procedure? Do we let that person continue to work with his colleagues? Perhaps there should be some transition measures. Will the union be able to continue to support the public servant who made the disclosures? The bill is silent on this issue.

The government will have to explain in committee why the armed forces and the RCMP are excluded from the application of this bill. We think they should be included.

In conclusion, we support the principle of referring the bill to a committee. We hope that the Liberals will act in good faith and with an open mind. We want to amend this legislation which, in its present form, is unacceptable to the Bloc Quebecois.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 10:20 a.m.
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Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish I could say it is an honour to speak today to Bill C-11, the government's latest attempt to contain disclosures of wrongdoing in the public sector, but the bill tabled by the government is really a disappointment.

We are only in the second week of Parliament and already it is obvious how the government intends to operate. Last week I listened to the same throne speech for at least the third or fourth time. It has hardly changed since the Liberals took office more than a decade ago. They pull it out, dust it off and make Canadians listen to it all over again. I guess they have to keep using it because it is so hard to think of new ways to say absolutely nothing for 45 minutes.

Then I took part in an emergency debate on BSE. Why are we still talking about this issue a year and a half after the U.S. border has been closed to Canadian beef? How many emergency debates has Parliament heard on this issue? How many more will we have to hear before we correct the problem?

Bill C-11 is yet another case of déjà vu. It has all the major deficiencies we saw in the government's last phony attempt to legislate in this area.

The government has been touting Bill C-11 as a major revision of Bill C-25 but in reality only the window dressing has changed. The last bill would have created a toothless commissioner who would hear a disclosure of wrongdoing and then feed it right back into the system that was responsible for the wrongdoing in the first place. Of course everyone with any interest in the bill said that it was a farce. Now the government says that Bill C-11 addresses everyone's concern. That could not be further from the truth.

Instead of setting up a distinct office, the bill authorizes the president of the Public Service Commission to receive disclosures of wrongdoings from public servants and to investigate them.

Under the bill, the president of the Public Service Commission will report to a minister and not directly to Parliament.

This is exactly the same reporting system that the last bill had, and the exact reporting system that caused the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the public service ethics officer, every opposition party and the media to condemn the last government bill. I do not know why the government thinks it will get an easy ride on this bill.

The reporting process proposed in Bill C-11 creates opportunities for the same kind of interference that apparently took place with respect to an audit report on the sponsorship program that was prepared for Public Works and Government Services. Somewhere between the draft and the final report it was mysteriously watered down so it did not raise any of the alarms it should have raised.

One cannot make someone responsible for rooting out and correcting wrongdoing in government and then have that person report to someone in government. One cannot tell someone “We cabinet ministers are going to give you a well paying job, decide how much power you have, how much you will get paid, how high your operating budget is and how long you stay in office. Now sit down with me and tell me what is wrong with government”. It just does not work.

Anyway, the president of the Public Service Commission needs to receive disclosures of wrongdoings in order to prepare a report. Here again, the Liberals have seen to it that the bill is worded in such a way as to deter disclosures of wrongdoings instead of supporting them.

The Public Service Commission works hand in hand with cabinet, Treasury Board and deputy heads of government departments to address all kinds of issues concerning terms and conditions of public service employment. Public servants regard the Public Service Commission as part of senior management structure. They will not be inclined to disclose wrongdoings in their departments to anyone so closely tied to their departmental and political bosses.

I was a member of the public service for 22 years. I served as a union president of an association in Sudbury, Ontario and later in management in Sudbury, Ottawa and Cornwall.

You can believe me when I say that most public servants will think twice before disclosing any wrongdoing by their bosses to the president of the Public Service Commission. This government institution is just not the right one to listen to and protect whistleblowers.

What is needed for this job is a truly and completely independent body, its resources, operations and chain of accountability must be completely separate from the government of the day and from the public service.

The bill would require public servants to report wrongdoings of their masters to their masters. In fact, it expressly states that public servants cannot even go to the president of the Public Service Commission unless they have already disclosed the matter to their direct supervisor or they have what the bill calls reasonable grounds for not reporting to a direct supervisor. If a public servant discloses wrongdoing through any channel not sanctioned by the bill, then the public servant will not be protected from reprisals. If a public servant reveals government wrongdoing to the public, then the public servant will not be protected from reprisals under this act.

That is totally unbelievable. The government is basically saying that it is all right to punish public servants who dare to tell taxpayers when their money is being wasted. It is all right to discipline public servants if they tell Canadians about abuse of power and corruption. It is all right to do that.

That is simply indefensible. When a public servant takes the initiative to draw attention to wrongdoing involving public money or the public trust, that public servant should not only be protected but he or she should be applauded. Telling Canadians when bad things are happening to their tax dollars is a public service. It is incredible that the government cannot understand this.

This bill tells federal public servants that the only authority to whom they can disclose wrongdoings within their departments without fear of reprisal is someone who reports to the government in office.

Even when someone reports wrongdoing through the prescribed channels, if the boss fires that person to get even, the person has no recourse except what is available right now.

Bill C-11 sets up no new mechanism to receive reports of reprisals against whistleblowers. Those who are punished for coming forward in good faith to make disclosures of wrongdoing have to bring their plight to the attention of the applicable labour boards. They could have done that without the bill. It gets worse.

If someone makes a disclosure through the prescribed channels and his or her boss takes reprisals against the person for it, what happens? The individual complains to the applicable labour board and has to suffer while the case makes the long difficult journey through the labour board process where finally it is found that the individual was unfairly punished for doing the right thing, but nothing happens. The person who took reprisals against that individual is not even punished. The individual making the disclosure receives no reward or retribution for his or her suffering. The person gets back only what the ordeal cost him or her in terms of money and job status. Nothing else happens.

On one hand the bill says that public servants deserve to be punished for making disclosures of wrongdoing to the public, but on the other hand it says that supervisors in the public service do not deserve to be punished for taking reprisals against those who disclose wrongdoing, even through the proper channels.

The bill is clearly intended to contain disclosures of wrongdoing and not to facilitate such disclosures or to protect those who make them.

The Conservative Party would support an act that created a truly independent body to receive and investigate all disclosures of wrongdoing by all public servants and to protect those public servants from reprisals. Bill C-11 would not do that.

All 308 members of the House would say, without exception, that the employees of our public service are one of our country's finest resources. Today every member of Parliament has a chance to show their respect for public servants by providing them with legislation that reflects our respect and commitment to them.

I urge every member in the House to seriously consider the bill and to support the changes that need to be made in order to ensure that public servants realize how much the House values them.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-11, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to start by recognizing a lot of hard work that has gone on in the journey that has brought the bill before the House. A number of the members of the original Standing Committee on Government Operations were seized of this when we began work on the original Bill C-25, which was not the bill that presented whistleblowing in the last House but the Bill C-25 that was the Public Service Modernization Act, which came before the committee more than a year ago.

At that time, when we were first looking at how we restructure the way in which services are provided to public servants and the way in which we manage our public service, there were concerns raised about the adequacy of whistleblowing, the identification of wrongdoing within the public service.

While looking at it, the committee noted the fact that the Public Service Commission was undergoing a change, that it had been around for a very long time as that entity which stood to ensure high quality ,meritorious appointments into the public service of Canada, but there was a feeling that through the modernization we wanted to delegate more of that responsibility to line ministries to facilitate a better process, better accountability and faster accessing of new employees, et cetera, and that the Public Service Commission should evolve into more of an audit function, that it would become the auditor of the human resource function as opposed to the manager of the human resource function.

This was a fairly substantial change. As we approached that debate in the bill, there was a lot of discussion about what that meant for public servants and for departments. It was decided, really, on a motion from the member for Etobicoke North. The committee agreed to modify the appointment process for the president of the Public Service Commission and took the appointment process from the parliamentary officers, the privacy commissioner and the access to information commissioner. That is what was used and that is what is embedded in the legislation now for the Public Service Commission.

When the work came about to hire a new president for the Public Service Commission, that person was, as is contained for the other parliamentary officers, presented to the House, presented to committee and approved by motions in both Houses. This was done to ensure greater independence for that organization as it begins its journey to this new role.

That is important, I think, because when we moved into the work on whistleblowing, the committee had had an experience with the then privacy commissioner's office and encountered some of the difficulties that are inherent in the way our system was structured. In particular, there was a problem that a lot of public servants were experiencing at that time in that it was unclear to them, or certainly their confidence in the current system for bringing forward concerns about wrongdoing was not strong enough to allow them to overcome their fear of what it would mean to their careers.

The committee, having had that experience, then undertook a piece of work that was co-chaired by the member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Laval—Les Îles. They took a look at the experiences we had had with dealing with whistleblowers and they took into consideration some studies that had been done and some examination of what the workers were saying and came forward with a series of recommendations.

One of them was that it was not sufficient to have a policy base for this, that we had to have a legislative base for it. The second was that it should be embedded in an organization that was by definition independent so the organization would be independent of the management infrastructure of government, and that it should have a framework both for assessing the validity of the concern and, having ascertained that there was a legitimate concern, for it to have powers to protect a person so that there would be no impact on his or her career in the future.

I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister, upon coming to office, supported the development of a bill with these provisions. That bill was presented to the previous Parliament by the member for Bourassa.

The committee had a period of time to look at it. I believe it heard 14 witnesses who came forward with testimony from some of the associations and unions that represent workers, as well as others. The committee was properly and heavily engaged in that work when the election was called.

I had the opportunity, having been given the responsibility for the bill, to review all the work that had been done and, with the support of the Prime Minister, restructured the bill to address some of the concerns that had been raised. Rather than go through all of the bill, I think it is important today to simply frame those areas where the bill has been modified, and modified in direct response to concerns raised by people before the committee and by members of the previous committee.

Before I get into the three areas where there were specific concerns, there are a couple of things that I think are also important additions. The preamble of the bill recognizes the importance of the federal public service as a “national institution” and commits the government to establishing “a Charter of Values of Public Service to guide public servants in their work and professional conduct”.

The definition clause of the bill sets out, among other items, the range of public sector employees the proposed legislation covers. It will apply to employees in all sectors of the public service, including crown corporations and executives.

However, there is one area where there have been concerns raised which the bill does not address directly. It does not encompass them in this legislation. This includes members of the security establishment, CSIS, the uniformed members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the uniformed members of the Canadian Forces. It is important to make that distinction. The bill does cover civilian members of the armed forces defence department and civilian members of the RCMP, but in the case of the uniformed forces, they are required under this legislation to establish comparable codes themselves within those unique areas. They will be subject to that legislation or will be able to account to the codes they establish, but they are not encompassed directly in the civilian procedures.

The bill requires the Treasury Board to establish a code of conduct for the entire federal public service. Chief executives, that is, deputy heads of departments and chief executive officers of crown corporations, may also establish codes of conduct for their own organizations. If so, their codes must be consistent with the one established by the Treasury Board.

A new feature of the bill also commits the government to consult bargaining agents on the development of a code of conduct.

The next section of the bill defines wrongdoing, which has not changed from the previous bill. The proposed legislation then sets out the procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoing. Each chief executive must establish an internal disclosure mechanism, including the appointment of a senior officer to take disclosures and act on them. A public servant who believes that he or she is being asked to commit a wrongdoing or who believes that a wrongdoing has been committed may report it to his or her supervisor or to the designated senior officer.

However, the public servant may also report wrongdoing directly to the president of the Public Service Commission if he or she feels it would be inappropriate to disclose it to the supervisor or senior officer, or if he or she has disclosed it to one or the other of these people and believes the matter has not been addressed.

I would like to emphasize this. A public servant has the choice of using his or her organization's internal disclosure process or going directly to the proposed neutral third party for disclosures, the president of the Public Service Commission. This choice was also part of the previous bill, but in response to confusion among stakeholders we have made the language clearer. I think there was a lack of clarity as to whether or not the individual had to go first to the internal mechanisms. It was felt that in serious cases people should have the right to go directly to the independent party.

Now that I have made mention of the president of the public service, I want to skip ahead in the bill to talk about the responsibilities of the president of the Public Service Commission.

Some hon. members will remember that the previous bill proposed the creation of a public sector integrity commissioner as the neutral third party. As I said earlier, there was concern about the power and independence of the proposed commissioner. That is why this new bill assigns the role to the president of the Public Service Commission.

The PSC has a long history, almost a century, of playing an independent role in government. It is proud of its long tradition of protecting the merit principle in federal staffing. The president of the Public Service Commission would have the same reporting relationship to Parliament for disclosure of wrongdoing as he or she, in this case she, has for staffing. For example, the president of the Public Service Commission would be required to make annual reports of disclosures to Parliament.

It is true, as many hon. members know, that the president submits these annual reports to Parliament via a minister. However, in addition, the bill authorizes the president to make special reports directly to Parliament at any time and on any matter within the scope of her powers under this proposed act.

This new role of the president of the Public Service Commission is backstopped by new investigative powers for disclosure.

The bill would give the president powers under part II of the Inquiries Act. This would include the power to subpoena and the authority to access premises in the course of an investigation. The president would also be able to set deadlines for chief executives to respond to her recommendations.

Assigning the neutral third party role to the president of the Public Service Commission is a strong, effective, practical and reasonable option. I must admit that it was not, by the way, an idea that the government came up with alone. It was an option put forward by the previous all party government operations and estimates committee in its 2003 report on the issue. I would recommend that piece of work to members of the House. It was co-chaired by the member for Winnipeg South and the member for Laval—Les Îles. The former member for Châteauguay and the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam were also heavily involved in the development of that report.

My time has run out so I will leave it to the debate. I have already met with the critics and I would be prepared to meet with any of the critics for further discussion and briefing should they require it.