Emergency Management Act

An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts

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

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 17, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.

Elsewhere

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

June 11th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
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Deputy Commissioner, Corporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

D/Commr Paul Gauvin

Yes, and I've heard you say that many times. I've said before this committee that this was a project being done under HR. It wasn't my project. Second, we watched this and knew that the costs were going up, but they were all approved by Treasury Board Secretariat.

And there were two things we were trying to do at the same time. One of them was to implement Bill C-78, the new pension bill, and we had to produce financial statements, and the information had to be correct. So there was a lot of correction of information. At the same time, we wanted to do the outsourcing.

May 7th, 2007 / 4:30 p.m.
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D/Commr Paul Gauvin

I can talk about escalating cost, but I can't relate it to procurement, because this was a fairly large project, and the costs did go up, but they also went up in other pension plans, including those of the public service and the RCMP, because we were doing two things at one time here.

We had Bill C-78, I believe it was, which basically said that we were now going to invest the money in markets. As a result of that, we had to clean up the books; a lot of work had to be done to make sure that the records were proper, because money was now going to be invested in the markets, and as a result of that, we had to produce financial statements. If you have to produce financial statements, which have to be audited by the Auditor General, the information has to be right. That had to be done.

How you split up the escalating costs, whether it was just the outsourcing or also at the same time the cleaning up of the books—at that time we couldn't really split the difference.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2006 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate today in the debate on Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

The bill specifically asks for:

“...the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled “An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts”.

This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.

Canadians want assurances that the impact of emergencies will be minimized, that assistance will be available and disruptive effects will be limited and short-lived. To address these issues, the bill is pursuing the commitments under the national security policy, notably the review of the statutory framework for emergency management activities.

The purpose of this new act is to strengthen the readiness of the Government of Canada to prepare for, mitigate the impact of and respond to all hazards in Canada. It recognizes that emergency management is an evolving risk environment that requires a collective and a concerted approach between all jurisdictions, including the private sector and non-governmental authorities.

In summary, the bill would strengthen our readiness to mitigate the impact of and prevent or prepare for and respond to all hazards. It should be noted that the bill actually replaces the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988 and is virtually identical to the bill introduced in 2005 by the previous Liberal government, namely Bill C-78. Accordingly, I would like to say at the outset that the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill, but there are some areas of question which we believe would be important for committee to address.

The Liberal Party certainly welcomes the reintroduction of the emergency management bill. The bill builds on our record on security since 9/11: first, an investment of over $9.5 billion to strengthen national security, to improve emergency preparedness and to contribute to international security; second, the creation of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and third, the establishment of a national 24/7 government operation centre to coordinate federal emergency response.

I would like to give some background here. The bill would strengthen the capability of the government to prepare for, manage, mitigate and respond to all types of emergencies. This will become an interesting question because emergencies mean different things to different people. It would establish clear lines of authority and responsibility in collaboration with the provinces and municipalities. The bill would also facilitate information sharing between government and the private sector and with regard to the protection of critical infrastructure.

The bill replaces, as I stated, the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988, while preserving its basic provisions in the civil emergency planning and preparedness as a key government responsibility; that delineates responsibilities between the public safety minister and cabinet colleagues; that makes provision for federal-provincial cooperation; and finally, that makes provision for post-disaster financial assistance to provinces. The issue with regard to the provinces is also an important one because of the jurisdictional responsibilities and the need for coordination of course.

The revised act grants new powers to the Minister of Public Safety to exercise national level leadership in emergency management by: first, coordinating federal response to emergencies in Canada and the United States. It is an important element that also includes matters that relate to and may have occurred within the United States but may have an impact on Canada.

Second, it establishes standardized elements for the Government of Canada emergency plans. Third, it monitors and evaluates emergency management plans for federal institutions. Fourth, it enhances cooperation with other jurisdictions through common standards and information sharing. In our experience, harmonizing those common standards will certainly be a tough situation, as it always is.

With regard to the bill more specifically, clause 2 defines emergency management as “the prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from emergencies”.

Clause 3 establishes a national leadership role for the Minister of Public Safety in relation to emergency management.

Subclause 4(1) outlines the minister's responsibilities in fulfilling that national leadership role and it includes a broad variety of responsibilities. Paragraphs 4(1)(a), (b) and (c) include coordinating functions in development, testing, implementation and evaluation of government emergency management plans. Paragraphs 4(1)(d) and (e) include monitoring potential and actual emergencies and coordinating of the government response. Paragraphs 4(1)(f), (g), (h) and (i) include coordinating emergency arrangements and responses with the provinces. Paragraph 4(1)(j) includes providing financial assistance to a province if requested. Paragraph 4(1)(l) includes providing the continuity of constitutional government in the event of an emergency.

Clause 6 outlines the general responsibility of each minister, and there are other ministries that are involved outside the Minister of Public Safety, to ensure his or her department prepares emergency management plans and sets out common standards of those plans.

Clause 7 grants the governor in council powers to make orders or regulations with respect to emergency management plans, to use federal resources in response to civil emergencies, to provide financial assistance to provinces and to declare a provincial emergency of concern to the federal government. Certainly that is an area of sensitivity that has to be properly addressed.

Clauses 8 to 10 amend the Access to Information Act to permit the government to refuse to disclose private sector information supplied in confidence to the government with respect to emergency management plans. A public interest override is included.

The bill covers a pretty broad range of responsibilities that I might look at a little later in my comments, but I wanted to touch on some of the areas that have come up already with regard to concern within the bill that we would want to look most carefully at.

The bill would allow the federal government to refocus or better coordinate the organization of its response to emergencies. This is not in contention, but we should note that there is a difference between what is called an emergency and what we might regard as a security related incident.

An emergency may be as a result of a natural disaster, whereas a security related incident might be something along the lines of a terrorist attack, for instance. They are not always the same. Most of what the bill would deal with are emergencies involving natural disasters with some component of man-made contribution in it. Being able to assess whether or not we have adequately covered those situations certainly was a matter of interest and concern.

I am a little concerned personally why it took so long for the government to get the bill to us. As I indicated, it was a bill that was substantively before the House in the last Parliament and here we are some time later, but moving on, in reality, emergencies and natural disasters have evolved and become more complex. We simply need a government minister, aside from the Minister of National Defence who historically would have been the lead minister to take charge in these matters, who would coordinate these things. That would be the federal Minister of Public Safety. That is one thing this bill does that is different from the previous bill.

The second thing we are promoting is the imposition of protection for private information of third parties in the hands of government. As I indicated, the bill provides for a related amendment to subsection 20(1) of the Access to Information Act by adding an additional paragraph to give effect to these provisions.

There also are five or six subsections of the act which would be affected. Those ostensibly relate to the circumstance where information is provided to the minister by persons who would otherwise be covered under the Access to Information Act and that their information which is given is going to be exempt. In other words, if it is given with regard to a situation where there is an emergency as defined, that information would be kept private.

The other area of the bill in which there is an amendment has to do with Bill C-2 which has just been passed by the House after receiving some important changes. It was the first full bill that was introduced by the government and I can recall that there was a lot of concern about the haste in which Bill C-2 had been drafted. It contains amendments to a wide range of legislative areas. As well, it puts a significant onus on the public service to establish a broad range of management procedures, all in the realm of ensuring that accountability is kept in place.

The other thing it does which is interesting and has come up a few times, is in Bill C-2, there are some amendments to Bill C-11, the whistleblower bill, which received royal assent in the last Parliament. It received the unanimous support of all parties. We now find ourselves with another important bill which ostensibly arose out of the case of George Radwanski, the former privacy commissioner, who for a variety of reasons was put in a situation where he resigned his position and indeed suffered some consequences as a result of his actions which I will not go into.

Bill C-12 contains a coordinating amendment to Bill C-2 that should Bill C-2 have received royal assent, this amendment included in Bill C-12 will be made to that bill.

The bill repeals the Emergency Preparedness Act, chapter 6 of the fourth supplement to the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985.

The last clause in the bill is the coming into force clause. It is something on which I have commented before as the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. We have embarked on a review. In fact at the last meeting we actually were looking at the Fisheries Act and some regulations that were necessary. This item has been outstanding for 23 years. All of the people at the table certainly were not here when it started and I suspect if we do not do something about it, there are going to be new people at the table when it ultimately gets resolved, if ever.

We also had a private member's bill dealing with the repeal of acts which had received royal assent, either entire acts or acts which included amendments to other acts which had received royal assent but had not been proclaimed within 10 years. It has some provisions whereby it could be saved during the last year. That report would be tabled in the House identifying the bills that are coming up to their 10th anniversary and would allow the government of the day to make some decisions as to whether or not it is going to act on triggering those changes.

This bill also includes coming into force. Clause 14 says, “This Act other than section 12 comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council”. What that means is that cabinet is going to decide when the provisions of this particular bill come into play. This is the kind of provision which gives rise to the problem of things lingering for an extensive period of time. I am not entirely sure why there is not a specified date or some sort of horizon period. This is a very important bill. It is a bill that I would have liked to see introduced much earlier. This bill which deals with public protection and safety is very important to Canadians.

There is a proviso in the bill which caught my attention. Under “Minister's responsibilities”, subclause 4(2) states:

The Minister has any other responsibilities in relation to emergency management that the Governor in Council may specify.

This may cause some difficulty, although I am not sure and we will have to wait until we can get an opinion on it. The bill is purported to include all of the provisions and responsibilities, but that subclause includes anything else we think we should do. Those things would presumably happen through regulation or governor in council and not be available to the House to consider.

This would appear to give the government of the day a free hand in terms of adding to the bill things which probably should be included in the statutes themselves with regard to better defining this. When there is a blanket responsibility, anything else that the governor in council may specify is basically carte blanche.

We have talked often in the scrutiny of regulations committee about whether a particular regulation or change to a bill in fact has an enabling provision in the act. This has a blanket enabling provision, which means that theoretically almost anything could happen through a governor in council order. That is a matter which may very well come up if not here, then certainly in the other place.

There is another item I want to mention with regard to issues which have come up. Subclause 7(c) allows the government to make regulation to declare a provincial emergency to be of concern to the federal government. It appears that the intention of the bill is to put the federal responsibility on what would be a provincial emergency. When people look at this they are going to want to explore it a little further because of the coordinating requirements.

There is another clause in the bill which deals with making regulations, as I indicated, on the issue of whether we have any statutory jurisdiction in the United States of America. Of course, we do not have any statutory jurisdiction. That would involve an extraterritorial application of our laws. However, it does not prevent us from developing an emergency management plan. The point is that it may involve the spending of money and resources in the United States. That is a matter which gets us very much involved.

Clause 7 of the bill creates the authority to make regulation. It seems to indicate that it anticipates spending money in the United States of America. For example, subclause 7(b) talks about regulations respecting the use of federal civil resources in response to civil emergencies. The question becomes whether that includes assistance in response to United States emergencies. If we respond to an emergency management plan that we have developed with the U.S., are we talking just about the border or are we talking about Laredo or some other area, maybe even Hawaii? There are some interesting questions to which I still do not know whether we have the answers.

I am suggesting there are some technical issues and if it is intended that the minister or governor in council make regulations about joint emergency management plans, that should also be set out in the statute. I am not sure whether that is the case.

All in all, the fundamental elements of the bill appear to be consistent with the bill in the previous Parliament of the Liberal government. The Liberal caucus will be supporting the bill.

October 19th, 2006 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

I have a very quick question for either one.

We talked about Bill C-12 and consultation. Bill C-12 was born of, I guess, Bill C-78, a predecessor bill that died on the order paper. I ask this out of ignorance because I wasn't around then, but what are the similarities or differences between Bill C-78 and Bill C-12? Is it really just finishing up business that was started previously?

Sorry, I didn't mean for it to be a long question.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2006 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12, which is an act to provide for emergency management. It is a very important bill.

In summary, the bill is designed to strengthen Canada's readiness to mitigate the impact of, prepare for, prevent and respond to all hazards. It really replaces the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988 and is virtually identical to Bill C-78 introduced in 2005 by the previous government. Even though there is a new government in place, there is not much new. The Conservatives are still building on the good acts of the previous government. There are exceptions to that, such as where they sold out to big rail in terms of the Canada Transportation Act and they are selling out to big grain under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, but we will leave that for another day.

In short, the Liberal Party welcomes the government's reintroduction of the emergency management bill tabled by the Liberal government in November 2005. The introduction of the bill last year fulfilled a promise made in our national security policy of April 2004.

The act builds on the excellent Liberal record on security since 9/11: one, an investment of over $9.5 billion to strengthen national security, to improve emergency preparedness and to contribute to international security; two, the creation of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and three, the establishment of a national 24-7 government operations centre to coordinate federal emergency responses.

Having been a former solicitor general after 9/11, I can certainly vouch for the measures that are taken in this bill. It is a strange thing about us as a country. Canada is a great country. We are tolerant people and we have many benefits, but sometimes we take safety and security a little too much for granted. The Red River floods were mentioned earlier. There is the odd hurricane in the country. In fact, during hurricane Juan in eastern Canada I lost two barn roofs in my own operation. But those events are small compared to what happens in other countries around the world. Then we add some of the terrorist actions that are happening. In fact, the President of Afghanistan spoke about some of those activities this morning.

We have to be vigilant on all fronts in terms of the natural hazards and in terms of the man-made hazards through terrorism and other means. As a former solicitor general I know from having seen things up close how important some of these measures that are proposed in this bill are to the safety, the security and the preparedness for emergency events within Canada.

It is important to review some of the activities that have taken place since 9/11. These measures add to that. I know the government opposite tends not to mention these, but it is important to see what we are building on as we provide greater safety and security for the country.

On October 3, 2003 the deputy prime minister of the day, John Manley, announced the smart border action plan. There was NAFTA a little earlier, but at that point in time he gave a fairly substantive report on it.

I want to outline for Canadians some of the things that have been done through that 30 point plan on which this bill actually builds. Canada and the United States had agreed to develop common standards for biometrics which both countries use and they had agreed to adopt interoperable and comparable technology to read those biometrics. That is still being worked on; progress is constantly being made in that area. There was the announcement of permanent resident cards, a single alternative inspection system, the NEXUS highway system at the border crossings.

The amount of trade that goes on between the United States and Canada is to the tune of between $1.6 billion to $2 billion a day. We saw what happened in the wake of 9/11 when the border system virtually shut down and how it affected both economies. It is important in what we do in terms of emergency preparedness and security measures, that that commercial activity is still able to flow and that residents of both countries can feel secure with those measures in place.

As I said in a question earlier, I am extremely disappointed by the action the United States has taken with the new inspection fees. It is really disguised protectionism under the guise of security. I may talk about that later in a little more depth.

Other measures were taken in the 30 point smart action plan. There was a refugee asylum processing system, a statement of mutual understanding which would allow countries to more effectively exchange information on immigration related issues. That is the way we should be moving, with a processing system that actually looks at the facts instead of the fiction that some congressmen and senators in the United States are talking about, such as putting up the towers as if there were a major immigration system coming from Canada. There is not. For whatever reason, some people around the President of the United States like to operate on the politics of fear and try to blame Canada as if we were part of the problem. We are not.

We have made major steps ahead, as I said, with the expenditure of $9.5 billion to ensure the security of our country, the security of our border and indeed, the security of North America.

There was agreement on a process of managing those refugees and asylum claims. We had improved a better visa policy coordination.

Point seven in the plan was air preclearance. Probably most people in the House have taken advantage of air preclearance at several airports within Canada and the United States. If we go through preclearance, it saves time, it is better for business, it is better for people doing commercial business and it is indeed secure.

We had worked on the advanced passenger information and passenger name record. I agree that is somewhat controversial, and the Minister of Transport certainly knows how controversial it is. I will state unequivocally that even though it is controversial, it is one of those areas we have to look at it in order to give the assurance of security.

I might just move aside from the 30 points for a minute and say that one of the greatest difficulties in my experience in this whole area of security is the balancing of civil liberties and the protection of security in a country. It is a difficult area. There always will be grey areas, but we have to find that balance and it is not always easy to do.

Point nine was the joint passenger analysis units.

We established stronger measures for maritime security and ferry terminals. I have had the opportunity to see some of those in action. Containers are passed through X-ray machines to ensure there is not material in those containers that would have an impact on the country.

We have moved toward compatible immigration databases, immigration officers overseas, international cooperation between Canada and the United States and other countries. We harmonized commercial processing in a number of areas. There is still a lot more work to be done but it was a key point at the time. That was trying to provide clearances away from the border which would give a greater measure of security.

We established a number of joint facilities, common customs data, container targeting at seaports, infrastructure improvements overall, better intelligence in terms of the transportation system, and better critical infrastructure protection.

The member for Edmonton Centre yesterday spoke on this whole area of infrastructure. We are not only talking about roads, highways, water and sewage. In this new era we are talking about communications and related areas and food security. All those infrastructure areas have to be protected in the kind of world we live in today.

Point 22 was better aviation security. We have succeeded in doing that.

Point 23 was integrated border and management enforcement teams. We called them IBETs. There were some 14 established across the country. I have seen them operation. People in Canada and the United States can have great confidence in how those IBETs work. They bring together a cross-section of law enforcement agencies, whether it is the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police, the New York State Police, marine police and so on. They communicate and coordinate in a fashion that will make a difference in terms of the protection of the country's security.

We had established joint enforcement coordination at a number of locations at a cross-border crime forum for the prevention of crimes and the protection of the security of the nation.

We moved ahead with integrated intelligence in areas that we called integrated national security enforcement teams, or INSETs, which I think moved a long way since 9/11. The security bodies, whether it be the CIA, CSIS and others, came together for coordination and cooperation.

I see that time is passing, so I will just mention the other points by name.

There was the agreement to continue cooperation in the removal of deportees; counter-terrorism legislation; freezing of terrorist assets; joint training and exercises between the two countries; biosecurity; and science and technology cooperation.

Those were some of the advances that have in fact been made by the previous government, an expenditure of $9.5 billion. This bill moves forward in some of those areas. The revised act grants new powers to the Minister of Public Safety to exercise national level leadership in emergency management in four areas.

First, coordinating federal responses to emergencies in Canada and the United States. It is extremely important in those areas on this continent that our ministers responsible act concisely and coordinate their efforts.

Second, establishing standardized elements for the Government of Canada in terms of emergency plans. As a country we need to know what our plan is before it happens. That is extremely important.

Third, monitoring and evaluating emergency management plans of federal institutions. If there was an incident in this country, that is absolutely necessary, whether it is a natural, man-made or terrorist act.

Fourth, enhancing cooperations with other jurisdictions through common standards and information sharing. We have made massive moves ahead in that area of cooperation and coordination.

I want to close though in terms of one of the areas that I am disappointed in, as I said earlier. We can see the measures that the Government of Canada has taken in our country and in coordination with other countries around the world, and especially in coordination and cooperation with the United States, to ensure that we live on a safe and secure North American continent.

Yet, the Americans have imposed these fees under the guise of security, which I think are protectionist measures. I am disappointed in that because when we look at the record, this country stands at the front of the line in terms of security and emergency preparedness. This bill will in fact assist in that regard and I support it.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2006 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, previous speakers have opened the door on any number of interesting aspects of Bill C-12. We cannot look at the context of this actually quite thin and straightforward bill in isolation. By its very nature, it has broad, expansive implications into the very fabric of how we structure ourselves in many aspects of civil society, not the least of which is the point my colleague from Malpeque just made. I thank him for doing that because it segues nicely into some of the concerns and reservations I want to raise about the bill.

We have to use an abundance of caution and be ever vigilant that the things we do in the interests of national security do not trample and interfere on some of the very values by which we define ourselves as Canadians. We also have to be abundantly cautious and use great vigilance to ensure that those who would use the bill to advance other secondary objectives be cautioned now by astute members of Parliament, doing diligence in their study of the bill, that we will not tolerate this.

I want to stop short of impugning motives in the introduction of bills of this nature, but we can learn by example from other countries, certainly our neighbour to the south. I can say without any hesitation at all and without any fear of contradiction that the United States administration has used the national security crisis to achieve other secondary objectives, some of which have been punitive to Canada. I do not think that is telling stories out of school and it is not showing any disrespect to our American neighbours to point out that we are not idiots, we have noticed this.

My colleague pointed out some very helpful specifics in terms of levies and fees and stuff that are administered now to Canadian shippers as they export goods to the United States. An added burden is being put on them to meet the new standards put in place by our American neighbours, under the umbrella of national security, or fear of bioterrorism or any number of enabling themes and motifs they are using in those arguments. There are a number of examples that we could use.

We are very cognizant of personal freedoms and will not allow them to be violated, but let us be equally cautious that people are not using public fear to justify the unjustifiable in any other context. That would certainly apply to the U.S. experience of using the threat of bioterrorism to disadvantage Canadian exporters and essentially to put up what would otherwise be viewed as illegal tariffs and subject to trade sanctions or trade complaints being filed.

None of the parties that I have heard speak to the bill seem to find fault with the idea that emergency measures preparedness needs to be reviewed. The previous Liberal government in the previous Parliament had an almost identical bill, Bill C-78. With very minor tweaking and adjustments, we are seeing it reintroduced to Parliament today.

The times we are living in warrant greater scrutiny of our emergency measures preparedness. The jurisdictional question came up quite clearly in interventions from members of the Bloc. I think we can all agree, when it comes to personal safety and national safety, that there needs to be agreed upon crossover not to show disrespect for any jurisdictional boundaries, but to acknowledge that timeliness is of the essence when people are at risk or under some kind of natural or unnatural external threat.

I can speak from personal experience how, in the event of natural disasters, Canada is quite well served and quite well prepared. I will speak from personal experience in the Red River flood that affected my region as recently as 1997. I see a colleague here from the province of Manitoba from the government side. We can say, without doubt, that as we observed that freak of nature slowly inching toward us, pieces began to fall into place. I should remind people who were not there that the Red River was 50 miles wide. That is an unnatural circumstance for people. I am used to paddling on the Red River with my canoe. The Red River is usually not as far across as this chamber, so for it to be 50 miles wide and advancing relentlessly and steadily toward the city of Winnipeg, we were in a legitimate crisis in slow motion.

I suppose we could argue that perhaps we had the luxury of time to put together an effective emergency measures reaction. It was not like the ice storm that affected Ottawa where overnight the infrastructure, certainly the electrical infrastructure, of Ottawa collapsed. However, I can say with some sense of pride that the people of Ottawa had in place measures and circumstances that served the residents here very well too. I was a member of Parliament then and I watched how this city was able to react and absolutely minimize, not only the inconvenience, but the loss of life, the injury and the risk to services, to property and to people.

What I want to raise with the Red River flood, though, Mr. Speaker, if I could--I hope you feel it is in the context and order of the debate--is that there is a case to be made for collective, cooperative action in the preparation for and administration of emergency services. I cite as an example something that happened in the 1960s in Manitoba that could never happen today, and that is the digging of the Red River floodway, the largest engineering feat in history in terms of volume of earth moved, bigger than the digging of the Suez Canal. It was a public infrastructure initiative where, if we raised something of that scope and magnitude today, we would be laughed out of the room. People would say that we could not afford it, that it would be a waste of taxpayer money, that it would be a boondoggle. They would find 100 reasons to say why it should not be done and maybe they would say that we should let the private sector build it in a public-private partnership and maybe it could get done that way, but probably not because we are so timid now.

We are timid as rabbits when it comes to doing things like building a nation and building great projects. There is no collective vision and no national dream any more. That is the guts that it took. A Conservative premier, I will give him credit, named Duff Roblin simply would not listen to the naysayers and that investment, the largest infrastructure project in the nation's history and in the world at the time, has saved the city of Winnipeg, three, four and five times over. It cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when $100,000 meant something but it saved billions. It saved hundreds of thousands of homes and probably thousands of lives because somebody had the guts to show some real leadership, stand up to the naysayers and say that some things are important enough that we have to invest in the future.

To this day we invite Premier Roblin to the edge of the Red River floodway and collectively thank him for being that aggressive and that stubborn and not taking no for an answer. As we speak, that floodway is being widened. We are actually digging it deeper and wider because it is the best thing we ever did as Winnipeggers.

We cannot have enough emergency measure preparedness but it takes a collective wisdom and a collective political courage to implement that kind of collective action. I can just imagine the reaction of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation if we were to here with a proposal and said that we needed, for our own well-being collectively, to undertake an initiative the scope and scale of the Red River floodway. We would be laughed out of the room. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation would set up shop right outside of here and hold a press conference and ridicule us for being a tax and spend party or something. There is justification for that kind of thing when our national well-being is at stake.

I can say too, during the flood of the century in 1997, how heartened I was by not only the mobilization of the citizenship but the mobilization of the military for non-military purposes. The same training that goes into making great soldiers and an effective military unit is applied readily to emergencies such as forest fires, floods, et cetera. No one else has that capacity, whether it is the machinery, the engineering, the technology or the sheer manpower of a couple of thousand fit people who are used to working in a coordinated effort. That is a rare thing. Who else do we look to but the military when that kind of thing takes shape?

The only person who disappointed us was the prime minister of the day when he came to view the flood lines. We were all sandbagging into the middle of the night. The prime minister of the day made his obligatory visit and got his Guccis a little wet walking into some of the sandbag areas. Somebody gave him a sandbag and he said, “What am I supposed to do with this?”, and kind of turned and walked away. We were disappointed that the only person we could not get really interested in the initiative was in fact our own PM. The rest of the electorate was out there, the mayor of Winnipeg, the premier and all the MPs were on the sandbag lines, and I think citizens were glad to see that kind of effective mobilization.

The other thing I am proud of in the city of Winnipeg, in my home riding of Winnipeg Centre, is that it is home to the only level four virology laboratory in the country. We received this in kind of a backhanded way. Back in the mid-1980s, the Mulroney government gave a CF-18 contract to Montreal, even though Winnipeg had a far better bid and a far lower price. We had everything ready to go. It was an absolute slam dunk that the CF-18 contract would come to the people of Winnipeg. However, for political reasons, as happens so often, it had to go to the province of Quebec at a higher price. It was a bad deal for the taxpayer and certainly a slap in the face to western Canada.

I suppose as a booby prize, Jake Epp, the senior minister from Manitoba at the time, brought home the federal virology lab. Quebec received the billion dollar CF-18 contracts, maintaining our jets and promoting and advancing even more its aerospace industry, and we received a disease factory plunked down in a residential neighbourhood in the middle of my riding. We were not too appreciative at the time. It was a laboratory that the city of Ottawa turned down because it did not want ebola virus and every other disease in the country in its backyard, so we wound up with it.

In retrospect, we are delighted to have this level four virology lab and the international expertise that it brings to our community. However, we were concerned about the safety aspects. I can give an example of something that is in the context of an emergency. We were not so concerned about what happened in the laboratory and in the safety of handling the world's deadliest viruses in the context of the laboratory. I have toured the place. It has thick concrete walls and it is bombproof and bulletproof. However, what we questioned was the shipping and transporting of these deadly viruses from one place to the laboratory. That was the weak link in the chain. We were guaranteed this would be done with the utmost highest protocol, that Brinks trucks would be hired and they would travel in convoys, that there would be three of them and only one would be carrying the virus, so there would be decoys in case terrorists wanted to strike the one that was carrying the virus.

What happened was that as soon as our backs were turned, this was contracted out to FedEx. During a traffic accident on the corner of Logan and William where a FedEx truck ran into another car, what spilled out of the back of the van? It was a bunch of anthrax and Newcastle disease virus, which wipes out chicken populations immediately if it gets into the atmosphere.

Anthrax by FedEx is a far cry from Brinks trucks and decoys. I almost fell off my chair. I could not believe what a violation of trust this was. At the time I said, anthrax by FedEx, what is next, ebola virus by bicycle? That would be the only thing more ridiculous than anthrax by FedEx.

We were disappointed and let down in terms of emergency measures preparedness because that could have been a catastrophe. This level four laboratory is in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. It is not on the outskirts of town and it is not in an industrial park. As far as I am from you right now, Mr. Speaker, are occupied homes in a poor end of town. I guess that was some of the thought process, that it did not really matter that much because it was just in a poor end of town. It would not happen in Tuxedo, River Heights or some affluent end of town. They would not put up with a level four disease laboratory with guys shipping anthrax by FedEx but they did not seem to have any hesitation doing it in the middle of my riding, the poorest riding in Canada.

We are conscious of these things. It is a net benefit, I suppose, to the Health Sciences Centre campus that is in the heart of my riding and that this level four disease laboratory serves a national and international function in assessing and analyzing dangerous viruses, whether it is in animals or a threat to people. I should recognize and pay tribute to Dr. David Butler-Jones and Dr. Frank Plummer, the senior officials who run our level four laboratory in Winnipeg and my comments are in no way to show disrespect for the valuable work they do. I just wish they would tighten up their protocol for shipping their bugs around my city.

The last issue I would like to raise in terms of emergency measures and in the context of Bill C-12, which was also raised by my colleague from Yukon which was very helpful, is the issue of global warming. I hope the bill acts as the enabling legislation to allow senior ministers, no matter what their jurisdiction, to contemplate, prepare for and be seized of the issue of the consequences of global warming. On television the other day, I heard a climatologist say, with some sense of pride, that in the next year or two we would be able to sail the Northwest Passage uninterrupted with no icebreakers. He said that it would be open as a shipping lane and he cited the advantage to this.

I remind anyone who is thinking in those terms of the cautionary note of Tim Flannery, the world's leading authority on climate change, who was a guest at our convention in Quebec City not two weeks ago. He cited the fact that if we were ever to have the Northwest Passage open as a shipping lane, every other port in the world would be under four feet of water. He said that there would be no place for those ships to load and unload their product because we would be in a Noah's ark situation here. The world would be underwater and certainly coastal regions.

I raise that perhaps as the ultimate cautionary note as we enter into an analysis of our emergency readiness as a nation. Are we ready for this onslaught that we are bringing upon ourselves with climate change? What concrete steps are ministers of the Crown taking today to prepare ourselves for what could be a self-imposed Armageddon? I am not one of those to stand around with a sign saying “the end is near”, but I say to my colleagues and friends in the House of Commons that the end is near if we do not turn ourselves around and stop this looping effect, this compounding effect of global warming that we are doing to ourselves.

If there is any one single thing we need to do to prepare for emergencies, it is to prepare ourselves for this doom that will be upon us if we do not correct our practices, our man-made polluting of this planet to the point where it will not be habitable any more. We are soiling our own nest to the point where we will not be able to live on this planet and there is no amount of bills and legislation that we can pass that will turn that around without the political will of every minister, of everyone in authority at every level of government in the world in fact. If there has ever been an argument for world cooperation, it surely has to be to save the planet, and that transcends Bill C-12. That will need to be the motif that becomes a thread through all of our actions as elected officials.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we are aware, this particular bill, Bill C-12, is ostensibly identical to the bill in the last Parliament of the Liberal government, Bill C-78. Therefore, of course, the Liberal caucus will be supporting Bill C-12. It is extremely important to Canada.

The member raised some very interesting points about jurisdictional issues where there are responsibilities that have been taken over by some jurisdictions. In fact, municipalities in other parts of the country may not have had the resources or whatever was needed to do certain things. It appears to me that there does not seem to be a clear indication of how we would get an integrated, coordinated effort right across the country in terms of the responsibilities of the various jurisdictions, whether they be provincial, municipal or regional or, indeed, whether they are the jurisdiction of the federal government as a whole.

I would think that this is an area in which it is going to take some significant work by the committee to establish what is out there already and whether there are standards that have been adopted for which all of the various municipalities or regions or, for that mattter, provinces have brought their preparedness plans up to that standard. Possibly the member would indicate whether he has any similar concerns.

Emergency Management ActRoutine Proceedings

November 17th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberalfor the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-78, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

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

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

June 27th, 2005 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Pickering—Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I must voice an opinion I believe we all share. We have before us a bill proposing to change the definition of marriage to the union of two individuals, from the age-old definition of marriage of the union of two individuals of opposite sexes.

In my nearly 12 years as a member of Parliament I have seen a lot, certainly in terms of the evolution of this issue. After the issue of inclusion was debated in 1981-82, when I was working for a cabinet minister, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was proclaimed and the Constitution was repatriated, I do not think there was a single member in the House of Commons or a premier who could have one day imagined that we would see a definition in something as fundamental to society as what is now being debated and by some imagination or standard being suggested will pass and pass easily.

Some people will say times change and that is just a pragmatic way of doing things, it is a trend and we have to flow with changing times. Some things are intrinsically immutable. In my view, marriage is a basis and foundation which cannot be simply changed by whim, by someone's definition of what is vogue or by someone else's view of how the world must change.

Canada is the only country as far as I know, and I stand to be corrected on this, that has accepted a modicum of change in marriage based on a claim of human rights. Let us understand how that took place.

I heard members talk about the fact that it is law in 9 or 10 provinces and territories, so why not take sort of a laissez-faire attitude, let lassitude to prevail, allow this to take its course and let Parliament rubber stamp what the courts have done. To Canadians who are deeply involved with this issue but who did not see it debated in the last election, let us be very clear about this point.

A lower court ruling was made in Ontario in 2002. I will not mention the name of the justice. The justice was appointed by the then prime minister, who immediately after that decision decided not to appeal it. He abrogated the legal responsibility we had to bring this matter to the Supreme Court of Canada, threw the towel in on marriage and allowed the definition to virtually change overnight. Other courts did not come to that view instantaneously. In fact, the issue of civil unions had been strongly considered.

We know that, in Quebec, the civil union issue has been a major concern. Numerous human rights experts are in agreement, and it could easily become common practice.

However, what really took place in my view was political sleight of hand at the time by the prime minister and the justice minister. By throwing in the towel on marriage, they effectively allowed a domino effect to occur. Other provinces were not prepared to go down that route because other courts in various provinces, including British Columbia, had resisted this.

However, I am not here to point fingers, but rather to ensure that there is an establishment of the facts.

The Supreme Court of Canada did not hold the view that marriage, as it currently exists, was unconstitutional. The hon. member for Mississauga South has spoken very eloquently on this and has defended this issue, as have many of the colleagues on this side of the House.

What is important to know is that if we are to pass any bill in the House of Commons, or any motion, it has to be worth something, not just be second-guessed by the courts, which clearly was not the case here. More important, we are not second-guessed by ourselves.

I was here as a member of Parliament only three years ago when a promise was made, and it was adopted unanimously, that Bill C-78 would ensure and would see that the definition of marriage would be retained. What has changed? Fully half of the House of Commons are members who voted on that and who supported the definition of marriage. They cannot make a claim of rights because rights did not occur as a result of the fact the Supreme Court did not really look at this.

What are we really dealing with here? It is a bill that is designed to give a new definition of marriage and to provide a basis for support or protection for certain religious officials and to provide at least an assurance that those who hold those views would not be persecuted. If a motion unanimously carried in the House of Commons is worthless, then it is my view that the paper on which this is written cannot be too far away from that conclusion.

What activist group, in the next three, four or five years, would begin to countenance the idea of challenging that which we hold true, the final frontier, the last line of defence?

Rights are not boundless and they do have a responsibility, but above all, a responsibility to the truth as to what marriage really represents.

Marriage represents more than just a religious connotation and more than just simply a sociological factor. It is the ties that bind and create the basis of society. Whether we like it or not, it is one of the most important rituals that has brought societies together. It is not by accident that when explorers in previous centuries went from culture to culture and from place to place, they found they had a form of right and that right was always of opposite sexes. That is not to exclude anyone but rather to reaffirm something very unique about that relationship. Therefore, the political side of this is also very difficult.

I campaigned very clearly where I stood on this issue in the last election. It was asked many times. I am not so sure the public understood the gravity of the issue. Not everybody knew this was going to be the ultimate fallout, that we would have legislation that would be the mirror opposite, a 180° difference, from what we had stood for a few years ago. However, what I understand is that a lot of Canadians have not had an opportunity to debate this. While I commend the justice committee for having looked at it, the reality is a previous justice committee did the exact same thing but was not allowed to report.

Again, we would have to wonder why a committee that spent time criss-crossing the country, that had done so much work, that what its conclusions or findings were, were that difficult that we refused to allow those definitions and those many hours of labour by both the committee of all sides of the House and Canadians to be reported.

I do not want to use the word, and the hon. member has made an utterance of a word, but I find it unacceptable that we would somehow want to rush this through to assume that everything can just change because it is time to make those changes or because we simply believe that the time has come and that we were all tired.

I have heard it said from a number of members of Parliament who are ambivalent but who are probably will support the legislation because they really do not want to see this as part of an election. I have also had members say to me, “Wait long enough and the public will forget about it. So let's get it over with now”.

I am sure that does not apply to most members here, but I can say to those members of Parliament who make those declarations, they will get neither because this issue is so important to Canadians. It is not that it detracts or derogates from others' rights or others' privileges, it is so fundamentally important to our sense of who we are, our sense of being.

The definition of marriage, the ritual which enjoins people of opposite sex, predates society. It predates the very civilization under which we fundamentally exist. We can simply say that we believe we can have this right, notwithstanding the new civil lexicon that says that marriage must be between two people and if not, we are not with the times. Rather than marginalizing people for holding these views, we have to do a better job of recognizing what it is that the House of Commons is attempting to do.

More than any other piece of legislation that is before the House, this legislation has a priority. The House can do better than that. It can reflect and represent the truth, and it can ensure that the public record is clear. Let us not take the public for granted. Every member of Parliament, although I am not going to convince them with my comments, cannot guarantee the protection of religious officials or teachers. Being that as it is, we have a higher obligation to protect that which is right unless we have an agenda which wants to go one step further and attack the very institutions which are the foundation of this land.