Emergency Management Act

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

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Stockwell Day  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment 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.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Are there any other comments? Okay, we'll ask our clerk to try to sort this out and get people into a semblance of order.

For Thursday, have you heard anything concerning Bill C-12?

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Yes, they can observe how we deal with it.

If we agree that we can start with Bill C-12, how do you want to start?

Mr. Comartin.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Chair, I think we could start with Bill C-12. I don't know that it's going to take up a terribly long period of time. It is the bill that was here last time. I think, by and large, we fixed whatever the issues were. So I think it would be appropriate that we deal with that, and if you have your guests here, they could see the committee--

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Could we start with Bill C-12 that quickly?

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:10 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I have a question, Mr. Chair. I don't know where Bill C-12 is at, at this point.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Logically, I think Mr. Comartin addressed that somewhat. We should wait for the second part of Mr. O'Connor's recommendations and then we could possibly deal with it.

It seems to me we have three main items here that we'll have to prioritize: continued investigation of the Arar affair, Bill C-12, and the estimates. It seems we have those three priorities.

Mr. Holland.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

I'd like to call this meeting to order.

We have a quorum. This is meeting number 11, and the item for our business this morning is to discuss the future business of the committee. Without further ado, we'll go into it.

There's not an agenda, but I have suggested items. We could follow up the report on the commission of inquiry into the events relating to Maher Arar. I will ask you how you wish to proceed with that. We also need to look at how this committee wants to proceed with Bill C-12.

Mr. Holland has suggested a study concerning the arming of border guards. Mr. Cotler has a motion, but he's not here this morning. We also have a request from a Tanzanian delegation of parliamentarians who would like to meet with us on Thursday. We can discuss how to proceed with that. Mr. Rosen also has proposed a conference, and Mr. Ménard has proposed a trip to Quebec.

Those are some of the possible items we can deal with, and unless any of you have further suggestions, we can begin at the top.

September 26th, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

If we are going to proceed that way, then perhaps at the meeting the following week we could have agenda items that deal with Bill C-12 and the report. I forgot the gun registry, Bill C-21. Perhaps we could have that on the agenda to discuss how we're going to proceed.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

September 26th, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

There are two other issues that will eventually be before the committee. On the proposed amendments to the gun registry legislation, maybe we could have the parliamentary secretary give some indication as to when he expects that to get to the House. I am asking this in light of whether we should proceed with Bill C-12.

Perhaps even more importantly, Mr. Chair, it would be appropriate at this time to have some sense of what we're going to do with the O'Connor report.

Let me make a comment on that. I think everybody on the committee knows that Justice O'Connor will be issuing a second, supplementary report, which in some respects will be more relevant to our discussion. That's scheduled for late November or perhaps the first week of December. That report will address oversight and governance issues very specifically, as opposed to the findings of fact he made in the initial report, some of which are very helpful to the oversight of our intelligence services. But it is fairly limited, as opposed to what I expect will be in the second report, which will be much more detailed. In that light, we are caught in a bit of a quandary. Should we be doing more with the initial report, or should we be putting it off until the winter or spring session, when we have the full report? Quite frankly, I don't have a position on that, but it may be worthwhile having some discussion.

September 26th, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Does anybody have any concerns about having Mr. Day in for one hour after the commissioner appears?

Do you have enough faith in the chair here to try to work this all out? I think I sense what you as a committee would like to see. Am I misreading any of the signals that I hear from you?

Okay, that takes care of that piece of business.

Is there anything else we should be discussing? Should we be discussing future business of the committee? I see here that Bill C-12, the Emergency Management Act, has been referred to the committee. Do you want to discuss that today, or do you want to leave that for another day to see how we're going to handle that?

I understand we could discuss the steering report.

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 22nd, 2006 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Yukon for his thoughtful remarks on Bill C-12.

One thing he raised was that in the north, and in fact much of the hinterland, people are faced with circumstances that we do not consider too much in urban Canada, and that is the threat of forest fires.

I know my friend is aware that I spent many years as a forest ranger in the Yukon territory. Our primary concern was fighting fires and fire management, but we also had a dual function as land use managers. The smaller communities would look to the forest service as their emergency measures operations leaders. It was really the only representation of that aspect of civil society to which they could look.

In a small community such as Dawson City where I lived, there was the school board, the mayor and city council, a couple of RCMP officers and the forest service. When it came to emergencies, or at least emergency measures preparations, people would look to the forest service as having the best capability of implementing whatever measures may be put in their emergency measures plan.

When my colleague mentions the need for more search and rescue, et cetera, one of the things I found useful in the development of those plans, and practising the constant evening rehearsals to be ready for emergency measures, was that we needed sometimes dual purpose functions, and we ran into jurisdictional difficulties.

Does the member see in the bill any opportunity to try to cut through the jurisdictional red tape so the emergency measures team could in fact use tools, airplanes, equipment and trucks that belong to some other jurisdiction without having to deal with red tape, protocol and stepping on the toes of other people from other levels, not of government but of civil society?

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2006 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to continue my remarks on Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

Members may recall that in the first part of my speech I started out by saying that Liberals support the bill. It is just a reintroduction of a Liberal bill, with a few changes in the basis of the excellent work that we had done related to security after 9/11. We dedicated $9.5 billion on security. We created a department of public safety and emergency and established a national 24/7 government operations centre.

Then I talked about how we are in a new world now, a world that we have to change. We need bills like this to change emergency measures to keep up with a changing world, since 9/11, since the Montreal shootings, and climate changes. Then there are things like ice storms, dramatic hurricanes and tsunamis that we have had, potential meteorites, and diseases like SARS. It is very important that we change with the times and have administration chains to deal quickly with problems.

I also talked about how important it was to have coordinating efforts with the United States because in geographical disasters a border is artificial. We need the people along both sides of the border to have cogent plans to deal with emergencies quickly. Then I went on to talk about how the bill had neglected in certain instances the territorial governments.

I would like the people in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut to know I am constantly standing up to ensure that they are included. If they have any other issues that they think have been left out, not included, or having problems, they should please contact me as the critic for the north.

This modern management of emergencies is related to an issue that is dear to my heart and I want to talk about it for a while. I am referring to search and rescue and the ability to have search and rescue planes placed north of 60.

Right now all our search and rescue planes are based along the border of Canada and the United States. Certainly, that is where our greatest population is and certainly, that is where the greatest number of incidents occur. However, that does not mean that we should ignore the north.

In fact, half the range of those planes is really not used. They are in a spot where half of the range is not used because half the range would be in the United States, to the south, and some would be out over the oceans, to the south. Whereas, if we had one or two or three, the northern half of the country would be covered. We had actually promised to put four planes north of 60.

Just because most incidents are in the south does not mean we ignore the north. For example, the vast majority of crime in this country is in the south. It does not mean we do not have RCMP in the north. It does a wonderful job in the territories. It does not mean we do not have doctors in the north; they do a wonderful job. It does not mean we do not have food stores in the north because there is a very small population. They all do a wonderful job. Therefore, it is very important that we protect those people.

In the south, arguments could be made that there are a lot more civilian resources available to search for someone in densely populated areas than in the north. In fact, in the north, an accident could be far more critical. We have thousands of flights going over the pole now and a vast increase of activities because of global warming.

The Prime Minister has talked about sovereignty in the north, which is a result of global warming. He should accept that. With all this activity going on an accident there could be far more dangerous and critical than one in the south. There is less civilian capability to get to people, drop supplies, drop something warm, and far more chance of dying of hypothermia either on land or in the water.

I definitely want to continue the argument that I have been making for a long time at the defence committee for search and rescue planes with reasonable coverage north of 60.

I can be reasonable in the sense that I know these are expensive and there is a whole array of services that go with them, mechanics, et cetera. I am not opposed to a compromise so that these planes could have dual functions because there are other military planes in the north that need to be replaced or other planes that are used for various purposes. I do not mind if we have a dual purpose plane in the north that can do search and rescue and can do these other functions. Therefore, northerners and people who are not Canadians but end up having an accident in the north would be far more protected.

I encourage everyone involved to support the contract which we approved in Parliament some three years ago and see to it that it is finally tendered and done so in a manner that will allow us to have search and rescue planes to cover and protect northerners, people in the territories, the same way they presently protect people in the provinces.

The next item I want to speak to is sort of an esoteric part of the bill. I do not think anyone has spoken to it. It would allow businesses to share information to protect critical infrastructure. In the new world, that I spoke about earlier in my speech yesterday, one of the items under attack is infrastructure. Infrastructure is absolutely critical to the smooth functioning of our society, to the health of the economy and the people, and we want to protect it.

A lot of the information that is required to protect that is in private hands. The bill would allow for the cooperation and coordination of businesses to provide that private information to the public sector, so that it can be included in the emergency plans in order for our emergency plans to be comprehensive, make sense and contain all the information necessary.

Some of that information businesses would not normally give because it is protected, confidential and could help their competitors or terrorists who want to attack them. Therefore, there is a provision in the bill that, under these circumstances when it makes sense, would protect information and use it for the purpose for which it is being shared, which is to protect during emergencies.

Finally, in my last minute I would like to talk about the ability the bill gives to the Minister of Public Safety to monitor, evaluate and coordinate federal plans. All the institutions and departments must have a plan, but the reason I strongly support this is that sometimes it falls between the cracks if we do not have someone overall in charge. I will give one example.

The Liberal government put in a policy called a rural lens which means everything that goes through the Government of Canada, every program and every new law, should be looked at through a rural lens. Deputy ministers are required to report every year on that rural lens on what success they have had in promoting things for rural Canada. The member from Prince Edward Island and myself have been great champions of this.

I have asked a number of times in committee and some of the deputy ministers did not even know about it or had no reports. That is why it is important in this bill that theMinister of Public Safety has an umbrella authority over the various plans from the federal departments to ensure they are good and that they work.

The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.