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.

December 2nd, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
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Daniel Lavoie Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and National Security Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Thank you. I would like to come back to the issue of cooperation. As recommended by the Auditor General, the approval of the Federal Emergency Response Plan will significantly contribute to maximizing the support we can obtain. It is a very good recommendation, which we support and which will help us move forward.

We do not have major issues, but it is often better not to have any issues at all. You raised a number of examples earlier, including issues such as farming, erosion and flooding. A number of levers are pulled as part of the emergency management process. Municipalities are the first to react; followed by the provinces. There is much discussion with our provincial colleagues. In the last three years, we have re-established a committee that had lost its sense of direction, but is now up and running. I am referring to the FPT committee of senior officials responsible for emergency management.

We had a discussion no later than yesterday. We are cooperating on a long list of issues. A problem affecting one province will have an impact on its neighbour, because neighbouring provinces will help each other out in the event of major problems. Since this also affects the federal government, it is in our best interest to come up with solutions. A lot of work is being done in terms of prevention. We have done much prevention work with individuals. You might have seen the advertising campaign entitled “72 hours... Is your family prepared?”, which targets individual Canadians. First, we prepare individuals, then we deal with municipalities.

We can develop programs or a process to ensure that, in the event of an uncontrollable disaster, the citizens affected will have quick access to the appropriate services—whether provincial health care services, or services for small and medium enterprises provided by Industry Canada or assistance from HRSDC. We have come together to develop such a process.

I would like to come back to your example when you spoke about farming. We have an ongoing planning process with regard to evolving risks. A part of the 2007 Emergency Management Act clearly indicates that the Minister of Public Safety has specific responsibilities and that each government minister is responsible for analyzing and assessing the risks within their portfolio. Who better than the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to inform us of the actual risks within that sector? He is also responsible for assessing the situation.

Therefore, the Auditor General recommended that we provide the department with more assistance so that it can effectively carry out its responsibilities.

October 22nd, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Minister, you're the Minister of Public Safety and you said that some of the work our committee has undertaken, since this review that you felt should have been done, is trivial and of a partisan nature. I'm wondering which work our committee has dealt with in the last two and one-half years that you would consider trivial. Is it Bill C-3, to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act? Is it our work on contraband tobacco, the witness protection program, the study of security issues concerning the Minister of Foreign Affairs, our taser study, agri-chemicals and agri-retail, arming of the CBSA officers? Is it Bill C-12, regarding emergency management? Is it Bill C-279, DNA identification? I could go on.

It has been significant work that this parliamentary committee has dealt with, none of which has been trivial, all of which may be partisan to some degree. But I would argue that it is unfair for you to assess this committee's work as either trivial or partisan.

Because I know you can run out the clock with that statement I want to ask you: were you aware that our committee was in the final process of finishing our report, and actually we changed our agenda, when you introduced this legislation on June 1 so you would not take advantage of our interest and expertise in this area?

It was not one year away, as you just suggested in your testimony.

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

June 22nd, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber Her Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts--Chapter 15;

Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (sports and recreation programs)--Chapter 16;

Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act--Chapter 17;

Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts--Chapter 18;

Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts--Chapter 19;

Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child)--Chapter 20;

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act--Chapter 21;

Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification--Chapter 22;

Bill C-60, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 23;

Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)--Chapter 24;

Bill C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 25;

Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act, An Act to incorporate the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 26;

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act--Chapter 27;

Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie)--Chapter 28;

Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007--Chapter 29;

Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol--Chapter 30.

It being 12:23 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2007, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

The first session of the 39th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on September 14, 2007.

June 4th, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I guess I'd first ask this question about this due diligence amendment. Did that specifically come about in response to expanding it or to putting it back to all conveyances, including land? Because it wasn't in the original Bill C-12. Due diligence wasn't in Bill C-12.

April 18th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I think from what I'm hearing on both sides of the table, I have to say I'm not ready to go to clause-by-clause.

Mr. Fletcher said that we have to lean on our officials, and I really believe that. But these are the same officials who brought us Bill C-12 and implied they could do it, and now we're hearing that they don't know how to do it or they don't have enough money to do what they brought to us themselves in Bill C-12.

So Mr. Fletcher was right: These are changes that meet the needs of the officials who don't seem to know how to do this or who maybe don't have enough money for more quarantine officers. If you're going to check people at a border and have a quarantine official, you can't have somebody driving from the Toronto airport to Windsor to look over people on a bus. Yet that's what they're telling us. There are only 30 locations. That means all the major international airports and the two main ports in the country. Is that good enough? I would question that.

We heard at the time from the CMA, the Canadian Medical Association, and now this thing has been in place for a while, at least at airports and ports, and I'd like to know what they have to say about the Quarantine Act and what they think about the safety.

The other thing, before I could possibly decide, Mr. Chair, is I need to know how many of those 266,000 people who enter our country come by land. What if it's more than half? I agree with Dr. Bennett: why would we give this up? This is not a technical amendment. It is a change in policy, and it therefore has to be dealt with much more seriously than would a technical amendment.

So, no, I'm not ready, and if you want, I'll make some suggestions for witnesses.

April 18th, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

I spoke in Parliament to Bill C-12 originally--and felt very strongly about it, as most people did, I believe, in the House in general--in response to the changes that had taken place, such as those regarding SARS, etc., and potential threats globally. I'm not yet hearing any rationale as to why we would dilute the act, and I'm not being convinced that we should.

You're in one sense talking about strengthening or implying that you want to strengthen the act, which would be something that would be very highly supportable, but on the other hand, it seems to be completely contradictory to now delete some of these opportunities to catch potential illness and threats.

April 18th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

That wouldn't be my experience. If I were sick on a bus and I was coming towards Toronto, I'd want to get home. I wouldn't tell anybody how sick I felt, even if I had perspiration flowing down my face. I'd want to get home. I'd want to meet my family and get to my own doctor. But I could be bringing in a disease, and I think if there were a bus driver on that bus, he should be required to report, as well.

What is the real technical issue that makes this so difficult? Is it the whole problem of having quarantine officers available, say, at two o'clock in the morning at the Ontario-Michigan border? I'm sure there's something else underpinning this change, because it is reducing the requirements that were set out in Bill C-12.

April 18th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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Manager, Legislative and Regulatory Policy Group, Public Health Agency of Canada

Dennis Brodie

It's reduced from what Bill C-12 originally said. However, it is not reduced from the point of view of the existing regulations. The existing regulations, which have been in effect for probably fifty years, only required air and marine conveyances to report. Furthermore, as Dr. Clarke pointed out, the International Health Regulations only require marine and air conveyances to advance-report.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by mentioning the beautiful light that shines on this side of the House. This is not a coincidence. The sky is blue and God is a sovereignist. We are going to take advantage of this light to enlighten our colleagues, the members opposite, who form the government. I hope they will be wise enough to listen.

I could not help but smile when I saw that this legislation was coming back here to be amended. Let us not forget that, at the beginning of this session, a bill was rammed through the House, namely Bill C-2. We felt that this issue had not been debated long enough to ensure that this legislation would provide measures that could be implemented, and that it would be responsible and meaningful for our fellow citizens, whom we represent here.

Today, I see that we have to go back to Bill C-12, which was passed in 2005, when I was still a new member in this House. In fact, this bill was my first experience with the legislation here. I had to learn how to debate it in the Standing Committee on Health, along with my colleague, the member for Hochelaga, who was then our party critic on health issues. Even at that time we had serious reservations about the provisions that the government wanted to include in the bill, because we often felt that they were too intrusive or not logical enough to allow for concrete, easy and effective implementation.

We have to be very cautious and serious when we talk about infectious and communicable diseases, about viruses and bacteria that proliferate. We have to take our role seriously. At the time, we deplored the fact that people would be accountable to an authority designated by the Minister of Health, because we felt that this was a somewhat complex process that would prevent the bill from being an effective piece of legislation.

When I saw the bill and saw that there was a move to amend this section, that is, section 34, I thought to myself, “Two years later, people are finally seeing that, once again, the Bloc Québécois was right.” Naturally, it was members of the Bloc Québécois who were the first to oppose that part of the legislation, which called for an authority designated by the minister. We did so because we believed that the bill encroached too much on provincial jurisdictions, especially in the area of health.

In Quebec, our department of public health is very effective and takes great care to protect us against all communicable and infectious diseases. I know that this is not necessarily the case everywhere. A hospital in Vegreville had to close its doors this week. Also, in Loyds, hundreds of patients had to be informed that they had probably contracted HIV or hepatitis, because the doctor had not reported, as one must, these diseases to public health authorities.

It is not enough to simply enact legislation. That legislation must be respected, obeyed and enforced, and we must be able to use that legislation effectively to protect ourselves against what we could call barbarian invasions. Any mention of tuberculosis, west Nile virus or SARS is sure to arouse fear. I would remind the House that the original Quarantine Act was drafted around 1872, if I understood my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska correctly.

We know that diseases crossed borders with the influx of pioneers who came here to start a life for themselves and become proud citizens of what was then Lower Canada and Upper Canada, in other words, the Quebec and Canada of today.

Infectious diseases did not stop crossing our borders just because we passed this legislation in 1872. In the early 1900s, around 1910 or 1918, right here in Hull, on the other side of the river, a very serious Spanish influenza outbreak killed many people. It decimated entire families. We still see traces of those families today in the names of the hon. members sitting in this House and the people nearby, who live in Hull, in Gatineau. These people probably have in their lineage, among their ancestors, people who died from the Spanish flu. At the time, even though the legislation existed, we did not have the means to enforce or apply it.

As far as such epidemics are concerned, we have to think about all these soldiers we send abroad. Often we pay more attention to what is going on over there in terms of equipment, tools and armament, and not pay much attention to what they might be bringing back with them when they come home. This can be very dangerous for them. These days, a number of women take part in these missions. Many of them come back and can also spread infectious diseases to their families and children because they did not receive the necessary care when they were abroad on a peacekeeping mission or, unfortunately, at war.

It is not enough to have laws, we also need the political will to apply them. We have to start resolving the problems in our own backyard. We currently have tuberculosis epidemics in a number of our first nations communities. It is unthinkable that in 2007 there are still people suffering from tuberculosis. That is the direct responsibility of the federal government. It is a responsibility that it neglects far too often and which it has not respected because the epidemic is spreading, not stopping.

In Kashechewan, people may be forced to leave their homes and to be relocated because their water is not potable. However, they cannot do it today because there is no money. If we have billions of dollars to invest in arms, we should at least have a few million to invest in providing safe, healthy housing where individuals can live with dignity and respect. At present, this is not the case. It is much easier to adopt a laissez-faire attitude. Hundreds, even thousands of individuals will suffer from these illnesses, including tuberculosis and other diseases. They will contract them because of unhealthy living conditions. Nothing is being done about that.

The previous government ratified the Kelowna accord. We all voted in this House to honour that accord. However, the government decided otherwise and is not making any further commitments. That is most unfortunate.

First nations communities, Inuit communities, all these communities find it difficult to carve out a place for themselves in our society. It is difficult for them to have access to adequate health care, appropriate education, and affordable, healthy, safe housing. It is difficult for them, but they have been abandoned even though it is our first responsibility to help them. We abandon them, we do not invest in these societies. Why? Why is there constant encroachment, to the tune of millions of dollars, on provincial responsibilities and jurisdictions when we do not even take care of our own responsibilities?

I do not understand. And yet, some small countries who have very little do much more for their citizens. I regularly visit Cuba, because I love the island and the people. Someone will say to me that they do not have a great deal of freedom, but I sometimes wonder which one of us has more freedom. I know that they have first class health care. All Cubans can study as much and as long as they wish. Education is free. Later, the government assigns the doctors it has trained to various countries to work for humanitarian causes. These doctors are very well trained.

Whenever I go to Cuba, I am never afraid of getting sick. I know I will be taken care of. When we went to Taiwan last fall, my travelling companion got a toothache on Taiwan's national holiday. The person I was with had a toothache. We had to go to a hospital because there are no dental clinics. At the hospital, two doctors took care of us. In under 10 minutes, my companion was in a chair and personnel had administered a sedative and something to take away the pain, and all of this happened on Taiwan's national holiday. Of course, thousands of people live there and their hospitals do not have all the equipment we have here. But their government chooses to invest in human resources to provide a standard of care and services that we rarely find here.

That service standard is rare here largely because of our provincial governments. Why do our respective governments not have enough money? Because previous federal governments cut transfer payments. Beginning in 1994, cuts to provincial transfer payments, including payments to Quebec, resulted in the sorry state of our health care systems today compared to those of some small countries that have much less than we do, but that care about their citizens' health.

We support the principle underlying this bill. We are not against it. Obviously, we cannot be against what is right, but today, as we study this bill, we must ask ourselves a question. Will this bill provide enough money to train quarantine officers? Will enough money be invested in training customs agents and all of the front-line staff who meet people at the border?

That was one of the concerns expressed by the Standing Committee on Health in 2004-05. We were not certain that all steps would be taken in order to enforce Bill C-12. After two years, we see that enforcing it is very difficult indeed, and that it was not really being enforced because there were flaws in the bill. In the years to come, we will likely find other flaws in the bill, given that the Standing Committee on Health had considerable reservations about approving the bill, which was adopted on division.

If we all minded our own business, there would likely be fewer bills of this kind to review. For example, despite what the government thinks, Bill C-2 was adopted very quickly, and a number of its sections are still not in force.

Why are we asked to debate bills that seem so important to the government, only to then have it dismiss everything we determined, everything we decided, everything we wanted to be able to give to our citizens as members of Parliament here in this House? We wonder why.

I do not know. I only hope that, in the future, we will be more careful. If it is true that Bill C-42 is crucial to the proper enforcement of Bill C-12, through the amendment of section 34, it is also true that there are several other sections of the bill that should be reviewed. In enforcing—

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2006 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-12 at third reading.

The Government of Canada has needed this bill for quite some time, in the sense that it allows us finally as a government and our agencies across the country to prepare for a state of emergency. I think mostly we are addressing natural disasters. These are ones that can cause great damage, not only of a monetary amount but also in terms of deaths and injury to our citizenry.

We know from looking across the globe, when other countries have faced those kinds of natural disasters, that it is abundantly clear that if we are ready, prepared, have a plan and coordination in place, have resources in place, both in terms of dollars and personnel that a substantial difference can be made in the outcome, both in terms of the number of lives and the number of injuries we save and, yes, the amount of dollars we save for our communities by reducing the impact of natural disasters.

I do not think we have seen that more clearly in a developed country than what we saw in the United States with hurricane Katrina about a year ago. We had the wealthiest country in the world in terms of economic well-being that was not prepared, did not have the coordination in place, the personnel in place and the resources in place.

As a result, one of the major cities in the U.S. was devastated for an extended period of time. The city had mass evacuations and many more deaths than would have been normal for that type of an incident had the city been prepared and had that coordination been in place.

What Bill C-12 does is to provide us with that infrastructure. Parts of the bill are already there. A good deal of it is already there, but it is not in a coordinated fashion.

The people who do this work, who came before us and have testified, both from the federal government and from other areas, both the non-profit area and some of the other institutions that are most keenly affected by this, the utility companies for instance, all made very clear their desire to work in a coordinated fashion, to get all of the structure in place.

We need a structure should we be faced again with a flood in your home province of Manitoba, Mr. Speaker, or with an ice storm that we had here in Ontario, or with the loss of power that we had along the whole eastern seaboard only a couple of years ago that also affected Ontario. We can go down the list and we know that we have not always responded to the very best way.

Hopefully, this structure that we are building by way of this legislation will in fact allow us to respond to our absolute maximum. The NDP is going to support this legislation. It is badly needed legislation, as I have already said. The one trepidation I have in supporting the bill is that we have not dealt fairly with the local level of government and with the NGOs, the non-profit sector and the volunteer sector.

There is passing mention of them in the legislation. The crucial part we know. We can say this because we heard some of this evidence in committee. In March I was at an international conference that was hosted here in Canada. We had people from Pakistan who recently dealt with an earthquake about this time last year. We had representatives from a number of the countries that had been devastated by the tsunami in Asia.

Every single country, without exception, whether they were an undeveloped and poor country or a first world developed country, said the same thing. They said that the key to minimizing the impact, other than the coordination and the planning in advance, was the ability of the local community to respond in the first few hours, the first 24 to 48 hours.

Generally speaking, regional governments, in our case, the provinces, or national governments, our government, are not able to get their people in fast enough, their equipment in fast enough, or their resources in fast enough to respond immediately. That happens at the local level. We talked in terms of first responders and that, with very few exceptions, is the local level of government, the municipal level of government.

Certainly, the Red Cross and agencies like that are also there, oftentimes again, within the first few hours. They provide the initial immediate relief. They are the ones who save lives. They are the ones who prevent further injury and minimize injuries. They provide food and clothing immediately and shelter, oftentimes immediately.

The legislation has a failing in this regard in that it does not adequately reflect that key essential role that the local level of government provides and I want to take this opportunity acknowledge that.

The official opposition and I made various attempts to amend the legislation in committee during clause by clause study to try and get that acknowledgement in, buttress the role that local governments play by way of officially acknowledging them in the legislation. However, between the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois, they would not support those amendments and they did not pass.

The end result is that although we have had extensive consultation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Red Cross and some of the other agencies, the legislation is not fair to them. I make these comments recognizing all of the very fine work that they have done and that I am sure they will continue to do.

There are some additional things that the federal government could do in terms of bringing them in early to the consultation process and having them on some of the planning and coordinating committees that will be established. Some are already under this legislation and they play a key role when we actually are faced with this kind of a disaster.

We will be supporting the legislation with those reservations. It is important that we get started on this. That planning and coordination, putting in place the resources, will further protect our citizenry. No government has any greater responsibility than to protect its citizenry from this type of public danger. The sooner the legislation gets through and we begin to deploy it, the better off the country will be as a whole.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2006 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts. Obviously, we have no problem with the basic principle that the federal government can take action to respond to emergencies.

That said, it is extremely important that the federal government understand that the provinces, particularly Quebec, have already prepared emergency response plans. The government should not try to use this bill, which is now at third reading, to encroach on areas of jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The summary of the bill reads as follows:

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

In future, we should perhaps take into account the motion adopted in this House to the effect that Quebeckers form a nation. When the bill refers to a national system, it is actually referring to a Canada-wide emergency management system.

A number of aspects of the bill could lead to encroachments on Quebec's jurisdictions. As I mentioned, Quebec already has a number of emergency response plans. These plans and the legislation that provides for them were developed in the wake of catastrophes such as the flooding in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and the ice storm.

In 2001, Quebec adopted a new Civil Protection Act, which replaced the Act respecting the protection of persons and property in the event of disaster, dating from 1979. I want to point out that this reorganization took place under the direction of the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who was then the Minister of Public Safety in the National Assembly of Quebec.

Under the law that was adopted in 2001, a national plan was drawn up, a civil protection plan for Quebec. It divides responsibility among government departments and agencies according to their respective jurisdictions and organizes government resources so that the government can respond to various types of disasters.

Obviously, we all understand that to be effective, this plan relies on some relatively simple principles: citizen and corporate accountability; better preparation of regional authorities, such as municipalities and, in Quebec's case, regional county municipalities; better coordination among partners in the sector; and optimal use of the Government of Quebec's resources. Obviously, there would be no problem with the federal government introducing a plan that complements the provinces' plans, as I said. When the ice storm hit, the Government of Quebec called in the Canadian army to help, especially to clean up the road system, which was in terrible shape because of weather conditions.

In that context, the Bloc Québécois recognizes the federal government's right, nay, its obligation, to ensure that its institutions and departments are prepared to deal with emergency situations. The Bloc Québécois also believes, as I said, that the federal government should not interfere with how Quebec and the provinces organize their public emergency services.

I must reiterate the fact that it is, first and foremost, every citizen's responsibility to prepare for potential disasters, even if that means just having a first aid kit at home. Companies are also responsible for having their own plans for dealing with emergency situations. According to Quebec's plan, the front line responders are the municipalities, regional county municipalities—which support their municipalities—and the Government of Quebec—which supports the regional county municipalities and the municipalities.

Once again, I repeat that not only does this make perfect sense, it is also desirable for the federal government to develop an emergency response plan and corresponding legislation. Let us hope that this does not mean more opportunities to encroach on Quebec's jurisdiction.

We will support this bill on those terms.

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.

The House resumed from December 7 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 third time and passed.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2006 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to speak today on behalf of the government to Bill C-12.

Local and provincial authorities handle some 90% of emergencies in Canada. Most of the time, these emergencies requires no direct involvement of the federal government but, in some cases, the Government of Canada must be ready to respond.

I will take this opportunity to commend those first responders at the local, municipal and provincial level who put their lives on the line to protect all of us in Canada and are so often the very first on the scene. When some people are running the other way to get away, they are running toward the trouble. We do want to acknowledge those first responders at this moment.

Keeping our community safe and our country secure is a priority for Canada's new government. In that regard, we have introduced a number of pieces of legislation, both in the area of justice and in public safety, to do exactly that. I should note that many members in the House, including opposition members, were elected with a mandate to take steps to provide greater public safety for all Canadians.

It is because of that mandate we received from Canadians and because of the need to keep Canadians safe, communities safe and our country secure, that this government is determined to strengthen its capacity to prepare, mitigate, respond to and recover from catastrophic events.

We have seen, unfortunately, all too often, numerous examples of those catastrophic events. They can strike at any time without warning. We need to be prepared for it.

I am speaking today to Bill C-12 because it is legislation that would create the emergency management act.

I would like to speak to how the bill addresses the need for governments from all jurisdictions to work closely together on emergency management. In particular, I want to address the relationship of the federal Government of Canada to local authorities, such as municipalities.

First, however, let me put the proposed legislation into some context. The proposed emergency management act would strengthen the foundation for the role of federal authorities emergency management to meet the evolving risks of the 21st century.

Given our country's rugged landscape and diverse climate, Canadians have always lived with the threat of natural disaster. In spring, we fight rising waters that flood our homes. In summer, we fight fires that ravage our forests. In winter, we fight storms that paralyze transportation and power systems in communities.

Today, Canadians face threats that go far beyond natural disasters. New and emerging diseases, such as avian and pandemic human influenza, may cause great harm to our families, communities and economy.

For example, by one estimate, the outbreak of SARS in 2003 cost Ontario and, in particular, the city of Toronto, and this figure is staggering, $1 billion. To say the least, we must stay vigilant to the threat of a new pandemic.

In this age of technology there are other so-called viruses that are transmitted by information technologies. Our critical infrastructure, our very ability to respond to emergencies depends on reliable computer networks. We must be better prepared to protect them from mischief or even terrorism.

I will also take this time to note that the tragic events of September 11, 2001, brought home the reality of an entirely new category of a human made threat. While terrorists did not directly target Canada on that terrible day, Canadians did die and the growing threat of global terrorism means that we must be ready for the unspeakable.

It is true that Canada does have legislation in place to respond to emergencies. The Emergency Preparedness Act outlines the roles for the Minister of Public Safety and other federal ministers. It provided for federal-provincial cooperation, which is so important, and it established the basis for post-disaster financial assistance to the provinces.

However, all of this, in light of the new reality that we face in Canada, is not enough to address the scope of risks existing for Canadians today. I outlined some of those risks already.

The proposed legislation would build a more comprehensive framework to protect our citizens, as well as that of private and public property and critical infrastructure.

I want to speak a little about the federal role. I already mentioned some of the role of local authorities, such as municipalities, but while those local authorities and municipalities are the first responder, the provinces and the Government of Canada often play an important role in coordinating a comprehensive response to emergencies.

I draw the attention of the House to the distinction between the title of the existing and the proposed legislation. In the past it was sufficient to prepare for emergencies. No longer. The proposed act recognizes that we must do much more in order to manage emergencies. The proposed emergency management act seeks to the strengthen the capacity of the Government of Canada to prevent, mitigate the impact of and respond to all hazards in our country.

It recognizes that we face an ever-changing risk environment. To manage emergencies in this context requires a collective and concerted approach involving all jurisdictions, including the private sector and non-governmental organizations or NGOs.

In an emergency, Canadians must look after there personal needs as best they can. If they need help they look toward government. In such a crisis, Canadians do not care what level of government responds, they simply want help and they want it fast.

Local governments are the first responders. Provincial and territorial governments are hard on their heels. If an emergency moves beyond their capacities, those governments turn to the Government of Canada for assistance, and we do respond.

I will give an example. Members may recall how the Government of Canada helped coordinate Canada's response during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and again in September of that year during the severe flooding in Stephenville, Newfoundland.

In the case of Stephenville, Canada's Government Operations Centre coordinated the response of no less than eight different federal departments. This ranged from the deployment of helicopters by the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard to the provision of 200 beds for evacuees by the Public Health Agency.

Any federal response to emergency must be harmonized with the work of other jurisdictions and stakeholders. It must respond to the real needs and expectations of our citizens. It must make the situation better, not worse. I think that is a goal we can all agree with.

The goal of emergencies management in the proposed act recognizes and promotes greater collaboration with all levels of government, as well as with NGOs, as I already mentioned, the private sector and the public at large. All of these different groups have a role to play in managing an emergency.

It is vital then that our emergency management plans accomplish two goals: to clarify the role and responsibilities of ministers within the Government of Canada, and to promote greater collaboration with other levels of government and other stakeholders. The proposed legislation would help achieve these two goals.

Specifically, through this proposed act, the Government of Canada would establish policies in respect of emergency management at the federal level. It would promote a common approach to emergency management with other jurisdictions, including shared standards and good practices.

It is worth noting that in our consultations for this bill, the provinces and territories welcomed the proposed enhancements as a way to clarify roles and responsibilities, and that is so important.

I want to talk a bit about existing ties with municipalities. This bill would enhance the Government of Canada's relationship with local governments, such as municipalities, in emergency management.

The relationship between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories too often overshadows our relationship with local government. Allow me to elaborate on how we work with local government and how the proposed legislation would enhance that work and enhance collaboration.

The Government of Canada recognizes that municipalities are an integral part of any emergency response. Local police, firefighters and paramedics are always first on the scene. I already commended them at the start of my speech on the role they play in keeping all Canadians safe.

To support the role of first responders, the Government of Canada established the joint emergency preparedness program, JEPP. Through this program the Government of Canada works with the provinces and territories to help municipalities improve their ability to respond to an emergency.

Funds are available for items such as generators, communications equipment and emergency vehicles. When appropriate, the Government of Canada has been pursuing co-location agreements where all three levels of government coordinate their approach to emergency management. To that end, we have already set up joint emergency operation centres in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories.

The Canadian Cyber Institute Response Centre has set up a framework for cooperation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments. A cyber triage unit has been established to assess the nature of incidents and to coordinate responses more effectively.

The goal of these initiatives is to enhance information sharing to keep everyone in the loop so that we can respond to an emergency in a coherent fashion.

The proposed emergency management act reinforces that this kind of seamless cooperation is vital. It would help to ensure the federal response to an emergency is harmonized and coordinated with other jurisdictions, and as I noted earlier, it would also lay the foundation for a comprehensive emergency management system that recognizes the key elements of mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

I want to talk a bit about building ties within communities and in a community. The Government of Canada wants to work with the provinces and municipalities and other entities to help develop consensus on emergency management. This bill recognizes that a common approach to emergency management can enhance effectiveness, not just within all levels of government, but also in the community at large.

Since the nature of emergencies is constantly in flux, the proposed legislation does not attempt to define what constitutes an emergency management activity. The bill in this way is broad and flexible in its approach, leaving room for innovation and the building of community consensus. Indeed, the Government of Canada relies on the expertise, experience and creativity of Canadian citizens to help strengthen its approach to emergency management.

Over the past few years, the Government of Canada has held town hall meetings to solicit ideas on various initiatives. The Government of Canada drew on the valuable input from the private sector and from other stakeholders at these meetings to enhance Bill C-12, and we will continue to engage Canadians on these issues.

It is important that the Government of Canada collaborate with the provinces and territories, private sector owners and operators and the NGO community to strengthen critical infrastructure. It is especially important as the private sector owns and operates over 85% of Canada's critical infrastructure.

When we look at that figure, it is especially clear that this is a multi-jurisdictional approach and it has to involve the private sector. No single jurisdiction has the expertise or the human and financial resources to manage the kinds of emergencies we may face in the 21st century. We know those emergencies can be varied. They can come at any time and the emphasis here is on being ready to manage those emergencies.

We need to work together. We need to develop coherent strategies that will enable us to harmonize our approaches. The proposed legislation provides the framework to achieve this goal.

As I already mentioned, the threats to Canadians continue to evolve and we must evolve with them. Canada's new government is committed to ensuring that it is able to manage these threats and respond to them to the best of its ability. Bill C-12 is a vital piece of legislation that would strengthen the federal role in emergency management and enhance our ability to cooperate with other jurisdictions, including municipalities.

By reinforcing an all hazards approach to emergency management, the proposed legislation will contribute to the safety and the security of all Canadians. In speaking with Canadians and hearing from Canadians from coast to coast, safety and security is a major priority for them. That is why I am pleased that our Minister of Public Safety has been working tirelessly in this regard to promote safety for Canadians. He has brought forward a number of initiatives, including this one, that will make our streets and our communities safer. I have to take this opportunity as well to commend the Minister of Justice for his work on making our communities safer.

Working together in the areas of justice and public safety, we can make communities safer in all regards, whether that be in the criminal sphere or in the sphere of preventing crime in the sphere of managing emergencies and being prepared for emergencies.

That is why I am very pleased on behalf of my constituents to speak to Bill C-12. I urge all members of the House to join with me in support of the proposed emergencies management act.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, as reported, without amendment, from the committee.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2006 / 3:20 p.m.
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Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to confirm that the holiday season will be beginning in due course. In the meantime, we will continue with Bill C-37, the tax convention; Bill C-12, financial institutions; and Bill C-36, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

Tomorrow we will begin the third reading of Bill C-28, budget tax measures.

We will continue next week with the business from this week, with the addition of Bill C-40, sales tax; Bill C-32, impaired driving; Bill C-33, technical income tax; Bill C-35, bail reform; and, of course, as is the tradition, as the member would know, it is great to get into a prebudget debate and that usually lasts about two days.

We have a busy agenda and I look forward to the cooperation of the hon. member. I am sure we will have further discussions on this.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 22nd, 2006 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts,

The emergency management act will allow the Government of Canada to improve its own preparedness for a coordinated response to emergencies. It will clarify the federal government's leadership role in coordinating a response to major emergencies. The emergency management act will enhance the Government of Canada's collaboration with provinces, territories and key stakeholders.

This bill will better protect Canada's critical infrastructure and will also protect the sharing of sensitive information between the private sector and government when it comes to emergency management.

I respectfully submit this report.

November 21st, 2006 / 9:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

I call this meeting to order.

This is meeting number 21, and we are here to go through Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts. We are doing the clause-by-clause consideration today.

I'd like to welcome the witnesses from the department to the committee. We have Suki Wong, the director for critical infrastructure policy; Peter Hill, the director general for emergency management policy; and Jacques Talbot and Richard Mungall, counsels for the justice department.

For those of you who may be new to the committee and going through clause-by-clause for the first time, we usually have witnesses from the department here to give us advice. They answer any questions we may have about the bill regarding the implications of any of the amendments.

Of course, the legislative clerk is here to answer any questions on procedure, and the research staff will also assist us in our deliberations.

During the clause-by-clause, the committee considers the clauses of the bill, as well as any proposed amendments, in the order they appear in the bill. An amendment is not before the committee until it has been moved by a member of the committee.

We can ask questions and discuss them. The committee will then vote on each amendment, on each clause, and finally on the title and the bill as a whole. Then we present the report to the House.

In today's case, we have three amendments, which have been translated and distributed. Since clause 1 is the short title of the bill, it is automatically postponed to the end of the discussion, according to Standing Order 75(1).

There are no amendments on clause 2. Does clause 2 carry?

(Clause 2 agreed to)

November 9th, 2006 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

I have two questions. One is a comment.

Bill C-12 is a federal piece of legislation dealing with the federal government's responsibility. Municipalities deal with the provinces. It flows up, down, sideways, but it would be a very difficult situation for the federal government to be directly involved with the municipalities, given that the provinces have their domain and jurisdiction.

Is that a reasonable comment?

November 9th, 2006 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

The last comment I'll make--and I'll make this more as a comment, because these are the last witnesses we're going to have on Bill C-12--is that I definitely appreciate everything that's been said, and I know that, again, municipalities are creatures of the province.

This is not to infringe upon jurisdiction, but when I was at the municipal level, and when I, for example, sat on the Canadian Association of Nuclear Host Communities, which is an association of municipalities, we often found that our voices would not be fully heard in terms of the resources we needed and the issues we were facing on the ground if we simply left it up to the provinces, because they didn't have the same degree of understanding. It was kind of like a broken telephone sometimes.

When we're talking about something as important as emergency preparedness, my thought is that including them at the table when there are national associations and there is provincial representation certainly couldn't hurt. I was wondering if you would say that, at the very least, it wouldn't be harmful to have them at the table participating in these committee processes so they could add their input. I can see a lot of benefits, but I can't really see any downside to including them at the table.

So what is the downside of including them at the table through the committee process and ensuring that their voices are heard?

November 9th, 2006 / 10:20 a.m.
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Executive Director, Emergency Measures Organization of Manitoba

Chuck Sanderson

It's a really good question, because there are existing MOUs, but I think, as you heard just now, it's spotty. There isn't consistency to them. Quebec and the maritime provinces have a wonderful MOU with the New England states, but trying to replicate that process with contiguous states and provinces is not easy, because it seems to break down at the congressional approval level.

There may not be a panacea MOU, but we actually are looking at some leadership at the national level in creating just such an MOU that is overarching. In fact today, as we speak, without MOUs in place there is reciprocal assistance going on across that border--be it ambulances, firefighters, whatever--doing it for all the right reasons, but perhaps putting themselves at risk or in jeopardy of workers' compensation and things like that, should they be injured. We need to address that. Rather than 13 provinces and territories having individual MOUs with every state, we should be looking at one overarching MOU. This is not to say that the ones that Jim was referring to should be discarded, because they all add value. But I think there has to be a base level of understanding of mutual assistance across the border, and we're not there yet and we really need to get there.

I think Bill C-12 will help.

November 9th, 2006 / 10:20 a.m.
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Executive Director, Emergency Measures Organization of Manitoba

Chuck Sanderson

I'm not going to speak to the health system, because I'm not an expert on it, but when it comes to pandemics it's clear.... And that's why Bill C-12 is so important.

With things like pandemics and terrorism, all levels of government are going to have to be in sync simultaneously and seamlessly; there's no doubt about that. It was acceptable in the olden days that you could handle the occasional threat, which would mostly be a flood or something like that. You could almost do it with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back. But we're into a completely different scenario these days with pandemics.

So the importance of Bill C-12 is to make sure we're all on the same page.

November 9th, 2006 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

I guess that's the whole crux of Bill C-12, to provide that umbrella, if you will. I think that's what you're concurring with. It provides that umbrella for the federal government to work with the provinces, not to take over the role that's already there in the municipalities and the provinces. It's not intended to take away their authority or their responsibility at the first level.

Dr. Young, I know you have spent a great deal of time in the United States and dealt with authorities there. My sense is that we're a fair bit ahead of where the Americans are. When they talk about Katrina, there's a difference between the state and the federal government there and the provinces and the federal government here.

November 9th, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to the people who are here in Manitoba.

My interest in this is Bill C-12, not the local issues particularly. What I'd like to know, particularly from Dr. Young and Mr. Sanderson, is whether this bill, as it's currently structured, gives you the tools to work with the federal government, and whether it gives you equally the tools or the comfort to know that we can work with our neighbours, both east and west, and more to the south.

November 9th, 2006 / 10:05 a.m.
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Executive Director, Emergency Measures Organization of Manitoba

Chuck Sanderson

Well, the Red River floodway is the poster child of mitigation in Canada. There is a lot of mitigation activity that can take place that isn't quite that grandiose. In fact, we've been working at the federal-provincial-territorial level to try to create a national disaster mitigation program and strategy.

Back to Bill C-12, somebody at the federal level needs to take the reins of that and make it a reality, because as we just heard, there are pieces of mitigation and preparedness, as in reinforcing existing schools built before building codes were changed, and that has to happen at a national level. A Bill C-12 mandate for PSEPC to drive a national disaster mitigation strategy is what we're looking for at the provincial level, so that when there's a national program on disaster mitigation, then the provinces and territories can cut in with their piece of the action.

November 9th, 2006 / 9:55 a.m.
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Executive Director, Emergency Measures Organization of Manitoba

Chuck Sanderson

May I make a comment on that?

It's a really interesting discussion that you're having, and it's focusing right now on one industry and a particular threat, basically. I would like to just say what I think this discussion is and how it relates to Bill C-12 and how it relates to a mandate of PSEPC.

There is a thing called critical infrastructure assurance out there. It's a new term, but basically there are approximately ten sectors out there that depend on each other, and we depend on them. When one sector goes down for some reason, other cascading effects happen in other sectors.

A lot of work needs to happen in this country in bringing sectoral leaders together to ensure that sectors that include such things as nuclear, which would probably be under the sector heading of utilities, are actually linked at the national level; that those leaders are sitting at a table, talking about assurances of protection, assurances of standards, those types of things.

There has to be an entity at the national level that brings this together, that has the weight and the mandate to do that. That's what provinces and territories are looking for in Bill C-12 through PSEPC. From a larger critical infrastructure sector perspective, the kinds of questions you're asking of the nuclear industry are specific and need to come to the table at a larger level. I think Bill C-12 has the capacity to do that, to put PSEPC in a leadership position to bring that together.

November 9th, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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Director General, Directorate of Security and Safeguards, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Gerry Frappier

As Mr. Pereira said, after September 11, the commission immediately put out an emergency order that required all the nuclear stations in class I facilities to upgrade their security in a significant way, including having a very significant armed presence there at all times and to increase perimeter security. So the example you're giving at Point Lepreau from the past would certainly not be the case now.

Part of the regulations does require that there is consultation with local authorities, and then part of our job, if you like, back here in Ottawa is to ensure that there is coordination with CSIS and RCMP, both in general for the overall framework and specifically for particular facilities.

I think Bill C-12 will enhance that ability of coordination, because again, as we've mentioned several times, it makes it much clearer that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, and therefore the department as well, has a role to ensure that overall coordination is in place. It specifically mentions the threat as far as terrorism goes.

I agree 100% with our colleagues from Manitoba that the big part here that everybody likes to focus on very quickly is the actual response, but the real work is done in the preparation phase, in mitigating the possibilities. We certainly expect PSEPC, when this bill passes, will continue to expand quite a bit on its capability to ensure that there's good coordination and planning before any incidents, including terrorism.

November 9th, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

In terms of your analysis of Bill C-12, will it in any way enhance that consultation or that exchange of information with your commission?

November 9th, 2006 / 9:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Sure. Maybe I'll just set the stage for Mr. Sanderson on that.

I want to clarify that you're not making recommendations for changes to the bill as it stands now, and your comments are generally related to the second question I posed on what we should do immediately after passing Bill C-12 to ensure it remains effective.

So to Mr. Sanderson, do you have changes for the bill now, and what do you think are the most important steps to take after Bill C-12 is implemented?

November 9th, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

But you don't have any changes or recommendations to Bill C-12?

November 9th, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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Executive Vice-President, Operations Branch, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Ken Pereira

Thank you for the question.

The challenge we see always in emergency management is to coordinate the roles of the different players. When we look at the mandates and the plans in place of each of the responding organizations, we find that they have sound programs and procedures in place, but the challenge we always face is to bring the different response arrangements into synergy with each other. How we can better integrate those is something that we, in working with Health Canada on the federal nuclear emergency program, have looked at.

I've been in a number of meetings with our partners on the nuclear side to look at how we could streamline the programs if we were challenged in a real emergency. Our hope is that Bill C-12 will address the issue of integration by looking for programs that are designed to promote synergy.

November 9th, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses. I appreciate your coming before the committee today.

I'm wondering if we could just start with specific thoughts on Bill C-12 from each of the witnesses and on any areas of concern you may have, or areas where you feel the bill should be improved. I know that we've gone through a couple of different versions of this bill to arrive at where we are now today, so there has been a lot of opportunity for input.

For example, when you spoke, Mr. Pereira, you said that the bill wouldn't have any negative impact on what you were trying to achieve, but obviously we want to go beyond that. I'm wondering if you could give your thoughts on what specifically you would like to see changed or amended in Bill C-12.

Further to that, Mr. Pereira, you talked about needing to update the federal emergency plans generally as a consequence of Bill C-12 being enacted. What are some of the first steps you see after Bill C-12 is enacted?

November 9th, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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Executive Director, Emergency Measures Organization of Manitoba

Chuck Sanderson

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

Good morning, everyone--and hi, Jim.

Jim Young and I have met each other on many occasions.

Just to give you a little background, each province and territory has an emergency measures organization. That organization has the mandate to coordinate, or command and control, if you will, emergency events within the province. I'm speaking today from Manitoba's perspective only, but there is an entity out there, called the Canadian Council of Emergency Measures Organizations, that could assist this standing committee on getting consensus opinion from provinces and territories on emergency management issues as they relate to Bill C-12. I encourage the committee to do that through the chair of CCEMO, which is Michel Doré, the director of EMO in Quebec.

Again, talking from a Manitoba perspective, there is an entity in each province that coordinates emergencies within the province. In a national event, provinces and territories are looking to, and expecting, the Canadian government to have an equivalent entity at the national level that will coordinate, or command and control, all federal resources to assist the provinces. At this time, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada is the logical entity to do that. We're looking at Bill C-12 to give some clarity and some mandate to PSEPC to in fact do that. The one-window concept of the federal government is what I believe provinces and territories are looking for. I certainly know that Manitoba is looking for that.

If there is a lack of clarity on the role of PSEPC as the coordinating entity for emergencies at the federal level, then I believe we run the risk that the important work that is trying to be done now, at the collaborative federal-provincial-territorial level, will continue to flounder because of that lack of clarity. So all provinces and territories are looking quite eagerly to Bill C-12 to provide clarity on the mandate of PSEPC.

I would be more than happy to answer questions on what the consequences might be if there is a lack of clarity at the end of Bill C-12.

Those are my opening remarks.

November 9th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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Ken Pereira Executive Vice-President, Operations Branch, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee.

For the record, my name is Ken Pereira. I am the executive vice-president of operations at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. I am joined here today by Mr. Gerry Frappier, director general of our directorate of security and safeguards. Mr. Frappier is responsible for the direction of the CNSC's emergency preparedness and response functions.

My comments today will be in English but we will be pleased to answer questions from members of the Committee in the official language of their choice.

Ms. Keen, our president, would have been here today to address you, but she is away presiding over hearings on the renewal of the operating licence for the Gentilly-2 nuclear generating station in Bécancour, Quebec. On behalf of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, I would like to thank you for inviting us to appear before your committee.

Let me begin by telling you a little about the mandate of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and our approach to emergency management. The mission of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is to regulate the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security, and the environment in Canada, and to address Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The CNSC has over 600 staff. While primarily based in Ottawa, we also have inspectors stationed at regional and site offices. We accomplish our mission through a licensing process that requires licensees to demonstrate that their operations are safe. At the basis of the regulatory system is the requirement for licensees to incorporate multiple layers of protection whenever nuclear energy or materials are used. Thus, CNSC also licenses the import, export, and transportation of nuclear materials and other prescribed substances, equipment, technology, and dual-use items.

The issue of emergency management is viewed by the commission and its members to be of critical importance. The capacity of licensees to respond effectively to nuclear or radiological emergencies receives significant attention during the consideration of licence applications and renewals. Effective linkages between the licensee and local first responders are also of key importance.

The CNSC has a dual role in nuclear emergency management: first, in terms of oversight of our licensees, ensuring that their emergency capabilities are as robust as possible; and secondly, in terms of our own involvement in the case of an emergency. I will briefly outline both areas and the high degree of coordination with other government agencies that this entails.

We derive our regulatory authority from the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, which came into force in May 2000. The act provides CNSC staff with significant powers, including the right to order specific actions by licensees, responders, and government agencies at all levels, to address nuclear or radiological emergencies.

Fortunately, there has never been a serious nuclear or radiological emergency in Canada. The significance of nuclear and radiological incidents is rated according to the international nuclear event scale published by the International Atomic Energy Agency. This scale runs from one to seven in increasing order of significance.

Since the mid-1950s, no event in Canada has ever been rated higher than level 2 on this scale. Nonetheless, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, or CNSC for short, maintains a comprehensive nuclear emergency management program.

During a nuclear emergency, we monitor the response of the licensee, evaluate their response actions and the response of any other organization involved, provide technical advice and direction in line with our mandate, provide field response personnel to assist local authorities, as needed, and inform the government and the public on our assessment of the situation.

To continually evaluate and improve our emergency response capabilities, the CNSC regularly participates in simulated incidents in collaboration with its licensees, provincial emergency management organizations, and other federal government departments and agencies.

In fact, in October of this year we participated in two emergency response exercises involving Canadian nuclear generating stations at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick and in Bruce County, Ontario. These simulated emergencies were part of an annual schedule of training, station drills, and exercises designed to improve and practise the emergency response capabilities of the CNSC, the licensees, and other stakeholders. Our emergency response plan is updated regularly based on the lessons learned through these exercises.

As indicated, we require licensees to have robust emergency response capabilities in place to address identified risks and to ensure that their personnel are trained and are regularly exercised in their emergency response procedures.

Licensee emergency plans must be approved by the CNSC. Inspectors from our security and safeguards directorate routinely observe these exercises to evaluate the performance of the licensee personnel and identify weaknesses and make recommendations for improvement. In the most severe situations, they may order changes to procedures and practices. This reflects our belief that emergency preparedness or readiness is a continuum of improvement.

The need for coordination across jurisdictions is one of the most challenging areas of emergency management. We work in close collaboration with the provincial emergency management organizations on emergency response issues, particularly in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, where the nuclear generating stations are located. To the highest degree possible, we endeavour to ensure that our response plans and procedures are linked to those at other levels of response. In Ontario, for example, the CNSC has a defined role in the provincial nuclear emergency response plan, and our staff sit in the provincial operations centre during operations involving nuclear or radiological incidents. We also work closely with emergency measures organizations in other provinces and territories to support their ability to respond to radiological incidents.

Staff from the CNSC regional offices across the country and from our Ottawa headquarters often visit licensee facilities to ensure operations are being conducted safely and in accordance with licence criteria. These oversight activities go a long way toward reducing the risk of accidents that could result in an emergency. Along with other departments and agencies, we are dedicated to maintaining overall federal readiness to respond. The federal nuclear emergency plan, FNEP, describes how federal government organizations collaborate to respond to nuclear radiological emergencies in Canada. The CNSC has a significant and clearly defined role in that response is given over our legal authority over the use of nuclear energy and substances. Responsibility for the FNEP is currently vested in our Minister of Health, and Health Canada is designated to lead the response on that front.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission supports initiatives to improve and strengthen leadership and coordination in the area of emergency management in Canada. Along with other federal departments and agencies, CNSC staff provided input to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada in the development of Bill C-12. We know that Bill C-12 proposes significant changes to the responsibilities of the Minister of Public Safety, essentially designating him or her as the default lead federal minister during times of emergency. These changes to ministerial responsibilities suggest a need to revisit and update current federal emergency management plans, such as FNEP, to ensure they remain current and effective.

There is also a need to maintain and maximize the synergy among federal, provincial, and territorial plans and procedures. As I've said, the need for coordination across jurisdictions is one of the most challenging areas of emergency management. This initiative underscores the government's engagement in emergency management at all levels and the need for collaboration with the provinces and local authorities in responding to emergencies.

In closing, I would like to say that in our view there is nothing in the proposed legislation that will negatively affect our ability to maintain safety oversight over the nuclear industry in Canada. We believe Bill C-12 fits well with our current nuclear emergency management program and response plan, and that its enactment will not necessitate a major shift in our approach. The CNSC looks forward to working with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada and other federal stakeholders in updating current plans and procedures.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I thank you again for inviting us here today. We would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.

Thank you.

November 9th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

I'd like to call this meeting to order. This is the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This is meeting number 20, and we are here today on an order of reference from September 22, 2006, in regards to Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts

I'd like to welcome our witnesses this morning.

We have, from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Mr. Ken Pereira, the executive vice-president. I'll let him introduce his colleagues there. We also have, from Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Mr. Jim Young, the special adviser to the deputy minister. Video conferencing from Manitoba, from the Emergency Measures Organization of Manitoba, we have Mr. Chuck Sanderson.

Welcome, sir. I hope you can hear us.

October 26th, 2006 / 10:15 a.m.
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Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

If I may, at the beginning of your comments you asked us to make sure, if we have any changes to Bill C-12, that we propose them.

Things can always be improved, but specifically Bill C-12 has the one piece that we want. Perhaps members of this committee and other committees are not used to people coming and saying, “We're happy with what you put forward. Please pass it.” This is the second time this legislation has come forward. It has not yet passed. I hope it passes this time. That's my primary concern at this stage. We have a piece of legislation that I think is a good piece of legislation. I'm sorry if you were expecting us to come and complain to you. We didn't come to complain today; we came to thank you for moving it forward. It's been introduced now by two different governments, so I hope it has bipartisan support and it'll get through this time.

But as to specific issues on exchange of information and frequency....

October 26th, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

What Mr. Carrier is asking is, do you have any thoughts about Bill C-12, any suggestions, any amendments? If you're not prepared at this point to answer that, we can always make a written submission. You can think about this for a few days, and we would welcome any further input you would have. Would that be fair to say, Monsieur Carrier?

Okay, is there anything else? I've had an indication of another question by Mr. Norlock.

October 26th, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
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Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

It's not something we've looked at and have specifically identified. Mind you, it's not our responsibility to assess how effectively the federal government protects its own assets. Our specific concern on this piece of legislation, Bill C-12, is on the protection of the information.

October 26th, 2006 / 10:05 a.m.
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Director, Corporate Security, Hydro One Networks, Canadian Electricity Association

Chris Price

Yes, that's pretty much how it works.

I can speak only for Ontario, but if you take a look at the responsibility that Emergency Management Ontario has, and the requirement for municipalities to put their emergency plans in, as the transmitter and being that link between municipalities, we work very closely with municipalities. I don't see that at this point there's a problem with that, so I don't see Bill C-12 as hindering this at all.

October 26th, 2006 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

My friend talks frequently—and I understand from his perspective—about municipalities not being named in Bill C-12. First, I suspect your relationship with utilities, because you're both somewhat provincial, is at the provincial government level, which deals with municipalities; they're at the table with the provinces. You've read Bill C-12, and would you agree that the federal government is trying to pull together the provinces, as opposed to taking on an additional role of pulling together the municipalities into the same bill?

Maybe it's a confusing statement, but I guess what I'm saying is that Bill C-12's role is to work with the provinces. It's up to the provinces to work with the municipalities to bring them to the table, and then the table gets filled by all the partners.

October 26th, 2006 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here.

Here are a couple of things. First, we really are dealing with Bill C-12 and we've gone off into a variety of things.

Just as a little follow-up, we always seem to have not a problem but an issue in Canada worrying about what information Homeland Security wants from us, but is the reverse equally true? Do we get information from them, so that it's a two-way street—we pass them information or they request information, but we also want information here? And do we get it from them?

October 26th, 2006 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you. I'm not sure that directly pertained to Bill C-12, but it's an interesting side event.

I would like to follow up a little, because there's a little time.

You made a comment earlier, and it ties in with what Mr. Hawn was asking you. Your concern isn't so much about information sharing as that not enough information may be shared between countries. Would you mind elaborating on what you mean by your concern about maybe “not enough” information being shared, rather than its being shared inappropriately?

October 26th, 2006 / 9:50 a.m.
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Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

Probably the companies here can respond to their specific circumstances.

I don't want to make it sound as though we think everything is going to be solved by Bill C-12. There are some very significant issues and there will continue to be significant issues in terms of improved coordination, improved communication, and we can always do better. I don't think any of us would ever get to the point of saying the relationship among the different players in the planning and execution of protection is perfect, and it never will be perfect, but as I said earlier, this is a first step.

In terms of the specifics on this, I don't know if Mr. Price or Mr. Davis or Mr. Ouimet want to talk about coordination.

October 26th, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Francis Bradley

Certainly. We have actually been consulted fairly extensively in the development of this. As I mentioned, it's an issue generally that we raised, likely first in the first meeting we had with the CIP task force all the way back in March 2000. It's an issue we raised subsequently in 2001 and 2002, both in face-to-face meetings and in correspondence we had with the head of the CIP task force and then subsequently the deputy minister.

We have participated, as I've said, in a number of meetings, and prior to this current incarnation of the bill—I believe it was first introduced as Bill C-78, if my memory serves me correctly—we were consulted in the months leading up to the introduction of Bill C-78. In fact, we were also briefed on the afternoon Bill C-78 was tabled in the House.

So we had pretty solid engagement for a number of years on the issue, and specifically on the legislation, we had been engaged in the months leading up to, first, the introduction of Bill C-78 and then of Bill C-12. So we were happy with the level of engagement we had.

October 26th, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

That's fair.

On the consultation leading up to the development of this bill, Bill C-12, can you just describe to me how the government engaged you on the bill and what consultation you participated in?

October 26th, 2006 / 9:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

First of all, thank you to the witnesses for coming today and taking the time to speak to our committee with respect to Bill C-12.

I am going to start with some issues on which I have concern and on which I would be interested in your perspective, and then move to some things you might be suggesting.

Obviously you're quite right, after 2003 and the blackout people understand just how critical a resource electricity is and how essential it is and the devastating impact it can have when there are disruptions.

I am going to draw from my experience, and certainly both Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation, and perhaps all of you, can relate to the important role that municipalities play when these problems occur. For example, if there's a situation in Pickering with the plant, some of the first communications are between the municipality and the station as well as with the local Veridian Corporation, which I was on the board of directors of, and with local utility operators, distributors.

My concern is that this bill doesn't really address municipalities or bring them to the table at all. I am wondering what your thoughts are on that and how you think that might be addressed. Do you think they should be at the table as part of this process? There's barely a reference to them in the bill. Do you think they should be partners at the table and taking part in the broader discussions around emergency planning, when they are, in many cases, the first responders and the people who you would be dealing with right away as well?

October 26th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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Francis Bradley Vice-President, Corporate Resources, Canadian Electricity Association

Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members.

Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you to discuss Bill C-12 and to inform you about the viewpoint of the members of the Canadian electricity sector.

My name is Francis Bradley. I am Vice-President of the Canadian Electricity Association, which represents all electricity-related areas of activity in Canada, including production, transportation, distribution, customer service and electric energy marketing.

I'm responsible for the association's critical infrastructure protection activities, or CIP program, which was launched in January 2000.

The chairman of our CIP working group, Dave Baumken, from Hydro One, was unable to join us today. He's actually in Germany representing Canada at a NATO event, but he asked that I convey his greetings to the committee and offer, on behalf of CEA, to provide a subsequent briefing to the committee on the security of the electricity sector, at the committee's convenience.

With me today are the persons responsible for the security activities of three of the largest electricity businesses in the country.

Chris Price is with Hydro One, the Ontario transmission and distribution company. Jim Davis is with Ontario Power Generation, the largest power generation company in this province, with hydro, thermal, and nuclear generating facilities.

Jean-Guy Ouimet represents Hydro-Quebec, the main producer, transporter and distributor of electricity in Quebec. Mr. Ouimet is also the chair of our task force.

Following my introduction, we'll be pleased to discuss our views on Bill C-12 and on the challenge of protecting the electricity industry in Canada.

Our critical infrastructure protection initiative looks at both physical and cyber threats and events. It takes an all-hazards approach, and it includes work on such diverse issues as pandemic planning and marijuana grow ops.

Given the interconnected nature or electricity in North America, we work closely with the North American Electric Reliability Council, the NERC. In fact, a Canadian, Stuart Brindley, of Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator, is the chair of the NERC CIP committee, and he's a former chair of our group.

The regulatory framework of Canada's electricity industry is different from that in the United States.

In the U.S., the federal administration holds essential authority for regulating this industry. In Canada, it's the provinces that have most of the powers in this area. It goes without saying that this aspect has at times made our security activities more complex, requiring coordination between federal and provincial authorities and between federal departments.

In addition to our North American activities through the North American Electric Reliability Council, we also collaborate with other sectors in Canada and with a wide range of government officials at Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Natural Resources Canada, the RCMP, and CSIS, to name a few.

The association launched its CIP initiative following the Y2K transition. While Y2K was seen by many to be a non-event, we learned a great deal during the transition, most particularly about infrastructure interdependencies and the importance of information sharing.

During the Y2K transition, the federal government's activities were coordinated through the National Contingency Planning Group. The NCPG played a critical role in engaging all infrastructure sectors and providing analysis of the interdependencies between the various sectors. Their analytical work was subsequently captured in a March 2000 report entitled “Canadian Infrastructure Interdependencies”. I highly recommend it to the committee, as it left no doubt as to the importance of electricity.

Electricity is the original and ultimate example of just-in-time manufacturing. It cannot be stockpiled in large quantities like other commodities.

From the moment someone switches on a light or boots up his computer, the additional electricity that action requires must immediately be available at a power station that may be located hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.

The importance of electricity to the economy was detailed in a discussion paper published by PSEPC that reviewed the 2003 blackout. Permit me a moment to quote from that NCIAP discussion paper, which came out in November of 2004: The August 2003 blackout provided an object lesson in infrastructure interdependencies by demonstrating how a disruption in one infrastructure can cascade across others. This was the largest blackout ever in North America, leaving 50 million people from New York to Toronto without power for up to two days. Ontario's public health infrastructure was stressed due to hospitals operating on emergency generators. Food and water supplies were put at risk. Grocery stores were forced to discard thousands of dollars worth of food and water treatment plants operated on emergency power. Thousands of Ontarians felt a cash crunch due to closed banks and disabled bank and debit machines. Transportation and commuting were disrupted when gas stations were unable to pump gasoline (pumps require electricity to be able to operate). Flights were cancelled at both international airports in Ontario (Toronto and Ottawa). An extraordinary volume of calls created tremendous backlogs on 911 systems, and cellular transmitter stations failed when their battery back-up power was exhausted.

Given the importance that electricity plays in our economy, CEA began engaging the federal government on CIP early in 2000, initially through the federal government's CIP task force; subsequently with the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, OCIPEP; and then with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, PSEPC. We've worked cooperatively with governments and government officials on a wide range of initiatives over the past six years, from providing input on policy matters to developing scenarios for and participating in tabletop exercises.

However, from the start of this relationship, our most urgent concern has been the issue of an effective information sharing framework.

According to the assessments that the government itself has conducted, the private sector owns and operates 85 percent of the essential infrastructure. It is mainly responsible for protecting its own property.

An effective two-way movement of information between the private sector and government is essential to our success.

The importance of protecting industry-provided information has been acknowledged by the Department of Homeland Security in the United States. Through their protected critical infrastructure information program, they have recognized that they need to work with the private sector and provide protection for information.

Even if an information sharing framework requires much more than mere protection of the information that the industry provides to government, we consider protection the basis of a relationship of trust between these two partners.

The protection accorded to information provided by industry to government in Bill C-12 will allow for a far greater depth of collaboration. We believe that it will greatly enhance the partnership that already exists between industry and the Government of Canada, and that it is the backbone of a much bigger relationship.

It's been said that there's a wealth of information available in the public domain about the vulnerabilities of our sector. This may have been true once, but no longer is that the case. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the industry moved rapidly to remove information from the public domain that could compromise the safety and security of systems, and in 2002 we began adhering to a North America-wide standard for protecting potentially sensitive information.

Industry has information that cannot be shared without the protection provided for in Bill C-12, and we believe that it would benefit PSEPC as well as federal security, intelligence, and law enforcement to be able to access this information in the planning and execution of infrastructure protection activities or law enforcement activities, which, if not implemented appropriately, could lead to unnecessary threats against the electricity sector.

For things to be this way, a complete information sharing framework is still necessary. Protecting information is the first important step.

To sum up, we feel that the bill strikes a fair and prudent balance between the public's right to information and the imperative of ensuring the protection of the electricity industry, this central infrastructure essential to everyone.

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. My colleagues and I would be happy to discuss Bill C-12 or other CIP matters with you.

October 26th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

I call this meeting to order.

This is the sixteenth meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and today we are having a meeting in regard to Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

We would like to welcome our witnesses from the Canadian Electricity Association. I believe the leader of the delegation is Mr. Francis Bradley, and he is the vice-president of corporate resources.

We welcome you and the people who are with you, sir. I will allow you to make an opening statement. You can introduce your colleagues, and if any of them have any comments or statements, they can make them as well.

Normally we allow ten minutes, sir, but if you need more time, you may take more, as you are the only witnesses today. After you are done, our procedure is usually to go to the government side first, then the official opposition Liberals, and then we'll go back over to the government side to conclude the first round of questioning, which consists of seven-minute turns.

Again, welcome. We look forward to the testimony that you have for us. You may begin.

October 19th, 2006 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

I have a question, Mr. Chairman.

I have not said much, because I am not aware of the legislation surrounding Bill C-12. However, I can tell you about my experience during the 1998 ice storm.

I was city counsellor at the time, in a municipality that did not wait for the go-ahead from either the provincial nor the federal government in order to declare a state of emergency. The first people to be contacted were instinctively the police, even before 911 emergency services. Second, came city council.

During that time, we responded by developing emergency measures for the city. We then extended the measures to larger cities, because in my riding, some municipalities have a population of 112 citizens. The locals know where water treatment facilities are. We received tons of phone calls from volunteers wanting to offer their services. We did not have to go running after them; they were there. The only help we receive from the federal government came from the Armed Forces, that told us they could provide us with small cots if need be, that these cots were available.

My question is for Mr. Knight. We did not wait for help from either the provincial nor the federal government, so what are cities outside of Quebec waiting for to develop emergency response systems, why do they need legislation to force their hand?

October 19th, 2006 / 10:30 a.m.
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David Pratt Advisor and Special Ambassador, Canadian Red Cross

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to address the issue of the auxiliary-to-government role, because that is really the crux of where we stand as an organization. We recoil--I guess that's the best word to use--from being described as another NGO within the voluntary sector, because we do have this special relationship. However, the auxiliary-to-government relationship is not one that's very well understood, even within the Red Cross movement, let alone government.

We have been trying over the course of the last few years to raise the profile of this particular issue for the Red Cross. We've been encouraged to do that, as well, by the international Red Cross movement. When we look at our statute, for instance, which Dr. Duplessis made reference to--it goes back to 1909, and our letters patent go back to 1970--there's really a pressing need to update our legislation to bring it into the 21st century, to say nothing of the 20th century, and to really make some changes that would recognize this special relationship.

In this regard, I have to say that the reception from PSEPC at this point is actually very encouraging, especially over the last couple of months since they've been aware of this initiative we've been pursuing. They've been very, very attentive to our needs and they understand our concerns about the auxiliary-to-government role, not just as it relates to PSEPC--because actually we would see PSEPC as the lead department in this--but within the broader range of relationships that we have with the Government of Canada. It's not only our relationship with PSEPC that's important; we have a relationship with DND, CIDA, Foreign Affairs, even Industry Canada, and with Transport Canada in terms of water safety, etc.

There's a larger relationship here that we're trying to keep our eyes on. And to the extent that we would like to see ourselves recognized in the legislation--clause 3--as auxiliary to government, we're not prepared to push that at this point, because these discussions are ongoing. We certainly hope they'll produce a better understanding within the Government of Canada of the auxiliary role, and that at the end of the day we will see some changes.

I have to emphasize as well, on this conversation we have with PSEPC in terms of the consultation process, that even though it probably wasn't a formal one in connection with Bill C-12, there's a constant conversation going on between the department and the Canadian Red Cross. Mr. Shropshire is part of the disaster group for emergency management. He co-chairs that group with an assistant deputy minister. So there are some very high-level contacts that take place. I can tell you without hesitation that people at the Red Cross are in contact with PSEPC almost on a daily basis.

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.

October 19th, 2006 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Is there anything that is in conflict with Bill C-12, or is it all marching along?

October 19th, 2006 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

So it's almost a translation of Bill C-12 into a regulatory or at least an operational framework. That's the objective of it.

October 19th, 2006 / 10:25 a.m.
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National Director, Disaster Management, Canadian Red Cross

Don Shropshire

There are many aspects of the MOU we signed with the minister that are certainly covered in Bill C-12.

The operation of it is the part we're now working on with the minister's staff, to look at how we can actually prepare it, put boots on the ground, and make sure there's the search capacity we spoke to. But certainly all of the different aspects, from mitigation through to the recovery aspects, are covered within the bill and within the memorandum of understanding.

October 19th, 2006 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for joining us.

I have a question first for the Red Cross.

Dr. Duplessis, you mentioned an MOU with Minister Day. Are aspects of that MOU covered in Bill C-12? Are there aspects that should be covered in Bill C-12? Are there aspects that are in conflict with anything in Bill C-12?

October 19th, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you so much.

Thank you again for appearing today.

I have a couple of things. First, it goes to show you that assumptions are a dangerous thing. Before Mr. Norlock had asked this question, I was assuming that both of you had been consulted in the lead-up to Bill C-12 and its development. I'm deeply concerned that you were not.

Mr. Duplessis, I understand you're giving a somewhat nuanced no. But by the same token, it sounds more that you were just made aware in sort of a general context that it was happening and sort of maybe in an ancillary way engaged. That concerns me, and it certainly concerns me that FCM wasn't engaged there.

If I can, I'm going to start specifically on the legislation with FCM. I'm a bit surprised by what you're asking for, in that you're not asking for more in this process. A reference to some kind of engagement with municipalities might be a start, but I'm surprised you're not asking for more, and I'll explain why.

In developing this bill or dealing with it, municipalities are first responders. Municipalities are the ones—as a municipal councillor, I know—who play an enormous role in the success of responding to an emergency, and as the ones who are on the ground and closest to the emergency and understand it best, they need to be resourced and they need to be tied into what's happening. Oftentimes they have the best understanding of what needs to occur.

You referenced the fact, or at least I thought you did, Mr. Knight, that you're looking for a seat at the table. I'm wondering what form that would take. How could we ensure that this happens, and then how can we ensure that in fact you're included in the dialogue?

I often think that if you're just having discussions between the province and the federal government, there's a lot of extremely important information and local knowledge that is being left out of the loop. If you're not at the table, important considerations are going to be missed and important needs of municipalities will be ignored, in terms of the resources and infrastructure that they require.

I don't know if you want to comment on that.

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

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

I would go back to Mr. Knight and his observation that municipalities have to be recognized. I did read your submission last night. I must admit that I could only devote about an hour and a half to it. I'm being frank and honest. We get a tremendous amount to read. But I did go through it.

One of the recurring themes, of course, is funding. Everyone has a limitation with regard to funding. I suspect very strongly that sometimes the drafters of legislation.... Of course you've observed by now that I'm new at this game, so I'm not afraid to take chances. Everybody has their hand out for more money. The money comes from one person--the very person who pays municipal and provincial taxes. Whether it's in the province of Quebec, Ontario, or anywhere else, the money all comes from the same pockets.

But once again, if safety is the primary responsibility, we shouldn't shy away from that. We have to make sure there's coordination. In my observation, it's not always about the money. It's about how you use the money, and it's about how you use the existing resources to get the maximum outputs.

That brings me to the most important part, and the one theme I keep stressing at this committee. When we hear from people and organizations, specifically policing organizations, they don't always have the information. You don't always have the best idea from inside your organization. You have sister organizations throughout Canada and the world who have gone through what you have gone through, and they have what we commonly refer to as “best practices”.

I'm sure you're going to be consulted. I'm going to work hard to see that you are. What you've said here of course is part of the consultative process to improvements to Bill C-12. So I'm sure the minister is going to hear what you have said this morning.

But have you engaged in best practices with other countries? You mentioned Hurricane Katrina. Would you be prepared to give information to this group as to what you've observed from other communities with respect to that?

This question is also for the Red Cross.

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

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Yes. Thank you very much.

Thirty years of policing in smaller-town Ontario was very much a part of my latter years in emergency planning with municipalities, and of course because of our relationship with the province of Ontario. Any experiences, from a policing perspective, where things went on and went awry, were usually a result of information not getting to the people it needed to get to. I understand what you are referring to with regard to information.

That having been said.... And I'm not that sensitive about criticism. As I said, those years gave me a pretty thick hide to criticism. In the absence of this current bill.... Is what was there before better? That's my first question, because if it was better, then we need to revisit things. If it wasn't better, does this bill start to get the job done? That's number one.

Second, yes, I suspect very strongly that your observations are correct with regard to the extreme sensitivity the Canadian federal government has to jurisdictional responsibilities. I liked your word “jealousies”. I have to be very sensitive also to the fact that I'm a member of government, so I guess I should not even have used that word. The fact is that we have a reality. But you are right when you say that the absolute first responsibility is to the welfare of the people of Canada.

I have to now go to the beginning. First, is it better than what was there?

The second question is for both of your organizations. Were you part of the initial planning of Bill C-12? In other words, were you consulted other than being here this morning? If you were, did you express at that time the concerns you've expressed here today?

October 19th, 2006 / 9:55 a.m.
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Chief Executive Officer, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

James Knight

We don't think so. This is our one concern about Bill C-12. It inadequately recognizes the critical role of local governments--MRCs, counties. All forms of local government are not fully recognized. There's just the most fleeting of references, and it seems to us that there is an important communications need here.

When federal policies are being made, those policies are made very far from on-the-ground reality. Very few federal civil servants have any idea about municipal operations. In fact, their training has been that that's something they should not even think about, because it's clearly a provincial jurisdiction. We understand that.

But when dealing particularly with our large urban areas, the complexity of them is so great that it's important that the federal government be given some direct understanding of how things work on the ground at the local level. I think that's one of the benefits that some municipal participation--I mention this specific committee--would bring to the exercise. I think it would be useful to reflect this general point, perhaps in an informal way.

Thank you.

October 19th, 2006 / 9:55 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you.

I just have a question from the chair before I turn it over to the government. Do you feel that Bill C-12 would address the problem you observed during Katrina?

October 19th, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair and Mr. Ménard, for that gracious accommodation.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.

Let me follow up on the chair's direction. The major problem I have with Bill C-12 is the one you've raised, Mr. Knight, and I think docteur Duplessis, vous aussi, in the sense that the bill in two very peripheral areas doesn't seem to bring in the municipal level of government or the significant agencies that actually deal with the problem, particularly at first phase.

It's a reality that we live in a federated country and the question we put to the officials, perhaps more general than this is, was how do you interact. We were given assurances that in fact the interaction is occurring but it's at an informal level--which is perhaps not a strong enough term, but it's certainly not legislatively mandated because it can't be legislatively mandated.

I wonder if you have any suggestions as to how we get around that conundrum. How do we amend this bill to in effect create the formal relationship between a lower level of government directly and the NGOs?

October 19th, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much.

I hope many of the remarks and the questions will tie in with Bill C-12, and suggest improvements and so on. I'd ask the questioners and our witnesses to try to focus in, because that's really the purpose of this meeting, to try to improve the legislation if possible.

Monsieur Ménard, from the Bloc Québécois. Go ahead, please.

October 19th, 2006 / 9:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Knight, Dr. Duplessis, and your colleagues, especially my former colleague and Minister of National Defence, David Pratt, we're grateful that you're here today. I'd like to underline the importance of your presence and who you represent.

The reality of modern governance is that no level of government can deal with a major issue alone, even if the issue is properly integrated across that government's various departments and branches. A government has to work with its opposite numbers at every level. But good governance goes beyond even governments themselves. It involves the market and the academy. Most important, it involves civil society and the volunteer sector that plays a part in it.

These two organizations perhaps exhibit the best practices of modern governance in this country, from the civil society side, the intergovernmental side, and, with FCM, the intragovernmental side. I thank you for that. I think the importance of your role in governance is best demonstrated by what you're doing in emergency preparedness. One thing about Bill C-12 is that we've changed emergency preparedness to emergency management. I wouldn't want to give that away. With proper precautionary action, we might not have to manage an emergency. With the right planning, we might be able to avoid it, or at least mitigate it.

The hardest dollar for any government to spend is a preventative dollar. It doesn't have the urgency. It doesn't have the public imperative. The work that we're considering and that you prepare yourself to practise is immensely important, but it's also the toughest budget to find dollars for. Risk management is just the likelihood of an occurrence multiplied by its consequences. If it's a small likelihood with catastrophic consequences, we had better pay a lot of attention to it. I know that's what you're speaking to today.

I'd like to consider the natural disaster category and leave terrorism and such aside for a moment. We often think we can't avoid the natural disasters, but we can certainly prepare ourselves to react to them quickly. I want to ask your opinion about the possibility of a specific natural disaster. I want to get the value of your experience on how we might deal with it together. I'm talking about the risk of seismic activity on the west coast of Canada and the United States. Some schools that have not been properly updated are particularly vulnerable. Some of them are brick or plaster and 60 or 70 years old.

We know that a major seismic event is going to happen in the Vancouver-Victoria-Seattle area, and this brings in the international aspect that Dr. Duplessis mentioned. We have dozens of substandard schools for our children, while we are in post-and-beam houses or in modern office buildings that are well protected and able to withstand a major seismic event. Our children are sitting beneath piles of bricks and in buildings that will instantly collapse. It seems to me that this is off the radar screen of our emergency preparedness or management. Could you draw on the experience of each of your organizations and tell us how we should be approaching this situation? This is a disaster waiting to happen.

Simply to add the international component to it, Seattle faced a similar situation where they did have a major seismic event that just missed Vancouver a number of years ago, but they reacted immediately to evaluate and then stabilize all of those old structures, of which schools only represent, perhaps, the most emotionally and socially tragic potential emergency. But I value your comments on how we might as a country--

October 19th, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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Dr. Pierre Duplessis Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Red Cross

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members.

On behalf of the Canadian Red Cross, I would like to thank you for allowing us to appear before the Standing Committee on public safety and national security.

My name is Pierre Duplessis and I am the Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Red Cross. With me this morning are my colleagues Don Shropshire, the National Director, Disaster Management, and David Pratt, Advisor and Special Ambassador.

First, I would like to tell you a little about the mandate of the Canadian Red Cross, and then I will be discussing Bill C-12, the Emergency Management Act. The Canadian Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization with a single mandate, to assist public authorities.

We play an important role in all areas of emergency management, namely preparedness, as well as medication, response and recovery.

For that reason, the Canadian Red Cross acts as a liaison between government, civil society and communities. Our efforts worldwide, which may involve the national societies of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, are coordinated in Geneva by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The symbols of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent represent an international movement with 100 million volunteers and members in 185 countries. This movement provides programs and services designed to prevent and relieve human suffering at all times and in all places.

This morning, I would like to stress that the Canadian Red Cross supports the Bill C-12. It provides for the basis of the national emergency management system and will allow the federal government to protect Canadians better.

In our view, it will allow for better coordination between federal institutions and provincial governments and other entities.

We support any initiative designed to establish and straighten leadership and coordination in the area of emergency management in Canada.

In our view, Bill C-12 confirms the importance of emergency preparedness and planning at every level of government. It confirms the leadership role of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It demonstrates to Canadians that the federal government is fully engaged with every facet of emergency management, including working with provincial and territorial governments as well as local authorities and other entities, such as the Canadian Red Cross, in Canada's voluntary sector. This role is indeed critical. For instance, the United States government report on Katrina operations released last February focuses mainly on the inability of various levels of government to properly cooperate and coordinate the relief efforts.

Bill C-12 also shows the importance of promoting public awareness and preparedness across the country. Canadians must be responsible for their own safety and the safety of their communities, and they must be properly informed. In fact, the publication known as “World Disasters Report 2005”, issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, focused on the critical importance of information in disaster preparedness and response. The report showed that people need information as much as water, food, medicine, or shelter. Information can save lives, livelihoods, and resources. It may be the only form of disaster preparedness that the most vulnerable can afford. The right kind of information leads to a deeper understanding of needs and ways to respond.

I would like to discuss specific sections of the bill, raise some issues for future consideration, and suggest some changes. Clause 3, for instance, states:

The Minister is responsible for exercising leadership relating to emergency management in Canada by coordinating, among government institutions and in cooperation with the provinces and other entities, emergency management activities.

The Canadian Red Cross's strategic focus, operational capabilities, and resources make us one of the principal entities in the voluntary sector in emergency management. In fact, I would suggest that the Canadian Red Cross is a national asset prepared to work very closely with all public authorities. The recent memorandum of understanding I signed with the Minister of Public Safety in May of this year is indicative of a very close and cooperative relationship with the federal government.

Importantly, this memorandum of understanding also makes reference to our status as auxiliary to government. This auxiliary status is not something new. It is an integral part of the legal foundations of Red Cross national societies, and dates back to the first Geneva conference of 1863. It also recognizes our founding statute, the Canadian Red Cross Society Act of 1909, and our letters patent of 1970 that broadened the auxiliary definition.

We are tempted to suggest that the Red Cross and its auxiliary status be included in clause 3 as a means of recognizing the important relationship, and educating and informing Canadians about the role of our organization in emergency management. However, we have recently entered into discussions with several government departments through the Canadian National Committee for Humanitarian Law, for instance, with PSEPC in the potential role of lead department.

Our goal is to better define the auxiliary role within the consultative and legislative initiative, in which it would be possible to see our 1909 statute updated and revised. Consequently, until we have the results of that proposed consultation process, I would suggest that any reference to our auxiliary status in clause 3 might be somewhat premature. At the end of the statute provision initiative, the Government of Canada and this Parliament may wish to include a mention of the Canadian Red Cross Society as auxiliary to government within the Emergency Management Act. This could be accomplished as a consequential amendment within the larger statute provision exercise.

Clause 4 of Bill C-12 lists the many responsibilities of the minister, including his coordination role in providing assistance other than financial assistance to a province, and his role in conducting exercises and providing education and training related to emergency management.

Evidence from the United States' Katrina operations report indicates that this is critical to securing and mobilizing appropriate workforce and materials when facing a large disaster. We would therefore urge the minister to take into consideration the resources available through the Canadian Red Cross and the voluntary sector.

The voluntary sector has an important but currently underutilized place in Canada's response to emergencies. While some voluntary organizations like the Canadian Red Cross have well-established roles in emergency response, a much broader range of organizations can and must make a vital contribution before, during, and after an emergency. We, the Canadian Red Cross, can build this surge capacity in mobilizing volunteers in civil society organizations so that their contribution can be effectively applied and useful to government's response.

Clause 5 states that:

In consultation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister may develop joint emergency management plans with the relevant United States' authorities and, in accordance with those plans, coordinate Canada's response to emergencies in the United States and provide assistance in response to those emergencies.

The U.S. government agency responsible for disaster relief and preparation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, has a statement of understanding with the American Red Cross that describes each agency's responsibility in case of a disaster, and the Red Cross's role in the national emergency support plan. To help fulfil the Canadian government's commitment, the Canadian Red Cross seeks to conclude a similar agreement with PSEPC so that it may be in a better position to cooperate with its American counterparts in times of emergency.

We would encourage the Minister of Foreign Affairs to establish coordination mechanisms that would take full advantage of the Minister of Public Safety's domestic disaster capabilities to support Canada's response to disaster anywhere in the world. The Canadian Red Cross has an unrivalled domestic and international network from which to draw on human, financial, and material resources, with an extensive capacity to help reunite families who have been torn apart by conflict or disaster. The society can offer the Government of Canada an efficient and direct pipeline to distribute international assistance.

Finally, Mr. Chair, let me briefly discuss subclause 6(3), which states that “A government institution may not respond to a provincial emergency unless the government of the province requests assistance...”.

As a humanitarian relief organization, the Canadian Red Cross would like to take this opportunity to emphasize that the primary consideration in determining who responds during an emergency should be informed by the need to safeguard the lives and security of Canadians. Regarding constitutional responsibilities, nothing in the act should preclude the Government of Canada from monitoring and assessing an emergency, and ensuring that all necessary coordination mechanisms are in place for the federal government to support and complement the actions taken by provincial or territorial governments. The humanitarian imperative must always take precedence.

Mr. Chairman and committee members, thank you for inviting us to present our views. I will be please now answer any questions you may have.

October 19th, 2006 / 9:10 a.m.
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James Knight Chief Executive Officer, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Thank you, Chair.

We appreciate the invitation to be here. I am joined this morning by John Burrett, a senior policy analyst in social development in our organization, and Josh Bates, who works with John.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is, of course, the representative institution of an association of municipal governments in Canada. We embrace 1,450 local governments, and they comprise 87% of the Canadian population among them. We have very strong participation from Canadian municipalities in all parts of the country.

Of course, we're here to talk about Bill C-12. We want to say at the outset that inasmuch as the bill empowers the federal minister to act in cases of emergency and to increase the capacity of the minister to act, we are strongly in favour.

My comments are really on the municipal role in emergencies. I would invite you to reflect on that and possibly enhance the act in a small way.

Of course, the department has said on its website that the Emergency Management Act in part is to ensure that the federal response to an emergency is coordinated and harmonized with other jurisdictions. In our view, this can't really happen unless municipal governments have some kind of presence in the consideration. Municipal governments are the first responders in cases of emergency. They provide many services, as I will demonstrate, that are critical whenever something goes wrong.

In our view, the bill as currently written will not lead to better coordination across jurisdictions because there's virtually no reference to the municipal order of government. We will suggest how that reference can be made explicit.

I think that because the municipal role is often not recognized at the federal level, we do not benefit from some of the funding that is made available from to time to improve our emergency capacities. We think this is inappropriate, as I will show, given the things we provide in this area. Frankly, this lack of involvement wastes resources and threatens the well-being of Canadians.

Municipal governments are the first responders in 95% of emergencies in Canada. Municipal governments are generally responsible for police, firefighting, paramedics, public health, which is terribly important, emergency shelters, and other first response capacities.

The threats that we manage are growing, perhaps even exponentially. Of course there is a constant concern about public health and the possibility of pandemics, such as SARS, which I'll talk about later. There are severe weather events driven by climate change, and we seem to have more frequent events. Major accidents and related toxic spills are from time to time also increasing in frequency simply because traffic is increasing exponentially. And of course there is the ever present threat of terrorism.

Cities are also expected to carry most of the burden for security at events such as major conferences and sporting events. In fact, in many cases we own the facilities in which these large events occur.

Finally, it's important to note that we own much of the critical infrastructure: the water supply systems, which I would say are reasonably vulnerable in this country; the waste water systems; in many cases, the electrical supply systems; the transportation networks, bridges, and roads; and the transit systems, which we have seen in other countries are extremely vulnerable. But we are not at the table when decisions are made regarding national emergency management plans and strategies. We're simply not there.

The only reference in Bill C-12 to local authority is that the minister would work with them through the provinces. There's that one mention, but we think it is inadequate.

Failing to acknowledge formally and fully the essential nature of the municipal role in developing and deploying emergency preparedness policy risks perpetuating the current system and does nothing to change the paradigm that has traditionally seen municipal governments and their front-line agencies left out of critical planning and being under-resourced.

From our perspective, the absence of true municipal integration into overall emergency management plans results in a patchwork of guidelines, resources, and expectations that differ province by province, territory by territory, and community by community. We don't believe other orders of government are therefore getting the full picture and taking into consideration the front-line requirements of municipalities.

Our specific suggestion is that, in the preamble to the bill, the Parliament of Canada could recognize the fundamental role of municipal governments in responding to local, national, and international emergencies, and then a coordinated and efficient response to emergencies requires collaboration among all orders of government. This wouldn't be binding in law, but it would be a reference point that would help in the reflection of parliamentarians and service providers, and the minister, in the event that municipal governments were called upon.

We'd be happy to work with the committee or others in suggesting precise wording, and we have delivered to the clerk copies of our June report on emergency planning, which is very substantial. It was prepared for us by external experts, and it outlines in considerable detail many of the issues we would like to raise.

I want to talk about some specific instances to put in concrete terms what we have in mind.

I don't know if many of you were living in Toronto in the 1970s when a railcar filled with chlorine derailed in Mississauga. It was only through the extremely well-organized efforts of the police and fire departments that lives were saved. The entire city was evacuated. A quarter of a million people were evacuated with remarkable speed and remarkable efficiency, a service provided entirely by the regional police and fire departments.

I remind you of the ice storm. Some of you might have been in Ottawa when that terrible event occurred--or in the Eastern Townships or other parts of Quebec, or in Montreal, for that matter. This was a catastrophe of enormous scale, and of course in Ottawa, where I lived, it was the municipal government that was responsible for finding solutions to all sorts of immediate and challenging problems. The Canadian military was deployed, and that was extremely helpful, but that was some days later. Those first few days were utterly critical, and of course it's the municipal government that was there to do what it could.

I remind you of 9/11, not 9/11 in New York, but 9/11 over the Atlantic Ocean. You've all perhaps heard of the efforts of the city of Gander and its mayor to accommodate their equivalent population. Their population doubled in a few hours, and they were able, remarkably, by marshalling all kinds of local resources, not only to care for the stranded travellers but in fact to give them a Newfoundland experience, which was unique. Claude Elliott, the mayor, went on the international circuit, on television and talk shows, and became somewhat of a celebrity.

I remind you, of course, of 9/11 in New York. Again, who was it who emerged as the leader of the city and obviously the person in charge? It was Mayor Giuliani. That was his role.

I'll talk a little bit more about SARS in Toronto. I had the privilege of attending a briefing given by the then public health officer of the City of Toronto, Dr. Sheela Basrur. She gave this briefing to a group of U.S. mayors who had come to reflect on the Canadian experience and learn from it what they could.

This crisis was managed by the public health department and the police department of the city of Toronto. There was a federal contribution, which had to do with science and identifying the virus. It was useful. And there was a provincial contribution, which was to pass legislation enhancing the powers of quarantine so we could ensure that the affected individuals would not spread the disease. Of course that entails a great deal of support for the individuals who can't leave their apartments.

The amazing story is that Toronto has the largest public health department in North America--this, I didn't know--with 1,700 public health workers. They were able to take 300 of these workers, give them all the police support they needed, and put them in a special building. They proceeded to conduct an investigation of where individuals affected with this disease had been over the past month, and then they contacted those they had been in touch with to ensure they were also quarantined. This was an enormous undertaking.

We are very fortunate that this disease hit a city that has such capacity. If it had hit another city--and in the views of the U.S. mayors, any one of their cities--the capacity would not have existed to control this problem.

This is another stellar example of the critical role played by local governments.

We leave you with these thoughts, and we leave you with our broad suggestion. I think you have more detailed written information from us, but I hope this can facilitate our discussion this morning.

Thank you.

October 5th, 2006 / 10:25 a.m.
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Deputy Director General, Critical Infrastructure Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Suki Wong

About whether or not our minister would have the responsibility to review or to ensure that there would be backup plans for crown corporations.... The answer would be yes, that “government institution” in Bill C-12 does include crown corporations.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you, Chair, and thank you all for being here.

I'd like to follow up a little bit on what Mr. Comartin was talking about, and that's the connectivity between the federal-provincial-municipal and U.S. operations centre authorities.

What changes do you see coming out--not necessarily as a result of the act but maybe that are covered by Bill C-12--in the connectivity between federal-provincial-municipal and at the federal level with U.S. authorities in response to a situation?

October 5th, 2006 / 9:30 a.m.
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Deputy Director General, Critical Infrastructure Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Suki Wong

Bill C-12 would replace the Emergency Preparedness Act.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:30 a.m.
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Suki Wong Deputy Director General, Critical Infrastructure Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Thank you.

This legislation does not change the organizational structure of our department. Bill C-12 brings greater accountability to how the federal government responds to and prepares for emergencies. It provides our minister with the authority to set guidelines, best practices, and principles for developing emergency management plans that affect only federal government institutions. So very much this bill brings greater accountability and greater coordination, and it recognizes the need for collaboration of provinces and territories. The scope of the act is very limited to the federal government, to federal institutions.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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James Deacon Director General, National Security Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to be here, and I thank you for the opportunity to address this important proposed legislation.

With me are Michael Baker, director general for preparedness and recovery; Bob Lesser, director general for operations; Suki Wong, deputy director general for critical infrastructure protection; and Tracy Thiessen, director general for coordination, who is responsible for our regional offices.

I have short remarks prepared, and if you wish I could simply start with them.

I should note, to start, that I am here in an acting capacity, as the acting assistant to the deputy minister. That said, the two persons who would be best placed to provide you with information on this bill unfortunately couldn't make it. The senior assistant deputy minister herself is unfortunately away on training and is therefore unavailable, and the director general for emergency management policy is out of the country. Nonetheless, my colleagues and I will do our very best to answer your questions today.

Bill C-12 would provide the Government of Canada a new basis on which to meet the challenges of its own internal emergency management activities. It proposes to create the emergency management act in order to address changing risks to Canadians and the need for legislation to help address challenges associated with that.

The Bill strengthens the foundations for the federal role in emergency management and critical infrastructure protection in the 21st century. And it recognizes the need for a coordinated federal response that complements those of other stakeholders and which respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction and authority over provincial emergency matters.

Canada has indeed faced a range of emergencies. Just to name a few, there was the 1998 ice storm in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, the 2003 outbreak of SARS, and the electricity outages that same year in Ontario. We've witnessed numerous floods in Alberta, New Brunswick, and Quebec, as well as forest fires in B.C. Of course, there are many other examples.

Federal efforts must focus on all potential hazards that Canadians could face, including natural disasters, terrorism or crime, cyber incidents, or other impacts on critical infrastructure. In addition, events such as Hurricane Katrina on the United States gulf coast remind us that Canada must be ready to respond to disasters outside of its borders. As we share our inland border with the United States, we must develop emergency plans with our neighbour for mutual support.

One particular lesson learned from the Hurricane Katrina experience was that governments need to have clearly established frameworks in place to facilitate coordination of their efforts, and they need to have these in place well in advance of any events.

In short, Mr. Chair, the risks facing Canadians continue to evolve. This is due, for example, to the increased incidence of extreme weather and the potential for cyber incidents. Bill C-12 aims to bring our statutory framework in step with this evolution. That's why the government has outlined in the proposed legislation how the Ministry of Public Safety and other federal ministries would have the authority necessary to fulfil their roles and to protect Canadians.

Underpinning this proposed legislation are two fundamental principles.

The first is that the Government of Canada understands the need for well-coordinated federal emergency management activity while recognizing and respecting the jurisdictional responsibilities of the provinces and territories. This means in practice that the federal government respects their authority and coordinates federal planning and response with the provinces and territories in partnership, and through them supports local authorities.

The second is that the federal government continues to provide appropriate emergency financial assistance to provinces and territories, building on existing arrangements.

Under the proposed legislation, the Minister of Public Safety would be responsible to exercise leadership by coordinating federal players in their emergency management activities and in cooperating with provincial and territorial governments.

Bill C-12 also recognizes the important role played by other entities, namely non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross and the private sector. I would note that the proposed legislation reflects that it's not the role only of the federal government to prepare for risks, but that all governments must work together to prevent or mitigate emergencies, to implement responses, and to help communities recover from the effects of emergency events.

The proposed legislation also sets out the Minister of Public Safety's responsibilities in all aspects of emergency management. In the event of an emergency in Canada, it would be the minister's responsibility to coordinate the federal response.

Through this proposed legislation, the Minister would exercise leadership by establishing policies and programs applicable to federal emergency management plans prepared by other ministers.

Assisting the minister, and in the future under the proposed legislation, is the Government Operations Centre, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, monitoring and analyzing potentially imminent or actual emergencies and which coordinates the response to the incidents. With the centre's assistance and that of other ministers, the Minister of Public Safety can advise the federal government of proposed actions and act as the primary contact to support provinces and territories.

It's also important to note that the bill sets out the emergency management responsibilities for all federal ministers to identify risks; to prepare, maintain, and test plans; and to conduct training in relation to those plans. While those responsibilities are new, the bill reaffirms and focuses attention on the importance of these matters for federal government institutions.

Bill C-12 does not prescribe the specifics of emergency management activities, rather it allows for innovation and the building of community consensus by all levels of government. However, it does provide for the development and implementation of joint programs, national exercises, training, education, and research related to emergency management, and, very importantly, the promotion of public awareness regarding emergencies.

The bill recognizes that promoting a common approach to emergency management, including the adoption of standards and best practices, can enhance the effectiveness and efficiencies in programs at all levels of government, as well as within the private sector. A good example of this is exercise training programs that test emergency preparedness, where we can and do involve the private sector.

Mr. Chair, I noted earlier that the proposed legislation provides for emergency assistance to provinces. Currently to assist a province or territory to recover from a civil emergency or a natural disaster, the Government of Canada may allocate federal financial assistance to that province or territory through the disaster financial assistance arrangements, or DFAA. Nothing in this proposed legislation would change that. In fact, Bill C-12 would become the new legislative vehicle through which the DFAA assistance would be provided to provinces and territories.

Finally, Mr. Chair, when preparing for and during times of an emergency, the government needs to obtain information from the private sector to assess critical infrastructure vulnerabilities and risks, develop emergency management plans, improve warning and reporting systems, and develop better defences and responses. I should note that the information sought is technical in nature; it doesn't include personal information.

Related proposed amendments in the bill to the Access to Information Act are necessary and would allow the government to exchange specific and reliable technical information with private sector partners for critical infrastructure protection and emergency management purposes. Those amendments would encourage information sharing by explicitly recognizing in the Access to Information Act that sensitive private sector critical infrastructure information requires protection from disclosure.

Mr. Chair, in times of emergency, clearly Canadians look to their governments to work together to manage a situation. Preparation for emergencies means that governments must have the capacity to monitor, assess, and prevent identifiable risks and have in place well-tested plans for effective and coordinated action.

Bill C-12, the Emergency Management Act will help the federal Government to better serve Canadians before, during and after emergencies.

My colleagues and I will be happy to respond to your questions.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

I would like to call the meeting to order. This is meeting number 12 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Today we are having our first meeting on Bill C-12, an act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain acts.

We have officials with us from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I welcome you all to the committee. We look forward to some very helpful discussions.

Mr. James Deacon is the director general for national security policy. Usually our custom before this committee is to allow you an opening statement of whatever length you need, but hopefully not too much more than ten minutes, and then if anybody else would like to make any comments they can do the same.

Mr. Deacon, you can introduce the people who are with you.

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

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

There are three levels of government. I think it only appropriate that we not leave any out, so maybe we need to think about how the provincial aspect works into this.

It's true that municipalities do usually end up first, but if we look at some of the recent disasters, Katrina being one, the question is how we make sure that all three levels of government have an apparatus with which people feel comfortable, and that there's a smooth operation, as opposed to.... It's who has authority over what, and when, and all those things. We want to make sure that Bill C-12 adds to a sense of comfort, rather than adding another layer of bureaucracy that will only make things worse.

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

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Yes; that will be October 5, on Bill C-12. We are going to invite them.

Other groups--the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities--have asked to come as witnesses on Bill C-12. In future meetings, would we like to hear from them as well? Some of these groups are very supportive, I think. Should we ask the clerk to contact these people and try to work them in? We may be dealing with several things at the same time here.

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

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Yes. I envision that we'll have the officials on Bill C-12 for maybe an hour and 45 minutes, and then we can just ask them if they have any questions at the end of the meeting. We can allow maybe 15 minutes or half an hour, depending on how much time they need.

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

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

So on Thursday we will have Bill C-12 and the Tanzanian delegation?

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.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here and to speak on the subject of Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

At the outset of my 20 minute presentation, I certainly want to say that of course we support this bill. It is a bill that we had presented to Parliament previously. There are some changes, but we certainly welcome the reintroduction of the emergency management bill tabled by our government in November 2005.

That bill fulfilled a promise we made in our national security policy in April 2004. It built on our excellent record on security since 9/11, a record of investing over $9.5 billion to strengthen national security, improve emergency preparedness, contribute to international security, create the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and establish the national 24-7 Government Operations Centre to coordinate federal emergency responses.

People ask us why we are making a change in emergency response. We are in a different world. The world is changing. In the past, species that did not learn to adapt as the world changed became extinct. The world has changed dramatically since 9/11. Who would have expected a 9/11 type of incident and the type of emergency preparedness we now have to put in place to deal with those types of problems?

It reminds me of the American revolution when the strong British had their formula and the American revolutionaries did something absolutely new when they wore no uniforms and shot from the ditches. It was unexpected and the British were not prepared for it. That same type of unexpected strategy occurred on September 11 and we need new methods of emergency response to prevent such things.

Another example, of course, is the recent shooting in Montreal. Once again, thank goodness the Montreal police have realized that it is a new world and have changed their previous procedures. They did not wait outside for the SWAT team, as previous procedures had mandated. They learned by experience. They updated their procedures, went in right away and probably saved a large number of people who would not otherwise have been saved.

Of course it is a new world also because of changes made by mankind that are related to climate. Global warming of course has had dramatic and some very tragic effects related to weather patterns. Hurricanes and droughts have had devastating effects on people and families in a new world that we could never have thought of.

A member from the NDP recently mentioned a good example: the ice storm. That was not simply a two or three week event. I was in Quebec recently and felt how deeply that event from long ago had scarred the people. It was so traumatic in their lives. They will never forget that. It was not simply an overnight occurrence, a freak weather accident that had no longstanding effect. We need to develop modern methods to react quickly to such events.

There are of course natural disasters that we could not have predicted in the past. They are not changes, but they are things that we now are aware of, such as incoming meteors and earthquakes that we can now sense with certain machinery. Now we can be prepared for them and prevent much loss of life, loss of property and tragedy, if we have new reactions and new procedures based on modern systems.

There is also the whole area of disease. Some members have mentioned during the debate that this whole area is totally different from the way it was in the past. If Marco Polo had acquired some disease on his first trip to the Orient, by the time he got back either he or the disease would have died. There would not have been a quick transmission. Now people are flying all over the world every day and we get things like SARS and other epidemics that could be vast tragedies in the world, regardless of a border between Canada and the United States or in Europe or wherever.

New occasions teach new duties. We have to constantly modernize our emergency response procedures and, therefore, legislation and resources.

I wish to talk a bit about clause 5. The clause talks about developing joint plans with the United States and providing assistance in response to those plans. I think everyone would agree that this make obvious sense.

It is expected that an earthquake will strike either Vancouver or Seattle at some time in the future, on the Pacific rim of fire where earthquakes are more prevalent. There are many emergency responders very close by to whichever city would need response from another country. They could save lives, prevent tragedies and reduce suffering immensely. It would make no sense at all not to allow those people to help out in such a huge catastrophe. That is one of the provisions in clause 5.

Of course the same is true about Ontario, New York and Buffalo. There are huge populations right across our border with the United States. We would want to use all the emergency response and planning and make all the resources available to them to prevent suffering and the loss of human life and to deal with the situation.

I want to talk for a few minutes about a technical omission in the bill. It is related to the territories. Unfortunately, this is the fourth bill in a row for which I have had to stand up and give this speech. I have no idea why the Conservative government constantly wants to leave the territories out of Canada.

First of all, let me read for members the definition of “provincial emergency”, because I thought the government could have included the territories with the provinces. It is as follows:

“provincial emergency” means an emergency occurring in a province if the province or a local authority in the province has the primary responsibility for dealing with the emergency.

In the northern half of Canada, do we not have emergencies where the territorial governments have these same responsibilities? In Yukon, we have an area where a glacier periodically has closed off a river and dammed it up. Not that many decades ago, because of that, one of our major communities was 100 feet underwater. There is nothing to say that this type of occurrence could not happen again.

Also, we have an earthquake seismograph in the town of Haines Junction in a national park. Virtually every week there is seismic activity. Yukon is not that far from the Pacific rim of fire.

Yukon also has huge tracts of forests infested with the spruce beetle. Unfortunately, these forests are right beside the same town that could be underwater, but there could be huge forest fires with devastating effects.

Once again I note that there are all sorts of emergencies that could occur in the territories. The territories should be given the same respect and opportunities as the provinces. In fact, this could even be more serious for us in the sense that Yukon has fewer responders, fewer people and farther to go. It is even more difficult in some ways to deal with those emergencies although of course there are fewer people to deal with and solve the problem for.

I will move on to clause 3, which states:

among government institutions and in cooperation with the provinces and other entities.

Hopefully there will also be cooperation with the territories; we would not have cooperation with the territorial governments and an emergency response team with the territorial government. I know the bureaucrats in Yukon government. I have a very good relationship with their emergency response organizations. I am sure they would appreciate the same level of respect from the rest of Parliament.

I will now go to paragraph 4(1)(f), which states:

—and supporting the emergency management activities of the provinces—and through the provinces, those of local authorities;....

Once again, hopefully we would support the activities of the territories and, of course, the municipalities in the territories are created by the territorial governments, just like provincial governments. Therefore their local authorities would have a parallel acceptance.

Paragraph (g) reads:

establishing arrangements with each province whereby any consultation with the Lieutenant-Governor in Council....

Once again, it should be with any province or territory. We would have to change the words “Lieutenant-Governor in Council” to commissioner because the equal position in the territories is commissioner.

Paragraph (h) reads:

coordinating the provision of assistance to a province in respect of a provincial emergency, other than the provision of financial assistance....

Once again, there are territorial emergencies and they have departments to cover emergencies. Therefore, we want that to say “provincial and territorial”. I can see no reason why the territorial governments would not be covered since they have the same responsibility for the northern half of Canada.

Paragraph (i) reads:

providing assistance other than financial assistance to a province if the province requests it;

Hopefully, the territories that probably have even less tax raising powers and revenue raising ability would be able to request financial assistance from the federal government over and above the provinces.

Let us go to paragraph (j).

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 5:10 p.m.
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Wellington—Halton Hills Ontario

Conservative

Michael Chong ConservativePresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have a question concerning the Constitution for the member of the Bloc Québécois.

He said that the Government of Canada did not respect the Constitution of Canada because it was prepared to introduce a law on a matter that fell under the responsibility of the province of Quebec.

The responsibility for emergencies in Canada is clearly a responsibility of the Government of Canada. Courts over the years, the judicial committee of the Privy Council and the Supreme Court, have consistently ruled that the interpretation of peace, order and good government also constitutes an emergency doctrine that allows the Government of Canada to have responsibility for emergencies, and that is precisely what this bill would do.

Bill C-12 is entitled “An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts”. Why does the hon. member think that it is not the responsibility of this Parliament to ensure emergency management for all Canadians?

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech, especially the sociological discourse as to what was behind it all. I learned something.

I want to point out a couple of things and then ask a question.

First, the reserves and the Canadians Forces regulars have been doing aid of the civil power for as long as I can remember, having done it myself as a young officer cadet in the early sixties. This is nothing new and it is not something that any particular government invented.

The other thing is finally this government is doing something about spending money on the military reserves and regular force and equipment to allow things to happen like getting DART somewhere it needs to go in a reasonable time, such as in a Canadian C-17 instead of a U.S. air force C-17.

I agree with most of what the hon. member has said. He has some great points. There is not a lot of disagreement with them. My question for him is very simple. I take it from his remarks that he is personally supports Bill C-12, will vote for it and will encourage his colleagues to do so?

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to answer the member's question. The security situation within Afghanistan is intimately tied to our security. That is why we are there. We are there to deal with al-Qaeda. The member, who is a former officer of the Canadian Forces, knows full well that our troops are in Afghanistan to provide the security so development can occur behind that, so that training of Afghan security forces can occur and so that we can deal with the insurgencies.

That is why in dealing with security threats here in Canada it is important for us to deal with some of the root causes of that insecurity. Part of it is to deal with the threat of terrorism. We have to deal with countries through our development prism and change those educational components which feed a steady diet of lies and hate to children and leads them to one day take up arms against us in the west. The only way to address it is on the ground.

Here at home probably the best bang for the buck in terms of dealing with security would be to invest in intelligence. We did that when we put $7 billion into our security plan for our country. We made a specific increased investment in CSIS and the RCMP to give them the tools to deal with security threats within Canada.

Most people recognize that the best way to protect all of us here at home is to deal with a strategic investment in intelligence and to work with groups on the ground. We must ensure that those groups have the ability to communicate with each other. We must ensure that they have the intelligence information and the resources, both human and otherwise, to support intelligence activities in Canada.

By working with moderate leaders in communities within our country we are able to address threats that not only affect us but also affect those communities. We tend to forget that when individuals from certain communities commit acts of grievous violence against innocent civilians, it hurts their communities too.

There is a deep and profound angst and hurt within the Muslim community that some individuals are hiding behind the religion of Islam and purporting to kill innocent civilians in the name of God and Islam. They recognize full well that it is not the case. That is why it is very important for us, and I certainly hope that the government will continue with the process which we started, to work with moderate leaders in communities within our country. They are more than happy to work with us and with CSIS and the RCMP to ensure that we have the ears and feet on the ground to identify individuals who are threatening to kill innocent civilians.

Indeed, the members of Parliament from Toronto know full well that it was the brave actions of our RCMP and the Toronto police force and others, and members in the Muslim community, who worked hard with to apprehend those individuals before they were able to murder innocent civilians. We need to congratulate and thank all of those groups for their hard work. That does belie the fact that more investment has to take place in our security.

In dealing with natural disasters, one of the things we started was to fund, utilize and increase the numbers of our reserves within the Canadian Forces. The thousands of individuals in Canada who give of themselves to work in our Canadian Forces, in the reserve component, deserve enormous credit. They would like to work as aides to the primary responders, the police forces, firefighters and ambulance workers. Our reserve forces can be an active and able component to assist our first responders. I would encourage the government to continue something that we started when we were in government.

When the Leader of the Opposition was the defence minister, I was his parliamentary secretary and we worked hard with General Hillier the chief of the defence staff on a process to increase the number of our reserve force by 3,000. What they also need and what was left as unfinished business was training and the resources for training, as well as the equipment needed to respond in an integrated fashion to various disasters across the country.

We also need an adequate and competent communication network. When disasters occur, communication breaks down. It is a very difficult challenge but it is one that must be overcome very quickly. This is of an urgent nature in my province of British Columbia where two plates are grinding against each other. We know with certainty there will be a massive earthquake that will affect Vancouver Island as well as the coast some time in the next 100 years. It could happen tomorrow, 10 years from now, or 50 years from now, but it will happen.

I would implore the government to please continue the work we were doing to develop an integrated communication network that is impermeable to the effects of a disaster. This is critically important.

The government must also integrate our first responders with our reserve forces. When we were government we developed a threat assessment and a first response network that is centred here in Ottawa, integrated with other provincial responder units across Canada, which then goes down to the local communities and our first responders. We set that up across Canada. The communication network needs to be supported within that context.

We started a process of training our first responders, both firefighters and police, but more needs to be done in that area. I would encourage the government to listen to what our firefighters and our police officers are saying and respond to those needs.

We also developed the NESS system, an emergency network across the country. This is quite exciting. Dozens of portable hospitals are set up across our country. Each of these hospitals can have up to 168 beds. The hospitals are fully formatted to deal with an emergency. They are forward planted. Some of those portable hospitals were used during the tsunami relief operations in Southeast Asia. They proved to be very valuable.

I would implore the government to continue supporting the NESS system which we started. It would enable us in times of disaster to set up forward deployed portable hospitals across the country which would be fully functional. It is important for that activity to continue.

The other issue I would suggest dealing with is protection. More attention from all of us is needed regarding the protection of our critical areas, not only the transportation arteries on land, but also the ports and container traffic. A major significant area where our defences could be breached is with regard to container traffic. The other areas are water protection and protection for our nuclear power plants. An adequate assessment of that would be valuable.

We could learn a lot in looking at the 9/11 report from the United States. We should look at the findings of that report and ask ourselves what the U.S. did wrong in those areas. The 9/11 report articulates them. We could determine what the solutions are and whether we are applying those solutions to the challenges in our own country. The 9/11 commission report would give our government a framework that we could apply to our country and ask ourselves the difficult questions that have to be asked and answered in the interests of the safety of the citizens whom we serve. That document is critical.

We also started to study the U.S. failure in New Orleans with respect to hurricane Katrina. Our Canadian Forces did an outstanding job in assisting during Katrina. Divers from Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt went down there to save lives.They worked under the most difficult circumstances. They deserve an enormous amount of credit for what they did.

It is interesting to note that our Canadian Forces and civilian responders responded much quicker than did U.S. responders to the disaster in the wake of Katrina. We were on the ground helping those people right away. Our Canadian Forces, firefighters and police officers were there and did an outstanding job, responding quickly.

We looked at the response by the United States to the disaster in the wake of Katrina and noted what it had done well, what it had not done well and what we could learn from it. It is important for the government to look at the response. It is also important for the two ministers involved in defence to look at that document and address it.

There are two other areas about which I want to talk. One is research in the private sector. It is an area that is not known very well, it is not protected well and there is a lot of ignorance about it. A lot of research is done in the private sector. Some of that research has significant capabilities with respect to security, which could be used as tools against us, not only in the medical field but in other fields too.

The application of the research in the private sector could be utilized by individuals who would choose to harm us in nefarious ways. The problem is how we can protect against that research getting into the hands of those individuals? This area is not explored. It is an area where there is a lack of knowledge. I would implore the government to work with the private sector and educate it on the need to protect some of the research that is done. If we educate the private sector, it will fully understand and be very cooperative with the government and enable it to address the issue. It is a big black hole that has not been dealt with.

Last, as was mentioned before, protection of our communication, computer and information technology sector is critically important. We need to continue that endeavour to deal with it because it is an ever-changing field that is obviously difficult to get ahead of, but it is something we must do.

Bill C-12 will continue to build on the work we did in the former government in a wide variety of areas. We encourage the government to work with us to help this happen in the interests of all our citizens from coast to coast.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder what this all has to do with Bill C-12. Clearly it is about Afghanistan and the security situation in Afghanistan. I am not sure what it has to do with emergency preparedness in Canada. I would ask the hon. member to stick to the topic.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-12, the emergency management act. I think we can all remember a time not so long ago when life was gentler and perhaps seemed a lot safer. However, 9/11 happened and, in many ways, the world changed.

After 9/11 it is important for us to remember that while the threats are more evident, certainly in the papers and in our lives, we must all live a life of vigilance, not live a life and be paranoid. In response to that, this bill has come up, a bill that builds upon the work that was done by the previous government in a number of areas.

After 9/11 we constructed PSEPC and invested more than $7 billion in developing an integrated network that would involve threat monitoring, assessment and response, not only here at home but abroad. I will divide the threats into two separate sections: those that are natural and those that are man-made.

We have the natural threats but perhaps one of the most evident and frightening threats for most people was SARS. SARS is a virus that percolates through birds in certain parts of the world, especially in the Guangdong area of China. Within that area we have seen historically, over the last 120 years or more, that every 20 or 25 years a pandemic circles the globe killing sometimes tens of millions of people. Indeed, that is the fear we all have.

SARS is a difficult problem to deal with because the virus itself morphs and changes continuously, which is why developing a vaccine is so challenging and why every year a vaccine comes out but it is never the same as the one in the previous year. The reason is that although the virus is a simple one, it is in some ways a bizarrely clever virus because it always changes its coats. It is always morphing and it is a challenge to keep ahead of it.

Our researchers in Canada are some of the best in the world. After the SARS crisis, we developed an integrated threat assessment program looking at hospitals across the country and monitoring the mortality and morbidity, the sickness and death statistics in the country to find out whether there are any disturbing peaks.

What Canadians are proud of and what is a feather in the cap of our country is that we are the best in the world. Because of that, other countries have asked us for our expertise. We have sent over some of our top-notch mobile labs and scientific researchers to the Far East where they are actually on the cusp of where this virus no doubt will stem from and where it will start its deadly march when it is able to transfer from birds to mammals, which of course includes human beings, then, most frighteningly, when that virus is able to be transferred from person to person.

It is a testimony to our scientific researchers and our integrated threat assessment program that we set up that we are the best in that area.

In another area, we saw the tsunami that devastated southeast Asia that also shook us, being a nation that lives in part on the cusp of the Pacific Ocean. My riding is on Vancouver Island and it is something that is very concerning to us. We have begun to set up a tsunami monitoring system in our country and have set up, to some degree, this system in other parts of the world, particularly in the mid-Pacific and further toward the Far East. It has started to work. More work needs to be done and I am sure the government will look at continuing that work so we will have a superb tsunami monitoring system for the Pacific. I know the constituents in my province of British Columbia and other MPs here from my province will be grateful for that.

The other area is SARS. Beyond the threat assessment network, we also developed a system of stockpiling antiviral drugs, particularly Tamiflu, but we need to be careful because this is not the solution to the problem. Tamiflu is not the solution to deal with SARS, for many reasons that I will not get into here.

The other issue I want to talk about gets into the man-made issues, which two of our colleagues from the government's side dealt with. The extent of the challenge is fairly obvious. The response can be divided into two sections. One would be dealing with the individuals who would choose to wage war against others and kill people against their religious beliefs. Indeed, those who utilize religion as a tool to murder others, and I am talking specifically about fundamentalists, and again we have seen a lot of this with Muslim fundamentalists, in no way, shape or form represent the Muslim faith.

In fact, the Quran says very clearly that if a person saves one life, that person has saved the lives of humanity. If a person kills one person, that person kills humanity. Indeed, Islam and the Quran forbid anyone to take up arms against another and to hurt another. That is much misunderstood and is little known.

We have to understand that the people who are utilizing religion and other propaganda to foment often violent sentiments against the west are warping, twisting and mutilating their religion for their own benefit. This can be dealt with in a number of ways.

In the country that spawned this violence we have to do a better job of actually dealing with it pragmatically. Sometimes our combat troops are necessary and they do an outstanding job, as they are doing right now in Afghanistan, giving their lives for security to occur. In order to support them, the development component must occur.

Within the confines of Afghanistan we have simply asked that four parts of this mission be supported. First is the defence component which is being supported, not only from the full combat capability, but also to the development capability. Second is the development component internally in Afghanistan. Third is the training of Afghan security forces. Fourth is dealing with the insurgents from outside Pakistan. Dealing with the insurgency outside Pakistan requires a multi-faceted approach. In the madrassahs of a certain country little children are fed a steady diatribe of hate against the west. As a result, when some of those children grow up, they choose to take up arms against the west.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, of course, I am aware of the efforts of municipalities and provinces.

I know my hon. colleague is experienced in that area and he has done a tremendous job in the province of Quebec.

As I said in response to the last question, the requests go from the municipalities, which are the ones who respond to every emergency that happens in their area of jurisdiction to whatever extent they can. If they need help, they will go up the line. If the provinces need help, they will go up the line to the federal government.

The point of Bill C-12 is to ensure, from the federal government's point of view, that coordination is in place so that when requests do come up, things can be handled quickly and seamlessly between the federal government and the province and the municipality as necessary driven by the circumstances on the ground in the municipality or the province where the emergency is taking place.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, a very quick short answer to the hon. member's good but lengthy question is yes. Once again, as mentioned by the previous speaker, the answer is yes. Of course it applies to municipalities. The municipalities work through the province to the federal government when they need assistance in whatever way is required by the emergency in question.

Frankly, I do not really care what happens in London, England, but I do care what happens in Canada. The purpose of Bill C-12 is to ensure we have a good, solid, coordinated national, as in federal, provincial and local authority, organization to deal with whatever emergency situation comes up.

That is the long way to say yes it does include municipalities.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to join my colleagues in support of this very important legislation.

Bill C-12 explains and confirms the federal government's leadership role in coordinating major emergency response measures. Once adopted, the Emergency Management Act will enable Canada's preparedness and ability to respond to emergencies to keep pace with evolving threats. My honourable colleagues have already highlighted some of the changes included in the bill before us.

That said, allow me to elaborate on one particular aspect of the bill: the protection of critical infrastructure in Canada and the importance of physical and technological infrastructure to national security.

When we speak of infrastructure, we tend to think of roads, bridges and buses, but in this modern era the term has come to mean much more. Indeed, a long list of installations and services has become essential to our economy and our way of life. The wilful or accidental destruction or compromise of this critical infrastructure constitutes a genuine emergency. What is more is that the interdependent nature of our critical infrastructure means that an attack in one sector can have serious and cascading impacts on others.

In the energy field, for instance, we think of electrical power utilities, grids, natural gas and oil production, transmission systems and nuclear power plants. In the health sector we are talking about hospitals, clinics, blood supply facilities, laboratories and drug manufacturing plants. There is the agricultural and food industry as well from crops to distribution. We need clean drinking water and waste water management facilities.

Transportation is about roads and highways, but it is also about air, rail and marine modes of transport, both passenger travel and freight. Defence and chemical industry based manufacturing is another critical factor, which also makes it a potential target for sabotage or terrorism. The same can be said for some government services and installations, particularly monuments and other sites of key national significance. We also need to protect safety related facilities such as hazardous material depots.

Another vital sector of infrastructure involves information and communications technology. This includes Canada's sophisticated telecommunications and broadcasting systems as well as computers and networks.

The Emergency Preparedness Act, which still governs our emergency management activities, was passed in 1988. Few Canadians even had home computers then, let alone Internet access, email, wireless hand-held devices and all the electronic conveniences that we take for granted today and, frankly, curse sometimes.

Information and communications technologies are more than just a convenience. They have become the backbone of our contemporary society, supporting every other piece of infrastructure. Unfortunately, this digital backbone can be sensitive to disruption either through sabotage, accidents or natural events. The consequences can be calamitous. We need only think of the eastern Canada-western Quebec ice storm of 1998, the Ontario northeastern U.S. power blackout of 2003 and hacker attacks that have unleashed their disruptive viruses or worms across the Internet.

We recovered from those setbacks and learned from each of them. One of the things we learned was the paramount importance of strengthening the security and integrity of Canada's infrastructure, both the physical and the electronic. That is where the proposed emergency management act comes in.

Under the proposal before us, the legislation would make federal ministers responsible for identifying risks to critical infrastructure within their jurisdictions. Once the risks are identified, ministers would be obliged to prepare, maintain, test and implement emergency plans to address those risks. The plans would set out how each federal department would continue to operate in an emergency. They would also specify measures to assist the provinces and territories at the request, and by extension, municipalities and other authorities.

Given the broad range of installations and services that we now consider critical, it is clear that emergency planning poses a significant challenge. What is more, an estimated 85% of Canada's critical infrastructure is owned or operated by the private sector. How does the government coordinate so many players, not all of them under federal authority?

Information sharing is essential to public safety. As the majority of critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector, it is important that there is a willingness to share information on threats and vulnerabilities. Take for instance the case of international crossings. Emergency planners need to know where a particular facility may be vulnerable to infiltration by a saboteur or a hacker. Perhaps it is a structural weakness that might not withstand a powerful earthquake or bomb. Operators have been perhaps naturally reluctant to share vulnerability assessments and other confidential third party information with governments because they do not believe that existing legislation is sufficient for its protection. Bill C-12 proposes to amend the Access to Information Act to explicitly protect this type of sensitive information.

Bill C-12 brings much-needed updates to our current emergency management legislation.

First of all, it recognizes the importance of critical infrastructure and holds all federal ministers responsible for identifying risks associated with infrastructure in their area of responsibility.

Secondly, it sets out management mechanisms for those risks, including the coordinated development and execution of emergency management plans.

Finally, in an effort to facilitate joint planning, this bill would be the first to protect the confidentiality of information the government receives from the private sector in the course of preparing emergency management plans.

Those are important innovations that would help Canada better withstand major emergencies. I call upon my hon. colleagues to lend their support to this worthy and necessary legislative initiative.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am quite familiar with the procedures regarding emergency measures and those ancillary items. In my prior occupation as a police officer I was involved in emergency planning in the municipalities in which I served and in particular in Northumberland where we managed all levels of emergency response to situations and how those agencies integrated their efforts.

If we look at the current bill before the House, we will find that the federal government works in conjunction with its provincial and municipal partners upon request, and only upon request, and will respond directly to the urgency at hand.

The hon. member mentioned a particular translation into languages, et cetera. Of course the federal government would endeavour to work with all parties, municipalities as well as the provinces, to ensure that the appropriate authorities and instances that the government would be required to assist in would be addressed.

I bring her attention back to my address before the House when I mentioned the subway bombing in London and how quickly the Government of Canada was able to bring that kind of information to heighten the emergency preparedness intelligence network throughout Canada, in particular those in our mass transit systems, so they could take the appropriate action to secure the safety of the people using their services.

Those items have been addressed. Quite frankly, we are looking for a seamless integration, and Bill C-12 does that.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my support for the speedy passage of Bill C-12, which would create a modern and effective emergency management act.

Like all Canadians, I am concerned by the prospect of a serious and far-reaching emergency, a threat to public health, for instance, like the world now faces from an avian influenza virus, or an attack on our mass transit system, such as those suffered by the people of London and Madrid. These are frightening scenarios, but we cannot afford to ignore them or to try to hide from them.

I am persuaded that the proposed new statutory framework would strengthen the capacity of the Government of Canada to work with partners in a way that would enhance the safety of Canadians in the face of all types of hazards, whether natural or intentional.

For all the heartbreak caused by the September 11 tragedy in the United States, we can at least say that countries like Canada drew important lessons from it. As a result of these sad events, Canada has taken many steps to better safeguard the lives, health and property of Canadians. For example, an all hazards emergency response system and the Government Operations Centre now provide round the clock monitoring and coordination in the event of an emergency.

In 2003, the outbreak of SARS put Canada's comprehensive emergency response capabilities to the test. Gaps and inadequacies became apparent. According to a study by the pre-eminent health care expert Dr. David Naylor, better cooperation and collaboration among jurisdictions involved in this emergency would have resulted in more seamless and effective interventions. Professor Naylor also called for better communication among officials and with the Canadian public.

This was sound advice for SARS and for other emergencies as well. In the event of a pandemic, for instance, the Canadian pandemic influenza plan, CPIP, would kick into action. This is a robust plan that provides sound technical and public health advice and has been praised by the World Health Organization as the first of its kind anywhere.

A strategy that builds on the CPIP is also required to address essential elements such as the protection of critical infrastructure, business continuity for government and the private sector, and economic and security considerations.

At this time, I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.

To continue, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are co-chairing a deputy ministers' committee on pandemic and avian influenza planning. This committee is leading the coordination of efforts of 20 departments and agencies.

The Government of Canada is working toward raising Canada's level of preparedness for an avian and pandemic influenza. The strategy will highlight the need for a coordinated response across all levels of government, with international partners and key stakeholders, to help minimize the impact of an influenza pandemic on Canada.

In 2005, with the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina, Canada worked with the United States to provide relief for victims in more than one area. Canadians expect all levels of government to act together in responding to emergencies.

Let me give another example of this collaborative approach. An intelligence-sharing network has been put in place by Canada's Department of Transport, involving all the major rail and urban transit systems in our country. When the subway system in London was bombed by terrorists last July, this network kicked in. Information from relevant sources was being shared from the earliest possible moment with rail and mass transit across the country. As a result, security was immediately heightened within the Toronto transit system and elsewhere in Canada.

Rail and urban transit security will rely heavily on law enforcement and security information. To that end, the Government of Canada has initiated work to improve the readiness of Canada's urban transportation sector to respond rapidly to emergencies and to develop effective emergency plans. In times of crisis, it is essential that activities be coordinated. Our resources and expertise must be managed and deployed in the most effective way.

While always respecting the jurisdiction of all partners, the federal government has the experience, expertise and the necessary authority so that all players in an emergency have the information and resources they need to safeguard the well-being of Canadians, which brings me to the legislation before us.

The emergency management act proposed under Bill C-12 would further strengthen and integrate Canada's collective capacity to defend against all types of disasters and emergencies. Here is why.

The proposed statutory framework would put the public safety and emergency preparedness minister in a clear and unequivocal coordinating role for the Government of Canada. In particular, Bill C-12 sets out his authority. It also sets out his responsibility to coordinate all activities at the federal level and the spearhead interaction with the provincial, territorial and international emergency management authorities. The proposed law also provides for an integrated and coherent approach to emergency management across the Government of Canada through the application of standardized emergency management planning principles.

Another aspect of the proposed act, which I believe merits attention, relates to the protection of critical infrastructure. I am referring to health related installations such as hospitals, clinics, blood supply facilities, labs and pharmaceutical companies. I am also talking about transportation related infrastructure for rail, air, marine and surface vehicles, including those for mass transit.

There are many other sectors including finance, energy, food and agriculture, but to mention just one more, think only of the security of information and communications technologies, the computer systems that play a pivotal role in every facet of society. The bill before us would make federal ministers responsible for identifying risks to the critical infrastructure related to their portfolios and for incorporating these considerations into their emergency management plans.

People do not generally want to contemplate the prospects of serious emergency, like a bombing in our urban core or a pandemic flu outbreak, which the World Health Organization predicts could kill millions of people around the world. However, the government has no choice. It must think of such scenarios. It must accept that the threats are real and put in place the plans that would help Canadians pull through. The bill would enhance the federal government's ability to act as a collective force against modern threats.

For that reason, I urge my hon. colleagues to speed the bill through the legislative process.

The House resumed 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.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

September 21st, 2006 / 3:05 p.m.
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Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the hon. member. Today and tomorrow we will continue with Bill C-12, the emergency management act, which will be followed by Bill S-2 for hazardous materials and Bill C-6, the Aeronautics Act.

Pursuant to an order made on Monday, September 18, there will be an address by the President of Afghanistan to be delivered in the chamber of the House of Commons at 9 a.m. on Friday, September 22, 2006.

On Monday we will begin debate on the bill to implement the softwood lumber agreement. We have designated Thursday, September 28, as an allotted day, which, of course, will be allotted to the Liberal Party and it can debate any subject that it would like.

With respect to the member's other questions, this fall we will be proceeding in those areas that we have indicated to Canadians are important. If the hon. member wants a more complete blueprint of what we intend to do all he has to do is have a look at what we said in the last general election.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When debate resumes on Bill C-12, if it is the member's wish, she will still have eight minutes.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12.

Across the country there are probably communities that have no idea about the content of the bill, or the content of provincial legislation around emergency preparedness. However, over the last five or six years because of what has happened in Canada and abroad people are becoming much more aware and concerned about how the country, a province or a city would respond to an emergency.

An emergency has come to have almost no meaning now or an extremely broad meaning. At one stage in our history we all fairly well understood the word “emergency” but today emergency has a much broader concept than we have seen before. There are viruses, for example. This is a tough one and we have debated this around another piece of legislation. Part of the legislation states that the federal government would enter into an emergency plan if it was in its interest to do so. I understand the position of the Bloc.

Having been a former health minister and a nurse, I know that viruses, especially new viruses, permutate all the time and turn into viruses we have never seen before. We do not know how to treat them. Viruses do not have maps. They do not permutate and then look at a map and respect provincial borders. They move across borders very quickly.

I see the Minister of Health has just come in. I know that from his experience in Ontario he is more than aware of how viruses that we have not--

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:40 p.m.
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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 ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

We would appreciate it if members of the government were more careful with their tributes, Mr. Speaker, but it might come back to haunt them later.

The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin shouldered his responsibilities and suggested a plan. I repeat that we understand perfectly well that this is the federal government's responsibility, as regards its own institutions and jurisdictions. That is what federalism is. If Gérald Beaudoin and Henri Brun, two eminent constitutionalists, were here, they would tell us that federalism has three defining characteristics: first, two levels of government, each one sovereign in its areas of jurisdiction; second, a constitution; and third, a forum for arbitration. What is the forum for arbitration in a constitutional state? It is the Supreme Court, whose appointment process we hope will undergo a sweeping reform. The former member for Charlesbourg, a brilliant mind who served this House well, made a motion two years ago, if I am not mistaken, to ensure that, for example, the National Assembly could submit a list in order to respect the true spirit of federalism. The Supreme Court Act provides for civil law judges on the court. Moreover, although it is not my intention to talk about this—I would hate to be called to order—I would say that more and more, we are approaching a unitary state. This is not the spirit of federalism. There were 33 Fathers of Confederation. Thing were different then, as hon. members will recall. But we had the conviction that there were two governments, each with its own jurisdiction.

Why is there an imbalance in the Canadian federation?

For example, do you think that the residual powers—all the powers that are not specifically conferred on a government—are the responsibility of the provinces? No. The federal government has responsibility for them. The day is fast approaching when Quebeckers will decide to leave that federation, but it not my intention to talk about that.

Bill C-12 asks the federal government to adopt an emergency management plan. This plan is expected to give powers to the different ministers concerned, because it will be at their level of responsibility. Sometimes, the focus will be more on public safety, sometimes on health, sometimes on the environment. This will depend on the situation.

The bill obliges the departments to establish principles and programs to develop emergency management plans for government institutions. We can live with that. They must also provide advice to government institutions respecting emergency management plans. That is a ministerial responsibility we can live with that. Under this bill, the departments must analyze and evaluate the prepared plans. We would hope to learn more about just what that means. They must coordinate the actions of the various federal institutions in an emergency, provide financial or other assistance to provinces that need it, and establish the necessary arrangements for the continuity of constitutional government in the event of an emergency. Now, that is worrisome. I do not know if my colleague, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, can see the look of concern on my face, but there is something very troublesome about the mention of the constitutional government and an emergency. We all know that the most significant intrusions have occurred in times of emergency.

Take, for example, tax points. Taxation, particularly personal income tax, was not intended to be permanent. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was Adélard Godbout who was Premier of Quebec at the time, a progressive Liberal typical of his time. We are all familiar with the terror that reigned at the time of the second world war. At the time, the wartime tax rental agreement was the expression used for transferring the personal income tax. In the end, what was meant to be temporary became permanent. Thus, it is very easy to speak of emergencies in a bill, but we have a certain responsibility in this regard.

We will therefore remain vigilant about the use of the word "emergency" and we do not agree that, under the pretence of an emergency, provincial jurisdictions should be encroached upon. I believe that the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin will have something serious to say when the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

In conclusion, I cannot help but urge caution. We live in troubled times. Is the Arar affair not a good example of the prudence that should guide us as Parliamentarians?

We know quite well that, in the wake of September 2001, security certificates can give rise to excesses. Obviously, I will make the necessary distinctions. I do not wish people to think that I am not a nuanced person. I know that the emergencies we are talking about do not specifically include terrorist attacks, although such attacks could lead the federal government to take all manner of emergency measures. That is a possibility.

I believe that our responsibility is to maintain the appropriate balance between the rights of individuals and the security of the nation. Who wants to wind up with big brother in a totalitarian state where people are arrested without a warrant, searches are carried out, individuals are thrown in jail, and the principles of natural justice are violated? The Bloc Québécois has always been extremely vigilant in its protection of these principles.

Correct me if I am wrong but I believe we were the only party to vote against Bill C-36. However, I do not wish to offend the NDP. I do not remember how they voted. My colleagues could indicate if they think I am mistaken.

I would like to conclude by saying that we agree with the principle, that we understand that emergency situations can arise, but that we hope Quebec's jurisdiction will be respected when appropriate.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-12. This is a moment I have been eagerly awaiting, for I am well aware that in the world in which we now live, the issue of emergencies certainly demands the attention of legislators.

Just earlier, I was pondering the fact that, even in the 1800s, people were trying to regulate emergencies with the Quarantine Act. Why did they attempt to use this act in part to regulate emergencies? Because disease was surely the greatest threat to human communities, to the human condition about which Malraux spoke to us with such talent. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you are an enthusiast of Malraux. I know your erudition, and even your epicurean side. Of course, if we are talking about the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries, the spread of disease could not possibly be compared with the SARS crisis that we experienced, for example. And for once, the federal government was in a field of jurisdiction that belonged to it alone, under a class of subject enumerated in the Constitution.

When we speak of emergencies, the word “emergency” is in itself open to many meanings. What does it mean when we speak of emergencies? Are we talking about disease, the unleashed forces of nature, public transit, natural catastrophes, the overflowing of the Red River, the pollution in the big cities, terrorist attacks? Terrorism is a real fact of our collective life.

If I may digress, for a parliament and a parliamentarian, the end can never justify the means. One can never say, on account of some context one considers extraordinary, that one is going to take certain actions prejudicial to personal freedoms. In any case, you know how the Bloc Québécois is. If there is one party in this House that could hold a set of scales in its hands, with a centre of gravity that can balance human rights with necessary protection of the community, that party is surely the Bloc Québécois. How could we not be disturbed by Bill C-24, and its successor Bill C-36 on anti-terrorist measures. The government was trying to plagiarize the previous government, and it plagiarized certain provisions of the Patriot Act, tabled by the Bush administration. Incidentally, it will be with great interest that we shall read the judgment to be rendered shortly on the security certificates.

I know that some of my caucus colleagues, and in particular our immigration and public safety critics, have a lot of reasons to be worried. I would ask you the question, Mr. Speaker. Is it acceptable, in a country that adheres to the rule of law, for a person to be subject to arrest without warrant, arbitrarily detained, and not have access to the complete evidence in his or her court file? Do we not learn in our law schools that it is important to have a just and fair trial? Are we not in the post-Stinchcombe era? The Supreme Court has given judgment on this point. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is aware of that. Stinchcombe requires that all evidence be disclosed. That is surprising, because Stinchcombe involved a tax fraud matter, if I recall correctly.

In any case emergencies cover a range of situations: SARS, overflowing rivers, terrorism, or mass transit.

We know that in some democracies, the evil hand of certain groups has used mass transit to spread toxic substances. Plainly it is a concern of governments, I would even say their duty, to have evacuation and emergency plans.

Let us ask the question: is this primarily the responsibility of the federal government? That question arises in the case before us. This is not a case involving quarantine, an epidemic or virology.

The bill says:

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

Obviously, when we read the bill, we can say that it is reasonable for the federal government, in the departments for which that government is responsible, to have an emergency plan. We therefore understand that it is reasonable for there to be a plan for public safety, health, national defence, or any other example that my colleagues may bring to my attention.

Closer to home, I know that on Parliament Hill, the Board of Internal Economy, of which the various party whips are members, thinks about how to ensure that the Hill is safer. There have been very few unfortunate incidents, but still, there have been a few.

In fact, there is a new Sergeant-at-Arms in the House. I would like to wish him success in the responsibilities of his position. He is the person who is responsible for the safety of parliamentarians.

In the British parliamentary tradition, the distance between the opposition and the government is two and a half sword lengths. Why? Because when Parliament was first created, when the institution of Parliament was created in the United Kingdom, the monarch stood in fear of members of Parliament. That is the source of the tradition, when the Speaker is elected, of dragging him or her by the arm while being met with resistance. That is because some of the speakers, in some of the Parliaments of Great Britain, who were called burgesses, were beheaded when the king did not agree with them.

So as not to wander too far afield, let us come back to the Sergeant-at-Arms. He is responsible for parliamentarians’ safety, and in emergencies he must arrange for the Hill to be evacuated.

I would like to give you an example of a traumatic event that I experienced personally. Every member of this House is familiar with my sturdiness, physical strength and self-discipline. Then there is the President of the United States, who thinks he is the master of any house he happens to be in. When President Bush visited the Hill, some parliamentarians, including me, were not allowed access to the Hill. My colleague from Saint-Lambert was also denied access to the Hill. Why? Not because the constables prevented us from entering. After all, their kindness is known to us all. They were not the ones who denied us entry. It was security personnel outside Parliament who stopped us; they went about it quite rudely, I might add. Such events prompt us to think about how we might react in an emergency that forced us to evacuate the building rapidly.

I know that Board of Internal Economy members, including the whips, have discussed this issue.

So, yes, we have to have emergency measures in place in our large communities, especially in big cities. Emergencies can be caused by natural disasters, terrorist attacks on public transportation or, of course, disease. Obviously, we do not deal with disease as we did in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, but imagine the impact of a virus spreading through our communities. Even in our modern society, we have come to realize that hospitals are not always a safe haven. We do not think that going to the hospital can make us sick. I feel comfortable talking about this before the member for Québec because I know she is as healthy as a horse, but people sure do not expect to get sick when they go to the hospital.

We recently learned that some hospitals in Canada were vectors of contamination. This is one of the emergencies for which we must plan.

Although the Bloc Québécois agrees with this bill in principle, we have some concerns. First is the issue of respecting provincial responsibilities. A national emergency should never mean there is just one government. We are long past the time of the Rowell-Sirois commission. We are not in an apprehended war situation. As elected members of the Bloc Québécois, as representatives of the people of Quebec, we must never act as though there were just one government.

The National Assembly, whose first speaker was Mr. Panet—if I recall correctly—is one of the oldest Parliaments in North America. A number of years ago, it passed its own public safety plan. And who was the author of this important plan that respects decentralization, a plan whose goal was to have the regional county municipalities, the municipalities and the health care system work together? When we think of emergencies, these are the players we want to see promote a common vision.

The National Assembly was the first francophone Parliament in North America. It was led by Speaker Panet and founded under the Constitutional Act, 1791, with ministerial responsibility introduced in 1848. It used to be referred to as the Salon de la race, but that expression is no longer used. It passed its public safety plan. We are most privileged to have among us the author of the plan, none other than the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who was the public safety minister at the time and who served the Government of Quebec well.

The House resumed 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.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 12:30 p.m.
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Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to be here today to support the bill. I have some firsthand knowledge of emergency situations, having been a young police officer when a horrific tornado struck my community some 25 years ago and without a plan it certainly left us in dire straits.

Bill C-12 will bring much needed improvements to our existing emergency management legislation. The bill, which would create the Emergency Management Act, would strengthen the federal government's capacity to coordinate response to major emergencies.

For one thing, it would clarify the roles and responsibilities setting out the role of the Minister of Public Safety to exercise leadership for emergency management activities for the Government of Canada.

It would recognize emergency management in an evolving risk environment, and would require the collective efforts of all governments, industries and non-governmental organizations. It would also recognize that modern emergency management includes a full spectrum of action: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

It would introduce the reality of critical infrastructure, which relates to the facilities and services that require protection against natural or intentional threats.

These reforms would help keep Canada's emergency preparedness and response capabilities remain in step with our fast changing threat environment.

As my hon. colleagues know, Canada's emergency management activities are currently governed under the Emergency Preparedness Act legislation that was passed in 1988.

It would be no exaggeration to say that, in the intervening 17 years, very much has changed, the kinds of threats we face, the things that are threatened, and the way we deal with those threats.

I do not want to suggest that Canadians are unprotected now. On the contrary, this new government will continue to build relationships with its partners in the provinces and territories, the private sector, NGOs, and the entire emergency management community to help protect Canadians from any and all threats.

Even so, in the modern context, there are shortcomings in the statutory foundation for emergency management activities. Addressing these issues would further strengthen the federal government's capacity to carry out its national leadership role.

In the next few minutes I will outline the important changes that the emergency management act would bring.

Canadians face a range of risks, and always have. There have always been natural disasters: storms, earthquakes, floods, fires, drought, and tornadoes, as I mentioned. However, terrorist and criminal attacks were not invented on September 11, 2001. We have always been vulnerable to people bent on doing us harm.

While risks have always been with us, the scope and magnitude has changed. Globalization, heightened world tensions, even climate change, have introduced new perils. Think only of today's anxiety about a global viral pandemic, in order to understand how quickly a local scare has the potential to evolve into a wide scale emergency.

That is why the proposed emergency management act prescribes an all hazards approach. In planning for disaster, we must consider any and all threats to our safety and security.

Just as we broaden our understanding of risk, so must we accept that a contemporary society like Canada has an unprecedented range of targets vulnerable to threats.

Emergency management has always been about protecting and rescuing people, helping to evacuate endangered communities, strengthening defences for homes and other property, as well as providing financial assistance in recovery efforts.

In that respect, nothing would change. The legislation would, however, provide the Government of Canada with a robust statutory foundation flexible enough to respond to the evolving threat environment. In particular, it would help to ensure that government address the full range of facilities and services that are critical to the smooth functioning of a modern and interconnected society.

I am referring here to critical infrastructure, everything from financial institutions and transportation systems to hospitals, manufacturing industries, waste water treatment installations and power plants. I am also including the information and communication technologies that are essential to the smooth operation of all of these other sectors.

In working toward a more comprehensive and integrated framework for emergency management activity, ministers will be required to develop emergency plans based on common guidelines.

Bill C-12 would make federal ministers explicitly accountable for identifying risks to critical infrastructure. Moreover, to encourage infrastructure owners and operators to cooperate with federal planners, the bill would for the first time protect the confidentiality of specific information concerning their vulnerabilities that was shared in confidence with the government.

In addition to the responsibilities assigned to each minister within his or her own jurisdiction, the proposed emergency management act sets out the public safety minister's responsibilities in respect of emergency management.

The bill before us would further clarify and elaborate on the minister's responsibilities in coordinating roles during times of major emergencies. As was learned from hurricane Katrina, leadership, coordination and seamless emergency management are essential to saving lives. The government operations centre that would provide around the clock monitoring and coordination in the event of an emergency would serve as a focal point for federal coordination in the event of major emergencies.

The emergency management act would set out the minister's responsibility to coordinate emergency management activities across the federal government, with provincial governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. In the same spirit of cooperation, the minister would also be charged with promoting a common approach to emergency preparedness. That includes encouraging all parties to work toward a common approach to critical infrastructure in terms of reliability and security.

In conclusion, when it comes to Canada's approach to emergency management, the legislation's title underscores one other vital innovation. Given the new environment in which we live under an expanded range of vulnerabilities, it is no longer enough for Canada to simply react to emergencies. Instead, we need a comprehensive systematic and proactive approach. That is why Bill C-12 is about emergency management in the broadest sense. Indeed, the bill defines the term as the prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from emergencies.

It is the duty of government to balance the need to prepare its citizens with reasonable depictions of risk so as to not unnecessarily alarm people. It is our job to describe the risk in realistic terms and more importantly to put in place the means and mechanisms to address it. That is what the bill would do and that is why I would urge my hon. colleagues to pass it without delay.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

moved 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.

Emergency Management ActRoutine Proceedings

May 8th, 2006 / 3 p.m.
See context

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-12, an Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

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