An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Scott Brison  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Access to Information Act to, among other things,

(a) authorize the head of a government institution, with the approval of the Information Commissioner, to decline to act on a request for access to a record for various reasons;

(b) authorize the Information Commissioner to refuse to investigate or cease to investigate a complaint that is, in the Commissioner’s opinion, trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith;

(c) clarify the powers of the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner to examine documents containing information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege or the professional secrecy of advocates and notaries or to litigation privilege in the course of their investigations and clarify that the disclosure by the head of a government institution to either of those Commissioners of such documents does not constitute a waiver of those privileges or that professional secrecy;

(d) authorize the Information Commissioner to make orders for the release of records or with respect to other matters relating to requesting or obtaining records and to publish any reports that he or she makes, including those that contain any orders he or she makes, and give parties the right to apply to the Federal Court for a review of the matter;

(e) create a new Part providing for the proactive publication of information or materials related to the Senate, the House of Commons, parliamentary entities, ministers’ offices, government institutions and institutions that support superior courts;

(f) require the designated Minister to undertake a review of the Act within one year after the day on which this enactment receives royal assent and every five years afterward;

(g) authorize government institutions to provide to other government institutions services related to requests for access to records; and

(h) expand the Governor in Council’s power to amend Schedule I to the Act and to retroactively validate amendments to that schedule.

It amends the Privacy Act to, among other things,

(a) create a new exception to the definition of “personal information” with respect to certain information regarding an individual who is a ministerial adviser or a member of a ministerial staff;

(b) authorize government institutions to provide to other government institutions services related to requests for personal information; and

(c) expand the Governor in Council’s power to amend the schedule to the Act and to retroactively validate amendments to that schedule.

It also makes consequential amendments to the Canada Evidence Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

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.

Votes

June 18, 2019 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Dec. 6, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Dec. 5, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Nov. 27, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Sept. 27, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

June 8th, 2020 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Chair, we thank the public servants. It's the Liberals who have a problem with accountability.

There are reports that ministerial staff have indicated that submitted ATIPs will simply not be followed up on. This is not only a stunning lack of transparency but also a contravention of the act. It's illegal and goes against a government bill, Bill C-58.

Has the minister issued a directive, or has the TBS issued direction to its department, regarding how essential it is to ensure that ATIP requests are fulfilled?

March 11th, 2020 / 4 p.m.
See context

Information Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

Caroline Maynard

Under Bill C-58, there's a part 2 now, about proactive disclosure. What they've done is codified, basically, the policy that existed before on proactive disclosure. It is also applied to a number of new institutions, including the ministers' offices, the Senate, judges—

March 11th, 2020 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you for being here. Your role is vital to our democracy. My former colleague Pat Martin used to say that access to information was the oxygen and lifeblood of the democratic process. With every government that comes in, including this latest one, its first promise is open government. Then the first thing they do, when they realize that open government means that people can ask questions about bad decisions, is to start to try to find all manner of ways not to have open government.

There are a number of tricks. Cabinet confidence, I think, is section 23. No, that's solicitor-client confidence; that's the second one. There's solicitor-client confidence, cabinet confidence, and then the great black hole of ministerial offices. That used to drive the former commissioner, Madame Legault, crazy, how it could be that anything that goes on in a minister's office had to be protected from the public finding out. That's where all the decisions are made.

Under Bill C-58, did any of that change?

March 10th, 2020 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

General Counsel and Director, Judicial Affairs, Courts and Tribunal Policy, Public Law and Legislative Services Sector, Department of Justice

Stephen Zaluski

I wouldn't be singling them out by name, but I think the idea of reporting more globally was consistent with what the government had done in Bill C-58 in terms of the way expenses were being reported at aggregate levels, so it moves it towards a better balance of respecting judicial independence.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2019 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 3:10 p.m., pursuant to order made on Tuesday, May 28, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the Senate amendments to Bill C-58.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from June 17 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 9:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to speak to the government motion on the Senate amendments to Bill C-58.

Before I do that, though, I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate my brother Toron and his wife Jacqui.Today is their wedding anniversary, and I know that they are spending the day with my nieces and nephew, Abby, Malcolm, Josie and Zylia. I just wanted to acknowledge that this is another day, as many of us know in this House, that we do not get to be with family. I wanted to make sure that they know that I am thinking about them today.

Today we are talking about something that is fundamentally important, which is access to information, the tools we have to access information as parliamentarians representing everyday Canadians, and how that information can be accessed by journalists and reporters in this country.

I have been in this place for almost four years. I have worked really closely with my constituents on these issues. I have talked to them about the different tools I have as a parliamentarian and where they need to go to get information. They need to feel more connected to the government and to the people who represent it here in this place. I am very passionate about this issue.

Today we are talking about Senate amendments that would improve what I felt was a bad bill by making sure that the Information Commissioner would have real teeth, real power, to address some of the issues that come up in this place.

One of the things I have found very distressing, and the member who spoke before me also addressed this issue, is how often folks request information and are given a letter from a department authorizing itself to delay. Someone asks a question and now is told that the wait will be another 200 days for that information.

One of the most startling examples was that The Globe and Mail reported in April 2018 that it took one year to receive RCMP statistics for its well-received investigative series “Unfounded”, which revealed that police have been dismissing one in five sexual assault claims as baseless. This is really important information. When we see these kinds of startling facts, we know that there is something happening in this place and in this country that we need to address. These important investigations need to happen so that we know that something in the system is not working that we need to see addressed in multiple ways. If that information is not released, how are we supposed to do our work, and how do Canadians trust us?

I asked a question earlier about cynicism. I see that growing. I see it growing all the time. I talk to people who are frustrated with the government. They feel that when they want information, they have no way of knowing it. The automatic response is that something sneaky is happening and that they cannot trust those people.

I think we need to discuss what happens to democracy when we have everyday Canadians feeling that every politician is sketchy. We have an oath in this country. We sit in these seats and represent thousands of our constituents. We have the honour, as I do, to represent hard-working people who do everything in their power to live a good life, look after each other and look after their community. If they cannot trust the people who represent them, that should concern every single one of us.

If information cannot be uncovered to understand how things work, and, when something seems unfair, why it happened, how do we build that relationship, and how do we improve democracy?

I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the member for Vancouver Granville, who used to be the justice minister. I have a deep respect for her. I have known her for many years. I am very proud to represent the nation she comes from. I am very proud to represent the people of her traditional territory.

When that happened with SNC-Lavalin, it sent shock waves through my riding. It was very personal. I had constituents from my riding calling me and saying that she was in their class, that they know who she is, that she was from their family. They could not believe what was happening. They asked, do Liberals not know who she is, because they know who she is? Constituents were frustrated by the lack of information. They were frustrated by the process that unfolded. It was very troubling to them.

When I think about that and look at that happen, it takes away that sense of trust and connectivity. It brings all of these issues to the forefront when they are not addressed in a good way, and, in my opinion, these issues were not addressed in a good way. A lot of constituents contact me and say that they still do not know what happened, but that what happened was not right.

We look at the systems, and that is important. As legislators in this place, what we look at, debate and discuss is the process, how something is going to happen. Right now, we know that the Information Commissioner still will not have the ability to review whether in some cases like that one cabinet confidence is being claimed and whether it should be claimed.

I think about this a lot. I want to see a better democracy. I was very frustrated when the government campaigned to have electoral reform. It was very meaningful. I did multiple town halls in my riding. It was really interesting. People came forward. They were not sure and they did not know if they wanted to move to a different system, but they wanted to talk to me about it. They wanted to hear information. We tried to bring people in who were non-partisan to talk about different systems and how they would work. We had a lot of intelligent questions.

I will admit, people walked out the door saying that they were not sure; they were not sure if that was the right way to go forward. However, when they were told that it was no longer a discussion, when the Prime Minister stood up and said that Canadians do not want electoral reform, people were upset. They felt that they did not get to be a part of the decision-making process. That is really important.

Sometimes people get frustrated in this House, and they let us know by their heckling. However, we need to look at these systems. We need to make sure that everyday Canadians are part of the decision-making process. When that does not happen, we should have systems in place for them to be able to find out why it did not happen that way.

Again, we are seeing a failed piece of legislation. I am really disappointed. It is another broken promise. One of the things that was talked about in the last election was making sure that the PMO and the ministers were subject to these acts. That was one of the promises of transparency, that Liberals were going to do it differently and that Canadians would see a more open, transparent government.

Unfortunately, what we are seeing, again, is that the PMO is still blocked off. It is something to really think about. When everyday Canadians cannot get access; when journalists cannot get information from these particular departments, these ministries, what are we telling people? We are telling people that their voice does not belong in those places. However, they do belong in those places. In fact, we are here to represent those very voices.

I am really disappointed in this legislation. I think we could have gone so much farther. It is time for daringness. When I listen to constituents in my riding, what they want to see is honesty, openness and an authentic touch. They do not want to hear lines repeated. Some people think that if they just keep saying the same thing over and over that people will believe them.

However, when we look at democracy, the invigoration of democracy, and when we talk about why people do not get out to vote, it is because we are allowing cynicism to grow. We are not making sure that we open these doors and allow things to go forward.

Toby Mendel, the executive director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, said, in response to this bill, “The proposed reforms are just not good enough. At this point, we need root and branch reform, not incremental tinkering.”

I am a person who stands in this House, who looks at a lot of legislation. Most recently, in my role as vice-chair of the indigenous and northern affairs committee, we looked at Bill C-92, which talked about indigenous children in care. One of the things that was really heartbreaking for me is what I see happening again and again, which is this: “We will do a little better. It will not be enough. It is not going to save people's lives in a profound way. It is not going to look at the very foundation of the things that are broken. But we are going to make it a little prettier on the surface, and hopefully that will fix it.”

A little bit better is not good enough. It is not good enough for democracy, and it certainly is not good enough for indigenous children in this country who are struggling in profound ways every single day.

We were told very clearly that the new score for Canada would be 92 out of a possible 150 with this legislation. That means we would get bumped up from 49th to 46th.

I do not like our country to be in the middle. I want our country to be challenged to do better, because I want Canada to be at the top. I want other countries in the world to see the work we are doing in this place and think they have to aim higher because of what Canada is doing. I want them to look at how accountable we are to our constituents, to the Canadian public, to our reporters, and that we are not afraid to have these discussions, even if they are really painful and really hard.

We have to talk about really painful things in the House. If we are not brave enough to do that, if we do not allow people to have the information they need to make decisions for themselves, it is like saying that we are separate. However, we are all one.

I remember one of the elders in my community, Alberta Billy, telling me that a long time ago the cedar trees were so big that they would go into the forest and pick one to build a canoe for the community. They would respect that tree and then they would make a canoe out of it to be used by the community.

We do not have those big trees anymore. We have to find two trees now and find a way for them to come together. Finding two trees that are going to fit seamlessly together is a lot of work. That is the world we live in now. We do not have those big trees.

If we look at that canoe as if we were all in this together, then we know we have a western world that came here as colonizers and we have an indigenous world and we are trying to build a canoe together.

Let us look at the fact that indigenous communities around this whole country had great systems in place. Let us look at how we can do better, be more accountable to the people we serve. That is what a leader is. It is the person who follows behind, who serves from behind. This legislation fails to do that.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 9:15 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we debate Bill C-58 tonight, I cannot help but share the disappointment of my colleagues on the NDP benches. We were promised that this access to information legislation would create information available essentially by default, with more transparency.

I recall that when I used to practise environmental law, the joke among all of us at the time was that Canada's access to information legislation constituted freedom from information.

Now, we know that quite a lot of amendments were made in the Senate, and I know that the hon. parliamentary secretary wants to make sure that we are not caught in a time warp where we miss them. It is important to note that a lot of those amendments came from the government side. Amendments tightened up some of the language around vexatious questions being used as an excuse to reject access to information requests. However, I still find that this legislation falls far below the bar of what was promised. We did try, as Greens, to improve this legislation. I had 18 amendments come before the committee. Lots of us, as parliamentarians, tried to improve this legislation.

Given that there were some improvements, some significant ones from first reading, is there any temptation on the NDP benches to pass it as marginally better, or is it better to defeat it because it falls so far below the mark?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 8:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beloeil—Chambly. I have been here for 15 years and I have never seen a more dedicated member of Parliament. He is a good representative for his region, which I know very well from going door-to-door in the Chambly area. He is always here and he asks questions that get to the heart of his constituents' concerns. Like many other members, I continue to be very impressed by his work, his dedication, his discipline and his way of addressing people's concerns. I thank him for his excellent work. He just asked an excellent question.

Transparency and access to information are not rocket science. Witnesses told us what to do. They said that Bill C-58 was inadequate. The Information Commissioner said that he preferred to keep the status quo rather than seeing this bill pass. The Liberals refused to listen and include in the bill all the solutions, amendments and recommendations that were proposed by witnesses and the NDP. We proposed three dozen amendments.

The Liberals had all the solutions they needed in hand. We were not asking them to do the work. We were simply asking them to agree to let the NDP do it for them, because we were chosen to be the watchdog of Canadians in the House of Commons. We are always seeking to improve legislation. All the Liberals had to do was accept the work that we did for them and for all Canadians. Unfortunately, they refused to do so. They said that they would not accept the amendments or the testimony and that they were going to do as they pleased. That is why we have here a bill that is just a tiny step forward when we could have made some real progress. That goes against everything the Liberals promised in 2015.

As the member mentioned, in 2015 the Liberals promised democratic reform. They promised to put an end to omnibus bills, which are undemocratic. They also promised to work with the opposition parties and all members. Instead, they are imposing gag orders, a bit like in the 1950s, when the opposition was prevented from saying one more word about bills once a closure motion was adopted.

For all those reasons, I would say that this is yet another missed opportunity on the part of the Liberals.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 8:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have to comment on what just transpired. The Liberals are slapping each other on the back because they passed a motion that is meaningless. Tomorrow they are going to rubber-stamp the Trans Mountain pipeline, which will dramatically increase greenhouse gas production in the country. The hypocrisy is beyond belief.

That is extremely appropriate when we see the hypocrisy contained in Bill C-58, which should be called “another Liberal broken promise act”, because, again, the Liberals are breaking the solemn commitments they made back in 2015.

Members will recall that back in 2015, the Prime Minister made a whole series of commitments, including that he was going to work with all members of the House of Commons. Instead what we have seen is a new tool, never used in parliamentary history before, gag closure.

It is a particular motion that does not allow opposition members, once the gag closure motion is moved, to even utter one word on government policy, to offer any amendments, to ask any questions, to, in any way at all, intervene on the bill, the legislation, the business before the House. It has been moved several times already in the last couple of weeks. So much for the solemn commitment to improve the functioning of Parliament.

The Liberals also promised they would do away with omnibus legislation. The Harper government was renowned for that, throwing a whole bunch of different bills into one piece of legislation and throwing at the House of Commons. It was profoundly disrespectful to members of Parliament and profoundly disrespectful to Canadians.

However, the Liberals have doubled down over the last four years. They have now presented more pieces of massive omnibus legislation than in any other Parliament in our history.

Members will recall that Liberals and the Prime Minister talked about bringing in democratic reform, actually reforming our election process so every vote would count. That would make a lot of sense. Canadians voted for that. The Liberals only got 39% of the vote and yet they have 100% of the power in the House of Commons. They bring in gag closure, they bring in omnibus bills and that promise, that solemn commitment to bring forward democratic reform has been thrown away.

The Liberals also talked about dealing with climate change. Tomorrow they will be rubber-stamping a pipeline that will destroy any opportunity for Canada to meet any commitments that have been made internationally.

The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie estimated that even before the pipeline, it would take Liberals 200 years to meet the Paris commitments. The planet will not exist at that time if Canada continues to be as irresponsible as the government has been, both under the Conservative government and the Liberal government.

The Prime Minister solemnly promised he would address the massive housing crisis in the country. Tragically, we know that is not the case. The Liberals said that they would address the health care crisis and promised, yet again, that they would bring in pharmacare. I think it is the third time, with a Liberal majority government, that Liberals promised to bring in pharmacare and yet have failed.

After four years, we have a litany of broken promises. Perhaps one of the most significant promises, even though this bill has not attracted a lot of interest, is the broken promise on information being provided to the Canadian public. That is why I call Bill C-58 the “another Liberal broken promise” bill.

The Liberals committed back in 2015 to provide information to the Canadian public. That makes a lot of sense. Canadians have a right to information from the government. It does not belong to the Harper government. It certainly does not belong to the Liberal government. That information belongs to Canadians.

Putting in place an effective information regime that allows people to access information, important government information, important information that should be available to the public, was a commitment the Liberals made back in 2015. Like so many other commitments, it has ended up on the scrap heap.

The Information Commissioner called Bill C-58, the “another Liberal broken promise” bill, regressive and went so far as to say that the access to information regime would be better under the status quo than under Bill C-58.

Is that not a sad commentary, that a Liberal government, four years later, has so little to show for itself except for a litany of broken promises solemnly delivered in 2015? Canadians believed them. I certainly thought, and I think most Canadians believed, that when the Prime Minister made those solemn commitments that he had at least the intention of keeping them. However, the Liberals have not. As the Access to Information Commissioner reminds us, the bill that the Liberals have brought forward is worse than what currently exists.

How did the Liberals fall so short? Despite committing to so many things, discarding their promises on the scrap heap of broken Liberal promises history, how did they even get the access to information wrong? Four points need to be brought to bear regarding why the Liberals failed so lamentably on access to information.

To be sure, the Conservatives did the same thing when they were in power. They said they would enhance access to information for the public, recognizing that Canadians felt they should have a right to access the information that was available to the federal government. It is a fundamental tenet of democracy, that information available to the federal government is available to Canadians. When we do things in the House of Commons and speak in public, that information is available. When government ministers do things in private, that should also be available through access to information.

It is the Canadians' government. It is Canadians who choose their parliamentarians. It is Canadians who ultimately decide who governs them. Because of this, it is fundamental that Canadians have access to information.

Bill C-58, which is worse than the existing access to information law, has a number of key exemptions or shortcomings, deliberate attempts to undercut the access to information regime that the Liberals planted in the legislation. It has essentially put poison pills in the legislation. They have a beautiful title about enhancing access to information, but we must look at the details, as New Democrats do. We always do our homework and always pore through legislation to ensure there is at least a semblance of reality in what is written in the legislation, as opposed to the political spin that comes from the Liberal government.

First, there was a recommendation that the coverage of access to information include ministers' offices and the Prime Minister's Office. This is another key commitment from the 2015 election that has been broken. Given the incredible scandal regarding SNC-Lavalin, it is absolutely fundamental that Canadians can access information related to what transpires in the Prime Minister's Office and in ministerial offices. It is a no-brainer. So many democracies around the world have already incorporated into their access to information regimes that ministers' decisions and decisions of the prime minister's office, that type of correspondence, are subject to access to information rules. Unlike in so many other democracies, the Liberals deliberately exempted the Prime Minister's Office and ministerial offices.

Second, as the Information Commissioner has long recommended, there has to be appropriate sanctions for non-compliance. If the government or government members try to get around access to information rules, there should be sanctions for that. However, that is absent from the bill as well.

The Information Commissioner was critical of what the Liberals offered in access to information, because it would do nothing to reduce delays or extensions. This means the Liberal government can basically rag the puck and ensure that information is not available to the Canadian public.

In the last Parliament, when the New Democrats were the official opposition, we spoke out repeatedly about the Harper government doing this. It simply delayed things beyond belief to ensure that for all practical purposes, access to information was simply not available. Again, the bill would do nothing to address this.

The bill would also do nothing to narrow exemptions for ministerial advice or cabinet confidence, ensuring that, with a broad brush, the Liberals could simply stop the access to information system to which Canadians have a right.

This is the fundamental point I need to make. Yes, Liberals made a whole series of commitments that they have ripped up with complete disregard to the solemn commitments made to the Canadian public. They basically threw them out the window.

However, in terms of access to information, this is one of the most egregious broken promises. The Liberals could have approached this in an open way. They could have said that they actually do want to make sure Canadians have access to information from their government and that this is a fundamental aspect of democracy. They could have said that they would work with the NDP, because we have always been the number one champions in this House of Commons for access to information. We believe fundamentally in it, and, as in so many other areas, we and members in the past have always championed the most effective approach possible on access to information, including the member for Timmins—James Bay, who has felt very strongly about this and has worked in this regard for years.

The Liberals could have done that, but instead they rejected the NDP amendments and refused to improve this. We now have a bill before us that can only be chalked up as another Liberal broken promise. As the Information Commissioner said, the status quo is actually better than what the Liberals have produced. That is a shame, and we are voting against it.

The House resumed from June 13 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Notice of Closure MotionAccess to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice that with respect to the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-58, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, at the next sitting of the House a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that the debate be not further adjourned.

Bill C-58—Notice of time allocationAccess to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that agreements could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the consideration of certain amendments to Bill C-58, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage of the bill.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2019 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Victoria is a tough act to follow, but I will do the best I can.

I will start by saying there is wide gulf between what the government promised in 2015 and what it has actually delivered. It is quite saddening to every Canadian who believes in parliamentary democracy and believes the people should have the right to determine the destiny of this country. We see the government having repeatedly betrayed the promises the Liberals made during the election campaign in 2015.

I will not spend too much time on the litany of broken promises, but certainly one is on democratic reform. In 2015 we were supposed to have the last first past the post election which is undemocratic. We are now going into another election with the whole aspect of democratic reform gutted, ripped up. It is a promise that has been thrown on the floor and trampled on.

The government wanted to take action on the environment. Instead, we get the Trans Mountain pipeline that the government has spent billions of dollars on and will spend tens of billions more as construction costs escalate.

When we talk about the House of Commons and respecting parliamentary democracy, we had the Prime Minister promising in 2015 an end to omnibus legislation, legislation that ties together a whole range of unrelated items. Instead, the Liberals have doubled down and created some of the most monstrous pieces of omnibus legislation that the House has ever seen in a century and a half.

The Prime Minister during the election campaign talked about eliminating closure and working co-operatively with the opposition parties. Instead, what we have seen this week is the most toxic muzzling of the opposition that has ever occurred in our history, toxic closure motions that allow only one member to speak. The government has used this device a number of times now. Once the government moves the motion, one member gets to speak. Most often it is a government member, and there is no time for questions or comments or anything by the opposition. Opposition members represent more than 60% of the Canadian population and they are completely muzzled and shut down.

We just saw the spectre of the worst Thursday question response that this Parliament has ever seen. There has always been respect for Parliament that when the Thursday question is offered by the official opposition House leader, a role which I played in the last Parliament, the government then gives some idea of the legislation to come before the House in the following week. For a century and a half when that question has been asked by the official opposition, the government has been forthcoming. It does not mean that sometimes agendas change, but there has been some inkling of the business to come before Parliament in the following week.

Today, we saw the government remove its mask and show its real face. There was no information forthcoming at all to any member of the opposition or even any member of the government side. We do not know when the Conservatives will get their opposition day. We do not know when the supply votes, which should take us a good part of the day and probably all night, will occur. We do not know what legislation is coming up on Monday morning. Members of Parliament will be leaving this place this week with absolutely no idea of what is coming before the House in the subsequent week. That is the first time any government has attempted to override and ride roughshod over parliamentary rights in our nation's history. It was absolutely despicable to see that.

This is not a small matter. When we think of all the members of Parliament having to organize their travel schedules to make sure they are here for those supply votes which often take 24 hours, for Conservatives to know when their opposition day is coming forward so that they can offer their suggestions, which often I disagree with, but always respect their right to offer them for what Parliament and the government should do moving forward, all of those things have been put in complete suspension. Members of Parliament now have to wait to see what the government will be bringing up Monday morning. It is unbelievable.

Therefore, when we talk about Bill C-58, it is in the same framework of broken promises and abuse of parliamentary democracy.

All members of Parliament have a role to play in the House of Commons. All of us should have the ability to represent our constituents. However, the government provides nothing but a blank slate, saying, “We'll let you know Monday morning what is actually going to come before the House. We're going to let you know, Conservatives, when you can offer your opposition motion. We're going to let all members of Parliament know when we are getting into the 24-hour voting cycle.” For those members of Parliament who also have to be present in their constituency and for those members of Parliament who also have family obligations, this disrespect for Parliament is unbelievable. It is unbelievable not to provide any sort of indication whatsoever about what is going to transpire in this place from Monday morning on.

Access to information starts with that. If the government respected access to information, it would start with parliamentarians, by saying to them, “Here is the schedule for next week. It may change, but here are our intentions about the bills to come before the House.” Yes, the Senate influences that, I have no doubt, but to give some sense of what bills may be coming forward, when the opposition day is or when we will be having all-night voting is just a modicum of respect and information that needs to be provided to parliamentarians.

The Liberals have done the same thing to Canadians that they are doing to members of Parliament. We now have Bill C-58, which was deeply flawed. It was criticized from right and left, from people who believe that Canadians have a right to access the information that belongs to them. This is not a Liberal dictatorship, or I certainly hope it is not or will not become one. Liberal governments, like all governments, should govern in the interest of all Canadians. There is no doubt that there is a fundamental right to information that all Canadians possess.

However, the Liberals presented a flawed bill. The New Democratic members and members of the other opposition parties all came forward with helpful suggestions that would make a difference and make a bad bill a fairly good bill. Liberal members on the committee and in the House simply gutted that and refused those amendments. The bill then went to the Senate, and the government had an opportunity to get amendments from senators. We might believe in the abolition of the Senate, but it certainly has a role to play right now, and it improved the bill, again. I think people were generally optimistic that at least the bad bill had become a fairly good bill, yet the government has gutted that again.

Ultimately, it is disrespect for parliamentarians, and it is disrespect for Canadians. For that reason, New Democrats will be voting against the government's proposal.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2019 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby for his very kind remarks.

He talked about the amendments. I was involved in bringing forth some 36 amendments to Bill C-58 at committee. Many of them were deemed inadmissible because they were beyond the scope of the bill we were amending, but they were part of the package that all of those academics and activists and journalists had asked us to bring forward. Twenty were ultimately accepted as admissible, but of course, the government disallowed every single one of them. Why the Liberals are opposed to this I do not know.

Journalist Jeremy Nuttall, who writes for the Tyee, talks about writing cheques for $5. People have to pay $5. It costs the government way more money to cash the cheque than to do otherwise. One cannot go online like can be done in British Columbia with a credit card and request the information.

The Liberals pride themselves on updating the bill but they are stuck with this horse and buggy bill. It is very hard to understand why they would not take the opportunity to improve it. It is not like all of the provinces have not done stuff that the government could learn from. The Liberals are so rigid and do not seem to accept that we can do it better for Canadians. I am not suggesting that the provinces' legislation is perfect by any stretch, but it is so much better than what we have here.