Madam Speaker, I am glad to rise today on this important topic. I found the debate earlier quite interesting. We saw the Conservatives and the NDP fight about who did what first and who is criticizing the government more.
Meanwhile, on this side of the House, we are actually getting to work to make sure that our democratic institutions are protected. While we do that, the opposition parties can stand up to fight about who did what best, whose clip came first and whose motion did what.
I think Canadians expect a government that puts partisanship aside to focus on the real issues that our country is facing. The threat of foreign interference is not a partisan issue. Every single Canadian, regardless of who they vote for or what party they support, should absolutely care about this issue. That should be reflected in the House.
The issue of foreign interference in our democratic institutions is not a new one. In fact, it is not even a unique one for Canada. We have seen instances around the world, such as the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We have seen efforts of foreign interference in France, Australia and New Zealand. All of these countries have been dealing with this issue.
In fact, Canada was warned by CSIS in 2013 about the threat of foreign interference. The then democratic institutions minister, now the opposition leader, did absolutely nothing about it. The leader of the official opposition said in this place that he did not do anything about it because it did not serve his partisan interests at the time. That should indicate to Canadians the absolute basics of where the opposition parties are coming from on this issue.
We now have the report by the right hon. David Johnston, and before members have even had a chance to dive into that report, the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the Bloc have said no. They are going to close their eyes to facts. They do not want to receive the secure national security briefing because they want to be able to continue to still make ignorant claims. They would like to remain blind to the facts. It should not surprise anyone that a party based on conspiracy theories and clickbait would not be a mature and responsible opposition party.
Yesterday, in this very place, the Leader of the Opposition said that he did not want a national security briefing because he did not want to be silenced. That should tell Canadians the level of maturity of the Leader of the Opposition. He is not ready to lead this country. He is barely ready to lead an official opposition of this place.
For somebody to suggest that having a national security briefing silences one on this issue is not only beyond false, but also beyond comprehension. It shows how little he knows about national security matters.
I myself have national security clearance because I was a member of the NSICOP committee, yet I have debated on this issue several times. I am leading the opposition day speech in this place. I have spoken out at PROC. I have asked witnesses serious questions. In fact, in my role in the national defence committee, I brought forward a motion that we study cybersecurity. This was all while having national security briefings, sitting on NSICOP and studying foreign interference, yet I have been able to serve my constituents by raising the issues that matter.
By taking national security seriously and by understanding that one can advocate for stronger democratic institutions, one can still advocate for stronger legislation and mechanisms while also protecting the national security information of this country.
That is what responsible members do. If I can do it, as a member of this government, certainly the Leader of the Opposition should be mature enough to understand the importance of national security while still being able to advocate for stronger mechanisms and measures. The fact that he cannot comprehend how to put the national security of this country first, instead of his partisan attacks, should tell Canadians everything they need to know about the seriousness, or lack thereof, of the Leader of the Opposition and, for that matter, the leader of the Bloc.
When it comes to the issues, I have heard many times in this debate that confidence in Canadians is being eroded. Is that not ironic given the members saying it are the ones who are closing their eyes to the facts? In the right hon. David Johnston's report, he specifically talks about the balance between wanting to make a report that everyday Canadians can read and access with better understand, while at the same time protecting the national security information we all rely on to keep this country safe. He acknowledges that.
David Johnston said that he created an annex to this report with all of the information he based his decisions on. He included this annex for leaders of all recognized parties, members of NSICOP and those with national security clearance that need to have access to it. He specifically said in this report for leaders of the opposition and members of NSICOP to please read this annex, the information that he based his decisions on. He said that they can read it and come forward if they believe that, based on the information, his recommendations were ill-informed or they have taken a different approach.
It is pretty open and transparent to say there is a balance between Canadians needing to understand the positions and the recent media leaks while protecting national security. He then went on to say to everybody who has that national security clearance, such as opposition parties and NSICOP, that all of the information, which he based his recommendations and findings on, is in one easy document, and that, if they disagree with those findings, then they can come forward and say so. However, this will be done while protecting the confidential information collected by the national security community. That is quite reasonable.
In fact, it was an incredibly readable report. I have read many reports of this nature. NSICOP has produced many reports of this nature, and one of the things NSICOP always tries to do in the public version of its reports is to take care and concern in making them as digestible as possible, so any Canadian picking up a report would understand the national security dynamics happening at any given time.
David Johnston suggested to read the information to determine on one's own if one thinks his findings were reasonable, so what happens? The Leader of the Opposition covers his eyes and his ears and says, “No, no, no. I don't want facts and information. I want to be able to stand up here and make fake innuendos, fake accusations and raise some money for my election campaign.” He wants to make personal attacks against the Prime Minister and the right hon. David Johnston.
What does the Bloc do? As my hon. colleague says, it is “blue light”, and it just follows suit. Then the NDP, with this motion, calls for the removal of the special rapporteur based on his report. Its leader has at least agreed to read the annex and get that national security briefing. However, before that has been done, to my knowledge, or at least before the leader of the NDP has made any assessment on the information the right hon. David Johnston used to come to the conclusions he did, and before NDP members have had a chance to really look at it to see if all the information is relevant, they say that they do not support the report. They do so without reading the basis of the recommendations.
When it comes to national security, there is a lot more context and information required than just a few media leaks. Therefore, for any responsible government to refuse to read the national security documentation in the briefings, to refuse to wait and, even for for those who have agreed to read it but refuse to actually digest it, look at it or consider it and just throw the report out, is nothing more than partisan games with Canadians' national security and with our democratic institutions. Therefore, if anybody is suggesting that confidence is being eroded, I would suggest it is by the irresponsible behaviour of our opposition parties in not actually doing the work, considering the information and making informed decisions, which is something that, regardless of party, I think every Canadian would expect their MP to be able to do.
I have talked about why I find the opposition parties irresponsible and, in particular, why I find the Leader of the Opposition not only irresponsible but also incredibly immature and unfit to lead, even a party, in this place. However, I want to also talk about some of the things we have done since 2015 because, as I started with in my speech, this is not new.
The opposition party, as the previous Conservative government, knew about foreign interference in 2013. Let me just say, too, that this is this not new, and it is never going to be over. There is no silver bullet any government could implement to say that foreign interference is no longer an issue. A serious democracy is going to always have to be diligent to the foreign forces that would love to destabilize the democracy that Canadians have fought so hard for. Therefore, the important piece of dealing with our democratic institutions is to put the partisanship aside and continually work on how to adapt and change with the changing nature of the threat. However, again, we cannot even have those types of debates in this place because we are too busy hearing partisan and personal attacks from the opposition members, who should be bringing forward recommendations and suggestions to move forward on legislation or mechanisms that would strengthen democratic institutions. Because we cannot get past personal attacks, the government is going to keep working based on experts and those who have come forward making recommendations, and based on looking at other countries and some of the work that they have done.
Some of the things that we have done since 2015 include creating NSICOP, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which gives national security clearance to representatives from recognized parties in the House, as well as national security briefings and documents. It is a committee that I mentioned I sat on, and it was an extremely professional and serious committee that has not only produced excellent reports for Canada but also has been recognized globally for the work it has done.
We created NSIRA, which is a review of our national security community. We have also established the critical election incident public protocol, and we have created the security and intelligence threats to elections task force, often referred to as SITE.
We have established rapid response mechanisms during elections. We have also had Bill C-59 and Bill C-76, and we have created the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. That is all since 2015.
While opposition parties say that we do not take this seriously, we have right here eight examples that I have listed. I would be curious as to whether, at any point during the day, the Conservative Party will be able to name even one example of something that it did in 10 years to deal with the threats to national security and to strengthen our democratic institutions. I will wait patiently through the debate today to see if that happens.
In addition to that, I would be very curious to see whether the members opposite come forward with serious policy and a serious policy debate.
We have the Johnston report, which makes very clear recommendations, as well as criticisms, with respect to how information is being reported to those who need it. Every government needs to seriously look at and constantly review these matters. I think there has been a strong indication that we are not only taking it seriously, but that we will implement changes to make sure that, moving forward, we are constantly improving our democratic institutions and our processes, and that we are making sure that democracy is protected for Canadians. We do not own these spaces, as this is the House of Commons of Canadians, and it is our job collectively to ensure that we continue to maintain the democratic institutions in this place.
I have spoken at length about the seriousness of these issues, the fact that they are not new, and that in 2013 we had a government that did not take them seriously at all. We are now implementing several of the recommendations, as well as implementing mechanisms to constantly strengthen our democratic institutions.
I want to speak again to this, because we are going to hear personal attacks all day today on the Right Honourable David Johnston. We have already seen him referred to as a ski buddy, a neighbour, a friend, and I think it is quite interesting that Conservatives would refer to him in that way.
I would like to read a quote with respect to Mr. Johnston, which states:
Mr. Johnston has a strong record of public service, a broad base of support and an impressive list of achievements....He has extensive legal expertise, a comprehensive understanding of government and a deep appreciation of the duties and tasks now before him.
That was not the current Prime Minister, but the previous prime minister, Prime Minister Harper, who said that about David Johnston. Therefore, it is disappointing that the Conservatives use personal attacks to undermine not only his credibility, but his lifelong achievements, dedication to this country and public service. To erode all of that by saying he is just a ski buddy and that is how he was selected is an absolute insult to this place and to the people who serve their country. It is all being done for nothing more than partisan gain. He was good enough for Conservatives to make him the governor general. He was good enough for the former prime minister to speak of him in that way. His reputation and credibility have only come into question now that Conservatives are not getting their political way.
I have spoken a lot about the lack of maturity shown by the Leader of the Opposition. I know my time is wrapping up and I want to conclude by saying this. Canadians deserve opposition parties and parliamentarians who work hard for their constituents. We are not always going to agree, but at the very least this should be a place of adamant debate on policy. When the Conservative members opposite do not like the findings or the opinions of someone they have acknowledged and revered for years and decide to throw him away like he is no longer good enough for this country, it is an absolute shame. It shows how immature and ill-equipped the Leader of the Opposition is and that he should not be taken seriously in this country. He is clearly not ready now, nor probably ever, to lead this country, because he does not take national security seriously, but we will on behalf of Canadians.