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Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was clauses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I will ask my question very quickly, and perhaps Mr. Zigayer can answer it.

Are there technical, logistic or legal reasons that would have prevented the government from presenting a bill in June or September last year that included the provisions that we are currently studying in division 12?

5:35 p.m.

Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Michael Zigayer

I will answer in English this time.

That's not really a question I'm competent to respond to. Deciding when to introduce a bill is really a matter for the government.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I didn't want to ask you if it should have been done. I just wanted to know if there were aspects that would have prevented the government from doing it, if it had chosen to.

5:35 p.m.

Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Michael Zigayer

I mentioned a few minutes ago that we made some adjustments to the bill. There's a process element in getting approval to make a change in the bill. There's a process element that has to be considered. That means a certain amount of time was taken in developing the options for cabinet to consider. That may account for some of the time between the election, and ultimately the decision to introduce this as part of a larger bill.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Chair, after listening to the answer we were just given, I think that, if the government was so pressed to have a bill containing this provision passed, with its consequences, and to respect the treaty and its deadlines, it could have easily tabled this bill previously. That way, we would not find ourselves in this current race against the clock that it, alone, is responsible for.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Merci.

We'll go to Ms. Nash, please.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

I just wanted to make the point, responding through you, Mr. Chair, to Ms. Glover, that what's not ridiculous is that this issue and this topic should be studied by the appropriate committee, with the appropriate members of Parliament and the appropriate witnesses, and should not be studied through the finance committee. I don't think that's at all ridiculous. I think it's the way a normal government would operate.

I just wanted to get that on the record.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

(Clauses 368 to 374 inclusive agreed to on division)

I want to thank our officials for being here.

Colleagues, we've been going for over two hours. As your chair, I'm going to call a five-minute health break and suspend for a few minutes.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

I call the meeting back to order.

We are at part 4, division 13, and clauses 375 to 376 on the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act. I don't have any amendments on this division.

Do any colleagues wish to speak to this? No? Okay.

(Clauses 375 and 376 agreed to)

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

That is unanimous.

I shall then move to division 14 and amendments to the Canada Health Act. This is one clause. Are there colleagues who wish to speak to clause 377?

Ms. Nash.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This clause would include a member of the RCMP as an insurable person under the provincial and territorial health programs. The RCMP would no longer be in the basic health care business but would continue providing supplemental health services, either directly or through a health insurance provider.

RCMP members currently enjoy better coverage than they would receive under the proposed changes. We see it as being a step backwards for the RCMP and we won't be supporting it.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Ms. Nash.

Ms. Glover.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I disagree with the statement made by Ms. Nash. In fact, right now the RCMP pay taxes on a benefit that they're not even allowed to take advantage of.

If I could turn my attention to the witnesses, if you could explain what I just said so that members understand how it actually doesn't benefit them when they're not insurable because they're paying tax, it would be much appreciated.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Mr. Jay, please.

5:45 p.m.

Garry Jay Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The benefits actually are the same as they would be in the province. What we're asking for, or what has been asked for in the amendment, would result in the same basic benefits being provided.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

And the tax they pay on the provincial premiums...? Right now, they're not eligible for benefit. If Mr. Hutcheson wants to explain that...?

June 5th, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.

Jeff Hutcheson Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Yes. Currently the RCMP members pay the same taxes that any resident in the province would pay, and would continue to do so with this proposed amendment.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

But now they would be able to get benefit as residents.

5:45 p.m.

Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Jeff Hutcheson

Yes, that's correct.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Is there further discussion, Ms. Nash?

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

I just want to get it on the record that in a recent meeting, Commissioner Bob Paulson said that the group that represents the Mounties expressed their “grave concerns regarding the potential clawback”. So the Mounties have concerns about this.

Again, it's not something that's properly before the finance committee. It should probably be examined elsewhere, but because the Mounties themselves have expressed concerns, we're not going to support it.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Ms. Nash.

I see no further discussion.

(Clause 377 agreed to on division)

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, gentlemen, for being with us tonight

We will move to division 15, clauses 378 to 387, and amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. I do not have any amendments for this division, but I have Ms. Nash and Mr. Brison on the speakers list.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This is a change that would have an impact on the oversight of CSIS. Back in 2010 Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said that “The inspector general performs an important review function that supports me in my role as minister and ensures that CSIS is operating within the law and complying with current policies.” Our view is that the minister was absolutely right in that statement, and therefore we do not support the removal of the oversight of the inspector general.

We heard testimony from Mr. Paul Kennedy, who came before this committee. Mr. Kennedy told us that he had 20 years of experience in the field of national security. He served as a senior Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Safety. He has been a crown prosecutor, and although his testimony was dismissed as wrong by members opposite, he was in fact very credible. I want to highlight some concerns that he raised.

Mr. Kennedy said that “due to their covert nature, security intelligence activities do not lend themselves to a traditional accountability model”, nor can Canadians access information from CSIS in the same way they can from other government institutions. He also said that inappropriate behaviour by CSIS falls directly at the feet of the Minister of Public Safety.

Mr. Kennedy also said, and I quote:

The Minister of Public Safety presides over a vast portfolio which engages the services of some 40,000 public servants. It's impossible for him to know whether each individual is conducting his or her responsibilities in accordance with the law, operational policies, and ministerial directives and whether powers are being exercised in a reasonable manner.

He made a number of comments. I'll just highlight something else:

That office audits the investigative activity of CSIS at the case file level to ensure that it is in fact complying. The inspector general reports directly to the minister and provides assurances that matters are on course or provides a heads-up as to potential problems.

Now, we heard officials say that this was just duplication, that there were other organizations, there was another body that would handle this kind of review. But Mr. Kennedy said that is simply not true, that the other body is qualitatively different and the inspector general is the one who really represents the eyes and the ears of the minister when it comes to CSIS. Mr. Kennedy was very concerned about why this oversight would be removed, given the personal accountability that the minister has to this. He said that “...without such an office the minister would be blind and entirely at the mercy of the intelligence service. This is neither a reasonable nor a desirable outcome.”

Lastly, he said that

...both the RCMP Security Service and CSIS have had more than their fair share of troubles....The financial cost of past missteps in the area of national security...measured simply in terms of commissions of inquiries...runs to the many tens of millions of dollars, and that's not counting the loss of public support.

The point is that if this is part of a cost-cutting measure, it is simply too high a price to pay in terms of loss of public confidence and potential higher costs down the road, given what Mr. Kennedy felt would be the inevitable problems that would arise due to lack of oversight of and accountability by CSIS.

So we're opposed to this change. The inspector general is not a large expense, but it is a valuable source of information for an organization that is by its nature secret but that Canadians still need to know is behaving according to the rules.

Thank you.