Evidence of meeting #166 for Public Safety and National Security in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cbsa.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Commissioner Brian Brennan  Contract and Indigenous Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
David Vigneault  Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service
John Ossowski  President, Canada Border Services Agency
Alain Tousignant  Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'm calling this meeting to order.

I want to thank Minister Goodale for his presence. He is here to talk about the main estimates.

Before he starts, I want to note that this is possibly the last time the minister will appear before this particular committee. On behalf of the committee, I want to thank him not only for his attendance here, but for his willingness to co-operate with the committee and to review all of the amendments that have been put forward by this committee to him, and his willingness to accept quite a high percentage of them.

Minister, I want to thank you for your co-operation and for your relationship with the committee.

With that—

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

You mean in this Parliament, right?

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Pardon?

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

You mean in this Parliament, right?

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Yes, in this Parliament. We're not going back to the days of Laurier or anything of that nature.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It's not the last time ever.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

No. Thank you.

Minister.

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Chairman, thank you for your very kind remarks. They are much appreciated, and I'm glad to be back with the committee once again, this time, of course, presenting the 2019-20 main estimates for the public safety portfolio.

To help explain all of those numbers in more detail and to answer your questions today, I am pleased to be joined by Gina Wilson, the new deputy minister of Public Safety Canada. I believe this is her first appearance before this committee. She is no stranger, of course, in the Department of Public Safety, but she has been, for the last couple of years, the deputy minister in the Department for Women and Gender Equality, a department she presided over the creation of.

With the deputy minister today, we have Brian Brennan, deputy commissioner of the RCMP; David Vigneault, director of CSIS; John Ossowski, president of CBSA; Anne Kelly, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada; and Anik Lapointe, chief financial officer for the Parole Board of Canada.

The top priority of any government, Mr. Chair, is to keep its citizens safe and secure, and I'm very proud of the tremendous work that is being done by these officials and the employees who work following their lead diligently to serve Canadians and protect them from all manner of public threats. The nature and severity of those threats continue to evolve and change over time and, as a government, we are committed to supporting the skilled men and women who work so hard to protect us by giving them the resources they need to ensure that they can respond. The estimates, of course, are the principal vehicle for doing that.

The main estimates for 2019-20 reflect that commitment to keep Canadians safe while safeguarding their rights and freedoms. You will note that, portfolio-wide, the total authorities requested this year would result in a net increase of $256.1 million for this fiscal year, or 2.7% more than last year's main estimates. Of course, some of the figures go up and some go down, but the net result is a 2.7% increase.

One key item is an investment of $135 million in fiscal year 2019-20 for the sustainability and modernization of Canada's border operations. The second is $42 million for Public Safety Canada, the RCMP and CBSA to take action against guns and gangs. Minister Blair will be speaking in much more detail about the work being done under these initiatives when he appears before the committee.

For my part today I will simply summarize several other funding matters affecting my department, Public Safety Canada, and all of the related agencies.

The department is estimating a net spending decrease of $246.8 million this fiscal year, 21.2% less than last year. That is due to a decrease of $410.7 million in funding levels that expired last year under the disaster financial assistance arrangements. There is another item coming later on whereby the number goes up for the future year. You have to offset those two in order to follow the flow of the cash. That rather significant drop in the funding for the department itself, 21.2%, is largely due to that change in the DFAA, for which the funding level expired in 2018-19.

There was also a decrease of some $79 million related to the completion of Canada's presidency of the G7 in the year 2018.

These decreases are partially offset by a number of funding increases, including a $25-million grant to Avalanche Canada to support its life-saving safety and awareness efforts; $14.9 million for infrastructure projects related to security in indigenous communities; $10.1 million in additional funding for the first nations policing program; and $3.3 million to address post-traumatic stress injuries affecting our skilled public safety personnel.

The main estimates also reflect measures announced a few weeks ago in budget 2019. For Public Safety Canada, that is, the department, these include $158.5 million to improve our ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies and natural disasters in Canada, including in indigenous communities, of which $155 million partially offsets that reduction in DFAA that I just referred to.

There's also $4.4 million to combat the truly heinous and growing crime of child sexual exploitation online.

There is $2 million for the security infrastructure program to continue to help communities at risk of hate-motivated crime to improve their security infrastructure.

There is $2 million to support efforts to assess and respond to economic-based national security threats, and there's $1.8 million to support a new cybersecurity framework to protect Canada's critical infrastructure, including in the finance, telecommunications, energy and transport sectors.

As you know, in the 2019 federal budget, we also announced $65 million as a one-time capital investment in the STARS air rescue system to acquire new emergency helicopters. That important investment does not appear in the 2019-20 main estimates because it was accounted for in the 2018-19 fiscal year, that is, before this past March 31.

Let me turn now to the 2019-20 main estimates for the other public safety portfolio organizations, other than the department itself.

I'll start with CBSA, which is seeking a total net increase this fiscal year of $316.9 million. That's 17.5% over the 2018-19 estimates. In addition to that large sustainability and modernization for border operations item that I previously mentioned, some other notable increases include $10.7 million to support activities related to the immigration levels plan that was announced for the three years 2018 to 2020. Those things include security screening, identity verification, the processing of permanent residents when they arrive at the border and so forth—all the responsibilities of CBSA.

There's an item for $10.3 million for the CBSA's postal modernization initiative, which is critically important at the border. There is $7.2 million to expand safe examination sites, increase intelligence and risk assessment capacity and enhance the detector dog program to give our officers the tools they need to combat Canada's ongoing opioid crisis.

There's also approximately $100 million for compensation and employee benefit plans related to collective bargaining agreements.

Budget 2019 investments affecting CBSA main estimates this year include a total of $381.8 million over five years to enhance the integrity of Canada's borders and the asylum system. While my colleague Minister Blair will provide more details on this, the CBSA would be receiving $106.3 million of that funding in this fiscal year.

Budget 2019 also includes $12.9 million to ensure that immigration and border officials have the resources to process a growing number of applications for Canadian visitor visas and work and study permits.

There is $5.6 million to increase the number of detector dogs deployed across the country in order to protect Canada's hog farmers and meat processors from the serious economic threat posed by African swine fever.

Also, there's $1.5 million to protect people from unscrupulous immigration consultants by improving oversight and strengthening compliance and enforcement measures.

I would also note that the government announced through the budget its intention to introduce the legislation necessary to expand the role of the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission so it can also serve as an independent review body for CBSA. That proposed legislation, Bill C-98, was introduced in the House last month.

I will turn now to the RCMP. Its estimates for 2019-20 reflect a $9.2-million increase over last year's funding levels. The main factors contributing to that change include increases of $32.8 million to compensate members injured in the performance of their duties, $26.6 million for the initiative to ensure security and prosperity in the digital age, and $10.4 million for forensic toxicology in Canada's new drug-impaired driving regime.

The RCMP's main estimates also reflect an additional $123 million related to budget 2019, including $96.2 million to strengthen the RCMP's overall policing operations, and $3.3 million to ensure that air travellers and workers at airports are effectively screened on site. The increases in funding to the RCMP are offset by certain decreases in the 2019-20 main estimates, including $132 million related to the completion of Canada's G7 presidency in 2018 and $51.7 million related to sunsetting capital infrastructure projects.

I will now move to the Correctional Service of Canada. It is seeking an increase of $136 million, or 5.6%, over last year's estimates. The two main factors contributing to the change are a $32.5-million increase in the care and custody program, most of which, $27.6 million, is for employee compensation, and $95 million announced in budget 2019 to support CSC's custodial operations.

The Parole Board of Canada is estimating a decrease of approximately $700,000 in these main estimates or 1.6% less than the amount requested last year. That's due to one-time funding received last year to assist with negotiated salary adjustments. There is also, of course, information in the estimates about the Office of the Correctional Investigator, CSIS and other agencies that are part of my portfolio. I simply make the point that this is a very busy portfolio and the people who work within Public Safety Canada and all the related agencies carry a huge load of public responsibilities in the interests of public safety. They always put public safety first while at the same time ensuring that the rights and freedoms of Canadians are properly protected.

With that, Mr. Chair, my colleagues and I would be happy to try to answer your questions.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Minister.

With that, Mr. Picard, go ahead for seven minutes.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to welcome Minister Goodale and everyone who has joined us. Thank you for participating in this exercise once again.

First, I'll talk about my favourite subject, which is financial crime. If I combine the funding from the RCMP and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, the total is just over $7 million in investments —

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

There's no translation coming through.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Let's look at the money-laundering aspect of the estimates. Combined Public Safety and RCMP is about $7 million more.

What kind of improvement are we looking for? Is it just the money-laundering unit or is it IM/IT as well and other units working closely with financial crimes and/or terrorism financing?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Let me ask Deputy Commissioner Brennan to comment.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Incidentally, he is brand new on the job, just in the last number of months, but he will get used to the very pleasant experience of committee hearings of the House of Commons.

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Commissioner Brian Brennan Contract and Indigenous Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Thank you, Minister and Chairman.

The increase in funding would go to all of those areas. I'm not in a position to speak specifically to the numbers, exactly where all the dollars will go, but that investment is intended to increase our investigational capability and to support systems needed around those types of very specific investigations.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

If I could add to that, Monsieur Picard, the estimates show $4.1 million going to the RCMP directly for enhanced federal policing capacity. There's about $819,000 to Finance Canada to support its work related to money laundering. There's $3.6 million to FINTRAC to strengthen operational capacity. There's $3.28 million to the Department of Public Safety to create the anti-money laundering action, coordination and enforcement team, which is an effort to bring all of these various threads more coherently together so that everybody is operating on exactly the same page with the greatest efficiency and inter-agency co-operation.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you, sir.

With respect to CSIS and the Canadian strategy with respect to the Middle East, what do we have to change in our strategy? What doesn't work or what has to be changed?

Also, with respect to recent events here and close to us, the Middle East doesn't seem to be the only nature of the threats we have, so why the focus on the Middle East?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

David.

3:45 p.m.

David Vigneault Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Thank you, Minister.

Specifically, it's our effort to support the whole-of-government approach to the Middle East operations, the military and diplomatic operations in Syria and Iraq. The monies you see here for the main estimates are the specific allocations for CSIS to support those activities. We do intelligence collection in the region and here in Canada to support that activity.

Also, on your question, the focus of this estimate was on the Middle East, but as you pointed out, Mr. Picard, we are obviously concerned about activities and terrorism all over the world, not just in the Middle East.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Thank you.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Monsieur Picard, could I add just one small anecdote?

I had the opportunity at an earlier stage to have a discussion with the person who was then the U.S. Secretary of Defense with respect to the the change that had been made in Canada's deployment in the Middle East with respect to the international coalition against Daesh. I noted the very significant increase in the investment we were making with respect to intelligence activities. The U.S. secretary commented very favourably on the work by Canadians in that particular zone, particularly the intelligence work, which he indicated was first class and very helpful to all members of that coalition in dealing effectively with the threats posed by Daesh.

June 3rd, 2019 / 3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

This is my first experience and my first mandate, and I understand that we have to justify why we spend money. My next question would be why we don't spend a specific amount of money on a specific topic, so we'd be justifying to spend more money.... In terms of infrastructure on cyber-threats, I see that we have more than $1.7 million for cyber-threats. My concern is not that we have money for cyber-threats; it's that we don't have money anywhere else.

Based on what we've studied on democratic institutions, ethics and public information here, on cyber-threats and financial crimes, this subject was all over the place. People are getting scared in learning what we learn day in and day out about this threat, which is multi-faceted. I don't see anything about this topic specifically in this budget, so would you please take this chance to explain?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

I would be happy to, Monsieur Picard, because it is quite possible for people to look at that one number, $1.8 million, and wonder how that covers the field. Well, it doesn't. This is one little snapshot of one portion of the spending that we are devoting to the whole cause of cybersecurity.

Through our last two or three budgets, we have included a series of investments. They of course roll forward through the estimates process, but you actually need to examine the sections of the budget that lay out the more complete picture.

Through various departments, we are investing, through the budget last year, $750 million to enhance cybersecurity in Canada. A portion of that creates the new cyber response centre. A portion of that creates the new cybercrime unit within the RCMP. There is a whole series of investments to enhance our approach to cybercrime and cybersecurity.

In the last budget, the key investment was $145 million, of which this is the first very small tranche, to support the security of our critical cyber-systems. We have identified four in particular: finance, telecommunications....

Remind me of what they are. I want to make sure I get the four critically....

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

We can come back to that. Mr. Picard is well over time.