Mr. Speaker, Group No. 4 in fact resembles the bill itself. Just a while ago, the parliamentary secretary had some nice things to say about the bill as a whole. He said that the Bloc had spoken about things that were not in the bill.
Still, one should be aware of what the federal government has done for a number of years now, which is to interfere in the provinces' jurisdiction over manpower training without any statutory basis, and to table a bill and put forward a motion creating the equivalent of a federal department of education.
This is not just a housekeeping bill, this is not a bill that merely sets out the existing situation. It is an attempt to legitimize an approach that does not accurately reflect the division of powers between the provinces and the federal government.
This leeway in the bill comes up again in Group No. 4 and is just as confusing. The question the public should be asking itself about the amendments proposed is the following: Just how far should the government be allowed to go in obtaining personal information?
In Motion No. 8 they want to add the departments of national revenue, finance, and supply and services. In Motion No. 11, they talk about the justice department and the Attorney General of Canada, for the purposes of investigations in relation to war crimes.
There are important elements involved, with an impact on confidentiality. Having been a member of parliament for two and a half years, I have really seen the weight of the bureaucracy brought to bear on individuals. I have seen how, when there is an investigation with respect to the Unemployment Insurance Act, for instance, it is the reverse of what we usually see in the courts. People are declared guilty until they prove otherwise, the opposite of the approach taken in the legal system.
Let us not forget the amendments to the legislation the last time to prevent people from receiving unemployment insurance benefits, such as the case of the beneficiary who had to prove that he had not been let go for whatever reason. We might have a lot of questions to ask about the government's objectives in seeking to broaden the scope of investigations in this manner.
Was the idea to go after unemployment rather than the unemployed? They think that they can solve unemployment by heaping further penalties on people who find themselves in difficult
situations, whose circumstances are such that they are not always aware of the complexity of legislation.
It is for that reason that, before passing an amendment authorizing the government to cross-reference information with National Revenue and Finance, Supply and Services, and in other cases with the Department of Justice, the Attorney General of Canada, we must be certain that these actions will be carried out with respect for the right to confidentiality of certain information.
If similar information requirements were applied to individuals who have family trusts or benefit from any other tax avoidance scheme, would their rate of non-compliance not be considerably higher that what is currently observed among the unemployed, those who use this particular social program?
Does this kind of amendment not create a double standard?
These are questions we can ask ourselves. The same way we can ask ourselves if this is not the government's roundabout way of completing the job it has been doing on the UI reform, creating a climate where users of the system are penalized and nit-picking relentlessly, even if it means going too far sometimes in looking for information.
We in Canada have had experience with this kind of approach in other areas. We have seen the effect it has on social assistance when the government assumes the right to intervene, to go looking for all sorts of information concerning an individual. At some certain point, it becomes immoral. Knowing how easily this kind of information can be retrieved by powerful computer systems, we are certainly very reluctant to vote in favour of such an amendment.
I would therefore urge the government and the Reform Party to think twice before passing this amendment. All the hon. members of this House have had, in their ridings, people walk in their office and explain how powerless they feel when dealing with the bureaucracy, how difficult it is to handle a letter informing you that you are not eligible to UI benefits when you have had the same job for three full years, just because all of a sudden someone somewhere has decided to interpret a rule differently. When they are denied a cheque and this is their only source of income, individuals are not equipped to face the government and work their way up the government channels.
I think individual citizens should have a fair chance to argue their points and make sure that information provided in confidence to one party or the other will not be used indiscriminately, because that creates a climate of distrust which is unhealthy, is not fair to the citizens and contributes to making our society very wary about any government action. The government should give some thought to this before passing this kind of amendment.