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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-37.

Topics

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the previous motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The recorded division stands deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow afternoon.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you would find consent of the House that we see the clock as 6.30 p.m. and that we proceed to the adjournment debate.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 6.30 p.m.?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question I originally raised on May 30 which was five months ago. At the time the distinguished parliamentary secretary said he would be more than happy to take my question under advisement and get back to me at an early time. It is now five months later and at my initiative we are back to discuss the issue.

It is appropriate that we discuss the issue now considering the things that are happening and the fact that the Prime Minister has suggested he will send peacekeepers to Afghanistan to deal with the aftermath of the military action when it ends. The question was raised today in the House as to where the additional soldiers would come from, where the money would come from and which peacekeeping efforts would be reduced to deal with this.

However it is more important that the government send a message that it will play a part in establishing a transitional government in Afghanistan and that it fight hard to ensure the United Nations plays a key role in Afghanistan after the military action ends. If the United States or any other country sets up a puppet government in Afghanistan it will be a disaster the rest of the world will pay for a long time. It must be a United Nations initiative.

Does the government agree? Will it do everything it can to ensure Canada plays a key role in establishing a transitional government through the United Nations that recognizes and represents all facets of the population in Afghanistan? Can the parliamentary secretary tell members whether the government is prepared to play a role through the United Nations?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the question the member asked has absolutely nothing to do with the question he asked on May 30. For your information, Mr. Speaker, during question period he asked about the cancellation and reissuing by DND of the tender for the redeployment of vehicles and equipment from Eritrea. That is the question he asked. I do not know what that has to do with Afghanistan.

At this point in time Canada has not been asked by the United Nations and the United Nations has not made up its mind as to whether it is going to be involved in peacekeeping, and if peacekeeping is going to be involved in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the member should come back in six months and ask the same question again. He may actually get an answer. However, I will comment.

I appreciate the continuing interest of the member for Cumberland--Colchester in the military and the way it operates and the economy of scale that the military operates in. This ensures that the government has an opportunity to reply to some of the concerns raised by Canadians as to whether the military is combat capable, whether it is able to take part in the long term planning that is ahead of us and whether the enhancement of global deployablity is still of great concern.

I appreciate the member's question. His question came from the incident with the GTS Katie in which a shipping firm was not being paid by the agent that had been contracted. It protested and Canadian equipment, containerized equipment mostly, was held up in high seas and not allowed to enter port. That created a situation. The Government of Canada, through the Minister of National Defence, had decided that the use of commercial carriers to move equipment and personnel, which has been a common practice among Canada's allies for many years for non-combative services, eases the pressure on military personnel who would otherwise have to provide these services. On the subject of sealift in particular some valuable lessons were learned from the GTS Katie incident. A number of steps have been taken to strengthen the DND sealift contracting operations and options to meet the transportation requirements of the Canadian forces.

After consulting with the Department of Justice, legal counsel, the shipping industry and a number of NATO allies, DND decided to try an industry best practice approach of chartering its maritime transportation requirements directly with shipowners. This eliminates contracting intermediaries and allows for the solicitation of bids directly from shipowners through a broker.

The redeployment of Canadian forces equipment from Eritrea this past summer offered an excellent opportunity to charter by this means. It is a very successful operation and one now that we can be very proud of. It provides the economy of scale, the efficiency that all of our allies use and it has proved to be very successful.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge to the parliamentary secretary that I did go into a new area which was not part of the original question. The original question was asked five months ago. I appreciate that the parliamentary secretary tried to answer that question but he said that we have not been asked to participate. That goes along with what the Prime Minister said in the House, that we have not been told what to do.

What I am asking is that the government take a proactive stand. Do not ask and do not wait for someone to tell us what to do. Canada is in a perfect position to take advantage of the respect we receive all around the world and say that we want the United Nations to play a key role in a transition government in Afghanistan and that Canada wants to play a role in developing that plan for Afghanistan.

We do not have to wait for anyone else. We do not have to wait to be asked. We do not have to wait to be told. Let us take some action. Let us do something. Let us try some leadership.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Liberal Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I appreciate that the member for Cumberland--Colchester gave me an opportunity to talk about something else besides something he was interested in five months ago which actually has no bearing now and certainly has changed the way the Canadian forces operate.

We are not waiting for anyone to ask us. Perhaps the member should have been in Halifax to watch the ships being deployed. We are responding to the world economies. I was recently in Ethiopia. We have 1,650 troops in Bosnia. I am sure the member is well aware of that. We are doing our part on the world scene to make sure that the world is a safer place to live in. Canada will take part in all of its NATO exercises and will live up to the 1994 white paper. We will also make sure that our commitment to NORAD is fulfilled. We do our part on the world stage. Our troops are something the world is very proud of and Canada can be proud of.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, on September 18 I asked the Minister of Transport quite bluntly if the government would assume full control of pre-board flight screening inside the Canadian borders.

Right now customs agents receive an entire year of training before they are put on the job by themselves. Pre-board flight screeners, these officers who check the luggage and hand baggage before people board the aircraft, receive 20 hours of training. Even after the terrible events of September 11, that has still not changed.

The airlines, especially Air Canada, have been asking the government to assume full cost, full control and full training for pre-boarding screening officers throughout the country. In fact, many members of parliament, when they leave the Ottawa airport, see a big sign at the pre-check screening board which says “Airport security is an airline responsibility”. That is simply nonsense. It has to stop.

The Government of Canada must assume full cost and full control of airport pre-screening at airports in Canada, that includes small and major airports.

I will give the government credit. After September 11, and long before that, as a former airline employee, I asked the government many times to ensure that identification checks were done on people prior to the boarding of a flight. That I must say is now being done.

There is another dangerous aspect of airport screening that is not being done. Nothing is being done to stop terrorists, who have no concern for their own lives, from putting something in their suitcase, checking it in and having it go onboard the aircraft in the underbelly. They then can sit up top and an hour later in the flight a disaster can strike.That can still happen today.

I do not mean to frighten airline passengers or people willing to take flights in the future, but there is no x-ray of baggage or cargo going onboard airplanes. We have it internationally but not domestically.

Countries in Europe are doing it now and I encourage the government to move with as much speed as possible to x-ray all baggage and cargo that go on aircraft to ensure safety and to give back the confidence that the travelling public deserves.

We encourage the government on two points. First, assume full control of security at all airports in the country, including the cost, the training and employment of these people. The ones who are there now do a good job, but they simply do not get the income nor the training to do their job post-September 11.

Second, and I cannot reiterate this enough. it is imperative that the government assume control of the x-ray of all baggage and cargo which goes on board an aircraft. If it does that, it will indeed give the travelling public the confidence it needs.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to respond to the question raised by the hon. member on September 18, 2001, on airline safety.

I would like to begin by providing assurances that the safety and security of travellers have always been and will continue to be the prime concern of Transport Canada.

Following the events of September 11, 2001, and in the days that followed, the situation was constantly being closely monitored and measures were reviewed to provide for the resumption of air travel.

These measures and the other components of the aviation safety system, including the requirements that pertain to screening officers, are continuously being re-examined.

The government has already responded to the airline industry's concerns by announcing on October 2 its intention to compensate the airlines affected. This compensation is to cover losses resulting from the closure of air space in the days that followed the September 11 tragedy.

The government is establishing high standards for screening activities. It requires screening officers be trained to certain standards and that they act immediately to correct anything that hinders screening operations.

Screening officers assigned to preboarding must follow a rigorous program of training, which includes both theoretical and practical training, before they are certified. The law requires them to take refresher courses every two years.

On October 11, the Minister of Transport, in a series of important announcements on security measures, indicated that he would be investing $55.7 million in the purchase of sophisticated explosives detection equipment and high tech electronic equipment. This technological equipment will be used to screen cabin and checked baggage.

This announcement followed the minister's statement on September 25 that Transport Canada would be purchasing explosive detection equipment for priority airports in Canada. The Canadian security program incorporates all of the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization and is one of the best in the world.

For obvious security reasons, information on the implementation of the new equipment will not be released.

I would like to provide assurances that Transport Canada takes its responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of travellers very seriously. Should any component of the system need to be changed, Transport Canada will react quickly to ensure the necessary changes are made.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his answers.

However I do not have a definitive answer to whether the baggage and cargo are going to be x-rayed prior to delivery on board an aircraft. That is the question all Canadians are asking me to ask the government. Also he did not answer whether the federal government will assume full control, full cost, full employment of all pre-board screening officers in the entire country.

Those are the two questions. A simple yes or no would suffice.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that the officers performing security checks at airports will have the necessary training and will meet very strict criteria.

I can also add that the department and the government will ensure that any baggage will be checked as belonging to a passenger on both domestic and international flights.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday I pointed out that the Minister of Transport had announced the spending of $79 million on new security procedures in transport, a vast majority of which was going toward highly sophisticated state of the art detection screening equipment. I asked the minister what airports that equipment would be going to. His response was that it would go to the major airports where the highest volume of traffic occurred.

In a supplemental question I asked the minister what good he thought it would do to put the equipment into high density airports when at dozens of small airports across the country there was not even basic x-ray equipment for carry on baggage. People going through those airports are subject to a hand search. I am not disparaging the people who operate those security checkpoints. They are not given the tools. It is very easy for them to miss a hidden compartment or something else that basic x-ray equipment would pick up.

When people board aircraft and fly into a major airport, such as Vancouver or Calgary in my case, they are deposited on the secure side, around the back of the sophisticated equipment which the minister is spending millions of taxpayers' dollars on to no avail.

I asked the minister how he thought it would help to put in the fancy equipment and then have people fly out of small airports and simply be routed around. His response as reported in Hansard was:

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that when that is the case those people in transit are required to go through security at the larger airports.

That is not true. Virtually every week I fly out of small airports that do not have x-ray equipment. I know for an absolute fact that I am deposited on the secure side. At no time ever, not once, have I been re-routed through enhanced security at the larger airports.

I would like it clarified why the minister gave such an answer. Was he endeavouring to intentionally mislead members of the House, or was he simply incompetent in answering a transport question?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the safety and security of our transportation system is Transport Canada's number one priority. The Minister of Transport was very clear and dealt with these subjects amply during oral question period and in his speeches during debate.

As I mentioned, while it is not a part of the government's general direction, without a doubt, we are prepared to study all possible measures to improve airline safety. We have tried to reduce threats to airline safety, both on the ground and in the air.

Security in Canadian airports and customs operations continue to be strengthened and we are accelerating the procurement of security and explosive detection equipment. We are limiting activities in restricted areas of airports, increasing the police presence in major airports, heightening passenger screening, and improving measures regarding baggage.

The Security and Emergency Preparedness Directorate of Transport Canada is responsible for the development and implementation of programs that contribute to the security of the national transportation system.

To this end, the department is co-operating with all of the relevant federal departments and organizations in Canada and with its partners in the United States, including the FAA, to prevent incidents that threaten the safety of our national transportation system.

We constantly assess our approach and our measures to provide a high degree of safety to travellers in this field that has been so tragically shaken. The minister and the government have made a number of announcements since September 11 on the subject of improvements to our excellent safety program. He was equally clear in stating that we must not discuss specific safety measures in public.

The Minister of Transport and the Government of Canada have announced a broad range of new measures to improve safety of operations in Canada's airports. These initiatives will provide more than $69 million for new equipment and related activities in Canadian airports.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that I did not get an answer during question period which is the reason I asked to come before the House tonight during adjournment proceedings. I did not get an answer again. It is very unfortunate the minister could not have sent someone who had some transport knowledge. Obviously he does not. We would very much like to get an answer. My question was not answered. It was not even addressed.

The government's priorities have to be questioned these days. We are in a time of national and international stress. People are concerned. What has the Liberal government done? We adjourned early on Friday and we adjourned two hours early today.

Where is the government's priorities and plan? It does not have any. It cannot answer basic security questions in transport. The government does not have a plan and it cannot even give a straight honest answer.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I have to remind the hon. member that he comes very close to being unparliamentary.