Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-44.
First, I would like to try to explain how the Liberal federal government has been having a bad week since last Thursday. At the same time, it is important for Quebec and Canadian people to understand how we can go from the 98 page bill tabled last week to the one page bill tabled in a rush today under a new number.
It is important to understand that because there has been numerous discussions on Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act, and on Bill C-42, the Public Safety Act.
Right from the start, we noticed that Bill C-42 on public safety contained no aviation security provision. No investment, no measure was announced in it. That was our first finding. Besides, people had great expectations that the bill sponsored by the transport minister could reassure them with regard to airport security and aviation safety, but it failed to do so. The minister candidly admitted to it for that matter. Budget measures will re required, which the finance minister will hopefully put forward on December 10 next.
Why did he introduce this voluminous 98 page Bill C-42? As the transport minister told us earlier, it is because the U.S. government had tabled a legislation on aviation safety the day before. The Canadian government, which was working on a public safety legislation, tabled it on the next day.
At the outset, as I already told Quebecers who are listening, there was nothing new announced about airline security. There were, however, major announcements the new powers which the government wanted through interim orders, without the authorization of the House. The words interim order were invented to allow the health, agriculture, environment and other ministers to make from time to time emergency orders, which would have the force of regulations and which would be implemented immediately, without going through the regular review procedure, especially the security procedure enacted by the government through the Privy Council to determine whether those orders are consistent with the Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms. This was the first main thing we saw.
Second, there was the issue of military security zones, about which the Minister of National Defence gave wonderful speeches this week.
The Bloc Quebecois, as an opposition party should, did its homework, went over the bill and asked questions in the House directly to the Prime Minister. First, we asked a very simple question to the Prime Minister “What would Bill C-42 allow you to do that you did not do in September?” Of course, the Prime Minister let the Minister of Transport answer the question. They were not able to tell us what they could not have done in September, why we should have this bill and how it would allow us to respond in a better way. The minister gave a very evasive answer.
There was obviously no answer to the question, because intervention occurred under the current regulation. Since the public sought some reassurance, the government used legislation under its jurisdiction. Ministers used the powers they had. Apart from a few mistakes, by the Health Minister, for instance, the government managed rather well. It did not, however, need new legislation to deal with such tragic events as those of September 11.
We have to understand that for many years ministers, departments and officials have had expectations, and would have liked more power. Bill C-42 was probably a good opportunity for the ministers to include all the traditional demands of their departments and officials so that they can have control without the members of parliament being involved and without any parliamentary process, something which is too cumbersome for some. For others, of course, this process is necessary.
This is what happened with Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism bill. The government proudly said “See, we have introduced a bill that has gone through all the legislative stages. Members of parliament have been able to debate the bill at second reading, in committee, and at third reading. They had the opportunity to move amendments.”
The legislative process has been so well followed that, last Wednesday, the government gagged the opposition. The government prevented us from going on with the debate to better explain to the citizens the content of Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism bill. We were gagged.
So, on Wednesday, the debate ended because of the Liberals' decision to issue a gag order. Bill C-36 was passed in virtually the same form as it was introduced, despite the fact that the Bloc Quebecois alone had moved 66 amendments, of which only one was retained. That amendment was to include the word cemetery in the list of objects which could be considered as being part of hate crimes. We have to hand it to the government for having included the word cemetery.
However, there were some very important issues, and some very important discussions. There were more than 80 witnesses heard by the committee who asked, almost unanimously, that some significant restrictions be added. Among the restrictions was the sunset clause, proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, to limit the bill in time to a three year period, given that the bill creates new provisions and new limits to personal freedom. This did not happen. We wanted an annual review. The government did not retain this idea.
Once again, the government used the legislative process. For Bill C-36, the government used the process to say, “listen, the committee worked on the bill and you had your chance to be heard. In the end, we will not retain anything”. This is clearly this government's motto: zip, we will not retain anything. This is how the Liberal government operates.
It is especially difficult when, in the same week, there is debate on bills as important as Bill C-42, which introduces interim orders. It grants exceptional powers to ministers, to individuals. Take the example military security zones. It provides the Minister of National Defence with the power to establish, on his own authority, military security zones, without the provincial attorneys general even requesting it, which was the case until now.
Quebecers who are listening should know that, thanks to the good work of the Bloc Quebecois, and the other members of the opposition in the House, Bill C-42 will not be passed before the holidays. This is why we are debating Bill C-44.
They have taken the only urgent measure, the only truly urgent measure, from Bill C-42, and that is obviously what the minister has introduced today. An independent bill has been created, Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, in order to comply with U.S. requirements for air carriers taking passengers to the United States or through U.S. airspace.
This is indeed the only measure that was really necessary and urgent in Bill C-42, as I said at the beginning of my speech. How, within one week, can a bill of 98 pages be introduced? Finally, and everyone agrees on this, the only true emergency measure is the single page representing clause 4.83. That is the change that has been made and I will address that shortly.
So that is what the Liberal government's difficult week has been all about. It has once again tried to pull a fast one on all Quebecers, all Canadians, in the guise of a concern for national security.
It is sad because, when it comes down to the bottom line, if Bill C-42 had been passed this week, the terrorists would have succeeded in what they were trying to do from the start, which is to directly attack the very foundations of our liberal and democratic society.
This is the worst of it. Rather than discussing real security problems, announcing measures, announcing budgets, the government has introduced a bill. The Minister of Transport could very well have caused a real hullabaloo in the House by pressuring the Minister of Finance, by saying “This is what we need to have enhanced security, and this is what it will cost, according to a number of people who came before us in committee. This is what the people of Quebec and of Canada need”.
That is not what was done. A bill was introduced. It was just smoke and mirrors to distract Quebecers and Canadians, and all because last Wednesday the U.S. government introduced a real air security bill.
This is why today, before Bill C-44, we are all to understand that it was an emergency measure. This is why the Bloc Quebecois told the House on Tuesday of its clear desire to debate a bill that gave Canadians some security. This measure alone, which was contained in C-42 and which we are debating today, is intended to harmonize Canadian legislation with American legislation that came into effect on November 19 in the United States.
I will read the American text, so it will be clear what the Canadian legislation should include:
Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act [American], each air carrier and foreign air carrier operating a passenger flight in foreign air transportation to the United States shall provide to the Commissioner of Customs by electronic transmission a passenger and crew manifest... to provide the information required by the preceding sentence.
(a) the full name of each passenger and crew member;
(b) the date of birth and citizenship of each passenger and crew member;
(c) the sex of each passenger and crew member;
(d) the passport number and country of issuance for each passenger and crew member, if required for travel;
(e) The United States visa number or resident alien card number of each passenger and crew member, as applicable;
(f) Such other information as the Under Secretary, in consultation with the Commissioner of Customs, determines is reasonably necessary to ensure aviation safety.
This is therefore the request the Americans are making of all foreign countries whose airlines are passing through the United States either carrying passengers to the United States or passing over American airspace.
Of course, since our American friends are asking, it is important that we, as responsible neighbours, comply with their requirements.
As for the bill before us, the Bloc Quebecois will support this measure to standardize the information to be provided on passengers. However, we have to be careful. The American legislation, which I have read, is clear, but the bill introduced in the House today is not so clear.
I will quote clause 4.83 of the bill, for the benefit of Quebecers. In any case, there are only four paragraphs in the bill.
4.83 (1) Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, to the extent that that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act ... an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada may, in accordance with the regulations, provide to a competent authority in a foreign state any information that is in its control relating to persons on board or expected to be on board the aircraft and that is required by the laws of the foreign state.
So, this first paragraph says that we will provide the information requested by foreign states. However, the second paragraph provides that:
(2) The Governor in Council may make regulations generally for carrying out the purposes of this section, including regulations:
(a) respecting the type or classes of information that may be provided; or
(b) specifying the foreign states to which information may be provided.
So, regulations will have to be made and this is why the Bloc Quebecois asked the Leader of the Government in the House yesterday if, considering that the clause before us is not clear as to the information to be provided, we could have the regulations which, among other things, will govern the type or classes of information that may be provided.
We had indeed been told that today we would be provided with a draft or at least with the speech notes on the regulations. This is what the minister seems to have promised for noon today. We could certainly consider those notes or the first draft of the regulations the government intends to propose and pass. We hope to have the opportunity to discuss the matter before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess.
It should not be forgotten that under the U.S. order that I was reading earlier, Canada has to adopt some measures before January 18, 2002 and it must be able to produce the regulations and the list of information that the Americans might demand regarding the carriers transporting passengers to the United States or flying over U.S. air space.
I am repeating it again to all Quebecers and Canadians listening to us, we started off last week with a 98 page bill from which we extracted the only emergency measure contained in Bill C-42, that is the measure regarding the information on passengers that we will have to submit if we want our airline companies to be authorized to continue to do business in the United States, and we drafted a separate bill.
It was a very difficult week for the federal Liberal government because, once again, it tried to present a distorted picture of Quebecers and Canadians. We are much more on the ball than people in many other countries around the world.
The Liberals are lucky enough to have opposition parties that know how to read legislation and guess at the intentions of ministers, who too often take advantage of crisis situations, such as the events of September 11, to try to make some old dreams come true. For the Minister of National Defence, the dream is to have his army operate anywhere in Canada, and particularly in Quebec, even if the governor general or the provinces have not asked that the army be called in.
It is hard for opposition parties in this House to put up with situations like what happened last week, when we were gagged and unable to debate Bill C-36. We are prevented from speaking. The following day, the proceedings of this House were interrupted for two hours because there was nothing to debate. This is what the Canadian parliament has come to. Canadians and Quebecers who are listening must realize this.
As things stand now, the federal Liberal government is too strong and believes it can do as it pleases. Once again, I trust Quebecers and Canadians. They see what is happening, just as we do, and they will increasingly trust the Bloc Quebecois and the opposition parties to defend their interests.