Mr. Speaker, I just want to say a few words on Bill C-17. Many of my colleagues from all the parties here on this side have expressed concern that Bill C-17 is very much like the old Bill C-55, whereby the changes that we hoped to see in the new bill really are not there. There have been some cosmetic changes made, with some changes in time differentials and whatever, but generally speaking in regard to the effect Bill C-17 will have on the privacy of Canadians, there are still a lot of the same concerns that were raised before.
The bill is about one thing and one thing only. It has nothing to do with the threats of attacks against our country. No, the bill is about power. More specifically, the bill is another attempt by the Liberal government to increase the powers of the executive and individual cabinet ministers.
As with its predecessor, the bill concentrates too much power with too few people. Many of us are very concerned when we look at the people in whose hands this power is going to be placed. We have seen demonstrations of how inadequate a number of the ministers have been over the last few years and, more specifically, certainly over the last few months.
When we look at the infighting that is going on within their own party and when we think that these very few people are going to be able to control in their own hands, individually, what goes on in relation to the security of the country, it makes one very nervous.
In so doing, it undermines the authority of this place and the electorate that put us here to represent its views and protect its fundamental rights and freedoms. The power play in relation to security and major decisions affecting our country should lie right here within these hallowed halls, in decisions made generally by the people elected to make such decisions and not concentrated in the hands of a few ministers. It also undermines the legitimate authority and constitutionally enshrined jurisdiction of other levels of government. As my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough stated originally when he spoke to the bill, this bill undermines the very foundation of the country, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the division of powers defined by Canada's Constitution Act.
The one thing that the governing Liberals have failed to do is explain why the bill is actually needed. They failed to do so in the spring and they have still failed to demonstrate to Canadians this time around why such a bill, which threatens the freedoms and civil liberties of Canadians, is required when this country already has adequate legislation on the books in the form of the Emergencies Act.
It is easy for the government to hide behind the threat of terror and international attacks on our peace and security so that it can hoodwink Canadians into believing that such legislation is required. However, if the government were serious about protecting Canadians from such threats, it would invest more in our military instead of watching it dwindle to under 60,000 troops at a time when we need them the most, troops who do not have adequate equipment. Nor are they compensated properly for the fine work they do for their country. If the government were truly serious about security, it would reinvest in our military and make it the proud institution that it used to be.
While the government played politics and cancelled the contract to replace the Sea Kings, our personnel were losing their lives. The first of the Progressive Conservative helicopters would have been delivered already if it were not for the petty politics of the Liberal government. However, millions of dollars and nearly 10 years later, our personnel still risk their lives each time they set foot in one of those beaters. Meanwhile, the government is still looking for a good deal. This is nothing short of irresponsible.
The fact that the current Prime Minister will likely leave office without resolving the Sea King problem shows where the government puts our security on its priority list: at the bottom. What kind of legacy is that? Helicopters that will not fly, military pants that will not stay up, and submarines that will not float. That is the Liberal vision of our military and our security, and what are the Liberals going to do instead of addressing the real concerns of the country and putting money where money is really needed?
They are going to put decision making powers into the hands of ministers. Every day we are getting some hint, mainly through the press, of the security threat to the country. The government cannot answer a question in the House because it does not discuss these things publicly. It does not want anybody to know what is going on. The problem of course, that we fully understand, is that the ministers involved do not know what is going on and that is why they cannot answer the questions. If that is the way they handle such a serious situation we can imagine these same people having, within their hands, the ability to make major decisions as they relate to the security of the country and the privacy of citizens to live there.
The bill is really about something that is high on the Liberal agenda. It is not security but more power. The government has failed to put the proper resources into the military and other agencies of Canadian security. Instead it has come up with this bill that increases the power of cabinet ministers and trounces the authority of Parliament.
When we talk about putting money where money is needed, a few nights ago we had a debate on the Coast Guard or perhaps we should say the lack thereof. Resources to the Coast Guard have diminished over the years and the tremendous work that our Coast Guard has done around the coasts of this country has been diminished.
The security that exists at airports and at the borders of the country may be termed adequate. If one gets on a plane we know what type of security measures one goes through. If people drive across the border into Canada we know the people and their cars are thoroughly searched. However if people have any kind of mechanism that floats, from a raft, to a yacht, to an ocean liner, they can land in about 70% of this country and nobody even knows they are coming.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who is responsible for the Coast Guard delighted the other night in telling us that the government has strengthened up measures because when boats are coming into our waters they now have to give us 96 hours advance notice rather than the 24 hours which was required originally.
How often have we heard of drug pushers or terrorists calling ahead to get reservations in this country? We know they do not call ahead. If we know of all the places in the country that are not covered by radar, certainly we must realize that they also know.
Given that Canada already has the Emergencies Act, why is the bill necessary? The government should not be trying to suspend our freedom and constitutional rights. It should be protecting them. The Government of Canada, which already has too much power, should not be seeking more tools to infringe on the rights of Canadians when legislation already exists.