Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-17, an act to amend certain acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, otherwise known as the public safety act.
In baseball there is a rule “Three strikes and you're out”. This is the third time since September 11, 2001 that the government has essentially introduced the same bill. In each case the bill's short title has been the public safety act and each bill has tried to implement the biological and toxin weapons convention. When one realizes that the convention, which the bill proposes to implement, was signed by Canada on September 18, 1972, four years before I was born, during Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's first term, and only now is being implemented over 30 years later during the current Prime Minister's third term, one gets a true sense of the glacial pace that the government takes when it comes to public security. Even the process that led to Bill C-17 speaks to the incompetence and bumbling.
On September 11 a terrorist plot of unprecedented proportions shook the western world to the core. In the United States, 10 days later, South Carolina Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings was on his feet to introduce America's response, S.1447, a bill to improve aviation security and for other purposes. With lightening speed and despite an anthrax scare on Capitol Hill, both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate quickly passed the legislation and President Bush signed it into law on November 19, 2001. I ask hon. members to think of that. From the time the first airplane hit the first tower to the moment President Bush signed and adopted the legislation, just 10 weeks had passed.
During that same 10 weeks, the Liberal government slept. In fact, it was a full three days after President Bush had signed the U.S. law before the Liberal government even tabled the first version of the public safety act, called Bill C-42, on November 22. Since then the Canadian process has been a case study in how not to inspire public confidence in a government's ability to fight terrorism.
Just two days after Bill C-42 was introduced, it was pulled back and a clause dealing with giving airline passenger information to the United States government was hived off into a separate bill, Bill C-44. Apparently the Canadian airline industry was aware of the fact that a clause in the U.S. law just signed by President Bush required airlines flying to the United States to give passenger lists to the U.S. government starting on January 18, 2002.
It is interesting that the U.S. government sat the day after the September 11 attacks happened. The U.S. Congress was reconvened. The U.S. Senate was reconvened. President Bush got to work. They introduced legislation and they passed it inside of 10 weeks. This government took longer to introduce a bill than it took them to go through the entire process. On January 18, 2002, the reason the House had not been reconvened was that it was dismissed by the Liberals for a Christmas vacation when the U.S. Congress was at work the entire time.
Those same airlines were also presumably aware of the super slow motion pace of addressing national security that the Liberals had shown. They were wise.
Bill C-44 received royal assent on December 18, 2001 and Bill C-42 was withdrawn by the Liberal government roughly four months later on April 24, 2002. Five days after that, the Liberals introduced Bill C-42's replacement, Bill C-55.
Right there one has to wonder about the competence of the Liberal government. The normal process when a bill has flaws is to make amendments, and for this government, that should be a relatively easy process. Any one of the 150 backbenchers is usually more than willing to sponsor an amendment, either in the House or at the appropriate committee, and should those voting machines show an unprecedented degree of backbone, the Liberal dominated Senate can be counted on to propose a government backed amendment as part of its sober second thought.
For the government to withdraw a bill only to reintroduce essentially the exact same bill with a different number shows that even within the depths of the Liberal government, there are people who have said that this legislation is beyond redemption.
In any event, Bill C-55 contained many of the flaws of its predecessor. It affected nearly two dozen different statutes in nearly a dozen ministries. It was a real hodgepodge of missed opportunities and power grabs by various cabinet ministers. It was so complex and affected so many different aspects of government that it was quickly agreed to send the bill, not to the transport committee as originally planned, but to a special legislative committee which was struck on May 9 solely for the purpose of studying Bill C-55. That committee, of which I agreed to be a member, never met. The bill died on the Order Paper on September 16, 2002 when Parliament was prorogued.
Canadians need to understand this. Twice the Liberal government dropped the ball on major legislation dealing with public safety. First it tabled Bill C-42 which was so filled with flaws that it had to be withdrawn. Then it tabled a replacement bill only to let it die on the Order Paper so that the Liberals could present a new throne speech and lay out a legacy for a nine year Prime Minister for whom the words “What, me worry?” no longer suffice.
I have news for my Liberal friends opposite. For many Canadians, a strong response to a terrorist threat could be, and I think should be, the government's legacy; certainly the Prime Minister's legacy. In the United States President George W. Bush's place in history will largely be shaped by how he responds to the events of September 11; just as FDR's legacy was more a response and more a fact of Pearl Harbor and his reaction to Pearl Harbor than his domestic great society plans as a response to the great depression.
The current Prime Minister could have done the same. It seems that our Prime Minister is perhaps so concerned about leaving a legacy on domestic policy that he is forgetting to do the simple things, like keeping the country safe which would in fact give him a legacy which he so desperately seeks.
Beyond the legacy factor, there is a simple fact of political science that is a truism which has to be considered in public life. Abraham Maslow, a famous public theorist and a political scientist, had a theory, Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which said definitively that the primary role of the state ahead of all else, ahead of balancing budgets, ahead of creating infrastructure and ahead of setting up a court system, was to secure citizens. Public safety is the number one responsibility of the state.
This government seems to have not learned that basic concept of public philosophy which goes beyond Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It goes back to The Origin of Species , the famous book outlining the concept of evolution, where the first responsibility and the first instinct for people is to make themselves safe from threats.
If we look at the legislation that the government has tabled, the $24 air tax, nickel and dime legislation, nonsensical legislation that really does not go anywhere, it has put all this stuff in place, yet Liberal backbenchers put in laws and private members' bills that have now passed to create a Canadian horse. This sort of legislation has come ahead of the natural and normal instinct of human behaviour, which was first outlined in the famous book, The Origin of Species and then synthesized by Abraham Maslow and his theory of the hierarchy of needs. The government does not seem to understand the simple needs of citizens to feel safe from those who are threatening them.
The third attempt at the public safety act, Bill C-17, which we are debating today, still was not ready when we came back. The throne speech for the 2nd session of the 37th Parliament was delivered by the Governor General on September 30. The speech contained the vague promise that “the government will continue to work with its allies to ensure the safety and security of Canadians”. In fact the proposed legislation, Bill C-17, was not tabled in the House until October 31, fully 13 months after the September 11 attacks and nearly 11 months after President Bush had signed America's aviation and transportation security act into legislation as public law 107-71.
Therefore the following question poses itself. Was the 11 month wait worth it, or to put it another way, did the Liberals learn anything in the 13 months between September 11, 2001 and October 31, 2002 which led this government to table a better bill? The answer at best is maybe.
When one reads the U.S. legislation, one is immediately struck by the stunning contrast between U.S. and Canadian legislation drafted as a response to September 11. Both statutes deal with giving passenger manifests to various government authorities. The Canadian proposed legislation, Bill C-17, introduces a new section 4.81 of the Aeronautics Act. The proposed section reads:
4.81(1) The Minister, or any officer of the Department of Transport authorized by the Minister for the purposes of this section, may, for the purposes of transportation security, require any air carrier or operator of an aviation reservation system to provide the Minister or officer, as the case may be, within the time and in the manner specified by the Minister or officer, with information set out in the schedule
(a) that is in the air carrier's or operator's control concerning the persons on board or expected to be on board an aircraft for any flight specified by the Minister or officer if the Minister or officer is of the opinion that there is an immediate threat to that flight; or
(b) that is in the air carrier's or operator's control, or that comes into their control within 30 days after the requirement is imposed on them, concerning any particular person specified by the Minister or officer
(2) Information provided under subsection (1) may be disclosed by persons in the Department of Transport to other persons in that department only for the purposes of transportation security.
As members can see the proposed section is vague. The minister may or may not require the information; the carrier has up to 30 days to provide the information. Further, the privacy commissioner has raised concerns that, by virtue of another section of Bill C-17, some of the passenger information could be used by either CSIS or the RCMP for purposes other than national security.
I am on the record as strongly supporting anything that will allow intelligence agencies to identify the presence of terrorists in our skies. I strongly supported requiring Canada's airlines to provide passport related information to the U.S. customs service as required by U.S. law. Therefore, the Canadian Alliance voted to fast track Bill C-44 in the last session. I am also on the record as being in favour of having the government conduct similar terrorist identification activities here as I strongly believe that an independent nation should be able to defend itself.
At the same time I have read the U.S. legislation and I believe that it ensures that the U.S. customs office has both the information and the tools to identify terrorism. As well local FBI are not using airline files to look for common criminals. The U.S. system has checks and balances and it is my intention to call Mr. George Radwanski, Canada's privacy commissioner, to appear as a witness when Bill C-17 goes to committee so that we can more carefully examine whether the Canadian law has similar checks and balances to its U.S. counterpart.
Let us look at the clauses in the U.S. aviation and transportation security act that deal with passenger lists. Section 115 of America's aviation and transportation security act states:
(1) Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, 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 containing the information specified in paragraph (2). Carriers may use the advanced passenger information system established under section 431 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1431) to provide the information required by the preceding sentence.
(2) INFORMATION--A passenger and crew manifest for a flight required under paragraph (1) shall contain the following information:
(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 of 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.
(3) PASSENGER NAME RECORDS--The carriers shall make passenger name record information available to the Customs Service upon request.
(4) TRANSMISSION OF MANIFEST--Subject to paragraph (5), a passenger and crew manifest required for a flight under paragraph (1) shall be transmitted to the Customs Service in advance of the aircraft landing in the United States in such manner, time and form as the Customs Service prescribes.
(5) TRANSMISSION OF MANIFESTS TO OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES--Upon request, information provided to the Under Secretary or the Customs Service under this subsection may be shared with other Federal agencies for the purpose of protecting national security.
The clauses in the U.S. legislation are clear and well written. They lay out the responsibilities. They differentiate between two types of data. APIS, advanced passenger information system information, provides date of birth, citizenship, passport number, gender and is only collected for flights that cross international borders. PNR or passenger name record is the information that the airline collects when the reservation is made.
The U.S. law requires airlines to send APIS information to the U.S. customs service before the plane lands. This lets U.S. authorities know who is coming into the U.S. before they arrive in the United States. The U.S. law requires airlines to provide information from their reservation systems only when requested. Further, the customs service may only have to share the information with other agencies for the purpose of protecting national security.
The U.S. legislation is crystal clear. We know exactly what kind of information the airlines must provide, to whom, by what deadline and for what purpose. The U.S. legislation was drafted in 10 days. Bill C-17, which is what we are debating today, is the third attempt in 13 months to deal with similar issues, and the sections dealing with passenger manifests are the legislative definition of grey fog. In fact even whether the new subsections 4.81 to 4.83 of the Aeronautics Act are truly necessary is debatable.
First, there is the question as to whether Canada has the facilities to process the information, the same sort of information that the Americans have been collecting since they passed their legislation. For example, information which is sent to the U.S. customs service is processed in Newington, Maryland where it is input into the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, CAPPS, to create a passenger profile. Canada has no system comparable to plug the information into.
Second, on October 7 the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency implemented its advance passenger information-passenger name record program that authorized airlines and passenger reservation systems to share information with various government agencies. In various statements the CCRA has justified the advanced passenger information-passenger name record program saying that it is fully authorized by the recent amendments to the Customs Act, Bill S-23, and by saying that the use of API-PNR data is now covered under section 107 of the Customs Act.
If in fact the CCRA already has these powers, the new sections 4.81 to 4.83 will require careful scrutiny to ensure that we are not only considering international flights, that the data is being used only for the purposes of national security and that we have facilities to actually process the information. We must ensure that this is not just some show; that we are collecting the information to say that we are collecting information so that we can say that we have a parallel system to the United States, but the information just goes into a vacuum and we do not have a computer with the appropriate software with the appropriate mechanisms, to make any of this worthwhile.
I hope these issues can be considered when the bill does go to committee.
A very significant portion of Bill C-17 deals with interim orders. It was the most controversial section of Bill C-55, interim orders in a reduced format, as was mentioned by my colleague from Chicoutimi, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. They have been changed but they are still there.
A very detailed legislative summary prepared by the Library of Parliament for Bill C-55 on May 21, 2002, nearly a month after the second reading of the bill began, contained four pages of analysis on interim orders.
There is no similar analysis of Bill C-17 and the briefing that was promised last week so that all members of Parliament could have comparable data on which to have a functional debate on this bill never materialized.
Nonetheless, based on comparisons between Bill C-55 of the last session and Bill C-17 in this session, it is possible to make the following conclusions.
Ten parts of the bill amend various statutes to provide a new or expanded power permitting the responsible minister to make interim orders in situations where immediate action is required.
The interim order provisions follow a similar pattern: The minister may make an interim order on a matter that would otherwise be required to be made, in a regulation or otherwise, by the governor in council or cabinet.
An interim order may be made if the minister believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to human life, health, safety, security, or the environment, depending on the statute.
An interim order must be published in the Canada Gazette within 23 days.
An interim order ceases to have effect after 14 days unless it has been, variously, confirmed by the governor in council, repealed or has lapsed, or been replaced by an identical regulation; even if approved by the governor in council, the maximum time an interim order may remain in effect is one calendar year.
A copy of each interim order must be tabled in Parliament within 15 days after it has been made. This has been reduced, as the minister said, from the previous bill.
A person who contravenes an interim order that has not yet been published in the Canada Gazette cannot be convicted of an offence unless the person has been notified of the order, or unless reasonable steps have been taken to inform those likely to be affected by it.
Interim orders are exempt from certain requirements of the Statutory Instruments Act, among the most important of which is the requirement for lawyers in the regulations section of the Legislative Services Branch of the Department of Justice to examine proposed regulations to see if they are authorized by statute, are not an unusual or unexpected use of statutory authority, do not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and are not inconsistent with either the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights.
I want to acknowledge that in terms of interim orders the government's position has evolved considerably since Bill C-42 was first introduced nearly a year ago. The length of time required for the minister to seek cabinet approval of an interim order has dropped from 90 days to 14 days.
It must be noted that in Bill C-55, the government first said that cabinet ministers, on a variety issues, in a variety of portfolios and in a variety of ways, could invoke interim orders to have 90 days, What that means is that usually when legislation is passed, every single piece of legislation has at the end of it that the governor in council, cabinet, has the capacity to invoke whatever regulations are necessary so that the full cut and thrust of that given piece of legislation can come to its full fruition and meaning for Canadians, as has been prescribed.
Interim orders basically gives an individual cabinet minister the capacity, through an interim order, to invoke whatever regulatory measures he or she prescribes to address either the legislation or an unseen aspect of national security, or so on, as the area may be seen fit, but 90 days is what was first proposed.
In essence we are giving cabinet ministers unilateral power to invoke regulations that in many places could be seen as taking away some people's civil rights, invoking on their freedoms and invoking on natural law. We have written it into constitutional law but there is also natural law. There are lot of the concerns. However 90 days is an extraordinarily long time.
Today a majority vote of the quorum of cabinet, which I believe is five people, is required to get a regulation passed outside of an interim order. If this cabinet cannot get five people together inside of 90 days it is a pretty pathetic standard. Given video conferencing, teleconferencing, proxy ballots and the way that cabinet meetings can be put together, to say that a cabinet minister has the capacity to invoke an interim order within 90 days without having a majority of quorum of cabinet together to decide these things is a very dangerous precedent.
Ninety days is an extraordinarily long time. It has been reduced to 14 days, but my concern is that in the foreseeable future, should something like 90 days be put in place, or even the 14 days as is recommended by Bill C-17, we could have an extraordinarily arrogant cabinet minister--and I do not mean any particular cabinet minister--who believes that he or she knows all the solutions to a given problem and through interim orders would have the unilateral power to invoke regulations against Canadian citizens. That could be an extraordinarily dangerous power in the hands of an individual cabinet minister.
Conversely, what is of equal danger is a cabinet minister who is new to his or her portfolio, we have a terrorist attack like September 11 or a biological attack of some sort and that cabinet minister is not fully versed in what he or she is doing, and we have people in the bureaucracy and within the system underneath that minister who push that minister in a direction where he or she is not fully comfortable being for or against. The capacity of ministers to make mistakes, either out of arrogance or incompetence, through interim orders is an extraordinarily dangerous thing.
What I fear could happen is that an individual minister could make mistakes through one of those two mechanisms and then, therefore, the government could say that the minister was acting out of interim orders. What the government is doing is isolating the political responsibility and the political fallout of a dumb or dangerous decision to one cabinet minister and dumping that one cabinet minister without the full government having to take full responsibility for actions taken by the full government. That is the danger of interim orders.
On top of that, some of the concerns that have been raised by some of my colleagues in all parties, including the government side, is just the general nature of representative democracy and the ability of citizens to know the laws that are being imposed on them and the capacity for cabinet ministers to invoke regulations and changes in statutes in an ad hoc way that could impugn their civil liberties.
I also think the government has taken significant steps forward. As I said, reducing the time from 90 days to 14 days is a step in the right direction. Moving up the time of the publication of the Canada Gazette is a step in the right direction. The official opposition applauds the government for listening but we still want to have a thorough conversation on the committee side with the minister responsible for this and with all minister who will have these new interim order powers in their possession. Even if the government is not open to amendment on this side, it has gone from 90 to 14 days, and if it took another redraft of it of course it would get a swift kick in the shins from everyone in the country including us in the official opposition for having to take a fourth run at a piece of legislation.
However it is important for all cabinet ministers who will be handed these new interim order powers to understand the dynamic I described, of the dangers of having rogue cabinet ministers, and/or incapable cabinet ministers, not necessarily this cabinet but future cabinets as we go forward.
It is also probably fair to suggest that the interim orders can be summarized in just two words, “trust me”.
By contrast, the U.S. aviation and transportation security act is specific. It delegates power but it also assigns responsibilities. It contains deadlines. It specifies the amount of money that may be spent on particular initiatives. It sets management objectives and requires regular evaluations as well as audits. There is a clear understanding of who does what, why, when and with what authority. Checks and balances are present. The U.S. aviation and transportation security act is a planned strategic response by a superpower to a defined threat. The U.S. bill was drafted in the 10 days following September 11 and already in that short time the American legislators knew that “trust me” would not cut it with the American public.
It is now almost 14 months after September 11. I am not opposed to interim orders where they are necessary to deal with previously unforeseen threats. At the same time, if cabinet members want more power they should also accept more defined responsibility and we should know how much a particular initiative costs, as well as have the ability to be able to audit organizations such as the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. We should also have an annual budget so that Canadians know whether we are getting value for money. Frankly it is past time that we as a country evolve past the “trust me” ethic of the Liberal government.
One of the paragraphs that was deleted in the evolution from Bill C-42 to the current Bill C-17 was a clause which would have introduced a new section 4.75 to the Aeronautics Act giving the Minister of Transport the ability to:
--apportion the costs of any security measure between the persons to whom it is directed, or by whom it is carried out, and any person or persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, would reasonably be expected to benefit from the security measure. As part of the apportionment of the costs, the Minister may specify to whom the costs are payable.
I believe that section reflects the unanimous philosophy of the Standing Committee on Transport, which was expressed in our December 7, 2001 report, “Building a Transportation Security Culture: Aviation as the Starting Point”, as follows:
All stakeholders--including airports, air carriers, airline passengers and/or residents of Canada--contribute to the cost of improved aviation security.
Given that this clause was originally in Bill C-42 and expressed the government's philosophy then and continues to reflect the philosophy of the Standing Committee on Transport, I will be proposing an amendment to re-include this paragraph when Bill C-17 goes to committee.
This is a very important. Bill C-42 came in and there was a specific provision in it respecting the Standing Committee on Transport. We will have a big vote today at 3 o'clock that respects the independence of committees to elect their own chairs by secret ballot. It is an important step in the right direction. The Alliance has been on record advocating this for over a decade. It is about time that it comes to fruition.
Another way the government could respect committees is not just by allowing them to elect their own masters and to elect the people who will be presiding over their bi-weekly committee meetings, but also respecting decisions by the committees themselves.
The transport committee was reconvened after the September 11 attacks and told to go across the country, down to Washington, D.C. and to New York City, visit with lots of people, spend thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars and bring in the experts and anyone else we wanted to talk to. We were to find out what was wrong with airport and aviation security, to find out how to pay for it and to give some recommendations on what should be done.
The transport committee agreed to do that. We travelled to Washington, D.C. and spent thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars, not only in the cost of bringing in witnesses and meeting rooms and everything else but also in the cost of MPs' salaries. Members of Parliament earn $135,000 a year. We focused on this project for well over two months trying to find out new and better ways for improving aviation security. That time and money could have been spent doing other things but we did not. We focused on security because it was the dominant responsibility after the September 11 attacks.
We tabled a report and the report was unanimously supported. I do not think a single party offered a single dissenting opinion on the report that was tabled. In that report every member of the committee said that improved aviation costs should be spread out and that not one faction of the air industry should have to pay for all improvements in aviation security. We said that the cost should be spread out among the airlines, air carriers, passengers, the general public and general revenues so that the terrorists do not totally warp, distort and retard the economy of an aviation industry for the sake of increased security. That was supported by every political party at the committee, the Alliance, the Bloc, the Tories, the NDP and the Liberals. Every Liberal on the committee supported that sentiment, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who is sitting opposite.
The government is finally saying that it will respect committees and respect that we should be able to elect our chairs by secret ballot, which is good, but an even greater measure of respect would be for the government to say to the adult legislators who are on committees, “When you do quality work, when you spend all this time and money and you arrive at a unanimous view on a complicated and difficult section of public policy, airport and aviation security, which rarely ever happens, a unanimous opinion, we will listen to you. We will implement some of what you guys had in mind”.
I believe there were 13 recommendations in that report and every one of them were thrown into the wind and dismissed by the Minister of Transport. It is pathetic. Now the government says “Here is 10¢. We will let you elect your committee chairs and now that shows that we respect committees”.
How about taking some of our ideas? We are legislators. We are of equal value in the legislative process as any of the other members of the House and our views need to be listened to, particularly when they are arrived at through a long and difficult process. We arrived at a unanimous opinion among political parties with different regional perspectives, with different ideological perspectives and different policy pushes. The government should listen to our views.
I conclude my speech by calling on the government to divide Bill C-17, to split it up so that the appropriate standing committees may give the bill proper examination.
Therefore I would like to move that the motion be amended by replacing all the words after the word “that” with the following: “This House declines to give second reading to Bill C-17, an act to amend certain acts of Canada and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, since the bill reflects several principles unrelated to transport and government operations, rendering it impractical for the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations to properly consider it”.