House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-17.


Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

On October 30, 2002, the hon. Minister of State and government House leader raised a point of order concerning the interpretation of Standing Order 81(14)(a), a provision adopted pursuant to the report of the Special Committee on Modernization.

Standing Order 81 (14) ( a ) reads as follows:

(14)(a) Written notice of an opposition motion on an allotted day shall be filed with the Clerk of the House not later than one hour prior to the opening of the sitting on the day preceding the allotted day, and the Speaker shall read the text of the motion at the opening of that sitting and shall indicate whether the motion is one that shall come to a vote pursuant to section (16) of this Standing Order.

The hon. government House leader contested the fact that the Speaker had read two notices of motion filed with the Clerk on the day preceding the allotted day scheduled for October 31. Let me now address those concerns.

While it is unusual for more than one notice of motion to be filed for debate on a supply day, the practice of submitting notice of more than one motion is certainly not without precedent.

In adopting the modernization committee report, the House appears to have opted for an orderliness and a certainty in its proceedings by requiring the Speaker, on the day before the debate is to take place, to inform the House of the text of the allotted day motion to be debated. The hon. government House leader argues that this would, in effect, prevent the Speaker from announcing notice of more than one motion.

The text of Standing Order 81(14)(a) refers to only one notice; however, our practice has never prevented consideration of more than one motion on an allotted day. I refer the House to the words of Mr. Speaker Fraser on December 7, 1989, in Hansard at page 6583-4:

According to our rules and practice, the purpose of notice is to give warning to the House of an item of business that might be raised for debate. The notice does not necessarily mean that the item will actually be debated or that it will be debated any time soon.

The Order Paper contains numerous items for which notice has been given but which have not yet been debated. The parliamentary secretary suggested that proceedings on supply days are different.

While I agree that certain aspects of supply have a character distinct from other proceedings, it seems to me that unless the rules on supply are explicit, the usual practices should be followed. This is the case with notice.

When the House adopted the modernization report, it seems to me that we took a step away from the situation described by Mr. Speaker Fraser. There is now an expressed desire to have some certainty about what is to be debated on an upcoming allotted day. But, while the House has taken one step in that direction, it has not actually decided to prohibit notice of more than one motion. This may be an area that requires a second look.

Therefore, for the present, the Chair will accept that the procedural requirements of Standing Order 81(14)(a) have been met provided that the notice or notices of motion are duly filed with the Clerk so the Speaker can properly inform the House of their filing on the day before the allotted day on which they will be debated. When Orders of the Day are reached on the allotted day, if more than one motion remains on notice, then the Speaker will have to determine which motion will be called for debate.

Finally, let me just say that I recognize and accept the wisdom of my predecessors in this House in refusing to speculate on hypothetical situations. However, for those who fear that this uncertainty might be exploited to mischievous ends, may I say that, taken together, our practice and our Standing Orders seem clear enough to permit the Chair to intervene without hesitation, in the highly unlikely event of an exaggerated number of notices being filed.

Meanwhile, if members feel that this is not satisfactory or that they wish to create greater certainty, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs may wish to examine the matter further.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Having given that ruling, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), to inform the House that the motion to be considered tomorrow during consideration of the business of supply is as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, all Canadians are to be treated equally and fairly, and since Prairie wheat and barley producers are discriminated against solely because of their location and occupation, this House call on the government to take immediate action to end this discrimination and give Prairie farmers the same marketing choices that are available in the rest of Canada.

This motion standing in the name of the hon. member for Calgary Southeast is not votable. Copies of the motion are available at the Table.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 12 petitions.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-297, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sale of intoxicating products).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill which would make it an offence under the Criminal Code to sell inhalants and other sniff products for the purpose of intoxication.

This proposal seeks to stop those in our society who deliberately prey on our young people in times of vulnerability. It is an attempt to reverse a tragic increase in the number of young Canadians who inhale, sniff or drink a range of poisonous substances that have lasting side effects and cause permanent damage. It is the result of many years of work by activists in the Winnipeg community, and in particular members of the non-potable alcohol and inhalant abuse committee.

I would encourage all members to consider this legislation which is one measure we could take to promote and protect the health and well-being of Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to introduce a petition on the subject of the lack of collective bargaining rights for rural route mail carriers. The petition draws the attention of hon. members to the fact that rural route mail carriers are forbidden under subsection 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act to bargain collectively.

The petitioners encourage Parliament to repeal subsection 13(5) of that act. They also point out, and this is a point strongly emphasized in the petition, that rural route mail carriers frequently earn less than the minimum wage when their pay is calculated on an hourly basis.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of names on a petition that draw attention of the House to the fact that modern science has unequivocally and irrefutably established that a human being begins at the moment of conception. They therefore request that the government bring in legislation defining a human fetus or embryo from the moment of conception, whether in the womb of the mother or not and whether conceived naturally or otherwise, as a human being, and making any and all consequential amendments to all Canadian laws as required.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is from those wanting to draw attention of the House to the scientific fact that a human being exists from fertilization on and therefore it is unethical to harm or destroy some human beings to benefit others, in other words human beings being destroyed in the process of taking their stem cells.

The petitioners would want adult stem cells promoted in a great way in the country with funding. They request that the Parliament of Canada ban embryo research and direct the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support and fund only promising ethical research that does not involve the destruction of human life.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith Canadian Alliance South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand to represent 89 constituents who want to be recorded as calling upon Parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition signed by about 100 people in the St. John's area who are making the point that non-embryonic stem cells, which are also known as adult stem cells, have shown significant research progress without the immune rejection or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 and on behalf of the constituents in Erie--Lincoln riding, I am pleased to present a petition that acknowledges that many Canadians suffer from debilitating diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, et cetera. They acknowledge that Canadians support ethical stem cell research and refer to non embryonic stem cells, known as adult stem cells, which have shown significant research progress without the immune rejection or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells.

They call upon Parliament to concentrate its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary to cure the illnesses of our suffering Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions today signed by a number of Canadians, including my own riding of Mississauga South.

The first petition deals with child pornography. Petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that child pornography is condemned by a clear majority of Canadians. They call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pornographic activities involving children are outlawed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition relates to fetal alcohol syndrome, a matter near and dear to my heart. The petitioners from across Canada, including my own riding of Mississauga South, would like to draw to the attention of the House that the consumption of alcohol is harmful to Canadians and particularly that the consumption may cause health problems to the fetus.

They point out that fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol related birth defects are 100% preventable. The petitioners call upon Parliament to mandate health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages to caution expectant mothers and others of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the final petition relates to stem cell research. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that the majority of Canadians support ethical stem cell research and that particularly non-embryonic stem cells, known as adult stem cells, have shown great promise without the immune rejection or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to support legislative initiatives which promote adult stem cell research to find the therapies and cures necessary for Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of many citizens from the Niagara and surrounding area I have a petition signed by individuals that believe that an injustice was done to Stephen Truscott and urge that the Hon. Fred Kaufman examine the facts of the case. The petitioners call upon Parliament to ask the Minister of Justice to undertake a thorough re-examination of the case.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members


Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Western Arctic Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec


André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, I am happy to rise once again to speak about public safety. Over the last few months, my colleague, the minister, had several opportunities to talk about safety and security.

Naturally, since September 11, the subject of public safety is unavoidable in various areas of human activity, especially those involving the Department of Transport.

I want to draw attention to the exceptional work accomplished by the minister who, within seconds of the September 11 attacks, assumed leadership for continental safety and security, if I can put it that way. At that time, our minister became responsible for all air traffic and, with the help of the whole department, operating in all areas of activities and especially air transportation, he helped thousands and thousands of people of various regions of the world. These people benefited from immediate action by the Minister of Transport, and everybody agrees that we should pay tribute to him for what he accomplished in those extremely difficult moments.

Obviously, as elected officials, it is our responsibility to discuss safety in all areas. This morning, I would like to talk more about development in resource-based communities, and health and research in key sectors, where the government has a fantastic agenda for sectors that are fundamental to the future of every region in the country.

I would also like to refute certain statements made by my Bloc Quebecois colleagues, who make a lot of noise here in the House. The statements refer to health care, to the federal share, and regional development. In all, there are initiatives that will be very productive for the regions and that we would like to highlight and perhaps seek to improve.

However, the reality of the situation is that any responsible government must also respond to the challenge of immediate needs as they arise. Safety is one such challenge that has become an undeniable reality in the last 13 or 14 months. Governments around the world, but particularly western governments, that are able to assume the costs related to safety in all fields, are now required to invest absolutely astronomical amounts to ensure the safety of citizens. This is an undeniable reality and we have no choice.

While I do believe that this expenditure of billions and billions of dollars for security is necessary, allow me to say that I would much prefer it if all of this support, all of this money invested in safety programs, were spent in sectors such as the environment, where there are some incredible challenges to be met, and in the area of health and medical research to help those who are coping with illness.

In summary, we must invest in safety, but I obviously would have preferred it if we had not had to deal with the attacks of September 11, which had the effect of radically changing the agenda for all countries around the world, or almost, for every western country, which forced all of our allies to invest an incredible portion of the financial resources at our disposal in safety.

The government has been fulfilling its responsibilities for several months now. Several billions of dollars have been invested. Several departments have done their part to help build a wall against international terrorism, as it were, and this work will not stop in the near future. Right now, there is a battle of civilizations. This is an everyday challenge.

Our government has assumed its responsibilities, particularly under the leadership of the transport minister, who went into action in a matter of seconds after the terrorist attacks to assume leadership and take all the measures required. He also coordinated the operations of all the departments involved in safety and security matters, with the assistance of course of all its partners, the other countries, which are very much concerned.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention what the International Civil Aviation Organization always said about the safety and security measures put in place by our government before and after the attacks. It is an example on the world scale.

This morning, I am pleased to say that, to deal with the situation, we face a huge challenge, and we must live up to that challenge. I will make a few comments about Bill C-17, a revised version of Bill C-55, which was introduced a few months ago and of course died on the Order Paper because of the prorogation of Parliament, last September.

This new bill is a definite improvement. The government took into account the views of both our colleagues in the House of Commons and of key players across the country. Moreover, it took into account the views of all the provinces and territories. It is and will be easy to show that the government has worked hard on this matter.

A government is like an individual. An individual or a government cannot lay claim to perfection. This is true about one's individual behaviour as well as the bills introduced in the House of Commons.

In connection with this issue, there is the whole aspect of the controlled access military zones. Among politicians, we tend to show some degree of partisanship. We must live with that. In my region, I am used to living with partisanship, and it is an everyday challenge.

The government took that reality into account because, had the debate on controlled access military zones gone on much longer, all of Canada would have become a controlled access military zone. That was not the government's intention. It is worth mentioning, concerning the concept established in the now defunct Bill C-55, that the government has designated three specific zones as coming under this definition, namely Halifax harbour, Esquimalt harbour and Nanoose Bay, British Columbia.

Obviously, our armed forces must have the tools needed to deal with emergency situations. In this case, I stress that the government quickly sided with all those who told us this was leading to a difficult and complicated debate, in spite of the fact that, at the time, we had made it clear that the purpose was strictly to preserve the equipment of our armed forces and of foreign forces sometimes involved in helping to resolve major crises. In the end, the government decided to take these concerns into account.

There is also the reality of upholding interim orders and the underlying principle. September 11 was a lesson for all; sometimes, the government, in cooperation with all the parties in the House and all the departments concerned, must respond rapidly to totally unpredictable events.

Governments have no choice but to equip themselves with important tools, to deal with emergencies. Extreme threats may arise completely out of the blue. We have experienced this and continue to experience it on a daily basis since September 11. We need only think of all the attacks occurring around the world.

Governments now have a priority in their agenda called the safety and security of all nationals. Any responsible government has no choice but to equip itself with the tools it needs to be able to respond rapidly.

With respect to interim orders, the government amended some important elements, namely the deadlines prescribed in previous Bill C-55. Bill C-17 amends those aspects. In some cases, the deadlines for interim orders have been shortened.

Deadlines are as follows: the interim order ceases to be in effect 14 days after having been made, unless approved by the Governor in Council. This is a new reference we are giving ourselves through this bill.

Within 15 days after the interim order has been made, a copy of the said order must be tabled in each of the Houses of Parliament. If one of the Houses is not sitting, the order will be filed with the Clerk of that House.

Also, within 23 days of the making of an interim order, a copy of the order will be published in the Canada Gazette . Except for the interim orders made under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, for which there is a two-year deadline, an interim order approved by the Governor in Council will cease to have effect within one year following its making.

As can be seen from the comments I just made on the chronology of interim orders, and as is implicit in the bill, an interim order can only have provisions which can be found in a regulation and which are immediately necessary to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to health, security, safety or the environment.

In order to clarify a misconception that interim orders will not be made in the two official languages and will be authorized in violation of the Charter, I wish to say that under the Official Languages Act an interim order must be made in both two official languages. This confusion, which is being deliberately promoted, is absolutely false.

Furthermore, I would point out that the Charter applies to all government measures. In other words, the protection given by the Charter applies to emergency orders. Emergency orders must comply with the Official Languages Act and the Charter. I believe you will find that we have taken into account previous comments and that we have tried, if the power to make an emergency order is ever used, to ensure that it would be under close and transparent control.

I wish to call your attention to three new parts that were added to the bill. The first two, parts 5 and 11, were added in order to allow the sharing of information in situations arising under the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The third new part, part 17, amends the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act in order to allow for the operation of the data sharing system established by proposed sections 4.82 and 4.83 pertaining to the Aeronautics Act.

The information sharing system provides that an authorized person could ask for the communication of information on someone in particular. The air carrier or the operator of a reservation system for air carriers could answer without asking for the consent of the individual in question.

Unfortunately, in reality, the air carrier or the operator of a reservation system for air carriers would not be able to follow up on the request, since it could not accept the name or list of names submitted, because this list would not be authorized under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Part 17 corrects this minor yet very important problem, while ensuring compliance with the global objective of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Finally, I want to comment on the concerns raised by the warrants mentioned in clause 4.82 of the Aeronautics Act. The power to request information from airlines to identify a person for whom a warrant has been issued has been eliminated. This power, which raised a great deal of concern, has been deleted from Bill C-17.

Moreover, the definition of warrant has been changed to apply to serious offences, to be specified by regulations, that are punishable by imprisonment for a term of five years or more. This will guarantee that the information on passengers that is obtained from airline carriers cannot be used to help execute a warrant—and this is extremely important—except in the case of the most serious offences, such as murder or kidnapping.

I think that these changes concerning warrants help protect the public, while respecting the privacy of individual passengers except, as I pointed out, in the case of very serious offences. I am convinced that the debate will be interesting and that we will properly review all these provisions in committee.

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to say a few words on this bill, a much improved version of Bill C-55, which had raised some concerns, particularly with respect to controlled access military zones, which are now limited to three strategic areas. There is also the whole issue of interim orders, which are also limited to extremely serious cases.

We will be very pleased to hear all members of the House of Commons, so that they can possibly make a contribution and help us continue to improve this legislation.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

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”.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair will take the amendment under advisement and will come back to the House on it as quickly as possible. In the meantime we will continue with the debate.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:05 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois in the debate on Bill C-17, formerly Bill C-42 and Bill C-55.

I am pleased because, as parliamentarians and representatives of those who paid us the honour of electing us, we have a duty always to cast light on the bills tabled in this House. There is a whole history behind this bill we are addressing today, Bill C-17. It began, of course, the day following the events of September 11. The first bill, Bill C-42, was introduced on November 22, 2001, and the second, Bill C-55, in June 2002.

This is, of course, the fourth time, since there was an attempt to introduce a Bill C-16, but that one did not get to the House for a very simple reason. Government boondoggle. An information meeting was organized but the bill ended up being introduced before the meeting, so the leader of the government in the House withdrew the bill. Today, here we are discussing Bill C-17.

For your benefit, Mr. Speaker, and that of those listening to us, the men and women of Quebec and of Canada, we need to review the background a bit. When the famous briefing session took place—and not for the first time, but the third, for three bills means three briefing sessions—I asked the same question of the government representatives.

When such a session is held, since this bill comprises more than 100 pages, 102 in fact, and involves 22 pieces of enabling legislation, amending them and impacting on ten or so departments, there is always a multitude of departmental officials who come and explain to us the reason behind the bill. These include, of course, people from the Department of Transport, since this bill comes under the auspices of the Minister of Transport and then, of course, there were some from DND, who were there to defend the indefensible. There were people from the various other departments as well.

During this briefing, I asked the same question the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport had been asked in the House during debate on the last two bills, which is, “What could you not do on September 11 that Bill C-17 would allow you to do?” That question was so appropriate that both Bill C-42 and Bill C-55, as well as two other previous bills, died on the Order Paper. Bill C-17 is being debated today.

Of course, each time another bill is reintroduced, major changes are included, because the opposition has made major gains. I was listening earlier the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport explaining, in his non-partisan way, as he says, how a large part of the two bills, dealing with controlled access military zones, had been dropped from the bill.

This is very much a gain as far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned. This must be stated emphatically. And why is this so? Because the controlled access military zones constituted interference with provincial powers, an encroachment on Quebec territory. Even in the time of Robert Bourassa and of the War Measures Act, during the October crisis, it was at the request of the Province of Quebec that the War Measures Act was applied to Quebec.

We have always argued that controlled access military zones in Quebec should be designated only with the consent of the provincial government. Their designation should be requested by the Province of Quebec. We have always stood for that. But the government would never accept. In Bills C-42 and C-55, things were quite simple, because only the defence minister could designate military zones in Quebec to protect all sorts of things.

Our position has always been the same, as a result of the FTAA summit in Quebec City. With this bill, the federal government could have designated a controlled access military zone for this summit. It could then have controlled all points of entry and everybody. The bill was also outrageous in that it provided for no compensation for problems resulting from this designation. This whole section on controlled access military zones has been withdrawn.

Bill C-17 does not mention controlled access military zones. The government's spokesperson, the parliamentary secretary, has mentioned three zones. But that is not provided for in the bill. The government has issued a special order to protect certain ports, maritime equipment and military assets in ports in the maritime provinces. None of these zones are in Quebec.

Members may rest assured that we will be the great champions of the interests of Quebecers. We will never accept the federal government encroaching on our territory without the consent of the provincial government. No matter the political allegiances of those who are control of the destiny of the province of Quebec, it is not normal that the federal government should be able to move onto our lands, or control part of our territory without the consent of the province. We will never accept this. I say once again that the Bloc Quebecois will defend on all fronts the interests of Quebecers and of decision makers of the province of Quebec.

You have understood that all these controlled access military areas have been withdrawn. Bill C-17 is a product of Bill C-42 and Bill C-55. We cannot answer the question, “With this bill, what could you have done before September 11 that you could not do?”

This means that this bill is what is called an omnibus bill in which the wish lists of several departments were found. In the name of the all-important public safety and with the events of September 11, several departments managed to convince their spineless minister that they had been seeking certain powers for several decades. Some public servants would like to see their minister get the authority to introduce several measures without going through this House, without going through Parliament or the other House, without the government's authorization. We must be careful with this.

The men and women of Quebec and Canada who are listening must understand that we must be very vigilant when legislation establishing national security measures like the ones contained in this 102-page bill amending 22 acts and one convention is introduced.

We are told that it is a matter of national urgency, but this is not a national emergency bill. Witness the fact that this is the third version since the events of September 11. This is the reality. This is not a national emergency bill. Separate bills were introduced to deal with urgent matters. I am thinking in particular of the one passed so that Canadian aircraft could fly over American territory, because the Americans required certain personal information. We passed completely separate legislation whereby airlines must provide certain information to the Americans when they fly to American destinations. On that, an agreement was reached very quickly, and the Bloc Quebecois was in favour of the bill.

The bill before us has been cleaned up, and we are basically left with the wish list of officials. When it comes to the wishes of the organization known as the federal government, we must be very vigilant.

Often, the government resorts to omnibus bills to get us to pass very significant amendments by hiding them among numerous others changes in a bill like this 102-page one.

The second element found in the previous bills, Bill C-42 and Bill C-55, had to do with the proposed amendments concerning personal information. To ensure our personal safety, there is information we must provide to this public organization, the government, through its departments and officials, but there are things in our lives that we need not disclose, that are our own business. This what makes us a free and democratic society. Again, this is being done in spite of the very serious reservations expressed by the privacy commissioner.

The privacy commissioner manages an office. I have with me the last press release issued by the commissioner. It is the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. As we know, this body was created so that Quebecers and Canadians would be assured that the government would not, by gathering information, invade their privacy.

In Bill C-42, the initial legislation introduced in November, this information or this request was not as important. The government improved the bill, which was reintroduced in June 2002. It went further to try to compel us to provide information and, in Bill C-55, got CSIS and the RCMP involved. The government used the bill that was passed to please the Americans, who wanted information on travellers, and to say, “Now that we are providing certain information to the Americans, perhaps we ought to make use of it, perhaps the RCMP and CSIS ought to make use of it”.

However, let us not forget that, in all the bills that were introduced, the lists of information to be provided to the Department of Transport, which in turn it can transmit to the RCMP or to CSIS, contain 18 elements more than what the Americans were demanding. Once again, public servants, the government bureaucracy under Liberal control, decided that if checks were required, they might as well ask everything they could, because they would never get a second chance to do so.

Once the new data bank is set up by CSIS and the RCMP, the information provided by airline companies on travellers will allow these organizations to track all Canadian airline passengers.

Also, if people like to travel, they, unfortunately, might be considered a flight risk. Their names will obviously be entered into the permanent database so we can keep track of them. People have to realize that the information required is quite detailed.

Let me go over some of the information required, which is different from what the Americans asked. Travellers will be asked to indicate their birthdate, the travel agency they dealt with, their phone number, how they paid for the plane ticket, if someone else paid for the ticket--just imagine no longer being able to give gifts to our children--if parts of the planned itinerary will be covered by another undetermined mean of transportation.

They want to track people's whereabouts. If they like to travel, they will be considered a risk. They want to know where you are going and keep tabs on everyone. That is a fact. The information will be kept for seven days or more if people are considered a risk. It is quite serious. For seven days, the RCMP or CSIS can track anyone. Who can be considered a risk?

Let us say that someone boards a plane with a member of organized crime. Because the person is travelling alone or may seem to be the friend of someone who is under surveillance, the person will be considered a risk just because on the plane you boarded there happens to be a member of organized crime whose name appears in a database. People may also be considered a risk because they travel a lot. They may be involved in some criminal activities.

The way the legislation is drafted makes so little sense that, as I said earlier, the privacy commissioner saw fit to issue a press release as early as May 15, 2002. I will read from it because I think it is important that citizens who are listening to us understand what I am talking about. The privacy commissioner is in charge of an office created by Parliament to protect the rights of private citizens. It is as simple as that. It has a nice name. It is the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. We have a privacy commissioner. This commissioner, George Radwanski, issued a statement on May 15, 2002, and another one on November 1, 2002. I will quote from what he said on May 15.

Today, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport and member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord told us that there are big changes. As far as privacy is concerned, I will explain what the privacy commissioner thinks of these big changes made by the Liberal government since last June when Bill C-55 died on the Order Paper.

At the time, in May 2002, the previous bill had been introduced and it died in June on the Order Paper. Two weeks after it was introduced, the privacy commissioner issued a statement from which I will quote the following:

Let me begin by reiterating, as I have consistently stated since September 11, that I have no intention as Privacy Commissioner of seeking to stand in the way of necessary and justifiable measures to enhance security against terrorism, even if they entail some encroachment on privacy rights. But I have equally made clear--and I wish to repeat on this occasion--that I consider it my duty, as the Officer of Parliament mandated to oversee and defend the privacy rights of Canadians, to object vigorously to any proposed privacy intrusion that cannot be clearly justified.

He goes on:

As I detailed in my statement of May 1st, I am specifically concerned about two sets of provisions in section 4.82: those that permit the RCMP to use the personal information of all air travellers for the purpose of seeking out individuals who are subject to a warrant for any offence punishable by imprisonment for five years or more; and those that permit the RCMP and CSIS to retain the personal information of passengers for such purposes as searching for suspicious travel patterns.

And therefore he suggests the following amendments:

I accordingly recommend the following specific amendments:

4.82(1): Delete the definition of “warrant”.

4.82(4): Delete “or the identification of persons for whom a warrant has been issued”.

4.82(11): Delete entirely this sub-section, which states: “A person designated under sub-section (2) may disclose information referred to in sub-section (7) to any peace officer if the designated person has reason to believe that the information would assist in the execution of a warrant.”

He adds, regarding section 4.82(14):

My first concern is that sub-section (14) would permit the personal information of all airline passengers to be kept by the RCMP and CSIS for up to 7 days before being destroyed unless it is of further interest to the state. This appears to be an inordinately long time for the RCMP and CSIS to keep the personal information of great numbers of law-abiding citizens.

He mentions in section 4.82(14):

4.82(14): Delete “7 days” and replace with “48 hours”—

He further adds:

I am even more concerned about the latter part of sub-section (14) which empowers the RCMP or CSIS to keep the personal information of any passenger indefinitely if it is “reasonably required for the purposes of transportation security or the investigation of threats to the security of Canada—

It can therefore be seen that the privacy commissioner expressed serious reservations on May 15 2002. He referred to the consequences of the scope of section 4.82 and various paragraphs referred to. He said:

In Canada, police forces cannot normally compel businesses to provide personal information about citizens unless they obtain a warrant.

Section 4.82 would empower the RCMP, and CSIS, to obtain the personal information of all air travellers without a warrant.

He then added that the bill, when it comes to the RCMP:

—overlooks the fact that giving the police access to this information in the first place can only be justified as an exceptional measure to combat terrorism.

Nowhere in the legislation does it mention that this information must only be used, or that surveillance must only be carried out to fight terrorism.

This was removed, this word was not added, nor was it put back in the new bill. In practical terms, this means that what the RCMP and CSIS want to control, what the Liberal Party wants to control, are people's movements. Regular travellers will now be listed in an electronic database that will allow them to follow travellers and, as I said earlier, even access their itinerary.

In May 2002, he added:

If we accept the principle that air travellers within Canada can in effect be forced by law to identify themselves to police for scrutiny against lists of wanted suspects, then there is nothing to prevent the same logic from being applied in future to other modes of transportation.

It is important to note that only airlines and airline passengers are included in these measures. People who use other means of transportation, whether it be the car, bus, train or boat, are not subject to these requirements laid out in Bill C-17.

On May 15, 2002, the commissioner proposed further changes, which I will not read. As members can see, Bill C-17 does not address the privacy commissioner's concerns. If anyone is listening to us, I will mention that on November 1, 2002, the day after the bill was introduced in the House, the privacy commissioner issued a press release. I will read what he had to say:

Since last May, I have expressed extremely grave concerns about one provision of what was then Bill C-55, the federal government's Public Safety Act. The same provision has now been reintroduced, with only minimal and unsatisfactory changes in the replacement legislation, Bill C-17.

I am not the one who said this. Neither is it the Bloc Quebecois, which is a staunch advocate of Quebecers' interests. It is the privacy commissioner. He said that the changes made to Bill C-17 as compared to Bill C-55 were “minimal and unsatisfactory”.

He added:

The provision in question, section 4.82 of both bills, would give the RCMP and CSIS unrestricted access to the personal information held by airlines about all Canadian air travellers on domestic as well as international flights.

This is serious. What the privacy commissioner said is what I have been saying over and over again this morning; it is what the Bloc Quebecois maintained with regard to Bill C-55, namely that it would give the RCMP and CSIS unrestricted access to personal information regarding all Canadians.

In this letter dated November 1, the privacy commissioner also said:

I have raised no objection to the primary purpose of this provision, which is to enable the RCMP and CSIS to use this passenger information for anti-terrorist screening.

What he is saying is that he does not object to the war on terrorism and to anti-terrorist measures that have to do with transportation security and national security.

He goes on to say:

But my concern is that the RCMP would also be expressly empowered to use this information to seek out persons wanted on warrants for Criminal Code offences that have nothing to do with terrorism, transportation security or national security.

Therefore, it is clear that this bill wants to go after all the other persons who have been sentenced for criminal activities which are in no way related to terrorism.

The news release also says:

The implications of this are extraordinarily far-reaching.

The privacy commissioner says, in the same sentence, that the implications would be “extraordinarily far-reaching”.

In Canada, it is well established that we are not required to identify ourselves to police unless we are being arrested or we are carrying out a licensed activity such as driving. The right to anonymity with regard to the state is a crucial privacy right. Since we are required to identify ourselves to airlines as a condition of air travel and since section 4.82 would give the RCMP unrestricted access to the passenger information obtained by airlines, this would set the extraordinarily privacy-invasive precedent of effectively requiring compulsory self-identification to the police.

That is the harsh reality. The requirements in Bill C-17 would force those who travel by air to provide personal information and identify themselves. This means far more than just indicating one's address and destination. It is an obligation to provide the police with one's credit card number, one's itinerary and everything else that could be relevant.

The press release goes on:

I am prepared, with some reluctance, to accept this as an exceptional measure that can be justified, in the wake of September 11, for the limited and specific purposes of aviation security and national security against terrorism. But I can find no reason why the use of this de facto self-identification to the police should be extended to searching for individuals who are of interest to the state because they are the subject of warrants for Criminal Code offences unrelated to terrorism. That has the same effect as requiring us to notify the police every time we travel, so that they can check whether we are wanted for something.

Right now, this only applies to air travel, but nothing would prevent the Liberal government, which has already started to encroach on our privacy, from requiring everyone who travels, whether it is by car, by train or by boat, to identify themselves.

All of this would be carried out by the RCMP and CSIS. So, we are setting up a database on air passengers that could also be applied to all those who travel by car, by boat and by train, which includes everyone.

In a huge country like Quebec, people cannot get everywhere they want to by foot because of the distances involved. It is the same in Canada. Eventually, all Canadians will have to identify themselves, and this goes against our freedom and our democratic principles.

Resuming the quotation from the privacy commissioner:

If we accept the principle that air travellers within Canada can in effect be forced by law to identify themselves to police for scrutiny against lists of wanted suspects, then there is nothing to prevent the same logic from being applied in future to other modes of transportation. Particularly since this provision might well discourage wanted individuals from travelling by air, why not extend the same scrutiny to train travellers, bus passengers or anyone renting a car? Indeed, the precedent set by this provision could ultimately open the door to practices similar to those that exist in societies where police routinely board trains, establish roadblocks or stop people on the street to check identification papers in search of anyone of interest to the state.

We would end up with a police state, something we have never known in Canada. The quote continues:

The place to draw the line in protecting the fundamental human right of privacy is at the very outset, at the first unjustifiable intrusion. In this instance, that means amending the bill to remove all reference to warrants and thus limit the police to matching passenger information against anti-terrorism and national security databases.

The concerns that I have raised in this matter since last spring have been publicly endorsed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; by members of every party in the House of Commons, notably including a member of the government’s own Liberal caucus who is an internationally recognized expert on human rights, Irwin Cotler; and by editorials in newspapers including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.

These concerns have now been ignored by the Government.

The changes that have been made in this provision in the new bill do nothing to address the fundamental issues of principle that are at stake.

I am still quoting the privacy commissioner in his November 1, 2002 letter:

The Government now proposes to have regulations limiting the Criminal Code offence warrants for which the RCMP will be searching. But this does nothing to address the fundamental point of principle that the police have no business using this extraordinary access to personal information to search for people wanted on warrants for any offences unrelated to terrorism.

Why is that? Quite simple. The police already have their ways of collecting information and of contacting criminals. What we want is antiterrorism legislation, not legislation that would allow for the verification of the identity of Canadians and Quebecers to subsequently use this information and enter it into a database, thereby making our country into a veritable police state, which has never been the case before in Quebec and in Canada.

Clearly the privacy commissioner is against this bill. In closing, I will quote the final paragraph of his letter.

Since the original Bill C-55 was introduced, I have used every means at my disposal to make the crucially important privacy issues that are at stake known and understood by all the Ministers and top Government officials who are involved in this matter. I regret that I have not, to date, been successful in obtaining an appropriate response from them—.

Here is what he is saying, and this is the beauty of it. When this little committee briefing referred to by Liberal members or representatives of the Liberal government took place, I questioned the representative of the Department of Transport who presented this bill. He explained to us that this complicated bill does not contain any changes regarding personal information, which we in the Bloc Quebecois had noticed almost right away. He answered candidly that they had indeed discussed this with the privacy commissioner.

What the commissioner is telling us is that he had discussions with them but they did not listen. That is the Liberal government.

A more democratic process to elect the chairs and vice-chairs of committees is being called for. We will be voting on a motion this afternoon. A few weeks ago, in a speech delivered in Toronto, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard said there would be more transparency in government and a new procedure for appointing or electing representatives sitting on committees across the country.

The privacy commissioner is a representative appointed by the Liberal government. The Liberals are not listening to the person they appointed. Imagine what it would be like if the appointment was made by Parliament. They would listen even less. That is the reality. This is a government that is letting its officials run the show and—

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I am now ready to rule on the text of the amendment put forward by the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance.

I am ready to render a decision on the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam's proposed amendment to the second reading motion of Bill C-17.

The amendment states that second reading should not be given to the bill as it contains several principles unrelated to the transport and government operations committee. However, the second reading motion refers the bill to a legislative committee. Therefore I must rule that the amendment is inadmissible in its present form.

I am sorry to have interrupted the hon. member, but I wanted to report as soon as a decision was made. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:35 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me to repeat the last part of my speech for the benefit of the citizens, the men and women who are listening to us.

Before you made your learned statement, I was saying that the privacy commissioner is a civil servant appointed by the government and that he is one of the Prime Minister's appointees. This is something the member for LaSalle—Émard said he wants to rectify, in a speech he gave in Toronto. He said that in the future, when he is elected leader of the government, his government will be transparent and he will make sure that civil servants and senior executives of government bodies are appointed by this House.

In his press release to the media and Canadians, the privacy commissioner said openly:

I regret that I have not, to date, been successful in obtaining an appropriate response from them,—

He was talking about government officials. This means that he had been discussing all his concerns with government officials since May 15, 2002, and that they did not listen to him.

The harsh reality is that if on top of that this person was appointed by Parliament, if opposition members could succeed in having people they respect appointed, people who are not vetted by the Liberal government, and knowing that the government ignores those it appoints, imagine how easily it would ignore the advice of representatives of public agencies such as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, if that person was appointed by Parliament and if Parliament decided not to choose the Liberal government's nominee. Such is the harsh reality in the Canadian system. We are losing control.

Clearly it is much easier to play politics than to manage issues on a daily basis. There are never problems in the House, because once a problem is acknowledged, it has to be fixed. So, there is no problem, nor is there any fiscal imbalance. Nothing ever goes wrong in this House. Whatever the Liberals say is the gospel and no one is allowed to question it. The Liberals solve any problems well before they arise.

In the end, we are not the ones who said so, because we waged our battle against Bill C-55 when it came to controlled access military zones and privacy. We won a part of the battle, and the government scrapped the controlled access military zones. So, now the Bloc Quebecois will continue to fight to defend the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians.

The last interest that remains is that of our privacy. This is the harsh reality, and this comes from the privacy commissioner. This is the first large-scale attack on our identity, on our privacy, and we must not let it happen because it will not stop there.

When the RCMP and CSIS have created their permanent data base on regular travellers, they will want to create one on regular air passengers. They will want to create a data bank on those who travel by car, by train, by boat and so on.

What this government wants and what RCMP and CSIS officials want is to create a police state, and this is something that goes against all the values of the Quebeckers who elected Bloc Quebecois members to represent them in this House. It goes against the fundamental values of the free and democratic society that Quebeckers want for themselves. A police state is not what we want. We want to fight terrorism while protecting our interests and our privacy. This is what the Bloc Quebecois is fighting for in this House. This is why we will—as hon. members surely realize—strongly oppose Bill C-17.

We will not give our support to a document that is condemned by the privacy commissioner. We did not appoint the privacy commissioner. In the text, he does not once mention that the Bloc Quebecois has always supported him and he will probably not dare do so, for fear of losing his job.

But of course we have been his strongest supporters, because we are the strongest supporters of the respect of privacy for Quebeckers, among others. We are pleased to help Canadians, because here, in this House, we are working to promote policies all across Quebec, particularly when it can help Canadians. Bloc Quebecois members are pleased to take part in the shaping of the democratic and free system that we should have.

I will get the chance to complete my presentation on this point, since this bill still provides for interim orders. Remember the debate we had, and will continue to have, on interim orders and the authority being given to a minister to issue interim orders outside of the legislative process. The first step of this process is the Statutory Instruments Act, sections 3, 5 and 11 of which provide that any legislation must be presented, in both official languages, to the governor in council, that it must comply with its enabling legislation and, most of all, that it must be examined in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and pass the test.

Once again, more than ten ministers will have the authority to issue interim orders. Let us not forget that, at first, the legislation said they could only come back before Parliament after 45 days. Today, thanks to our repeated efforts, we have managed to reduce this period to 15 days, and we will not stop there.

We have always given the same example about the Minister of Health, who could, at any time, issue an interim order to have the whole population vaccinated without checking first if this was in compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the enabling legislation.

As a result of the events of September 11, the Minister of Health bought generic drugs, in violation of the Patent Act and the patent held by another company. Therefore, an interim order would allow the minister to make many decisions and issue a large number of orders. Of course, this particular minister cannot be held responsible under ministerial accountability, since he is no longer Minister of Health.

There are good reasons for this. Among them, he chose to purchase certain drugs after September 11, going against the provisions of the Patent Act. He bought drugs from a company, Apotex, that did not own the patent, when Bayer was capable of supplying the drugs. The department tried to give all kinds of explanations, but when it comes down to it, the minister did order the drugs. That is what happened. The minister then had to face up to the consequences, and is no longer the Minister of Health.

The purpose of Bill C-17 is, in the end, to enable ministers to make a multitude of decisions contrary to the very laws of Parliament, all in the name of national urgency. This is a serious matter.

When, in the name of national urgency, they even go as far as saying that they will not respect the filter of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, imagine, like forcing a vaccination on people against their will, this needs to be debated in this House.

Once again, that is what this bill will mean; it will give permission to ministers, any minister. I have given the example of health, but I could give others.

During the lengthy debates on Bill C-17 I will have an opportunity to explain to those listening to us the reason why the Bloc Quebecois members, who are proud to represent the people of Quebec, their people, will staunchly defend the freedoms of the people of Quebec.

Freedom is priceless. Today, Bill C-17 means a loss of freedom. This is something that the Bloc Quebecois members will never accept. They will defend the people of Quebec, and the people of Canada, and will be pleased to do so for the sake of freedom and democracy.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:45 a.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-17. As has been mentioned by other members this morning, we have gone through numerous processes on pretty much the same bill for over a year now. Here we are once again discussing what is now Bill C-17.

The Minister of Transport calls it the public safety act. Without question, in my view that is somewhat of a misleading name. The bill has very little to do with enhancing public safety and has everything to do with grandstanding by the Liberal government, a kind of grandstanding that is very dangerous to the freedom of Canadians. The government's approach to public security has more to do with public relations and trying to look like it is doing something about security than what it actually should be doing, the things that are necessary to counter terrorism.

The bill gives sweeping powers to government ministers to do whatever they want, whenever they want, supposedly in the name of security. The only precedent for something like this in the history of our great democracy was the War Measures Act.

The last time the War Measures Act was used was in October 1970. Hundreds of innocent Canadians were dragged from their houses, arrested and held without charge while the government tried to find a tiny group of terrorists who had assassinated Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte and kidnapped a British trade envoy.

History came to show that using the War Measures Act to crush the FLQ was like using a wrecking ball to squash a fly. A fly swatter would have worked just fine and would not have knocked the wall down. All the unjustified arrests of innocent people who had nothing to do with FLQ terrorists shook Canadians' faith in their government and showed us just how fragile our freedom really is, even in Canada.

I say this as someone who was just a teenager in western Canada at the time. I remember very vividly the whole issue related to the War Measures Act. It was something that at that point was quite far away from southwestern Saskatchewan. I had great feelings for the people of Quebec having to go through all that they were going through during that period of time.

At least the War Measures Act was repealed after the FLQ was crushed, but this bill is like a permanent war measures act. It allows government ministers, any time they want to, to issue executive orders covering a huge range of areas. These orders have the force of law the minute the minister signs them. This kind of power in the hands of one individual is unheard of in a democracy like Canada.

Normally when a minister wants to change a regulation, it goes through a process that involves public consultation and a regulatory impact study. Then the change has to be approved by cabinet. With this bill the Liberal government is saying it wants to bypass the democratic process and issue decrees whenever it wants. That means no public input and no impact study.

The government says it will only use these new powers in an emergency, but here is the kicker: there is absolutely no accountability to the public when a minister uses this power. When a minister makes one of these decrees that the bill allows him or her to make, the minister never has to explain to the public why he or she did it. Ministers can just do it and they never have to explain themselves.

Most people out there think, “What the heck. This is never going to affect me. I am a law-abiding Canadian citizen. I don't have to worry about this”. That just is not the reality. In the course of even the last five or six years in Canada, whether it was the APEC summit in B.C. or the Quebec summit, there have been numerous cases where civil liberties were infringed upon, where actions taken by our own government and in some cases our own Prime Minister were really extremely questionable. That has led a number of Canadians to believe that this is an issue, and just what will happen?

Along with that we have a situation where we went through the events of September 11. We responded as a nation to September 11. We responded on security issues. The security of Canadians was protected on September 11 without the bill. In all the rush to come out with a new bill, that we had to get on it right away, that we had to get something in place or Canadians would be threatened and the whole country would be up in smoke, it is over a year later and we are still here. The security of Canadians is still in place; it is still intact without the bill, without jeopardizing their freedoms.

One of the great legislators and statesmen of the 20th century, Senator William Proxmire, who represented the people of Wisconsin in the United States senate for over three decades, once said:

Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous.

These words were especially meaningful coming from Senator Proxmire because he was elected to the U.S. Senate in the seat vacated by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in 1957.

Senator McCarthy of course is known for McCarthyism, the time in the 1950s when America tore itself apart looking for communists. Like the Canadian government did to hundreds of suspected FLQ terrorists under the War Measures Act, McCarthyism wrongly persecuted thousands of innocent Americans who had absolutely nothing to do with communism.

When Senator Proxmire, McCarthy's successor, spoke those words about the need to keep power in check and about how power exercised in secret under the cloak of national security is doubly dangerous, America was just coming to grips with the mistakes and excesses of the McCarthy era.

Senator Proxmire did not want Americans to forget the hard lesson they learned in the McCarthy era about how fragile freedom is. Canadians learned that lesson in October 1970. It is a real tragedy that the Liberal government has forgotten that lesson.

It is hard for me to understand how in our country's history we can forget some of those very strong lessons. We have discussed numerous times in the House an apology asked for by Japanese Canadians who were interned during the war with Japan, and by Ukrainian Canadians who were interned because of wars and conflicts somewhere else.

I am of Ukrainian descent and I never knew that Ukrainians were interned at any point in Canadian history until I became a member of Parliament. Within the context of Canadian history taught in our schools, the tendency was to leave out all those nasty little things the Canadian government did. I knew about McCarthyism in the United States. I knew about a number of other things that were going on, but somehow the nasty things the Canadian government did never got into our texts.

I know it now and I am happy to say that in our schools the true history is now coming out. We were not always this wonderful, equality driven society with a great democracy and opportunities for free speech and opportunities to do the things we need to do in our lives. We were not always like that.

We have some sour times in our history and we should not be ashamed to admit to them. By not acknowledging and talking about them, we end up in situations like what we are in today where we are discussing something like a war measures act and somehow making it okay to attack certain groups of our population, of our own citizens because we are afraid of terrorism and afraid for our security.

There is no need to do that. We do not have to lose our democracy in order to do that. I really thought we had learned that lesson. Until we become the group targeted, we somehow always think it will never be us.

I was at the Quebec summit and saw some of the things that were going on. I saw the media's revelation of the Quebec summit and how it portrayed everything as being violent. I was part of some 60,000 protestors who were very much peaceful protestors.

As one of the peaceful protestors, this type of a bill bothers me as well. I saw things that were misleading to the rest of the public who were not there, through the media and through some of the government's actions. I am concerned.

The Liberal government wants members to believe that the powers the ministers will have are limited. It even went as far as withdrawing the original version of the bill and reintroducing it in a slightly watered down form from last session. This publicity stunt, which is all it is, is supposed to make us all think that everything is fine. Canadians are supposed to be reassured because these executive orders have to be reviewed by cabinet within six weeks instead of the three months under the original bill.

The fact remains that individual cabinet ministers can exercise these powers in secret. There is no public accountability for their actions. There is no obligation to show the public that a decree issued under the authority of the bill is justified. Cabinet ministers can do what they want and never have to explain why.

The ability of the public to challenge an action taken under this legislation in the courts is also extremely limited, which removes the courts from their constitutional role as a check on executive power.

The other check on executive power, namely Parliament, is reduced to an afterthought. Decrees issued under this legislation only have to be tabled in Parliament 15 sitting days after they are issued and there is no authority for Parliament to overrule them.

There is no doubt in my mind that as a Parliament we can come together in a matter of hours, but certainly within a matter of days. There is absolutely no reason for there to be a delay of even 14 or 15 days before issues come to Parliament. Times have changed. We have access to air services from all over our country. I would be surprised if someone here said that they could not get here within a period of three days. I have seen us do it in the past. Our parties have contacted us and we have all made a point of getting here in a very timely manner.

By sidelining Parliament and the courts, the Liberal government has done the other thing that Proxmire warned against. It has removed the checks and balances on power.

I cannot help but ask myself why the Liberal government thinks a bill as draconian as this one is necessary. Bringing in a permanent war measures act like this is not a rational approach to dealing with terrorism. Terrorists like Osama bin Laden are out to destroy western democracy. If our reaction to the threat of terrorism is to undermine freedom and democracy in the name of national security as the bill does, then we are just giving the terrorists what they want. The government clearly has not thought through the consequences of what it is proposing.

In my role as the NDP transport critic, I spent the last few months fighting against another one of the Liberal government's knee-jerk reactions, the new $24 government security tax on air travel. This is another case where the government acted without thinking. It imposed this huge tax on an industry that was already in trouble without doing any impact analysis whatsoever. Indeed, it based the amount of the tax on a poll done by the ministry of finance, not a sober economic analysis, but a poll taken shortly after September 11 to see how much it could squeeze out of Canadians.

According to an analysis released recently by the Air Transport Association of Canada, the air industry passenger loads dropped by over 18% this summer after the Liberal government implemented the tax. The economy is taking a huge hit because of this tax and it is putting all kinds of jobs at risk.

The worst part of all about this new $24 tax on air travel is that most of the money is not even going to airport security. The tax is only a smokescreen the government dreamed up to try and give the impression that it is improving airport security and covers for the fact that it really has no plan whatsoever.

In that sense Bill C-17 is exactly like the airport security tax. It is obvious that the Liberal government has no idea what to do about the threat of international terrorism. If it had any kind of a plan for dealing with terrorism, it would have a bill full of specifics. Instead it has written itself a blank cheque. It has as much admitted that it does not know what to do about terrorism, so with the bill it is saying to just give it a bunch of sweeping powers to bypass the entire democratic decision making process and do whatever it wants when it thinks there might be a security risk.

That is not how to protect the public. The public is protected by being proactive, by identifying risks and threats and doing something about them before they threaten the public.

To be fair, there are some specifics in the bill that the NDP supports. We support provisions to fight money laundering by terrorist groups, we support the new criminal offences for bomb threats, and we support the implementation of international conventions to fight the proliferation of biological weapons, explosives and people smuggling by organized crime. Unfortunately, these are just tangents of the main thrust of the bill, the blank cheque for government ministers to do what they want.

There are plenty of practical things the government could do to make us safer from terrorism rather than this reactive blank cheque approach. People are not made safer by attacking democracy and invading the privacy of citizens like this bill does. Safety is improved by identifying specific risks and addressing them with specific targeted measures. The New Democratic Party has been saying that our police and military, the frontline forces Canadians depend on for security, are woefully under-resourced. Yet the Liberal government refuses to increase their funding.

I am concerned about the lack of attention in this bill to modes of transport other than air. Let me give one example of what I am talking about. Shortly after September 11 the U.S. government identified passenger rail as a potential terrorist target. In response, a bill was initiated by the U.S. Senate to fund specific measures to improve rail security like modernizing rail bridges and tunnels, and stationing more emergency personnel in railway stations. The Liberal government's failure to take any proactive steps to stop terrorism betrays its lack of a plan.

As a member of Parliament sent here by my constituents to watch out for their interests, I cannot in good conscience support a bill that lets the government exercise so much power in secret. What the government should do is take the bill back to the drawing board and come back when it is ready to propose some specific steps to solve specific problems.

Before I conclude I want to leave the House with a final piece of food for thought. A few months ago the American documentary news program 60 Minutes accused Canada of being a haven for terrorists. It alleged that there were about 50 terrorist groups using Canada as a base to target the United States. When that report came out, the Liberal government aggressively denied it. It said that the RCMP and CSIS were on top of things and everything was fine. They knew exactly what was going on.

If that is the case, then why do we need this bill? Something does not add up here. If the government is on top of things as it says it is, why is it in such a rush to pass this bill? What is the big emergency? This inconsistency goes to show how reactionary the government has become since September 11, jumping back and forth from one extreme to another with no plan, and no vision for dealing with the changes and horrible events that September 11 brought to the world.

The bill may satisfy the Liberal government's pollsters and spin doctors who say the government must be seen as doing something, anything, just so it can say it has done something about security. However, it will not satisfy the real need to take a proactive approach in eliminating terrorism. The cost of this bill to our democratic freedom is much too high.