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House of Commons Hansard #181 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have a notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege to complain that contempt has been shown to parliament and my rights as an MP have been abused by the privacy commissioner when yesterday he chose to express his concerns about Bill C-55 by issuing a press release and giving media interviews before and without reporting those concerns to parliament as he is enjoined to do by sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Privacy Act.

I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that section 38 says that the privacy commissioner shall submit a report on the activities of his office once a year. Where a matter is of such urgency or importance that it cannot be deferred to the year-end report, section 39 gives the commissioner the option of making a special interim report to parliament. Section 40 says that these reports must be transmitted to the Speakers of the House and the Senate for tabling in those Houses.

In writing about Bill C-55 in the aforementioned press release, the privacy commissioner uses language such as “a dramatic expansion of privacy-invasive police powers without explanation or justification” and “practices similar to those that exist in totalitarian societies”.

These are extreme and troubling statements. Surely, if they truly do reflect the privacy commissioner's concerns, they are matters of importance and urgency that should have been reported to parliament as provided for in section 39. Instead, within not much more than an hour after the Minister of Transport opened second reading debate on Bill C-55, the privacy commissioner issued an elaborate press release to all major media by fax and other means, condemning a very specific aspect of one section of the bill. By late afternoon the commissioner, one Mr. George Radwanski, was being interviewed on national television.

Mr. Speaker, the direction in sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Privacy Act is clear. If the privacy commissioner has an important concern, he shall report it to parliament and he may do it any time depending upon the emergency of the matter. Not to do so, to choose to share his concern with the media first by a wilful and deliberate press release, is as eloquent a demonstration of contempt of this place as ever this House might see.

I remind you, Mr. Speaker, the privacy commissioner is an officer of parliament. The position is created by statute and subject to statute. To ignore both the intent and the spirit of the Privacy Act and his responsibility to report to parliament is unacceptable behaviour on the part of the privacy commissioner. The affront, I point out, is directed at both Houses in that the act requires the privacy commissioner to report to both the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate.

Furthermore, the reason why officers of parliament report to the Speaker is so that you can table the reports in the House. You do that, Mr. Speaker, so that MPs can access their expert opinions to better understand all aspects of legislation being considered in the House and in committee. The earlier such reports are tabled, the earlier and more completely the opportunity MPs and senators have to use them to positively contribute to creating the best laws possible for Canadians.

Mr. Radwanski's views on Bill C-55, by virtue of his position as a privacy commissioner, are exquisitely relevant to debate on a bill like Bill C-55. I was looking for and expecting to hear of them, though probably at committee stage. Instead I learned of his views when I was scrummed yesterday after question period.

“Had I read the press release”, I was asked. “Do you think the bill goes far beyond anti-terrorism?” I was also asked. Not only had I not read the press release, I had not even received it. It went only to the media--

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has listened attentively and I must say respectfully to the hon. member that in my judgment the officer certainly always has and must have the ability to fulfill his obligations. I do not see where there has been a breach of the member's privileges. I will listen a little more, but I would ask the member to get directly to the question of privilege.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I checked and I was unable to find any MPs who had received so much as an e-mail from the privacy commissioner outlining or even suggesting his concerns about Bill C-55.

I will skip over a bit if you wish, Mr. Speaker, and I say first that my rights as an MP were abrogated because I did not get timely access to the privacy commissioner's urgent views on legislation that was then before the House. If that is not an abuse of my ability to act as an MP, I do not know what is.

Second, my rights are being abrogated because the privacy commissioner is using his press releases and media interviews to pose as the champion of privacy at the expense of MPs. His message is consistent and clear. He must speak up to defend privacy because MPs cannot be trusted to do so. That is what he is saying.

In the privacy commissioner's press release, which I offer for your perusal, Mr. Speaker, you will note that the commissioner concludes by saying that his concerns are of the greatest gravity and it is his duty to seek explanation or amendments to the law. Amendments? Where is it written in the law that--

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Respectfully once again, I see no matter that would lead me to rule that there is a breach of privilege on this question at this time. I will consider that matter closed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 2nd, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast B.C.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader what the business will be for the remainder of this week and obviously next week? Could he possibly advise us when he expects Bill C-5 will be back before the House?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today and tomorrow we will continue with Bill C-55, dealing with public safety. If that is completed, we would turn to Bill C-47, dealing with excise.

Next week we will have the unusual pleasure of three days, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, as allotted days for opposition debate. On Wednesday we will return to business unfinished this week, including Bill C-5, species at risk.

I would like to designate Tuesday evening of next week as the first evening for consideration, in committee of the whole, of estimates, pursuant to Standing Order 81.4(a). I would also advise that consultations are ongoing with regard to holding certain take note debates on Wednesday evening of next week.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that all votes under National Defence in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003 be considered first on May 7 and all votes under Public Works and Government Services be considered on the next day so designated by the minister.

Also, at this time I seek the unanimous consent of the House to revert to the application for emergency debates.

I make this request because at 11 a.m. today the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled against Canada in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. softwood lumber industry. The U.S. ITC ruled that the Canadian imports of softwood lumber pose a threat of injury to the U.S. industry.

Today's announcement is a worst case disaster scenario for Canadian forest workers, communities and the industry and is a major hit for the Canadian economy. The Canadian federal government must take bold action and strong leadership at this crucial time.

There is no time to waste. A contingency plan announcement containing worker relief and tariff payment measures is required now. Up to 50,000 Canadians, because of this ruling, are at the risk of losing their jobs.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there consent?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, 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, and of the amendment

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-55, the public safety act.

The government has taken a very measured approach in drafting the bill. We are demonstrating with the bill our continued commitment to the values of Canadians. The bill carries on the work of the government's anti-terrorism agenda, an agenda that we have pursued with urgency, I might add, in the interests of increasing public protection against terrorism. It walks a balance between safety and security for our citizens and the privacy rights of all Canadians.

The fight against terrorism is a long one. No one doubts that for a minute. It is important and it is an effort that must be sustained both nationally and internationally. That is why, then, it is critical that our law enforcement agencies and public security organizations have the best information with which to work.

We have come up with improvements in Bill C-55 that will increase our anti-terrorism response. In particular, the bill should enhance the capability of the RCMP and CSIS to protect the public, especially the safety of air passengers. That is very important and is something that all Canadians desire, need and require.

The amendments respond to the concerns raised by some of our hon. colleagues that Bill C-42 needed to be improved to prevent terrorism and to prevent terrorists from accessing Canadian planes. We have listened in this regard and have come up with Bill C-55 in response.

I would now like to address the proposals in the bill concerning passenger information: what they will do, how they will better inform and give better information sharing to improve public safety, and how they will balance privacy rights with the need for law enforcement and intelligence.

To support the government's new air carrier protection program, designated officers would have access to specific passenger information to check for potential terrorists and serious criminals as well as threats to transportation security. In particular, an RCMP designated officer would be able to check for outstanding warrants for serious offences, warrants issued under the Immigration Act or by a foreign state for which a person should be extradited.

This is a sensible approach and a sensible scheme because it not only promotes the security of air passengers but also improves overall public safety. For example, it enables the RCMP to notify the responsible police force if it discovers after accessing passenger information that a person is wanted for an outstanding warrant for a serious offence such as murder, for example.

Under no circumstances could this information be used for broader law enforcement purposes such as a criminal investigation and it would not permit unbridled arrest and detention of any law-abiding passenger. As is currently the case, before any arrest for an outstanding warrant the police would have to positively identify the person named in that warrant. The result would be more effective protection of passengers and cross-border co-ordination to intercept terrorists and criminals. Again, that is something that Canadians want and require.

I want to emphasize that we have built into this scheme very strict and rigorous privacy protection. Only a very small core group of officers especially designated by the RCMP commissioner or the director of CSIS would be able to access passenger information for specific purposes related to their agencies' mandates. For example, while only the RCMP could access passenger information for warrant purposes, only CSIS could access it to investigate terrorist threats. Once obtained, passenger information could be matched against other information under the control of the RCMP or CSIS. This would assist, then, in identifying passengers who are known or suspected terrorists.

Only designated officers would be able to share matched information with specific parties for very restricted purposes. For example, disclosures could be made to aircraft protective officers to assist with their transportation security duties. An RCMP designated officer would be able to advise local police if a kidnapped child, for example, were arriving on a scheduled flight.

To ensure accountability and transparency, written records would have to be kept to justify both the retention and the disclosure of passenger information. This would enable review agencies such as the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the inspector general for CSIS and the privacy commissioner to readily examine records for compliance with the law. All accessed passenger information would have to be destroyed within seven days unless it was reasonably required for the restricted purposes of transportation security or the investigation of terrorist threats, for example, to analyze travel patterns of known or suspected terrorists. There is absolutely no authority for examining or tracking persons who do not present such threats.

The RCMP and CSIS would each be required to conduct an annual review of information retained by designated officers. If retention were no longer justified, again, the information would have to be destroyed. This is in keeping with the general thrust of the legislation to ensure that privacy is paramount in this all important area, but not at the expense of security and safety for Canadians. Given the sensitivity of terrorist information, only a CSIS designated officer could disclose to another CSIS employee for a counterterrorism investigation under the CSIS act, and only after approval by a senior CSIS designated officer. Finally, thresholds would have to be met before passenger information could be shared. For example, a designated officer would need to have reason to believe that the information would assist in the execution of a warrant.

In developing these amendments, the government is being responsive to the concerns that have been raised about screening passengers who are potential threats. Hence the safety and security of not only the country but of Canadian citizens and others: if we are to have an effective air carrier protective program, we need to have these legitimate changes.

The privacy commissioner announced yesterday that he would not “...stand in the way of legitimate and necessary measures to enhance security against terrorism”. That is exactly what these amendments do. They promote safe air travel, safety and protection from terrorists and confidence that passenger information will be used effectively for public safety purposes, all while respecting privacy rights. That too is something that Canadians have said loud and clear and have said repeatedly, and certainly we in this parliament have listened.

The scheme I have outlined does not permit unrestricted access to passenger information. It is tightly controlled and would be a legitimate part of transportation security in Canada's fight against terrorism. Using a variety of safeguards and accountability mechanisms, the scheme has been carefully designed to integrate security demands for information and the protection of the privacy rights of Canadians.

By way of recap, let me say that the new bill is something that has come about as a result of the government listening closely to Canadians, listening closely to people who have a great deal of interest in this area, and listening closely to people who want to ensure that there is safety and security in this great country of ours but at the same time ensure that our privacy rights as Canadians, fundamental to each and every one of us, are in fact protected.

The bill further defines and circumscribes the power of the Minister of National Defence to establish controlled access military zones and of other ministers to use interim orders in emergency situations, particularly through greater involvement of parliament. It also provides more comprehensive parameters for the new terrorist hoax offenses, and it provides strong measures to ensure accountability and transparency.

It also includes important provisions that will make Canadians safer by, as I have noted, improving the capacity of federal departments and agencies involved in anti-terrorism and national security activities to share that kind of critical information and co-ordinate their work in a manner consistent with the operations of these agencies, to ensure safety and security for all. It does so by providing for the smooth flow of information between Canada and its international partners, particularly the United States, with which we share a border, in order to prevent terrorist activity and protect public safety and by allowing the Government of Canada to provide financial assistance wherever necessary to enhance marine security.

At the same time, the act retains the key elements from Bill C-42 such as measures that will, for example, clarify and update existing aviation security authorities to maximize the effectiveness of the aviation security system and enhance the ability of the Government of Canada to provide a safe and secure environment for aviation. It also does so by deterring irresponsible hoaxes that endanger the public or heighten public anxiety, all of which has the net effect of creating even more terrorism among our midst.

It does so too by establishing tighter controls over explosives and hazardous substances, activities related to other dangerous substances such as pathogens and the export and transfer of technology. It does so by helping to identify and prevent harmful unauthorized use of interference with defence computer systems and networks and, finally, it deters the proliferation of biological weapons.

All of this is to say, then, that Bill C-55, this public safety act, is the work of a government intent on providing safety and security for the country and safety and security for Canadians wherever they live, but at the same time, and again to repeat it because it is an important point, to preserve the privacy rights of Canadians in a manner consistent with the great values of our country and certainly consistent with the charter of rights and freedoms. I believe that in walking this balance we have been able to provide the kind of legislation that is good, decent and worthy of support.

I would certainly ask colleagues on all sides of the House to support the bill, knowing that at the end of the day what it does is ensure that ours is a safer and more secure country, but at the same time it protects those rights and those responsibilities and the privacy that flows from that for all Canadians.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the time allotted to me, and I wish to thank all members who are considering voting for this very important measure because certainly it is worth doing so.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member concluded his speech by saying that he wants to protect individual freedoms and privacy rights.

I will simply quote a text published in today's edition of La Presse , which is not necessarily a sovereignist newspaper, members will agree. The heading is “The Privacy Commissioner condemns Bill C-55”. The privacy commissioner is also not a sovereignist and he is definitely not a Bloc Quebecois member. The text goes on to say that “some practices are similar to those that exist in totalitarian states”.

This is an excerpt from a letter addressed by the commissioner to the government. I will quote part of it for the benefit of the Quebecers and Canadians who are listening. I continue reading the text:

Some measures including in the new anti-terrorist bill introduced by the Chrétien government are squarely patterned on those that exist in totalitarian states, according to privacy commissioner George Radwanski.

Mr. Radwanski condemns Ottawa's decision to include in Bill C-55 new provisions that would give the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) unrestricted access to personal information from all Canadians travelling on domestic or international flights.

According to the commissioner, these “exceptional” measures go far beyond anti-terrorism and are in fact “a dramatic expansion of privacy-invasive police powers without explanation or justification as to its necessity”.

I am still reading the letter addressed to the government by the commissioner:

“The precedent set [by the new provisions] could open the door, in principle, to practices similar to those that exist in totalitarian societies where police routinely board trains or establish roadblocks to check identification papers in search of anyone of interest to the state”, said Mr. Radwanski in a written statement released yesterday.

It should be noted that these measures were not included in the first version of Bill C-42, which was suddenly scrapped, and that the commissioner feels that police forces might eventually ask the government for similar powers in the case of Canadians travelling by train, bus or rental car.

What does the Liberal member think of these comments by the privacy commissioner?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question because it allows me the opportunity to tell the House that in coming forward with the amendments the government has had to do a fine balancing act. On the one hand we have an obligation to provide safety and security not only for the country as a whole but for all Canadians wherever they live. On the other hand we are conscious that we must protect the privacy of Canadians, hence the fine line.

The amendments in Bill C-55 would protect the rights and privacy of Canadians while meeting our international obligations. They would meet the threats terrorists pose not only to us as a North American nation but to the United States and other freedom loving countries. We need to work in co-operation with other countries. We need to use federal agencies such as the RCMP and CSIS to ensure we do this in an effective and efficient manner without getting into grievous and unwanted privacy concerns. Bill C-55 would allow us to do precisely that.

Doing this will require a lot of balance. That is precisely what Bill C-55 represents. It is conscious of the values that are important to Canadians. It is conscious of the charter of rights and freedoms and what it represents for the vast majority of Canadians. At the same time it would ensure more safety and security. It would give the RCMP, CSIS and others in co-ordination with our international partners access to the tools and information needed to ensure security not only in Canada but worldwide. At the end of the day we have done precisely that. The government should be applauded for having brought forward good legislation which we can enforce.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada talked about balance. Yet the privacy commissioner has said there is no balance in Bill C-55. He says it is draconian and would go too far in curtailing the civil liberties of Canadians. On top of that the Prime Minister has said he is willing to fast track the bill. I assume the parliamentary secretary thinks that is fine too.

Where is the balance between those two statements?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, no one ever said it was easy to govern. It is not easy to govern in light of September 11. It is not easy to govern in light of the terrorist threats occurring around the world. As a government we must provide the leadership that is required in a world where terrorism is a reality. We must bring forward measures that on the one hand ensure privacy, reason and balance, but on the other hand ensure safety and security is paramount for Canada and for Canadians wherever they are.

Canadians expect no less from us. They expect their government to act with leadership. Canadians expect us to act with our international partners in the interests of their safety and the safety of their children. They expect us to do so while being cognizant of the privacy guaranteed under the charter of rights and freedoms, the constitution and the statutes that have come through the House since 1867.

At the end of the day we as a government have provided that kind of leadership. We have ensured a balance. Bill C-55 would respect privacy and the great charter of rights and freedoms while helping ensure safety and security for Canadians and others in the world.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the parliamentary secretary, I am going to reread the heading from La Presse : “Privacy Commissioner Condemns Bill C-55”. It does not say “Supports Bill C-55”.

The privacy commissioner, who was appointed by the government, is the best qualified to tell Canadians and Quebecers whether their privacy is protected, and he is the one telling us that he condemns Bill C-55.

Now that he has given his fine explanations, can the parliamentary secretary tell us whether the government will amend Bill C-55 or simply withdraw it and prove the privacy commissioner right?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, we looked closely at Bill C-42 and what it represented. As hon. members know, we listened to all kinds of Canadians. We decided to change it and bring in Bill C-55 to meet the requirements people had. We listened to the statements people made and were sensitive to all the issues raised by the opposition.

In making this balancing act we have brought forth good, solid legislation that would adhere to the charter and privacy rights of Canadians while making sure safety and security were paramount. We talked to Canadians about the issues. They fully understand that through the RCMP and CSIS, two great institutions we are blessed to have, we want to be able to catch the people--

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not believe there is quorum in the House.

And the count having been taken:

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is quorum.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point I was making is that Canadians expect us, through the RCMP and CSIS, to ensure people involved in terrorist and criminal activities are caught. This would happen under Bill C-55. If we asked ordinary Canadians anywhere in the country I think they would agree.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill C-55, the public safety act. No Canadian or anyone in the House doubts the importance of protecting security at this critical time. As the Prime Minister and everyone in the House has said, it has become almost a cliche to say the world changed on September 11.

However the threats to security that were demonstrated on September 11 have existed for a long time. In responding to what happened on September 11 the government's goals may be laudable but its means of achieving them have been anything but. The Liberal government has done more to foster global terrorism and expose Canadians to the risk of terrorism on our soil than any government in the history of Canada.

Since coming to office the government has done more to reduce and gut resources for the RCMP, CSIS and the military than any government in the past. Our rules and laws are not the problem. They are not what we need to change. For a long time we have needed the resources to enforce the existing rules. Regardless of the legislation we pass in the House to strengthen the government's hand to act in a more totalitarian way, the goal of improving the security of Canadians will not be met without increased resources for the RCMP, CSIS and the military.

The government recently took baby steps in the right direction on these issues. However for years it has taken funds out of these important enforcement agencies with a backhoe. It now proposes to replace the funds with a teaspoon. The government is trying to fill in some of the potholes it has created through years of neglect.

The Minister of Transport stood in the House at the beginning of the debate and praised Bill C-55. However after listening to him the question remains: Why do we need the legislation? We already have an Emergencies Act to allow a fast response to a national emergency. After the crisis of September 11 the government responded and took extraordinary action within the existing rules.

Bill C-55 is the essence of Liberal parliamentary democracy. By that I mean it would continue the Liberal tradition of doing everything they can to jettison parliamentary democracy. Under the Liberal government more than any previous government we have seen an increased concentration of decision making power away from parliament and into the hands not only of cabinet but of the Prime Minister's Office. Bill C-55 represents another nail in the coffin of Canadian parliamentary democracy.

This legislation would allow the government to bypass parliament. It would severely curtail parliamentary scrutiny and review. The rules Canadians consider so important such as protection of privacy and property and protection against arbitrary arrest would all be compromised by Bill C-55. That is unnecessary because we can provide the security Canadians need and want without compromising the civil liberties they value.

The Liberal privacy commissioner has used the term totalitarian to discuss aspects of Bill C-55. What a scathing condemnation of his own government to refer to the legislation as being totalitarian. Canadians are intelligent and will decide for themselves the number of ways the bill violates their rights. I am afraid that Canadians will not realize until too late the regressive nature of the bill in terms of pulling back some of the fundamental civil liberties that Canadians have come to assume are part of our values.

The bill represents another flawed piece of Liberal legislation. It is a slap in the face for Canadians who value their privacy and property rights. In the wake of September 11 it is understandable that the government would seek to draft legislation that would address some of these extreme circumstances we find ourselves in not just in Canada but around the world.

The arbitrary nature of the decision making process by the government in creating the legislation is really unfortunate. The government refers to consultation and that it has listened. It really has not listened or pursued a full and consultative approach in creating the legislation.

If the government were to reverse some of the very significant and draconian cuts that were made to the military, the RCMP and CSIS resources, a lot of the existing rules would be fine just the way they are. The government in some ways is using September 11 as a means to further strengthen its hand and further reduce parliamentary scrutiny.

I do not want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but I saw the government use September 11 as an excuse to create a $4 billion tax grab with the air security tax. In Canada it is $24 for every round trip. The U.S. equivalent for the same level of security is $5. The government used that opportunity, the fear of Canadians post September 11 to exact more revenue out of Canadian taxpayers which made me feel very skeptical. I really question the government's motives.

With the legislation perhaps the government sees that September 11 has created further opportunity to concentrate power at the expense of the civil liberties of Canadians. I urge the government to not always use every opportunity to reduce the role of parliament and concentrate greater levels of power in the executive branch. Instead it should enforce the rules that are there now and increase the resources that are needed to do so.

The bill furthers the concentration of power in the hands of the ministers. We know what the government did in terms of ministerial accountability. We have seen minister after minister fail to be accountable to parliament, to committees and to the trust that Canadians vest in them.

The interim orders made by ministers alone without parliamentary approval could remain secret for 23 days. They could be in effect for 45 days without any cabinet approval.

We have a defence minister now who cannot remember what happens at briefing sessions and forgets to brief the Prime Minister and cabinet. This is like a dream piece of legislation for the defence minister. Not only can he forget something for seven days, he could forget something for 45 days without having to worry about it.

The whole notion of ministerial accountability is gutted by the legislation. A minister would not even have to seek cabinet approval and could act arbitrarily. These extreme measures could be in effect for 45 days without cabinet approval. That of course would help because based on the Prime Minister's style of leadership, he would probably rather golf than govern anyway. It would probably be inconvenient to call cabinet meetings particularly during the summertime.

Unless specified in the order, the order can be in effect for a year. If the minister so chooses, it can be renewed for at least another year. All this is without parliamentary approval. The changes from Bill C-42 are a slight improvement, a tiny pittance of an improvement, but once again parliament and the public are relegated to the back seat.

The changes to the National Defence Act in this legislation are a perfect example. The minister in the past has demonstrated that he is less than forthright with the public, parliament, his party, his caucus and even his leader and cabinet. Did we take hostages or did we not? Were the hostages handed over or not? Was the Prime Minister told or was he not?

The fact is the whole British parliamentary system is based on the sanctity of ministerial accountability. The Minister of National Defence would have had his marching orders provided to him by the Prime Minister if he had served in the cabinet of Tony Blair. He would have been gone by 10 o'clock on the morning the debacle became public.

Instead, in order to protect the sub-mediocrity of the front benches, the government will do anything to avoid resignations. It would even send them to Denmark if the opportunity existed just so it could say that it was not wrong and the Prime Minister did not make a mistake. Canadians know a lot better.

It took the minister three briefings to bring him up to speed. There was a day when cabinet ministers were chosen based on their perspicacity and ability to be briefed quickly and understand issues. The Prime Minister wants that minister now to have even greater unchecked authority, controlled access to military zones anywhere in Canada. Make no mistake about it. Under this legislation the government can drive a tank onto any street in the country and at the discretion of the minister call it a military secure zone.

Most Canadians, including the minister's own chain of command within the military, have expressed significant doubts as to the competence of the minister. For him to be provided with this level of power to act arbitrarily and create a military zone wherever he wants is truly frightening.

Under subsection 260.1(1)(b) concerning controlled access military zones, there is some question as to what the government means by property. Is this real property as in real estate, or property in terms of equipment, such as a main battle tank or military vehicle? The answer comes in subsection 260.1(3) where the designation of the nature of the zone states:

A controlled access military zone may consist of an area of land or water, a portion of airspace, or a structure or part of one, surrounding a thing referred to in subsection (1) or including it, whether the zone designated is fixed or moves with that thing. The zone automatically includes all corresponding airspace above, and water and land below, the earth's surface.

If the nature of this legislation were to create these zones in, on or around areas with permanent structures not designated as military bases, there would be no need for clarification of this type. This gives the minister, Canada's defensive minister in this case, not as the minister of defence but as the defensive minister, the ability to designate a controlled military access zone around any piece of military property he feels necessary and as the equipment moves through an area, so goes the zone.

Canadians work long, hard hours and pay a lot of taxes. They work hard for everything they own. The stroke of a pen by the minister can negate the expectations of a person's property rights in Canada. That is clearly egregious to Canadians when they think of it. It should be offensive to every member of the House.

Liberals might suggest that checks and balances are contained within subsection (6) where a maximum time limit of one year is put on the zone. However as 7(b) states that following the renewal of a year, the governor in council can sidestep the subsection should the government want the designation in effect for more than one year.

These are broad, sweeping powers provided to a minister who has demonstrated very little competence, who has in fact earned the wrath of Canadians and lost the respect of his own chain of command. The fact that the Minister of National Defence, particularly the present Minister of National Defence, would be given this level of power is truly emblematic of the deep flaws and rot within the legislation.

While there are a number of issues we disagree with, the bill does have some positive notes. We believe there are some positive steps being taken with regard to part 4 of the bill which deals specifically with an amendment to the criminal code.

The notion of criminalizing a hoax in regard to terrorist activities makes a great deal of sense. That has already existed for a long time in airports. We cannot make jokes about bombings and that sort of thing. That makes a tremendous amount of sense. However that is like a thimble full of positive steps in a sea of bad things in the legislation.

If the government were serious about improving the security of Canadians, it would address some of the flaws and mistakes of the past. It would address funding issues for the RCMP and CSIS. It would address funding issues of our Canadian military. The government would address some of the flaws in our current immigration system.

Canadians ought not to learn about flaws in our immigration system on 60 Minutes. Parliament should be more assiduously focused on addressing those flaws and those issues.

If the government were serious about achieving the ends of a more secure Canada and a Canada more willing to protect itself against the threats of international terrorism on our soil, there are ways that could be accomplished. Those laudable goals could have been accomplished without compromising the human rights and the civil liberties of Canadians.

The government used September 11 in an exploitative way to create a multibillion dollar tax grab by creating the air security tax. It was intentionally larger than it needed to be to exact as much money out of Canadian taxpayers as possible. The government exploited September 11 to raise more government revenue in a shameless, unconscionable way. It is now using September 11 once again as an excuse to clamp down on the civil liberties of Canadians and to further reduce parliament's important role in representing Canadians to further strengthen the power of cabinet, the power of the Prime Minister and the PMO.

It is absolutely shameful that the government would take an event like September 11, an event that has in so many ways focused the efforts of people around the world on what can be done to better protect ourselves against terrorism. Instead of moving in a constructive way to fight terrorism and find ways to better protect Canadians against terrorism on our soil, it is using September 11 as a way to extend its powers, to raise more tax revenues, to further reduce the role of parliament and further strengthen cabinet and the Prime Minister's hold over the power of this country.

I think that is really unfortunate. We fight terrorism to protect democracy. The government uses the threat of terrorism to reduce democracy. That is just a terrible state of affairs.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before I take questions or comments, let me remind the House that we have now surpassed the first five hours of debate. Therefore subsequent interventions will now be limited to 10 minutes without questions or comments.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think all of us share the concerns expressed by the member about privacy. This is very difficult legislation and it is very hard to strike a balance surely between public safety and privacy.

I wonder if the member shares my concern about the privacy commissioner who reports to parliament and has an important role in advising parliament about issues pertaining to privacy. I noticed that the member quoted from the privacy commissioner's press release about a totalitarian society. I informed the member opposite that the privacy commissioner issued a press release before and without consulting or informing parliament of his concerns.

Does the member think it would have been more appropriate for the privacy commissioner to have brought his concerns to all members of the House before he brought his concerns to the media?