Mr. Speaker, it is with some trepidation that I enter into the debate today. After listening to my colleagues and to some of the questions being asked, I would hope that at this stage in our democracy we would not be trying to give some type of personal ID with all sorts of biometrics on it to every Canadian citizen. Surely we have gone beyond that stage in democracy, because that is not democracy at all.
The first question Canadians should ask themselves is: who will manage the system? Will it be the same managers who are in power today? It has been said time and again that the cost of the gun registry would be $2 million but it has been allowed to go to $1 billion. Will it be the same people who cannot even manage the social insurance numbers in this country, a card that is carried by nearly every Canadian over 18 years of age. Let us look at their record. It is absolutely dismal.
HRDC's social insurance numbers were mentioned in the 1998 Auditor General's report and in October 2002 a news release stated:
The Auditor General is concerned that the identity and citizenship status of applicants were not checked adequately for the majority of SINs issued since 1998.
For five years the Liberals have not been able to keep track of their social insurance numbers and now they want to bring in a card that will contain all kinds of personal information that will track every Canadian. This is the same gang who could not even keep track of codfish and now they want to keep track of people.
This the same group that includes a minister of fisheries who would not allow us to put a black box on the 500 or 600 trawlers offshore. He said we could not do it because he could not keep track of them and yet this group wants to keep track of 33 million Canadians. I do not think so.
The Auditor General went on to say that in her view HRDC's current policies and practices did not meet the intent of the Employment Insurance Act and regulations because the department was not doing enough to properly identify applicants for social insurance numbers. That is just one piece of identification.
There is inadequate control over the 900 series social insurance numbers that are issued to people who are not Canadians or permanent residents. Although most of these people are expected to be in Canada temporarily, these SINs have no expiry date. The Liberals could not even put an expiry date on a social insurance number for a temporary resident, but now they want to have some type of brand on every man, woman and child in the country. They think they can manage that but they could not even manage a partial attempt at identification.
This gets better. There are still problems with the integrity of the information in the social insurance register. This particular group of government managers identified a problem in 1998, a huge problem for Canadians because there were all kinds of social insurance number frauds going on.
In 2002 there were still problems with the integrity of the information in the social insurance register. This is mind-boggling. For example, the number of usable social insurance numbers for people over 20 exceeds the actual population in that age group by five million. We are not talking 10,000, 50,000 or 500,000. We are talking about five million. There are five million more social insurance cards out there than there are people in the age group for which they were issued. These things are worth money. We could open a bank account. We could check into some else's bank account. All kinds of information can be found through a social insurance number. If we had someone's social insurance number we could commit all kinds of identity fraud.
The same group that has allowed five million extra social insurance numbers out there, and has done nothing since 1998 to stop that rampant abuse, now wants to issue a national identity card. It would like Canadians to have a fingerprint or a retina check on the card, possibly their driver's licence, and all kinds of other personal information, such as medical records.
We have the abuse and theft of social insurance numbers, we have some 12,000 individual Canadians who have their personal identity stolen every year, and now we want to put all of that information into one card. What would it be worth to the criminal elements of this country? What would it be worth to people who buy and sell this type of information every day and use it for illegal purposes? It would be worth a lot of money. It would be worth more than social insurance numbers, SINs that the government cannot even keep track of.
There is no integrity of data in the social insurance system for social insurance numbers. There is no integrity of data in the gun registry. There is no integrity of data in anything that gang touches.
What would the Liberals call this card? Someone a minute ago jokingly called it the “maple leaf card” and that we would be able to get into the lounge at the airport. I think it is a little more serious than that.
I do not believe I am standing in this place having a debate on whether to brand Canadians like cattle. I do not think that is the answer. However I will say that just about any group in Canada has done a better job at keeping track of information than the government has. Somehow or another we have lost all common sense.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration wants a personal identity card and we have had thousands of IMM 1000s stolen, the refugee status cards. They are out there for sale on the open market. There is something drastically wrong here.
George Radwanski, who is supposedly protecting the privacy of Canadians, has stated:
Personal information is central to privacy-in fact, I define privacy as the right to control access to one's person and to information about oneself.
Surely it is the duty of parliamentarians to make sure that access to information on individual Canadians is severely restricted.
This is about management. Canadians need to ask themselves whether they want this gang to manage their personal information when it could not manage anything else. Let us be honest here. We can read all the polls we want. How many Canadians really trust that their information is secure? Who in this House does not know someone who has had their identity stolen? We would have a small circle of friends if we did not know someone who had their identity stolen. It is a terrible experience. It takes them years to clear their names.
If we want to do something to help Canadians, let us help the 12,000 per year who have their identities stolen, whose bank accounts are emptied, who have bills run up in their names, whose Visa cards are charged to the limit, whose driver's licences are stolen and who have insurance claims against them. They fight for years to clear their names. Let us help those people. Let us find a quick solution to that one. We should take a baby step because we are not ready to take a giant step like this.
People do not trust the Internet and they do not trust the government to handle information. Ekos Research Associates recently found that only 32% of daily users of the Internet, people who describe themselves as very comfortable with life online, are willing to register personal information on the Internet sites they visit. Among casual users the figure drops to 11%.
I can say that I do not mind shopping online but I will not give my credit card number online. I will give it over the telephone but I will not give it online. That is all there is to it.
If we were to take that a step further, those low comfort levels with privacy on the Internet translate into real consequences for electronic commerce because Ekos found that only 22% of Canadians were willing to give their credit card numbers online. Among confirmed Internet users, the figure rose to only 31%. Even among daily users of the Internet, it was still only slightly more than half.
What do we need a personal identity card for? We have several pieces of ID now. I am also not convinced that we should roll them all into one. I see no reason for that. There may be a few pieces of ID that could be rolled into one so more information is on one card. That might be a reasonable, responsible step. One would not expect that from this government, but it is a reasonable, responsible step.
If people travel outside the country they obtain and use a passport. If they travel inside the country they do not need a passport. Therefore we do not need a personal identity card that could become extremely valuable on the black market and that could contain more information than the majority of Canadians would want to give out.
If I am giving information to the motor vehicle branch in Nova Scotia, then it does not need to know the rest of my personal information. It absolutely does not need to know it. My medical information, my medical file, my allergies and all of that does not need to be on my driver's licence.
I cannot imagine how we have taken this leap of faith with a government that has not been able to manage any file it has touched. We have tens of billions of dollars in foundations that have been set up by this government and we cannot get access to information.
If the government wants personal information on individual Canadians, then it should open up the files on the foundations that it established and allow us access so we can look at them. It should open the files to the Auditor General so we know whether or not proper accounting practices are being used. It should open them up so we know who sits as chair and who sits as members on the board besides the minister of that particular department.
If we want to become an open, free and democratic society, there are all kinds of information out there to which I am sure my colleagues and I would like to have access.
The government should not tell us on one hand that there are over $22 billion or $23 billion in foundations, $10 billion or $12 billion in the last few years, but that it is not willing to give out any of that information. This is arm's length from politics, arm's length from access to information and arm's length from the Auditor General and proper accounting practices.
On the other hand, every detail of information about an individual Canadian is needed. I am surprised the Liberals have not started to burn books. That is generally the route that countries take. This is absolutely scandalous.
If the government is intent on this, then it should show us a reasonable, rational plan, for example, that it wants to take back all social insurance numbers because there are five million more social insurance numbers than there are Canadians. The government wants to take all of them back and issue a new card. It wants to include in that card one or two more items. Perhaps the government could issue some type of pharmacare card. I am sure that tomorrow the government will come up with a pharmacare plan for Canadians so they can actually afford to buy the drugs they need. I am certain that information could be piggy-backed from one government department to another.
I cannot imagine how the government will manage a system involving one single identity card for every individual Canadian. I said at the start of my speech that the government cannot keep track of cod fish which is very true. It cannot keep track of the rest of the fish stocks either. We proposed in the House and at committee a number of times that the government should keep track of fishing boats. There has never been any attempt to do that.
With the GPS equipment that is available today, with global positioning on every trawler offshore, we would know in a second where every fishing boat was. We would know where the foreign trawlers were. We would know if they were fishing in the wrong zone. We would know if they were mis-reporting. If the government wants to keep track of something it should be keeping track of that.
The government should tell NAFO that there should be positioning equipment on every foreign trawler fishing in Canadian water and on the high seas in the Canadian zones. That would be something important to keep track of. The government would know whether trawlers were fishing in 4X or 3Ps. The government would know whether they were on the Flemish Cap, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks or St. Pierre and Miquelon. The government would know where the boats were. If trawlers reported their catch from one area instead of another, the government would obviously know the fish were not caught there.
There are a couple of hundred trawlers that the government refuses to keep track of. However there are 33 million Canadians and the government wants to keep track of them. I do not understand this. I am trying to understand the rationale.
If Liberals want us to trust them, and Canadians surely will never do that again, then they should start a little slower. Take smaller steps. Fix the social insurance number fraud. Benefits are going to people who are dead and it is costing hundreds of millions of dollars. There are five million extra social insurance cards out there. The government should fix that problem, take care of it.
The government wants to keep track of things. If it wants to do something about Canada's standing in the world and protect the east coast and west coast fish stocks and keep track of information, then it should do it.
I am sure Canadians would support the government if it wanted to fix the gun registry. The government has not even begun to do that. It needs $15 million immediately. What Canadians have not been told is that amount only helps the database for another three, four or five months and after that, it is back to square one and a wasted $1 billion.
There are a number of areas in which the government could improve on the information gathering and improve on the value per dollar that Canadians are receiving for their tax dollars. Nothing will be improved by bringing in a national ID card.
Is there a way to improve our Canadian passport? Maybe there is. Convince me. Show me that something else is needed on the passport. I think most Canadians would consider that. However I do not see the reason for a national ID card. I think it is like gun control was in the beginning, it is smoke and mirrors to take the public's mind off the real issues of incompetence and poor management.