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House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was airports.

Topics

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to enter the debate on Bill C-33, the international transfer of offenders act.

The founding purpose of the Transfer of Offenders Act , or TOA, is essentially humanitarian. It authorizes Canada to implement treaties with other nations for the return of offenders to their countries of citizenship while still under a sentence for a conviction in a foreign state.

The TOA allows Canada to enforce foreign sentences of Canadian offenders transferred to Canada. This is particularly important where foreign standards of justice and conditions of confinement impose severe hardships on Canadians.

The Transfer of Offenders Act came into force in 1978 following a United Nations meeting at which member states agreed that international transfers were desirable in light of increasing global mobility of individuals and the need for countries to cooperate on criminal justice matters.

The act is based on the humanitarian principle of returning foreign offenders to their home countries to serve their sentences. It authorizes the implementation of international transfer treaties for this purpose.

Since the act's proclamation, Canada has ratified bilateral treaties with countries such as the United States in 1978, Mexico in 1979, Peru in 1980, France in 1984, Bolivia in 1985, Thailand in 1988, Venezuela in 1996, Morocco in 1998, Brazil in 1998 and Egypt in 2000. Negotiations are ongoing to enact treaties with many other countries.

Under the act Canada is also a party to three multilateral conventions, the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, 1983, the Scheme for the Transfer of Convicted Offenders within the Commonwealth, 1990, and the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad, 1993, which allow for transfers between Canada and over 40 countries.

Canadians incarcerated in foreign countries often find themselves facing serious problems coping with local conditions. Cultures are different. There are language barriers. Diets may be poor and there can be inadequate medical care and rampant disease in prisons.

In some countries it is even common practice for the family to be responsible for providing food, clothing and items for personal hygiene. A Canadian serving a sentence under such conditions would be doubly punished by not having access to the basic necessities of life.

Consular officials provide all the assistance they can, but their ability to help is often limited to ensuring that the offender's rights under local laws are protected. Clearly, some of these jurisdictions in some of these places are rural and there may not necessarily always be consular officials close at hand. That is another reason people would find themselves very much isolated in a foreign country.

In addition, offenders imprisoned far from home are isolated from their families and access to the communities to which they will one day return.

The legislation before us today updates the 1978 legislation. It brings it in line with established treaty principles and recognizes current international conditions. In the years since the legislation was passed, only minor technical amendments have been made. But as we all know, the world has changed and we have obligations to ensure that our laws keep pace with the new realities.

At the same time, these proposals will ensure that Canadians who are transferred under the TOA and related instruments will be treated fairly and equitably, according to Canadian values and legal principles, while not being allowed to escape accountability for their offences committed on foreign soil.

To this end, principles that are now expressed only in treaties will be captured in the international transfer of offenders act to ensure that they are respected in future treaties and in individual cases.

One of these principles is the non-aggravation of a sentence. A transfer cannot be used to increase the punishment that has been handed down by a foreign court. Treaties generally provide that the receiving state shall not interfere with a finding of guilt and sentence imposed by the sentencing state. Where modifications in sentence administration need to be made in order to comply with domestic legislation, on no account must the transfer result in aggravation of the length of a sentence. This legislation will reflect this important obligation.

Another important principle is dual criminality. That means an offender can only be transferred if the act for which he or she is sentenced is considered to be criminal both in the country where he or she is convicted and in Canada. We do not incarcerate people in Canada for certain things that are considered illegal in other countries. One example would be adultery. While hardly admirable behaviour, we in Canada do not imprison people for adultery. We would therefore not imprison someone who was found guilty of adultery in another country.

This legislation also clarifies issues related to consent. All parties to an international transfer must consent. The country where the person was sentenced has the right to be aware of how the sentence will be served. The receiving country must of course consent to take over the administration of a sentence. In Canada this also means that where a sentence is to be administered by provincial authorities, they must consent as well. The offender has the right to consent to be transferred to his home country knowing how that sentence will be administered.

This brings to mind another critical element, which is ensuring that offenders are aware of their right to access a transfer. Foreign citizens must be informed of the existence of an international transfer treaty between Canada and their country of origin. This legislation will require that correctional authorities inform foreign national offenders of their rights under any treaty.

This legislation serves two purposes. It is humanitarian and it also helps to protect the public. Being humane to offenders is not universally accepted. But I would remind everyone of the outcry that takes place when we realize that Canadians are being ill treated due to harsh conditions in the prisons in many countries not as enlightened or as fortunate as we are in Canada.

To enhance its humanitarian nature, the legislation will extend the scope of possible transfers to include young offenders serving community sentences. The current act allows for the transfer of young offenders in custody, but not ones serving community sentences, whereas adult offenders serving both types of sentences may be transferred. This is an anomaly which will be addressed by this legislation.

In addition, the proposal will allow for transfer of children under the age of 12. In many countries children can be held criminally responsible at very young ages. This legislation will allow a child to be returned to Canada but, in keeping with Canadian values and standards, such a child would not be imprisoned.

A further expansion will allow for the transfer of mentally disordered offenders. In this case they could be returned to Canada and dealt with by the mental health system.

These categories of offenders are not currently covered, but we need to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens have the opportunity to be repatriated to Canada.

Recognizing the role of the provinces in dealing with these categories of offenders, the legislation ensures that they have the right to consent to such transfers. Consultations took place with all provinces and they agree with the amendments that are being proposed in this legislation.

An important aspect of the proposals is the recognition that people may be incarcerated in areas where treaties do not currently exist. This legislation will allow the transfer of offenders on an ad hoc basis.

This is important as the negotiation of a treaty may take years and we do not want our citizens languishing in harsh conditions of confinement far from their homes and families while a treaty is being negotiated. To deal with these situations, the international transfer of offenders act will permit the negotiation of an ad hoc arrangement on a case by case basis with a foreign state to allow transfers to take place.

This legislation will allow for transfers to take place with countries or regions that are not recognized as states, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. The dissolution of the USSR and Yugoslavia highlight the problems in dealing with territories or jurisdictions not yet recognized as foreign states. Several years may pass before the jurisdictions are firmly recognized as foreign states. In the interim, Canada cannot enter into a treaty with them. Canadians incarcerated in these jurisdictions and vice versa are not eligible to apply for an international transfer.

I mentioned earlier that the purpose of the act included public safety. I would like to speak to that issue for a moment.

By allowing offenders to serve their sentences in Canada, they can be gradually released into the community under supervision and control with appropriate assistance and support. Otherwise these offenders would simply be deported at the end of their sentences and arrive in Canada without our having any authority to monitor or control their behaviour.

What happens if the transfer treaty is not used is that the foreign state will often deport the offender back to their country of origin, in that case Canada, at some point. The offender will arrive in Canada and there is no record of his or her conviction nor any legal means of ensuring that he or she is required to serve the balance of the sentence either in an institution or in the community.

By using a transfer, the offender returns to Canada to serve the sentence here. Correctional authorities will have the ability to carry out the foreign sentence in accordance with the way all other sentences are administered here. It also allows us to ensure the safe reintegration of the offender back into the community under supervision.

A Canadian offender returned to Canada will be subject to the same conditions as all other offenders, including having access to treatment programs that will reduce the risk of future reoffending and thus protect our citizens. Canada is well respected for its treatment programs in federal institutions, many of which are accredited by an international panel. This is surely preferable to having someone dumped back in the country with no resources to assist their adjustment back into society.

As I noted, Canada has concluded a number of bilateral treaties and multilateral conventions on the transfer of offenders. In the United States, in addition to the federal authorities, 45 states accede to transfer of offender treaties with Canada. These proposals will enhance Canada's ability to cooperate internationally in the area of criminal justice, particularly with regard to sentence enforcement.

This is not a one way street. Just as Canadian offenders can return to this country to serve their sentences, foreign nationals can also be returned to their countries to serve their sentences. Again, this will allow them to serve their sentences in a place that is culturally appropriate to them and to have access to their families and communities.

This is good legislation that meets important needs. It will bring the existing legislation up to date and reflect important principles of transfer treaties. It will allow Canada to respond to the needs of its citizens who are convicted in other countries and must serve sentences in sometimes extremely harsh conditions.

As I mentioned, while the legislation is predominantly humanitarian, it also serves an important public safety role by requiring offenders to serve out their sentences ordered by a foreign court within Canada.

It is very important that the parole system and those kinds of extensions of the correctional service system are utilized. The statistics are very clear in Canada that offenders who do not go through that process escape monitoring, which sometimes leads to serious consequences for some of our citizens. I think it is important for that to be the foundation of the legislation.

I also ask members to think of the families of those who are incarcerated outside of Canada. The hardship faced by offenders serving sentences in foreign countries is only surpassed by the hardship faced by the families who must worry about their survival.

I urge the speedy passage of the legislation.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Canadian Alliance Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, the bill is purely a reflection of the Liberal government's most tolerant approach to people who commit crimes. There are many countries around the world whose justice system demands far harsher penalties than we have in Canada. The influence of past Liberal governments has resulted in a very lenient approach to people who commit crimes in this country.

This is a bewildering bill because it does not put any responsibility on Canadian citizens to respect the laws of other countries. If they are visiting other countries and they have no respect for the law, in the sense that they choose to commit a crime there, then the bill would get them off the hook with the penalties that might prevail in that country by allowing them to be returned to Canada and be subject to the Canadian judicial system and the way we treat people who break the laws.

This is just another example of the Liberals' most tolerant approach to people who commit crimes. I would say that this bill could actually serve as an encouragement to criminals from Canada who are in other countries to commit crimes. They would know that if an armed robbery in a particular country gets them life in prison, they could go ahead and commit that crime knowing that under this legislation they would likely be transferred back to Canada, be subject to the laws of Canada and might only serve about five years in prison.

I could never support the bill. I believe that Canadians who are in other countries have an obligation to respect the laws of that country and, if they choose to trespass those laws, then they should be subject to the consequences of that trespass in the country they are in.

The bill is just another example of the Liberals' most tolerant approach to criminals. Some of the sentencing and the punishments were mentioned today in question period, which the Solicitor General and the justice minister just sort of laughed off. A simple slap on the wrist under this government's influence tells criminals in this country to go ahead and break the law. They will still be treated with a whole bunch of respect. They will be showered with rights and be provided with legal aid. If they do get convicted, they are put in some sort of a club fed, but will be released pretty soon because we believe in a very lenient parole system. They are told not to worry, to be happy and to go ahead and commit crimes in this country and abroad because they will be returned home and be treated like good old Canadian prisoners.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I must say that I think the member's hypothesis and his arguments are quite ludicrous. We heard that because of legislation in Canada, people will commit crimes abroad. I really have a lot of problem with that causal relationship.

Looking around the world there are some jurisdictions where the drinking of alcohol is an illegal act and subject to incarceration. As I mentioned in my speech, in some jurisdictions adultery is considered a punishable offence subject to incarceration or worse, as we have seen in Nigeria and other countries.

I would like to assure the member and his party that in those jurisdictions in the United States that have capital punishment, and I am sure they are very in favour of capital punishment, there is no correlation between capital punishment and the reduction in crime. As a matter of fact, I can well remember sitting outside a jail in Houston, Texas, where a Canadian was incarcerated. In fact Mr. Bush finally hung that Canadian, so that person did not have the right to return to Canada.

The reality is that Canada's crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. The reason we have these laws is that we believe people can be rehabilitated. The most important part of the legislation deals with young offenders. Some young offenders in foreign countries have very harsh incarceration and almost torturous penalties for smoking marijuana, or whatever the case may be. That does not mean it is okay. If people break the law they are subject to penalty.

However we in Canada know we can put those people in some kind of rehabilitation program and then, statistically speaking, in spite of that party's constant talk about reoffending, the reoffending rate is actually quite low. The reality is that these programs have been successful. I believe it shows the way we should deal with offenders.

It is not about being soft on crime and it is not about forgetting about the victims of crime.

However, if these people are going to be reintroduced into the community at some point in time, it is important that it be a gradual introduction, that there be a monitoring system and a parole system where people can monitor their activities. I know the member will point out the odd cases where it has failed. There have been failures, there is no question about that, but generally most of the system works.

I disagree with the member's premise. I think this is good legislation. No, it does not promote criminality around the world, as the extreme position that his party would suggest.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I would encourage the member opposite, tomorrow when he can think straight, to read in Hansard what he just said. I think his argument was that other countries have a tough penalty system for certain crimes and we do not. If I have followed it right, I think his argument is that we should get the people in other jurisdictions who commit crimes, and because the Liberals consider them insignificant crimes in Canada, it is okay.

He should be warning young people. He should let them know that if they are thinking about travelling to another country and thinking about smoking marijuana, they should not do it because other countries do not laugh it off. It is a serious thing. He should let them know that we cannot get them home, that they will be spending a lot of time in a rat infested hole somewhere. He should tell them to take smoking dope seriously when they are in a Muslim country, for example.

We should not pretend that it is no big deal and that we do not have a problem with rehabilitation or reoffending here in Canada. We have a huge problem. The only trouble is that no one is charged and no one has to go to jail for many offences, including, not just smoking dope, but stealing cars, stealing mail and home invasions. A person does not even go to jail for manslaughter, as we heard in question period today. That is why we are offended by the Canadian Criminal Code system.

Certainly the member opposite should send a strong message, in the minute or two he has left, to every Canadian citizen that when they are in another country they must respect the laws of that country because we will not necessarily be able to get them home. He should tell them to obey the laws and to be as pure as the driven snow because they have a good chance of spending a lot of time in a place they do not want to go. He should tell them that it will not be a pleasant experience for them or their families.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not think any of us would promote people committing crimes in other countries regardless of their justice system.

We are talking about those people who fall through the cracks, those people who, for whatever reason, commit a crime. We do not promote them to commit crimes. We tell them that if they are in a foreign country they must respect its laws. There is no question about that. However from time to time somebody does commit a crime, even innocuously, like having a drink in Saudi Arabia. My goodness, I forgot about that being a crime. Those members opposite would incarcerate those people. We do not believe in that. We are saying that there is some kind of system here that will give Canadian citizens some kind of justice.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and there is an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) to defer the recorded division requested on second reading of Bill C-33 until Tuesday, May 13 at 3 p.m.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, an act respecting airport authorities and other airport operators and amending other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Airports ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-27 because as the House is aware I have been a long proponent of increasing transparency and accountability in the financial administration of government and crown corporations. Indeed, it is a principle that I would apply to any kind of institution that is charged with looking after the public trust, whether it is a private corporation, a crown corporation or a government.

This business of transparency and accountability has come to be rather accepted in this day and age, particularly after the public collapses in the United States of large corporations like Enron. The idea that institutions should be foremostly transparent and accountable is somewhat novel in comparison to the situation of just 10 years ago.

When I first came to this House in 1993 and started this crusade to bring transparency and accountability to everything the government touched, part of that crusade was to reform the Access to Information Act and to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, and do a number of things including bringing transparency and accountability to charitable institutions.

I guess I was a voice in the wilderness originally but as time went on the government, I am happy to say, has bought more and more into the principle that there must be legislated transparency and accountability wherever taxpayers' money is being spent or wherever the public trust is being looked after in a way that involves finances.

In 1994, the first year of the government's mandate, the government took over a program that had been initiated by the former Tory government. It was the implementation of the national airport policy. That involved taking federal airports and transferring them through specific agreements to local authorities who in turn often hired or came into agreements with private operators to run these airports. This legislation deals with these entities. In the grand sense the entity that runs, for example, Pearson airport is an airport authority in this legislation. There is also a smaller category of airport operator which by and large applies to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in my riding in Hamilton.

When those agreements were struck across the country that basically semi-privatized the federal airports, the principle of ensuring that there was a single standard of corporate governance, a single standard of financial reporting, and a single standard of disclosure to the public was not implemented at that time. These airport authorities and airport operators were set up with different types of standards. Over the nine years since these airport authorities and airport operators have been operating, it has become apparent that the level of disclosure and the level of transparency has been uneven across the country. There have been some concerns expressed about the management of some of these airport authorities and airport operators.

In 1996 the government embarked upon a similar program to transfer the federal marine assets over to port authorities. In my riding the Hamilton Harbour Commission was replaced by the Hamilton Port Authority. The difference between 1994 and 1996 was that the government inserted into the legislation, creating the port authorities, excellent standards of corporate governance, transparency and accountability. I was very proud at that time because I would like to think I had some role in that because I was pestering the minister of the day about the necessity of bringing that type of standard in with the port authorities.

We now have Bill C-27 which, nine years later, is the logical step to take after bringing the regimes of corporate governance to port authorities and bringing them to airport authorities and airport operators. It is a good thing to do.

I have been following the debate in the House and I cannot fail but note that even on my own side there have been colleagues who have criticized Bill C-27 and have spoken against it. I must cite the member for Hamilton West who is a colleague of mine. On an earlier day of debate he gave a speech on the bill in which he castigated the government for this legislation. I must note that nowhere in his speech did he actually cite a single criticism of the legislation. He decried it in general but not in specifics.

It is important for people watching to know that even on this side of the House there is great freedom of opinion and we are able to debate openly. I do not begrudge my colleague's opinion about the legislation, but it was his remarks that prompted me more than anything else to set the record straight in my view, and remember, Madam Speaker, it is my view.

I would like to take members of the House through a bit of the legislation to give them an impression of what the legislation actually does and why I think everyone in the House should support it. There may be areas that could use some technical amendments, but by and large, I think it is excellent legislation.

I draw the House's attention to part 5 of the bill under the heading “Disclosure and Accountability”. Clause 120 would require all airport operators to prepare financial statements annually. In those financial statements there must be a statement of revenues and expenditures, a summary of capital expenditures, and a statement of revenues from passenger fees. This is important information because we must remember that these airports, even though they are operated locally, are institutions of the public trust. In other words, every airport is derived ultimately from the Crown, so the public would expect to have access to that kind of information.

Clause 123 would require every airport operator to submit a business plan for the upcoming five years. I am probably a bit fanatical about the need for financial disclosure with the public and institutions, including private corporations. The legislation would require that the airport authority or airport operator provide annual financial statements. The legislation goes into great detail about what is required in these financial statements. It says, for example, that financial statements must disclose the revenues derived from landing fees, terminal fees, other aeronautical fees, passenger fees, and from car parking concessions and general rental.

This is a very important part of understanding the success of an institution, a business enterprise in this case being operated in the public interest. It is very important because ultimately these airport properties are a resource of the nation. It is very important for the public to be able to see for themselves through audited financial statements how effectively the airport operator is carrying out its task. I submit that this detailed requirement is an excellent provision to put in the legislation.

This is not to say that many airport operators are not providing this kind of information already. The important thing is that it is a standard that goes across all airport operators including the one in Hamilton and many others. Therefore, it is a very positive thing.

A little further in the bill we would expect to see and indeed we do find that there has to be an auditor's report of the financial statements. That of course should be a given. I am sure it is in most airport agreements, if not all, but it is very important to put it in legislation.

There is also a provision for regular annual meetings. A very good idea, that was derived from the port authority legislation which incidentally was Bill C-44 in its day, is this idea that every so often the airport authority must submit itself to a performance review. That performance review of its operations and everything that it is doing and the way it is carrying out business is to be done by an independent agent. That again is a very positive thing to do. I think the public must be satisfied that there is transparency and accountability.

However, realizing that not everyone is going to be scrutinizing the financial statements of the airport operator every time they come out, we must assure ourselves that there is something built into the system to ensure that there is an annual independent assessment of how well management is performing its task.

It is something that the government is very used to. We certainly have a system in the government where the performance of various departments are subject to annual review and indeed we apply it to many pieces of legislation. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is a good case in point because it was just in the House this week. This is legislation that comes up for review every five years. The Lobbyists Registration Act is another example. In the operation of government itself various departments have mechanisms in place to review performance from time to time. Therefore, I think this is very positive.

There is also material here regarding the mechanism for setting airport fees. Again, that is very important because we do not want a situation where an airport operator can arbitrarily set fees that may help generate revenue but may have a negative impact on passenger travel or access to the airport or whatever else. Airports like ports are not simply business enterprises. They are enterprises that have great national significance and they cannot be administered totally in isolation of national policy. This is why Bill C-27 has come forward.

Obviously I quite support the bill and I would like to put it also in the context of another piece of legislation that is coming before the House; it is in committee. That is Bill C-7, which is a bill that will bring financial transparency and accountability to the administration of Indian reserves. Some 600 bands and reserves are going to be covered by this legislation. What it basically does is put standards where none existed before, national standards pertaining to the election of officers of bands, their requirement to disclose their proceedings to their band membership, the need for audited financial statements and so forth.

The reason why I mention it is that this is part of where the government has been going in the last few years and I am extremely pleased that it is going in this direction. More and more, we see the government moving toward patching up areas of the national fabric that have existed for many years without adequate oversight. Because when we talk about transparency and accountability, what we are really talking about is public oversight of enterprises that are in the national interest.

Bill C-7, Bill C-27 and the bill on the port authorities represent very important progress on the part of the government in this direction. That gives me an opportunity to encourage the government to carry on in this direction, because there is much more to be done. I remind the House that I have been campaigning very hard over many years to persuade the government to reform the Access to Information Act. That would bring greater transparency, accountability and scrutiny, shall we say, to the administration of government. This was pioneering legislation in its day. It needs overhaul very desperately and I hope the government will move in that direction very shortly. I would rather it did it immediately because time is running out on this particular government's mandate.

There is another area that I really wish the government would move forward on. It has been very slow and I find it very unfortunate. It is the whole idea of bringing in standards of accountability, transparency and corporate governance to charities. It is just like port authorities, just like airport authorities. Charities are large enterprises that spend billions of taxpayers' dollars.

I believe the charity sector in this country, which we can rightly call an industry, has revenues and expenditures in the order of about $100 billion a year. This is a huge amount. These charitable institutions, be they large hospitals or the small charity that gets on the telephone to us, or usually to our aged parents who cannot think very clearly for themselves, and solicit money and spend that money, these organizations are still not under meaningful, legislated standards of corporate governance and transparence. I know that sounds incredible. Canadians listening probably think it is absolutely amazing that a $100 billion a year industry should be without the basic standards of corporate governance that exist in this legislation.

Finally I would say in conclusion that the government is moving in the right direction. This is what Canadians want. This is what society wants. I think it is very clear from the catastrophes in the financial market, particularly in the United States, that we cannot rely on trust alone to ensure that enterprises that are acting in the public interest are living up to their commitments. So we must bring in legislation that defines standards of corporate governance and deals with transparency and accountability. I think Bill C-27 is a good step in that direction, but there is much, much more to be done.

Canada Airports ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. I agreed with him when he mentioned at the end of his talk that when airports go from being government run to essentially private sector corporations they are essentially monopolies and therefore there has to be regulation of these monopolies.

What Bill C-27 does is mandate the makeup of the boards of directors of these companies to ensure that all the voices are heard, but the number one problem with the current composition of the boards of the airport authorities is that the air carriers and the air industry do not have representation on those boards. Because of the inelasticity of the price of airline tickets and because it is so competitive and so on the margin, the ability for airports themselves and airport authorities to impose airport improvement fees without receiving those measured opinions through a specific mandate on the boards of directors is a huge flaw in the bill.

I see that the member is taking a minute to flip through the bill. I want him to go to that section if he has a moment. That is a principal problem with the bill, because the air industry wants a greater say in this country. It wants a greater say with how airport authorities are managed because there is a real problem.

For example, we get complaints, and whether they are justified or not I will not say, about the Vancouver International Airport, which is a great airport. Larry Berg is the CEO and he does an amazing job. He is a great guy and does a great job of managing the airport. However, we receive a lot of complaints from smaller carriers and even Air Canada about Vancouver International Airport essentially becoming a giant mall with boutiques and restaurants and stores and tie shops and everything else, rather than just a port of entry and exit for airlines.

The federal government says it needs to regulate that because it is getting out of control, but it has not put air carriers and the air industry on the boards of the airport authorities, which is a fatal flaw. It is one thing to say there has to be management. However, not to have the air carriers there in order to make the argument about the inelasticity of prices and the problems of airport improvement fees is a fatal flaw in the bill.

Canada Airports ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention. I did read the clause on fees and I was impressed by the fact that there were parameters put on the way airport operators can impose fees. I think that is very positive.

As to the member's point, however, I think he raises a very important point. If memory serves me correctly, the way the port authorities are composed, and this is in Bill C-44, the marine bill that I alluded to, which changed the administration of harbours to port authorities very much like what we have here, certainly in the Hamilton instance it did require that stakeholders be represented on the board of the port authorities.

It may be a little bit more difficult in the case of airports in the sense that the carriers may not be in the same city; they may be based elsewhere in the country. I think the member raises an important point and that is something that should be dealt with and examined in committee.

I will make a further point. This is one of the reasons why we have debates such as this: so that we can hear constructive suggestions like that of the member.

Canada Airports ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Madam Speaker, I have a brief comment. It is something that the member might want to consider. I know that Hamilton airport, particularly since WestJet began flying in there, has been very helpful to his region of the province. He is not a member for Hamilton, he is the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, but it certainly has been very important.

There is a model that the government should consider and I am pleased that the parliamentary secretary is here and will be considering Bill C-27 at committee. The model the Canadian Alliance would like to see is a model that the government has used before. The model is that of Nav Canada. Again, a government corporation goes into private hands, and the board of Nav Canada that is now being used is the proper model for airport authorities themselves, perhaps with some slight modifications. The model of Nav Canada has the airlines in it themselves. What was understood was that the fees of Nav Canada can be a detriment to the airline industry, as we have seen in the short term. That is something certainly my colleague can comment on. I have another question, but I wanted to present that as an alternative. With his considerable weight, influence and power within the Liberal Party, I hope he can draft that amendment and get it passed just like that.

Canada Airports ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I trust the member was not being sarcastic and that it was really an attempt at gentle humour, because actually I do feel that here in the Liberal backbenches we can have an impact and we can sometimes get an amendment put forward. I do hope that the member will move his own amendment on that in committee.

He gives me an opportunity to make a further comment. He triggers the comment by the reference to Nav Can. Possibly one of shortcomings in what we are trying to do here with this legislation, Bill C-27, is that by off-loading federal enterprises or federal ministries or federal responsibilities, shall we say, to the private sector, as in the case of the port authorities and the airport authorities, it is certainly true that if we put in the proper regimes for accountability we have enterprises that should run like a public business. My problem is that we lose the ability, however, to examine them internally with the Access to Information Act.

Nav Canada is a good example. To me it is not enough in the end that the airport authorities operators or the port authorities conform to the standards set out in Bills C-44 and C-27. What we really need to do is to bring these arm's length institutions under the Access to Information Act so that we do not just see audited financial statements, so that we do not just see the numbers. Those things are important, but what we really need to be able see is that there is no nepotism in the operation, that there is no fundamental mismanagement.

One of the reasons why I campaigned so vigorously to reform the Access to Information Act is not that I believe the bureaucratic part of government is being run so badly. There are a lot of checks and balances in the way government ministries are actually operating in delivering services to people. What concerns me is this terrible movement in the provinces and in Ottawa here in the federal government to off-load the provision of services to arm's length organizations, be it the CRTC, Nav Canada, or these airport authorities, because they are then out of the reach of the Access to Information Act. They are out of the reach of our ability to really ensure in the public interest that they are being managed appropriately.

So my ultimate target in trying to reform the Access to Information Act is to create a model, particularly with crown corporations, that could be applied to institutions like these authorities we are talking about and that ultimately could be adopted by the private sector. Because I really do believe that in this global economy where competition is everything and survival is everything, how one wins in the global market is not just by one's prices but by one's efficiency as a corporation.

I think that Canadian corporations have much to gain if the Canadian government can lead the way to harness the Internet so that there can be protocols of transparency the likes of which have never been seen before. I think that will enable Canadian enterprises, both public and private, to lead the world in their ability to compete.