Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to continue my remarks on Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.
Members may recall that in the first part of my speech I started out by saying that Liberals support the bill. It is just a reintroduction of a Liberal bill, with a few changes in the basis of the excellent work that we had done related to security after 9/11. We dedicated $9.5 billion on security. We created a department of public safety and emergency and established a national 24/7 government operations centre.
Then I talked about how we are in a new world now, a world that we have to change. We need bills like this to change emergency measures to keep up with a changing world, since 9/11, since the Montreal shootings, and climate changes. Then there are things like ice storms, dramatic hurricanes and tsunamis that we have had, potential meteorites, and diseases like SARS. It is very important that we change with the times and have administration chains to deal quickly with problems.
I also talked about how important it was to have coordinating efforts with the United States because in geographical disasters a border is artificial. We need the people along both sides of the border to have cogent plans to deal with emergencies quickly. Then I went on to talk about how the bill had neglected in certain instances the territorial governments.
I would like the people in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut to know I am constantly standing up to ensure that they are included. If they have any other issues that they think have been left out, not included, or having problems, they should please contact me as the critic for the north.
This modern management of emergencies is related to an issue that is dear to my heart and I want to talk about it for a while. I am referring to search and rescue and the ability to have search and rescue planes placed north of 60.
Right now all our search and rescue planes are based along the border of Canada and the United States. Certainly, that is where our greatest population is and certainly, that is where the greatest number of incidents occur. However, that does not mean that we should ignore the north.
In fact, half the range of those planes is really not used. They are in a spot where half of the range is not used because half the range would be in the United States, to the south, and some would be out over the oceans, to the south. Whereas, if we had one or two or three, the northern half of the country would be covered. We had actually promised to put four planes north of 60.
Just because most incidents are in the south does not mean we ignore the north. For example, the vast majority of crime in this country is in the south. It does not mean we do not have RCMP in the north. It does a wonderful job in the territories. It does not mean we do not have doctors in the north; they do a wonderful job. It does not mean we do not have food stores in the north because there is a very small population. They all do a wonderful job. Therefore, it is very important that we protect those people.
In the south, arguments could be made that there are a lot more civilian resources available to search for someone in densely populated areas than in the north. In fact, in the north, an accident could be far more critical. We have thousands of flights going over the pole now and a vast increase of activities because of global warming.
The Prime Minister has talked about sovereignty in the north, which is a result of global warming. He should accept that. With all this activity going on an accident there could be far more dangerous and critical than one in the south. There is less civilian capability to get to people, drop supplies, drop something warm, and far more chance of dying of hypothermia either on land or in the water.
I definitely want to continue the argument that I have been making for a long time at the defence committee for search and rescue planes with reasonable coverage north of 60.
I can be reasonable in the sense that I know these are expensive and there is a whole array of services that go with them, mechanics, et cetera. I am not opposed to a compromise so that these planes could have dual functions because there are other military planes in the north that need to be replaced or other planes that are used for various purposes. I do not mind if we have a dual purpose plane in the north that can do search and rescue and can do these other functions. Therefore, northerners and people who are not Canadians but end up having an accident in the north would be far more protected.
I encourage everyone involved to support the contract which we approved in Parliament some three years ago and see to it that it is finally tendered and done so in a manner that will allow us to have search and rescue planes to cover and protect northerners, people in the territories, the same way they presently protect people in the provinces.
The next item I want to speak to is sort of an esoteric part of the bill. I do not think anyone has spoken to it. It would allow businesses to share information to protect critical infrastructure. In the new world, that I spoke about earlier in my speech yesterday, one of the items under attack is infrastructure. Infrastructure is absolutely critical to the smooth functioning of our society, to the health of the economy and the people, and we want to protect it.
A lot of the information that is required to protect that is in private hands. The bill would allow for the cooperation and coordination of businesses to provide that private information to the public sector, so that it can be included in the emergency plans in order for our emergency plans to be comprehensive, make sense and contain all the information necessary.
Some of that information businesses would not normally give because it is protected, confidential and could help their competitors or terrorists who want to attack them. Therefore, there is a provision in the bill that, under these circumstances when it makes sense, would protect information and use it for the purpose for which it is being shared, which is to protect during emergencies.
Finally, in my last minute I would like to talk about the ability the bill gives to the Minister of Public Safety to monitor, evaluate and coordinate federal plans. All the institutions and departments must have a plan, but the reason I strongly support this is that sometimes it falls between the cracks if we do not have someone overall in charge. I will give one example.
The Liberal government put in a policy called a rural lens which means everything that goes through the Government of Canada, every program and every new law, should be looked at through a rural lens. Deputy ministers are required to report every year on that rural lens on what success they have had in promoting things for rural Canada. The member from Prince Edward Island and myself have been great champions of this.
I have asked a number of times in committee and some of the deputy ministers did not even know about it or had no reports. That is why it is important in this bill that theMinister of Public Safety has an umbrella authority over the various plans from the federal departments to ensure they are good and that they work.