Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-42.
I do not think we can trace this one back a number of years with different bill numbers because this bill was introduced on June 17, the last day of the spring sitting, as the member for Eglinton—Lawrence said.
To wit, the new transport critic for the opposition, the member for Markham—Unionville, made his presentation this morning. He said that he had only seen this bill two days ago. I believe he said he thought it looked okay and was good enough to be sent to committee where we would have to study it and improve it. Then the Bloc critic, who I believe is also new to the transport committee, also made a speech. He seemed to think the bill was ready for committee, as well.
Now after question period we have a new round of speakers. We had two very good speeches from members of the official opposition who seemed to be on the other side of the bill.
Given that we only have another 45 minutes of debate today and given that all the parties will be having their caucus meetings tomorrow, it might be a good idea for members of the Liberal Party to revisit their position on this bill. If the critic is seemingly in favour of the bill and two other learned speakers for the Liberal Party are against it, clearly they have an issue to resolve within their caucus.
I would also say that the government might take heed here and look at taking a second look at this bill before it is defeated. Perhaps they could withdraw it and come back with a better solution.
Earlier today I asked the parliamentary secretary whether or not any efforts had been made in the area of reciprocity. On a world basis we only have to look at the drama which has been unfolding over the last week in the fight with the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates have said that it is going to kick Camp Mirage, our staging base, out of the country in the next 30 days or so because Canada will not let Emirates airlines land any more flights in Toronto than are landing now.
Clearly there is a linkage in this discussion between Canada and the United Arab Emirates. This issue has now become public. There is a tie-in between the base and whether the United Arab Emirates is allowed to fly more flights to Canada. Let us not kid ourselves, every international issue has similar aspects to it. This issue would be no different.
The member for Western Arctic, our long-time critic on transport, told me this morning that roughly 2,000 flights originating in the United States fly over Canada per day, in Canadian airspace. If we multiply that number by the average number of passengers per plane, that is a lot of people on flights in Canadian airspace every day, going to Europe and other places around the world. In contrast, the number of Canadian flights flying in American airspace per day, according to the member for Western Arctic, is only in the 100 range.
The question we have to ask is would a government that was on the ball, looking out for Canadian passengers and Canadian airline interests not try to drive a harder bargain and try to negotiate? It could say that if we are going to provide the information on a 100 flights per day, which would add extra costs to our airlines and to our government, then we want the United States to reciprocate and provide us with the information on that country's 2,000 flights per day. After all, our airspace is sovereign, too. Quite frankly, we also want to know who is flying in our airspace. That is what it really boils down to.
For a number of years the United States, and I think other countries too, have demanded a list of passengers prior to their boarding an airplane. Even before 9/11, I remember when I was going to Australia, before boarding the plane in Vancouver, the passport information had to be processed.
I believe a lot of that had to do with the whole issue of refugees getting on a plane, flushing their documents down the toilet and arriving in a new country without any documentation. It is the airline that is responsible for the costs of flying the people back. That has been an issue with the airline industry for a number of years. The airlines resent that they have to pay the costs of transporting people back when the new country refuses to take them. They want to make sure they have all the information and get what is known as pre-clearance for passengers.
After many years of allowing airlines to fly over our territory, things are being taken to a whole new level in saying that we are not satisfied with the airport screening devices, the locked cockpits and the air marshalls on board and we now want to know at any given time who is actually sitting in those planes in our airspace. That is what I believe is behind this situation.
What do the Americans think is going to happen? Do they think that somebody is going to blow up an airplane while flying in American airspace? Is that what they are thinking? I am not really sure what the rationale is. The fact of the matter is that regardless what the demands are from the Americans, the Canadian government has a responsibility to the Canadian public to reciprocate, to say that if the Americans want our information, we will take their information, and to negotiate what types of information we want to collect and whether it is worthwhile collecting.
For some time we have been talking about the value of keeping the no-fly list. Senator Ted Kennedy was on the no-fly list. I know the member for Winnipeg Centre would be very motivated to stand and speak to this topic because his name was on a no-fly list and he had to sort it out. He was sorting it out with a government that has a series of rules that do not allow him to sort out the problem. That is my point.
People get tied up in knots. Senator Kennedy got tied up in knots trying to get his name off the no-fly list. The member for Winnipeg Centre tried to get his name off the no-fly list when his name should not have been on it in the first place.
Then there is the situation where a person gets on an airplane and literally breezes through all the security measures that have been put in place.
I think we all remember on December 25, 2009 there was the situation of a 23-year-old, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, everyone knows that name, who got on an airplane in Lagos, Nigeria and flew to Amsterdam and then Detroit. He committed all the sins that are supposed to be picked up.
This is what he did. He bought a round-trip ticket with cash. In the old days it used to be one way, but the geniuses running our security services finally figured out that people should not be buying one-way tickets with cash. That was a sure sign something could go wrong. He bought a round-trip ticket with cash.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was flying to Detroit at Christmas where there was a lot of snow but he had no carry-on baggage at all. He flew from Lagos into Amsterdam Schiphol which is the ultimate in secure airports. It has every type of screening device that one could imagine and this guy boarded a plane without a passport. This is yet another big breach.
We have spent untold billions of dollars developing a system to ensure the member for Winnipeg Centre cannot get on a plane, to ensure Senator Kennedy cannot get on a plane, to ensure a six-year-olds cannot get on a plane and tied ourselves up in knots, and yet this young 23-year-old makes fools of us all and walks right through the system. Had it not been for his own incompetence, he would have killed several hundred people.
We clearly need to start looking at security in a smarter fashion than we do right now. I go to a number of cross-border meetings with American politicians and the whole issue of toughening the border is always raised. We hear how we are torturing ourselves and torturing our own citizens because the bad guys are not lining up at the border. When crossing the Manitoba border at Emerson or a Saskatchewan border point, the people who are smuggling marijuana and drugs across the border are not lined up in their car taking this stuff across the border. They are walking the drugs or driving snowmobiles across the border.
If all the local politicians and residents in South Dakota and North Dakota know that and Manitoba and Saskatchewan know that, why are we continually trying to toughen the border? That is the thinking in Washington. The unfair misrepresentation of Canada for several years has been that the terrorists came through Canada. I know the government has had to fight that, as we all have when we are down there on trips. We need to make it clear to the Americans that none of the 9/11 terrorists came through Canada. I know it is a hard battle.
If the government is going to involve itself in negotiations with the Americans, it should at least stand up for the Canadian side of the arguments and try to argue at least reciprocity. The government should not introduce a bill in the House and somehow unilaterally say that it will start providing this information or that information to third countries. We do not even know how much information will be transferred. There is some discussion that somehow information on the PNRs will be transferred. I do not know if that is the case and I do not know what the information is in total on the PNR.
I can say that if a name is misspelled by one letter on a ticket, it is possible for the agent to correct that by simply putting a note on the PNR. There are all kinds of notes on customers' PNRs on a whole range of things. Therefore, if that is the information that is being passed on, then all of these notes are presumably being passed along with the information already there.
In addition to that, we presume that the Americans have access to passport information. I know that when Manitoba brought in the new drivers' licence-like passports, there was a big argument about how private the information would be and how much information would be provided to the American authorities.
I think the public wants to be safe and, if they understand that the information being provided is safe and they know there is a good reason for the information, they probably would be willing to give up that privacy issue in favour of being safe on the airplane. However, the history so far has not proven that to be the case.
It is almost like the Keystone Kops. We read stories about six-year-olds and eight-year-olds being on the no-fly list and then we have the Abdulmutallab situation where the guy walks through all our defences. After what he did last December, we had to put in full body scanners that cost several hundred million dollars a piece. We then find out that those scanners will not solve the problem because smart terrorists will simply hide the plastic explosives in body cavities.
Body scanners, which have been installed in some airports but it will take another 10 or 20 years to have them in all the airports, do not pick up on explosives that are put into body cavities. Guess what? That is what the terrorists will move on to and now we need to deal with that issue.
There is one airline alone in the world that has dealt successfully with the whole issue of terrorism and it is the safest airline in the world on which to fly. I flew EL AL Airlines a number of years ago, but at the time, in 1970, EL AL was probably the most unsafe airline in the world. It had several skyjackings. I believe it had planes blowing up in the Sinai desert in 1970. After that point, the Israeli government and the EL AL officials changed the way they dealt with security.
When I went over there in 1987, it was a totally different experience than flying with a Canadian or American carrier. They put people through a three-hour interview and examination process. They did not stop with just checking people's bags to see how much liquids they had in their bags. They actually asked people what they were going over there for. They more or less did a type of psychological profile on people.
When we discussed that issue with the Americans, they said that it would not work there. They said that in order to balance the need to move masses of people very fast, they had to sacrifice a little on safety.
I now want to deal with the issue of the trusted shippers program. I was totally shocked and surprised to find out that there are 1,000 trusted shippers in either North America or the United States who can ship things. These people are shipping packages that are sitting in the cargo hold of the planes and a very small percentage, if any, are being scanned, tested or checked. It is an absolute disaster waiting for a place to happen.
The whole business of the trusted shipper program must be looked into and tightened up on because sooner or later somebody will put a letter or a package through this trusted shipper program with an explosive device and we will be reading about the terrible horror story and asking why we did not do something in advance.
The government should be spending its time on trying to make flying safer than it is right now.