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House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

House of Commons

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I invite the House to take note of today's use of the wooden mace.

The wooden mace is traditionally used when the House sits on February 3 to mark the anniversary of the fire that destroyed the original Parliament buildings on this day in 1916.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 24th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding membership of the committee to the House.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 24th report later today.

National Public Transit Strategy ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-615, An Act to establish a National Public Transit Strategy.

Mr. Speaker, happy New Year of the Rabbit.

Canadians deserve and need fast, reliable, affordable and accessible public transit. However, unlike all other G8 or OECD countries, Canada does not have a national public transit strategy, nor does it have a transit policy or program.

My national public transit strategy act seeks to establish a legislative framework, with the federal government taking a leadership role in coordinating all levels of government in an effort to maintain and expand public transit across the country. Together, a public transit plan would be developed and the plan would establish a clear mechanism so there would be sustainable, predictable and long-term funding for public transit.

The national public transit act or strategy has been long requested by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the big city mayors caucus, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the urban transportation task force and transit authorities from coast to coast to coast. Together, they point to an $18 billion gap in transit infrastructure needs. They lament that there is a piecemeal approach through various funding sources and that every year billions of dollars are lost due to traffic congestion while, simultaneously, transit authorities struggle to meet demands.

Investment in public transit creates jobs, fuels economic growth and contributes to clean air, decreased congestion and lower greenhouse gas emissions. It is high time Canada had a comprehensive public transit strategy.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 24th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier today be concurred in.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table petitions signed by a number of people in the Montreal area who are very concerned about the import and export of horses for slaughter for human consumption.

The petitioners point out that horses in our culture are most often kept for sport and companionship and not raised as food producing animals. This means that they are regularly given drugs that are prohibited from being used in any food producing animal. When such animals are sold for human consumption they are, therefore, likely to contain prohibited substances.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to adopt Bill C-544, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act to ban the import or export of horses for slaughter for human consumption.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition calls for the end of Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

In May 2008, Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw Canadian forces by July 2011. The Prime Minister, with the agreement from the Liberal Party, broke his oft-repeated promise to honour the parliamentary motion and, furthermore, refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House.

Committing 1,000 soldiers to a training mission still presents a danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense when our country is faced with a $56 billion deficit. The military mission has cost Canadians more than $18 billion so far, money that could have been used to improve health care and seniors' pensions right here in Canada.

In fact, polls show that a clear majority of Canadians do not want Canada's military presence to continue after the scheduled removal date of July 2011. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-507 — Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair is now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on November 2, 2010, concerning the requirement for a royal recommendation for Bill C-507, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (federal spending power), standing in the name of the hon. member for Saint-Lambert.

I thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this important matter. In raising his point of order, the parliamentary secretary set out two separate grounds on which he alleged that Bill C-507 infringes the financial initiative of the Crown. First, he claimed that the bill seeks to alter the terms and conditions of existing royal recommendations which authorize payments out of the consolidated revenue fund to provinces and municipalities for various purposes. This alteration would take two different forms. Where transfers are made conditional upon provinces meeting certain federal standards, these transfers would now be unconditional. Where the federal government provides funds to individuals, agencies or municipalities, these funds would now be transferred only to the provinces.

The parliamentary secretary maintained that this alteration in the way in which funds are transferred violates the terms of the existing royal recommendations on which those transfers depend.

The second cause for concern which the parliamentary secretary highlighted is the effect of the provisions of Bill C-507 on payments to provinces that choose to opt out of federal programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction. These payments would be authorized whenever a province did not delegate its responsibility to the federal government in relation to a federal program in an area of provincial jurisdiction. He claimed that this would result in payments out of the consolidated revenue fund for purposes not currently authorized.

The Chair has examined carefully the provisions of Bill C-507 in light of the arguments presented. The nature of the royal recommendation requirement is explained in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 834.

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered. Without a royal recommendation, a bill that either increases the amount of an appropriation, or extends its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown's financial initiative.

What is at issue in each case is whether the provisions of the bill introduce a new appropriation, increase an existing appropriation or entail changes to the objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications of the existing appropriations to enable these appropriations to be used for a new purpose.

Bill C-507 seeks to amend the Financial Administration Act by proposing new subsections 26.1(1) and (2) which would prevent the federal government from making payments in respect of expenditures in areas of provincial jurisdiction unless the province concerned delegates that power to it. Proposed new subsection 26.1(3) establishes a timeframe for that delegation. While it has been argued that the proposed new subsections 26.1(1), (2) and (3) would have the effect of altering the conditions under which the authorization to spend currently exists, the Chair is of a different view. These subsections in no way enable existing appropriations to be used for a new purpose. Instead, these new subsections would affect whether or not the moneys appropriated are actually spent. The appropriations themselves remain unchanged and such a consideration does not give rise to the need for a royal recommendation.

As for the second issue raised by the parliamentary secretary, the Chair refers honourable members to the proposed new subsection 26.1(4) which requires that payments be made to a province that does not provide a delegation under subsection 26.1(2). In the Chair’s view the effect of this provision would be to allow the transfer of funds without there being any conditions attached. In other words, those funds could be expended for purposes not limited to, or governed by, the conditions—or purposes—of the original appropriation. Obviously, this would be a relaxation of applicable conditions, to say the least, and would necessarily constitute an infringement of the financial initiative of the Crown as the appropriated funds could be used for purposes not approved by Parliament when it made the appropriation.

On this basis, it is my ruling that Bill C-507, in its current form, requires a royal recommendation. Consequently, I will decline to put the question on third reading of the bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

Today's debate, however, is on the motion for second reading and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed from February 2 consideration of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Vancouver East had the floor and there are seven minutes remaining in the time allotted to her for her remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Vancouver East.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue my remarks from yesterday. I appreciate the information about the significance of the mace today and the fact that we are remembering the fire of 1916 in Parliament. It is very interesting to be in the House on this historical day. I appreciate that being brought forward.

I want to speak to this bill because there is a lot of concern from Canadians about how so much is being eroded in terms of civil liberties and privacy of information by security measures. Certainly Bill C-42 is a very strong case in terms of a further erosion of privacy of Canadians.

There has been a lot of debate about this bill and certainly our critic, the member for Western Arctic, has done an incredible job of bringing forward information, both at committee and in the House, to show just how dangerous this bill will be. As he said in an earlier debate, Bill C-42 really means stripping away the privacy of Canadians and that is something we should be very concerned about.

Out in the broader community, people are very worried about how much government legislation, whether it is so-called anti-terrorism legislation, no-fly lists, or this bill, is impacting the rights and privacy of Canadians. It is all being done in the name of security. Yet there is no evidence to show that these very broad measures that cast such a wide net over every segment of our society actually do improve our security or prevent terrorism from taking place. However, they do create an enormous chill in our society.

As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to examine this kind of legislation in great detail to establish whether or not it is warranted and whether or not the legislation goes too far towards invading the privacy of Canadians. I would say for us in the NDP, we have come to the conclusion that this legislation does go too far. We know it will allow airlines to send personal information of passengers to foreign security services.

The information that will be forwarded is determined by requirements that are laid out in secret agreements with other countries. In and of itself, that is a huge problem. There is no transparency. I would note that in 1998, the European Commission put forward six key principles that must be included for this type of legislation. They had a very thorough examination because this has been a huge issue in Europe as well as around the world. I do not have time to go into the six principles, but briefly they outline the purpose limitation principle; the information, quality and proportionality principle; the transparency principle; the security principle; the right to access restitution opposition principle; and restriction on onward transfers principle.

The right to access principle says that subjects of the information should have the right to obtain a copy of all the information relating to them that is processed and the right to restitution of the information which is inaccurate. Further, in some situations people should be able to object to the processing of the data that relates to them.

I want to be very clear that this bill we are debating today does not include any of these protections, so that is a very serious matter.

When the bill was examined earlier by committee, there were some very notable witnesses who came forward. One of them was Dr. Mark Salter of the School of Political Studies here in Ottawa who said:

Governments want this information so that they can build profiles of not just risky passengers but safe passengers as well. Research clearly demonstrates that in the United States and the U.K., government agencies are trying to collect as much data about travellers as possible.

He went on at some length about what that means.

There was further evidence from Nathalie Des Rosiers who is the general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

In her testimony she said:

There's no safeguard that the TSA will not pass information to other government agencies, such as law enforcement or immigration. There is no safeguard that the TSA will not pass this information to third countries. And we know this has been a particularly difficult issue for some Canadians, Maher Arar being a case in point. There's no guarantee that the TSA will not use the information for profiling Canadians, to put them on their watch list or the no-fly list.

We have heard many incredible stories about the no-fly list, about people who are on there by mistake, people who are legitimately and in good faith travelling to the United States or elsewhere who cannot access information regarding why they are on the no-fly list. It is a grievous error and problem we face. We can see that, if approved, the legislation will have an enormous impact on our rights, on our privacy. We are not doing our job properly if we allow the bill to go through, so I am proud that members of the NDP are standing in the House to speak out against the bill and make it very clear that we do not believe it is in the public interest nor in the interest of so-called security. It is simply further integrating us with U.S. policies which people are very concerned about, all in the name of security. There is no transparency and no accountability.

I hope other members will reflect on the bill at this stage and decide that it should not go forward and should not be supported.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Vancouver East brings up the point that no person may know what information is on the list. Even more egregious is the fact that it cannot be changed. There is no way to correct mistakes on the list.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would like to comment further on that.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member raised this point because it is one of the core issues of the bill that we must struggle with and the conflict that it presents. Information is being mined about people and is being stored in enormous data warehouses. Where is the transparency and accountability pertaining to these massive institutions and bureaucracies that develop and control this data?

One of the most fundamental issues is that people do not know what information is being gathered. If they do have a sense that something is wrong because they have been turned away for a flight or they find out that they are on the no-fly list, then under this legislation their ability to get that information is nil. This is why I wanted to draw attention to the European Commission report and the six principles which it claims are fundamental to any legislation such as this. However, Bill C-42 does not adhere to these particular principles. It appears to me that is a serious matter and if we are acting in the public interest and protecting the rights of our constituents, we should not allow this to go ahead.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government really has not been up front about this whole issue. It introduced the bill on the last day of the session in June. Then it told us that it had to be passed by the end of December or the overflights would have to stop. We are into February already and the flights are still continuing uninterrupted.

Let us look at other countries. The member for Western Arctic indicated to me that there is no stoppage of flights from Mexico. We should be looking at how the Americans are treating other countries. There are many other countries which have flights overflying the United States. What have those countries been doing?

It appears the government does not want to provide full information on this or any other topic for that matter. Conservatives are a very secretive group and also poor negotiators. They had the opportunity to ask for reciprocity. The Americans have 2,000 flights a day flying over Canadian airspace and we only have 100 flying south. Yet the government has not asked for reciprocity from the Americans. That would have shut this operation down as the U.S. would not want to provide passenger information on that many flights.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are more and more questions about the bill. I agree with the member that it has been shrouded in secrecy. When we were here in December we were under this cloud that the bill had to go through. There was a deadline and a lot of pressure on all the parties to rush it through. That has been a very familiar story. I remember the original anti-terrorism bill, Bill C-36, which had to be rushed through, it had to be done. Here we are years later and we still see this kind of legislation come forward without transparency.

My understanding is that the Government of Mexico at this point has not approved the legislation that flows from these secret agreements and secret negotiations.

I think it begs the question, if we were told that this was essential and everything would come to a screeching halt if it did not go through, which obviously did not happen, what really is going on here? Are these agreements necessary? Why are they not transparent? Why does the bill have to come forward at this time?

Again, there is no evidence that shows anything to compel us to do this. On the contrary, the evidence is that the bill is going to create enormous problems in our society and would have a long, far-reaching impact on civil society. Therefore, we should be saying no.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of my riding of Winnipeg Centre, I am very pleased to take up the baton, as it were, as NDP speakers rise one after another to sound the alarm on this intrusion into our Canadian sovereignty.

I would life to preface my remarks by reminding the members present that the right to privacy is a fundamental cornerstone of any western democracy. We have this debate completely upside down today. We should be pointing out that the people of Canada have a right to know what their government is doing at all times, and that door should be wide open and transparent. But the Government of Canada does not have a right to know what its people are doing at all times, and that right to privacy should be protected as one of those fundamental cornerstones that we rely on in a progressive western democracy.

Why then would the government be willing to compromise and sacrifice in any way that fundamental right to privacy, or watch its erosion, by virtue of this bill? Why would it be prioritizing this over all the issues facing the Government of Canada and the people of Canada today, all the challenges that we face in an economic downturn where there is work to be done? Why is our Parliament occupied today with a bill that does nothing to advance the rights and freedoms of Canadians, but fundamentally erodes, threatens and chips away at those fundamental rights and freedoms? It annoys me that we are seized of this issue and not the many pressing issues that face our government and our country.

This is a pressing issue, though, in one sense in that we are under attack in this regard. I can only speak to the report stage amendments, but I will preface those remarks by saying that I have been a personal victim of some of these erosions to our Canadian right to privacy. It has been referenced before by previous speakers, for example, the member for Western Arctic, who has been perhaps the singular champion of Canadians' rights in the process of this debate, and also my colleague from Vancouver East, who approached the same subject.

I am talking about a graphic, local, current and topical example of the erosion of the right to privacy with the do not fly list. If there has ever been a more egregious and graphic illustration of an erosion of our Canadian national sovereignty and an intrusion by the long arm of the American national security program across our borders and into our sovereignty, it is the do not fly list.

I was on that do not fly list. I am still on that do not fly list. The only way I can get on an airplane in Canada, even to fly within our country, is to deliberately misspell my name. That was the solution they came up with because we cannot fix it. It is resident in Washington, D.C. or somewhere in the United States. Believe me, our Department of Foreign Affairs, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, everybody I could go to tried to get my name off this do not fly list. Nobody could because it is not our list. It is an American list. An American list is stopping a Canadian member of Parliament from boarding a plane in Winnipeg and flying to Ottawa without ever going out of Canadian airspace. That list blocks me from doing so.

When I try to get my boarding pass, airline staff at the counter who know me by my first name say, “Sorry, Pat, the red light is up here. I can't issue a boarding pass for you”. Why? Because the do not fly list has kicked in, and 45 minutes later, they phone these numbers in the United States and get the clearance to get permission for me, a Canadian member of Parliament, to fly within Canada. It is absolutely absurd. This is the road we are going down, and the contrast that exists here should be glaring to most Canadians.

We have a federal government that is so obsessed with the right to privacy in some capacity that it is actually doing away with the long form census, because somehow it is an intolerable invasion of one's privacy to ask how many people are living in one's home so that the government can design social service programs that are proportionate to the need and demand of the population.

However, somehow it is okay for the Government of the United States to know not only that someone is flying on a particular day but also to know the person's credit card information, with whom the person is travelling, the hotel he or she will be staying at, other booking information such as tours or rental cars, and the person's personal health information, one of the things that nobody has a right to know except the person and his or her doctor.

Even though the Conservatives are so offended by the long form census that might ask how many washrooms one has in one's house, they think it is okay for the United States not only to have this information but to hold it for 40 years without the individual having any access to it. There is no avenue of recourse. There is no grievance procedure if the list happens to be erroneous. If errors have been made, an individual will never know and there is no ability to correct the errors.

Perhaps most egregious is that this information can be forwarded to the security service of a third nation without the consent or notification of the other signatory and certainly without the consent of the individual Canadian. This is a compromise of our national sovereignty the likes of which we have never seen. With the globalization of capital, we must be ever more vigilant that Canadian sovereignty is not eroded. We do have a border and Canada is distinct and different from the United States. We have a right to control our own destiny without intrusion and interference from the behemoth south of the border. It makes me mad even as I speak about it.

There should be a new era of Canadian nationalism and sovereignty, not the reverse. We have watched the Conservative government make strong noises about our Arctic sovereignty, even the sovereignty of the seabed below the Arctic Ocean. It is taking great steps to protect that.

We have heard the Conservatives talk about protecting the sovereignty of our airspace. One of the justifications for their exorbitant investment in 65 new F-35 jet fighters is that they will be able to patrol the sovereignty of our airspace, et cetera, yet they are willing to compromise the most fundamental principle of Canadian sovereignty by allowing another nation-state to interfere with the free movement of not only goods and services but people of this country. It is appalling. Canadians should be shocked that we are wasting the time of Parliament debating this particular bill.

There is no evidence that these draconian measures being proposed by the United States and other nations that wish access to this information will make the world more secure or help fight terrorism. There is no evidence partly because if there has been any interception of terrorism by virtue of this sharing of lists, we would never know anyway because it is all done behind closed doors.

But there is evidence of how disastrous the consequences can be when mistakes are made. Without the oversight and the scrutiny of any regulatory body, we will never know, I suppose, the number of mistakes, but we do know mistakes could be made and we will never be able to monitor or correct those. The most egregious example, I suppose, in recent Canadian history is the case of Maher Arar as a graphic illustration of the rights of Canadians being undermined by an over-zealous American national security initiative.

The NDP is opposed to this bill. We sought to make amendments at committee stage. We are seeking to make amendments at report stage. The bill in its current form should be rejected by Canadians and those people who are charged with the responsibility of representing Canadians, the members of Parliament in this chamber. This bill should go no further than the vote at the current stage.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for being in the House of Commons today because he would have had to fly here, obviously with the permission of someone in the United States. I would like to thank the United States administration.

Recently we had a debate about senators being able to trash members of Parliament through their ten-percenters across the country. Conservative members are famous for sending a tremendous amount of mail-outs to their ridings.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre if he knows of any Conservative member in the House or the Senate who has sent a ten-percenter to his or her constituents telling them that the government is going to give their credit card information, health information, hotel information, everything about them to the United States of America and through a secret firm the United States will transfer that information to who knows where? I am wondering how many Conservatives in the House or the Senate have actually sent that information to their constituents.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has raised a very interesting question.

I wonder how proud the Conservative members of Parliament in this chamber or the other chamber are of this intrusion into and erosion of the privacy rights of Canadians. I wonder if they will be using their extraordinary mailing privileges to brag and advertise what they did when they went down to that trading session. Somebody mentioned what terrible negotiators they are. It is like Jack and the Beanstalk; they went down and traded their cow for three beans or something. The Conservative members did not come back with something to the advantage of Canada. They came back with this appalling policy, much to the detriment of Canadian rights and freedoms.

It is an appalling situation that the Conservatives were carpet bombing other ridings with their political propaganda. Now that they have actually overdone it to the point where they have been prohibited from doing so, they are allowing their colleagues in the Senate to mail propaganda to ridings such as Winnipeg South Centre using the Senate mailing privileges. That is one example I know of.

My Liberal colleague is getting hate mail essentially from the Conservative members in the Senate regarding her voting record on issues before the House of Commons, and that is funded by taxpayer dollars. The Conservatives should be ashamed of that communication strategy. As well, they should be ashamed of Bill C-42.