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House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I feel honoured that my colleague has asked me that question. However, I would like him to know as well that through forum that we organized during the prorogation on aviation security and through the work the transport committee has done, we did make some changes this year, and I referred to those. What we heard from the witnesses who presented to us, and people from places that have gold-plated security like Israel, was that we were not necessarily doing all the things we should be doing and we may be doing many things that we did not need to do. That is the purpose of review and of anything we do.

I know after 9/11 there was an incredible angst in North America about the nature of security. It is funny that did not come after the Air India tragedy, but it did not. There were some things that happened after it, but 9/11 was an enormous personal affront to almost every North American. We have to recover from that and we have to look at our lives rationally because Canadians are the true north strong and free. We want our Canadian citizens to have the kind of lives that we all envisioned when we were younger, when we had freedom, the ability to travel and to work in many locations. Canadians were respected around the world for our openness. We do not want to lose that. Canadians are not about that.

I am willing to work with anyone to reduce the impact of world events on Canadians when it comes to their personal liberties and freedoms because I believe in those so strongly.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-42, which we examined carefully at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I would like to begin by congratulating all of my colleagues on the hard work they did in an effort to strike a fair balance between two conflicting yet fundamental notions. I was going to say “to get at the truth”, but that would not have been the right expression.

When I was a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Board of Internal Economy, we took a very similar approach. There we talked about the safety and protection of people and goods. In this case, this bill is about aviation security. At the time, following the tragic events of September 2001, we had to ask ourselves what kind of security was needed within the parliamentary precinct, here on the Hill. What kind of security check should pedestrians be subjected to? For vehicles, it was pretty easy, but for pedestrians, it was a different matter.

On the one hand, the people watching us here this evening, our fellow citizens, my colleagues and their family members must have access to the place that exemplifies democracy. On the other hand, security measures must be in place to protect people. It is not just parliamentarians who need to be protected, but also pages, security staff and everyone who works in the parliamentary precinct. That is enough of the analogy I wanted to make with security here on Parliament Hill.

I will not say that I suffered terrible insomnia or that I woke up at night in a cold sweat from anxiety, but I did put a lot of thought into this bill. I sometimes have the opportunity to go home to my riding by car. It is a 475 km drive from my office on Parliament Hill to my house. I usually use that time to decompress and reflect on many things.

When we studied this bill, we heard from opposite ends of the spectrum. We heard from those defending civil liberties, who stand up for the protection of personal information. There is a strong temptation, for a government or organization that receives personal information about people, to use it for inappropriate purposes. We joke about Big Brother watching you.

One of the fundamental elements of this bill is that it would have Canada provide the Americans with certain personal information about passengers on board aircraft flying over American territory. Those who defend civil liberties are very level-headed; they were not on a witch hunt. They told us that parliamentarians, members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, should think about the type of information that would be provided to the Americans.

As I mentioned in a previous speech, since the unfortunate events of 9/11 at the World Trade Center, no one has been crazy enough to say that the Americans got what they deserved. Anyone who says that has serious mental problems.

The young woman who worked for Xerox Corporation on the 85th floor, who was about the same age as our assistant clerk—the one who notes what we say off mike—and who was typing a report for her boss, did not deserve to have a plane hit her. She did not ask for that. She went to work that morning to support herself and perhaps to support her family.

Since that event, the Americans have been seized by panic, a phobia, a psychosis about terrorism. I am not an expert on terrorism. However, we should ask ourselves whether we believe that terrorists will again use the exact same tactics they used on the World Trade Center.

The planes that crashed into the World Trade Center were American planes making domestic flights. In addition, the terrorist pilots were trained in American flight schools in Miami, Florida. Since that time, the Americans have developed such an obsessive fear that they see terrorism everywhere. It is true that protection is needed and that we must always be vigilant.

Supporters of individual freedoms and civil liberties asked the committee to ensure that there were certain protective rules. Apparently, the information that we will be providing to the Americans under this bill could potentially be given to 16 other American agencies that do not necessarily need it. Supporters of individual freedoms and civil liberties expressed another concern: what guarantee do we have that this information will be destroyed?

I spoke about Big Brother. Personally, I am not a conspiracy theorist and I do not think that our information is put on file and that we are monitored. That is being paranoid. I watched the Super Bowl and, when members of one team formed a huddle, I did not think that they were talking about me. I knew that they were planning their strategy. We must not think that Big Brother is always watching us. However, this does not change the fact that the Americans will have our personal information. What guarantee do we have that this information will not be shared and that it will be destroyed after a certain period of time?

The Minister of Public Safety testified before the committee. I asked him, without getting angry—a rarity—what guarantee we have that the Americans will destroy this information after a certain period of time.

He replied that the Americans had told him so. How reassuring. What guarantee do we have that our hair will grow by the end of the week? The dermatologist said so. The Americans told him so. What a great answer.

The committee members were split between two approaches. We met representatives from Canada's tourism industry and representatives from airlines. We organized a meeting with Air Transat, Canada's leader in vacation travel. When I was elected in 1993, I was the transport critic. We had Canada 2000, and since we were getting close to the year 2000, I think it became Canada 3000. They realized that the name would be outdated. Later, the company went bankrupt. Then we had Nationair, Nordair, Intair, which all shut down. Now, the number one company in vacation travel in Canada is Air Transat, a company whose head office is in Montreal, whose primary language of work is French and which has an important base in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and a lot of pilots and flight attendants who are able to provide services in two, three or even four languages. Quebec is very proud of this.

We met with these people and they told us that, because the U.S. is a sovereign country, if we did not pass this bill, the Americans would prohibit us from flying through their airspace. Charter flights to the south or flights to London or Nice, for example, that leave from Halifax and take the Atlantic route do not fly through U.S. airspace. I am not picking destinations off the top of my head. Those are all destinations served by Air Transat. To go to Mexico or the Caribbean, for example, via the south corridor or the Atlantic corridor, the plane does not need to fly through American airspace. It is the same for Vancouver. Via the Pacific corridor, there is no need to fly through American airspace.

The people from Air Transat told us that if this bill is not passed, it will no longer be able to serve central Canada. It will no longer be able to offer flights from Calgary to Cancun, from Winnipeg to Puerto Vallarta or from Edmonton to Montego Bay, Jamaica, because those cities are in central Canada. They have no choice but to fly over the U.S. It would take four hours to fly to the Pacific Ocean and then fly south. A flight that normally takes three and a half or four hours with an Airbus 330 or 320 would take seven or eight hours. That makes no sense.

Something I thought of and have talked about before, but that bears repeating because some members were not here, is that we cannot forget that the Air Transat fleet includes Airbus 310s and 320s, and I believe it also has some Airbus 330s.

As it turns out, an Airbus with 350 passengers on board requires a little more time for taking off and landing. It is not like a Cessna that can touch and go and land in 150 metres. When landing in Montreal, depending on the runway being used—24 or 32—the pilot has to turn and fly over the U.S. It is the same thing in Toronto at Pearson airport. In other words, because of those flights, Air Transat would be doomed to bankruptcy.

As the Bloc Québécois transport critic, and with my colleagues who agree on this position, we had to take individual freedoms into account, but we also had to take into account feasibility and the viability of air carriers that have to use U.S. airspace. I moved an amendment that called for reciprocity. Many Americans fly through Canadian airspace and if the U.S. is requiring us to provide a passenger list, then we should be demanding reciprocity with the U.S. Unfortunately, my amendment was democratically defeated in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I accept that, but I find it unbelievable. If it is good enough for the Americans, why would it not be good enough for us?

In any case, we are at third reading stage and, in closing, I confirm that the Bloc Québécois is voting in favour of Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I thank the member across the way for his many hours of thought on the final outcome and how we arrived at where we are today.

My friend said, and the NDP also alluded to it, that if the Americans ask it of us then why do we not ask it of the Americans. Some people may not want to get into that debate. Hundreds of thousands of people a day travel the skies. Who will pay for the cost of taking that data from the United States and assembling it, and for what purpose? Just because the Americans ask for it should we ask for it?

Canada has a great tradition of protecting human rights, standing up for the world at large and standing up for people. We are in a different threat situation than the United States, but no less serious. However, if we do ask for that information,what will we do with it? Are we going to get it because we gave it to the U.S.? What is the purpose of that?

My understanding is that it would cost billions of dollars over time to get that data and to do something with that data. For what purpose? There is no purpose that I could defend to the people who voted for me to get me here today.

I appreciate the member bringing forward that amendment but I would like to know exactly what we would do with that data, because I see no great conclusion in relation to it if we were to receive it.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I am greatly disappointed by the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. He is saying that it would be expensive and would cost millions of dollars. In other words, because the Americans have the means, they can do it, but it would be far too costly for us. Yet the Conservatives bought full body scanners for airports. That cost money and that money was wasted. They should search people as they did before, by making us take off our shoes and belts. That would be just as comfortable as full body scanners.

The Conservative government is using money as an excuse. It prefers to buy tanks and warplanes instead of getting its priorities straight. With this government, everything is expensive, except when it comes to buying tanks or warplanes for Afghanistan, even though we have no business being there. Then money is not a problem.

I will calm down because otherwise my supper will be ruined.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, it would appear that members are still exercised about an issue that they have already agreed has passed. In fact, the Americans gave us notice some 16 months ago that the legislation that led to Bill C-42 would be implemented and put into effect in the United States last December.

This is not an issue of security. It is an issue of the government now trying to backtrack because it presented this last June and only now wants to put it into law. Just imagine being unable to protect Canadian sovereignty for all that period and then to come forward and say that it is a question of security. It is not.

The member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord has just indicated rather eloquently that this is a commercial issue. It is to prevent airlines from being sued for breach of privacy legislation by Canadians on Canadian carriers. It is an issue of sovereignty ceded to the Americans because of the government's incompetence and inability to negotiate what the Americans asked it to negotiate on 16 months ago.

I would like the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord to elaborate on this. What this shows is that the $40 million spent on those special machines in 11 locations in Canada to provide greater aviation security meant nothing to the Americans and that the legislation to impose another $3.2 billion in aviation tax for security measures was unimpressive to the Americans, and therefore we have to go to this because our airlines will be exposed to harassment by Americans. That is what this legislation is about.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member from the Toronto region. I admit that I did not know how much the body scanners cost: $40 million. Given that we have to appease the Americans and that this government kneels before them as soon as they ask for something, the answer is sure to be “yes”. I would like to repeat what I said earlier: the government's fiscal priorities are misplaced.

I gave the example of how much the body scanners cost. We could talk about it on the eve of the budget. I would not want the Liberal members to think that I am trying to flatter them, but we should be making big business—the oil companies and big banks that make billions in profits and gouge us and raise the price of gas just before weekends and holidays—pay the taxes they really owe. The government would then have plenty of money to manage the information that I think we should require of the Americans for review and that we would have required of them had my reciprocity amendment passed.

Once again, money is an excuse. They say that they do not have any money. Instead, they should be saying that they do not have money for anything important but that they have money for things that do not make sense.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for what he said today. I do agree with him that the proposed amendment may well have been a good bargaining chip in this whole deal. Quite clearly, if we look at the incidents of airline terrorism in the last two years, what we see is the one rather dubious individual with the underwear bomb who flew from Amsterdam over Canada to the United States. In reality, there has been no incident of a Canadian plane carrying a bomb flying over the United States.

What we have is a situation where there is probably a higher degree of risk of an American plane carrying a bomb to an American destination overflying Canada than there is of a Canadian plane flying to Barbados carrying a bomb with a bunch of Canadians on it. That is pretty clear.

I agree with my colleague that his amendment was a good idea but it should have been part of the government's negotiation package to get out of this deal. Does the member agree?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree and I would like to take this opportunity to say that I appreciate working with my colleague from Western Arctic on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

It could have been part of broader discussions and negotiations. My grandmother always told me not to cry over spilt milk. I agree that that could have been the case, but we now must deal with what is before us. A bill has been introduced and, as parliamentarians, we must make a decision.

I do not want anyone to think that the Bloc Québécois does not respect individual freedoms or that it is not sensitive to rights and freedoms. However, in this case, the two are diametrically opposed. We had to take a position. However, all my Bloc colleagues believe that individual freedoms are of vital importance.

The House resumed from February 8 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion — Tax Rate for Large CorporationsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for Kings—Hants relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #162

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from February 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, be concurred in.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at report stage of Bill C-309 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #163

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from February 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-507, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (federal spending power), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at second reading of Bill C-507 under private members' business. The question is on the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #164

Federal Spending Power ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression), be read the third time and passed.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-389 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #165

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion