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House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.

Topics

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Through you, Mr. Speaker, I also want to take a moment to say hello to my colleague across the way. Unfortunately, he is a lot further away this time. He used to sit closer to me so we could hear one another very well.

Nevertheless, while the NDP likes to talk about protecting consumers, its record is very clear. NDP members have voted against every measure to protect consumers that has been introduced by our Conservative government. They have also, unfortunately, attacked consumers and families by opposing and voting against every tax cut to help consumers. For example, the GST reduction helps Canadians every day when they make purchases for themselves and their families.

In fact, the NDP wants to take more and more money out of the wallets of Canadian consumers. Even worse, one frontrunner from the NDP leadership, Brian Topp, is touring Canada right now demanding that Canadian families pay more tax. He said:

The only time we ever hear our current political leaders utter the word “tax,” it's immediately followed with “cut.” That has to change.

I hope that this higher spending, higher taxing will stop. That kind of thing will destroy our Canadian families and destroy our economy.

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 22, 2011, the government imposed a new communications protocol for the RCMP, which stipulates that all RCMP officers must consult the Minister of Public Safety and obtain his approval for any non-operational communications. For any major operational events, all communications must be vetted by the public safety department before they can be made public.

This makes no sense. One task cannot be separated into parts without affecting another. Communications are an integral part of the work of the RCMP and the government should not be interfering in RCMP business.

When I asked a question about this on November 21, 2011, the parliamentary secretary's only response was that imposing a communications protocol was standard procedure and normal protocol and that I was smearing the noble institution that is the RCMP. That response was completely condescending towards the opposition and towards Canadians.

The problem is that the Conservative government wants to politicize the RCMP, which will now have to follow the political direction given. The RCMP is an institution that defends the rule of law and our democracy. When the RCMP takes political direction, the rule of law is subverted. Instead of accepting the problem and trying to solve it, the government prefers to control RCMP communications to avoid or cover up scandals. This obviously should not be the government's modus operandi. It should instead agree to be accountable and should be prepared to tackle problems head-on and solve them over the long term.

From this point forward, the RCMP must also flag opportunities for Public Safety Canada ministerial events. This protocol is also designed so that the minister can interfere in the RCMP's public events. They refer to this protocol as a ministerial event proposal.

A former assistant to the deputy minister mentioned that this new protocol requires a major shift in attitude within the RCMP. This just proves that this is not a standard policy for the RCMP, which is not used to such political interference.

All Canadians are aware of the latest developments in the RCMP female employee harassment affair. The commissioner must have the independence necessary to show Canadians that the RCMP will be completely transparent and accountable in dealing with this matter. This political interference will just give Canadians the sense that the Minister of Public Safety is trying to hide something.

The Conservative government said that prior departmental authorization, which must be obtained before the commissioner can speak to parliamentarians, is a policy that dates back to the last Liberal government. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Liberal policy simply said that the commissioner had to notify the minister of any statement that might be made before the committee and any discussion that took place during a committee meeting. There was no requirement for the commissioner to seek the minister's permission to meet with parliamentarians.

Is the commissioner free to talk to and meet with people or not? The government has to clarify this for Canadians. Once again: will the minister respect the RCMP's independence and do away with this restrictive protocol?

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying how much our government respects and honours the RCMP and the work that it does, as do all Canadians. We are very proud of the work that the RCMP does. In fact, there are few symbols that are more recognizable and intrinsic to Canadian identity than the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The main role of the RCMP is to enforce Canadian law and keep our streets and communities safe. However, like any other agency of government, it reports to Parliament through a minister of the Crown, namely the Minister of Public Safety. The public safety portfolio is comprised of five agencies in total. The other four are the Canadian Border Services Agency, CSIS, Correctional Service Canada and the National Parole Board of Canada. This portfolio structure allows the department to achieve better integration among federal organizations dealing with national security, emergency management, law enforcement, corrections, crime prevention and borders.

As is common practice with any such portfolio structure, Public Safety Canada works hand in hand with the portfolio agencies as well as other government departments to ensure that communications are well coordinated, effectively and efficiently managed and responsive to the diverse information needs of our public. Indeed, all large organizations, government or private sector, need to have strong communication policies in place in order to ensure the seamless flow of communication in a timely and accurate manner, as is the case between Public Safety Canada and the RCMP.

Our government takes issue with the attempts by the NDP member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant to imply that we are introducing some sort of strict or unusual communication policy in an effort to “muzzle the RCMP”. That is far from the truth. Far from this being a document that was brought down with a hammer and set in stone, the communications protocol was fully endorsed by the RCMP senior management and clearly sets out in writing the opportunity for ongoing collaboration, monitoring and evaluation. It was put in place to ensure consistent communications for major events, announcements and speaking engagements.

I would suggest that most large organizations and government departments have protocols in place that ensure consistent and timely messaging, as well as an effective strategic communication plan. It is particularly important for an agency like the RCMP which often deals with very sensitive and urgent matters of national interest. This protocol also recognizes that there might be times when the urgency of an event may require a divergence from communications protocol. Again, most organizations have a crisis communications plan in place for just such instances.

In conclusion, this protocol was signed in a mutual agreement between Public Safety Canada and the RCMP. It allows for ongoing dialogue and adjustments, as necessary, and it will serve to support the vital work the RCMP plays in helping us fulfill our commitment to Canadians to build safe, resilient communities. Our government is proud to say that we stand behind our national police force and we will continue to support ongoing efforts to strengthen and modernize this invaluable institution.

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, ever since the Conservatives have been in power, transparency and accountability have not really been on their list of priorities. Whether we are talking about the budget or departmental policies or directives, the Conservatives are less and less accountable. They devise their policies in such a way as to appear to answer parliamentarians' questions, but in fact, these policies are so opaque that the result is a total lack of transparency. That is what they are trying to do with the RCMP, by muzzling their communications and preventing them from meeting with parliamentarians.

When the Conservatives were in the opposition, during the sponsorship scandal in particular, the hon. member for Crowfoot, the current chair of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, mentioned the importance of the RCMP's independence from political power. What happened? Now that they are in power, this independence for the RCMP is no longer justifiable? Why does the government want to muzzle the RCMP to the detriment of the government's key policy on accountability?

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are extremely proud of the RCMP and the police forces across Canada. That is why they gave Conservatives a strong mandate last May. We are the only party that consistently invests in front-line police officers. We have taken decisive actions to support the work of the RCMP and to ensure that it has the tools it needs to do its jobs.

The communications protocol between Public Safety Canada and the RCMP is exactly that, an important tool for communicating with Canadians. Effective information sharing between Public Safety Canada and the RCMP ensures that both are well placed to get information to all Canadians.

Let me clear. There is no interference between the government and the RCMP on operational or investigative matters. This would be inappropriate. The accusations of the opposition, somehow implying that, are completely inappropriate and wrong. However, the protocol that we have in place allows the RCMP to communicate in the most effective way possible. We remain committed to supporting the RCMP and to helping keep Canadians safe.

Canada-U.S. RelationsRoyal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to start this debate by acknowledging the changing relationship between Canada and the United States on the border in the last number of years. That is why I rose in the House of Commons to ask the minister about a 29-point plan that was being put in place with the United States with a lot of secrecy. In fact, there was very little consultation with businesses and other organizations or groups. One could go online and make a submission, but only 1,000 people actually visited the website, and very few contributed to that discussion. It was done in a vacuum. Therefore, there could not be the debate and exchange of information that we would normally have at committees to actually bring the issue, which is much more complex and involved, to the table in a much more open and accountable way for Canadian citizens.

The problem we have had with the United States over the last number of years is the approach the government has taken to Washington. We have had a changing relationship since 9/11. There has been a lot of contestation about the safety and security of the northern border. Unfortunately, the government made a very strategic error in its relationship with the U.S. when we were challenged over being able to protect the border against not only smugglers but also crime, potential terrorism and similar issues. The government agreed that it was a problem, but there was no evidence to that degree, especially given the types of events that have been happening at our border on a regular basis.

When Hillary Clinton charged that the 9/11 terrorists came from Canada, we did not have an official objection to that statement. We contested it, but we did not have the Prime Minister there, nor did we call in the ambassador. There were other people, such as Lieberman from the United States, another high-profile politician, and Napolitano, the director of Homeland Security.

Over the last number of years there has been a concerted effort by the southern states--and I have been to Washington and governors' conferences and a whole series of different meetings--to say that the northern border is a big threat, more so than the southern border--this despite the fact the southern border is shared with Mexico, where thousands of people flood into the United States back and forth every single day, and despite the fact that some of its areas and regions are controlled by drug lords and it has no police. The government accepted the argument, and the consequence has been the thickening of the border.

In fact, it has done things that are very puzzling and it has celebrated them. For example, we have had no military ships on the Great Lakes since the War of 1812. It was a signed treaty. It is true that there were patrols, the Coast Guard, police vessels and a series of others, but the government celebrated the ripping up of a treaty for one of the busiest causeways in terms of shipping traffic and pleasure craft and allowed the U.S. to introduce gunboats that fire 1,200 bullets a minute. The government celebrated the ending of a very positive treaty. We do not even know why it is necessary to be able to fire 1,200 bullets a minute.

The consequence has been the thickening of the border and a loss of business and trade that is expected to be in the billions of dollars. The government celebrates those types of events.

What is interesting about this whole issue is that the United States attempted at one point to put 40 gunboat training staging areas on the Great Lakes. The government did not even make a submission on time against that plan. Although lead casings and bullets will go in there and will affect our trade once again, it did not even make a submission to the U.S. government.

That is why our border is thickening. That is why we are losing jobs.

Canada-U.S. RelationsRoyal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear the member opposite talk about gunboats and situations on the Great Lakes and the U.S. trade with Canada. It looks as though the U.S. is ready to invade Canada, or something like that.

However, I am happy to hear from the member, because he represents Windsor, which is right next to the border. I am very happy to hear that he has been to the U.S.A. many times. He keeps going there and he keeps hearing from the governors, as he said, and I hope he stands up for Canada. If Americans say everything is coming from Canada, I hope he stands up and defends Canada. Instead of talking about this nonsense of gunboats and bullets and everything else, he should say to the Americans that we value their friendship.

The member comes from a region where he should stand up for business. He should see how many trucks are going up and down doing business and he should be proud of the fact that so much business is being done between our two countries, business that is prosperous for both countries.

Of course we recognize that the NDP will kill jobs. One minute members talk about creating jobs, and the next minute about the thickening of the border. This agreement that was signed between the Prime Minister and President Obama was to do exactly what the member is complaining about, which is to make the borders open so that we do not have concerns about security as well as to create competitiveness so that jobs could be created and continue without unnecessary delay.

I would tell the member that these are two separate countries. This is Canada and that is the U.S.A. The U.S.A. has every right to do whatever it wants to do for its own security, just as we have every right to do what we want to do in Canada. The only way we will solve this problem is to sit down and talk with each other and come to an agreement that respects both countries' sovereignty.

Therefore, I want to assure the member and every Canadian that the agreement we are signing will protect Canadian interests and Canadian privacy laws. By the way, the member is talking about not really having any consultation. I hope, because trade is very important for the member, that he took the time to send in a submission as well. I hope he has done that. He says this was private and was done under secrecy. There was nothing secret about it. I can assure every Canadian that we will maintain and protect the Privacy Act according to Canadian laws, but we will be working together to ensure that the border has no delays. It is for jobs, jobs, jobs, as this government promised to do during the election campaign.

Canada-U.S. RelationsRoyal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, 40% of daily trade with the United States happens at the border in my riding. I know it very well, and the member does not even understand the implications of some of the policies that are being put in. The privacy laws and the complications for entry to and exit from this country are going to be devastating, and the extra issues with regard to security for threats that do not exist are going to thicken the border again.

When the government came to power, we had a manufacturing trade deficit of $18 billion. It now stands at $80 billion. That is the deficit in manufacturing trade. Conservatives are costing us jobs by signing these agreements, because they agree with the U.S. on the notion that Canada is a danger and a threat and that the issues on the border had to be addressed by thickening it with more security, more equipment and more types of intrusions. That is the exact opposite of what we need to have happen. We need to make sure that the free flow of goods of services will take place. Signing deals like this in secrecy, without consultation and an ongoing process, has only thickened the border. The evidence is the fact of our trade deficit ballooning under their watch.

Canada-U.S. RelationsRoyal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am just amazed. Did the member say something about Canada being a danger to the U.S.A.? I do not know what he is talking about, but I can ask all Canadians, including anyone who visits the U.S.A. regularly. No U.S. citizen has ever said there is any threat from Canada. As a matter of fact everybody, including myself, and I have been at Congress, has talked about how they value Canada's contribution to security for the border.

I need to remind the member that we share this continent. We have the longest undefended border in the world. Also, he rightly pointed out the figure of 40%. Anything the NDP wants to do would kill jobs, jobs, jobs. That is its national policy. This government's policy is to create jobs, jobs and jobs. Therefore, we will support this agreement. I hope members opposite will see sense and support it.

Canada-U.S. RelationsRoyal Canadian Mounted PoliceAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:59 p.m.)