Mr. Speaker, I found the contribution made by the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North interesting with regard to what has become a very important issue in the House of Commons. We have heard members on both sides of the House talk about the importance of their right to speak, and they are very sympathetic to and supportive of what the member was talking about and how S. O. 31s are being used as a punishing tool from political parties.
It is one of the reasons we designated today as an opposition day. A motion was going to be brought forward by the leader of the Liberal Party with regard to democratic reform in the hope that it would pass, and that would have dealt, at least in part, with the member's concerns and with the concerns of the member for Langley.
That said, if I have enough time at the end of my speech, I would like to comment further on that issue, but for now I want to talk very briefly about Bill S-7, the combating terrorism act.
I received an email just prior to question period, which states:
Canadian police and intelligence agencies will announce later today they have thwarted a plot to carry out a major terrorist attack, arresting suspects in Ontario and Quebec, CBC news has learned.
Highly placed sources tell CBC News the alleged plotters have been under surveillance for more than a year in Quebec and southern Ontario.
The investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The email goes on, and we will probably get more information coming from news media outlets as the day unfolds.
I have tried to put this matter in the form of questions to the New Democratic Party in particular. There is a heightened sense of awareness, and that awareness became very evident during the 9/11 crisis. There were a lot of issues at the time, but in essence I believe we can go back to that in terms of the public's need to have more information. There is a desire to feel that the government is doing what it can to combat terrorism.
The primary thing Bill S-7 is attempting to do is in regard to investigative hearings. This is something Liberals believe is important. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this need back in 2004 and acknowledged that that conducting investigative hearings without warrant would be constitutional and that the government would have the ability to do so. That was done back in 2004; since then the government has attempted this measure and failed, but not because of opposition from our party, because the Liberal Party has been the only party that has been consistent on wanting this type of legislation to advance.
This is now the fourth rendition of this type of legislation. There have been some modifications over the years, but once again it is being brought to the attention of the House. The Liberal Party, at second reading and at the committee stage, indicated its support in principle for the legislation, and Liberals did that believing and understanding that some checks are being put in place to ensure that individual rights would be respected. Individual rights have always been very much a concern for the Liberal Party. It is one of the reasons we stand behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, something Canadians have adopted as their own and as one of those things for which we have a sense of pride.
At the end of the day, we are comfortable in knowing that those rights are in fact going to be protected with some of the checks.
Is it perfect legislation? No, it is not perfect legislation. It would be nice to see some modification, but we are very much aware, as I pointed out earlier, that the government is not sympathetic to amendments. It does not like amendments to its legislation to be brought forward, nor has it ever shown an interest, since it has been a majority government, in tolerating any form of amendments, which is unfortunate.
However, at the end of the day we look at it in terms of what our law enforcement officers from across Canada are saying. Some of the agencies making an announcement later today about something that has been uncovered in relation to terrorism have made presentations to the committees and have in fact lobbied not only our caucus but, I suspect, all caucuses inside the House. We ultimately recognize that, yes, it is something that is important, something that we are prepared to see pass. Our critic and others have had the opportunity to comment on the legislation, and we would like to ultimately see it pass.
That said, in the last few minutes I want to pick up on an issue that I believe the government has done a great disservice to.
We recognize, as I very clearly said in my earlier comments, the profound impact that events in Boston have had on all people living in North America. We have expressed our condolences and our best wishes and our prayers to the families of the victims. However, at the end of the day, we in the Liberal Party are very much disappointed by the manner in which the government has chosen to use that act of terror in order to advance a political agenda.
This legislation could have been brought forward long ago, months ago. However, the government has been sitting on it. Then, on Friday, we heard the government House leader stand in his typical fashion and say that because of the concern with respect to the Boston Marathon and the terrorist attack, we were now going to have Bill S-7 introduced on Monday, thereby bumping the Liberal opposition motion that was being proposed in relation to democratic reform.
We find that it is no coincidence. It is something that was done intentionally by the Prime Minister's Office. The PMO had the opportunity to bring it in on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday of last week. In fact, it has been sitting on it for months. The real reason it was brought it in is that the government did not want the Liberal Party to have its opposition day motion debated in the House.
What I find somewhat cowardly is that the government, the Prime Minister, is actually using the Boston Marathon as a tool to prevent a specific debate from occurring in the House, thus preventing a debate on democratic reform and forcing or imposing upon MPs a favourable response to Bill S-7.
The Liberal Party has always supported it in principle. We find it unfortunate that the government is using the terrorist attack that recently happened in Boston as an excuse to bring the bill forward today, because over the last couple of weeks we have seen the reaction from the Conservative backbenchers toward the Prime Minister's Office in terms of limiting their ability to speak.
The other way in which he is using the Boston tragedy is with regard to his negative attacks on the leader of the Liberal Party, which I would suggest is no coincidence. This horrific event takes place in Boston, and all that is on the mind of the Prime Minister is how he can attack the leader of the Liberal Party. He is supposed to be abroad, attending the funeral for former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
We find it is somewhat suspicious, but the bottom line is that Bill S-7 is here today, whether we like it or not, and the Liberal Party has indicated its support of the bill in principle and for it to ultimately pass.