House of Commons Hansard #164 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was csis.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.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 notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Misleading Statements in the HousePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a most serious question of privilege pursuant to Standing Order 48 of the House of Commons. This is a question of grave importance because it concerns misleading information that the Prime Minister has provided to this House regarding the Canadian military engagement in Iraq.

This is an extremely serious matter. Misleading statements are not only a breach of the privileges that MPs must rely on in the carrying out of their duties as parliamentarians but they are also a breach of the trust of Canadians who elected this Parliament to govern responsibly.

Therefore, I will be asking that you find that a prima facie case of privilege exists, so that the matter can be further investigated in committee.

I want to point out that this is the first opportunity that I have had to raise this issue since it became clear that the Prime Minister had indeed misled the House last fall.

New facts have been uncovered every day this week to illustrate how Canadians were deceived, but only yesterday, under questioning by the Leader of the Opposition, myself and the member of Parliament for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, did it become clear that the Prime Minister and his defence minister have no explanation as to why he misled the House ahead of last year's vote to send our troops into battle.

Let me take a moment to remind the House of the facts surrounding the engagement of Canadian ground forces against ISIL, as well as the clear contradictions of those facts against the Prime Minister's statements last year.

We have to remember that the mission to Iraq consists of two elements, the actual air combat mission involving Canadian Forces CF-18s as well as the other air assets, and the ground forces of the special operations forces in northern Iraq who are engaged in what was called an advise and assist training mission. We are talking here about the action of the ground forces.

This week, Canadian military officials and indeed the defence minister confirmed that Canadian Forces ground personnel have been supporting Iraqi forces in the following ways: regularly accompanying them to the front line; calling in air strikes; painting targets, which is accepted by the military community as a combat role; and engaging in return of fire with ISIL fighters.

On September 30, in the days before members of Parliament were asked to authorize sending Canadian Forces personnel into Iraq, the Prime Minister faced direct, detailed and intense questioning from the Leader of the Opposition.

The NDP leader asked:

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that the rules of engagement are to advise and assist the Iraqis, but the question is, assist them how? For instance, are Canadian soldiers currently going on patrols with Iraqis or Kurds?

The Prime Minister responded very clearly, even switching from French to English in order to say precisely what he intended.

He stated:

Mr. Speaker, I said advise and assist the Iraqis. If I could just use the terminology in English, it is quite precise. It is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister informed the House in the days before the vote on the most sacred duty that MPs have, which is a decision to send our brave men and women in uniform into harm's way in the name of our country.

When the NDP leader asked this simple six-word question, “Are they going into combat zones?”, the Prime Minister again responded very clearly, “Mr. Speaker, I just said that Canadian soldiers are not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat.”

We must remember the vote was on October 7 and this is questioning on September 30 and beyond.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that during these days of intense questioning in the House and by the media, the Prime Minister was in possession of the best and most accurate information on Canada's proposed military deployment. Perhaps he was even setting the terms of the deployment himself. There can be no doubt that the Prime Minister knew exactly what parameters were set out for our armed forces being sent into a theatre of war.

Today we know that the Canadian military ground troops have been involved in multiple firefights with ISIL forces and are the only coalition partner reported to have been involved in any at all. We know that they have regularly accompanied Iraqi forces to the front lines, not under extraordinary circumstances but as a matter of routine duty. We know that they are conducting duties that the international military community routinely defines as combat roles, including painting targets.

The Canadian Armed Forces ground forces are engaged in activities that our Prime Minister explicitly ruled out when this Chamber was making its decision on whether or not to authorize the mission. He misled the House and Canadians in a deliberate attempt to downplay Canada's level of engagement as well as the risk involved to our brave men and women in uniform.

Canadians, including the loved ones of our soldiers, had a right a know the truth and the Prime Minister withheld that from them and instead provided information that we now know was false.

Parliamentarians had a right to know the truth too as each and every MP in this place made our individual decision to support or oppose the mission according to our consciences and influenced heavily by the answers and assurances of the Prime Minister.

I ask you today, Mr. Speaker, to defend these rights and our democratic institution of Parliament by finding that there is a prima facie case of privilege and contempt of Parliament.

For the sake of clarity, let me remind everyone here of the rights afforded to members of Parliament to carry out their duties on behalf of Canadians. These are the rights afforded to members of Parliament. They are spelled out on page 75 of the 23rd edition of Erskine May's A Practical Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. Parliamentary privilege is defined as:

...the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions.

Parliamentary privileges are of utmost importance not only for our parliamentarians but also for Canadians who have put their trust and faith in Parliament to legislate on their behalf and to hold their government to account. In other words, it is a fundamental aspect of our democratic society.

Canadians trust that we can perform these tasks unimpeded and unobstructed. They trust that their government will provide truthful answers in the House. These are basic principles of paramount importance for Canadians to continue to believe and engage in our democratic process.

Breaches of these privileges can take many forms, but the one we are dealing with today, misleading the House, is one of the most serious and citing the Prime Minister for this action is the most serious of all.

On page 111 of Erskine May it states that “The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt”.

The second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice by O'Brien and Bosc also tells us on page 111 that the provision of deliberately misleading information constitutes a prima facie case of privilege.

I will quote further from page 63 of Erskine May which states:

It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.

It is important to note here that no explanation has been given either by the Prime Minister or the Minister of National Defence as to why the information given to Canadians by the government on the mission was so blatantly false.

Mr. Speaker, you gave a ruling on a previous incidence of the Prime Minister blatantly providing misleading information to the House, and I am referring to the information he provided about who in his office knew that his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was paying a sitting parliamentarian $90,000 to help to promote the Prime Minister's Office's version of events on the Senate spending scandal.

When the NDP brought that matter up in the House as a question of privilege, as I am today, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that while the Prime Minister had obviously given the House information that was not true, his own assertion that he simply did not know what all his staff was up to was enough to get him off the hook. I hate to use the vernacular, but that is essentially what the ruling was.

However, in that ruling you cited Speaker Fraser's December 4, 1986 assertion, found on page 1792 of Debates, October 30, 2013, that:

Differences of opinion with respect to fact and details are not infrequent in the House and do not necessarily constitute a breach of privilege.

You also cited House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 510:

In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue. As such, these matters are more a question of debate and do not constitute a breach of the rules or of privilege.

However, I would contend here that there is no possible way to interpret the current contradiction as a difference of opinion. Canadian ground troops are accompanying Iraqi forces to the front line and the Prime Minister said they were not.

You also made it very clear in that ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the Chair has an important role to play, however limited, when allegations are made that the House has been misled. You stated in a separate ruling that three elements were to be met before the Chair could rule that a prima facie case had been made. Your ruling said that:

One, it must be proven that the statement was misleading; two, it must be established that the member making the statement knew at the time that the statement was incorrect; and three, that in making the statement, the member intended to mislead the House.

On element number one, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister told the House things that have now clearly been shown to be false with respect to the nature of the Canadian Forces mission in Iraq.

On element number two, did the Prime Minister know that the statement was incorrect? I think that is an important matter. The Prime Minister is the head of the government and is required to know the details of military engagement.

Indeed, we have heard today in this House and yesterday from the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence that the military in Iraq have been acting on the mandate given to them by this House. If that was the understanding of the mandate by the Prime Minister at the time the debate and vote took place, that is the time he was saying in this House that ground troops would not be involved at the front line, they would not be involved in the combat zone, and they would not be painting targets.

On element number three, that the member intended to mislead the House, we believe, and there can be little doubt, that the Prime Minister misled this House and Canadians in order to minimize the risk that public opinion or the consciences of parliamentarians would turn against him ahead of the vote to authorize the mission. I think we all remember in this House, and Canadians remember, the discussion about no boots on the ground engaged in combat. We would not have that.

Therefore, it was clearly intended to make members of this House believe and understand that our troops, the people who were being sent to Iraq in the training mission to advise and assist, would not in fact be engaged in combat because the government knew, the Prime Minister knew, and the House knew that Canadians would not favour such a position.

Mr. Speaker, in your ruling on the Prime Minister's false statements on the Mike Duffy affair, you also emphasized the importance of the time-honoured tradition of accepting a member's word in the House. That is what members on this side of the House, and indeed members on all sides of the House, would have accepted when the Prime Minister made those statements in the House on September 30 and at other times during the debate leading up to the vote on October 7.

This, I submit, is the very tradition of accepting the word of an hon. member, in particular the word of the Prime Minister, that we are at risk of losing under the watch of this Prime Minister. Obfuscation, omission of facts, bluster, bravado, and simple refusal to answer questions are all time-honoured traditions of this House as well, and they are tactics that have been mastered by previous Conservative and Liberal governments for decades. However, and this is very important, providing false information is quite a different matter. Not only is it unethical, it is clearly against the rules of this place.

What we do know is that clear and easily avoidable false statements have been made to this House by the Prime Minister, which not only is a prima facie breach of the privileges of all members but also of all Canadians who have put their trust and faith in Parliament. These Canadians include the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, and the sons and daughters of Canada's courageous soldiers, who were clearly and repeatedly told that their loved ones would not be engaged in ground combat in the Iraq theatre. Now the Canadian people and the families of those soldiers have no reason to trust the current Prime Minister when he proclaims that their loved ones are not meant for combat duty against ISIL.

Mr. Speaker, as has been done in the past, as you will likely note, I want to leave the final word to the current Minister of Justice and former Minister of National Defence. He made a remarkable statement, which I think is worthy of repeating. In 2002, he said the following:

I would suggest in the strongest possible terms that members of the House of Commons must be able to rely on the information they receive in response to questions placed to ministers. This goes to the very cut and thrust of the responsibilities of members of the House of Commons. A high standard has to be met....

He later said:

Integrity, honesty and truthfulness in this Chamber should not ebb and flow like the tides. This should be something that is as solid as the ground we walk on and as solid as the foundation of this very building in these hallowed halls. Every time we come into this Chamber, we should be reminded of that.

For whom is this rule more important to follow than the Prime Minister himself?

That is my submission, Mr. Speaker, and I ask that you find that there is a prima facie case of contempt of Parliament and a question of privilege that should be therefore referred to committee. If you so find, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Misleading Statements in the HousePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, all members of this privileged House have been afforded the opportunity to be here through their constituents with the expectation that they will be straightforward and honest in the responses and statements they make in the House. It was not all that long ago, when I was first elected, that I was told about the importance of being honest in replies to answers and straightforward with respect to questions.

It would appear that the Prime Minister has intentionally misled the House. If it is found to be the case, through the Chair, that is a very significant occurrence, and Canadians need to be aware of that.

The New Democratic Party has put forward a fairly strong case. I would like to go over question period from yesterday. We gave both the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence the opportunity to provide clarification on the matter.

Let me read the actual question put to the Prime Minister yesterday by the leader of the Liberal Party. This is from yesterday's Hansard:

Mr. Speaker, last fall the Prime Minister said that our mission on the ground in Iraq was, and I quote, “to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.”

Yesterday, the Minister of National Defence clearly stated the opposite.

Would the Prime Minister like to take this opportunity to correct his minister?

If we read the response that was given, it was a sidestep. There was no acknowledgement whatsoever.

Later on in question period, the Liberal critic for defence, the member for Vancouver Quadra, asked:

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House, the Minister of National Defence justified front-line combat by saying, “I am not sure we could train troops without accompanying them.”

Yet on September 30, the Prime Minister explicitly ruled out combat on the ground. He said in question period, the mission “is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.”

Why is the defence minister directly contradicting the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister, today covering for him?

Do Canadian1s not deserve the truth?

That is where we afforded both the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence the opportunity yesterday to provide clarity on what it was that the Prime Minister meant to say back in 2014. At no point did the Prime Minister or the Minister of National Defence attempt to clear up what is obviously a significant discrepancy. That discrepancy needs to be addressed.

We believe that this is very serious, and we might request another opportunity to provide further comment on it. Ultimately it would be nice to see either the Prime Minister or the Minister of National Defence stand in their places and provide the clarity that we have been asking for for the last couple of days.

Misleading Statements in the HousePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

January 28th, 2015 / 3:45 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the point raised by the opposition, I think at the outset or at least partway through, was an effort to identify the three-part test you must apply. In this matter, not even the first step in that test is satisfied. Simply put, there is not a question of the House being misled. There is a question of a debate, a debate with an opposition that thinks that self-defence is combat.

We respectfully disagree. We think self-defence is not combat. We think it is common sense. We think it is what anyone would expect their troops in the field to be able to undertake. The mission is a mission to advise and assist. There is nothing in that mission to prevent our soldiers from defending themselves if they should come under fire.

The opposition, keeps using some funny terms that seem very odd to me. One is “front lines”. Another is “combat zone”. The opposition seems to think that the advise and assist mission means that our forces will never be on the front lines of the combat zone. “Front lines” is an archaic image. This is what we had in World War I, when soldiers were in trenches. There is nothing like that right now. Right now, in a place like Iraq, where our special forces are on the ground, everything is the front line. Everything is the combat zone.

In fact, today in the war on terrorism in which we are engaged, in this struggle we are engaged in, the combat zone is not just in Iraq. The front lines are not just in Iraq. The combat zone, the front lines, are in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, where a Canadian soldier was killed. They are at the National War Memorial. Those are the front lines now. It is a terminology I frankly do not understand from the opposition.

I heard the hon. member say that he expects that Canadian soldiers will be “behind the wire”. They are in Iraq. There are no Canadian bases in Iraq. There is no wire to be behind. It shows a remarkable lack of understanding of what our forces are doing there.

The fact is that they are in a dangerous place, and in that dangerous place, doing the dangerous work of advising and assisting, they have, and should have, every right to defend themselves. No one has ever told this House of Commons or suggested, not this government at least, that our soldiers should go there with their hands tied behind their backs, restricted from doing that. That is the fundamental difference in this debate, and that is what it is. It is a debate.

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, what misleading the House would look like. It would look like a situation where perhaps a member of the government knew that these occasions of shooting in self-defence had occurred, and then once asked about them, denied to the House that they had taken place.

Nothing like that has happened here. In fact, on the contrary, this government has been most forthright. In fact, after every successful bombing mission, the minister of defence has stood in this House and reported it to the House. The government has been forthcoming. It is the government and the Canadian Forces that in fact made public the occasions of self-defence by our special forces on the ground. There has been no evidence at all or any suggestion that our Canadian Forces have undertaken any combat offensive measures, only that they have defended themselves when they came under fire.

There is some suggestion from my hon. friend that the government has downplayed the risk to our forces. I think that is actually absurd. On the contrary, our government has gone out of its way to identify how dangerous the situation is in this part of the world, how dangerous the mission is against Islamic State and why it is so important that we undertake it.

We are not there in that part of the world because it is a picnic. We are there because it is a very dangerous terrorist threat, one that has sought to be exported to our shores, that needs to be taken on. It is precisely because it is dangerous that we are there. There has been no effort to downplay that.

We quite respect the skill and ability of our special forces, all our armed forces, but particularly our special forces. That is why they are there.

The reason we want to be there, despite those dangers, is so we do not again see those dangers come to our shores, so that we do not allow what happened in Afghanistan to occur and allow a terrorist group that has stated its desire to bring terrorism to our shores to establish a geographic state, a base of operations from which it can engage in that export. That is the reason for that mission.

The real issue we face, and we see it through the lens from which the opposition look at these matters, is that their problem is not that our soldiers might have defended themselves or not, but that they are there at all, that we are engaged in this mission against ISIL. They voted against it in the House of Commons, and now they are doing everything they can to oppose and bring an end to that mission.

That is a perfectly legitimate position to take. We in the government respectfully disagree with it, but it is their right as an opposition to take that position. That does not extend to the fact that our disagreement with it and with their perspective on what should be done constitutes in some way a breach of the privileges of the House. It is not. It is anything but that.

That disagreement should not now lead to an effort to do what they are doing. It should not lead to a reason to abandon this effort to combat the terrorist fight, even though that is what they would like us to do. At its core, it is a disagreement, a debate, and we do not believe there is any evidence whatsoever that anyone in the House has ever suggested that our troops should not be able to defend themselves in this field, certainly not the government. The opposition may not wish to see them do that. We certainly believe they should be able to do it, and over that there may be a debate. It may be a legitimate debate, but I am quite confident that our side of the debate is supported by the public.

Mr. Speaker, I would like the opportunity, if possible, to review in more detail the comments made by my friend. However, I think you should be able to dispense with this matter in fairly short order as falling short of even the first test of the three-part test you must apply.

Misleading Statements in the HousePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the intervention by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons only reinforces the argument that the member for St. John's East just made.

I say that because it is not about the rhetoric that the House leader for the government applied, who seemed to think this was some kind of debate, but a very serious consideration of the breaches of the privileges of the House. At no point did he really contradict the essential arguments put forward by the member for St. John's East.

I will briefly refer back to the facts of September 30, which are important, when the Prime Minister said in the House that the role of our soldiers would be to advise and assist. It was not to accompany, meaning to be in combat zones. He later responded to the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the NDP, by saying, “I just said that Canadian soldiers are not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat”.

That was a clear, factual statement that he made, and in the last few days we have had equally and completely contradictory factual statements made in which the Prime Minister has very proudly said that they are engaged in combat, that they are engaged in killing.

It is not an issue of debate around the question itself. There is a very clear breach, as the member for St. John's East has said very eloquently. There is a very, very clear contradiction between the facts as laid out by the Prime Minister back on September 30 and the facts that he has been announcing to us. There has never been any explanation of that.

I will end just by reciting what the member for St. John's East said. It is from Erskine May at page 63:

...it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.

There has been no correction. There has been no explanation, and the merits of the argument advanced by the member for St. John's East, I think, have just been enhanced by the reaction of the leader of the government in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope you will give serious consideration to what is a very well-thought-out argument by the member for St. John's East on the breaches of the privileges of the House.

Misleading Statements in the HousePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank hon. members for their contribution on this, and of course we will come back to the House in due course with a decision.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There will now be a 30-minute question period.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, sadly, this is the 85th time that the government has invoked time allocation and closure.

We are now talking about a sad record that we hope will never be repeated in Canadian parliamentary history. Invoking time allocation and closure seems to be the only thing the government has been able to run up.

We have lost 400,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. There has been a lack of respect for Parliament by the government. The government has managed to outdo the former Liberal government by invoking time allocation and closure 85 times, showing its lack of respect for Parliament, which so many Canadians are seeing.

Bill C-44, which is very controversial, heard only four hours of witness testimony in committee by experts who came forward and identified problems with the bill. Only a handful of members of Parliament have been able to speak to this bill and, already, after only a handful of speakers, the government wants to ram the bill through.

As we know, the government also has another record, having more recalls of bad pieces of legislation than any other government in Canadian history.

My question for the minister is very simple. Why does the government not get it right? Why does it not listen to experts, and look at and entertain the kinds of amendments that have been brought forward by members of the opposition? Why is the government always trying to ram through legislation that has controversial aspects and should be fixed?

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I must say that I feel a sense of relief to be preparing for debate this afternoon on the final stage of Bill C-44, which seeks to protect Canadians against terrorists.

Our government had originally planned to introduce this bill on October 22, the very day that this place was targeted by a terrorist attack. I am sure that my New Democrat colleague would agree with that, since that is what John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, as well as President François Hollande called the incident.

Obviously, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also said that this act of violence against a symbol, the house of the Canadian people, was committed for extremist and ideological purposes.

Canadians want us to take action. We have a responsibility to take action against the terrorist threat, and the proposed measure will give our intelligence services tools to better track high-risk travellers who pose a threat to our society.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, time allocation is a form of closure and can be a very effective tool in the right situation.

What we have found is that other administrations, whether they be provincial New Democrats or federal Liberals or other levels of government, have used time allocation or some form of closure to get legislation through.

What makes the government unique is the number of times it uses time allocation. Ever since the Prime Minister was given a majority, he has demonstrated a lack of respect for the House by constantly bringing in time allocation after time allocation on virtually all pieces of legislation, whether for the budget or a rather nominal bill that all parties would support. They are all time allocated.

It has become a part of the process, and that is wrong. My question is not for the minister responsible for the bill, but for either the government House leader or the Prime Minister, who should explain to Canadians why the government has chosen time allocation as a tool of standard practice to pass legislation.

It is undemocratic and and a type of abuse, as a rule, of the House of Commons of Canada.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, Parliament has already taken 20 hours to consider this bill on protecting Canada from terrorists. During that time, we have seen that this is a very clear and simple bill. It seeks to confirm the ability of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to operate abroad and make sure that witnesses—an essential source of intelligence—are protected. It also includes very clear provisions to protect privacy.

A debate was held at first reading. The bill was sent to committee. Every clause of the bill was discussed for nearly 92 minutes. Elected officials must ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to protect us against terrorism. We are taking that step. It is not the last. This bill will have to be introduced in the Senate as well, and it will once again go through a legislative process. It will be once again debated and examined in committee.

That being said, from what we heard in debate—and my opposition colleagues were there—the political parties believe that this bill is well founded in principle and that it is based on a solid legislative argument. That is why I hope that we can count on their support to quickly pass this bill so that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will have the authority it needs to continue to protect Canadians and respond to the invitation made by the courts to clarify its mandate. That is what this bill does. We need it. I encourage my colleagues to support this bill in order to ensure that it is quickly passed because it is necessary tool.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit astounded by this debate. First we have the Liberals endorsing the concept of time allocation, and now we have the minister telling us not to worry, that it can be debated in the Senate.

When this bill was introduced, time allocation was used at second reading. At that time, the minister told us that there was time to fully debate and consider the bill, and that was at committee. Then the parliamentary secretary and the majority on the committee limited debate severely. When he said there were 92 minutes for each clause, we were left with about a minute and a half per amendment and limited to four expert witnesses.

I think the government is afraid of a couple of things that came up. One was that some expert witnesses said that some parts of this bill might be unconstitutional and that if these were declared unconstitutional by the courts we were wasting time here.

The other issue we raised was this. Is the government providing sufficient resources to agencies like CSIS and the RCMP to make use of the tools they already have?

The government is afraid of debating those two questions. I think that is why it is introducing time allocation.

Therefore, my question for the minister is this. If it is not the time to debate the bill at report stage, at second reading, or at committee, when is it time for a full public debate of this bill?

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. First, this bill is not addressing the police or the RCMP, but clarifying the role of our national security agency. It is to clarify and make sure that CSIS, our Canadian security service, continues to do what it has always done, which is to share information with our partners. We do not need a decade of debate to say that it is quite logical that CSIS shares information on Canadian-born individuals who represent a threat, whether they are abroad or return.

I am sure that Canadians and constituents across the country are telling politicians to make sure that our national security agency has the appropriate tools to do its job and protect us. What is in front of us is a fairly clear bill that has two main goals, to clarify—which is probably something that should have been done when we created CSIS, but at that time it did not seem necessary—that CSIS has a mandate to operate, and to be able to track and share information on those individuals who are either in Turkey or Iraq and willing to commit terrorist attacks, or even worse, who are willing to come back and commit terrorist attacks elsewhere and on our own ground.

That is a fairly good reason to proceed, to move forward, and to have this bill adopted by the House so that CSIS can have the tools needed to protect and keep Canadians safe.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we have now had the 85th motion for time allocation in the House, breaking all historic records, with all due respect to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, this is now a debate on the anti-democratic tendencies of the Conservative administration to consistently shut down debate time after time.

Last week in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, when the Right Hon. Joe Clark addressed a non-partisan event sponsored by my riding association, he said that the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian Prime Minister are currently in violation of the Magna Carta. We have violated our fundamental connection to representative democracy, and it is evidenced by the continual use of measures to shove through bills without adequate debate, particularly to the detriment of members such as myself, who are not able to have time in debate to present a speech.

It is not the minister's decision. I know that. This decision was made by others within the Conservative administration.

It is time to stop shutting down debate. A free and democratic society is what terrorists do not want. Shutting down debate is not in the interests of democracy.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me reassure the member that I am fully comfortable that there is a balance between debate and action. Canadians expect politicians from all parties to debate in a democracy, and we are all going to debate. We are not done. Once we adopt this motion, hopefully, we will have time to debate. We are just saying that we will not debate over and over or time and time again. Why? It is because we need action.

We have CSIS at this point in time. We do not want those who protect us to be blind. We want them to share information. Actually, that is one principle of democracy. To protect our democracy, we have to provide those who protect us with the legal authority, and that is exactly what this bill would do.

I will mention again, though I have mentioned it over and over again through the previous 20 hours of debate, that there are provisions not only to protect witnesses but to protect their privacy. This bill fully complies with the Constitution, contrary to what I would call the ridiculous assumption made by my colleague in the NDP. I can reassure the member that when the government tables legislation, it makes sure that it complies with Canadian law.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the 85th time allocation motion.

Once again, the government is disrespecting the people's house. In the parliamentary process, there are steps we have to follow. I do not understand why a minister would not want to listen to the experts and accept amendments to improve his bill. I do not understand what he is trying to achieve with all of this. He says there has to be a balance between action and debate. That is great, but only if there is a real debate.

My question for the minister is therefore very simple. What is he afraid of that is prompting him to prevent and restrict debate? What is he afraid of?

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Louis-Hébert for his question.

I am certain that this bill will allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to allay Canadians' legitimate concerns over the terrorist threat. This bill will allow our protective services to share information and will confirm their ability to operate outside Canada. It is quite simple. I am pretty sure my colleague agrees with the substance of the issue. That is what is at the heart of the bill.

The other part of the bill is about ensuring that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has reliable sources. There is always a bond of trust that is established between the source and the service, and it is important to protect that because those people put their lives at risk when they agree to turn over information that can save lives here and elsewhere.

This bill clarifies the role of the service and confirms its ability to operate abroad and, more specifically, and I want to repeat this, share information about and track people, potentially Canadians, who may have left the country for terrorist purposes.

We will share this information with our partners and allies, such as the French. All nations throughout the world are bringing in measures in keeping with their constitutional framework in order to protect democracy. That is the purpose of this bill.

This bill will help allay Canadians' legitimate concerns over the terrorist threat. I am sure that the people of Louis-Hébert will be pleased and will sleep better at night once this bill passes, because these services will then have the legal authority they need to protect Canadians.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, this place is all about process. I do not just mean Parliament, but Ottawa. It is all about process. That is important. There needs to be process, but there also need to be results and action, especially when something is critical and especially when Canadians are demanding something like their personal safety.

October 20 and October 22 were wake-up calls. They should have been wake-up calls for even the sleepiest of Canadians. It could have been so much worse on both of those days, especially on October 22, if the people involved had been better organized, better equipped, and so on. They were not, and we are thankful for that, but they were bad enough.

There is a whole bunch of other people out there who are probably better organized and better equipped, and the clock may be ticking. We do not know that. We know that there are at least 140 out there. If CSIS and others say that there are 140, we can bet that there are a whole lot more than that.

I would like to ask the minister about the urgency of this matter. In the American experience after 9/11, one of the biggest problems the Americans had was that there so many silos and disconnects between all of the different parts of the apparatus of the American security system. When they looked back on it, it was all there. Everything about 9/11 was there, but they just had not talked to each other. They just had not shared.

I know that the same situation exists among Canada's security services, whether it is CSIS, CSEC, the DND, or the CRA. Those disconnects exist.

I would like to ask the minister about the urgency and the timeliness that is required to connect those disconnects, because the clock is ticking.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Edmonton Centre for his question and also tell this House I feel privileged to sit with a member who is not only serving his constituents now as a remarkable member of Parliament but who has also served our country under the flag and has had a remarkable career in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

I was given the privilege of travelling with the member. He is a strong advocate not only of the Canadian Armed Forces but of the men and women who wear and have worn the uniform. He is very involved with veterans, especially with those who fought and flew during the Second World War.

As of today, Mr. Cauchy is in Quebec. He is a proud Quebecker who flew during the Second World War and fought for liberty and freedom. He is not that young, but he is in pretty good shape, and friends of mine were able to give him a tribute today.

My concern now is that when our law enforcement agency and our national security agencies do not have the tools necessary to protect us, every day that passes in this country is a concern. This is a concern for this House. This is a concern for all Canadians, and it is also a responsibility for politicians of all party stripes to take action.

We have been given an opportunity to take action. At the end of this day, this bill will not have been adopted. We still need to get it through the Senate and get royal assent. However, this is an important bill to protect Canadians, and I believe we should do our utmost to get it through.

We will have a fair debate, but once we have a debate, we need action, and it is time for action in this country to fight terrorism.

Bill C-44--Time Allocation.Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is going to be a problem having the Senate act as a safeguard because of the number of empty seats at present.

First, I am going to correct the minister because he obviously has a short memory when it comes to the speech given by French President François Hollande in the House on November 3. Mr. Hollande absolutely did not say what the minister reported. He spoke about a terrorist-inspired attack, which is a very important nuance.

I hope that the minister will recognize that. I believe that the minister is twisting words in order to take a very simplistic approach to a very important debate.

The right of all Canadians to be properly represented in the House and to have a full debate on fundamental issues that will truly affect their lives is being violated for the 85th time.

Bill C-44 will profoundly change Canadians' ability to understand the extent to which secret activities are carried out and the consequences this will have. This could lead to very serious abuses.

Clearly, the minister is dismissing the concerns people may have about the consequences of actions taken by a government agency.

How can the minister once again justify this time allocation and the end of debate in the chamber that represents the people, the chamber of the truly elected, here in this Parliament?