House of Commons Hansard #174 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was terrorism.


Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Papineau for his excellent speech, and specifically for what he said on the relationship between security and rights. He made specific recommendations on matters regarding oversight and review. He also made reference to some of the overly broad language in the bill, so I would like to ask him a particular question.

Does he believe that this legislation, given its overly broad language, must have effective vetting to ensure that it comports with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Mount Royal for his question. As always, he is deeply in tune with the issue of rights and gets right down to the heart of the matter.

In fact, there is some overly broad language in the bill that we will be recommending be tightened and clarified a bit so as to not paint an overly broad picture of national security risks to our country. There is also a need for ongoing oversight to minimize any excesses or challenges.

We have to understand that oversight is not just about checks and balances on our security agencies; it is also about ensuring that our security agencies are doing everything they can do and must do to ensure that Canadians are successfully protected. I think that is an aspect of the concerns around oversight that the current government might not be paying full attention to. Oversight actually helps our agencies do a better job of protecting Canadians. That is why we believe in it.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a former adjudicator myself, I am quite alarmed by Bill C-51. It is not, in my opinion, primarily directed against terrorism. Let us look the definition of “illegality”: “activities that undermine the security of Canada”. That is so vague and broad that it could apply to nearly any action taken in an act of non-violent civil disobedience or to groups even considering such actions. Maybe a better name for the bill would have been “an act to monitor and suppress the raging grannies”.

My question for the hon. member is this: what would stop the bill from being used against philosophical and political enemies of the party in power?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:10 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's concerns and I share a number of his concerns, which is why we have placed such an emphasis on the need for proper oversight, the need for review, and the need for narrowing the overly broad scope of some of the definitions used in the bill.

However, there are significant elements in the bill that would credibly protect Canadians from threats and immediately give tools to enforcement and security agencies to keep Canadians safe. That is what I believe needs to be top of mind.

The concerns that the member has would certainly be addressed by an election campaign, which would allow parliamentarians a chance to be once again renewed and refreshed by contact with the people across our great democracy.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

February 18th, 2015 / 5:10 p.m.


LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that the member is going to support this bill. However, I reject his comments in regard to sufficient oversight. We have a made-in-Canada model with no political interference and with experts in place, so I reject the member's concern in that regard.

I am also concerned that the member may provide only short-lived support for this bill. I say that because the Liberal Party decided to change its support for our previous legislation on the revocation of citizenship of convicted terrorists. My concern is whether that member and his party will support this bill through the whole process.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:10 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would recommend that this member look again to the annual report of SIRC. It specifically explains that SIRC is not an oversight body. It is simply a review body, after the fact, and it is a part-time body at that.

The rapidness with which our intelligence agencies must respond to very real threats means we need current and ongoing oversight. I would also be remiss if I did not point out that the government's last idea of an excellent person to oversee our security agencies is currently residing in a Panamanian jail cell.

I think the member will understand that we feel that oversight by elected parliamentarians—by the people of this fine House, on all sides—is a responsible and appropriate mechanism to make sure that Canadians' rights and security are being properly protected.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia


Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and take part in what is obviously a very important debate on Bill C-51, the government's comprehensive counterterrorism package. This bill, which is titled the anti-terrorism act, 2015, deals, first and foremost, with public safety and efforts by our government to embrace methods that would improve and enhance safety for all Canadians.

The bill builds upon concrete legislative steps this government has already taken to combat terrorism, including through the Combating Terrorism Act, the Nuclear Terrorism Act of 2013, as well as more recent proposals found in Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. Therefore, members can see there is a litany of legislative action already demonstrated by this government.

We can make no mistake about it, these are real dangers, not theoretical or hypothetical scenarios. As we have seen in places like Paris, Australia, Brussels, and in Canada, these acts have deadly effects. This is why there is simply no denying the existence of the threat and the necessity to take practical steps to improve the way in which our security forces operate, coordinate and respond to acts of terrorism. This is also to increase our capacity to learn from international examples. The ability for CSIS to operate outside of our borders is the security capacity that is found in most of our allies, certainly most of our Five Eyes partners.

The government is involved in broad-based efforts to counter domestic and international terrorism in order to protect our country, our citizens and our interest in our allies. This is consistent with our counterterrorism strategy, which is to build resilience against terrorism. Therefore, clearly working through partnerships, including with all levels of government and community leaders, is key to effectively implementing this strategy.

As the Speaker may know and members may be aware, we have an outreach effort at the Department of Justice that involves a cultural round table where we regularly consult and receive input from various communities around the country. This is an effective way to gain insight and understanding of how Canadians perceive this issue of terrorism.

As well as implementing this strategy, we are including our efforts to counter violent extremism. Engaging with the cross-cultural round tables on security-related issues is of great benefit in getting the balance right. There is also significant collaboration with international partners in addressing the terrorist threat.

As the Minister of Justice, I am responsible for ensuring that Canada's laws remain robust, fair and just. This is particularly important in the area of criminal law. Canada, like its friends and allies, must ensure that our laws remain responsive and effective in combatting the scourge of terrorism, while at the same time ensuring our laws respect our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Bill C-51 contains a suite of criminal law reforms that will do just that by amending the Criminal Code to strengthen terrorism recognisance with conditions and peace bond provisions; create a new criminal offence for abdicating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general; provide courts with the powers to seize, forfeit and remove terrorist propaganda, including from web sites located inside our borders; and to better protect individuals participating in national security proceedings and prosecutions.

These steps, in addition to those discussed earlier by my colleague the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, will go a long way to closing any real or perceived gaps in our ability to respond to terrorist acts.

I would like to take a closer look at each of the four pillars of criminal law reform in this bill. However, I would like to begin by pointing out that these four pillars of reform have common denominators.

The Criminal Code reforms individually and collectively seek to provide law enforcement agencies with appropriate tools to thwart the activities of terrorists who actively engage in terrorism. Within these reforms, and with these in place, police officers will now be able to intervene sooner, more effectively, and achieve better results before the matters get more serious. This aims to provide our protection for all Canadians through enabling the police to pre-empt and prevent acts of terrorism.

I want to emphasize here that judicial oversight is the backbone of these criminal reforms consistent with Canada's values and principles, including, as the Supreme Court of Canada has often repeated and I will emphasize again today, the values of democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law. This is the type of oversight that should provide considerable comfort and relief to those who have criticized the bill at its early stage.

I would suggest that this type of insight that comes from the courts in enabling our security agents to make those types of interventions prior to acts of terrorism is at the very crux of what we are attempting to do. It is not just to be responsive; it is to be pre-emptive in protecting Canadians from acts of terrorism.

The first area of criminal law reform found in Bill C-51 would strengthen the existing provisions on the recognizance with conditions and terrorism peace bonds contained in sections 83.3 and 810.01, respectively, of the Criminal Code. Let me go further. This Criminal Code recognizance with conditions is already a tool that can be used. It is designed to disrupt and prevent terrorist activity from occurring in the first place. For example, this provision allows a peace officer, with the consent of the Attorney General, a prosecutor acting with delegated authority, to bring an individual before the court with evidence to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to require the individual to abide by specific conditions designed to prevent terrorist activity from occurring.

It bears noting that the individual in question would not necessarily be the person who might carry out that activity. In other words, the person could be a party to the offence or enabling the offence. It is important to note here that the provisions currently require that the court be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism activity will occur and that there be reasonable grounds to suspect that the recognizance with conditions is necessary to prevent that activity from occurring.

To move to the reforms, those introduced in section 83.3 of the Criminal Code found in Bill C-51 would lower the threshold required to obtain the recognizance from reasonable grounds to believe that terrorist activity will be carried out to the test of may be carried out. This threshold is also lowered from reasonable grounds to suspect that conditions are necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity to are likely to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity.

These changes have the practical effect of making it easier to disrupt terrorist plans before they are executed. Therefore, going before a judge and making the case, based on evidence collected, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the terrorist activity may be carried out lowers the threshold, thus allowing police to act more efficiently and, in many cases, quicker.

In the bill, our government would also increase the possible maximum period of preventive detention from a total of three days to seven days, with safeguards, including periodic judicial review of the detention, to ensure that it is still required. Again, if we look at international examples, in the United Kingdom, it is twice that period of detention. As it currently stands in Canada, it is three days. We would extend that to allow the police agencies to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to prevent the terrorist act from occurring on Canadian soil.

The bill, through the Criminal Code, would also provide similar measures with respect to preventing the commission of terrorist offences. Terrorism peace bonds, as we know, are preventive tools used to disrupt and prevent individuals from committing terrorism offences. Peace bonds and recognizance are used in the domestic criminal justice system as well, but here there are specific provisions found in this bill that expand the use of recognizance and peace bonds. An application to impose a peace bond can be brought even where there has been no criminal charge or no prior conviction, but enables a judge to impose any reasonable conditions in order to prevent the commission of an offence.

What we are talking about here is enabling the judiciary, the police and the prosecution, to put in place preventive measures, such as requiring the person to forfeit their passports, requiring them to report to police or authorities, or staying away from certain individuals, staying away from certain public places, for example, like a military base.

All of these might be seen as extraordinary in normal circumstances, but I would suggest that in the context of this entire debate, we are talking about an elevated threat assessment based on what occurred here in October, 2014, based on what is happening around the world and based on the assessment of our security forces. These are practical steps that allow our security forces, with judicial oversight, to take preventative steps.

Currently, the Criminal Code provides that any person who fears on reasonable grounds that the individual will commit a terrorism offence, with the consent of the attorney general or a prosecutor in his or her stead, can apply to the court to have a terrorism peace bond imposed requiring the individual to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, or to comply with any other reasonable condition that the court believes necessary to ensure their good conduct, some of the provisions I mentioned. These conditions can be for a period of up to one year or, in the case of a person who has previously been convicted of a terrorism offence, up to two years.

These amendments would strengthen the terrorism peace bond by lowering the threshold to obtain that peace bond to where a person believed an individual “may” commit a terrorism offence, instead of the current “will” commit a terrorism offence. The bill would extend the duration of a terrorism peace bond from two to five years for those previously convicted of a terrorism offence.

More generally, in respect of both recognizance conditions and terrorism peace bond conditions, the bill would authorize the imposition of sureties, which is someone who agrees to take the responsibility of ensuring that the person subject to the court order complies with the conditions imposed. The bill would also require judges to specifically consider the desirability of imposing geographic limitations. I mentioned earlier surrendering passports or other conditions that the judge deems appropriate.

Moreover, these reforms would increase the penalty for breaches of these court ordered conditions from two to four years of imprisonment, consistent with similar conditions imposed found in Bill C-26, the tougher penalties for child predators act.

Finally, I suggest that these reforms would have the added benefit of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of recognizance with conditions and peace bonds across the country by allowing for the use of video conferencing when necessary and interprovincial transfers of any peace bonds on the consent of the appropriate attorney general.

The proposed reform with respect to recognizance with conditions and recognizance to keep the peace relating to a terrorist offence would also apply to adolescents in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In short, the proposed amendments, which I have just referred to and described, seek to facilitate the use of the provisions to make them easier to obtain and to make them more effective in preventing terrorism, all with the backdrop of judicial oversight.

It is important to emphasize that the improvements we want to make to our terrorism prevention tools are compatible with what like-minded countries have in place.

For example, the United Kingdom uses similar measures to protect the public by subjecting individuals believed to pose a threat to public safety to conditions.

Australia also uses these control orders to prevent terrorist acts from occurring, which is to help enable the imposition of conditions on individuals. It is important because it shows that countries with strong democratic conditions, such as ours, and strong institutions which respect the rule of law, like ours, have also recognized that they can take measures that are firm in their response to terrorism, but fair in their approach to citizens, respecting the rights of those who are subject to these preventative tools.

Let us remind ourselves again of what we are trying to prevent: mass casualties, attacks on our institutions and the planting of bombs. What we see in other countries on the nightly news is no longer something that we are protected from merely because of our geography.

There are individuals who have sworn to cause us harm and who continue to make very pointed and prescribed threats against Canadian citizens. That is the backdrop in which we must remind ourselves this bill is rooted.

I pause here to emphasize that we are mindful of the concerns expressed by many stakeholders about these changes. Some have suggested that these proposals pose an unjustified and unnecessary infringement on fundamental charter rights. In response, I would note that there are many safeguards associated with the tools I have just described. I mentioned judicial oversight, the discretion exercised by our judiciary, and the requirement of the Attorney General's consent in their use. We have prosecutors now specifically trained in the use and application of this type of legislation.

In addition, there are reports to Parliament from our security agencies that refer specifically to recognizance with conditions. In addition, there is the requirement of a mandatory parliamentary review in 2018 and a sunset clause with respect to the recognizance with conditions I mentioned. This would all result in an ability to have eyes on and insight into the way the legislation would be applied.

Let us remember the objective of these tools: namely, the imposition of reasonable conditions on persons by the courts with a view to preventing terrorism activity and the commission of terrorism offences.

Our government takes the position that these measures are necessary to protect public safety. They are not to be used arbitrarily, and they are based on genuine concerns that put the public at risk.

The second area of the Criminal Code reform contained in Bill C-51, which would indicate a new indictable offence for advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general, is again an area of the law we think is necessary.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The time for debate on this bill on this day is now ended. I would advise the minister that he will have three and a half minutes to complete his speech and 10 minutes for questions and comments.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-586, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (candidacy and caucus reforms), be read the third time and passed.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand today and say that I support something that has originated on the other side of the House.

I would like to congratulate the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for a fantastic job on Bill C-586, which is known as the reform act. I would also like to thank the member for Toronto—Danforth, who sits on this side of the House, for steering our party and for contributing a lot to the debate here as well.

I am proud to say that I jointly seconded this bill and supported it all the way through the process, and will, of course, again support it in its third reading.

The bill addresses how parties nominate candidates, choose their caucus chairs, expel members, undertake leadership reviews, and select interim leaders. It is a very wide-ranging bill that would affect what some people might call “inside baseball”.

The Canadian public has heard a lot about the bill, but I think once they see the rubber hit the road when the bill finally passes, they will see a difference in how this chamber operates and how Canadian democracy operates. For that reason, I think it is an important bill.

The bill has been through many iterations. There has been a lot of talk across parties and within parties about how it would operate, so I commend the member for sticking with it and getting it to this stage in the process.

However, I worry a little bit about the fate of the bill in the Senate. We know that it has to go through the readings there, and, as the chair of our committee said, we are coming to the end of the runway in terms of this parliamentary sitting. I am worried about how the Senate is going to deal with the bill, in that it might try to delay it or perhaps propose amendments that would delay the passing of the bill until we come to the next election. Then, of course, we would have to start all over again.

What has prompted this worry and concern is that the Senate is currently playing games with a bill from my seatmate, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. That is Bill C-279, regarding transgendered rights. The Senate promised it would not interfere with the bill, as it has passed this place, but interference has happened twice. It happened in this Parliament and in a previous Parliament with a bill from the former member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas, Bill Siksay. We are now unsure about whether Bill C-279 will make it through the Senate.

Of course, the Senate can delay the bill until there is an election called, and again that process would have to start all over. I think that is probably my largest concern.

With the Prime Minister's support and with our support on this side, I think that all members have now come to a version of the bill that we can agree with, although I worry that the senators will be a main threshold, and the spotlight should be on them.

This is a bill that talks about how we conduct ourselves here in this House, in the green chamber. It is not about the red chamber. I think those in the red chamber should just pass the bill through as quickly as they can so that this measure can be in place before the next election.

In terms of substance, the bill would remove the statutory requirement that party leaders approve party candidates in general elections. I think this is perhaps the tip of the spear and that we are getting into the whole topic of nominations and how candidates are selected. I will touch on that aspect a bit more later.

The bill would also require parties to vote in a formal way on the rules governing their caucuses and enable us as members to choose how power should be balanced between members and our party leaders. I think that in this area the bill has struck a balance with its flexibility.

There are different requirements in different parties, which have different principles on which they stand. I think there is flexibility required, but not so much flexibility that the bill would be meaningless. I think the bill has struck a balance in terms of how different parties would approach this issue.

I think there will be a level of public scrutiny after the next election when the bill is in place and we have to vote on these rules. They will be widely reported, and Canadians will have a much better idea of how parties function within this House.

I am sure that we New Democrats will decide to elect our caucus chairs. The Liberal Party may not choose to do that, and I think that would cause a lot of interest within the public and again distinguish the parties from one another, so I think that is very important.

The bill would establish formal rules on how we expel or re-admit caucus members. It is something that is done but it is not formalized. It is important that it be formalized so that everyone would know the rules of the game before they get into it. It would reduce the speculation and the uncertainty around these processes. Even though the rules may vary between parties, it is important that there be codified rules.

The bill would establish how we remove party leaders and then how we select interim leaders. As we sadly know, that was the situation we faced with the passing of Jack Layton, as has happened throughout the history of Parliament. Codification of how this would happen is critical. When Jack passed away, the party was in shock and it was not time to be making up the rules of the game. The rules should be known before something happens. When leadership or party leaders resign, it is better to have this in place beforehand. It is a good idea.

These are all good ideas. The flexibility shown in the crafting of this legislation and its movement over nearly two years has been well done. I praise my friend for his diligence in seeing this through.

I would also like to thank my colleague from Toronto—Danforth. He suggested in his speech a number of things that he would like to see in the bill and that he might look for in future bills. This will be an ongoing process, and I agree with my colleague from Toronto—Danforth that there will be constant iterations as we go through how we work here, as it has always been. In particular, my colleague from Toronto—Danforth would like to see some changes perhaps made in the timing of when notices are given or decisions are made, or the form in which they are reported. These are things that we can talk about after we have had the first iteration of this in the next Parliament. We could possibly tweak it after the first iteration.

My motion on electronic petitions is now at committee, where it will go through the same process of debate back and forth on how this should work. Once it is in place and tried, then there will be room for adjustments.

I would like to return to the part of the bill that interests me the most, the nomination of candidates. All parties are in the middle of nominating hundreds of candidates who will compete in the upcoming election. It is hard to open a newspaper without seeing some report on a nomination process, either controversial or not. This legislation touches on this by addressing whether or not the party leader has to sign a candidate's nomination papers, but there is more to be said here.

I am intimately familiar with this process having gone through it myself. My wife, Jeanette Ashe, has just finished her Ph.D. on this topic. She examined 10 years of nomination contest data made available by the British Labour Party. I am happy to be able to call her Dr. Ashe now. The data she collected and the interviews she conducted allowed her to paint a detailed and precise picture of this rather secretive process. I have written about this myself. In the academic world, it is often called the “secret garden” or the “black box” of politics. The public really has very little idea. It is like a sausage machine where meat goes in one end and the sausage comes out the other, if we can refer to ourselves as sausages. However, we do not really know what happens in the middle. This legislation touches on a bit of that. It has been formalized in the Canada Elections Act, but it can change. A party leader or someone else will sign the papers, but what happens within this process is important. It is time that we shed a little light into the secret garden.

Right now Elections Canada looks at the financing of the nomination process. There is a cap on how much individuals can spend and financial disclosure is required. With this legislation, we would have a bit more. We will have a bit more discussion on this.

Elections Canada should perhaps look into having more reporting around the nomination process. For example, Elections Canada does not report on the results. It looks at who wins the process but it does not look at who participated in it.

The key for my wife's study was that the British Labour Party did track this and make it available. Perhaps that could also be more formalized. Perhaps Elections Canada could record, not like the primary system in the U.S., which is completely regulated by electoral officials, but to just have transparency, recording perhaps who ran and how many votes were cast in these contests.

If we are fortunate enough to come back in the next Parliament, I look forward to working on that with my colleague across the way.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would say right from the get-go that the Liberal Party is having a free vote on the member's bill. There is quite a difference in opinions and thoughts, as I am sure the member can anticipate, even within our own caucus. At the very least, he has provoked a good, healthy debate.

I come to the table with some experience in the sense that I have been a parliamentarian for a couple of decades now, and I have also sat on election readiness committees. He just made reference to the nomination process. There has been a lot of interest in how we can improve the system.

If we were to canvass most parliamentarians, we would find that they all have some thoughts they would like to share. The member who spoke before me made reference to the financing of elections, for example.

I am very familiar with nominations. I have had nominations when I have been acclaimed. I have had to run against other individuals. There is something to be said about acclamations, but contested nominations are also of high interest for local communities.

There seems to be a natural evolution toward what I believe is a healthier democratic process. I would cite, for example, leadership, from oppositions to prime ministers. As we all know, at one point, caucuses were responsible for the selection of their own leaders. If a party happened to be the one with the most seats, the leader of that party became the prime minister.

It then moved off in many different forms. It was not that long ago, for example, that the Liberal Party elected leaders through delegates. We had 300 constituencies scattered across Canada. Each constituency would have a number of selected delegates, a large convention would occur, and those elected delegates would then determine who the next leader, in my case, of the Liberal Party of Canada, would be. In our most recent leadership convention, we literally had hundreds of thousands of Canadians engaged directly in that process, from every region of this country. In my short political time, I have witnessed an evolution that ultimately saw the grassroots get engaged in selecting a leader.

Here we talk about how to get rid of a leader. There are mechanisms in political parties, such as leadership reviews. In Manitoba, a small group of four or five NDP members of the legislative assembly chose to go offside of the elected premier, Mr. Selinger. Because of those five NDP MLAs, there is now a leadership convention taking place. Again, delegates and union members will determine who the next leader of the New Democratic Party, and therefore the premier of Manitoba, is going to be.

Different parties are at different stages. From what I have witnessed over my short tenure, there is reason for us to be encouraged. I think of nomination meetings. The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, upon being elected as the leader of the party, indicated that all nominations are open nominations. We have heard stories or a nomination candidate is upset because he or she did not get a green light or something of that nature.

At the end of the day, I truly believe that all 338 constituency nominations are, in fact, open. We have seen that in terms of just expressions of interest. We have had literally hundreds of people, again from every region of the country, putting in papers, requesting and wanting to get engaged in the Liberal Party, and who want to be candidates.

It is no easy feat having to get the memberships and go through a process that I would argue is very democratic. I am not trying to say that we have the best system in the world. There is always room for improvement.

When I look at the member's bill and some of the things that he is suggesting, for example, the selection or election of caucus chairs, that is something the Liberal caucus currently does. We recognize the important role that our caucus chair plays. I have had the opportunity to participate directly in that. We do sit down as a group of members of Parliament to select who is going to be the chair of our association.

I have seen other areas where we have made significant improvement. Just over a year ago, it was the issue of the Senate, and the leader of the Liberal Party likely did more for Senate reform than anything that has happened in the last 15 or 20 years, by making it truly more independent.

There are many things that we can actually do without having to pass legislation to ensure that we do get some of the reforms that I believe Canadians as a whole want to see.

There are other types of reforms that are necessary for us to have in terms of legislation. We see that in the Elections Act and financing. These are areas that I, personally, have a deep interest in seeing take place. For example, during a campaign period, there is a fixed amount of money that anyone can actually spend pre-election. In the months leading up to an election, what someone could actually spend is endless. That is something that needs to be looked at.

I brought forward a bill which would have ensured more accountability for advertising, where leaders of a political party or executive officers of non-profits or other organizations, third parties, would have to take responsibility for the advertising that takes place, and doing what takes place in the United States and other jurisdictions. It is called “stand by my ad”. For example, an ad would have to be followed by leaders stating that they approve of that particular ad.

There are many different types of reforms where I would like to see legislation required. With respect to this particular piece of legislation, the member brought it forward and it went to PROC. There was a substantial change made to the original proposal. It talked about each party voting after an election on whether to adopt some of the specific provisions.

That was a substantial concession that the member had actually taken into consideration, in essence allowing for the individual caucuses to determine whether or not they would like to proceed on some of the initiatives that the member actually put into this private member's bill.

When I look at the bill overall, there is a great deal of merit to it. I am not 100% sure, in terms of having been someone who supported the bill to go to committee, wanting to see what would take place at committee. I was hoping to see a couple of different things and maybe a little more debate occurring.

All in all, with this particular amendment, the member has made it that much easier for members on all sides to support his bill. I suspect the bill will ultimately pass. I do applaud him for taking what I believe is not an easy path, trying to reform the institution or system in a proactive fashion. I do give him credit for having the courage and the tenacity to continue to push some very important issues that I am sure Canadians will agree with.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario


Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today on Bill C-586, Reform Act, 2014.

I, too, would like to echo the comments of previous speakers by acknowledging the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for the hard work, dedication and spirit of collaboration he has brought to this process on the bill. The spirit of collaboration is a major reason why we have reached this point today.

There have been a number of changes to the bill from its first iteration, Bill C-559, as amended, and is much different than the original version that was introduced.

I believe the changes that were made are extremely important because they recognize that parties must have the freedom to organize themselves as they see fit. What works well for one party may not work well for another. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work, which is why I fully support the bill as amended by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

With my time, I will focus on some international examples that are relevant to the content of the reform act, 2014.

It is clear that in developing this legislation the member for Wellington—Halton Hills looked at current practices in Canada and examples in other countries with a Westminster form of government.

On the review of party leadership issue, the hon. member referenced the existence of rules in other countries to empower caucuses. If we examine the international examples, it is quite remarkable to note the number of different rules that exist in different countries and among different parties. In fact, there are about as many different approaches to issues such as leadership review as there are political parties.

For example, in the United Kingdom, all of the major parties have different rules for leadership removal. For the United Kingdom Conservative Party, a vote by 15% of Tory MPs can trigger a leadership review and a leader can be dismissed upon a majority of those voting by secret ballot.

For the Labour Party, a leadership contest can be triggered if a challenger collects nominations from 20% of Labour MPs. The party leader is replaced if the challenger receives a majority of votes using an alternative vote system in an electoral college consisting of Labour MPs, members of the European Parliament, party members and members of affiliate organizations.

The Liberal Democrats take yet a different approach. A leadership contest can be triggered by a majority vote of Liberal Democratic MPs or if 75 local party organizations write to the party president calling for a leadership contest.

Political parties in Australia and New Zealand also have rules that set out thresholds for the review of party leaders. However, as is the case with the United Kingdom, the rules are different from party to party.

The rules of the Australian Labour Party, for example, require the support of 75% of caucus members to initiate a leadership review of a governing leader or 60% to initiate a review of a leader in opposition. These thresholds were increased in 2013 from the previous threshold of 30% because the party believed the threshold was too low and contributed to leadership instability.

To give an example from New Zealand, the rules of the New Zealand Labour Party provide that a leadership election is triggered upon a vote of 50% plus one of caucus members. The party also has an automatic leadership review by caucus after three months of a general election, where the votes of 60% of caucus members are required to endorse the leader.

The experiences in Australia and New Zealand, like the U.K., show that a one-size-fits-all solution does not work. It is important that parties have the flexibility to determine the rules that govern them.

Bill C-586, as amended by the Procedure and House Affairs Standing Committee, respects that important principle.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there are important lessons that can be taken from the international examples. First, there is the simple fact that while rules do exist in other Westminster systems, they differ quite a lot from party to party. The example of all parties in the U.K. shows us just how varied approaches can be to the same issue in the same country.

In some cases, the votes on leadership reviews are taken only amongst MPs, while in other cases parties involve the wider party membership in these decisions. There are also considerable differences in how those votes are conducted.

It is also important to note that the rules that govern the parties have changed over time and I suspect they will continue to evolve in the future. This is best exemplified by the dramatic differences in the threshold for party leader review made by the Australian Labour Party in 2013.

It is important that political parties have the freedom to make their decisions about what type of approach they would like to pursue. Bill C-586, as amended, would do this.

I would like to take a moment to turn to our government's strong, democratic reform record. We walk the walk when it comes to empowering members of Parliament to bring forward ideas and issues important to them and to their constituents. For instance, the Globe and Mail analyzed 162,000 votes over almost two years which showed that members on this side of the House were far more likely to vote independently from their party than were opposition MPs. As well, more backbench MPs have passed bills into law through this majority Conservative Parliament than in over 100 years, the time for which such records are available.

The bill of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills has precipitated important discussion and debate on matters that affect us all. I have listened carefully to the views of my colleagues on both sides of the House regarding the changes that have been made to the reform act, 2014. In my opinion, the changes that were made have improved the bill and take into account concerns that have been raised.

For this reason, I urge all my colleagues to support the bill.

Statements by Prime Minister Regarding Canadian Forces in IraqPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to supplement my initial submissions in response to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for St. John's East on Wednesday, January 28.

Subsequent to the making of submissions, there was a joint meeting of the foreign affairs committee and the national defence committee to hear from the then ministers of Foreign Affairs and National Defence, as well as the Chief of the Defence Staff.

Since the Chair cannot normally reach into the proceedings of our committees on his own initiative and in the absence of a report from the committee, I wanted to take this opportunity to ensure that the discussion at that meeting could be considered by the Chair in preparing a ruling on the question of privilege.

Now that the transcript of the joint meeting has been finalized and published, I will be tabling, in both official languages, the evidence of the 42nd meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, held on Thursday, January 29.

There are three passages which I would like to draw to the particular attention of the Chair. These come from the evidence given by the professional, non-partisan and career officer of the Canadian Armed Forces, General Tom Lawson.

The Chief of the Defence Staff notes, at page 5, that:

A non-combat operation, which is exactly what we have a mandate for in advise and assist, is one in which the military, and certainly our special operation forces, carry weaponry but it is used only in self defence.

As to the matter of painting targets, General Lawson noted, later on page 5:

What I had not anticipated in October was that those tactical air controllers would be able to develop techniques that would allow them, from the relative safety of their advise and assist positions, to be able to help the peshmerga, Iraqi security forces, to bring weaponry of coalition bombers to bear. So in fact I provided them, within the advise and assist mission, the authority to go ahead with that well within the mandate given to us by the government.

Finally, at page 7, the General addressed the notion of accompanying:

What we would require to be in combat would be this term “accompany”, and you are right to mention that the word “accompany” in everyday language is quite clear; it means “to be with”. But in military terms—as you're quoting doctrine—it has a very clear other meaning, and that is that you are now up front with the troops that you have been assigned to, with your weapons being used to compel the enemy. So there is no confusion with our special operators on that “accompany” role.

I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to table these documents.

Bill C-51—Notice of time allocation motionAnti-terrorism Act, 2015Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that agreements could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-51, an act to enact the security of Canada information sharing act and the secure air travel act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-586, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (candidacy and caucus reforms), be read the third time and passed.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-586, a bill that my good friend and colleague, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, has brought forward.

I would like to thank him for his fortitude in putting together the bill. If we are honest with each other, no one likes change, and change in this place is always hard to attain. So I thank him for staying with it. Our hon. colleague across the way, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, mentioned this as well. I think a lot of people in this place, knowing how the process works and how time-consuming it can be, find it discouraging at times. Therefore, I thank the member for staying with it.

I would also like to thank the Minister for Democratic Reform, the member for Nepean—Carleton. He was instrumental in working with the member for Wellington—Halton Hills in making changes to or tweaking the bill in a way that made it acceptable to the House. From the comments I have heard here, I think it is a very strong bill and that it will get very strong support. That is a good thing.

I will speak to some of the amendments to the bill, because I think they are key. However, before I do that we should go back in history and get to why we are where we are today and why we need some changes.

We cannot all be ministers. We cannot all be leaders of parties, but we are all members of Parliament. Whether I am a backbencher MP, the prime minister, or the leader of the opposition, my vote is the same. It is the same as yours, Mr. Speaker, when you are in your chair. We all have that vote. Our people send us here for that. Therefore, we have to protect it.

In about 1969 or 1970, former Prime Minister Trudeau made a statement that, if I had been a member that day, I am sure I would have been offended by. He basically said that backbenchers were nobodies. I think that was wrong then and is still wrong today. Anything we can do to empower all of us in this place is very important. That is what taxpayers around the country want.

Quite often in the House, because most people only see what happens at question period, they believe that we are always at odds with each other. In this debate and on some other bills we have had, of course there are differences of opinions and philosophies and that type of thing. We need to thank the member for being flexible enough to work with other parties to get something that was acceptable to everyone in Bill C-586. To hear that around this place is very nice and good to see.

The amendments I will speak to were adopted by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I want to explain how these modify the bill.

The member removed the requirement from the bill and Canada Elections Act that party leaders sign a candidate's nomination papers. That has never been an issue in the party that I belong to. Someone has to make sure that all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed. I cannot say that about all parties. Sometimes there is interference in nominations. At the end of the day, what will be improved by this bill is grassroots democracy, as people from the ridings will have more of a say in this. The changes under the bill would confer that power to nomination officers. Those changes would give that authority to a person or persons authorized by the party. Again, that change was made at the procedure and House affairs committee.

This amendment would remove overly prescriptive and outdated provisions and would provide political parties with greater flexibility. Parties, for the first time, would be able to determine their own processes for candidate sign-off, and that is a good thing. They can choose who to vest this power in rather than having it prescribed by law. That is a very key and positive change.

In addition, the committee adopted an amendment that would require the chief agent of each political party to submit a written report to the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada containing the names of the persons designated by the party to endorse prospective candidates. The report would be submitted no later than 25 days before the polling date. This would ensure that Elections Canada and returning officers would be informed of who was authorized by the party to endorse prospective candidates, et cetera.

A consequential amendment was also adopted that would require a party to submit, within 10 days of the writ being issued for a general election, a statement with the names of the persons authorized to endorse prospective candidates in the election to the CEO of Elections Canada. These amendments to the Canada Elections Act are in keeping with the spirit of the reform proposed by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.

There are a couple of amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act. I want to talk about those provisions and how they would change. The original proposals in the reform act sparked quite a lot of interest and debate in the House. One of the concerns raised was whether it was appropriate to legislatively regulate the governance of party caucuses, and it was a good discussion to have. In September of last year, the sponsor of the bill announced an amendment that would have each caucus decide whether it would be subject to the caucus rules outlined in the bill instead of the rules being imposed on it.

These amendments were made by the procedure and House affairs committee at the committee stage of the bill. They require that at the first meeting after a general election that each party caucus hold a separate vote to determine whether it wants to adopt the rules outlined in the bill regarding four things: the expulsion and readmission of a member; the election of a caucus chair; leadership reviews; and the election of an interim leader, should that be necessary. This would mean that four separate votes, one for each of these processes, would take place. One caucus may decide to adopt all of these processes while another may decide to adopt none of them or only the rules relating to leadership. What is important is that it is the decision of the caucus, and that is very valuable.

There are some other minor amendments and changes, but to wrap up, I want to pass on my support. The day that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills announced he would table this bill, I was at the press conference, and I have supported him from day one. I am very proud of that, and I will continue to support him. I urge all members in the House to stand in the House next Wednesday and support this.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for his support for the bill. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the caucus, including the members for Leeds—Grenville and Edmonton—Leduc, and numerous other members, including the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, for working with me on making amendments to the bill. I would like to thank the dozens of my colleagues in the caucus who both seconded the bill and supported it throughout the entire process.

Members opposite, the members for Toronto—Danforth and Burnaby—Douglas, provided very constructive advice on how to improve the bill. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, right from the day I tabled the bill in the House, was very supportive of it. The member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville also provided some very good advice.

Most particularly, I would like to thank those colleagues of mine who did not support the original bill when it first came out. I want to thank them for their patience and for the advice they gave me. I listened to their concerns. The committee heard their views, and we have incorporated those concerns in this bill. I want to thank them for their patience and advice over the last year. As the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound said, change is never easy. Sometimes change is difficult. I want to thank them truly for that patience.

I just want to make two quick points in closing. The first point is that I believe strongly that our society's greatest invention is Parliament. More specifically, I believe that our society's greatest invention is this elected House of Commons. Even more specifically, it is this elected House of Commons and its democratic checks and balances on power.

If we were to look around the world today at the societies that have the greatest prosperity, the greatest justice, the greatest social outcomes, and the most stability, they are all liberal democracies with democratic checks and balances on power. That is no accident. It is these very checks and balances on power, democratic in nature, that have produced the kind of wealth, stability, and prosperity we have come to enjoy as citizens in the modern west.

That is why I believe in the principles of this bill so strongly. We need to strengthen these democratic checks and balances on power. If we can do so, we will ensure that the prosperity, stability, and outcomes we have inherited from generations past will be passed on to the generations to come in this great country.

The second point I want to make is that time is short. We are mere months away from the adjournment of this Parliament and the eventual dissolution of this Parliament in the general election. If the bill is successfully adopted at third reading next week, we have a mere four months for the Senate to consider this bill and to adopt it into law.

My message to the Senate is that this bill must be adopted into law. This is a bill that concerns the democratic reform of this elected House of Commons. It is a bill about this House of Commons and how its members govern themselves and organize themselves. This bill is about how this House of Commons elects its own members. For that very reason, I believe that the Senate should expeditiously and swiftly pass this bill.

Constitutionally, we are chambers that are masters of our own destiny. The Senate should respect those constitutional divisions of powers, quickly pass this bill, and strengthen the democratic checks and balances that we have in this place so that we can pass along to future generations a Parliament that is strengthened and prepared to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members



Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Reform Act, 2014Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 25, 2015, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.