Mr. Speaker, I rise to ask that you consider Standing Order 69.1 and divide certain parts of Bill C-59 before us today into separate pieces. As mentioned during today's debate, I believe that Bill C-59 is an omnibus bill as described in that standing order.
Standing Order 69.1 now says, in part:
(1) In the case where a government bill seeks to repeal, amend or enact more than one act, and where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked, the Speaker shall have the power to divide the questions, for the purposes of voting.
I submit that Bill C-59 fits that description.
We are thinking of this analysis at this time, because in your ruling of November 7 on Standing Order 69.1, you said:
Where members believe that the Standing Order should apply, I would encourage them to raise their arguments as early as possible in the process, especially given that the length of debate at a particular stage can be unpredictable.
That is what we believe we are doing today.
Here is how I see the various parts of the bill and why, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, we believe they should be divided into different parts to be voted on separately.
Let us take a look at part 1 and part 2. Part 1 enacts the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act, and part 2 enacts the Intelligence Commissioner Act. These two parts enact two new acts and amend up to 12 existing acts.
These parts obviously create watchdogs to oversee the national security agencies.
The activities of the new agencies created under this bill would affect up to 14 federal departments. Since these parts create new agencies and enact two brand-new acts with a very specific mandate, we believe they should be voted on separately.
We believe that part 3 should be separated because it makes a significant change. It too would enact a new act, the Communications Security Establishment Act, yet another act that will amend existing acts.
That proposed act would also amend the National Defence Act. We know that the minister responsible for CSE is the Minister of National Defence. Again, we feel that puts certain optics around this debate, given that the Minister of Public Safety is tabling this bill, and the purpose for changing that particular piece.
Still on part 3, I do want to mention that many of these components are being painted as dealing with specific aspects of national security, more specifically terrorism, but if we look the part dealing with CSE, we see that a large part of the mandate goes beyond just terrorism. It could be individuals and, to use the colloquial term, hackers or even states that would be engaging in certain forms of cyber-activity. The proposed act would give CSE the ability to interfere and even counter certain things that might be done, which is very separate from reforming elements of the previous Bill C-51.
Parts 4 and 5 deal with metadata collection and the threat disruption powers being given to CSIS. In the case of the metadata collection, that of course is something new. In the case of threat disruption, we are obviously looking at what the specific intent of the bill was, which is to repeal and amend, in this case to amend certain things brought in under Bill C-51 in the previous Parliament.
We are also looking at changes to SCISA, the information-sharing regime brought in by former Bill C-51. That again leads us to argue that parts 4 and 5, given their nature and the connection they have with previous legislation that is being changed, should be looked at together.
Part 6 has to do with the Secure Air Travel Act and the no-fly list. We definitely think this needs to be separated. There are a number of important elements to consider, not to mention the issue of funding and the different work that will be done by the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Transport in co-operation with airlines.
Part 7 deals with specific changes to the Criminal Code, certain offences that were brought in under Bill C-51, and other aspects that needed to be cleaned up based on the reforms the government wishes to propose to the Criminal Code, specifically to what the previous government did in that respect. We are looking here specifically at how terrorism charges are laid and prosecuted in Canada, which is fair to argue is very distinct from dealing with cybersecurity threats or even the no-fly list. We are looking here at the way the justice system is treating these matters.
Part 8 is in the same vein because it proposes changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It looks at those offences, but from the perspective of young offenders and, more specifically, at how to deal with those particular cases.
Parts 9 and 10 are the more procedural elements, dealing with statutory review and coming into force provisions. We believe that we can group together parts 7, 8, 9, and 10.
As you obviously know, the Standing Order currently gives you the power to divide a bill, but is limited to “the motion for second reading and reference to a committee and the motion for third reading and passage of the bill.” I am sure that could be read to mean that you do not have the power to divide the bill for a vote on a motion like the one before us to immediately refer a bill to a committee forthwith.
The government, by presenting this motion in a way that, on the surface, is well intentioned and indicates its wish to significantly amend the bill and hear experts at committee, I submit is actually attempting to circumvent Standing Order 69.1, knowing full well that this is omnibus legislation. It is trying to do so by sending this bill to committee before second reading, and therefore preventing us from going forward with the way the Standing Order is now drafted, which would mean second reading and then referral to committee. That is not how the process would take place given the motion that is before the House today.
This bill has so many components and, as the government has said, is perhaps one of the most significant changes to the various components of national security, whether oversight, CSE, or CSIS. It includes some significant changes to how national security cases are charged and prosecuted in the judicial system. It is telling that the government seems to recognize the omnibus nature of the bill in debate here today. It seems the only procedural way to hide the omnibus nature of the bill is for the government to present the motion today to provide it with a legislative pathway that would allow it to circumvent its own new rules in the Standing Orders on omnibus provisions.
We are concerned that the Liberal government is hiding the omnibus nature of this bill from the public. From a communications point of view, we know it sounds nice to only talk about the oversight elements when experts have agreed there are very significant concerns over how cyber-weapons, as described in part 3 of the bill, would operate. We have even heard experts say it is not possible for them to fully analyze all of the elements or the entire scope of the bill, even with their own expertise. To me, that is very telling of the omnibus nature of the bill and the difficulties of undertaking a legislative process in the way proposed by the government.
While wanting to give the benefit of the doubt to the government and its good intentions to have a robust study, the feeling we get from our reading of the Standing Order seems to be that this is an attempt to do through the back door what it is forbidden from doing through the front door, thereby preventing you and the powers conferred on you in this place to separate the different aspects of the bill.
I assert that under Standing Order 69.1, the role of the Speaker is to apply the rules of the House to deal with different concepts and themes in a bill with a different vote, which is obviously what I am raising today, so that MPs can represent their constituents' views differently on each part of a bill if they believe they should and are able to vote appropriately based on the different complexities and nature of different points. As my colleague from Victoria just pointed out in his speech, the fact that we might agree with the government on going forward with certain elements of oversight is distinct from a debate on cybersecurity or one on the no-fly list, which are very different matters. Pardon my choice of words, but I believe comparing oversight to cybersecurity, the Criminal Code, and the no-fly list seems a little ludicrous, and makes it very challenging as members of Parliament to properly vote and express ourselves.
By having the bill go through before second reading, the government is arguing that it should be treated as one whole question. It is all about security. However, anything can essentially be qualified as national security. That is obviously not enough of a common element.
When we look at what these different parts would do, the new acts that would be created and the acts that would be amended, forcing MPs to vote on the creation of two new acts and the amendments of dozens of other acts, such significant acts as the National Defence Act, the CSIS Act, and others, it certainly causes problems for members of Parliament who wish to vote on these different distinct components. I also submit that it circumvents these very same omnibus rules that have been put in place by a government that said this would no longer be a practice, as we saw under the previous government.
Mr. Speaker, you stated in your November 8 ruling about the uses of Standing Order 69.1, “In my view, the spirit of the Standing Order was to provide for a separate vote when new or unrelated matters were introduced in the budget implementation bill.” I agree with the logic you expressed at the time and believe that in this case, the same logic could apply. We are, of course, dealing with new and unrelated matters that were not part of the debate leading up to the tabling of the legislation and the arguments the government made for the need to reform certain elements of legislation tabled in the previous Parliament. I hope you will agree with our assessment and arrive at the same finding here today.
Finally, I submit that Standing Order 69.1 should apply at all stages of the process, including sending the bill to committee before second reading. Again, the motion is before us today. This way, a bill that contains very different ideas would be divided in such a way at every stage that members could continue to express their views, the views of their constituents and the views of Canadians more broadly in dealing with these very distinct and complicated matters when it comes to these important reforms and not simply having to say yes or no to these sweeping reforms and then be accused of being on one side or the other when clearly there are some very distinct components.
I thank my colleagues for their indulgence. New Democrats fundamentally believe that these important and unique changes to such cornerstones of our democracy as national security and the protection of Canadians' rights and freedoms and privacy deserve to be separated in order for members to express Canadians' concerns and views through a vote. That is why I thought it was extremely important to bring all of this to the attention of the House.