House of Commons Hansard #245 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-58.

Topics

Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, and referred to a committee)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

December 5th, 2017 / 3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the good member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

It is often said that image is everything. I share that observation because never before in modern day Canadian history have we witnessed a prime minister who is as image conscious as the member for Papineau is. I am not here today to debate the merits or lack thereof of that point, but rather to point out how that branding exercise led us to Bill C-58.

For those who were not here in the previous Parliament, I shall indulge a little. Shortly after becoming the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the member for Papineau was creating his brand. Part of that brand, and we hear it all the time, was the “sunlight is the best disinfectant” routine. It played well in the Liberal narrative that the former prime minister led the most secretive government in Canada's history, so the member for Papineau introduced a private member's bill to highlight that.

As some will know, during the last election the Liberals again made many of the same open government style promises, similar to what was in the Prime Minister's earlier private member's bill. As usual, these promises used many of the correct buzzwords. They looked good. They sounded good. There was only one problem: the Liberals got elected and now those promises have to be fulfilled.

That leads to our second problem. Bill C-58 does not do exactly that. In fact, it fails so badly that the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada stated in the headline of a news release that “Bill C-58 results in a regression of the rights to access to information”. If we think about that statement for a moment, it is not by a member of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, or the third party, but from the office of an independent officer of Parliament.

Not only that, the bill actually breaks the Prime Minister's own commitments. Despite the commitment to apply access to information laws to the Prime Minister's Office and his cabinet ministers, they all get a pass. It is yet another example of there being one set of rules for everyone else, but a look-the-other-way clause when it comes to the most senior Liberal insiders. That is a growing problem with how the Prime Minister and his small, elite inner circle does things. Many of our constituents are becoming tired of it.

I was not a supporter of the Prime Minister's earlier private member's bill. As I was the parliamentary secretary to the president of the Treasury Board at that time, I was aware that some of the proposed measures were administratively problematic, and I came into this place and said as much.

The problem here is that those challenges were always well known, but in spite of them, the Prime Minister was happy to campaign on them and promise them anyway. Therefore, like many of those priorities and promises, they get thrown by the wayside now that the Prime Minister and his small inner circle control the levers of power.

That is not principled leadership. To promise things one can deliver on, but chooses not to do so is a betrayal. There are other words to describe that, but I would never want to be unparliamentary.

Here we are. We have a bill that the Information Commissioner essentially condemns. Virtually all of those who frequently make access to information requests and use the ATIP legislation have also widely condemned the bill. In fact, during my research, I could find no significant support for the bill whatsoever. If there is, I would really like to hear government members say so. Basically, all expert opinion gives it a fail. It does not meet the promises the Prime Minister made.

In fact, The Globe and Mail reports that Canada's access to information system has become worse under the Liberal Prime Minister. We all know that the bill would not fix that. Many experts suggest that it will only make things worse.

I will not suggest the last government was perfect on the subject either, but we were on the right track. In 2013, the former government released nearly six million pages of information to Canadians, an increase of over a million and a half pages over the preceding year.

Under Bill C-58, we will have a law that says the Prime Minister's office and his ministers can tell Canadians to pound sand when it comes to access to information requests. Keep this in mind. This is the same Prime Minister who was happy to build his brand and score points after promising he would do the exact opposite.

I will again ask the question I recently asked. The Prime Minister, as we all know, came into this place and said “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Why did he say that? Did he say it because it was politically convenient to do so at the time? Did he say it because it showed the principle should only apply to everyone else but himself and his ministers? Did he say it because it happened to be true?

Before I close, I will ask a question. Right now we have a very serious situation where single parents, primarily single mothers, are being unfairly targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency. As a result, in many cases, their Canada child benefits are being delayed, denied, or even clawed back in some cases. We also know that those with type 1 diabetes are also being disturbingly targeted by CRA.

I will credit many backbench Liberal MPs who I know are just as concerned about this situation as I am. I also know that several of them are reaching out to try to help some of those who are being unfairly targeted by this. Some have even stated publicly that they are also concerned.

The ultimate challenge is this. What is the minister going to do to solve this problem? Ultimately that is where the problem is. Thanks to Bill C-58, we will never know. That may be good enough for some. It certainly was not good enough for the member for Papineau, when he was handing out gift bags of election promises, a continued pattern of broken promises that results in one level of rules for senior Liberal insiders and another set for everyone else not the sunlight of disinfectant the Prime Minister promised.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, let us just assume for a second that the member is correct, which I do not believe he is, that the legislation does not attempt to fix the problems we seek to fix.

On what ground does the member and the opposing party have to stand when the Conservative track record did absolutely nothing for openness and transparency? The ministerial letters were all kept in secret. They did not advance any objective toward more openness, accountability, and transparency.

On what ground does the member and the opposition party have to stand in making the comments they are making today? I have been listening to them making these comments throughout the day.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I heard the member during question period, and he asks a great lob question.

In 2009-10, we invested in access to information. It was a 10% increase, which saw, by the time 2013 came around, a reduction in the amount of time it took to get access to information requests. We were improving that record.

The bill would make it easier for someone to call it vexatious request and to deny the request for that reason. When he was a member of Parliament in the third party in the corner, the Prime Minister put forward a swath of propositions to improve the system, campaigned on them, and, in his own mandate tracker, has said that the Liberals are on track to do them, when the bill would do nothing for it.

By the Liberals' standards of transparency, the mandate tracker and Bill C-58 leave much to be desired.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, consistently Conservative after Conservative stands and tries to give what I would classify as a false impression. We know that within the legislation there will be more accountability, transparency, and proactive disclosure. The commissioner will have more authority. No matter how the Conservatives try to twist and bend that, the truth is the truth. We will see more transparency and accountability with the passage of the legislation.

Why does the Conservative Party oppose the Government of Canada, once again, fulfilling another election platform by ensuring more accountability and transparency in the House?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to point out the quote I gave from the Information Commissioner, an officer of this Parliament. She says, “Bill C-58 results in a regression of the rights of access for information.”

No credible third parties have said that Bill C-58 will deliver specifically on what the member and his government campaigned. If he wants to say that Bill C-58 will revolutionize access to information, we would think someone out there in civil society would support the government. I do not see that. I do not hear that. Could it be because there is no one?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to refer to the mandate letters. Many times today we have heard government colleagues refer to the mandate letters and the great value of them. Whether it was the mandate letter on electoral reform, the promise to deliver mail, or even the mandate letter to the finance minister, they have not been followed.

What value are those open and transparent mandate letters if they are not used?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, whether we are talking about the mandate letters or ministerial question period books being made available, we get that anyway. When a government comes to office, it usually has a full campaign document outlining all the commitments. The previous Harper government, in 2011 when we were elected, had about 111 promises. We kept over 105 of them.

It is really important to know that Canadians care about that. Elected officials should keep their word. If things change, they should be open, transparent, communicate that to the Canadian public, and then be held accountable for that. Changes to the mandate tracker do not do that.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Before we resume debate, there is a point of order.

The hon. member for Hochelaga.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, at the conclusion of today's debate on the motion for third reading of Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, every question necessary to dispose of the said motion shall be deemed put, and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

(Motion agreed to)

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to add some comments to the debate today. I am not pleased to rise to add comments, because, again, we have before us legislation that certainly does not live up to the standards the government has set for itself, and is significantly flawed.

One of the most concerning things about the legislation is this, and it is important for the listeners to hear is this. If the Liberals think the legislation is right, they should also listen.

This is from Suzanne Legault, the Ethics Commissioner. She said:

When I was preparing for this committee, I went back to the request that was made by Daniel Leblanc, the journalist who uncovered the sponsorship scandal. That request would not have met the...requirement under Bill C-58.

As people might recall, the sponsorship scandal was a Liberal scandal. Millions of taxpayer dollars were diverted. Therefore, for the Liberals to have legislation before us that they are saying is adding benefit and value, when Suzanne Legault says that about it, we wonder what they are trying to do and what they are trying to hide.

The amendments to Canada's Access to Information Act will affect every organization that shares information with the federal government and every individual who wants access to that information. While the Liberals are claiming to improve the act, the content of the bill is not only deficient in truly bringing the act forward, but it also opens a lot of loopholes for the Liberal government to refuse to process certain information.

I will look at something that has been happening over the last few days.

This morning I was at the AFN conference and I listened to the minister speak. She talked about how long comprehensive and specific land claims took and how that was unacceptable to the government. She talked about needing a process that moved forward in a more robust way to recognize aboriginal title rights and to resolve these long-standing issues. On the other hand, and this was quite ironic, she said this to the assembly of chiefs, that today we were debating this legislation in the House.

This is what some very important indigenous organizations have said about this.

The National Claims Research Directors stated:

Bill C-58 will greatly impair the ability of First Nations to document their claims, grievances, and disputes with the Government of Canada and will significantly impede First Nations’ access to justice in resolving their claims. The Bill...significantly undermines First Nations’ existing rights of access to information.

That hardly sounds like the commitment the minister made this morning to the chiefs, to have a bill before the House that would significantly impact their ability to do the very thing that she said needed to move forward in an expeditious way.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada recently conducted an audit of Canada's specific claim process. The OAG report, released in November 2016, concluded that Canada's Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs introduced numerous barriers that hindered the resolution of claims, including by restricting information.

Therefore, if passed into law, Bill C-58 will impose substantive new barriers to the resolution of first nation claims. It will also provide legislative authority for the suppression of evidence, which first nations require to pursue their claims against Canada. Revisions to the act will enshrine into legislation overly prescriptive and inappropriate requirements for applicants seeking records, as well as providing legislative grounds for government bodies to deny access to records that are vital to first nations.

Therefore, it is important to look at what the government has said it will do and what it actually does when it puts legislation forward. This is truly another broken promise by the Liberal government.

During their election campaign, the Liberals claimed they would extend the act so it applied to the Prime Minister's and ministers' offices. However, that will not be the case.

Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy, has stated:

By excluding the ability to request information from ministers' offices and the PMO, this government falls short of meeting their campaign promise to make government “open by default”.

Moreover, this legislation would enable the government to refuse any access to information requests if it believes they are vexatious, made in bad faith, or a misuse of the right to request information. Refusal to respond to a request will be subject to a right of complaint to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner will have the power to force communication of every document or part of it under the control of federal institutions.

A government that chooses what to publish and when is not democratic and cannot be accountable to its citizens. That is fundamental. For all their talk about sunshine being a disinfectant, the Liberals have introduced darkness through the back door.

In a democratic state, a government should be open and transparent to its citizens, so why are the Liberals going out of their way to hide behind closed doors and refusing Canadians the right to fundamental information?

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, states:

The bill take a step backwards in allowing government officials to deny requests for information if they think the request is frivolous or made in bad faith. Public officials should not be given this power, as they will likely use it as a new loophole to deny the public information it has a right to know.

I am going to tell the House about a personal situation closer to home. I have a constituent who faced a significant small business challenge, and while he was in Ottawa he met with a number of different folks within the government, including some policy advisers. He needed to get some information from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. He was facing a difficult situation, and when he looked into getting information, he was told that it would take 479 days to obtain what he needed. He would have to wait one year and 4 months to obtain information that was critical for his business, and not only his livelihood, but the livelihoods of his many employees.

Despite the promise to be more transparent, the Trudeau government is failing. As the Toronto Star has stated:

The national freedom of information audit found the federal access system is bogged down to the point where, in many cases, it simply doesn’t work....

The researchers found the federal system continues to be far slower and less responsive than provincial and municipal freedom of information regimes....

Just one-quarter of requests to federal government departments, agencies and Crown corporations were answered within the 30-day limit. One-third of the requests had not received a response by the end of the audit, which means those requests were outstanding for three months or more, with most closer to four months. The RCMP, Health Canada and National Defence were three institutions that cited large backlogs of requests, leading to bottlenecks and delayed responses. Information on pages eventually released under the federal access law can be blacked out for a variety of reasons including national security, legal privilege and commercial confidentiality.

They would get stuff that was totally blacked out.

Clearly the system is not working. The Liberal government committed to fixing the system and, quite frankly, it has made it much worse.

The Liberals issued their own mandate tracker, which has been quickly derided, but gave themselves an A+ for moving this legislation forward and telling Canadians how valuable, important, and great it would be in terms of new transparency. That is completely inaccurate.

I started my remarks by saying if this were in place and if it had cut off the initial investigation of the sponsorship scandal, then it is clearly not a piece of legislation that should pass through the House.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I was listening with interest to the presentation across the way and heard a lot of criticism of how the system is currently functioning. The member said it is slow and people are not getting the information they want. As far as I know, the Access to Information Act has not been updated in 34 years. She and members of her party had an opportunity to update that legislation, taking into account all of the changes that have been happening with the Internet and the like.

Does the member not think it was a priority to deal with that so we would not have to wait? Clearly, she feels that the current situation is unacceptable and that change is needed, which is exactly what we are doing.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I was very proud when the Conservatives came into government that the accountability act was a huge step forward. However, no update is better than a bad update.

What we have now are first nations communities saying that the current government will make their lives more difficult, and Suzanne Legault saying that first nations cannot get information that was really critical in the past. It would not meet the new standards that have been set.

I would finish by saying that the Liberals have introduced legislation that is worse than the status quo, and the status quo was not acceptable.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Speaker, to follow up on the exchange between my colleague on the Liberal side and my friend from British Columbia, the Liberals seem to be saying that these changes in Bill C-58 will increase transparency and assist Canadians in getting more information from their own government. In fact, it seems to be far more regressive than anything we have seen in the last 34 years.

Does my colleague from British Columbia think that if the changes in Bill C-58 are legislated, it would mean that the government would, on its own volition, be able to determine what information it chooses to give to Canadians?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question. Clearly, that is what this bill would do.

Had it been the previous Conservative government that introduced this bill in a similar form, the Liberals would have been outraged and pointing out its flaws, just as I have today in my speech. They would not have supported it for a minute. While the government says this bill is so transparent and such a great move forward, I am almost certain they would never have supported it in the past when we were government.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Madam Speaker, my thanks to my friend from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for her intervention today. I am struck by the characterization of this bill as regressive when, in fact, it addresses a number of issues that were highlighted by Canadians during the previous government's tenure, but never acted upon.

“Open by default” is now the official stance of this government, as pronounced by the Treasury Board. We are seeing great advances toward that, such as the order-making power for the commissioner and disclosure requirements being extended to the Prime Minister's Office and to officers of Parliament.

However, I do want to ask a question about my colleague's remarks on indigenous affairs. I will begin by commending her for her tremendous work on behalf of indigenous peoples in Canada.

Members of indigenous claims organizations, who are very important stakeholders in this, were consulted. That is why a number of amendments were made at committee. Does the member think those amendments were helpful to indigenous claims organizations?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, the AFN is looking at issuing an emergency resolution because it is so concerned about this particular bill. Clearly, whatever amendments were done at committee were not satisfactory.

That is all we need to say on that issue.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, I recently became chair of the access to information, privacy and ethics committee, where this bill was brought. We talked about all of its positives, which were few, and many of its shortcomings. The shortcomings were highlighted by the many witnesses we heard from.

I think the most significant would be the commissioner herself, who said:

When I was preparing for this committee, I went back to the request that was made by Daniel Leblanc, the journalist who uncovered the sponsorship scandal. That request would not have met the new requirement under Bill C-58.

That highlights what I want to speak to today. We have heard many talking points. It is one thing to actually be in committee and hear all the testimony exposing all of the problems with Bill C-58, but another to hear other members regurgitate talking points that just demonstrate their lack of knowledge of the opposition to the bill.

That is what I want to point out today, the contrast between that and a government that came in with sunny ways and wanted to have sunlight shining on problems to highlight issues.

I neglected to announce that I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

What I think people watching this debate today need to understand is that they have been sold the idea that the government is more open and accountable, and that what is really happening is the opposite. What is happening through Bill C-58 is actually more cover-up, from ministers' offices, the Prime Minister's staff, etc.

We are going to see more cover-up and more protection of information. Frankly, as the commissioner mentioned, access to information is why we found out about the sponsorship scandal, and why a previous Liberal government failed and did not get re-elected, because of that particular scandal and the really bad things that were happening that we found out about as a result of that information.

I am just going to read through a few quotes for the benefit of those watching today, from a few of the people who oppose the bill. It is not just Conservatives who are opposed to this, or New Democrats, although both parties are. It is groups outside this place who have spoken against it. I will first cite one particular quote by Mr. Marleau, the information commissioner from 2007-09:

For the ministries, there's no one to review what they choose not to disclose, and I think that goes against the principle of the statute.

He further stated:

They’ve taken the commissioner out of the loop. If you ask for these briefing notes, and you’ve got them and they were redacted, you had someone to appeal to. So there’s no appeal. You can’t even go to a court. It’s one step forward, two steps back.

Again, let us let that sink in a little. Liberals give the illusion that they are moving forward on the issue, and, really, they are moving backwards. It is deliberate, because they want to cover up or have the ability to cover up some things being communicated in the Prime Minister's Office.

Again, I have another quote, this time from Vincent Gogolek, another individual speaking against this bill:

All they have to do is claim it’s a cabinet document, and then with her new improved powers she still can’t look at it, which is ridiculous.... So, when in doubt, call it a cabinet document. That’s the big problem, and that remains untouched.

All that needs to be said about a particular document in government is that it is a cabinet document, and therefore black ink will go across it whenever it is requested. Again, it is one thing to say this about any particular government that does not make claims about being more open and accountability, but another to say it about a government that campaigned on being more open and accountable. This is what the Prime Minister's schtick was about: sunny ways and shining a light where there previously were shadows. It is is simply a bait-and-switch. It is saying one thing and doing another.

I have another quote, this time by Katie Gibbs, executive director of the Evidence for Democracy Group, who said:

By excluding the ability to request information from ministers' offices and the PMO, this government falls short of meeting their campaign promise to make government 'open by default'....

Moreover, the possibility of refusing certain access to information requests on an undefined basis jeopardizes the transparency and openness of the government.

Once again, another person outside this place is saying that the proposed legislation is supposed to be doing one thing, but it is doing completely the other. It is causing more cover-up to be possible rather than exposing the truth.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, said that the bill proposes good amendments by requiring a more proactive publication of some information and giving the information commissioner the power to order the publication of some information, but it does nothing to fill the huge gaps in the act as was promised by the Liberals. Therefore, we need more changes to have a government which is transparent and open by default.

Let us think about the sponsorship scandal and the evidence that was being put forward, and the government just saying no, that it is not going to talk about it.

Mr. Conacher says the bill is “a step backwards in allowing government officials to deny requests for information if they think the request is frivolous or made in bad faith.” Public servants should not have this authority, because “they will likely use it as a new loophole to deny the public information it has a right to know.

I will speak as chair of the access to information, privacy and ethics committee. Some of the information that was brought before committee really attempted changes based on the recommendations. It was our party's position to support the recommendations of the Information Commissioner, and there are several. It was our position to see those go through. Well, the bill was not changed. The bill has not been significantly changed, and therefore it is still a problem for us.

I was hopeful that the Liberals would take the Information Commissioner's recommendations and understand that maybe it was a flawed document initially, which they would now fix. However, that did not happen in committee, and I want Parliament and people watching today to understand that. Again, the government is saying one thing and doing another.

An article in iPolitics by Steve Mayer is entitled “Liberals shockingly timid on access-to-information reform”. This does not sound like a government that wants to change access to information in a positive way. It sounds like it is going the other way, as I said before. However, the article reads:

We don’t really know, though, because the emails that would tell the tale are in the inboxes of the prime minister’s staff, and the Access to Information Act does not apply to ministerial staff...What the government has decided to do is not what Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault recommended, which is to have Access-to-information officers determine whether emails and memos from ministerial staff are political or parliamentary (in which case they would remain confidential)

The commissioner does not even have the ability to decide which is which. It is all in the hands of the Prime Minister's Office and ministers.

The article continues with:

or pertain to running a department (in which case they would be releasable). Instead of doing that — which is what they promised —

Again, this is an article talking about what the Liberals said they were going to do in Bill C-58. It continues with:

[the minister's] changes to the act would provide for the proactive disclosure of documents — briefing books and notes for question period — that until now have been released only in response to requests.

This means many useful documents will be released routinely, and it follows similar measures that Trudeau began in opposition, when he unilaterally released personal financial information and got his MPs to start posting their expenses online.

Again, the article is not criticizing him for the positive steps that he has made, but certainly the cover-up continues.

As chair of the committee, there was a hope that this would be something that the Liberals would follow through on and take the recommendations of the Information Commissioner. However, we saw quite a different story. We saw a government that would talk one game in front of the cameras and one game on the campaign trail, but when it came to making solid legislation that would expose those shadows that I had mentioned, it did the complete opposite and would give the ability for ministers to shadow even more information.

Sadly, this is what we are debating today. I hope the government does see sunnier ways and votes against Bill C-58.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Before I go to questions and comments, I want to remind the member that he cannot use the name of a member who is or is not in the House but who is a sitting member.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I really appreciated hearing the rundown and commentary about the bill, yet clearly what keeps on being flagged as I am listening to this conversation is that there is a need for greater access to information, a need to open things up. The current system clearly needed to be worked on and this is what we are doing. I see a bill before the House that addresses the very types of concerns put forth.

The fact is it is wonderful to push back and say here are all these problems, but there were some constructive changes made at committee and perhaps the member having a role on the committee would like to speak to the amendments that were made at committee to make the bill better.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not remember the member being at committee to witness what the testimony was and what the recommendations were. We are not talking about dotting i's in certain areas and crossing t's in other areas. We are talking about substantive changes to make the shadows that exist in the bill not shadows any longer. We simply did not get that at committee.

What is a concern to most of us is similar to what the Information Commissioner Ms. Legault has been saying. At least the status quo stays the same, but what is worse is by introducing something that is worse. The changes the government is proposing to the current law are going to make it worse. Once again, a government that is supposed to shine light on the shadows is trying to build more and that is unfortunate.