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House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-23.

Topics

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, indeed there has been ample time for public examination and consideration of this bill. The international agreement upon which it is founded was signed in the spring of 2015. It was tabled in the House of Commons at the same time. The legislation to provide legal force to the agreement was tabled in June of last year. It has all been in the public domain for all of that time. The focus generally has only occurred in the last number of weeks, but the fact of the matter is there have been months and months and months of public opportunity to examine this legislation.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, even though there may be some agreement on different sides in terms of the bill itself, it still is incredibly important that members of Parliament be allowed to voice their concerns and reflect their constituents' wishes.

It is interesting that back on June 3, 2015, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader said:

The government, by once again relying on a time allocation motion to get its agenda passed, speaks of incompetence. It speaks of a genuine lack of respect for parliamentary procedure and ultimately for Canadians.

I would say that we are seeing a real lack of competence on the government side in terms of being able to work together with all sides of the House to get its agenda passed.

What are the plans going forward? Is this what we have to look forward to in the next two and half a years, that every time MPs want to speak, they are going to be shut down by the Liberals?

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, again, I would remind the member that this subject matter has been in the public domain for detailed discussion and debate going back to the spring of 2015. The legislation has been on the Order Paper since June of last year. Already in the debate there have been four days devoted to second reading. There have been 10 hours of debate. Eighteen members of Parliament have delivered speeches, and more will do so today. This will be followed by the committee stage, report stage, and third reading stage of the bill. There is going to be a lot of opportunity for members to express their opinions.

I want to thank the hon. member for the support that her party has shown for this legislation.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, just because a bill has been placed on the Order Paper does not mean that members have had the opportunity to debate it. Given that the government has claimed to want to elevate the role of Parliament, I find it astonishing that the Liberals are now saying that this is no big deal because the bill was introduced in June. We are debating the bill now, and the government wants to limit the time we have for that. That is very disappointing. I know that the previous government liked to use this sort of tactic, but it seems the current government does as well.

That is all the more worrisome when we consider how concerned Canadians are about this bill. It is not just Canadians who are concerned. I think that something major is happening in the world and the government is ignoring it.

A great example of that is the Netherlands which ended negotiations on pre-clearance in light of Trump's policies. Does the minister think that the Netherlands is out to lunch on that, or does he agree that if, as he says, the current system works so well, and we agree, why is it necessary to give so many additional powers to American agents? As people say, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that this whole issue was given a great deal of prominence in March of last year, just about a full year ago, when the Prime Minister and the president of the United States at that time discussed it very much in detail and very positively. At that time, the proposed legislation was fully described. It was tabled in June. I find it very interesting that in that whole period of time, from the spring of 2015 to June 2016, until about two weeks ago, not a single question about this proposed legislation was asked by the official opposition or the NDP, not one question.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for what has been put forward here as excuses, but I am not persuaded at all that this is an appropriate time for time allocation.

At the largest level of concern that I have for parliamentary democracy, it is that what became common under the Harper administration is now being used all too frequently, even if less, by the new government. I had been hoping that contained in the mandate letters to the ministers, and I remembered clearly the mandate letter to the hon. government House leader, there would be instructions to be more transparent, to allow opposition voices to be heard.

In my case, as a member of Parliament for the Green Party but without adequate seats to become a recognized party, we do not get opportunities to speak to the bill, have not spoken to it yet, and the Liberals, just like the Conservatives, pass special motions at every committee, depriving me of my ability to put forward amendments at report stage.

The combined effort of all this is that it does not feel all that different from what occurred before. I am hearing real concerns about Bill C-23 from my constituents.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the debate is ongoing. There are many stages yet to be undertaken. The bill will receive full and proper ventilation.

I hope many of those voices in the public will come forward to express their opinion, like, for example, the transportation entities that work along the west coast in the railway business, in the cruise ship business in and out of the port of Victoria that are very anxious to see this legislation adopted, as is the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Quebec, the airport authorities at Billy Bishop in Toronto and at Jean Lesage in Quebec City, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Quebec Chamber of Commerce. I hope all of those voices will be heard in the course of this debate because they strongly support this legislation.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a quote I would like to read back to the minister, because this was after the last election.

On November 2, 2015, the Regina Leader Post said that this minister said at the time, two days before he became the minister, that Conservative tactics like omnibus bills and time allocation procedures, which this government has used, made Canadians feel that “their democracy was eroding.”

Will the minister then agree with himself in 2015 that he himself is now eroding Canadian democracy in 2016?

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the debates around different pieces of legislation always involve different configurations of members of Parliament.

I think it is important to note in this case that the legislation is obviously advanced and supported by the government. It is also being supported in principle by the official opposition. That represents a very large majority of members of the House of Commons.

It is not unreasonable to allow the debate to proceed in an orderly fashion with a reasonable amount for second reading and then the detailed work at committee stage, and especially so when there is such a large percentage of members in the House who do in fact support the legislation.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have voted in favour of time allocation only once since I first became a member of the House. It was a few weeks ago because the lives of too many Canadians were at risk.

I will repeat what the minister said earlier. He said that 18 members of Parliament have delivered speeches on this bill. That is 18 of 338 members. The government is imposing a gag order on an awful lot of ridings for a bill that is far from perfect as it now stands.

I would like the minister to explain to us why it is so urgent to ram this bill through when so much work still needs to be done to get it right.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the point is that those steps that might be taken to perfect the bill will be steps that members deem necessary when it gets to the committee stage.

The speeches that take place at second reading are largely, according to the rules of the House of Commons, speeches that discuss the bill in principle. The core work, the heavy lifting, occurs in committee, and that is where people like those I have just mentioned, from the airport authority in Quebec City, the Chamber of Commerce in Quebec City, the Mayor of Quebec City can express their support for the legislation, as will those who are anxious to see improved services at Billy Bishop in Toronto, on the train service between Montreal and New York City, on the Rocky Mountain Railway that goes from British Columbia into the United States, the cruise ship business along the west coast, all of those enterprises stand to see major improvements under this legislation.

It is important to remember that the border between Canada and the United States handles 400,000 travellers every single day, and $2.5 billion in trade every single day. Those are indeed important reasons to move in a measured but expeditious manner to pass this legislation.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting to hear the minister say earlier that not a single question was asked. The reason for that, first of all, was that the bill was introduced just a few days before the summer recess, just before we returned to our ridings, so, of course, we did not really have an opportunity to ask any questions last spring.

When we returned in the fall, we were asking questions about Bill C-51 and we introduced a bill to repeal it. We were dealing with the consultations that the minister launched in order to take attention away from the issue. There is also Bill C-22. The government is trying to tell us that it is no big deal, and that, if we have concerns about Bill C-23, we will work on it in committee and everyone will have a chance to be heard.

I will use the example of Bill C-22. It is ironic to be talking about this on the very day that we arrived in the House to find that all of the amendments that were adopted by the committee and supported by experts have been rejected by the government.

I would therefore like the minister to explain to me why he has a problem with questions from the opposition. Why should we trust the committee process for a bill so vital to Canadians' rights and privacy? The last time, the government decided to backpedal and not listen to the witnesses or the committee members, even though we were dealing with an issue that should have been non-partisan.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman is rather overstating his point.

The committee work on Bill C-22 was very important, and has shaped a number of revisions and changes in that legislation to narrow the scope of the exemptions and exclusions, and that will represent a very substantial improvement in the legislation.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have another question then to the minister, if he could answer this one.

He just said that 18 members of the House have spoken over a four-day period on this bill. There have been many bills that have come before this House that have had many more days of debate. The minister is also assuming how members of this House will vote based on how the 18 members have spoken.

However, I base my thoughts around how a member will speak based on what they say in the House and how that will transfer to their vote. How can the minister assume how all the members on this side of the House will vote when he has not even heard from them at second reading?

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. gentleman is hereby withdrawing the support of the official opposition for Bill C-23, that will come as news to his critic.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, with a second opportunity, which I greatly appreciate, there was another concern I had in the way the minister has set out the opportunities we have all had. I was in the 41st Parliament.

I am sure the hon. minister will agree that when an agreement such as the one with the United States on pre-clearance is tabled in this place, that does not create any opportunity for debate. It is merely tabled. If one of the larger parties chooses to make it an opposition day motion, then there is an opportunity for debate.

However, there has in fact been no opportunity for debate on this pre-clearance agreement with the U.S. administration in this place until very recently, in the 10 hours of debate which the minister references. The concern I have, and I would hope the hon. minister would share, is this was negotiated by the Harper administration with the Obama administration.

Now we have the Trump administration, and the expression of a desire to have extreme vetting of people who come into the United States by officials I cannot begin to believe will be familiar with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This needs more debate.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the point is that the more that we can provide for border crossing inspections to be done on the Canadian side of the border before a person crosses the border, the stronger the position of the traveller. They will have the protection of Canadian law, the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the protection of the Canadian Bill of Rights, and they will have protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

This legislation facilitates more work to be done in the inspection of travellers in Canada before the traveller leaves. That is very much in the best interests of those travellers.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is my first term in the House, and I am disappointed at the Liberal government's repeated use of time allocation, as are the people of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, whom I represent. I think time allocation is a tool to be used sparingly.

I voted in favour of it on the opioid issue because lives are at stake, but I will not vote in favour of time allocation in this case, and I do not find referral to committee all that reassuring. Having been a member of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying and the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, I have little faith in the committee part of the process.

On February 19, I invited people to my riding office for coffee, and they made an effort to come out and talk to me about their concerns related to Bill C-23. Because I represent them, it is important to me that we have time to speak in the House so we can express our views and convey our constituents' concerns about Bill C-23. That speaking time in the House is critical, and sending the bill to committee is not going to make it happen.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that there have been three days of debate already and a fourth one has yet to be undertaken. There will be opportunities for members of Parliament to raise their concerns and ask their questions. There is also the daily question period that is an ongoing preoccupation of the House of Commons. I am more than anxious to hear all of the questions that hon. members may wish to raise. I will try my best to provide good, solid, substantive answers so that they know exactly what the government's intention is with respect to this legislation and the details of how the legislation may affect their constituents.

It is my intention and very firm desire to be completely transparent about this subject matter, because this is good legislation, it will be of assistance to Canada and Canadians, and it will make sure that more people can travel back and forth across the border with pre-clearance in Canada under the protection of the Canadian charter.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the many fine words from my colleague with regard to the economic value of pre-clearance, which many Canadians are already very much aware of. Among the actions the minister is taking is enabling other airports the opportunity to have pre-clearance. I am wondering if he could comment about the communities that will have pre-clearance service and its benefits.

I cite as an example the Toronto international airport. From what I understand, if pre-clearance was taken away, half of the direct routes would not be possible. I wonder if the minister could comment, because it emphasizes just how important pre-clearance is.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the airport that services the hon. gentleman's constituency in Winnipeg has the benefit of pre-clearance, but in my home city of Regina, that benefit is not available. There are eight airports in Canada that presently have the service: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto Pearson, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax. We intend, in our agreement with the United States, to extend the service to Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City and Billy Bishop airport on Toronto Island. We also intend to extend the service to the train that runs between Montreal and New York City, as well as the Rocky Mountaineer railway that travels through southern British Columbia and into the United States.

The objective is to make this service more readily available to more Canadians. There are presently 12 million Canadians a year who benefit from pre-clearance and one of the key advantages is the one the hon. gentleman mentioned. Once people have gone through pre-clearance and gotten on the plane, they can then land at any airport in the United States, not just those that have international customs facilities. That means that instead of servicing just 27 airports in the United States, flights out of Toronto can actually land at more than 50.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about time allocation. I hear the minister making some arguments in favour of time allocation in this case, arguments I do not think many members are finding convincing. Of course, many of those same arguments could have applied to other cases of time allocation that were undertaken under the previous government and that this member and others positively railed against as signalling the end of democracy.

I want to ask a very specific question of the minister. Could he articulate what the operating principle is for distinguishing between the kind of time allocation that he thinks is okay and the kind of time allocation that he thinks is not okay? It seems to me that it is a purely partisan filter, but if there is some operating principle, the House would be very interested in hearing it.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a judgment call in each case about how the debate has been proceeding, whether members have had an opportunity to present themselves and present their cases, how much additional time is necessary to allow a subject matter to be thoroughly ventilated, and what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

Given the number of days that have already been devoted to this item of business at second reading, with committee stage, third reading, report stage yet to come, not to mention passage through the Senate, it is a reasonable proposition to say that after one more day, the House should vote at second reading and express itself in principle on the legislation. Then, at committee, we can get into the details and go through the further and subsequent stages, all of which will ensure that members of Parliament have a good and fair opportunity to represent their constituents.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that, contrary to what the minister said, second reading is much more than simply an opportunity to talk about our principles. It is an opportunity to discuss the concerns and issues raised by Canadians.

I want to come back to the question I asked in my first speech on this matter. The Liberals keep singing the praises of pre-clearance. That is fine, and we recognize the benefits associated with it. However, I have to come back to the original question we have been asking for weeks now, one that the government seems incapable of answering: if the current pre-clearance system is working so well, why do the Liberals feel the need to authorize American officers on Canadian soil to carry firearms and do strip searches without a Canadian officer present, as well as detain and interrogate Canadians and permanent residents who choose to leave the pre-clearance area, because, for example, they consider the questioning unreasonable?

In response to my question, I have heard only economic arguments. We recognize the economic value of this measure. We are already benefiting from this aspect.

Can the minister tell me why, if the current system is working well, he felt the need to grant those officers additional powers in order to go ahead with that agreement?

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, indeed the powers that are involved in Bill C-23 are relatively small in comparison to what exist at the present time. The changes that are contemplated here are not a huge deviation from what already exist.

In the case of firearms, I would point out that the arrangement provided in the agreement and in the legislation is completely and mutually reciprocal. In other words, firearms are permitted on the Canadian side when firearms are permitted on the American side, and vice versa. To give a practical example of that, firearms are carried by CBSA officers at some border points across the country, but they are specifically not carried when those CBSA officers are dealing with passengers inside airline terminals. That is the rule that applies to CBSA. Governed by the principle of reciprocity, that is exactly the same rule that will apply to U.S. officers operating in Canada. They will not carry firearms when they are dealing with passengers inside airline terminals. That is the principle of reciprocity, and it is perfectly mutual in all respects under this legislation.