Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak on Bill C-47, an act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code. In 2016, the Liberals announced that they would agree to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty. This bill, if adopted, would implement the ATT.
Conservatives have always supported efforts to establish international standards for the trade of arms, which would help prevent illicit transfers to tyrannical regimes, terrorists, or criminal organizations bent on harming innocent people throughout the world and fuelling conflicts with their neighbours. I am stating for the record, which I am sure will not surprise many of my hon. colleagues in the House, that I oppose this bill. There are several reasons I oppose it, and for the benefit of Canadians watching on CPAC or in the House, I will explain why.
First, Canada already has an accountable and robust internal system to monitor and control the export of military and security equipment, controls that meet or exceed those laid out in the ATT. The Trade Controls Bureau, which regulates the Export and Import Permits Act, has provided ministers, since the beginning of the cold war, with the ability to prevent the export of heavily restricted items of a military nature to countries that, for a variety of reasons, are perceived to be a threat internally or externally or are under sanctions by the United Nations. We take this seriously. We restrict dangerous items, which include military, strategic dual-use goods, nuclear energy materials and technology, missile, chemical, or biological goods, and cryptological equipment.
Second, we have a comprehensive and rigorous system in place to track and record more items, not fewer, than will be required under the ATT. What is more, Canadians are doing the tracking, not foreign governments. Canadian agencies, fully accountable to Parliament, like the Canada Border Services Agency, which tracks items, and Statistics Canada, which collects information on all items exported from Canada, classify these items using categories negotiated by the World Customs Organization.
Third, Canada has at its disposal the area control list under the Export and Import Permits Act. Through an act of the Governor in Council, a country can be placed on this list and receive a blanket trade ban. North Korea is there right now. In the past, the list has included other countries like Belarus and Myanmar.
Fourth, countries that represent most of the sales of military equipment, like Russia and the United States, have either not signed or likely will not ratify the ATT. How effective is this? How does the government currently think that the ATT would be very effective when key participants in the trade of these items are not part of the treaty?
Fifth, any military trade treaty should explicitly recognize the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for uses such as sports shooting, hunting, and collecting. The Conservatives have taken a strong and principled stance on this issue. We believe that any military trade treaty must recognize the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their recreational use. This is why we did not sign the treaty when we were in government. We could not guarantee the protection of such traditional Canadian activities like hunting, for example.
We must remember that our primary duty as parliamentarians is to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. The member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies stood in the House and did a great job of outlining that issue for law-abiding gun owners, hunters, and recreational firearm enthusiasts. He was asked about this matter in particular and faced a few questions, and there were calls for the member and others to point to where in the legislation there would be a gun registry. I am not going to waste everybody's time here rereading that bill into the record as it has already been done by the member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies.
Before members ask me to point to sections that talk about keeping records, I should specify that it is “any records” that the minister stipulates, or the section that references that the minister can require “any person or organization that is required to keep records” to retain them for any period. I challenge members to take the bill back to their ridings and have a farmer, a hunter, a sports shooting enthusiast, or even a gun collector interpret it for them. I guarantee there will be a lot of questions on it.
I am sure they will give their thoughts on another gun registry, a registry—I might remind members—that targeted law-abiding firearms owners, cost the taxpayers of Canada some $2 billion, and did absolutely nothing to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of criminals.
Now we have a government that promised not to introduce a gun registry, yet here it is, the very strong potential for a backdoor gun registry. This seems to be the modus operandi for the government: to introduce proposals that it knows will not pass muster, under some guise. As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.
Summer is the traditional time for vacations or in the case of farmers and entrepreneurs a very busy time, especially in my riding where the summer tourist season is short in some cases. In Ontario we had weather that was not exceptional for some tourist operators, marinas, hotels, and that sort of thing, so that is a crucial period and they are very busy. In the midst of summer, the Minister of Finance tried to slip past massive tax hikes on small business owners, professionals, and farmers, many of whom were in the fields when this was announced. They were busy.
What is it about law-abiding Canadians who are minding their own business that the government has such an issue with? Whether it is responsible gun owners enjoying a recreational pastime or hard-working small business entrepreneurs creating the jobs that grow the economy of this country, the government seems to feel obligated to meddle with legislation that is working fine.
Conservatives agree that Canada's tax system should be fair and equitable for all, and we agree that any military trade treaty we sign needs to protect the rights of Canadian firearms enthusiasts, so why has the government tried to stifle debate and “consult” in the middle of summer? Why is the consultation period set to end next Monday, just 10 days after the resumption of Parliament? Why will the government not prove to Canadians that there was not ill intent, and extend the tax hike consultation deadline?
I can tell everyone why, and it is the same reason that we are debating this problematic bill right now. The Liberal government feels it knows better. It knows better than Canadians and it knows better than the citizens of this country. The government wants to make the world less safe by adopting the ATT, which will do less to protect Canadians, our allies, and innocent lives around the globe. The government wants to remove oversight by trusted Canadian agencies, which are accountable to Parliament and by extension the people of Canada. It wants to do this to reintroduce a piece of legislation it promised not to introduce, a piece of costly legislation nobody wants. Why? It is because it seems to know better. I am here to say it does not, and I suspect it will not be long before Canadians tell it the same thing as well. I look forward to questions from my colleagues.