Madam Speaker, as this is my first speech, I would like to say hello to the people in my riding of Beauce. I thank them for the opportunity to bring their issues to Ottawa. I have always been proud of the fact that I am from Beauce and I accept with humility the unique opportunity to represent my constituents.
I would especially like to thank my wife, Ginette, my children, grandchildren and my entire family. Without them I would definitely not have been able to get through this campaign, which I found to be very long.
I would also like to acknowledge the members of my team, Derek, Marco and Alexandre. I thank them for minding the store while the House is sitting. I especially want to thank France, who supported me throughout the campaign and who continues to be the rock for my team. I also thank Myriame, Scott and the volunteers for their invaluable assistance during the election campaign. During the campaign I often said that it is faster to go alone, but we can go further together.
I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-3, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, which will create a review body that is at arm's length from the Canada Border Services Agency.
This bill was formerly known as Bill C-98, which the government tried to ram through the last Parliament, no doubt because it wanted to boast about keeping an election promise. Although we are not opposed to Bill C-3, there is still work to do, and it must be done properly.
Interestingly, in the last Parliament, the Liberals waited before following through on their 2015 promise. Right at the end of their term, they pressured all the parties to hurry up and pass Bill C-98.
The Liberals are back at it this time around with Bill C-3. I congratulate them on introducing it at the beginning of the new Parliament instead of doing like they did last time and sweeping it under the rug for their whole term only to make it a big emergency at the end.
Currently, complaints about the conduct of CBSA officers and their services are managed internally. If a member of the public is dissatisfied with the results of the CBSA's internal investigation, that person has no other way to ask for an independent review of the complaint.
I repeat, as with Bill C-98 in the past, our party does not oppose Bill C-3. Canadians expect oversight of our law enforcement agencies. A public complaints commission will improve general oversight and help the CBSA exercise its powers, duties and functions even more effectively.
Our mission is to ensure that the government always keeps Canadians safe. That said, as I mentioned a little earlier in my speech, that work must be done properly.
A few questions remain unanswered, and I hope the government will answer them for Canadians. What bothers me is that Jean-Pierre Fortin, the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said he was not consulted about this legislation.
Why did the government not ask for input from people working on the front lines, the ones who will be monitored by a new oversight body that will also oversee the organization that represents them?
In my view, a good employer presents its vision, rather than imposing it. Perhaps the government needs to sit down with Mr. Fortin in order to do its job properly.
While I was preparing my speech, I was surprised to learn that only seven witnesses testified on the last Parliament's Bill C-98.
Other than the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the witnesses included the chairperson, general counsel and senior director of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the counsel for the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the acting director general of the law enforcement and border strategies directorate. Those five people report directly to the minister.
Let me repeat what I said before: Is it not imperative that the government present its proposals to people on the front lines instead of making people in its entourage testify? It is the government's duty to consult those affected by the changes, if only to ensure that it is on the right path and not just going by what people in the inner circle say.
I also have a concern about deadlines for processing complaints under Bill C-3. Currently, when we send in forms for our constituents, the delays drag on forever. Whether it is about immigration or employment insurance, people in our riding encounter never-ending wait times.
Once the new organization is in place, can the government guarantee that the complaints process will not drag on forever?
In 2017 and 2018, nearly 40,000 people crossed the border illegally as a result of a tweet from the Prime Minister. Although the government said that those numbers dropped by 15% in 2019, the high volume of arrivals caused major problems for border services officers on the ground and for the CBSA, which had to deploy an incredible amount of resources to Roxham Road and other crossings.
What is worse, Jean-Pierre Fortin, who, as I mentioned earlier, is the president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said that there was a resurgence in illegal border crossings at Roxham Road over the holidays. There were twice as many as usual. CBSA officers have asked for additional staff for this year.
The border management system is overloaded, and that is causing problems. CBSA officers are doing their best to do their job properly. I hope that the government learned from the mistakes it made during its previous term in office. Had it introduced its bill properly the last time instead of trying to do it in a rush, we would not be in this position right now. The bill would have gone through the legislative process, and we could have focused our efforts on other bills that are just as important and require just as much attention as Bill C-3.
I hope the government demonstrates that it can do its job properly if it wants the official opposition to co-operate.
I will end my speech on a more personal note. Since we are talking about a bill on the Canada Border Services Agency, I would like to acknowledge the border services officers at the Jackman crossing, which is located in Saint-Théophile in my riding. I thank all border crossing employees for protecting our borders.
I would also like to acknowledge the members of the RCMP who came to my riding last summer to perform the Musical Ride during Saint-Elzéar's summer festival. The event, which is performed by 32 riders in dress uniform and their horses, attracted a crowd of over 2,000 people, young and old, on the wonderful sunny day of June 23, 2019.