House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was firearms.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Cape Breton—The Sydneys (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 76% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Gun Control November 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, when the minister brings forward his proposal it is his intention to have meetings with all members of the House, to answer questions and to give a full, detailed explanation of the changes that will be presented.

Gun Control November 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice will be bringing forward his proposals on gun control very soon. I think at that time the hon. member's questions will be answered.

Questions On The Order Paper November 24th, 1994

The exact numbers of charges laid or withdrawn in any specific year are not available because the statistical information is not compiled on a Canada-wide basis. The Minister of Justice has asked for a survey and study of the application of section 85. These will examine the frequency with which the section 85 offence is charged, as well as the disposition of those charges. When completed, this information will be released by the minister.

Gun Control November 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, today we have heard the need for stricter gun control from representatives of the Coalition for Gun Control and women's groups. I congratulate these groups for pointing out how controlling the legal acquisition of firearms is an important issue for women.

According to Statistics Canada a woman is shot to death every five days in our country. Guns are the weapon of choice by husbands who kill their wives. Indeed, almost half of the women killed by their partners are shot and 78 per cent of the guns used are legally owned.

We believe that enhanced gun control will go a long way toward reducing the number of women killed by their partners.

Justice November 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I do not think in the history of this country have we had a Minister of Justice that has moved on so many subjects as quickly as this Minister of Justice.

The Daviault case was decided. The decision was released by the Supreme Court of Canada on September 30. The Minister of Justice has been working on this question. He brought forward the discussion paper and we want a good result. We want to hear the opinion of Canadians. We do not want a knee-jerk reaction. That is not what Canadians want and that is not what Canadians deserve.

Justice November 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, of the groups in this country that have spoken to the Minister of Justice, almost completely all of them have stated that the Minister of Justice must proceed cautiously on this point. They want a good law to come from this consultation. They do not want something thrown out that is not going to be appropriate under these circumstances. The Minister of Justice is taking this very seriously and he is going to come forward with this law. It is going to be a suitable one.

I would also say to the hon. member that two of these cases are under appeal and there is a very strong possibility that there could be a change in the decision on appeal.

Justice November 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's concern in this question. It is a concern to all of us in this House of Commons.

The Minister of Justice has stated on occasion his concern on the matter. He has released a discussion paper which will seek the opinions of people right across the country up until February 28, at which point he will then do what he has to do and what needs to be done as quickly as possible to correct this deficiency.

Access To Information November 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address this motion proposed by the hon. member for Red Deer.

The objective of seeking ways to make government operations more open and accountable to Canadian citizens is a very good one. The hon. member is to be congratulated for bringing this motion before the House. This idea is something that should be pursued vigorously by all members of this House. As the previous speaker said, accountability is something we need more of and something the Canadian public wants more of.

In fact the Liberal Party's policy as stated in "Creating Opportunities" otherwise known as the red book, is to promote more open and accountable government. This is a promise all members of government are taking very seriously and are striving to implement in various ways.

As I have said, I agree with the objectives that motivated the member for Red Deer to propose this motion. However, I have three main concerns.

The first is that I believe the Access to Information Act should be given a complete review. The best way to do this is to let the Minister of Justice proceed with his publicly stated plans to do this. Second, I am concerned that the motion suggests that this House thinks the most important reform that can be made is to make more institutions subject to the present act rather than changing the present act to create greater access to information from institutions already subject to the act. The third area is that the motion is perhaps a little too vague in certain areas.

I want to explain each one of the three areas because I think they are important. This subject matter is of very great importance. It is one all members should hold the government to be accountable for in this Parliament.

Since this act was created in 1982 there have been two information commissioners who have made numerous recommendations for reforms to the act. There was a 1986 parliamentary committee report entitled: "Open and Shut", a 1987 response from the former government called: "Steps Ahead", many court cases and a lot of administrative experience with this act.

In addition, many institutions have adopted access legislation in recent years. The first was in Nova Scotia in 1977. Since then the federal government, as we have stated, the governments of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Yukon have all adopted access legislation. Alberta's access law is waiting to be proclaimed. Outside Canada, Australia and New Zealand have recently adopted access legislation and the United States amended its freedom of information act in 1986.

In addition to various access laws being adopted, the federal government has issued a blueprint for improving government services with new technologies. There is an Information Highway Advisory Council. One of the advisory council's subcommittees is called access and social impacts. Access to information must be considered in light of past experience and the new technologies that are before us today.

Given all of this activity on recent issues, it is important that we ensure full consideration is given to the various recommendations in recent years and experiences under the access laws.

We also need to call on the collective experiences of federal government officials in determining the lessons to be learned from the first decade of experience with the act and from other jurisdictions.

The Minister of Justice stated in a media interview last July that he believes the act is in need of an overhaul. He stated unequivocally that it reflects the state of the art of the mid-1970s rather than the 1990s. To me this is quite a commentary from the Minister of Justice on this act. He says there is a need to catch up with new technologies and a need for more openness.

We should give the minister the time to do his job and to consider the various suggestions for reform carefully before pushing amendments into the House.

The second reason for opposing this motion is that it suggests that the House thinks the most important reform to this act is to add institutions to be covered by the act rather than improving access to government information that is already subject to the act. More than 132 institutions at the present time are subject to this act. The most recent report of the information commissioner as well as the parliamentary committee report in 1986, "Open and Shut" made numerous recommendations for improving the act.

A motion of the House to extend the application of this act to other institutions I think would detract from these other proposals. It could be argued that the main purpose of the Access to Information Act is to hold the government accountable. An amendment to extend the act to agencies that are independent of government is not likely to address the issue of the accountability of government.

I agree that independent crown agencies need scrutiny and that scrutiny is provided in various ways. I am not saying that making more institutions subject to the act is a bad idea. However, I do not necessarily agree that we should be telling the Minister of Justice that the priority of the House is adding to the list of institutions covered by the act rather than improving access to the 90 per cent of government information already subject to the act.

The third point relates to the motion stating that Parliament and crown agencies should be subject to the act. We know that more than 130 crown agencies are already subject to the act as I have stated. Presumably the motion calls for more crown agencies to be subject to it. It is important to be more definitive and to say which ones should be subject to the act.

When we have something of this importance, with the good intentions of parliamentarians and the good intentions of the people of Canada, we have to be definitive. We have to show people that it works. We can best show people how it works by being definitive and straightforward in what we want to achieve.

The motion states that the Access to Information Act should apply to crown agencies. This seems to suggest that the act should not list precisely which agencies are subject to the act but instead should provide a general definition of what is a crown agency. It is difficult to say if this is the intent of the motion but it is an ambiguity which may make it difficult for the minister to know how to respond to the motion if it passes.

I want to cite just one example of where the general requirement that all crown corporations be subject to the access law may be too broad. I use an example in Ontario. Under the Ontario access law Ontario Hydro, the Ontario Liquor Control Board and the Ontario GO Transit Authority are subject to the act, while TV Ontario is not subject to it. This is because broadcasting, freedom of expression, confidential news sources and independence from government may raise different issues than those affecting other types of crown corporations. A one size fits all approach is not necessarily the best way to go.

There are two advantages to using what I would call a list approach rather than a general definition of crown assets approach. First, the list approach ensures we consider each agency on an institution by institution basis, taking into account any special circumstances that might apply to these institutions. There may be good reasons why one government agency should be subject to the act while another one is not.

A second advantage to this list approach is that there is certainty over which crown agencies are subject to the act and which are not. If we simply create a broad general definition of crown agency some agencies are likely to interpret whatever words are used in that definition to say the definition does not include them.

Undoubtedly this will lead to litigation with all the increased time and cost to request the government definition in question. This will use valuable court time in a system that is already overburdened.

In summary I would want to say that it is important to talk about this issue. This is an important issue. I want to thank the hon. member for Red Deer for bringing it before the House. I support the hon. member's desire for increased openness and accountability in government. I want to say to him that I am confident the Minister of Justice will address this important issue during the life of the government. It is important that we as members of Parliament support him in the act of looking into this question and bringing forward a greater accountability.

Marine Transportation Security Act November 4th, 1994

This priority is in line with Canada's commitment to the practical standards developed by the international marine organization and the determination of this government that the history of violent acts against cruise vessel passengers elsewhere in the world will not be replayed here in Canada.

To Atlantic Canada which is a part of the country that receives considerable benefits from visiting cruise ships this is very important. The cruise ship industry on the west and east coasts is very important to the country. We are proud to show the beauties and advantages of Canada to our visitors.

People the world over rely on Canada as a safe haven and a stable country that will provide safety and enjoyment while they are within our boundaries, including our offshore jurisdictions.

I do not think we can let these people down. We have to live up to this standard and in doing so we have to be prepared as Canadians to safeguard our visitors. This major piece of legislation will do just that.

Major commercial vessels, ports and other marine facilities which serve them are the second priority for preventive security regulation. Cargo vessels carrying dangerous substances, and ferries in ports where large numbers of people may be exposed should be adequately prepared to respond to security threats. Regulation envisioned for this segment of the marine industry is primarily in the domain of contingency planning.

The best time for preventive legislation is not after a disaster, it is before one can occur. I urge my colleagues in the House to support this legislation so that a preventive security framework providing appropriate and timely protection for Canadians and Canada's marine interests can be established.

Marine Transportation Security Act November 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure as an Atlantic Canadian to have an opportunity to speak on this very important bill.

I rise in the House in support of the Marine Transportation Security Act and to explain to members of this House the need for a single comprehensive act to prevent acts of violence which could be detrimental to Canada's marine interests.

Canada is for the most part a haven from violence for many other parts of the world. To maintain our security we must, just as we admonish our children, be prepared and avoid danger. It is far better to prevent violence than to suffer its consequences. Canadians as evidenced by their abhorrence of violence and their support for strengthened firearms control want to end the needless loss and tragedy caused by preventable acts of violence.

The Marine Transportation Security Act will help prevent needless loss to Canadians, their marine transportation system and its operators, users, employees and dependants. The bill we are debating today recognizes that Canada is not currently facing any dire threat. However it also acknowledges that threats do occur and that to minimize potential injury we must be ready to deal with these threats in their earliest stages.

Security is commendable at ports under the control of Canada Ports Corporation particularly at the port of Vancouver where vessel and port operators practise co-operative security. This bill will ensure that Canada has an appropriate legislative framework which enables the implementation of basic levels of security wherever required and with the flexibility to respond rapidly should danger increase.

Legislation does exist which enables the Minister of Transport to take measures to prevent acts of violence occurring by air and rail transportation. However, it should be a matter of concern to members of this House that there is not at the present time any comprehensive legislation in Canada authorizing the government to take preventive security action to protect Canada's marine interests.

Canada endorsed and promoted compliance with voluntary international security measures designed to protect passengers and crews on board ships. Use of these measures in Canada and other nations has however been inconsistent. Our marine industry and those it touches remain vulnerable.

Security provisions in existing marine transportation legislation such as they are are fragmented and inadequate. Different legislation applies dependent on flag state, type of vessel, port, waterway and marine facility.

No Canadian legislation is specifically concerned with preventing acts of violence. None ties together the various elements of the marine industry in a way that can provide the appropriate and timely response necessary to react to security threats.

The variety of legislation that might apply to any vessel, facility, waterway or person depending on the location and segment of the marine industry involved serves to delay rather than expedite response to threatening situations.

In addition to the potential for confusion, the lack of an appropriate legislative vehicle for marine security does not allow effective response. Use of different legal frameworks to provide for security would result in different security regimes with more confusion, less compliance and higher costs.

In examining solutions to the lack of preventive security authority, the government considered the use of existing legislation and found it to be inappropriate to the task.

The Emergencies Act for example, while allowing preventive regulations to be made, applies only when an emergency has been declared. This limits its preventive utility. Further, members will recall this act was not invoked even during the 1991 Persian Gulf crisis.

The Criminal Code and the Security Offences Act while providing authority to respond to security incidents do not sanction preventive action.

The Canada Shipping Act is principally concerned with the safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment but it is not germane to security from acts of violence in the broad context of the marine industry.

The Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Ports Corporation Act, the Harbour Commissions Act, the Toronto Harbour Commissioners Act, the Hamilton Harbour Commissioners Act, the Public Harbours and Ports Facilities Act and the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority Act, apart from their obvious territorial and jurisdictional limitations do not provide specific authority or enforcement capacity with respect to preventive security measures.

Before bringing these proposals forward non-statutory methods of preventing acts of violence against marine targets were also considered. There are however a variety of problems with this approach. In considering self-regulations the fact that the seaborne element of the industry is largely under foreign flag would create unequal conditions between vessels and would be unenforceable in a similar vein.

Canadian ports operate under mixed ownership with different statutes and authorities. Equality in application and enforcement of requirements under self-regulation would also be unachievable regarding such ports. It would be unrealistic to believe that either voluntary compliance or self-regulation would provide a rapid, consistent response to any threat in such a diverse industry.

As I mentioned earlier, despite the performance of Ports Canada police and the North West CruiseShip Association, voluntary compliance with marine security measures in Canada and elsewhere in the world has been generally low. It is apparent there is little practical alternative to regulation. The high degree of non-compliance with voluntary security standards for international passenger vessels and the predominant view of other major commercial segments of the industry that there is no need due to the current lack of threat underline particularly the need for regulated preparation. The fact there is no threat to Canada at the present time should not prevent us and deter us from being prepared for such an eventuality.

Options to a single, newly minted act have also been considered, including the retention of the current regime, amending existing marine transportation legislation on an act by act basis, and amending the various transportation legislation. Amending all existing marine transportation security acts by an omnibus bill was also considered.

After thorough consideration of various options for achieving appropriate security regarding the marine transportation system including voluntary compliance, self-regulation and the various legislative alternatives, the government has concluded that the most reasonable, efficient and effective method is to enact a comprehensive Marine Transportation Security Act.

This act has come with a good deal of consideration by the Department of Transport. The Marine Transportation Security Act is such a comprehensive act providing the requirement I have spoken to previously. It incorporates all appropriate security authorities and provisions in one document, thereby allowing for ease of maintenance and compliance. The bill will permit consistent, equitable implementation and enforcement and can, if need be, apply to all elements of the industry in Canada regardless of their location or nationality. It will ensure the government's ability to respond quickly and appropriately to changing threat conditions.

The Marine Transportation Security Act does not apply to vessels and facilities under the authority of the Minister of National Defence. Government vessels or facilities, where no commercial activity is involved, will not be subject to regulation because they are adequately provided for by the government's security policy and the government's ability to control them. Pleasure craft, fishing vessels and small commercial craft in ports are also not candidates for regulation as they do not provide the same attractiveness as terrorist targets as do other segments of the industry.

The international cruise vessel industry and the ports serving it would be the main regulatory priority once this legislation is in place. Except for relatively few agencies such as the North West CruiseShip Association, compliance with voluntary international security standards by the cruise industry while in Canada has been inconsistent, in part no doubt because of the lack of a perceived threat there.

There is no lack of perceived threat here I think.