Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the concerns expressed by the hon. member opposite about the funding for Canada's public safety and anti-terrorism, PSAT, initiative.
The Auditor General has been very clear on this issue. When he released his report on April 30, he indicated that he “didn’t find anything that gave us cause for concern that the money was used in any way that it should not have been”.
He had access to all available documentation on this issue and found there were some reporting deficiencies. The Auditor General recommended that our government improve our reporting practices.
I am a CGA. I sat on a finance committee with city council for years and have had financial reports presented to me. Certainly, from time to time, reporting mechanisms and reporting procedures differ. Ultimately we will find that this is simply a reporting practice and the money will materialize. It is in the public accounts.
We agreed with that recommendation and the government is already improving the way it reports on whole of government projects.
We recognize that Canadians are concerned about how their government invests in their safety. The first job of any government is to keep its citizens safe from harm.
Since the tragic incidents of September 11, 2001, the Government of Canada has taken important steps to increase and strengthen security in the air, on the ground and at sea.
One of the things we did, and it is something many Canadians have experienced first hand, was to create CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
CATSA plays a critical role protecting travellers at Canadian airports by screening passengers and their belongings before they get on the plane, screening checked bags to look for explosives and other objects that would pose a threat and screening people who enter restricted areas at airports. The government has also been working on improving the infrastructure for air travellers.
On planes, that means we have reinforced cockpit doors to prevent unlawful intrusions. We have also introduced highly sophisticated detection equipment to screen travellers and their luggage. We have redesigned the sections of flight attendant training that deal with air security.
In airports, we have increased the number of screening officers. We have also enhanced requirements for airport security plans and have introduced the restricted area identity card for Canadian airports. The card strengthens airport access control. It is the first dual-function biometric card, using both iris and fingerprint identification.
However, air travel is only one part of it. We are also working to improve security for ground travel.
Our Conservative government has been working since May 2007 with major rail, transit and intercity bus operators from across Canada and their primary associations, including the Canadian Urban Transit Association and the Railway Association of Canada. We have developed a series of voluntary security standards and security guidance documents with these associations.
We also changed some of the laws to better respond to threats. For instance, the International Bridges and Tunnels Act came into force in April 2007. The act provides the government with the legislative authority to ensure effective oversight, including safety and security of the existing 24 international vehicle bridges and tunnels and 9 international railway bridges and tunnels, as well as any new international bridges or tunnels built in the future.
Thanks to this legislation, the Minister of Transport has the authority to issue an emergency directive in response to a potential threat to the safety or security of any international bridge or tunnel.
Under amendments made to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act in 2009, the federal government has the authority to ensure effective oversight, including security, over the transportation of dangerous goods on our roads and rail lines.
In November 2007, the Minister of Transport and the Railway Association of Canada signed a memorandum of understanding that reflected the core principles of a good security regime, including regular updates to risk assessments and security plans, drills and exercises, training and awareness and incident reporting.
Beyond land and air, the marine security program protects Canada and Canadians by safeguarding the integrity, efficiency and security of Canada's marine transportation system against unlawful interference, terrorist attacks or use as a means to attack our allies.
Marine security program personnel conduct inspections, review and approve security plans and work with stakeholders to assist them in meeting the requirements of the Marine Transportation Security Act and its regulations.
Established in 2004, coastal Marine Security Operation Centres, MSOCs, have the authority and capacity to support a national response to perceived and real marine security threats to our country. MSOCs are located in Halifax, Dartmouth, Victoria and Niagara.
We rely on the skills and knowledge of federal government departments and agencies responsible for marine security, asset support or maritime expertise to ensure that MSOCs are effectively protecting our marine borders. These centres have the authority and capacity to use all the civilian and military resources necessary to detect, assess and support a coordinated response to a marine security threat or incident.
In addition to these investments in air, ground and marine transportation security, the government continues to work closely with international partners and allies, sharing information of interest such as threat assessments, best practices and mitigation strategies to help develop harmonized and compatible security systems. This information is shared bilaterally as well as with international forums such as the International Civil Aviation Organization.
In addition, the aviation and marine transportation security clearance programs reduce the risk of security threats by preventing interference with the aviation and marine transportation system through background checks on employees who perform certain duties or who have access to certain restricted areas of airports and ports.
These comprehensive background checks better protect Canada's transportation infrastructure, employees and passengers against insider threats and reduce the risk of having individuals linked to organized crime working at airports and ports. The government also conducts and participates in government and industry-led exercises on air, marine and surface security to ensure the government and industry are ready to react in emergency situations.
These are wise investments protecting Canada from threats, investments that began under the PSAT initiative.
Before I conclude, I cannot support this motion. The Auditor General reviewed all available documentation during his audit and concluded, “We didn’t find anything that gave us cause for concern that the money was used in any way that it should not have been”.