Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to this bill in the past and there are some themes that need to be repeated over and over again.
With all due respect to my colleagues from the NDP who have raised the issues of privacy and commercial rights, et cetera, and perhaps cast a net of blame and guilt to all parties, including the Liberal Party, inappropriately so in my view, and especially since the Liberal Party, when it was in government, resisted these incursions upon the sovereignty of Canada, incursions upon the privacy of Canadians by foreign states in the most vigorous fashion. It is a little disturbing to hear someone say that the Liberal Party would actually go in the opposite direction.
The truth of the matter, though, and many of the people who have been following this debate will bear this out, is that the Americans gave Canada notice more than a year and a half ago that by the end of 2010 their legislation would apply to their territory and the air rights associated with their territory. The consequences upon foreign carriers, or indeed even domestic carriers that would be carrying passengers over American territory whether they were to land there or just transit, was going to be subject to that American legislation. They gave a year and a half of warning.
The Privacy Commissioner gave the government an indication of what the implications would be for individuals and for commercial interests a year and a half ago.
All of this to say that the government, had it been interested in the issues of sovereignty, whether they would be commercial or private, did absolutely nothing.
I know it satisfies many people to talk about the ineptness of government or maybe the unwillingness on the Conservative government's part to protect the interests of Canadians and their sovereignty. But keep in mind that the legislation the Americans passed went into effect last December and that Bill C-42 would not do anything other than hold Canadian airline companies that go into the United States or fly over the United States safe, harmless from any liabilities under the Privacy Act. That is essentially it. For the Americans, security trumps privacy, it trumps commercial interests and it certainly trumps the sovereignty concerns of other states, including Canada.
What is that security concern? I should not cast the blame to Liberals, the NDP, or the Bloc on this because they were not at the table. The Conservative Government of Canada was at the table and it was unable to negotiate for Canadians any kind of exemption.
Further, it was unable to eliminate from this current legislation the fact that any other state can apply the same sanctions that the Americans have done to Canada.
This business about security trumping virtually everything else has been the mantra of the government, but it is also the mantra of the United States. I am not going to criticize the Americans' concern verging on paranoia. They are applying that to us. However, the government has not been able to convince the Americans that the measures we have put in place for security, at least in the air industry, are sufficient to make them comfortable about Canadians travelling over the United States and into the United States by air.
Why do I say that? Take a look at the fact that last year the government, right out of the blue, provided $11 million to put 40 body scanners in our main airports so that we can be extra sure there is not going to be any threat.
The body scanners and the new technology that have been put in place in many of the country's airports may do something to secure people's sense of safety. The fact that there was only one company allowed to bid and only one company to which that contract went is another story.
However, $11 million for 40 body scanners, and none of those scanners have any way of finding trace elements of powder or chemicals. I know that the minister is asking what this has to do with anything. Well, it has to do with the investment we make in air security on the air side. The Americans are looking at this and saying they are not happy with what we have, so they are not even going to negotiate any mitigation of the legislation. Do we have air marshals on every one of those planes? The answer is clearly no, so what other mechanisms have been looked at in order to provide the sense of security they need with respect to safety on the air side?
On the land side, they can handle that, but the air side they are not convinced. Did the government make any effort? The answer is no. Did it take a look at the research and the development that is available, whether it is in the United States or in Israel, which is always touted as the place that has the best technology and the best procedures for security? Did it do that? No, it did not.
It washed its hands of any responsibility and in fact turned its back on the Americans and told them to make laws for their country and if it applies to our citizens and our commerce, well, then we will deal it. What we will do is sit down and talk about a security perimeter.
That is so old hat. It has taken the Americans five years to come forward with a proposal that in effect says to the Americans, “We will be responsible for the northern border in the United States and let us see if we can negotiate for you what that means”.
What will the Americans accept? So far they have not accepted our body scanners, they have not accepted the fact that we make roughly $500 million of investment in security as people go through airports. We have just increased taxes by $3.2 billion over the next five years so that we can provide greater assurance at the airports, not necessarily the naval ports or any other land ports.
An additional $3.2 billion of taxation the Conservative Government of Canada says it is now going to impose on everyone in order to make the security perimeter more or less feasible. We do not know what the government is going to spend that money on. Please tell us that it is on new technology. Please tell us it is on research and development of the technologies that the Americans, the Israelis and others who are absolutely paranoid about safety, and maybe rightly so, are using.
We have no clue where the Conservative Government of Canada wants to take us and what kind of submissions it has made with the Americans with respect to overflying or landing in the United States by Canadians who are no threat to anyone.
I can see that some of my Conservative colleagues opposite are saying that this guy is playing down the business of security. Nobody does that. Nobody in the House says that we should not ensure that the Government of Canada provides security for its citizens.
What everybody demands is that the Government of Canada make at least a token effort to protect the business interests of Canadians and the privacy interests of all Canadian citizens as they go about the business of travelling around the world. The Conservatives have not even done that.
It is easy for someone to say when we go to other countries, we abide by their rules. That is the only thing that the government believes in. If people leave the country, they are on their own. If they fly over somebody else's territory, they are on their own. There is more to government than simply saying “you are on your own”.
If the Conservatives feel that their rationale for coming into government is to prove that they are ineffective negotiators, that they have no concern for Canadians and no concern for their commercial interests, Canadians are going to have to judge them on their rationale for being in office. What a shame.