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Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Environment January 31st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the future economy will be a green economy, and Canadian businesses are leading the way.

Last week, 13 Canadian companies, seven of which are from British Columbia, were on the prestigious 2018 Global Cleantech top 100 list. This list highlights the most innovative companies world wide, with promising ideas best positioned to solve humanity's sustainability challenges.

From my own riding of Vancouver Quadra, Axine Water Technologies is one of them. It was recognized for its impressive chemical-free, low-cost solution to waste water problems. Its novel approach solves a multi-billion dollar problem across multiple industries. Axine's technology is a perfect example of how environmental stewardship is not just good for our communities, but good for business and the economy.

Today, Canada's innovators are proving that going green is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. I am proud to recognize their vision and entrepreneurial spirit in the House.

Tobacco and Vaping Products Act January 30th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I thank my opposition colleague for his thoughtful comments, and I would like to say how sorry I am to hear about how tobacco has affected his family.

He said it would be best if young people chose not to use either tobacco or vaping products, but we know that is not realistic because young people want to make their own choices. Since some of them will choose to vape, should the government opt for strict regulation or should it try to stop people from using vaping products altogether?

Questions on the Order Paper December 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, these revenues relate to prior years’ member contributions to the Public Service Health Care Plan, PSHCP. The PSHCP is offered to eligible employees, retirees of the public service, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Forces, and other participating employers. Member contributions to the PSHCP are usually remitted to the TBS and used to offset plan expenses in the same year.

In 2015-16, TBS identified an opportunity to improve the process related to the remittance of member contributions. This process change means that remittances from the PSHCP are issued to the TBS in a more timely manner, and resulted in a one-time retroactive adjustment of $3.2 million received in 2015-16. Moving forward, the TBS revenues are expected to be more consistent from year to year, beginning in 2016-17, as a result of this process change.

Government Communications December 11th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, our government took another step to making government more open and transparent and accountable by delivering on our commitment to eliminate partisan advertising and to modernize its communications. We now have a process in place for conducting independent reviews of paid government advertising to ensure that it is non-partisan. In addition to that, we have reduced our advertising budget by 50% compared to the previous Conservative government with its partisan advertising.

We are proud of what we are doing, and we appreciate the work of the committee in looking at the advertising budget for the future years.

Access to Information Act December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about reality. The reality is that the commissioner asked for order-making power and would be provided order-making power. In the amendments, that order-making power was strengthened in ways the commissioner had indicated would make it even more effective.

Let us talk about reality with respect to the Prime Minister's office and the minister's offices. For the first time ever, the act would apply to the ministers' offices and the PMO. This would lead to better public understanding of government decision-making, fostering more participation and public trust in government. That is advancement.

For the first time ever, the act would apply to 240 federal entities, from the courts to the ports. That is advancement.

This is not just a one-off exercise. It is an evergreen, ongoing rejuvenation. The member opposite, from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, continues to quote comments made before a committee process that vastly improved the bill, with the cooperation of all parties. I would ask him to update his narrative and reflect Bill C-58 as it is today in this House.

Access to Information Act December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, we are the first government in 30 years to modernize the Access to Information Act. We know that the NDP does not like proactive disclosure, but we do, which is why we included it in this bill. I would remind my colleague that the committee adopted a dozen or so amendments to strengthen and clarify our government's intention to improve and reform our access to information system, amendments that were surely supported by the NDP members. We are proud of this improvement to our bill and the joint efforts of the committee members. This helped us improve the bill.

Access to Information Act December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am not clear on what the member considers to be draconian about a law, Bill C-58, that would broaden access to information across the Prime Minister's Office, ministers' offices, and many other offices. What is draconian about giving order-making power to the commissioner, enabling the commissioner to determine whether a request can actually be blocked by a department?

I will just add that the previous government had ministers countermanding the provision of information by a department and actually taking the political power themselves to block access to information requests. It was shocking at the time. The sanctimonious comments I hear on the other side of the House are quite surprising, given that record.

Access to Information Act December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-58, and to perhaps set the record straight with respect to some of the remarks of my colleagues opposite. They love to quote criticisms of the bill that took place before the committee study, before amendments were made to address those very issues, and before the bill was even further strengthened to build on the historic improvement to access to information.

Our government is firmly committed to being open and transparent. That is the kind of government Canadians expect and deserve. These reforms were made with that in mind.

We remain committed to upholding this principle, which was first applied in the 1983 Access to Information Act.

Now, 34 years later, our proposed reforms advance the original intent of the act in a way that reflects today's technologies, policies, and legislation, and keeps this an evergreen process as well.

I am proud our government is the government to finally update this act. This is in contrast to the government of the members opposite, the Conservatives, who promised to reform this act in their election platform, spent 10 years in government, and failed to do a thing.

I experienced the former government's control tactics around access to information first-hand as an opposition member of Parliament. I filed an access to information request to find out more about the process for building Canada's pavilion for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games. The pavilion was to be built in Vancouver, and there were questions about it in the media. Lo and behold, when I received the response from the government, every line in the document had been blacked out. There was not a scrap of information. I would contend that Canada's Olympic pavilion was hardly a national security issue that had to be protected.

That is what the Conservative government of the day was doing instead of fixing the Access to Information Act. Perhaps it was also too busy becoming the first government in not just the history of Canada but the history of the Commonwealth to be found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to provide information to Parliament.

Let us not forget the extent to which the New Democrats were hesitant to join the trend when the Liberal MPs became the first party to begin a practice of proactive disclosure of expenses. They needed to be dragged along with that. However, I digress.

Our government is acting. We are following through on our election promise to reform the Access to Information Act.

Our efforts started over a year ago. In May 2016, we issued a directive that enshrined the idea of a government that is “open by default”.

Open by default means having a culture across government in which data and information are increasingly released as a matter of course, unless there are specific reasons not to do so.

Now, with the amendments proposed in Bill C-58, we are taking the next step.

Bill C-58 would advance the Access to Information Act in some key areas. It would give the Information Commissioner the power to order government to release records. She has been asking exactly for that. That is a significant increase in the power of the commissioner. No longer is the office of the commissioner simply an ombudsperson. It would now have the power to compel government to release records.

The bill would put the Prime Minister's Office and ministers' offices inside the act for the very first time, as promised, through legislative requirements for proactive disclosure. It would also legislate proactive disclosure for administrative bodies that supported the courts, Parliament, and other government institutions. This dramatically broadens the reach of the Access to Information Act.

The bill also mandates five-year reviews of the act. Therefore, it is an evergreen process of improvement. What is more is that it would require that departments regularly review the information being requested under the act.

This will help us understand and increase the kinds of information that could be and should be proactively published.

We are also developing a guide to provide requesters with clear explanations for exemptions and exclusions. We are investing in tools to make processing information requests more timely and efficient. We are allowing federal institutions with the same minister to share request processing services for greater efficiency. We are also increasing government training to get common and consistent interpretation and application of ATI rules.

We are moving to help government institutions weed out bad faith requests that put significant strain on the system.

By tying up government resources, such vexatious requests can interfere with an institution's ability to do its other work and respond to other requests. However, let me be clear. We have heard the concerns expressed about how we must safeguard against abuse of this proposed measure. In particular, we have heard the concerns raised by indigenous groups regarding land claims.

As the President of the Treasury Board said during second reading debate, “A large or broad request, or one that causes government discomfort, does not, of itself, represent bad faith on the part of the requester.” Broad requests, particularly historical records to substantiate indigenous claims, are legitimate and consistent with the spirit of the act.

However, it was not enough for our government to clearly state our intentions in the House of Commons. Therefore, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics further strengthened Bill C-58 by amending the bill to make it explicit that no department could refuse a request simply because the subject, type of record or date of record was not specified.

The bill was also amended to give the Information Commissioner veto power in advance over whether a department could reject a request. The committee also passed an amendment that would give the Information Commissioner the power to publish the results of their investigations and orders, giving further leverage to the commissioner's new powers, as was intended by the President of the Treasury Board and requested by the commissioner. Our government firmly supports these amendments.

In addition to the government's duty to assist, which is a fundamental obligation built into the Access to Information Act, our government is fully committed to fulfilling Canada's fiduciary obligation to assist first nations in furthering their land claims.

After 34 years, Canada's ATI system needs updating, and this will be a work in progress.

I am disappointed that the members opposite in both the Conservative Party and the NDP have been playing politics with this very important bill. They have been raising issues that were already addressed at committee, where amendments were passed to put to rest the concerns that were raised.

The Conservatives, who never did anything for 10 years even though they solemnly promised in their platform to update access to information, are acting as though this is a step backward. In fact, it is a step in forward in many respects. It would broaden the scope of the act, respect the commissioner's request to have additional powers to determine if a department could refuse to fulfill an access to information request. It also includes order-making power to ensure the order is published and publicly available to review.

A great number of key steps have been taken to advance the openness and transparency to the Canadian public with respect to information to which they should and will have access.

Members opposite are pretending that no amendments have been made, that the commissioner's report is still valid when it was written before the amendments to respond to her concerns were debated and voted on by committee members, including the New Democratic Party members and Conservative members, and wholly supported by the Liberal President of the Treasury Board and Liberal members. The fact that those are being ignored, that those parties are aiming to confuse and confound the public debate, and mislead members of the public listening to their speeches and questions and answers is very discouraging and disappointing. This is one of those kinds of policy measures that everyone agreed needed to be improved. That is exactly what we are doing, for the first time in 34 years.

To try to confuse the public into thinking that this is a step back, when it is a major leap forward, is doing a disservice to the public. It is providing inaccurate information to the public. It is raising unnecessary fears around individual access to information and around indigenous people's access to information in pursuit of potential land claims. These things have been addressed. We have a great deal of respect for the importance of reconciliation with indigenous peoples right across this country, and one part of that is to support and aid individuals and groups that are seeking access to information to pursue the reconciliation, partnership, and co-operation our government is so committed to.

Therefore, I would request that the members opposite stick to the facts, reflect what happened in committee in terms of the amendments that were made, and reflect the ways in which the commissioner's requests and others were actually built into those amendments by committee. Let us have a debate on the merits of this policy using the actual up-to-date, factual information. That would be a public service on the part of members opposite.

As I said at the start of my speech, I am very proud that it is our Liberal government that is finally following through and giving the Access to Information Act some much-needed reform. There would be a review just one year after the coming into force of this bill so that we would be able to have continuous quality improvement of this very important piece of legislation. This very important aspect of our public policy, whereby reviews are done and improvements are made in a timely way, is built into our new act. We are looking forward to continuing our work to help make government more open, transparent, and accountable.

Access to Information Act December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it has been mesmerizing to hear my colleague opposite, and even the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, speak as though the committee did not work on this bill, as if the committee did not pass more than 12 amendments.

For example, one amendment prevents the department from declining to act on a request just because the request failed to state the specific subject matter, type of record, or period. One of the proposed amendments would give the commissioner power of approval before a department declines to act on a request.

Why then is the opposition member implying that the amendments supported by his own colleagues were not accepted?

Access to Information Act December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I note from the debate that the Conservative members are against our modernization of the access to information law.

In his earlier remarks, the President of the Treasury Board commented on the commitment in the 2006 Conservative platform to do what our government is now doing, and yet for 10 years they did absolutely nothing.

What are the hon. minister's thoughts on why the Conservative government failed to take a single action to update this law?