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  • His favourite word is liberal.

Liberal MP for Winnipeg North (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the committee is made up of parliamentarians. It is important to note that the committee will consist of nine members, with seven members of the House and two senators. Up to four members will be from the governing party.

The Prime Minister will be required to consult with opposition party leaders before naming opposition members, and with the Senate before naming the senators.

It is also important that we recognize that the Prime Minister is not authorized to alter the findings or recommendations of the reports tabled. The Prime Minister's role is solely to review the report to ensure that it does not contain classified information.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would have to agree to disagree on some of the points the member has brought forward.

One of them is that he suggests it is wrong for the Prime Minister to make the appointment. The critic for the official opposition, the Conservative Party, is one of the individuals who recommended to the minister that we should have the prime minister appointing the chair of the committee.

Other issues are in regard to just how this committee will be able to perform. If we do a comparison between what we have proposed and the other Five Eyes countries, which Canada is a part of, we will find that this legislation is far more aggressive and has the potential to be some of the best legislation going forward with respect to the other countries because of its very scope. Remember, this deals with more than just one department. We are talking about 17 departments that provide some form of security services, which is quite significant. This legislation is all-encompassing in that respect.

With regard to the Prime Minister, maybe I will get a chance to answer another question to provide—

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that Bill C-22 is as a direct result of Bill C-51. A major fundamental flaw when Bill C-51 was brought in was the fact that there was no parliamentary committee to oversee our security systems.

That is very important because Canadians have expectations that their government will have a balance when it comes to issues such as freedoms, our rights, and security. We believe Bill C-22 will deliver what Canadians want to see. In fact, it would be a fulfillment of a commitment made by the Prime Minister and the government that we would bring in a parliamentary oversight committee. Bill C-22 is all about that.

Motions for Papers September 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, if revised response to Question No. 258, originally tabled on September 19, could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians September 27th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the Liberal Party does support Bill C-22. We introduced the bill.

The member asked why I did not support a particular issue going to committee. Our standing committees have the potential to do phenomenal work. I have argued in the past and will argue into the future that committees are the backbone of Parliament. That is consistent with what our Prime Minister and many colleagues have said. The fine work that committees do is the backbone of Parliament going forward into the future.

We can refer virtually endless issues to committees, but today we are debating Bill C-22, a balance of rights and freedoms with the issue of security for all Canadians. If we continue to work in a co-operative way and have the bill go to committee, we could ultimately have one of the greatest parliamentary oversight committees possible.

An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians September 27th, 2016

Madam Speaker, if we could put aside some of the partisan stuff that has been said today—and I have been accused of saying partisan things at times too—and look at what is being proposed, we would find it is good, sound legislation. If we get the co-operation of the opposition, or if we work together on it, I would argue we could have some of the best legislation in the world dealing with parliamentary oversight. We could—

An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians September 27th, 2016

Madam Speaker, it shows, just based strictly on the question that has been posed, that our government is listening to what the Conservative opposition has been saying. It was the Conservative critic who wrote to the minister saying that those members would like the Prime Minister to appoint the chair. Is that not right?

The committee will consist of nine members with seven members of Parliament and two senators. Up to four of those members will be from the governing party. That is not a majority. If it is a nine-member committee and four members are from the government—

An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians September 27th, 2016

Madam Speaker, what a privilege it is to be able to stand in this place to talk about what I believe is a really important piece of legislation, and it is so in many different ways. I hope to be able to provide some comments with respect to the process, some of the content, and some of the amazing work that, in particular, the Minister of Public Safety has done for all Canadians by putting in the effort that he has in working with his other cabinet colleagues, and indeed, coming right from the Prime Minister's Office, too.

I would recognize, first and foremost, that we have once again before the House, a piece of legislation that was promised in the last federal election. There was a great deal of discussion and debate at the doors and through many other venues about the issue of freedoms and rights and the issue of security and ensuring that we get the right balance. I am absolutely convinced that the government has provided a piece of legislation that will be overwhelmingly supported by Canadians.

It is not to say that there is no room for improvement. If I can quote the Prime Minister, there is always the opportunity to make things better. We opened the door for the opposition, and as the Minister of Public Safety indicated in his opening comments, we have already received ideas and thoughts, such as the appointment of the chair for this particular committee to be made by the Prime Minister, which was a recommendation or a thought that came from the official opposition.

However, it is important to recognize that this is indeed the first time ever where we have seen a parliamentary committee established to deal with the issues of security and privacy and freedoms for Canadians. That is a very big thing. We should be happy to see it here today because it has been a long time in coming.

Another big issue, which I really have appreciated, is that there has been a great deal of thoughtful debate that has taken place, as members from all sides of the House have been engaged on what we all know is a very important issue to Canadians.

I believe, at some point, it will pass and go to committee and we will find that the debate will carry over in the form of listening to what some of the different stakeholder groups have to say, with the idea that if there are indeed ways in which we can reflect on the current legislation, the government is, at the very least, open to that.

The other thing that I think is really worth noting is that the Minister of Public Safety also made reference to the Five Eyes. Canada is a member of the Five Eyes nations, which include the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. I have had the opportunity to talk about this particular issue during the debates on Bill C-51. All those other countries have some form of a parliamentary committee to oversee these types of security and rights issues. Only Canada did not have something.

Today, what we are witnessing is not only Canada joining and being a part of the Five Eyes, in regard to a parliamentary committee, but it is a committee that has a far greater and broader mandate. Many would argue that it has the potential to be the most effective in the Five Eyes group. Again, I think that we owe a great deal of gratitude to all those individuals who have been involved.

I am sure that the different ministries would be first to indicate that it is not just coming from within the departments, but rather, it is from many of the presentations that were made during the debates on Bill C-51, many of the debates that took place inside this chamber, and the messages that we received, whether through emails, telephone calls, letters, or just the door-knocking that took place. The bill encompasses a great deal of dialogue that has taken place both here in the chamber and in every region of our country.

I think this is one of the reasons why we should all take a great deal of pride in what is being proposed by the government.

It has been noted that it was the government House leader who introduced the bill, and a number of members were somewhat surprised that it would be the government House leader. Let me assure members that when we talked about that, we made reference to the idea of this broader mandate. We need to recognize that a multitude of departments provide some form of security-related issues to Canadians. I believe it is 17. Therefore a number of departments are directly affected by this legislation, and so the committee would have a significant role that goes beyond one department. It is most appropriate that it be the government House leader who introduces the legislation. I am quite pleased that the Minister of Public Safety has had the opportunity to address the legislation also.

A national security green paper was recently released by the minister, and it was co-signed with a message from the ministers. I would like to refer to it. It was approved in terms of being received by the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, Canada's Attorney Journal. There is a great deal of content in it, and as we continue to have dialogue both in Ottawa and the different regions of Canada, I would encourage people, the listening audience and the different stakeholders, to get a copy of this green paper because it is loaded with wonderful content. By reading through it, we get a fairly good sense of why it is such an important piece of legislation and why Canadians have taken such an interest in it.

I would like to provide some selected quotes from the green paper, because it better reflects what the government is hoping to ultimately accomplish. It is not to say that every aspect of the green paper is going to be implemented by the government, but it shows that the government is listening and, where it can, it is taking the necessary action to make a difference in the lives of all Canadians.

I first refer to the message from the two ministers where they clearly indicate that:

A fundamental obligation of the Government of Canada is the responsibility to protect our safety and security at home and abroad. Equally fundamental is the responsibility to uphold the Constitution of Canada, and to ensure all laws respect the rights and freedoms we enjoy as people living in a free and democratic country.

On many occasions I have indicated my support for Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I have argued that the Liberal Party is a party of the Charter of Rights of Freedoms. We recognize how important those individual freedoms are, but we also recognize—and we saw that in the debate—that they are one of the things that distinguished the Liberals from the New Democrats while we were in opposition. We also recognized the importance of security, and that is why it is a balancing that needs to take place.

I go back to the document, which says:

Reflecting the seriousness with which the Government regards the concerns about the ATA, 2015, our mandate letters direct us to work together to repeal its problematic elements and introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability and national security. In this respect, we have made commitments to:

This is something that, I would hope, provides comfort not only to members of this chamber, but to all Canadians.

The government has made commitments on the following: it has guaranteed that all warrants of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that Canadians are not limited in legitimate protest and advocacy; it will enhance the redress process related to the passenger protect program and address the issue of false positive matches to the list; it will narrow overly broad definitions, such as terrorist “propaganda”; and it will require a statutory review of the Anti-terrorism Act after three years.

It is great that within this legislation there is a requirement for a mandated review five years after the bill has been proclaimed. We know that as time goes by, there will be a need to review and reflect upon what we could be doing differently to improve the legislation.

As the minister has pointed out, we are establishing a statutory national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, with broad access to classified information, to examine how national security institutions are working. That is, in fact, within the green paper and what we are actually going through today.

The legislation fulfills a key commitment we made during the election campaign by establishing a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians.

It is great that the committee would have nine members, seven members of Parliament and two senators. Up to four MPs would be from the governing party. The Prime Minister would be required to consult with the opposition party leaders before naming opposition members and with the Senate before naming senators.

I hear a great deal of concern from both opposition parties about the PMO and the Prime Minister. I think there is one point that has been lost in this. It is important to emphasize that the Prime Minister would not be authorized to alter the findings or recommendations of the report that would be tabled. The Prime Minister's role would be solely to review the report to ensure that it did not contain classified information.

I believe that the Conservatives are underestimating the abilities of members of Parliament when they question whether it would be an open process. Yes, ministers would have the discretion to withhold information on a case-by-case basis should they believe that disclosure would be injurious to national security, but one would expect that they would have that authority. However, a minister who wished to withhold information would have to provide a rationale for the decision to the committee. The committee could choose to report on the matter to Parliament should it deem the rationale unsatisfactory. We need checks in place, and that is within this legislation.

We are underestimating and undervaluing the potential role members of the House can play on such a committee, which I believe would be second to no other, potentially, in the world.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness talked about the way it would broaden responsibilities and about all the departments that would be taken into consideration.

As much as I would love to be a member of that committee, I am quite content not being a member, so I say this knowing full well that I will not be a member of the committee. Those who are selected to be members of the committee, I believe, will have the ability to ensure that rights and freedoms, versus the security of our national interest, will be protected first and foremost.

There are checks in place within the legislation that would allow this committee to get the job done. I believe that if the Conservatives, in particular, were to better appreciate that fact, then they would be supportive of the legislation.

I listened to members of the New Democrats respond, and I appreciate the response that I have heard today from the New Democrats. They are supportive, but they want to see some amendments. However, this is not quite as clear with regard to the Conservatives. I understand that the Conservatives are in a very awkward position because of Bill C-51. I sat in opposition and, yes, there were many members who stood up to say that we did not need a committee of parliamentarians. However, today when I listen to the debate the Conservatives are providing, they are a little unclear.

I understand that now the Conservatives are going to be voting against the legislation, but it would appear as if they are voting against the legislation because they want to see this parliamentary committee have more teeth. This seems to be the reason they are voting against it, depending on the member one is talking to. I did pose the question to my colleague across the way of whether he would be supporting the legislation. In fairness, they have been very delicate in terms of their responses today, but they had one member who has indicated a vote against the bill.

I would advise all members of the House, given the importance of the legislation, to take it for what it is and allow the legislation to be sent to committee where there can be a proper vetting from all parliamentarians. It is there that they can actually advance potential amendments if they have concerns and they can make their case.

We often hear of disputes over the facts inside the House. We listen to what the minister says here and believe that this is a committee that is going to be quite powerful and have many responsibilities. However, we then hear members opposite having reservations about just how powerful it will be and are wondering if the Prime Minister's Office would be too powerful. Therefore, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect.

However, where there is no disconnect is that there seems to be a political will that we are going to have this committee, and we will have this committee. The Prime Minister made a commitment to establish it, so we will have it. When that committee gets established, I do believe that there are members of the House who have the integrity, goodwill, and the ability to get the job done. I believe this is what we should be looking at going forward.

If in fact there are ideas that are genuine, where there has been background work and it can be clearly demonstrated, then I am sure, whether it is a government amendment coming from one of my colleagues, or from Conservatives, New Democrats, or independents, these ideas are something we will want to foster if in fact they are ways we can improve upon the legislation.

There are so many things that the government is doing that goes beyond Bill C-22 in addressing the concerns that Canadians have with respect to the issue of security, such as amending provisions enacted by Bill C-51 so as to better protect the right to advocate and protest; amending provisions enacted by Bill C-51 so as to better define rules regarding terrorist propaganda; mandating a statutory writ review of national security legislation; ensuring faithful compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; creating an office of community outreach and counter-radicalization from budget 2016, including $35 million over five years and $10 million annually, which would be ongoing; consulting Canadians about what further measures they would like—