Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in this House to speak on this bill.
Just to situate things, we in the Bloc Québécois support this bill and shall be voting in favour of it. Nevertheless, with your permission, I have one thing to say. Today we are discussing the amendment proposed by the Bloc and adopted by all the opposition parties, a majority in the committee, as the House now realizes. I shall read clause 6(1) as it was originally drafted:
In exercising his or her powers and in performing his or her duties and functions, the Minister may:
(a) initiate, recommend, coordinate, implement or promote policies, programs or projects relating to public safety and emergency preparedness;—
The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who is on the committee, proposed an amendment to the beginning of clause 6(1), to read: “In exercising his or her powers and in performing his or her duties and functions and with due regard to the powers conferred on the provinces and territories, the Minister may—”
This amendment is essential to the adoption of this bill. We do not see any reason for our Liberal party colleagues opposite to object. It is a very important amendment because it directly affects provincial jurisdictions in certain sectors. If the proposed amendment were not adopted, it would enable the government to directly affect the jurisdictions of emergency preparedness, public health, the establishment, maintenance and administration of prisons and reformatories in the provinces, disasters that are usually local in nature, and the administration of justice.
In Quebec we have a public security program that has existed for many years and which is ably coordinated by the Department of Public Security. Emergency preparedness also exists and is also ably coordinated by the same department.
The government would like to add its presence. Federal help is appreciated, but must not be imposed. Quebec and the provinces must remain the primary contractors and must have the last word. When we talk about natural disasters, from floods to ice storms, we think it is important for this bill to be passed, if it respects provincial jurisdictions.
Quebec has set up its own organization to see to the public security of Quebeckers. It is working fine and the federal government might compromise its efficiency and effectiveness by duplicating it.
Those who can best manage public safety are local elected representatives, who are familiar with citizens' programs. The federal government conceives its intervention plans away from the site and from reality. If this amendment is not passed, the federal government could try to impose them, when they are less adapted and could well thwart efficient provincial plans
This is why we agree with the legislation. We have always said that it was an important bill, which should have been passed long ago. However, the federal government has been once more dragging its feet.
I repeat that the federal government invests 44% of its budget in provincial fields of jurisdiction.
Enough is enough. If the federal government wants to have a law on public safety, we agree. However, this bill must not infringe upon provincial fields of jurisdiction, and the federal government must work jointly with the provinces to create programs and, above all, cooperate with the provinces to implement them.
This is why we are asking all the members of the House to vote in favour of the amendment of the Bloc—reject the Liberal Party's motion—and to ensure that we go back to the bill as amended, where section 6(1) reads:
In exercising his or her powers and in performing his or her duties and functions and with due regard to the powers conferred on the provinces and territories, the Minister may—
We strongly believe in this bill and we will support it if this amendment is a part of it.