House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Mississauga South (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I have to reflect on my experience as an accountant and auditor prior to becoming a member of Parliament, where a couple of my clients were in fact settlement services. One of them actually went out of business because a union came in and decided to unionize the staff. The member and the minister well know that the funding for human resources from either level of government is fixed and cannot change. They could not afford to stay open because they could not afford to pay the salary demands of the union that was set up.

It is not a matter of the fact that there were cuts but whether the cuts were done in a way which was transparent. It would seem to me that if there is a requirement to save money in that area of settlement services, it really takes an approach which is basically to close down those that are not providing efficient services, as opposed to chipping away at the foundational funding of some of these settlement services. I believe the government has not been transparent in that regard. I wonder if the member would care to comment.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am looking at the direct testimony of the Privacy Commissioner at committee on November 18, 2010. The member who just spoke is absolutely wrong. She said that there were no breaches of the act. It is like having regulations to a piece of legislation. How long is the retention period? How do we mitigate false positives, et cetera? These are operational things that happen in regulations.

If the member would check the actual testimony, he would see that the Privacy Commissioner had no concerns about the legislation, but did make suggestions on how to mitigate the potential for any undue invasiveness.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the member closed his speech by saying this is faulty legislation. I have the bill here and I am not sure whether or not the member could point out where the fault is in the legislation. There may be some fault in the logic of the member's argument, that there are some options to whether or not he would like to respect sovereign authority of another country that is pursuant to an agreement that we have with the United States already. It is already in place. He knows that.

The question is, if the Civil Liberties Association says that this is an abuse of privacy rights and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says no, it is not, how do we resolve the issue when any sovereign country says if we want to enter its air space, there are certain conditions to follow. How does the member reconcile that? It is not a matter of faulty legislation. We have to do something. What is it?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, there are two questions.

The first question is about why the U.S. does not give the information to us when American aircraft fly in our airspace. The answer is simple. The Government of Canada has not requested it. That is pretty straightforward.

The second question addresses the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's assessment that this bill is a flagrant violation of privacy rights.

That is not the case according to the Privacy Commissioner. However, if that were the case, then we would have the case of our privacy rights having to be protected in Canada, sovereign airspace having to be protected in the United States, and there being no reconciliation but to fly around the U.S.

There has to be a balance. We have to work on it. That is what has been happening. There have been serious discussions with the U.S. ambassador as to how to mitigate this and also how to educate the public about why and how, and the process that will be followed.

It seems to me they are looking for that balance. That is the only way to get around the member's problems.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the arguments are circular.

First, the member does not recognize, or will not admit, that the United States has the sovereign right to require certain conditions for entering its airspace. That includes either landing in the United States or just flying over it.

As a matter of fact, as I indicated in my comments, virtually every country in the world has similar restrictions on flying in its airspace. That is why we have to find the balance.

The U.S. ambassador has indicated very clearly that the Americans will work with Canadian officials to deal with the privacy concerns expressed. There will be limitations on the extent of information. The member raised the issue of how long the U.S. is going to keep the information. The Privacy Commissioner gave some guidance. It will be worked on. There will be a retention policy. On sharing information, there obviously are restrictions on that information getting out of the control of the United States for the purpose for which it was rendered.

I heard that discussions were still ongoing with regard to abandoning the requirement to provide information when a flight is just flying over the U.S. going from one destination in Canada to another destination in Canada.

Those are somewhat encouraging. We will have to wait to see.

I know that none of the members in this place have all of the information as to what specifically is going to be asked for, what is the retention policy and what are the other conditions under which the clearance of the aircraft will be given because these details are still being discussed.

The principle that cannot be discussed is whether or not the United States has the sovereign right to impose conditions when Canadian aircraft fly over its airspace.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping you were going to answer the question since the member laid out very clearly where she stands on it.

If I want to do it voluntarily, it is okay but if I do not want to give the information, then I am not going to give it. If people go to the U.S. border by car and the border patrol wants to see their passport and they respond they do not want to show it, what happens? They have to turn around and go back. There is a consequence of saying “I do not want”. We have a signed treaty with the United States with regard to disclosure. If we do not want to provide any information that may be required pursuant to Bill C-42, we have the right to say “no”, and take a plane that goes to the Maritimes or to Vancouver and then flies on, so we could still get there. It would not have to be disclosed because we would not be going over U.S. airspace. I am sure the member would appreciate that it is an impractical solution to her problem.

I would ask the member to inform herself and her colleagues about what specific information is being required and whether or not that information is already being readily given out any time we travel to the United States by land. It is already happening, but this is to do with where the aircraft is flying over.

I do not think anybody will ever forget 9/11. Certainly people in the U.S. will not. I remember being at the transport committee the year after it happened and officials in the U.S. cried when they tried to relate some of the stories of what they went through. This has really hurt the country and this is part of its sovereign safety. This is what the United States needs to get that comfort level, not only for government officials, but for the people of the United States.

I understand the member's point, but we cannot get there from here.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add some comments on Bill C-42. I think there is some information which would have been clarified by the committee had members looked at the committee testimony dealing with international rights and the rights of countries to protect their sovereign airspace and land.

Substantively, this is a furtherance of the wish of the Americans to respond to the terrorist threats upon the U.S. They are our neighbour and our largest trading partner. However, the intent of the U.S. clearly is not directed at Canada in terms of interfering with Canada, but rather protecting their sovereign space.

It is easy to give a speech in this place on privacy rights. One speaker just said that the Americans would have our health card and health care information. That is not actually the case. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner was before committee and laid out the disclosure, and it is basic disclosure.

We have had evidence that this kind of information is provided when we cross the border in automobiles. We have to provide our passports. That opens up any file on times of travel. The Americans keep records. There is probably a fair bit of information on people who travel to the United States, much more than people who fly over it.

The bill is very straightforward. It requires Canada to provide information about people flying either to the United States or over the United States.

The testimony at committee was not 100% onside. Some people argued on the privacy issue. However, when it got down to it, there was no disagreement whatsoever on a sovereign country protecting itself and prescribing certain conditions and requirements to enter its airspace. That is not in dispute. The question really becomes this. To what extent is the information necessary for that sovereign country, whatever it be, to protect itself?

In reviewing some of the discussion at committee, I heard and read that they were looking for an appropriate balance between protecting our security, while protecting the civil liberties and privacy rights of Canadians. I think that is where the committee landed.

As I said, the international law recognizes a state's right to regulate aircraft entering its territory. The United States has the Chicago convention to which Canada is a signatory. It requires our compliance with the regulation that states that the laws and regulations of each contracting state is related to the admission, or departure from its territory, of aircraft engage in international air navigation or to the operation and navigation of such aircraft while within its territory. We are already signatories to that agreement.

The issue now is to the point where there is kind of an understanding and acceptance of the sovereign right of Canada to have certain information requirements for people visiting Canada in a variety of situations, whether it be people arriving without documents or some problem like that. There are all kinds of examples where Canada requires information from those wanting to get into this country and, without it, they are detained and work is be done to establish why they are here.

Some of the other discussions at committee had to do with such things as if we did not pass this bill and in fact we refuse to provide the information then aircraft flying from Canada to some country other than the United States, but travelling over it, would not be able to do that. It would not be given permission to enter U.S. airspace. The consequences of that could be enormous. The number of aircraft that fly over U.S. airspace but do not land in the U.S. is enormous. The economic cost and impact of something as simplistic as fuel costs, the time involved and inconvenience would be devastating not only to an airline but certainly to its customers and the country.

These arguments and the bogeyman approach to legislation regarding the protection of privacy rights of Canadians because secret information about them will be provided and it will be used for nasty things really cannot be taken seriously. We are a signatory. We have a responsibility to support the requirements of the U.S., which has a very significant and legitimate reason to protect its airspace, its country and its people. We expect nothing less from Canada.

I believe early in February the Minister of Public Safety said:

For our part, we have worked closely with the Americans to ensure this is implemented in a way that recognizes our security interests and the privacy concerns of Canadians.

Now it is up to the Liberal-led coalition to stop playing politics and support this needed bill.

That is the political part of it, but the operational part is working with and having a balanced approach to respecting sovereignty rights. If anybody votes against this, it had better not be because he or she wants to ignore the sovereign rights of any country. That is not a starter. The only argument there could be is with regard to what information is there.

When appearing before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Privacy Commissioner made it very clear that although it is an issue of concern this in fact is not a violation of Canadian privacy rights under PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

I believe there is an understanding. I must admit that Canadians obviously would respond to the issue of perhaps disclosing certain information. However, in the normal course they are told that if they want to go to Mexico and fly over the U.S. they have to give their name, address, passport number, et cetera. That is something that we do. In fact, the disclosure that Canadians make in the normal course in terms of transacting their day-to-day lives is much more broad. Many people have given their Visa number to a supplier to buy something over the Internet. What protection do they have if that supplier continues to process charges against their cards until they are caught? It can happen.

Having been the former chair of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, I have heard many of these arguments. The Privacy Commissioner has a stellar record of acting swiftly and strongly with regard to the privacy rights of Canadians, most recently with regard to the lax provisions under Facebook, and has worked collaboratively internationally to ensure that we protect those rights.

However, when we have someone with the experience, the expertise and the earned respect of our Privacy Commissioner saying that the disclosure required under Bill C-42, and considering the sovereign right of the United States to protect its property, it is not unreasonable disclosure. In fact, it is disclosure that is necessary.

I heard the debate at second reading. I looked at some of the testimony at committee and although I have heard both sides of the story, it is not enough for members to use simple rhetoric to say that they have to protect the privacy rights of Canadians and therefore they are voting against the bill. What they are really saying is that they will not pass the bill. They want Canadians to say, “Let us stand up to the United States, not give it the information, and we are prepared to spend the extra money to fly around the United States. By the way, if we ever want to go to the United States, we will not give them that information either”.

The airlines will not stand for it. It cannot happen. It is not economical to operate an airline if it has to basically fly around continents. It is not a starter.

With regard to entering the United States, we have been looking for a range of opportunities to enhance greater cross-border activity and travel with the United States, not only for the general vacationing public or visiting for brief periods, but more important, for the economic impact. It is the economic side of the argument that is very important.

We cannot ignore the fact that this would have some serious economic implications. That was brought out very clearly at the committee hearings. Our transport critic tried to make the case that there are issues we can negotiate and deal with. I do not think anyone has provided the comprehensive list because I do not believe it exists as to the specific disclosures that will be required, but I would say that it would be minimal, compared to what some members have suggested. There is absolutely no security information in knowing somebody's health card number. It really is astounding that people say the Americans will get this.

I heard the argument in one of the speeches that if the United States is to have this information, it could go to a database to get it and there are linkages. People do business abroad and also have medical treatment there. There are computer records with people's information and that is why it is very important that we be part of the solution, not part of the problem. But in this regard, it is very clear that the appropriate step is to continue to work for a balanced approach to providing the information necessary, to respect the sovereign right of the United States to restrict travel over its airspace without having an opportunity to vet who might be on the plane.

That is a security issue. It is not matter that security trumps privacy rights, but it is a legal obligation that we have pursuant to agreements that we have already signed with the United States. Virtually every country around the world has the same requirements that airlines will not be able to travel in their airspace without having the authorization to satisfy whatever conditions are required.

It is not easy. It would be so simple to explain how our privacy rights have to be protected, but at what cost? Are we talking about privacy rights in the extreme or are we talking about a person's name, address, telephone number and passport number, all of which are generally available. When people enter the United States, they have to fill out a card which asks if they are taking large sums of money, if they have any fruits or vegetables, if they have any firearms, what hotel they are staying at and the phone number where they can be reached. We already do that naturally, yet that is a lot of information. It is a lot more than is being asked for with regard to Bill C-42.

Where is the discussion about all that disclosure? It is because if we want to land in the United States that is the information it requires. We understand that because it is its right to ask for it, otherwise, we are not getting in. I appreciate the comments of some members, but to somehow argue that privacy rights are being infringed upon is a false conclusion and it is sustained by the testimony of the Privacy Commissioner, Ms. Stoddart, before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities that this not a breach of the privacy privileges and rights of Canadians.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, very few people in this place, or in the country for that matter, would disagree with the hypothesis that we have to do everything possible to protect the rights and privacy of Canadians in all matters and that we have to look at the exceptions in a reasoned fashion.

We know that every country has the right to protect its own airspace and land space and to require certain information if people want to go there. To broadly deal with this as if it is a total violation of the privacy rights of Canadians may be a stretch.

Would the member confirm for the House his understanding about what information would actually have to be disclosed as part of the requirements that the U.S. has laid out in its statement?

First Nations Financial Transparency Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I did not have a counter with me, but half of that speech had the words, “transparency, openness and accountability”.

I had the good fortune to be invited to be involved with an aboriginal bill to do with matrimonial real property rights. It was pursuant to a bill presented by the government. In preparation of that bill, the government engaged a well-respected consultant. As I recall, over 80 recommendations were for the inclusion in the proposed bill. How many of those recommendations actually appeared in the bill? None. Why? Because the government did not bother to consult with first nations. It did not bother to ask what was important.

First nations communities right across the country were absolutely outraged for one simple reason: the government did not respect the long-standing principle of fair and open consultation prior to any legislation coming through. This showed itself in the fact that not only did the National Women's Aboriginal Commission but virtually every first nations community across the country signed up in support of defeating the bill for one reason: the lack of consultation.

One thing mentioned earlier by a speaker was that this seemed to be a government position which was being forced into the House through the mechanism of a private member's bill. The government does not want to put forward a bill that somehow champions openness, transparency and accountability. There is nobody in this chamber or country who would credit the government with being open, transparent and accountable. There are just far too many examples.

The very first bill the Conservative government brought in January 2006 was the Federal Accountability Act. Where is that now? We have had example after example of failure to be open, accountable and transparent. The member said in his speech that if we were open, transparent and accountable, it would promote trust in government.

When we consider the way this has come forward, the government itself is not open, transparent or accountable, but it demands that of first nations on matters which are their business. The point is it is their business.

As an example, on February 25, the Parliamentary Budget Officer came out with a 16 page report on a motion that the finance committee brought here in a committee report, and a matter of privilege, that the government had refused to provide the information members of Parliament needed to do their jobs. That is exactly what the Parliamentary Budget Officer concluded: the costing of justice bills; the costing of the F-35s; the costing of the operational expense reductions; the projections on corporate taxes; and the projections on the cost of corporate tax cuts.

When we put these together with the CIDA and KAIROS issue, the minister cannot even rise in this place and speak to that issue because she has been told not to speak. She has been told not to be open, or transparent or accountable to the House of Commons.

How dare the government put forth a bill where it demands openness, transparency and accountability of first nations when it cannot demonstrate openness, accountability and transparency itself. That is the shame. The shame is not only the failure to consult but to demean first nations by not consulting.

The bill on matrimonial property rights never did get passed. It is a very serious issue. The government should bring it back after consultation. Even when it gets the best experts giving it recommendations, it ignores them totally. Did it consult on this? No. It somehow wants to paint all first nations with the same brush. Some chief is getting paid $100,000 or $200,000 a year.

This cannot be dealt with on a one-off basis. This is a very important issue. The relationship of first nations and the Government of Canada is trashed because of the government's reputation and its failure to consult, to be open, to be transparent and to be accountable. It cannot propose this bill as a private member's bill. It really is unfortunate.

There is another case that I was speaking to someone about this morning regarding the Toronto Port Authority. The House leader, the industry minister and the foreign affairs minister were all at one time a transport minister in cabinet. During that period, three of the board of directors of the Toronto Port Authority wrote a letter to those three ministers, along with the Minister of Finance, who is the political minister for Ontario, stating several violations of the bylaws of the Toronto Port Authority. How many of those directors got a response from any one of those ministers about that legal letter regarding the violations that they had breached their duty to operate the port authority in a fashion conducive to the public interest? None. Not one of those ministers responded to that letter. I will find out why they do not want to be open, transparent or accountable.

The government cannot have it both ways. If it is serious about bills like this, it is important for us to deal with first nations in an honest way, by consulting and understanding the issues and the problems. If it is an issue of disclosure, we can deal with that. However, when it brings it forth by way of private member's business, it is because it does not want to deal with it. It does not have the respect within first nations. We know that. It has been that way since 2006. All the work that was done has gone totally right downhill.

I remember talking to the member for Yukon. He is very much supportive of the position that this bill has to be defeated because it is an insult to first nations.

I have spoken to our critic, the member for Labrador, when we worked on the matrimonial property rights bill. We had so many meetings. We were making such good progress. However, a bill like this puts us back further than when the government started. This is the problem we are addressing.

I call on all hon. members to reflect very carefully on what has happened here and what has happened not only with this bill but with the failure of the government to respect the rights, freedoms and the privileges of parliamentarians to have information, to have consultation and to allow us to take our best shot.

Let us look at Afghan detainee documents. That is another issue. The Speaker had to rule that we had the right. We know we have the right. Who is delaying it? It is the Conservative government. This is the issue in the House today. It is the issue that we will have every day in this chamber until the government decides, once and for all, that it must be open, transparent and accountable if wants to continue to be the government.

Business of Supply February 17th, 2011

Madam Speaker, the motion before the House today has to do with the government's refusal to provide documents that it is the right of parliamentarians to receive.

The proof of that is also in today's debate in that every Conservative member who has stood today has spoken about everything except the motion. None of the Conservatives have addressed the motion because they have been handed speeches to read that are about other things, trying to deflect attention away from the issue.

Does the hon. member agree that it is not only the right and privilege of parliamentarians to have that information but it is also useful for the people of the country to have the information so they can tell parliamentarians how they feel about the priorities the government has laid out?