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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 259

CONTENTS

Thursday, May 30, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 259 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table in the House, in both official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Committees of the House

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, entitled Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands.
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Finance  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to Bill C-462, An Act restricting the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit and making consequential amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Act.
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

[Translation]

Petitions

Millennium Goals  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition reminding the government of its duty to meet the millennium goals, which it committed to in 2008. What makes this petition even more impressive is that a young constituent in my riding, Charlotte Côté, collected more than 5,000 signatures from across Canada. I am so pleased to see that kind of drive from youth in my riding, and I am honoured to present her work here in the House. I want to congratulate her, and I hope that she will always be this engaged.

Health  

    Mr. Speaker, I too am fiercely proud of my constituents' activism, particularly regarding my campaign promise to improve our health care system and ensure that the federal government is more proactive so that health care remains public and universal.
    That is what this petition is about. It has been signed by many people in my riding who, each week, share with me their concerns on this subject.

[English]

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present from a number of individuals regarding post offices.
    The petitioners are concerned that as post offices are closed, that the community is made aware and that they consult with the public and their elected representatives, postal unions and other major stakeholders before that happens.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand and bring forth this petition to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in regard to the situation of declining water levels in the Great Lakes Basin, particularly in the Lake Michigan, Georgian Bay, North Channel region.
    Since 1999, water levels in Lake Huron have dropped pretty much five feet with no sign of rebounding 13 years later.
    The petitioners are asking the government to examine this and to find ways to reverse the declining water levels in the Great Lakes.

  (1005)  

Chief Firearms Officers  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition from people in British Columbia who wish to have the chief firearms officers replaced across the country with a single civilian agency that would administer the law equally across the country.

[Translation]

Privacy  

    Mr. Speaker, today I am presenting a petition from people in my riding who support my bill, Bill C-475, which is designed to better protect the personal information that Canadians put online.
    Those who signed the petition lament the fact that the laws protecting our personal information online have not been updated since the first-generation iPod was released. They would like to see my bill passed in the House.

National Capital Commission  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to present another petition signed by Ottawans who are opposed to the interprovincial bridge proposed by consultants hired by the National Capital Commission. They believe that the best option is to invest in public transit, not fund this bridge.
    I have the honour of informing the House that similar petitions will follow.

[English]

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise this morning to table a series of petitions from Canadians across this great country who are calling on the House to condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of myself and the other members from eastern Quebec, I am pleased to table a petition with over 11,000 signatures. The petition is an initiative of Carrefour 50 + du Québec, an association of 154 affiliated groups. Its mission is to recognize and support those aged 50 and over and to focus on intergenerational networking to help redefine society's collective relationships with a view to intergenerational equality.
    The people of eastern Quebec are extremely concerned about the changes made to employment insurance and call on the government to cancel its EI reform, since it is devastating for eastern Quebec.
    In addition, Carrefour 50 + is specifically concerned that caregivers will be driven out of the area by EI reform. Caregivers are essential to the lives of people aged 50 and over in the region. I am therefore pleased to table this 11,000-name petition.

[English]

Conflict Minerals  

    Mr. Speaker, I table today a petition from students who go to school in Winnipeg's north end and they are dismayed to learn of the harsh and degrading conditions under which many people work in extracting resources in other parts of the world. They are asking that minerals being imported into Canada must be certified as being from conflict-free areas.

[Translation]

41st General Election  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table two petitions.
    The first petition relates to the ongoing public demand for an inquiry into what occurred during the election, namely specific events that took place over at least one day. I am talking about calls that were made to voters to deliberately direct them to the wrong polling places. These are the facts, according to a court decision.
    The petitioners are now demanding that the Prime Minister establish an independent inquiry to find out the truth, determine who did what during the last election, and find the person or persons responsible.

[English]

Foreign Investment  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is primarily from residents of my own riding, from Salt Spring Island, from Mayne Island, from the Saanich Peninsula and from Victoria, calling on the government to refuse to ratify the Canada-China investment treaty as it threatens the sovereignty of Canada and the passage of laws municipally, provincially and federally.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 1319.

[Text]

Question No. 1319--
Ms. Hélène Laverdière:
     With regard to the Canadian International Development Agency, what is the total amount of funding lapsed for the 2012-2013 fiscal year?
Hon. Julian Fantino (Minister of International Cooperation, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the final expenditure amount for the 2012-13 fiscal year for the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, has not yet been finalized. Pursuant to the Public Accounts process, all financial information is subject to audit and validation. Once these processes are concluded, the final financial results for CIDA will be reported in the 2013 Public Accounts.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, furthermore, if Questions Nos. 1301 and 1303 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 1301--
Mr. Philip Toone:
     With regard to funding for national parks: (a) how much did the government allocate to national parks between 2000 and 2012, inclusive, broken down by year and by park; and (b) how much does the government expect to allocate to national parks between 2013 and 2017, inclusive, broken down by year and by park?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1303--
Mr. Philip Toone:
     With regard to the libraries at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute and the St. Andrews Biological Station: (a) what were the operating costs for these two libraries over the last 10 years, broken down by year and library; (b) what were the projected operating costs for these two libraries over the next five years, broken down by year and library; (c) what are the costs, including the actual and projected costs, associated with closing these two libraries, broken down by year and library; (d) what studies show that closing these two libraries will allow the government to save money, and what are the results of these studies; and (e) how is the government planning to replace the French-language services offered by the Maurice Lamontagne Institute library?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, finally, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair has notice that the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands would like to make a further contribution to the point of order raised yesterday.

  (1010)  

Points of Order

Standing Committee on Finance  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to the hon. House leader of the official opposition for raising this point of order yesterday, objecting to the unusual procedures that were accepted within the Standing Committee on Finance, in relation to the clause-by-clause treatment of Bill C-60, the 2013 omnibus budget bill.
    Prior to his point of order, I was struggling with a dilemma: I was certain there was an effort to undermine my rights as an individual member of Parliament and yet there had been no formal challenge. I was not sure how to approach this, Mr. Speaker, and to put before you the ways in which I found that procedure unacceptable. I really very much appreciate that the official opposition saw fit to raise its concerns that those procedures and the procedures adopted--novel procedures, mind you--before the Standing Committee on Finance did not comport to parliamentary rules and practice and went beyond the mandate of the committee.
    I agree with all the points made by the hon. House leader of the official opposition and by the member for Winnipeg North, on behalf of the Liberal Party.
    Before getting down to the particulars of the current situation, I wish to review some fundamental principles related to the matter before you, Mr. Speaker.
    In essence, what you are asked to adjudicate here is an effort by a powerful government party with the majority of seats in this place to eliminate what few rights exist to influence legislation in the hands of only eight members of Parliament belonging to two recognized national parties, myself, on behalf of the Green Party, and members here for the Bloc Québécois, plus two members currently sitting as independents.
    Within this group, the government party's efforts are aimed only at the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois. We are the only members to have submitted amendments at report stage in the 41st Parliament.
    The appropriate balance between the majority and the minority in proceedings of the House is, as Speaker Milliken noted, a fundamental issue.
    Mr. Speaker, I am going to be providing the written copy of this presentation to you so that I will not have to read out loud all the citations.
    The following passage is very apt. Although Speaker Milliken was dealing with a situation with a minority Parliament, the issues before him of balancing the rights of the minority and the majority are the same. I quote from Speaker Milliken's ruling of March 29, 2007:
     At the present time, the chair occupants, like our counterparts in House committees, daily face the challenge of dealing with the pressures of a minority government, but neither the political realities of the moment nor the sheer force of numbers should force us to set aside the values inherent in the parliamentary conventions and procedures by which we govern our deliberations.
    Continuing:
    Unlike the situation faced by committee chairs, a Speaker's decision is not subject to appeal. All the more reason then for the Chair to exercise its awesome responsibility carefully and to ensure that the House does not, in the heat of the moment, veer dangerously off course.
    The Speaker must remain ever mindful of the first principles of our great parliamentary tradition, principles best described by John George Bourinot, Clerk of this House from 1890 to 1902, who described these principles thus:
     To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner, to enable every member to express his opinions within those limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time, to give full opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken heedlessly and upon sudden impulse.
    As I noted yesterday, in particular, in your ruling related to the member for Langley's question of privilege, you said:
...[an] unquestionable duty of the Speaker [is] to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of members and of the House as an institution.
    And you cited, with approval, these words from former speaker Fraser:
...we are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy, nor a so-called administrative democracy.

  (1015)  

    The last quote is from your ruling of December 12, 2012, which bears directly on the matter at hand. In that ruling, Mr. Speaker, you dealt with an objection raised by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to, inter alia, my presentation of amendments at report stage. The hon. government House leader presented a proposal that all my amendments at report stage should be grouped and one motion selected as a “test motion”, and only if the test motion was adopted would any of the other amendments be put to the House.
    Your ruling was clear, Mr. Speaker. You cited House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 250, which states:
    [I]t remains true that parliamentary procedure is intended to ensure that there is a balance between the government's need to get its business through the House, and the opposition's responsibility to debate that business without completely immobilizing the proceedings of the House.
     And you added:
    The underlying principles these citations express are the cornerstones of our parliamentary system. They enshrine the ancient democratic tradition of allowing the minority to voice its views and opinions in the public square and, in counterpoint, of allowing the majority to put its legislative program before Parliament and have it voted upon.
    You ruled then, Mr. Speaker, that my amendments at report stage on Bill C-45 could stand and be put to a vote in the House. You also set out some circumstances that would provide a potential procedure to provide me and other members in my position with a fair and satisfactory alternative to amendments at report stage.
    In my view, the government House leader is now attempting to do indirectly that which he could not do directly. It puts me in mind of the finding of Mr. Justice Dickson in that landmark Supreme Court case of Amax Potash, in which Mr. Dickson said:
    To allow moneys collected under compulsion, pursuant to an ultra vires statute, to be retained would be tantamount to allowing the provincial Legislature to do indirectly what it could not do directly, and by covert means to impose illegal burdens.
    I again underline that as the hon. House leader of the official opposition has put before us, the actions of the finance committee were ultra vires, and the whole effort here is to do indirectly what it could not do directly. I am speaking of the Conservative Party's efforts to suppress the rights of minority members.
    It offends principles of fairness to use the superior clout and power of a majority government to crush the few procedures found within our rules and traditions to which I, as an individual member, have a right to recourse. It is clear that the effort being made by the finance committee on Bill C-60 is a continuation of the strategy-by-stealth of the government House leader's to foreclose the democratic rights of members, which was attempted in November of last year.
    For the remainder of my argument, I would like to canvass two areas of facts that are relevant to the specifics of the question before you, Mr. Speaker. First, was the procedure adopted by the finance committee in conformity with your ruling of December 12, 2012? Second, have the amendments I have put forward in the 41st Parliament offended the rules by failing the tests of “repetition, frivolity, vexatiousness and unnecessary prolongation of report stage”?
    Dealing with the second point first, I have moved amendments at report stage on the following bills, and I will state how many amendments per bill: Bill C-10, 36 amendments; Bill C-11, 11 amendments; Bill C-13, one amendment; Bill C-18, three amendments; Bill C-19, three amendments; Bill C-31, 23 amendments; Bill C-316, five amendments; Bill C-38, 320 amendments; Bill C-37, one amendment; Bill C-43, 21 amendments; and Bill C-45, 82 amendments.
    What is immediately obvious is that the number of my amendments was directly proportionate to the legislation proposed by the government. Only on the two omnibus budget bills, Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, and the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, did I propose a relatively large number of amendments. There were many amendments, because the omnibus bills involved changes to multiple laws in a dramatic and transformative fashion. The amendments I proposed were all serious; none were frivolous. They were not of the kind, for example, put forward by the opposition of the day on the Nisga'a treaty, in which multiple amendments were mere changes of punctuation with the goal being slowing passage of the Nisga'a treaty.

  (1020)  

    The amendments I have put forward have even gained favourable commentary from some government members. On Bill C-31, the hon. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said, “I appreciate the member's evident concern”, speaking of me as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, “and the fact that she takes the deliberative legislative process very seriously”.
    On Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act, the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages said, “I compliment her for her substantive approach to this legislation”.
    I commend the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her constant due diligence. I know it is a particular challenge to effectively be an independent member and yet participate in an informed way in debates on virtually all bills in the House. We all admire her for that even if I do not agree with the substance of her intervention here.
    In summary, the amendments I have put forward in the 41st Parliament have never been frivolous. Were they designed to slow passage? Not at all. Even on the day we began the marathon session of votes on the amendments to Bill C-38, I approached the Prime Minister personally and asked if any compromise were possible. I told him I would be at his disposal, that if one or two amendments might pass, perhaps the rest could be withdrawn, and that I was open to suggestion.
    My goal throughout was serious and grounded in principle. My constituents care about these issues and these bills. I am working tirelessly in their interest. I have never engaged in preparing and presenting amendments for the sake of, as the government House leader has suggested, political games or delay for the sake of delay.
    Having worked in the Mulroney government and in public policy work in Ottawa dealing with federal governments, federal ministers and federal laws since 1978, I have personal experience with what used to be the normal approach to legislating in the Parliament of Canada. This particular administration is the only one in our history to enforce rigid discipline on its members in legislative committees. It is the first administration in Canadian history to resist any changes in its legislative proposals from first reading to royal assent. Even the errors that are discovered prior to passage are protected from amendment until subsequent bills correct earlier drafting errors.
    Worsening this abuse of democratic process, virtually every bill in the 41st Parliament has been subject to time allocation. If time allocation were not applied, in the normal round of debates, eventually members in my situation, who are seen as independent for my rights and privileges, although I sit here as a Green Party member, would be recognized and would participate in the debates. However, due to time allocation, there is never an opportunity to speak at second reading, report stage or third reading. With time allocation, there is never an opportunity for members in my position to make a speech unless another party cedes a speaking slot.
    As a matter of practical reality, the only way to have a speaking opportunity in such time-constrained circumstances is to have amendments tabled at report stage. This approach of the current Conservative administration of rejecting any and all amendments, while simultaneously abbreviating debate opportunities, is a perversion of Westminster parliamentary tradition. It is a new and hyper-partisan approach to the legislative process.
    As a member of Parliament, I believe it is my duty to work to resist this new, contemptuous approach to legislating. The ability to table amendments at report stage and to offer the entire House an opportunity to improve bills before third reading is even more critical when the legislative committee process has ceased to function as it did in all the time of all the speakers before you.
    Now I turn to the question, Mr. Speaker, of how the finance committee applied the suggestions contained in your ruling of December 12, 2012. I note that the chair of the finance committee is never anything but personally fair, and I mean nothing personal against all members of the finance committee. I assume that this entire stratagem emerged elsewhere than from the members of the finance committee themselves.
    I note that you suggested, Mr. Speaker, that there are “opportunities and mechanisms that are at the House's disposal to resolve these issues to the satisfaction of all members” in a “manner that would balance the rights of all members” and that “...members need only to remember that there are several precedents where independent members were made members of standing committees”. Those are all quotes from your ruling in December.
    Finally, you suggested this:
    Were a satisfactory mechanism found that would afford independent members an opportunity to move motions to move bills in committee, the Chair has no doubt that its report stage selection process would adapt to the new reality.

  (1025)  

    From these comments it is clear that your direction suggests that an effort might be made to engage members with rights of independents to enter into a discussion about how arrangements could be reached that would be, in fact, satisfactory. To be “to the satisfaction of all members”, your ruling implicitly requires that the suggested opportunities and mechanisms be discussed and accepted by all concerned. Further, you suggested that temporary membership was possible and that members should be able to “move motions”.
    None of that occurred. I am attaching a written copy of all the correspondence between me and the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, which I will provide to the table. As you will see, there was no discussion or offer of co-operation. The “invitation” contained in a letter of May 7, 2013 left no room for discussion. The attached motion of the committee was supported only by the Conservative members of the finance committee but not by the official opposition or the Liberal Party members.
    The letter, and particularly the motion itself, had the tone of a unilateral ultimatum. My response was to ask for temporary committee membership for the duration of clause-by-clause review. This request was rejected in the letter of May 24, 2013.
    As the various sections of Bill C-60 had been distributed among several committees, I attempted to attend all the hearings relative to my amendments. However, committees were meeting at the same time in different locations throughout the parliamentary precinct making it impossible to get to each one of them. I did attend meetings of the industry, finance and the foreign affairs committees prior to clause-by-clause study. I asked for permission to ask witnesses questions and was denied in the finance and foreign affairs committees. I was allowed a three-minute opportunity to pose questions in the industry committee. To be blunt, my opportunities were not close to equivalent to the members of those committees.
    On Monday, May 27, 2013 as requested by the finance committee, I complied with the committee and attempted to co-operate. I submitted my amendments and attended clause-by-clause study throughout the meeting of the committee on Tuesday, May 28. I asked for time to present my amendments. There were 11 in total. I was given half as much time as my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. I was allowed one minute per amendment. He was allowed two minutes per amendment. I have attached copies of the Hansard from all of these discussions to abbreviate the recitation of the facts.
    I prefaced my presentation of amendments with a statement that I had not asked for this opportunity nor invitation and that while I was attempting to co-operate, it was without prejudice to my rights to submit amendments at report stage. Each time I was given the floor for 60 seconds, I repeated that my participation was without prejudice to my rights to present amendments at report stage, when I had the right to move my own amendments, speak to my own amendments, and answer questions about my amendments. At report stage, I have the right to vote on my amendments.
    I also supported the point made by the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park that inviting independent members to committee, in her words, “does not conform with parliamentary procedure in that only the House of Commons can appoint committee members”.
    I noted that I did not have an equal opportunity to present my amendments. This observation was compounded as we went through clause-by-clause study.
    On two occasions, members of the committee suggested amendments to my amendments. I was not allowed to comment on those suggestions. On one occasion, a member of the government benches disagreed with a point I made, but I was not allowed to reply. On another occasion, the NDP members misunderstood the impact of my amendment, but I was not allowed to explain. I was not allowed to move my amendments. The motions were deemed moved. I was not allowed to vote on my amendments. As noted, I was not allowed even the ability to participate in discussions about my amendments.
    There is no way the word “satisfactory” can be so twisted of meaning as to apply to the set of circumstances to which I was required to submit. It is a principle of fairness and natural justice that an opportunity that cannot be used is no opportunity at all.

  (1030)  

    When one considers the circumstances in which speakers have ruled that members did not have an adequate opportunity to submit their amendments, it is clear that this imposed process before the Standing Committee on Finance falls far short of the mark.
    For example, in 2001, Speaker Milliken ruled that where a member was on two committees and had difficulty getting to the meeting, he could move amendments at report stage. Speaker Milliken wrote that:
...because...the member maintains that he sits on two committees, both of which were seized with bills at the same time, and therefore had difficulty in moving his amendments, the Chair will give the benefit of the doubt to the member on this occasion.
    In a situation where a member of a recognized parliamentary party attended the clause-by-clause consideration at the committee but was not an official member of the committee, Speaker Milliken allowed that member's amendments to be presented at report stage. He noted:
    Of course, the Chair recognizes that our parliamentary system is party driven and the positions of the parties are brought forward to committees through its officially designated members. The Chair also recognizes that some members may want to act on their own.
    Underscoring this, what an example: a member of a recognized party with rights to participate in standing committees chose to be in the meetings, in clause-by-clause study, and could have handed that member's amendments to another member of his party and ask that they be submitted, but the Speaker of the House supported the right of that member to amendments at report stage because he was not a committee member. I was a long, long way from the rights of that member of a recognized political party sitting in that committee back in 2003 when Speaker Milliken allowed that member's amendments at report stage.
    The right of a member to actually move the amendments at committee cannot be perverted through the expedient measure, imposed by a majority party, of demanding all amendments of an independent member be submitted, denying that member the right to move the amendment, speak to the amendment, other than in an inadequate perfunctory fashion, debate or defend the amendment, giving that member no opportunity to speak to other amendments and denying the member any chance to vote on his or her motion.
    There may well be some way to accommodate members of Parliament in my position, but clearly, this experiment on Bill C-60 at clause-by-clause consideration in the finance committee was not acceptable. To accept it now, and disallow rights of members of Parliament in the position of independents to submit amendments at report stage, will be to create a precedent that fundamentally abuses our foundational principles of Westminster parliamentary democracy.
    Mr. Speaker, I urge you to find in favour of the point of order put forward by the hon. House leader for the official opposition and to set aside the treatment of me and the member from the Bloc Québécois and allow us to submit amendments, move amendments, debate our amendments and vote on them on Bill C-60 at report stage.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Safer Witnesses Act

Bill C-51—Time Allocation  

    That, in relation to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 67(1), there will now be a 30-minute question period.

  (1035)  

[Translation]

    I invite all hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate.

[English]

    Questions and comments. The hon. member for Gatineau.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what a surprise to arrive here this Thursday morning to find another time allocation motion. I have lost track of how many there have been. That will be part of my question for the Minister of Public Safety because we have lost count.
    This has become a habit. This is the fifth time allocation motion on as many bills that the government has moved and tried to ram down our throats.
    I would like to read something to the minister. One of his former colleagues said:

[English]

    A columnist wrote something interesting today. He wrote that in his view the decision to invoke closure on the bill represented in some ways the death of the true meaning of parliament. Parliament is the ability to gather together as elected representatives to talk, discuss, debate and hopefully do things that can enrich the lives and in this case the safety and security of Canadians. The federal Liberal government has failed Canadians.
    That was Stockwell Day in the House of Commons on November 28, 2001.
    I wonder what has changed with the guys in front of me. They seem to have forgotten all of the basic rules of democracy. The fact is that a party might support a bill that is, by the way, long overdue. I am sure the minister will use that fact to say that if it is long overdue, we should adopt it quickly. Just because they have suddenly realized the urgency or the need of something does not mean that they have to shortcut democracy.
    Does he not feel a bit ashamed to say to the people of Gatineau, let us say, or Sherbrooke or people from the Conservative side that he is not interested in hearing examples that we have concerning the witness protection program? We have crimes that cannot be solved. We have situations because we cannot have access because it is not funded enough. The bill is not perfect.
    Maybe the minister needs to hear these things, but no. They shut down debate. If it was not urgent in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013, why is it urgent now? At what number are we on those closure issues?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the amendments the member is talking about, which she is concerned have not been brought forward.
    Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure exactly what it is that could be said that would be a little bit different in regard to commenting on time allocation, for the simple reason that I have now stood in my place more than 30 times to talk about the issue of time allocation.
    If we think about it, the government has invoked time allocation more than any other government before it, in a very short window. Ever since it has had a majority Conservative government, it has had a new attitude. It is an attitude that is shameful in regard to what takes place inside the House of Commons. It is very anti-democratic.
    We have spent more time on invoking time allocation than we have on the bills for which time allocation has been invoked. We are quickly approaching 40 hours of time allocation.
    I recognize that I put my question to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, but he is so predictable now that we know he will not even answer the questions I am going to pose. Therefore, I recognize that it will be a different minister standing up to answer my question.
    I reflect on the days of Clayton Manness, Jim Ernst and Jim McCrae , individuals with whom I negotiated in my former life as a member of the Manitoba Legislature. There was a sense of House leaders getting together and working on a legislative House agenda to try to pass things through in a normal fashion, so that closure would not have to be introduced.
    My question is for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, of course, and I would love to see him actually address the issue. He is the one who is responsible for time allocation. It is he who ultimately has to defend the government.
    My question to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is: Does he feel it is appropriate to make time allocation a part of normal procedure? That is quite the opposite of what they used to argue for in the days when they were in the opposition.

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me just summarize the facts that relate to the procedural aspects of this particular bill, as I understand them.
    The NDP and the Liberals have supported the legislation at all stages. More important, no amendments were proposed. It was studied at five public safety committee meetings. This is the fourth day of debate. There are no amendments to debate. There has been support at all stages.
    I think it is very clear to Canadians what is happening here. The opposition is simply being obstructive.
    Mr. Speaker, I noted a tone of defensiveness in my hon. colleague—
    What? Back and forth on that side. Is that the way we are doing this?
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to understand how the person who is debating will be going.
    I have the point of order by the member for Crowfoot. The standing practice in the House is that the opposition parties get the priority of time almost exclusively for this 30 minutes of debate. That is the practice. That has been the tradition in the House for many years. One or two members get recognized from the government side, and that has been the pattern by both the current Speaker and chair occupants and the previous number of Speakers going back 20 years at least.
    The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Mr. Speaker, that is a very important thing to point out. I see the defensiveness of my colleagues on the other side. Not only do they want to shut down debate, and it was their decision to shut down debate, but they want to dominate what little time is left of the opposition's opportunity.
    Canadians know what is going on here. The government is mired up to its neck in scandal. The Conservatives appointed Arthur Porter, a criminal, and then because he gave them money, they appointed him to oversee the spy agency of Canada. The justice minister seemed to think Arthur Porter was a great guy when he was giving money. We have the same situation in the Senate.
    The Conservatives are doing everything they can to get out of town as quickly as they can and hide out at their cottages for the summer and hope this issue will go away—
    The hon. member for Crowfoot has a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I accept your response in regard to the almost exclusive number of questions, but I would ask that they remain relevant.
    What we are debating is time allocation on Bill C-51. On one hand, the NDP wants to talk about certain methods of moving it through when they want to expedite it and, on the other hand, now we are hearing about everything other than Bill C-51.
    If we are going to have questions, then they should be questions in regard to the debate and to the bill we are discussing.

  (1045)  

    Let me make the determination. The debate that is going on at this point is not exclusively about the bill that is before the House. It is also about the procedure that is being used, the time allocation motion. That is primarily what this debate is supposed to be about. The comments by the member for Timmins—James Bay are in fact very relevant to that part.
    The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like it to be also noted that this is an attempt to walk the clock down and I think that every time the government interferes with our right to speak, the clock should be stopped, because this is an attempt to intimidate members of the House.
    I will go back to the issue. The issue here is not the bill, because those members do not want to debate the bill. The issue here is their decision for the 37th or 38th time to shut down debate in the House of Commons. The Conservative government does not believe in accountability. The Conservative government will use the tools of power to undermine basic democratic processes. The government will take convicted fraud artists and put them right into the heart of the Prime Minister's Office and use them for advice.
    The government is again shutting down the democratic right of the House. The government spies on people like Cindy Blackstock. The government has shut down numerous independent bodies. Whatever happened to the party that promised accountability, that told us that people like Stockwell Day and Deborah Grey represented accountability? Now we have the member for Nepean—Carleton; that is the government's idea of accountability. Now we have Patrick Brazeau; that is their idea of accountability. Now we have Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy. The government promised to Canadians that it would bring a standard back to government. The government made a promise to Canadians and it broke it.
    What about your revenue critic?
    I hear their defensiveness, Mr. Speaker. They sound almost crazed over there. I know they want to get home, but they are accountable and they cannot shut the House down again to escape accountability.
    Mr. Speaker, I think all of us want to get home at some time or another, but the point is that I was here until one o'clock this morning. I was here prepared to debate the bills and speak to matters. In fact, I asked questions last night.
    Which one?
    The member across the way is chirping, as she usually does, but what I would like to say with regard to the issue of accountability is that the member who just spoke promised his constituents that he would vote to abolish the long gun registry. He promised every one of them whenever he could, because he realized it was a contentious matter. However, when he came back to Ottawa he changed his mind, so I do not need any lessons from that individual about accountability.
    Let us get to the issue of this particular bill itself.
    The Liberals and the New Democrats have supported this legislation at every stage. They have not proposed one amendment, not even a technical amendment. What they want to do is drag out the clock. Then when we say we should add 20 hours of debate to the week, what is their response? No.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, becoming a member of Parliament was a very proud moment for me.
    From the time I was child, I had watched the Hill operate as part of a democratic system. I did not always agree with the debates, but there was certainly a process that commanded a great deal of respect. Since I have been here as a member of Parliament, I must say that I am truly ashamed. I am ashamed to see how things work. I am ashamed of the process. I do not understand.
    My question for the minister is quite simple. When did he lose faith in debate and decide it was not important? He is talking about a motion. He has some nerve.
    When do the Conservatives ever make any sort of effort? When they decide to control the situation, then things go their way. As far as we are concerned, we want to have an ongoing, constructive debate. We are always prepared to work with the government. Unfortunately, they do not listen to anyone. They cut off debate and rhyme off all sorts of excuses every chance they get.
    I would like to understand where the minister is coming from because I no longer understand the government. Personally, I think some therapy is in order—for the government, I should say.

  (1050)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I can see how sensitive the members are on the other side. If they will not listen to me, let us listen to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. What did he say about the bill?
    He is their lead critic.
    He is their lead critic, as the member for Crowfoot points out.
    He said:
    Also, of course, we have committed to expediting its passage through the House. We believe it's important legislation. It's something we've been interested in since the time of the Air India inquiry...
    They have been on this since the time of the Air India inquiry. What has their response been? Zero amendments.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way talked about faith. Something I have faith in is the police forces of our country.
    I have a quote from Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association. He said:
    The Canadian Police Association strongly believes that this proposed legislation will enhance the safety and security of front-line law enforcement personnel who are engaged in protective duties.
    Unfortunately, the disclosure of identifying details can present a real danger to police personnel themselves as well as their families, and we appreciate the steps being taken today by the government of Canada to address those concerns
    He added:
    On behalf of over 50,000 law enforcement personnel that we represent across Canada, we ask Parliament to quickly move to adopt this bill.
    I wonder if the minister could respond to the necessity. I think there has been a plea. There is agreement in the House that we should pass this bill, but more importantly, there is agreement among the 50,000 law enforcement officers across the country to move this bill forward. It is not because they have something to gain from this, other than their own personal safety and the safety of their families.
    I wonder if the minister could speak to the necessity of moving this bill forward quickly so that we can protect the interests, the lives and the safety of over 50,000 law enforcement personnel, as well as their 50,000 families.
    Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the comments, I am not going to get into the specifics of the bill because that is not really the purpose of this discussion.
    However, I would note the comments of the Canadian Police Association, which has been very supportive of the initiatives we brought forward as a government. In fact, many of the initiatives we brought forward have been inspired by consultations with the Canadian Police Association and the chiefs of police. We want to thank them very much for that.
    Getting back to the comments of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, he indicated that he had been interested in this file since June 2010, when the Air India commission of inquiry released its report. For three years the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and his colleagues have been working on this file. They have committed to expedite it. They have said that it is very important and it should be expedited. The government has said, “Fine”. The police also want to move this bill quickly. However, the question that comes to me is this: what substantive changes need to be made, while still respecting the principle of expediency that the NDP is advancing here?
    There have been zero amendments proposed by the NDP.
    Mr. Speaker, here we are debating a motion for closure just after a very passionate presentation by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands with respect to how these motions for time allocation impact on individual members.
    I am a new member of Parliament here, but in my previous career I had occasion to work with the hon. minister when he was general counsel with an insurance company. Back then, one of the principles by which he guided his career was that a negotiated resolution was always better than one imposed.
    Given the minister's previous work history, my question for the minister is this: what measures were taken to try to come to a negotiated resolution and try to come to a compromise in terms of debate limits before this draconian measure was imposed yet again?

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think that is an important question and one that was very well put.
    It is indeed a principle that I have always accepted. We should negotiate when there are differences of opinion in respect to a bill. Mr. Speaker, I think you, as legal counsel, understand the importance of that approach as well.
    However, one of the things I found out is that if one side is negotiating and advancing a position and the other side has zero response in terms of objections, it is difficult to negotiate. We can state our position, but when everybody on the other side says that is a great position, then that is the end of the negotiation.
    We are not against negotiations, but there has been nothing to negotiate with. There have been no amendments put forward. This is not an issue of the government saying that it does not want to negotiate; this is the other side saying that since 2010 it has wanted this measure to be passed on an expedited basis.
    We have waited patiently, but there has been no sound coming from the other side in any substantive amendments. Therefore, we are left with the unsettling feeling that this is not about bona fide negotiations but just an attempt to drag this matter out.
    That is my concern here.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it saddens me to speak to a time allocation motion yet again. Earlier, my colleague from Gatineau asked how many of these motions we have had to date. It seems that this the 38th.
    The minister is interested in debating this particular bill that we are now studying, but we have to keep in mind that this is the 38th time that the Conservatives have cut debate short in order to give members, on both the opposition and government sides, as little time as possible to discuss the bill before voting. As legislators, the least we can do is be conscientious and effective. The Conservatives do not need to cut debate short every time so that as few people as possible can participate.
    I was wondering why the government is using this strategy to limit debate for a 38th time, as though everything were urgent? In some of those 38 cases, there was no urgency.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is not the government itself that has said this is an urgent matter, but the members across the way.
    If the members across the way are saying that this is an urgent matter, then the questions become, “What issues need to be determined in the context of this urgency? What needs to be clarified? What needs to be fixed?”
     The response of the opposition is a deafening silence. There is nothing in respect of this bill.
    I cannot comment on the other times that closure has been invoked in this House, but from my point of view, when I stand up to respond to arguments being made, there has to be some kind of substantive argument. In this case, zero amendments have been proposed.
    I have to take the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca at his word that the opposition members want to expedite this, yet everything that I hear them say says they want to drag their feet. They have to explain to the people of Canada that they want to have a vigorous debate about nothing.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, as this is not a discussion on Bill C-51 but on yet another time allocation, I have been doing research.
    I cannot find any time in the history of the Parliament of Canada when time allocation was used as it was this week, twice in one day. The government is setting a new record, not only for time allocation in general but for the number of times in one week that time allocation has been used on bills in the history of the Parliament of Canada.
    I wonder if that is a record of which the hon. minister is proud.
    Mr. Speaker, let us talk about this specific bill, because that is the one I am focused on.
    The people of Canada expect that I will justify why this process is being utilized in this particular case. I have commented very clearly about why it is justified in this case, noting that there has been vigorous debate over no amendments for a long period of time. This bill has been brought forward in committee, and it has resulted in absolutely no amendments.
     I know the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is concerned that as an independent member she does not get enough time to speak from time to time. I dispute that. I think the government has brought more to the floor for independence than any government has.
    Be that as it may, why would that member want to see a debate over nothing prolonged, knowing that it will have an impact on her future ability to speak in this House?
    Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about what Canadians expect. What the people from Surrey North expect is the opportunity for me to represent them here.
     I came to Ottawa two years ago. We learn throughout our lives, and one of the terms I learned under the government is “time allocation”. It took me a few times to figure out what it was. I want Canadians to know that basically it shuts down the ability of the members of Parliament from all across Canada to represent their views.
    I see a number of members in here who are from western Canada. I remember when they used to talk about how they were going to bring transparency and accountability to Ottawa. What I see here is exactly the reverse.
    I see a government that wants to run away. The Conservatives are fearful today. They want to run away back to their ridings so they do not have to face the scandals that are plaguing them here, the scandals of the Senate, the CSIS scandals and other scandals that are taking place.
    My question to the hon. Minister of Public Safety is this: what are they afraid of? Why are you afraid of debating this in the House of Commons and of giving members of Parliament opportunities for debate?
    I would direct members to direct their questions and comments to the Chair, not to each other.
    The hon. Minister of Public Safety.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the member. What I fail to understand is that he indicates somehow that expanding debate by 20 hours a week is somehow running away from an issue. Twenty hours a week is a substantive amount of time that I might point out members opposite voted against.
    I am not exactly sure what he means by saying we are running away from debate. Debate on what? I appeared in front of the committee. I responded to every objection that was raised. At the end of the day, the NDP raised no amendments. New Democrats were obviously satisfied with the position that our government had taken, that my presence at committee and the comments of my colleagues in the House had satisfied them that the bill was as good as it could possibly get.
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Vic Toews: The member across the way is chirping because she does not have anything substantive to say on the record, but the issue is I just do not understand, how do I respond to zero amendments, an admission by the opposition that the bill is a good bill? It needs to be expedited, but members want to stand in the way.

  (1105)  

    Order. It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

[Translation]

    The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1145)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 707)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Bateman
Benoit
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Glover
Goguen
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hoback
Holder
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Rathgeber
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Ritz
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 145

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Cleary
Côté
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garrison
Genest
Giguère
Goodale
Gravelle
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hsu
Hughes
Hyer
Jacob
Karygiannis
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Patry
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Quach
Rankin
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Saganash
Sandhu
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Toone
Tremblay
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 108

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the debate on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

  (1150)  

[English]

Third Reading  

     The House resumed from May 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the third time and passed.
    Before I get going with my speech today, I want to recognize the stellar work done by my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, the critic for public safety. He is such an impressive member of Parliament and does incredible hard work out in his riding, but also right here. When it has come to public safety, he has been on the job, working with the government where he can or where they let us, and then being the best advocate he can be to build strong, safe communities right across Canada.
    That is our primary aim and our goal. We are committed as a caucus to building strong, safe communities right across this country for everyone. It was for that reason, when time allocation was moved at committee, that our committee members on this bill actually co-operated. To hear them being smacked in the House today was a bit rich. It seems that when we try to co-operate we get smacked around anyway. That is really unfortunate, when we have a parliamentarian who works incredibly hard to build bridges and work together with others to put forward the public safety agenda. Also, I do not know if it is coincidence, but I notice that out of all the times for the witnesses, the NDP witnesses were left to the end, right before the report was written.
     Once again, I fail to understand why these games get played in this Parliament. It is to that end that I find it quite astounding that here we are again today, moments before I started to speak, having to vote on another time allocation motion, number 38, and number 5 within a week. We really have to wonder what the Conservatives have to hide. What do they have against parliamentary democracy? What do they have against parliamentarians from right across this country, from every single party? I am talking about all parliamentarians. What do they have against parliamentarians' right to represent their communities and speak to legislation? That is a key concern.
     If I were not sitting in these hallowed halls of Parliament, and I were outside trying to teach people about parliamentary democracy, this would be a classic case of a government that is trying to shut down the democratic processes. It gives me great concern. What kind of a model are we setting for our youth? What are we saying to them? That our Parliament is not where people go to parler, not where they go to speak and debate and discuss issues, but that Parliament is now a place where a majority can use a hammer to silence the voices of members of Parliament. That is a shame, and a damning comment on the current government at this time.
    However, getting into the piece of legislation before us, once again we are here to talk to a bill that we support. Because we support it, we are still very concerned about MPs I know on this side of the House who want to speak to this issue and raise concerns from their riding. They want to share with other members of Parliament how constituents in their riding feel about this legislation and how this is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. Once again, what we have is the hammer being used by a majority government to silence duly elected members of Parliament.

  (1155)  

    It is no surprise that even on this bill the Conservatives are late to the game. The NDP has been working on this file for years. We have been one of the critics of the eligibility criteria for witness protection, the poor coordination with provincial programs and the low numbers of witnesses admitted into the program. As an example, in 2012, out of 108 applications considered only 30 were accepted. That is what we need to debate, discuss and address.
    The witness protection program was passed in 1996. Both the Liberal and Conservative governments have done little to respond to the criticisms of the system and the program. Some bills have been presented in the House of Commons and the NDP has supported them, especially those in 1999 relating to domestic violence. However, the Liberal government helped to defeat them.
    Therefore, what has yet to be addressed is the overarching issues of eligibility, coordination and funding. The NDP is on record of repeatedly asking the government to address the three key issues I have identified. I am not making that up.
    In November 2012, the NDP member of Parliament for Trinity—Spadina called for more support for the federal witness protection program, pointing to the difficulty the Toronto police faced in convincing witnesses to the shooting that summer at a block party on Danzig Street to come forward, because without protection people are scared. They are scared for themselves and their families. We really need to address these issues.
    We are pleased to see that this legislation, Bill C-51, does expand the eligibility criteria for the witness protection program to include witnesses recommended by CSIS and the Department of National Defence. It would also extend the period of emergency protection and clear up some technical problems with respect to coordinating with provincial programs. That coordination does not go far enough. There is far more that could be done.
    When we look back on our history, there is a lot we can learn. It pains me every time I bring up the Air India disaster, one of the worst terrorist acts to take place against Canadians. Thousands of families were impacted and are still finding it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that the people responsible for that tragedy and heinous act of terrorism are still out there. I can still remember the artistic portrayal and a poem written about the bodies and body parts that were discovered. Whole families were wiped out. A husband lost not only his wife but both his children. A brother lost his sister and her whole family. There are many such stories and many of those constituents live in my riding. Recently, I had the privilege of meeting one of the victims of that tragedy at a committee meeting. The words he said really haunt me even now. He said that it hurts today as though it were yesterday and that the biggest hurt of all was that the country he lives in has still not been able to mete out justice. Finding and punishing the people who did that heinous crime will not bring back those who have passed away. However, it will give people some peace. That story has a direct link to the witness protection program.

  (1200)  

    After that tragedy, people were very unwilling to come forward and be witnesses. Even those who gave testimony then withdrew it. As a result, we have very little resolution, despite a very intense inquiry with pages and pages of recommendations.
    One of the most hurtful things for those surviving members, and for us as Canadians, is that many of the recommendations from that inquiry, which I have heard both the government and others parties say were laudable, are not part of this report. We are very sorry that they are not here, but in order to expedite this particular piece of legislation and to get this part through where we have at least some expansion of the criteria, we co-operated. However, it was with a heavy heart that we did so.
    I look back at Mr. Tara Hayer, a distinguished gentleman who lived in my riding and who was shot. He was shot because he gave an affidavit and was willing to be a witness in the Air India trial. We can imagine that after his tragic murder, there was an even further reluctance for anybody in the community to speak up. It is because of this that we have to have this expansion of criteria and a way to extend emergency protection, even if it is not everything we were looking for.
    The key thing here is that it is easy for us to pass bills that look good on paper. We get moved by emotions at times and we can pass bills for those reasons as well, but one of the things that I have learned is that unless we provide the resources, it is very difficult to see how the already stretched authorities will be able to fulfill this new mandate.
    We have an amazing RCMP and it will do whatever it is asked to do with the resources it is given. This is not a criticism of our RCMP. It is a criticism of us as parliamentarians, who have not built additional resources into the bill or the budget because we are expanding the criteria and we are expanding a certain level of co-operation with the provinces. We have to make sure that we do not download more of these costs onto the provinces, which I would say are already stretched.
    We as a party are very committed to building safer communities. One way to do that is through an improved witness protection program and improving its criteria. The other way is to give the police additional tools to fight street gangs and organized crime. This is a huge issue in my riding and many ridings across the country. One of the key things we need if we want to get into prevention and proactive programs is to ensure that our front-line service providers have the tools they need. If they do not have the tools they need, we know that there are some serious struggles to be had.
    There have been validators of our position and the RCMP. In late 2009 and early 2010, the federal government actually consulted the provinces and territories on the program and a number of provinces expressed concerns. Several provinces have their own witness protection program, but they often only provide short-term assistance. There is a need out there. Allowing street gang witnesses into the protection program has been a long-standing recommendation of those working to combat street gangs, in addition to a recent RCMP request to the government. The RCMP has also advocated for intensive psychological examination of potential protectees.
    To finish off, we are going to support this bill. We are very strong supporters of strong, safe communities. To that end, we are expediting this piece of legislation through the House.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, one of the frustrations the police have with regard to the witness protection program is that, from time to time, witnesses do not realize their obligations under the act as well. Some of those obligations are that they must sever their ties with everyone they have known. It is a difficult process. As a result of that, sometimes there is a compulsion to go back to meet a friend or a family member. At the time, they do not think it will cause any problems, but it can.
    Would the hon. member agree that the witness protection program does, for the most part, work very well, but there is also a requirement for the witnesses to fulfill their obligation?
    Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree that responsibilities and rights go both ways. This is where the request by the police for additional funding or resources to look at the psychological impact and to provide counselling and support really becomes critical. When we are removing people and putting them into protection, we are protecting their lives and doing it for very good reasons. However, once witnesses are cut off from their support system, it can lead to a huge vacuum and all kinds of psychological problems as well. We absolutely need to educate the witnesses and provide them with support as they adjust to being in the protection program.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize the benefits of the witness protection program in delivering results and making our communities a safer place to live. In certain areas of our country there is a very high level of gang activity, for example. To break into organized gangs to cause the destruction of them, we likely will have to go to individuals within those gangs to get the type of prosecutions necessary to break them up.
    If we are successful at doing that in certain regions of our country, it will make the communities much better. To get that informant, we need to have a healthy, confident witness protection program so we can hopefully be more effective at destroying gangs from coast to coast to coast.
    Could the member comment on the potential of the destruction of gangs by having an effective witness protection program?
    Mr. Speaker, the impact of gangs in our communities is a concern to all of us no matter where we sit in the House. We need a multi-faceted approach. We need education. We need a proactive rehabilitation. Part of that rehabilitation and also trying to insert ourselves into gangs and trying to break up some of them has to be a witness program for young people, although gangs can have people of all ages, who have faith and believe they truly will be protected. If there is any doubt or any question to our ability, then there will be that fear again.
     It all goes back to resourcing. It is not enough to remove people from a certain environment, give them new IDs and put them into other locations. It is about the kind of psychological aspects, like looking for a job, education and counselling support we provide for those people to settle into their new lives and live productive lives in different environments.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Surrey North for her very kind comments about my role as public safety critic. Her speech illustrates the importance of representation in Parliament. She represents a riding in which witness protection and the lack thereof have played a very critical role in something which is very much a deeply felt issue in the community, and that is the Air India tragedy.
    I want to take this opportunity to thank her for reminding us how we were unable, as a justice system, to address the concerns of the community and to bring people to justice who caused such great harm in their communities.
    The minister in his comments earlier today implied that we did not have anything to say on this. In her opinion, does the bill make enough improvements on the question of dealing with things like the Air India tragedy?
    Mr. Speaker, this is definitely a movement in the right direction. It does expand the criteria. However, it does not set up an independent advisory board, which we will have to look at in the long run. Otherwise, the RCMP will be questioning itself and that puts it in a terrible position.
    The member is absolutely right. I live in a riding where it is not unusual to have guns fired every week. People are scared and very concerned about their safety. For us, it is very important to have a robust and well-resourced witness protection program.
    My big concern with the legislation is the lack of resources, as well as the independent panel that we hoped would be established.
    Notwithstanding all of that, we support this because it does expand the criteria. That expansion of the criteria is enough to get the NDP support. We have been pushing for this for a long time. I am so pleased to see the government has come to that conclusion as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all those who have spoken to the bill.
     I have the privilege of chairing the public safety and national security committee. Our committee did the study and research on Bill C-51, which is why I am pleased to rise today and speak to the safer witness act.
    If members would indulge me for a moment, I would like to paint a picture of what I believe most Canadians, indeed most people across North America, think the witness protection program is about and how it works. For that, we can thank Hollywood with the movies it puts out, TV shows, reality shows, cop shows and shows about crime. To a certain degree, the image of witness protection has almost been glamorized.
    For example, in a typical movie, the underappreciated subordinates in some gangs or crime rings decide they will step away from their gangs and go to the police to spill the beans about the gangs' criminal undertakings and talk about the bosses of the crime rings. The movie shows the informants receiving false IDs and law enforcement taking them to new cities where they begin new lives as a different people. They are given new jobs and acquaintances who hopefully will become their friends, and that is where they now live their new lives.
    Being a Hollywood movie, their real identities are eventually discovered by the old crime gangs and they pull out all the stops to silence them before they get to trial. Indeed, if they do get to trial and spill the beans, then the gang finds them and they get some payback for the testimony they gave against their former colleagues.
    Thankfully, that is not reality. Quite frankly, the Hollywood version is oversimplified. It certainly makes for a good movie, but it is not the way the witness plan works.
    In real life, being part of a witness protection program does not mean a life of bodyguards stationed outside one's door or home, or being drawn into wild action scenes such as being followed while running down the street, avoiding gunshots and, thankfully getting back to the safe hiding place. That is not the way it is. However, this is not to say that protecting witnesses is not important or dangerous. After all, there is a reason why witnesses need protection and the police understand that. I think Canadians also understand it.
    These individuals have generally agreed to help law enforcement or provide testimony on criminal matters with the end goal of removing criminal elements from the streets and making our communities safer. The inside knowledge they have agreed to provide to authorities may be invaluable, but could place their lives at risk.
    Witness protection is recognized around the world as one of the most important tools that law enforcement may use and should at least have at its disposal to combat criminal activity. If we cannot provide adequate protection in our country to those individuals who agree to come forward, despite the danger they face, we lose a very critical source of information in getting to the bottom of the criminal charges and crime.

  (1215)  

    In the case of organized crime in particular, these witnesses are often the key components in achieving convictions. To ensure a fair and effective response to organized crime, terrorism and other serious crimes, government and police agencies must provide protection to informants and witnesses who can face intimidation, violence, reprisals and indeed, the loss of their own lives. Offering protection to these informants and witnesses allows law enforcement to obtain and sustain their collaboration. For this reason, we must ensure that we have the best system in place to protect these individuals.
    Here in Canada, we have two separate witness protection programs. We have the programs run by the provinces and the federal witness protection program. While informal witness protection has been practised since 1970 in Canada, the federal witness protection program was officially established only in 1996. It is administered by our national police force, the RCMP. The provincial programs, found in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan, typically provide shorter-term protection and could include relocating the person temporarily or providing limited financial support.
    In cases where provincial protectees require secure identity changes, they must be transferred to the federal program. At the federal level, the Witness Protection Program Act provides a range of emergency protections to witnesses under threat, from temporary protection to permanent relocation to, in some cases, complete identity changes.
    As members have heard over the last several years, extensive consultations and studies of the federal witness protection program indicated a clear need to modernize the current legislation and to improve how the federal and provincial programs intersect. The safer witnesses act contains a number of amendments to the Witness Protection Program Act that do just that. They fall within five broad areas.
    First, the bill would enable the provinces to have their respective programs designated under the federal act, thereby allowing their witnesses to receive secure identity changes without having to be admitted into the federal program. This measure would cut back on duplication. It would mean that they could continue without beginning the program and then having to move to the federal program. They would now be part of their own provincial plans.
    In stakeholder consultations, some provinces indicated that having to transfer their protectees to the federal program for identity changes can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Bill C-51 addresses these calls for change. Any time we have duplication and cumbersome, time-consuming regulations for an act, it costs money. The provinces have recognized this and have asked for this part of the enablement to be done through the provincial program.
    Second, the federal organization would be required to help the RCMP obtain secure identity changes for witnesses in both the federal program and designated provincial programs. It would give the federal organizations or departments the requirement that they will help provide these for the provincial plans. The RCMP would continue to act as the liaison between the provincial and federal programs.
    Third, Bill C-51 would broaden the prohibition against disclosure, ensuring the protection of provincial witnesses and information about both the federal and provincial programs. This measure addresses calls by the provinces, again, to ensure that witnesses in their programs are protected from the disclosure of prohibited information throughout Canada.
    Fourth, the legislation proposes changes that would expand which entities could refer individuals to the federal program. Currently, only law enforcement agencies and the international criminal tribunals can make referrals to the witness protection program.

  (1220)  

    Under Bill C-51, it would be broadened to include other organizations, such as national security, defence and public safety organizations. They would be able to refer witnesses to the federal program. When we heard witnesses, all parties said that it should not just be the RCMP. Indeed, in some cases, it needs to be the Department of National Defence or CSIS that steps forward. We are just broadening the groups that can refer to this program.
    Fifth, the bill addresses a number of other concerns from federal and provincial stakeholders, such as allowing for voluntary termination from the federal program and extending emergency protection to a maximum of 180 days. I think it is currently 90 days. This says that in this day and age, temporary emergency protection timelines may have to be doubled.
    Together, the proposed changes would serve to strengthen the current Witness Protection Program Act, making the federal program more effective and secure for both the witnesses and for those who provide the protection.
    The crux of the program is to keep those involved and their information safe and secure. Our committee was taken with this. As we heard this morning, already five meetings have been held, because there is a need to extend protection.
    Mr. Speaker, I know that the parliamentary secretary, in her speech, highlighted these points, but as this is a matter of importance to front-line police officers and witnesses, I would like to turn your attention to the proposed changes to disclosure prohibitions.
    Currently, the act prohibits the disclosure of information about such things as the location or change of identity of a current or former federal protectee. A concern was brought forward that these disclosures be extended to include information about provincial witnesses and about the provincial witness programs and those they protect.
    The safer witnesses act addresses this concern with changes that broaden the prohibition on disclosing information in a number of areas. First, and maybe most important, it prohibits the disclosure of information related to the individuals who are protected under the designated provincial program.
    Second, it prohibits disclosure of any means or methods of protection that could endanger the protected individuals or the integrity of the programs themselves. This includes information about the methods used to provide protection or support. It also includes information about the methods used to record or exchange confidential information as well as data about the location of secure facilities.
    Third, it prohibits the disclosure of any information on the identity or role of persons who provide or assist in providing protection to the witnesses. Not only is the witness going to be protected, but the person who organizes providing the secure identity and location and so on will be protected. This would broaden the prohibition to include not being able to disclose information about those involved in changing identities.
    Further, the bill clarifies language in the current act to ensure that these measures apply to situations in which a person directly or indirectly discloses information. The bill also specifies that one must knowingly reveal this information for it to be an offence. Mens rea applies. It has to be willing disclosure. That would become prohibited.
    Bill C-51 includes changes that would further strengthen the legislation in this regard. For example, as stated in the current act, the protectee or former protectee can disclose information about him or herself, as long as it does not endanger the life of another protectee or former protectee and does not compromise the integrity of the program itself.

  (1225)  

    Under Bill C-51, this wording would be changed to remove the reference to the integrity of the program and would clarify that the protected person could disclose information if it would not lead to substantial harm to another protected person.
    The current act also allows for disclosure of prohibited information by the RCMP commissioner for a variety of reasons, such as if the protected person gives his or her consent or if the protectee or former protectee has already disclosed the information or acted in a manner that resulted in the disclosure. If the disclosure is essential to the public interest for a purpose such as investigations or for the prevention of a serious crime, national security or national defence, the Commissioner of the RCMP may be able to disclose it. Most people understand that in those cases, under certain conditions, the RCMP commissioner may have the ability to disclose if that disclosure is going to protect our society. In criminal proceedings where the disclosure is necessary to establish the innocence of a person, again, the RCMP commissioner may be able to disclose under certain conditions.
    Under the safer witness act, the wording would be changed as it relates to the RCMP commissioner disclosing prohibited information for the “public interest”. As such, under Bill C-51, he or she could only disclose this information when it was essential to the administration of justice. I think all parties recognize that reasonable grounds include disclosure to uphold justice.
    Furthermore, we propose to change the wording for national security purposes. Under Bill C-51, the commissioner could disclose prohibited information if he or she had “reasonable grounds to believe that the disclosure is essential for...security or national defence”.
    Along the same vein, Bill C-51 contains several proposed changes that would authorize the RCMP commissioner to disclose information in specific situations. For example, he or she should disclose information about both federal and designated program protected persons for the purpose of providing assistance to federal or provincial protectees in need of secure identity changes. The commissioner would also be able to disclose information about federal and designated program protectees in situations where a protected person either agreed to the disclosure or had previously disclosed information. For example, the protected person may have revealed his or her change of identity to family or friends.
    According to the bill, the commissioner would be authorized to disclose information about the actual federal program and methods of protection and about the role of a person who provided protection under the program. This would only be done when the commissioner felt there were reasonable grounds to believe that the disclosure was critical for the administration of justice or for national security, national defence or public safety.
    Other changes relate to the disclosure of information about protectees under the provincial designated programs and to issues related to the disclosure of information by an official of a designated provincial program. The RCMP commissioner does have some leeway here if it is for the protection of Canadian citizens.
    This is a good overview of those elements in Bill C-51 that relate to safeguarding and disclosing information that could compromise the safety of protected witnesses.
    To recap, the bill would broaden the prohibition on the disclosure of information beyond name and location of federal protectees to include protected persons in the designated provincial programs. It would also extend disclosure prohibitions to include information about all witness protection programs and the people who administer them. The bill would also provide exceptions to the disclosure of information to permit disclosure in certain circumstances, such as when it is in the interest of justice or public safety.
    As I said at the outset, individuals who decide to become informants and to testify against crime organizations can face intimidation and danger. In his 2010 report entitled “A Review of Selected Witness Protection Programs”, Dr. Yvon Dandurand noted that the overwhelming majority of witnesses enrolled in witness protection programs are either involved in criminal activity or are somehow connected with criminal elements.
    I see that my time is up. I thank all other parties for working with us on this. It was a good time going through this at committee. We appreciate the support of the House for the bill.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech on this very important bill. It has already been through several readings and will soon be examined by the Senate.
    My question is very simple. I would like to know whether he thinks that the NDP and all the other parties worked together well as they debated this bill. In addition, why does he think it is important to pass this bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to chair a committee that really wants to accomplish some things. I give credit to both the NDP and Liberal members on this committee, as well as the government members. We worked well.
    To be quite frank, there are times in committee, as here, that politics may want to be played, but there has to come a time, especially at committee, when we say we want to accomplish something. I do not know the constituency of the Liberal member who sits on the committee, but the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and others on the committee worked together with the government on this bill.
    We heard from some very good witnesses. We heard different individuals ask us to move this bill forward as quickly as possible. We heard from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Assistant Commissioner Todd Shean. We also heard from Sergeant Abraham Townsend, who said, “On behalf of those I represent, I wish to thank the government for advancing Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act, which will in turn advance the public safety interests of all Canadians”. He said he wanted to thank “the government” for advancing Bill C-51, but I think we can look back and say he wanted to thank Parliament for advancing it, because we are moving it through quickly, and all of those involved in this very important legislation understand the importance of doing that.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, it sounds as though the committee he chairs has done a lot of hard work and has had a lot of input.
    During his speech, he mentioned that this bill would also help protect individuals who are protecting those getting new identities, in other words, the members of the RCMP who find people new identities and work in that field. I think I heard that in his speech and I was wondering if he could elaborate a little on how this bill would protect officers who are helping people get new identities.
    Mr. Speaker, obviously the member was listening to my speech, and I appreciate that.
    Yes, that was one of the pieces of information that came out. We have a very specialized police force, and its members are very professional. There are many on this side of the House who have served in the RCMP and other police forces. They all say that individuals within the departments, the RCMP, the Toronto metro police or any metropolitan or municipal police force all have their areas of expertise. All of a sudden, someone is renowned in the force as being one of the individuals in charge of the witness protection plan. These individuals have their connections, their people and their locations, and pretty soon they have a real expertise.
    People come and go on the forces, and as the old saying goes, loose lips sink ships. It may not necessarily always occur in the police force; it may come from some of the witnesses who have been protected. All of a sudden the talk begins, “Constable X or Sergeant Y or so-and-so did a great job”, and now these folks become targets.
    It is important for the law enforcement officers who help provide this major service to our justice system that we put a further stamp on the important jobs that they do and in legislation and statute say that they need to be protected even more.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's speech. He mentioned one of the changes, which was to move from 90 days to 180 days, and he suggested it was a good change.
     Since he is on the committee and heard from these expert witnesses, does he see any other changes that would be beneficial to these people and would be necessary to ensure that they are protected and kept safe in particular instances involving organized crime, et cetera? Would he suggest anything further we could do to keep them safe?
    Mr. Speaker, that is one of the things that I am not certain was expanded on in committee, the extension from 80 days, I think, to 180 days.
    Basically, what the different witnesses talked about when they came forward were the provincial requests. The provincial requests were about the length of time it took to move from the provincial program, which a number of our provinces have, into the federal program or the federal department in order to secure identities. The main thrust of what the provinces were pushing for was streamlining. I think they felt it would help save money and time for the provinces and for the police forces if we could have this type of thing streamlined. That was one of the big ones.
    Another was disclosure. Most witnesses brought forward the idea that we should toughen up on those who would disclose who they were or where they were hiding or were relocated to. Those were some of the issues.
    It was good legislation before, and it is better now. It has evolved to this point. It has taken a few years from both governments, but we have taken all the things that needed to be done that had been brought forward and included them in this bill. There are no gaping holes. That there were no other amendments attests to that. We worked well together with the other political parties.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, some of the issues and questions that are coming up in dealing with witness protection, particularly given the complexity of crime all across Canada, are about the need to expand the eligibility criteria, especially with the issues of youth gangs that we are dealing with now. Much of that is also under provincial jurisdiction.
     I would like to ask my hon. colleague what steps are necessary to work with the provinces to ensure we have a better-integrated system. Do we need to expand the eligibility criteria for this program in order to deal with the issue of youth gang violence?
    Mr. Speaker, all groups are included in this program. Youth are also included in the program.
    The problem with the witness protection program, as far as youth are concerned, is that in most cases we are now not talking about the relocation of one young individual. We very well could be talking about the entire family.
    Although youth are included in this, I think we asked the RCMP if anyone had been not permitted into the program because they were youth. The answer was no. The RCMP said that anyone who needs to be in this program gets into it.
    In a few cases when witnesses understand the severity of what the program would entail, they do not always want to then move into that program. Not everyone who is bringing forward testimony against crime wants to give up the life they have now, their circle of friends and in some cases their family. They do not necessarily want to be in this program. However, for the most extreme measures, even for a short term, there is a need enter the program.
    To relocate an entire family becomes difficult, but if that is what is needed, I think the answer is that it would happen.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on this bill today, and with a lot of relief, in that the government seems to be in an even greater rush to pass this bill and has trampled right over our co-operation in this case.
    I want to review the timing that we are dealing with. This legislation was introduced on December 11, 2012, just before the Christmas break, so unfortunately it could not be dealt with at second reading until we came back.
     It was dealt with at second reading on February 12, 2013. Then it was sent to committee. At committee, the government moved a motion suggesting that we should deal with the committee and hear our witnesses within four weeks.
    We in the NDP agreed to that motion. We accepted a motion to limit our time in committee and to bring this back to the House in a timely fashion, so it came back here on March 26.
    The first day of debate was less than a week ago. What we intended to do on this side of the House was to point out our concerns about the bill, but not to hold up this bill unnecessarily.
    What we got was two speakers on the bill before the government decided it was time for time allocation. No one had threatened to put up every single member on the opposition side to speak, but we did have members who wished to speak on the bill.
    I did hear some of the minister's comments on the imposition of time allocation, and I frankly cannot understand them. He was saying that we did not move any amendments at committee and that therefore we must have nothing to say.
    At committee, we agreed to a number of witnesses so that we could bring this bill back in good time, have the debate and pass it in a timely fashion. In a way, what I heard the minister saying is that when we try to co-operate on the bill, he is going to punish us for that as well by restricting debate in the House. The comments from the Minister of Public Safety were nonsensical.
    The member for Crowfoot, the chair of the public safety committee, acknowledged in his very good speech that we worked together in committee to talk about the problems with the bill but that we had agreed that the bill had taken too long to get here. The NDP has been calling for action on the witness protection program since 2007.
    We agreed not to go into an extensive process of disagreement over amendments and call a lot of other witnesses. We agreed to get this back here because we on this side of the House do believe that there are improvements in this bill sufficient to allow it to proceed.
    It is hard for me to understand how the minister could say we have nothing to say when he has not heard us yet. It is one of those odd comments: “The opposition must have nothing to say about this bill; therefore, we will not let them speak.”
    Before the session this morning, I was very privileged to speak to a group of young, very politically active gay students, organized by Jer's Vision. There were two members of Parliament there, and we were explaining to them that we would have to leave and come to the House in order to discuss and vote on a motion.
     They asked what the motion was, and I have to say it was embarrassing to say to these students who are very involved in learning about politics and democracy that we were going to vote on cutting off debate for the 38th time.
    The response from those students was, “But is it not your job as a representative to go there and speak? How can they suggest you should not have the right to go there and speak? Is it not your job to bring up criticism to the government? How can they say you should not have the opportunity to do that?”
    It was clear that even those who are very new to the political process seem to have a basic understanding of what we are doing here in debates in the House of Commons, which is representing our constituents and bringing forward alternative points of view. It is not always about the technicalities of a piece of legislation. It is not always about amendments.
    We heard the member for Newton—North Delta talking about the concerns in her riding, both with the Air India tragedy and with youth gangs and youth violence. She has a very important perspective to bring forward on this bill. It is not about amending the bill; it is about getting the public to understand the importance of the bill and the fact that on this side of the House we think there are further things we could do in this area.
    Bill C-51 is not the be-all and end-all for witness protection; it is the beginning of some reforms that we need to make.
    Again, it is very difficult to face, 38 times, a government that seems addicted to shortcuts. We have seen how taking those shortcuts has got the government into trouble on other things. Examples are the chief of staff to the Prime Minister and the Senate. It is not always a good idea to adopt the shortcuts.
    However, here we are again. To me, that is what closure is, an attempt to shortcut the process and shortcut democracy. The government is saying, “We have a majority. We know what is best. We are just going to do it anyway, so you on the opposition side should be quiet, get out of the way and let us go.” The government does this even when we are co-operating to get the bill through this House of Commons in the best form possible.
    It does not make any sense to me.

  (1245)  

    I do not mean to belittle or diminish the importance of the word “addiction”, because I know many people in our society have severe addiction problems, but it does seem like an addiction when it happens 38 times, 5 times in one week, and this week it even happened twice in one day. It seems like a solution in search of a problem. Everything that comes up has that same solution.
     I have heard other members use that old adage, that when all one has is a hammer everything looks like a nail. However, it is not true in this House that the only thing the government has is closure. The Conservatives could actually come in and engage in debates and represent their constituents, and we could still get the public's business done in good time. So I am very disappointed that we have time allocation on this.
    As the critic, I was travelling with the public safety committee last week. I almost did not get a chance to speak to the bill, and I am supposed to be the NDP's spokesperson on it. Only two speakers spoke. We had less than an hour and a half of debate in this chamber before time allocation was used again, for the 38th time.
    Turning to the substance of the bill, I will talk first about why the NDP is supporting this bill, and then I will talk about what we see as the deficiencies in the bill.
    First, as many members have noted, probably the easiest thing to understand is that the witness protection program, as it exists, has very narrow criteria for its admission, and it left out the important areas of national security. In an age when we are faced with the threat of terrorism and we are trying to combat that threat, being unable to offer witness protection to those in national security matters is an important gap in our legislation. Therefore, we on this side do support Bill C-51 because it would take that important step to allow the Department of National Defence and CSIS to recommend people to the witness protection program. This may be a very useful tool for those investigating and prosecuting terrorism cases. The other area in which I believe the criteria would be expanded is that it would explicitly allow the use of witness protection for those involved with gangs. Some members on the other side insist that this was always possible, but it certainly was not explicit. This legislation would provide that reassurance that we can use the witness protection program, which may be essential in cracking some gang activity.
    The second aspect which is very positive and which has received much less attention is that it would provide better protection for those staff who are involved in the witness protection program in providing things like new identities. In particular, if witness protection is used, as it often is, in the case of organized crime, if members of organized crime are trying to find out what has happened to that witness, they may attempt, and have attempted, to learn who provided the new documents, and then place pressure on that public servant or that public servant's family in order to get access to the new name that was provided to someone and find out where he or she is. Therefore, this bill very clearly would provide additional protection to those other staff members outside the police who often facilitate the witness protection program, and that would be a very important improvement.
    Third, one of the things we in the NDP have always been calling for is better co-operation and coordination of witness protection with the provinces. This bill would make it very clear and would remove some of those legal hurdles that made it difficult for the provinces to make use of witness protection. In particular, it made it difficult for those who, at the provincial level, wanted to use witness protection to get new documents quickly for those who needed a new identity for their protection. This bill would do a very good job in setting up the ability to designate provincial programs and would remove a lot of that red tape for co-operation between the two programs.
    The fourth reason that I believe this bill is worth supporting is that it would extend the period provided for emergency protection for those who may need witness protection. This a formal program where people are assessed and their lives are completely reorganized. However, quite often there is an intervening period before they are formally in the program, when people may not even have yet given their testimony, when they need this protection. That originally was 90 days but it would now be 180 days. Given the delays in our justice system, it is very important that we expand the ability to have this emergency protection.

  (1250)  

    Why is the NDP providing support to a bill that it does not think is perfect? I have given four reasons at this point. They are the expanded criteria, the broader protection of staff working in witness protection, better coordination and the extended emergency period. We think that is enough to proceed with this bill and on that basis, we did agree to expedite the bill. We co-operated at committee and said yes, we can make our points in five meetings of the committee and we will do that.
    However, we did not expect, in return for that co-operation, to have our ability to comment on the bill cut off at third reading through time allocation. If I had been dealing directly with the minister, I would have said it was a case of bad faith. However, I was dealing with the parliamentary secretary and the committee chair. I think they entered into that co-operation on good faith and they may, in fact, be as surprised as I am to find that time allocation was needed for a bill on which the opposition was co-operating.
    What do we think is remaining that could have been in this bill? There are two things that I want to focus on. One of those was raised by the member for Newton—North Delta, and that was the recommendations of the Air India inquiry. At the end of the inquiry, Mr. Justice Major pointed to the very obvious thing that had happened, which was that one of his key witnesses in the inquiry had been assassinated. He was killed. Obviously, he could have been able to make use of the witness protection program, although knowing Mr. Hayer as I did, he was a very brave individual and I doubt he would have gone into the witness protection program. He had been threatened many times. He had also actually been physically harmed many times before he was eventually killed.
    However, there were other witnesses, as Mr. Justice Major said, who would have gone into the witness protection program had it been available. This bill took that first step by expanding the criteria. What it did not do, which Mr. Justice Major recommended, was establish an independent authority, perhaps in the Ministry of Justice, but somewhere outside the RCMP, to determine the eligibility for entry into the witness protection program.
    If we think for a minute, most people can figure out the problem here. The RCMP is doing the investigating of these cases. At the same time, it is the group that decides whether a person gets into the witness protection program. It creates an obvious conflict of interest when the investigators can dangle or hold out the acceptance or rejection from the witness protection program in front of the witness. Therefore, Mr. Justice Major's recommendation was that there be some independent agency within government, but not within the RCMP, that would make those decisions on witness protection. It did not have to be some completely separate agency.
    We did not move amendments in that case, as we said, to expedite the bill, but also for a second reason. The RCMP recognized the spirit of that recommendation and it has now separated the decision of witness protection from the investigators. It is not a perfect solution, and we will see how it works, but going forward, the investigators will not make the decisions on the investigations. There will be a separate office within the RCMP Commissioner's office, which will make the decisions on acceptance into witness protection.
    It is a step forward, but on this side, we think that when someone as distinguished as Mr. Justice Major makes a recommendation in a very critical area, we probably should have pursued it.
    There are several other things that I could talk about, but I will only focus on a second one. That is the question of funding. This is not a budget bill, so we are not saying on the question of funding that the bill should have allocated x dollars to the witness protection program. However, I want to quote from the minister's statement when he introduced the bill, because it did raise a very big red flag. He said:
    It is important to note that it is not anticipated that there would be any need for additional funding to accommodate this change. The program is currently funded by the RCMP from existing operational resources, and that will remain the same under Bill C-51.
    That would be okay, except that it ignores one very large problem, which is that he is only talking about the witness protection program operated by the RCMP. When any other police force in the country uses the witness protection program, it is billed back for the entire cost of the program. If the provincial police in Quebec or Ontario or a municipal police force uses the witness protection program, it is going to get a bill.
    Therefore, the witnesses we heard before committee were the RCMP's, saying that they did not have a problem with the budget and that they have never denied anyone using this program. However, we had some other witnesses, who the government ignored. I want to take a bit of time to mention one of those: the RCMP.

  (1255)  

    The RCMP website states, “There are instances when the costs of witness protection may impede investigations, particularly for smaller law enforcement agencies.” The minister said that we have no problem with funding. The RCMP states that while it does not, other police forces do have problems with funding of the witness protection program.
    We had a very persuasive witness who is the vice-chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners. Her name is Micki Ruth. I want to take a moment to tell members what she had to say about this funding question. It is an extensive quote. I do not normally read extensive quotes in my speeches, but this is worth listening to.
    Commissioner Ruth stated:
    Like many issues facing government today, funding is one of the biggest and toughest ones to find solutions for. The problems identified back in 2007 with the adequacy of funding for the current witness protection program are not addressed in Bill C-51. Unfortunately, we see problems with the ability of municipality police [forces] to adequately access witness protection because they lack the resources.
    I want to emphasize that while we [the Canadian Association of Police Boards] support the intent of Bill C-51, CAPB has a duty to its members to ensure that legislation passed by the government does not result in a downloading of additional costs to the municipal police services that we represent. This is an important element of our work on the economics of policing, a subject with which you are already very familiar.
    Therefore we urge you to appreciate our position that unless the issue of adequate funding is addressed, the legislation will not produce the result that is intended.
    That important testimony that we heard at committee contradicts what the minister had to say when he introduced the legislation. It draws attention to the fact that not just small police forces but police forces in Halifax, Toronto or Victoria, my own community, do often face this tough question. Could they make progress in a very serious investigation by using the witness protection program? We would need a big bill. Can they really afford to take on organized crime and gang crime in their community if they would get several hundred thousand dollars billed back? There is no mistake about it. The witness protection program is not a one-time cost. It is an ongoing cost for those police departments. They do not just get one bill. As long as those witnesses are in witness protection, they will get bills for any of the costs associated with that. The initial costs are high and the ongoing costs are lower. Nevertheless, it is something they have to think about when making a decision on what kind of crimes they can successfully investigate in their community.
    When the minister, in imposing time allocation, said that we had nothing to say, I am afraid what he meant was that he was afraid of what we might say if we had the chance to debate the bill.
    The minister said at committee that no concerns were raised. With due respect, the minister was not present at all the committee sessions and seems to have a faulty memory because when he did appear at committee we did ask him about these concerns. These concerns were raised at committee. Therefore, if he does not have a faulty memory, then perhaps he has a selective memory about what happened in committee with respect to this bill.
    It is frustrating for the opposition when we say to the government that we are prepared to work with it and try to get a bill through in an expeditious manner to then have the minister stand up in the House and say that somehow we are dragging our feet and that we are ragging the puck on the bill when what we want to do is make the public aware of the issues that remain outstanding.
    We will be supporting the bill and will work to move it through Parliament, not instantly and not without debate but in an expeditious manner. The bill will have been passed in very few months. Had the government introduced it earlier in the term it would already be enacted. However, for some reason, even though it was aware of the concerns from 2007, it only brought the legislation forward just before the Christmas break of 2012. Therefore, if anyone is responsible for delays in getting this bill passed and getting these important improvements made to the witness protection program, unfortunately it is the government that will have to take responsibility for that.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for his very good speech and his very good work on the public safety committee. You were just speaking of downloading with regard to municipal forces, and it is of interest to me because from the perspective of the witness protection program, the witnesses do not just come out of the blue. That is now how it works. I have worked with several witness protection program cases, and most of these people are cultivated by the police to ensure they have a good result at a trial. That is normally what happens. So the police go in wide open, understanding that there is going to be a cost involved.
    From the perspective of municipal police forces, whether it is Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal or you name it, they recognize what is going to come down the pipe should they use the opportunity of the witness protection plan.
    Do you not think that municipal police forces recognize this is a tool, so when they do take it, they also accept the responsibility that comes with it? Part of the responsibility is understanding that the cost is going to be quite significant, but also the reward will be immense, should that witness come through for them in court.
    I want to remind all hon. members to direct their questions and comments to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.
    The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Kootenay—Columbia was an RCMP officer, and I know he knows a lot about this on the ground. There is a sense in which I agree with the comment he just made, and it is in fact reinforcing our point. That is what we heard from police services at the municipal level. They do understand there is going to be a cost. However, what they also said is that it sometimes makes them make decisions based on that cost factor. This is what they told us. The member can shake his head, but this is what they said in testimony before the committee, that they are sometimes constrained. Even the RCMP website on the witness protection program has a statement saying that for smaller police agencies, costs often impose constraints.
    There is a sense that police understand that when they are taking on the witness protection program there is a cost, but sometimes it affects their decisions. When the benefits come, they come to society as a whole for breaking down gangs. They do not just come perhaps to the Victoria police force, in my case, but maybe to everybody who lives on Vancouver Island, yet they have to make the decision to shoulder those costs themselves.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I believe it is understood and widely accepted that there is a need for a witness protection program, and there is no selling job required. People can appreciate how important it is as a tool to acquire prosecutions. By doing that, we are able to not only stop crimes, hopefully, but prevent crimes from taking place.
    In one of the areas of support, the member made reference to how the legislation would provide additional support for those who are responsible for the administration of the program, which is an important element of the legislation. I wonder if you might want to provide further comment on that aspect.
    Once again, I will not provide further comment on that, but possibly the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca could.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg North for his frequent questions.
    We often forget that there are many people other than police involved in policing. It is not always just the uniformed officers who are helping us build safer communities. There are often a lot of civilian staff of the RCMP, in particular, but also civilian staff of municipal police forces. In the case of witness protection, oddly enough, it is those who often work in the vital statistics offices who get involved in helping provide this new protection.
    It is quite important that the bill recognize that there needs to be protection not just for the witnesses but also against disclosing the identity of those who would come under pressure for having assisted in the witness protection program.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments. I thank the committee members for all the work they have done. Being a former police officer and corrections officer myself, I have seen a lot of the problems we have, and I find the dynamic they had to open their hearts and look at all the tools and what needs to be brought forward was excellent.
    That being said, I have seen so many opportunities and so many situations where we ended up having the tools, but because we did not have the budget, we could not actually use those tools. Time and time again, be it training, be it powers of arrest, even the equipment, the uniforms and so on, it is stacked up. It is not being used.
    The fact is that we have municipalities saying they want the tools, they need the tools, but there is a problem concerning the finances. I have seen in this House where even the Criminal Code was amended and we have given more tools to police officers, but when it came to transfers to help those professional divisions, they were not there.
    I do not think the fact that we are supporting this but saying, “What about the money?” is bad. I think it is an excellent point. We need to listen to the professionals who need that help.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his intervention, because I think he is reinforcing what we heard literally from across the country. We heard it from one end of the country to the other. All the municipal police forces and the Association of Police Boards said the same thing. It is very difficult to dismiss that when we hear it everywhere.
    If there was only one police force that came forward and said that it had one case where it could not afford this, that is not a problem, probably. However what we heard universally from all of them and from the Association of Police Boards was that this is a problem for the municipal police forces.
    Therefore, it behooves the government to pay attention to that if it actually wants to build safer communities. If that is actually its goal and that is what this tool is supposed to help us do, then we need to pay attention to that problem.
    Mr. Speaker, duplication between the provincial and federal programs had been mentioned in committee.
    I wonder if the hon. member could speak upon what he spoke to at committee and what was mentioned by the chair of the committee as well: the importance of limiting the duplication, not only for the safety of the witness but also for the continuity by police and their overseeing of the witness.
    I wonder if you could talk for a bit on duplication.

  (1310)  

    Once again, I will not comment on that, but I presume the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will.
    Mr. Speaker, given the topics before the House this week, I think duplication in general is a topic about which I would love to speak.
    We have another House that seems to duplicate what we do and spends a lot of public money in its duplication, and perhaps even misspends public money in its duplication.
    However, that is not the question from the hon. member, and I do think that one of the positives of Bill C-51 is that, by allowing a designation of provincial programs as recognized witness protection programs, it would eliminate a lot of the back and forth and to and fro between the two programs and eliminate the possibility—and the member is quite right that it might endanger the safety of witnesses. However, it would make a much more efficient use of resources. I think that is one of the positives of Bill C-51.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague about something that I remember talking about during previous readings of the bill, which is the fact that these measures could create additional costs for police forces.
    Does the government plan on helping police forces at all levels do their jobs? I would also like to know whether there will be any additional costs.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Sherbrooke for his question, but I actually want to jump back to the question he asked the member for Crowfoot, because I think he put his finger on something very important in that question when he asked about co-operation in the committee.
    Again, I want to pay tribute to the member for Crowfoot as the chair of the public safety committee, because he has been a very fair and accommodating chair who has worked very hard to make sure we can make progress on things like the bill.
    It seems as if our problems only come when the PMO extends its tentacles into the committee and starts trying to interfere or direct the Conservatives in the way things ought to go.
    It seems in the bill we made great progress in co-operation until we came to this sudden decision that we need some kind of restriction on the amount of debate we can have, which came out of nowhere. It did not come from the chair of the committee. It did not come from a parliamentary secretary. It blew in with the minister on some kind of strange wind this morning.
    I think the member for Sherbrooke was right in his question about the importance of co-operation in committee.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to add my voice to the discussion on the safer witnesses act.
    It is encouraging to see support for the bill coming from all quarters. We have heard the merits of the legislation and how it would strengthen the federal witness protection program.
    Thanks to television and the movies, people in our country often think they know all about what is going on with witness protection programs. The concept seems straightforward. However, when a witness is offered protection in order secure his or her help in investigating and prosecuting a criminal act, sometimes it is just a truly innocent witness to a crime, who has agreed to come forward to help the courts convict the offenders, and sometimes a witness may have formerly been involved in criminal activity, and in fact, it may surprise some people to learn that these are the vast majority of witnesses who require protection.
    The range of protection can vary from a secure hotel room during a trial, for example, to a secure identity change. For the more serious cases that require providing witnesses with a secure change of identity to avoid retaliation from criminal organizations, witnesses must leave their communities, friends and jobs and essentially make a complete change in their life circumstances. It is, therefore, critical to have a robust program in place for those witnesses to feel safe in coming forward.
    Witness protection is recognized by experts across the globe as one of the most critical tools that law enforcement has to combat terrorism and organized crime. We continue to see the benefit of the witness protection program in supporting national priorities, including the dismantling of organized crime groups here in Canada. Indeed, one of the prime purposes of the federal witness protection program is to enhance public safety by protecting persons who, as a result of providing assistance to law enforcement or providing testimony in criminal matters, are deemed to be at risk.
    The federal program is used not only by the RCMP but also by law enforcement agencies across Canada. There are also provisions within the current act to allow for protection of foreign witnesses in cases where they can no longer be protected in their own country.
    As we have heard, the Witness Protection Program Act was introduced to improve accountability and consistency in the protection practices at the time, but it is time to modernize that legislation.
    The commissioner of the RCMP is the administrator of the program. Certain responsibilities for various processes, such as admission and termination from the program, are delegated to the assistant commissioner of federal and international operations. Furthermore, there are specifically trained witness protection coordinators who operate at arm's length, as we have heard, from investigative teams. This separation helps to ensure that a standardized and objective approach is used when assessing an individual's suitability to become a federal protectee.
    There are a number of factors outlined in the act that must be considered to determine if a witness should be entered into the program. These include the degree of risk to the witness, the degree of danger posed to the community, the nature of the inquiry and the importance of the witness, the value of the information or evidence that law enforcement believes would be given by the witness, the likelihood that the witness would be able to adjust to the program, the estimated cost required to protect the witness, consideration of alternate methods of protection and other factors deemed to be relevant to the RCMP commissioner.
    It is interesting to note that there is no specific list of offences for which witness protection is offered. In fact, each case is considered on an individual basis depending on the nature of the inquiry and the investigation or the prosecution. If there is a real threat to the life or safety of a witness as a result of his or her involvement with law enforcement or the justice system, a request can be made by the police force of jurisdiction for the witness. In other words, a provincial or municipal police force might decide that a witness needed a secure change of identity. That leads me to the legislation before us.

  (1315)  

     One of the key benefits of this legislation is to address the need for better streamlining of federal and provincial programs.
    Let me turn now to Bill C-51 to examine this and the other proposed improvements to the current Witness Protection Act.
    As we have heard in the debate, the legislation would make the federal witness program more effective and secure. It would improve interaction between federal programs and designated provincial and municipal programs. It would better protect those individuals who put their lives on the line to provide testimony against criminal activity.
    The changes proposed in the legislation fall within five broad areas. First and foremost, the bill will address the issue I just mentioned. It will promote streamlining between federal and provincial programs by allowing provinces to have their programs designated. A province will make its request to the Minister of Public Safety and then be designated by the Governor in Council.
    Currently, the only way for the RCMP to provide documents for a secure identity change for provincial or municipal protectees is through a process where the provincial witnesses requiring federal documents for secure identity changes are temporarily admitted into the federal program. This process has been widely panned by provinces as it means their witnesses will have to meet federal criteria to receive federal documents. As well, it can add further red tape and delays to the process. In consultations with the provinces, this government heard that it was cumbersome and inefficient.
    The proposed solution is to have these programs designated so provincial witnesses do not have to be transferred into the federal witness protection program in order to receive a secure identity change. Under this framework, once the program is designated, an official can contact the RCMP, which is now required to assist in obtaining secure federal documents for these witnesses. Through this new process the, bill would create a more efficient and secure process for obtaining these documents by identifying a single point of contact, namely, the RCMP.
    The next proposed change under Bill C-51 is to put in law an obligation for other federal organizations to help the RCMP in obtaining secure identity changes for these witnesses both in the federal program and the designated provincial programs. The RCMP will act as liaison between the provincial and federal programs.
    Let me turn now to the third element of Bill C-51, which relates to the broadening prohibition of disclosures. In other words, the changes would ensure a more robust protection of provincial witnesses and information at both the federal and provincial levels. It would also protect officials involved in the process.
    Permit me to delve into this third section a bit more in-depth as a critical part of the legislation. As it stands currently, the Witness Protection Program Act prohibits disclosure of information about location or change of identity of federal protectees only, both those currently in the program and former protectees. The proposed changes will extend the disclosure prohibitions to be broader and include information about those providing protection and how they provide it, as well as information about designated provincial witness programs.
    Bill C-51 would do this in a number of ways, including prohibiting the disclosure of information related to the protectees who are under the federal protection designated provincial programs, prohibiting the disclosure of the means and methods of protection information that could endanger the protectees or the programs themselves for both the federal and designated programs and prohibiting disclosure of any information about persons who actually work in the federal or designated provincial programs.
    The bill also proposes to amend the language found in the current act. To this end, it will make it clear that any measures apply to situations when a person either directly or indirectly discloses information. Furthermore, Bill C-51 would make it clear in order for a person to be charged with an offence, it must be proven that the person knowingly revealed this information.
    Along with these enhancements, the bill would provide for exceptions to when protected information could be disclosed. The wording in the current legislation states that a current or former protectee has the right to disclose information about himself or herself as long as the information does not endanger the lives of other protectees or former protectees and as long as the disclosure of the information is not considered a risk to the integrity of the program itself.

  (1320)  

    The government proposed to change this wording in two critical ways. First, it would remove the reference to the “integrity of the program”. Second, it would clarify the protectee would be allowed by law to disclose information if it could not lead to “substantial harm” to any other protectee.
    Further, the legislation before us outlines a variety of situations in which the Commissioner of the RCMP can disclose prohibited information. As the law reads today, the commissioner can currently disclose prohibited information in situations such as if the protected person has given the consent for the information to be disclosed, or if the current or former protectee has already disclosed the information or has acted in a way that has resulted in the information being disclosed if the RCMP commissioner determines that disclosing the information is essential to the public interest, such as instances where it could prevent a serious crime or have implications for national security or national defence. Finally, if during criminal proceedings, the disclosure is deemed necessary to establish the innocence of a person.
    Bill C-51 proposes to change this wording as it relates to the commissioner disclosing prohibited information when it is seen as in the public interest. Under the legislation, the commissioner will only have the authorization to disclose prohibited information when there are reasonable grounds to believe the disclosure is essential for the purposes of the administration of justice.
     Bill C-51 also proposes changes regarding disclosure of information for national security purposes. If the bill is passed into law, the commissioner will have the authority to disclose prohibited information if there are reasonable grounds to believe the disclosure is essential for national security or national defence.
    Similarly, the legislation has a number of other proposed changes to the disclosure of information as it relates to specific situations. For example, in order to provide protection to federal protectees or allow for a secure change of identity for provincial protectees, the RCMP commissioner will be able to disclose information about both federal and designated program-protected persons. The commissioner will also be able to disclose information about federal and designated program protectees if the protected persons agree to the disclosure or have already disclosed the information themselves. This can include situations when a protectee has revealed his or her change of identity to family or friends.
    Furthermore, the bill addresses situations in which the commissioner can disclose prohibited information when he or she believes the disclosure is essential for reasons of the administration of justice, national security, national defence or public safety. In any of these cases, if necessary, the commissioner can disclose information about the federal program itself, the methods and means of protection, as well as about the individuals who provide protection under the program. These measures will work together to provide a strong framework to ensure the information of protectees in designated provincial programs is equally protected.
    Let me move on to the fourth main set of changes proposed under the safer witnesses act. The bill proposes to expand which organizations can refer individuals for consideration for admission to the federal witness protection program. As the law reads today, the only organizations that can refer an individual to the federal program are law enforcement agencies and international criminal tribunals.
    Under Bill C-51, all federal organizations with a mandate related to national security, defence or public safety would be able to refer witnesses to the federal program. For example, CSIS and the Department of National Defence would now be authorized to refer individuals to the program.
     Finally, Bill C-51 contains a number of measures that would improve the current program by allowing individuals to voluntarily leave the federal program by extending emergency protection from the current 90 days up to a maximum of 180 days.
    In summary, the changes detailed within the safer witnesses act will do a number of things. They will help make the federal program more effective and secure for both the witness and those who provide protection. They will streamline the interaction between provincial, municipal and federal programs. They will more clearly define when prohibited information must be safeguarded and when it may be needed to disclose for reasons of national or public security. In short, these changes will enhance the effectiveness and security of the witness protection system in Canada, ensuring it remains a critical law enforcement and criminal justice tool well into the future.
    I hope all my colleagues on the other side of the House will support this common sense legislation to keep our streets and communities safe.

  (1325)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, I thank the committee, which did an excellent job of developing an absolutely necessary tool.
    I am a former corrections officer and peace officer, so I quite often had the opportunity to see the tools at our disposal. However, there was no budget associated with these tools. Members of the House often have good intentions, but, unfortunately, the money is just not there.
    There are plenty of witnesses we could have heard from. I hope that the Senate will do its job and that these witnesses will come talk about the problem.
    What does my hon. colleague have to say about how the Conservatives plan to help local police services that do not have the money for this?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I can talk about the assistant commissioner, Todd Shean, who was one of the witnesses. He said:
    It's not a question of resources; it's a question of the assessment that's done. Once the assessment is completed...during the assessment process the person may decide that they do not want to enter into the program, they don't want to proceed on the route they're on, or we may assess that they're not suitable for the program.
    It does not necessarily mean a total additional resource. It would all depend on whether the individuals needed the protection, wanted the protection or were actually suitable for protection under the witness protection program.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on that question. Where there are other jurisdictions that have a witness program and they would like to work in co-operation with the national program, my understanding is there is a financial obligation that they would have to provide in order to get them into that federal program or to get that co-operation. Could the member comment as to whether that is the case and, if so, to what degree?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with each municipal police force and what its funding requirements is, but it still comes down to the fact of whether the individuals need protection and whether they are suitable for it.
    One thing another member indicated was that police might not proceed with it because it was too costly. My guess is the police would proceed if the witness needed protection. Otherwise, the police are probably not doing the job needed to protect the witnesses who in turn would help to reduce crime.
    Mr. Speaker, as I was reading about the bill, and Bill C-51 is clearly a very important bill, I found a quote from Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association and I would like to read it. He said:
    The Canadian Police Association strongly believes that this proposed legislation will enhance the safety and security of front-line law enforcement personnel who are engaged in protective duties...Unfortunately, the disclosure of identifying details can present a real danger to police personnel themselves as well as their families, and we appreciate the steps being taken today by the government of Canada to address those concerns.
    Would my colleague comment on this and whether he sees any further detail in this that he would share with the House?
    Mr. Speaker, we did have a number of witnesses and Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association, came forward and had high praise for the bill. He sees it as an opportunity to expand not only from the federal point of view of being able to add national defence and CSIS, but also provincially.
     This is a really important step to enable our provincial and municipal police forces to enter the federal witness program with less rules, regulations and hassle. However, they would still have to go through the process of determining whether the individual was suitable for protection.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I found the speech given by my colleague from Medicine Hat very interesting. I have been fortunate to work with him for the past few weeks on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
    I want to come back to the issue of costs because I have not heard a satisfactory answer. My colleague said that even though there is no new money to accompany the new provisions in the bill, we will not necessarily see an increase in costs or service demands in the various police forces.
    Yet, we already know that some municipalities spend 50% of their budgets on their police. This is huge. The police are short of resources. My colleague could see this as well as I did, in the work of the committee.
    If we increase eligibility for these programs, there will be an increase in service. Can my colleague really tell the House that there is no need for new federal funding, just as police forces are undergoing massive cuts? I am specifically thinking of the elimination of the police officers recruitment fund, among other cuts.
    In light of this situation, how can he continue saying that there is no need for new federal funding to help our police forces?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I did travel together on committee business, and it was an excellent trip.
    What I would like to say is that each municipal police force is responsible for its own budget. The provinces were consulted in this whole process. From that standpoint, the provinces were quite fine with the way the program was being laid out. They are on board. The municipal police forces, through their cities or municipalities, must provide the appropriate funding for police services.
    It is not necessarily up to the federal government to provide funding for anyone other than federal agencies.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, just to reiterate, the hon. member is quite correct.
    I have been on the public safety and national security committee for a good seven years now in three different Parliaments. The member is quite right, police forces and provinces have been consulted, and they prefer to maintain their appropriate jurisdiction because provinces are responsible for policing.
    Any time the federal government works in conjunction with them, of course they say they would like more money. There is never enough. I have been around this place for seven years, and I could probably count on one hand the times when people said they had enough money or did not want more.
    This is a question for most police forces, that some changes were needed to the witness protection program. The committee heard from those various players in policing, including police associations, who lauded these improvements to the Witness Protection Act. Indeed, that is probably why the opposition is saying that they are reluctantly going along with this, because it has been universally accepted as the right thing to do.
    I wonder if the member could comment further.
    Mr. Speaker, I travelled on the trip with hon. member as well. It was a very productive trip.
    Indeed, the member is correct. When we look at municipal police forces, their budgets have to be provided by those municipalities. The provinces were consulted, and the municipalities were consulted.
    I have only been here for four and a half years, but I do not believe that there has been any occasion when someone has said that there is enough money, enough funding from the federal government. Everybody would like to have more money, but one has to remember that there is only one taxpayer.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my wonderful colleague from Vancouver Kingsway.
    I rise today to speak to Bill C-51, the purpose of which is to better protect witnesses who help the police in the fight against organized crime and terrorism.
    For some time, the federal witness protection program has been criticized for its overly strict eligibility criteria, its poor coordination with federal programs and the low number of witnesses admitted to the program. Only 30 of the 108 applications examined were approved in 2012.
    The NDP has been asking the government for years to broaden witness eligibility for protection programs in order to guarantee the safety of all Canadians at risk. The NDP has been insistently calling for better coordination of federal and provincial programs and improved overall program funding since 2007.
    Although the Conservatives have taken their time in addressing this growing problem, we are pleased that the government has finally listened to our requests to expand the witness protection program.
    That is why we are going to support the safer witnesses act. One consequence of this bill is that it will allow federal departments and agencies with a mandate related to national security, national defence and public safety to use this investigative tool.
    Bill C-51 also proposes extending the amount of time for which emergency protection can be provided to witnesses while they are working with the police or testifying in court.
    Finally, the bill also seeks to further limit the public dissemination of information that could compromise the safety of witnesses and informants. Some of these measures were recommended in 2010 by a House of Commons committee that examined the problems with the investigation and legal proceedings related to the 1985 Air India attack.
    The Canadian Press obtained a detailed document from the RCMP dated May 2010 on the reform of the witness protection program. In that document, the RCMP indicates that, regardless of whether the provinces choose to go with their own program, the RCMP must still ensure that the witness protection program is able to better respond to current challenges, such as street gangs and violence. The RCMP also proposed broadening the program eligibility criteria in order to make it easier for potential witnesses to qualify.
    The NDP believes that Bill C-51 does very little with regard to some changes that need to be made to the witness protection program. The NDP will continue to push the government to address a host of concerns. Bill C-51 is a step in the right direction.
    However, the witness protection program, run by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, costs around $9 million a year. Even though more people could be eligible under the proposed changes, the RCMP will not receive any additional funding.
    Although the NDP supports Bill C-51, it deplores the fact that the Conservative government has refused to allocate additional funding. We are also concerned that the Conservatives' requirement that the RCMP and local police services work within their existing budgets will prevent the program from improving. If the Conservatives really, truly, sincerely want to improve the witness protection program, they should also commit the money to make that happen.
    Here is what Commissioner Micki Ruth, from the Canadian Association of Police Boards, had to say when she appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security:
    Like many issues facing government today, funding is one of the biggest and toughest ones to find solutions for. The problems identified back in 2007 with the adequacy of funding for the current witness protection program are not addressed in Bill C-51. Unfortunately, we see problems with the ability of municipality police services to adequately access witness protection because they lack the resources.
    Although we support the idea behind Bill C-51, we must ensure that the legislative measures being passed by the government do not burden municipal police services with additional costs.

  (1340)  

    In our opinion, the bill will not be effective unless the problem of adequate funding for the witness protection program is resolved.
    We on this side of the House are also disappointed that this bill does not contain more of the recommendations from the Air India investigation, namely a more transparent and accountable eligibility process.
    What is more, the bill contains no provisions allowing for an independent organization to administer the program, as recommended in the Air India investigation report. The RCMP will continue to bear the responsibility for the program, which will eventually place it in a conflict of interest, because it will be both the investigating body and the one to decide who benefits from protection.
    We also hope that the government truly intends to work with the provinces in order to facilitate the administrative process for changing the identity of individuals in the witness protection program. In late 2009 and early 2010, the government consulted the provinces and territories about this program. A number of them expressed concerns. However, now that the Conservative government has a majority, it thinks it can do whatever it wants and, unfortunately, it does not often listen to its provincial counterparts.
    Many provinces have their own witness protection programs, but they often provide only short-term assistance. What is more, they need to co-operate with the RCMP to get new identity documents for witnesses. That is why the NDP will keep pushing the federal government to continue working with the RCMP and the provinces to provide funding for the witness protection program so that local police forces can continue their important work.
    The NDP is committed to building safer communities. One way of doing this is to improve the witness protection program to ensure that our streets are safe and to provide police forces with additional tools to combat street gangs and organized crime. Need we remind the government of all the spending scandals?
    Three billion dollars earmarked for the fight against terrorism is missing. If the government had invested all that money in a program like this, things would be different now. We could perhaps move forward and assure our local police forces that the federal government supports them, not just in word but in deed, by providing them with funding. Perhaps that is the problem, because this government does not seem to understand the importance of adequate funding for this program.
    That is what I have been trying to say throughout my speech. The people and experts actually doing the work are saying that Bill C-51 will allow us to move forward but that, unfortunately, the funding is not there. That is too bad.
    To conclude my speech on this bill, I would like to talk about the police forces in my beautiful riding of Quebec City. The city is very safe and is a great place to live. That is likely because community groups, such as Pech, which provides support and housing assistance, are doing such great work.
    Pech also works with the Quebec City police service, which attends every event. That is what social and community involvement looks like. That is the kind of support they expect from the federal government. Many positive initiatives start at the grassroots level and are run by people who work on the front lines—police, volunteers and people working in community organizations, for example—and who tell us what they need.
    It is our duty, at the federal level, to respond to the needs they express and see how we can help them. This bill is one example, but the funding needs to be there. Otherwise, it may completely miss the mark.

  (1345)  

    The government could end up implementing legislative measures without adequate funding.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we need to recognize that the number of gangs in Canada has dramatically increased over the last number of years. In fact, gang membership in communities, for example in the province of Manitoba, is well into the thousands today. This is in comparison to the nineties, where gangs were virtually non-existent.
    It is becoming more and more apparent that one of the ways we are going to have to deal with a lot of the street crime that has spread throughout many different communities from coast to coast to coast is to deal with the issue of gang violence. In dealing with that issue, I believe we will find that there are law enforcement officers who will reinforce the fact that quite often, in order to break into a gang, they have to get an informant who is a part of these gangs. To be able to do that, we need programs such as the witness protection program.
    All members of the House will be supporting this bill, as I understand it. Would the member agree with the idea that there is a very strong correlation between making our streets safer by addressing the issue of gangs and the benefits of this particular piece of legislation in being able to assist the police and prosecution to make our streets safer?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we will in fact be supporting this bill. All parties will because it is a necessary bill that is long overdue.
    I think it is a shame that the government across the way has been in power for seven years and is only now realizing that it is time to introduce something like this. It claims to make public safety its personal business and its top priority. However, we are here today because it finally decided not just to deal with major terrorists, but also to take care of witnesses. That is what is important. It is time to protect the witnesses. Some questions remain to be answered and then we will have to think about funding for this program.

  (1350)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will try and get this right. I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong and if I am speaking to the wrong person.
    One of the interesting things that I hear from the opposition all the time is that we need more money. Municipalities fund themselves through municipal taxation. They do not get funding through the federal government. It is done individually through every community.
    One of the things that is of real interest to me about the witness protection program or any witness, for that matter, is that the side opposite has not in any way supported any of our crime initiatives, mandatory minimums or anything to do with crime. Despite that, it wants to keep throwing money at things. The fact of the matter is that witnesses who are victims also want to be ensured that criminals stay in jail for a long time or have mandatory minimums.
    Could she tell me that her party is going to start supporting our crime initiatives before we start throwing around more money that witnesses do not necessarily understand from the perspective of the witness protection program?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is a very Conservative attitude.
    The NDP believes in a balanced approach. We listen to our provincial counterparts, local police forces and municipalities. By working together we can find programs that work and adequate funding. I am not talking about unrealistic funding, but adequate funding.
    Unfortunately, the Conservatives believe, and will always believe, that they do not have to listen to anyone, that they are right and that they know what to do, whether or not there is funding. Sometimes they introduce legislation without providing the funding and, better yet, sometimes they spend $3 billion to combat terrorism. How do I explain to Canadians that the government has wasted $3 billion and does not know what happened to it? Three billion dollars. People working for minimum wage will never be able to earn that much in a lifetime. How do we explain that to them? Then the Conservatives say that the NDP is incapable of putting together a fair and decent budget. Quite frankly, they should be ashamed.

[English]

    Resuming debate.
    There is seven minutes remaining in the time for government orders.
    The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand to speak on Bill C-51 and to speak in support of the bill at third reading on behalf of the official opposition, the New Democratic Party.
    The NDP has long called for the government to expand the eligibility of witnesses to enter protection programs to ensure the safety of all Canadians in potential danger and, more important, to secure the participation and obligation of citizens of this country to co-operate and participate in the justice system. Since 2007, the New Democrats have specifically called for better coordination of federal and provincial programs and better overall funding for the witness protection program.
    Contrary to what I hear from the Conservative side of the House, effective crime prevention and crime interdiction measures require resources; appropriate funding, not just spin, not just talk, not just rhetoric, but actually public resources put behind those words. New Democrats have long understood that connection. Our demands were repeated in 2009 and, again, by the NDP member of Parliament for Trinity—Spadina, in November last year.
    Bill C-51 would expand the eligibility criteria of the witness protection program to include witnesses recommended by CSIS and National Defence. This is a positive development.
    It would also extend the period for emergency protection and clear up some technical problems that have plagued witness protection programs, with respect to federal-provincial relations.
    I think we should say that these are laudable achievements and the government deserves credit for bringing these forward.
    Having said that, while the NDP supports Bill C-51 as it attempts to improve the witness protection program, we are concerned that the Conservative government has refused to commit any new funding for the system. We are concerned that the Conservatives' requirement that the RCMP and local police departments work within their existing budgets would hinder the improvement of the program.
    I will pause here just to bring to all Canadians' attention the testimony that we heard before the public safety committee. We learned that the RCMP would administer the witness protection program at the request of municipal and provincial police forces and the RCMP would then bill them for those services.
    So, while the RCMP does not perhaps need more resources to implement the provisions of the bill, local municipal and provincial police forces do need more resources because if they want to access the provisions of this program, they have to pay for them and the RCMP would bill them accordingly. We heard that from municipal police forces across this country.
    The bill also would not include provisions for any independent agency to operate the program, as recommended by Justice Major in the Air India inquiry report.
    The RCMP would continue to be responsible for the program. This would leave the RCMP in a precarious situation and a potential conflict of interest as they are often the agency both investigating the case and deciding who may or may not get protection.
    As we have heard on all sides of this House, often the people who are requiring witness protection are people who have engaged in criminal acts themselves. They are often the subject of investigation at the same time they are co-operating with police in the prosecution of crimes, and so New Democrats believe that potential conflict should be addressed. Unfortunately, it has not been in the bill.
    While some RCMP and public safety department witnesses at committee said that they did not see funding the program as an issue, once again, it was clear from other witnesses that funding is in fact a real problem for municipalities and police forces and that Bill C-51 would place an even heavier burden on them through downloaded costs.
    I would like to now summarize a few key points.
     While the Conservatives are late to respond to this growing issue, New Democrats are pleased to see the government listening to our requests to expand the witness program and the requests of police forces and provinces across this country.
    Second, we want to emphasize that if the Conservatives truly want to improve the witness protection program, they must be prepared to commit funding and the resources to ensure that would happen.
    New Democrats are committed to building safer communities. One way to do that would be through improved witness protection programs that would keep our streets safe by giving police the tools that they need to fight street gangs and organized crime.

  (1355)  

    I want to address the background of the bill. The federal witness protection program has long been criticized for its narrow eligibility criteria, for poor coordination with provincial programs and low numbers of witnesses actually admitted to the program.
    Here are the real numbers. In 2012, only 30 out of 108 applications considered for witness protection were accepted. That is less than a third. Since the witness program passed in 1996, both the Liberal and Conservative governments have done little to respond to the criticisms of the system. While some bills have been presented in the House of Commons to address small components of the protection program, the overarching issues of eligibility, coordination and funding have not been addressed.
    The NDP is on record repeatedly asking the government to address the three key issues in the witness protection program, that is, expanded criteria eligibility, co-operation with provinces and adequate funding. As late as last year we called for these very things in the House and we pointed to the difficulty that Toronto police were facing at that time in convincing witnesses to come forward in response to the summer's mass shooting at a block party on Danzig Street.
    Similarly, in Vancouver, the city I am privileged to represent, organized crime and criminal gangs have long been a problem. Effective, efficient, accessible witness protection programs will be a key component in giving our British Columbia police forces the tools they need to apprehend those who are responsible for serious crime in our communities.
    Mr. Speaker, I see you rising--
    Yes. The time for government orders has expired. The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway will have three minutes remaining when this matter returns before the House.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[Translation]

St. Lawrence River Week

    Mr. Speaker, on Monday, 22 partners working to raise awareness about the St. Lawrence River announced the first edition of Semaine du Saint-Laurent, which will be held from June 7 to 15.
    This is a commendable initiative that deserves our support, as it is impossible to imagine Quebec without the St. Lawrence. Our majestic waterway is as big as a country. Given the growing number and complexity of the environmental, economic and social challenges facing this vital artery of the Quebec nation, the Bloc Québécois has made the St. Lawrence a priority.
     In 2005, and then in 2010, we conducted two major consultations with all those living along the river, and we produced well-researched reports reflecting Quebec's vision, values and ways of doing things. The Bloc Québécois' 2010-15 report makes 31 recommendations.
    During the Semaine du Saint-Laurent we will again stand with all those who are committed to defending and promoting our river. Hooray for the St. Lawrence.

[English]

Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer

    Mr. Speaker, on June 8 and 9, I will join with thousands of other riders to ride over 200 kilometres to raise money for cancer research, in my third Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.
     This year I will ride in memory of both my mother Patricia and my father Donald, who both passed away from cancer.
    The money raised from the Ride to Conquer Cancer will benefit the Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the top five cancer research hospitals in the world.
    In 2012, the Ride to Conquer Cancer raised $44.3 million, of which $18.1 million was raised in Ontario.
    As my own family has proven, two in five Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to support me on this ride.
    Together we can conquer cancer in our lifetime.

Canadian Federation of Students

    Mr. Speaker, the average student debt in this country, in terms of federal and provincial loans, stands at $28,000. That is how Canadian students are expected to begin their careers. I say “expected” because if the debt is not bad enough, the unemployment rate for young Canadians is 14.5%, more than double other age groups.
    This is the first generation of young Canadians who will not live as well as their parents. For example, pensions and benefits are under constant attack.
    Canadian students have much to talk about, and they will get the chance to do that this week during the annual general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students, Canada's oldest and largest student organization.
    On behalf of New Democrats, I welcome student representatives from across the country and say to them that their fight, the fight for affordable and accessible education for all Canadians, is our fight.

Cellular Towers

    Mr. Speaker, Citizens for Safe Technology, C4ST, is calling for caution with respect to cellular tower antennas that emit radio frequency radiation.
    The World Health Organization says RF radiation is “possibly carcinogenic”, and some people suffer physical symptoms from it, including the former head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Brundtland.
    The children at West Wind Montessori Junior High, in Oakville, have researched the issue. They know that children are more at risk to RF radiation and decided to take Wi-Fi out of their own school.
    The Federation of Canadian Municipalities template for public consultation is voluntary and leaves a gaping loophole, which is the existing structures.
    In Oakville, Bell Canada has by stealth placed multiple antennas just 11 metres from a child's bedroom. Its business is booming, and legally it does not have to care. However, ethically, how can Bell callously ignore the legitimate health concerns of Canadians, many of whom are its own customers?
    Today I call on Bell Canada, for the second time in this House, to listen to the children and move the Bell antennas away from homes and schools.

Emergency Medical Services Week

    Mr. Speaker, this is Emergency Medical Services Week across Canada, and Canadian paramedics have a message that we should take to heart: defibrillators save lives. Every year, over 35,000 Canadians die of sudden cardiac arrest. Having quick access to a nearby defibrillator can help save them, and the chances of survival can go up by 75%.
    The Government of Canada owns, operates or regulates a vast array of facilities. However, there is no consistent national policy on defibrillators. Some departments and agencies have them, but about half do not. The RCMP cannot say how many it has, and neither can Public Works Canada.
    Paramedic Chiefs of Canada asks that all federal facilities be properly equipped with defibrillators, and The Heart and Stroke Foundation agrees.
    Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time. The Government of Canada should be a role model, adopting one consistent national policy and putting life-saving defibrillators in every facility under federal jurisdiction.

  (1405)  

Iran

    Mr. Speaker, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, dissent has been horrifically suppressed. There are 2,600 political prisoners in Iran who are deprived of any form of due process. They are suffering through inhumane conditions. They are raped, tortured and secretly executed.
    The member for Mount Royal has started the Iranian political prisoner global efficacy project, and I am speaking on behalf of Hamid Ghassemi-Shall. Hamid is an Iranian Canadian from Toronto, who was arrested in Iran in 2008. His brother, Alborz, was arrested just two weeks before. Hamid was sentenced to death in a show trial, on falsified charges of espionage. In prison, Hamid and Alborz were physically and psychologically tortured and spent 18 months in solitary confinement. Alborz eventually died.
    There is no greater threat to international peace and security than the Iranian regime. We must not forget the daily atrocities going on inside Iran. This week is Iran accountability week, but it cannot stop here. We must hold the violent, sadistic and brutal leaders of Iran accountable on every single day of the year and continue to advocate for the release of all political prisoners, like Hamid Ghassemi-Shall.

Fairchild TV

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Fairchild TV in Canada. Since 1993, Fairchild Television has been offering high-quality, Canadian-produced, Chinese-language programming across our nation.
    Canada is a vibrant nation with people from every country in the globe. It is important that all Canadians are reflected in our institutions, including the media. Fairchild TV offers Chinese Canadians news and entertainment in the Chinese language, and it is a vital source of communication that allows many citizens to more fully participate in Canadian life.
    For those who are still learning Canada's official languages, Fairchild helps newcomers learn about Canada. For second and subsequent generations, Fairchild is a valuable link to their heritage and keeps the Chinese language vibrant and alive. For all viewers, Fairchild provides professional and excellent journalism that makes our democracy stronger.
    Congratulations to Fairchild TV, and best wishes for continued success in the next 20 years and beyond.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my constituents in Vancouver South who are proud to live in Canada's most Asian city. As such, Vancouver and B.C. are the gateway to the Asia–Pacific, where China is Canada's second-largest trading partner and where our Minister of International Trade has been working hard to expand trade with these growing economies.
     Having been elected by my colleagues, I am honoured to represent Canada as the co-chair of the Canada–China Legislative Association. Recently, I met with my Chinese counterpart, Mr. Chi Wanchun, and travelled to a number of cities in China to identify opportunities and explore areas where both our countries can grow and prosper. It is a pleasure to witness the successes of Canadian companies working hard abroad, such as Vancouver-based Teekay Shipping, one of the world's largest marine energy transportation, storage and production companies.
    Our government continues to build strong networks and economic ties in the Pacific sentry to benefit my constituents of Vancouver South as well as people across Canada.

Bilateral Trade with Chile

    Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Canadian section of ParlAmericas, I have had the honour of hosting a luncheon today for a delegation of Chilean deputados.
     Canada has had a long-standing diplomatic relationship with Chile, since 1940. In 1997, the Canada–Chile free trade agreement came into force, eliminating tariffs on 75% of the goods traded between our two countries. This remains a historic moment, as it marked Canada's first bilateral free trade agreement in South America, and the first of many trade agreements for Chile.
    Canada has maintained close diplomatic relations, as shown by the Prime Minister's two visits to Chile, the first of which was in 2007, when he announced the Canada–Chile partnership framework, and the most recent in 2012, to enhance Canada's Chile free trade agreement. The results are that bilateral trade has more than tripled, reaching almost $3 billion in 2011. Between 2002 and 2011, Canada was the largest source of new investment for Chile.
    With the signing of the most recent FTA, our government is proudly demonstrating its resolve to keep developing relations with like-minded partners in the hemisphere.

World Oceans Day

    Mr. Speaker, happy World Oceans Day. Our oceans play a hugely important role in keeping us healthy and happy, and they are vital to our economy, particularly for our coastal regions. World Oceans Day, originally proposed by Canada in 1992, will be celebrated this year on June 8, and preceded by a week of events.
     Next week I hope the government will finally table a credible plan to protect our oceans. A credible plan would address the impacts of climate change, rising sea level and air pollutants; preventing ocean acidification and its impact on marine ecosystems; declining fish stocks, worth billions of dollars to Canada's economy; and the increase in Canada's marine-protected areas, from the current 1% to our international obligation of 10%. I am hopeful for this plan, but under the Conservatives with their track record on environment, I am not optimistic.
     The reality is that climate change does not respect borders. Damage to our oceans has international repercussions. World Oceans Day offers the opportunity to reflect on how Canada can take that necessary leadership to effect positive change at the global level.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Members of the New Democratic Party

    Mr. Speaker, unpaid taxes hurt every honest worker and taxpayer. The Auditor General was clear: billions of dollars are slipping through our collective hands.
    We thought that the NDP was on board. In fact, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie and former NDP revenue critic had this to say about the subject: “We are talking about revenue that Canada is losing through fraudulent means. I cannot see why we would not address these problems.”
    To the astonishment of Canadians, that same member and his colleague, the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber, owe tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.
    If the NDP wants to lecture anyone on the importance of following the rules and paying one's fair share, then the Leader of the Opposition should start with his own caucus.
    We stand united on this side in saying to our colleagues across the way: “Pay your taxes.”

Volunteerism

    Mr. Speaker, the city of Magog's 28th volunteer gala was held in my riding on May 25, and it was attended by 625 people representing 79 organizations.
    We are proud to have such a large number of dedicated volunteers. Areas as diverse as sport, family support and the environment benefit from the contributions of volunteers, who are an essential part of the fabric of every community.
    As the MP for Brome—Missisquoi, I would like to thank them for their dedication and the excellent work they do.
    Brome—Missisquoi is a vibrant region thanks to the efforts of volunteers. I am proud to represent them in the House of Commons.
    I would also like to draw members' attention to the presence of Jean Pierre Lefebvre, a filmmaker and resident of Brome—Missisquoi who has received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award.
    Once again, congratulations and thank you.

[English]

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has withheld for weeks that one of his senators, Senator Merchant, has millions of dollars in an offshore account. He still has not addressed the matter.
    Clearly the Liberal leader is in over his head when it comes to tackling the Senate problems. In fact, he came out over the weekend saying he believes that the Senate should not change at all because as it stands now it benefits Quebec.
    He also made it clear, time and time again, that he thinks some Canadians are better than others. Those who speak just one of our national languages, he called “lazy”. He says our country is better served when Quebeckers are in charge than Albertans. He even says he would separate our great nation if given the chance.
    However, Canadians will not give him the chance to divide and destroy Canada's national interests. Canadians know it is our Conservative government that will defend the interests of all Canadians at home and abroad no matter what part of the country they are from.
    The leader of the Liberal Party is in over his head when it comes to understanding the Senate and Canada's national interests.

Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute

    Mr. Speaker, it was famously said, “if music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it...”. In the creative capital of Guelph, no one goes hungry for good music.
    After an outstanding second-place finish at Musicfest, Canada's national competition in Ottawa last year, Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute's symphonic band came back home more determined than ever, and this year it brought home the gold.
    Along with its conductor and GCVI teacher Dan Austin, the band blew away judges with its performances of Gale Force, Grasp the Dream and A Scottish Ballade, securing the top spot with its extraordinary musical display.
    Everyone involved has my deepest admiration. It took a lot of practice, dedication, talent and much sacrifice to put together a first-place winning band.
    On behalf of all members in the House, I would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to GCVI's symphonic band. We look forward to all of its future successes.

  (1415)  

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, we made a promise to Canadians to fix Senate expense rules, and we have delivered. The Senate adopted our Conservative government's 11 tough new rules governing Senate travel and expenses proposed by Conservative senators.
    Our government is focused on reforming the Senate, including elections, term limits and tough spending oversight.
    While we are ensuring that the Senate is more accountable to taxpayers, the Liberal leader is defending the status quo, demanding that the Senate remain unelected and unaccountable because it is an advantage for Quebec.
    Furthermore, the Liberal leader has known for weeks that Liberal Senator Pana Merchant is hiding $1.7 million in an offshore bank account. It is time for the Liberal leader to tell Canadians why she still sits in his caucus.

[Translation]

Prime Minister of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the leader of the NDP asked the Prime Minister the following question: “...in a typical day, how many times does the Prime Minister speak with his chief of staff?” The question was simple. The Prime Minister could have said two times, three times, five times or 10 times, but no. The Prime Minister said, and I quote, “Mr. Speaker, I do not understand the question.”
    When a prime minister does not understand such a simple question—how many times did he meet with his chief of staff over the course of a day—we are in trouble. He is supposed to be running this country.
    Canadians deserve better. They deserve a prime minister who is on top of things, a prime minister who knows what is going on in his own office, a prime minister who understands a simple question about how many times he met with his chief of staff.
    Unfortunately, Canadians will have to wait, but in 2015 we will be there to put an end to this nonsense.

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, it has been over a month since media revealed that a Liberal senator was the beneficiary of an offshore account set up in the South Pacific, yet this tax-evading senator refuses to answer questions and she remains a member of the Liberal caucus despite an ongoing investigation.
    The Liberal leader here and the Liberal opposition leader in the Senate know the details, but they have done nothing to hold her to account. They even let her remain in their caucus despite the investigation. This do nothing, defend the status quo approach to the Senate is unacceptable.
    Frankly, this poor judgment from the Liberal leader is not surprising. He is, after all, the same leader who said that the Senate should not change because it was set up to Quebec's advantage.
    The Liberal leader and his Liberal senators should stop defending the Senate status quo and hold the senator to account. When will he stand and prove that he is not just in over his head?

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats have asked straightforward questions, but we have not received straight answers from the Prime Minister.
    The Prime Minister went from full support of Mr. Wright to accepting his resignation. He declared Mr. Wright's actions honourable and then said that he should have told him sooner.
    Could the Prime Minister now tell us why, in his opinion, Nigel Wright was wrong?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, it was inappropriate for Nigel Wright to do what he did, which is why he took sole responsibility for his actions and resigned. That is the view of the Prime Minister. It is the view I think of all Canadians.
    What is equally the view of all Canadians is that the leader of the NDP come forward with what he knew about corruption in the city of Montreal. In 1994, he was offered a bribe. In 2010, he said that it did not happen. In 2011, he met with police. Just two weeks ago that he came clean and said that the whole affair happened.
    What is it about corruption in Montreal that the NDP leader is trying to hide?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are still refusing to answer questions about a possible cover-up directed by the PMO. They can spin all they want, but all they are showing is that they cannot answer basic questions.

[Translation]

    This morning we learned that Senator Bert Brown claimed $43,000 in travel expenses for the quarter in which the last federal election was held. Do the Conservatives consider it appropriate for a senator to use taxpayers' money to travel during an election?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, the money used to pay for all Conservative campaign expenditures during the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 elections was our money. No taxpayers' money was used. This was made very clear in all of our submissions to Elections Canada. That is the truth.
    As the Prime Minister said on Tuesday, anyone who holds public office, whether in the House of Commons or the Senate, must respect taxpayers' money.
    Mr. Speaker, does the government believe it is appropriate to pay severance to a disgraced employee who resigned from the Prime Minister's Office?
    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright will receive only what is required by law and nothing more.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in October 2005, the current Prime Minister asked the Liberal government of the day about the severance package for David Dingwall. He said, “not a single expert has come forward to say that there is an entitlement to severance when one quits a job”.
    What made the Prime Minister change his mind?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just finished saying for the member for Halifax in French, Mr. Wright will receive only what is required by law and nothing more. It is quite simple.
    What is equally required in our country for accountability and responsibility is again for the leader of the New Democratic Party to come forward on this issue of corruption in the city of Montreal. He met in 1994, and said that it did not happen 10 years later. In 2011, he met with police. Only two weeks ago he came clean about this.
     What is it about corruption in Montreal that the NDP leader is trying to cover up and who is he trying to cover up for his advantage?
    Mr. Speaker, also in October 2005, the Prime Minister said, “Why does the Prime Minister not just say no to David Dingwall's demand for more money?”
    My question is very simple. Why will the Prime Minister not just say “no” to any money being paid out to his former chief of staff?
    Mr. Speaker, again, Mr. Wright will receive only what the law requires and nothing more.
    However, equally, if the NDP members want to be so strident about accountability of people in public life, it would be great if they would find out from their leader, and if their leader would come clean with Canadians, who he is covering up for in Montreal, why did it take him so long to admit that he was offered a bribe and why will he not come clean with Canadian taxpayers after 17 years? He has a responsibility to come clean with what he knew about corruption in the city of Montreal.
    Mr. Speaker, in a news conference from Peru, the Prime Minister made it clear that when Nigel Wright cut the $90,000 deal for Mike Duffy, he was acting in his official capacity as chief of staff. That is exactly what the Prime Minister said. Therefore, all documentation, paper or electronic, is the property of the Government of Canada and not Mr. Wright.
     There is the February 20 email, for example, outlining Duffy's expectations. There is Mr. Wright's transfer of funds and more. Canadians are entitled to see all of this. It is going on three weeks now. Will the government produce that paper trail?
    Mr. Speaker, it was very clear that when Nigel Wright resigned, he took sole responsibility for this matter. That is exactly as it should be, because that is, frankly, exactly what happened.
    Speaking of the question of responsibility that the member for Wascana raises, where is the responsibility and accountability in the Liberal Party for one of their Liberal senators, Senator Merchant, who is hiding $1.7 million, that we know of, in an offshore account, avoiding paying taxes in our country.
    If the Liberals believe, as they say, in accountability, responsibility and standing up for taxpayers, why will they not come clean on this $1.7 million that are being hidden from Canadian taxpayers?
    Mr. Speaker, Duffy's reputation has been destroyed, but not his bank account. He remains $90,000 better off. Duffy took taxpayers for that amount, but he did not pay it back. Nigel Wright paid it.
    Duffy keeps the $90,000, while the Receiver General gets $90,000 from an illicit deal that was so wrong it cost Mr. Wright his job.
    Will the government repudiate the dirty money and instead garnishee Duffy's wages and seize his assets so he pays for his wrongdoing, not some deal maker in the PMO?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this matter has been put forward to the RCMP and it will examine all these matters and appropriate action will be taken.
    Speaking again of appropriate action, the member for Wascana used the word “repudiate”. Will the Liberals repudiate a Liberal senator who is hiding $1.7 million in an offshore account?
    When Liberal senators take millions of dollars and hide them in an offshore account, it means that middle-class Canadians, who the new Liberal leader pretends to stand for, need to have a higher tax burden to make up for Liberal senators who are hiding their tax liabilities in offshore accounts.
    When will the Liberals come clean on their senators hiding millions of dollars offshore?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister stubbornly refuses to answer any questions. I have a question for him that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
    Yes, Nigel Wright's payment to Mike Duffy was illegal. No, it was not illegal. Which is it?
    Mr. Speaker, the RCMP is looking into the answer to that question. This is precisely why we have an ethics commissioner and why the RCMP was called in to investigate this matter. The Liberal and Conservative parties examined this matter in the Senate.
    What about Senator Merchant and her husband, who are hiding $1.7 million in an offshore account? Is that illegal, yes or no?

[English]

    I have a simple question for the Liberals. Hiding $1.7 million from taxpayers, is it illegal, yes or no?

41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are now learning how Mike Duffy used taxpayer money to work on the Conservative election campaign of 2011, but he was not the only one.
    Of the 15 senators who spent the most money during that election period, five were Conservatives and 10 were Liberals. These are extraordinary amounts of money we are talking about.
    Does the government consider it appropriate for senators to use taxpayer money to work for the Conservative and Liberal Parties during elections?
    Mr. Speaker, Senate expenses should be used for Senate duties.
    As we have put forward very clearly in our submissions to Elections Canada, the Conservative campaign was financed by Conservative funds, straight up and that is very clear in the returns that we put forward to Elections Canada.
    That is what taxpayers expect. That is what the law requires. We have obeyed the elections laws in our country.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, I do not know if my hon. colleague has been checking out the audit in the Senate, but we will continue on.
    When the news of Nigel Wright's $90,000 cheque was made public, the Prime Minister sent the member for Nepean—Carleton out to explain the Conservative government's position. He said that the cheque was issued “Because we didn’t believe taxpayers should have to pay the cost and Mr. Duffy was not in a position to pay them himself”.
    Again, who is the “we” that was involved in the decision and how did they know Mike Duffy was claiming that he was unable to pay back the taxpayer?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister answered that question specifically yesterday in the House of Commons. In his statement when he resigned as chief of staff, Nigel Wright took sole responsibility for this matter, which is as it should be, because that reflects the facts of the matter.
    On this issue of payments and so on, it is interesting that New Democrats are so self-righteous, given that they had as their revenue critic somebody who disrespected taxpayers by not paying his taxes to the Canada Revenue Agency. For New Democrats to get up in the House and be so self-righteous about the interests of taxpayers while not paying their own taxes takes quite a bit of gall.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, here is another question the Prime Minister did not answer yesterday. Perhaps today will be our lucky day.
    What changed between the time the Prime Minister said Nigel Wright had his full confidence and the moment he accepted Mr. Wright's resignation, just three days later?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, as soon as the Prime Minister found out that Nigel Wright had been directly involved and had written a personal cheque for $90,000, he made all of the information public and Nigel Wright resigned because he acted alone, of his own accord. That is what the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons.
    Now, what we need to hear is what the NDP leader knew about corruption in Montreal. He hid that information for 17 years. He did not go to the RCMP, and now he is trying to hide behind this ruckus. He needs to tell the public what he knew about corruption in Laval.
    Mr. Speaker, they can try to spin all they like, but they could not pass a lie detector test with those answers and fabrications. Canadians are not fools; they are not stupid.
    What did the Prime Minister learn during the audit of Senator Wallin's expenses that forced her to leave the Conservative caucus?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, she says that we are inventing things. It is a fact that in 1994 the leader of the NDP was offered a bribe, it is a fact that in 2010 he said that it did not happen, it is a fact that in 2011 he met with police, and it is a fact that only two weeks ago he confessed that all of this happened.
    To not report the crime of a bribe is totally irresponsible. The City of Montreal is trying to get to the bottom of corruption through the Charbonneau commission, and Canadians deserve to know why it is that the NDP leader was hiding corruption in the city of Montreal.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it seems that getting answers to our questions is going to be very difficult. The answers we are getting are ridiculous. I cannot believe this.
    I will now ask a very simple question. Did Nigel Wright issue the $90,000 cheque while employed by the Prime Minister's Office as his chief of staff? Who was the cheque made out to, Mike Duffy directly or a trust account?
    Mr. Speaker, it is our understanding that it was a personal cheque. That is why the RCMP is looking into the matter, and so is the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. That is why Nigel Wright took sole responsibility for his actions. He acted alone in writing that cheque.

[English]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the question was not whether he wrote it, but who was the recipient.
    Let me turn to another matter. Given that these activities may have been a breach of both parliamentary ethics rules and the criminal law, specifically what documentation has been handed over to independent authorities, the Senate Ethics Officer, the House Ethics Commissioner and the RCMP?
    Mr. Speaker, these are independent bodies that will do their own independent examinations. They are arm's length, which is as it should be. That is what the Federal Accountability Act mandates, that is what the law for the Ethics Commissioner requires and that is how the RCMP operates, which is arm's length and independent. They will examine this matter, as they should and as taxpayers expect.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, why should the kinds of documents being provided to authorities be at arm's length from Canadians?
    Let us move on. Yesterday, when asked about when he started talking with the PMO about the Senate expenses scandal, the Prime Minister answered, “Obviously, we all spoke of this as soon as the story was in the news”.
    Could the government confirm that the conversations between the Prime Minister and folks in the PMO took place sometime late last year?
    Mr. Speaker, on the important matter that the member raises in the beginning of his question, the Prime Minister made it very clear that our government will put forward any information that is required to get to the bottom of this.
    Canadians do expect that members of Parliament and members of the Senate treat taxpayers' money responsibly. An independent examination is being done by the Ethics Commissioner and by the RCMP. They will do their work, and of course we will co-operate and work with them as much as they request, in the exact opposite of the way that the leader of the NDP failed to come forward on corruption in Laval in the city of Montreal.

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, Conservatives would do well to realize that when they put themselves into a deep hole, maybe they should stop digging. These guys went out and bought themselves a bigger shovel.

[Translation]

    I have another simple, straightforward question. Let us see if the Conservatives can give a clear answer for once.
    Was anyone else in the Prime Minister's Office contacted by the police regarding the Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy matter?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there has been no such contact by the RCMP, as the Prime Minister said yesterday.
    With regard to shovels and digging holes deeper, at least two New Democrat members of Parliament that we know of have not paid their taxes. What is really corrupt about their behaviour in this file is that an NDP member of Parliament did not pay his taxes and was taken to court because of a $60,000 tax liability, and that same NDP member of Parliament comes to this place and tables a bill in Parliament to have income averaging for artists because he is an artist.
    His first and only act in this Parliament legislatively is to try to pass a bill to absolve himself of his own tax liability. That is NDP corruption.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. Order. This is taking up a lot of time.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has a supplemental question.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure the winners of the Governor General's awards, the artists who are watching here today, appreciate the minister's total disdain for artists working in our country.
    Now that a cover-up orchestrated by the Prime Minister's own chief of staff has been exposed, maybe showing Canadians a little contrition would go a long way and stop the baseless attacks and sad attempts to try to change the channel on their own corruption.
    The email from Mike Duffy said he would stay quiet on direct orders from the Prime Minister's Office. Let us be clear: that came with a $90,000 cheque attached.
    For 16 days Canadians have waited for answers. When are they going to get the answers they deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the arts, I am very pleased to be the minister responsible for the arts and a member of this government, the only government in the G8 that increased funding for arts and culture during the recession. We are the only one, the only government.
    We have increased funding for the Canada Council for the Arts and created three new national museums. We have created the Canada media fund. We have gone forward with the copyright protection act to protect our musicians. Our government has done more for arts and culture than any government in history.
    What is appalling is New Democrats putting forward a bill of artists' resale rights and pretending to stand up for artists when all they are doing is standing up for their right to avoid paying taxes.--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order.
    Order, please. The running commentary during questions and answers is not helping and it is certainly eating up a lot of time. I ask members to come to order.
    The hon. member for Toronto Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, I thought the attack by the minister on the member for Jeanne-Le Ber was one of the nastiest attacks on an individual in the House that I have seen in my time. I have never seen anything like it—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    An hon. member: What a low blow.

  (1440)  

    That is unparliamentary.
    Shame on you, James.
    Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister this simple question: is it the position of the Government of Canada that it had just cause to fire Nigel Wright from his position? Is that its position?
    Mr. Speaker, Nigel Wright resigned. He took sole responsibility, which is exactly appropriate, given the facts of the matter.
    It was not an attack on any individual member of Parliament. This is an attack on members of Parliament who put forward legislation to avoid having to pay taxes themselves. That is what happened here. When it comes to defending—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages has the floor. He has about 10 seconds left.
    Mr. Speaker, again on the issue of defending the arts, I am very proud to be a member of this government, which has done more to defend and protect the interests of Canadian artists than any government before in this country's history. Increasing the funding for the Canada Council for the Arts, standing up for artists on the international—
    The hon. member for Toronto Centre has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, through all the character assassination, the minister has not answered this simple question. It is a very important question because it applies to the question of what rights and entitlements Mr. Wright had as a result of his choosing to resign on Sunday after his misdemeanours were discovered on the Wednesday before. It took the government five days to make up its mind as to how it was going to handle it.
    Let me ask the minister one more time and give him one more chance. Did the Government of Canada have cause to fire Mr. Wright, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister said, he did not approve of this. He would not have approved of this. Indeed, Nigel Wright took sole responsibility because he acted alone. What he did was not in the interests of Canadian taxpayers and it was not a responsible decision. The Prime Minister did not support what he did and would not support what he had done. It was the wrong thing for him to do.
    With regard to the legal questions, that is why independent authorities are looking at this, and they will get the answers that taxpayers deserve, just as we continue to seek the answers on Liberal senators taking $1.7 million and hiding it from Revenue Canada. We deserve answers on that as well.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like the government to table all the documents related to Mr. Wright's appointment and the conditions of his employment, because otherwise, there can be no explanation for the government's position. It took the government five days to realize there was a problem. They did not have a moral problem, but rather a political problem, which is why they decided to allow Mr. Wright to resign. They did not fire Mr. Wright. That is the government's position at present—
    Mr. Speaker, it did not take five days. It happened as soon as the Prime Minister learned that Mr. Wright had written a personal cheque. The Prime Minister made that information public immediately. That is a fact.
    However, that is not the case with the Liberal Party, considering that a Liberal senator is hiding $1.7 million from taxpayers who have to pay their taxes. She is hiding that money in an offshore account. The Liberals need to be transparent about that money and need to be accountable to Canadian taxpayers.

[English]

Government Expenditures

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question about yet another Deloitte audit into Conservative misuse of public funds. Former employees of Atomic Energy Canada are blowing the whistle on bid-rigging, inappropriate gifts and the misuse of public money. These whistle-blowers say evidence of wrongdoing provoked a major audit of AECL's procurement in 2008, but it appears that it was covered up.
    Is it true that such an audit was conducted by Deloitte? If so, will the government now release it?
    Mr. Speaker, AECL is an independent crown corporation, and the board of AECL is responsible for dealing with these matters. It is my understanding that the matter is subject to an ongoing legal proceeding, so we cannot comment on it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is another example of this government's lack of transparency. It has put over $1 billion into Atomic Energy of Canada Limited over the past few years, including $362 million this year alone. If there is wrongdoing within this organization, then Canadians deserve to know.
    Can the minister tell us when exactly he heard about the bid rigging at AECL and can he tell us why Canadians are just learning about this now?

  (1445)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I said, these matters are the responsibility of the board of directors of AECL. AECL was an independent crown corporation. It has now been sold to the private sector, but it is my understanding that it is subject to an ongoing legal proceeding and we cannot comment on it.

[Translation]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives are making cuts to employment insurance and six in 10 unemployed workers are not receiving benefits, the Conservatives are handing out gifts to their friends. Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency are full of friends of the Minister of National Defence. Canadians are the ones paying the salaries of these friends and those same Canadians are having a hard time getting employment insurance benefits. They have the right to know the status of the investigation into these appointments.
    Will the minister update us on the status of the investigation into the hiring of the Minister of National Defence's friends?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation is an arm's-length crown corporation. Any questions concerning ECBC should be directed to Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation.
    Mr. Speaker, let us see. Aside from illegitimate hirings, subsequent dismissals and cover-up at ACOA, we now see scandal at Enterprise Cape Breton. The CEO, described as a close friend of the defence minister, has hired former ministerial staffers and failed Conservative candidates. Some have since returned to the defence minister's office. In case the minister forgot, these are taxpayer-funded regional government agencies, not Conservative job banks.
    When will the minister take responsibility for the inappropriate interventions and hiring practices at ACOA?
    Mr. Speaker, I completely reject the premise of that question. Here is what happened. What the hon. member is alleging is completely false, and he knows it. The Public Service Commission was very clear in its report. If the member had read the report, he would have seen that the report stated there was no interference from the minister or the political staff. The member should read the report.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister welcomes Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile, to Ottawa. Canada and Chile enjoy a close trade and investment relationship. In fact, our government is modernizing and broadening our free trade agreements to further benefit hard-working Canadians.
    Today, Chile is Canada's third most important export destination in Latin America. Sadly, not only did the NDP members oppose Canada's trade agreement with Chile; they stood against Canada's exports by opposing other agreements in the area.
    Could the parliamentary secretary please share with the House how our government, unlike the NDP, is standing up for Canada's exporters?
    Mr. Speaker, the NDP's anti-trade record is no secret to anyone in the House. In fact, the member for British Columbia Southern Interior has even argued that trade agreements “threaten the very existence of our nation”. So it is no surprise that the NDP has opposed every single free trade agreement Canada has signed with our partners in the Americas. Only our government recognizes that promoting free and open trade creates jobs and prosperity for hard-working Canadians. Canada's exporters can count on our government to seek out new opportunities in fast-growing markets around the world, including in the Americas.

International Co-operation

    Mr. Speaker, it is now clear that the Minister of International Cooperation's office knew about partisan material being posted on CIDA's website in clear violation of Treasury Board rules. When I first asked the minister about this, he refused to take responsibility. He just blamed CIDA staff. Why did the minister blame bureaucrats when, in truth, his office was involved in violating Treasury Board rules?
    Mr. Speaker, the story is wrong. The letters were posted in error, and the moment the minister was made aware, he directed that they be removed.
    It was our government that created the open data portal so that Canadians could track our development dollars.
    Unlike the opposition leader, who chose deliberately to hide information from the authorities for 17 years, we will continue to be open and transparent.

  (1450)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, even the Privy Council Office and the Treasury Board were concerned about the involvement of the minister's office in the posting of partisan letters on the CIDA website.
    Ministers are not to be using government resources for partisan purposes.
    Why is the Minister of International Cooperation not taking his share of the blame? Why are there still no consequences when the rules are broken?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I repeat, the story is wrong. These letters were posted in error. The moment the minister was made aware, he had them removed.
    I repeat, we are open and transparent with our development dollars. Canadians can follow them on the open data portal.
    We wish the Leader of the Opposition would come clean with why it was that, for 17 years, he chose deliberately to hide information from the authorities.
    Our government will continue to be transparent.

[Translation]

Labour

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP refuses to accept envelopes, whereas the Conservatives write cheques to senators who break the Senate rules. That is the difference.
    The Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, said that Bill C-377 is a significant invasion of privacy.
    I do not know if I need to remind them, but the members opposite are supposed to be libertarians rather than control freaks. It seems that they have forgotten all their principles since coming to power, and that is why today they resemble Liberals.
    Will the Conservatives move forward with Bill C-377 despite the commissioner's objections concerning violations of privacy?
    Mr. Speaker, the NDP says that it refuses to accept envelopes, but did it not accept an envelope with $300,00 in illegal union money? We should know that.
    However, the only way to learn about such transactions is to have union transparency. According to Léger Marketing, 97% of Quebeckers are in favour of this proposal.
    Why is the NDP working with unelected Liberal senators to prevent union transparency? What do they have to hide?
    Mr. Speaker, a union is made up of workers. When you attack a union, you attack workers.
    What do they have against workers?
    Information provided by the Commissioner of Lobbying proves that Bill C-377 is actually a government bill disguised as a private member's bill.
    The member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale met with none other than the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, the incomparable Nigel Wright, on this matter. That is not all, however. According to the Commissioner of Lobbying, representatives of Merit Canada also attended those meetings.
    Why was the Prime Minister's former chief of staff interested in a private member's bill?

[English]

    The hon. member talks about attacking workers, Mr. Speaker. According to Leger Marketing, the vast majority of workers, including unionized workers, strongly support union financial transparency.
     Why is the NDP working against the will of 97% of Quebecers and the grand majority of Canadians, along with unelected senators, in order to block a bill that has been passed by this House and that workers and taxpayers are demanding?
    Unions receive $400 million in tax advantage at taxpayers' expense. We believe there should be accountability and transparency.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency covers for the Minister of National Defence, who covers for his former political staffer, Kevin MacAdam, who was a former provincial cabinet colleague of the Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. That is pretty cozy.
    MacAdam continues to receive $130,000 a year in salary, even though he has never spent a day in P.E.I. since he was hired and has not learned a word of French since he moved to Ottawa at taxpayers' expense. What exactly is he being paid for? Je ne sais pas.
    Will the minister drop the talking points and answer the following question: What is Kevin MacAdam being paid $130,000 for?

  (1455)  

    The reality is that if the hon. member had read the report, he would have seen that the report stated there was no interference from the ministers or their political staff. The member should read the report and then he should listen to the report.
    Mr. Speaker, I guess we will have to get a talking book on that. However, I guess we will not be finding out any time soon why Kevin MacAdam earns $130,000 a year.
    Would the parliamentary secretary humour the House by referring to the report before it was whitewashed by the Minister of National Defence?
    The Public Service Commission says a hiring scandal at ACOA was brought about by outside influences.
    The president of ACOA was reprimanded for hiring Kevin MacAdam out of the defence minister's office.
     Allan Murphy and Nancy Baker were hired by the president of ECBC out of the defence minister's office, and now it is before the Ethics Commissioner.
    What do all of these have in common? Is it not the Minister of National Defence?
    The premise of his question is wrong; he does not understand the issue; and he is trying to twist it into a pretzel because he has himself moved into that position now—and pretzels are hard to make sense of because we cannot figure out the difference between the head and the tail.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government jumps on every opportunity it has to shut down debate. If it is not closure motions, it is letting bills die in the Senate.
    Over a year ago, a private member's bill, Bill C-290, that would sustain and grow the largest sector of the entertainment industry in Canada was passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate.
    As of now, the Senate has not passed the bill.
    Why is this bill, which passed the House of Commons with no opposition from any member, languishing in the Senate?
    Mr. Speaker, yes, it is before the Senate. I know it will be considered in due course.
    Mr. Speaker, it is not right for the Senate to cherry-pick bills for consideration. This was passed unanimously in the House of Commons.
    This bill would help create new jobs, allow law enforcement to crack down on organized crime and offshore betting, and give the provinces new opportunities to generate new revenues.
    Conservative indifference is putting this all at risk.
    Why are the Conservatives not doing more to ensure passage of a bill that has already passed?
    Mr. Speaker, we work to expedite and assist in the passage of all bills. Certainly, government bills are, of course, our first priority. However, even NDP private members' bills will be analyzed and decided upon in due course.

  (1500)  

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, our government supports the transmission of oil from west to east, as it would create high-paying jobs and spur growth, while reducing Canada's reliance on foreign oil.
    We know the NDP is intent on halting economic development. The opposition leader has come out against reversing the flow of the line 9B pipeline, which is currently being reviewed by the National Energy Board.
    Would the parliamentary secretary update the House on the status of this review?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has long supported moving oil from western Canada to eastern Canada if the economics exist. At committee we have heard support for this project from the west, Quebec and eastern Canada.
    I am encouraged that a coalition of industry groups and labour unions has been created in support of this project.
    Unfortunately, the NDP has once again changed its position and now it opposes it. When will the NDP stop its ideological hatred of resource development and resource communities and start standing up for Canadian jobs?

Privacy

    Mr. Speaker, this week the Privacy Commissioner released a damning report finding the government breached both the spirit and the letter of the Privacy Act by spying on first nations child advocate Cindy Blackstock. Just days before the report was released, aboriginal affairs told the media that the Privacy Commissioner would not be conducting an investigation.
    My question is simple. Who in the minister's office or the PMO instructed the department to make this false statement, and will there be any disciplinary action?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier this week on the same topic, we take Canadians' right to privacy very seriously. I would like to make clear to the House and to all Canadians that all of the Privacy Commissioner's recommendations have been implemented by my department.

[Translation]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are planning to unilaterally amend the homelessness partnering strategy, the HPS, to change its orientation. A unanimous motion by the National Assembly has denounced this change because it would ultimately result in funding cuts to many important homelessness initiatives that address diverse needs and realities.
    In Sherbrooke, losing this funding would cost 16 to 18 social work jobs that are directly related to the HPS.
    Can the minister confirm today that this change will not affect jobs that involve fighting homelessness in Quebec and Sherbrooke?
    Mr. Speaker, the government is committed to helping vulnerable Canadians become independent and fully participate in the economy. Budget 2013 renewed the homelessness partnering strategy. In addition, the government renewed the affordable housing agreement and will provide new homes in the north.

[English]

    We will be focused on making sure that we renew these projects.

Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, earlier this month our government announced the safe foods for Canadians action plan. The plan lays out new rules for meat plants to deal with E. coli and makes labelling of mechanically tenderized meat mandatory.
    Albert Chambers, executive director of the Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition, said that the proposals in Bill S-11 “will position Canada's food safety regime well in the rapidly changing global regulatory environment”.
    Could the Minister of Agriculture please tell the House what steps the government is taking to ensure that CFIA has adequate resources to keep food safe?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure my colleague from Medicine Hat that as the CFIA identified efficiencies over this past year it was also able to hire 43 new front-line food inspectors. That is good news.
     As we on the government side continue to build the capacity of CFIA, unfortunately the opposition keeps voting down those initiatives. I wish the opposition would get on board with us in bolstering our food safety system in this great country.

Mining Industry

    Mr. Speaker, this week a delegation representing the citizens of northern Greece came to Canada to raise their opposition to the actions of the Canadian gold mining company Eldorado. The two projects this company is undertaking in Greece risk creating serious environmental degradation and have already led to major social unrest. Canada's image and reputation in Greece is suffering.
    Does the Conservative government believe that Canadian mining companies, especially those that receive government support, like Eldorado, should follow the same standards of corporate social responsibility abroad as we have here in Canada?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, Canadian mining and oil and gas companies employ thousands of people abroad and create economic growth and development in countries where they operate. Our government is committed to working with our trading partners to pursue policies that support a responsible and sustainable investment environment. The reality is we provide jobs in Canada and we provide jobs abroad. Those are dollars in the pockets of workers in both countries.
    The Canadian mining sector needs to take no advice from the NDP.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, statistics show that the employment insurance system is leaving tens of thousands of Quebec workers, their families and their communities high and dry.
    It is set out in black and white in the monitoring report that was quietly released by the government: 6 out of 10 workers are not entitled to benefits. The accessibility of the program has been called into question.
    The Conservative reform, which penalizes seasonal workers who live mainly in the regions of Quebec, is already a cause for concern, but this reality will only make things worse.
    How can the government claim that the employment insurance system is working just fine when it is pushing so many Quebeckers into poverty?
    Mr. Speaker, this report contains employment insurance statistics for the period from April 2011 to March 2012.
    We are going to ensure that people who paid into the system, who are unemployed and who need assistance will have access to employment insurance benefits. Our government's main priorities are jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

[English]

    The cornerstone of our budget is the Canada jobs grant. I encourage the member opposite to focus on that.

Presence in Gallery

    I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the recipients of the 2013 Governor General's Performing Arts Awards: Andrew Dawes, Daniel Lanois, Jean Pierre Lefebvre, Viola Léger, Eric Peterson, Menaka Thakkar, Jean Pierre Desrosiers and Sarah Polley.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Fair Rail Freight Service Act

     The House resumed from May 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration), be read the third time and passed.
    Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, May 22, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-52.
    Call in the members.

  (1515)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 708)

YEAS

Members

Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Welland)
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Andrews
Angus
Armstrong
Ashfield
Ashton
Aspin
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Bateman
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Benoit
Bernier
Bevington
Bezan
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Blaney
Block
Boivin
Borg
Boughen
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brosseau
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Butt
Byrne
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Caron
Carrie
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisu
Chong
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Clarke
Cleary
Clement
Comartin
Côté
Cotler
Crockatt
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Daniel
Davidson
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dewar
Dionne Labelle
Doré Lefebvre
Dreeshen
Dubé
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Fletcher
Foote
Freeman
Fry
Galipeau
Gallant
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Glover
Godin
Goguen
Goodale
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Gravelle
Grewal
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hoback
Holder
Hsu
Hughes
Jacob
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kellway
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Lauzon
Laverdière
Lebel
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leitch
Lemieux
Leslie
Leung
Liu
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKenzie
Mai
Martin
Masse
May
Mayes
McCallum
McColeman
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLeod
Menegakis
Merrifield
Michaud
Miller
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Nash
Nicholls
Nicholson
Norlock
Nunez-Melo
Obhrai
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Pacetti
Papillon
Paradis
Patry
Payne
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Poilievre
Preston
Quach
Rae
Raitt
Rajotte
Rankin
Rathgeber
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Ritz
Saganash
Sandhu
Saxton
Schellenberger
Scott
Seeback
Sgro
Shipley
Shory
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Stewart
Stoffer
Storseth
Strahl
Sullivan
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Toone
Tremblay
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Turmel
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Valeriote
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 255

NAYS

Nil

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

    (Bill read the third time and passed)

[Translation]

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple and clear question for my Conservative colleague. Could the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tell us what is on the agenda for the rest of the week and for next week? That is all.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, now that we have been sitting for a week under our Conservative government's plans for a harder-working, productive and orderly House of Commons, I would remind all hon. members of what we have been able to achieve since just Victoria Day.
    Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012, was passed at report stage and third reading. Bill C-49, the Canadian museum of history act, was passed at second reading. Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act, was passed at report stage and we started third reading debate, which we will finish tonight. Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act was passed at report stage and, just moments ago, at third reading. Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act, was passed at second reading. Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, No. 1, was reported back from committee yesterday.
    Bill S-2, the family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, was passed at report stage and we started third reading debate. Bill S-6, the first nations elections act, was debated at second reading. Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, which was reported back to the House this morning by the hard-working and fast running member for Peace River, has completed committee. Bill S-10, the prohibiting cluster munitions act, was debated at second reading. Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act, was debated at second reading. Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act, was debated at second reading. Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act, was debated at second reading.
    We will build on this record of accomplishment over the coming week.

[Translation]

    This afternoon, as I mentioned, we will finish the second reading debate on Bill C-51. After that, we will start the second reading debate on Bill C-56, Combating Counterfeit Products Act.
    Tomorrow morning, we will start report stage on Bill C-60, now that the hard-working Standing Committee on Finance has brought the bill back to us. After I conclude this statement, Mr. Speaker, I will have additional submissions for your consideration on yesterday's point of order.
    After question period tomorrow, we will get a start on the second reading debate on Bill S-15, Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act. I am optimistic that we would not need much more time, at a future sitting, to finish that debate.
    On Monday, before question period, we will debate Bill S-17, Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2013, at second reading. In the afternoon, we will hopefully finish report stage consideration of Bill C-60, followed by Bill S-2 at third reading.

[English]

    On Tuesday, we will return to Bill S-2 if necessary. After that, I hope we could use the time to pass a few of the other bills that I mentioned earlier, as well as the forthcoming bill on the Yale First Nation Final Agreement.
    Wednesday, June 5 shall be the eighth allotted day of the supply cycle. That means we will discuss an NDP motion up until about 6:30 p.m. This will be followed by a debate on the main estimates. Then we will pass to two appropriations acts.
    Next Thursday, I would like to return back to Bill C-60, our budget implementation legislation, so we can quickly pass that important bill for the Canadian economy.

[Translation]

Points of Order

Standing Committee on Finance  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to the point of order raised yesterday by the House leader of the official opposition, because it pertained to our presence in committee.
    We are not asking for more privileges than the others. We are just asking for the few rights that we do have to be respected. There are 308 MPs in the House, who were all legitimately and democratically elected. The rules of Parliament are supposed to allow all of us, from the Prime Minister right down through the ranks, to do our work as legislators for the benefit of our constituents, whether we are members of recognized parties or not.
    Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to see that you want to uphold the principles behind your December 12, 2012, ruling, which reminded members that, in accordance with page 307 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice.
    It is the responsibility of the Speaker to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of Members and of the House as an institution.
    You then went on to say that:
    Accordingly, unless and until new satisfactory ways of considering the motions of all members to amend bills in committee are found, the Chair intends to continue to protect the rights of independent members to propose amendments at report stage.
    That is exactly what we expect of you, Mr. Speaker. A new satisfactory way of considering our amendments in committee can only be interpreted as an opportunity not only to table amendments or simply send them by fax, but also to put them forward ourselves in committee, debate them and vote on them, exactly as we do now at report stage. I am sure you will agree that we cannot rely on the goodwill of committee members, our political opponents, to put forward our amendments. Even if they wanted to, it would be impossible for them to debate and explain what amendments proposed by independent members or members of the Bloc Québécois or the Green Party are all about and the reasons behind them.
    However, your decision opens the door to testing certain procedural measures in order to allow members of non-recognized parties and independent members to propose amendments to bills in committee. You also said:
..its report stage selection process would adapt to the new reality.
    We understood what that meant, and we were not the only ones. The government interpreted it in its own way, as did the opposition parties. We are willing to participate in committee work with the understanding that we are not permanent members of the committees and that a time limit will be imposed on us based on our respective weight in the House. However, we want to have the same right we have at report stage in the House: the right to propose, debate and put to a vote our own amendments. Simply faxing or emailing our amendments to a committee may be an efficient method of having our amendments studied in committee, but I respectfully submit that it would strip us of the fundamental right to represent our constituents, a right that is enjoyed by all other members of the House. Report stage is when we are currently given the opportunity to exercise that right.
    I sincerely believe that the scope of your ruling of December 12, 2012, was not intended to deny us our rights and make us second-class members. I believe that your ruling was designed to invite committees to use Standing Order 119, which allows them to give MPs who are not permanent members the right to speak. It was in response to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, who, on November 28, 2012, asked you to muzzle members of non-recognized parties and independent MPs. That member referred to the changes imposed by Speaker Milliken to minimize the use of motions of a repetitive, frivolous or vexatious nature or of a nature that would serve merely to prolong unnecessarily proceedings. None of the motions moved by the Bloc since the May 2011 election have met that description. We also feel that there is a need to clamp down on abuse, but that this should not be done at the expense of our rights and privileges, as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons sadly proposed. O'Brien and Bosc fully explains those rights and privileges:
    In recommending that report stage be restored, the 1968 Special Committee on Procedure believed that stage to be essential in order to provide all Members of the House, and not merely members of the committee, with an opportunity to express their views on bills under consideration and to propose amendments, where appropriate. For all that, the intent of the Committee was not for this stage to become a repetition of committee stage.
    We were recently able to test out this new direction you gave, Mr. Speaker, in response to the comments by the government House leader. Following the vote at second reading stage of Bill C-60, we were invited to propose amendments in committee. According to the committee motion, these amendments were deemed proposed during clause-by-clause study. Technically, we were not allowed to propose our amendments since we are not members of the committee.
    Following an email exchange and meetings with the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, we were able to briefly present our amendments because we did not have many, we were told. The official opposition made sure to remind us that we were not members of the committee under the rules and procedures of the House.

  (1520)  

    My colleague, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, was not allowed to ask the officials present any questions, and the leader of the Green Party was unable to respond to comments on the amendments. Our participation was reduced to an absolute minimum.
    In your ruling on December 12, 2012, you said:
    The Standing Orders currently in place offer committees wide latitude to deal with bills in an inclusive and thorough manner that would balance the rights of all members. In fact, it is neither inconceivable nor unprecedented for committees to allow members, regardless of party status, permanently or temporarily, to be part of their proceedings, thereby opening the possibility for the restoration of report stage to its original purpose.

    For inspiration on the possibilities, members need only to remember that there are several precedents where independent members were made members of standing committees. Short of that, there is no doubt that any number of procedural arrangements could be developed that would ensure that the amendments that independent members wish to propose to legislation could be put in committee.
    I think that the opportunity to be part of a committee would help us find that balance you are looking for and we are looking for.
    At report stage, we can table and propose, debate and vote on amendments, thanks to the notes to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5) to which you refer in your decision of December 12, 2012, on the selection of report stage amendments:
    For greater certainty, the purpose of this Standing Order is, primarily, to provide Members who were not members of the committee, with an opportunity to have the House consider specific amendments they wish to propose.
    We participated in good faith in the process recommended by the Standing Committee on Finance, but it is clear that the balance you spoke of in your decision was not achieved.
    We, the members of non-recognized parties and independents, are now at the centre of a procedural war between the government and the opposition. We find ourselves in the middle of a ping-pong game where our rights and privileges are in play.
    The procedure at report stage that allows us to table, debate and vote on amendments is currently predictable. The new process is clearly not. Not all committees ask us to table amendments. Some invite us to propose amendments but do not give us the opportunity to do it ourselves, and still others, such as the Standing Committee on Finance, allow us to do so, but with every possible restriction.
    There are only two options: either we are entitled to propose amendments in committee with all the applicable rights, or we are not and can do so at report stage. What we want are clear rules. We do not want to be tossed around, at the mercy of every arbitrary decision made by each of the committees. We no longer have the resources to cope with the haphazard approach or the whims of the other parties, which would like nothing better than to block us at every turn.
    We do not want to have to defend our rights case by case, committee by committee, and make it painfully clear with every bill that we cannot exercise our rights in committee.
    In closing, I would like to point out to you that when the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was instructed to examine the standing orders and procedures of the House and its committees, pursuant to the February 17, 2012 motion, I wrote to the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on February 27, 2012 and requested that a member of the Bloc Québécois sit on the committee for the duration of its work on this matter.
    “The fact that we cannot speak in committee is an aberration that deprives us of some of our parliamentary privileges, and that is what we wish to discuss in committee,” I wrote to the committee chair.
    The Bloc Québécois was already showing its willingness to work with the committee to address what we consider to be the denial of our parliamentary rights and privileges. The committee never replied to our letter.
    As I pointed out yesterday, there are examples of members of non-recognized parties and independents being given rights on the committees of other legislative assemblies.
    It seems to me that the evolution of House practices could allow better predictability of the rights of members of non-recognized parties and independents, as is permitted by Standing Order 122 of the National Assembly of Quebec. It states that any independent member or member of an opposition group other than the official opposition can be appointed to a standing committee, which is the equivalent of the committees here in Ottawa. In that case, the committee consists of 12 rather than 10 members.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and I are prepared to advance the practices of the House, but our current rights must be preserved.
    As guardian of the rights and privileges of the House of Commons, you have a duty to preserve our rights.

  (1525)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in part to add to my submissions of yesterday and in part to respond to the submissions of the hon. House leader of the official opposition and others today.
    As I said yesterday, there is a key understanding around here that our committees are the masters of their own proceedings. This is articulated in our procedural literature, such as page 1,047 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition. One portion says:
    The concept refers to the freedom committees normally have to organize their work as they see fit and the option they have of defining, on their own, certain rules of procedure that facilitate their proceedings.
    On the next page, we see that:
....committees may adopt procedural rules to govern their proceedings, but only to the extent the House does not prescribe anything specific.
    As I said, the notion that committees are masters of their own process is true and is often referred to you, Mr. Speaker, when people attempt to appeal decisions that occur in committee to this chamber, which you quite rightly point out is something for those committees.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley claimed yesterday that a process whereby a motion is deemed moved was some new invention. It is not. In point of fact, this same mechanism was adopted by the status of women committee on April 23 in relation to Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act. There were no report stage amendments when we took up that bill on Monday.
    Motions deemed moved are also contemplated in our Standing Orders. There we are not talking about committees, where we have more relaxed rules but rather in the more stringent environment of rules in this chamber. Taking a look at our rule book, I see that Standing Orders 7(1.1) and 8(2) provide that the appointments of the Speaker's three fellow chair occupants are all made on motions which are deemed to have been moved.
    I have been here every night at midnight or later when the government orders finish. At the start of every night's late show, the Chair reads out the formula:
Pursuant to Standing Order 38 a motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been moved and seconded.
    I could list off a number of other Standing Orders where motions are deemed to have been moved, but I think I have made my point. There is nothing novel or new about it. It is an accepted practice of this House and it is done often.
     Going back to committee procedures more specifically, let me quote an excerpt from O'Brien and Bosc, which was not tendered yesterday. Page 1,018 says:
    Committees often adopt sessional orders that govern the granting of the right to speak in cases where witnesses are to be questioned. Consequently, it is rare that a non-member is able to participate in such proceedings. Non-members are occasionally given the right to speak, however, following a decision by a majority of the members present or by unanimous consent.
    It was exactly such a majority vote to enable participation by the independent members of Parliament that the committee took on May 7.
    Turning to Beauschene's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, citation 760(3) reads:
    The Speaker has ruled on many occasions that it is not competent for the Speaker to exercise procedural control over the committees. Committees are and must remain masters of their own procedure.
    I referenced that earlier.
    Citation 762 meanwhile provides that:
    Proceedings in the committees are more relaxed in nature than those in the House as the requirements which must be observed in the Chamber are not so strictly enforced when Members sit as committees.
    At page 1030 of O'Brien and Bosc, there is a review of cases where committees have allowed even non-parliamentarians to participate in committee deliberations. Citation 771 of Beauschene's covers the same ground.
    As I said yesterday, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley sought to relitigate the issue addressed by your November 29, 2012 ruling, at pages 12,609 and 12,610 of Debates.
    As the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands reminded us this morning, Speakers' rulings are not actually subject to appeal.
    In that ruling, Mr. Speaker, you said the finance committee's invitation to other committees to submit suggested amendments to Bill C-45, an invitation which was renewed to some committees for Bill C-60 extended to independent members of Parliament the following:
....it is true that committee practice is of considerable flexibility and fluidity. This is acknowledged by the opposition House leader....
    That is the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
....himself who spoke of the need for committees to respect clear and distinct limits but declared to that, “when work is assigned to it by the House, it is largely up to the committee to decide how and when to tackle it”.

  (1530)  

    Your ruling continues:
     It should be noted that in the present case, even though other committees were invited to suggest amendments, it is the finance committee itself that chose to do so. It also decided how to deal with any suggested amendments and it retained the ability to decide whether or not to adopt any such amendments.
    Of course these words carry weight as rulings from the Chair and not, as the hon. NDP House leader described them yesterday, “some convenient article”. Nothing changed between Bill C-45 and Bill C-60, except for the finance committee's generous invitation, which was broadened to include members of Parliament who do not sit on the standing committee of the House .
    Yesterday the House leader for the official opposition quoted page 775 of O'Brien and Bosc, which pertains to rulings on inadmissible amendments made by committees, that is to say, for example, amendments which go beyond the scope of a bill.
    Mr. Speaker Milliken's ruling of February 27, 2007, which was quoted yesterday, was on that point. What is important to note is that the subject amendments would also have been inadmissible at report stage because they went beyond the principle adopted at second reading.
    I now want to turn to two comments made by the hon. member for Winnipeg North yesterday. In his remarks, he stated, “We have to be very careful when we look at changing rules”.
    We are not changing the rules here. The finance committee looked at creative ways within our existing rules, and did so on your invitation, I might add, of maximizing the input of all corners of this House in its work on the government's important budget legislation. The committee should be commended for responding to that invitation. He also stated that the Liberal Party opposed this matter.
     Yesterday, I quoted the Liberal finance critic's comments at Tuesday's committee meeting on clause-by-clause study. A further look at the evidence of the May 7 meeting, where the invitation was adopted by the finance committee, would show, at page 20, that the hon. member for Kings—Hants had proposed an amendment to delete paragraphs (d) to (g) of the motion. The invitation to the independent MPs is not found in those paragraphs that he proposed to delete. It is found in paragraph (c). Therefore, his amendment would have actually preserved the invitation to the independents. That is what I was speaking of as my understanding of the position of the Liberal Party.
     I quite reasonably concluded that the Liberal finance critic's words and actions at the committee spoke as the substantive position of the third party at that committee and here in the House.
    Having now augmented my case that the proceedings in the finance committee are in order, I want to turn to the consequences of those proceedings.
    The hon. members for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour and Saanich—Gulf Islands forwarded three amendments and 11 amendments respectively to the finance committee for its consideration. As we heard this morning, interventions in support of their amendments were allowed during the finance committee's clause-by-clause study in the total amount of time roughly proportionate to the number of amendments they each put forward.
    It is important that we all understand that they were not just invited to submit amendments. It is important to note, in the context of the arguments that were made by them in the House, that they were also afforded an opportunity to participate at the committee. They were not to participate as full members of the committee, but to speak, to explain the nature of the amendments and to make their case. That is an extraordinary step forward. It is an advance. It shows that they were given more than just an opportunity, as was suggested, to submit amendments that someone else then proposed. They had an opportunity to explain their positions on why those amendments were of merit. This is indeed meaningful participation. It allows them to explain their position on the merits and to participate in the process to get their point of view heard.
    Yesterday, I quoted from your December 12, 2012 ruling on report stage practices. I underscored your observation that there was “wide latitude” for committees. I should add that you did not say that the House had wide latitude to amend the Standing Orders. The committee's wide latitude already exists.
    As I said yesterday, the generous process struck by the finance committee, I would submit, is four-square within your ruling and would serve as a model for that “satisfactory mechanism” that your ruling cited and your constructive challenge to the creativity found among the members of the House that your ruling invited.

  (1535)  

    Under this satisfactory mechanism, Mr. Speaker, it is critical to point out that the independents are not disadvantaged in relation to any other member. This is a critically important point to understand. Their right to give notice of report stage motions remains unfettered. What it does, sir, is allow you an opportunity to apply a consistent standard across the board in your selection of report stage motions, whether they are proposed by a Conservative, New Democrat, Liberal, Bloc, Green or an independent.
    By virtue of the opportunity to participate and present amendments at committee, to have them heard, they are now, as independent members of this House, put on an equal footing with every other member of this House. They can propose report stage amendments. You, of course, select them in accordance with the rules, but it is achieving that equality of participation and fairness in which no individual member of this House is either advantaged or disadvantaged in accordance with our rules.
    The selection criteria are set out in the note attached to Standing Order 76.(5), which provides that, “The Speaker will normally only select motions that were not or could not be presented in committee”.
    That was never intended as a loophole to give to certain members of this House an extra right. However, we, through circumstances in your previous ruling, saw what one of the intended consequences of that was, and hence, you provided the invitation that it could be remedied by an effort at the committee to allow independent members to submit amendments to make their views heard at the committee stage. That is what the finance committee did.
    The finance committee's mechanism, which I submit is consistent with your earlier ruling, is more than consistent, and it responds to your invitation. It enables the amendments of the independent members to be presented in committee, as that note contemplates.
    Moreover, I would draw your attention to a further passage from the note: “A motion, previously defeated in committee, will only be selected if the Speaker judges it to be of such exceptional significance...”.
    Accordingly, I would respectfully submit that should tomorrow's notice paper contain report stage amendments appearing in the name of a member who does not sit in a recognized party's caucus, aside from those that propose to delete clauses, it should not be selected for consideration at report stage.
    In closing, I would observe that today's notice paper has four notices from the leader of the Green Party of motions to delete certain clauses of Bill C-60. In her submission to you this morning she said, and I quote from the blues, “As a matter of practical reality, the only way to have a speaking opportunity...is to have amendments tabled at report stage.”
    Perhaps the answer here lies in the last sentence of Standing Order 76.1(5). “If an amendment has been selected that has been submitted by more than one Member, the Speaker, after consultation, shall designate which Member shall propose it.”
    Although other members got identical notices in sooner, perhaps the balanced approach here is to call one of those motions in her name so that she can give a speech and participate in report stage, as she seeks to. Such a creative approach could well complement the finance committee's mechanism to allow independents a chance to get their views expressed in the House without creating yet more voting marathons. The exercise of this discretion could well eliminate the farcical scenes outside the offices of journals Branch last year in which New Democrats and Liberals treated us to camp-out expeditions to get their notices in first.
    I would also point out that the Bloc has several deletion motions on notice as well. The same rule would apply, although I understand that some of those deletion motions stand only in their name, which would also satisfy the opportunity of ensuring they did get the ability to speak here at report stage that they seek. This, of course, would answer the concern or objection that is raised there.
    In summary, Mr. Speaker, I think what you see here is a good-faith effort by the folks on the finance committee to respond to an invitation you provided, to improve the process and to enhance the rights of the independent members of this House. What we are proposing to you here is a further remedy that is wholly within your power and your ability right now to address what other additional deficiencies they fear they may encounter at report stage barring their ability to participate. This would ensure their ability to participate without any of those other adverse consequences that we have seen in the past.
    I think it is a good model of the way in which, when we head into uncharted waters, you can, through your rulings, and through constructive dialogue with the committees of this House and the members of this House, evolve the rules in a fashion that works in the way you want it to, and that is to protect, in this case, the rights of the independent members of Parliament.

  (1540)  

    I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that if you were to submit, and accept the arguments of the House leader of the official opposition, exactly the opposite would occur. You would be rejecting a process that was designed in good faith to provide those independent members an opportunity to participate in committee, and saying to reject the very invitation that you made and the suggestions you made for improvement.
     Should you find favour with that perspective, you will not see an advance for the defence of the rights of independent members of Parliament here; you will in fact see them constrained and straitjacketed, no longer able to participate in the committee. For there will, of course, be no reason for the committee to exercise such an approach to invite their participation because under the rules of this House, they do not sit as members of the committees; that is a long-standing practice of this House.
    I could ascribe motive and say that we know that the New Democrats do not want to see the Green Party or the Bloc Québécois members, who represent their rivals electorally regionally, have this additional profile and ability to participate. Perhaps that is their motive, I do not know.
    However, all I know is that what we have here is a good faith effort by a committee. To respond to your invitation, Mr. Speaker, a set of constructive solutions will advance the dialogue, help us solve these problems and make this House a more functional place that will not be held in disrepute by the public, but rather will be seen to be focused on working, debating the important issues of the day, getting the work done and allowing the votes and decisions to be taken here that people send us to make.

  (1545)  

    I thank the hon. government House leader for his further contributions, and of course will get back to the House in due course.

Safer Witnesses Act

[Government Orders]
     The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the third time and passed.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded division, government orders will be extended by seven minutes.
    The hon. member for Edmonton Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my support to Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act.
    At the outset, I will point out that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country.
    Without question, the federal witness protection program continues to serve Canadians well. However, there is no denying that there have been sweeping changes in the landscape since the Witness Protection Program Act was first passed 17 years ago. At the same time, various stakeholders have made constructive suggestions for improving the program. For all these reasons, the time has come to bring Canada's witness protection program into the 21st century both for the sake of protectees, as well as the ones who protect them.
    Having carefully reviewed Bill C-51 and as a member of the public safety committee, I am confident the safer witnesses act would make federal witness protection programs more effective and more secure.
    Before highlighting the proposed amendments, let me reflect on the rationale for the changes. There are three main catalysts for this bill: the evolving nature of crime and technology, the recommendations of several key reports and the needs of our stakeholders. I will address each in turn.
    The revolution in information technology, which continues unabated, has been an double-edged sword. On the one hand, the law enforcement community has new tools to track down criminals. On the other hand, organized crime can now track down, intimidate and threaten witnesses more easily. Canada's witness protection program needs greater flexibility to keep one step ahead of the criminals. In other words, we need to better protect and secure information about witnesses, programs and the administrators of those programs. Bill C-51 addresses those concerns.
    Against this backdrop, we must also acknowledge that two major reports have recommended changes to how we protect our witnesses. In March 2008, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security made several important recommendations to enhance the witness protection program. In its response, the government committed to consult with affected stakeholders and the bill we are discussing today is informed by those wide-ranging views.
    Members may recall the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182 also recommended changes to the witness protection program. The Government of Canada responded, and I am pleased to note the safer witnesses act reflects priorities in the government's Air India action plan.
    The third major catalyst, which is connected to these reports, is the evolving needs of our stakeholders, including the provinces and territories and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In particular, there has been a resounding call for improved interaction between and among different levels of government.
    I am pleased to say the safer witnesses act has provisions to enhance communication between federal departments and between federal, provincial and territorial governments. On that note, let me review the main elements of the bill, beginning with how it would streamline management of the witness protection program.
    Members may be aware of differences between the federal program and programs that exist in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Essentially, the federal program, which is run by the RCMP, provides long-term protection for witnesses. This could involve moving a family to another location and changing the identities of its members.
    Provincial programs are often generally focused on more short-term protection. This could include making sure that witnesses are safe and secure before they testify in a major trial. However, there are times when the provinces need support from the RCMP. Unfortunately, there are also times when that support gets bogged down by bureaucracy. For example, sometimes provinces must obtain new identities for the protectees. To do so, the provinces must currently enrol them in the federal program. This process can take time and when lives are at stake, obviously time counts.
    To address this problem, Bill C-51 would change this process. Ultimately, once designated, provincial programs could deal directly with the RCMP for secure identity changes without transferring protectees into the federal program. The proposed amendments would enhance interactions between and among federal agencies and departments. Now, when the RCMP needs help with an identity change for a provincial protectee, federal departments would be duty bound to co-operate.
    The second major set of amendments in this bill concerns disclosure of information. Currently, the act prohibits only the disclosure of information about the location and identity of federal protectees. Bill C-51 would broaden the scope of protection to include sensitive information about how the program is run and about those who administer the program.
    Moreover, in response to concerns by stakeholders, the bill would extend these prohibitions to designated provincial programs. Bill C-51 would also clear up vague wording in the current act about the nature of direct and indirect disclosure. It would prohibit, for example, revealing anything about protectees that could even indirectly identify them, such as medical conditions or distinguishing marks.

  (1550)  

    This government strongly believes that protectees have a right to know when their new identities might be compromised. That is why the proposed amendments will broaden the government's duty to notify witnesses about any relevant disclosure.
    At the same time, the bill reserves the right to a full notification if the disclosure might compromise national security. There is always a need to balance the rights of protectees and the needs of the public. In certain parts of the existing legislation, however, the pendulum swings too far away from the protectees.
    For that reason, Bill C-51 would specify the RCMP Commissioner must have reasonable grounds to believe national security or defence was at risk before he or she could disclose a protectees identity.
    At the same time, the proposed legislation would authorize the commissioner to disclose information if it would better protect witnesses in both federal and provincial programs.
    Disclosure would also be allowed if protected persons gave their consent, if they had already disclosed their real identities themselves or acted in a way that revealed their identities.
    This brings me to the question of what happens if a protectee no longer wishes to be protected. Currently, only the commissioner may end protection for witnesses in the federal program. Bill C-51 proposes a change that would allow protectees to voluntarily terminate their involvement. Not only would this protect the rights of protectees to leave, it would also protect the integrity of the program. If a protectee no longer follows the rules, it jeopardizes the entire program, including the lives of its administrators. These witnesses are very different and we must try to accommodate them as best we can.
    As I mentioned earlier, we must recognize that witnesses may need protection from a terrorist rather than a simple criminal. For that reason, the bill proposes to open the witness protection program to referrals from federal institutions with a Public Safety, National Defence or National Security mandate.
    Bill C-51 is a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to bring the federal witness protection program into the new millennia. It has been well received by many provincial jurisdictions as well as by law enforcement communities, and takes into consideration the needs of other concerned groups.
    Let me quote from Tom Stamatakis, who is the President of the Canadian Police Association:
    The Canadian Police Association strongly believes that this proposed legislation will enhance the safety and security of front-line law enforcement personnel who are engaged in protective duties. Unfortunately, the disclosure of identifying details can present a real danger to police personnel themselves as well as their families, and we appreciate the steps being taken today by the government of Canada to address those concerns. On behalf of the over 50,000 law enforcement personnel that we represent across Canada, we ask that Parliament quickly move to adopt this Bill.
    The NDP and Liberals have supported this legislation at every stage. No amendments were proposed. Bill C-51 was studied at five public safety committee meetings, and this is the fourth day that Bill C-51 has been debated in the House.
    It is time to get on with it. I would urge all hon. members to join me in giving Bill C-51 their full and unconditional support.

  (1555)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting bill. A number of New Democrats have promoted the principles behind this bill in the past and more recently.
    However, money is the crucial issue. Police forces, especially smaller forces in smaller communities, will not necessarily have the resources they need. There are some serious concerns about this.
    Although we agree with the spirit of the bill, we want to know how the government plans on helping these police forces protect witnesses who are in danger, when they do not have as many resources at their disposal.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that all the witnesses who came before the committee, when asked the question about financing, said that they were more than comfortable that there were sufficient resources within the program to do that.
    If there is some smaller community out there that has some difficulty, certainly it could approach and appeal for assistance in some way. Without knowing any circumstances, it would be currently hypothetical to say it would be or would not be accepted, but the process and the openness is there to listen to anybody who needs help.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, here is what Andy McGrogan had to say. He is the chief of police of the Medicine Hat Police Service, which serves a city that is not exactly tiny:
    Provincially, they're working on witness protection legislation, as well. Again, the chiefs across the province are concerned about the costs that are involved. Right now we're looking at how to absorb those costs. If you look at a community such as ours, the protection of one witness, if funded through the municipality, has a major impact on our budget.
    Small cities are not the only ones having problems, according to this chief of police.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, again, I cannot recall all of the testimony off the top of my head, but the overwhelming response was that the funding is there to run these programs. The provinces are running their programs now. This is not going to change markedly. There is not going to be a huge increase. None of the witnesses said there would be a huge increase in the number of people seeking protection. Everybody who is seeking protection is carefully analyzed. Not everyone who asks for it gets it because there are criteria that have to be met. That is done provincially and federally, depending on which program people are in. There are no suggestions and no suggestions from any of the witnesses that there would be an increase in the number of people in the program.
    Mr. Speaker, originally when the act was brought into force, I believe that the only things that could not be disclosed were a change of name or the actual address or location. I know the member touched very briefly on how the changes we are making will better protect our hard-working men and women who serve our country through police agencies and so forth. Could the member speak to why it is so important to expand what specifically can and cannot be disclosed within the legislation before us?
    Mr. Speaker, it is not just about protecting the protectees. It is also about protecting the people who administer the program, the police and other administrators in the program who are also at risk. That is why we had to broaden the categories of items that cannot be disclosed. Part of it is due to the impact of new technology.
    As I said in my comments, technology is a two-edged sword. On the one side it is great for people administering a program like this. On the other side it is also very “helpful” for the criminal element in bringing harm to the protectees and the people who administer it. When a police officer gets involved in this program, he or she and the family are at risk. We have to take extraordinary measures to make sure that we do not compromise their identity, which would then connect them to the protectees or vice versa. It is very important that we take every measure possible to protect the protectors as well as the protectees.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and honour to rise in the House this afternoon to share the speaking time with my hon. colleague from Edmonton Centre, my birthplace. I know it is well looked after by the hon. member, with his 30-plus years with the air force, and now serving this constituency as a member of Parliament.
    It is a pleasure to speak specifically to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, something that I know is vitally important for effective law enforcement right across Canada. It is of great interest to my constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country and many, if not all, members' constituents. They understand the bill's important role in helping to combat organized crime.
    I suspect there are few individuals who have not at least heard of “witness protection”, whether it is a favourite CSI television show, or through high-profile court cases in which someone is offered protection in exchange for his or her testimony. We do not normally hear many details about how the program operates or about the people who are admitted into it. That is how it is supposed to work. Nonetheless, I believe all Canadians understand how important it is to have effective witness protection programs to combat organized crime.
    Therefore, I appreciate this opportunity to join in the debate on our government's legislation, which would help to modernize and strengthen the federal witness protection program in Canada, while also making it more effective and secure.
    The current Witness Protection Program Act, which we have heard from previous speakers, and my hon. colleague from Edmonton Centre, is about 17 years old and has not been substantially modified since it came into force. That does not mean we need to have a radical overhaul or alter the act in a major way, but we need to make some changes to modernize it. It is important that we have the proper tools in place to help us build safe neighbourhoods across Canada by keeping up with the changing nature of crime and criminal or terrorist organizations.
    As members know, organized crime groups were certainly prevalent in 1996 when the current act took effect. However, their operations, their tactics and their make-up have changed significantly, and I think we would all agree on that.
     Globalization has facilitated the diversification of organized crime groups and in many ways has allowed them to become involved in many more types of activities, serious activities that they are scheming together on across our country and around the world. The Internet has allowed many of these criminal organizations to avoid capture and detection in ways that seemed unimaginable when the Witness Protection Program Act came into force.
    The Internet also provides organized crime groups with more ways to find people than before. This is certainly a big concern for individuals in witness protection, as well as for those who administer these programs. Looking after the safety of our witnesses is a key. All these changes make witness protection both more urgent and more difficult to perform. Reforms are therefore needed.
     I would like to note that the changes proposed under Bill C-51 are the result of extensive consultations with the provinces, and we believe we are on the right track. I have the privilege of serving the great constituency of Kelowna—Lake Country in the province of British Columbia. The Hon. Shirley Bond is the minister of justice and Attorney General of British Columbia. We do not know what her portfolio will be after the recent May 14 election. However, when she was the minister she said:
    In the fight against crime, protecting witnesses effectively is essential. We look forward to reviewing the amendments and working constructively with our Federal counterparts to ensure that any changes minimize the risk to witnesses.
     As members can see, we have consulted with our partners in the provinces and we believe that we are on the right track.
    We were very pleased to see support from provincial attorneys general and from police officers from across the country, including the head of the Canadian Police Association, who said in a recent news article:
    The Canadian Police Association strongly believes that this proposed legislation will enhance the safety and security of front-line law enforcement personnel who are engaged in protective duties...
    Bill C-51 would first and foremost improve the interaction of the federal witness protection program with provincial witness protection programs. We are working in partnership to complement each other. At the moment, someone in a provincial program can only obtain a secure identity change if he or she is temporarily admitted into the federal witness protection program. This can result in delays in obtaining a new identity. It can also result in a number of issues for the RCMP, which administers the federal program.

  (1600)  

    Bill C-51 proposes to remedy this situation by establishing a process whereby provincial programs can become designated witness protection programs. Once again, the provincial programs would work together with the federal program and become a designated witness protection program.
    A province would request this designation from the Minister of Public Safety, at which time the provincial authority would provide assurances of the program's capacity to protect both its witnesses and its information. It is important that it protects both the information and the witnesses. Once the program is established and designated upon the request of that program, the RCMP would be obliged to help in obtaining federal identity documents for a provincial witness without any need for him or her to be transferred temporarily into the federal program. That is one of the big changes.
    In addition to being easier, the new system is also designed to be more efficient and more secure. Security and efficiency are other complementary assets of the new reform program. Under the designation regime proposed by Bill C-51, requests for federal identity change documents would be submitted by a provincial official from a designated provincial witness protection program to the RCMP, thereby limiting the number of individuals involved in the process and making the system more secure.
    Bill C-51 also proposes to enhance the security of witness protection regimes in Canada by both enhancing and extending the current prohibitions against the disclosure of information concerning an individual in a designated witness protection program. The current federal Witness Protection Act prohibits the disclosure of information by individuals within the federal program. Section 11(1) of the act says "no person shall knowingly disclose, directly or indirectly, information about the location or a change of identity of a protectee or former protectee".
    Bill C-51 would strengthen this prohibition in a number of important ways. Let me expand a bit on that.
     Bill C-51 would not only prohibit the disclosure of information about individuals in the federal program, it would also prohibit the disclosure of information about how the program itself operates, as well as about those individuals who provide or assist in providing protection for witnesses. Both of these prohibitions would also extend to individuals in designated provincial programs. Such prohibitions against the disclosure of information currently exist only within the legislation of the particular provincial jurisdiction, not across jurisdictions. That is another big contributing factor to enhancing the existing legislation.
    As we can see, Bill C-51 would also clarify the prohibition with respect to what and how information is being disclosed. Clarity is very important. As I mentioned earlier, Section 11(1) of the current act contains the phrase "no person shall knowingly disclose, directly or indirectly, information about the location or a change of identity of a protectee or former protectee". The phrase "directly or indirectly" was considered to be unclear. Bill C-51 proposes amendments to ensure that the prohibitions will clearly apply to cases where a person discloses information in a range of ways.
    Let me share a few examples. It would include telling someone what a protected person's name is, leaving information about the protected person unguarded, telling someone where a protected person lives and revealing unique characteristics about the person that could, for example, identify a specific housing market that results in someone deducing the city to which the person has been relocated. Bill C-51 would prohibit all of the above disclosures by specifying that no one could disclose any information, either directly or indirectly, that would reveal the location or ch