Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-11-02 18:25 [p.14941]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members of this House from all parties who spoke to Motion No. 132.
As I said initially, the purpose of Motion No. 132 is to improve outcomes and to increase the public benefit from federally funded health research.
While I am proud of the work I have done on this motion, there are many others who have been working on improving Canada's health research regime for much longer than I have, and I know they stand ready to assist the health committee and the government as we move forward to improve health research here in Canada.
I would like to thank the following people and apologize to anyone I may miss: Jack Nickerson from Doctors Without Borders; Rachel Kiddell-Monroe and Chloe Hogg from Universities Allied for Essential Medicines; Dr. Michael Clarke from the University of Western Ontario; Richard Elliott from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Alison Krentel from the Bruyère Research Institute; Deb McFarland from Emory University; Angela Quinlan, Marilyn Coolen, and Marguerite Keeley from the Grandmothers Advocacy Network; HealthCareCAN, the Health Charities Coalition of Canada; and all of those working in health research here at home and around the world who have spoken to my team about health research and global health initiatives over the last year. It has been an honour to work side by side with them to ensure that people everywhere are supported by medicines and medical innovation.
Some of the brightest minds of this generation are working tirelessly to eradicate disease, find better treatments, and advocate for policies that will lead to better health outcomes for all. These researchers and advocates deserve to be lauded, and the least that we can do as policy-makers in this House is to ensure that they have the research tools they need to succeed.
As we speak, health researchers here in Canada are working to tackle antimicrobial resistance, playing a leadership role in a global effort to contain the threat posed by a generation of drug-resistant microbes. Canadian researchers are researching infection, healthy pregnancy, cardiovascular health, diabetes, respiratory health, cancer, tuberculosis, and obesity. They are also working on the latest preventative, diagnostic, and treatment approaches to neurodegenerative diseases causing dementia. Quite simply, they are working on the treatments and cures that will make our families and communities healthier. Taxpayers, researchers, and patients alike deserve to know that there is an efficient and effective system to ensure that the benefits of federally funded research reach those who need them the most.
In the words of Andrew Petter, president of Simon Fraser University, “Innovation isn't a magic bullet, it requires a work plan”. Motion No. 132 offers this House and our government the opportunity to step back and examine Canada's work plan. As we invest in science, strengthen health systems, and set priorities for a generation of researchers, I hope that all members of this House will come together to commit to ensuring that policy-makers have a firm grasp on Canada's research priorities and that Canada has the best research framework possible.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-10-19 14:49 [p.14311]
Mr. Speaker, for two years, our government has been working to help grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. The economy is now stronger and growing in ways not seen in over a decade. Canadian businesses and investors can have confidence in our dropping unemployment, our rising GDP, and the strengthening of our investment culture and the environment.
Can the Minister of Finance provide the House with an update on our government's plan to ensure that the middle class and those working hard to join it can benefit from this growth?
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-10-04 14:15 [p.13931]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to mark the start of German Heritage Month. This month we recognize the contributions that German Canadians have made to our country. German Canadians have helped to shape our country through their contributions to arts, culture, and political life. This holds especially true in the Waterloo region, where this year we are honouring Joseph Mausser, as well as the sons of Friedrich Rumpel and their descendants, as part of German Pioneers Day.
To kick off Canada's first national observance of German Heritage Month, we will be celebrating here on the Hill tonight, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in room 200 of the Sir John A. Macdonald Building, with Oktoberfest sausage, schnitzel, and strudel. The celebration will continue in the Kitchener–Waterloo region next week with the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. I invite everyone here today to visit tonight and to come to our great region to experience German culture at its finest.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 10:22 [p.13686]
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to an export control system that is rigorous, transparent, and predictable. We believe that regulating the international arms trade is essential for the protection of people and human rights. I am proud to live in a Canada that already has, by international standards, an export control regime that stringently promotes transparency and protects human rights through an assessment process.
Our existing system of export controls already meets or exceeds all but two of the 28 articles in the Arms Trade Treaty. Through this legislation, both to enhance transparency and to fully comply with the treaty, legislative amendments are being proposed to the Export and Import Permits Act and to one section of the Criminal Code.
In my view, Bill C-47 is not merely about formalizing existing practices and making policy tweaks. Rather, acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty is of normative value to Canada. It makes a statement to the world.
During the election campaign, we promised Canadians we would re-engage with the world and contribute to development, mediation, conflict prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. In the words of our foreign minister, “Peace and prosperity are every person's birthright.” Unregulated arms transfers hinder social and economic development. They intensify regional instability and prolong conflict, and ultimately, they contribute to violations of international humanitarian law and to human rights abuses.
We are once again aligning ourselves with our closest partners and allies in NATO and the G7. We are advancing Canada's engagement in the responsible trade of conventional arms in a manner that reflects our broader international security and development policies. The global Arms Trade Treaty aligns perfectly with Canada's broader international development policies.
The ATT is feminist. It is a vital component of international efforts to reduce gender-based violence, and it supports Canada's international efforts with respect to global health. The Arms Trade Treaty will reduce the risk that the trade of arms at the international level will be used to commit genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Nations that are party to the treaty will be required to establish import and export controls on a variety of weapons, including tanks, missiles, small arms, and light weapons, something Canada already has in place. This will keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists and those who seek to do harm to Canada and its allies.
This treaty specifically recognizes the right to use conventional arms for cultural or recreational use and the rights of states to trade in conventional arms for political, commercial, or security purposes. We are the only member of NATO, and the only one of the G7 countries, that has not signed or ratified the ATT. We cannot and will not fail to act.
Given my background as a pharmacist, I am going to examine this treaty through a slightly different lens than many of my colleagues. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and other public health institutions and NGOs have all prioritized the global Arms Trade Treaty as a public health imperative. While health-focused groups may not be what first come to mind when we think of stakeholders focused on global arms, a poorly regulated arms trade fuels conflict, which in turn has devastating effects on global health.
Reducing the poorly regulated control of arms contributes to the prevention of the misuse of arms, reducing deaths and injuries as a result. Moreover, improving arms control allows for states to redirect resources currently spent on arms management, security, and defence toward the development of social services and public infrastructure. Not only will the ATT reduce the direct consequences associated with the illicit arms trade, it will help with a wide variety of secondary challenges associated with the spread of illegal arms.
Conflict spawns a myriad of other problems: health challenges, not just from injuries sustained in combat but from diseases that spring up from the unsanitary conditions that arise in war zones, diseases like cholera, dysentery, and malaria; gender-based violence and rape, which so often become used as weapons of war; and the displacement and destruction of entire communities that are forced to flee for their lives. Children are pulled out of school, losing out on their best chance to get an education. In times of war, children miss their opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. They are robbed of the chance to create a better future for themselves and their communities. These are the issues we are trying to address with this treaty.
I am not naive enough to think that one treaty will magically solve all these problems, but we have an obligation to use every opportunity to take every chance we have to take concrete and meaningful action towards tackling these issues.
Let me remind everyone that this year is the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, a landmark international agreement to reduce some of the most devastating weapons of war, weapons that continue to kill and injure people of all ages each and every year.
I would like to take a brief moment to salute the hard work of groups like MAG and the HALO Trust, which work diligently in the field each and every day to finally rid the world of this scourge.
The ATT represents another giant step in the right direction in combatting the use of weapons for illegal and often evil means. The ATT is transformational. The inclusion of civil society in the drafting of this treaty was directly responsible for the content of the treaty and the specific language contained within it. This is the first international treaty that explicitly acknowledges the "social, economic and humanitarian consequences of the illicit and unregulated trade in conventional arms”. It is also notable that this treaty lists “reducing human suffering” as its primary goal.
Let me provide a concrete example of what can happen when weapon are in the wrong hands. I am paraphrasing a story told to delegates at the United Nations. A boy in the DRC was shot in the face by diamond thieves. He needed to go to Nairobi to receive treatment, and his successful treatment and rehabilitation came to a total cost of about $6,000 U.S. Had he not been shot, that $6,000 could have paid for one year of primary school education for 100 children. It could have provided full immunization for 250 children. It could have provided a family of six with 10 years' worth of staple meals.
Make no mistake, this is what we are talking about when we are discussing the ATT. This is what we are trying hard to prevent. This is not the time for Canada to remain on the sidelines and let others lead. This is exactly the sort of treaty that speaks to the heart of who we are as Canadians as a people, and I am proud to support this bill.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 10:31 [p.13687]
Mr. Speaker, let me remind the hon. member that this treaty was signed, with Canada's support, on April 2, 2013. In all 154 countries voted for this treaty. Only three countries voted against it: Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
His party at that time signed and voted for that treaty. My question for the member is this: Was he disingenuous then, or is he disingenuous now?
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 10:33 [p.13687]
Mr. Speaker, I am kind of confused, because during the election campaign, New Democrats supported the same thing, so I do not know where the question is coming from.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 10:34 [p.13687]
Mr. Speaker, let me reassert something that the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell said, which is that this would not affect domestic gun rights or domestic gun production.
Let me quote someone, who said, “this Treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom. In fact, the Treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legitimate purposes.” Does anyone know who said that? It was the former secretary of state of the United States, John Kerry. I will take his words over the words of the opposition any day.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 10:35 [p.13687]
Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question, and I will use just one slice of why this treaty is so important.
When we talk about gender-based violence, we know that it occurs mostly in conflict states. What are we trying to do? We are trying to alleviate suffering, poverty, and violence in other parts of the world by acceding to this treaty. Is that such a bad thing? Does that not speak to the nobility of who we are as Canadians in trying to do things to better the lives of other people around the world?
The government's focus is on gender balance, but more specifically, as a member of the foreign affairs committee, I have learned how important it is to make sure that women and girls are included in the peace process in post-conflict states. How can a state survive if there are illegal arms throughout its territory? This is an attempt to make sure that we fulfill not only our international obligations but also the obligations that are morally incumbent upon us as a great, rich, and progressive society.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 17:31 [p.13743]
That the Standing Committee on Health be instructed to undertake a study on ways of increasing benefits to the public resulting from federally funded health research, with the goals of lowering drugs costs and increasing access to medicines, both in Canada and globally; and that the Committee report its findings and recommendations to the House no later than one year from the time this motion is adopted.
He said: Madam Speaker, I am both honoured and humbled to have the privilege of rising today to discuss my motion, Motion No. 132. This motion calls upon the health committee to undertake a study that would explore how Parliament can improve outcomes and increase the public benefits from federally funded health research.
Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to thank my friend and colleague, the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, for her strength, wisdom, and courage. Her story is a testament to how far cancer research has come in Canada, but it also stands as an example of how much further we have to go. I wish her and her entire family the very best going forward.
The government has been investing in future research leaders and supporting the scientists whose innovative work is vital both for furthering medical knowledge and for providing the necessary evidence to make sound policy decisions for the future of our health and society. As a matter of fact, earlier this week, the Prime Minister reaffirmed our government's commitment to science with his introduction of Dr. Mona Nemer, a medical researcher, as Canada's new chief science advisor.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CIHR, is Canada's main funder of health research and one of the top funder organizations for health research in the world. This Canadian effort to seek health solutions and combat disease is something we should all be extremely proud of.
However, as Canada invests in health research, we need to be informed and aware that there is room for improvement. We need to make sure that taxpayer dollars devoted to this research are being put to work in ways that achieve the greatest benefit and that will foster innovation while producing results. Canada is a world leader in health innovation, and it is imperative that we continue to lead by example.
We must ensure that our research investments are effective and that the results of our research are sufficiently accessible. According to the Institute of Medicine, there is currently an average lag time of 17 years between the generation of evidence from randomized controlled trials and its subsequent implementation into the health system. I believe that we can do better. Canada cannot afford to leave any of its brain power on the sidelines, and the world cannot afford that our discoveries be abandoned in patent offices or lost to the depths of forgotten academic journals in old libraries.
In the larger scale of human history, it has not been long since the top medical care of the time was delivered in the form of leeches and blood-lettings. Modernity, particularly since the start of the 20th century, has brought rapid change, new ideas, better technology, and significantly improved research methods to the field of medicine.
Standing here today, I am happy to live in a world in which the global polio eradication initiative has reduced polio by 99%, in which smallpox has been declared globally eradicated for more than 25 years, and which a record 979 million people in 2015 benefited from large-scale treatment of at least one neglected tropical disease.
Here at home, Canadian research has led to the development of insulin; the discovery of the hematopoietic stem cell, which forms the basis of bone marrow transplantation; and the discovery of T cell receptors, a vital element of the immune system. These strides come from hard work, late nights, and a lot of experimentation. These breakthroughs have come from research. It is the responsibility of governments like ours to support these researchers as best we can, as we foster the innovation that will find better treatments and more cures.
There is no shortage of public health issues that need to be tackled. As a pharmacist by profession, I am well acquainted with the need for better treatments and continued research. Multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, heart conditions, mental illness, asthma, allergies, and osteoporosis are just a few of the many ailments that Canadians face on a daily basis.
As Canadians work in research and combat these illnesses, it is vital for us to have the most effective and efficient system to prioritize the results of federally funded health research. In a time of limited resources, we need to make sure there is a strong, comprehensive strategy in place. It is imperative we know how to use research dollars to a maximum advantage, and guide researchers into areas of national and international priority.
A clearer focus and a better articulation of our priorities would also make it easier for us to work with international counterparts to have a more meaningful impact on the global health crisis. This holds true whether we are discussing efforts to combat neglected tropical diseases, or examining our role in global collaborations to combat cancer. Canada is carrying out some tremendous work on the international stage with our new international development policy. We are helping to strengthen health systems to ensure that medicines and interventions reach the most vulnerable and the hardest to reach.
We are building on our success in immunization, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. We are working closely with international organizations such as the Global Fund, Gavi, Nutrition International, and the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, Grand Challenges Canada is helping to fund innovators who bring successful innovation to scale, catalyze sustainability, and impact.
Our efforts to ensure the health and well-being of citizens of all countries are essential to poverty eradication efforts and achieving sustainable development. These are laudable goals, but as we work toward them, we also need to work with our allies and partners to implement best practices to increase access to medicines, and to make sure we are creating the conditions that will allow us to achieve both our international objectives, and ensure we provide good value for our tax dollars.
The future of Canadian health research is bright. In the last decade, Canadians discovered a synthetic compound that binds to and inhibits a key enzyme the malaria parasite needs to reproduce and survive, decoded the genome of a metastatic breast cancer tumour, and began phases two and three of clinical trials for a preventive vaccine for HIV.
Proving that breakthroughs sometimes come from new eyes that re-examine old tools, in 2009, a Canada-U.S. research team discovered that the diabetes drug metformin appears to make vaccines in cancer treatments more effective.
Meanwhile, in a modern reconsideration of accepted practices, in 2008, Drs. P.J. Devereaux and Homer Yang discovered that the common practice of giving beta blockers to surgery patients actually increases risk of major stroke and death.
Medicine is not static and discoveries like these demonstrate the extent to which research as well as the tools and paradigms which support it are updated constantly. Human progress means there will always be value in reviewing, renewing, and improving upon existing practices. This truth applies not only to medical research but to the bureaucratic frameworks which support it.
Medical breakthroughs are happening all over the world everyday. Earlier this month, a team at MIT announced a technological breakthrough that would revolutionize the way childhood vaccines are dispensed. They have invented a microparticle that can be filled with vaccines and is designed to break down and release the dose at specific times. This could free up the precious time of doctors and nurses. Where this has the potential to truly be transformative, however, is in our international development efforts.
Vaccination programs are incredibly effective, and have made a tremendous impact on the ground, but access to booster shots, and ensuring properly timed programs have always been barriers to the effective implementation of vaccination campaigns.
This recent breakthrough has the potential to be especially useful in responding to acute outbreaks of diseases, where several doses of a vaccine might be required over weeks and months before immunity is sufficiently built up. This technology has the potential to be put into practice much sooner than it might otherwise have been, thanks to MIT's commitment to the equitable dissemination of medical technologies, and its active participation in patent pools.
Research universities around the world, including MIT and some schools in Canada, have been early adopters of the belief that health research is most effective when supported by policies designed with the primary goal of directly and positively impacting patient care out outcomes in a timely manner.
Research policies that support efficient, effective transition periods from research to development to product deployment will lead to the curing of more diseases, administering of more vaccines, and the saving of more lives.
As Canada recommits to being a world leader in innovation, we need to figure out what we want out of our health research. What are our national goals and desired outcomes, our target priorities, our values, and how can we best empower both researchers and those communities that researcher's efforts seek to help?
We know there is further room for improvement within our national frameworks. Just yesterday, a team from the O'Brien Institute for Public Health publicly called for further integration of patient and public involvement in health research policy as a means to improve patient care. If we want to improve health care outcomes in Canada, we need to create opportunities to listen to health researchers like these.
Meanwhile, many here may be familiar with Canada's tremendous role in the development of an ebola vaccine used with great success in combatting a devastating ebola outbreak in west Africa. The researchers who developed that vaccine made Canada proud. However, what those here may not know is that this ebola vaccine sat for far too long in a laboratory rather than being dispensed where it was needed most. This was due to an intellectual property dispute with an American company that purchased the vaccine commercialization licence from the Canadian government.
We spend money on research in order to develop products and techniques we can use to make a difference in people's lives. If we are not able to use these things when they matter the most, then we are doing ourselves and taxpayers a huge disservice. Governments and academic labs seldom have the specific expertise, and enormous resources necessary to scale a production of a product like a vaccine.
Agreements with corporations are important and necessary partnerships. In some cases, they are the only way that research can be supported and injected with the necessary resources, and funding to turn development into a final product.
However, the intellectual property dispute over the ebola vaccine proves there are problems with Canada's current approach to these partnerships. I believe there are ways to maximize benefits of federally funded research without negatively impacting the commercialization of products that stem from health research.
Other jurisdictions, such as Sao Paolo in Brazil, and individual institutions such as UBC, the University of Exeter, and Johns Hopkins University have put in place innovative licensing regimes designed to maximize the benefits the institutions receive, but also advances the ability to advance their research agenda.
Should this motion pass, I hope these examples, and the licensing regimes put in place between Canadian researchers and corporations will be one element of our federally funded health research framework that the committee will explore in more depth. This represents one of the best ways of increasing access to medicines all over the world.
We have the opportunity to really make a difference. We have the desire, and the means to help combat some of the most devastating diseases here at home and around the world. We owe it to our constituents, as taxpayers, and also to all those in need of medical relief around the world to get this right.
I urge all my colleagues to support this motion, and help ensure that our world class health researchers are best equipped to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 17:47 [p.13746]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my distinguished friend for her role on the health committee and for being the chair of the diabetes caucus. I know how hard she works in that role.
If we look at the evolution of medicine and health, insulin was discovered many, many years ago. That discovery has helped both Canadians and the rest of the world. Right now type 2 diabetes is proliferating in the world. Now is the time when Canada can lead in the research and invest the proper health care dollars to make sure that our researchers are well equipped and that we work with decision-makers and governments and private companies to create an ecosystem that can help with the disease my hon. friend mentioned, and other chronic diseases as well. I know as a pharmacist and someone who has studied science that in this country we have the best researchers in the world. If we can encourage and empower them and give them the necessary resources, I am sure that we can make a difference with diabetes and with all of those diseases that have been neglected for too long.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 17:49 [p.13746]
Madam Speaker, western Canada has always been very progressive when it comes to health care. In particular, it has started a program that I believe has been very advantageous to health researchers, namely the inclusion of patients in the process of figuring out a protocol. This is very important, because for far too long, the patient has been ignored. Researchers in the west and throughout other parts of Canada at other research centres are now making sure that when research is done, when a protocol is being developed, the patient is at the centre of it. As the O'Brien Institute for Public Health has recommended, from now on any research that is done should include not only the researchers and decision-makers, but also the patients.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-28 17:51 [p.13746]
Madam Speaker, I will just say that it is a tie right now, that Montreal and Kitchener Centre are about equal.
The unique thing about my riding is that we have created an ecosystem where we have the Centre for Family Medicine, which is part of the family medicine protocol from McMaster University, and a pharmacy school. Even in Kitchener, we have developed an ecosystem in which we are including patients, researchers, and municipal politicians to make sure that we can further health research in Canada.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-26 10:13 [p.13521]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the amendments to the Access to Information Act and the significant reforms our government is proposing in Bill C-58.
Ours is the first government in 34 years to substantially revamp Canada's access to information system, and it is about time. Our existing access to information legislation came into force in 1983.
The word that some have used to describe this legislation is “antiquated”. It is hard to disagree with this view when we consider that in 1983 government information was mainly recorded on paper and stored in filing cabinets.
Moreover, the federal government has grown over the past 34 years, and the sheer volume of government-related information has grown right along with it. The number of requests to access that information has gone up too.
Since 1983, more than 750,000 access to information requests have been processed, and the number of requests the government receives has grown by an average of 13% annually.
The current access to information system is under considerable strain. The information age has resulted in higher expectations for access to government information. Digitization and the Internet have made information readily available and at our fingertips 24/7. Canadians now expect this level of accessibility from their government as well.
Canadians expect an open and transparent government. They expect access to government information so they can engage meaningfully in the demographic process and demand government accountability.
In the access to information, privacy and ethics committee, the one thing we heard over and over again was that the 1983 Access to Information Act regime was not built for our times and is insufficient to meet our needs. That is why we are committed to modernizing the act to make government more open and transparent. This is what we are proposing to do in Bill C-58.
First, the bill would amend the act to create a new part relating to proactive publication. This would entrench in law for this government and future governments the requirement that government organizations proactively publish a broad range of information in a timely manner and without anyone having to make an access to information request. This new part of the act would apply across more than 240 government departments, agencies, and crown corporations. For the first time, the act would also apply to the Prime Minister's Office and ministers' offices, senators and members of Parliament, institutions that support Parliament, administrative institutions that support the courts, and more than 1,100 judges in the superior courts. This would create an obligation to proactively publish information that is known to be of interest to Canadians. The system would be routinely reviewed so that the information that would be proactively disclosed would remain relevant and of interest to Canadians.
This information would be available to all Canadians on the government website, no ATIP request required. Our goal is to continue to expand the type of government information that can be disclosed proactively. This measure is consistent with our view that the government should be open by default.
It reflects the future of access to information in the digital age, and the future is now.
Bill C-58 would put in place a range of measures to ease the strain on the antiquated access to information regime. Specifically, we would invest in tools to make processing information requests more efficient; provide training across government to get a common and consistent interpretation and application of the new rules; allow federal institutions that have the same minister to share the request processing services, for greater efficiency; and develop a new plain-language guide that would provide requesters with clear explanations for exemptions and exclusions.
Government institutions would also have the authority to decline to act on requests that were vague or made in bad faith. We want to make sure that people are using our access to information system properly and that it is not being used to intentionally bog down the government. As an example of the type of requests we are talking about, there are some requesters who ask for millions of pages worth of documents without providing a clear reason for that request. Others submit hundreds or thousands of requests at a single time. Such requests are not in keeping with the purpose of the act, which is to give Canadians access to the information they need to participate in decisions about public policy. At the same time, Bill C-58 would amend the Access to Information Act to provide the Information Commissioner with the oversight of this new authority.
Requesters can file an appeal with the commissioner if an institution or organization refuses to process their requests. The Information Commissioner can then examine the complaint and, if it is justified, she can exercise this new power to order the release of information to resolve the matter.
At the same time, this legislation would affirm the right of Canadians to make broad and deep information requests that were consistent with the spirit of the act. The bill would also give the Information Commissioner's office more financial resources to do the job.
The Information Commissioner's power to order the release of information is an important step that will strengthen access to information in Canada. It is an innovative proposal that would change the commissioner's role from that of an ombudsperson to that of an authority with the power to order the release of government records.
Bill C-58 proposes a mandatory review of the Access to Information Act every five years so that it never again becomes outdated. The first review would begin no later than one year after this bill received royal assent.
We can never become complacent when it comes to transparency. By revitalizing access to information, our government would raise the bar once more on openness in government.
With this bill, we will be modernizing our law and the access to information system, which is outdated.
With this bill, we would modernize our antiquated access to information law and system. We would strengthen the trust between Canadians and their government, and we would reaffirm the principle of openness and transparency as a hallmark of our democratic system. I am proud, as both a parliamentarian and a member of the ethics committee, to support this legislation.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-26 10:22 [p.13522]
Madam Speaker, on the contrary, this act, which was first formulated in 1983, has not had an update in almost 34 years. This is the first time a government has had the courage to proactively disclose certain issues within the ministers' offices and the Prime Minister’s Office.
As is well known, the issue was studied at committee. This would be the first phase of the act. It would be a new regime being put in place, and we would evaluate, as time went forward, how things worked out. The first time this act would be reviewed would be one year after it received royal assent. After that it would be continually reviewed every five years. We want to make sure that what has happened over the last 34 years does not happen again. This act would be continually reviewed. It would be a living document.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2017-09-26 10:24 [p.13522]
Madam Speaker, the hon. member is right. We did serve on the same committee. He had a lot of wisdom and a lot of great comments. I actually miss him on the committee. I miss his wit at committee.
A lot of what we would do here is because this would be a new regime. Because this has not be done in the last 34 years, it would take time to make sure that government departments and agencies came to a position where they were proactively disclosing information in an efficient and timely manner.
As I said earlier, this act would receive its first review within one year of receiving royal assent, and every five years there would be a process for further committees to re-evaluate best practices and what is working and what is not working. If the hon. member still serves on the committee, or if he is lucky enough to serve on the committee, I look forward to listening to his comments to improve the act even further.
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