Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-28 11:17 [p.13694]
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying the same thing that my Conservative colleague said to my hon. friend from Mount Royal, that yesterday was a historic day with the Holocaust memorial and needs to be recognized as such by all Canadians.
New Democrats agree with the member's general position on this bill, but I wonder whether he shares our concern that Canada's exports of military goods to the United States appear to be exempt from regulation and would continue to be so under this bill. Would he agree with me, notwithstanding his point about the interrelationship of our trade with the United States and its importance to our economy, that as Canadians we should stand up and ensure that the Americans are also subject to the rigours of this bill?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-28 11:36 [p.13696]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer what I would perhaps call tepid support for Bill C-47, an act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to permit the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty.
Unfortunately, while this is a very serious matter, the bill seems to be more of an empty shell than an effective piece of legislation at this stage. Yet again, the Liberals have been extolling the virtue of transparency while completely ignoring the principle in practice.
Members will recall from earlier this week another bill allegedly relating to transparency, the amendments to Bill C-58 that would reform the Access to Information Act. Members stood and pointed out the difference between the rhetoric of transparency and the reality. Today, I note with sadness that our Information Commissioner has done a thorough analysis of the bill, and the title says it all: “Failing to Strike the Right Balance”. That could be the title of this bill as well.
Quite recently, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs claimed:
The goal is to ensure that all states take responsibility and rigorously assess arms exports. States must also regulate the legal arms trade and use transparent measures to combat illicit trade.
The bill is filled with non-information, significant room for intentionally omitted information, and promises to outline regulations at some later date, following royal assent. That is why we call it an empty shell. Most of the key issues to be addressed will not be addressed in this Parliament and will not be open to parliamentary scrutiny during this debate on second reading. Rather, they will be put in somehow later when regulations are made by faceless bureaucrats behind the scenes. That is why we say the bill fails on the issue of transparency. For example, the key criteria of assessment of arms permits are nowhere to be found in Bill C-47. How can we know if export controls will be strengthened in order to protect future exports to states that abuse human rights? Who knows?
I said at the outset that I am prepared to offer unenthusiastic support so we can get this to committee and make it better. We are asked to consider an appropriate course for the regulation of arms exports in Canada and our country's long overdue accession to the Arms Trade Treaty. Shamefully, the Harper Conservatives refused to join the Arms Trade Treaty, which was open for accession as of December 2014. Canada emerged as the only NATO member and the only G7 member not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty. I congratulate the government for finally taking these halting steps to join the rest of the civilized world.
We are also forced to examine in this debate who we want to be on the world stage and what kind of values we are really honouring, not just on paper but in our policies and practices. We have a prime minister who loves to talk the talk. During the course of the debates and amendments at committee, we will see whether he and the government are prepared to walk the walk.
It is unthinkable and frankly surprising to many of us that Canadian weapons exports have nearly doubled over the last 10 years. After 10 years of the Conservative government, Canada has shifted away from exporting arms predominantly to NATO countries, to exporting arms to countries with notoriously troubling human rights records. For example, according to the defence industry publication Jane's, Canada is now the second largest arms dealer in the Middle East. Arms sales to China, a country with a notoriously poor human rights record, soared to $48 million in 2015. As well, a recent article published in the magazine L'actualité found that in the past 25 years Canada has sold $5.8 billion in weapons to countries with deeply questionable human rights records. This is not a small problem. Human rights violations cannot be tolerated, let alone facilitated.
With all this in mind, I want to commend the current government for finally agreeing to accede to this international treaty. In endorsing this bill, I want to also salute my colleague, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, who has done some wonderful work on this issue over the years.
As noted, the bill fails to strengthen export controls, and as written, we would have no idea whether future arms deals with countries that abuse human rights would be prohibited. We have a right to know who Canada is doing business with and under what conditions. When it comes to human rights, it is not enough for us to say one thing and implement policies that allow another.
The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking to the accession of the Arms Trade Treaty, said, “this legislation will set our standards in law.... I am very pleased that we will in turn raise the bar with a stronger and more rigorous system for our country.”
Forgive me if I am not prepared to take the government's word for it. I agree that we need to set out standards in law, but the bill is proof that the Liberals are still demonstrating a lack of transparency about arms exports and a reluctance to address the disparity between talk and action.
As others have mentioned, there are ongoing allegations of Canadian weapons being used to commit human rights violations in countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan. It was reported in The Globe and Mail earlier this year that the Saudi military appears to be using Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens. What are we doing about that? We are not doing very much. Reports indicate that Canadian-made weaponry has been used in the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen, one of the world's worst humanitarian situations, which continues to deteriorate, and 6,000 people to date have been killed.
In 2015, the Prime Minister told the media that Canada must “stop arms sales to regimes that flout democracy, such as Saudi Arabia.” That is great rhetoric. Where is the action?
The NDP has called for the Liberals to suspend existing export permits for the light armoured vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia, pending an investigation into its domestic human rights situation, to no avail.
In the bill, the majority of Canada's military exports would remain unregulated. It would set up a legal obligation to report on military exports, which is a good step, but here is the punchline. This obligation would only apply to exports where an export permit was required, so most U.S.-bound exports would be exempt from the bill. Neither the act nor its amendment under Bill C-47 would address the Canada-U.S. Defence Production Sharing Agreement, which exempts Canadian military exports to the United States from the government authorization required for other arms exports. Therefore, we will be asking in committee that exports of military goods to the United States be licensed in some fashion.
It has been said that the United States is our closest friend and ally, but with a regime change occurring south of the border, it seems to me that this reflects an outdated way of thinking. It should be subject to the same rules as other countries. Indeed, the reason for that is that sometimes Canadian arms are sold to the United States and are used to commit human rights atrocities, an example of which was published, with respect to Nigeria, on September 13 of this year. We think that is important.
We believe there have been some positive moves on the issue of diversion, and we salute the government for that, but we believe that Canada must formalize diversion as a criterion in our export control systems.
It is a good start that Bill C-47 requires annual reports to Parliament, but the job is only half done as long as it does not include exports to the United States. How can Parliament hold the government to account if the bulk of our exports are excluded from the export permit system and from the resulting annual reporting?
We would suggest, as we have said for many years, that there be a new standing committee to oversee arms exports. The Liberals voted that down. We asked them to consider the U.K. experience and see if we could get on board for that so we could actually provide parliamentary oversight, notwithstanding the deficiencies in the bill.
For far too long Canadians have had too little information about our arms exports to countries with troubling human rights records. Any measures taken that fall short of ensuring the highest standards of accountability are doing a disservice to Canadians and to the vulnerable people who are affected by our policies.
Human rights are not optional. It is not enough for our Prime Minister to go on the international stage and talk the talk. It is now time to walk the talk and give parliamentarians and Canadians the tools they need to ensure that we are doing our part on arms trade exports around the world.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-28 11:48 [p.13698]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that I managed to quote the parliamentary secretary properly today.
There are very few regulations in the Canadian legal system that are not made public. There are a few, of course, involving national security, that are notorious, but they are the exception to the rule. Of course we understand that regulations will be ultimately made public. Our point is that they will be made by faceless bureaucrats without any opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny. Regulations are not made by parliamentarians, with Canadians watching. They are made by the government. We do not get a chance to assess the merits of them.
As for the fact that all regulations are subject to scrutiny by the standing committee on regulations and other statutory instruments, that committee's mandate is to deal with the legality of those regulations, not the merit of those regulations. That does not make me feel any more warmly disposed to this bill than before.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-28 11:49 [p.13698]
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the intervention by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and of course I agree with her. I think many Canadians watching this debate and hearing the participation by the Conservatives were wondering whether they had tuned into the wrong channel.
Article 3, as the member points is, makes it clear that this is not about domestic munitions and ammunition at all. Much of the debate was, frankly, scurrilous and irrelevant.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-28 11:51 [p.13699]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to not only thank my colleague for her intervention but for her excellent work on behalf of the NDP in the review of this difficult legislation.
I found out that Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and China are among the top 10 destinations for Canada's military goods. We must do better. The regulations may say things the New Democrats would support; they may not. The fact is that the government has chosen to bypass Parliament, and that is not good enough.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-26 10:24 [p.13523]
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member why the government chose not to change a single exception to the rule. There obviously has to be a rule, as he pointed out, openness by default, the principle that Canadians expect the government to be open and transparent, to use the member's words.
If that is the case, after so many years, why has the government not changed a single exception to the rule of disclosure? There is nothing to do with the exclusion of cabinet confidences. There is nothing to do with any of the exceptions to the rule. How can he defend that?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-26 11:36 [p.13533]
Madam Speaker, the member talked about the need to modernize the existing legislation. I wonder if he would agree with me that if the exceptions to the rule of disclosure swallow the rule of disclosure, then we ought to change those exceptions.
After 34 years of cabinet confidences being excluded entirely from the act, with many of the exceptions being very broad and never altered, would it not be timely to actually do something about those exceptions to the rule? However, instead, the current government simply added a new loophole to allow departments to refuse to process a request if they deem it to be overly broad. In other words, rather than subtracting exceptions, the Liberals added exceptions. Does that sound like a sensible reform to modernize this act?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-26 12:05 [p.13537]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague referred to the bill as another example of broken Liberal promises.
Does he agree that it is also a bill that could be termed as a bill of missed opportunities? For example, in the frivolous and vexatious requests debate that just occurred, in the province of British Columbia, there is a very miniscule 1% type of number for those requests that are deemed frivolous and vexatious. Unlike in this bill, they go straight to the commissioner for a determination. Imagine letting the government decide whether it likes a particular request.
Would it not be better to have the commissioner make that decision and apply mediation to get rid of those totally illegitimate requests that so infrequently occur but still do from time to time? Would that not be an example of an opportunity missed in this bill?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-22 10:24 [p.13408]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the President of the Treasury Board for introducing legislation after 34 years that would modernize this essential right to know legislation, as well as for saying that this is only a work in progress and that he will welcome input at the committee stage, presumably including amendments to this bill.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, like so many other groups, has claimed:
...the bill is far more conspicuous for what it fails to do, putting in place only one or at best one and one-half of the reforms called for by Canadians....
It does nothing to address the broad regime of exceptions (if anything, expanding its scope slightly).
Of course, it does not fix the massive loopholes that currently exist. In fact, it introduces a new one, which I will talk about later.
What confidence can Canadians have that this will truly reflect this new openness by default that the minister spoke of?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-22 12:16 [p.13428]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-58, the access to information reform legislation. It is with considerable disappointment that I must, on behalf of the NDP, be opposed to the initiative. However, I am also pleased to hear the President of the Treasury Board acknowledge that at committee, there might be a possibility for improving the legislation to give it some credibility.
If I may be permitted at the outset to make a personal statement, access to information, freedom of information, has been one of my passions. I did graduate work on this topic. In law, I worked with the Government of British Columbia in drafting the legislation there, as well as in Yukon. Back in the early eighties, I worked on behalf of the Canadian Bar Association to try to get the first access to information act through in a credible way. The former member of Parliament for Peace River, Conservative member Jed Baldwin, gave me an award of merit from the House for my work on freedom of information. Therefore, I come to this with a passion for the topic.
Three things are necessary for any credible law and, after 34 years, we all agree that this law needs modernizing. I salute the government for finally doing something in that regard. First, it has to have a clear statement that information is a right. Second, there have to be exceptions to the rule of openness that are narrow and have to demonstrate some harm from the disclosure. Third, there has to be an umpire, someone neutral, who can order a government that does not wish to provide the information to make it public. Those are the three things by which any reform must be evaluated. Sadly, this bill comes up short.
People sometimes have their eyes glaze over when we talk about access to information. That is usually the end of a conversation. People go back to doing something else. I want to tell Canadians who may be watching this why it is important. How many times have we read an article that starts with “Information released today under the Access to Information Act” reported thus and so? The answer is frequently.
The Globe and Mail used the Access to Information Act for its April 2016 investigative series “Unfounded”, which revealed that police had been dismissing one out of every five sexual assault claims as baseless. It took a year to get the information. The delays were ridiculous, and I will come back to that. That was the tool that was necessary for Canadians to understand what their police were and were not doing about sexual assault.
Just last week, the CBC reported that the Prime Minister's controversial Bahamas vacation cost Canadians over $215,000, far more than was initially disclosed to Parliament. That came about through a document released under this act.
Yesterday morning, I woke up to hear that after a year, reporters finally obtained the original contract from the Phoenix pay fiasco, once again thanks to this act.
Transparency is important. It was a major theme for the Liberal Party during the 2015 election. In fact, before that, the Prime Minister introduced Bill C-613, an act to amend the Access to Information Act. I would invite all Canadians to look at what the Prime Minister wanted to do with that bill while in opposition compared to what is being proposed today. I think they will see a yawning divide. What he said, though, in introducing that legislation, was that “a country's access to information system is at the heart of open government”. He is right.
Our Supreme Court also said that what we are talking about today is in fact quasi-constitutional in nature. This is not an ordinary act. It is something that the courts have recognized as essential to an open, modern democracy.
The New Democratic Party has introduced private members' bills to modernize the act so many times I do not want to list them all, but in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2014, this is something we tried to fix. Every time, the Conservatives and then the Liberals voted them down.
In March of 2015, the Information Commissioner released 85 recommendations to modernize the act. I invite Canadians to look at that list of recommendations and what we are left with today.
The point is that this is essential to fix, as the President of Treasury Board properly pointed out.
When we introduced this bill in the early eighties, computers were hardly a fact of life, email did not really exist in the public service, and record-keeping was very different than it is today. Clearly this is long overdue. It is too bad that the government has not taken the opportunity to do the job properly. Almost all civil society groups that have studied this have been outspoken in their opposition, some angry, but most simply sad and disappointed that this is what we are left with.
Let me talk about what the government did not do. That is how we have to assess this exercise. The exemptions to the rule of disclosure, the list of the things that the government can properly withhold, are very badly drafted, very discretionary, do not even have to show a harm. However, there is one that is different from all the others.
Back when this bill was introduced under the former Prime Minister Trudeau regime, it decided to cut out a category of records called “cabinet confidences”. It does not even apply to cabinet confidences. Everyone who has ever studied this has said that this is the Mack truck clause. In fact, some of the more humorous commentary describes this as “cabinet laundering”. All the government has to do if it does not want something disclosed is to slip it into a cabinet briefing book, and voila, the black hole. It never gets to be seen. It is not even subject to the act. One would have thought that after 34 years, job one would have been to maybe talk about that. It is not even mentioned. The black hole remains. Cabinet laundering can continue.
Information delayed is information denied. Every journalist in the land understands that. I had a journalist stop me on the street the other day, and she said that when she is asking for information, she usually gets something on the very last day of the 30-day period. Day 29 she is told that there is going to be a delay, and then the government asks for another delay. If she complains to the Information Commissioner, she is told that the office is swamped and it might take several months to get the story out. Even then, if the government does not want to do it, the Information Commissioner would recommend that it can say no.
Information delayed is information denied. That will not be fixed by this bill in any meaningful way.
The other thing is that we live in an oral culture. In fact, one of my colleagues refers to it as “the Post-it culture”. I will explain. If a government member has a record that they know is going to be subject to disclosure, maybe they put a little Post-it note on the document that says what the juicy bits are. That happens. I know that the Speaker will be surprised to hear that.
The duty to document decisions is not even part of this bill. I talked earlier about computers where we can delete transitory records and the like. However, the fact is that an oral culture is alive and well and living in Ottawa.
Let me get to the bill. What does Bill C-58 do, and why can we not support it? I would first like to quote from the Centre for Law and Democracy which said:
the Bill is far more conspicuous for what it fails to do....
It fails to expand the scope of the Act. It does place a number of proactive publication obligations on various actors – including the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices...but this falls far short of bringing these bodies within the ambit of the Act.
Certain types of information have always been available, at least in recent years, such as travel expenses, contracts over $10,000. By policy, these have been available for years. Now it is put in the bill, and the government thinks it should get a gold star for doing that. I am not sure why.
Again, quoting from the Centre for Law and Democracy:
While more proactive disclosure is always welcome, as anyone who has used the Act knows, it is absolutely not a substitute for the right to be able to request the information one is interested in from public authorities.
I think that is clear.
Today the minister made a lot of the notion that there is to be order-making powers under this bill. It is true that if we look closely, we can see that it is, in the words of a colleague, a chimera. It does not really do that.
Let me talk about how it works in the provinces. Let us take British Columbia, for example. The Information Commissioner makes an order: “Disclose that record, government. I know you do not want to do it, but it is not able to be withheld legitimately under the exceptions.” That is it. If the government wants to seek judicial review of that decision, it does so.
Let us compare that to the convoluted order-making power that the minister was so proud of in this bill. It seems to say that if the government agrees with a decision of the commissioner to release the document, it will be released. So what? If the government disagrees with the commissioner's recommendation, then the government could take him or her to Federal Court. Imagine how expensive and litigious this would all be. The government has created, in my submission, an unwieldy, unnecessary, and unaffordable system.
I wish I had time to go into the section that deals with this. It talks of the ability to make an order, but in the interest of time, suffice it to say that it is beyond complicated and likely unworkable. It would not really do what the minister has said it would do. I wish the Liberals had followed the simple route that most provinces have followed.
Though it is true that there would be proactive disclosure of a number of kinds of information from ministers' offices, the point is that Canadians would still not be able to request the information they want from those offices, appeal to the commissioner, and get an order to release it. It is just not there. The promise made in the election that we would have open offices and that people would get the information is not what is happening. That is very disappointing.
The Liberals also talked about the five-year review that is a feature of this act, and thank goodness it is there. That is nothing new. However, it is not like the Bank Act, for example, under which the legislation would sunset if that review did not take place by that time, so who knows how long it will actually take before we get to the review that is promised? That is very different from what the platform promised.
The Liberals talked today about something new, which is the ability to go after bad-faith, long, frivolous, and vexatious requests. That is a new restriction, not a change for the positive. I can appreciate why it is necessary, and, yes, it exists at the provincial level, but here is the punchline: this bill would give the final decision to the government to decide whether the request is too big, too long, or frivolous. Everywhere else, of course, it is the commissioner who gets to decide. Do members remember what I said about an umpire in the game who is neutral? I do not think the minister who does not want the information to be disclosed is in the best position to do that. I cannot believe they think that is a significant reform that we should be proud of.
The government is probably going to pat itself on the back for this bill. It is probably going to say, “We promised openness and transparency, and openness by default, and that is what we delivered.” The truth is far from that. I want to be optimistic—I always try to be—and give the government the benefit of the doubt. The minister stood in this place and said, “We will be open to amendments at committee”, and we are certainly going to be there to try to give him the opportunity to make this credible, because it is not credible now. It is kind of like the promise the Liberals made in 2015, when they said that 2015 would be the last election that would be fought under the first-past-the-post rules. That was a different promise. That was a different time and place.
The Prime Minister came to my riding when he was running in the election and said that he would have a full review of the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal. Do members remember that promise? That kind of did not happen either. There was one about mail delivery. We were going to be open to mail delivery, I think. That was another promise.
Canadians deserve better than this bill. It is a start, to the extent that it adds exemptions; it does not go after the big changes and exemptions. Members heard me talk about cabinet confidences; the other nice one is the policy advice to the minister. They did not touch it. All they have to do is put all these documents into something that they give to the minister, and that is policy advice to the government. That massive loophole remains.
Once again, what they did not do is how we judge their reform initiative. It actually adds a loophole that would allow the department to refuse to process a request if it deems it to be overly broad, deems it would unreasonably interfere with the operations of government, or deems it to be made in bad faith. It is quite remarkable that the Liberals are patting themselves on the back. By simple comparison to the other legislation in the country, it is obvious that this bill does not pass muster.
The bill also ignores so many of the recommendations made by the Information Commissioner, as I pointed out, and by the ethics committee that also studied this legislation. It appears the government did not even read those. Much like the Harper government, the Liberals continue to disregard the recommendations made by the non-partisan watchdog. One sympathizes with the Herculean efforts made by Ms. Legault over the years to try to get both sides of this place, Conservative and Liberal alike, to take seriously the citizens' right to know. I salute for her efforts, futile though they have been to date.
I want to say by way of conclusion that the New Democrats have long advocated for giving the Information Commissioner real oversight and order-making powers. We believe that proactive disclosure is important and offer congratulations for putting into legislation what has been the practice to date so far, but I point out that the commissioner does not have oversight powers with respect to that proactive disclosure, so I guess we have to take the government's word for it.
Even if the Liberals were well intentioned, let us remember that we are making legislation that applies for future Canadians, for future generations of Canadians. How long did it take to get to this place with a new bill? It has taken 34 years. We have to get it right. We cannot say, “Don't worry; we are going to have a review in five years, or maybe another year or two after that”, because they do not have to do that if they do not want to. That has been our history, excepting the Bank Act.
We have to do it better. We can do it better, and I am not the only one saying this. The Centre for Law and Democracy, which has been cited already, has made the same point. Democracy Watch has explained it. Professor Mark Weiler, the web and user experience librarian who testified, wrote to our critic, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, on this file, as follows: “I am greatly concerned that Bill C-58 will actually diminish the capacity of Canadians to access unpublished materials held by the government. The Access to Information Act should enhance the ability of Canadians to access information the government chooses not to publish.... Bill C-58 would actually make the Access to Information Act more difficult to use.”
What are we going to do about this? To go back to the basics, there has to be a strong statement of the right to know, and there is some verbiage to that effect in the new law. The exemptions have to be narrow, and they have to be about injury, not just in a box, a particular category of records, such as policy advice. It has to be shown that disclosure would harm some government interest. The Liberals did not do that; they didn't touch any of them. They only added one.
The third thing is that there has to be real order-making power when the umpire says the government has got it wrong. That did not cause a revolution in British Columbia when we did it, and that order-making power led to something like 90% of cases being mediated without the need to have a formal order-making hearing. Very, very rarely do we go to court; it is statistically insignificant.
There are ample precedents for doing this right. The order-making power that is in the bill is beyond comprehension. It will be expensive and it is totally unnecessary. Why do we have to make it so complicated when the principle is so obvious and when there are so many examples across the land?
I want to end on a positive note. We hope the government was serious when the President of the Treasury Board stood in the House earlier today and talked about the need to modernize this law and said that this is only the first phase and it is only a work in progress. He said he welcomes reports at committee, including amendments.
Trust me, we will have many of those amendments. We can do better. We must do better for Canadians.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-22 12:37 [p.13431]
Mr. Speaker, as I hope I said both at the beginning and the end of my remarks, I too remain hopeful that the government—finally, a government that has grasped the nettle in trying to modernize this legislation—will, in the spirit of it being a first step and in the spirit of it being a work in progress, take seriously these changes.
As for what is missing in the act, I hope the member understood that it was not me saying that. It was the experts at the Centre for Law and Democracy who said, once again:
...the Bill is far more conspicuous for what it fails to do, putting in place only one or at best one and one-half of the reforms called for by Canadians....
It does nothing to address the broad regime of exceptions (if anything, expanding its scope slightly). And it does not put in place a duty to document.
As for the five-year review, that is true. We hope we can get some action on that. Vince Gogolek, the president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said:
This is not the last word on [access] reform, but it might be the last opportunity to weigh in for some time. [Bill] C-58 includes a five-year review, but the first review will take place only a year after the legislation comes into force. Given the glacial pace at which legislation is going through Parliament these days, that could mean the review won’t take place until after the next election in 2019.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-22 12:40 [p.13431]
Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the question and the passion of the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith and her work on the status of women committee.
When the words “cabinet confidence” are uttered, we hear this giant sound, a sucking sound, of a black hole into which all record requests must go immediately. To say those two words is like a mantra for the Government of Canada. It was Prime Minister Trudeau, with Michael Pitfield at his side, who insisted that if they were going to have this foreign thing called access to information, they had to do one thing quickly: carve out a whole category of cabinet confidences.
The act does not even apply. It is not an exception; it is called an exclusion. If the minister says there cannot be gender-based analysis vis-à-vis Kinder Morgan or Site C, she is right. One can say whatever one wants, but as soon as it is cabinet confidence, it is like an incantation, and that is the end of the day.
That is not what it is in Ontario, that is not what it is in Quebec, and that is not what it is in British Columbia. Why does it have to live in Ottawa?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-22 12:42 [p.13432]
Mr. Speaker, the shocking truth of the report The Globe and Mail last year about the fact that only one in five sexual assaults were taken seriously by the police has led to changes.
The member talked about the public's cynicism in this area. I find journalists to be the most cynical. It does not have to be this way.
Journalists south of the border phone the government and they get the information. When the same information is sought in Ottawa, I am told it takes years or it is denied, and years is an accurate statement. As the member pointed out, it took one year to put together the file that led to this investigative journalism report. This matters because information is the raw material of which decisions are made. If we cannot assess that information and investigative journalists cannot find out the truth of what happens, then Canada obviously as a country is much worse off.
Access to information matters. We can do better. This legislation is quasi-constitutional in nature. We must do better and make it work at committee. I am looking forward to working with the government in order to do so.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-22 12:45 [p.13432]
Mr. Speaker, I will have to disagree with my hon. friend from Winnipeg North. We cannot support something that will do so little to deal with the fundamental problems that, after 34 years, governments on both sides of the aisle have created.
The amendments from the NDP that the government can anticipate will be very much like the amendments from the committee that studied this. They will be very much like the amendments from the Information Commissioner. They will be very much like the amendments that were proposed over years. They may even be like the amendments the Prime Minister sought to make to the legislation when he was in opposition, which I would suggest are very different than what we see before us today in the legislation.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2017-09-22 13:07 [p.13436]
Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary said that this bill delivers on a key commitment of transparency for the government. I ask her why the government chose not to change one single rule, one single exemption, or the cabinet exclusion by which it is allowed to hold information back. If it delivers in the way that she suggests, why the scathing criticism from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Democracy Watch, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, and even the Canadian Association of Research Librarians?
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