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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 172

CONTENTS

Monday, February 16, 2015




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147
NUMBER 172
2nd SESSION
41st PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1105)  

[English]

Assaults Against Public Transit Operators

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
     moved that the bill be concurred in.

    (Motion agreed to)

    When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
     moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today at third reading, and to speak in support of Bill S-221, a bill that seeks to address, through explicit sentencing principles, the harm caused when public operators acting in the course of their duties are the target of violence.
    At present, there is no specific offence or aggravating factor in the Criminal Code that uniquely targets acts of violence committed against public transit operators.
    The proposed bill would amend the Criminal Code to create a new aggravating factor for the sentencing of offenders convicted of uttering threats, any of the three assault offences, and unlawfully causing bodily harm to transit operators.
     I would first like to thank Senator Runciman and his staff for their hard work on this file, as well as all those in the transit community, such as the Canadian Urban Transit Association and the Amalgamated Transit Union, amongst others, who have spent countless hours educating both the public and government about the danger that violence against our transit operators presents, not only to themselves but to the general public. This is a very serious issue that must be addressed.
     I would also like to extend my thanks to the other side of the aisle, to the members of the opposition parties who have done their part in making sure that Bill S-221 becomes law, and in particular to the member from Wascana. I know he has been working diligently on this matter for years. Hopefully today all of that hard work will finally be realized and result in meaningful and effective legislation.
     I think I can say without any hesitation that everything we have heard in debates in both Houses during the recent months has absolutely confirmed our belief that Bill S-221 is both justified and necessary.
     The proposed Bill S-221 would amend the Criminal Code to create a new aggravating factor for the sentencing of offenders convicted of uttering threats, any of the three assault offences, and unlawfully causing bodily harm to transit operators.
    Transit operators play an absolutely critical role in the lives of our citizens and communities all over Canada. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our major cities, where public transit is relied upon to transport millions of passengers every day.
     It would be no exaggeration to say that without the people who drive our buses, subways, trams, and taxis every day, our economy and our communities would be in peril. A 2010 report prepared by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, entitled "The Economic Impact of Transit Investment: A National Survey", offers the following key findings: transit reduces vehicle operating costs for Canadian households by approximately $5 billion annually, and it reduces vehicle accident costs by $2.4 billion annually.
    While these statistics and figures are certainly fantastic, they come at a price, specifically to the well-being of our public transit operators. An analysis conducted by the Toronto Transit Commission showed that transit operators face daily violence. According to their analysis, during 2013, 39% of attacks were related to fare enforcement. Alarmingly, one in five attacks was recorded as being unprovoked, with no real rhyme or reason given. The motive was nothing more than pure malice, an attempt to harm the public transit operator just for the sake of it.
    Unfortunately, these sorts of attacks run the risk of becoming more and more common, unless we as legislators take action to ensure these assaults are sanctioned adequately. The report is broken down as follows: expectorate, around 45%; physical—hands, feet—33%; foreign objects, 15%; liquid, 5%.
     According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, there were 2,061 reported assaults in 2011. That is over five reported instances of assault a day across this country. This is shameful.
    Transit operators, due to the nature of their work and their inherent inability to defend themselves against aggressive acts while carrying out their duties, face a number of unusual and unpredictable threats in their workplace that most Canadians do not.
    Transit workers are at a higher risk for violence than workers in many other occupations. Statistics Canada has reported that public transit operators are more than four and a half times more likely to be assaulted in the conduct of their duty than an average person is when walking down the street. While this in and of itself is a shocking statistic, there are other consequences that may not be immediately clear.
    The most troubling of these is that a public transit operator is in charge of operating an incredibly large vehicle, which, more often than not, is in motion on crowded streets and highways. Any minute, a distraction may cause an immediate and very real danger, not only to the passengers charged in the operator's care, but to other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. This danger naturally increases when we have someone physically beating or spitting on the operator.
    The issue of assaulting a public transit operator is not only being noticed here in Ottawa, but in other municipalities as well. A little over two weeks ago, Tom Hann, a councillor in St. John's, Newfoundland, had the following to say regarding tougher sentencing legislation:
     [Public transit operators] should not have to put up with that kind of stuff, and I'm hoping legislation that will deal with stronger sentencing will make people think twice.
    It pleases me to no end to see that Bill S-221has garnered support from municipalities as far away as St. John's.
    On the other side of the nation, bus drivers in Vancouver have opted to begin a six-month, fleet-wide experiment with plexiglass barriers to protect themselves from would-be attackers. Last year, Hamilton saw a five-year high in assaults on their buses, which has prompted the transit director of the Hamilton Street Railway company to make a budget request for cameras to be installed in the fleet, and possibly even barriers. Grand River Transit of Kitchener and Waterloo has made a similar move.
    It is a sad state of affairs when bus drivers feel so unsafe at work that they feel their only recourse is to attempt to remove and segregate themselves from the people they serve.
    To echo Councillor Hann's sentiments, we need to make sure that these thugs think twice before assaulting a public transit operator, and we need to make bus drivers feel safe in their place of work. We need to ensure that the transit system operates effectively, that people feel safe when they use the transit system, and that those operating our public transit feel assured that if they are victimized on the job through acts of violence, the criminal justice system will effectively respond to such violence.
    Attacks on transit operators can leave lasting physical and mental scars. With more than 300,000 members, Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector. At a 2014 gathering at Unifor's Canadian Council, transit drivers shared personal stories of assault, harassment, and degradation that left lasting trauma, and, in certain cases, permanent disability. Transit drivers should not have to go to work fearing that they will be hit, sexually assaulted, threatened with death, punched, kicked, spat on, or have a weapon pulled on them.
     While much of the focus thus far has been on bus drivers, we must not forget another vulnerable and often forgotten group of individuals: taxi drivers. From 1997 to 2011, the homicide rate for taxi drivers was 3.2 per population of 100,000. This is nearly three times the murder rate among the general population. In that 15-year period, 23 tax drivers were murdered in cold blood.
    We do not have statistics available to us on assaults, but one does not have to jump to conclusions to suggest that they would be as horrifically high as their counterparts in public transit.
    Support for this bill extends far and wide. Transit unions, transit police, bus and tax drivers, the Ottawa Transit Commission, the Toronto Transit Commission, and many others have spoken in strong support of this bill. We now have the opportunity with Bill S-221 to work together and unanimously pass into law meaningful changes that would appropriately address the violence committed against transit operators.
    I strongly support this bill, and I hope that the sentiment is echoed on all sides of the House. Let us finally put an end to this wrong and pass Bill S-221 today.

  (1110)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to reassure my colleague immediately that we feel exactly the same way.
     I would like to point out that members of my party have introduced a number of similar bills, and as I recall, though I was not here, during the previous Parliament, Bill C-333 dealt with exactly this problem.
    My question is this: why has the government been dragging its feet on this issue since 2006? Can the sponsor tell me what happened to make this measure, which we will support, a priority?

  (1115)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. It is a very good question.
     I know that several bills on this subject have been introduced in the House. This bill has a specific provision that would also include taxi drivers, who were not included in the other bills.
     I think this is a novelty, and it shows that our government would take care of a larger range of public transit operators, as the bill also includes taxi drivers.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in support of Bill S-221. In fact, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party had a similar private member's bill. Our caucus, and I am sure all members, recognizes the valuable role of transit drivers in all regions of our country.
    I had the good fortune, through John Callahan of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Winnipeg, to have a tour of the facility and the opportunity to participate in a bus ride-along, which I would highly recommend to members. One can learn a lot when riding on a bus and talking to some of the drivers. One gets a better sense of some of the things they have to go through day in and day out. When that door opens, transit drivers do not know what is coming in.
    There is a need for this legislation. The number of verbal and physical assaults is very high. I think the public would be quite surprised by how many occurrences there are every year.
    My question is fairly specific. Would the member not agree that as parliamentarians we can also work with municipalities to see how we can make the working environment of our transit drivers better, such as by potentially having patrols on buses and so forth?
    Mr. Speaker, to work with municipalities, we need to have legislation in place. This bill would give the opportunity to municipalities to move forward in the deterrence of violence and to take action against violence against public operators and taxi drivers.
    Mr. Speaker, my follow-up question is in regard to the taxi drivers the member made reference to. Again, this is a very important industry.
    When they allow people in, it is not like taxi drivers will say no. They feel vulnerable. There is a need for safety shields and cameras. There is a higher sense of need for security in our taxis than there ever has been over the last decade plus.
    Could the member provide some comment on our role in terms of making sure that there is a safe working environment?
    Mr. Speaker, it is important that, through this legislation, we provide the tools to educate the users of public transit and taxis not to resort to violent acts and so on, and if they do resort to these acts, they will be punished accordingly, with the force of the law.
    This is not necessarily punitive legislation; it would provide the tools to have deterrence and not just a reaction to violence. This is in line with the Canadian way of thinking.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this long overdue legislation.
    I would like to start off by praising our public transportation workers across the country. Every day, thousands of women and men across this country basically ensure the safety and security of our loved ones in getting to work, to school, or to a wide variety of places. Their job is to ensure that our loved ones make it to work, school, shopping, and any other circumstance as safely as possible. Tragically, we are seeing that increasingly, their safety and security is in jeopardy because of an epidemic of attacks, and there is no other way to put it, against public transit operators and public transportation workers.
    Today we are seeing across the country thousands of transit workers who are making sure, even in adverse weather conditions, that our loved ones get to work or school safely. Yet today, an average day in Canada, four, five, or six of those transit operators and public transportation workers may be assaulted in the line of duty. As they are doing their work of ensuring the safety and security of our loved ones, their safety and security is often put into question because of a growing number of tragic assaults against these workers.
    This did not start happening yesterday. It has developed over a number of years. That is why the NDP over the past number of years has put forward legislation to combat this epidemic of attacks on public transportation workers and drivers across this country.
    Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who members will remember, first put forward a bill. I myself put forward a bill a number of years ago. We encouraged the government at the time to put in place these measures. My colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River also put forward legislation.
    Bill S-221 is currently on the docket in the House of Commons. It would increase penalties for anyone who assaults or abuses a public transportation worker. By putting this legislation in place, we would be sending a message to people right across the country that this is unacceptable. The safety and security of our public transportation workers should not be put into question because of the growing likelihood that they may be assaulted in the line of duty.
    Imagine driving a bus and trying to maintain the safety and security of perhaps dozens of passengers, and someone gets on the bus who feels that he or she has free rein to assault the driver. While the driver is trying to protect members of the travelling public, his or her own safety is in question.
    That is why it is important to send an inescapable message to all Canadians that assault or abuse is simply not acceptable. That is why we support the bill. That is why we have called for tougher penalties, as well.
    Part of the reason this is an important step and the reason the NDP has put forward legislation over the past few years a number of times is the public education that can come from it. Saying that it is a case of aggravated assault, as we have said in the NDP bill, or an aggravating circumstance, as in the bill before us today, is something the public transportation companies and private taxi companies can use to ensure that the public is aware that when they try to abuse or assault a taxi driver or transit operator, it is a serious crime.

  (1120)  

    There is no doubt that this is something that would help to address this tragic epidemic of attacks on transit workers. In many cases, we are talking about serious assaults. These are assaults that have resulted in serious, permanent disability. We are talking about situations where the bus driver or transit operator has been unable to return to work. We are not talking about minor assaults here. In many cases, we are talking about tragic, serious assaults.
    That is why we have been bringing this forward in the House of Commons for so many years. We need to change the public perception that somehow it is okay to attack a transit operator, a bus driver, or a taxi driver.
    The bill today is long overdue. We would have liked the government to have adopted the NDP legislation we have been pushing forward in the House years ago. It will nonetheless make a difference, particularly when the public transportation companies are able to put forward the very clear message that this is unacceptable.
    The bus drivers and transit operators in my riding are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Unifor, as well, formerly the CAW transit operators. We also have the Amalgamated Transit Union, which has also been a phenomenal force in campaigning for this change.

  (1125)  

[Translation]

    The Société de transport de Montréal drivers' association also played a major role.

[English]

    With Unifor, CUPE, ATU, and the STM we have a real consensus among bus drivers and transit operators across the country that it is time for a change. It is time to send an unmistakable message to all Canadians that to assault a transit operator or a bus driver is a serious offence. Those bus drivers and transit drivers get up every day in the morning with one thought in mind, which is to make sure that our loved ones get to their workplaces, their schools, or wherever they are going safely. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure their safety, to ensure that they go to a safe workplace and can come home and know that they have provided that service to Canadians, that there are no scars to show for it, and that they have been able to work in a safe environment.
    I would like to conclude by saying that this is long overdue legislation. We support it. In fact, the NDP has been the impetus behind the legislation, and we are happy to see that it is finally coming forward on the floor of the House of Commons.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that the Liberal Party will vote in favour of this bill.
     My colleague from Wascana once introduced a similar bill, though his was a little more vigorous than the one we are talking about today. We are therefore very happy to support this bill.

[English]

    Far be it from me to predict the voting decisions of hon. members on a private member's bill, but I will not be surprised if this bill receives the unanimous support of the House. We shall see later if this is the case.
    In effect, it would be difficult to oppose this proposition. Bus drivers and other public transit operators provide a valuable service for all Canadians every day. The statistics show that they are subject to much more abuse than one might expect, and certainly much more abuse than they deserve. Therefore, it is incumbent on Parliament to take measures to help protect them. It is true that all three major parties of the House have, at one time or another, presented similar legislation in this regard. Therefore, I would be astounded if the bill did not receive overwhelming, if not unanimous, support.
    To provide a few of the statistics, 2,061 bus drivers were assaulted in 2011, with attacks ranging from being spit on and punched in the head to knife attacks and sexual assault. It is partly because of the nature of their work that they are at greater risk than most because they are subject, willy-nilly, to whoever should enter their buses, taxis, ferries, or whatever means of transit. They have no control over who enters and are much more susceptible than most to this kind of attack. This is why they deserve a level of protection that is higher than that provided for most Canadians in other walks of life.
    It is important to indicate what exactly the bill would do. I know the member has done so, but it would make the nature of a victim's employment as a public transit operator an aggravating circumstance which must be taken into account when a judge sentences an accused after conviction on specific Criminal Code charges. These include bodily harm, assault, aggravated assault and causing bodily harm. The definition of “public transit operator” includes not only bus drivers but also those operating taxis, trains, subways, trams and ferries.
    We are happy to support this proposed law. As I indicated, the bill put forward by my colleague, the member for Wascana, was a little stronger in the sense that the fact of being a bus driver was to be an aggravating circumstance in sentencing for any crime against a bus driver no matter what the specific charge. However, that, in a sense, is a fairly small detail and the two laws are in the same spirit. We therefore are very happy to support it.
    As my colleague from Winnipeg North pointed out, passing this law should not be the end of our pursuit of greater fairness for bus drivers and other public transit operators. There is scope for further actions, and a lot of those actions would probably involve more of the provincial and municipal governments than they would the federal government. At the federal level, we clearly have jurisdiction in the area of criminal law and can take this action, but also in the future the federal government could, and should, work with other levels of government to produce other measures and policy initiatives to enhance the safety and security of bus drivers.
    I do not think there is controversy on this, so I will not go on any longer. The Liberal Party will enthusiastically support the bill.

  (1130)  

    I would like to note that the bill was introduced in the other place by Senator Bob Runciman, the senator for Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes who happens to be from my area of Ontario.
    The bill aims to protect transit workers who play a critical role in serving the public at large. Public transit is differentiated from other occupations by the fact that those who play a role in providing this service work with a broad spectrum of customers and are often alone with them late at night. Due to this, they are vulnerable and, by virtue of the fact that they are operating a vehicle, will often be defenceless against attacks.
    The statistics on assaults have been mentioned in previous debates and in committee by numerous people. I would like to emphasize two particular statistic that summarize the unsafe work environment that these transit workers have to work in.
    According to the Amalgamated Transit Union, 40%, or four out of ten, of all public transit operators are assaulted on the job at some point in their career. The Canadian Urban Transit Association reports approximately 2,000 assaults per year, which is an average of around 5 assaults per day.
     In addition to the detrimental effects on the victim, such attacks also threaten the safety of the general public as transit operators have responsibility for the safety of their passengers and, of course, others who are on the road. Further, these attacks have a negative impact on the transit industry financially in terms of compensation for victims and employees missing days at work. The attacks also make it difficult to recruit and retain qualified operators.
    This bill would affirm the preventative purpose of criminal law through the threat of enhanced punishment and would contribute to enhanced public safety, while also having a favourable impact on the transit industry generally.
     Bill S-221 would create a new aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing. The aggravating factor would only apply in respect of the following offences in the Criminal Code: uttering threats, section 264.1; assault, section 266; assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, section 267; aggravated assault, section 268; and, unlawfully causing bodily harm, section 269.
    If the victim of any one of these offences is a public transit operator engaged in the execution of his or her duties, the court must consider this an aggravating factor at sentencing.
    The bill includes a definition of “public transit operator”. A “public transit operator” is an individual who operates a vehicle used in the provision of passenger transportation services to the public and also includes an individual who operates a school bus. This definition, coupled with the definition of “vehicle” will capture a wide variety of circumstances.
     The bill advances two fundamental sentencing objectives: deterrence and denunciation. It sends a strong message by requiring the courts to consider increased sentencing consequences for those convicted of crimes of violence committed against public transit operators while engaged in the execution of their duties. The bill states that we as a society do not tolerate such violence and that those who choose to engage in such crime will be punished in a way that properly reflects the harm they have caused.
    During its study of the bill, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights examined the impact it would have in practice. Two particular issues arose are worth mentioning.
     The first issue is related to the proposed definition of vehicle. The bill proposes a non-exhaustive definition of “vehicle”, for the purpose of the proposed aggravating factor, as including “a bus, paratransit vehicle, licensed taxi cab, train, subway, tram and ferry”. One committee member questioned why not simply amend the definition of “motor vehicle” in section 2 of the Criminal Code to avoid the potential confusion that may be caused by having two definitions, one for “vehicle” and one for “motor vehicle”.
    The evidence given before the committee confirmed that there should be no confusion created by the proposed definition of “vehicle” found in the bill. First, the definition would only apply to the proposed section 269.01. Second, the provision would be clear and unambiguous. It would not cause any difficulty for the courts to interpret “vehicle” as including devices that were not propelled by a motor, such as a bike-taxi or rickshaw operator. If the intent of the sponsor was to limit the application of this section to motor powered vehicles, I believe he would have said it.

  (1135)  

    The second issue that was raised during the committee's study of the bill concerned the meaning of “engaged in the performance of his or her duty”. Let us recall that the proposed aggravating factor would apply where the victim was a public transit operator who, at the time of the commission of the offence, was engaged in the performance of his or her duty. The notion of being engaged in one's duties exists in other parts of the Criminal Code though the exact words can vary. For example, the murder of a police officer acting in the course of his or her duties is automatically first degree murder. Similarly, it is an offence to assault a peace officer engaged in the execution of his or her duty.
     Existing jurisprudence interpreting these phrases would likely inform how the courts would interpret this new aggravating factor. This jurisprudence tells us that the individual must be lawfully engaged in his or her duties. In addition, one cannot simply be on duty, such that transit operators who are assaulted after signing in for their shifts prior to commencing their duties would not likely receive the benefit of the new aggravating factor. However, it is also likely that the new factor would not be limited to situations involving the driving of the vehicle. For example, it would likely apply to situations where drivers were inspecting their vehicles prior to bringing them into service.
    At the end of the day, these questions of interpretation would be addressed by the courts. Regardless of how the new provision would be interpreted, it is important to remember that the courts will retain broad discretion to determine whether any particular fact aggravates or mitigates the sentence imposed in any given case.
    I would like to conclude by reiterating the importance of protecting public transit workers. Operators who encounter these harmful attacks during the performance of their duties are simply trying to do their job of delivering an essential mobility service to the public. This bill is intended to deter violent attacks on public transit operators and to increase overall safety for persons using transit services.
     Due to the critical importance of public transit to our communities from coast to coast to coast, as well as to our economy, I encourage all members to support Bill S-221. I am encouraged that members from all sides of the House have risen to show their support. I encourage members to pass the bill as quickly as possible into law in order to protect transit operators.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill S-221, a bill to amend the Criminal Code to require a court to consider as an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing the fact that the victim of an assault is a public transit operator.
    Public transit operators play a significant role in our daily life. Their contribution might go unnoticed, but their service is surely invaluable. In small and big cities, Canadians count on the service of all those men and women who strive to provide the best service possible, while ensuring the well-being of passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists.

[Translation]

    Because of the nature of the work they do, public transit operators are easy targets for acts of violence that can take many forms, including everything from verbal intimidation to physical abuse.
    Stéphane Lachance of the Syndicat des chauffeurs, opérateurs et employés des services connexes, which is part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said and I quote, “Unfortunately, being a bus driver also means being a victim of violence.”
    I have some facts to present that clearly illustrate the scope of the problem and the need to take concrete, effective measures to contain it.
    In 2010, within the organizations that form the Association du transport urbain du Québec, 14.2% of workplace accidents covered by the CSST were the result of assault and acts of violence. Also in 2010, 65 drivers from the Réseau de transport de la Capitale and 56 from the Société de transport de Laval were attacked, and in Vancouver, 150 assaults on bus drivers were reported.
    In 2011, 2,061 operators were assaulted in Canada. Assaults included everything from getting spit on, being hit over the head and having boiling water thrown at them to being threatened with a knife and even sexually assaulted. In July 2014 in Cambridge, a driver was even threatened by a young man carrying a samurai sword. That speaks volumes about the kind of problem we are dealing with.
    In Ottawa in 2012, OC Transpo reported 62 incidents of violence committed against its operators. Also in 2012, 66 acts of violence against bus drivers were reported in Montreal. According to health and safety experts, only 25% of violent acts are reported. In 2013 in Kelowna, a woman stabbed an operator with a syringe, so now that driver will have to be tested for hepatitis C for the rest of his life.
    I could list of all the attempted murders and assaults with a weapon, which unfortunately have become all too common for bus drivers. Furthermore, subway and taxi operators also face the same risks. I am glad that the member opposite included taxi drivers in this bill.
    Marc-André Coulombe, president of Taxi Québec, said:
    Not a week goes by that I do not hear about an attack or a scuffle. However, most drivers do not report it.
    This is a big problem. As a Liberal member was saying, taxi and bus drivers confirm that this is a reality of their job. This is what Robin West, International Vice President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said during his testimony to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs:
    It is a sad reality that most public transit operators have experienced the indignity of being spat on, have been punched in the head, or they know a colleague who has been subjected to a knife attack, been stomped upon or sexually assaulted...many suffer physical and emotional injuries that are life-threatening and career-ending.
    That was the case for Mr. Bouzid, an Algerian engineer, Montreal taxi driver and father of three, who was killed in cold blood while on the job.
    I would like to take a moment to note that many taxi drivers in my riding and elsewhere are from an immigrant minority and have excellent qualifications from their homelands, but cannot pursue a career in their field because they cannot get their credentials recognized here.
    These highly qualified, university-trained immigrants have a very hard time integrating into the labour market. I would like to take this opportunity to call on the appropriate authorities to correct this problem, which affects a large part of the immigrant population and remains a major hindrance to their emancipation. These taxi and bus drivers are facing problems on the job.
    Mr. Bouzid's murder may be an extreme case, but attacks in taxis are not so rare. This is a recurring problem. To deal with this type of appalling crime, it is essential that judges be equipped with the right tools so that they can hand down appropriate sentences and deterrents are strengthened.
    Unions and associations that represent bus and taxi drivers have been calling for better protection for their members for many years. The government needs to always be listening to the professionals in this sector and has a duty to ensure the safety of everyone employed in this area and to protect them when they are working.
    By making the assault on a public transit operator an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing, we will be sending a strong and unequivocal message that such crimes are not tolerated. These measures will help reduce the number of assaults on public transit operators and will curb the increase in this very disturbing phenomenon, which is of particular concern to transit professionals.

  (1145)  

[English]

    New Democrats believe that Canada must invest in the well-being of all public transit operators, and this will only be possible if we can ensure a safe and secure environment in their workplace. Indeed, protecting mass transit operators has always been a priority for the NDP, a duty that is incumbent upon us to uphold as much as possible.
    In this regard, the NDP has already tabled many private members' bills that sought to extend further protections to public transit operators by imposing greater punishment for the offence of aggravated assault when public transportation workers were the victims.
    Even though the bill under examination was tabled by another political party, we are ready to take a constructive approach to allow for the necessary changes to be implemented in order to help these workers significantly. This is because the NDP has the public transit operators' interests at heart.

[Translation]

    I would like to point out that these new provisions have been favourably received by a number of unions in this sector, including the Syndicat de la STM, which represents bus drivers. I would just like to quote Stéphane Lachance, the union spokesperson:
    We applaud the initiative and will work with partners who want...increased protection for transit workers. We hope that the deterrent effect of such a law will be felt quickly and that we will see a significant decrease in assaults in our network.
    NDP members are proud to support the demands of the associations and unions that represent public transit workers because the NDP has made the needs and interests of public transit workers one of its top priorities. Therefore, I join my colleagues in supporting this bill, and I hope that it will be passed and written into law as soon as possible.

[English]

     I invite the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East to exercise his right of reply. He has up to five minutes.
    Mr. Speaker, many people have put countless hours of hard work into this file. I cannot possibly convey my thanks to them all in a short five minutes; however, there are a few I would like to mention in the time I have.
    Once again I would like to thank Senator Runciman and his staff for all their hard work on Bill S-221. I want to express thanks as well for the support that we have received from not only the opposition across the way but also from the various transit organizations across the country, some of whom are looking on here today. They have been very supportive and integral in getting this piece of sound legislation passed.
    Bill S-221 would amend the Criminal Code to create a new aggravating factor for the sentencing of offenders convicted of uttering threats, any of the three assault offences, or unlawfully causing bodily harm to transit operators.
    This would cause those who would do harm to our public transit operators to think twice before they engage in the reckless and dangerous assault of our bus drivers, subway conductors, taxi drivers, et cetera.
    Ensuring these PTOs are safe is the first step in ensuring that the public using these methods of transport are also safe, as well as those on our streets, bike lanes, and sidewalks.
    In conclusion, I would like to encourage all hon. members to pass the bill as soon as possible, and if possible today.

  (1150)  

     The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Suspension of Sitting 

    It being 11:52 a.m., the House will stand suspended until noon. We will pick up government orders at that time.

    (The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:52 a.m.)

Sitting Resumed  

    (The House resumed at 12 p.m.)


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

  (1200)  

[English]

Rail Service Resumption Act, 2015

Hon. Chris Alexander (for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons)  
     moved:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, a bill in the name of the Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, entitled An Act to provide for the resumption of rail service operations, shall be disposed of as follows:
(a) the said bill may be read twice or thrice in one sitting;
(b) not more than two hours shall be allotted for the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill, following the adoption of this Order;
(c) when the bill has been read a second time, it shall be referred to a Committee of the Whole;
(d) any division requested in the Committee shall be deferred until the end of the Committee’s consideration of the bill;
(e) not more than one hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the Committee of the Whole stage of the said bill;
(f) not more than one half-hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill, provided that no Member shall speak for more than ten minutes at a time during the said stage and that no period for questions and comments be permitted following each Member’s speech;
(g) at the expiry of the time provided for in this Order, any proceedings before the House or the Committee of the Whole shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the stage then under consideration, of the said bill shall be put and disposed of forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, and no division shall be deferred;
(h) when the Speaker has, for the purposes of this Order, interrupted any proceeding for the purpose of putting forthwith the question on any business then before the House, the bells to call in the Members shall be sounded for not more than thirty minutes;
(i) commencing when the said bill is read a first time and concluding when the said bill is read a third time, the House shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by a Minister of the Crown;
(j) no motion to adjourn the debate at any stage of the said bill may be proposed except by a Minister of the Crown; and
(k) during the consideration of the said bill in the Committee of the Whole, no motion that the Committee rise or that the Committee report progress may be proposed except by a Minister of the Crown.
     Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask members of the House to expedite the passage of a an act to provide for the resumption of rail service operations.
    Today, we are experiencing a work stoppage at Canadian Pacific Railway that will have a significant impact on our Canadian economy. Canadian employees, members of the public, international trade, and our national economy will suffer.
     Our economy has faced challenging times since the recession. However, we have stood out among leading industrial countries. Our government is proud of its record of protecting Canadians from the worst effects of the economic downturn and of laying the foundation for recovery.
    The Canadian economy still faces risks from global factors that we cannot control. A disruption of rail services could lead to job losses and poses a great risk to the Canadian economy. A work stoppage will only further exacerbate the uncertainty of our economic state and further complicate an already complex situation.
    In Canada, we have a large and well developed rail system that carries freight to all parts of the country. Rail is a vital part of the Canadian economy. It is an extension of our communities and their links to industry and resources, and it is part of our link to the world.
    Our rail system is complex. It interconnects a wide range of businesses, including shippers, terminal operators, transloaders, port operators, shipping lines, and trucking, all of which are part of a very complex and complicated supply chain. Railway transportation is a backbone of an integrated supply chain that moves Canada's resources all over the globe. Problems occurring in one part of the chain can affect all stakeholders. There is a domino effect. Something that happens on the ground in British Columbia can have an impact on someone living in Ontario, and this can have an impact on tens of thousands of Canadian jobs.
    CP plays a critical role in our economy, with its network spanning Canada and the United States. As the second largest rail freight service provider in Canada, CP has nearly 15,500 employees. CP Rail's network spans approximately 22,000 kilometres from Port Metro Vancouver to the Port of Montreal, and to parts of the U.S. northwest and midwest. In 2013, CP generated $6.1 billion in revenue, an increase of about 8% and a company record. CP transports seven commodity groups: industrial and consumer products, containers, grain, coal, fertilizer, sulphur, and automotive products. CP provides its customers, Canadians, the ability to trade with many partners across the country and around the globe. This allows us to employ thousands of Canadians.
    Maintaining an effective supply chain is critical to meeting the government's objectives related to strategic gateways and trade corridors, such as the Asia-Pacific gateway. The 21 members economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group account for almost 2.8 billion people, over half of the world's GDP, and in excess of 80% of Canada's total merchandise trade.
    Canada is a trading nation and CP plays a critical role in North America's supply chain for moving goods to and from Canadian, U.S., and international markets. This strike could have a detrimental effect on Canada's reputation as a reliable trading partner. It could have lasting effects on an already uncertain economy and, most importantly, on Canadian businesses and jobs. It could have an impact on communities who rely on rail services for certain goods.
     I have received letters from many people, such as Spectra Energy, urging the federal government not to hesitate to take action to ensure a quick resolution to this dispute. Spectra Energy provides a number of natural gas liquids, such as propane, butane, and ethane, all of which are supplied by rail to key markets in Canada and the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians rely on their products for heat and power. Without the ability to transport the product to residential and commercial customers, including hospitals, I can tell members that it would be catastrophic. Standing on the ground without heat in a hospital is something I cannot imagine.
    The Propane Gas Association of Canada has urged that rail delivery of propane gas should be declared an essential service, since rail is the only effective means of transportation and propane is essential for heating homes and businesses.
    Teck, Canada's largest diversified mining company has sent me a letter, stating that “...if a strike at CP or CN occurs, we urge that the Government take early action by exercising the legislative measures available to you, including the imposition of back-to-work legislation and binding arbitration.”

  (1205)  

    Teck's products represent one-third of our bulk exports going through the Port of Vancouver. Teck is the single largest Canadian exporter to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Brazil. On a global scale, the implications of a rail disruption are grave. Teck further states that “...rail disruptions can cause serious harm to the Canadian economy and reputation and hurt our competitiveness as international customers are forced to look elsewhere to import goods.”
    A work stoppage by CP could also have an adverse impact on the movement of grain, which is only now returning to normal conditions following last year's backlog. As members may recall, last March our government introduced an order in council to ensure that the supply chain operated effectively to deliver Canadian grain to market. The strike is causing a setback and it could take months to recover the lost business and lost investments.
    Without CP Rail operating, our ability to move freight is more limited. This strike in rail transportation in Canada will have such an important impact on so many individuals and industries that the cumulative effects could be immense. However, it is not just the industries that use railways. The railways also provide the tracks for commuters in our cities, particularly Montreal in this case. A strike creates slowdowns and congestion, decreasing productivity and impacting hundreds of Canadians.
    Over the past few years our government has been taking all necessary steps to protect Canadians from the worst effects of the economic downturn, but the work stoppage at CP, especially in our current economic reality, will have devastating effects on many workers and their families: those directly involved in the railway, and the tens of thousands of Canadians who rely on rail not only for product but also to get to work. We are not just talking just about the CP employees but the hundreds of thousands of Canadians whose livelihoods depend on the goods carried by rail.
    It is clear that we parliamentarians have an important role to play in putting an end to a situation that could negatively impact our economy and the well-being of Canadians. Our economy must be protected. Our products must reach markets. Canadian jobs must be preserved.
    As we can see, rail transportation is key to maintaining our country's economic growth. Canadians and businesses count on us to make tough decisions like this one. We are doing this for the good of our country and the good of Canadian citizens.
     I am happy to report that the Canadian National Railway and the TCRC, and CP and Unifor were able to reach agreements to renew their collective agreements. I am optimistic that these agreements will be ratified.

  (1210)  

[Translation]

    It is true that it would be preferable for the parties to resolve their differences on their own.

[English]

    Our government would like nothing more than to see these parties, the CP and TCRC, reach an agreement on their own, because the best solution is the one the parties reach themselves. We have offered dispute resolution assistance to the parties, provided through the Canada Labour Code, but to no avail. The services and mediators of the Federal Mediation and Conciliatory Service are still available to help CP and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference in their negotiations. In fact, I know they have been continuing to work with them, even today.
    On several occasions, I too have met in person and talked by phone with the former and current presidents of the union and the CEO of CP. As early as November and December last year, I was expressing my expectations for the current round of bargaining. More recently, in Montreal over the course of Friday and Saturday, I have been encouraging these individuals to reach a negotiated settlement, because the best solution is always the one the parties reach themselves.
    If they cannot reach an agreement, I have asked them to go to voluntary arbitration to resolve their outstanding issues. Indeed, last Friday, I went to Montreal and continued to work with them, this time actually at the bargaining table. I continued to express my desire for them to reach a negotiated settlement, and failing that, agreeing to voluntary arbitration. Thus far they have not.
    We feel that the parties have had ample time to reach a negotiated agreement. At this point, I have to be honest, the parties are not close to a deal.
    For every day of a work stoppage, our economy and trade relationships will be further undermined. The cost to our economy will be enormous, an estimated $205 million decline in GDP per week.
    Therefore, I ask my fellow members to stand up for Canadians and Canadian businesses and pass this bill to resume operations at CP Rail.
    I can assure the House that our government will continue to focus on the growth and sustainability of our economy. Rail services must continue so that Canadian businesses and, more importantly, Canadian families can continue to be safe and prosper.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am appalled that we are once again debating a bill that violates the rights of this country's workers.
    Could the Minister of Labour explain why the Conservatives are once again taking a sledgehammer to unions and workers and taking away their ability to exert pressure?
    My question is simple: does the right to strike still exist in Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government has been very clear. The economy is extremely important. It is in fact our top priority.
    These parties have been given ample opportunity. As I mentioned in my speech, starting as early as November and December of last year, both parties were provided assistance, conciliators and mediators through the Federal Mediation and Conciliatory Service, to come to a negotiated agreement that both parties could live with on their job sites.
    As recently as this weekend, I was in Montreal working with the parties to try to reach an agreement. As I said, because CN and the Teamsters and CP and Unifor worked hard with the Federal Mediation and Conciliatory Service, they came to an agreement. The best agreement is one they reach themselves. In this case, we have not been able to resolve the disputes and in the best interest of the Canadian public and the Canadian economy, we will be moving forward to make sure that CP Rail is back in action.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, the minister is missing a large element here: this is about security and safety. For two years the government has been warned repeatedly by the Auditor General, the Transportation Safety Board, and other voices, including the Teamsters and other union groups, that there are problems with the safety and security of rail in Canada.
    We know on this side of the House that the government has spent more money on advertising its economic action plan than on rail safety for the past five years. We know that. The government cannot deny it because the numbers do not lie. It is the government's responsibility to address the serious safety issue of adequate rest for railway operators. That would have prevented this CP Rail strike. It is its responsibility to establish rest periods for railway workers to ensure the safety of Canada's railways and the communities that our railways travel through.
    Railway employees have been asking the Minister of Labour, the government, as well as the transport minister, for safe working conditions. It is the government's obligation. It has been warned, forewarned, and warned again, and the result of the failure to take serious action on rail safety is the two parties with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
    Can the minister explain to Canadians who are watching and following this debate why her government has not taken measures to prevent this draconian legislation being brought forward?
    Mr. Speaker, having spent a significant amount of time with both parties, I can say that there are a number of issues still on the table, as both parties would state. There are numerous issues on the table.
    With respect to rail safety, our government has taken action. In fact, we have moved forward with putting in place a number of legislated and regulatory directions to ensure that rail transportation in this country is safe. We take that exceptionally seriously. I encourage the opposition to support those initiatives so that individuals working with and impacted by the railway are safe.
    Speaking about the public interest, another significant part of the public interest is the economy and making sure that Canadians have an opportunity to work. The shutdown of rail services by Canadian Pacific will have a $205 million impact on our GDP per week. In addition to that, it is not just about the jobs that are impacted directly at CP but also the individuals working in other industries who now cannot ship their goods. Individuals who work in tech industries or otherwise might be out of work. Quite frankly, commuters in Montreal, I can tell members, are not pleased they will not be able to get to work, and this will affect productivity.
    There are a number of issues on the table, as both parties would admit. I am hopeful that they will come to a resolution, because the best option is always when the parties reach an agreement together.
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, has said very eloquently, the issue of the right for collective negotiations is something we on this side of the House believe is fundamental. The Supreme Court, in its admonishment to the government a couple of weeks ago on the right to strike, has agreed with the idea that in a free democracy there should be the right to collective negotiations.
    This is a problem of the government's own making. We have seen steadily increasing incidences and accidents in rail safety. A number of organized men and women have come forward and said that one of the main aspects they have to tackle is the issue of crew fatigue. The incredibly archaic way that the crew schedules are sometimes put together means that they have to deal with crew fatigue.
    As we saw last night on the news, there are crews, who after working a shift for a number of hours are called back to work early in the morning after an hour's sleep. The issue of crew fatigue is something that most Canadians are aware of, and most Canadians understand that we need to have the utmost standards of rail safety. However, the government has done nothing to bring in regulations to govern working hours so that we can diminish crew fatigue, and it has done no review of the Rail Safety Act.
    Why has the government not acted on regulation, not acted on the Rail Safety Act, not acted to put in place the kind of regulation that would bring about a lower rate of accidents in a rail system, rather than a higher level?

  (1220)  

    First, Mr. Speaker, let me correct the record. We are reviewing the decision taken at the Supreme Court, but it had to deal with the Government of Saskatchewan. It was about essential services, and that is not what we are discussing today. We are discussing making sure that CP Rail continues to function so that Canadians are protected. I want to be very clear that the decision dealt with the Province of Saskatchewan, not the Government of Canada.
    With respect to the issues, as I just mentioned in response to a previous question, these parties have numerous issues on the table. We have been working with them since November 2014, providing mediation, conciliatory services, and making sure they were supported as best they could be to deal with the numerous issues on the table.
    Some progress was made on some issues; progress was not made on many issues. Having sat with these parties through several days of bargaining recently, it is my opinion they would not resolve their differences. In the interests of the Canadian public, the Canadian economy, I think it is now time for the Government of Canada to act in the best interests of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister made reference to the fact that the government has been in negotiations, attempting to try to assist in mediation, since November 2014.
    Can the minister give an indication as to when she would have informed either party, or one particular party, as to the government's intentions with regard to back-to-work legislation? When was that issue first raised with either CP management or the union side?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just mentioned, we have been working with these parties, both CP as well as the Teamsters, since November, providing conciliation and mediation services.
    I was sitting with the parties up until the deadline of when the strike action could be taken. We were very clear: If they were unable to get to an agreement themselves, would they consider voluntary arbitration or mediated arbitration?
    Those offers were provided to the parties. One of the parties was willing to do that; another party was not willing and decided to strike. I worked with them up until the very last minute, quite frankly, including yesterday and continuing today.
    As I said, the best agreement is one that the parties come to themselves. I have encouraged them, even in this period of time when the TCRC is on strike, to continue to speak to each other to see if they can come to an agreement. That is in their best interests, and I think the very best result.
    That being said, if these parties are unable to come to that negotiated agreement that is in their best interests, working together with the help of Canadian mediators from Labour Canada, we will act, and we will act swiftly this afternoon, in the interests of the Canadian public and the Canadian economy.
     A hit of $205 million per week to the Canadian GDP is simply too much. Canadians losing their jobs is too much. We will act.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it saddens me once again today to rise in the House, in the Parliament of Canada, to oppose a bill. I rise as a member of the official opposition to represent the values of the NDP, which is opposing a back-to-work bill for the seventh time since the Conservatives took power in 2006. This government is certainly a repeat offender when it comes to attacking workers, violating their legitimate rights and preventing them from exerting pressure, which includes going on strike.
    In 2007 we had Bill C-46 for the continuation of railway operations, so this is not the first time. In 2009 we had Bill C-61 for the continuation of railway operations once again. In 2011 it was Bill C-6 to restore mail delivery. That bill targeted postal workers and letter carriers. Also in 2011 was Bill C-5 to continue air service for passengers. Then we had Bill C-39 and Bill C-33 in 2012, when the Conservatives once again created a power imbalance between the parties. They systematically took the employer's side and took away fundamental rights from unionized workers, who are well within their rights to exert pressure.
    I asked the minister a question earlier that I believe is the key issue we are concerned about: do people still have the right to strike and use pressure tactics in Canada today? Does this Conservative government recognize that striking is a legitimate way of expressing the right of association and freedom of collective bargaining? The Conservatives seem to be completely ignoring that aspect, and I will come back to that later. The Supreme Court's recent decision has once again upheld this right that the Conservatives have been flouting, year after year, in Canada.
    We have reached a point where workers have to ask themselves whether they will be bothering anyone if they exercise their right to strike. Will the government systematically intervene and break the rules to give the employer more power and additional arguments? The situation is always the same. If the employer knows for sure that it does not really have to reach an agreement because its friends in the Conservative government will intervene, violate rights and prevent its workers from striking, then what incentive does the employer have to negotiate in good faith and try to find a solution? That is the major problem.

  (1225)  

[English]

    They should give negotiation a chance.
    We have a Conservative government that is always on the side of the employers and never on the side of the workers of this country. Workers have a fundamental right to exert economic pressure and strike if they need to in order to force employers to recognize problems and find solutions.
    The minister just said that a negotiated deal is always better than an imposition of anything. Why is she imposing back-to-work legislation again and again? It is the seventh time that the Conservatives would do that since they were elected in 2006. It is a bad habit that they have; they take a side every time and break the balance of power between the two parties. We are saying to give the workers a chance to negotiate and to exert their rights.
     The Minister of Labour just said that the recent decision of the Supreme Court had nothing to do with the right to strike. I contradict that. I have a quote from a Supreme Court judge in that decision from a few weeks ago. Judge Abella wrote the following:
    Where good faith negotiations break down, the ability to engage in the collective withdrawal of services is a necessary component of the process through which workers can continue to participate meaningfully in the pursuit of their collective workplace goals. In this case, the suppression of the right to strike amounts to a substantial interference with the right to a meaningful process of collective bargaining.
    This is exactly what the decision of the Supreme Court is about. It is about the fundamental right of workers to exert some pressure on an employer to improve their working conditions.
    If those workers are refused the right to strike, that is an interference of their fundamental rights. This is exactly what the Conservative government is doing, again and again.
    It is a sad day. The right to strike in this country is under attack. Unions were considered illegal organizations before 1872. We are asking whether the government wants to go back to that point in time. Every time that it can crush workers and their unions, the government does it systematically. It has done it with Bill C-525, Bill C-377, and Bill C-4, other attacks on health and safety issues.
    It is a sad day for democracy. It is a sad day for the workers of this country. It is a sad day for the labour movement. Workers can count on the NDP to defend their rights because we will protect the freedom of negotiation and collective bargaining. This is a value that we on this side of the House cherish and care about. Workers know that in a few months they will have the opportunity to have the first social democrat, pro-union, pro-worker, government in this country. It is coming.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    I would like to reiterate that the labour minister told us that the Supreme Court's recent decision had nothing to do with exerting economic pressure or the right to strike. However, Justice Abella indicated in the ruling given a few weeks ago that the suppression of the right to strike interferes with the right to a meaningful process of collective bargaining, a process that provides an opportunity to get results.
    In this case, it is extremely dangerous for the entire labour movement and for all workers to have a government that systematically takes the employer's side and tramples on workers' rights.

[English]

    It is critical with the CP issue, and when there is a threat of back-to-work legislation hanging over their heads, to ask why the employer would negotiate in good faith. The employer knows it has good friends in power in Ottawa. The government will be on the employer's side and will force workers to go back to work. There is no reason for the employer to negotiate and look for a compromise.
    Our concern is also the safety issue that is on the table for Canadian Pacific workers. It is a safety issue for everybody in this country: for the workers, first and foremost, of course, but also for everybody else. It is a question of the hours of work being too long, and extreme fatigue. We are talking about conductors who are driving freight trains that can be four kilometres long. We can imagine the consequences if the conductor is too tired to be aware of the dangers or everything that is going on.
    This is not only the vision of the union. It is a problem that has been recognized by Transport Canada, and even by the companies. Transport Canada's own analysis of CP and CN employee scheduling records, from six different rail terminals across Canada, concluded that on the timing and length of each shift, assigned through an unpredictable on-call system, extreme fatigue was rampant.
    In 4% of cases, employees were already extremely fatigued at the start of their shift because they did not have enough hours to sleep. It is a shame.
    The government is not acting to correct that situation. Canadians should know that their safety is being put at risk by the government. We want that to change.
     Forty-five percent of employees became extremely exhausted during work, and nearly all, 99%, were fatigued at least once during a month.
    It was the same problem, the same issue, three years ago when employees of CP went on strike for a couple of days. After that, of course the Conservative government came here to vote on back-to-work legislation. The workers at that time were promised that the situation would be fixed: “Do not go on strike, we will negotiate and fix it.”
    However, three years later, it is the same story. The same problems are still there. Extreme fatigue is still a problem for members of the Teamsters who are working for CP. Nothing has changed. We are back here again in the House of Commons, talking about back-to-work legislation.
    My guess is that in three years we will be back again, because the issue will still not have been solved. There is no incentive for CP to solve the problem. The Conservatives are not helping. The Minister of Labour is not helping.

  (1235)  

[Translation]

    I think it is worth repeating, because the main issue in dispute here is not that workers want higher pay or want to extort more money from their employer. This is not about money. Incidentally, Canadian Pacific is an extremely profitable company. It has nothing to complain about; business is good. The discussions and debates are really about a matter of public safety. People need to be aware of that, because this is about the problem of too much overtime and the fatigue this causes. Canadian Pacific workers, the train operators, are not getting the rest they need, which leads to extreme fatigue.
    What do the workers want? To be able to stop working and go home after 10 hours of work. All they are asking for is to not work more than 10 hours. What is this, the 19th century? Right now, train conductors have to work up to 12 hours straight before they can get a real rest. This is 2015; this is shameful. This Conservative government is doing nothing. In fact, it is actually helping rail companies perpetuate this practice.
    Consider the potential consequences if a conductor driving a four-kilometre-long train is tired, does not have the necessary reflexes, and is unable to read the terrain or the dangers up ahead. Recent tragedies have shown us how important rail safety is. Everyone needs to know that this is a public safety issue and that the Conservatives are doing nothing about it.
    A few minutes ago, I said that three years ago, CP workers, Teamsters members, went on strike for a few days on the issue of fatigue on the job and lack of breaks. The Conservative government forced them back to work. They were told not to worry, that this would be resolved, that there would be negotiations and recommendations would be made. Nothing was done. Today, in 2015, three years later, these same workers are going back on strike on the same issue of fatigue at work because nothing has been resolved. Now, we have another bill that is going to force them back to work again.
    Should we allow the Conservatives to remain in power, I would not be surprised if people have to deal with a CP strike in three years. Unfortunately, if the Conservatives are still in power, they will again force them to go back to work. However, even Transport Canada recognized the issue of workplace fatigue for train conductors. It is not the Teamsters, the union, the CLC, but Transport Canada that is talking about this. Investigations of six different train terminals across the country led Transport Canada to conclude that the problem of extreme fatigue was rampant across Canada. In 4% of cases, employees are even extremely fatigued at the start of their shift, at the start of their work day, because they often do not get enough rest between two shifts. Fully 45% of employees are extremely tired or even exhausted while on the job. Forty-five per cent. Almost everyone, 99% according to Transport Canada, is tired at least once a month.
    That has an impact on the workers. Obviously, it is bad for their health, their family life and their work. It puts everyone at risk.
    The NDP does not want train conductors to experience fatigue at work. That is basic and straightforward. We do not understand why the Conservatives are still refusing to resolve this issue.
    Even our neighbours to the south, the United States, where private enterprise is king and people despise regulations, have more regulations governing hours of work for rail company employees than we do. That is bizarre.
    Why have the Conservatives never managed to fix this problem? We do not understand, but it puts huge swaths of our communities at risk.
    Over the past five years, there have been at least seven accidents that, thankfully, did not cost any lives, but that happened because train conductors were tired at work. This is a real problem.
    We have to find a solution, but we will not find a solution by preventing workers from exercising their right to take job action or go on strike. We know that because this is like groundhog day: it is the same old story over and over again.

  (1240)  

[English]

    I want to emphasize the fact that it is a real problem. The extreme fatigue of CP workers is real. Transport Canada has revealed that in the last five years, at least seven accidents or incidents were caused by fatigue of drivers or conductors of those trains. It is a real problem, but the government has no solution. Its only way to act is always ideological, always against unions, always against workers and against the safety of Canadians.
    It is really sad. It is another case of the Conservatives going against international law. There is a labour organization in Switzerland that recognized that the right to strike is a fundamental right in modern societies. Once again, the government is going against the last decision of the Supreme Court and against international law.
    On this side of the House, we think that workers can organize, defend their rights, and improve their working conditions. It is not the job of the government to oppose that, because it helps to build better communities. We always hear the Conservatives talk about the middle class and how they will defend the little guys of the middle class, but the middle class is, for the most part, a creation of the labour movement in this country and in all countries. Without the labour movement we would have no middle class.
     If we want to defend the middle class, we must give the workers the tools to negotiate, to gain something in collective agreements, and to make sure that they are working in safe places. We must make sure that we do not put the safety of citizens of this country at risk.

[Translation]

    Not only is the current federal government going against the Supreme Court's recent decision in the Saskatchewan case, but it is also going against regulations of the Geneva-based International Labour Organization, which considers the right to strike and the right to free collective bargaining to be fundamental.
    However, this is not surprising coming from an extremely ideological Conservative government that always responds in the same way when Canadian workers try to exercise their rights and improve their working conditions. This government pulls out the big guns and beats them back, telling them to shut up and get back to work. It does not want to listen to them; they are annoying.
    What is important to this government is that companies continue to rake in profits, regardless of how or why and regardless of the rules, even if it makes people sick.
    The Conservatives often like to say they are standing up for the middle class. However, the middle class is mainly a creation and a consequence of union struggles by workers who got organized, defended themselves at their workplace and negotiated better collective agreements.
    If we are talking about the middle class, we must also talk about the tools that workers created to improve their situation. The NDP will always be there to stand up for workers and their families, for workplace health and safety and for public safety.
    Unfortunately, again today, we see that the Conservative government is violating workers' rights and putting public safety at risk. I hope that all of us in the House will oppose this back-to-work bill—yet another one—and stand up not only for workers, but also for the middle class and public safety.

  (1245)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting discussion we are having today, particularly the one that we just heard.
    I noticed a lot of focus on rights. One thing I never heard, though, was a reference to rights in conjunction with responsibilities.
    The other focus was on 10 hours of work. It is interesting that nurses in Ontario work 12-hour shifts saving lives, and we do not hear about these issues from our nurses. Their standard hours are 12-hour shifts, although they do not work every day of the week.
    With respect to the time, the discussions and negotiations started back in November, about three and a half months ago.
    Where I come from in Ontario, agriculture and the auto industry are the largest industries. The rail system is used to move grain out west and to bring in fertilizers and potash. The auto industry hires tens of thousands of workers. How do those members feel when those plants shut down and union workers do not have work?
    Hospitals in most places up north require the rail system to deliver propane and fuel to run them. How does the member feel knowing that the north does not have the energy to run them, especially on a day like today when it is so cold? I wonder how the member feels about those union workers who do not have a job but likely do have health concerns. How does the NDP plan on telling all these—
    Mr. Speaker, there are very many misconceptions on the Conservative side. It is terrific. Only someone who knows almost nothing about labour relations and collective negotiations could say things like that. Oh, my God. The member said that the workers have negotiated for three months and that is long enough. No, it is not. It takes time, and we have to give them time. The two sides at the table need a balanced position of power, and right now the Conservative government is taking one side. It is breaking the balance of labour relations in this country.
    The workers have not even been on strike for 48 hours, yet the Conservatives claim it is too long. The workers have some rights and should be able to exert pressure on their employer, and the reason is public safety.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. I really appreciated his comments.
    He just said that this is about employees exerting pressure on their employer. However, is the real issue that we are debating in the House today not the role that the federal government plays as the regulatory authority in Canada, with responsibility for the safety of our rail industry?
    Is this really about pressure between two parties? Is that not exactly what the Conservative government would have us believe? Does it not want us to see these differences as just disputes between two parties? The government is trying to distract us so that it does not have to justify the fact that for nearly five years now, it has not invested as it should have in the inspectors, inspections, controls and staff required by the Department of Transport.
    That is the major challenge we are facing today.
    Mr. Speaker, I see where my colleague from the second opposition party is going with his question. However, the issue today is that the Conservative government is taking a stance against the rights of workers to negotiate and engage in free collective bargaining.
    That said, he raised an interesting point, which is that the Conservative government could have been proactive and ensured that there were good working conditions in the rail network. That is true. That does not prevent us from rising today and doing our job to defend workers and their fundamental rights, which were recognized in the Supreme Court's recent ruling.
    However, if the Conservatives had wanted to help CP and CN train conductors, they could have taken action years ago and looked at what is being done in the United States to give these workers decent hours to avoid extreme fatigue, which puts everyone in danger.

  (1250)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that a number of years ago the rail system brought in the safety management system, which is self-reporting. The Lewis report, an independent study commissioned by the Conservative government, outlined how members of CP and CN rail felt the culture of fear to report safety and hazardous conditions that they and their colleagues faced on the job.
    Could my colleague address the issue of the culture of a self-regulatory system?

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Windsor West for his excellent question.
    This Conservative government really deregulated a huge number of sectors. Companies now have to inspect themselves and send their own reports about how nice they are and how well they treat everyone to the federal government. This is a real problem because it is completely biased.
    My colleague was right when he said that the people who work for these companies now feel completely abandoned because there is no independent third party to visit the workplace and see if the company's claims are true.
    We need a tougher regulatory system with real inspections. We need people who do not work for the company to be the ones writing the reports. Otherwise, of course they are going to make themselves look good.
    This culture of fear and bullying in the workplace is a direct consequence of the Conservatives' bad decisions.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his excellent speech. He is doing a great job as the NDP labour critic.
    We just had a derailment in Nickel Belt, on Saturday night if I am not mistaken. I cannot say exactly what caused it at this point, because we do not know yet.
    However, there was also a derailment in western Canada just a few days ago. The young woman who was in charge of the train has been subjected to disciplinary measures. She said she did not receive any training. This is happening more and more. Companies like CN and CP are not required to train their employees because the government will protect those companies. Training comes with contract negotiations, which take a really long time.
    Right now in my riding, Nickel Belt, negotiations are under way with Vale. They began three months ago and will continue for another three or four months. However, the Conservatives are not giving the two parties a chance to negotiate.
    In his role as the NDP labour critic, I wonder if the member could talk about what we could do better, besides getting rid of the Conservatives in 2015.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Nickel Belt for that great question. Indeed, getting rid of the Conservatives is a good place to start. After that, we have to have an NDP government that will be able to respect the unions.
    The 4 million people in the country who are members of a union make unions the greatest strength of civil society and the largest democratic movement in the country right now. We must respect that and avoid upsetting the balance of power during collective agreement negotiations. We have to allow them to come to an agreement. The government must not attack the workers yet again.
    My colleague from Nickel Belt mentioned the train derailment that occurred in his region on the weekend. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Extremely heavy and very long trains and locomotives cross through all of our communities, towns and villages. We need to have the strictest rail safety measures, because this is very dangerous.
    The Conservative government is twiddling its thumbs and letting the companies do what they want so that they can make us much profit as possible. This jeopardizes the safety of Canadians. An NDP government would take the necessary measures to enhance rail safety and to provide good working conditions to the employees.

  (1255)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent of the House to split the time with the member for Ottawa Centre.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a bit of a bias in the sense of my family background and history in the CN yards in the Transcona area. Today I represent an area just north of the CP tracks. The railway lines have played a very important role, not only in my life but in all our lives, either directly or indirectly. The government needs to be held accountable for its lack of attention to our rail lines as a whole.
    What we are debating today is most unfortunate. We in the Liberal Party do not support the government's proposed initiative for good reason.
    It is very critical to acknowledge this. When we think of strikes and the important role unions play in today's society, we cannot underestimate how important it is that there is a sense of fairness when it comes to negotiations. However, that has been absent with the government, which is why asked the minister when she first raised the issue of back-to-work legislation.
    The minister talked about the federal government being involved back in November 2014. There is no doubt in my mind that the government's intention from the get-go was that it would bring in back-to-work legislation virtually at the beck and call of one side over another.
    If we were to canvass the thousands of CP workers, I do not think they would respond that they thought the government was approaching this issue in a fair fashion. We see this today with the legislation that is to be brought forward.
    There was reference made to the labour issues a few years ago with CP. I had the opportunity to walk with some of the workers three years ago in Winnipeg North. Many of the concerns they expressed to me back then are still there today. I have heard this spoken of in some of the debate that has already taken place today, whether from my colleague for Ottawa Centre, who talked about the issue of fatigue, regulations and safety, as well as other members who also emphasized the importance of fatigue.
    When we talk about labour negotiations, it is not all about money. There is a genuine concern that many CP workers have with respect to safety, and they want the Government of Canada to step up and take its responsibility more seriously.
    There are certain industries in Canada where there is a need for government, at different levels, to be more directly involved. A good example of that is long-haul truck driving. Regulations are put in place to not only to protect the industry, but to protect the community as a whole and to assist the Canadian economy. There is a need for government to recognize that fact.
    The Prime Minister does not seem to understand the importance of Ottawa having a role to play. A good example of that was back in January or February of last year. During question period I stood in my place and was critical of the government because it had dropped the ball in getting prairie wheat to the market.
     We had piles of wheat in our prairie fields, and we had empty ships in the Pacific Ocean waiting to be filled with that wheat. What did the government ultimately do? It took months for the Conservatives to realize that they needed to take some action, and then they came up with some sort of a penalty, which was virtually ineffective. They were unable to get the grain to the market.

  (1300)  

    That is why I find it interesting today that when the minister stood up, she said that this is all for the sake of the Canadian economy. The members of the Liberal Party of Canada understand the Canadian economy. We understand the importance of getting our products to market. However, we also understand that the Conservatives have not been doing their job. That is something on which we want to take the government to task.
    I use wheat as just one example. We understand, for the manufacturing industry in Ontario and in other jurisdictions, how important it is for the manufacturers to get their products to market. We understand the importance of the raw materials, whether they are in the ground, above the ground, or being produced, needing to get to market. We understand the important role CP Rail and CN Rail play in Canada's economy in providing valuable middle-class jobs and many more. We understand all of that, but we also understand the importance of our unions in modern society.
    I do not believe for a moment that the thousands of workers who work for CP believe that there was an even playing field when it came to the negotiations that were taking place. For many of those workers, they understood that they had a government that was biased, and that bias is now starting to show in a tangible way.
    I understand the importance of that issue. When I was first elected to the Manitoba legislature, the Meech Lake accord, I would argue, was the number one issue, but following that was likely the issue of final offer selection. There was heated debate in the province of Manitoba. If there was a lesson to be learned from that, it was that when talking about collective bargaining, there has to be a sense of fair play. If there is not a sense that both parties are coming to the table on an equal playing field, arguing for their positions, then there is a significant advantage to one side over the other.
    Based on listening to the minister and her inability to directly answer my question, I do not believe that CP officials for a moment felt that they were going to be threatened in any fashion with any substantial work stoppage. The Conservative Party would be there to protect their interests, not necessarily the Canadian economy. The minister stands in her place and tries to justify the action. I would rather have seen a minister who was more enthusiastic in November 2014 in ensuring that there was a sense of fairness in the negotiations that were taking place. I do not believe that it had to get to the point where we are today.
    That is why I question to what degree the government is moving forward in the best interest of not only the management and the employees but in terms of the whole process in which we find ourselves today. I would suggest that based on their previous attempts, the Conservatives will be found wanting in terms of addressing important labour issues in Canada.
     Let us look at what is happening at Canada Post, for example. I wish I had time to expand on that. We could look at what the Conservatives could have been doing on this issue three years ago, when the strike was there on the issue of fatigue and railway safety.

  (1305)  

    Just this last weekend, there was a tragedy 80 kilometres outside of Timmins.
    There is so much more the government could be doing, whether it is through regulation or bringing people together, to ensure that a number of the issues the employees are trying to address could be addressed in a different format. That has been my experience when I have had the opportunity to talk to employees but also, on occasion, to people in management.
    With those words, as I have indicated, I will be voting against the back-to-work legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague to expand on a couple of points he made in his speech.
    One was the question of lingering safety concerns with respect to rail safety as a whole in Canada. He is aware, as members of the House should be aware, that the Minister of Transport, and each one who has come before her, has had detailed meetings, briefings, and exchanges with labour groups, safety groups, and the railways themselves. Each in their turn has raised profound and important security and safety concerns with the minister directly.
    To what extent has the government been negligent in not taking the action required, which has now led to strike action?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Ottawa South is right. This is one of the reasons I indicated that the government has dropped the ball. We know that safe working conditions has been raised with the ministry for the last number of years, and the government has virtually turned a deaf ear to those concerns. The most compelling example, and I have heard it right from the CP Rail workers, is the issue of fatigue. The impact that is having is significant and serious, yet the government has not addressed that issue whatsoever.
    There is no way to convince me, and I suspect many others, that the government has been doing its job in protecting the industry by ensuring that there is a safe working atmosphere and that the communities our trains drive through are becoming safer, either through regulations or other actions. The government has been turning a deaf ear and has done a minimum in terms of trying to improve overall conditions.
    That is, in good part, why I am not surprised that we find ourselves in a situation that would have been completely avoidable if the government had acted on the issue of railway safety and other concerns that have been brought to its attention over the years.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to follow my colleague and some of the very important and profound comments he made about where we are with respect to this back-to-work legislation and why the Liberal Party of Canada cannot support it.
    It is important to step back for a second so that Canadians can see the repeat pattern of crisis and back-to-work legislation.
    Let us remind Canadians, from the perspective of the Liberal Party of Canada, that the federal government has an obligation to get the very big things right. One of the things a federal government has to get right is rail safety.
     Rail safety in this country today is in a state of flux. We have had a 1,500% increase in the transportation of oil by rail in the last three years. Even if every single contemplated pipeline is built in Canada to transport fossil fuels south, east, and west and is used at maximum capacity, present projections suggest that by the year 2024, there will be one million barrels of excess oil capacity per day that will have to be transported by rail.
    When a government minister stands up and says that this is exclusively about the economy, our international reputation, and the movement of our citizens, she is only partly telling the truth. Much more is below the surface.
     Of course, this is in large part about collective bargaining and the right to collectively bargain. We all know that. However, as the vice-chair of the standing committee on transport, who has been active now for over two years in all of the details around rail safety post-Lac Mégantic, I believe that the government is trying to project a different series of concerns to mask a fundamental and lingering problem in Canadian society today, and that is rail safety. The government would have us look over here as the minister distracts from the government's failure to take serious action on safety and security.
    Canadians are not going to be surprised to learn that at committee, we have had the heads of CN, CP, the Teamsters, Unifor, and other unions and stakeholders all come forward and say the same thing. They want more safety and security in the rail system. They have all agreed on this. They have all called for enhanced safety. In fact, they have been unanimous about it.
    Part of the challenge we face as a country is that we have had five ministers of transport in eight years. That is not serious. How is the minister of the crown seized with one of the most important and foundational responsibilities in Canada, which is transport, supposed to do the job if he or she is being shipped out, shipped down, or shipped up through the department of transport in 16 to 18 months?
    This is one of the challenges we face. We have had a succession of ministers transiting through the department of transport on their way elsewhere. The safety and security they are supposed to uphold are undermined.
    By failing to address the serious issue of adequate rest for railway operators, the government has failed to prevent this CP Rail strike. It is not management. It is not labour. That simplistic, sometimes antiquated notion, often put forward by my colleagues in the NDP, is, in my view, dépassé.
     All parties want to see the requisite investments in safety and security, and they know that they are not getting it from the government. That is why the government is rushing through this back-to-work legislation. It is an attempt to masquerade and to cover the fact that it has not addressed the foundations of some of the challenges we have going forward. This puts our railway employees, Canadians, and our communities at risk.

  (1315)  

    It is the government's responsibility—not the railway company's responsibility, not the union's responsibility—to establish rest periods for railway workers to ensure that railway employees, Canadians, and communities are safe. It cannot be fobbed off or sloughed off. We cannot simply pretend this is a dispute.
    “Irreconcilable differences”, says the minister. “We have been there, trying to help broker a deal”, says the minister. Really?
    The Minister of Labour should talk to the Minister of Transport and find out why it is that for over six years, the government has been meeting with union representatives, the railways, and advisory groups in backroom meetings. They have been seized with these foundational security concerns for all that time.
    The Conservatives knew this was coming. It was no surprise. Now the minister comes out and says that it is merely a negotiation of differences between two parties.
    She is right that several unions have settled. Unifor and 1,800 employees have settled. The Teamsters and its 3,000 members on strike have not, but this is not reducible to mere union-management or labour-management differences.
    Do not take my word for it; take the report of the Auditor General. It is a scathing indictment of the government's failure to address the foundational issues around rail safety for almost nine years.
    The government does not like to hear it, but I like to remind Canadians that Conservatives have spent more money each and every year for the past five years on economic action plan advertising during the NFL or hockey games. These spots cost $37,000, $67,000, and even $300,000 for 30-second advertisements.
    It is interesting that not one of those Conservative MPs can look their constituents in the eye and say that they can defend that spending, because they know they cannot, not with the real needs out there in Canadian society and certainly not with the real needs of rail safety.
    The Auditor General pointed out many times and in many places that there are huge problems. Here is one to remember. In the three fiscal years that the Auditor General audited, the government's Department of Transport audited only 25% of the safety management systems it said had to be audited to keep the railways safe. In the same three-year period, VIA Rail, carrying four million passengers a year, was not audited once. Those facts are indisputable.
    In conclusion, we cannot support this back-to-work knee-jerk legislative response. It is a masquerade. It is hiding the foundational issues around safety and security that Conservatives have refused to address. That takes money. It takes inspectors. It takes investment. The government has an obligation to get the big things right; rail safety is one of those things, and it is not doing it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Ottawa South. His speech was very interesting.
    The Conservatives are clearly causing a crisis when we should be negotiating an agreement.
    We have a real problem with today's motion. I completely agree with my colleague that the Conservatives seem more interested in advertising than in solving the problems we are facing in the area of rail safety, for example. We are all too aware of this danger in Canada. Canadians, and especially Quebeckers, are very concerned about this issue given the accident that occurred in Lac-Mégantic.
    We want workers to be proud of what they do, we want their working conditions to allow them to do their jobs effectively and we want them to be willing to report any problems with rail safety, as there were in Lac-Mégantic.
    I would like my colleague to comment on the recent decision rendered by the Supreme Court, which found that collective bargaining is a fundamental right in Canada, and I would like him to explain how that relates to rail safety. Do agreements that are negotiated between employers and workers lead to a better workplace and can they improve the safety of Canadians?

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right.
    I respect the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. Our party does not have a history of attacking the Supreme Court of Canada or its Chief Justice. We will leave that to the current Prime Minister of Canada.
    The hon. member is absolutely right in saying that employees on the front lines of our rail system have a lot to contribute and want to improve the safety, the efficiency and even the profitability of the railway they work for. The Conservatives' outdated belief that the unions are just there to get as much as they can from the employer is false.
    The employees of an organization are essential to that organization's success and are thus deserving of a much more respectful approach. I therefore agree with my colleague that this type of negotiation can enhance safety.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the remarks from my colleague from Ottawa South.
    It seems to me that when we look at the history of the government, we see a certain mentality in the corporate sector now that they really do not need to negotiate with the unions, whether it was Canada Post or the railways in the past or others the government has a certain mandate for. The corporate sector knows that if it negotiates poorly, the government will eventually order employees back to work. That is part of the problem we have.
    The member talked about the safety and security of Canadians and the Canadian workforce and about our need for this transportation sector. I wonder if the member could expand a little on why we got to this stage. Is it, as I suggested, that there is a mentality out there that the government will take the side of corporations and order people back to work? Are there other things that the government should have done to prevent this strike so that we would not have had the effect of this two-day loss to our economy?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Malpeque is again correct. The government could have done many things. It was forewarned over and over again, through testimony, witnesses, overtures, meetings, advisory groups, and councils. The situation has been going on now for almost nine years.
    The government should have invested far more in inspection and audit capacity inside Transport Canada. The government should have invested far more resources in enhancing the safety management systems that our railways, airlines, and shipping companies rely on. They are the central place where regulator and regulated meet to make sure things are safe, and the government should have invested far more in enhancing that capacity.
    The old idea that a group in Canadian society can be picked out and blamed is Republican Conservative tactic 101. The idea is to find a bad guy, and in this case it must be the unions, and blame them. That is nonsensical, not efficient, and not economic.
    The railways have never been more profitable, and we are for that. Why would they not reach out, work with the front-line workers, and ensure that the legitimate concerns they have with safety and security, such as sleep, are addressed?
     These things could have been defused months ago, if not years ago. This was a predictable strike, and the government knows it. Shame on the government for allowing this to happen.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise today to discuss the issue of the work stoppage at Canadian Pacific Railway.
    The failure to resolve the labour dispute between CP and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, or the TCRC, is having an extremely negative impact on our economy. We heard that earlier from our Minister of Labour.
    Knowing that today one in five Canadian jobs depends on exports, it is clear that our prosperity hinges on opening new markets for Canadian goods, services, and investments. Canada is a trading nation, and trading countries must be able to count on a reliable and effective transportation system, including a railway system. This work stoppage at CP could have negative repercussions on Canada's reputation as a reliable trading partner.
     CP is one of our two largest railways and plays a pivotal role in North America's supply chain for getting goods to and from Canadian and international markets. CP's rail network spans 22,000 kilometres from the port of Metro Vancouver to the port of Montreal and into parts of the U.S. northeast and the Midwest. CP plays a significant role in moving the majority of Canada's forest products, agriculture and agri-food products, petroleum products, cereal grains, coal, and consumer and manufactured goods, including automobiles.
     Here we are today with a disrupted railway system. We have to take the situation very seriously. This is about keeping the Canadian economy healthy and prosperous. It is about making sure Canadian jobs are protected. It is about ensuring that Canadians are able to distribute their products across Canada and the United States. A responsible government must show leadership and act in the interests of all Canadians. That is exactly why we are doing everything we can to help the parties arrive at an agreement.
    Let me give an idea of how badly the work stoppage at CP is affecting our economy. A work stoppage in rail transportation in Canada has such an important impact on so many people and industries that the cumulative effects are significant. For example, a railway stoppage could cause layoffs in manufacturing and automobile production. The work stoppage at CP will have other major impacts on workers and their families. I am talking not just about job losses, but also about the broader impact for the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the goods carried by rail.
    A work stoppage at CP would also have an adverse impact on the movement of grain, which is only now returning to normal conditions following last year's backlog. As members may recall, in March of last year our government introduced an order in council to ensure that the supply chain operates effectively in delivering Canadian grain to market.
    It is not just the industries that rely on freight that will be affected. The railways also provide the tracks for commuters in our country's three largest cities of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. A strike will create slowdowns and congestion in these vital cities.
    The economic cost of a work stoppage at CP is profound and will cost our economy an estimated decline of $205 million in GDP per week. We just cannot afford such a loss of productivity and revenue. The world economy is more interdependent than ever before, and a work stoppage like this one will affect both inbound and outbound goods and merchandise in Canada. Our industries could take years to recover from lost business and lost investments caused by this work stoppage. The strike will only further exacerbate the uncertain state of our fragile global economy.
     It is clear that we as parliamentarians have an important role to play in helping the parties to resolve this situation. Our economy must be protected. Our products must reach their markets, and Canadian jobs must be preserved.

  (1330)  

    Canada offers some of the best working conditions in the world and we have a solid reputation for having safe, fair, and productive workplaces.
    The Canada Labour Code establishes a framework for collective bargaining so that representatives of both employees and employers have an opportunity to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment.
    Our government is doing everything possible to help the parties find a resolution.
    Let me explain how we got to this point in the dispute. The collective agreement for CP running trades employees expired on December 31, 2014. In mid-November 2014, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service received a notice of dispute from CP.
     Of course, since that time, we have continued to make every effort to help both parties reach an agreement. We offered the parties every resource and support set out in the Canada Labour Code, including the appointment of conciliation officers and mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, to help them reach a resolution. There have been numerous meetings between the employer, the union, and FMCS officials, with the aim of resolving the dispute. Moreover, the Minister of Labour has encouraged representatives from CP and the TCRC to continue working together to reach an agreement.
     On February 15, a work stoppage began.
     A negotiated agreement is always the best solution to any labour dispute. We are still hoping that CP and the TCRC will find a way to resolve their differences. However, we must also be prepared to act to ensure the resumption of rail services at CP.
    The entire Canadian population will feel the impact of this work stoppage, not only Canadian businesses. We need to do everything we can to keep our economy rolling. To do that, we have to ensure that CP resumes its operations. We must do what is necessary to protect our economy, our workers, and our businesses. All members of this House must act in the best interest of all Canadians.
    For this reason, I stand here today to urge all hon. members to quickly pass this act to provide for the resumption of rail service operations. I strongly encourage each of my colleagues to support the bill so that we can continue creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, listening to all this, I wonder if a single member on the other side of the House understands what it is like to drive a convoy of 250 rail cars.
    The train conductor is constantly under stress; he cannot afford to be distracted for even a split second. Given the length of the train, something can happen one kilometre behind the conductor and he will only find out when the train derails.
    If the government were the least bit responsible, it would not be passing a bill to force conductors to be on duty. Instead, it would pass a bill to prohibit people who are overtired or exhausted from going to work because it is not safe.
    I would like to thank these workers for bringing a serious threat to our attention.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that this government takes the issue of rail safety extremely seriously. Our Minister of Labour and Minister of Transport have been focused squarely upon this issue for the last number of months. In the area of rail safety, numerous enhancements to Transport Canada regulations have been made to improve rail safety in this country.
    However, this issue is about ensuring that significant adverse impacts to our economy do not take place. This legislation would ensure that CP continues to operate so that those negative consequences to the economy do not occur. It would not preclude a settlement from taking place. What it would do is to allow for the continued important operations of CP, so that those other important labour-related issues could continue to be discussed in a parallel forum.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, I know my hon. colleague touched on this a bit but I think it is important to assure Canadians and the great people at the rail company about the following.
     Would this legislation propose imposing a settlement; in other words, would it finalize all of the terms of any grievances that exist and force the parties into an actual settlement, or is it just back-to-work legislation to keep the services to Canadians and our economy strong?
    Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that excellent question is that it does not impose a settlement. The purpose of this legislation is to keep the operations of CP continuing to ensure that there are not significant and extreme consequences for our nation's economy. It is not just about the goods and the services that are transported by rail, but also about all of the jobs in our manufacturing and automotive sectors and the farmer's out west who rely on rail and need grain moved to market.
    As a government, we have a wider scope of interest and concern than the opposition has. Our concern is the continued health of our economy and the continued protection of jobs in this country. That is exactly what this legislation would contribute to.
    Mr. Speaker, while I disagree with most of the parliamentary secretary's points, I certainly agree with him that we need to be looking at the Canadian economy with great regard. We have to make sure that we defend it in the ways we can.
    However, the Supreme Court has said very clearly that the right to strike is a fundamental right in this country and that curtailing it can only be done only in circumstances that are justifiable in a free and democratic society. With a strike that is not even 24-hours old, it seems a little precipitous to send people back to work in response.
    If we are to talk about rail safety I certainly would like to see more attention placed on it by the government than it has until this point. If it were serious about rail safety, it would try to work in partnership with the workers of the rail industry to ensure they are partners in this endeavour. Legislating them back to work will not lead to better rail safety. If anything it would result in working conditions that led to the rail tragedies we saw recently in northern Ontario and western Canada, and in Lac-Mégantic.
    The government seems precipitously inclined to attack workers, but it does not seem to take rail safety anywhere near as seriously as it should. I would like to hear from the minister exactly how the municipalities are supposed to work with the recent regulations that say that dangerous goods passing through their communities will only be divulged to them six months after the fact. How does that help rail safety?
    Mr. Speaker, I would begin by making it absolutely clear that the government clearly wishes to have a negotiated settlement in this case, but in order for that to happen, both parties need to have the will to work toward that common goal and the gap between the two sides needs to be bridgeable.
    What this legislation clearly does is to ensure the continued operations of CP while those other important labour issues continue to be resolved and our economy and jobs in Canada are protected in the meantime. For the last number of months, the Minister of Labour and the federal Department of Labour have been providing every tool in the toolbox to help the parties toward the objective of a negotiated settlement, but we have not seen enough progress in that regard.
    Finally, with respect to rail safety, in the last number of months the Minister of Transport has made numerous enhancements to the Railway Safety Act regulations to accelerate the phasing out of DOT-111 cars. These regulations improve railway safety oversight and grade crossings. There are also enhanced regulations with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods, with new administrative monetary penalties in place for violations of these regulations. Furthermore, there was a negotiated arrangement with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with respect to the disclosure of information on the transportation of dangerous goods.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary and carry on with the discussion we just had.
    I have heard from municipalities in my riding that while the recent regulations are an improvement, they are far from satisfactory. The government tends to look upon its proposals with a very positive attitude, but when it actually seeks consultation with the greater community, it finds there is an awful lot lacking.
    I, for one, have not heard a single municipality in my riding say that being told six months after the fact that a dangerous good is passing through the community is in any way adequate. Certainly when it comes to the DOT-111 cars that will be retrofitted, it is really not happening anywhere near as fast as it could, according to Canadian manufacturing capacity. I would like to see improvements there.
    Getting back to the motion at hand, the strike is of incredibly short duration and we have not seen any consequential effects on the Canadian economy. When the government says it is trying to avoid extreme effects on the Canadian economy, I challenge the minister to show me some numbers where the Canadian economy is actually in extreme peril due to the current strike.
    It is laudable that we are looking to make sure that negotiations have been fluid and continuous, but to force workers back to work, taking away their greatest tool in negotiations, the right to strike, I think is a terrible mistake. I think it contravenes the recent ruling of the Supreme Court.
    Would the parliamentary secretary please comment on the recent ruling of the Supreme Court regarding the right to strike?
    Mr. Speaker, to address my hon. colleague's last point first, if the strike continues and we as a government do not do the responsible thing by ensure a restoration of CP operations, it will have an estimated impact on our GDP, on our economy, of over $200 million per week. That is significant.
    With respect to the arrangement with the FCM, the Minister of Transport consulted extensively with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Municipalities across this country are extremely satisfied with the information exchanged under that agreement.
    With respect to the transportation of dangerous goods, we also have to be aware that there are safety and security issues at stake. Municipalities know there is essentially no change in the type of goods that are transported through their communities; so that information is absolutely critically important, valuable, and relevant.

  (1345)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today despite the disagreeable nature of what we are discussing.
    Once again, the government wants to impose its way of doing things and seeing things. As everyone knows, CP and its employees are conducting negotiations on a safety issue that affects the public in a very broad sense.
    As the transport critic for the official opposition, I have seen all the government's failures with respect to rail safety. Take Lac-Mégantic, for example. That tragedy affected many people. There were many failures on the government's part. I am not the one saying so; the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the Auditor General are. Not only does Transport Canada not have enough resources, but the department was also singled out by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, which is quite rare, for its lax approach and failure to enforce laws and regulations. Furthermore, the transport minister at the time, who is now the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs, granted MMA an exception permitting it to have only one conductor on the train.
     His notion of rail safety and the system he put in place are very worrisome. This is a matter of safety. For those who do not know, we are debating the fact that CP workers want to address how fatigue is managed in their negotiations. At meetings of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we learned that fatigue is a huge problem. Who is ultimately responsible for conductor fatigue? The government has singled out a few individuals in the case of MMA, but it was an entire system that failed, the system that the Conservative government put in place and is continuing to put in place. Workers are negotiating safety issues and, once again, the government wants them to get back to work, so it is flexing its muscles and interfering with the negotiation process.
    We are debating a motion today, even though we have not yet seen the bill and its content. This is yet another example of the Conservatives' wanting to impose their own views. We are used to this since we unfortunately have a majority government. However, since we are talking about public safety, it is beyond comprehension that the government is acting in such a cavalier fashion, without considering all aspects of the problem. For example, in the United States they looked at how to manage fatigue. Other companies, such as VIA Rail, have also looked at the possibilities and negotiated with their own employees. In this case, we are talking about CP, the Canadian Pacific Railway, and even though negotiations are not even complete, the company seems to have the blind support of the government to force workers back to work.
    I cannot stress enough the importance of public safety. The government's primary role is to protect Canadians. Not only has the government failed to take action with respect to rail safety—it lets rail companies regulate and inspect themselves—but it is also making cuts to the budget for rail safety. This is having a major impact on the number of inspectors. Transport Canada is supposed to fulfill this role, but the Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada both stated that this was a problem.

  (1350)  

[English]

    I want to emphasize why it is important to talk about rail safety today. Rail safety is what the employees of CPR are negotiating with the employer. We are talking about making sure that conductors or engineers, people who work on the trains, are not overfatigued. This is why there are negotiations right now.
    Unfortunately, we have a government that says that regardless of what the parties are doing, it is going to impose back-to-work legislation. Again, as I mentioned, we are debating before we see that whole process, which shows how quickly the government wants to act on this front, without looking at the issue of safety for Canadians.

[Translation]

    This is not the first time the government has imposed its view of things. It is going against the principle of freedom of negotiation, which was upheld in a Supreme Court of Canada decision at the end of January.
    The Supreme Court of Canada has reprimanded the government a few times, but the government continues to ignore the law and show no concern for safety even though it is important to people. This makes absolutely no sense. Unlike the government, I believe in the rule of law and the protection of our rights and freedoms.
    I cannot overemphasize the importance of safety because we are talking about fatigue among train conductors. The employer and the employees—the unions—will have to negotiate the best approach to protecting train conductors even though they are not the only ones operating the trains.
    It is important to protect workers' right to negotiate and their right to safety so they can work under appropriate conditions. The government should consider the terrible consequences in the many countries where workers' rights have been ignored. For example, in Bangladesh, where those rights were ignored, many people died following an unfortunate incident. Our situation is different, but this shows that the government is heading in the wrong direction.
    By imposing its way of looking at things and refusing to listen and by forcing the workers back to work, the government is taking away their right to negotiate in good faith and find common ground. The government is therefore favouring the employer without even taking the issues being negotiated into account.
    The parliamentary secretary talked about economic impact. In my riding of Brossard—La Prairie, this will affect people who take the train in Candiac, for example. I agree that it is unfortunate, but we have to focus on the objective, which is keeping people safe. People will not be well served if the problem of fatigue among conductors is not resolved. The government is imposing its views without proposing any solutions. Will Canadians really be any safer?
    The government needs to examine whether safety really is one of its priorities. The minister says it is important, but the government's concrete actions say otherwise. The Lac-Mégantic tragedy really opened our eyes to the importance of safety when it comes to transporting dangerous goods and to unsafe practices, including what MMA was doing, for example.

  (1355)  

    Again, those are not my words. The TSB clearly said that safety was not a priority for this company. It had financial concerns to tend to and it made its finances a priority over safety. We saw what happened.
    The government is doing the same thing now. It is making the economy a priority. I realize this has an impact. I agree. However, safety has an even bigger impact. How much is the life of a train employee or the aftermath of a disaster worth to the government?
    Again, we heard about the derailments near Nickel Belt and in Alberta. Derailments continue to happen. What is the government doing instead of finding solutions to increase public safety and rail safety? It just rejected what the employees are saying, in other words that there needs to be a system in place that protects the safety of both the employees and the public. Unfortunately, the government is turning a deaf ear yet again.
    When we really look at the facts, what is rather shocking is that all the relevant questions were raised in the aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. We know that there is a problem with inspections. I am not the only one who is saying it. As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, I know that many witnesses spoke about how important it is to have thorough inspections and how important it is that the government provide the resources necessary to protect the public.
    The employees are negotiating to ensure that the public is protected. Meanwhile, the government did not even really look at the facts or the scientific evidence before saying that the things being negotiated are not serious and that the employees need to return to work, regardless of whether the fatigue problem has been resolved.
    I would like to give an example that people can relate to. Think about how you would feel after driving your car on a highway for 10 or 12 hours. You would be tired and it would be dangerous. Some people fall asleep. In this case, we are not talking about just one day but perhaps two or three days in a row. Fatigue accumulates. People are negotiating and trying to fight for that protection, but the government is telling them that what they are saying is not serious and forcing them to return to work, regardless of what they have to do. That is totally unacceptable.
    This is not the first time the government has done this. The same thing happened with Canada Post and in several other situations. This government does not listen. Who pays for that, unfortunately? The public does.
    The Conservative government needs to remember what happened in Lac-Mégantic. It needs to learn from its mistakes and make public safety a priority.
    The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie will have six and a half minutes for his speech when the House resumes debate on this motion.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Statehood Day of Serbia

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute today to Canadians of Serbian descent on the 211th anniversary of the Statehood Day of Serbia. It is a day that commemorates the struggle of the Serbian people to regain independence and sovereignty, as well as the first constitution proclaimed on the same day in 1835.
    Serbia, Canada's great ally in World War I and World II in the Balkans, is today a dynamic democratic society firmly engaged on its path to a full European Union membership and undivided commitment to democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
    A sizeable Serbian community lives in Canada today and it is now successfully integrated into the Canadian way of life. One has to do with a respectable and outstanding group within the Canadian society, noteworthy for its prosperity and contribution to Canadian society. The community is also a very important bridge between Canada and Serbia.
    Today I invite all hon. members to join me in congratulating Serbia for its statehood day. God bless Canada and Serbia.

  (1400)  

Louis Riel

    Mr. Speaker, today is Louis Riel Day, and I call upon this 41st Parliament to finally set the history books straight and exonerate Louis Riel, reverse his conviction for high treason, and instead honour and commemorate his role as the founder of Manitoba, a father of Confederation and the champion of minority rights and the rights of the Métis people.
    Louis Riel was a hero, not a traitor. It is now generally accepted that he was wrongly convicted and executed for high treason, murdered by the crown in a sham trial in a case of both justice and mercy denied.
    I am sure all of my colleagues in the House today will agree that it is consistent with history, justice and respect for the Métis people that this Parliament use its authority to reverse the conviction of Louis Riel and to formally recognize, honour and celebrate his true role in the building of this great nation.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Don Valley East, and for all of the members of St. George & St. Rueiss Coptic Orthodox Church in my riding, I was horrified to learn about the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by ISIL.
    This massacre adds to a list of atrocities and shows us and the world how genocidal ISIL is. From sexual enslavement of the Yazidi women to the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot, beheading of foreign hostages and the persecution of many other minority groups, these acts are simply unacceptable to civilized people. The savage acts in different geographic locations show us that this ideology and its threats are spreading like a cancer. This is a group who has no human decency and no regard for human life.
    As the Prime Minister has stated:
    Canada is proud to stand with its coalition partners in the fight against ISIL. We will continue to stand firmly together against these terrorists who threaten the peace and freedom we hold so dear at home and that we wish for those abroad.
    Barbaric acts such as this do not shake our resolve but, rather, confirm the rightness—
    The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, 48 years ago today, Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson officially established the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, based on the concept of equal opportunity for women and men. The royal commission played a major role in defining the status of women as a legitimate and important social and economic issue, and gave a platform for women's voices.
     The commission's groundbreaking recommendations on child care, pay equity, prohibiting gender as grounds for discrimination and other matters sadly remain relevant today. Women's equality has taken a step back under the Conservative government's regressive policies, which have put the brakes on the important momentum to close the gap in Canada.

[Translation]

    As we mark this historic anniversary and the progress made by women over the decades, we must remember that there still remains much work to do in order to achieve true equality.

[English]

    Let us all celebrate how far we have come, but also commit to equality of opportunity for all Canadians.

Vaccinations

    Mr. Speaker, last weekend, health officials in Ontario confirmed three new cases of measles, bringing the total number to 11 in Ontario alone. These outbreaks are a direct result of parents not vaccinating their children.
     A 2013 United Nations report found Canada's immunization rate had dropped in recent decades to 84%, well below the 95% required for herd immunity, ranking 28th out of 29 industrialized nations. This drop in vaccinations is putting children and vulnerable persons at risk.
    Older Canadians well remember the deaths and disabilities brought about by preventable diseases like polio, diphtheria, whooping cough and measles.
    Vaccines are safe and effective. All three of my young children have been vaccinated, not just for their sake but for the sake of the young, the sick and the elderly in our community.
    I encourage all parents to consult with their family doctors and to ensure their children's vaccinations are up to date.

Canadian Flag

    Mr. Speaker, I take great pleasure in joining my fellow Canadians across the country to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national flag of Canada.
     Since its inception, the national flag has become a source of pride, a symbol of unity and a powerful emblem of the Canadian entity. This celebration is a unique occasion that should be used to reflect on the progress we have made throughout history, to understand our path and to renew our commitment to serve, the best way we can, our country and our people.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

    Our red and white flag has, at its centre, a white square adorned with a majestic maple leaf.
    The flag was designed by distinguished Canadians to promote Canadian values: democracy, freedom and the rule of law.
    Canada's flag became official by royal proclamation in 1965, and since then it has been recognized internationally as a strong symbol of those values.
    On this occasion, I would like to salute the Canadians who participated yesterday in various celebrations across the country marking the 50th anniversary of the flag.

[English]

National Potato Lover's Month

    Mr. Speaker, it seems fitting as we celebrated Valentine's Day this past weekend that we also remember it is heart health month and, as luck would have it, National Potato Lover's Month. We should not forget the importance of the humble potato in our diet, and the significant levels of potassium in potatoes that are critical for our body and crucial for heart function.
    Just this last week, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research stations in Fredericton and Lethbridge conducted their new variety release day. The research at these two locations is important as we develop new varieties that are not only resistant to pests, but also attempt to make the potato even healthier.
    Canada has a great number of great agriculture producers and growing regions in the country, including a large area of my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac. We also have processors like McCain Foods, which produces one of every three french fries sold around the globe.
    Everyone is working hard to produce high quality food for Canadians in addition to healthy choices for our diets. I want to thank all our researchers, our farmers and farm families and processors like McCain that continue their efforts to have a dynamic value chain for potatoes in Canada.
    While we may not be able to give our hearts to the humble potato, it sure can give a lot to our hearts.

Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary

    Mr. Speaker, recently, I visited DFO's regional headquarters in Sarnia to recognize the men and women who serve in the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, a nationwide organization that helps to ensure the safety and security of our waterways through its vital work. I was very pleased to announce over $5 million in funding to support this group.
     The value of the work done by the CCGA across Canada cannot be overstated. Each year, its more than 5,000 members carry out over 2,000 rescue missions and save more than 200 lives.
    It was an honour to acknowledge the tremendous work of Sarnia's 14 active members across the region. Regardless of weather conditions, members of the PointSAR unit brave the elements for the safety and well-being of mariners from Sombra to Kettle Point. That is why our government is proud to support them and provide them the funding they need to conduct their work.
    On behalf of all Canadians, I thank the Coast Guard Auxiliary for its tremendous service.

Labour

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate and to thank Ontarians for their participation in Family Day today, where mothers, fathers, sons and daughters can get together and celebrate a day that is important for the unity of the family.
    Unfortunately in the House, the Conservatives chose to attack families by putting in back-to-work legislation that attacks families' safety, values and benefits. Unfortunately, we need to see those things improved in our country, because men and women who go to work every day have those conditions challenged. They deserve to go back home to spend the rest of their night and the next morning with their families.
    Family Day should be celebrated with benefits to workers because it means benefits for Canadians.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, our economy is still on the road to recovery. Bringing in higher taxes and higher debt is not the path on which we believe Canadians want to be.
     Unfortunately, for the Liberal leader, not all members of his party support his carbon tax scheme. Last week, Yukon Liberal leader, Sandy Silver, said Yukon Liberals did not support a carbon tax for the territory. It is no surprise that northerners have been clear that they cannot afford higher taxes.
    The Liberal leader has been clear, though, that he would bring back a carbon tax which would lead to higher taxes for Canadian families and raise the price of everything from heating bills to gas and groceries.
    Unlike the Liberals, we will stand with the people of Yukon and the north. We believe that bringing in a job killing carbon tax is reckless. Unlike the leader of the Liberal Party, we will never punish Canadians with higher taxes and job killing schemes like a carbon tax.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately respecting and protecting our official languages have never been priorities for the Conservatives.
    Since 2006, the Conservatives have appointed unilingual people to key positions, such as Auditor General and Supreme Court justice.
    The Prime Minister has now appointed a unilingual anglophone foreign affairs minister. Members heard me correctly; nothing was lost in translation. A minister of foreign affairs who does not speak French, the language of diplomacy.
    Even the Americans have a secretary of state who speaks French. It is difficult to imagine anything more shameful for a country with French as an official language. Once again, this shows the Conservatives' lack of respect for our country's bilingualism, but especially for francophones.
    The NDP will continue to promote respect for both our official languages, and I can assure the House that under a New Democratic government the next minister of foreign affairs will be bilingual.

  (1410)  

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, I think I can speak for everyone in the House and across Canada when I say that we are outraged and deeply saddened by the ruthless beheading of Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians in Libya by groups linked to ISIL.
    This is sadly yet another example of the very real threat that ISIL poses, and the barbaric extremes to which it will take their war against the values we proudly uphold, such as religious freedom.
    We are proudly standing with our allies to combat the threat these Jihadi terrorists pose to freedom. As the Prime Minister said:
    Barbaric acts such as this do not shake our resolve but, rather, confirm the rightness of our cause and the vital necessity of our mission against ISIL. We will not be intimidated.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to express our deepest sympathy to the Coptic community in Canada and around the world for the senseless murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya over the weekend.
    This is just the latest attack in a long series of horrific killings by Daesh, a genocidal group that perverts the very religion it purports to uphold and that has directed violence against other religious minorities living in the regions, such as the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriac and Armenian Christians, Yazidis, Druze, Shabaks and Mandeans as well as Shia Mulisms.

[Translation]

    As a religious minority, Coptic Christians have frequently been subject to persecution, but they have lived alongside their Muslim neighbours for centuries. They will survive these atrocities. Such acts will only strengthen the resolve of those combatting the Islamic State.
    I want members of the Coptic community to know that we mourn with them and that we stand with them during this difficult time.

[English]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, while the NDP and Liberals want to impose a job-killing carbon tax, our Conservative government is delivering the largest tax break in Canadian history.
     Under our plan, 100% of families with children will have more money in their pockets to spend on their priorities as a family. Through our new tax breaks, the average benefit for each of these families will be more than $1,100.
    We assured Canadians that we would lower taxes and put more of their hard-earned money back in their pockets. This is exactly what we are doing, and will continue to do.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, a week ago, the Liberal leader proudly announced one of the most embarrassing floor crossings any of us have ever seen. He claimed that he was impressed with the member for Mississauga—Brampton South's “commitment to public service". Well, his caucus was not impressed.
     Now we have the return of that famous source, Liberal MPs speaking on condition of anonymity. One Liberal MP said, “The larger population just got another message saying the Liberals are no different than the Conservatives”. Another said that the leader of the Liberal Party just made the Prime Minister look principled.
    What did the Liberal leader get in return for all this? Why none other than new Liberal strategist Dimitri Soudas. This Liberal leader once said, “ when you start to compromise your principles, you’re through”. Indeed, without principles, what kind of leader is a person? Well, we just found out.
     Fortunately, Canadians can count on the NDP leader for principled leadership, leadership that fights for the middle-class families of Canada.

  (1415)  

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, under the strong and responsible leadership of our Prime Minister, our government will balance the budget and put money where it belongs, into the pockets of hard-working Canadians.
    Our family tax cut and enhanced universal child care benefit will give 100% of families with kids an average of over $1,100 per year, with parents receiving almost $2,000 per child which they can put toward their priorities. However, the Liberal leader would reverse our tax cuts and will do exactly what the Liberal Party elites always do: raise taxes for ordinary Canadians while handing money over to bureaucrats.
    Moms and Dads do not need to be told how to spend their money.
    Despite the NDP and the Liberals who have positioned themselves against middle-class families, I am proud that our government is giving money back to each and every family with children in Canada.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, we all hope that the new discovery of BSE in Canada is an isolated case. The disease once devastated our agriculture industry, and there is huge potential for serious economic problems. South Korea has already moved to close off beef imports.
    Can the minister tell the House if the source of the illness has been found and what assistance has been offered to ranchers and farmers?
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, another positive case of BSE was found in a cow in northern Alberta, in the Spruce Grove area I understand. The expectations of the farm and CFIA are that they will source this out. They are doing that right now, according to the international protocols that we all adhere to.
    Mr. Speaker, what producers want to know is that the government will have their backs in the case of a crisis. Maintaining the confidence of Canadians and our key trading partners is essential to the creation of economic opportunities for our beef producers. We all remember the slow reaction the first time that BSE hit Canada. Swift action is needed this time.
    What is the government doing to reinforce consumer confidence?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, the glacial speed was the other party over there in the corner.
    Having said that, we continue to work with CFIA and with the farm that is under quarantine at this point. We also put forward in our latest budget some $200 million to enhance our BSE training, and that party voted against it.

Rail Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, if Conservatives had not rammed through back-to-work legislation in 2012, we might not be seeing a strike at CP today. Yet, Conservatives are again blindly moving toward a one-sided back-to-work law.
    Current negotiations are focused on rail safety issues, things like extreme driver fatigue caused by scheduling practices. Now the American union is warning of U.S. engineers being forced to work in Canada, operating trains with hazardous materials on routes they are not familiar with, creating very real safety concerns.
    Can the minister confirm if this is true?
    Mr. Speaker, what I can confirm, of course, is that Transport Canada's role is to ensure that the qualification standards for locomotive engineers are consistently followed. Railway companies have to ensure that those who operate trains are fully trained. Transport Canada increases its field monitoring on locomotives during a strike to verify that crews are qualified to operate the equipment and can do so safely.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, according to the American president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, U.S. train conductors are apparently being forced to operate trains containing hazardous commodities on Canadian trips.
    Could the minister tell us whether it is true that Canadian Pacific uses American replacement workers at the expense of Canadians' safety?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is the same question different language, but the same answer.
    What I can confirm is that Transport Canada's role is to ensure that the qualification standards for locomotive engineers are followed. Railway companies have to ensure that those who operate trains are in fact fully trained. Transport Canada increases its field monitoring on locomotives during a strike to verify that the crews are qualified to operate the equipment and can do so safely.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' shotgun approach to governing is preventing some important issues from being resolved. The safety of Canadians is at the heart of these negotiations. Conductors proposed solutions to deal with extreme fatigue among train operators. The Conservatives' shotgun bill sweeps this type of issue under the carpet.
    Why does the government refuse to admit that the safety of Canadians is being negotiated in a contract?

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member should know that fatigue management plans must currently be submitted by railway companies to Transport Canada for its oversight. Transport Canada, of course, increases its inspections during labour strikes.
    However, it is important to remember that the economy must be protected as well. Does the member opposite believe that we should be taking some important action to ensure that the economy keeps moving forward?

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, “throughout this country we have a very, very large infrastructure deficit...on things like public transit, water and wastewater, transportation and particularly in housing. We've got to fix these things.... With the federal government I'm not confident they'll make the right [decisions].”
    I am quoting the mayor of Calgary, who was recently voted the best mayor in the world.
    Will the Conservatives reverse their wrong decisions, like their 87% cut in the building Canada fund?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, we know that statement is incorrect. Our Conservative government has introduced the largest and the longest infrastructure investments in Canadian history: $75 billion over the next decade. This includes $53 billion for municipalities, provinces, and territories.
    Our new building Canada plan has been open for business since last March. In less than a year, numerous projects have already been approved, representing an estimated $5 billion in infrastructure for our country.
    Mr. Speaker, the Mayor of Calgary is not wrong, and my numbers are right.

[Translation]

    Here are the official numbers. The building Canada fund was $1.6 billion in 2013-14. For 2014-15, it is $210 million. The budget went from $1.6 billion to $210 million. That is clearly an 87% cut. It is undeniable.
    Will the government admit that it cannot deny these numbers? These are official numbers from the finance department. The building Canada fund was cut by 87%. The Conservatives have to admit it.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the Liberals have a hard time understanding the bottom line. Let me make clear what the bottom line is in terms of infrastructure investments in our country.
    If they read just a bit lower on that page, they will clearly see that our government will be investing between $5 billion and $6 billion in infrastructure investment every year. These investments will enhance our economy. They will create jobs and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is pure rhetoric on the part of my colleague.
    Here are the actual numbers. Not only was the building Canada fund cut by 87% in one year, but none of the money will be disbursed until 2019. The building Canada fund is $14 billion for 2014 to 2023, but $10.2 billion of that, or 73%, will be unavailable until 2019.
    Why is the government holding onto three-quarters of the funding until 2019 when we need that investment and those jobs now?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government will take no lessons from the Liberals on infrastructure investments in the country. Our investments are three times greater for infrastructure than the previous Liberal government's.
    Let me very clearly lay out the steps in this process, and I will speak slowly for my Liberal colleagues. Applications to the plan are submitted. When projects are approved, federal funds are earmarked. Then construction begins. Then the municipality submits its bill to the federal government. We reimburse the municipality as costs are incurred. Money flows over the course of the construction project.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, experts have raised serious concerns about the impacts that Bill C-51 could have on legitimate dissent and peaceful protests. The bill creates a new definition for activity that undermines the sovereignty, security, or territorial integrity of Canada. This includes terrorism, but it also includes interference with critical infrastructure and interference with government in relation to the “economic or financial stability of the country”.
    Would the minister please explain what activities are targeted by this provision?

  (1425)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to terrorism, clearly it is important to take action on all fronts, including prevention, whenever an individual seeks to become radicalized and get involved in terrorism.
    That is why it is important to give information and tools to intelligence officers so they can intervene proactively and reduce the risk of terrorism from the very beginning.
    Mr. Speaker, the fact that the Prime Minister has decided not to answer these important questions about the bill does not inspire any confidence. Canadians deserve to know all the details of what the Conservatives are proposing.
    Bill C-51 would extend CSIS' powers beyond intelligence activities, to enable the agency to disrupt terrorist acts before they happen.
    As we have asked repeatedly, can the minister give us a single example of activities that will be prohibited from now on?
    Mr. Speaker, after 30 years, we need to give our intelligence agency a wider range of tools in order to protect Canadians, especially when it comes to reducing threats.
    However, we will do so in keeping with the laws of Canada and while ensuring that, if there are any legal implications, the intelligence agency will have to obtain a warrant and judicial authorization.
    This is therefore another good reason to support the bill. I look forward to seeing the NDP's position on this.
    Mr. Speaker, terrorist threats can take many forms and arise for many different reasons. The plot in Halifax, which was brilliantly foiled by RCMP officers over the weekend, is an excellent example.
    However, many people were surprised to hear the minister say that it was not considered terrorism because it was not culturally motivated. Does the minister realize that the definition of terrorism in Canada includes political, religious and ideological motives, and not cultural motives?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question and for underscoring the important work that was done by the Halifax and RCMP police forces and by the people who helped foil a terrorist attack on St. Valentine's day. They deserve all our gratitude.
    That being said, on this side of the House, when Nathan Cirillo was shot for extremist reasons and one of our symbols was threatened, we did not nitpick over definitions. We recognized that it was a terrorist attack. Is the NDP prepared to accept the truth about this?

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, Canadians were pleased to see that Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was released on bail after more than 400 days in an Egyptian prison, but this is not the end of Mr. Fahmy's ordeal. Instead of coming home, he now faces a new trial.
    Australia's prime minister personally, and repeatedly, spoke to the Egyptian president to secure the release of his citizen, Peter Greste.
    Why has this Prime Minister not done the same thing for Mr. Fahmy?
    Mr. Speaker, while we welcome Mr. Fahmy's release on bail, we remain deeply concerned about this case. We continue to call for his immediate and full release. My colleague opposite knows that the Prime Minister has personally raised the issue of Mohamed Fahmy with the Egyptian president. The minister of consular affairs and the former minister of foreign affairs have raised the case as well, as have our officials. We will continue to do that. We are optimistic that this will be resolved.
    Mr. Speaker, Canada's allies have issued new sanctions. It is time for Canada to send a stronger message and to do more than just tell Russia to get out of Ukraine.
    Canadian sanctions still omit key members of Russia's business and political elite, despite the fact that our allies have listed them. I have a simple question for the new minister. Why are Igor Sechin, Sergei Chemezov, and Vladimir Yakunin not being sanctioned by the Canadian government?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member may have missed this, but Canada has been a leader in the global response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. In addition to our military NATO assurance measures, we placed sanctions on more than 210 individuals and entities. This is more than the United States or our European Union allies. We have announced over half a billion dollars in assistance to Ukraine.
    We stand with Ukraine, and we will continue to do so, with or without the support of the NDP.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is not about the number of people. It is about targeting the right people.
    The truth is that this government keeps sparing those close to the Putin regime. The United States, for example, sanctioned three Russian oil, weapons and transportation barons. Nonetheless, the Conservatives keep sparing them.
    Can this government explain to us the point of imposing sanctions if they are not imposed where it hurts?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is exactly what we are doing. Nobody has been tougher on the Putin regime than this government.
    The hon. member wants action. Let her just examine what this country has done. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was in Munich, and President Poroshenko made a point of thanking me for Canada's contributions and said how much he appreciates what Canada has done for Ukraine. That will continue.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, considering that Canada is a bilingual country and that French is an important language in international diplomacy, we do not understand how the Prime Minister could have appointed someone who cannot communicate in French as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    How does the Prime Minister explain that he was unable to find a bilingual Minister of Foreign Affairs in his cabinet, when even the U.S. Secretary of State speaks French and speaks it very well?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Prime Minister for my appointment. It is a great honour for me. We have two official languages in Canada. I speak English and as far as French is concerned, I do not speak it very well yet. However, I understand it quite well. I will keep trying to improve.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, it seems that guests who attended the Minister of Justice's wedding had a much better chance of getting a job as a judge than of catching the bride's bouquet. His best man and his wife were appointed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Since being appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in 2013, he has appointed nine judges in his province, and six of them are friends or Conservative organizers.
    Will the Prime Minister finally put an end to this appalling patronage, which undermines the credibility of our courts?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is preposterous to accuse the Minister of Justice of appointing these eminently qualified individuals to the bench based on political affiliation. As the member opposite should know, candidates are vetted by the judicial advisory councils, and it is upon their recommendations that all appointments are made.
    The Broadbent Institute's efforts would be better spent investigating the inappropriate use of tax money to fund NDP regional operations across Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, let us look at this theme of the Nova Scotia judicial appointments. They tend to go to people who were invited to the justice minister's wedding. Joshua Arnold, the best man, was appointed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, and his wife was appointed too. Other nominees read like buddies of the minister and party donors.
    Judicial appointments are supposed to go to the most eminently qualified. Why is it that at other weddings they toss the bouquet, but here they tossed around nominations to the court?
    As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker, all members know that candidates are vetted by the independent judicial advisory councils, and it is upon their recommendations that all appointments are made.
    Our judicial appointments are based on one criterion and one criterion only: whether that individual is qualified for the job, determined by merit and legal experience.

  (1435)  

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is clipping the wings of Canada's air force, compromising its ability to train and to protect Canadians.
    Search and rescue helicopters and most aircraft are spending more and more time grounded in order to pinch pennies. Why? It is because the Conservatives are using defence budget cuts as a giant piggy bank to fund their election tax goodies, like the $2-billion income splitting tax break for the wealthiest Canadians.
    Will the minister restore DND funding and stop the broken promises to Canadians and to the women and men in uniform?
    Mr. Speaker, first let me say as I rise in this place for the first time as Minister of National Defence what an honour it is to serve our men and women in uniform.
    I begin this mandate proud of this government's achievement of rebuilding the Canadian Forces, with a 28% increase in funding from the decade of darkness of the Liberals.
    Just last Friday, I was at CFB Trenton. I saw some of our new C-17 Globemasters—we have acquired four, and a fifth is coming, allowing us to project Canada's reach around the world—17 new Hercules J-series tactical airlift craft, and 15 new Chinook helicopters.
    We will not return to the decade of darkness.

[Translation]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the government assured us many times that the Prime Minister had been in communication with the highest authorities in the Egyptian government regarding Mohamed Fahmy's case.
    My question is very simple: did the Prime Minister communicate directly, in person, with President el-Sisi, and if so, when?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I already answered that question.
    The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister, our mission, our officials, have all raised the issue of Mr. Fahmy, and we will continue to do so. As I said earlier, we expect and look forward to the resolution of this case.
    I will take that as a no, Mr. Speaker.
    The Australian prime minister spoke directly to President el-Sisi on three occasions in an effort to secure the release of Peter Greste, efforts which ultimately proved successful. Our own Prime Minister appears to have made no such effort in the case of Mr. Fahmy, arguing that Mr. Fahmy's dual citizenship complicated matters.
    As far as we know, Mr. Fahmy is no longer an Egyptian citizen. Why is the Prime Minister not doing all he can to secure the release of Mr. Fahmy?
    Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out, we continue to call for his immediate and full release. The Prime Minister has personally raised the case with the Egyptian president. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular has raised this issue. The former minister of foreign affairs has raised this issue. Our officials have raised the issue. We are going to continue to do that, and we expect that there will be a resolution of this case.

[Translation]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, as federal ministers prepare to sit down with provincial, territorial and aboriginal leaders to discuss the crisis we are facing, with more than 1,200 missing or murdered aboriginal women, we have learned that the Minister of Status of Women did not consult key groups, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada, before launching her so-called action plan last September.
    Why does the minister refuse to listen to these groups and immediately launch a national inquiry?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is simply not true. I met with the president of NWAC and with numerous organizations privately in my office, with Status of Women officials, and also with families across the country.
    What is most important here is what families are looking for. Our government is taking action to make sure that women are safe and secure and that they are protected and supported in their time of need.
    Mr. Speaker, families of the over 1,200 women and girls who have disappeared or been murdered in Canada deserve better than the current government. They deserve to see real action to get answers. They deserve a genuine consultation process, where their names will not be used without their knowledge or consent to shore up an action plan that offers nothing but the status quo.
    Will the minister apologize to the individuals listed who were not consulted, and when will she finally listen and act on their ask for a national inquiry?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, I spoke with numerous families across the country, and those families actually asked to be kept confidential. I spoke with numerous organizations across the country and was delighted to get their input so that we could move forward.
    What families are looking for is action. They were very clear: make sure that we are supporting these individuals, make sure that we are protecting them, and make sure we prevent these actions from happening in the future. Now is the time for action.
    Unlike the NDP, which wants to vote against initiatives we take to protect these women and make sure they are supported, we are acting to make sure that they are treated appropriately.

Rail Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, a CN freight train hauling 100 cars of crude oil derailed Sunday morning near Gogama. Reports indicate that seven cars caught fire and oil was spilling out. People in nearby communities are concerned and want answers.
    Has the cause of the derailment been determined, is oil still leaking, and is the fire now under control?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, we are obviously relieved to hear that there were no injuries as a result of this particular incident.
    For the benefit of the House, members should know that the minister's office has reached out to the local member of Parliament and will continue to provide updates on the incident in question. I understand, of course, that the Transportation Safety Board is on scene, and others. We will let the proper authorities determine the cause of this incident.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, there was another train derailment last December in Alberta.
    According to the young conductor herself, the few weeks of training she had received were insufficient. However, two weeks ago, the Minister of Transport said the following:
     It is up to CP and CN to ensure that they are training to the acceptable standards...if they do not, we will...ensure that they do this in an appropriate manner.
    Will the minister take responsibility and ensure that workers receive enough training to keep Canadians safe?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where the member was when the government gave its response to the Transportation Safety Board's report on the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic. This was one of the action points the department, of course, committed to, including important blitzes to see if there are any gaps in the training competencies of railway companies.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday we learned of more barbaric attacks against Coptic Christians by ISIL. Twenty-one Egyptians who had been held for weeks have reportedly been beheaded, in a video released yesterday.
    Would the Minister of National Defence be able to update the House on Canada's continued mission to fight the savage ISIL death cult in Iraq?
    Of course, Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms this barbaric mass murder committed by the death cult, ISIL.
    This morning I called the Coptic bishop in Canada, Bishop Mina, to express our condolences. This reinforces the reason why Canada is engaged in the fight against ISIL in the Middle East.
    Last Thursday, Captain Forget from the joint operations command stated that ISIL has suffered a number of tactical setbacks and is pressed on a number of fronts and is struggling to sustain its military efforts, thanks in part to the air strikes of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the great work of our special operations troops, which we support.

[Translation]

Science and Technology

    Mr. Speaker, last week, the Mont-Mégantic observatory was on the brink of closing. Fortunately, the public was able to get the government to change its mind at the last minute.
    However, there is a deeper problem. Since the Conservatives made cuts to science programs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our research infrastructure.
    Will the Minister of State for Science and Technology finally get involved in this issue, which is so important to the Lac-Mégantic region, and ensure that another crisis does not happen two years from now?
    Mr. Speaker, we have made record investments in science, technology and innovation.

[English]

    Let me add one other thing, if I might. We have great respect for the victims of Lac-Mégantic.
    Our commitment to science, technology, and innovation is unprecedented in this country and it will remain so under this government.

  (1445)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister did not really understand the question.
    Stars are not the only things the Mont-Mégantic observatory reveals. It has also revealed the incompetence of the Minister of International Development, who did not foresee the crisis precipitated by his own government two years ago. Rather than blaming scientists, the minister should recognize that his government was the one that changed the funding criteria for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
    Will the minister get to work immediately to find a definitive solution to the Mont-Mégantic observatory's funding problems?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the observatory at Lac-Mégantic as it relates to observatories across the country where we have made significant investments, we are committed to the importance of science and technology, both in Quebec and throughout the country.
    We will take no lessons from that party when it comes to our commitment to science, technology, and innovation.

[Translation]

Quebec Bridge

    Mr. Speaker, last week, the Prime Minister was on tour in Quebec City. He put in a brief appearance at Carnaval, but once again, he did not have anything tangible to offer: nothing for the tall ships and no progress on the Quebec Bridge file. Seeing the Prime Minister sign a Valentine's day card for the Quebec Bridge was just pathetic. Sooner or later, in politics as in love, sweet-talking will only get you so far, then you have to put your money where your mouth is.
     The Prime Minister promised the people of Quebec City that he would repaint the bridge. Will he finally keep that promise?
    Mr. Speaker, the government promised $75 million to repaint the Quebec Bridge. Together, all three levels of government committed to spending $100 million on this major project. We want CN to come to the table with the rest of the money needed to make it happen.
     Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister should stop hiding behind CN to justify his failure to act.
     Does the Prime Minister understand that nobody is interested in his signature at the bottom of a Valentine's day card? We want his signature on a cheque to repaint the Quebec Bridge like he promised.
    Mr. Speaker, as the owner of the bridge, Canadian National is responsible for maintaining it and keeping it safe.
    As I said before, our government committed to spending $75 million. Together with our partners, we have set aside $100 million for this major project. Now it is important for CN to come to the table with the rest of the money for this project.

[English]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, last year the presidents of China and the United States personally agreed to 10-year visas for tourists and business travellers from both countries. Meanwhile, Canada is out in the cold at a great cost to Chinese Canadians, the tourist industry, and Canadian jobs.
    Will the government immediately enter into discussions with China to get the same treatment as the United States, that is, 10-year reciprocal visas for visitors and business people?
    Mr. Speaker, any questions about Chinese visa policy might well be addressed to the Chinese government.
    For our part, we have been giving much better service to all Chinese citizens coming to Canada since we began to clean up the Liberal mess in this area. We have visa application centres across China. Chinese citizens received over a quarter of all the visas issued by Canada in the world last year, and the vast majority of those were 10-year multiple entry visas.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have pursued yo-yo diplomacy with China, hating China when it boycotted the Beijing Olympics then loving China when the former foreign affairs minister referred to China as an ally. Is it not this incompetent, erratic policy that explains why the U.S. gets 10-year visas and Canada gets nothing? At this time of good will, as we usher in the Year of the Sheep, will the government approach China on 10-year visas today?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are in touch with the Government of China on this, as on many other issues, because we are making huge progress with it on immigration issues and trade issues. We have grown trade and investment well beyond the levels achieved under the Liberals. There is approved destination status for tourist groups coming to Canada. We have multiplied the number of direct flights from China. There is service without visas for Chinese citizens transiting to the United States. This is a huge record of achievement that all Canadians should celebrate.

[Translation]

CBC/Radio-Canada

    Mr. Speaker, in light of the number of online petitions, the petitions that have been presented in the House with almost 2,000 signatures and the fact that almost as many people attended the event at the Métropolis yesterday, I am wondering whether the heritage minister really understands her responsibilities.
    Does the minister know that yesterday, the public joined forces with a whole host of artists, including Michel Rivard, Klô Pelgag, Ariane Moffat and Radio Radio?
    If not, does she at least understand the message being sent by the 125 celebrities who are opposing the dismantling of CBC/Radio-Canada and who contributed to the video entitled Ensemble, Sauvons Radio-Canada? Does she not see the warning light on her dashboard?
    Mr. Speaker, despite the member's little jokes, the truth is that the government is already giving CBC/Radio-Canada over a billion dollars a year.
    I have already indicated a number of times what we expect from CBC/Radio-Canada, and that is that it promote programs that Canadians want to watch and listen to in English and in French. That is why it receives a billion dollars a year.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the joke is on our Prime Minister, who talks about the employees of Radio-Canada/CBC.
    Canada is at the bottom of the OECD when it comes to spending on public broadcasting. The CBC's announcement that it is slashing its budget and cutting hundreds of jobs is raising concern about its survival. While the Conservatives are turning their backs on public broadcasting, people across Canada are rallying in support of the CBC. When will the minister finally listen to citizens?
    The NDP leader has a practical plan to save the CBC. When will the government listen and correct—
    Order. The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
    Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I said in English. The member knows very well that we provide the CBC with over a billion dollars every year. We expect that it will honour its mandate under the Broadcasting Act to provide quality programming in French and English to Canadians.
    I find it strangely odd that the NDP would suggest that we actually take money away from taxpayers, as we provide a universal child care benefit, to give to an organization that gets over a billion dollars a year. That is what I call irresponsible and we will not be going down that road.

Foreign Affairs

     Mr. Speaker, Canada continues to stand stalwartly in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Our government has been very clear that Vladimir Putin must get out of Ukraine.
    With today's reports that pro-Russian forces are not respecting the ceasefire and that the EU had imposed further sanctions, can the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update the House on the next steps that our government is taking to support Ukraine?
    Mr. Speaker, reports do indicate that pro-Russian forces continue to shell Ukraine merely hours after the ceasefire has come into effect. This is clearly unacceptable and we will continue to judge Vladimir Putin by his actions and not his words. The fact is that this conflict will end only once Russia halts its invasion, withdraws Russian armed forces, and stops aiding those so-called rebels.

[Translation]

    Let us be clear: we will never accept the Russian occupation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.

[English]

    While we have imposed numerous sanctions, we are prepared to coordinate with our allies and to take additional steps. We will support Ukraine.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, let us come back to the Minister of Justice, who seems to believe that judicial appointments under his purview are to place friends into high placed, high-paying jobs. Nine judges were appointed and six are his friends: the best man at his wedding; his best man's wife; two past Conservative vice-presidents of riding associations; a former vice-president of the Nova Scotia PC association; a friend from law school. Why the ethical lapse? What happened to integrity in appointing judges, or is the minister just exercising patronage heaven for his friends?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member does not know how the judicial appointments process works, so I will help him out. Every person who applies for judicial appointment must go through the judicial advisory committee in their area. It is only upon the recommendation of those independent committees that persons are appointed to the bench. Our judicial appointments are based on one criterion and one criterion only: whether the individual is qualified for the job, determined on merit and legal excellence.

[Translation]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives will do whatever it takes to win an election.
    In 2007, they promised an investment of $300 million and 550 new soldiers for the Bagotville base. No new infrastructure has been announced to date, and the first 250 soldiers who were supposed to arrive on the base by the end of 2014 have not yet arrived.
    When will the new Minister of National Defence honour the Conservatives' election promises and release the infrastructure funding for 2 Wing?
    Mr. Speaker, over the past three years, we have invested approximately $7 million to help maintain the existing infrastructure portfolio.
    What is more, the Royal Canadian Air Force just set up the core of an air expeditionary wing, which will bring in an additional 230 people. More personnel are expected to arrive in 2015 to assist command and the wing's support elements.
    I must add that the NDP is against all of our additional investments in the armed forces.

[English]

Northern Development

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader does not understand the north or the needs of northerners. First, he went on what he called a “northern tour”, but he forgot to go to Yukon. He also said that Yukon does not have party politics even though it has had politics like that for decades. He must have been shocked then to hear that the Yukon Liberal leader actually exists and that he opposes the federal Liberal Party's carbon tax because it would be harmful to Yukoners.
    Could the Minister of the Environment please tell the House what work our government is doing to help northerners keep more of their hard-earned dollars in their pockets?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Yukon for the hard work he has done in representing his constituents. We will continue to stand up for northerners and all Canadians. While a rich southerner with a trust fund may have no issues with implementing a new carbon tax, we oppose Liberals' reckless policies such as carbon taxes, which would raise the cost of living for northern families. Instead, we are taking concrete action to make life more affordable for northerners. Our tax relief measures include reducing the GST and raising the universal child care benefit, which will put cash directly in the pockets of parents. We will continue to oppose a job-killing carbon tax that would raise the price—
    The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, our cities have crumbling infrastructure. We are the only G20 country with no national housing strategy. For decades the feds have downloaded onto the provinces, and the provinces onto the municipalities. So when will the Conservatives stop subsidizing undertaxed multinational corporations like big oil and start working with mayors to invest in critical infrastructure like public transit, municipal housing, and important projects like the proposed event centre in Thunder Bay?

[Translation]

    We have introduced the largest and longest infrastructure plan in Canadian history in partnership with the provinces and municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities was involved at each stage of the plan.
    I applaud our government, which is investing $75 billion over 10 years in new infrastructure.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, various free trade agreements are currently being discussed, and the opening of international markets could have a serious impact on small and medium-sized businesses in Canada if they are not prepared for it. The global markets action plan does not include any concrete measures specifically for SMEs.
    With several agreements about to be implemented, we are still wondering if the government plans to develop a strategy to help SMEs manage the risks associated with international trade.
    Can the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism explain why he is leaving SMEs to fend for themselves?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member actually did not mention which trade agreement he was referring to, but I would say this.
     If he had followed our government's actions, he would know that about a year ago we released Canada's global markets action plan, which identifies the priority markets that matter to Canada, identifies the priority sectors of our economy that matter to Canadians, and puts a special focus on the small and medium-sized enterprises that the member referred to.
    On this side of the House, we take our obligations to Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises seriously. That is why we have embarked upon the most ambitious trade plan Canada has ever seen.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, Quebeckers had the courage to hold a non-partisan debate on the right to die with dignity.
    However, the federal government has always refused to recognize the law passed by the National Assembly. Ottawa has always responded by saying that the Criminal Code applies. This lame excuse no longer holds water, since the Supreme Court just struck down the section that banned patients from putting an end to their suffering.
    Now that the Criminal Code excuse no longer holds water, will the Minister of Justice finally commit to recognizing and fully honouring the Quebec law?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this is a very sensitive issue for many Canadians, with deeply held beliefs on both sides.
    We will study the decision and ensure that all perspectives on this difficult issue are heard.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, instead of helping workers who lose their jobs and fall on tough times, the federal government is doing precisely the opposite and acting like a bully.
    A survey released last week showed that instead of helping applicants get what they are entitled to, the federal government is making Service Canada staff use practices intended to discourage the unemployed from claiming employment insurance benefits. Then people are surprised when a record number of unemployed Canadians are not receiving employment insurance.
    When will the government treat workers who lose their jobs as people who deserve respect and not as people to be fleeced?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the Prime Minister, my constituents, and all Canadians for the opportunity they have given me to serve the public in my new role.
    Our system is very generous to the unemployed. We are working to provide them the benefits to which they are entitled. We are in the process of reducing the waiting period for receiving benefits, and we will continue to do so.

Points of Order

Oral questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, February 6, the House leader of the official opposition raised a point of order against me. It can be found on page 11171 of Hansard.
    In his intervention, the leader claims that during question period that very day I shouted disparaging and inappropriate remarks regarding the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry. He is right to say that I know what is appropriate and what is not.

[English]

    I thank the hon. opposition leader for raising this matter. When he did, I was in the public gallery above him with the hard-working president of the Convent Glen—Orléans Wood Community Association. I was not aware of what I might have said to so offend the sensibilities of the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, so I looked in the blues and did not find my intervention.
    Obviously, whatever I said caused so little fuss that the keepers of the official record ignored it.

[Translation]

    However, I do recall reacting to the preamble to the question from the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry. She said that the Government of Canada, which is so capably led by the current Prime Minister, had cut billions of dollars in health transfers. Since we have increased these transfers by 68%, $14 billion, in nine years, I erupted, something I rarely do.

[English]

    Since the opposition House leader drew my rare heckling to the Speaker's attention, it is now printed in the Debates of the House of Commons on page 11168.
    I am unreservedly contrite for having used the Lord's name in vain. It was an unconsidered intervention. I had never done it before and I will not do it again. I seek your forgiveness, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House.

[Translation]

    I have the deepest respect for the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry and for her professional training as a teacher. For that reason, I was surprised by the lack of rigour in the preamble to her question of February 6. She deserves the presumption of good faith. I have no doubt that when she asks her next question, she will—
     Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

  (1505)  

[English]

    Order, please. I think the hon. member has made his point to the House.
    The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster is rising on the same point.
    Mr. Speaker, you will recall that on the date in question, the Speaker himself said that he would follow up with the member for Ottawa—Orléans and make sure that he gave his excuse and his apologies to the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry. That has not been the case.
    Through you, again, Mr. Speaker, to the member for Ottawa—Orléans, he should be standing, he should be apologizing, he should be withdrawing his remarks, and that is all he should be doing.
    The member for Beauharnois—Salaberry is owed an apology.
    This is the first day back since the incident happened. I will look into it and come back to the House if necessary.

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Order Paper

    I wish to inform the House that in accordance with a representation made by the government pursuant to Standing Order 55(1), I have caused to be published a special order paper giving notice of government bills and motions. I now lay upon the table the relevant document.

Committees of the House

Public Safety and National Security  

    Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Social Finance as It Relates to Crime Prevention in Canada”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Petitions

Agriculture  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.
    The first one is signed by hundreds of people in the city of Sudbury. It calls on the Government of Canada and the House of Commons to adopt international aid policies that support small family farms.
    As members know, the Conservative government has always supported corporate farms, and it is time for the government to pay attention to family farms.

Dementia  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition has been signed by petitioners from right across Ontario. It is from area codes 902, 613, 506, 516, 905, and 705. It calls on the government to adopt my private member's bill, Bill C-356, calling for a national strategy on dementia.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.
    The first petition is from folks around Saskatchewan who call upon members of Parliament to condemn discrimination against girls occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

Protection of Sage Grouse  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition addresses the issue of the amended recovery strategy for greater sage grouse in Canada. It petitions the House of Commons to rescind the strategy and replace it with one that is centred on landowners, land users, and all stakeholders, one that has good science to it that sets limits on research and monitoring and promotes the use of rural resources, existing infrastructure, and local employees to aid in the recovery of the species.

[Translation]

Middle East  

    Mr. Speaker, today I present a petition on behalf of many people in my own riding and nearby ridings. These people are calling on the Government of Canada to do more in the Middle East. They are calling on the government to provide emergency care and reconstruction assistance and to make it easier for refugees to come to Canada.

  (1510)  

[English]

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition that sadly informs the House that 22-year-old Kassandra Kaulius was tragically killed by a drunk driver who chose to drive while impaired. Kassandra's family was devastated.
    Families for Justice is a group of Canadians who have also lost loved ones to impaired drivers. They believe that Canada's impaired driving laws are much too lenient. They want the crime to be called what it is: vehicular homicide. It is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada. Over 1,200 Canadians are killed every year by drunk drivers.
    Families for Justice is also calling for mandatory sentencing for vehicular homicide and for this Parliament to support Bill C-652, Kassandra's law.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions today.
    The first petition deals with a local issue that is federally regulated within my riding. It is a call from petitioners to ensure that the Saanich Inlet be declared as a designated zone where the discharge of raw sewage is not allowed. This is primarily a problem caused by recreational boaters, and it is an enclosed area. The petitioners hope for action on this issue.

Citizenship  

    Mr. Speaker, I also present a petition from residents throughout the Vancouver and Surrey area dealing with lost Canadians. These petitioners call on the government to recognize the citizenship of Canadian war dead who died before 1947 and ask that they be recognized as Canadian citizens who died in the service of their country.

[Translation]

Gros-Cacouna Oil Terminal   

    Mr. Speaker, in the fall 2014 session, the NDP moved a motion in the House calling for parliamentarians to reject the Port of Cacouna oil terminal project. A petition was circulated in that regard, stating that the project is not at all in keeping with the principles of sustainable development.
    Therefore, I have a few hundred signatures to add to the tens of thousands of names already on the petition, which have been made public by a great many organizations across Quebec. This project is not socially acceptable.
    I am pleased to present the views of many Quebeckers.

CBC/Radio-Canada  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today signed by hundreds of my constituents regarding CBC/Radio-Canada. Budget cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada are undermining the strength of our public broadcaster. A self-respecting democracy needs a public broadcaster that is independent from the government, so that it can conduct nuanced analyses of political, economic and social issues in the country.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to stop making cuts and to provide adequate funding to ensure that all regions across the country receive quality service.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from my constituents to the Government of Canada.
    CBC Radio 2 is Canada's second-largest radio network. Radio 2 cannot be received in North Bay but is broadcast to other major urban centres all across Canada, including Sudbury and Huntsville. The petitioners ask the Government of Canada to extend CBC radio service coverage to the North Bay area.

Foreign Investment  

    Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that I am still receiving petitions from across Canada regarding the Canada-China FIPA. They are decrying it, and asking the government not to make it happen.
     As we know, cabinet has already approved it, but I am still receiving petitions asking us not to do this silly thing.

[Translation]

CBC/Radio-Canada  

    Mr. Speaker, I would also like to present a list of 1,800 additional names of people who are very concerned about the future of CBC/Radio-Canada and who are calling for stable, predictable multi-year funding.

[English]

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1515)  

[English]

Parliamentary Precinct Security

Motion that debate be not further adjourned  

[S. O. 57]
    Mr. Speaker, in relation to consideration of Government Business No. 14, I move:
    That the debate be not further adjourned.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will be a 30-minute question period. I would ask members to keep their questions to around a minute, and responses to a similar length.
    The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster
    Mr. Speaker, we are now looking at the 87th time, nearly 100 times, that the government has imposed closure or time allocation. However, on this particular motion, we certainly understand why.
    As the government surprised us with this motion a week and a half ago, not giving due consideration, not even allowing members of caucus to actually have a discussion prior to the motion being dumped in the House, we found out three things.
    First of all, and this is extremely important, the heroes of October 22 are the Senate and House of Commons security guards who performed so bravely, and with such incredible courage, on the day when we had the incident of the man running into the House of Commons. At that time, as members know, the whole country was willing to call them heroes. What the Conservative government is doing with Motion No. 14 is actually demoting them, if members can believe that. They would be demoted for their bravery and courage.
    The second thing that has come out in the brief debate of only a few hours that we have had on this issue is that the RCMP is far from ready to take over Hill security. It came out in the The Globe and Mail, which reported that the RCMP commissioner said that there is still so much work to do.
    Third, of course, which is extremely important, comes from the Commons Protective Service, the women and men in uniform who protect us every day and have showed such courage and bravery, who said that the government's position is as follows:
an indefensible and dangerous interference of government into the independence of the legislative function, as well as a solid breach into one of the foundational pillars of our democratic system: the principle of separation of powers.
    Is the real reason that the government is doing this because as the facts come out the public is opposed to this initiative that comes from the Prime Minister's Office?
    Mr. Speaker, as usual, we are once again watching the politics of division coming from the House leader of the official opposition.
    This is a situation where we would have an integrated security unit, which would consist of both parliamentary security personnel and the RCMP. This is something that was called for as long ago as the Auditor General's report of 2009. It has been thoroughly discussed many times. The only reason we have not had it in place is because we did not have a catalytic moment. We certainly had a catalytic moment on October 22, 2014.
    The Auditor General's report from June of 2012 expected this integrated security unit to be in place by 2015. It is 2015. It is long overdue.
    The motion calls for the coordination of the new responsibilities and roles to be through the Speakers' offices. The Speakers are the ones who would ensure that the parliamentary separation of powers and so on would be maintained. It is not the RCMP who would be in charge. It will be the Speakers and Parliament.
    With that, I think I have answered the questions more than once. The same questions keep coming up, but this is an absolutely essential thing to do.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, when I was on that side of the House as chief government whip and deputy House leader, we had requests from the official opposition and the third party not to introduce a motion to put time allocation on a debate until the respective caucuses had a chance to discuss the matter in their caucus meetings.
    This came up on the last Friday that the House sat, and today we are asked to end the debate without the caucuses having had a chance to discuss this very important matter. My question for the chief government whip is, why would he not respect what they asked for when we were on the government side, to allow the different caucuses to have a chance to debate these matters within their own caucuses?
    Mr. Speaker, the whips and the House leaders have been involved in discussions regarding the motion. The motion is a common sense motion that builds in everything needed to be consistent with the recommendations from the Auditor General's report, and other considerations, such as separation of powers.
    Therefore, regarding the need for further consultation, based on the fact that we already debated it in the House prior to the one-week recess we just had, it has given everyone ample opportunity to weigh in on the matter, and that it is well in hand.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Chief Government Whip himself admitted that the deadline set out in the Auditor General's report was not respected.
    It is rather strange to see the government attempt to limit debate on this topic. If the government had been even remotely thorough, we could have previously held a full debate on this coordination. We could have had a discussion on how the various security forces and the RCMP could be coordinated and have a unified command.
    How can the whip claim, two years after the Auditor General's deadline, that we need to cut off debate on this?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the whole question of an integrated security force was recommended, and the recommended time, not a deadline, to have it in place, was 2015.
    There has been no shortage of discussions between the security advisory committees on the House of Commons side and from the Senate side. We have had integration with the House of Commons and Senate security forces, which has been ongoing for some time now. We are moving to the next step.
     I would remind the member that this all happened within 24 hours when they were presented with a clear and present danger in Australia. We need to exercise some sense of urgency about moving forward with an absolutely essential measure.
    Mr. Speaker, I have to disagree with the hon. Chief Government Whip.
    This House was presented with this motion on the last day that we were in session before the constituency break week. There have been no witnesses before this House. In an emergency, it is possible for the government to turn the House into a committee of the whole and bring forward security witnesses.
    I am not the least bit comfortable with this motion. I want to know what our former sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers, was saying about it at the time he was appointed away from Canada, in Ireland, and who has not participated in this debate.
    The House of Commons security force is equipped, well trained, and has the constitutional and professional track record to be the unified force that takes over control of Parliament Hill. What is being proposed is rushed, potentially unconstitutional, and should not be done under the guise that we have had lots of discussions. We have not. We have not had one single security expert as a witness in this place where we are being asked to vote on something with closure on debate and a completely inadequate sham of a process.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, well, I am not surprised that leader of the Green Party is not happy. However, I would like to say from the get-go that her attempt to continue to put words in the mouth of our former sergeant-at-arms is absolutely and totally inappropriate. It is political theatre and political opportunism on her part.
    Second, this is not a rushed exercise. There have been discussions going on for a very long time.
    Finally, this is not unconstitutional. The Speaker, in many ways, is the keeper of that very point. I am confident, as are others who have looked at this question, that the motion is absolutely consistent with our constitutional separation.
    Mr. Speaker, the government needs to understand that there is a world of difference between the government and Parliament.
    We are talking about the security of Parliament, not the security that the government is responsible for. The fact that it would attempt to ram this through without agreement is unacceptable.
    I think all of us here accept that we have to act with some urgency. This is not something that can sit on the back burner and have a review of it happen whenever it happens.
    I want to add my voice to support the members for Ottawa—Vanier, and Saanich—Gulf Islands. The member for Ottawa—Vanier asked, at the very least, whether we could not stop for a moment to see if we cannot reach an agreement whereby all the members here are comfortable going forward.
    This is not a matter of whether we should do something, whether we should combine the two services in terms of security, the other place and here. We all agree with that. That is the easy part. The hard part is who is in control. In this Parliament, and in all parliaments, the separation of government from parliament is superior. We need to ensure that no matter how this is structured that the government at the end of the day does not call the shots, pardon the pun, on what happens vis-à-vis security in Parliament. That is the problem with the government rushing it through.
    There is ample time for the government to consult with all members in all caucuses, to ensure that for once something that they say is the right thing, we can actually say is the right thing. The government saying it is not good enough, and it does not address the important parliamentary principles that are stake. There is a separation between the government and the Parliament, and this motion crosses every line. It is unacceptable and fixable, if the government, for once, would just be reasonable and allow others to have their say.
    Mr. Speaker, we do have an integrated security unit and force in the mother Parliament in London, as well as in Australia. They were responding to events, modernizing and doing what is necessary when there is recognition that it could be a place that is targeted. We have a living example of that now. We did not have that in June of 2012.
    In the latter part of the motion, it very clearly states:
—as recommended by the Auditor General in his 2012 report and as exists in other peer legislatures; and call on the Speaker, in coordination with his counterpart in the Senate, to invite, without delay, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to lead operational security throughout the Parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, while respecting the privileges, immunities and powers of the respective Houses, and ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary Security staff.
    We are all aware of the concerns that have been expressed on this subject from all parties and various people, such as the experts who have looked at security on Parliament Hill. This motion respects all of those principles.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the government side on this issue and the debate we are having, I thought the debate was on closure, not on the bill.
    When we have repeated closures in this place on a variety of issues, we do not get the opportunity to offer due diligence. This has happened 87 times in this place. This bill is probably the most significant bill I have seen in the nine years I have been in this place. When we give consideration to the implications, King Charles I of England lost his head for things very similar to this. When that sovereign tried to enter Parliament, ultimately that was the end.
    The reality is that we are looking at a position where the source of control of our Parliament, which is supposed to rest with the Speaker, is going to a national police force that is accountable to the government. Therefore, from the standpoint of not debating it, it is the simple fact that we have not had the opportunity to give it proper study. If there is ever a bill that comes before this place that needs proper study, proper airing, anything that could be potentially contrary to our Constitution, the government says that it is not. I am saying that we have not had the opportunity to prove or disprove that.
    The government is going way too far on an issue that is of great importance to the House and to Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, we are not debating a bill; we are debating a motion. This motion does not fetter the Speakers in any way, shape or form. The Speakers would have to negotiate or come up with a memorandum of understanding, a contractual agreement, some kind of agreement that deals with the details of how this is to be derived. That could all happen without this motion. However, this motion brings it to life and expedites it.
    If anybody here wants to suggest that we do not have some sense of urgency about moving on, then they are out of step with where the Canadian public is. We have a responsibility in this place to protect much more than ourselves. It is all about the people we invite to this place. The Canadian public and all visitors who come to this place deserve a certain standard of care. That standard of care is something we need to improve. This integrated security exercise is all about that.
    Mr. Speaker, I will start off by expressing how grateful I am, and I know other members of the chamber are, for all those people from last fall who were involved in ensuring we had secure premises. Our accolades go to them and in no way should any of the debate reflect on any sort of poor performance in any fashion because they are all heroes, as far as I am concerned. I know many members of my caucus look at them in that fashion too.
    We are debating the issue of a time allocation motion, which is very important. We have had all sorts of other very important issues where the government, as opposed to allowing for debate, have made the decision to limit debate in bringing forward time allocation.
    My question is not necessarily for the minister, but more so for the government House leader. Here we are once again using time allocation to limit debate on yet another important issue. Why has the government been unable to negotiate in good faith with the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party to try to have more harmony in getting the legislative agenda done.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, we have had a long Parliament, since 2011. We have 12 weeks left. We still have a parliamentary legislative agenda. The government has a parliamentary legislative agenda. It has now been three and a half months since October 22. We do not have infinite time to move forward on measures that are required. We have been able to do some things in terms of integrating the security around here, and we have made some definite positive improvements.
    I would like to join the member from Winnipeg in saying how much we value the people who have looked after the security in the parliamentary precinct in every way. There is no attempt to divide or to suggest that there has been any weakness or any criticism. This is all positive. They are all heroes. However, we do need to make some changes.
    I see several members rising. If we stay very strictly to the one minute per question rule, we might be able to get them all in with the members' co-operation.
    The hon. member for Northwest Territories.
    Mr. Speaker, this is the parliamentarians' watch here right now on the future of this Parliament, so of course it is very serious what we are doing today, and the speed at which we are moving is not appropriate.
    There has not been an official report that parliamentarians have had a chance to review over the incident that happened in October, so three and a half months have gone by without that. We have not seen any of the improvements that the Chief Government Whip has talked about to understand what those do to the situation in Parliament. Without that kind of technical information, for us to move ahead with any kind of change to the philosophy and structure of the House is really unfortunate.
    Will the Chief Government Whip put forward the information that he does have? When will we see that information?
    Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to be uninformed, it is another thing to be naive.
    Through the House leaders and whips, we have been aware of changes that have been made around this place since October 22. I have certainly conveyed them to my caucus. If those changes have not been conveyed to you as a caucus, then I am not the one to ask about that. However, they are not things that I am going to put in my newsletter. I am will not suggest the things that we have done that will improve security around here in a specific fashion because we would only be potentially telling the wrong people things that they would love to know.
    All I can say is there have been dramatic changes around here and if you have not seen them over the last three months, I am very surprised.
    I remind the government whip to address his comments to the Chair and not directly at other members.
    The hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Chief Government Whip for his presentation. The problem I have with the motion in front of us is simply the House needs to debate it. It simply is not true that any committee that might have been sitting behind closed doors has had a fulsome opportunity to look at all the potential weaknesses and faults that the motion brings forward.
    The House needs to have the opportunity to discuss this. The Chief Government Whip is not allowing that discussion to occur in the House.
    We are talking about the House having precedence over government institutions. The purpose of this place is to have oversight over government institutions. We would now have a government institution imposed upon this place. We have turned this upside down.
    The House needs to take its job seriously. I suggest the members from the other side take this job a lot more seriously than they are prepared to show today.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, it occurs to me that something such as this should actually be a no-brainer. We should actually have been able to get to where the motion suggests we should be, without the necessity of the motion.
    However, perhaps the public has a taste already from the official opposition that anything we try to move forward on will be politicized and there will be an attempt to create division because it thinks that is politically advantageous.
    I suggest the motion would have the vast support of the majority of Canadians. It is what we need to protect Canadians who wish to visit this place.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sad to see how full of contradictions the other side of the House is when it comes to House of Commons security. I believe that on both sides of the House, we agree that Parliament's security officers are doing an outstanding job. They are probably the best trained people in the world, certainly in Canada, to keep us safe.
    The problem now is that the government is imposing time allocation on us for a bill that should have never come from the government. This violates the right of the Speaker of the House. House of Commons security should not come under the government; it should come under the Speaker of the House. The government is overstepping the Speaker's powers.
    I have so many things to say. I hope to have the opportunity to talk about the bill, because I feel very strongly about it.
    I must say that I am extremely disappointed to see that the government is imposing time allocation on an issue as important as this. We do not even know whether this motion is constitutional. We do not know why it is coming from the government or why the Speaker's powers are being overstepped.
    I would also like to know why the government does not trust our security officers, who work for us every day and put their lives on the line to protect us. Why?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the motion actually creates a situation exactly to address the concern expressed by the member, and that is that our safety and security will be up to the Speakers. The motion empowers the Speakers to do exactly that.
    Mr. Speaker, first, it is important to note that this is a motion, not a bill. It has been repeatedly mentioned that it is some kind of bill that needs to be debated and sent to committee.
    Second, when it was first introduced, I made it very clear, and all the opposition have said this as well, that it did not diminish our feeling of gratitude and pride for the security forces of this building who were heroic in ensuring that we were safe, not only on that day, but continuing right up to this day. This is about integrating a number of services.
     My colleague from Yukon mentioned that with the Ontario Provincial Police there could possibly be at one point in time five law enforcement agencies or security services that have to be dealt with.
    I wanted to make that clear and perhaps have the government whip speak to the issue that this does not diminish your capability, Mr. Speaker, but simply causes us to look at the necessary integration of security forces to work more efficiently together.
    Mr. Speaker, yes, the RCMP will provide the operational lead for an integrated security force throughout the parliamentary precinct. The rationale is that the RCMP has access to extensive resources that other forces do not and has acquired extensive experience in security assessments and the information sharing essential to meeting the evolving threats of today.
    There will be a detailed implementation plan developed over the coming months outlining a phased approach to deploying a fully integrated security model. All of that will be under the control of the Speakers.

  (1545)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when I think about the events of October 22, two images come to my mind. I remember the shooting, which we have seen over and over again, probably too often, but I especially remember what happened the next day, which we probably have not seen often enough, when this Parliament spoke with one voice.
    Now, just a few months later, we are again prepared to unite our voices in support of a security system, as long as the government accepts our amendment to its motion, which would unite all the voices in the House. Canadians expect Parliament—because that is what this is about—to speak with one voice on this issue. We expect the government to set partisanship aside on this issue.
    Why not give ourselves the time and the means to do things properly?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, what the member is saying is that if we accept the partisan position of the NDP, everything will be fine, but we are not allowed to accept the position of the government. I think the member should listen to his own argument as to why we are not speaking with one voice on this issue.
     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 Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1625)  

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

(Division No. 330)

YEAS

Members

Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Aspin
Barlow
Bateman
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Eglinski
Falk
Fantino
Fast
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gill
Glover
Goldring
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harper
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Holder
James
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
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKenzie
Maguire
Mayes
McColeman
Menegakis
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Nicholson
Norlock
Oliver
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Perkins
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Ritz
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shipley
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Sweet
Toet
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Yurdiga
Zimmer

Total: -- 132


NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Angus
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brahmi
Brison
Brosseau
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Choquette
Christopherson
Côté
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Dubourg
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Freeland
Freeman
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Gravelle
Groguhé
Hsu
Hughes
Hyer
Julian
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Laverdière
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Liu
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
Murray
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Papillon
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Sitsabaiesan
St-Denis
Stewart
Toone
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 96


PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

[Translation]

Consideration Resumed of Motion  

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed from February 6 consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament, I would rather rise in the House under different circumstances to discuss our safety and the incredible work that Parliament's security guards do. Nevertheless, I will do it because the government is once again—this is a record—using time allocation on an extremely important motion that affects all members of the House.
    Before starting my speech, I would like to say a few words about the incredible work that all of the constables working in Parliament do, be it today, before October 22, or on October 22 in particular. I have never for a moment felt unsafe here. They do amazing work.
    They have received incredible training. I doubt that anyone in the world is trained better than them for this kind of work, and I thank them. It is always a pleasure to see them do their work every day. They put their lives on the line, and they put our safety first, not theirs, so the least we can do is honour the work they do every day; today I would like to thank them.
    At the same time, we are talking a lot about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, since this motion seeks to give the RCMP control over security on Parliament Hill. I do not want members to engage in demagoguery in this debate. RCMP officers also do a fantastic job on the ground, in places where they are supposed to do it. They protect the lives of Canadians in our country's communities and they do an incredible job.
    I am fortunate to be a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and to share responsibility for the public safety file for the official opposition with my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. We have had the opportunity to meet RCMP officers when examining bills or holding discussions on a variety of topics. I know that they have a very difficult job to do on the ground, but they do it well. We saw a good example of this last week in Halifax when they thwarted what could have been a serious attack in a Halifax shopping centre. By thwarting that attack, they really did a great job of making sure everyone was safe.
    I want to thank our RCMP officers for the excellent work that they do, which is greatly appreciated by all Canadians. It is important to point that out here because we do not want to engage in demagoguery by saying that one is better than the other. The constables on Parliament Hill and the RCMP are two extremely different entities that do very different jobs. However, it is important to point out that they both do their jobs well. Why? Because the motion proposes that the RCMP take control of parliamentary security.
    I understand that an extremely serious incident occurred on October 22. It is making us rethink how security works on Parliament Hill.
    All parties in the House agree that our security needs to be modernized a little. One suggestion that has been made repeatedly is that we must ensure that security for the House of Commons and the Senate work together. We often hear that in the hallways, where we discuss it as parliamentarians. I think that makes sense.
    The thing about this motion that does not make sense is that at present, our security service reports to Parliament as a whole. Security therefore reports to all parliamentarians. It goes through you, Mr. Speaker, and it also goes through our sergeant-at-arms. Those individuals have control over what happens and they ensure our safety. They also protect our privilege as parliamentarians, which is very important. That is how it works here, but not only here. That is also how it works in practically every country with a parliamentary system.
    The government is trying to impose its decision. An article in The Globe and Mail said that the paper learned from a reliable source that the decision to concentrate all security powers within the RCMP is being driven by the Prime Minister himself. The fact is, the RCMP does not report to Parliament; it reports to the government.

  (1630)  

    Thus, the government is interfering in these powers in a way that is beyond all belief. Security within the House works very well at this time. All it needs is the right tools and a strong framework to run smoothly. What are the Conservatives doing? They are taking away the Speaker's powers and handing them over directly to the government across the way, which wants to control everything that happens on Parliament Hill. It makes no sense. No one even knows if the motion as moved is constitutional or what our rights are as parliamentarians in all of this.
    As the official opposition, we decided to do our job, unlike the government. We examined the motion as moved and found that the way it was worded was not fair and that in order to ensure that the powers of the parliamentary security staff remain within the hands of the House of Commons, we had to modify it. We want to ensure that the motion is constitutional and that the powers are not all mixed up, which is what the Conservatives want. Thus, we want to amend the motion.
    I would like to read the main motion with our proposed amendment. I think it makes perfect sense:
    That this House recognize the necessity of fully integrated security throughout the Parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, as recommended by the Auditor General in his 2012 report and as exists in other peer legislatures; and call on the Speaker, in coordination with his counterpart in the Senate, to prepare and execute, without delay, plans to fully integrate the work of all partners providing operational security throughout the Parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, while respecting the privileges, immunities and powers of the respective Houses, including the ultimate authority of the Speakers of the Senate and House of Commons over access and security of Parliament and ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary Security staff, whose exemplary work on October 22, 2014, quickly brought an end to the security threat on Parliament Hill.
    I think that really captures what we are looking for as parliamentarians. This is really about studying a motion that the government just plain threw in our face. The motion has not been studied in a fair and equitable manner. It also has nothing to do with the recommendations made by the Auditor General in 2012, which was long before the attack on Parliament Hill.
    The main motion with our amendment respects not only our privileges as parliamentarians, but also the work of the constables on Parliament Hill.
    I hope the Conservatives will vote in favour of this amendment.
    Before I continue, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the wonderful member for Louis-Hébert, my renowned colleague from the Quebec City region, who I am sure will give an excellent speech.
    As I was saying, it is important to study this motion. I hope that the government will consider our amendment, because we have been asking the members on the other side of the House all kinds of questions, but we still do not know whether the government will vote for or against the amendment.
    I sincerely hope that I will see hon. members from the other side of the House rise, not just to ask me questions, but also to tell me that they will support or oppose our amendment—which, in fact, provides the perfect opportunity for everyone to agree on the importance of keeping Canadians safe. Our safety is important, but let us entrust the security guards who are here with our safety. Let us trust in their abilities. They are the best people to ensure the safety of Parliament Hill, not just for us parliamentarians, but also for the people who come to visit us every day. It is extremely important for us to trust them and also to trust the Speaker—I say that for the benefit of the members across the way—because these are powers that are in his hands to protect the immunity of the House.
    I see that I am running out of time. Time flies when we are talking about good things such as the amendment proposed by the official opposition.
    I look forward to getting questions that I hope will come from the government side. I also hope that the Conservatives will realize that it is important for all of us to work together to ensure that we have the best possible motion and not put all our eggs in one basket.

  (1635)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her eloquent speech that was respectful of all of the security forces that keep us safe.
    It is essential to know who will decide. That is my question for the member. Consider a situation where a terrorist attack is under way in a number of foreign parliaments. As a security measure, an RCMP officer decides to shut down the Parliament of Canada. This decision is final, under the new law. Previously, all members of Parliament made the decision. We might have decided to shut down Parliament, but we also might have decided to keep Parliament going as a response to terrorism.
    How will the new law change this situation?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question from my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. He raised some very interesting points.
    I think that the government is completely confused about this issue. I do not think it knows exactly what it wants to do, and it is using a number of events for political gain, which is sad.
    The day after the attacks on Parliament Hill, or even in the statements that were made after other attacks, when we came back to the House on October 23, it was clear that everyone wanted to work together to keep all Canadians safe. Together we all had the same ultimate goal.
    The Conservatives are working and playing games on their own. They could not care less about what is going on and what kind of impact it could have. There is a lot of confusion. I do not think they have truly thought through everything that could be included in this motion.
    When this motion was moved, the RCMP said that it was not prepared to take over security on Parliament Hill, which is twice as bad.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
    I would like to go back to one aspect of the motion that she focused on, specifically the part where she referred to one of the Auditor General's recommendations. Would she mind repeating that part and explaining what it is about?
    I was a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for two years. I tip my hat to the Auditor General's team—they do exceptional work. As a committee member, I was very often frustrated by how the government sometimes cared about the Auditor General's recommendations and sometimes did not.
    I think it is interesting how that rigorous research was used to draft a motion. Can she tell me more about that?

  (1640)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard for her question because this is key to the amendment that we want to make to the Conservatives' main motion about security on Parliament Hill.
    In his 2012 report, the Auditor General said we should have better security. Canadians might not know this, but currently, we have House of Commons security and Senate security. To improve security on Parliament Hill, the Auditor General recommended merging the two or at least ensuring better communication between them.
    That is what the official opposition's amendment to the motion is about today. We have to make sure that the entire parliamentary precinct is working together to ensure absolute security everywhere on Parliament Hill. I think this could solve a lot of problems instead of creating more problems by adding an external force that would report directly to the government instead of to you, Mr. Speaker.
    I believe that we can all work together. We work with very generous constables who work extremely well. Why not trust them and implement the Auditor General's recommendations?
    Mr. Speaker, hockey season is in full swing. In June, one team will win the Stanley Cup. Imagine if come September, all those players end up in the American league. No, my comment is not out of order; I will speak to the motion and you will see what I am getting at.
    I am wondering what the hurry is. This motion is not the result of a recommendation by the joint advisory working group on security. In fact, the group was not even ready to make its recommendations. We know where it is heading and that is fine. However, the Conservative motion has been expedited and we should know where we are going with it. The motion states that this new system will be enforced without delay, although we have no idea how things will actually work. It is sort of a blank cheque. The members on the front benches have not told us where we are heading with this motion. The Lord only knows, but I sure do not.
    There have been many speeches concerning security-related incidents on Parliament Hill. Each time, the NDP mentioned how important it is to co-ordinate the work of everyone involved. This is nothing new and we continue to believe that. Ultimately, what we are doing on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, is defending your powers. We want the existing security services to continue to maintain order on the Hill. Despite the good work done by the RCMP on the ground, we do not want control over this work to be taken away from Parliament Hill's security services. It is not very complicated.
    Some members on the other side have said that the changes are insignificant. There is nothing insignificant about directly changing how orders are managed, reported and given. The government is interfering with this Parliament's freedom to work independently. Some will say that I am paranoid. However, one day, Mr. Speaker, you may no longer have the right to say “Order”, because that will be someone else's responsibility.
    I said at the start that we support the integrated co-ordination of security. Evidently, our security services need better integration, better co-ordination, better communications, better equipment and better training. In short, they need resources, training and tools. We do not need to change everything. We have learned some lessons from the events that took place. We want to improve the processes and we want to do something worthwhile. Nevertheless, there is no need to change everything. We can do all of this without necessarily turning everything upside down, as the government wants to do with this motion.
    Furthermore, this would be a lot to ask of the RCMP. On the one hand, we would be asking them to do their job on the ground, and on the other hand, we would be asking them to ensure the security of Parliament Hill. Who would the RCMP report to? To the Minister of Public Safety, of course. That is the hierarchy, and it is only natural for RCMP officers to think so. That is part of their training. Incidentally, our former sergeant-at-arms was a former RCMP officer, but he worked in the context of the House. There is no reason not to continue working in this fashion, only with better tools. The RCMP is not a security agency. It is much more than that. RCMP officers do an excellent job on the ground and they should continue to do the work they excel at. On this side of the House, we do not want officers to have to do things that they are not trained to do and that they do not necessarily want to do either. With the kind of training they are given, they can do other things besides act as security guards.

  (1645)  

    The government's motion was based on the Governor General's report, but the report talked only about integrating, without saying how. What is more, the government has never said what it is trying to accomplish. Will handing the whole thing over to the RCMP improve things? I have yet to hear anyone across the way tell us what we stand to gain from this.
    They say that the government will ensure that the staff currently assigned to parliamentary security will keep their jobs, but no one seems to know how that will work or whether all the jobs will be kept. When a security guard retires, will he be replaced by an RCMP officer?
    The security guards are worried about their futures, and the future of their group. Let us not forget that. We have to think about the impact our actions will have on other people. The government wants to improve Parliament's security, and everyone in the House agrees on that. However, we cannot go about this in any old way and forget what was done in the past.
    During the sad events of October 22, these guards gave us their all, and we recognized that here when we gave them a lengthy ovation. Despite that, a few months later, the government is now moving this motion. Let us put ourselves in their shoes. They must think that their actions have already been forgotten and are not worth very much. It is extremely unfortunate that the Conservatives seem to want to move on with something else to solve a problem.
    Mr. Speaker, this calls to mind the expression, “you do your job and I'll do mine”. It is very important for everyone to have a specific role in providing security to Parliament. We currently have different groups that provide security here and that provide security for all those who visit Parliament on a daily basis. We are talking about the security of not just parliamentarians, but also visitors. That is how Parliament can be open to visitors.
    This motion represents an arbitrary decision. It is unfortunate that the government did not wait for the findings set out in the report of the joint security committee. The government ignored the separation of powers and used the tragic events of October 22 to advance its own agenda instead of trying to resolve the fundamental problems.
    Our security officers are dedicated. They have proven their courage and bravery. They do not deserve what is happening to their profession. Their service won them the Stanley Cup. I do not think they should be sent down to an American league.

  (1650)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Louis-Hébert for his very enlightening speech.
    I cannot resist quoting from House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition. I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues to pages 121 and 122:
     Police forces also may not enter the precinct to investigate the commission of an offence without permission from the Speaker. Cases have arisen where representatives of outside police forces have wanted to enter the precinct of Parliament for purposes of making an arrest, conducting an interrogation or executing a search warrant within the terms of the Criminal Code.
    It states that the Speaker has the authority to grant or deny this, but that the Parliamentary precinct and the Parliament buildings are not a sanctuary or refuge for elected members. This privilege has been strictly defended by the Chair for decades.
    I would like my colleague to comment on how the Chair has fiercely defended parliamentary privilege even against police powers of investigation.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou for his question.
    He is obviously alluding to the separation of powers. Our current system is quite appropriate in that Parliament's security service is independent. The RCMP is responsible for security outside the building. Therefore, we already have a record of co-ordination and recognition as part of this Parliament's history and tradition.
    By adopting this motion, the government is breaking with Canadian parliamentary tradition. Did the members of decades past really go down the wrong path by maintaining this distinction? I do not think so, and I prefer to rely on their wisdom rather than follow the government's new path.
    Mr. Speaker, the question I would like to ask my colleague has to do with a concern I expressed to the government in a letter to the Minister of Public Safety, the Chief Government Whip, the Prime Minister and all party leaders.
    This country has three branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The separation of the three branches and the division of powers have always been respected. If people saw that the RCMP was responsible for our security but was reporting to the government, it could be interpreted as an infringement on the division of powers and parliamentary supremacy.
    I would like to hear what my colleague thinks of that.

  (1655)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    Once again, it is a question of the separation of powers, that is, the ability of each branch to act freely and independently in order to ensure the balance that is essential to our Parliament and our operations.
    It is important to recognize that the people who ensure our safety play an important role not only because of what they do, but also because of what they represent. Those are your agents, Mr. Speaker. They work for you and they help ensure order and security within the precincts of Parliament. They do an extraordinary job.
    Since I have been here, I have gotten to know them and like them. They deserve better than this government motion.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of this motion. I have listened to the conversations across the aisle and I heard some equation to hockey. This is not about hockey. With all due respect, this is a very serious matter. It does not just address October 22. October 22 brought the matter to a very forceful light to us all.
    On October 22, we were all very fortunate, the members in the House and Canadians who were also present here. We have an excellent security system with our security people inside the building and the RCMP on the outside, but that day we were faced with one individual with a lever action rifle. Had we been faced with more than one person with semi-automatic weapons, we would have been in a whole different situation.
    The motion, with all due respect, would build upon some of the things that have already gone on. When I came here in 2004, our security people were not properly armed. I believe they have been far more armed and far more trained, and that is so appropriate. They do a superb job.
    However, this is not about pitting our people in the security service in the House with the RCMP. This is about how we go forward to ensure the precinct stays safe, both inside and outside.
    I forgot to mention, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to split my time with the member for Prince Edward—Hastings.
    When we look at the motion, it is not about what my friends suggest on the other side, which is getting rid of the security people. It is not that at all. However, it would allow us to fulfill our duty as elected officials, to protect the safety of visitors, staff and members. As we go forward, it is important that we have that connection. As we are well aware, right now we have four different security agencies. We are trying to put two of them together right now, with the Senate and the House. However, on the outside, we have the RCMP and Ottawa city police. This is a vast area, so control is important.
    On this side of the House, I believe we have 10 or 12 former police officers, members who have been connected with law enforcement. They understand the need to have some central control. That is certainly not to mean that every police agency, security agency and all of that would come under one. That is not it at all. It is so we would have some control and opportunities for people to have the communication that is so vital.
    As the Auditor General indicated in his 2012 report on parliamentary precinct, our security forces would benefit from integration under a single command, allowing them to respond to situations much more efficiently and effectively. This is all about that.
    As I said, if we had been faced with far more planning by the individual who came into the House, with different weapons and perhaps more of them, we would have been in hard times. This would have been a hard-pressed situation for the excellent security people we have here and for the RCMP on the outside.
    It is time that we looked at this in a more modern vision to put these things together.
    We have already said in our motion that our existing parliamentary security people are absolutely valued and respected. There is not a person in the House who is not grateful for the selfless work they do every day. That is why I am pleased the motion before us today states that their continued employment is assured.
    I am also pleased the motion before us stresses that the rights and privileges of Parliament will remain respected as per our constitutional, conventional and historical practice. That is something I hear challenged on the other side. It is right in the motion that those things will continue. The rights and privileges of Parliament will remain unchanged, including privileges for the House of Commons and the Senate to control their own precincts and the rights of members to come and go unimpeded.
    All of the discussions that come from the other side are all about us trying to minimize our current security personnel. That is not true. We respect our security people a great deal and we appreciate them. However, as we have found that in several other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, they have had to merge into a single system to provide security. They have gone through those things. As we saw just this weekend in Halifax, we do not know where those problems will come from. In the Halifax situation, it would be alleged that there was certainly more than one individual and maybe more than one firearm.

  (1700)  

    We need to think about that in the bigger picture and not only on October 22. Our people did an excellent job on October 22, but it is about October 22 next year and what we may face.
    The integration of the House of Commons and Senate force is a great first step. This motion would build upon that as we go forward.
     I also firmly believe this motion builds on the Auditor General's recommendations and would give us the kind of security we need. It would balance the desired level of access with sufficient security to ensure risks are mitigated.
     The government is committed to making this a better and safer place. I urge all members to support this motion so that you, Mr. Speaker, can move forward expeditiously with the Speaker of the Senate.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I must nevertheless say that I am astounded by both his tone and the substance of what he told us.
    I am proud to wear the pin that I received when I was sworn in as an MP. As everyone knows, this pin represents our position, but it is also a pass that enables us to circulate freely. Randomly connecting attacks that may have taken place elsewhere in the country or in the world with our fundamental freedom of movement, and especially with our freedom of speech and expression to represent our constituents, seems totally out of line to me.
    We are getting away from the substance of this debate, which actually goes against your own authority, Mr. Speaker. This House is the legislative branch, which is independent from the executive branch. Why is my colleague perpetuating this confusion?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first, I am glad the member was also sworn in and received a pin that recognizes him as a member of Parliament. However, with all due respect, we are talking about the security of the precinct.
    Life has changed in the last 10 years, life has changed in the last 148 years, and we must change with it. When we see what happens around the world with pressure-cooker bombs, shoe bombs, in addition to firearms, we know there is a need to enhance the security of this place.
    Our people do a fantastic job, but we need to give them more tools and more opportunity to deal with outside agencies. This is not a closed circuit anymore. We all need to be involved in the whole area of security. It is so important we do this and move forward.

  (1705)  

    Mr. Speaker, the government's motion does not specify that the RCMP would have to report to Parliament. Therefore, the interpretation could be that it would be reporting to the government, and that could be seen as undermining the authority of Parliament and not respecting the division of powers.
    I have written to the government suggesting that the Conservatives perhaps consider amending their motion so that if the RCMP is chosen to do the united force security of the Hill, both inside and outside, it would do so through a contractual agreement, which would also specify that the RCMP would report to the parliamentary authorities, and they are the Speakers of both Houses.
    Would the member for Oxford care to comment on that?
    Mr. Speaker, the motion does not take anything away from the existing authority of the House. It would operate under the domain, for lack of a better word, of the Speakers of both the Senate and the House. When we set up straw dogs, such as what about this or that, we need to think in terms of the bigger picture and the security.
    This motion does not take away any of the privileges from anybody in the House, and it leaves the security of the facilities with the Speakers of both Houses.
    Mr. Speaker, I find the motion before us unnecessarily vague. If it is as the government members would have us believe, as the hon. whip has put it to us, that this will not demote the House of Commons security team, then let that be clear in the motion.
    The motion is so unclear. It says that the employment of the security guards is assured. Their employment where? Is it here in this place in their current roles and functions? That is not at all what the motion says, although that is the spin that has been given to media. I have talked to many reporters who have said that this will not change. They are being told by Conservatives that the RCMP will be in charge in some way, but the House of Commons security guards will still be the people present in the House.
    Nothing about this is clear. It is deliberately vague and, in that sense, it is also unconstitutional. The way our rights and privileges are stated, this motion leaves it wide open, as other colleagues have suggested, to the abuse of our very constitutional principles and foundations.
    Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. friend has not read it entirely. As the motion is written, we would end up with the same rights and privileges that we have always had.
    It is interesting that she would specifically mention the security people who work in this place. We have security people who work in other buildings in the precinct. They are still there, and they will be there. It is very clear that those positions will be retained.
    That is the role they fill, and they are doing a great job. I do not know why she would try to turn this around so that people would be out of work. That is not the case.
    Mr. Speaker, we are all proud Canadians, and we all recognize that the House of Parliament is an important symbol of Canada's democracy. It really exemplifies who we are and what we are, and the history is an expression of what we stand for as humanity and as a beacon in the world.
    We have visitors here. They are not just parliamentarians and the people who work here. Tens of thousands of people come to the parliamentary precinct every year. They tour the grounds freely and at any time, day or night. As such, the precinct is an obvious target for those who wish to hurt Canadians and impede our way of life.
    It is our responsibility as elected officials to take the measures to ensure the safety of all Canadians, especially those who work to support this bastion of democracy. That is why we believe we must enhance security. Most of my colleagues in the House agree with that.
    Where we do disagree, to a certain extent, is how we will do this, because we have to meet the evolving threats. Canadians and their elected representatives are safe when they are inside this precinct or, at least, they thought they were. Of course, October 22, 2014, changed that thought.
    Regarding enhancing our parliamentary security, I was very fortunate to sit on public accounts committee, like my friend across the way. The Auditor General's 2012 report recommended a unified security force for the precinct under a single point of command, making it possible to respond to situations more effectively and more efficiently. Sadly, as parliamentarians what have we done about that? Obviously, we have not done enough.
    The time for action is now. The integrated security model we are debating today is in keeping with that recommendation of the Auditor General, balancing the level of access to the public, while ensuring that the security threats and rifts are alleviated.
    Security forces have always been present on Parliament Hill, but these threats did not really manifest until recently. We live in a different world from that of 30, 40, or 50 years ago, when the idea of terrorism did not really exist. As we, visiting delegations and others witnessed on October 22, 2014, either in our committee rooms or in our respective offices on the Hill, that threat is very real. If it is taken lightly, innocent people will become victims.
    Let me just speak for a second about our security forces of which we are so proud. On behalf of all parliamentarians and Canadians, I honestly thank each and every one of them. They did most of the right things on October 22, 2014. I say “most” and not “all” because there are lessons to be learned. However, our Hill security was absolutely incredible. We have witnessed that first hand as we have had the opportunity to work with it.
    We are not saying that one is better than the other or that we have to pick and choose. This is a team approach. It is a team that works together here. We are a team of parliamentarians. Whether we agree or disagree a little bit now and then, we are a team going forward. We try to make the right decisions for the right reasons to help Canadians across the country.
    However, we do need a seamless and integrated system, and that has to be led by one entity. That entity should have a national presence, with a connection to all of the other things beyond just security at the door here. Security is not just guarding the precinct. It is rapid response training. It is security assessments. It is intelligence. It is observation. It is surveillance. It is the whole ball of wax that encompasses what it means to keep people safe. It is also our armed forces. It is a coordination of everything. We cannot have more than one group or individual disseminating all of that information. It just does not happen and it cannot happen effectively.
    That is why we have to come to the point where the silos of operation are one thing. The silos of management and command have to be totally eliminated so we have one integrated command in order to be effective.
    Other countries, such as our allies, the United Kingdom and Australia, have pursued integrated security models at their locations. However, on the day of the attack here, there were four silos of authority with different jurisdictions, as all of my colleagues know.

  (1710)  

    There were our respected House of Commons security and our Senate security, all responsible for their respective bodies, and they did their work well. There was the RCMP in charge outside, between the front doors and the front gate, where there were a lot of things done well, but there were obviously errors and omissions there. As well, we had the Ottawa city police beyond that point.
    The bureaucracy of these four silos stands in the way of bringing us proper security.
    The motion we are debating today calls on the Speakers of the House and Senate to invite the RCMP to lead operational security. The RCMP would not run the security of this entire precinct lock, stock, and barrel, but simply operate as a point of command and take responsibility for ensuring that it builds a collective team to come up with the model that we need to make security work well here. This is the administrative starting point, in my mind. It is not the end run. This is the administrative starting point that is going to take us to where we need to go.
    A unified approach is critical to ensuring security on the Hill. As a matter of fact, it is not only critical but essential. That is why this government is proposing to fully integrate security throughout the precinct under the operational leadership of the RCMP, thus providing one chain of command and one point of accountability.
    Somebody has to be the bottom line that we can go to and ask what is being done and how it is being done. In this particular case, the RCMP will work with the Speakers and the various other levels of justice, administration, and security to come up with the best means to do this. This would allow for access to all types of resources.
    The only administration that has the resources we need to encompass the entire range of security, including surveillance, communication, international relationships, terrorism, or cyberattacks, is the RCMP. That does not mean that the RCMP will manage and micromanage every department here to tell all the departments how to do their jobs. Members of the existing parliamentary security, as has been mentioned by all of my colleagues who spoke before me, are highly valued and respected. We respectfully honoured them and their bravery as they marched into the House and got a standing ovation from every person in this room because we were so thankful for the wonderful job they did on our behalf. They serve a variety of functions, not just in the House of Commons, and this will continue under the integrated security unit.
    I want to stress that all decisions related to the integrated security unit will ensure continuous employment. This is not a question of just getting rid of a few people and bringing in others or saying they do not have responsibility for something anymore and that someone else will do it. There are going to be responsibilities, but there still has to be one chain of command. That is the point.
    Over the coming months, a detailed implementation plan will be developed in consultation with all the people involved. It will outline a phased approach to the implementation of the fully integrated security model, while ensuring that the rights and privileges of Parliament and its members continue to be respected, as per the Constitution.
    As I have said, that is explicitly in the motion. Were it not in the motion, quite frankly, as a member, I could have had some difficulty, because I want to respect what we have here. I want to respect the parliamentary tradition and the history, values, and principles that we have in civil society, but that does not mean we can operate without an integrated command.
    It is our objective to implement this transition as soon as possible, in partnership with all the security partners. I really believe speed is critical. The need exists. We cannot just sit around and wait for months or years, because we are absolutely sitting ducks in this place and in this precinct. That is a sad situation. We have to come to terms with that reality.
    As a number of my colleagues said, if it had been a serious, planned attack by multiple people carrying automatic weapons, many of my colleagues might not be here today. That is the reality. We have to get off our butts and deal with this, and we have to deal with it now.
    I know there will probably be questions from my colleagues. I respect them very much for their contributions today. I am expecting a colleague whom I work very well with to get up shortly. I will certainly wait for their questions and see if we can work together on this issue.

  (1715)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech given by my colleague opposite.
    Let me just say that I find our government's response to this attack absolutely shocking. The government is going to put our security services in the hands of those who failed that day—I recognize the work of the RCMP, but that day, the RCMP failed in its duty. The government is going to give the RCMP jurisdiction over the security force that managed to stop the individual, our House of Commons security service.
    I would also like to point out that the motion, which uses the October 22 attack as an exercise or an excuse to give the RCMP more power, is an insult to the brave men and women who protected us so well that day.
    My question for my colleague is clear: does he not think that the purpose of this motion is to take control over security in this precinct away from our Speaker and our parliamentary security services and give that power to the RCMP, which, as we know, is controlled by the government?

  (1720)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is really unfortunate that the member would make that assertion.
    The member made the statement that the RCMP failed on this. That is absolutely incorrect. One of the problems we had was that there was no real level of accountability for who was in charge, so I think we as a nation have to accept that we have failed. We as parliamentarians were part of the problem here as well, in that we did not set forth a clear plan and a clear direction through which there would be an integrated command so that there would be levers of accountability. That is what we need. That is what this bill is all about. It is so that we actually have a proper plan.
    Quite frankly, to suggest that we are doing this because we want to replace one of the security forces here is shameful.
    Mr. Speaker, I have worked with the member for Prince Edward—Hastings and I have a lot of respect for him.
    The question I have for the member is along the lines of the question I posed earlier. I do not have a problem with a unified force that would respect our guards, and I think that is what everyone in this House is saying. I do not have difficulty with it being the RCMP. My difficulty would be if the RCMP had to report to the government as opposed to reporting to Parliament.
    What does my colleague think about the notion of including such a measure in the government's motion, so that it is clearly stated that once the RCMP becomes the unitary form of security to ensure the security of all of us on the Hill, including our staff and visitors both inside and outside, that it is also stipulated in the motion that it reports to parliamentary authorities and not the government?
    That is not clear now. I would like to hear the member's comments on that notion.
    Mr. Speaker, I likewise appreciate the contribution the member has made through the years and the manner in which he deals with an issue.
    Quite frankly, I do not have a problem with the spirit of the amendment proposed by the member. I think it is honestly well intentioned, and quite frankly, if it were to be ignored, we would have a problem. However, it is my understanding on reading the motion that while it does not explicitly say it, it does say:
....while respecting the privileges, immunities and powers of the respective Houses.
    To my mind, that is pretty darn clear.
    I would agree with the member if all a sudden this House of Commons became chief cook and bottle washer for the entire situation, but that is not the case. It is up to us to set the rules, and it is up to other people to administer those rules. I cannot see any situation in which we would be directing the authorities on safety.
    Quite frankly, I understand the member's concern, but I am quite satisfied that the legislation does not take us down that road. However, I thank him for his work on that.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Trois-Rivières.
    I am very pleased to stand in this House and debate the motion today on House security, and it does take me back to that day in October. I am sure that the time when this place was in lockdown is on all of our minds. I remember very vividly being quite near the shooter and being ushered into a room by House security. I was standing outside in a corridor. They ushered me into a room for my safety, and then, unarmed, the security personnel went back out into the hallway to confront we knew not what. None of us knew what was going on out there.
     I want to add my voice to those of the others in this place who are thanking the brave men and women in the House and Senate security forces who risked their lives to keep us safe on that fateful day. I think we owe them a great debt of gratitude.
    I want to say that when the shooter got into this place, he had made it past the RCMP, who guard the outside of the premises here, and it was House security, under the leadership of Kevin Vickers, that stopped the shooter and kept us safe that day.
    If the intent of the motion should come to pass and all security for this House, the Senate, and the parliamentary precinct come under the purview of the RCMP, there is nothing in the motion that in any way proves that this place would be one bit safer than it was before or that it would have made any difference in stopping the shooter on that fateful day in October.
    I must object to the word in the motion that the Conservatives use in saying that the shooter was a terrorist. There has been no evidence produced to us in this place or in the public to prove that this person was a terrorist. Was he just a lone person who, for whatever reason, got it into his mind that he would do this, or was he in fact connected to some terrorist group? The Conservatives have presented no proof of the latter.
    As well, I want to say at the beginning of my remarks how strongly I oppose the government enacting yet again another debate-limiting closure motion on this motion.
    This will be the 87th time that the government has enacted closure and limited debate. There has been a grand total of six hours of debate on this very important change. It is a fundamental change that goes back to a system we have had in place since Confederation, one whose roots lie deep in the history of parliamentary democracy. That is what the Conservatives want to change: the origin of the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of this place. This is what is impacted here.
    I also want to make the point that we are not opposed to the integration of security forces. Several speakers—in fact, most speakers—have repeated that point. In fact, the integration of parliamentary security was already taking place. As this House well knows, the Speaker announced in a bulletin on November 25, 2014, that in fact the implementation of the integration of a unified security force was under way. That was happening.
    I want to again reinforce that we support this integration. We are not opposed to the idea of having an integrated security force operating all over the parliamentary precinct. We think that does make a lot of sense.

  (1725)  

    We are, of course, in favour of improvements that work to keep parliamentarians, staff, and visitors safe in this place. What we are opposed to is that all of the security of both Houses and of the parliamentary precinct would ultimately be under the control of the RCMP, which does not report to this House, as security does today, through the Speaker. It would report to the government.
     This House is not a creature of the government. It is in fact a creature of the people of Canada. Parliament is different from the government. Parliament is all of the representatives of the people of Canada, and that is a very important distinction. That is why security in this House has always been separate and independent and has reported to the Speaker and not to the RCMP, which reports directly to the government of the day. That is a very important distinction.
    I also want to object to the wording of the motion, which says “as recommended by the Auditor General in his 2012 report”. It kind of implies that this motion is acting on the AG's recommendation. I have read that AG's report, and the Auditor General, while recommending a unified and integrated security force, never once suggested that this should all come under the RCMP. That did not happen.
    I would put forward to this House that this motion is misleading. It is taking advantage of a situation that demands action. We agree with action. Everyone agrees with action. However, it would take this action in a direction that would come under the complete control of the government. That is wrong. It is against our parliamentary tradition. It is against the independence of the Speaker and this House.
    For that reason, we are not only opposing this motion. We want to support the intention of better security, better training, and better integration. It is for that reason that we have proposed an amendment. The amendment would be a strong improvement, because it would respect the powers of the respective Houses: the House of Commons and the Senate. It would respect those two Houses and the ultimate authority of the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons, who today have access and control over the security of Parliament, by ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected parliamentary security staff. It is about the maintenance of the independent security staff. It is about the independence of the Speaker and his or her control over what happens in this House and therefore the control of the people of Canada over what happens in this House. Certainly, that can happen along with better integration, training, and coordination of those security forces.
    We frankly do not see how this particular motion would, first, keep parliamentarians, senators, and Canadians any safer. Nothing is proven. Second, it seems that with its changes, it would be doing nothing more than transferring greater power to the government, rather than improving security for this place.
    For these reasons, we believe that the amendment is a much stronger and much improved approach to security in this place. We urge all parliamentarians to support the amendment so that we can get on with the work of better security here, ultimately with the goal we all share of better representation for the Canadian people.

  (1730)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find what my colleague had to say to be quite interesting, especially when she said there is no evidence that the person who attacked us on October 22 was a terrorist. If he was not a terrorist, then I would like to know what the definition of one is.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to know if the hon. member who just asked the question has evidence that the person who attacked Parliament was a terrorist. Let him prove it.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Parkdale—High Park for her speech.
    In a speech he made previously, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster indicated that in the United States there was the example of an independent police force that was adopted more than a century ago by Congress, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is a good example close by of a police force that has investigative authority comparable to that of other police forces, but reports strictly to the U.S. Congress.
    If it is good enough for the United States to have a security service under the authority of the legislative branch and not the executive branch, then why would we in Canada allow the executive branch to stick its nose into the security of the legislative branch?

  (1735)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. That is indeed the question of the day. Why does the government want to take this power when other countries are satisfied with the independence of the legislative branch?
    I do not understand this desire to consolidate this power. It makes no sense. It is a good question for the government. Once again, I encourage the government to support the amendment to its motion in order to preserve the independence of Parliament.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows that I wrote to the Minister of Public Safety and to the Chief Government Whip last week. I suggested that they consider an amendment to the government's resolution to stipulate that the RCMP have a contractual agreement requiring it to report to parliamentary authorities.
    I gave two examples: the agreement signed in 2012 between the Government of Canada and British Columbia, which stated that the RCMP commanding officer in British Columbia had to report to the provincial security minister; and the London police force, which provides security to the British Parliament, but must report to parliamentary authorities under a service agreement.
    Does my colleague have any comments about that suggestion?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and for the letter he sent.
    Indeed, there are other measures we could take to keep Parliament safe and to retain the responsibility, power and independence of the speakers of the two chambers, instead of consolidating the power in the hands of the Prime Minister. That is the flaw in the government's motion that we are trying to fix.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying a big thank you to the member for Parkdale—High Park. If she had not kindly agreed to share her time, I probably would not have had the opportunity to speak to this motion, since we are facing a gag order for the 87th time. That number in itself is huge. However, it is even more absurd that the government is muzzling us on a topic as important as the one we are debating today.
    I also want to say that there are two clips that still stand out in my mind from the events of October 22, since the discussion we are having today is unfortunately related to the events of October 22.
    First, there is the first clip that we have seen repeatedly, I would even say ad nauseam, of the shooting in the main hallway, but there is the second clip from the House showing us, the Parliament of Canada, speaking with one voice on October 23. On October 23, there were no Conservatives, Liberals or New Democrats; there was one Parliament sitting, aware of what had happened the day before. On an issue as vital as the security of Parliament, the house of the people, Canadians are expecting Parliament to be unanimous once again, without a government or partisan motion or bill. They really expect the entire House to be able to speak to the security measures it wants to take, because this is not just about the security of the parliamentarians and senators who work here; this is also the house of the people.
    I remember spending the entire day of October 22 confined with Canadians who had come to visit us in caucus that morning. They sure knew how to pick their morning. They spent an entire day in one room in Parliament. I am therefore also concerned about the security of each and every Canadian who enters their house.
    I do not think we are too far from being able to reach unanimity. I think there is already a consensus that response forces need to be consolidated. We just have a few differences of opinion on the approach: who should be given this consolidated power?
    In the speeches that have been given over the past little while, I have heard some things that made my hair stand on end. One example is the hypotheses about what could have happened if there had been two, three or four shooters and if the weapons had been different. That makes the hair on my arms stand on end, because we have all imagined those horrific scenarios, but that is not what happened, thank goodness.
    However, when the government defends a motion by claiming that there is a pressing need, it is as though the government is telling all Canadians that Parliament is still not a very secure place right now. However, that is not the case. Security measures have already been heightened since the events of October 22.
    Do we have the leading-edge security we would like? Probably not, but I can say that I come to work here every day feeling safe, and I think that the visitors who come here also feel safe. Let us stop talking about the urgency of this matter and let us work together to find the solution that will allow Parliament to speak with one voice. The reason why I insist on talking about Parliament so much is that, if there is one common denominator that all democracies share, it is the principle of separation of powers. When we talk about Parliament, we are not talking about the government, but about all of the representatives of Canadians.
    As I examine this motion, it is clear to me that the government is trampling on the backbone of our democracy by taking advantage of the tragic events that occurred in this very place on October 22, 2014.

  (1740)  

    This motion is essentially government interference in an area under Parliament's exclusive jurisdiction. If the Speaker of the House has one customary and deeply rooted responsibility with respect to the operations of this House, it is the privilege of ensuring the security of parliamentarians, visitors and staff. If there is one institution that the current government ignores, it is certainly the House of Commons and the citizens whom we are privileged to represent in the House. Over time, our democratic tradition has grown stronger thanks to the House of Commons' participation in society's great debates. In many ways, it is this powerful instrument of representative democracy that the Conservative government is trying to undermine.
    We firmly support the idea that an integrated security force should be present and operational within the parliamentary precinct. If it is to be effective, we must allocate more resources to that security force and ensure closer coordination among its teams while ensuring that it meets the highest standards in the field. These conditions are essential to our ability to carry out our parliamentary duties in absolute security.
    I once again reiterate the critical importance we place on the security of our parliamentary institution. We think it is crucial to support the integration of the House of Commons and Senate security forces. However, our support is contingent on this integrated security force being accountable to the speakers of the House and the Senate, and not to the authority of the RCMP, which reports to the executive branch of government.
    This is not to suggest in the least that I have any doubts whatsoever about the competence of that police force, but I must recognize that within Parliament, if we cannot keep the legislative branch separate from the executive branch there could be some question of whether justice is being done or seen to be done. Let me give a hypothetical example. Imagine that the RCMP is the body in charge of this integrated force and a member has the impression that the RCMP is reporting the actions of a member to the government. Clearly, even if there is not a conflict of interest, there is certainly the appearance of a conflict of interest. That is why, ever since the age of enlightenment, everyone understands the importance of the separation of powers.
    The question, then, is this: have we dimmed the light of understanding in 2015? The question remains unanswered, but personally, I am 100% convinced that the separation of powers is necessary and that the executive branch cannot be left in charge of this unified force.
    Consequently, it is unacceptable for a government to twist Parliament's arm in its bid to control internal security at all costs.
    Time is flying by and, once again, I will not have enough time to present everything I had prepared. Therefore, I will instead stop now in order to have as much time as possible for our discussions. On such a crucial issue as this one, I would prefer to have exchanges among members of the different parties, rather than questions and answers that seek to corner members and to give this motion a political and partisan slant. This House truly represents all Canadians and requires the implementation of the best possible security system.

  (1745)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will basically continue with the same question that I asked all my other colleagues.
    If the RCMP were responsible for security, would the member agree that it be on condition that, under a contractual agreement, it must ultimately report to the parliamentary authorities, namely the speakers of both chambers—the House of Commons and the Senate—and any mechanisms that they would establish? Personally, I believe that no matter who has this responsibility—whether it is the current guards or an outside organization or agency—they should not report to the government, because this could be seen as undermining the authority of Parliament and not respecting the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches.
    Therefore, would my colleague agree that even if it were the RCMP, it should be subject to a contractual agreement requiring it to report to the parliamentary authorities?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question and I commend him on his openness when he says that, regardless who is heading security, they must report to the government. That is where we are now. If it is a matter of choosing the most competent authority, then I would tend to trust those who are already here.
    Unfortunately and oddly, they were not consulted in any way in the process leading up to the moving of this motion, even though they were the ones who have been ensuring our safety ever since I got here and long before that.
    When I look at other Canadian models, including that of Ontario where they did exactly the opposite, or in other words they asked the RCMP to leave in order to make room for an internal and independent security force, I think this shows us the way and the direction we should be taking.

  (1750)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières. I absolutely agree with his comments and those of the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.
    It is clear that this motion does not seek to support the Auditor General's recommendations. The Auditor General never said that it was important to put the RCMP in charge of security in the Parliamentary precinct.
    It is clear that changes need to be made. Nonetheless, I think that the Conservative government wants to make drastic changes to the workings of Parliament in order to reduce the power of Parliament itself. I have come to the conclusion that this goes against the Constitution of Canada.
    Once again I want to thank my colleague and all the members of his party for their leadership on this.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I would add that I am not a constitutional expert, but I do believe that common sense still has a place. During the age of Enlightenment we learned how important the separation of powers is. This should be the focus as we make decisions, as should the competence of those who defended us and who continue to defend us.
    Mr. Speaker, I heard a comment from the other side that was both shocking and disappointing. The member compared us in the House to sitting ducks, waiting to be killed by hunters.
    This is related to my colleague's comments about how we need to stop seeing the House as a dangerous, unprotected place and how we need to stop exploiting this false panic.
    Could my colleague talk more about the importance of not playing the game being played by this government? I would appreciate it.
    Mr. Speaker, obviously that distracted me from my point, but when I hear comments like that, it really looks to me as though people are trying to take advantage of a situation to score political points because they think that, since security issues are sensitive issues in terms of public opinion and people pay attention to them, they might score a few points here and there by saying that danger is at our doorstep.
    Danger is not really at our doorstep. Nevertheless, we have to improve our security forces. That is a fact.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, because of committee work, unfortunately I was not here for the last part of the previous member's presentation to this House.
    Also, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, we hear from the other side that the government is trying to somehow let Canadians know that we members of Parliament feel unsafe. I feel quite safe in this place. As a matter of fact, I feel quite safe in any part of my dear country called Canada.
    However, we have a responsibility in this place. That was brought to our attention in a very unfortunate way, when a person visited us on October 22, 2014. Every Canadian who viewed the events of that day through the media and saw what occurred, saw the person running across the parliamentary precinct and right up the steps, wonders how these things happen.
    We know that for some time prior to October 22 there had been discussions of security in this day and age. There had been discussions of security in the world in which we live, having regard to so-called homegrown terrorists and homegrown difficulties, even just the things that are happening in our world that have changed the paradigm. We are no longer living in 1940; we are living in 2015. We need to look at security, as other nations have across the world. We need to look at nations that have a parliamentary tradition similar to ours, a Westminster-style governance, such as our sister legislatures in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain. We see what they are doing about their security, and we find they are very similar to what the motion states it would do.
    The government is not trying to significantly change the way we do things in this House, or the way that security is presented in this House. We are guided by the realities of 2015. The realities are that we cannot break a chain of responsibility into four or five different pieces and expect there to be efficiency and effectiveness. There needs to be uniformity, a plain and simple order of authority that is ultimately responsible: what job is it for every level, just like in Canada's second-largest deployed police force, in which I worked. We have detachments that respond to regions which were responding to headquarters.
    In this place, as a result of October 22, we found that there were four different jurisdictions affected on that date, each one operating somewhat in a silo, although there was communication. We had the Ottawa Police Service, the House of Commons security services, the Senate protective service, and, of course, the RCMP.
    I think any Canadian viewing this would say that a uniform chain of command is needed, a responsible agency at the top that works in conjunction with the different levels of security.
     I heard a mention of the Ontario legislature. In the Ontario legislature, the province that I come from, we have the Ontario Government protective service, OGPS. It works in conjunction with the Ontario Provincial Police, which has the same type of relationship with the Government of Ontario that the RCMP has with the federal government.
    That is what the motion says. No one is going to lose their job. It makes a lot of sense. Why does it make sense? Any person who knows the connection with the RCMP, which is responsible for policing this great nation of ours, and the rest of the world, knows it has international relationships with other nations and a close relationship with CSIS.

  (1755)  

    Therefore, in this place, the seat of democracy for our nation, we the government are proposing that the RCMP be able to gather all of this information because it is the most responsible body.
    We will still have the House of Commons and Senate security, which we are saying should be one security service. We were already moving toward that before October 22. However, we have parliamentarians who want to go back 200 to 300 years and cloud this whole issue of security.
    The RCMP is independent of the government. It knows its responsibility. This motion would not change that.
    There are those who are saying that they want to make sure that the RCMP reports to Parliament. However, the RCMP will report through security, through the Speakers of each of our individual Houses. Therefore, we will maintain the independence we already have.
    It would make sense to have one security agency, although it would operate in different parts. It would be just like it is with a deployed police force, such as the RCMP, which has detachments reporting to provincial governments, but which in the end is our national police force. We would have a uniformed police service reporting here. Instead of several independent agencies working in silos having meetings and sharing information, we would have a distinct chain of command. The RCMP would oversee security, but we would still have the great men and women who work in the House of Commons and Senate security and who keep us safe, and will continue to do so.
     I look back on October 22 and see some of the things the average citizen sees and who asks how a person could have done the things he did. I respond that we are working on security. I inform my constituents that we continually improve security. We have those pylons for the green buses going by, which were not there a year and a half ago, and so we are increasing security. What the plan and this motion advance is the integration of these security forces. We need to continue that.
     Time is of the essence and despite what members may have heard, this integrated approach is compliant with the Auditor General's report of 2012, which recommended unifying the security forces on Parliament Hill under a single point of command, making it possible to respond to situations more effectively and efficiently.
    The RCMP, as I mentioned, has international as well as domestic relationships with other police forces. It would also have the ability to work in conjunction with the security forces on Parliament Hill to be able to make them into a stronger, more efficient and effective security service. That is what this motion would do. It actually goes further than the Auditor General's report.
    I think the Auditor General would be very happy with that, because we would have the RCMP, which is able to correlate those additional resources from around the world with its connections with CSIS and the Five Eyes. Pursuant to this motion, having a completely integrated security service on Parliament Hill would bode well for all of the people who work and live in this precinct, including on days like this when we are here until nine or ten o'clock.
    However, more important than the 308 of us here and 105 in the other place, Canadians would be able to come here and also feel safe. I care about everyone's safety, but it is the men, women, and children who come to this place whom we need to keep safe. They need to know that it is a safe place to visit. October 22 told them that bad things can happen, which we also see as we look around the world.

  (1800)  

    It is our responsibility to reassure our constituents that what we are doing in this place is making it safer not only for the men and women they send here, but also for their friends, their neighbours, and them and their children when they visit this great place of democracy where we are all so honoured and privileged to sit and represent our constituents.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP is not at all opposed to the idea of an integrated security force operating within the parliamentary precinct to protect parliamentarians, staff and visitors.
    However, we are opposed to the idea of that force being run by the RCMP and reporting to itself and the government. We strongly believe that the security force should report only to Parliament and to you, Mr. Speaker. That is our view.
    Will the hon. member vote in favour of our amendment to the motion, which clarifies the separation of powers?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not mistrust the RCMP. It works independently of government. If someone in government goes offside, commits an offence, or breaks the law, does the RCMP ask someone for permission to charge that individual? No, it goes directly to the crown attorney.
    What is sometimes wrong in this place is when everyone goes off on tangents and says that the RCMP cannot be trusted because it is made up of police officers, that they would much rather trust someone else. RCMP officers act in the best interests of the citizens of this country and would never permit themselves to be swayed by any Liberal, Conservative, socialist, or other party. I just bristle, unfortunately, when I hear the opposite. I try to keep calm, especially when members of this place tell the citizens of Canada that they cannot trust the RCMP, that somehow we have to make sure that we in the House of Commons can be trusted more than the RCMP. I trust the RCMP. I trust police officers in this country more than I trust some other folks.

  (1805)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have not said that I do not trust the RCMP. I have a great deal of respect for and trust in the RCMP, but there is an institutional and constitutional difference here. The RCMP ultimately reports through the Prime Minister, through representatives of government.
     A fundamental principle of our Westminster system of government, a parliamentary democracy, is the supremacy of Parliament. That is why we have always had officers of Parliament report through the Speaker. This would be a fundamental change and it is being rushed. That is one of my main concerns. As a leader of a small party, I will not be able to give a 10 or 20 minute address on this issue.
     I have been doing legal research and reaching out to lawyers to see if we could get an injunction to stop this from happening before we get evidence from security experts. I am very troubled that we will not hear what our former sergeant-at-arms would have to say. Everyone in this place cheered him for his heroism. Everyone cheered for the wonderful team that defended us on October 22. We do have the benefit of his advice. It is pretty clear to me that the House of Commons security team is constitutionally different from the RCMP. It is not a matter of trust.
    I put to my hon. friend that the motion before us is so vague in saying “...ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary Security staff.” It does not say where the employment would be. It does not say that our security staff would continue in the roles and functions they have here.
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure my fellow members of the House that their privileges as parliamentarians would not be affected.
     As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, we looked at our sister Westminster legislatures, including Great Britain. Its parliamentary security is the same as this motion recommends. Members are trying to cloud the issue, that somehow and in some way we are immensely different from everyone else.
    The RCMP would work in conjunction with House of Commons and Senate security. I suspect strongly that the RCMP will continue its relationship with the Ottawa Police Service on the outside of this precinct. It only makes sense that there would be an efficient stream with the RCMP, the police force of this nation, which has access to all of the information that comes to the security service and which keeps us safe both nationally and internationally. The Auditor General of Canada has said that this would be more effective and efficient for the safety of parliamentarians and Canadians in general who visit this place.
    Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise and contribute to this important debate on a motion put forward by my colleague, the Chief Government Whip.
    In the wake of the terrorist attacks that began in a parking lot in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20, 2014, and that moved to the National War Memorial on October 22, 2014, and ended only a few minutes later with the dramatic death of a gunman at the hands of the RCMP, the parliamentary security forces, and the then sergeant-at-arms, I think it is fair to say that this motion was inevitable. The harrowing events of those days, which we all remember, brought a number of things to the attention of all parliamentarians.
    First, it showed us the courage, professionalism, and capacity of the RCMP detachment on the Hill; the bravery of the House of Commons and Senate security services and the former sergeant-at-arms; as well as the professionalism and rapid response of the Ottawa Police Service. We all recognize the great job they did that day, and we are eternally grateful for their willingness to stand on guard every day for us here at the heart of our democracy.
    On October 22, 2014, their years of training paid off. They advanced in the face of fire and the situation was brought to a safe conclusion. However, October 22, 2014 also brought into sharp relief some really concerning facts about security here on Parliament Hill.
    For example, on October 22, 2014, there were four different jurisdictional police/security services. They were the House of Commons, the Senate, the RCMP, and the Ottawa Police Service. The possibility for wires to get crossed with this many points of accountability is high. When dealing with the security of the elected legislators of our nation, the hundreds who support us, and the thousands of citizens and visitors who come here to watch us work, those risks cannot continue.
    Many Canadians would be rightly concerned about the fact that there are so many different jurisdictional security services with responsibilities for various parts of the Hill. Bureaucratic silos are an impediment to security, integration, and overall preparedness, which 9/11 showed to the world. On that terrible day, thousands of people died, including 24 Canadians. Our appreciation of the world of security and risk changed forever.
    October was a far less catastrophic wake-up call than 9/11, but it was a wake-up call we cannot ignore.
     In the aftermath of 9/11, with all of the resulting investigation and introspection, it became clear that all of the evidence had been there to take pre-emptive action, but that no one had put it together. No one had put it together because the various agencies were not sharing information the way they should have done. We cannot let that same type of silo mentality compromise the safety of Canadians, Canada, our visitors, or our institutions.
    Although not directly related to this motion, Bill C-51 would go a long way to breaking down the silos that exist between the various agencies making up the security system of Canada. The passage and implementation of that bill would be essential to giving us the tools we need to plan and implement common sense, effective security measures in the parliamentary precinct.
    It is imperative that security within the parliamentary precinct be integrated and enhanced. This leads to Motion No. 14, which we are debating today. Motion No. 14 calls on the Speakers of the House of Commons and the Senate to invite the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to lead operational security throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament while—and this part is important—respecting the privileges, immunities, and powers of the respective Houses, and ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary security staff.
    When we say “respecting the privileges, immunities and powers of the respective Houses”, that means you, Mr. Speaker, and your colleague down the hall in the Senate. You have the authority. The RCMP would not be reporting to the government; it would be reporting to the House of Commons and the Senate through you and your counterpart.
    This motion would advance the recent efforts by the House and Senate to integrate their forces, but it would not replace them. It is the next step. In the face of a rapidly changing and evolving threat environment, we need to ensure that these efforts continue to be carried out effectively and efficiently in the face of evolving threats.
    Let me talk about those threats for a moment. CSIS tells us that it is keeping track of somewhere around 140 people of interest. We can be pretty certain that the actual number that we should be concerned about is much higher. That points to the need for Bill C-51 and the sharing of security information.
    ISIS is actively recruiting in Canada and many other countries around the world. Some of that recruiting is targeted at individuals or vulnerable communities. Some of it is more general, seeding destructive, terrorist thoughts into regrettably receptive minds that might also be suffering from mental illness.
    Some say that the acts in October, 2014 were not terrorism, but merely related to mental illness. Who of sound mind would carry out those kinds of actions, anyway? I suggest that this would be a misunderstanding of terrorism and the things that make terrorism work.
    I am pretty sure that the two killers of our soldiers in October, 2014 were not members of ISIS per se, but they were certainly influenced by the fundamentalist ideology that ISIS spews.

  (1810)  

    Without knowing who they are individually, these are the kind of people ISIS counts on to be random hand grenades spread around the world just waiting for their pins to be pulled. They do not know when they are going to go off; they just know that they are.
    This integrated approach being proposed is essential, and it is in line with the recommendations from the 2012 Auditor General's report that recommended unifying security forces on the Hill, “under a single point of command, making it possible to respond to situations more efficiently and effectively”. One chain of command, one point of accountability.
    Of course, access to Parliament Hill must remain for Canadians and visitors, but it must be balanced with very real security concerns. Countries like the United Kingdom and Australia have similar approaches to security, and their experiences have shown that security forces can be integrated while still respecting the privileges of all parliamentarians.
     This plan will do nothing to alter or negatively impact the existing immunities and parliamentary privileges of senators and members of Parliament, including the right of members to come and go unimpeded.
    It does mean, however, that we as parliamentarians might be asked from time to time to show ID to security personnel, for example. That does not restrict access. It just confirms identification. I know that it is the job of our security forces to recognize this, and they do a very good job of it.
    On my first encounter with security personnel on entering Centre Block under the Peace Tower as an MP in 2006, I was greeted by name and welcomed to Ottawa. I was impressed then and I have been impressed ever since. That does not mean that from time to time a member of that security force may not recognize someone and may ask for identification, which every one of us should have available all the time. That is just plain common sense.
    This does not constitute a breach of privilege, as was recently alleged, and is not a reason for any member to spring into self-righteous indignation. All parliamentarians must face the reality that our security environment here in this place has changed, and we must adapt to it. That does not mean casting aside our ease of access, though it does mean being prepared to be asked for ID from time to time, even if one is a parliamentarian. That is just plain smart security.
    When it comes to integrating parliamentary security, the RCMP is clearly the best equipped to provide operational leadership in terms of command, control, and coordination and to lead security on Parliament Hill. It does not mean that they would do it all. It means that they would lead it.
    They have a national presence with access to rapid response training, security assessments, and intelligence that is essential to meeting today's evolving threats. They have the experience and the tools to effectively implement and manage a complex security system. They have been doing that for a long time.
    Importantly, these new security measures would have oversight from a parliamentary authority, contrary to what is being suggested by the opposition. Again, Mr. Speaker, this would come through you and through your counterpart down the hall.
     One force in Parliament and another force outside it simply does not make sense. We must support full integration throughout the entire parliamentary precinct under the operational leadership of the RCMP.
    To those who claim that this is in some way a demotion of existing House of Commons security personnel, let me address that very clearly. It is not. The existing parliamentary security personnel are valued and respected, as they should be. Their continued employment will be consistent with all existing collective bargaining agreements, to the question from my hon. colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands. Those who suggest otherwise are simply trying to play politics at a time when our focus should be on every part of our security apparatus working together to get the job done.
    This is a measure that is long overdue after another tragic wake-up call of the kind that our allies have also experienced around the world, most recently in Australia, France, and Denmark.
    To honour the memories of Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent, and the security personnel who put their lives on the line that day and every day, we must take action to improve our security on Parliament Hill. To do otherwise would be sticking our heads in the sand and would not be appropriate for a serious G7 country.
    This change to security on Parliament Hill is overdue and will balance liberty and security at our national legislature. We owe that to the people who count on us. It is just plain common sense.

  (1815)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder what my colleague who just addressed the House thinks about an extremely troubling, weak comment made by his Conservative colleague.
    When one of my colleagues suggested that perhaps the RCMP should not be responsible for managing the security of Parliament, the Conservative member described that as a terrible affront to the RCMP, as though we were denigrating it and that was terrible.
    That is so far out of line that this kind of behaviour could even cause diplomatic incidents, considering that American parliamentarians decided to have independent security in their buildings, even though the Americans have a state police, the FBI, and all kinds of extremely effective national structures.
    Is my colleague trying to say that the Americans are showing contempt for their national forces with that decision? Is that what the Conservatives are saying? Do they realize how absurd their argument is?

  (1820)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but I have to laugh at that question a little bit.
     I respect the question and the questioner, but to suggest that because we are supporting the RCMP because of its experience, long history, capability, connections, tools, and equipment, which clearly make it the best single body in this country to coordinate effective security here, and which does not mean that it would do it all, it is somehow demeaning security forces in another country is just plain silly.
    An hon. member: It is rubbish.
    Hon. Laurie Hawn: That too, Mr. Speaker. There is no connection there at all. I really would appreciate a more relevant question.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my learned colleague and air force caucus mate for his very good discussion of the challenges we face in the modern world when it comes to security.
    Quite frankly, I am shocked when sometimes people in this House harken back to the early days of parliamentary democracy and the early reigns of kings, when most of the people reflected in this House today would not have been part of that parliamentary democracy, because they would not have been permitted to sit in this place or even be permitted to vote.
    Certainly our parliamentary democracy has evolved with time. This is an evolution that should be part of it, because we can walk into the Hall of Honour and see first-hand the marks we must learn from in terms of preserving this special place for Canadians of today and in the future.
    Speaking of his time with the Canadian Forces, I would like my friend to speak to how the after-action report approach to learning from incidents like this has been taken into account in this case. We have seen that multiple lines of communication and multiple lines of authority can actually lead to a slower response and a less complete picture of risks to the people on this Hill, but more importantly, to our parliamentary democracy at large.
    Could the member speak particularly to how a single reporting line and single oversight would allow and actually empower the guards on the Hill who we are so thankful for?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, for the great job he is doing in that new portfolio and for the question.