Mr. Chairman, thank you for your very kind remarks. They are much appreciated, and I'm glad to be back with the committee once again, this time, of course, presenting the 2019-20 main estimates for the public safety portfolio.
To help explain all of those numbers in more detail and to answer your questions today, I am pleased to be joined by Gina Wilson, the new deputy minister of Public Safety Canada. I believe this is her first appearance before this committee. She is no stranger, of course, in the Department of Public Safety, but she has been, for the last couple of years, the deputy minister in the Department for Women and Gender Equality, a department she presided over the creation of.
With the deputy minister today, we have Brian Brennan, deputy commissioner of the RCMP; David Vigneault, director of CSIS; John Ossowski, president of CBSA; Anne Kelly, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada; and Anik Lapointe, chief financial officer for the Parole Board of Canada.
The top priority of any government, Mr. Chair, is to keep its citizens safe and secure, and I'm very proud of the tremendous work that is being done by these officials and the employees who work following their lead diligently to serve Canadians and protect them from all manner of public threats. The nature and severity of those threats continue to evolve and change over time and, as a government, we are committed to supporting the skilled men and women who work so hard to protect us by giving them the resources they need to ensure that they can respond. The estimates, of course, are the principal vehicle for doing that.
The main estimates for 2019-20 reflect that commitment to keep Canadians safe while safeguarding their rights and freedoms. You will note that, portfolio-wide, the total authorities requested this year would result in a net increase of $256.1 million for this fiscal year, or 2.7% more than last year's main estimates. Of course, some of the figures go up and some go down, but the net result is a 2.7% increase.
One key item is an investment of $135 million in fiscal year 2019-20 for the sustainability and modernization of Canada's border operations. The second is $42 million for Public Safety Canada, the RCMP and CBSA to take action against guns and gangs. will be speaking in much more detail about the work being done under these initiatives when he appears before the committee.
For my part today I will simply summarize several other funding matters affecting my department, Public Safety Canada, and all of the related agencies.
The department is estimating a net spending decrease of $246.8 million this fiscal year, 21.2% less than last year. That is due to a decrease of $410.7 million in funding levels that expired last year under the disaster financial assistance arrangements. There is another item coming later on whereby the number goes up for the future year. You have to offset those two in order to follow the flow of the cash. That rather significant drop in the funding for the department itself, 21.2%, is largely due to that change in the DFAA, for which the funding level expired in 2018-19.
There was also a decrease of some $79 million related to the completion of Canada's presidency of the G7 in the year 2018.
These decreases are partially offset by a number of funding increases, including a $25-million grant to Avalanche Canada to support its life-saving safety and awareness efforts; $14.9 million for infrastructure projects related to security in indigenous communities; $10.1 million in additional funding for the first nations policing program; and $3.3 million to address post-traumatic stress injuries affecting our skilled public safety personnel.
The main estimates also reflect measures announced a few weeks ago in budget 2019. For Public Safety Canada, that is, the department, these include $158.5 million to improve our ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies and natural disasters in Canada, including in indigenous communities, of which $155 million partially offsets that reduction in DFAA that I just referred to.
There's also $4.4 million to combat the truly heinous and growing crime of child sexual exploitation online.
There is $2 million for the security infrastructure program to continue to help communities at risk of hate-motivated crime to improve their security infrastructure.
There is $2 million to support efforts to assess and respond to economic-based national security threats, and there's $1.8 million to support a new cybersecurity framework to protect Canada's critical infrastructure, including in the finance, telecommunications, energy and transport sectors.
As you know, in the 2019 federal budget, we also announced $65 million as a one-time capital investment in the STARS air rescue system to acquire new emergency helicopters. That important investment does not appear in the 2019-20 main estimates because it was accounted for in the 2018-19 fiscal year, that is, before this past March 31.
Let me turn now to the 2019-20 main estimates for the other public safety portfolio organizations, other than the department itself.
I'll start with CBSA, which is seeking a total net increase this fiscal year of $316.9 million. That's 17.5% over the 2018-19 estimates. In addition to that large sustainability and modernization for border operations item that I previously mentioned, some other notable increases include $10.7 million to support activities related to the immigration levels plan that was announced for the three years 2018 to 2020. Those things include security screening, identity verification, the processing of permanent residents when they arrive at the border and so forth—all the responsibilities of CBSA.
There's an item for $10.3 million for the CBSA's postal modernization initiative, which is critically important at the border. There is $7.2 million to expand safe examination sites, increase intelligence and risk assessment capacity and enhance the detector dog program to give our officers the tools they need to combat Canada's ongoing opioid crisis.
There's also approximately $100 million for compensation and employee benefit plans related to collective bargaining agreements.
Budget 2019 investments affecting CBSA main estimates this year include a total of $381.8 million over five years to enhance the integrity of Canada's borders and the asylum system. While my colleague Minister will provide more details on this, the CBSA would be receiving $106.3 million of that funding in this fiscal year.
Budget 2019 also includes $12.9 million to ensure that immigration and border officials have the resources to process a growing number of applications for Canadian visitor visas and work and study permits.
There is $5.6 million to increase the number of detector dogs deployed across the country in order to protect Canada's hog farmers and meat processors from the serious economic threat posed by African swine fever.
Also, there's $1.5 million to protect people from unscrupulous immigration consultants by improving oversight and strengthening compliance and enforcement measures.
I would also note that the government announced through the budget its intention to introduce the legislation necessary to expand the role of the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission so it can also serve as an independent review body for CBSA. That proposed legislation, Bill , was introduced in the House last month.
I will turn now to the RCMP. Its estimates for 2019-20 reflect a $9.2-million increase over last year's funding levels. The main factors contributing to that change include increases of $32.8 million to compensate members injured in the performance of their duties, $26.6 million for the initiative to ensure security and prosperity in the digital age, and $10.4 million for forensic toxicology in Canada's new drug-impaired driving regime.
The RCMP's main estimates also reflect an additional $123 million related to budget 2019, including $96.2 million to strengthen the RCMP's overall policing operations, and $3.3 million to ensure that air travellers and workers at airports are effectively screened on site. The increases in funding to the RCMP are offset by certain decreases in the 2019-20 main estimates, including $132 million related to the completion of Canada's G7 presidency in 2018 and $51.7 million related to sunsetting capital infrastructure projects.
I will now move to the Correctional Service of Canada. It is seeking an increase of $136 million, or 5.6%, over last year's estimates. The two main factors contributing to the change are a $32.5-million increase in the care and custody program, most of which, $27.6 million, is for employee compensation, and $95 million announced in budget 2019 to support CSC's custodial operations.
The Parole Board of Canada is estimating a decrease of approximately $700,000 in these main estimates or 1.6% less than the amount requested last year. That's due to one-time funding received last year to assist with negotiated salary adjustments. There is also, of course, information in the estimates about the Office of the Correctional Investigator, CSIS and other agencies that are part of my portfolio. I simply make the point that this is a very busy portfolio and the people who work within Public Safety Canada and all the related agencies carry a huge load of public responsibilities in the interests of public safety. They always put public safety first while at the same time ensuring that the rights and freedoms of Canadians are properly protected.
With that, Mr. Chair, my colleagues and I would be happy to try to answer your questions.
Minister Goodale, we're coming up on the end of the parliamentary term. I just want to take a moment to thank you and your senior team, on behalf of the people of Mississauga—Lakeshore, the riding I represent, for your work and through you, the women and men, the members of our civil service, who do this incredibly important work in public safety and national security day by day.
A couple of days ago I had an opportunity to meet with a group of amazing grades 7 and 8 students at Olive Grove School, which is an Islamic school in my riding. It was part of CIVIX Canada's Rep Day, which is a day to bring elected representatives into the classroom.
There was a great discussion. One of the points we discussed was violent crime, and specifically gun violence. I know will be with us later on. We straw polled the students on the issues that are of importance, and when it came to gun violence and violent crime, almost every hand went up among grades 7s and 8s.
We have a $2-million commitment towards a program to protect community gathering places from hate-motivated crimes, but we also have the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. What are we doing at the moment with respect to addressing the root causes of violent crime, and also to make sure there is a level of security for grades 7 and 8 students who belong to a faith-based school so that they feel safe when they study in their community and in their centre of learning?
That's a very important question, Mr. Spengemann, and there are several answers to that.
Thank you for flagging the good work of the Canada community outreach centre within my department. Their whole objective is to coordinate and support activities at the community level across the country, some run by municipalities, some run by provincial governments, some run by academic organizations, some run by police services that reach out to the community to counter that insidious process of radicalization to violence.
Some of their work is purely research; other is program delivery; other is assisting groups that provide the countervailing messages to people who are on a negative trajectory towards extremism and violence. The Canada centre has been up and running now for two and a half years, and it has done some very important work.
The specific program I think you're referring to is a different one. It's the security infrastructure program which, when we started in government three and a half years ago, was funded at the rate, I believe, of about $1 million a year. It was a good initiative but fairly limited in its scope. We have quadrupled the funds, so it's now up to $4 million a year. We've expanded the criteria for what this program can, in fact, support.
One of the recent changes, for example, is to allow some of the funding from the security infrastructure program to be used for training in schools or in places of worship or community centres where that training can actually assist with knowing what to do if there is an incident. It's like a fire drill in school. How do you react, say, to an active shooter or to an incident of violence?
It was found, in the case of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall, that training in advance made a real difference in that situation. There were people on the scene who knew, because they had been properly trained, exactly how to react to an active shooter situation. It's the considered opinion of people in that synagogue that the training made a material difference in saving lives.
We have adjusted the terms of the security infrastructure program to allow for that to be part of what the program can pay for, in addition to closed-circuit television, better doors, barriers and other protective features within the design of a building, and the renovation of the building itself to make it as effective as it can be to keep people safe.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will endeavour to be judicious in my responses, to adhere to your direction.
It's a pleasure to once again have the opportunity to join the committee to discuss the 2019-20 main estimates. These estimates will include authorities for measures that, of course, were announced in budget 2019.
I'd like to take the opportunity to focus on some of the important measures that will fall within my mandate of ensuring that our borders remain secure and leading efforts to reduce organized crime. On the latter, as I've noted to this committee previously, taking action against gun and gang violence remains a top priority. We've seen an increase in gun violence across the country in recent years. Guns are still getting into the hands of people who would commit crimes with them. While I think the measures in Bill are exceptional and will go a long way to reversing the trend, I also believe there is more we can do.
Earlier this month, we issued a report outlining what we heard in an extensive cross-country engagement on this issue. In the meantime, funding through these estimates and budget 2019 can and will make a real difference right away.
I've noted before that the $327 million over five years, which the government announced in 2017, is already beginning to help support a variety of initiatives to reduce gun and gang activity in our communities across Canada. Over the past few months, I have been pleased to work with provinces, territories and municipalities as we roll out their portions of that funding specific to initiatives in their regions.
The Government of Canada is investing an additional $42 million through this year's estimates in the guns and gangs initiative. This is a horizontal initiative, which is being led by Public Safety Canada, and it is working in partnership, as always, with the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
With respect to policing more specifically, in this year's budget there's substantial funding for policing, including $508.6 million over five years to support the RCMP in strengthening policing operations. Of that $508.6 million, there is $96.2 million allotted for the RCMP policing operations in the estimates provided today. The RCMP is, of course, absolutely key to protecting our national security, to reducing the threat of organized crime and to supporting prevention, intervention and enforcement initiatives right across Canada.
The CBSA supports the RCMP and other law enforcement partners in Canada to counter organized crime and gang activity. Investments made through the estimates and budget will support new technologies, increased detector dog teams, specialized training and tools, and an augmented intelligence and risk assessment capacity. All of this will help to enhance the CBSA's operational responses to better interdict illicit goods, such as firearms and opioids, from crossing our borders. I'm confident the funding we're providing will help all of our partners keep Canada's evolving safety and security needs in place and include addressing gun and gang challenges.
With respect to the border security aspects of my mandate, I'm pleased to report that the government is making significant investments, through the budget and these estimates, to better manage, discourage and prevent irregular migration. Budget 2019 provides $1.2 billion over five years, starting this year, to IRCC, IRB, CBSA, RCMP and CSIS to implement a comprehensive asylum reform and border action plan. While IRCC is the lead on this action plan, the public safety portfolio has a very significant contribution to make.
As the committee is aware, the CBSA is responsible for processing refugee claims, which are made at official points of entry and at their inland offices. The funding approved under budget 2019 will enable the CBSA to strengthen its processes at our border, to help increase the asylum system's capacity and to accelerate claim processing. It will facilitate the removal of individuals found not to be in need of genuine protection from Canada in a more efficient and timely way. The strategy, supported by that funding, will guide these efforts.
Before I close, I'd like to take the opportunity to highlight one further item. Canadians have been hearing a great deal lately about money laundering, terrorism financing and tax evasion happening within our country, and they are rightly concerned. Money laundering is not only a threat to public safety, but it also harms the integrity and stability of the financial sector and the economy more broadly. The government is not waiting to take action to protect Canada's safety, security and quality of life. I'm pleased to note that in budget 2019, the government will invest $24 million over five years for Public Safety Canada to create an anti-money laundering action coordination and enforcement unit, or ACE. This is a pilot project that will strengthen inter-agency action against money laundering and financial crimes.
In addition, a further $68.9 million will be invested over five years, allocated to the RCMP, to enhance federal policing capacity, including the effort to fight money laundering, beginning with $4.1 million allocated in this fiscal year.
In addition, $28 million over five years is being invested in CBSA to support a new centre of expertise. The centre will work to identify and prosecute incidents of trade fraud, as well as potential cases of trade-based money laundering to be referred to the RCMP for investigation and prosecution.
As always, these are just a few examples of the important and vital work that the public safety portfolio and, in this case, the many departments that support my mandate are doing to protect Canadians.
Once again, I thank the committee members for their consideration of these estimates and for their ongoing efforts.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I look forward to members' questions.
Yes, real dogs. I actually met the dog. His name is Bones.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. Bill Blair: They showed me how he searched a car. It's a really extraordinary use of even that. It's low-tech, but it works, and it works really well.
They were able to also share with me some of the extraordinary successes they've been able to achieve, including, for example, the seizure of a very high-powered assault rifle over the May 24 weekend, along with a number of large capacity magazines and ammunition. There is some excellent work that's taking place across our borders.
I will also tell you that there's an acknowledgement within CBSA and within the law enforcement community that to interdict the supply of guns coming across the border from the United States.... The United States is essentially the largest handgun arsenal in the world. There are many firearms there. Criminals know that if they can bring those guns across our border, they can be sold at a significant premium above what would be paid in the U.S., because they're not as readily available in Canada. It's a crime motivated by profit.
The police and CBSA understand that you can't just interdict the supply at the border, so there are some extraordinary efforts taking place. We are investing in the RCMP and municipal and provincial police services right across Canada that work in integrated border enforcement teams and conduct organized crime investigations to identify the individuals and the criminal organizations who are responsible for purchasing these guns in the United States, smuggling them across the border and then subsequently selling them to criminals in our country.
We have seen some extraordinary successes as a result of that partnership as well, but the work continues and is ongoing. We are making significant investments in this budget in CBSA and in law enforcement's capacity to conduct those investigations to improve the quality of the intelligence they gather and how they use that data to effect good success in their investigations and successful prosecution of the individuals who are responsible.
We identified a number of ways in which guns were getting into the hands of criminals. As I've already mentioned, a portion of those—some estimate 50%, some estimate as much as 70%—are in fact smuggled across the border. We also know that a number of those firearms that are subsequently used to commit criminal offences in Canada are domestically sourced.
Essentially, there are a number of reasonably well-identified ways in which that takes place. With regard to the first one, there have been a significant number of large-scale thefts where guns have been stolen either from a gun retailer or from an individual Canadian gun owner. Those guns are then subsequently made available on the street, sold to criminal organizations and used in criminal acts across the country. One of the things I heard, and we discussed very extensively, was how we might improve the secure storage of firearms to prevent those thefts, to make it harder for criminals to steal those guns and subsequently for them to go on the street.
There were also a number of cases where firearms were identified that had been purchased legally in this country, but then subsequently diverted into the criminal market by an individual with the intent of profiting by resale of those guns. It's a process that is sometimes referred to as straw purchasing. Essentially, it's an individual who has the legal authority to purchase a handgun, who sometimes tries to conceal its origin by removing the serial number, and then resells it on the street to somebody at a significant profit.
We identified in conversations across the country, and particularly with law enforcement, the importance of improving the tracing of those firearms that are used in criminal offences, so we can determine their origin of sale and better identify—and by detecting, thereby deterring—and hold accountable those individuals who are involved in that criminal activity. There were a number of other measures that we also heard about on interdicting the supply.
I've also heard from a number of people who have expressed concern that certain types of weapons, frankly, are a significant risk, and that additional steps should be considered in making them less available to those who would use them to harm others.
Thank you for joining us, Minister Blair.
I'll ask you about your responsibilities regarding the border and the migrant situation. Some long responses have been provided. I'll provide a lengthy introduction and focus on the past, so that you can understand the context of my question. If my colleagues haven't seen the Radio-Canada report, I'd encourage them to watch it.
In 2011, I believe, the previous government implemented a program following two incidents where boats arrived in Canada with Tamil asylum seekers on board. The program still exists and spending has increased. Over $18 million is being spent on the program. People from CSIS, the RCMP and even CSE deal with shady individuals abroad, in countries that could be involved in smuggling migrants into Canada. We can agree that human rights are an issue in these places.
I want to know the following. How can you reconcile the government's approach of showing compassion for people in this situation with the fact that agencies are working for a ban abroad? People are being detained in countries where they may be subject to human rights violations.
If you aren't able to answer the question, I know that the people accompanying you today could do so. In the Radio-Canada report, neither the RCMP nor CSIS was able or willing to respond.
I'll let you answer my question. I'm sorry for the lengthy context, but it was important for my colleagues.
You can ask your nice question offline. We do have to pass the estimates, which is the purpose for which we're here.
On behalf of the committee I want to thank you, Minister Blair, and all your officials for being here while we go through these estimates.
With that, I'm going to suggest, and it's up to the colleagues whether we want to do roughly 30 votes all at once, presumably all with one vote on division. Is that a preferable way to proceed, or do you want to divide up the votes?
We're agreed that it will all be done at one.
CANADA BORDER SERVICES AGENCY
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$1,550,213,856
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$124,728,621
Vote 10—Addressing the Challenges of African Swine Fever..........$5,558,788
Vote 15—Enhancing Accountability and Oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency..........$500,000
Vote 20—Enhancing the Integrity of Canada's Borders and Asylum System..........$106,290,000
Vote 25—Helping Travellers Visit Canada..........$12,935,000
Vote 30—Modernizing Canada's Border Operations..........$135,000,000
Vote 35—Protecting People from Unscrupulous Immigration Consultants..........$1,550,000
(Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 agreed to on division)
CANADIAN SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$535,592,804
Vote 5—Enhancing the Integrity of Canada's Borders and Asylum System..........$2,020,000
Vote 10—Helping Travellers Visit Canada..........$890,000
Vote 15—Protecting Canada’s National Security..........$3,236,746
Vote 20—Protecting the Rights and Freedoms of Canadians..........$9,200,000
Vote 25—Renewing Canada's Middle East Strategy..........$8,300,000
(Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 agreed to on division)
CIVILIAN REVIEW AND COMPLAINTS COMMISSION FOR THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$9,700,400
Vote 5—Enhancing Accountability and Oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency..........$420,000
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA
Vote 1—Operating expenditures, grants and contributions..........$2,062,950,977
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$187,808,684
Vote 10—Support for the Correctional Service of Canada..........$95,005,372
(Votes 1, 5 and 10 agreed to on division)
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$130,135,974
Vote 5—Grants and contributions..........$597,655,353
Vote 10—Ensuring Better Disaster Management Preparation and Response..........$158,465,000
Vote 15—Protecting Canada's Critical Infrastructure from Cyber Threats..........$1,773,000
Vote 20—Protecting Canada’s National Security..........$1,993,464
Vote 25—Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation Online..........$4,443,100
Vote 30—Protecting Community Gathering Places from Hate Motivated Crimes..........$2,000,000
Vote 35—Strengthening Canada's Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Regime..........$3,282,450
(Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 agreed to on division)
OFFICE OF THE CORRECTIONAL INVESTIGATOR OF CANADA
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$4,735,703
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$41,777,398
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$2,436,011,187
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$248,693,417
Vote 10—Grants and contributions..........$286,473,483
Vote 15—Delivering Better Service for Air Travellers..........$3,300,000
Vote 20—Enhancing the Integrity of Canada's Borders and Asylum System..........$18,440,000
Vote 25—Protecting Canada’s National Security..........$992,280
Vote 30—Strengthening Canada's Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Regime..........$4,100,000
Vote 35—Support for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police..........$96,192,357
(Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 agreed to on division)
ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE EXTERNAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$3,076,946
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
SECRETARIAT OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE OF PARLIAMENTARIANS
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$3,271,323
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
SECURITY INTELLIGENCE REVIEW COMMITTEE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$4,629,028
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Shall the chair report the votes on the 2019-20 main estimates, less the amounts voted in interim estimates, to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.