Order, please. I have a brief comment on today's committee proceedings. Today's debate is a general one on all votes tabled before the House on Monday, December 7.
Pursuant to the provisions in the motion adopted on Friday, December 4, 2015, the total length of time for debate will not exceed three hours. The first round will begin with the official opposition followed by the government and the New Democratic Party. After that, we will follow the usual proportional rotation.
Within each period, each party may allocate 15 minutes to one or more of its members for speeches or questions and answers. In the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other, but the time allocated for speeches must not exceed 10 minutes.
The Chair would appreciate it if the first member to speak in each period would indicate how that time will be used, particularly if the time will be shared.
When the time is to be used for questions and answers, the minister's response should reflect approximately the time taken by the question.
Furthermore, no quorum calls, dilatory motions, or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.
I also wish to indicate that in committee of the whole, comments should be addressed to the Chair, as is the case in normal debate in this place. l ask for everyone's co-operation in upholding all established standards of decorum, parliamentary language, and behaviour.
I would also remind hon. members that in the committee of the whole format, members are permitted to take a seat of their choosing in the chamber. They do not have to be in their assigned seat to be recognized to participate in the debate.
We will now begin this afternoon's session. The House in committee of the whole, pursuant to the provisional Standing Order 81(5), consideration in committee of the whole of all votes in the supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016.
The hon. member for .
We actually have two points of order at this point.
I will go back to the hon. member for on her earlier point when she transitioned into her next question.
For the benefit of all hon. members, it is true, as I indicated in the opening comments, that generally speaking the respondent should try to put his or her answers in the approximate amount of time as the time taken to pose the question.
That said, members posing questions should be of the understanding that if the brief question would constitute a rather more complex answer, then the Chair will give appropriate time for the minister or parliamentary secretary to respond. To some extent, we try to make sure the time is balanced, but at the same time the idea of committee of the whole is to have a free-flowing exchange, and, to the degree possible, we should try to make sure that the information can be exchanged back and forth in a reasonable fashion. Therefore, I will be watching the balance of time closely, but if it requires a complex response, then time will be given to allow for that.
The hon. parliamentary secretary.
Mr. Chair, I am delighted to be here today. I want to thank hon. colleagues for this opportunity to discuss the supplementary estimates. I will be splitting my time today with the .
As parliamentarians, one of our greatest responsibilities is our fiduciary responsibility to Canadians. For our system to function properly, parliamentarians must have access to the information they need to hold the government accountable.
That is why making the government's activities more open and transparent was a fundamental theme of our election platform. It is also why we promised to enhance this process, beginning with the supplementary estimates (B) being reviewed today.
Because of the timing of the recent election, the fall parliamentary session opened much later than usual and the committees have not yet been struck. As a result, there is not enough time or structure in place for the typical process, where departments and agencies seek approval for supplementary estimates from the relevant parliamentary committees. The reality we face is that commitments made by the previous government led to urgent financial requests by many departments and agencies in the lead-up to the election. This in turn led to cash-flow pressures for the government.
In keeping with the rules and authorities provided by this House, we had a few different options after the election for dealing with this situation. One option would have been to drain the government's contingency reserve, otherwise known as Treasury Board vote 5, and then to use special warrants. This is what many governments have done in the past. However, this would have involved a smaller role for Parliament, and it would have reduced the government's ability to respond to large unforeseen events in the coming months, before the end of the next supply period.
We felt that tabling supplementary estimates was the most open, transparent, and responsible option available to us, given the circumstances. Recognizing that this Parliament is very new, we have limited these estimates to the most urgent requirements, including a vote to replenish the government's $750-million contingency fund.
Between January and July 2015, the previous government used up $520 million, more than two-thirds of that fund. This money went to items as large as $233 million to AECL for its operations, $99 million to Health Canada for aboriginal health programs, and as small as $5,100 to Library and Archives Canada for changes in the exchange rate.
Going forward, we will take steps to make it easier for parliamentarians to scrutinize government spending. One way we will do this is by ensuring that information provided in the budget, estimates, and public accounts is better aligned. This will help us to better manage our spending plans, both in terms of how we ask for Parliament's approval of these plans and how we report what was actually spent.
Harmonizing our tools and coordinating deadlines better will also help prevent government funds from lapsing.
These improvements will also ensure that authorities provided by Parliament are used by departments to provide timely, effective programs and services to Canadians.
We will also publish cost analysis of legislation before Parliament.
The Government of Canada is firmly committed to providing parliamentarians with the tools they need to make informed decisions and to fulfill their fiduciary obligation to Canadians.
I look forward to working with my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House from all parties on these commitments so that we can work together to strengthen Parliament's oversight of government spending.
Madam Chair, I was late arriving. I was not at all disturbed to be late because things were in the able hands of my hon. parliamentary secretary. I was late because the member for had young students on the Hill who produced cards to welcome the refugees from Syria, who are all coming tomorrow night.
They wanted me to talk to them and they asked me some very intelligent questions, these 12-year-olds. It is quite impressive compared to the questions I have heard so far in the House. I was quite bowled over. It is not that the questions in the House were of low quality, it is just that the questions from these young Canadians were of such high quality that I was totally bowled over. I was very happy to meet with them.
One thing I told them was just last weekend I went to an apartment in west Toronto, which could have even been . People were preparing the apartment for the arrival of Syrian refugees, a mother and her five children. I helped set up the bed in the apartment and then the little girl, about 10 years old, taught me how to say “welcome to Canada” in Arabic, so that I can say that to them. She had to tell me two or three times, but I think it is properly said as [member spoke in Arabic]. Those are the words of a 10-year-old girl helping set up an apartment to welcome the Syrian refugees. She was my teacher. If I ever get to meet the Syrian refugees coming by plane, when they arrive in Canada, I will know what to say. I will say [member spoke in Arabic].
It is a good expression for all of us in the House to learn, because, as I have said many times, this is not just a governmental project and certainly not a Liberal project. All parties in the House have supported it, all provincial governments across the land have supported it. Even the Governor General, who is the precise definition of non-partisan, was leading the charge. Even beyond that, it is not just governmental at all. It is all Canadians, including the business people to whom I was referring earlier, who have come forward. People with thick wallets and big hearts have come forward to provide free or subsidized accommodation to help us meet the requirements of the refugees.
There will be some trials along the way, but I am sure that in the end, we will welcome them not only with a smile but with roofs over their heads, the necessary language training, all of which is covered in our cost estimates, which brings the relevancy to this debate, and health care. Interim federal health is now fully restored for the Syrian refugees and before too long, after they are housed, healthy, and know a bit of English or French, they will be out in the labour market. Across the country, various groups will help our newcomer friends. Some of them are here already and tomorrow evening will be the first full planeload. Then they will come in larger numbers. I am sure all Canadians will welcome them and soon they will become productive workers.
My colleague here comes from Nova Scotia. I can say that the provinces most enthusiastic to welcome the refugees are provinces with a more sharply aging population, like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They are really keen to take lots and lots of refugees. From coast to coast to coast, the whole of Canada—
Hon. Scott Brison: Aging sharply.
Hon. John McCallum: Not you personally; some of your compatriots and I might include myself in that list, but still going strong.
I have lost my train of thought, madam Chair. It must be a sign of aging.
My point is, across the whole country, Canada is giving a very warm welcome to all these Syrian refugees, who will soon be Canadians like all of us.
Madam Chair, I propose to allocate my time with remarks of about 10 minutes and then a question and answer period.
I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Government of Canada to speak about how we will strengthen our access to information system, a key issue facing Treasury Board. We firmly believe that government data and information should be open by default, in formats that are modern and easy to use. We promise to deliver an improved access to information system, because we are committed to upholding the democratic principles of openness and transparency.
We recognize that Canadians cannot meaningfully participate in a democracy without having the information they need. Indeed, we believe that information for which Canadians paid belongs to Canadians. They have every right to access it.
To that end, we will review the Access to Information Act to ensure it provides the openness and accountability Canadians expect. We will ensure that the government is fair, open, and accountable to all Canadians.
Reviewing the access to information system will also bring greater transparency, open the doors for greater public participation in governance, and support the Government of Canada's commitment to evidence-based decision-making.
Canada's access to information legislation has not been substantially updated since 1983. How much our world has changed since then. The proliferation of personal technology, like smart phones, has altered so many aspects of our lives.
We recognize that technology in all forms is changing how citizens interact with their government in powerful ways; so, in the coming months we will look at ways to align Canada's access to information system with those modern realities.
Releasing information in easy to use formats, which will ensure that Canadians have meaningful access to their government, is one of the most important and substantive changes we can make. Our review of the access to information system will explore, among other updates, how we can make usable formats a reality.
Another part of our commitment to openness involves eliminating barriers wherever we can. We committed to Canadians that we would eliminate fees for accessing government information, with the exception of the initial fee for filing a request. We believe that Canadians should not have to foot the bill for information that belongs to them.
In addition to reducing financial barriers, we will look at reducing systemic barriers. For example, we will examine ways to expand the scope of the Access to Information Act so that it applies to the 's office, to ministers' offices, and to bodies that support Parliament and the courts.
We will do this because we know that Canadians want us to pull back the curtain on the factors that influence the decisions that affect their lives. Canadians expect to know how and why decisions are made on their behalf, though we also acknowledge the valid and important reasons behind protecting some information.
These reasons include protecting Canadians' personal information, withholding information that would put someone's safety or national security at risk, and ensuring that officials can provide full, free, and frank advice to the government. We will work with all stakeholders to strike the right balance.
The government also recognizes that Canadians want and deserve easier access to their own personal information. We will explore ways to strengthen this aspect of the existing system. We want to create a system that is more nimble, responsive, and convenient.
These kinds of sweeping changes cannot happen in a vacuum. We look forward to working with the Information Commissioner and other interested Canadians on the review of the Access to Information Act. In fact, we consider the Information Commissioner to be an important partner in our review of Canada's access to information system.
Indeed, we heard earlier from the , in answer to a question, that the initial contact, initial meeting, initial approach, has already taken place.
No access to information regime is complete without meaningful and effective oversight. We promised Canadians that we would find ways to empower the Office of the Information Commissioner to order government information to be released in situations where doing so would be in keeping with the purposes of the Access to Information Act.
We look forward to working with the Information Commissioner to foster a strong and responsive access regime.
We also recognize that this cannot be a one-off initiative. We have been witness to many changes in society and in technology since our access to information legislation came into force in 1983. We need to find ways to ensure that the system continues to grow and change alongside us. We cannot allow our access to information practices to become stagnant.
A vibrant and evolving access to information system will support a strong, open, and transparent democracy. One way to ensure the continued strength of the access to information system is to undertake a full legislative review of the Access to Information Act every five years. Legislative reviews provide an important opportunity for Canadians to have their say on access rights and to help us ensure that the system continues to meet their needs.
Given the importance of these changes and their complexity, the government will take the time necessary to hear from interested Canadians on this issue and to fully examine all the options. We will come forward with proposals to enhance and build on the existing strengths in the system.
These are early days. We will announce more details about the review in the coming months.
We look forward to working with all the stakeholders to ensure that we develop balanced, reasonable, and feasible proposals. I welcome the input from the committee members gathered here on ways in which we can enhance our access to information regime.
Madam Chair, I will be using about 10 minutes of my time to make remarks, and then 5 minutes for questions and answers.
I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the government to address a priority of Treasury Board and the entire government, and that is the importance of evidence-based decision-making, an issue that was raised earlier by the in this debate.
That brings me to making a couple of remarks before I get into the discussion. I would like to congratulate the two ministers who are at committee of the whole for the first time in their positions. I would like to congratulate all of the new and returning members on both sides of the House for being here. I look forward to a constructive and positive working relationship in the interests of Canadians, as we move forward in this 42nd Parliament.
Evidence-based decision-making is vitally important to Canadians, and it is vitally important to good decision-making by government. That is why it was explicitly set out in our Liberal platform in the recent election.
I will give members a couple of examples of where we committed to restore evidence-based decision-making. One was the restoration of funding for the Experimental Lakes Area, which is an important world-leading facility for research and understanding of the potential collective and individual impacts on our important freshwater waterways in Canada.
Another is a commitment to restoring funding for ocean science and monitoring, which, as a British Columbian, I know is extremely important to our wild salmon, to understanding the impacts on the ecology of our oceans and riparian areas. It will be important as we move forward to implement the recommendations in the Cohen commission report on the Fraser River sockeye salmon.
I also want to speak today about the importance of evidence-based decision-making in my riding of Vancouver Quadra. When the mandatory long-form census was cancelled, I heard from many people across the riding, especially people from the University of British Columbia. I would like to take a moment to congratulate the university on its 100th anniversary. This important research and learning facility ranks frequently in the top 40 of such institutions around the world.
The government has an ambitious plan for bringing real change to Canadians, and we want to make a fundamental change in how evidence is used to effectively deliver on our commitments.
Canada, as a member of the Group of Eight, the United Nations, and the Group of Twenty, needs a strong evidence-based decision-making process to support and promote its views at the international table.
The Canadian government has access to detailed levels of information for over 1,600 government programs, which includes spending and performance data. We will use this evidence to make decisions that meet the needs of Canadians and achieves value for money. That essentially means that our job of serving Canadians will be done cheaper, faster, and better, with good evidence and with science and facts. Countries look to Canada to set this example, and we are excited to be raising the bar.
The government is also establishing new performance standards, improving the use of evidence and data in program innovation and evaluation, and accelerating and expanding open data initiatives.
The Government of Canada is proud of the many scientists in its ranks who do such important research on agriculture, forestry, biology, and the oceans, as I have mentioned, to name just a few. We take pride in the work that government scientists accomplish. Canadians look forward to hearing Canadian scientists speak about their research, share their results, and make it more accessible.
Our government will use evidence to drive innovation. We are committed to setting aside funding to test and evaluate new approaches to solving problems in government service delivery.
Specifically, as I mentioned, we have restored the mandatory long-form census. As well, we are improving the quality of publicly available data in Canada, and we are developing an innovation agenda which is necessary to the flourishing of Canada's economy in the future.
Collectively, these measures are giving the Government of Canada and our communities key information that we need to best serve Canadians.
Our commitment to the use of evidence extends beyond internal data. The most important evidence comes from Canadians themselves. We will use the feedback we get from Canadians through the extensive consultations we do to ensure we are making the right decisions with the biggest impact.
Without accurate and reliable data, the government cannot review the $100 billion in tax expenditures each and every year to ensure that program spending continues to meet the needs of Canadians.
We also want to share information, so that provincial and municipal governments can plan ahead and be effective. Everything from transit planning to housing strategies to support for new Canadians becomes much easier when people have data at their fingertips.
I am proud that our government is open to working with organizations and asking others for help. For example, we want to harness this expertise and knowledge and learn how we can use the research that the David Suzuki Foundation has undertaken to guide us when creating our climate change strategy. That is why Dr. Suzuki was one of the many delegates that the government invited to attend the climate change conference in Paris. There were representatives from all levels of government, along with indigenous leaders, non-governmental environmental organizations, business leaders, and youth. I am proud that we are restoring the tradition of having members of civil society contribute their ideas, knowledge, and data to making better decisions at these conferences on climate change.
Our government is also committed to meaningful engagement with Parliament and parliamentarians. This means providing Parliament with the evidence it too needs to make the right decisions. To support this commitment, we are increasing the information value of our documents on spending. Aligning the estimates and budget processes, improving public accounts reporting, and providing Parliament with costing analyses for all of the legislation will give parliamentarians real access to spending and performance information. This will truly enable parliamentarians to do the jobs they are elected to do on behalf of their constituents, and that is to scrutinize the government's spending.
I am proud of the improvements that we have committed to. The process is already under way. The is working very hard on a number of these initiatives.
I appreciate the privilege of speaking to the important matter of evidence based decision-making in this committee of the whole.
Mr. Chair, first it is important that government, like any organization that has the mandate to serve people, is continually looking at how it can do that better. That is what the 's mandate is all about and what the hard-working people at the Treasury Board are busy with on an ongoing basis.
However, to do continuous improvement, one needs to have the baseline data. We need answers to question like how we are doing: How is it working? When we tried something out, did it work? What is the evidence?
Evidence and data are important in all fields of endeavour. We want to continually keep up to date with what is happening in terms of information technology, the expectations of the public, and we want to improve our delivery of services and processes.
That relates to National Defence. Information about the impacts on some of the men and women in uniform who were in Afghanistan in an operational capacity and who were injured was being hidden. It was very difficult to find out exactly what was happening, how people were doing, and what the rates of suicide were.
It was very difficult for the previous government to do its job and improve services because the data was lacking as to what was actually happening.
With respect to the justice agenda, we know that the data and evidence clearly did not support some of the previous government's agenda. Some of the spokespersons in the United States were talking to Canadians, asking why we were going down that road of the crime and punishment agenda when the evidence did not support the long-term well-being of people in communities.
I am delighted that we will be restoring the focus on evidence-based decision-making in this country.
Mr. Chair, I will give a brief statement, followed by questions. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Canadians are generous, so we are welcoming the refugees who will be getting off the plane as permanent residents and they expect Parliament to debate important questions of the day, including whether the government has a plan to do this well and allow the resettlement to be successful. That is what we all want.
The sense we have on this side of the chamber is that this is a plan made on the fly and that could lead to poor outcomes for new members of the Canadian family. We only need to look to the Liberal Party platform that the refers to every day in question period to see Liberals changed their plan in the election.
In their first statement on the subject, the Liberals allocated $250 million in their platform for the Syrian processing resettlement; $100 million this year for processing and settlement; $100 million as a new payment to the UNHCR. Then in another document, in the same election campaign, they allocated $200 million for the same program. Part of that $200 million was again the $100 million in new funding for the UNHCR or relief work.
Whether we take it as $300 million or $250 million, Liberals' plans were different even during the campaign. One thing was constant. They were going to have a new payment to the UNHCR for relief efforts related to this tragedy.
In the Liberals' November 9 press release, once again the new minister said: $100 million for processing; $100 million to the UNHCR for relief. In supplementary estimates we are debating today, $277 million spent; $177 million for operational expenditures; and $99 million for grants. There is no mention of that $100 million in new spending for UNHCR.
Why is this missing from the supplementary estimates?
Mr. Chair, I will be allocating my time so that I have 10 minutes for a speech and then a five-minute question and answer period. I am pleased to stand in this place today on behalf of the government to discuss the important subject of open government, a key priority for the Treasury Board and the entire government.
However, before doing so, as this is the first time I am standing in this House, I would first like to take a moment to thank the constituents of Richmond Hill for giving me the honour of representing them here. I would like to thank my wife, Homeira, my daughter, Nickta, and my son, Meilaud, for supporting me for the last four and a half years as I embarked on this journey. I would like to thank my team for working hard and supporting me, and I would like to thank the more than 740 volunteers who put in a lot of effort to make sure I have the privilege of standing and sitting in the House beside all the hon. members.
The world is changing at a rapid rate. Just look around. About 30 years ago, fax machines were leading edge and information was stored in filing rooms. Today, it is smart phones and social media, big data and high-speed Internet. Technological developments have altered the way people live and interact with one another, but that is only half of the picture. A fundamental change is taking place in the relationship between government and the citizens it represents. This change is happening around the world and right here at home.
Technology is empowering citizens to act on their expectation for a government that is honest, open, and sincere in its efforts to serve the public interest. Canadians are demanding greater openness in government. They are calling for greater participation in government decision-making, and they are seeking to make their government more transparent, responsive, and accountable.
In real terms, Canadians want access to the data and information for which they have paid. They want the assurance that comes when a government is transparent and acts with integrity, and they want to be engaged in the activities of the government and in the decisions that affect them. That is what open government is all about. It is about greater transparency and accountability. It is about opening the door to more public participation in the development of government policies and releasing the information that supports government decision-making.
We firmly believe that government information and data should be open by default. When data is published freely in open formats, it can be used for a wide variety of purposes. That means it increases its value.
Take Canada's geospatial data, for example. A recent study estimates that $695 million is added to Canada's GDP as a result of the use of open geospatial data. However, the study also notes that the full potential of open data will only be realized when we can combine geospatial data with other government open data, such as health, public safety, and climate information.
We know that there is still an untapped wealth of information and data in federal departments and agencies that can be shared with all Canadians. Indeed, there is huge potential in the area of open data. Wherever it is possible, people should no longer have to specifically request data from the government. That information should be made available by default, and it should be published in accessible and open formats on the Government of Canada's open government portal under an unrestrictive licence.
It is therefore important that the government works toward a collective vision for how best to share information that is of interest to all Canadians.
The government has demonstrated its commitment to open government with the unprecedented step of publicly releasing all ministerial mandate letters. Each mandate letter highlights open government as a key priority.
The government has also committed to making government science fully available to the public and allowing government scientists and experts to speak freely about their work to the media and the public. This is an equally important part of an open and transparent government.
Lastly, the government has committed to strengthening the access to information program and will be reviewing the Access to Information Act to ensure the openness and accountability that Canadians' rightly seek.
Clearly, the government is living up to its word.
It is an honour to be sitting in the House.
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the question from the member for , and I congratulate her on her election to this House.
Our government is committed to evidence-based decision-making. To do that, we need to have the best possible information, whether it means restoring the long-form census or restoring the capacity of government departments to research and provide sound evidence to decision-makers on which to make decisions.
Science is part of it, but we also need better data, as an example, for the housing market. We are told by bank economists that in Canada today we do not have good, solid data on Canada's housing markets, which are fragmented across the country. That is not helpful in terms of homeowners and investors understanding the housing market to the extent that we ought to, or banks having as much data as they ought to. We are also told by economists that we do not have good labour market data that we need.
The long-form census is a key part of what we will do as a government, but it is only part of that. We will restore investments in science across this Parliament and agencies. We will support science and research in our universities. As my colleague, the parliamentary secretary and member for said earlier, we are committed to open data within government. That we have not had a review or an update of the access to information legislation since the early 1980s is absurd, given the remarkable change, much of which have been technologically driven, since then.
For Canadians, the transparency bus has left the station. Canadians, particularly young Canadians, wonder why more information is not available to them, and they are right. Our 's commitment, as an opposition leader, as a leader in our platform, and as we move forward, is very strong. That commitment is something we take very seriously.
We will work with Public Works, for instance, which plays a pivotal role. We will work with all departments and agencies; Treasury Board plays an important role across every department and agency of government on this.
We look forward to engaging Parliament. We intend to really work more closely with parliamentary committees. I have a fairly high opinion of Liberal members of Parliament, but I do believe that members of Parliament from other parties have good ideas too. Those good ideas will help inform better decisions by this House.
When ministers from our government ask critics and opposition members on parliamentary committees for their input, we will be genuinely seeking their input because we want to make better decisions. There are good ideas from all parties in this House of Commons. We intend to work with members of Parliament from every party to help make sure that this Parliament makes the best possible decisions and renders the best public policy to move this country forward.
That is what Canadians want. They want smarter decisions from a less partisan and more constructive Parliament. I am pleased to say to Canadians, that is what they will get from this government.
Mr. Chair, I would like to use my time by allocating five minutes to questions.
I would like to take this opportunity, since it is the first time I am rising in this place, to thank the voters of Mount Royal for electing me.
I would also like to congratulate all of the other members of the House on getting elected.
One of the things that I always said in my experience as a mayor is that politics is best done when we all work together, and I hope in the coming years to work together with all members of this place.
I am very proud to rise on a question of appropriations related to the Syrian refugees. As we all know, Canada is a country that has a history of welcoming refugees. My own family came to Canada over a century ago, fleeing religious persecution in Europe. Many people in the House have had similar experiences themselves, or via their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents. We all join together in wanting to welcome people, because Canada has been at its best when it was welcoming, and at its worst when it closed its doors.
As members know, we have to get things right, so I am pleased to speak today both on the security aspects that are of rightful concern to many Canadians and on the health aspects regarding the refugee resettlement in Canada, which are also of rightful concern to many Canadians.
Resettling refugees is a national effort. It will require significant coordination and support, beginning, of course, with members of this place. I want to address how the government will select and process Syrian refugees overseas. This work represents the second phase of our announced five phase national plan. I will tell the House about how the government is making sure that refugees meet security requirements prior to their arrival in this country and what kind of medical screening they will undergo. I will also make clear the costs that these efforts entail.
To meet its commitment of Syrian refugee resettlement, Canada will work with the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, along with international and Canadian partners. This will be to identify government assisted refugees. We are also, as the minister clearly stated, processing privately sponsored refugees to meet the goal of 25,000 by the end of February, 2016.
To identify UN registered Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, the Government of Canada is working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The government has already begun contacting refugees to determine whether they are interested in coming to Canada. The UNHCR has already identified groups of people whom it believes are eligible for resettlement in the west. Another thing that I want to reiterate is our commitment to taking the refugees who are the most vulnerable, which would include members of religious minorities and others, like gays and lesbians, who are subject to persecution.
The government will process refugees who want to make the journey to our country at two dedicated contact centres, one in Amman, Jordan, and one in Beirut. These offices will be staffed by experienced immigration officers, as well as other government officials and security partners.
Protecting the safety, security, and health of Canadians and refugees will be a key factor guiding our actions throughout this initiative. The timeline of the government, which has been set out, will allow us to complete refugee processing overseas while doing robust health and security screening. The officers involved will take the time to screen refugees carefully before accepting them for resettlement in Canada. As the minister has stated, if there are any red flags, those refugees will not be processed in this early batch of refugees.
Security screening will include collecting biographical information and biometrics, such as fingerprints and digital photos. These will be checked against immigration, law enforcement, and security databases.
All of the cases will be dealt with in accordance with the procedures that are currently in place. If additional information is required on a particular case, it will be put aside.
Screening will also include full medical exams. This will include checking for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. Once perspective refugees have undergone screening, those selected will receive permanent resident visas. We will then prepare to bring them to Canada.
The government is planning to transport refugees using chartered aircraft and military planes. The International Organization for Migration, a humanitarian agency that specializes in coordinating the travel of large groups, will manage the operation. It has previously worked with the Government of Canada and will ensure that migration is safe and orderly.
Statistics on the department's website are helping to telling the story of where Canada stands in processing the refugees it has committed to bringing here. The website gives up-to-date numbers, showing refugees who have arrived in Canada since the government made its commitment to welcoming 25,000 Syrians to this country.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the previous government on accepting Iraqi refugees, and doing so much to bring Iraqi refugees to Canada. We need to care for people from all over. Nobody has a monopoly on virtue, and so I want to congratulate the previous government.
The federal government has already announced its financial commitment to this massive effort of identifying, screening, transporting, and welcoming these thousands of Syrian refugees. As we move forward on this great national project, we must contend with the cost of processing applications overseas. We anticipate these costs to be between $40 million and $50 million across all areas of government, with $19.1 million at IRCC.
Let me remind the House that these costs are actually lower than if we did this job in country. I think we all agree, as parliamentarians, that we are very happy that the security issues are being dealt with abroad before anybody arrives in Canada.
Funding will be closely monitored, controlled, and reported on, and I ask hon. members to approve the appropriations we have set aside under these supplementary estimates.
What we have before us is not a partisan project; it is a Canadian project. All members of this chamber, from whatever parties they come from, should be onside with an effort such as this. As I stated, this is bringing out what is best in us as Canadians.
Resettling refugees is a proud part of the Canadian humanitarian tradition. It demonstrates to the world that we have a strong moral compass to help people who are displaced and in need of protection.
I believe that this is a time for Canadians to come together and to put our hearts and minds together to welcome these refugees. Let us show the world what Canada is made of. As my colleague said earlier, let us get this job done; let us get it done well; and let us get it done all together.