Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to join the debate on Bill C-3 today. I imagine all the masses sitting at home huddled in front of their TVs watching this on CPAC are quite surprised to see every party stand up and support the bill. I am pleased to support it in general as well. The 18 people at home watching on CPAC probably outnumber those at home watching CBC right now.
Before I get into my general speech, I want to make some comments regarding the oversight committee and its independence from the minister.
A couple of days ago we were debating an opposition day motion about doing a review of the Parole Board and the Parole Board process for appointees, in light of the release of a previous killer into the streets to kill again.
I bring that up because during the debate, some government members intervened and put through an amendment to change that to condemn not the Parole Board, which knew about the situation of the man visiting a prostitute, but to condemn the the parole officer and make the officer the scapegoat, rather than blaming the Parole Board in general.
I worry that instead of focusing on the process in general and the lack of training and the lack of resources, the new oversight committee will go after individual CBSA officers, so I look forward to the bill getting to committee and seeing this issue being brought up so that there is a clear delineation between the government and the board. I hope the oversight committee is appointed through a transparent process and not through patronage appointments of underskilled people, perhaps like the people on the Parole Board who released that murderer.
There is another thing I want to bring up, and I am really glad that so many people have it brought up already. I want to thank CBSA officers who are working to protect and serve Canadians.
CBSA has been one of our best government departments in hiring veterans. A rule was brought through by the Conservatives stating that if anyone serves on our military and is released for medical reasons, that individual will go to the very top of the hiring charts in the public service. After that, before anyone else, is the individual who retired from the military after serving three years in uniform.
We brought in legislation as well that recognized their seniority. If someone has served Canada for 15 years, perhaps served overseas or served five years in Afghanistan, that time serving Canada would be recognized when the individual joins the public service. These seniority rights would count towards vacation and in work scheduling.
We have a lot of problems with getting government departments to hire veterans, but CBSA is probably at the top and has done the greatest job. However, we heard that the Liberal government bargained away seniority rights from veterans who had been medically discharged and had joined the public service.
It is nice to hear members of all parties in the House today praise the CBSA and all the workers, but I hope they put their talking points aside and stand with the CBSA veterans who served our country overseas, those who were perhaps medically discharged or who served in uniform and then found a job with CBSA. I hope members stand together and demand the Liberal government bring back seniority rights for those veterans who are now working with the CBSA.
That said, I want to get to Bill C-3 itself.
The backgrounder says that CBSA ensures Canada's security and prosperity by facilitating and overseeing international travel and trade across Canada's border and interact with thousands of Canadians and visitors to Canada at airports, land border crossing ports and other locations, ensuring a free flow of people and goods across the border.
It continues to say that “the government recognizes that robust accountability mechanisms can help ensure that the public trusts Canada's public safety institutions.”
I want to make sure that we actually have robust oversight of the oversight. It is kind of like the watchmen comic book, “Who's Watching the Watchmen?”. I want to make sure that these are not just people fulfilling some government agenda, as was suggested during the debate on the opposition day motion, when there was an attempt to make the parole officer the scapegoat instead of addressing the general issues at large.
Bill C-3 would also legislate a framework for handling a serious incident regarding CBSA personnel. This includes giving the PCRC responsibility to track and report on serious incidents. That is great, but I want to come back to the CBSA officers.
As I mentioned during a previous intervention, we have serious issues with the cultural structure of the CBSA. I mentioned how the government stripped veterans' benefits from those serving in CBSA. During the most recent employee survey within CBSA, 63% of the members said they do not believe they can bring up concerns without fear of reprisal.
Remember, this is the same government that, when it was presented with a unanimous report from all three parties in the last Parliament to strengthen whistle-blower protection to protect public servants, Scott Brison threw it in the garbage.
We had an operations committee on TV, with a commitment from Scott Brison to come back to explain what his government was doing. He did not come back. For five months before he left the House, left Parliament, he refused to come back. I hope the new President of the Treasury Board will come back and explain what the government is going to do to protect public servants.
Think about it. Almost two-thirds, 63%, of people at CBSA are afraid to come forward for fear of reprisal. In the operations committee, we heard what some of these reprisals were. Lives were destroyed, people were thrown out of work or blackballed from work. We heard of someone who brought up an issue where the government actually sued the person.
When the whistle-blower blew the whistle on the Liberal government's payout to Omar Khadr, Liberals were not concerned about paying a confessed murderer $10.5 million. They spent tens of thousands of dollars investigating and going after the whistle-blower.
We have all the parties in the government saying CBSA officers are valued workers. The CBSA workers are saying they do not trust their senior managers or the government. We have a serious issue and I hope we will address these issues in ongoing legislation.
Another issue that came up is that 57% do not have confidence in senior management. These are the same workers who we are expecting to be exposed, in a way, and held to trial, in a way, by this new oversight process. It does not mention the oversight of the management, nor does it mention the fact that perhaps there is a culture of fear within the department. Again, I look forward to these things being hashed out at committee so we have a proper system.
Also, 51% do not believe senior management act ethically. Think about it. These are the people who are supposed to be stopping smuggled goods, protecting us from bad people coming across the border and dealing with hundreds of billions of dollars of trade throughout the year. However, 51% do not believe their managers act ethically, and 63% do not believe they can come forward to the government to bring this up without reprisals against them. Again, I hope these issues are brought up.
We have a lot of problems at CBSA. This is from the departmental plan the government tabled as part of the estimates process. Ralph Goodale tabled it last year, but these are some of the Liberals' goals for the coming year.
The percentage of high-risk commercial goods targeted by CBSA examined at the border was 94%, and 96% under the Conservatives. The Liberals' goal for this year we do not know. It actually says “to be decided”. Last year, the government put the goal for this year as “to be decided”.
For the percentage of threats identified that lead to an enforcement action or inadmissibility recommendation, the goal was 18%. They are saying only 18% of the threats identified would actually be held to enforcement. They are saying 80% of threats identified, they are not going to go after. This is a problem.
The percentage of high-priority foreign nationals removed for issues such as war crimes is 80%. They have dropped their goal from previous years, so their goal is only to remove 80% of war criminals from Canada.
The reason I bring this up is that it is a serious problem. If we look at the same departmental plan tabled by the government, over the next two years the Liberals are cutting $410 million from the budget, according to their plans. This is on top of $150 million that was cut from last year to this year.
The government wants to do this, this and this, but it is actually doing something completely opposite. I hope the government will get on track and support CBSA, and we will get on track and support this bill if it does so.