Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say that I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-59 this evening. However, I have to admit that what I am really feeling is more a sense of disappointment.
That is because, first of all, there is very little difference between the previous Conservative government's Bill C-51 and the Liberal government's Bill C-59. They certainly have a lot in common. Not only do they look disturbingly alike, but they were also handled much the same way.
Those who were here in the previous Parliament will remember that Bill C-51 was kind of rushed through, the better to capitalize on Canadians' strong emotional response to an increasing number of terrorist attacks, which continue to this day. There was hardly what could be considered a full debate.
As I recall, when discussions were in their infancy, the NDP was the only party resolutely opposed to Bill C-51. The government was trying to sell the idea that we had to compromise between keeping Canadians safe, which is every government's top priority, and protecting the charter rights and freedoms we are all entitled to.
From the outset, the NDP said we should not be seeking a compromise. Rather, we should bring about an evolution with respect to these two fundamental aspects of Canadian rights that belong to every individual.
I feel like the government is taking a similar approach with Bill C-59 now. When we are debating a bill as important as this one, there should be no reason for a time allocation motion that limits MPs' right to speak.
The 338 members of the House represent 35 million Canadians. Each one of those MPs has something to say about this. They are all concerned about the prospect of terrorist attacks here and elsewhere, in people's workplaces, or while they are on vacation. This issue is on the minds of all Canadians, and the best and only way for them to be heard by the government is here in the House. Even so, the government is limiting the time for debate.
Members will also recall that when the NDP took a firm stand against Bill C-51, the Liberals, who were in opposition at the time, pulled a rabbit out of their hat by essentially saying that they would vote in favour of Bill C-51 in order to replace it when they formed the government. If they want to replace a bill, they should vote against it. I may have been inexperienced at that time. The Conservatives' position was clear, the NDP's position was clear, and the Liberals' position was clear.
Over time, and in light of what the Liberal government has done in the past, I can clearly see that they tend to do things a certain way. For example, during the election campaign, this same government sincerely promised to reform our electoral system. As the months passed, this changed to a minor revision of certain election rules, but the overhaul of the electoral system was forgotten.
These same Liberals promised to cut taxes for the middle class. I admit that we may not have been in agreement on what the middle class is, because where I come from, the median salary is about $32,000 a year. To access the tax cuts, the threshold is at least $45,000 a year. Those who really benefit are people like me, who have a salary that is more than decent. How have middle-class taxes been cut? I am still struggling to understand that. These same Liberals promised to axe the EI reform that the Conservatives put in place to give people some time to recover when tragedy strikes.
At the moment, the figures are the same as during the Conservative era. Roughly six out of 10 Canadians who pay into EI do not qualify for benefits when times get tough. I could keep listing examples in almost every field. It is clear that this is a Liberal way to approach the big issues.
We could talk about greenhouse gas reduction, for example. “Canada is back” was the message trumpeted at the Paris conference. I thought that meant Canada was back on the world stage, but I later realized it meant Canada is at the back of the pack and staying there. That is the Liberal approach.
To sum up the issue at hand, Bill C-59 still has many flaws. I will give you some examples. The Liberals are using this bill to establish a legal framework that would allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, to store sensitive metadata on completely innocent Canadians. This is a practice that has already been rejected by the Federal Court. To back up my statements, and to show that this is not just my personal opinion, but based on testimony from people far better informed than me, allow me to quote Daniel Therrien. For those who have not heard of him, he is the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. He testified before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on November 22, 2016, and said:
Think of the recent judgment by the Federal Court that found that CSIS had unlawfully retained the metadata of a large number of law-abiding individuals who are not threats to national security because CSIS felt it needed to keep that information for analytical purposes.
These are not theoretical risks. These are real things, real concerns. Do we want a country where the security service has a lot of information about most citizens with a view to detecting national security threats? Is that the country we want to live in?
We have seen real cases in which CSIS had in its bank of information the information about many people who did not represent a threat. Is that the country we want?
We can already see that things have gotten out of hand, and there is a question that has people increasingly worried, as it pertains not only to the issue being debated this evening, but also to all this personal data that is being asked of us and that we often send against our will on the Internet. The question is: how will we protect this personal information? Because if it is truly personal, that means that it belongs to someone, and that someone is the only person that can consent to its use.
That is not the only problem. I see that I am running out of time, so instead of naming the problems, I will summarize the proposals presented by the NDP. The first was to completely repeal Bill C-51 and replace the current ministerial directive on the matter of torture to ensure that Canada stands for an absolute prohibition on torture. Absolute means that we will not allow through the back door what we would not allow to enter through the front door.
Based on what I have heard in the House today, all the parties agree and everyone is against torture. However, some parties seem to be saying that they might use the information obtained through torture by other countries if that information seemed pertinent. History has made it abundantly clear that not only is torture inhumane, but in most cases, the information turns out to be false, precisely because it was obtained by torture. I imagine that I would be willing to say just about anything if I were being tortured.
In closing, between Bill C-59 and Bill C-51, we still have a long way to go. Under time allocation, I simply cannot vote in favour of this bill.