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Results: 1 - 26 of 26
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-17 21:18 [p.29238]
Mr. Speaker, as we debate Bill C-58 tonight, I cannot help but share the disappointment of my colleagues on the NDP benches. We were promised that this access to information legislation would create information available essentially by default, with more transparency.
I recall that when I used to practise environmental law, the joke among all of us at the time was that Canada's access to information legislation constituted freedom from information.
Now, we know that quite a lot of amendments were made in the Senate, and I know that the hon. parliamentary secretary wants to make sure that we are not caught in a time warp where we miss them. It is important to note that a lot of those amendments came from the government side. Amendments tightened up some of the language around vexatious questions being used as an excuse to reject access to information requests. However, I still find that this legislation falls far below the bar of what was promised. We did try, as Greens, to improve this legislation. I had 18 amendments come before the committee. Lots of us, as parliamentarians, tried to improve this legislation.
Given that there were some improvements, some significant ones from first reading, is there any temptation on the NDP benches to pass it as marginally better, or is it better to defeat it because it falls so far below the mark?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-13 15:53 [p.29075]
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on his first speech as the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board. I just wish he had better content for his first speech.
Bill C-58 is such a massive disappointment. I have never seen a commissioner like the Privacy Commissioner pan legislation as this was panned. I have to confess that while I try to keep up with absolutely everything in this place, I have not seen if the Senate amendments are capable of making this bill worth supporting.
I read an article which says that the Liberals' new freedom of information bill is garbage. I wonder if there is any reference that the hon. parliamentary secretary could direct us to from any impartial experts. Is there anything from a third party source that could be referenced at this point indicating that it is a substantial improvement?
View Michel Boudrias Profile
BQ (QC)
View Michel Boudrias Profile
2019-04-05 12:04 [p.26745]
Madam Speaker, the Minister of National Revenue is failing in her duty. The net was supposed to tighten around the Panama papers fraudsters, but that has not happened. The minister was supposed to hire 1,300 new international taxation auditors, but that has not happened either. She was also supposed to recover $25 billion from tax havens, but we are still waiting because, again, nothing has happened there.
Since we cannot rely on the minister, can she at least give the information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, so that he can shed some light on this and reveal just how complacent the government has been?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-31 18:46 [p.23107]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to pursue a question that I initially asked in question period on June 7. It is remarkably timely these many months later, although the circumstances have changed.
My question pertained to the quite inexplicable decision by the government to purchase the 65-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion. In my question, I compared it to having the “business acumen of buying up all of Blockbuster's assets while Netflix takes off”. In other words, it is not a wise business decision. It is quite bizarre to buy a 65-year-old pipeline that is an ongoing working concern. It does not create a single new job to buy a 65-year-old pipeline, albeit it was all in aid of trying to build the Kinder Morgan expansion.
My question at the time dealt with whether we would see the contract for purchase and sale. Since that time, the contract for purchase and sale was made public. I reviewed it carefully and it had a couple of features that are relevant to my pursuit of this matter in debate tonight.
One is that the contract for purchase and sale of Kinder Morgan's assets in Canada did not include all of its assets. It also did not include a closing date. There was no date specified for the closing of the purchase of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. There was something called the “outside date”, December 31, which has not yet arrived. It is quite inexplicable. I use that word often because I think it is the best word.
There is no explanation for the lack of fiscal prudence and lack of concern for evidence-based decision-making that would lead the government to spend $4.5 billion on an old pipeline, particularly when the cheque to Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion was delivered to it on August 31, less than 24 hours after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the permits for the expansion.
This was foreseeable. In fact, I pointed out to the government on many occasions in the House that taking the chance that the permits would not be quashed was reckless. The matter was before the courts. Why did every minister stand up and say that the pipeline would be built, the pipeline must be built? The pipeline should not be built.
Now that we have wasted $4.5 billion on a 65-year-old pipeline, it is a little late to point out to the government that the Federal Court of Appeal's decision not only found that the Government of Canada had broken the law, but also that Kinder Morgan had broken the law through the process of the environmental review and indigenous consultations. Therefore, we had a material breach that could have gotten Canada out of wasting $4.5 billion on a 65-year-old pipeline for purposes of building an expansion, for which it does not have permits, at a cost of at $10 billion more.
Now for the kicker. Perfectly foreseeable was that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was going to deliver a report this October. It was foreseeable because the Minister of Environment herself played a significant role in COP21 in Paris, and the COP21 decision document mandated the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to prepare exactly this report to tell us what we already knew, that we are not moving fast enough and the Harper targets that the government has held onto for action on climate change are completely inadequate to meet the Paris target of holding global average temperature to 1.5°C. Now we know that missing 1.5°C is globally catastrophic and potentially sets in motion irreversible disaster.
The government must cancel any and all new fossil fuel projects, including the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-31 18:52 [p.23108]
Madam Speaker, first of all, let us talk about the notion that this is a fair price, $4.5 billion for a 65-year-old pipeline that Kinder Morgan purchased for $550 million and that purchase price included additional infrastructure that we did not buy. It is a huge bonanza of a profit to a Texas-based company for absolutely no reason.
When the hon. member says Canadians realize “now more than ever” that we must diversify where our energy goes, I disagree. Canadians realize now more than ever that we have to stop using and exploiting fossil fuels while there is time to ensure our children can live out their natural lifespan without being in an unlivable world. That is the advice from the intergovernmental panel on climate change.
Maintaining the existing 65-year-old pipeline is not going to be a new investment, but expanding it will create an additional pulse of greenhouse gases. We are over the carbon budget. We have to reduce now. We have to cancel Kinder Morgan.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-07 15:07 [p.20455]
Mr. Speaker, buying the 65-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan shows the kind of brilliant business acumen of buying up all of Blockbuster's assets while Netflix takes off. I am wondering when we will see the contract of sale. We know there are apparently 121 pages of fine legalese that could help us stop the sale before its closing in August. When will the contract be made public?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-05-01 12:29 [p.18973]
Mr. Speaker, I wish I shared the enthusiasm of the member for St. John's East that the current government has a climate plan. It does not have a plan. However, nothing makes me more sympathetic to the Liberals' attempts to deal with climate change, which is a current crisis, than hearing the Conservatives take strips off them for the few things they are doing.
I heard the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan claim that emissions went down under the Harper years. That is true, but I do not think former prime minister Stephen Harper wants to take credit for the global economic collapse, which was the only reason emissions went down at all. They began to go right back up as soon as the economy recovered. There was no sector-by-sector regulatory approach. It was a series of press releases.
The current Liberal government cannot claim credit for targets that meet the Paris Agreement when we have not updated our target in light of the science. The Paris Agreement was negotiated six months after Stephen Harper set the current target to 2030, which is unchanged under this government.
Will my colleague join me in encouraging the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Prime Minister to update Canada's carbon target so that it is consistent with the Paris Agreement we signed?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-05-01 12:57 [p.18977]
Mr. Speaker, I will follow up on the last question from my hon. colleague from Vancouver Quadra. The carbon tax approach to reducing greenhouse gases is accepted by experts globally, including The Economist and the International Monetary Fund. It is very establishment-accepted by economists that it is a precursor to basically correct a market failure by making it cost something to dump pollution in our shared atmosphere. At the same time, we need to take steps to eliminate subsidies.
However, these are just foundational steps. They are insufficient to actually address the threat we are facing with the climate crisis.
Has my hon. colleague studied the estimates that the Canadian economy could be experiencing losses of billions or tens of billions of dollars a year by failing to take action?
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
2018-02-27 15:03 [p.17440]
Mr. Speaker, it is absurd that the Government of Canada exempts Netflix and rich foreign platforms from taxation. This unfair tax situation will hurt the middle class and has been denounced by the entire cultural industry and the Government of Quebec. To add insult to injury, the Minister of Canadian Heritage refuses to disclose the terms of the agreement with Netflix to the Government of Quebec.
Will the minister finally be transparent, answer requests for information, and put an end to this flagrant injustice?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-12-05 10:28 [p.15992]
Mr. Speaker, I do regret that the hon. President of the Treasury Board has taken so long with his answers when we opposition members are restricted to a finite 30 minutes to complain about the fact that our debate on this very important access to information bill will be restricted.
I want to put this directly to the President of the Treasury Board. I am very pleased that one of my amendments was accepted at committee, but even with that small measure, I cannot vote for this bill. As well, I do not know if we will be allowed to debate the bill that we cannot vote for, because access to information has become freedom from information under the government.
I would urge the President of the Treasury Board to release us from time allocation on this debate.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2017-10-27 12:04 [p.14635]
Madam Speaker, the heritage minister's officials said that she should tax Netflix, as did the experts, the artists, the producers, the creators, and the Government of Quebec, but she could not care less. Now, Quebec is left to clean up her mess by taxing Netflix on the provincial level, but she refuses to make the agreement public so we can know how to go about it.
Having failed to do her job, will she at least let others do theirs and disclose her deal with Netflix to Quebec?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-09-26 11:08 [p.13509]
Madam Speaker, is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-58, the long-awaited amendments to the Access to Information and the Privacy Act.
As we have heard from many Liberal members, this is the first time the act has been substantially amended since its initial debut. As has been said by many of us in the environmental law community, Canada does not so much have freedom of information legislation as it has freedom from information legislation.
We had hoped for far more openness, given the promise that was in the Liberal platform. I will just repeat it as a way of context-setting for my presentation:
We will ensure that Access to Information applies to the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts.
To give Liberals their due, let me cover some of the things that I think represent improvements in openness under the new government, and then focus more substantively on the failures and gaps in this legislation.
We do have, on the Treasury Board website, the heralding of access to information that is open by default. I think that is a stretch, but it certainly is a positive step. I want to emphasize that.
This Prime Minister is the first that I know of in our history to have made the mandate letters to ministers public letters. That has already had an impact on other governments. When Premier John Horgan became premier in my home province of British Columbia recently and formed his cabinet, the mandate letters became public. I think that is the first time that has happened at a provincial level, but once it happens federally and once the Prime Minister does it, it was “Where are the mandate letters?”
I am pleased to see in this legislation that mandate letters of a Prime Minister to members of his or her cabinet will, going forward, be legislated requirements for openness. That is a very good thing. It is a good thing to know that briefing packages of ministers will be proactively revealed, that question period binders will be made public, as well as hospitality expenses, contracts over $10,000, and so on. Those will be proactively disclosed, including expenses from ministers' offices and senators.
There will be a lot more transparency around things that I am going to describe as routine, expenses that are predictable, contracts that are large, and briefing documents that are predictable. It is also important to note that this will apply to other agencies and institutions within the Government of Canada.
Unfortunately, this is not what was promised. What was promised was that access to information legislation would apply to a Prime Minister's Office and to a ministerial office so that, for instance, when an issue arose, a member of the public or the media could ask how that happened and do an access request. That will not be permitted under this legislation. We will not see the opportunity that we thought was going to transpire in this legislation.
Certainly lots of knowledgeable members of what might be called the architecture of privacy and information in this country made recommendations. For instance, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault recommended that it be up to access to information officials and officers to determine whether emails and memos in and out of the PMO or a minister's office were political or parliamentary in nature, in which case it would be recommended they remain confidential, or would pertain to running a department, in which case they would be accessible through access to information. That recommendation has not made it into this legislation. Perhaps the Liberals are open to seeing amendments to Bill C-58 that would allow the legislation to meet the earlier promise.
I am going to quote from an article by Stephen Maher at iPolitics. He is certainly one of Canada's leading investigative journalists. He certainly has a lot of experience with access to information. He used it very effectively to investigate the robocall scandal, among other things. What he wrote was:
The proactive disclosure of some ministerial documents may be a step backward, because the decisions about what to release and what to redact will not be reviewable by the information commissioner.
In a sense, what looks like a step forward is actually a step backward. Was it an unintentional step backward? We will have to find out at committee how open the Liberals are to amendments on this bill.
One of the things I found very concerning is found at proposed section 6.1, which is that the head of a government institution can, on his or her own initiative, decide to ignore an access to information request for a number of reasons.
Many of those reasons are reasonable. If the request does not meet the requirements set out in the act, for instance, or if the person has already been given access to the record and may access the record by other means, or if the request is for a large number of records and necessitates such a large search that it would unreasonably interfere with the operations of government, it would be reasonable to refuse the request.
However, this one is outrageous: proposed subsection 6.1(1)(d) states that the head of a government institution may on his or her own initiative, and not reviewably, refuse to accept an access to information request if “the request is vexatious”. That is a subjective term. If an institution decides that someone's interest in, for instance, toxic chemicals in their watershed is something the department does not want to share with the public, the institution just has to say it is a vexatious request.
“Vexatious” is far too subjective and far too restrictive a term to be allowed in government legislation. It certainly is a shock to find it in legislation that is supposed to take us to the promise of open and accessible government.
In other areas, those who are knowledgeable are saying that this legislation is not as good as what other provincial governments have already accepted in terms of openness. The information commissioners in the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Alberta have more robust powers than the federal Information Commissioner will have even after this legislation is passed. That is a surprise, because from the Liberal promises during the election campaign, I would have thought that this new access to information legislation would set a new high-water mark to which other jurisdictions could aspire. Unfortunately, the government has fallen short of existing powers that provincial governments already have for their information commissioners.
I am again going to quote someone who is an expert in this area. Vincent Gogolek, who is the executive director of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said, “That’s what we have here in British Columbia, and responsible government hasn’t collapsed here.” The Government of British Columbia has been living with a far more robust freedom of information regime, which has not been extended into our federal law with respect to the access to information that we certainly expected to come forward from the government.
How much of this is reviewable by information commissioners? That is an important point. There have been discussions, admittedly, in committee, and recommendations were made that there needs to be some screen to deal with requests that might be seen as vexatious. However, the screen was not supposed to be a subjective unilateral decision by the head of the agency in whose control the information resides. The decision as to whether the information is releasable or not needs to reside with the Information Commissioner or members of that agency. It is up to those officials to decide whether it is vexatious or not.
That failure in this legislation is substantial. I sincerely hope that when the bill gets to committee, the Liberals will be open to amendments. If this legislation stays as it is, there is no question that it will be considered a broken promise, because as much as there have been steps toward greater openness compared to the previous administration, this legislation falls far short of the Liberals' election promises and compares unfavourably to regimes already found in other provinces.
The model here is a weak model that can be found in other provinces. We find it in Newfoundland and Labrador. We do not find it in British Columbia and Alberta. Exemptions throughout the bill are far too broad. Access to cabinet documents is certainly not something we will see. There are questions as to who would redact information and whether the redactions are acceptable. These will also fall to the agency itself and not, as I understand it, be reviewable by the Information Commissioner.
There have been a lot of concerns on the opposition benches. I wanted to give balance in my presentation today because it occurred to me that in the debate on Bill C-58, the Canadian public watching this debate might be baffled by the assertions being made by Liberal members that this legislation does apply to ministers' offices and to the PMO, while those on the opposition benches think it would not.
Proactive disclosure of some things, like briefing documents, spending, contracts, and so on, is a good thing, but here is the rub: giving that control solely to the agency itself and not allowing it to be reviewable may actually be a step backward, in that it would increase the discretion of those who control information to deny information.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-09-26 11:20 [p.13511]
Madam Speaker, it is encouraging to hear the parliamentary secretary say, as someone who is within the Liberal government with responsibility in this area, that there will be an openness to amendments. I certainly hope so, and I plead with the members on the other side to consider that this legislation is extremely significant.
My only comment to her direct point is that it is not mutually exclusive to have proactive disclosure of documents and to have access to information requests reviewable by an information commissioner. I am not against the proactive disclosure of this information. What is concerning is that it is the only way in which access to information will now apply to those offices. We were promised more.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-09-26 11:22 [p.13511]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his comments on my speech.
It is true that this government has a tendency to go around consulting everybody and then make a decision that runs counter to public opinion, as we saw with the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. That is also what this government did with the environmental assessment process. It held massive consultations, but now it is making bad decisions that contradict the results of those consultations.
I hope that this time, in committee, we will have a chance to make constructive amendments that will improve this legislation.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-09-26 12:44 [p.13522]
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources. The former information commissioner, Robert Marleau, had this to say about Bill C-58:
There are many, many countries that are much better, and some that are not quite as advanced technologically as we are. We are not the shining light, even after this legislation, and we were in 1983. In 1983 most countries looked to us for innovation and transparency, and we've lost that halo.
This is from a knowledgeable, non-partisan observer. Although Bill C-58 includes some welcome efforts at transparency, it falls far short of what provincial governments, such as B.C. and Alberta, are doing in this country. I would ask the parliamentary secretary if she does not agree that the government should do better.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-09-26 13:30 [p.13527]
Mr. Speaker, my sincere thanks to my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, for her speech. I completely agree with her that this bill is weaker than what the Liberal Party had promised in the past election campaign.
Does my colleague think it is possible to propose changes to this bill in the committee in question? If the government were to support the amendments to strengthen this bill, would the NDP support them?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-09-26 13:46 [p.13529]
Mr. Speaker, as we gather today to debate Bill C-58, we should be mindful of the fact that this is international Right to Know Week. As we gather here, in another part of town the Information Commissioner is holding a full-day conference on declaring that access to information is a fundamental human right. In that case, I wonder if my colleague would agree that our human rights are violated when Bill C-58 falls so short of being true access to open government and access to information.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-09-25 17:48 [p.13488]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to Bill C-58 in questions and comments to my hon. colleague from Edmonton Strathcona. I have been listening to the debate all day, but popping up has not yielded me the floor until this moment.
We used to say in this country that we did not exactly have freedom of information but rather freedom from information. I am afraid that Bill C-58 does let us down badly in a couple of key areas.
I wonder if my colleague has any comments on something I find particularly distressing, which is the expanding of the ability of the government institution that holds the information to make its own decision that a request is vexatious. From what I can see in the bill, it would not be subject to independent review. I wonder if she has any comments on that.
View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2017-06-09 10:58 [p.12404]
Mr. Speaker, despite the Liberals' big promises to be open and transparent, today the government is even less transparent than it was during the last year Stephen Harper's Conservatives were in office.
The Information Commissioner released a scathing report yesterday that indicated that this government is even more secretive than Stephen Harper's. The conclusion that the Information Commissioner came to is that this is the information era and it is time that Ottawa got on board.
This government is hiding more than a government that was openly suspicious of the media. Documents are redacted or hidden and requests are ignored. The only things the Liberals want to show are selfies of the Prime Minister and pictures of nice dinners. When it comes to providing easier access to information, they are anything but transparent.
Just because the Liberal members from Quebec are invisible does not mean that the government is transparent.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-06-05 13:18 [p.11988]
Mr. Speaker, it was not clear through the long presentation on carbon taxes whether the Conservative Party in opposition plans to vote for this motion. Clearly the Paris agreement is one to which Canada is legally committed, and we should remain committed.
However, I did want to take him up on the, I think, quite misleading and inaccurate statements about British Columbia's carbon tax. It is revenue neutral. In fact, to the extent it is not neutral, the best new data shows that the government is paying out more in tax cuts than it is receiving in carbon price, because the previous government, under Christy Clark, stalled the application of the tax, which should increase year on year.
Further, the reason that any document has been redacted, as we have debated before in this place, is that it was prepared under the Harper administration and therefore cannot possibly have any relevant information about the Liberal government's intentions, unless we presume that everything Mr. Harper did is a blueprint for the Liberals, and I doubt the member for Carleton believes that.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Revenue promised that the person investigating ties between KPMG and the Canada Revenue Agency would have access to all of the necessary documents. It turns out that all of the documents were indeed available—except for the ones the agency decided to destroy. How is that for transparency?
Did the minister allow CRA employees to destroy documents that would have shed light on the incestuous ties between KPMG and her department?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2017-05-18 15:10 [p.11432]
Mr. Speaker, of course everyone is treated fairly, especially KPMG.
While the Standing Committee on Finance was looking into KPMG's activities on the Isle of Man last year, the Liberal Party was appointing a KPMG executive to the position of treasurer. While the rest of us were denouncing the tax evading machine, the government was awarding contracts to KPMG. Now a government official is destroying documents related to KPMG.
Is the minister going to sanction the senior government official who destroyed the evidence proving the incestuous ties between her agency and KPMG, or is she going to promote that individual?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-03-08 15:49 [p.9529]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. House leader for explaining why the government feels it needs to pull back on the good work done in committee. I do not believe, with all due respect, the government has the balance right.
Why is it that restrictions on access to information for parliamentarians serving on this committee are more extreme and restrictive than those for the people who are appointed to the security intelligence review committee or the CSE commissioner, who do not have the restrictions on information?
Do the Liberals trust SIRC more than parliamentarians?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-03-08 15:51 [p.9529]
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-22. I had not thought that we would see government amendments at report stage that undo a lot of the good work that has been done by the committee.
I approach this issue by first saying I support the creation of a national security committee of parliamentarians. I learned a great deal about the intelligence business, the security business, and where Canada stands within our Five Eyes partners, in the efforts to fight Bill C-51 in the last Parliament. I still hope that the review that is being undertaken right now by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Justice will lead to massive changes in the five different bills, and others, that were amended through that omnibus bill known as Bill C-51, which set up CSIS, for the first time since its creation, as a body that can “disrupt” thoughts, act as having a kinetic function, as the experts call it.
There is nothing right now within our security agencies that ensures that there is any oversight, unlike our other Five Eyes partners, as the hon. government House leader mentioned. We do not have any oversight for a number of the bodies at all. We have no oversight for CSIS. There had been oversight of CSIS up until the moment of omnibus Bill C-38 in the spring of 2012, which eliminated an adviser to the Minister of Public Safety to warn him or her if CSIS was going amok. That position was eliminated, so there is no oversight of CSIS; rather, there is review of CSIS. There is no oversight of the RCMP; rather, there is review of the RCMP. There is neither oversight nor review of the Canada Border Services Agency. For the Communications Security Establishment Canada, which is a very strange body that collects and downloads massive amounts of metadata, there is neither oversight nor review.
We have all of these different intelligence agencies, therefore, it is of critical importance that we do two things. We must rein in and undo the damage and the potential chaos created for security agencies by Bill C-51. I say this parenthetically. I want to get to Bill C-22. However, I need to say that my opposition to what was done in the 41st Parliament in what was known as Bill C-51 was not exclusively with respect to concerns about civil liberties. Those are concerns, but I have heard from security experts in the course of a review of that bill. It is clear to me that, failing to ensure coordination between and among all of these agencies, while giving CSIS the right to be active in kinetic operations, to be able to have CSIS offer people they are surveilling basically a get-out-of-jail-free card, a prospective guarantee that they will never be arrested or put into the judicial system, without any alert to the RCMP that this has happened, the one hand will not know what the other is doing. The creation of the national security committee of parliamentarians will not address that threat, although we will have to address this concern. It has been one that has been well known since the inquiry into the Air India disaster where if there had been coordination enforced between the different security agencies, that disaster, the single largest terrorist act on Canadian soil ever, could have been avoided. That was certainly the opinion of the Air India inquiry.
Coming back to Bill C-22, I support the creation of a committee of parliamentarians. However, I am baffled by the changes that have just taken place. I turn to the leading Canadian experts in this, Kent Roach and Craig Forcese, professors of law, both of whom played a role in the Air India inquiry. They are the authoritative experts to whom I turn. Certainly, Professor Craig Forcese is baffled by the limitation on what parliamentarians will be allowed to know. I mentioned in my question earlier to the government House leader that these restrictions do not apply to the people who serve on the Security Intelligence Review Committee, SIRC, to which civilian non-elected people are appointed. For the purpose of pointing out that the appointment process can have gaps with respect to security, let us not forget that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed the now late committed fraudster Arthur Porter as the chair of SIRC. Arthur Porter did not have the restrictions that Bill C-22 would now put on parliamentarians, who are elected, who take an oath, and who have an understanding of their responsibilities.
My amendment to the bill is to delete section 12, which is the section that limits the MPs' access to parliamentary privilege. It is what Craig Forcese has called the triple lock on what MPs and senators are allowed to know.
Parliamentarians sitting on this committee have already sworn allegiance to Canada. They will go through security checks. The way the bill is currently written, it is not as though there is no check on their access to information or risk of their revealing information. The Canada Evidence Act would apply, section 38. Even as these government amendments are rolling forward, Professor Forcese has noted that it would be probably better to rely on court and the Canada Evidence Act than on these very restrictive moves in terms of what parliamentarians can know, an overly generous discretion on the point of what ministers can withhold, as well as getting rid of what was a very good amendment achieved in committee of giving the committee subpoena powers.
I have to say that it is just simply baffling that the government has taken such a restrictive view on what parliamentarians can be allowed to know. I will just note that this is from an article by Professor Forcese titled, “Stronger Bill C-22 Goes Back to the House”. This was before the government amendments came forward. He noted that, “C-22 committee members will be surrendering parliamentary privileges and will be permanently bound by secrecy under the Security of Information Act (and therefore subject to criminal sanction for violating secrecy rules).”
I think the government, with all due respect, has overreacted to very good amendments that were passed by the committee, and this is a larger point as well. We are often told in this place that we should rush legislation through second reading so that it can go to committee where the committee will do the good work. We now have a fair litany of times where the Liberal government, with its majority, has decided to ignore the good work of committees.
The first was, of course, the committee that dealt with medically assisted death. That advice was completely overlooked in the drafting of Bill C-14. We have the committee work, on the committee on which I served, the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, and that is a very sad story because we need to get back to that, but very good work was done.
For the first time since 1867, when the British North America Act said Canada will use the voting system from Westminster until such time as its Parliament chooses its own voting system, we had Parliament recommend a voting system and a way forward, and that was rejected. Now this committee's work has been rejected and, I think, hastily.
There is a way forward here. There is an appropriate balance. I do believe that the parliamentary committee struck that balance, and it is really important to remember that what the committee is looking at is already protected in many ways.
The U.K. parliamentary committee has never had a problem with breaching secrecy. One of the experts who testified in Bill C-51, Joe Fogarty from U.K. MI5, testified that there just simply were not problems. Parliamentarians instructed with the duty to maintain confidentiality have done so.
I also point out the precedent that the New Zealand Parliament has a very similar committee, and the New Zealand members of Parliament who serve on that committee do not have to surrender parliamentary privilege. It is explicitly preserved under the New Zealand model.
It leaves one wondering why the government has chosen to undo the good work of committee, further undermining the proper role of legislated deliberation in committee coming back to this place at report stage, doing serious damage to the work that was done by the committee, leaving, I fear, greater uncertainty as to how the committee will function and still wondering why is it that in taking measures to restrict the information that parliamentarians have, the independent expert national security review bodies, SIRC and the CSE commissioner, are not given the same set of handcuffs.
I do not think it makes sense. I urge the government to reconsider and accept my amendment.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-03-08 16:02 [p.9531]
Mr. Speaker, as I said at the outset of my speech, I believe the creation of a national security committee of parliamentarians is a good step forward. I lament that what has been done today with government amendments at report stage undoing good work at the committee is both regrettable and unnecessary.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2017-03-08 16:06 [p.9531]
Mr. Speaker, it depends entirely on how one views the committee. The committee of parliamentarians in other countries, Westminster parliamentary democracies like ours and the United States as has been referenced, have access to more information than this committee would have access to. If its function is to ensure that we have oversight and coordination, that an independent body of experts sworn under the National Secrecy Act has access to information, that is as good as secret and confidential a body as we will find. Why would we trust people who are citizen nominees, like Arthur Porter, more than we trust parliamentarians sworn to secrecy?
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