Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-59, the Liberal government's national security legislation. Some may argue that this bill has been mislabelled, that it does not focus on security as much as administration, oversight, and regulations. The bill certainly did not rise to the expectations of national security experts who appeared before the committee. Perhaps this could be called a civil liberties bill, since we heard from twice as many lawyers and civil activists at committee as we did experts in national security.
As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of the House, and should be above politics so that the safety and security of Canadians are put ahead of political fortunes. While the Liberals have said that public safety is a priority, they have said that everything is their top priority. To have 300 top priorities is really to have no priorities at all.
Under this lack of direction and leadership, we have seen Canada's national security be weakened and derail. The Liberals are eroding the safety and security of our communities, undermining our economic prosperity, and ripping at our societal fabric through divisive politics. Under the criminal justice reforms, they are watering down sentences for criminal charges like assault with a weapon, driving under the influence, joining a terrorist organization, human trafficking, and bribing an official, just to name a very few. Therefore, under the Liberals, violent and dangerous offenders will serve lighter sentences and face less scrutiny than a diabetic seeking a government tax credit, for example.
To combat gangs and gun violence, the Liberals promised $327 million for police task forces and other initiatives. They announced that funding shortly before the by-election in Surrey, where gang violence is a real problem. Seven months later, police and others are still waiting for the money to start flowing. They are still asking, “Where is it?” Apparently, combatting gangs and gun violence is not enough of a priority to get the money into the hands of those fighting the very issues that are plaguing Canadians, and that is gangs and gun violence.
Under C-59, the Liberals appear to be pushing Canada back to an era when national security agencies withheld information and information sharing led to disasters like the Air India bombing. The former CSIS director, Dick Fadden, noted at committee that the numerous and unnecessary use of privacy and charter references meant that career public servants, which includes national security officials, would cool to information sharing. He described a nightmare scenario as one where the government knew of an attack and did not act because one part of the government did not share that information. Bill C-59 would push Canada back into the days of silos and potentially puts Canadians at risk to espionage, terrorism, and cybercrimes.
Bill C-59 is certainly increasing the risk to our country. First is the heightened oversight, which can be good when done well. However, when we put multiple layers of oversight, fail to clearly show how those organizations will work together, and provide no new funding for the new administration created, resources are shifting from security personnel working to keep Canada safe to administration and red tape.
Let us be clear. Bill C-59 puts in place cuts to our national security and intelligence agencies. Agencies that already state they can only work on the top threats to our country and have to ignore lesser threats due to lack of resources will now have even fewer resources. Does that mean that one of the top threats posing a threat to our communities and our country will have get less resources devoted to it?
In November, I asked how much the implementation of Bill C-59 would cost, and was promised a quick answer. I did receive that answer, but the 170 words I got back took eight months to provide and came only after the committee had reported Bill C-59 back to the House. The total cost of the new oversight and compliance is nearly $100 million, $97.3 million over five years. That is moving $100 million from protecting to Canadians to administrative red tape.
However, it is not just the money that is weakening Canada's community safety. It is the watering down of tools for police. In Bill C-59, the Liberals would make it harder for police and the crown to get warrants against known security threats. If police agencies are aware of a threat, they can get a recognizance order, a warrant to monitor that person issued by a judge.
The Liberals would raise the bar on known threats being monitored by police and security agencies, but who benefits from this? The only people I can think of are criminals and terrorists who would do us harm. Making it harder for police to act on threats does not help the middle class, the rich, or the poor. It makes life harder on police and those working to stop crime and keep our country safe. Again, it erodes public safety and hurt honest, hard-working, law-abiding Canadians.
We heard very clearly from members of the Jewish community that they were very concerned about eliminating the promotion of terrorism provision as set out in Bill C-59. In 2017, for the third year in a row, there were record numbers of hate crimes against the Jewish community, yet the Liberals would eliminate a Criminal Code provision for making promoting and advocating terrorism illegal. With increased hate crimes, they would allow ISIS to call for violence, and lone-wolf attacks on YouTube and other videos, while continuing to be immune from prosecution.
I know Canadians do not support this. Canadians do not want to see Canada be the new home of radical terrorism and ISIS terrorists. However, right now, with no prosecution of ISIS fighters and terrorists returning home, no penalties for inciting hate and violence, and being the only western country with unprotected borders, we well may have a major crisis on our hands in the future.
Putting Canadians second to their political virtue-signalling and to social justice causes seems to run throughout the Liberal government's actions. The Liberals do not serve Canadians, only their self-interests. Bill C-59 seems to be rife with Liberal virtue signalling and social justice. Protest, advocacy, and artistic expression are all recognized in the Anti-terrorism Act as legitimate activities so long as they are not coupled with violent or criminal actions. However, the Liberals felt it necessary to insert this into an omnibus bill over and over again.
There were over 300 proposed amendments, with the Liberals only voting in favour of one opposition amendment, and that from the NDP. It was one that closely resembled another Liberal amendment. Therefore, we know, from sitting through weeks of witness testimony and debate, that the fix was in and the minister's promise of “openness to anything that improves public safety” was a hollow promise.
Under Bill C-59, the Liberals have proposed a Henry VIII clause. This is where the executive branch is granted the full authorities of Parliament, effectively usurping the role of Parliament to speak for Canadians. Such powers are usually very rare and are given for specific emergencies and crisis. Convenience, I would note, is not a crisis or emergency, and the Liberals should remember that the House approves legislation, not the executive.
Even simple and straightforward amendments were rejected. The commissioner who was slated to become the new intelligence commissioner noted that selecting his replacement from only retired judges severely restricted an already small pool and recommended that like him, sitting federal judges could be appointed on condition of their retirement.
If I have learned anything from the bill, it is that Canadians cannot rely on the Liberals to uphold their interests, put public safety and national security a priority, and that for the Liberals, politics comes ahead of good governance.
Our security risks are real and present danger to Canadians. Issues like returning ISIS terrorist are complex, and solutions are not simple. However, pretending the issue is irresponsible and negligent. Under the bill, it would be easy to surmise that the Liberals are more concerned with CSIS's compliance to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms than with prosecuting terrorists for significant crimes.
Canada is going to be weaker with Bill C-59, and far weaker when the Liberals leave office than when they entered office. Their wedge politics on the values test, pandering to terrorists, ignoring threats from China, targeting law-abiding guns owners, lack of leadership on illegal border crossers, and waffling on resource development continue to put Canadians at a disadvantage.
Real national security issues were raised at committee, but little in Bill C-59 actually deals with new and emerging threats to Canada's public safety.
To echo the former special forces commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Day suggested at committee that the debate and conversations around protecting Canadians was important and needed to continue. However, when asked about his confidence of the bill before us getting Canada ready for new and emerging threats, his answer was “Zero.” Coincidentally, that is the same confidence I have in the minister and the Liberal government to get Bill C-59 right: zero.