The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Mr. Speaker, would the member for Brome—Missisquoi care to comment on the failure of the government to accept a recommendation and motion of an amendment to review our desire to have a stand-alone safety agency instead of the C-NLOPB? That was offered but refused. Do you know why the government would refuse such a review of this act and legislation to see how it was working?
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.
I am pleased to speak on behalf of Bill C-5 and to offer our party's support at report stage for the bill. Bill C-5 addresses long-standing gaps in legislation and regulation making powers associated with occupational health and safety standards and their enforcement, in this case particularly with respect to Atlantic offshore oil development.
The bill would amend the Atlantic accord to place the health and occupation safety regimes into legislation. We feel that this is an important step forward. The New Democratic Party has called for this in all relevant jurisdictions across our country.
It is important to point out, however, that the bill is not compliant with recommendation 29 of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador public inquiry into the offshore helicopter safety inquiry that was conducted by the Hon. Robert Wells. This followed in the aftermath of the tragedy so well known to Canadians. It involved the deaths of offshore oil workers on the Atlantic coast.
Bill C-5 also does not provide for either an independent stand-alone safety regulator or an autonomous safety division within the petroleum boards. New Democrat efforts to provide for a review of the bill in five years, which could reopen the possibility of these measures, including an independent offshore regulator which we believe is essential, were voted down by the government at committee stage, and that is regrettable.
A New Democrat federal government would work with the provinces to put forward such measures to further strengthen the health and safety regime for Atlantic offshore workers and, in fact, for all workers across the country from coast to coast to coast.
Nevertheless, we will support the bill at this stage as it is well past due and an important victory for workers and the labour movement that were instrumental in pushing this issue forward. Both provinces and both provincial New Democratic parties have also been advocating for legislative offshore safety regimes for many years.
By way of background, Bill C-5 is the culmination of over 12 years of negotiations, starting in 2001 between the federal government and the provincial governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The proposed amendments to the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act aim to strengthen offshore health and safety practices in the oil and gas industry.
Bill C-5 seeks to fill a legislative gap created by the 1992 amendments to the Atlantic accord that separated health and safety issues, resulting in the provincial offshore petroleum regulatory agencies effectively enforcing health and safety issues contained in draft regulations.
The bill would put existing practices into legislation by placing authority and fundamental principles of occupational health and safety within the accord acts themselves. We believe this is an important improvement to the offshore occupational health and safety regimes that the NDP has called for in all relevant jurisdictions.
The bill would also establish a framework that would clarify the individual and shared roles and responsibilities of the federal government, provincial governments, regulators, operators, employers, suppliers and employees, the co-operation of which we believe is fundamental to improving occupational health and safety in our country.
The bill is based on three basic principles: first, that offshore occupational health and safety laws much provide workers with protection at least as good as those which exist for onshore workers; second, the protection of employee rights, the right to know, the right to participate, the right to refuse unsafe work and the right to be protected from reprisals; and third, support for an occupational health and safety culture that recognizes the shared responsibilities of the workplace.
Essentially the bill engages the issue of occupational health and safety, the standards that should be applied to the enforcement mechanisms that are so important.
Before I was elected, I worked for a trade union for 16 years and saw the essential work that trade unions did across the country in representing and empowering workers and in advocating for stronger health and safety protection for workers in all occupations. As legislators, it is our duty to respond to that by ensuring that Canadian workers in every industry have the highest standards in the world and have meaningful, effective enforcement of those standards, because standards without enforcement are meaningless.
A few weeks ago, on April 28, workers across British Columbia and Canada marked Workers Memorial Day. This is a worldwide day, an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. This day highlights the preventable nature of many, in fact, most workplace accidents and ill health.
This day was started by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in 1984. In 1985, the Canadian Labour Congress declared an annual day of remembrance. In 1991, the House, because of New Democrat initiatives, passed an act respecting a national day of mourning for persons killed or injured on the job, making April 28 an official day of mourning across this country.
Speaking of the Canadian Labour Congress, it appears today that we have a new president of the CLC. I would like to personally congratulate Hassan Yousef on assuming the presidency of that organization. I wish him well and I know he will do a wonderful job in carrying on the fine work done by previous presidents, including President Ken Georgetti.
Tomorrow we will be honouring Afghanistan War veterans on this Hill and they, in many respects, are workers as well. They are people who, through their occupation, put their health, lives and wellness on the line for Canadians every day. They pay for their commitment sometimes with their injuries, illnesses and their lives, and it is not always physical. The psychological illnesses that are so well known through the trauma that our men and women in uniform are subjected to is something we will have a chance form coast to coast to honour tomorrow.
I would include our veterans, the heroes of our country, in the great pantheon of workers who ought to be covered and protected by this chamber, and every legislature across the country, to ensure that no workplace injury, illness or death is tolerable if we can prevent it.
There are a couple of people I would like to mention in British Columbia whose efforts over the years for occupational health and safety deserve mention in the House.
First, Jim Sinclair, president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, has for decades championed the need for us to ensure that workers' health and safety on the job is protected.
Second, Tom Sigurdson, president of the British Columbia Building Trades, has also spent a lifetime both politically and in the labour movement to ensure that workers who get up in the morning and go to work have the right and expectation that at the end of their shifts they will come back to their homes and families.
This bill is symbolic of that as we seek to strengthen the health and protection of workers in the offshore oil industry.
Now, we do not have an offshore oil industry so much on the west coast, but we have a lot of workers off the coast of British Columbia. I hope the bill will serve as a template and reminder for all members of the House, including every member of Parliament from British Columbia, to ensure that we focus on the health and safety of those workers who go out on the Pacific Ocean and put their lives, health and safety at risk every day in order to feed their families and contribute to their communities and our economy.
We hear a lot about the needs of our economy and the need to ensure that we have a strong business climate. That is a particular priority of the government, which is laudable. However, we must also remember that no business and no economy runs without the labour and contributions of the workers who go to work every day and help to create the wealth, products and services that make those businesses profitable.
The New Democratic Party stands in contrast to the Conservatives because we believe that a balance between the interests of business and the interests of labour are not only an ethical and moral imperative, but the performance of our economy depends completely on achieving that right balance.
An economic approach that places the interests of business above and ignores the interests of workers is a policy that I believe will result in inefficient economic performance, and I think we are seeing that. Time and time again, I see examples where the government involves consultation of the business community. We saw that recently with the global market action plan when the Conservative government consulted over 400 stakeholders, not one of which represented a labour or work organization. It is this kind of lack of balance that is responsible for Canada's economy underperforming.
In 2015, Canadians will have an opportunity to select a different approach, an approach championed by the New Democratic Party which understands that a strong business sector, a strong labour sector and a strong government working together will create the most powerful and productive economy. That is what Canadians can look forward to in 2015.
The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi will have four minutes when the House resumes debate on this issue.
The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi, The Environment; the hon. member for Saint-Jean, Rail Transportation; and the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Science and Technology.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for allowing me to make that brief statement and will now address Bill C-481 which stands in the name of my colleague, the member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Last summer's flood of the Bow River in southern Alberta was emblematic of the kinds of challenges that we are now facing more often. In addition to urban flooding, we are facing problems with extreme weather events with increasing frequency, and the costs are piling up. We have more intense heat waves and increased drought, especially in western Canada, and forest fires are increasing in number and severity too. Canada is truly feeling the effects of climate change, and the increase in our average annual temperature of 1.3° Celsius over the last 60 years is greater than what is being felt in many parts of the world.
We also know much more about the negative elements of climate change, and that is the price we are paying for the way we have developed modern industrial and post-industrial countries. It is the product of “develop now, pay later” practices.
To a degree that can be an excuse for our actions in the past, when we were not so aware of the effects of human activity on the environment, ecosystem, and weather patterns, but now, with the benefit of scientific observation and analysis, we know better. In fact, now we can view past developments and pinpoint the practices that were not sustainable. With that knowledge, we can also work toward developing our economy in a way that is sustainable and does not merely continue to pass on the negative costs to future generations.
We know that is what most Canadians desire. No one wants to leave a debt behind for their children and grandchildren, but in many ways that is what we are still doing. Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you, like most of us who have been elected, have had the privilege of visiting children in elementary schools. I am also certain that very few of us will have heard concerns from these young people about many of the things that we busy ourselves with in Parliament, save for a few select issues.
The leading concern of school-age children from the schools that I visit is indeed the environment, and the concerns of these young Canadians are actually very well founded. True, they learn about the environment and ecosystems in junior grades, and there is quite a bit of awareness messaging aimed at individuals, but they hear about it from the people in their lives as well. We also have to recognize the effect of Earth Day; a lot of schools have activities around Earth Day. It could be as simple as passing by an area that has been bulldozed for development and hearing a parent tell how they caught tadpoles there when they were young, or how a creek that is obviously polluted used to be good for fishing 30 years ago.
We see a lot of that. Manitoulin Streams is a prime example of rehabilitating the streams in that area.
The point is that our young people have concerns about the environment that are well founded, and they have expectations of us to act in the best way possible to ensure that degradation stops and their futures are not compromised.
We might consider those high expectations, but it is reasonable to assume that a country as privileged as Canada would expect its legislators to have developed safeguards to ensure that future development is more sustainable and that government initiatives and policies would be guided by those safeguards. It is a reasonable assumption, and the good news is that it is correct: we have the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which was passed unanimously by Parliament during the current government's first term,
However, there is bad news as well, which is that what we have in place is not performing in the way it was intended to. It is actually toothless.
Fortunately, we are debating a private member's bill that has the potential to increase the strength of the Federal Sustainable Development Act so that it would become a more useful tool, instead of its current status, which is somewhere between a notion and half-hearted practice.
In fact, all Bill C-481 would do is elevate a commitment from the status of an intention to that of a guiding principle. Much of what is needed is already in place. We already have the legislation that would be supercharged by this bill. There is already a process in place that sees the Minister of Justice reviewing any legislation for compatibility with the Charter of Rights.
What is missing is the political will to include the cost of our environment and ecosystems in our economic considerations. It is the product of looking at our economy as limited to monetary elements, which is wishful thinking at best and seems to be a mindset that is entrenched on the government benches.
Consider the response of the parliamentary secretary to this bill. What is his objection? It is that it would cost too much and would amount to red tape. That is a simplified argument that hides the fact that the people who would pay the most are the ones who are reaping huge and unmitigated profits in the oil and gas sector. That is the primary and almost singular concern of the Conservative government. It is clear from the way the government has entirely dismantled our environmental regulatory system, to that sector's advantage; the way it has muzzled the scientists who might warn of us of any dangers that would flow from unabated development; the way it views environmentalists as radicals; and the way it subsidizes big oil and gas while dismissing the concerns of the majority of Canadians.
Bill C-481 is, as has been stated, a very simple and elegant piece of legislation. It would take advantage of the fact that the Minister of Justice already reviews each piece of legislation to ensure that it meets the requirements of the Charter of Rights. It would merely add the lens of sustainable development to that review. Yes, it would cost money, but it would save money in the long term. However, saving money over generations is not politically attractive, especially for a government and political party that engages in full-time campaigning. For the Conservatives, long-term initiatives and future generations have little to no value.
We know that the Conservatives are against the companies that would benefit from resource extraction paying for the costs of cleanup and restoration. To do so would apparently grind our economy to a halt. Where is the vision for the day when the oil and gas reserves are depleted? What do they plan for the inevitable moment when the profits stop flowing and all we are left with is a mess to clean up? Do they expect to abandon as dead the regions that have been exploited?
Those are the choices the Conservatives are happy to leave to our children and their children. That is the cost of maximizing profits now without considering the environment as a huge part of our economy. I am reminded of the Cree prophecy that is absolutely appropriate for this discussion:
Only after the last tree has been cut down Only after the last river has been poisoned Only after the last fish has been caught Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten
As parliamentarians, we are faced with a choice: do what is convenient, or challenge ourselves to roll up our sleeves and begin to plan for a future that is not compromised by inaction. Will we tell the corporate executives and financial institutions that we can no longer pursue temporary prosperity that is mortgaged on the backs of future generations, or will we take the easy route and maintain the status quo?
I have grandchildren, two beautiful boys, Kade and Kian, who deserve a bright future, just like every child in Canada and all future generations. If I were to accept that we cannot afford to pursue true sustainable development, I would be turning my back on them, and I cannot do that.
I have never been afraid of a little hard work or of paying my fair share. Most people I know feel and act much the same, which is why it is only reasonable to ask the same of our government. Yet the Conservative government and the Liberal government that preceded it have never told corporate Canada that it must also do the hard work.
I will not question the motives of business. It has one job, and that is to make money. It is the government's responsibility to say what will be allowed in that pursuit. For those who would object to that statement, I ask them to consider our laws that prohibit anyone from going into business to sell narcotics. The same sensibilities that allow us to place the greater good of the public ahead of any entrepreneurial efforts on that front can also, and I would argue must also, be used to frame what the acceptable methods of resource use will be.
While the government may like to argue that this is already the case, that we already have sustainable development legislation and an environmental regulatory framework, it cannot deny that it has moved Canada backwards on that front.
Our regulations are weakened. Reviews are limited by timelines that benefit development and limit the capacity for thorough study. The Federal Sustainable Development Act cannot be a notion only. The intention of the act must be matched with action and have the tools we need to make that happen for our future generations.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating and thanking my friend and colleague from Brome—Missisquoi. His work on this bill shows that he is an ardent defender of his constituents' interests. As an educator and an MP, he is in regular contact with the members of his community and he understands that the people he represents are concerned about our environment.
The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi also stands up for the interests of all Canadians. This initiative not only benefits his constituents, but all of us.
I would like to congratulate him on taking this initiative and introducing a well-thought-out and carefully crafted bill in the House of Commons. He began an important debate in the House on the type of government that we want and what we expect from our government.
We must always take into account the impact that our decisions could have on future generations. Bill C-481 serves to remind us that we cannot be shortsighted when it comes to environmental issues. We are responsible for ensuring that any bill introduced in the House meets the needs of today without compromising those of the future.
As my colleague explained, this bill will ensure that we remain committed to the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which was passed unanimously by the House in 2008.
It is a very simple idea and something that all Canadians expect from their government. If we pass a law that says that we support sustainable development, then all of our laws will be in line with those principles.
My colleague from Brome—Missisquoi's idea is beautiful in its simplicity.
Not only would the bill put sustainable development at the forefront of all federal government decision-making, it would integrate sustainable development principles with the policy-making process itself. It would guarantee that all government decisions were in line with the principles of sustainable development that we all seemed so committed to just five years ago.
Bill C-481 does this by reinforcing legislation that already exists. It turns our current strategy for sustainable development into an effective strategy. Unfortunately, the Conservative government does not share my priorities on the environment or, I think, the priorities of a majority of Canadians, for that matter.
The Conservatives have spoken several times about the importance they give to the Federal Sustainable Development Act. Past ministers of the environment, and by now there is quite a roster, have said that the act ensures that the federal decision-making process on matters of the environment is done in a transparent and coherent manner. However, while Conservatives like to mention the Federal Sustainable Development Act, they are all talk and no action.
The government has not been interested in the principles of the act, but it does like to use it as a talking point to distract Canadians from its dismal record in promoting sustainable development and from its failure to act on the environment. Much like Conservatives like to use the word “conservation” without acting or to talk about their missing-in-action oil and gas regulations, it is all about drawing attention away from their failure on these issues. As I have said in the House before, what we need is less rhetoric and more meaningful, forward-looking action.
In the past few years, because of this inaction, we have seen a regression. We are actually moving backward. The Conservative government has been systematically dismantling environmental protection laws and has been using the least transparent methods available. For proof of that, we do not have to go back too far, just to 2012, when the government's infamous omnibus budget bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, were passed, two of the most destructive pieces of legislation I have ever encountered.
The government has consistently disregarded the principles of sustainable development by using omnibus legislation to weaken environmental protections and by passing that legislation without proper examination or debate. Gutting the Fisheries Act, ransacking the Navigable Waters Protection Act, muzzling scientists, completely obliterating the national round table on the environment and the economy, and continuing to subsidize the oil and gas industry with $1.3 billion a year does not sound like sustainable development to me. Neither does denying the science behind climate change, wilfully ignoring the effects of global warming, or failing miserably to meet low emissions targets that we committed to in international climate negotiations.
What else does not sound sustainable? Since coming into power in 2006, the Conservatives have cut Canada's targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 90%. That is not sustainable; it is actually irresponsible. Our actions now mean we are burdening Canadians who will come after us.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act was supposed to signal a change in how the government makes responsible and environmentally conscious decisions on behalf of Canadians. However, it has been five years since this legislation came into effect, and the government has failed to make this crucial transformation.
Implementing an effective sustainable development strategy is an attainable and necessary goal. It is about time that we respect the commitments we made to Canadians in 2008 by passing Bill C-481. We already agreed unanimously to the principles of the bill, so let us give it some teeth.
The bill offers an efficient strategy to achieve this by giving the Department of Justice the responsibility for reviewing bills and ensuring that all proposed legislation responds to the criteria laid out in the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which we all passed. We are not asking for a complete overhaul here. This is not about red tape or another level of bureaucracy; it is a change we can actually implement now.
Bill C-481 should be implemented. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development noted that the integration of sustainable development in decision-making is an incomplete process. Enabling Bill C-481 would help us to bridge that gap. Operationalizing an effective approach to sustainable development has worked well in Canada, and it has already been done at the provincial level in Quebec.
My leader, the leader of the NDP, in his role as Quebec's minister of the environment, sustainable development and parks, wrote North America's first sustainable development law and amended Quebec's human rights charter to create the right to live in a clean environment. That is not a privilege but a right. That is the attitude we should have in this chamber when we talk about legislation and debate ideas and think about how to work together to create a better Canada. It is a right that we need to work toward. It is a right we need to work hard to protect.
In my last few moments, I would like to turn our attention to the people who live in our ridings, whom we as members of Parliament, represent. These are families in every riding across the country in Victoria, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Toronto, and my own riding of Halifax. As legislators, we have accepted the responsibility to represent the hopes and dreams of our constituents. For many of those people, their hopes and dreams are better lives and brighter futures for their kids and their families.
However, as it stands now, our children and grandchildren are set to inherit the worst environmental, social, and economic debt the country has ever seen. This is not intergenerational equity. It is not a future that is bright or shining with promise; it is a future that I am afraid of. It is an injustice to leave this legacy behind to the generations that follow ours.
The reality of the situation is that if we do not go forward sustainably and we do not legislate for the future instead of just thinking about the short-term gains, then we are not working to defend the hopes and dreams of our constituents or the people they care about most. We are not doing our jobs as legislators.
We owe it to future generations of Canadians to pass this bill. For them, sustainable development should not be an afterthought, window dressing, or a buzzword. An effective sustainable development policy demands that the principles of sustainability be a part of the policy-making process from the start.
Mr. Speaker, I love that movie. I watched it when I was taking French classes in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
I would like to thank my colleague for introducing this worthwhile bill. We were chatting earlier and I joked that I wished I had thought of it.
In all seriousness, this bill is founded on a simple and elegant idea. It ensures that development is always part of our work as legislators.
I would like to know what my colleague's constituents are saying about the environment. Are the people of Brome—Missisquoi concerned about sustainable development and future generations?
The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to rise today to wrap up this debate on Bill C-444, my private member's bill.
It is not often we get to work specifically on behalf of a constituent in such a significant way, by making a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. First and foremost, I want to thank the brave young woman and her mother who inspired me to table this bill. There are also many folks on the Hill I would like to thank for the support and encouragement they have extended to me along the way, as well as for the personal work they have put into our debates on this bill. This also includes my wonderful staff, here in Ottawa as well as back in Red Deer.
As I have said, this bill is about sentencing. It speaks to the need for tougher penalties for personating peace officers and public officers, and it is in line with the fundamental sentencing principle of proportionality, which is stated in section 718 of the Criminal Code. We must preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for police officers. When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. We are giving the tools that they need to deliver harsher sentences to criminals who breach this trust to cause harm.
Within the parameters of the maximum sentence for this particular offence, the decision of what sentences are appropriate will still rest with sentencing courts. We know that a number of factors come into play in a sentencing decision, such as the criminal record of the offender or the severity of harm caused to a victim.
Aggravating circumstances are just one more factor that sentencing judges are required to consider when the Crown is successful in a conviction. Sentencing achieves a number of results, and one of them is support for victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for criminals who have hurt them.
I extend my heartfelt condolences to any Canadian who has been a victim of someone maliciously personating a police officer to do further harm. I dedicate this work to those victims.
I thank my colleagues for their support. If I still have a moment, I would like to thank the following members for their contribution to debate: the Minister of Justice; the members of the Standing Committee on Justice for their thoughtful study and debate, and their support; the seconders, the members for Sault Ste. Marie and Oxford; the members who contributed their time in speaking here in the House, the members for Gatineau, Mount Royal, Montcalm, Brome—Missisquoi, Charlottetown, Beauport—Limoilou, British Columbia Southern Interior, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Louis-Hébert, Nanaimo—Cowichan, Chambly—Borduas, Northumberland—Quinte West, Edmonton—St. Albert, Windsor—Tecumseh, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, as well as the Associate Minister of National Defence.
There is a special symbolism of having every member present in this House stand to show their support, not just for a bill but for victims and police officers throughout this great nation.
However, because of the uncertainty that surrounds the closing days of any session, I would be proud to use this opportunity to stand on behalf of all members and to accept unanimous consent if the House so chooses.
Mr. Speaker, I really liked my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi's speech. He takes a very smart approach to this file, and it is always interesting to hear him speak in the House.
Under the Conservatives, Canadian investments in tax havens have nearly tripled. This is another Conservative failure. Before the Conservatives came to power, very few Canadians parked their money in tax havens. Now, under the Conservatives, these types of investments have soared. The Conservatives seem to want to encourage investments in tax havens.
Does my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi think that this is intentional on the part of the Conservatives or is it simply a result of their incompetence in managing this file?
The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Mr. Speaker, that is pretty remarkable coming from a member on that side of the House, when every time we try to bring forward legislation that supports law enforcement, as is evident today, members vote against it and do not support it.
The fact is that we have increased front-line officers at the border by 26%. However, it is no surprise that when the NDP members do not have a valid argument for their shallow dismissiveness of a very serious threat, they spew inaccurate talking points. It is this government that has time and time again given more resources to law enforcement, whether it is at the border or it is the RCMP, with Bill C-42. There have been legislative changes, whether we are talking about legislative changes to support victims, or in this case, where we are bringing forward legislation that has been asked for by law enforcement across the country who know terrorism is a real threat. They have asked for this legislation, and the members opposite have voted against it.
If NDP members want to argue against the legislation, go ahead. I would be happy to debate any one of them head-to-head on this legislation. Instead, what are we hearing from them? We are hearing that we do not need to do it right now.
Last October, the NDP member for Brome—Missisquoi expressed his reservations for this legislation by saying, “since 2007, nothing has happened in Canada. The country has not been subject to terrorist attacks”. Frankly, that kind of irresponsible head-in-the-sand attitude is not only disappointing, but it is very troubling. I think Canadians will look at the NDP members and look at their reaction.
When they have a chance to support important legislation, they could do one of two things. They could support the legislation or they could stand up and give an informed and intelligent response. However, what we are hearing so far today is pretty shallow, and I would say intellectually bankrupt.
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where the 40% came from either.
I would say to the member that the temporary foreign worker program, as we have said time and time again, is not to displace Canadian workers. Where there are egregious examples—and that is what we are really talking about; we should just call a spade a spade and say there have been some egregious abuses of the system—the government has indicated that we are going to review it and we are going to respond.
However, members of the member's caucus have in fact gone to the minister and requested temporary foreign workers be allowed to come into Canada to fill unfilled vacant jobs; for example, the members for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Halifax, Ottawa Centre, Churchill, British Columbia Southern Interior, Sackville—Eastern Shore, Trois-Rivières, and Brome—Missisquoi. These are members of your own caucus who understand that sometimes it is appropriate to bring in temporary foreign workers.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi. I know the member well because I serve on two committees with him.
I am very pleased to speak again in the House on the NDP's views on this piece of legislation, Bill C-55. It would amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court ruling referenced several times here this morning in previous speeches.
The point that has to be reiterated is that this is all coming about with a very few days remaining to meet the deadline that was provided to the House by the Supreme Court. It stayed a decision for a year to give the government the opportunity to bring forward an improvement to legislation that is much needed. We have supported this legislation throughout the process, although we found the process daunting because of the delay that took place in getting it here. We supported the government because it is an important tool for our police services in this country.
However, on the counter side of that, it is very important for the official opposition to look cautiously at any legislation that authorizes people to look into people's lives in the manner that this would. This enactment seeks to amend Canada's Criminal Code, and the Supreme Court ruling talked about the need for safeguards for Canadians, because this allows for authorized, and I want to stress the word “authorized”, interception of private communications, done prior to judicial authorization as foreseen in section 184.4 of the act.
It is worth noting that the enactment states that it:
requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;
provides that a person who has been the object of such interception must be notified...within a specified period;...
The assumption is that those persons have not been found to be taking part in any criminal activity, and thus they have every right to be informed; and if they were involved with criminal activity and are part of an ongoing investigation, there could be an extension.
It narrowed the class of individuals who could actually make such interceptions, and those limited interceptions to particular offences are listed.
I was speaking a few moments ago about the fact that we are within three weeks of a deadline supplied to us by the Supreme Court. There was the benefit of a year from the Supreme Court to act on this, and the government has not done so until the very last minute. I have to question what the delay is. Why did it take close to a year for the government to respond to this? This was not a great difficulty, from the standpoint that the Supreme Court identified the areas in which the government had to make changes.
I would go so far as to say that when any government or any party in government looks to put forward legislation, a significant part of the process is debate in this place. Another significant part is the opportunity for all parties to come together, which we did in the instance of Bill C-55 at committee, to look at it, to hear witness testimony, to do those things necessary to offer any piece of legislation the due diligence necessary to make it as good as we possibly could. That is the concern over the timeframe, the concern over the fact that we had a couple of days to try to do things that could have well extended beyond, had we brought in more witnesses. It is troubling because that impedes the due diligence we have to administer on behalf of those people who sent us to this place.
I tend to repeat myself in my remarks, because that troubled me to the degree that I felt it was worth repeating.
There have been other times in this place that the opportunity to debate and to consider various bills has been impeded. I would ask how many times the Conservative government has moved time allocation on bills. It is not the delay just in this particular bill, but in other bills. We must be closing in on 30 times that it has occurred in this Parliament. It has to be close to that by now. I hear other members agreeing.
We have seen budget bills and other legislation affecting services, which Canadians rely on, shut down or extremely limited by the Conservatives, at what appears to be almost every opportunity. It stifles the opportunity for us to make those bills better. It stifles the opportunity we have as members to point out what they have done well and what they have done not up to the standards Canadians expect. We get to do that in this public forum. That has been curtailed too many times.
Once again, that is part of my concern with this bill, Bill C-55, and how it got to committee after such a delay. It has the potential of impacting ordinary Canadians in a very negative way if the protections of which the Supreme Court has spoken to us were not put into place.
Bill C-55 is simply an updated version of wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court previously deemed unconstitutional. That is quite a statement when we think about it. Fortunately again for the House, the Supreme Court set the parameters of what it saw as the need to protect Canadians' rights.
I have to say that Canadians have good reason to be concerned about privacy legislation that comes out of the government. To date the government has not had what I see as a good record in that area. It is not encouraging at all.
There is an obligation on the official opposition to work for the public good in upholding the rule of law, our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was in February 2012 that the Conservative government tabled Bill C-30. Members will recall that gave authorities the power to access personal information in a way to which the Supreme Court responded.
It raised very serious concerns across the country, as I recall, about personal privacy and fundamental rights. That was due to the manner in which it was constructed and the powers it was seeking to give out. I will add that it was kind of a compilation of previous bills that have been before this House, Bill C-50, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52 from a previous parliamentary session. The Conservatives were attempting to build on the original legislation from 1999 to provide public safety authorities with extensive surveillance powers over digital information. As I said a moment ago, there was a significant backlash from the people of Canada in regard to this.
Now we have the government with these much-needed changes, I will commend the government. It reached across to us in the committee. We did work better on that bill than we did on some others in the past. If we did not meet the deadline or the provisions required by the Supreme Court, then these emergency powers would be thrown out.
I began my remarks talking about the need for police officials of our country to apply these. In this particular case, these provisions are intended to happen at the worst possible time, when somebody is under physical threat of injury or harm. It was important for us to go a little deeper into it.
I am looking for what really needs to be summarized here, and that is the fact that our role is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians are balanced with the police officials' needs to investigate, particularly in a time where someone is under the threat of physical harm. I have to say that, working together, I believe we accomplished that. Thus, we will be supporting this bill.
Questions and comments.
The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Order, please. The time for questions and comments has expired.
Resuming debate, the member for Brome—Missisquoi.
Mr. Speaker, recent events from around the world confirm that the threat of terrorism is very real. We need to provide law enforcement and national security agencies with the means to anticipate and to respond effectively to terrorism.
This is why our government introduced the combating terrorism act. We are taking action to reinstate two provisions to help law enforcement investigate past terrorism activity and prevent future attacks. We are also creating a new offence that specifically targets those who would leave Canada to participate in terrorist training camps abroad.
While we are taking action to address a very real threat, the NDP has its head in the sand. Throughout debate on our legislation, the members opposite continuously downplayed the terrorist threat. The NDP member for Brome—Missisquoi even said, with regard to terrorism, “Nothing has happened in the past four years. There has been nothing and things have been quiet”.
Unlike the NDP, we will not hesitate to protect Canadians--
The electoral district of Brome--Missisquoi (Quebec) has a population of 92,591 with 76,636 registered voters and 220 polling divisions.
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