Mr. Speaker, I had informed the clerks that I would be making a brief presentation on a point of order, so I would like to do so now, although we are seeing the clock as 5:30 p.m.
I want to revisit the remarks made yesterday by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. He raised a few points about the point of order I had raised regarding the study by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and decisions made by the committee with respect to the witnesses and Bill C-51.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said two things in his intervention earlier this week. First of all, he said that the minutes of the meeting showed that the member for Northumberland—Quinte West had not requested that the question be put on the subamendment. He quoted from the actual minutes of the proceedings. The minutes clearly state, however, that the member for Northumberland—Quinte West requested that the Chair decide “to put the question on the subamendment, the amendment, and the main motion”.
It is therefore very clear that the question was raised. There can be no doubt about it. The chair then stated that the question would not be put until they had gone through the entire list of speakers. Indeed, the number of interventions and the length of speeches are unlimited in a standing committee meeting. That is when the member for Northumberland—Quinte West asked the chair to decide.
The record is very clear and there is no difference: what was requested is prohibited by the Standing Orders, House procedure and the traditions we have had here for the past 150 years. There is no doubt that the member for Northumberland—Quinte West requested that the Chair decide to put the question on the subamendment. There is no doubt that that is what happened.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons also tried to use a point of order that I myself raised in the spring of 2010 regarding a decision of the Standing Committee on International Trade. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons was pleased to remind members that in his ruling, the Speaker said that:
All members who have intervened in this matter have acknowledged that the Speaker does not sit as a court of appeal to adjudicate procedural issues that arise in the course of committee proceedings.
However, had he read the sentence that came just before that, he would have realized that he missed a key point that he did not bring up yesterday during his point of order. That sentence reads:
The member for Calgary Centre, the chair of the standing committee...stated that the committee had conducted its meeting fairly and in keeping with the rules of procedure.
The Speaker later said something in his decision that I, too, said, namely that “the chair had the support of the majority of the members of the committee”.
It is very clear: the rules were broken. Obviously the concern is that a majority committee can now make any decision, even if the chair follows the rules that have existed for 150 years. That is the point of order that we raised and that we asked the Speaker of the House to rule on. It is very clear that democratic rights have been violated by the Conservative majority. Of course, none of the three interventions by the government denied the fact that the rules and procedures by which we are governed and that we are required to observe were violated.
Mr. Speaker, I hope you will indulge me for a few minutes. I would like to raise a point of order and seek your guidance on the absolutely outrageous actions of the Conservative majority on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security yesterday evening. I am raising that first thing this morning, because I believe it is a question that has to be put to you for keen deliberation over the course of the weekend and to provide the House with some guidance on the matter.
Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, the bible on which our democratic practice and procedure that has evolved over a century and a half in the House comes from House of Commons Procedure and Practice. This is the bible, or the guide to the Speaker's deliberations, that guides all of our deliberations as members of the House of Commons.
In House of Commons Procedure and Practice, on page 1057, is a very important regulation that guides our deliberations and guides the deliberations of committee structures in the House. It is a comment on the framing of the motion for the previous question. I will read for a moment how it is framed in House of Commons Procedure and Practice.
The motion that “The question be now put” is known as the previous question. In the House, the previous question is a debatable motion. When the debate ends, the motion for the previous question is put to a vote. If the motion is carried, the initial motion under consideration is immediately put to the vote in the House.
At committee, and this is on page 1057 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it says very clearly:
In committee, motions for the previous question are inadmissible.
That is black and white. There is no way of getting around what is a very clear regulation and very clear guidance that is given to committees. Motions for the previous question are inadmissible. I want to reference for a moment, as well, former Speaker Milliken's ruling on April 2, 2009, when he said:
...committees that overturn procedurally sound decisions by their chairs and choose to present procedurally unacceptable reports to the House will have them declared null and void.
Former Speaker Milliken was very clear that the guidelines, the procedure and practice rules we are governed by that are contained within House of Commons Procedure and Practice, that clearly say that motions for the previous question in committee are inadmissible, are very clear direction to committees. Committees that then overturn procedurally sound decisions by their chairs and choose to present procedurally unacceptable reports will have them declared null and void.
Last night, at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, exactly what I have just referenced happened. The Conservative majority on the committee threw out the rule book, threw out a century and a half of traditions that exist in our country and in this Parliament, and took matters into their own hands. The victims, of course, of this are all Canadians concerned about fundamental and sound principles of Canadian democracy and also the committee chair, who is the member for Prince Edward—Hastings.
Last night the majority on the committee simply told the chair that his intention to stick to the rule book was simply not going to be followed by the Conservative majority on the committee. They ignored the rules. They ignored the practice. They ignored all the precedents. They ignored the clear direction, and they overturned a procedurally sound ruling by the chair, showing profound disrespect to the member for Prince Edward—Hastings, even more profound disrespect to the rule book under which we are governed, and perhaps the greatest disrespect to Canadians as a whole. Conservatives threw out those democratic principles, and they threw out the rule book.
By ignoring the rules and forcing their majority will on the committee, the Conservatives have produced what is a real-life incarnation of the tyranny of the majority. The implications are pretty profound for our democracy. In the past, we have seen the government throw away the rule book. We have seen this with the Board of Internal Economy.
However, this was done in a public forum. I think it makes it even more outrageous that this took place in a public forum, in front of the public.
I am going to take a few minutes to recount what happened yesterday evening at the time the member for Northumberland—Quinte West stepped forward and moved a motion that was procedurally unacceptable.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, in the rule book, it is very clear that motions for the previous question are inadmissible. The member for Northumberland—Quinte West, perhaps because he was unaware of the rule book, perhaps because he had not read it, or perhaps because he does not think the rule book applied to him, moved that motion.
The chair, the member for Prince Edward—Hastings, made the following ruling. He said, “ The chair cannot support this motion...due to the fact...that...we have other speakers on the list yet and our practice has been to continue the debate until the speakers are exhausted, and at the time then the motion would be brought forward”.
Very clearly, the member for Prince Edward—Hastings, as the chair of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, was following the rule book, and he clearly ruled it out of order.
The member for Northumberland—Quinte West then threw out the rule book and challenged the chair.
Now, at that point, the member for St. John's East stepped up and said, “I don't think that the overruling of the chair makes a motion” which was clearly inadmissible, “in order”. You know that when one moves a motion that is inadmissible, one simply cannot just overrule the chair. They cannot throw out the rule book.
At that point, the chair, following interventions from the Conservative majority, pushed ahead just the same.
The member for Alfred-Pellan also intervened to request clarification. She asked the chair if there was no longer any right to debate the amendment to the amendment or the main motion between votes. The chair replied that that was indeed the case.
Mr. Speaker, what happened yesterday was that a clearly inadmissible motion, one that is clearly prohibited by the rule book, was ruled out of order, quite properly, by the chair, and the Conservative majority said, “The rules do not apply to us. We are just going to use our majority on this committee, and we are going to simply bulldoze through something that is clearly inadmissible, something that violates the principles, the democratic principles, under which we are governed and the rules that all of us, all members of Parliament, are supposed to follow”.
It is not just that they ruled what is inadmissible admissible, throwing out the rule book. They also eliminated any debate, as the member for Alfred-Pellan stated very clearly, after the Conservative majority tried to push through on this. It also eliminated any debate whatsoever on the amendment and on the main motion.
This is not some minor bill the Conservatives have brought forward. This is Bill C-51. This is a bill that has growing concern across the country about what it would mean to our democracy, what it would mean to democratic rights and freedoms. There have been questions raised in this House repeatedly. No answers have been forthcoming from the government.
This is a bill that, in many people's minds, including former prime ministers and Supreme Court justices, would be a danger to Canadian fundamental precepts of Canadian democracy.
To throw out the rule book on the debate on Bill C-51 and the extent to which, actually, Canadians would be consulted on the bill at the committee stage is no minor matter. This is a fundamental principle of Canadian democracy.
On this side of the House, as New Democrats, we believe that Canadians are entitled to add their voices on Bill C-51 and that the experts are entitled to come forward and provide their recommendations on Bill C-51. We believe that this is a fundamental bill that could, in a very dangerous way, impact fundamental rights and freedoms in Canada, and we believe that Canadians have the right to be heard on the bill. That is what we believe on this side of the House.
This is an important study. The freedom of committees, as you know, Mr. Speaker, is circumscribed by our rule book, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which is what all of us, as members of Parliament, are supposed to follow,.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 116 says very clearly, as well:
In a standing, special or legislative committee, the Standing Orders shall apply so far as may be applicable, except the Standing Orders as to the election of a Speaker, seconding of motions, limiting the number of times of speaking and the length of speeches.
Since committees are regarded as creatures of the House, Standing Order 116 provides that the rules of the House have force in committees, so far as they are applicable. A member may speak on issues before a committee, and that is very clearly delineated in Standing Order 116.
However, it is also the precedents in the past. In the past, but perhaps not in events as outrageous as what we saw last night at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, we have had issues with conduct in committees that have been brought to the House, and Speakers have made rulings on them. As well, for the guidance you will be giving us in the coming days, Mr. Speaker, I want to restate some of the Speakers' rulings and some of the comments previous Speakers have made on committee actions.
First, Speaker Milliken, on March 29, 2007, said the following:
At the present time, the chair occupants, like our counterparts in House committees, daily face the challenge of dealing with the pressures of a minority government, but neither the political realities of the moment nor the sheer force of numbers should force us to set aside the values inherent in the parliamentary conventions and procedures by which we govern our deliberations.
Hon. members are all aware of situations in committees of this Parliament where, because decisions of the chair are subject to appeal, decisions that were procedurally sound have been overturned by the majority on a committee
.....All the more reason then for the Chair to exercise its awesome responsibility carefully and to ensure that the House does not, in the heat of the moment, veer dangerously off course.
Speaker Milliken also, on March 14, 2008, said:
The Speaker must remain ever mindful of the first principles of our parliamentary tradition which Bourinot described thus: “To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner—”
As well, Speaker Milliken, on April 2, 2009, as I mentioned earlier, said:
As explained in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 857, decisions of committee chairs may be appealed to the committee. However, as I noted in rulings on March 14, 2008 and May 15, 2008, committees that overturn procedurally sound decisions by their chairs and choose to present procedurally unacceptable reports to the House will have them declared null and void.
Finally, Speaker Fraser, on November 28, 1990, had this to say:
I have to say to hon. members and to the public that the workings of committees is very important to the working of the House of Commons. I do ask hon. colleagues to make every effort possible to come to whatever agreements and understandings among themselves which are necessary to make these committees work.
I do not want to state this too often, and I hope that I will not have to, but there is a general feeling across the country that somehow or other not only politicians, but maybe institutions, are letting down the country. This is why it is essential that everybody make an extra effort to try to make this system work.
I am not happy with this situation, obviously. But, I am also bound by rules here and if I am to intervene in committees, it has to be in a very severe and outrageous situation indeed.
I would submit that this is an absolutely outrageous situation, that the rules under which we are governed were clearly violated yesterday, and that the chair made a procedurally sound decision, based on the fact that motions for the previous question are inadmissible.
Even more so, motions for the previous question eliminate all questions at once. With a sleight of hand, it simply eliminates any ability for opposition members of Parliament to speak on that issue at all.
What could be next? If the tyranny of the majority means that at any time a procedurally sound decision made by a chair of a committee can be overturned by a Conservative majority, what is to stop Conservatives from saying that opposition members have no right to speak at all, or that opposition members have no right to appear at committee? At what point are they going to stop this tyranny of the majority?
There is absolutely no doubt that what happened last night was a travesty. It ripped up the rule book on a fundamental piece of law that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about. I have no doubt that the government does not want debate on this bill. The more there is debate, the more Canadians are calling into question how this bill was put together and the vague language and loopholes that can lead to dangerous precedents in our country. There is no doubt about that. However, they do not have the right to completely shut down debate. They do not have the right to move procedurally wrong motions, to overrule the chair when the chair is ruling, having followed the rule book in the interest of Canadian democracy, and they do not have the right to simply shut down debate.
Mr. Speaker, I am asking for guidance from you in the coming days. The House has an objective referee, and so should committees. When committee chairs make procedurally sound rulings following the rule book, they should be respected. Rules are there for a reason. The implications of allowing a wild west in committees in the final 11 weeks of Parliament are simply too serious to even contemplate at this point.
I ask for the Speaker's guidance on what was an outrageous action by the Conservative majority last night at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and, as a member of the opposition, I also ask for his guidance as a Canadian. What happened last night was a travesty. It was outrageous, and it should not be permitted. We ask for the Speaker's wisdom and guidance so that these kinds of instances do not occur again.
I am serious, Mr. Speaker, and the member knows that is what happens. It happens at my committee. Members follow that direction. They are members in their own right; they can stand on their own two feet. What I am saying is that the process has to change if we are going to make this legislation good legislation. I ask members to really look at this issue seriously and not to take direction in that fashion. There is concern about the civil liberties of Canadians and freedom of expression. We have to listen to those witnesses.
I want to give an example of what a couple of people I have talked to have to said, people whom we will put forward as witnesses. First, there is quite a series of articles in the press these days by two individuals, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach. They have a paper they sent us that is close to 40 pages long. They are doing a summary of the key concerns with the bill. This is what they say at the beginning of the summary:
If Bill C-51 passes, CSIS will be expressly authorized to “take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce” very broadly defined “threats to the security of Canada”. Where authorized by Federal Court warrant, these “measures” may “contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” or may be “contrary to other Canadian law”.
It does not matter whether I agree or disagree with that statement. There is a concern expressed there that we should look at seriously. These two individuals admit it themselves. They add an additional word relevant to this in a document dealing with CSIS. They say:
We are legal academics who have been researching and writing on issues of national security law (Canadian, international and comparative) for a sum total of 26 person years (between the two of us).... We are, in other words, an occasional and minor part of the national security “accountability sector”, to the extent that such a thing exists in Canada.
These people have a point of view. They have an expression of interest that we ought to listen to.
I also met with the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, which also has concerns. That association was founded in 1998 by a small group of Toronto based Canadian Muslim lawyers. It has over 300 members across Canada and active chapters in Ontario and Quebec. The association states:
Bill C-51 is deeply flawed legislation that should not become law. Before we begin to integrate and concentrate power in government agencies on national security matters, we should first implement the remedial findings of many commissions of inquiry into the matter, most notably the Arar Inquiry.
As national security functions become more integrated it makes sense that there is a concomitant and effective counterbalance in terms of independent review and oversight. Such a body would have jurisdiction over all national security agencies and functions, including CSIS, CSEC, the RCMP and a host of other agencies (some of them currently have no oversight).
That is their opinion. They are suggesting that there needs to be much broader oversight.
These are just two examples of witnesses that we need to listen to. However, in order to make the proper amendments, accept them, and bring in those ideas, the government has to be willing to make some amendments.
To turn specifically to the issue of oversight itself, sadly, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and, today, the Minister of Justice have been misinforming Canadians. Let me repeat that. Some of the highest officers and political ministers in this land have been misinforming Canadians on what exists, and what is and is not in this bill. It really is troublesome that the top political office in the land either does not know the limits of the Security Intelligence Review Committee or has not been totally forthright. I do not know which it is.
Let me turn to what the Security Intelligence Review Committee itself has said. It said that it is not an oversight body. Let me turn to its annual report for 2013-14. On page 12 of that report, in section 2, it says:
An oversight body looks on a continual basis at what is taking place inside an intelligence service and has the mandate to evaluate and guide current actions in “real time.” SIRC is a review body, so unlike an oversight agency....
SIRC itself admits that it is not an oversight agency, but even if it were an oversight agency, which it is not, it is not broad enough to really review national security. If we look at schedule 3 of Bill C-51, another seven agencies have been included there. I think some of them were here before. We are adding the likes of the departments of health, national defence, and transport to SIRC, CSIS, CSEC, the RCMP, and police forces of local jurisdictions, all of which are involved in these security matters, and transferring information across departments. There needs to be a much broader oversight that even a slightly improved SIRC could handle.
I mentioned earlier the protections that we as a Liberal government put in place on the extended powers in the anti-terrorism act of 2001. There were sunset clauses in which laws would cease to exist. There was a mandatory review. In 2004, we recognized that there was still a greater need, which was for the oversight of all security agencies. As a result, an all-party committee was proposed and put in place. It held hearings and made some recommendations, and Bill C-81 was introduced. However, it died on the order paper. I will come back to that in a moment.
Simply put, a previous Liberal government introduced legislation to provide for oversight by parliamentarians similar to that of our Five Eyes partners, the U.K., the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Today, in The Globe and Mail, four former prime ministers put an article in the paper, signed by a number of justices and former attorneys general, et cetera, entitled: “A close eye on security makes Canadians safer”.
It starts by saying:
The four of us most certainly know the enormity of the responsibility of keeping Canada safe, something always front of mind for a prime minister.
They went on to say:
Yet we all also share the view that the lack of a robust and integrated accountability regime for Canada's national security agencies makes it difficult to meaningfully assess the efficacy and legality of Canada's national security activities. This poses serious problems for public safety and for human rights.
They went to say said:
Canada needs independent oversight and effective review mechanisms more than ever, as national security agencies continue to become increasingly integrated, international information sharing remains commonplace and as the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies continue to expand with this new legislation.
People who have been in the same position as the Prime Minister are calling on the need for oversight. Such a security oversight agency was called for by a former public safety committee while the current Prime Minister was in office. In a report dated June 2009, tabled in the House of Commons, it called for that, in recommendation 5:
The Committee recommends, once again, that Bill C-81, introduced in the 38th Parliament [by a Liberal government], An Act to Establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians, or a variation of it, be introduced in Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
That recommendation was supported by six members who currently sit in the House: the member for Yorkton—Melville, who chaired that committee; the member for Oxford; the member for Brant; the member for Northumberland—Quinte West; the member for Edmonton—St. Albert; and the member for Wild Rose.
The previous recommendation for Bill C-81 was supported by the current Minister of Justice and the current Minister of State for Finance. What has happened to those members since the leadership changed and we have the current Prime Minister? How come they are not still calling for oversight? They know that SIRC is not oversight. SIRC has claimed that it is not oversight. Did they lose their voice? Do they not stand by what they previously believed in, what they held hearings on? Oversight is important, and that is what we must implement in this bill, as well as a number of other amendments we will be putting forward.
As a final point, I will report on what the British Intelligence and Security Committee does. The members of the committee are subject to the Official Secrets Act. In their annual report, they say this:
The Committee sets its own agenda and work programme. It takes evidence from Government Ministers, the Heads of the intelligence and security Agencies, officials from the intelligence community, and other witnesses as required.
They monitor on a day-to-day basis. They keep intelligence agencies honest. They protect on two sides, as Bill C-81 would have done. It would have ensured that security agencies are doing what they are supposed to do and second, that they are not going too far in terms of infringing on civil rights and freedoms.
Let me close with a quote from my leader in yesterday's speech:
We are hopeful that the government is serious about reaching across the aisle to keep Canadians safe, while protecting our rights and our values.
It can be done. We need sunset clauses. We need a mandatory statutory review, and we definitely need oversight. I am sure both the NDP and Liberal Party will have many amendments to improve the bill in other ways, but the government has to reach across the aisle and allow Parliament to work.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by numerous residents of Northumberland—Quinte West and the surrounding area, who want the government to ratify the convention on the protection of new varieties of plants, known as UPOV '91; to adopt international aid policies that support small farmers, especially women, and recognize their role in the fight against hunger and poverty; and to ensure that these policies and programs are developed in consultation with small farmers; and that they protect the rights of small family farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today and speak to our government's strong record on health care.
Since we formed government, health transfers have increased by almost 60% under our Conservative leadership. In 2014-15, the Government of Ontario alone will receive $19.2 billion through major transfers, an increase of $8.3 billion from 2005-06.
Canada also has the highest number of physicians working than ever before. Last year, Canada had the most physicians per capita in its history, with over 77,000 doctors.
Doctors educated abroad represent over 25% of the doctors who entered the workforce in 2013. The word is out: Canada is one of the top destinations in the world to practise medicine.
To all my constituents in Northumberland—Quinte West, merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.
Resuming debate with his five-minute right of reply, the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West for that excellent question.
In May 2010, the municipal council of Quinte West unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the acquisition of all lands required for the relocation of the Joint Task Force. With hundreds of families moving to the region, this project will inject millions of dollars into the local economy and boost local business. Most importantly, it will give our special operations forces the resources they need to get the job done for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member would realize that bipartisanship is an American term. They have two parties there; here, we have a few more.
With respect to partisanship, I do not know if it is the water being served over there, but I would say to the member for Northumberland—Quinte West that the multi-party committees that operate in the U.K. and Australian parliaments and in the United States, where it is bipartisan both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, operate because it is important for them to do so, so there is no reason we could not do so here.
In this case, the partisanship is shown by the government rejecting an idea. The details can be debated, but it is an idea that was a product of a multi-party committee of members of this House, including two sitting cabinet ministers; the Deputy Speaker of the House, representing our party; and the member for Malpeque, who represented the Liberals back in 2004. Therefore, there was some sort of multi-partisan consensus at that time to the effect that there is a need for parliamentary oversight.
Why is that now gone? I wonder if the member could comment.
Mr. Speaker, I have to laugh, because there seems to be, by some members on the government side, a bit of an attack on the member for Malpeque. That is fine. It does not bother me much. However, let us clear up the facts for the member for Northumberland—Quinte West. The government that asked for an all-party committee, which was made up of all parties, and I have its report here, “Report of the Interim Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security”, and the minister of public security at the time did, in fact, introduce government legislation to have a proper oversight committee.
I listened to the parliamentary secretary earlier, and I wondered whether the theme would continue. The Conservatives try to make this look like a partisan issue. There was a time, and this was when this committee came into being, that parliamentarians worked in a non-partisan sense for the good of all Canadians. I would say to the member for Northumberland—Quinte West that this is not a partisan issue. This is not an issue to undermine our security agencies, which are doing a good job. The idea behind this motion is to have the government and Parliament act responsibly to ensure that Canadians' privacy is protected. What does the member see wrong with that?
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
I am pleased to speak against the Liberal motion today.
I would like to take a few moments to describe the many ways in which our Conservative government is working to protect Canada and Canadians against the very real threat of terrorism.
In 2012, our government released Canada's first counterterrorism strategy called “Building Resilience Against Terrorism”. This single comprehensive strategy guides the actions of more than 20 federal departments and agencies to better align them to prevent, detect, deny, and respond to terrorist threats. It speaks frankly about the terrorist threats that we face at home and abroad.
In a resilient society, everyone, including governments, first responders, critical infrastructure operators, communities, and individuals, know what they need to do when faced with a terrorist attack, mitigating the impact and helping to facilitate a rapid return to ordinary life.
First and foremost to the strategy's success is the element of prevention. Preventing terrorist ideologies from taking hold of vulnerable individuals is the best scenario.
The strategy also lays out how government organizations, including CSIS and CSEC, work every day to detect individuals and organizations who may pose a terrorist threat to deny terrorists the means and opportunities to carry out their attacks, and to respond to acts of terrorism in a manner that mitigates their efforts. I am convinced that our strategy, successfully implemented by the exceptional men and women working in our national security departments and agencies, effectively addresses the threat of terrorism to Canada, its citizens, and its interests around the world.
Without a doubt, Canada's success in remaining resilient in the face of terrorist threats depends on having an approach that is flexible, forward-looking, and adaptable to an evolving threat environment.
However, one thing is clear: Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. That is why our government fulfilled its commitment to report annually on the evolving terrorist threat to Canadians and Canadian interests. The “2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada” examined the most critical developments in terrorism since the release of the counterterrorism strategy. It also identified some of the measures our government has taken to address these threats.
The terrorist threats that Canadians face at home are most often connected with and inspired by developments that happen abroad. As most Canadians already know, global violent extremist groups, such as al Qaeda, have been leading the terrorist threat to Canada for many years. This has not changed. Al Qaeda is weaker today than it once was, but it still poses a threat. It provides guidance to other terrorist groups, particularly its regional affiliates. These affiliates, including al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Al Shabaab, all pose a threat to Canada. Al Qaeda and its affiliates remain interested in conducting international terrorist attacks.
Evolving conflicts abroad also continue to shape the nature of the terrorist threat to Canada. We continue to watch for developments abroad that may drive international and domestic terrorism. In Africa, for example, we have seen ongoing terrorist activities. Terrorists have attacked the Westgate Mall, in Nairobi.
Growing terrorist violence threatens to spill across borders and undermine regional stability, prompting international efforts to counter local terrorist activities. We have seen recent terrorist bombings in Volgograd, Russia. Syria has become both a major centre for terrorist activity and an emerging cause for global terrorist activity. Terrorist violence in Syria could spill across borders and lead to further regional instability. It is clear that Syria, as well as Iran, continue to provide state support for terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas.
While these developments take place far from Canadian shores, international events are often connected with terrorist threats here at home. The successful Canadian arrest of individuals accused of terrorism offences demonstrates the effectiveness of the integrated national security enforcement teams, known as INSETs, working in major cities across the country. INSETs, led by the RCMP, are staffed by employees from CSIS, CBSA, and local law enforcement. Its ability to respond appropriately to threats to the security of Canada is informed, in part, by the work of CSIS and other members of the intelligence community.
This approach has greatly improved the ability of agencies to work together and has led to many successes. This includes the disruption of the plot to attack a VIA Rail passenger train in April, and the plot to attack the Victoria legislature on Canada Day.
We must also deal with the reality that Canadians have travelled or attempted to travel abroad to become involved in conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. In fact, the CSIS director spoke in the other place, just last evening, to discuss this issue. He pointed out that the number of Canadians fighting overseas is not insignificant. This poses a risk to us at home because these radicalized individuals will eventually come back. This is why it is key to develop entry/exit information-sharing with allies, and why it was key to pass the Combating Terrorism Act. Both of these common-sense measures are, shockingly, opposed by the NDP.
Let me be clear. The problems with citizens travelling overseas to fight is not unique to Canada. Other international allies each face similar challenges. It is clear that the global terrorist threat continues to shift and evolve and that international events can have a direct impact here at home.
While no government can prevent all terrorist activity from happening, we can take measures to counter the terrorist threat, whether it is a threat within Canada, support for violence abroad, or activities that undermine Canada's efforts to secure international peace and security. Canada is actively working to identify threats as early as possible, ensuring that robust and effective alerting systems are in place and sharing information appropriately and proactively within Canada with key allies and non-traditional partners. While terrorist threats remain, we continue to see positive developments in our efforts to strengthen and build resilience to terrorist threats.
Through successful domestic and international partnerships, strong legislative action, and with important work being conducted by the men and women in our national security departments and agencies, our government is taking the appropriate actions to protect Canadians and Canadian interests at home and abroad. Our counterterrorism strategy is working. We will continue to take action to keep the safety of Canadians as our top priority.
We will not undertake efforts to create duplicative processes to tie up front-line operators in red tape when they could be taking action to keep Canadians safe.
Mr. Speaker, while Canada's economy is showing signs of improvement, the global economy remains fragile. Business owners in my riding of Northumberland—Quinte West tell me that during these challenging global economic times, the last thing they need is higher taxes that will kill job creation. Remarkably, just last week the leader of the NDP said he would raise taxes on Canadian job creators.
Unlike the NDP, our government understands that a low-tax environment is just what job creators need to expand their operations and hire more workers. Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please update this House on Canada's job market?
The member for Northumberland—Quinte West will now have five minutes of response.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West, who had a career in public safety. He is also a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
I would also like to thank the correctional officers who work hard every day to keep Canadians safe.
That being said, we do not believe that convicted criminals are entitled to their own private accommodations. The suggestion of racial bias in prisons is totally inaccurate. The only identifiable group that our justice system is targeting is criminals.
Mr. Speaker, I commend both the member who just spoke and the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I should remind his constituents and all of those in the House that he was one of two members from the opposition party who supported the elimination of the long gun registry. It is good to see him stand in the House and give a speech on the very issues that he represents in terms of his riding. I appreciated hearing what he had to say.
I am also pleased that both of the previous speakers from the opposition will be supporting the bill. I can say without hesitation that is obviously appreciated on this side of the House and I know would be appreciated by the member who has moved this private member's bill.
It is great to speak today in support of Bill C-501, the national hunting, trapping and fishing heritage day act. This legislation put forward by my colleague, the member for Northumberland—Quinte West, would designate the third Saturday of each September as Canada's national hunting, trapping and fishing heritage day. It would also ensure that the cultural, economic and social impacts of these activities would be recognized across our country.
Put simply, Canadians are an outdoors people. Our identity as Canadians is characterized by our relationship with a dynamic and incomparable nature of our wilderness.
Many can remember the first time they went on a camping trip, built a fire and cooked their meal over a fire. Thousands of children come to Canada each year to go to summer camps to learn how to build a fire, set up a shelter in the rain, paddle a canoe, perfecting the J-stroke and appreciating nature and the outdoors in general. Many of those young people can cook a meal over a fire. I perhaps can do that on a barbecue, but certainly not over an open fire. It shows the diligence and importance of what this day means to not just those of us who are older in age but also those who are much younger.
Canada is known internationally for its beautiful national and provincial parks. This government recognizes that importance of maintaining vast, rich areas for the benefit of future generations. The National Parks Act clearly states:
The national parks of Canada are hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment...the parks shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
This government has opened two new national parks and is in process of opening the Rouge national urban park, Canada's first urban national park. As a representative of an urban city riding, it means a lot for me to see that we will have a national urban park. It will be easily accessible to over 20% of Canada's population and will help forge connections between people of this great nation and the elements that make us truly Canadian.
As Canada approaches its 150th anniversary, we as Canadians are offered a rare opportunity to look back on our history and learn about how Canada became the country it is today. I cannot think of many activities that are as important to Canada as hunting, trapping and fishing.
The Hudson's Bay Company established trading posts across our country that facilitated the development of Canada's vast uncharted territories. Famous Canadian explorers and fur traders, like David Thompson who travelled more than 90,000 kilometres by horseback, canoe, dogsled and on his own two feet, charted Canada's untamed land and mapped more than one-sixth of the continent, paving the way for future explorers.
The famous voyageurs travelling in large wood canoes established many of Canada's first trading routes from Lake Winnipeg to the St. Lawrence River. These voyageurs were expected to paddle 14 hours per day and maintain a pace of 55 strokes per minute. Many of these men died while paddling through dangerous rapids in frigid cold water.
A national hunting, trapping and fishing heritage day would celebrate the continuity between Canada's heritage and contemporary activities. It would serve as a link between our ancestors and future generations. It would also recognize the economic impacts that all wilderness activities have on the Canadian economy.
In British Columbia, the gross domestic product for angling in 2003 was some $711 million. The gross domestic product in British Columbia was $116 million for hunting. In Alberta it was over $102 million for hunting activities and many more millions of dollars in other trapping and related activities. In Ontario hunting alone generates over $1.5 billion in economic activity annually.
The fur trade in Canada contributes over $800 million to the Canadian gross domestic product. In terms of employment, the fur trade in Canada is composed of over 60,000 trappers, including 25,000 aboriginals with 5,000 representing fur farmers, manufacturers, dressers, retailers and many others. Some 3.2 million Canadians participate in recreational fishing and spend some $7.5 billion annually on expenses related to the industry. Nationally, about one out of every ten Canadian adults is an active angler.
These figures show that Canadians remain an outdoors people and that recognizing and protecting Canada's natural heritage benefits Canada's economy, creates thousands of jobs across our country and shows how much this is a part of our common culture and identity.
Bill C-501 would also recognize the many community organizations that work together to ensure that Canadians have the opportunity to take part in outdoor activities such as hunting, trapping and fishing.
For example, the Police Association of Ontario, the not-for-profit conservation organization, Fishing Forever, and Canadian Tire have initiated a program called kids, cops and Canadian Tire fishing days. The Police Association of Ontario has invested over $200,000 in this program, which takes thousands of kids fishing with police personnel for a full day. The program offers opportunities to create relationships between adults and children. It allows the police and the community to work together while investing in those children. They are part of our future. Children learn that police officers are interested in them, enjoy spending time with them, and also understand that policing is potentially a career choice for them.
We could also look at Ducks Unlimited, an organization that has been conserving wetlands in our country since 1938. Since its inception, the organization has secured six million acres of habitat through land purchases, management agreements and conservation elements. It has positively influenced 47 million acres of habitat through retention and restoration measures. It has completed 8,400 habitat projects. It has completed and represents 26,000 different project segments.
This piece of legislation would also help recognize just how important hunting, trapping and fishing are to all Canadians. For people who fish, it is much more than a hobby; it is a lifestyle that promotes relaxation and enjoyment. Fishing offers a gateway in freedom from everyday life or a hard week at work. Fishing can be enjoyed by people of all ages and all sizes. Hundreds of people across Canada look forward to the start of hunting season and the opportunity to take their children out for the first time or merely to share the experience of tracking an animal with friends and family.
In Canada, similar provincial recognition of hunting, trapping and fishing heritage exists in provinces such as Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and right here in Ontario. These provincial special days recognize the contributions that these activities make to our cultural, social and economic heritage. The recognition of this day would serve as an occasion to raise awareness about our heritage, our history, our culture and our identity. It would highlight the important role that hunting, trapping and fishing have played in the exploration and settlement of Canada and in our continued economic prosperity. It would also provide an opportunity for all Canadians to celebrate the long-standing traditions of hunting, trapping and fishing.
I am hopeful that all members of the House will support the bill. It is a simple and straightforward piece of legislation that recognizes the tremendous importance that these activities have for everyday Canadians from coast to coast. Our relationship with the outdoors has helped define our identity as Canadians and will continue to do so for generations to come.
I will conclude by stating that the member has certainly done his homework. He has worked hard with members of the opposition parties. At the time that private member's bills are put forward we never know how things are going to work out, whether they will become partisan or too political, or whether the partisan aspect will be eliminated and members will join together to support what is part of our Canadian identity. I believe the bill is one of those. It would be great to see, when we do come to third reading on the bill and we are standing in the House of Commons, that there is unanimous consent to move Bill C-501.
The electoral district of Northumberland--Quinte West (Ontario) has a population of 123,706 with 93,620 registered voters and 244 polling divisions.
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