March 1, 2011

NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie)

Order, please. Perhaps the hon. member could bring forward some of that information in response to the next question.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Charlie Angus

New Democratic Party

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague, who had many of his facts absolutely correct. I just have to question, though, as I am not quite sure if he might have seen the whole context.

We know that the Conservative Party will sell out civil liberties on a dime. The Conservatives would do that before getting up in the morning. We know what they think of people's personal liberty, but I am surprised at the hon. member's surprise that the Liberals would also be willing to sell out Canada's civil liberties, because was is not the leader of the Liberal opposition who previously stood up during the worst, darkest days of Bush's torture regime and defended coercive investigation?

We know the Conservatives do not mind using the rubber hose. That is in their DNA, but it was the Liberal leader who supported coercive investigation and said it was necessary, and so why would we think that the Liberal Party would actually care about people's privacy rights, about people's--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie)

Order, please. I would like to give the hon. member equal time. I understand that the hon. member has a minute to respond.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Don Davies

New Democratic Party

Mr. Don Davies

Madam Speaker, Canadians have known one thing over the last 20 years, that the Liberal Party of Canada will say almost anything to get elected.

The Liberals said they wanted a national child care program in 1993, in 1997 and in 2001. They said they would bring in a national housing program in 1993, 1997 and 2001. They broke those promises every time. They said they would abrogate NAFTA. They did not do that. They said they would repeal the GST. They did not do that.

It does not surprise me that the Liberal Party of Canada will say one thing and do another. That is exactly what Canadians know the Liberals to be and that is why they have lost seats and the percentage of the popular vote in every single election since 2001, at least that I have seen. That is because Canadians do not trust them. The Liberals want to talk like New Democrats when they are out of power and then govern like Conservatives when they are in power, and Canadians have their number. Canadians know that.

However, to see the Liberal members stand up and vote in favour of Bill C-42, an absolutely unacceptable violation of Canadians' privacy rights and an absolutely appalling abdication of Canada's sovereignty, is really something that I hope every Canadian from coast to coast to coast gets to see. I say this because when Canadians want to travel to Mexico, the only place that decision should be made is in their family room or kitchen. They are the only people who should be deciding where they as Canadians travel.

When the Conservatives say they will let the U.S. Department of Homeland Security do it, that is not good enough.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I cannot say I am pleased to have to stand here and speak on this bill on closure. This bill is one that I have had trouble with ever since it was introduced in Parliament and the whole time it was before the transport committee.

The Conservative government would like Canadians to believe that Bill C-42 is just about ensuring Canadians can fly to destinations in the sun, that we have to pinch our nose and vote in favour of this bill, which really sells out Canadians' freedoms and liberties.

It is surprising how the so-called standing-up-for-Canadians party is so quick to make a move like this.

However, the bill before us is just part of the sellout. The larger issue is the total sellout of Canadian sovereignty under the perimeter security deal, which, if this government has its way, we will likely not even see inside the House of Commons. It will never get debated here.

We know the reality is that this bill, which is a completely unnecessary invasion of Canadians' privacy, is just a stopgap until the government has instituted a perimeter security deal. My fear is that if the Conservatives have failed to stand up for Canadians when they negotiated this deal, just how supine will they be when it comes to selling out Canadian sovereignty as part of a perimeter security deal?

When the minister appeared before the committee on this bill, he said it had to be passed before the end of 2010 or the U.S. would close its airspace to Canadian flights. That did not happen. The minister allowed the Americans to bully him, or perhaps he was simply bluffing the committee. We called their bluff.

The Conservatives pointed out the exemption they obtained for domestic flights. It is laughable. The exemption is based on a non-binding diplomatic note, much as the rest of this is based on letters, not treaties. There is no clear indication of how any of this is set in the relationship between Canada and the U.S. What the exemption really shows is that this bill is not about security or fighting terrorism, but about allowing another country to determine who may come and go from Canada. It proves this bill is setting us up for the bigger perimeter sellout.

In researching this speech, I came up with some interesting statements. On privacy, I found the following quote from the website of the member for Langley on how Conservatives protect the privacy of Canadians:

One of the key duties of a government is to protect the rights and privacy of all of its nation’s citizens.

Given the government's total failure to protect Canadian's privacy through Bill C-42 and how it will deal with privacy and other information issues through the perimeter security deal, the member for Langley may have to amend his website.

On the Conservative Party's website, it is said that:

Under the strong leadership of [the Prime Minister] Conservatives are taking action for Canada’s sovereignty, safety and security—

Then there is this line from the Prime Minister's bio page:

As Prime Minister, he....stood up for Canada's sovereignty--

However, Webster's dictionary has the following as a part of its definition of sovereignty:

freedom from external control.

I have trouble thinking this is the case here. It seems that when it comes to protecting the rights of Canadians, the Conservatives have failed completely.

On February 9 of this year, the parliamentary secretary told this House:

—I will tell members what I do require, and what I think this government has required, from the United States. We have required that the Americans uphold and strengthen the vital cornerstones of our Canadian values, such as due process, the rule of law and the preservation of individuals' civil liberties, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and privacy rights.

My goodness, that is a long list. None of it appears in this bill. None of it is found anywhere within any treaty or any agreement between the United States and Canada that comes under this particular section.

What has the member done here?

When we start to talk about the perimeter security deal, most Canadians do not believe the Conservatives when they say they can be trusted to protect our rights.

Postmedia News reported on February 18, 2011, that:

Two-thirds of Canadians fear [the] Prime Minister...will "compromise" by giving up too much power over immigration, privacy and security to get a deal with the United States on border controls, a new poll has found.

The national survey, conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global Television, also finds Canadians are split over whether they "trust"...[the Prime Minister] to craft a deal that maintains this country's independence.

The poll by Ipsos Reid reveals Canadians want [the Prime Minister] to adopt a much more transparent approach to the "perimeter security" negotiations that are being held in total secrecy.

That is what Canadians think about what the Conservatives are doing.

There was also an online poll last week in theGlobe and Mail. Of the 67,000 respondents, 90% said that they did not think we should give up information in this relationship with the United States.

The day after the parliamentary secretary for transport made his claims about how the government was protecting the rights of Canadians, the leader of the Liberal Party wrote in the Globe and Mail:

The content of the proposal and the manner in which it came about raise serious questions about the government’s commitment to defending our sovereignty, our privacy and our rights as Canadian citizens.

It is too bad for Canadians that MPs are supporting Bill C-42. I think Canadians should raise serious questions about the Liberal commitment to defending our sovereignty.

Then there is the line from the Liberal transport critic, which shows how much backbone the party has in protecting Canadians.

As I said in my speech, this is not a law that I particularly like because it does raise concerns about privacy and issues such as those raised by the hon. member. However, for practical purposes, I think we have little choice but to pass the bill. The Liberals had a choice. They could have protected Canadians but, no, they wanted to side with the Conservatives, and we can expect them to continue to work with the Conservatives on this particular issue.

Then there is the line from the member for Willowdale who said:

--we are now being held hostage. If a Liberal government had been asked to do this, we would have asked how we could work this out so we did not accede to this and sacrifice the privacy of Canadians.

It is not too late. If the Liberal Party would go against this bill, we would force the Conservatives back to the bargaining table with the United States to work out a better deal on this bill.

Then we have a line from the member for Eglinton—Lawrence who said, “This bill is a total abdication of our sovereignty responsibility”.

Can anyone imagine letting a foreign authority, not the government but a competent authority within the government of another country, determine what it must know about whether passengers board a plane in Canada or go someplace else or another place in order to come to Canada?

Canadians will be watching the vote on this particular bill.

What about the Bloc? Surely, it must defend sovereignty. Its critic said:

As the Bloc Québécois transport critic, and with my colleagues who agree on this position, we had to take individual freedoms into account, but we also had to take into account feasibility and the viability of air carriers that have to use U.S. airspace.

Once again, we see that the choice being made is between freedom and liberty, the rights of Canadians and a supposed infringement upon the commercial movement of aircraft.

When it comes to protecting the rights of Canadians, there is one party in this House that puts Canadians ahead of profits. Which party is that?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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CPC
NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington

I heard the hon. member across the way say “the Conservative Party”, but quite clearly the only party in this House that is actually standing up on this bill over and over again is the New Democratic Party.

The reason we have taken such a strong opposition to this bill is that all through the process we saw the Conservatives fail to get a proper deal for Canadians. My colleagues have talked about all of the things they could have worked on to make a difference in this bill but they did not do that because their hearts were not in it. They chose to sell out Canada. They chose not to do the work to protect Canada. Why did they do that? They did it because they were looking at this larger perimeter security deal. In their minds they felt that by integrating further into the United States we could increase the profits of our companies and sell out our grandchildren.

Today, the choice is apparent. What we do not know and will not find out is what this complete perimeter security deal means to Canadian travellers, to Canadians and to the future of this great country of which I am very proud to be a representative.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, on November 18, when the Privacy Commissioner appeared before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, she tried to clarify that the requirements under the no-fly list and that legislation did have some privacy concerns. She said:

However, C-42 differs from the measures listed above in that it will not result in the introduction of any new domestic aviation security programs nor will it involve the collection of additional personal information by Canadian government agencies.

Rather, it will allow American or other authorities to collect personal information about travellers on flights to and from Canada that fly through American airspace and this, in turn, will allow American authorities to prevent individuals from flying to or from Canada.

I think the Privacy Commissioner has added to the debate from the standpoint that the no-fly list issues, the Maher Arar issue, et cetera, are different cases from Bill C-42 and that there are no conclusions on behalf of the Privacy Commissioner that there are breaches of privacy rights of Canadians. I wonder if the member would want to comment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington

Madam Speaker, quite clearly this bill would open the door for the U.S. to use the information that it is provided for any purpose. Even the U.S. ambassador in his letter stated that in most cases the information would be used for security purposes. The door was not closed on that one.

The testimony we heard from one U.S. witness indicated that within the homeland security bill there is no protection for aliens on information. Therefore, when we turn information on Canadians over to the U.S., we are doing it with no protection at all.

I would like to see the Privacy Commissioner go through this again and understand the precise nature of what we are creating with this bill and the type of direction we are taking for the country. When we start to talk about a perimeter of security deal and the sharing of information from Canadian security services with the United States on an ongoing basis, what will that lead to?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Jim Maloway

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP)

Madam Speaker, it is clear that the government messed up in the negotiations. It made a very poor deal. The government could have gone for reciprocity and caused the Americans to back off when demanding information on their 2,000 flights a day versus the 100 that we have to give them.

The government has admitted that the Americans were prepared to let it keep the information but the government was not prepared to spend $500 million or so on the computer system that would need to be set up to keep the information.

The bottom line is that we should get our existing systems working better. We have a no-fly list that does not work. We have the member for Winnipeg Centre on the no-fly list. Former Senator Ted Kennedy is on the no-fly list. We need to clean up that list first.

We also need to get the trusted shipper program working. The American Pilots' Association says that we have 1,000 trusted shippers who are not so trusted because they are sending all sorts of packages and letters onto the airplanes that are not even checked. There is a huge exposure there but we are ignoring that while we are chasing stuff that really does not--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie)

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member but I must give the hon. member for Western Arctic a chance to respond.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington

Madam Speaker, a witness who appeared before the transport committee this morning is one of the chief executive officers of a very large security firm from Europe that conducts most of the aviation security on the ground there. His comments about what has happened over the past decade is that after 9/11 we created an aura of paranoia and, in some cases, delusion about what was correct in terms of aviation security, the need for information and the use of the security apparatus that we have put in place. He said that we needed to review that.

What we have here is probably one of the last gasps of the American empire in its desire, through its paranoia, to carry forward this information gathering system in a way that is really not appropriate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie)

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 Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Poverty; the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre, Canadian Heritage; the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Harmonized Sales Tax.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to enter into the debate on Bill C-42 and to follow the lead of my colleague from Western Arctic who gave a very impassioned speech outlining not only some of the shortfalls of this bill but cautioning us about how this bill would compromise Canadians' right to privacy.

We should frame the argument on two basic points. First, the public has a right to know everything that its government is doing with its money and everything it is doing in terms of the administration of the programs and policies. That is an absolute fundamental right and it is enshrined in the Access to Information Act, which I call the freedom of information act. Freedom of information, I argue, is the oxygen democracy breathes. It underpins and forms the foundation of the western democracy that we enjoy.

Just as important and equal to and parallel with the public's right to know what its government is doing is the truism that the public also has the right to privacy and the government does not have any absolute right to know everything that citizens are doing. That would smack of big brother, an Orwellian nature of things. As Canadians we need to be ever vigilant to recognize and enshrine those two principles.

We in the House of Commons are charged with the responsibility to not only defend and uphold those fundamental rights and freedoms but we are also charged with the obligation to enhance, strengthen, reinforce and buttress those fundamental rights and freedoms. As elected members of Parliament and as the custodians of those rights, we should never entertain a bill that may undermine, erode, diminish, shrink or reduce in any way those very principles by which we define ourselves as Canadians.

When a bill likes this comes along under the guise of national security, the other opposition parties blindly rush to it.

I began my remarks by recognizing and paying tribute to my colleague from Western Arctic for reading this bill and blowing the whistle on the predictable consequences of going forward in this direction. I am surprised there are no other champions of these fundamental rights and freedoms in the House of Commons who are willing to join us in the defence of these fundamental principles.

I want to point out as well perhaps the mother of all contradictions in terms of the Conservatives' views on privacy. They tie themselves in this Gordian Knot, this pretzel logic that they have because, on the one hand, they do away with the innocuous and necessary long form census, something that provinces, minority groups, organizations and institutions rely on, under the guise that it is an intrusion on the privacy of Canadians.

Any time one wants to amend a clause in a contract the first thing the party should ask is whether there has been a problem and, if so, what the nature of the problem is.

A former minister of foreign affairs from Quebec spouted off that he had thousands of complaints regularly coming into his office about the long form census. When challenged to show some of those thousands of complaints, he modified his remarks by saying that he had many, often and frequent complaints. When challenged to show some of those complaints, he said that he had people contact his office complaining. When put again to the challenge, he could not produce a single complaint.

I believe there has been only one incident in the Canadian judicial system of a person being prosecuted and charged with the offence of not filling out the long form census because it was mandatory. One test case went all the way and it was found that the woman did not comply with the legislation.

In spite of the absence of any empirical evidence or any body of complaints, the government stripped away a necessary and innocuous long form census, but, again, in buying a pig in a poke, it seemed willing to strip away one of the most fundamental rights and freedoms that Canadians enjoyed, and that is the right to privacy. It traded that away at an international tribunal.

Nobody gave the Conservative government a mandate to go to Washington and trade away the fundamental constitutional rights of the people of Canada. In fact, I would argue that constitutional rights cannot be negotiated away. Rights are not assigned to people by virtue of some document. They are the inherent rights of Canadians. The right to privacy is one of those.

Yet in a very cavalier, sloppy and cowardly way, the Conservative government has entered into this agreement and it seeks to have the Parliament of Canada ratify it. I say “no”. It will not get the New Democratic Party members of Parliament ratifying this document.

I call it cowardly because the government clearly went into that set of negotiations on its knees. It was not standing on its hind legs. It was bargaining from a position of weakness and it was accepting whatever was handed to it, without taking any steps to defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians.

I want to point out that this document finds its origins and is an extension of and materially similar to in the atrocity of the American do not fly list, resonant in, maintained and operated by Washington. My colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, pointed out that in fact I am on that stupid list and cannot get off it. So was the minister of defence, Bill Graham. The Canadian minister of defence was on an American do not fly list and was unable to board a domestic aircraft in his own country. That is how insane this do not fly list is.

This document will extrapolate, expand on and compound the ridiculous situation we see ourselves in with that do not fly list. I could not get my name off that list for love nor money. First, people could not find out where it was and then they could not find out who to talk to. Then after six weeks of trying, we finally got a phone number, a 1-800 number in the United States, which told us to send our birth certificates, our passports, our marriage licences, our driver's licences and in six weeks to three months, a message would be sent back us, telling us whether we could get off that list.

I am not going to send all my documents away to some black hole in some basement bunker in the Pentagon. That is not what a Canadian member of Parliament does when he wants to board an airplane in his own country to fly from home to work and back. That is the absurd nature of this.

Nobody took any steps to protect Canadians when the government entered into this agreement. I do not believe any third party foreign nation has a right to know my credit card information, who I am travelling with, my hotel, my medical condition, any tours or car rentals, or the names people I meet with while I am there, just because I get on an airplane to fly to Aruba for a holiday.

That is the privileged information the Government of Canada traded away and not just to one party but to all the parties to this agreement: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama, the Dominican Republic, the United States and the European Union. We do not even know all the terms and conditions of this deal because they remain secret. We do know the terms and conditions of the deal between the European Union and the United States, and it is shocking.

This personal information can be held by the United States for 40 years, shared with other countries without the knowledge of the host country, us, or the individual. Passengers will have no idea if this information is being trade around like party favours at some kind of a confab between those member countries or countries that are stipulated to this treaty.

The United States can unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises us of the change. Who would negotiate a deal like that? That is not a deal between partners, when one side can unilaterally amend it at any time just by notifying the other side. That means the Americans can inform Canada tomorrow, or as soon as we ratify this, that they are going to change all the terms and conditions of it. I do not think the government was defending our best interests when it went to Washington and entered into this arrangement with the United States.

I do not know what forces were driving the government's reasoning to enter into this, but it certainly was not upholding the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians, those freedoms by which we define ourselves as Canadians.

It is our job as elected members of Parliament to uphold, strengthen and enhance freedoms, not trade them away at the bargaining table for God knows what. In fact, the government is like Jack and the Beanstalk. It traded away our cow for three beans that will probably never sprout.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Don Davies

New Democratic Party

Mr. Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I want to focus for a moment on the question of democracy. One of the worst aspects of the bill is that a decision on a Canadian citizen's travel plans would be made by an institution in a foreign country, in this case the United States. My hon. colleague has already talked about how frustrating and impossible it is to get redress from that institution.

There is a concept in democracy of no taxation without representation. The idea is that those who made decisions over our lives should be democratically accountable to us.

Could he comment on the failure of democracy in this case by having the rights of Canadians determined by a foreign body that has no democratic accountability to citizens? We have no ability to challenge the determination, to go to an elected official or to vote someone out of office who fails to take action on our behalf because those officials are all in a foreign country. I am interested in my hon. colleague's comments on that aspect.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Madam Speaker, there are two points in law that I could point out today for the benefit of anyone listening.

First, it is a principle of natural justice that with any regulation that imposes a restriction on people or governs people in any way, there be an avenue of recourse, that there be a grievance procedure of some kind to allow people to file complaints or correct an error. It was clearly an error that got me on the do not fly list, but there is no avenue of recourse for me to file a grievance, correct the error and get myself off of it.

In this much more expansive and comprehensive treaty we are entering into, there are far more details we would want to study. First, people have a right to know if they are on that list. Second, they have a right to know how they got on that list and by what qualifications, et cetera. Third, in any sense of fairness and natural justice, they need to have an avenue of recourse.

The second point in law is that a person can be presumed to have intended the probable consequences of his or her actions. We have to be aware of that as we go forward with the bill. People could be presumed to have intended the probable consequences of their actions with this bill and that is the erosion of the right to privacy of Canadians. They are educated and know better.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, the member and I have worked together quite a bit on a few issues. One issue he has raised, and I have also raised it often, is the whole issue of legislation including a requirement to have regulations or subsequent information, which Parliament never sees after a bill has gone through the entire legislative process.

The point the member raises is that the disclosure requirements in this bill should have been fully negotiated, in my view, in advance. They are still in process and we will not know the final answer. It really makes it very difficult for parliamentarians to do a thorough job and make an informed assessment about whether there are in fact privacy breaches.

Based on what the Privacy Commissioner knows at this time, she has not concluded there are breaches. It does not mean that there may not be. The member has a point and I give him an opportunity to comment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Madam Speaker, it is shocking. In most legislation it is true that the devil is in the details and they are often in regulations put into effect after we are finished debating a bill in the House of Commons. In this case, a worse situation exists.

Article 5 of the European Union-United States deal is that the United States may unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises the European Union of the change. This has happened once already. Not only would we be buying a pig in a poke and we are not satisfied with the current terms and conditions, but the U.S. can unilaterally and arbitrarily amend the agreement just by notifying us. Yet the inverse is not true.

The other party to this so-called agreement may not unilaterally amend the agreement, only the United States can. What crack group of chimpanzees did we send there to negotiate this agreement. We should put a bag on—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie)

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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March 1, 2011