IN THE HOUSE ~ Debate ~ C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act
February 18th, 2011 - 4:00am
40th Parliament, 3rd Session
C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, as members know, there were headlines in the media today about hackers from China who were attempting to access the House of Commons' computers. Of course, that is a matter of some real concern, because it would expose confidential information.
If we set aside that issue, we have a government that is willing to hand over to the United States, Panama or any country that basically asks for it, confidential information that should be protected. This is the appalling aspect of the Conservatives' bill. Although it has made loud noises about hackers endeavouring to access the House of Commons' computers, it is actually offering the United States government, the Panamanian government or any government that wants it, personal credit card and personal health care information and everything else that is on the passenger name record.
I want to ask the member for Hamilton Mountain how she thinks the Conservatives could possibly justify this hypocrisy.
She mentioned the census, and we are concerned about hackers getting into the House of Commons' computers. However, we basically have a Conservative government that is willing to hand over, wholesale, Canadians' confidential information to any foreign government that requests it. It is absolutely absurd.
How can the Conservatives justify this?
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed very much the speech from the member for Halifax.
The parliamentary secretary should know better than to raise what was a patent hypocrisy on this issue. First, the reality is that other countries, such as the European Union, negotiated agreements that go far beyond what Canada even attempted to get.
Second, it is simply not true, as the member for Halifax knows, that this affects just the United States. It affects any foreign state, Panama, Colombia. Any state that wants to go into Canadian bedrooms, get confidential Canadian health records, confidential credit card information, they can do it because this bill provides for it.
It is almost as if Conservatives have not even read the bill and do not even know what is in the bill. As usual, it is the NDP that carefully reads the legislation and brings forward all these concerns that are felt widely in the population.
Canadians certainly get it. The Conservatives do not and they seem beholden to this incredibly radical ideological agenda that they have to the right, where confidential information is only valuable if it is Conservative confidential information. They do not want disclose bathrooms; they want to disclose confidential health records, credit card information and who people sleep with.
I would like to ask the member for Halifax how this plays in her area of the country? How do Canadians react once they hear about it? It is true that members of the press gallery have not been doing their due diligence. They should be reporting a lot more on this. They are starting to wake up. They are starting to understand the implications for Canadians' confidential information.
When the member raises it with the public in her riding of Halifax, how do Canadians react to this wholesale disclosure of Canadians' confidential information?
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by addressing what the parliamentary secretary said just a few moments ago in the House.
All of us in the House were appalled by the events of September 11, 2001, 10 years ago, by the loss of life.
The reality is that the violent individuals who got on those planes were able to do so because of cutbacks in security screening at airports that had been privatized, as we know, like Logan airport in Boston, where there were underpaid baggage screeners and inadequate equipment. All of the cutbacks that took place during the Bush years had a contributory factor to box cutters being brought onto those aircraft. All of us lament the loss of life. We mourn for all who died that day.
However, the reality is that this bill has nothing to do with improving security and screening in airports so that people cannot bring box cutters on an aircraft. It has nothing to do with that. It has nothing do with all of the intelligence shortfalls that were present at that time and the mistakes that were made by the government that have been very well documented.
Since this bill has nothing to do with that, I think all of us in the House would prefer that the Conservatives stop raising that in an inappropriate way. It does not respect what happened that day. It does not respect the dead. The government tries to use that horrible day in a way to score some cheap political points. That is what the Conservatives are doing with this bill.
The bill is very simple. Proposed subsection 4.83 tells the airlines that they can provide to a competent authority in a foreign state, whether we are talking about the United States, Panama, Colombia or any other state that demands it, any information in the operator's control. What does that mean?
What is in the operator's control is the passenger name record. In the passenger name record, the health record of the individual is present. If an individual has health conditions and it is noted in the passenger name record, that information is available to those authorities through this bill.
Credit card information is available in the passenger name record and can be made available to foreign authorities. I mentioned some of them a few moments ago, the United States or Panama. Given the Panamanian government's record on the laundering of dirty drug money, it is entirely inappropriate for confidential credit card information to be made available to Panamanian authorities or to Colombian authorities.
As was noted by my colleague from Halifax, hotel reservations, including information regarding sleeping arrangements, whether it is a single or double room, and how many individuals are travelling together is also made available. This is confidential information. There is no doubt about that.
I will cite testimony from witnesses in a few moments, hopefully today but if not, when we resume after the parliamentary riding week. The confidential information that is made available to those authorities is very clearly something the vast majority of Canadians would not want to have shared. It is very clear that this is a vastly inappropriate bill.
As has been mentioned by my colleagues in the NDP, other governments were asked to do the same thing by the American administration. Other governments said no and negotiated different arrangements. Only Canada is saying it is going to make this confidential information available to authorities wherever they are in the world, no matter how corrupt the regime. That information can be made available.
What does that mean, for example, for British Columbians? The province that I come from has heavy air traffic that goes to Asia. Many of my constituents, in fact the majority of them, come from Asia. They fly to the Philippines, China, Korea and Taiwan. In flying across the Pacific, they fly across the sea waters off of Alaska.
What the government is saying to Canadians of Asian origin is that their personal information will be shared. Inevitably, for the vast majority of flights that take place out of Vancouver going through to Asia, their information, if this bill were to be passed, would be shared.
That is completely unacceptable. We have had a whole variety of cases that have been brought forward as to how people can actually be denied access to flights that they have paid for. There is a variety of individuals who will be raising those issues. I hope in the time I have today I can raise those issues.
With all that confidential information, perhaps it does not surprise me that Conservatives do not care and are willing to share that confidential information. We have seen the government talk out of both sides of its mouth on a daily basis, pretending to be about ethics and responsibility with all of the crises and scandals that we are seeing and that have been enacted on the floor of the House of Commons, even this week.
We have heard the government talk about confidentiality, concerned about the number of bathrooms that people have to report. Yet it is willing to share confidential information about what kind of sleeping arrangements in hotels Canadians are undertaking overseas.
That does not surprise me about the government. The Conservative government has been in power already far too long, and the government is desperately in need of a change.
What does surprise me is the seeming willingness of the Liberal Party to support this legislation. A previous Liberal prime minister very boldly, I thought, stood in the House and said that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation. That was a seminal moment in our nation's history. That was a courageous statement that he made as justice minister. He was a Liberal prime minister.
Today's Liberal Party is willing to sell out that confidentiality. It is willing to say that not only the Canadian state has a place in the bedrooms of Canadians when they are travelling abroad, but that the Panamanian government or the American government, or the Colombian government has a place in the bedrooms of Canadians when they are travelling abroad.
This is the absurdity of the bill that has been brought forward. It shares confidential health information. It shares confidential credit card information. It shares confidential accommodation information when Canadians are travelling abroad.
It surprises and stuns me that the Liberal Party, with that heritage, is unwilling to stand in the House, as the NDP has been standing up for a number of days now, to say that this legislation is completely inappropriate. The Liberal Party that has that heritage should be willing to stand up 40 years later and continue to say that this is absolutely irresponsible and inappropriate. It should be willing to stand and say that this is not something we should adopt as parliamentarians and that the government should go back to work and negotiate the same type of agreements that other countries have negotiated with the United States.
It is not as if it were impossible to renegotiate the agreement. The government has not even tried. We have seen that failure in case after case where the government is unable in any way to stand up for Canadian interests.
The Conservative government has been called in this House by my colleague, the member for Windsor West, the doormat of North America, and it is true that it is a doormat. The Conservative government is often considered to be a bully with Canadians, but once the Conservatives go abroad and negotiate, they are doormats. We have seen that capitulation with the softwood lumber sellout. We have seen it with the buy America sellout, which gave access to American companies to Canada, but did not provide access for Canadian companies to the United States. The Canadian government has not even monitored that. It has just given up representing the interests of Canadian companies at all.
We have seen that with the $5.50 levy that has just come into place. The American tourism industry would be willing to stand with Canadians. It would be willing to advocate and we would surely get the type of agreement to remove that levy, but we have seen the government not act at all. When the government--