Bill C-32 (Historical)
Canada--Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Republic of Costa Rica
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Pierre Pettigrew Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Private Members' Business
April 16th, 2002 / 6 p.m.
Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Motion M-431, moved by the member for Kootenay--Columbia, is to also to amend the Copyright Act, by repealing subsections 30.8(8) and 30.9(6), which would allow broadcasters to stop paying royalties on ephemeral recordings.
May I remind our colleague from Kootenay--Columbia that royalties are based on the legal notion of property, and that royalty protection normally ends 50 years following the death of the author.
On numerous occasions, the Bloc Quebecois has advocated for the legitimate rights of authors and artists to earn a decent living from the revenue generated by their creations.
When the member for Kootenay--Columbia tells us that they were not earned legitimately and that radio stations have costs and rent to pay, I could respond in turn that artists also have rent and costs to pay.
The federal government made a commitment to ensure that the Canadian copyright system remains one of the best and most progressive systems in the world. However, this must not be done at the expense of the protection of authors and artists.
The House gave serious consideration and held lengthy discussions when it established royalties. I would like to remind the House that these authors earn their living from royalties paid to them for what they have composed or created. Copyright exists as much to reward the creative process as the dissemination of knowledge and cultural content, and it encourages access to this knowledge and content. Many artists earn a very modest living and often their income is below the poverty level. Far too many artists earn between $7,000 and $12,000.
What is the purpose of this motion? How do we define ephemeral recordings? Allow me to explain it. This motion would exempt broadcasters from having to pay royalties when they transfer documents belonging to authors to their hard drive. Let us call this a copy. This transfer to a hard drive is done for the purposes of facilitating broadcasting.
The computer allows them, for example, to select all of the songs on a given subject, such as spring, women or another subject, without having to search through all of their collection manually. This process is therefore economically advantageous because it is quicker. So, broadcasters are, in fact, saving.
Before the advent of the new technologies, this selection was made by employees who were remunerated for their work. But the new method saves money, and these savings still do not seem to be enough. Now, what broadcasters want is to no longer have to pay the royalty when they transfer music or art to their hard drive because there is no immediate distribution. However, this transfer would never be done if the goal was not distribution.
Even though distributors are already realizing considerable savings through these technologies, they do not want to pay the royalties on the transfer, arguing that there is no distribution at that particular time. However, the body representing authors is formally opposed on their behalf to deleting this clause because this use of the work of creators is a copy, and there is no reason why creators should not be paid for their work.
If the member for Kootenay--Columbia had attended our committee's meeting this morning, he would have heard our questions about this. We asked certain stakeholders working on copyright what their position on this issue was, and this is what they told us.
Before Bill C-32, there was no exemption. Since the 30-day exemption, it is rare, not to say exceptional, for distributors to ask for this exemption. We also have a request from the member for Kootenay--Columbia reminding of the situation faced by creators.
The Copyright Act has evolved considerably since 1924. I would like to take a look at its history. The act has adapted to the new realities. From 1988 to 1994, four amendments were made to the Copyright Act, most of them in order to allow Canada to meet NAFTA and WTO obligations.
In April 1996, the government introduced Bill C-32, which recognized the neighbouring rights of artists and record producers, the implementation of a system of what is called “copies for personal use”, that is the right to charge royalties on blank audio tapes, the establishment of new exceptions, such as ephemeral copies.
Today, broadcasters want to do away with the concession for ephemeral recordings. What did they do prior to Bill C-32?
I am speaking today in order to remind the House that it has a duty to continue to protect artists despite all the pressures that may be brought to bear on some of its members to restrict application of the Copyright Act.
The House must take care to defend the rights of authors and performers to be paid for what they do, and paid every time their work is used or broadcast. I see no valid reason why creators would not be paid for their work and for the copies made of it.
I cannot understand why this motion is being brought forward now in the House, when the hearings on bills relating to the royalties payable in Canada for the reproduction of musical works by a radio station other than CBC and Radio-Canada are about to start, on April 22. I would like to offer an example.
The broadcasting association, via the agency that administers their royalty system, has proposed the following: television agencies would pay 25% of their gross revenues to them for a monthly licence, if their request is accepted. On the other hand, SODRAC's suggestion on behalf of the authors at these same hearings will be 1.96% of their revenue.
The conclusion we can reach from this example is that, when broadcasters want to be paid royalties they are very hard-line and demand high amounts, but when they are the ones to pay the royalties, they want the figure to be low.
The Bloc Quebecois will therefore oppose the motion of the hon. member for Kootenay--Columbia, because the work of authors and creators must be protected, and this is an essential value. Ephemeral recordings can indeed turn out to be permanent, and if this is the case, the authors will not be paid for their work. Therefore, ephemeral production rights are already an exception to copyright. I would call upon hon. members to become more aware of this issue.
This motion is not votable, as we know. It was, however, important to the Bloc Quebecois that we contribute our view to today's debate, in order to allow our creative artists to earn a decent living and to ensure that they gain as much as possible from their creative work.
Private Members' Business
April 16th, 2002 / 5:55 p.m.
Serge Marcil Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the motion before the House. The motion is for the government to draft legislation deleting sections 30.8(8) and 30.9(6) of the Copyright Act.
In the Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada undertook to make Canadian copyright legislation among the most modern and avant-garde in the world.
The country needs a modern copyright regime. This regime supports Canadian authors and artists, as well as the cultural industries to which they belong. It is a powerful means of promoting innovation, entrepreneurship and success in the new economy.
The member for Kootenay--Columbia put forward Motion M-431. He is calling on the government to draft legislation deleting sections 30.8(8) and 30.9(6) of the Copyright Act.
In my view, the motion is premature, because this is one of the issues which will be addressed in the report to be tabled in parliament by the Minister of Industry, as required under section 92 of the Copyright Act.
In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada held in Bishop v. Télé-Métropole, that ephemeral recordings are recordings within the meaning of the Copyright Act. Following this ruling, broadcasters had to obtain the permission of copyright holders to make such recordings. They argued that the procedure was onerous and costly and that these recordings were merely incidental to the actual broadcasting.
As a result, through Bill C-32, an act to amend the Copyright Act, passed in 1997, the government added sections 30.8 and 30.9. Under these sections, broadcasters who are authorized to broadcast a live program, a sound recording or a performance which is part of a sound recording may, without seeking the authorization of the copyright holder, make a single copy, also called an ephemeral or temporary recording, either for time shifting or for the purpose of converting a recording into an appropriate format for transmission.
That having been said, sections 30.8(8) and 30.9(6) also provide that if a licence is available from a collective society, a broadcaster must use the licence to make the ephemeral recording; he must also pay the required royalties.
As for French recordings, SODRAC, the Société des droits de reproduction des auteurs et compositeurs, was created in order to issue licences for the production of ephemeral recordings, among other things. As a result, Quebec broadcasters have been paying royalties for some time.
Outside Quebec there was no body authorized to issue licences. Recently the CMRRA, the Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency, converted to a licencing body in order to issue licences for the production of recordings. The agency has provided the Copyright Board with the list of charges it plans to implement. The board is due to hold hearings on this around mid-2002.
In June 2001, the Government of Canada began consultations and a reform to bring Canadian copyright legislation more up to date. The document entitled “A Framework for Copyright Reform” sets out the context and mechanisms of that reform and indicates the federal government's intention to take a step-by-step approach to examining reform proposals, consulting the Canadian public and amending the law.
Section 92 of the Copyright Act stipulates that the provisions and operation of the act must be reviewed. It also requires the Minister of Industry to report to both houses of parliament by September 2002. Subsection 92(2) requires a parliamentary committee to review this report.
During that review, the public will have the opportunity to present its views. The committee is required to report to parliament within a year of the tabling of the report required under section 92.
As the government has stipulated with the publication of its Framework for Copyright Reform, the report required in section 92 will set out the government's program with respect to copyright. More specifically, it will set out the list of questions to be addressed subsequently. These will be organized according to certain precise criteria, and then prioritized. One of the points to be included will be the wording of sections 30.8 and 30.9.
In conclusion, I would say that it is better to settle this question within the context of the procedure defined in section 92.
Private Members' Business
April 16th, 2002 / 5:45 p.m.
Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC
Motion No. 431
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should draft legislation deleting sections 30.8(8) and 30.9(6) of the Copyright Act.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to stand and speak to the issue because the minister of heritage in her wisdom has decided not to do anything about it. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that she is sitting on her hands with respect to the issue.
I will briefly describe what Motion No. 431 is about. In 1997 when the Copyright Act was amended and brought up to standard by Bill C-32 two clauses were inserted, namely clauses 30.8(8) and 30.9(6). The issue is about copyright and the fact that artists should be able to gain from commercial playing of their performances.
I want it to be crystal clear: I and the Canadian Alliance Party are in favour of the principle of copyright and compensation for people whose performances are played by commercial radio stations in any form, particularly where gain is made by the performance.
During the hearings we looked at two issues. First, we looked at prerecorded recordings which are covered by section 30.9 of the act. Second, we looked at ephemeral recordings which are covered by section 30.8.
Ephemeral recordings are things that just happen. For example, let us suppose a Santa Claus parade went by a television camera and the camera captured the image but also captured a band playing White Christmas or another popular song in both video and audio. It would then presumably be replayed on a cable network at a later point.
Prerecorded recordings are obvious. They occur where people perform for the purpose of putting their music on some kind of medium which can be physically carried, sent through the mail, walked down the street or put into a tape player, CD player or whatever the case may be.
We looked at the fact that there are times when music which is typically in digital format is transferred from a CD to a direct drive, MP3 or other device. When music is transferred digitally it is called a transfer of medium.
I will restate for the third time that I and the Canadian Alliance are in favour of fair compensation for artists whose music is played on radio stations when the playing of the music yields revenue to the radio station. The artists should get to share in the revenue. I believe there is agreement on the part of all parties with respect to this.
Sections 30.8 and 30.9 of the Copyright Act focus on when the digital image of music is transferred from one medium to another but not heard or played. That is what the exclusion is about.
I will read from the act as it exists:
30.9 (1) It is not an infringement of copyright for a broadcasting undertaking to reproduce in accordance with this section a sound recording, or a performer's performance or work that is embodied in a sound recording, solely for the purpose of transferring it to a format appropriate for broadcasting, if the undertaking
(a) owns the copy of the sound recording, performer's performance or work and that copy is authorized by the owner of the copyright;
(b) is authorized to communicate the sound recording, performer's performance or work to the public by telecommunication;
(c) makes the reproduction itself, for its own broadcasts--
I will not read all the terms and conditions but, as technology advances and as we transfer this music, which is still in an unheard electronic digital format when it is being transferred from a CD to an MP3 player for other reasons, they are clearly there to get around the problems.
However, the collectives who were involved in the copyright hearings asked that the following clause giving this exemption be inserted:
This section does not if a licence is available from a collective society to reproduce the sound recording, performer's performance or work.
In other words, if I were Bryan Adams and I had a recording that was to be transferred and I was not a member of a collective, I, as the artist, would not be able to go after this unintended copyright fee because it is an unintended copyright fee. No value is received for this transfer of medium.
What has happened is that most of the action on this has been because the artists are generally members of a collective. What was intended to be an exclusion really is not an exclusion after all because the collectives are now pursuing it. This is really unfortunate.
I go back to the oral remarks of David Basskin of the CMPA to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on November 7, 1996. On page 8 he stated:
Music publishers recognize that such copying [Radio transfers of format] is integral to the operation of radio stations, and also realize that any publisher foolish enough to demand payment for such copying would likely find himself frozen out of the station's playlist in short order.
Here is a commitment by somebody who was in a position of authority saying that he would not do this.
On November 7, 1996, he further stated:
I cannot speak for everybody, but I think I can speak for my board of directors who represent the largest and best-known interests. On the radio side, we don't seek to change the status quo. If this results in an agreement at a very low or gratis rate, I think we'd be entirely happy. I can't predict, but we'll certainly try our best and we'll keep the committee apprised of our work in this regard.
Not once but twice in that same committee this member said that his collective was undertaking not to do what it in fact was doing. It is presently before the copyright board trying to get a fee attached to the transfer of medium.
One collective, SODRAC, which was in place in 1997, said that it had an arrangement with CBC stating that when it had a transfer of medium with CBC it would pay for it. There was pressure from SODRAC literally days before the legislation came to a conclusion in committee to insert clause 8 into the legislation. The CMRRA, which is the Canadian Mechanical Reproduction Rights Agency, said that not only was it not collecting royalties but that it also had no intention of ever doing it. These collectives existed at the time but collected royalties for different things. After clause 8 was included and clause 9 as another clause, it developed a new sideline which allowed it to collect from another source.
This is completely unfair. We pointed out in committee that the insertion of these clauses would basically allow the collectives to supersede, wipe out or negate this very logical, rational and reasonable exception. When we pointed that out we were told by the collectives that they would not do this. This is a law that simply cannot stand because the collectives have not kept their word. In actual fact I could never understand why clause 8 and clause 6 were put in in the first place.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage should realize that this is an unfair form of revenue collection from the commercial broadcasters. It is unfair and unwarranted and is ill-found money. The collection of this accidental fee was never intended by the legislators, myself included, who were on the committee nor by the members of the House.
When talking about business, we are talking about a bottom line. Any business in Canada has a responsibility to pay its taxes, fees, rent and to pay its royalties.
This is the fourth time, but I want to make it crystal clear. I and the Canadian Alliance are not opposed to the collection of royalties. We believe that a person has a right to his or her property. If that property is being used for commercial purposes and there is commercial gain, there should be payment to the holder, the owner of that property.
By virtue of these two clauses of exception, those copyright holders are able to get their hands into an area to extract money which was never intended by the legislators.
I have brought forward this motion to prompt the heritage minister, to prompt the heritage department and to prompt my other colleagues in the House to make the necessary change so that our copyright system is fair and balanced.
February 22nd, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the Copyright Act, Bill C-48, at second reading. Since we will be supporting the bill at second reading, I will keep my comments brief and to the bill.
First let me say that I do have a bit of personal interest in copyright because, as some may know, in my younger years I wandered around the country with a guitar making my living writing and playing music so it is something that is dear to me.
Before commenting on Bill C-48 I would like to read into the record the summary provided as part of the package announcing the bill, which states:
This enactment amends the Copyright Act to provide that retransmitters who currently benefit from the compulsory licence regime provided for by section 31 (such as cable distribution undertakings and direct-to-home satellite distribution undertakings) will continue to do so, while allowing other retransmitters who meet the conditions prescribed by regulation to also benefit from that regime.
On December 12, 2001, in a Government of Canada news release, the heritage minister is quoted as saying that:
--this bill will strengthen Canada's already vibrant broadcasting system and protect the rights of Canadian content creators. It will provide much needed clarity.
There is an expression, “there is more to this than meets the eye”. Unfortunately in this case there is far less to this than meets the eye.
The purpose of Bill C-48 is to amend the Copyright Act, which was originally amended under Bill C-32 in 1996. At that time, due to pressure exerted on the committee by the current heritage minister, there were at least two significant deficiencies in the resulting legislation. Furthermore, due to interdepartmental rivalry between the two responsible ministries, heritage and industry, and to a certain extent the personal rivalry between the ministers of the day, the revisions to the Copyright Act in 1996 yielded some questionable results. Those rivalries between ministries and ministers continued into December 2001 and the lack of agreement is reflected in the bill.
Canadian content creators and the broadcast industry deserve better. It is their property and their intellectual property that is being stolen by certain distribution systems and cable and satellite providers. Creators should be covered by copyright provisions. In addition, the industry should have the property for which they have paid good money protected.
It is for this reason that the official opposition will be voting in favour of Bill C-48. We believe in the principle of protection of property rights. However, the heritage minister's statement that the bill will provide clarity could most charitably be described as an exaggeration.
Clause 2, or proposed subsection 31(1) of the Copyright Act, defines retransmitter. In this clause it was anticipated that we would have a specific definition of a retransmitter but let us read the clause:
Paragraph 2(1) (b) states that a retransmitter is:
a person who retransmits a signal and meets the qualifying conditions referred in to in paragraph (3)(b)--
Let us look at paragraph (3)(b), which states:
The Governor in Council may make regulations
(b) prescribing qualifying conditions for the purpose of paragraph (b) of the definition “retransmitter” in subsection (1);--
Before everybody's eyes begin to roll, let me describe the net effect of these two clauses. The effect is to set up the governor in council, which is the cabinet working to the recommendations of the heritage and industry departments, to come out with regulations at some time in the future. The problem is that the Liberal government consistently falls back to creating simple enabling legislation in parliament so that the cabinet, armed with recommendations from the bureaucracy, can enact whatever the bureaucracy thinks is best at some future date.
This creates a situation of removing the decision making process from parliament. We are elected as members of parliament to come here to make decisions, not to create enabling legislation so that bureaucrats can do what they want when they want.
It can be argued that creating precise legislation means that as the technology changes the bureaucrats will have to regularly return to parliament. Therefore, with Bill C-48 functioning as enabling legislation rather than precise legislation, the bureaucrats can be flexible.
While this has a certain intellectual appeal, the result is nonetheless the same. The government is dealing duly elected members of parliament out of the process. A classic example of this situation exists in the previous copyright legislation, Bill C-32. A provision was made for a levy on blank tapes. The levy came into effect on blank tapes with the passing of the legislation. However, regulations were then put forward to the copyright review board.
Since the passing of the original legislation, the board has determined that this levy will apply not only to blank tapes but to blank CD recording medium and it likely eventually will apply to blank DVDs. Furthermore, the original levy has increased considerably based on the submissions to the copyright board by the creators, so the effect is that the parliamentary process and the representatives duly elected by the people have been sidelined by the government. Furthermore, the board is at liberty to continue expanding the mediums to which this levy will apply as well as being free to increase the levy itself.
While the creators, using the revenue base collected from these provisions, can prepare representations to the Copyright Board, directly influencing their decisions, the individual consumer who is impacted by these extra charges could not possibly afford either the time or the money required to develop proper presentation.
In order for the official opposition to vote in favour of Bill C-48 when it leaves committee, we will require one of two things: an amendment that adds to the specific definition of retransmitter, one that will act in a way to protect the property and the intellectual property rights of the creators and the broadcast industry, or at a minimum, the tabling of detailed regulatory information by the heritage and industry departments.
We want to support the bill because we believe in property rights protection. We look forward to either of those two avenues being undertaken by either the government or the departments concerned. Parliamentarians must be returned to their rightful place in the legislative process.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
December 18th, 2001 / 5:05 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act--Chapter No. 40.
Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 32.
Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 33.
Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Republic of Costa Rica--Chapter No. 28.
Bill C-34, an act to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 29.
Bill C-36, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Official Secrets Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act and other acts, and to enact measures respecting the registration of charities in order to combat terrorism--Chapter No. 41.
Bill C-38, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act--Chapter No. 35.
Bill C-40, an act to correct certain anomalies, inconsistencies and errors and to deal with other matters of a non-controversial and uncomplicated nature in the Statutes of Canada and to repeal certain provisions that have expired, lapsed or otherwise ceased to have effect--Chapter No. 34.
Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act--Chapter No. 38.
Bill C-45, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002--Chapter No. 39.
Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs)--Chapter No. 37.
Bill S-10, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Poet Laureate)--Chapter No. 36.
Bill S-31, an act to implement agreements , conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Slovenia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Senegal, the Czech Republic and Germany for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income--Chapter No. 30.
Bill S-33, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act--Chapter No. 31.
World Trade Organization
November 5th, 2001 / 5:10 p.m.
James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC
Mr. Chairman, it is my pleasure to rise in the debate on the World Trade Organization.
I want to comment on the last presentation that was made. The member should have taken the opportunity to plug his own government in the passage of Bill C-32, the Costa Rican free trade bill. I know that it will bring great benefit to the member from P.E.I. in the expansion of potato trading down to Central America. In that approach I think the entire House can take credit because I believe that all the pro free trade parties, pro growth parties supported that and it is something for which we should all be proud.
Let me begin by saying few activities are as worthwhile as Canada's participation in the World Trade Organization. Just as most members of the House see the United Nations as having a role in maintaining and promoting world peace, it is certain that the agreements concluded under the framework of the World Trade Organization have helped to promote a stable trading regime and the prosperity which that brings.
Just as it would be unthinkable for Canada not to attend a session of the United Nations General Assembly, it should be inconceivable for us not to attend a WTO ministerial conference. Quite simply, our attendance at the upcoming WTO talks in Doha is vital. It is vital to Canada to defend and promote our interests at the table. It is vital that Canada be present so as to be able to participate and partake in all discussions which may occur.
The NDP and its supporters remain adamantly opposed to the World Trade Organization. The NDP's parliamentary website has a page called “NDP on Trade” and it features the following quote which is attributed to the party leader:
The WTO has been called “the mother of all backroom deals”—the greatest transfer of economic and political power in history...from communities and nation states into the hands of a small number of global corporations.
The same page alleges as fact that:
The WTO and related trade agreements are intended to be an economic constitution for the planet, yet they are written by, and almost entirely for, the world's largest corporations.
At the very same time as the NDP staunchly denounces the World Trade Organization, it calls on the United Nations to solve the world's problems including dealing with the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
On September 17 in the first question period after those horrific attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. and the skies over Pennsylvania, the NDP leader rose in question period to say:
The Statute of Rome must be amended to ensure that terrorism is defined as a specific crime against humanity and that terrorists are tried before the International Criminal Court.
She then called upon the Prime Minister to:
—assure the House that Canada will lead the way in fighting terrorism through multilateral democratic institutions such as the International Criminal Court.
Later that same day in her first speech she made in the House after the attacks, the NDP leader said:
This response must be carried out in accordance with the principle of the rule of law...This is a crime against humanity and an international court should mete out the punishment. No country should be called upon to be the judge, the jury and the executioner, least of all the country that has suffered the greatest loss.
The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council sitting independently of each other. There are 189 members of the general assembly. Canada currently is not a member of the security council.
Our permanent representative at the United Nations is Mr. Paul Heinbecker. I have never met Mr. Heinbecker but I am sure that he is an honourable man. I presume that he represents Canada well and that he follows the instructions given to him by the government.
I must say that Mr. Heinbecker's name is perhaps less well known to most Canadians than that of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, than that of the Minister for International Trade, than that of the Prime Minister, and that of the Minister of Finance. There is a very simple reason for this. Cabinet ministers are directly accountable to parliament. They are elected members of the House. They attend our debates and question period. They testify before standing committees. Even more important, they are responsible for implementing reports of standing committees.
Before Canada sent a ministerial delegation to the last WTO round in Seattle in 1999, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade travelled across Canada hearing from hundreds of witnesses. Various parties made submissions. Then in June 1999 the standing committee tabled both majority and minority reports. Truly every point of view was heard. Those views were reported to the minister and the government. I have every reason to believe that those views influenced the government's position.
Let me put it another way. The government listened to Canadians when devising its position before the Seattle WTO round in 1999. However the government went further. It also invited a whole bunch of non-elected civil society types to go along.
Not only did the Council of Canadians get to address the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade at various sessions across Canada and similar sessions held by the Senate committee advising the government, it also sent delegates as part of our government's delegation to Seattle.
The delegates had their say. Their point of view was heard and considered countless times. However, when a majority of Canadians did not agree with their position, they called the WTO anti-democratic and the mother of all backroom deals. I must admit that the NDP's opposition to the WTO baffles me and the official opposition.
At all WTO ministerial rounds, including the 1999 session in Seattle and the current session in Doha, Canada is represented by the minister of trade who, as I said earlier, is an elected member of the House and a member of the cabinet. The minister goes to these ministerial sessions armed with government positions that have been devised through broad, inclusive, nationwide consultations. This process is then described by the NDP and its supporters as “backroom” and “written entirely for the benefit of the world's largest corporations”.
Yet the NDP supports the International Court of Justice and the United Nations. I do not know who Canada supported as a nominee in the International Court of Justice or even when that nomination battle was. I do not recall any broad national consultation or report prepared by a standing committee of either the House or the Senate with a view to guiding the government's position.
In fact, even if this had occurred, Canada would have been just one of 189 member countries voting in the process. Yet when one considers that a justice of the court sits for nine years and might influence all kinds of cases, it is conceivable that the election of such individuals might rightly draw some scrutiny.
I have never heard members of the NDP decry the lack of scrutiny of the appointment of judges to the international court. Instead, they will applaud the United Nations and the International Court of Justice as allies in promoting the “principle of the rule of law”.
All Canadians believe in the rule of law. All Canadians also want fair, rules based trade. That is precisely what the WTO is all about. It is a forum in which elected Canadian cabinet ministers, after consulting Canadians, get to influence the rules which affect world trade. If every other nation had a similar process, it would be the most democratic setting of rules that is possible to imagine.
Because we are talking about ground rules rather than UN General Assembly resolutions, our participation in setting those rules gets a much higher level of scrutiny than might otherwise be possible. In spite of this, the NDP says:
The WTO operates behind closed doors, and has the power to strike down national laws, and enforce its decisions or impose sanctions.
Presumably then the NDP is opposed to collective bargaining. After all, it usually occurs behind closed doors and once a collective agreement has been agreed to, it does limit the rights of both parties. The employer cannot pay less than the agreed to wage and the employee cannot refuse to work without a valid reason.
Yet most Canadians, including myself, are in favour of collective bargaining, even though it happens behind closed doors. That is because the union and management generally go into these meetings after having consulted with various stakeholders. Collective bargaining may be behind closed doors, but very few people would describe it as anti-democratic in the way that the NDP describes the WTO.
It is shrill that members of the NDP continue to cite the now famous Ethyl Corporation case and yet they fail to point out that Canada's supreme court probably would have reached the same decision. Consider point 13 from the Ethyl Corporation's statement of claim:
The MMT Act does not prohibit the manufacture or use of MMT in Canada, it only requires that all MMT sold in Canadian unleaded gasoline be 100% Canadian. A domestic manufacturer of MMT can manufacture and distribute MMT for use in unleaded gasoline entirely within a province and not violate the MMT Act. If Ethyl wanted to maintain its presence in the Canadian octane enhancement market, it would be required to build a MMT manufacturing, blending and storage facility in each Canadian province.
The left would have us believe that the Ethyl case proves that chapter 11 prevents us from protecting the environment. Not true. If the federal government had outright banned the use of MMT in Canada regardless of where it was made, Ethyl would not have been able to prove the discrimination which was the centre point of winning its case.
If anyone is in doubt of this, just read the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in T1T2 Limited Partnership v Canada. That case was where the government, acting on an election promise, cancelled a questionable deal in which the Mulroney government had sold Pearson Airport terminals 1 and 2 to a consortium. When the government cancelled the deal, the investor sued for breach of contract and lost profits. The investor won and that is the Canadian way.
For Canadians, the WTO is not an imposition of foreign rules; it is a chance for us to influence the rules by which the world will trade. It will trade. It is a chance for us to export our standards of democracy, political accountability and integrity. It is an opportunity for us to use our considerable legal and technical expertise and not inconsiderable political sway to help deal with complex matters like the definition of subsidy in agriculture.
We owe it to the world to be there and to participate fully and with vigour. Much more important, given the power of trade to boost our standard of living, we owe it to all Canadians to participate and to be there with bells on.
Statements By Members
October 30th, 2001 / 2:10 p.m.
Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB
Mr. Speaker, two sugar refineries have closed in Canada and more will be closing out west if action is not taken now.
Bill C-32, the act to implement the free trade agreement with Costa Rica, cannot be viewed in isolation of the North American and global context since it would provide Costa Rica with substantial immediate duty free access and a phase out of Canada's refined sugar tariff.
The reciprocal provisions in the agreement would not provide Canadian sugar with any commercial export opportunity. Sugar should be excluded from such regional negotiations to prevent further job losses and refinery closures in Canada. The sugar deal with Costa Rica will set a precedent with upcoming negotiations with Central America.
Canada's sugar market is already the most open in the world. Our sugar industry does not depend on any domestic or export subsidies or other trade distorting policies. Our modest 8% tariff is important until the big players including the U.S. and EU reform their sugar policies. What is in question is not free trade but fair trade.
Export Development Act
October 30th, 2001 / 12:25 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Madam Speaker, we are now studying Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act.
Before anything else, I would remind the House what the key elements of this legislation are. The bill would enshrines in law the fact that before entering into a financing transaction the Export Development Corporation, whose name it changes incidentally, must take environmental considerations into consideration.
The bill leaves it up to the Export Development Corporation to establish its own environmental criteria and to determine the exceptions to the rules. It is rare to see a corporation be made both judge and defendant, when that corporation already does not comply with its own directives.
We will see that in detail later on. In her May 2001 report, the auditor general stated that, out of the 25 projects audited under the terms of reference determined by the corporation itself, she found 23 to be in violation of those terms of reference. I am referring to the Export Development Corporation.
The present bill adds nothing to the requirement for accountability on the part of that corporation. There is nothing in the bill about the disclosure of information or about public consultation.
As I said, the frame of reference is what the corporation assigns to itself, and there is really nothing in the bill to ensure that this framework is adequate to properly assess the environmental effects of projects submitted to it.
Moreover, the bill gives the rather strange discretionary power to the Minister of Finance and the Minister for International Trade to exempt a project from environmental assessment. The bill, in principle, gives exclusion from any of the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
I must admit that we are totally mystified by this choice. We pass environmental assessment legislation and then exempt the corporation from it, at the very time that it is being asked to put more effort into its environmental assessments.
Finally, this bill makes absolutely no mention of human rights.
As hon. members can see, this bill might appear ambitious, in light of the criticism there has been of the EDC in recent years. Once read, however, it can be seen to be a pretty lightweight piece of legislation.
I would take this opportunity to remind the House that the EDC was established in 1944, as the Export Credits Insurance Corporation, with a mandate to support and develop Canada's export trade. It was given the responsibility of providing credit insurance and guarantees to Canadian exporters. In 1969 it became a crown corporation and acquired the additional powers of being able to make direct loans to foreign borrowers, and to borrow against the government's credit to finance its activities.
The last change, made in 1993, now enables it to invest in capital stock, to lease assets to users outside Canada, to constitute subsidiaries, and to take part in joint ventures.
It is noteworthy that the EDC is self-funding, in that it receives no parliamentary votes for its activities. It derives its operating revenue from fees, premiums and loan interest.
In the year 2000, for instance, it reported net profits of $194 million, a 9.7% return on shareholder assets. Its assets would therefore be some $2.8 billion. That same year, hon. members will recall, the corporation estimated that it had supported exports and foreign investments to the tune of some $45 billion.
Finally, let us not forget that this crown corporation enjoys special status. It is not subject to the Access to Information Act. It is not subject to the Environmental Assessment Act. It is not regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, as is the case for all private enterprises. It does not pay income tax. It does not have to pay dividends. It can borrow money at favourable rates, thanks to the credit extended to the Government of Canada.
I think it must also be said that the Export Development Corporation has a highly developed secrecy policy: it hardly gives out any information about its activities.
In the evidence we heard at the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade, most of the groups that appeared before the committee, particularly the international co-operation groups, reminded us of the difficulty they had in getting information.
For example, Warren Allmand, a former Liberal member and minister, who is now president of Rights and Democracy, presented a document that was obtained by his organization through the Access to Information Act. The document was completely blank. This shows that a secrecy policy, a lack of transparency, seems to be a feature of this corporation.
Coming back specifically to the environmental issue, since it is the only new element in this bill, we see that the corporation will set up an environmental framework to apply environmental criteria to its financing decisions.
As I already mentioned, in response to many criticisms, the auditor general was asked to assess the appropriateness of the Export Development Corporation's environmental review framework. She concluded that the framework contains, and I quote “most elements of a suitably designed environmental review process”. However, it would appear that the framework has never been properly applied.
As I mentioned at the outset, and I think the Canadian and Quebec public have to know it, out of the 25 projects she studied, 23 had not been properly reviewed for environmental risks, or not reviewed at all, in accordance with the framework the corporation had defined.
Of course, this was not the only thing she criticized. I will repeat some of her criticisms, as set out in her May 2001 report.
The auditor general pointed out that there are major shortcomings in terms of public consultation and disclosure at the Export Development Corporation, there are significant differences between the environmental review framework's design and its operation, the framework's statement of objectives is not clear, the framework's environmental standards are not specified, there are flaws at each stage of the environmental review process, screening tools are not applied adequately to identify potential environmental risk, and there is no methodology to determine if adverse environmental risks can justify a decision or not.
It is not the only report we can refer to in order to have an idea of the major shortcomings in the current management approach taken by the Export Development Corporation. Members will recall that in 1999, the Gowlings report pointed out much the same shortcomings with regard to transparency, environmental review and human rights. In December 1999, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade tabled its report, in which we find basically the same criticisms.
So we are dealing with a corporation that has gotten some pretty bad press from most groups, including parliamentarians. In my opinion, this should have elicited a much stronger response from the federal government than that which was given with Bill C-31.
In December 1999, the Bloc Quebecois published a dissenting opinion to the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade; it was already clear to us then that there was disagreement that could be boiled down to three elements: transparency, human rights and the environment.
I will recap the main elements that we highlighted in December 1999. Regarding transparency, we noted that there was an obvious and marked lack of transparency in the Export Development Corporation's operations; that access to information was sorely lacking; and that given the context of a lack of transparency, it was highly likely that the Export Development Corporation's activities could be used for inappropriate purposes, which might even conflict with the purposes outlined in the statute.
Therefore, it seemed essential to us at that time that the Export Development Corporation be subject to the Access to Information Act.
As for human rights, the Bloc Quebecois expressed serious concern regarding the Export Development Corporation when it comes to respecting human rights. Among the risks that the corporation assumes, there are political factors. It provides political risk insurance. However, the Export Development Corporation does not take into consideration the human rights situation when it assesses political risks. When it comes to political risks, obviously there is a serious risk of political upheaval in the case of regimes that abuse human rights and do not respect fundamental labour law.
Before providing support for a business, the corporation should at the very least—this is what we thought then, and still think now—ensure that the company in question subscribes to the code of conduct established by the OECD, when it comes to human rights. Bill C-31 makes no mention of this fact, as I stated earlier.
As for environmental standards, they are briefly mentioned in Bill C-31. The Bloc Quebecois was and is still of the opinion that the committee's recommendations concerning the environmental responsibility of the Export Development Corporation—we refer here to the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade—were nothing but a wish list. It was not enough to ensure that, in fact, the environment will now be included in the corporation's studies prior to any decision making process.
The Export Development Corporation's environmental responsibility must be more firmly anchored in order to better reflect the corporation's duty as regards environment, respect for the environment, and sustainable development.
In this regard, the Bloc Quebecois would have expected the Export Development Corporation to draw more from the operating framework of the World Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where for each reasonable project there is an environmental impact assessment, public hearings, and above all full transparency.
We cannot accept that the Export Development Corporation, even under its new name, should use public moneys to fund projects that could end up destroying the environment or violating human rights, and do so with impunity, as secrecy is one of the corporation's characteristics.
As I indicated, there were three very harsh reports. The May 2001 report of the auditor general, the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, complete with the Bloc Quebecois dissenting report, and the Gowlings report were all extremely critical.
In a way, Bill C-31 was presented as a response to this criticism, since that the Export Development Corporation had obviously not succeeded in regulating itself. One would have expected Bill C-31 to address this weakness, but there is nothing in this bill to do so.
The bill is too weak from an environmental point of view. It provides no guarantee for an effective environmental assessment and gives the EDC too much leeway in establishing the criteria. It is silent on disclosure. The bill does not include any punitive provisions should the EDC not respect its own environmental framework.
We have seen in the auditor general report that in 23 of the 25 projects examined, the framework had not been respected. In this regard, I shall point out that Quebec imposes fines and even jail terms on officials who are found guilty of negligence in environmental matters.
On the other hand, the bill is watering down environmental standards by not assuring Canadians that projects comply with more than just the standards of host countries, and that they respect the environmental review framework. This bill also excludes any possibility of making the EDC subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Since the corporation has no credibility whatsoever, this bill does not represent a response to the criticisms made repeatedly over the last three years.
Finally, Bill C-31 completely sidesteps the issue of fundamental rights, human rights, labour rights, and this is totally unacceptable. For example, we know of this gold mine in Tanzania that belongs to a Canadian company which was granted a political risk insurance by the Export Development Corporation.
The mine was apparently put at the disposal of the Canadian company following a massive eviction of artisanal miners. There are even allegations by Tanzanian lawyers which were made public here in Canada to the effect that, as part of this massive eviction operation--and we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people--there were artisanal miners who were buried alive in their mine. These are allegations.
I take this opportunity to mention that the NDP leader asked a question in this House concerning this extremely disturbing case. In his reply, the Minister for International Trade referred to the fact that Amnesty International had investigated the matter, but had not found evidence supporting the allegations made by human rights lawyers, particularly Tanzanian lawyers.
However, in its annual report for the year 2000, Amnesty International says that, based on the documents provided to it by the Tanzanian police, it was not able to come to a conclusion regarding this issue, and it is asking for an independent, international investigation to shed light on these events.
Contrary to what the minister told us, probably in good faith, not only did Amnesty International not come to a conclusion regarding these extremely disturbing and dramatic facts, but it is also asking--as we are--for an independent, international investigation to shed light on all these events.
Be that as it may, the Export Development Corporation continues to proceed as if it were business as usual.
In order to correct this situation, I proposed a number of amendments in committee, which I will mention.
These amendments basically deal with clause 10.(1) and seek to correct a number of flaws relating to this clause and to make appropriate related changes. I will discuss clause 10.1
For example, absolutely no reference is made to the EDC's responsibility to take into account not only environmental effects, but also social effects and, more globally, human and other rights provided for in international agreements.
I therefore proposed that, to this clause, be added a point that would clarify the mandate of Export Development Corporation. The amendment read as follows:
The Corporation is established for the purposes of supporting and developing, directly or indirectly, Canada's export trade and Canadian capacity to engage in that trade and to respond to international business opportunities in keeping with Canada's international commitments.
It strikes me as perfectly normal that a crown corporation would honour commitments made by the government internationally, especially in the area of human rights and basic labour rights.
Believe it or not, the Liberal members of the committee rejected this amendment. It is difficult to understand how the federal government makes commitments on Canada's and Canadians' behalf, and indirectly still on behalf of Quebecers, and then does not want to require its own corporations to honour these commitments. We are indeed talking about international commitments, that is conventions, treaties and charters ratified by the Canadian government.
I have to say I was quite disillusioned about the scope of the work Canada can do internationally, if it is not prepared to have its crown corporations honour the commitments it itself makes. How is it going to get private firms and multinationals based in Canada to honour these commitments?
So my first disappointment was at the rejection of such an obvious amendment, which was later reformulated by the member for Burnaby--Douglas, in fact. Twice, we have tried to get this element, a simple matter of common sense, passed, and twice the Liberal members have rejected it. That was the first great disappointment.
As I said in my presentation, the environmental frame of reference that the Export Development Corporation has set for itself is inadequate. It fails to honour this environmental framework it set for itself. It is therefore incapable of self-regulation.
Paragraph (2) of the famous clause 10 reads as follows:
The Board shall issue a directive respecting the determination referred to in subsection (1)--
That is the assessment of environmental effects.
--, which directive may
(a) define the words and expressions that the Board considers necessary for the application of that subsection, including the words and expressions “transaction”, “project”, “adverse environmental effects” and “mitigation measures”;
(b) establish the criteria that the Corporation must apply in making the determination:
(c) establish exceptions specifically or by any class, as defined by the Board, to the Corporation's obligation to make the determination.
It is therefore not an obligation. The Export Development Corporation can define its own terms of reference. It beats me how there can be environmental terms of reference without some sort of minimal definition of words such as transaction, project, adverse environmental effects and mitigation measures.
I therefore proposed an amendment to Bill C-31 to define these various terms. People must know what they are talking about when they refer to impact on the environment. Without reading the amendment in its entirety, I will convey the gist of it by reading what strikes me as the most important term, environmental effects, because this has to do with a framework for assessing environmental effects. I suggested this definition to the committee:
environmental effects means any change that the project may cause in the environment, including any effect of any such change on health and socio-economic conditions--
It is very clear to me that when one refers to environmental effects, one is also referring to socio-economic effects:
on the current use of lands and resources by local communities, on any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological...importance--
As the House can see, it is a very straightforward definition. The definitions are borrowed from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We therefore did not rebuild the wheel; we used what was already available. I also borrowed the definition of environment, environmental assessment, mitigation and project.
Here again, I was astonished, because it is only common sense that if a crown corporation adopts environmental terms of reference, there should at least be agreement on the terminology used to make an assessment.
Once again, the Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade rejected this amendment. I am still wondering what logic they could have used, unless it was a form of anti-opposition sectarianism.
A second amendment was therefore rejected. Its purpose was merely to define the terms on which we must work and agree on so that when the auditor general and parliamentarians are called upon to assess the work of this crown corporation, they will know where we are coming from.
As I said, I believe definitions are necessary, but we ought to have at least been able to expect to find the bill stating that the corporation “must” define a certain number of criteria, and make these definitions public in order to open them up to public debate. It seems, however, that the government side of this House prefers to lend to this bill the same secrecy as reigns within this crown corporation, the EDC, at the present time.
As I said earlier, not only are definitions lacking, but the frame of reference for assessments is flawed as well.
All that is stated in clause 10.1 is the following:
10.1(1) Before entering, in the exercise of its powers under subsection 10(1.1), into a transaction that is related to a project, the Corporation must determine, in accordance with the directive referred to in subsection (2),
(a) whether the project is likely to have adverse environmental effects despite the implementation of mitigation measures; and
(b) if such is the case, whether the Corporation is justified in entering into the transaction.
Hon. members can see that this is far too weak a directive from the legislator. I therefore took the liberty of submitting to the committee a far clearer, and far more complete, environmental assessment procedure.
In connection with the first element of this procedure, what I proposed--not just what is stated here about looking to see whether there are likely to be adverse environmental effects--what I proposed was for the corporation to be required to carry out an environmental assessment before exercising its power to assess a project against a series of criteria, such as environmental assessment, or the development and implementation of a program for follow up. Then the environmental effects must be determined, along with the extent of these effects. Comments from the local population must be obtained. And are the mitigation measures technically and economically feasible?
Furthermore, the rationale behind the bill is important. There are the alternative solutions and the requirement for a follow up program. Those are all self-evident criteria for the evaluation of any project.
The corporation carries out the environmental assessment, prepares a report and sends it to the Minister for International Trade. On the basis of that report, the corporation takes one of the following measures, depending on the environmental assessment: it decides either to go ahead with the project or not to support the project because its environmental impact would be negative. In that case,however, what is EDC to do? It is not really clear; there is a grey area? Can the corporation be judge and defendant? I do not think so. It seems to me that in such a case the Minister for International Trade has a responsibility and a role to play.
I was suggesting that, whenever it is unclear whether the adverse environmental effects outweigh the value of a project, the corporation should ask the Minister for International Trade to decide. If the corporation considers that even after the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, the project might have serious adverse environmental effects, it should refer the matter to the minister.
If a project is likely to have major adverse environmental effects despite the implementation of mitigation measures and if the previous clause does not apply, the EDC refers to the minister, provided the concerns of local populations justify such a measure.
This is an environmental frame of reference that leaves a lot of leeway to the Export Development Corporation, while defining rules that everyone would know and understand.
Under Bill C-31, the corporation will set for itself the rules that it wants. It will decide whether or not it will comply with these rules.
Finally, in the same amendment, I proposed including two small provisions whereby the corporation would have to disclose, in the 45 days prior to the conclusion of an agreement, information on the projects in which it is involved. This information was to include the name of the borrower, the host country of the project, the environmental and social concerns of local populations, the value of the project and the conditions relating to financial support.
If we want Canadians and Quebecers, international solidarity organizations and any interested party to be able to express their own views on the evaluations to be made before supporting a project, the public must be informed of the existence of the project.
Finally, we proposed that no provision in the Privacy Act or the Access to Information Act should have the effect of preventing or restricting the disclosure of the information mentioned in the previous paragraphs, to which I just referred. This is a fundamental flaw in Bill C-31. Nothing is done to give Canadians and Quebecers access to information on the management of the Export Development Corporation.
It will obviously be no surprise to anyone if I say that the Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade voted against this amendment, which, as I mentioned, was drawn from internationally known rules. More specifically, I drew on the rules of the World Bank. We were not starting a revolution in committee by proposing such amendments, but it was rejected. Once again, I have a hard time understanding the reasons.
Finally, in light of the criticism raised about the governance of the Export Development Corporation, I cited three or four damning reports, but the evidence of representatives of NGOs, groups and individuals before the standing committee should have been heard. They raised questions of considerable concern.
I think that, to wait until the auditor general looks into the EDC's operations every five years, is to give the corporation far too much latitude, especially with what is contained in the rest of Bill C-31. There is practically nothing there to really structure the work of this crown corporation. If an audit is done only every five years, the Export Development Corporation will have time to do a lot of damage.
Some guideline must be set in terms of time so that in the next two years, the auditor general will be able to report on management methods subsequent to the passage of this bill on the Export Development Corporation.
Did it make the changes the Canadian and Quebec public were expecting? Did it support projects consistent with our laws and concepts of sustainable development in environmental terms? Did it support projects that promoted fundamental rights or, conversely, did it help to further destroy our planet and further erode the rights of workers and people in countries in the southern hemisphere?
In my opinion, five years is too long a time. I therefore proposed an amendment to enable the auditor general to examine the governance of the Export Development Corporation.
Once again, no one will be surprised to hear me say that the Liberal members voted against this amendment, which makes good sense.
The legislation is therefore still hollow. Bill C-31 does not address any of the concerns repeatedly mentioned by committees, groups, individuals, and Canadians and Quebecers. The bill is nothing more than a surface attempt to give the impression that the federal government has listened to the criticisms and made the necessary changes.
It has not. Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to go through the whole bill but as soon as the surface is scratched, the bill's hollowness becomes apparent.
I think the criticisms of the Export Development Corporation in recent years will not end, even with a name change. On the contrary, they will increase. Why? Because for a few months, or weeks, now, the public, not just in Canada and Quebec, but in the entire western world, has understood that trade is not the only thing that matters when it comes to assessing support for corporations such as the Export Development Corporation, or for agreements and international treaties.
Human and environmental considerations, as well as considerations of democratic rights, are now vital. And this is not the first time. It was the same with the debate on the Canada--Costa Rica free trade agreement. The Canadian government had no suggestions to make regarding human rights, environmental rights or democratic rights.
Frankly, Bill C-31 is just like Bill C-32. The government is plowing ahead as though there had been no change in public opinion in Canada and Quebec, as though the economy is more important than the values of Canadians and Quebecers.
I was also surprised that the bill contained no proposal to create a position of ombudsman, although this was repeatedly recommended, both by government committees and by parliamentary committees.
There is therefore nothing in this bill that meets the expectations of the Bloc Quebecois or of Canadians or Quebecers. We will therefore have no choice but to vote against Bill C-31.
Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
October 25th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and there is an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) to further defer the recorded division just requested on third reading of Bill C-32 until the end of government orders on Tuesday, October 30.
Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
October 25th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Madam Speaker, I am happy to continue the debate where my colleague from Burnaby--Douglas left off on Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the government of the Republic of Costa Rica.
In listening to the debate earlier I felt offended that members of the Canadian Alliance lobbed at the members of NDP that somehow we were nitpicking and attaching our debate to small things, such as defending the rights of workers, whether they were in Costa Rica, Canada or any other country. As the debate continued, the parliamentary secretary wanted to know why the NDP was opposed to helping one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. Presumably he meant Costa Rica.
The NDP is absolutely in favour of helping one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. In fact, this party has had a very proud and long tradition of promoting international solidarity, economic investment and aid and development. We have pressed the government to meet its commitments through the red book and in other areas over many years.
However the debate today is really about who this trade agreement will help. I would challenge the parliamentary secretary to produce the evidence as to how this particular free trade agreement will help poor people in Costa Rica or, for that matter, workers in Canada.
Like other members in the House, I have also received information from workers and management from Rogers Sugar which is located in my riding of Vancouver East. I want to tell members of the House, particularly the government members, that there is a huge concern about the impact of this trade agreement on Canadian companies and the sugar industry.
In June of this year I met with a joint delegation of labour and management representatives from Rogers Sugar. Anyone who knows about labour management issues will know that it is not usual for labour and management to come together. However in this case it was a joint delegation because the several hundred people who work at the plants as well as the management of Rogers Sugar are very concerned about the impact of this agreement.
In fact when they wrote the Prime Minister to express their concern they received the following response. In a letter dated April 26, the Prime Minister said that in any free trade negotiation it was necessary for each side to consider compromises in the interest of reaching an agreement which was fair overall. In the case of Costa Rica, Canada recognized that the differences in the level of development of our two countries would need to be reflected in the final agreement.
He then went on to say that the agreement negotiated provided opportunities for exporters in both countries to explore new markets, including opportunities for some Canadian sugar exporters to sell to Costa Rica.
This is absolutely contrary to the evidence and information that has come before us. The fact is that if the tariff were eliminated, Canadian refineries would be exposed to competition from Costa Rican refineries without the prospect of better access to that market for our exporters, contrary to what the Prime Minister said.
The reality is there is virtually no market for refined sugar in Costa Rica or elsewhere in central America. Granting duty free entry for refined sugar from Costa Rica and we believe, eventually from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and especially Guatemala, will end up eliminating a significant portion of a long-standing Canadian industry. We have to be incredibly concerned about that.
If we could look at what the NDP has articulated in its position, it is precisely because of this race to the bottom. It is another example of the lowest common denominator approach that opens the door to job flight from countries, such as Canada, where there are tougher, more progressive legislation.
It is not just about protecting jobs in Canada, although that is very important. It is also about protecting and encouraging high quality jobs in other parts of the world. We have heard a lot of debate today in the House about how this agreement will lift people out of poverty. We heard from the Alliance that globalization has moved people out of poverty. We heard that the trickle down theory is working very well.
Again, there is ample evidence to suggest that these trade agreements have done nothing to improve the lives of working people. These trade agreements have done nothing to improve the quality of our environment or the quality of social conditions that exist in many countries.
Members of the NDP take a very principled stand. This is not about being opposed to trade agreements per se on any grounds. It is about being in favour of trade agreements that protect our environment, that protect quality social conditions for people and that enshrine and protect worker rights.
To go back to the situation in Costa Rica, because that is the agreement before us, one of the things we should be concerned about is the development of export processing zones in Costa Rica, of which there are nine. One thing that is taking place, particularly in the textile industry, is that companies increasingly are hiring workers at home where they are not protected by labour laws nor are they covered by social security, holidays or job security.
We have to ask critically whether the agreement actually is helping one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere or whether it is conferring greater rights for greater profits for large corporations. Basically the workers get left behind at home with absolutely no protection.
There is information on the record, and it is available for any member to see, that private sector employers have ignored the ILO recommendations that workers, particularly in the private sector, have been denied the right to organize. They have been denied the right to basic, safe working conditions. They have been denied the right to decent wages.
It becomes very clear that the trade agreement is not in the interests of poor people in those countries. It is not in the interests of protecting our environment. I feel proud that as an NDP caucus we understand this and stand in solidarity with international labour movements, with the labour movement in Canada and with NGOs that have done analysis on this and have participated in things like the people's summit at the summit of the Americas in Quebec City and the people's summit in Vancouver at the APEC conference.
It is through those forums that the issues affecting workers have come to the forefront. As we know, that debate has not taken place in the House. We raise day after day the fact that the summit of the Americas was not brought forward to the House for any kind of democratic vote. These agreements affect all of us. They affect our local communities and the workers in my riding of East Vancouver but the House has not participated in any kind of democratic vote about whether or not we should be adopting the FTAA for example.
The NDP is not nitpicking. The NDP is not opposing the agreement because we are opposed to free trade or any trade agreement. We are opposing this agreement because we see it as nothing more than continuing the sellout of Canada. We see it as a continuation of a policy from the government that actually is abandoning the basic human rights and the basic human dignity of workers in Costa Rica.
I am very glad that the workers I met with from Rogers Sugar understood that they were standing in support of the workers in Costa Rica. They did not see it as just an issue of protecting their jobs and their turf. They understood that this race to the bottom not only affected them but also the workers in those other countries.
I am glad the NDP is opposing this trade agreement. It is a bad trade agreement both for workers in Canada and for workers in those countries.