Improving Trade Within Canada Act
An Act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act and the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act
Christian Paradis Conservative
Introduction and First Reading
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October 18th, 2012 / 12:30 p.m.
Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have just found out that Bill C-14 on interprovincial trade is included in the omnibus budget implementation bill.
Do you feel that the interprovincial trade bill should be studied separately?
I was also wondering whether your federal-provincial businesses are affected by interprovincial trade matters.
March 15th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
Christian Paradis Mégantic—L'Érable, QC
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, colleagues, for having me here today.
This is a pleasure.
I would first like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to the members of the committee today on the main estimates for the Department of Industry.
As you said, Mr. Chair, I am here with Richard Dicerni, Deputy Minister, Simon Kennedy, Senior Associate Deputy Minister, and Kelly Gillis, the department's Chief Financial Officer.
Industry Canada is part of a group of 10 agencies and councils, as well as the department, that report through me and two ministers of state.
As presented in the 2012-13 main estimates, the department anticipates a total of $1.3 billion in spending for the year, and the portfolio organizations together anticipate a total of just over $3.5 billion.
Our goal is to help make Canadian industry more productive and competitive by advancing three strategies: one, supporting business; two, fostering the knowledge-based economy; and three, advancing the marketplace.
Overall, we have made significant progress towards reaching our goals. As government members, we have taken action to support businesses and to create jobs across the country.
During the global recession, we have acted decisively to counter the downturn with a targeted action plan.
More Canadians are working now than before the downturn. Actually, over 610,000 net jobs have been created since July 2009. That is a testament to Canadians' efforts.
Over the past 10 years, the Canadian economy has seen stronger growth than any other G7 economy. And we continue to find ways to give Canadian businesses a competitive edge.
We have cut import tariffs on manufacturing equipment. We have reduced federal corporate taxes to 15%; we have the lowest tax rate on new business investments in the G7, which is also less than half the rate of our American neighbours.
We have extended the 50% capital cost allowance rate through the straight-line method for machinery and equipment.
We have also extended work-sharing agreements to help workers. We continue to support research and efforts to market innovation. Our net debt to GDP ratio is still the lowest in the G7.
Our accomplishments have been recognized around the world. Forbes magazine ranks Canada as the best place on the planet for businesses to grow and create jobs, the Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Canada the number one place to do business in the G-7 for the next three years, and both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that our economy will be among the strongest in the G-7 this year and next.
This is all within the context of a low-tax plan that leaves more money in the hands of Canadians.
Today's meeting comes at an appropriate time. Over the past few weeks, we have had the opportunity to set in motion some key initiatives that are going to help us maximize our opportunities.
As you know, Canada is one of the few nations with the whole range of design and manufacturing capacities in the aerospace industry. With almost 80,000 high-level jobs, several of which are in small and medium-sized businesses, this industry has a significant impact on Canada.
The 2011 budget committed our government to reviewing programs and policies related to the aerospace and space industries. That is why we created a committee—which I announced last month in Montreal—to undertake this study. The committee will be chaired by the Hon. David Emerson, who will share with us his vast experience and expertise in the field.
This study will cover key features, such as trends in the global aerospace industry and their impact on the Canadian industry; key opportunities and challenges in this sector; the sector's strengths and weaknesses; and, finally, long-term objectives for a sustainable domestic industry.
Mr. Emerson's study will also deal with the issues related to the space industry. To that end, I have recently announced that Canada intends to renew its participation in the International Space Station. Our commitment will contribute to maintaining Canada's leadership role in space technologies. I am particularly proud that Chris Hatfield will be the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station during its mission, which is scheduled to start in December of this year.
I'll turn now to the automotive sector. It is the largest manufacturing sector in Canada, representing 12% of our manufacturing output and 20% of manufactured exports. In 2011, the auto industry directly employed more than 109,000 Canadians and created another 332,000 jobs indirectly.
That's why we have invested in the automobile sector, including in clean vehicle technologies. These investments are a catalyst for further private sector activity and innovation, and they foster Canadian competitiveness.
Beyond the sectors I've mentioned, we know that our competitiveness ultimately depends on supporting business innovation throughout the entire economy. That is why support for science and technology has been a priority for our government since 2006. To this end, Canada has invested heavily in science and technology. Federal science and technology expenditures reached $11.7 billion in 2011.
We have supported new world-class policies and programs and are expanding private sector participation in science and tech. We are building Canada's knowledge base and are successfully branding Canada as a destination of choice for talented, highly qualified S and T workers and students.
But, as you know, we could get better innovation results in our country. Private businesses in particular are lagging in innovation. That is the case despite our excellent record in research and development by higher-education institutions and despite our strong support for research and development by businesses.
Our government recognized this problem and it received a report this past fall from a panel of experts tasked with reviewing federal support in research and development. Over the past few months, we have gone over the report and, under the leadership of my colleague Minister of State Goodyear, we will soon take action to fix the problems identified in the report so as to strengthen Canada's global competitiveness in a broad range of sectors.
At the heart of the digital economy are information and communications technologies. Technology adoption boosts productivity, accelerates innovation, and generates new products and business models. To this end our government has launched the digital technology adoption pilot program to promote adoption by small businesses using community colleges as partners.
This complements recent initiatives by the BDC, which has set aside $200 million for loans to entrepreneurs to adopt ICTs and has created an online resource centre that offers technology tools for small businesses. We are also boosting our support to increase university capacity in key digital skills disciplines.
I'm also looking forward to this committee's report on e-commerce in Canada.
Speaking of the digital economy, I'd note the swift progress of the copyright committee chaired by our NDP colleague from Sudbury, Mr. Thibeault. I know that Mr. Regan, Mr. Lake, Mr. Braid and Mr. McColeman worked long hours on that committee as well.
Bill C-11 attempts to achieve a balance between the rights of consumers and creators. While all of us know finding that balance has been challenging, this legislation is about strengthening Canada's ability to compete in the global digital economy. It is important for this bill to be passed as quickly as possible.
Turning to telecommunications, just yesterday I was pleased to announce significant decisions for our wireless sector. We understand that Canadian families work hard for their money, and they want their government to make decisions that will help them keep more of it. The measures I outlined yesterday will ensure the timely availability of world-class wireless services at low prices for Canadian families, including those in rural areas.
These measures include lifting foreign investment restrictions for telecom companies with less than a 10% share of the market; applying caps in the upcoming 700 megahertz spectrum auctions; applying measures to ensure that rural Canadians have access to the same advanced services; slowing tower proliferation by improving and extending roaming and tower-sharing policies; and reserving a portion of the 700 megahertz spectrum for public safety users such as police and firefighters.
I am proud of the balance that has been reached with those decisions. As Canadians are increasingly relying on wireless technology, it is important that we make good decisions to provide prompt service with more choice and lower prices.
In addition to the legislative changes I mentioned earlier, we are moving towards strengthening other pieces of legislation and policies related to the economic framework. We have made a commitment to ensure that the review process under the Investment Canada Act continues to promote investment while providing a net benefit for Canadians.
Meanwhile, we are continuing to review the act, especially in terms of transparency, to make sure that it is balanced. We have to be clear that the purpose of the Investment Canada Act is to promote foreign investment in Canada. Our government strongly believes that free trade and the ability to attract investments to our country play a fundamental role, not only in our economic recovery, but also in our country's long-term success. As a result, when we bring forward proposals for change, the changes will be about promoting investment that will benefit Canada.
In addition to the work accomplished on the Investment Canada Act, we have also been successful in introducing Bill C-14, Improving Trade Within Canada Act.
We are also acting on a number of other fronts, such as moving forward with priority trade negotiations, including with the EU and India. We are cutting red tape in order to boost productivity and reduce the compliance burden on businesses, especially the small and medium-sized businesses that drive our communities, whether they are located in large cities like Edmonton—whose Chamber of Commerce I was pleased to meet with in the fall—or rural centres like my own town of Thetford Mines.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, I believe that those initiatives will contribute to strengthening the competitiveness of the Canadian economy and to support job creation and economic prosperity, which is at the heart of a strong Canada.
Thank you for your time. I will be pleased to answer any questions the members of the committee may have.
Business of the House
December 8th, 2011 / 3:30 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, one of the most important things we are looking forward to in the next week or so is the passage of the major priority pieces of legislation we have been advancing this fall, for which we have been seeking to set timetables to ensure they could pass to be in effect for next year. They are our budget implementation act to ensure that important tax measures are in place like a tax credit for job creation and accelerated capital cost allowance to create jobs; our bill to ensure fair representation, to have that in place in time for the redistribution that is going to unfold next year; and in addition to that another bill which again is a time priority, the crime bill, and I do not think we are going to be able to make that objective.
However, we are looking to get those in place and, having done that, we look forward to, in the next 10 days or so, the very first of those bills we have been working on all fall to actually becoming law. That will be a very exciting time for us when we finally achieve Royal Assent, having spent that time.
I should advise members that next week will be free trade and jobs week. We will begin Monday morning with second reading of Bill C-24, the Canada–Panama free trade act. This free trade agreement was signed on May 14, 2010. It is now time for Parliament to put it into effect, so that Canadians can benefit from the jobs and economic growth it will deliver.
It being free trade and jobs week, we will begin second reading debate on Wednesday of another bill to implement a job-creating free trade agreement. In this case, we will discuss Bill C-23, the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act, which will implement Canada's first free trade agreement with an Arab country.
This will be the last week before the House adjourns for the holidays. And it is with the Christmas spirit in mind that we hope to have the co-operation of all members in making great progress on a number of important bills with a focus on job creation and economic growth.
On Monday, if we are able to pass Bill C-24, the Canada–Panama free trade bill, we would call Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act. Bill C-11 is another bill that would lead to more jobs in Canada, and our world-leading digital and cultural sectors. Earlier this week, the Liberal motion to block further debate on this important bill was defeated in this House. That means we can get back to second reading debate and I would hope that after being debated for over one sitting week, the opposition will finally allow this bill to get to committee.
If we continue to make the progress I am hoping for, we will then call Bill C-14, the Improving Trade Within Canada Act, for further second reading debate. This is a fairly straightforward bill that will benefit the economy by implementing amendments to the Agreement on Internal Trade agreed by the provinces. I expect all parties will allow it to move swiftly to committee.
In addition to passing these job creating bills, on Monday, ideally, we would then call C-26, the citizen's arrest and self-defence act for further debate.
For the balance of free trade and jobs week, we will continue to debate any of those bills which have not yet been referred to committee. We would also look to begin second reading debate on Bill C-28, the financial literacy leader act. This bill will create a new position in the government dedicated to encouraging financial literacy for Canadians.
As for the balance of this week, which is democratic reform week, Bill C-20, the fair representation act, will be debated tomorrow at report stage, further to the motion adopted yesterday. Third reading in the House on this bill will be Tuesday. This will be followed by a vote Tuesday night, a vote that will give all members in this place an opportunity to vote on the important democratic principle of representation by population.
Improving Trade Within Canada Act
November 24th, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.
Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC
Mr. Speaker, does my colleague think that there is no longer such a thing as “small is beautiful”?
With respect to farmers, will Bill C-14 directly threaten small producers and small specialized markets which, if I understand correctly, will now have a harder time setting themselves apart? This bill will give more powers to people who do not view prioritizing local markets and agri-food identity favourably.
In my riding, there are vineyards and small-fruit farmers who produce apples, blueberries, pears, raspberries, etc. They will no longer be able to sell their products effectively. Also, if we penalize the markets, SMEs will have fewer chances to obtain contracts to provide goods and services, since priority could no longer be given to local businesses. I would like to ask my colleague whether this will do more harm than good for farmers and SMEs.
Improving Trade Within Canada Act
November 24th, 2011 / 5 p.m.
Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act and the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, which proposes amendments.
I am pleased because, regardless of what members opposite may say, the NDP supports the removal of domestic trade barriers, the expansion of internal trade and also labour opportunities and mobility. More specifically, we support the parts of this bill that will facilitate the movement of Canadians from province to province to get work. So, we think that some aspects of this bill are worthwhile.
As the hon. member knows, the Agreement on Internal Trade is an agreement between the provinces and the federal government that was signed in 1994 and came into effect in 1995. Since then, it has been amended several times. We are currently addressing the content of the 10th amendment. An 11th amendment has since been proposed and negotiated. We must recognize—and this is the point that I tried to raise in my question to the hon. member—the importance of striking a balance in a free trade agreement like this one, because this is really what it is.
It is a free trade agreement that is more similar to the one negotiated under NAFTA than to those that were ratified at the World Trade Organization. It is also obvious that an agreement like the Agreement on Internal Trade results in a loss of sovereignty for the provinces. That is the foundation of the accord. The provinces have signed it, and they have accepted it. However, the fundamental issue has to do with balancing that loss of sovereignty. I will elaborate on this later on.
We should also expect that agreement to harmonize standards between the provinces which, in many cases, may be a good thing. However, a lack of balance in this regard could trigger relatively serious problems for certain sectors. Indeed, it could create obstacles to a province's ability to legislate on the environment, workplace safety and other issues that may not constitute a trade barrier as such, but may have to do with specific concerns in the province involved.
There have been cases under the Agreement on Internal Trade. There was one that pitted Ontario against Alberta and British Columbia concerning substitutes and dairy blends. In fact, Ontario banned the sale and manufacture of various products that resemble or imitate products made out of milk or milk ingredients. The 2004 panel formed to talk about this issue found that Ontario's Edible Oil Products Act contained measures that were not compliant with the Agreement on Internal Trade. The 2004 panel found that the measures were discriminatory, that Ontario’s dairy products constituted a like product and that Ontario gave them better treatment.
The panel also found that the measures interfered with the right of entry and exit, as the Edible Oil Products Act restricted or prevented the movement of goods and related services between provinces and created an obstacle to trade. After the report of the panel formed under the Agreement on Internal Trade was issued, Ontario had until February 1, 2011, to comply.
I want to know whether Ontario was denied its ability, not to protect its dairy sector, but to establish a distinction between the consumption of dairy products and edible oil products, which are different but try to imitate dairy products or milk itself.
Ontario still claims that protecting its dairy sector, not from a commercial point of view but from the consumer's point of view, is a legitimate objective. This also raises another question about supply management. We know that supply management in Canada affects the Maritimes, but it mostly affects three provinces: Ontario, British Columbia and, naturally, Quebec. Quebec and Ontario alone account for 50% of dairy production in Canada.
These two provinces are strongly committed to fully protecting the supply management system. What does the Agreement on Internal Trade say?
The chapter on agriculture allows parties to adopt or maintain measures concerning supply management systems that are regulated by the federal and provincial governments as well as measures concerning marketing boards governed by the provincial governments, which are not technical specifications.
According to the agreement, a technical specification is a technical rule or standard, a sanitary or phytosanitary measure or a compliance evaluation procedure. Based on that definition, is supply management protected? We are not entirely sure.
A technical specification is a technical rule, a document or a legal instrument that sets out characteristics of goods or their related processes and production methods, including applicable administrative provisions, and compliance with it is mandatory under the law. It may also deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a good, process, or production or operating method.
What is the point of supply management then? Can we protect the milk market? Perhaps, but we cannot regulate its manufacturing process, labelling, production method or characteristics in order to keep people from skirting the system by using analogs.
I am raising the issue of supply management because an agreement such as the Agreement on Internal Trade will surely have ramifications in terms of the free trade agreements we negotiate overseas. All of the rules that we want to apply to internal trade here are closely followed by our international trading partners. They can see the potential for loopholes and could ask for elements that were protected or were not on the negotiating table with the Government of Canada in the past.
As with any free trade agreement, it is crucial that there is a clear framework regarding the responsibilities of the parties. It is even more important to have the flexibility to protect sectors that are central to the economy of the parties, such as supply management. And this issue also brings up the question of programs that promote eating local. This is not a public health issue or a consumer protection issue. According to the Agreement on Internal Trade, it might therefore not be a legitimate objective.
Will these policies be challenged under the Agreement on Internal Trade because they give local products a higher profile? We are in favour of introducing exceptions so that the groups created under the Agreement on Internal Trade to judge cases can consider some of these exceptions. Once again, these exceptions are not there to impede commerce or to cause problems in terms of interprovincial trade. We are more in favour of a real response to the specific needs of several provinces.
Many of the concerns raised by the government and these groups warrant our attention and, accordingly, the NDP would like to call expert witnesses in committee in order to get some clarifications on the potential impact of such a bill.
As I pointed out, it is important to understand that the Agreement on Internal Trade is similar to NAFTA in terms of its structure. One of the things about NAFTA that worries us—and it still worries us because NAFTA is still in effect—is chapters 11 and 19, particularly the provisions on investor states. Those provisions allow investors to sue foreign states directly. Thus, an American investor can sue the Canadian government or the Mexican government for anything it considers a constraint on its ability to do business in a country or its ability to make a profit in that country. Of course, some exceptions exist in NAFTA, but they seem pretty weak.
This brings me to the measures that were the subject of the question I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry. We are talking about companies that launch lawsuits against certain governments for reasons that are not necessarily trade-related, but that aim to prevent a given country from enacting completely legitimate, pertinent legislation, in this case, on the environment.
I will give two examples. Dow AgroSciences sued Canada for $2 million because Quebec prohibited the use of pesticides manufactured by that company. We all agree that pesticides are a basic environmental issue that has been around for at least 40 years. A number of products sold by various companies are recognized as being harmful not only to the environment, but also to the health of people who live close to areas where these pesticides are used.
Dow AgroSciences has tried, and continues to try, to sue Canada for $2 million because of the ban. This is not the only such suit. The Crompton company has also sued Canada for $83 million because some municipalities have banned the use of the pesticide lindane. These two examples clearly show the weakness or the lack of balance in investor-state provisions when it comes to the state's ability to protect public health.
The Agreement on Internal Trade contains provisions that allow a person or a business to sue another province for decisions, regulations or laws that it deems to be contrary to its interests and to its ability to do business in that province. These aspects are dealt with in the agreement in effect negotiated between the provinces and the federal government. We will continue to talk about these aspects and any provisions of international or domestic agreements that do not uphold environmental rights or workers' occupational health and safety rights. We want the provinces to always have the opportunity to regulate their environment and to protect the health of their people.
We are in favour of the Agreement on Internal Trade to a certain extent, as long as it addresses all the points that I just raised. We want the bills related to the Agreement on Internal Trade or to international agreements to avoid encouraging policies that force deregulation or privatization on the provinces and territories. We want these bills to avoid pushing the federal or provincial government to have power of attorney over certain interests of an industry or major investor.
We also want to prevent the bills from seriously reducing a government's ability to buy products from local suppliers. That is an element that is very important, particularly when it comes to the strategy for economic recovery. We want to avoid limiting the provinces' and territories' ability to help their provincial companies and industries as part of an employment or economic recovery strategy, or preventing them from doing so.
In any free trade agreement, there must always be a balance between the various interests. Bill C-14 includes provisions that are encouraging in some respects. I mentioned the legal action taken against Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement. At least, this bill limits the potential impacts of such legal action. We are talking about economic impacts of approximately $5 million for a fairly large province like Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia. On a per capita basis, the maximum fine would be less depending on the size and population of the province to prevent what is often frivolous legal action from being brought against the provinces and to produce what I call the litigation chill effect and avoid things like the $83 million dollar case that I just mentioned. There are even cases that involve several billion dollars. Yet, I feel encouraged that a limit such as this one was imposed.
Another one of our concerns about this bill pertains to the composition of the panels, to those who are presented by the parties to hear a specific case.
Of the five members who can be presented by the two parties involved, only one must be an expert on Canadian commercial law. The other four individuals may have other expertise not necessarily related to the case at issue. We think that is a problem, and it should be corrected.
The other problem is that only one of these five individuals must be bilingual and be able to work in French and in English. Why only one? This means that if there is one bilingual individual in a group and the other four members do not speak French, the discussions will take place in English. If we were dealing with different commercial laws, we could have required, for example, that a good proportion of members be bilingual and able to carry discussions in French and in English. However, I do not see the justification for having only one bilingual person on either side, just like we fail to see why only one individual should be an expert on Canadian commercial law.
Therefore, the NDP will definitely support this bill at second reading, so that we can discuss it in committee and correct some flaws, such as a certain lack of balance. We notice a lack of definitions or limitations that could apply to some people, businesses or provinces to prevent the possible use of the investor-state provisions. These provisions can sometime have a chill effect and result in a province being reluctant to make undertakings, to agree or to legislate, even for the good of its citizens, on environmental issues or on their own stimulus measures. I am thinking of municipalities among others.
That is why we want to take a closer look at this bill. We will have a chance to do so in committee. I really appreciate this opportunity to present our views on this legislation.
I will be pleased to answer any questions.
Improving Trade Within Canada Act
November 24th, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.
Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the important amendments contained in Bill C-14 and to how its provisions help promote a vibrant economic union in Canada.
The bill seeks to implement improvements to the Agreement on Internal Trade, as agreed upon by the Government of Canada and all of the provinces and territories. These proposed amendments aim at strengthening the enforcement of this important agreement and ensuring governments are accountable in meeting their obligations toward this agreement.
One element I would like to highlight today is that the bill demonstrates the commitment of the Government of Canada to continuously strengthen our economic union by working in co-operation with provincial and territorial governments. However, it represents other significant developments as well and I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to cover some of them.
First, I would briefly remind the hon. members of what the Agreement on Internal Trade is all about and of the recent improvements to that agreement that go beyond how it is enforced. I think this will help to set out the reasons for the legislation that is before the House today. I will begin by taking a step back to touch on the importance of internal trade to our economy.
From the global perspective, the times continue to be challenging economically. Yet Canada has, through its sound economic and regulatory practices, weathered the storm better than almost any other nation. However, because the global challenges remain, it is more important than ever to ensure that our own house remains economically sound. The government has always taken the position that strengthening trade is not just something we seek to do internationally, but nationally as well. Internal trade strengthens competition which increases choice for businesses and consumers and drives productivity and innovation. To that end, we remain committed to encouraging, facilitating and playing a prominent role in implementing efficient internal trade practices within and across Canada.
The primary vehicle for strengthening the country's internal trade ties is the Agreement on Internal Trade. A bit of the history of the agreement is in order here since, in part, that history sets the stage for our discussions today.
The Agreement on Internal Trade is Canada's only national agreement governing the free movement of persons, goods, services and investments within Canada. On July 1, 1995, the Agreement on Internal Trade came into effect after being signed in 1994 by the Government of Canada and 12 provincial and territorial governments. Among other things, the agreement provides for general rules which prevent governments from erecting new trade barriers and which require the reduction of existing ones in areas covered under the agreement, as well as specific obligations in key economic sectors such as transportation, natural resources and communications, which cover a significant amount of economic activity in Canada. In addition, the agreement deals with cross-sectoral issues such as consumer protection and the streamlining and harmonization of regulations and standards.
To ensure each government lives up to its obligations under the Agreement on Internal Trade, governments and individuals can dispute the conduct of any government party to the agreement. In fact, the agreement contains specific provisions governing the administration and resolution of internal trade complaints. This process is key to ensuring the effectiveness of the Agreement on Internal Trade in committing governments to open and integrated internal markets and a stronger economic union.
One of the most important things to note about the Agreement on Internal Trade is that it is not a static agreement with rules that never change. Rather the agreement is in a constant state of evolution to meet the demands of our ever-changing economic landscape. For its part, the Government of Canada has remained committed to continuously working with the provinces and territories to improve the provisions of the agreement and expand its scope of coverage across the Canadian economy.
Indeed, the AIT has evolved to meet the changing needs of commerce and labour markets. In recent years, for example, the Government of Canada with the provinces and territories have incorporated an agriculture chapter that fosters freer trade of agricultural products. The chapter covering government procurement practices was also expanded to cover additional entities and the labour mobility chapter was also amended.
On the issue of labour mobility, I would like to take a moment to highlight the new AIT obligations to which the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories agreed to ensure better pools of available and skilled labour across the country.
As hon. members know, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to freer internal trade practices has been the matter of labour mobility. Over the decades, it has been a very difficult and contentious issue on which to come to agreement. That is why in January 2009 the Prime Minister and other first ministers were pleased to announce their agreement on amendments to the AIT that would enhance labour mobility in Canada.
In August 2009 a revised labour mobility chapter came into force. The new provisions ensure that a worker certified by regulatory authority in any one province or territory shall be recognized as qualified by all other provinces and territories. Certified workers are no longer required to undergo additional material training, testing or reassessment, resulting in seamless recognition across provinces and territories. The net result is improved employment opportunities and better access to a larger and richer pool of human resources for Canada's employers.
As we see, internal trade is a key to our economy and the AIT has allowed the Government of Canada, with the provinces and territories, to get things done toward building a better and stronger Canada. Our collective efforts are ongoing.
Bill C-14 is the next step toward improving trade within Canada. The bill would improve the dispute resolution process and the enforcement mechanism of the agreement on internal trade.
Let me say why this is important in today's context. A commonly-recognized challenge within the agreement has been the effectiveness of its dispute resolution mechanism. The lack of strong enforcement tools has made the agreement less effective than it could be in ensuring freer and open internal markets. Without credible penalties, panel rulings could be ignored without consequence, and this issue has been raised by a number of private sector stakeholder groups, think tanks and even international organizations.
The Government of Canada understands and shares in the view that the agreements on internal trade need stronger enforcement. For this reason, all parties agreed in October 2009 to changes that would improve the dispute resolution process and strengthen the enforcement tools under the AIT. These changes apply to disputes between Canadian governments party to the AIT and not to disputes raised by or against a private citizen, business or association.
Key to the changes that were approved is the integration of monetary penalties that can be applied against a government for its continued failure to comply with the agreement. Simply put, an administrative monetary penalty is like a fine that is imposed on a government because it has not lived up to its end of the bargain in keeping our internal boundaries open for a more integrated economy with a multitude of choices for Canadians. With these fines now built into the process, they provide governments with an additional incentive to ensure they comply with the agreement and that they do their part in contributing to the sustainability of our economy.
How much are these penalties? The size of the monetary penalty varies by the population of the jurisdictions in question to take into consideration the budgetary constraints of some of the smaller governments. Maximum amounts range from $250,000 for the smaller provinces and territories like P.E.I. and up to $5 million can be applied against the Government of Canada and the larger provinces like Ontario and Quebec.
Furthermore, these amounts take into consideration the severity of the conduct in question. The new changes to the dispute resolution process permit a body called a compliance panel, that deals with disputes against governments for non-compliance with the agreement on internal trade, to determine an amount that corresponds to the negative impact of the measure in question. It also takes into consideration whether a government has made good faith efforts to remedy its situation so as to ensure that it is in compliance with the agreement.
Hon. members should also know that a government can lose its privilege to raise a dispute against another government if it fails to do its part in rectifying its non-compliant conduct. The application of these measures would encourage all parties to comply with their obligations and, over time, help to create a free and open market with better choices for businesses and consumers. In addition, the new process allows for appeals and for new qualification criteria for panel members.
In brief, those are some of the agreements on internal trade amendments agreed to by the federal government and provincial and territorial governments on the enforcement side. To back up our agreement, the 13 governments have either completed or are in the process of taking the necessary steps to implement these changes in their jurisdictions, including introducing new or amended legislation.
This is where we now come to Bill C-14, which is the Government of Canada's proposal to implement the new enforcement requirements under the agreement on internal trade. Bill C-14 is a very short bill, so there are not many specifics to account for, but it is what is in these provisions that makes for some powerful messaging.
Bill C-14 seeks to fulfill federal commitments made when it joined the provincial and territorial governments to provide for a stronger enforcement mechanism for government-to-government disputes under the agreement on internal trade. It is the legislation required for the Government of Canada to ensure that the new dispute resolution process under the agreement can be implemented for the federal government.
Under the new changes, governments have agreed to include monetary penalties. With Bill C-14, the Government of Canada will ensure that any monetary penalties awarded against it can be enforced in the same manner as an order of the Federal Court of Canada.
This is the important point. With the passage of this bill, it means that monetary penalties against the Government of Canada may be triggered for payment through the legal system and from the federal consolidated revenue fund if the government ever failed to make a payment.
I am not saying that should ever happen, but as this government is committed to act responsibly with respect to its commitments for a stronger economic union, it is also important to back that up with real accountability for that commitment. It is about being accountable for our actions as assessed by a qualified panel focused on Canada's internal markets.
This is not all that Bill C-14 does. It also provides for governor-in-council appointments of panel members to follow new qualification criteria to improve the decision-making process. It takes care of some other housekeeping amendments to the AIT implementation act and Crown Liability and Proceedings Act so that the supporting legislation is clear and up to date.
At the end of the day, Bill C-14 is a demonstration of the federal commitment to improving the agreement on internal trade and to continue strengthening the economic union. As provinces and territories are also taking similar steps in their jurisdictions to implement the new changes to the dispute resolution process, the bill is also a symbol and a reminder of our collaborative efforts in working with the provinces and territories to make the agreement more enforceable.
I believe in these efforts. Together, as each government ensures the changes are effective across the country, Canadians will have a stronger national agreement that will collectively address some of the concerns and recommendations raised by stakeholder groups and hold its governments more accountable.
The clock is ticking. As Bill C-14 covers implementation of the changes for only the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial ministers of the committee on internal trade, with the agreement of their premiers, have completed or are in the process of passing similar legislation, or taking other steps necessary to ensure that accountability for compliance with the agreement on internal trade is widespread across the country.
I have spoken of the importance of internal trade for the economy, the role of the national agreement on internal trade, recent improvements to that agreement, and about the specifics of Bill C-14. Before I conclude, I will reiterate a few points on the importance of internal trade for the economy.
Internal trade for our multi-jurisdictional federation is a critical issue. This is a priority for the Government of Canada, which remains committed to working with the provinces and territories for a stronger economic union.
I mentioned already that Canada's governments have ensured greater labour mobility, introduced an agriculture chapter to the agreement on internal trade, and improved the coverage of government procurement rules. Something I did not mention is the success that we have made in removing barriers to interprovincial trucking. These efforts are all consistent with the ingredients necessary to build a stronger economic union that takes into consideration the need to work with provinces and territories to remove barriers that restrict businesses from growing, competing and producing. They are all critical elements for Canada to sustain its economic standing during these tough economic times.
I say to my hon. colleagues that at first glance Bill C-14 may seem to be a short and fairly technical bill pertaining to the administration of monetary penalties under the dispute resolution chapter of the agreement on internal trade and that, in the scheme of things, the changes may seem relatively minor. From a technical point of view that may be so, but from a principled point of view, they have real importance.
As we in the federal jurisdiction pass Bill C-14, we join our colleagues from other governments. Together, we show that the Government of Canada, with the provinces and territories, is committed to making national progress in removing economic barriers to more competitive markets with greater choices for Canadians. In that broader sense, we all triumph from the co-operation of governments working together for the greater good of Canada and the economic union that we are all proud of and part of.
The effective administration and evolution of the agreement on internal trade will continue to depend on co-operation. As the Government of Canada, we need to uphold our part of the relationship and pass Bill C-14. I now urge all members of the House to pass this important piece of economic legislation, so that we can do exactly that.
Improving Trade Within Canada Act
November 24th, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.
Maxime Bernier Beauce, QC
moved that Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act and the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Business of the House
November 24th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, this is delivering results on jobs week.
I will begin by noting that the highlight of the week was the passage of the budget implementation act, Bill C-13, keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act. That legislation has now moved on to the other place where we look forward to its passage.
We have also advanced Bill C-18, the marketing freedom for grain farmers act, past report stage. This bill would give marketing choice to western grain farmers, so it is a priority for us to have market certainty and have it passed by next year. For that reason, it is our intention to complete third reading of the bill on Monday.
Of course, Tuesday afternoon and again this morning, the House has continued debate on the opposition amendment to decline second reading of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act. We will continue that debate this afternoon. If the opposition finishes their effort to block this bill—after 16 hours of speeches—we will proceed to Bill C-14, Improving Trade Within Canada Act.
Tomorrow will be the sixth allotted day.
On Monday, we will start here for law-abiding Canadians week.
On Tuesday, we will start the post-committee stages of Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act. This will continue on Wednesday. I note that it was reported back from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights this morning. I do want to thank the members of the committee on their 27 hours of meetings in just the past couple of weeks. All told, including the nine predecessor bills within this legislation, we have seen 95 hours of House debate, 261 speeches in both chambers of Parliament, not to mention 70 meetings in committee rooms of this place.
On Thursday, we will continue here for law-abiding Canadians week with the start of debate on second reading of Bill C-26, the citizen's arrest and self-defence act, which the Attorney General introduced recently. Should time permit after that debate next week, we will return to debate the opposition's motion to block Bill C-4, the human smuggling bill, from going to committee. We hope we will be able to complete the debate on the opposition's motion to prevent that bill from going to committee soon so that we may actually have it go to committee.
Finally, as part of this week’s delivering results on jobs week, on behalf of my honourable friend, the Minister of Finance, I am pleased to table a ways and means motion in support of the establishment of a financial literacy leader for Canada. As honourable members would know, November is Financial Literacy Month; an issue championed by the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, the chair of the finance committee.
Pursuant to Standing Order 83(2), I ask that an order of the day be designated for the consideration of this motion. For the benefit of the House, I plan to call this motion immediately after question period on Tuesday of next week.
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
October 17th, 2011 / 11:30 a.m.
Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-14, especially after having had a chance to talk to a number of constituents in my riding last week to see the real picture of what is happening at the ground level.
The week before the break I heard my Conservative colleagues talk about how we are ranked number one by the IMF, Forbes magazine and a number of different organizations internationally and how we are doing so well compared to the G7.
I also heard my colleagues talk about spending $50 million here, $50 million there, $200 million here. Those are hollow words. If we look at what is happening in our communities, that is not translating into jobs. The Conservatives do not believe in statistics and real facts. They are cherry-picking some of the numbers to highlight that they are working toward a great plan. The problem is they do not have a plan. The Conservatives do not have an economic action plan that will help our communities and create jobs locally. Basically, they pretend to have a plan through a piecemeal process.
After having had a chance to visit in my community, I would suggest that the Conservatives get out of this Ottawa bubble and visit real communities and people to see what is happening. There are two million Canadians who are unemployed or underemployed.
I had a chance to visit the South Fraser Community Services Society last week. I commend the members of its staff for the wonderful job they do under very difficult circumstances with the resources and tools they have available. The South Fraser Community Services Society provides valuable services to the community. It provides shelters for homeless people. It helps them with their medical needs. It provides counselling and helps people find permanent housing. The staff is wonderful. I was pleased to see what they are doing for the community.
The Conservatives talk about the prosperity of this country. What is troubling is that 20% of the people using shelters are employed but are not making enough money to pay for housing. Not only are there those who are unemployed in this country, but there are also the working poor who are not making ends meet. In the bubble within which the Conservatives live, they do not see what is happening in the communities. In my community I did not see the prosperity the Conservatives speak about.
The Conservatives talk about a great trickle-down economics plan, but it is not trickling down to average families in my community. The Conservatives talk about a different Canada which I did not see in my community.
The Conservatives talk about cutting corporate taxes and giving billions of dollars to their friends yet they are raising taxes on working families. For example, over the last year gas prices have been rising almost daily. The oil companies are making big money. There is tax on gas. More money is being siphoned from average families who are having difficulty making ends meet.
If we look at the price of food, what I am hearing from my constituents is that the bag of groceries they are buying with today's dollars is not enough to carry them through the week because taxes are being raised on a number of items. If the pricesof food goes up, the tax also goes up. The government is giving away billions of taxpayers' dollars to corporations yet it is taxing the working families who are having a tough time making ends meet.
We need real action to create jobs. The Conservatives simply do not have a plan. We need to provide relief for families who are paying higher taxes, higher gas prices and higher grocery bills. We need to provide relief for students. The Conservatives say they are investing in universities but it is piecemeal investment. It does not make sense because they do not have a plan. Basically, their plan is to give away billions of dollars to corporations. They have done that consistently over the last seven or eight years.
I hear my friends across the aisle talk about the economic engine that drives our country. On this side of the House we know that economic engine is small business, the mom and pop operations that drive our economy. I do not know why the Conservatives are against small businesses. If they believe in an economic strategy and that small businesses create jobs, then we need to provide relief for small businesses.
There is $500 billion sitting with corporations but they are not investing. When small businesses make money and prosper they spend their money locally. They do not send it to another country. Yet we do not have a plan from my friends across the aisle.
The tax rate for large corporations has been cut enough over the past years. We need a real economic action plan that would provide relief to families, that would invest in our communities, and that would create local jobs to help this country move forward. Clearly, the Conservatives' plan, which is not a plan, is not moving our country forward.
Further reducing taxes for large corporations basically gives away billions of dollars, money which comes from families, working class people and small businesses. That is not fair. We need a real economic action plan. I suggest that my colleagues across the aisle get on with it and invest in local jobs. They should get out of this Ottawa bubble and visit their communities to see what is happening.
Improving Trade Within Canada Act
October 6th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act and the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)