House of Commons Hansard #147 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I heard a no.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Reform Party, we feel we could do a lot better than Bill C-32.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Richmond—Wolfe, QC

The Prime Minister's proposal is an excellent one, and one we support.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

March 19th, 1997 / 3:05 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions.

Order In Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to table in the House today, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments which were made recently by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1), these are deemed referred to the standing committees, a list of which is attached.

International Business Strategy
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, Canada's international business strategy for the years 1997 and 1998.

International Business Development
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table today the report on international business development. The document, entitled "Achievements of the International Business Development Program", responds to recommendations put forward in the November 1996 auditor general's report on Canada's export promotion activities.

The auditor general recommended that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Industry Canada establish

mechanisms to measure the effectiveness of our international business development activities.

As recommended, we are establishing a performance measurement framework to determine the effectiveness of existing government programs and services and to help plan for the future.

The international business development report I am tabling today will serve as an annual report card updating parliamentarians on the results of our international business development activities.

We must ensure that the services we provide achieve their intended objectives at the least possible cost.

[English]

Next year's report will have much more detail than this initial endeavour and will discuss the preliminary results of our performance measurement system, including feedback from clients on our trade commissioner service, a review of the impact of the department's exports, investment and technology development activities. It will have baseline indicators that have been established to measure Canada's year over year success in terms of international markets and our promotion in those markets.

The government's international business development activities work hand in hand with a rigorous bilateral and multilateral trade policy agenda and clearly establish market access priorities to ensure that Canadian businesses have competitive access to world markets.

We are improving the delivery of services because international trade is an important part of the government's job strategy. The more companies we introduce to trade, the more jobs are created in Canada. To that end we have set a tangible goal of doubling the number of active exporters by the year 2000.

With exports accounting for nearly 40 per cent of our gross domestic product, international trade has become the engine that drives the Canadian economy.

For ever $1 billion in increased trade, we create or sustain 11,000 jobs in Canada, jobs for every community in the country. Promoting Canada's products and services is, however, only one part of the job.

We also must sell Canada as an outstanding place to invest. Foreign direct investment in Canada has a dramatic impact on job creation. Today three Canadian jobs out of ten, both direct and indirect, more than 50 per cent of our total exports, and 75 per cent of our manufacturing exports are directly attributable to foreign direct investment in Canada.

Studies suggest that attracting a billion dollars of foreign direct investment into Canada results in up to 45,000 jobs over a five year period. That is why we have developed a specific agency, a specific program, to help bring in more of those investment dollars.

I cannot talk about international business development without referring to the success of the Team Canada trade missions led by the Prime Minister, together with the premiers, which have helped the private sector to bring home more than 550 business deals with more than $22.1 billion for Canadian companies and resulting in Canadian jobs.

Canada is meeting the challenge of globalization and members have only to look at our track record.

The 1996 trade statistics are proof that Canada is succeeding internationally. Canada's trade surplus reached a record level of $34 billion. That was $6 billion more than in 1995. That is success.

This success has been built on the strength of the Team Canada partnerships. We have forged solid alliances with our provincial, municipal and private sector colleagues. By working together in Team Canada, we have been able to deliver the programs and services that Canadian companies need to compete internationally.

Finally, it is a pleasure for me to announce today that the 1997-98 Canada's international business strategy is now available to the Canadian business community. International business development programs and initiatives help Canadian businesses become export ready by providing access to key financial services, market information in export programs.

The federal government and its Team Canada partners continue to forge ahead in their international business development endeavours. Working together we are confident that Canada will continue to prosper as we expand and diversify our markets abroad and as we attract foreign investment and technology flows into Canada.

International Business Development
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could thank the minister on tabling this report, but that will unfortunately be impossible for a number of reasons.

I am pleased to rise in this House today to speak on the report on international business development entitled "Achievements, International Business Development Programs" tabled today.

But before I do, I would like, if I may, to tell the Minister of International Trade, through you, how the unacceptable attitude of his government and his department has saddened and annoyed me. Once again, this government and the minister's department have

shown disrespect for the opposition by waiting until the very last minute to tell us about the tabling of the report on international business development. This hardly gives us enough time to become properly acquainted with such an important report and to fully absorb all of its contents.

We know that documents could have been made available to us by the minister's office yesterday, and we would have known not to release this information, because we thought there was honest and sincere co-operation. We hope there will be honest and sincere co-operation in the future. This is not the first time that I have to raise this point publicly in the House. We do hope this issue will be addressed.

I will not go on about this, except to say that the government was unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to ensure that we could carry out our duties properly; otherwise, we would have been afforded the opportunity to read and prepare comments on the report on international business development before it was tabled. After all, is that not what we are supposed to be doing here today?

According to the minister, his report responds to the recommendations made in the November 1996 auditor general report. The report includes the following:

-in spite of the some $375 million spent by the federal government every year to promote trade, the data on the results of this activity is not gathered systematically and is not sufficiently objective. Moreover, a systematic and more objective feedback on the results would allow the government to be better informed about the eventual benefits of its action, and to better understand what adjudication process is required when co-ordinating and distributing its resources.

Finally, the auditor general pointed out "that the government must inform Parliament more systematically about the activities and achievements made under the international trade development program".

In short, the auditor general is saying that the government invests $375 million per year in a program, without checking to see where that money goes. This is what the auditor general is saying.

Moreover, the auditor adds: "I noticed the same thing 10 years ago, and no change has been made since". So, $375 million are invested to help small and medium size businesses, to help businesses export their products. Does the program work? Maybe, but we do not know, because the government does not conduct any audit regarding a meagre $375 million invested hapharzardly.

In light of all this, you can imagine my surprise when I noticed at the last minute that the report tabled today by the Minister for International Trade does not in any way address the Auditor General's recommendations, any more than it addresses the report of the committee on assistance to small export businesses. Because the minister was not called to order on one occasion, he has now been called to order twice: once by the Auditor General and once by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

We would have expected the Liberal government to explain in this report how it was going to come up with systematic and more objective feedback on the results obtained in international trade that would allow it to be better informed about the eventual benefits of its action, and to better understand what adjudication process is required when co-ordinating and distributing its resources.

Instead, the report tabled today looks more like a pre-election score sheet of the Liberal government's accomplishments with respect to international trade. The report, the minister's speech, far from making specific recommendations, only goes over the mechanisms already in place within this program, as well as the general directions taken by the government.

The minister should have done his homework. He wrote the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade asking for an examination of existing mechanisms. We did as he requested and, what is more, concluded our study and tabled our report. And they replied to it. They are telling us they will reply at some point. I am telling him he has already done so.

Moreover, the Minister for International Trade's letter of presentation with this report clearly stipulates that the mechanism for measuring the performance of resources allocated to the international business development program is not yet in place, and that further details will be forthcoming.

The auditor general has said: "We have been waiting ten years for it", and now the minister tells us that he is well aware of the fact that he needs to put feedback mechanisms in place, and that he will do so in future.

I would like to point out that we can easily be a bit sceptical about this. The government also wrote in its red book that two groups were going to be set up to examine trade disputes and anti-dumping problems. Both were to report to Parliament by December 1995. They are saying: "Trust us. We will make the reports by these two groups available during the next election campaign".

Asking the Canadian public, and particularly the official opposition, to trust the government is perhaps asking rather a lot of them. One might have expected that the government and the Minister for International Trade would have taken concrete steps to respond to the auditor general's concrete recommendations. It was not the nasty separatists, nor the Reform Party, but the auditor general who asked the Minister for International Trade to take concrete steps to correct the situation. The minister tells us: "Trust me, and you will see that, in future, we are going to coeect this situation".

In closing, I remind him that former Prime Minister Kim Campbell also said "Trust me" during an election campaign. So now there are only two of them left.

International Business Development
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to respond on behalf of the Reform Party to the tabling by the Minister for International Trade of the document entitled "Achievement of the International Business Development Program".

Although we have not yet had a chance to see the document, this is democracy at its finest. We are told that it responds to recommendations put forward in the November 1996 auditor general's report on Canada's export promotion activities.

Let us examine some of what the auditor general actually had to say about Canada's export promotion activities. His comments are somewhat less than flattering. "We concluded that Parliament needs to be better informed about the expenditures, outputs, revenues and cost sharing of Canada's export promotion efforts. This would help ensure that there is no undesirable overlap, that the distribution of expenditures reflects the government's priorities and that Parliament is kept informed about the progress being made toward the government's objectives".

I have to agree with the auditor general that there is a pressing need for the public to know how its hard earned tax dollars are being spent. For example, how much do all of our globe trotting Team Canada missions cost? We are always told that business people pay their own way, so "don't worry, be happy, it is not costing us anything".

I would remind the House that it is the taxpayer who picks up much of the tab for plane fares, hotels and food for all the government officials who lay the groundwork for these missions and for the PM's tag-along entourage. That is not paid for by the business community.

I have a sneaking suspicion that some programs for export market development money gets sprinkled around, as well as quite a bit from the Export Development Corporation. I would really like to know how much, to whom and did we get our money's worth. I challenge anyone to get that kind of information out of EDC. All you will get is a thousand and one reasons why such information is confidential, sensitive or none of our business.

I look forward with some eagerness to seeing what the minister proposes be done to keep Parliament better informed about expenditures on all aspects of trade promotion.

Directly related to cost is cost effectiveness. Here is what the good AG had to say on that score: "While we were unable to find conclusive evidence about the direct effects of trade promotion, it is possible to measure the cost effectiveness of specific activities. To do this requires information on costs and systematic objective measures of the usefulness of specific activities to business or measures of their impact. However, both the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Department of Industry need better cost information. They need to obtain systematic and objective feedback to determine the value and utility of more of their key activities".

I know, and the auditor general knows, that the exact impact of government programs might be hard to measure. Did a foreign sale happen because of a government initiative or did it happen because a Canadian company had a superior widget and a lot of sales moxie and initiative? All that the auditor general is asking is for objective feedback about the key activities. He thinks that it can be done. I think it needs to be done and done often.

I would like to comment briefly on the puffery surrounding Team Canada's alleged success in snagging those ephemeral deals. The government needs to ask itself: What other factors play a role in determining our exporters' success? Really, if Team Canada's initiatives are all it takes to be successful abroad, then why would we not see our exports to China, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay rising instead of falling after our big ticket missions there?

International Business Development
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Art Eggleton York Centre, ON

They are rising.

International Business Development
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

The hon. minister says they are not falling. He should check the government's statistics which are a matter of public record. India, I recall, had a drop of 16 per cent.

There must be some other ingredients required in the foreign sales mix. A healthy economy is one. Strong companies and confident consumers who are not burdened with an unbearable tax load is another one. How about the ability to build some muscle through domestic trade by allowing companies to freely trade with neighbouring provinces?

International Business Development
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to tell the hon. member that he has the same amount of time as the minister, and that time has unfortunately expired.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 59th report of the Standing

Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the selection of votable items.

Pursuant to Standing Order 92, this report is deemed adopted on presentation.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 60th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, regarding the membership of the Standing Committees on Industry and on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 60th report later this day.

Food And Drugs Act
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Mission—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-390, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (labelling for prepackaged foods).

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to propose this private member's bill which would amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit the retail sale of a prepackaged food containing an ingredient that has been genetically altered through a prescribed biotechnological process unless a label is attached stating that the prepackaged product has been genetically altered or contains an ingredient that has been genetically altered.

Since genetics engineering is racing full speed ahead with no checks and balances in place, the purpose of this bill is to protect the consumer so that the consumer knows what he or she is buying.

I am pleased to propose this bill today and I look forward to engaging in debate when the time comes.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)