House of Commons Hansard #167 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offence.

Topics

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words about Bill S-21. The NDP supports the bill. We see these provisions as a good thing for Canada and for all OECD countries. Certainly the extension of anti-corruption measures around the globe would be a good thing.

Members and particularly the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs will know the NDP has recently come out of a fairly successful battle to prevent something from being adopted at the OECD, namely the MAI. Here we are standing in favour of something being adopted at the OECD. I wanted that to be noted because it is not that we are against a rules based global economy or rules for that matter. We are in favour of rules, rules that prevent the wrong things from happening. In this case when it comes to corruption and bribery, we feel the imposition of rules to prevent corruption and bribery is a good thing.

What we did not like about the MAI, that other thing being perpetrated by the OECD, were the rules which were put forward to protect investors and corporations at the expense of workers and the environment and the ability of democratically elected governments to act in the public interest.

There is a role for rules. There is a role for conventions. There is a role for international law. That role is to prevent undesirable things from happening, whether in this case the existence and the spread of corruption and bribery or other undesirable things like the exploitation of workers, the exploitation of the environment, the setting up of corporate profit strategies as somehow superior to the common good and to the legislation which democratically elected governments might want to pass from time to time in the public interest.

We see the very opposite of what we have here in this kind of legislation, not a convention but nevertheless an international agreement that Canada has entered into in respect of NAFTA and that Canada wanted to enter into in respect to the MAI. We see the interests of a corporation like Ethyl Corporation being held up as more valuable than the ability of the Canadian government to legislate environmentally or the health of Canadians insofar as it is related to MMT and other environmental goals the government might have from time to time and might want to legislate in respect of.

Here we have finally the OECD, after having spent all this time trying to do the wrong thing in terms of the MAI, doing something right. Just so nobody thinks we think the OECD is always wrong, we stand here today to say this bill we would like to support and we have co-operated in the easy passage of it.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, like my colleague from the NDP, I too am pleased to speak today on Bill S-21.

This is an act respecting the corruption of foreign public officials and the implementation of the convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions, and to make related amendments to other acts.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this bill because it addresses the problem of corruption in international business transactions involving governments and government projects. It follows on the signature by Canada and 28 other countries of the convention on combating bribery which was signed last year.

This agreement required five of the ten greatest OECD trading partners to ratify the convention by the end of 1998.

Four have already either done so or stated their intention of doing so by the end of December, the United States, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. Canada's ratification, therefore, would allow the convention to come into effect.

Here we are at five minutes to midnight, and the government is just waking up, only a few days before the end of these sittings, and asking us to turn our work topsy-turvy in order to get this convention put through. Obviously, we support it, but some questions could be asked about the process leading to its adoption.

I will describe the convention. By signing it, the countries commit to enact legislation which will make it illegal for companies to bribe representatives of foreign governments. They also promised to develop a mechanism for overseeing the implementation of the law.

Under this convention, the parties must ensure that intentionally offering or agreeing to give or offer an unfair pecuniary or other advantage to a foreign public official to obtain or retain a contract or any other unfair advantage in international trade constitutes a criminal offence. The convention also applies to kickbacks paid to persons holding public office, that is lawmakers and officials of public organizations. In addition, this convention deals with facilitation payments and requires that the parties implement rules to prevent misleading accounting practices and the use of forgeries for the purpose of bribing or covering up bribery.

The purpose of this bill, whose main thrust is found in clause 3, is to implement this convention. From now on, all OECD countries will be subject to the same rules. Bribery and kickbacks will no longer be tolerated and will in fact be considered criminal offences.

This convention will ensure that businesses in Quebec and Canada have access to a more level playing field on which to compete internationally. Of course, the Bloc Quebecois joins the business community of Quebec and Canada in supporting this bill. But perhaps we could go further.

There are now 28 member countries in the OECD. We all know that we also trade extensively with developing countries, APEC countries and other countries around the world. So, as far as we in the Bloc Quebecois are concerned, this convention negotiated with 28 OECD countries should be placed as quickly as possible under the aegis of the WTO.

I must say I am bitterly disappointed with the Liberals' attitude. The Conservatives have spoken of threats. Here we have another example of the lack of respect of Liberal members and an example of the way they perpetuate the bad reputation politicians have in the community as a whole.

When members speak in this House in a debate that is not totally conflictual and are continually being interrupted by sarcasm, jokes or private conversations, they may well wonder what happened to courtesy. Perhaps there is none in that party, it is found only among the opposition. That would be one more thing they do not have that the opposition does.

They have a whip that occasionally tightens the screws. Will they understand? Perhaps the whip should move and sit there to get them to understand common sense. When they are not busy accusing or threatening the Conservatives, they are preventing other members of this House from speaking by holding their Christmas party in the House at 3.50 p.m. on a Monday. It is rather disgraceful.

We might also ask ourselves, as the minister and the government are acting in good faith and accelerating the passage and the process of the convention on corruption, why this same government does not take as much interest in other actions that could be taken internationally, through national leadership, in order to improve international trade, which is increasingly a part of our activities.

My colleague from Frontenac—Mégantic has just tabled a fairly thick petition calling for abolition of the Senate. But the Senate, perhaps in a moment of brilliance, recently tabled a report. In it, they ask the government to issue a code of ethics for business, stronger and more restrictive than the current voluntary code established by Canadian business.

I myself asked the Minister for International Trade whether he intended to implement the code of ethics recommended in the Senate report. The minister told me that a simple “yes” or “no” would not suffice with respect to such a recommendation and that further study was required. We are all for that.

When we asked the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Subcommittee on International Trade to examine the idea of a code of ethics for Canadian businesses so that Quebec and Canadian values would apply in other countries, we were turned down by the Liberal government. The committee is refusing to examine this proposal at the very time that the Canadian government is prepared to rush through in one day a code of ethics for businesses operating abroad.

The same Senate report says that any Canadian assistance—whether through the Export Development Corporation, CIDA, or other government agencies—to Canadian or Quebec based businesses for the purpose of conducting trade abroad should be tied to observance of minimal standards.

But no recommendation is made regarding the obvious need for a code of ethics, to ensure Canadian businesses will not, in order to save a few dollars or cents per hour, exploit women and children by making them work in dreadful conditions, in countries where working conditions are much worse than they are here.

Also, the government helps businesses through subsidies, financial assistance, or payments following the export of goods or services. We are asking, and the Senate committee is recommending, that such assistance be tied to compliance with minimal standards on Canadian exports. But again, the government has turned a deaf ear.

We are pleased that the Canadian government moved quickly to implement the convention on combating bribery in international business transactions, thus becoming the fifth OECD member to do so. However, we must question the government about its true intentions, as we wonder whether it is not making a small concession to hide a more serious problem, that is the absolutely dreadful working conditions imposed on children, men and women in some parts of the world. The Canadian government could not care less, because “we must not adversely affect our companies' competitiveness”. In order to make money, increase their sale figures and preserve their competitiveness, some Canadian companies go to countries where human rights are not respected.

The Senate made two very realistic recommendations: the establishment of a code of ethics for businesses that is more strict than the voluntary one, and a requirement to comply with minimal standards to be eligible for government assistance regarding international activities. But these two issues will remained unanswered for a very long time, because while it looks like the government is quick to take action, it is slower in providing concrete help.

I will conclude on this point, and we will see the government in action.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you will find unanimous consent to return to tabling of documents under Routine Proceedings so that we can table some documents that were requested during question period on Friday.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, since we are right in the middle of the debate on Bill S-21, could we have more information on the nature of the documents before we give our consent?

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I would be glad to do that. I do assure the member that we have sought unanimous consent with the parties. These are documents that were requested of the Minister of Natural Resources regarding the record of understanding between the Government of Canada and the United States regarding areas of agricultural trade.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent to revert to Tabling of Documents?

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Agriculture
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the support of all members in this regard.

On Friday the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board was asked to table certain documents. The minister indicated that he would be happy to present the documents concerning an agreement signed between Canada and the United States. As I mentioned this agreement is a record of understanding between the Government of Canada and the United States of America regarding areas of agricultural trade. I present the documents in both official languages.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-21, an act respecting the corruption of foreign public officials and the implementation of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, people in the media would tell us that if we repeat and repeat and repeat we will get the message across better. Having spoken to second reading today and having partially finished my second reading speech after question period, I now have an opportunity to speak at third reading.

I repeat that one of the biggest problems we have with this bill is the fact that it was agreed to in December 1997, it showed up here on Friday and now there is a great rush to move it through. It shows a great deal of mismanagement, of not dealing with issues that the government says are good for the country. It does not allow us the opportunity to call witnesses. It does not allow us the opportunity to look at all of the issues and to ask questions.

Will this handicap us when it comes to dealing in the international marketplace? What about those that are not part of the OECD? Where will they be when it comes to competition? There are so many questions we should ask.

We often find the government presents a rather naive view of the world. For instance, in the nuclear study we found that the government believed there would be no more wars and that we do not need to protect ourselves.

Our second reason for having problems with this bill is the fact that it came from the unelected, unaccountable Senate. No matter where we go in the world it is difficult to try to explain the Senate. We talk about democracy and democratization. One-quarter of our government officials are not elected, but simply are political hacks sent here to raise funds for the party and to help organize the party. We have a great deal of difficulty giving credibility to the material coming out of that body.

I will address the bill itself. The OECD has made a number of recommendations to Canada. The most notable comment from the OECD was clearly made when we visited with them in August. There are three basic reasons Canada is having difficulty with its economy.

We are losing our trained people. We have a low dollar. We have 8% unemployment and many other people who are not part of that unemployment figure any more. We have a pension plan that is going to fail. We have the highest taxes and so on. When we ask what is wrong and why is Canada not working very well they do not come to corruption right away but they come to three things, three really clear things.

The first is that we have too much debt. Our debt to GDP ratio is too high. No country with 79% of its GDP to debt ratio is going to do very well in the international community. Obviously they are telling the government to fix the debt problem. It took us 30 years to get into this huge debt of $600 billion but we have to find a way to get out of it. The big thing with this debt is the interest payments. When we spend close to $50 billion a year on interest payments it hurts our country. It hurts our young people. It hurts our businesses. We have to know that.

The second thing the OECD says is that taxes are too high. Taxes are why there is unemployment. Taxes are why the best trained people are being lost. Taxes are why businesses are being lost and why people will not invest in the country. They are causing the problem. Whether they are individual taxes or corporate taxes, they are destroying the country and its ability to compete in the 21st century.

Third, and probably most important of all, the country does not have a plan. This country does not know where it is going. That is because of 30 years of mismanagement by a couple of different kinds of governments.

When we get this bill about corruption, we certainly know it is important. Corruption does destroy countries. But that is not the number one problem in Canada. The problems in Canada are the huge debt, huge taxes and the lack of any kind of a plan.

Let us examine the different kinds of corruption and what corruption does to a country and its economy. There are several things we should look at. There cannot be good government if corruption is allowed to go on. Democracy will be destroyed, whether it is in a transition phase or whether it is well developed. Democracy will be destroyed when corruption is allowed to happen.

That is why many people here question democracy. Are we really a democracy when we see cabinet ministers beat the back bench into submission to vote the way of the party? Is that really democracy? We see committees that are forced to come up with the government position, even when members disagree. Is that really democracy? Deals are made and deals are changed. Is that really democracy?

We listen in question period to the government saying it is going to examine the entire APEC matter. However, the chairman is gone. They cannot look at the politicians. Is that really democracy? We should not throw too many stones when we live in a glass house.

There are lots of things that would allow us to really question the kind of government that we have. I could go back to the Somalia inquiry. What a terrible example that set for other countries. We were condemned in countries like Belgium and other European countries when they saw how we handled that inquiry. We let it go on for a year and a half, not touching any of the guys at the top. We just went after a few of the little people at the bottom. We did not support our troops. We did not support the Canadian way of life. I question again what the government is doing.

We can distort public policy. We have the examples of the Pearson airport deal and the helicopter deal. All of those things are examples of manipulation by government for political reasons, but out there in the public they raise a big question mark.

Corruption also causes the misallocation of resources. How many examples do people have out there of CIDA projects gone wrong? Just last week our minister went down to Washington for lunch. He agreed that Canadians will be one of the big guys up to the table so he wrote a cheque for $92 million to the Palestinian effort to help them build roads and complete an airport. We have already given $120 million. The only country that has given more is the U.S. Do we know where that money is going? Is it accountable? Do we know how it is going to be spent?

Tell some of the Saskatchewan farmers who are trying to haul their grain on some of those roads that in fact Palestine needs roads more than the Saskatchewan farmer does.

The misappropriation of funds that goes on is part of corruption. It is all there.

We could talk about the aboriginal issue. That is good one. We just had a forensic audit of the Stoneys.

Of course, many of our native people are saying “There is corruption within our chiefs and councils. We, the grassroots, are asking you to straighten this out, to fix it”. That is a problem in Canada. Why are we not dealing with that problem?

Again, we can live in our glass house, throw stones and talk about corruption internationally, but we should be looking at it here.

We can also look at the poor of the world. We can see how corruption affects them and hurts them. We have to keep asking these questions.

That is what we are here for, to raise these questions. Government members might not like to hear them. They would like to live in a naive world, a wonderful world, a glossy world where everything is just fine. Those rose-coloured glasses are starting to get a little foggy. I think some members opposite should start cleaning their glasses.

As far as transparency is concerned, there was a very interesting study done by the UN. It was a corruption index. They went from country to country and rated them from zero to ten. Zero was the highest level of corruption and ten was a clean bill of health where they could not find any corruption at all.

It is pretty interesting. I will refer to a few of the countries that are covered in this study.

Denmark finished first. It had a perfect score of 10. In other words, no corruption could be found in that government. Canada, interestingly enough, finished sixth, at a rate of 9.2. It was not bad, but they did find some corruption within our system.

Britain was 11th, at 8.7. The United States was 17th, at 7.5. Chile was 20th, at 6.8. Botswana was 23rd, at 6.1. Hungary was 33rd, at 5.0. Russia was 76th out of 85, at a rate of 2.4.

We can see in this corruption scale where some of these countries are and then we can take a look at what that means. Let us use a few examples. Let us talk about Russia.

Of course, Russia today is run largely by the Mafia. Obviously, by the rate of 2.4, corruption is pretty rampant. It is pretty difficult for the people even to get along. The businesses have to pay protection money in order to stay open.

If someone in Russia wants to make a deal, they have to pass money under the table. The GDP is destroyed. The only thing that makes that country an international power, if you want, is its nuclear weapons. Obviously, we need to control and stop that sort of corruption.

Let us come back to Canada again. We are not at 10. Why not? Is there any government corruption here?

If we listened to the finance minister today, we would have heard him bragging about how he has created all of these jobs, how taxes are actually good and that they really do not cost jobs. We hear all kinds of innuendoes back and forth. One minister says one thing, one says another. What are those people out there who pay taxes thinking when they get this doublespeak from their ministers?

What are the people to think? The area I am most familiar with is the foreign affairs area. What are they to think when we send an ambassador to Los Angeles to live in Beverly Hills in a $2.5 million mansion with servants? That person really has no credentials to be our ambassador there. Her only credential is that she had the biggest defeat in election history in Canada.

There she sits in her palace in Beverly Hills, paid for by the taxpayer to promote Canada. Is that corruption? Did she know too much about the Somalia inquiry? Was that a way to get her out of the country?

What about our ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Fowler? On December 24 he received his appointment, but that was at the same time as the Somalia inquiry was going on and he just happened to have been deputy minister of DND for nine years. Why was he hustled out of town? Why does he live in a fancy place in New York with a high salary and why is he untouchable by any inquiry? Why does that happen? Is that corruption?

Mary Clancy is in Boston. Gilles Bernier is in Haiti. Roger Simmons is in Seattle. These are all appointments. Who are these people? Are they the best people to represent Canadians? No, actually they are defeated members of parliament. That is their credential for being there.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Stewart Brant, ON

What about Kim?

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

What about Kim? Kim was certainly defeated. She managed to do a real good job of being defeated, and there she is off in Beverly Hills.

These appointments conjure up something in our minds.

We look at the Senate and we see a bunch of party hacks working on campaigns, raising funds for the party. We ask ourselves, what about corruption? What about democracy? Again we have problems.

The Parliament Buildings were supposed to cost under half a billion dollars. Now it is $1.4 billion. What do Canadians think about that? In planet Ottawa maybe those things are fine, but out on the street it is not so fine, it is not so happy. We have to address these kinds of things.

We could talk about what people think about the social union. People think that their health care is hurt, that their education systems are not as good as they were and that the social policies are not working. They have food banks, housing problems and all kinds of other problems. They ask “What is government doing about it?”

Government is cutting funding. Health care has been cut by $7 billion in the last five years. Again I come back to the fact that there is no plan. The government does not know where it is going. It has no master plan.

Does the government know what it is going to do in agriculture? Certainly other places in the world are looking at it. Why would agreements be signed when other places like the European Union or the U.S. are giving grants to everybody? Why did we not negotiate a better deal? What is wrong with the people who allowed us get into a situation like that?

I will talk about the policing problem. In my area the police showed up at a rotary meeting begging the Rotary Club to help provide a motorcycle because motorcycles are more efficient at catching speeders and people going through red lights. Why were they at the Rotary Club? Because the government has cut their funding. In the past month they were told not to use their cellphones any more and to put two cars in the garage. They could not use them because of funding cuts. Meanwhile we have young offenders, break-ins and all kinds of other problems happening.

What is happening to our system?

We can talk about the pension plan and the 73% increase in the cost of the plan. Talk to a young person and ask them about investment in the pension plan. If they are 20 or 25 years old and they put 9.9% of their income in until they are 65, ask them what kind of an investment that is.

I did a little survey last January. It was very interesting. I think the House might be interested in this survey. It was to go door to door in Chile, a country that has had a pension plan for 26 years. It is a private pension plan. They invest in their own pension. They own the pension plan themselves. I found an overwhelming pride among the low, middle and upper class of income earners. There was a real pride in that pension plan because it meant something.

How about employment insurance? People certainly question that the government is collecting $350 per person more than it can use. It is also collecting $500 per business per worker. And we are going to give back 15 cents per $100. Are we not just wonderful?

People ask “What is happening down there? Is that place corrupt?” Ask people what they think about Ottawa and they will bring up these kinds of items. They will not necessarily talk about the big international deals. They will talk about health care, taxes, pensions, education, the systems that touch people. That is what they care about.

While we agree in principle with this bill, the way it has been brought in is disgraceful. The Liberals should be ashamed of themselves for bringing it in this way. They should be ashamed of bringing it in through the Senate. They should be ashamed for not allowing the time that a bill like this one needs and for simply running it through at this eleventh hour.

Basically as we look at it, we are against corruption. This is a real motherhood issue. But there are questions businesses would like to have answered.

In principle we can go along with this bill, but we certainly have a lot of questions. And we certainly tell the government that we do not like the method by which it brought in this bill.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill S-21 is a step in the right direction, an international agreement, introduced in the Senate, and much to our liking.

It is worthy of note that there is already an agreement to ensure that there is a periodical report—an amendment in this regard will be moved in the Senate—on the international corruption situation. That report will be tabled in Parliament.

We will then be able to assess regularly what is going on, in order to have greater credibility than the Reform member who, when we were discussing the study, stated that there was no corruption in Denmark, but there was in Canada.

Unfortunately, given the arguments raised by the Reform Party, I will have to spend a few minutes on this. It is, if I may be pardoned the expression, rather disgusting to see the Reform Party pushing the parliamentary rules as far as they can. They have given some 10, 12 or 15 examples, asking whether they were cases of corruption. If that is what the parliamentary spirit of the Reform member is all about, I have some questions.

Once again, the credibility of the Reform Party is at stake. Looking at oneself in the mirror is one thing, but what the Reform Party has tried to do, to say that Canada is a corrupt country, which is pretty well what the hon. Reform member has said, is quite another thing again. What is the point of all this? Not to mention that the examples given were dubious at best.

Let us take the example given by the Reform Party or follow the same line of thought. Does the fact that the leader of the official opposition turned down Stornoway, the official residence, for several years and then accepted it mean that there was corruption? That is the sort of question I am asking: Was there corruption?

The Reform Party talks about nuclear arms in the papers, and while it condemns the United States, it appears to be in the pocket of the Americans. Is corruption involved? We have to be very careful about this sort of thinking, there is a term for it— “irrelevant”.

Bill S-21 is a step in the right direction. It is an international agreement. The Reform Party is busting its britches saying “It came from the Senate, it came from the Senate”.

They have no respect for the institution, and no election in Alberta is going to change the rules. If they really want to change it, there is a way to go about it, without discrediting it. Discrediting parliament means discrediting those who sit there. The Reform Party has already done that. It is not serious, but care must be taken. I know the Speaker wants to apply the standing orders to the letter. However, a speech like that becomes less credible and could lead to accusations. They do not go far enough, because they haven't got the balls—as we say at home—to go further. They raise questions and propose theories to discredit a number of people, but they are no better.

An aid to the Reform Party took pictures of the renovated gym and bath. He did not look too good when members said “We use the facilities and that is all right; there is nothing wrong with that”. In the end, one has to be credible.

But seriously, and this excludes the Reform Party, Bill S-21 is a step in the right direction in the sense that a convention was signed. It may not cover every country in the world, but there will finally be a legal framework dealing with the various forms of corruption. While incomplete, Bill S-21 ensures that the convention signed by Canada can become law here in Canada.

Another important point is that, for once, the House gets to debate the convention, although too briefly. While the government had been saying since January that it would be introducing the bill, we did not have enough time. I am really disappointed about that. With the Liberals, it takes time. Eventually, though, they will realize that much more time should be devoted to debating international agreements.

Still, as I said, I think this is a step in the right direction. This bill, which we will be passing and which the Senate will hopefully ratify soon afterwards, will ensure that the primary condition, set out in the first operative provision of Bill S-21 will come into effect and be enforced in five countries.

I hope that the review will go further than the periodical report and include non-government and non-profit organizations. I think we should go much further than that. However, with Bill S-21, Canada meets its international obligations. That is a step in the right direction. The issue has been raised in the House and we in the Progressive Conservative Party are going to push to have it move forward.

As the Bloc Quebecois members have often pointed out, the next step is human rights. In the interests of greater credibility, much more will eventually have to be done with respect to international trade as it affects human rights.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has its work cut out for it. At some point, it would be a good idea for us to give thought to what sort of policy Canada could enforce that would incorporate a number of laws and international agreements to which Canada is already a party.

So Bill S-21 is speeding through. There was, however, I believe, agreement in this House that corruption should cease. But will that happen? Probably not tomorrow, but at least people will know that Canada, like four other countries, has a law, has signed a convention, and that it could push for the signing of these agreements, and perhaps even make it a kind of condition. When Canada negotiates or renegotiates international agreements or portions thereof, it must ensure that the other signatories also enact anti-bribery legislation.

Bribery used to be a way of life. If people wanted a passport in some countries, they had to bribe an official. They were told this was the way things were done, and it was hard to deal with that. Now, fortunately, because of globalization of markets, among other things, the situation has evolved and the laws and regulations governing a country are now scrutinized closely by all real and potential world trading partners.

This bill is therefore a good one. It comes to us from the Senate, an institution that of course could do with some improvement. However, that shows that there are things that can be credibly accomplished within parliament, and this is our goal in the Progressive Conservative Party. We enthusiastically support Bill S-21 and assure the government and parliament, both the House of Commons and the Senate, of our full co-operation.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Halifax West, National Defence; the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Employment Insurance; the hon. member for Brandon—Souris, Agriculture; the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Employment Insurance.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Liberal

Julian Reed Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the members who have participated in this debate. It has been to a large extent a constructive debate this afternoon. I extend appreciation for this very important breakthrough bill. This is a first for Canada and by all parties showing co-operation, it puts Canada in a position of leadership. Having said that, I would like to comment on the words of some of the members.

I marvelled at the generosity of the Speaker when the member for Red Deer was straying from the subject to such an extent. I realize there is a great deal of latitude in this parliament and there probably should be. I think he would have been ruled out of order in the Ontario house, if I can remember from my former incarnation. There were times when I did not know whether to call him Dr. No or Chicken Little, but it was a very interesting speech. Through it all and through all the raving and hair pulling about the terrible condition of this country as he sees it, there were a couple of questions which I think deserve answers.

One was his concern that this bill went through the other place first before it came to this House. I want to point out for the record that in our present system of parliament, a bill may be introduced either in the Senate or in the House of Commons. It is essentially for procedural purposes and for no other reason other than very often it makes for a more efficient process.

The hon. member for Red Deer was also concerned that this bill appears to be coming in at the last minute, because the commitment was made in December 1997. I will admit that sometimes things seem to happen very slowly around this place. I can share that point of view. The fact is that there was a tremendous amount of consultation undertaken when this bill was being considered. All the provinces and the territories were consulted, as well as the private sector. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Council for International Business, the Pacific Basin Economic Council and so on, all of these organizations had to be taken into consideration.

Perhaps in hindsight, maybe the commitment to implement something like this should have had a more extended period before it was brought in. However, the bureaucracy operated as I think bureaucracies operate, with the speed of light. It actually brought this to an acceptable point here and allowed us to go ahead with a universally acceptable debate today.

The Bloc and my friend from the Conservative Party suggested that we could have gone further. Indeed we could have gone further, but I remind the House that we are acting in concert with the OECD, those 29 highly industrialized countries; in concert with the Organization of American States; and in concert with the European Community.

All those organizations together, as this anti-corruption force takes hold and as the net is cast, will cover almost all the commerce which takes place around the world. Yes, there will be some rogue countries, but the pressure will be on all countries in the world to operate a progressively cleaner ship.

My friend from the Bloc was also mildly critical about human rights and Canada's position on human rights. Canada is encouraging every country to act positively on human rights. We are helping China on the human rights issue and progress has been made over the last years. We are doing that in every country where we have what we call constructive engagement which hopefully involves doing business but also allows countries to see how Canada acts and how the Canadian system works.

I have had the honour of receiving delegations from countries around the world that come here to study Canada, to study the government process and to study what my hon. friend from Red Deer considers to be very awkward, regressive democracy. He asks if we do have a democracy. I remind him of the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill who said “The democratic process in government is the worst form of government except for every other form of government”. As difficult as it is, our system of democracy works.

I thank all hon. members for participating in this debate and for agreeing that we should proceed together so that Canada is truly seen as a leader.