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 trade.

Topics

Insurance Companies Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Insurance Companies Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions with the parties. I believe you would find consent for the following:

That Bill S-21, an act respecting the corruption of foreign 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 now read the first time and ordered for immediate consideration at the second reading stage.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano for the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved 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 second time and referred to a committee.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Liberal

Julian Reed Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I rise with pleasure to speak to a matter of concern to all of us, the subject of Bill S-21, the bribery and corruption of foreign public officials in international business.

This bill when enacted will allow Canada to ratify the convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. This convention was negotiated by the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The 29 member OECD, which includes Canada, the United States, most European countries, Japan and South Korea, is the major economic policy forum for the world's most advanced industrialized democracies.

It is an accepted fact that corruption distorts international trade and competition. It impedes economic development. In developing countries in particular corruption distorts public policy. It leads governments to make decisions that are not in the public interest but are in the interest of those who benefit from the bribes.

Corruption also has the effect of lowering the quality of goods and services provided by the private sector in the course of meeting its contracts. If substantial bribes are being offered the money comes either by shortchanging the countries with which one has a contract or by undermining the quality of the goods and services being provided.

Furthermore it has an insidious effect of threatening the rule of law, democracy and human rights. It undermines the development of competent political and democratic institutions. Where they are in the course of development, it blocks that development. Stability and security are essential preconditions for economic growth. Prosperity, sustainable development and employment engender greater security and stability.

The successful promotion of Canadian values abroad can be assisted by increased economic partnerships between Canada and other countries.

The issue of the corruption of foreign public officials is not new and continues to be a major problem affecting international trade and investment. The problem has been the focus of attention within the OECD, the Organization of American States and the Council of Europe.

To implement the OECD convention would enhance Canada's reputation as a world leader in fighting corruption. It would honour the commitments Canada has made at the OECD, at the Denver and Birmingham summits of the G-8 and at the United Nations. And it would continue to ensure if not enhance Canada's standing at the OECD.

Some have questioned whether what we are doing is enough. My response is that this is a dramatic and significant first step in the right direction.

I will highlight the key elements in this legislation. The essence of the convention is the requirement that each state party criminalize the bribery of foreign public officials in international business transaction and take measures to establish the liability of legal persons for the bribery of a foreign public official. This provision appears in section 3 and is the centrepiece of the proposed act. It prohibits the bribery of a foreign public official in the course of business whether directly or indirectly. It calls for significant penalties. The offence would be punishable on indictment and carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

This legislation will use the definition of person found in the Criminal Code that includes Her Majesty and public bodies, bodies corporate, societies, companies and inhabitants of counties, parishes, municipalities or other districts in relation to the acts and things they are capable of doing and owning respectively.

Therefore for the purpose of the offences under this proposed act, potential accused are not limited to natural persons. Corporations also fall within the scope of these offences. The bill describes facilitation payments that would be exempted from the ambit of the offence. It would not be an offence if the advantage were lawful in the foreign official's country or public international organization. Reasonable expenses incurred in good faith and directly related to the promotion, demonstration or explanation of products and services or to the execution or performance of a contract with the foreign state could also be argued as a defence.

The bill would amend section 67.5 of the Income Tax Act to add this new offence to the list of Criminal Code offences referenced in that section in an effort to deny the deductibility of bribes paid to foreign public officials.

The convention requires the parties to provide that the bribe and proceeds of the bribery of a foreign public official be subject to seizure and confiscation. It requires the parties to consider the imposition of additional civil or administrative sanctions. For this reason the bill proposes to create two additional criminal offences, the offence of possession of property or proceeds obtained or derived from the bribery of foreign public officials or from laundering that property or those proceeds, and the offence of laundering the property or proceeds obtained or derived from the bribery of foreign public officials.

The bill incorporates the proceeds of crime provisions of the Criminal Code for use on prosecutions of the new offences. The new offence of bribery of foreign public officials is an enterprise crime offence to permit the search, seizure and detention of these proceeds of crime and is a predicate offence for the offence of laundering of the proceeds of crime. The convention has provisions dealing with mutual legal assistance and extradition with which Canada can comply. If possible under their legal systems, each party must also provide legal assistance in criminal and civil matters.

It is important to note the Canadian business community is behind this initiative. It considers the OECD convention as the most significant achievement to date in the international campaign against bribery and corruption. This convention is seen as an opportunity to create a level playing field on which Canadian companies can compete on the basis of quality, price and service. This was said loudly and clearly by members of Transparency International when they appeared before the Senate last week.

When he appeared before the Senate, the Minister of Foreign Affairs quoted Donald Johnston, a former Canadian Minister of Justice and current Secretary General of the OECD, who said in a recent article that “Integrity in commercial transactions is essential in making the global market work and to ensure that the public supports it. A logical consequence of globalization is that honesty has to be enforced at the global, not just national, level”.

With the passage of this legislation Canada has the opportunity to be the fifth country to ratify the OECD convention and to bring it into force, thus ushering in a new era of international accountability. I ask all hon. members to consider that the war on corruption is well underway. There is now no looking back.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak to this bill today.

Before I start talking about the corruption bill, I would like to make a couple of points before the House. The first one is that this bill came into our hands late on Friday and depending on what happened in the Senate determined whether it was actually going to show up today or not.

This is an important bill to businesses and to the international community and, as usual, we are ramming it through the last week of parliament. There has been very little planning on this bill. It was signed in December of 1997. We have waited or stalled or put it off and now all of a sudden this bill is so vitally important that we have it before us today.

This is government management. This is the way it handles things. This is the way it takes care of business. Of course we have seen a lot of this. We have seen it in the case of the Somalia report. Murders were committed. There was a cover-up. A commission was set up. It held hearings for months, which extended into years, and finally the cabinet waffled it away and suspended any action on it. A few little guys took the fall and then we moved on.

Right now there is the APEC inquiry. It is the same sort of thing, mismanagement of the issues. Among the APEC protesters was a very well known teacher from my community who is a student at UBC. He has told me all about what happened. He was standing on the front line, around the pepper spray.

Again we have the government's mishandling of this sort of situation, stalled investigations and stalled handling. I point this out because this is how the government manages things, or mismanages things. It waits until it has a crisis. Someone in the OECD said this thing has to be signed and it should have been done yesterday. All of a sudden, here it is in the House and we are expected to ram the thing through with little time to look at it.

The second part of this motion, to which I object strenuously, is the fact that it is coming straight from the unelected, unaccountable Senate. We have a body proposing that this legislation is good for Canadians and good for our businesses. However, it is coming out of a place that has absolutely no credibility, a place that totally lacks legitimacy.

Obviously there are solutions. For instance, Alberta has recently held Senate elections. Mr. Brown receive 331,000 votes. Mr. Morton received more than 261,000 votes. And yet this government, in its wisdom, will not even acknowledge that this happened.

The government is proposing a bill on corruption and, literally, on credibility when it has made so many inappropriate actions and has such a lack of ability to deal with any kind of an issue.

Our concerns are obvious. We would like to have the opportunity to call witnesses. We would like to have the opportunity to look at the various problems and the good points of this bill. We would like to have the opportunity to become informed on this issue. However, it was handed to us on Friday afternoon and we were told that on Monday we were going to deal with it and ram it through the House.

The OECD is made of up of a group of 29 of the most industrialized countries. It is one of the most important think tanks in the free world. Obviously combating bribery in business transactions and what that would do for the international trade scene is something that all of us care about. However, we have desperately handicapped ourselves because of the lack of management.

While the whole bill is very credible, and while we support the principle of it, we have to raise some very great concerns. Above everything, when we look at this we see how naive the government has been in dealing with this.

I cannot help but think of our most recent look at the nuclear situation in our foreign affairs committee. Would it not be great if we had no nuclear weapons? Obviously it would be great to not have nuclear weapons. But what is the reality of the situation? The government seems to have a great deal of problem dealing with reality. It likes to live in a glass house. It likes to think that everything is going along so nicely, so friendly and so well organized. What is the real situation?

The OECD says, above other things, that Canada has a big problem. Our dollar is too low. Our debt is much too high. We have a $600 billion debt which is dragging us down every time we try to get ahead. Will that ever be dealt with?

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

There is $50 billion in interest.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

There is close to $50 billion in interest. Think of what we could do with $50 billion if we had it. Look at the $12 billion spent on health care by the federal government. Look at the $14 billion spent on education. Look at the $22 billion spent on pensions. Close to $50 billion is spent on interest payments. That is the kind of mismanagement that the OECD talks about.

It also talks about the level of taxes in this country. It talks about how we have some of the highest corporate and personal tax rates of the 29 OECD countries. That also is mismanagement by the government not responding to what the OECD has been telling it for so many years.

When we talk about being naive we also look at things like getting our UN seat. Are we going to say that we did not try to influence some of the foreign embassies in getting that seat? Are we going to deny that that is part of an Olympic bid? Are we going to say that we are so perfect that we will never, ever try to coerce someone into supporting us in a position? That is not true. That is not how the real world works. That is not how this government operates.

While it would like to stand in this place and talk about how wonderful it is, what a great manager it is and how good a job it does, when we look at it we do not have to go very far below the surface to see the level of mismanagement and how it handles the way the House operates. The whole process of presenting this bill is a perfect example of that sort of mismanagement.

We can talk about corruption in many different ways and I will try to explore some of them. Obviously, we oppose corruption. We are, after all, one of the countries in the world that has a great role to play in setting an example.

We can see how corruption can undermine the very workings of various governments. It can destroy developing democracies. It can literally cause countries in transition to go backward. We can talk about countries such as Sudan and others which are in transition and have moved back and forth.

Corruption distorts public confidence in the whole process. I would even say that public confidence has been held up to question because of the mismanagement of this government. It leads to the misallocation of valuable resources.

When there is corruption, there are resources going off to the wrong place to do the wrong thing, ultimately to the detriment of the people of that country.

Again, I would come back to Canada and look at the allocation of resources. I would ask, are these being allocated according to what is best for the people of Canada?

It hurts the private sector. It distorts the operation of the markets. It deprives ordinary citizens of receiving the benefits of the flow of wealth. Whenever there is corruption within the system that obviously can happen. Above all else, it hurts the poor people of the world. From this government's standpoint, we often hear about their concerns and about human rights abuses around the world. We see very limited action in that regard, but we certainly hear the words being spoken from the other side.

We need transparency in international reporting and in international business deals. We could look at the way NGOs operate and go a long way in increasing our transparency. We could also look at CIDA.

Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member has 28 minutes remaining. I know he is just getting into the body of his speech, however, he will have the floor after question period.

It being almost 2 p.m. we will proceed to Statements by Members.

Professor Mohamed Elmasry
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Professor Mohamed Elmasry of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo who was inducted as a fellow in the prestigious Royal Society of Canada in Ottawa on November 20, 1998.

Professor Elmasry was invited to join this elite group due to his invention, development and his help in the industry introduction of several new technologies influencing the growth of microelectronics in Canada and abroad.

His research has resulted in five distinct generations of integrated circuit designs, and his revolutionary work on low-energy logic circuits some 20 years ago is now finding wide application in portable telecommunications.

Professor Elmasry has done pioneering work in artificial neural network chip design, self-learning chips, speech recognition systems, vocoders and echo cancellation. He holds nine patents and is the author or co-author of 12 books and more than 250 scientific publications.

I congratulate Professor Elmasry on his new fellowship and wish him well in the future.

Inquiries
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the resignation of Gerald Morin puts into question every previous ruling by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. On October 7, 1996, I filed a complaint with the commission concerning RCMP negligence in dealing with farmers' complaints against the Canadian Wheat Board. The response confirmed, without a doubt, the warning that my effort on behalf of farmers would be torpedoed.

The inaction of two former Liberal solicitor generals on these complaints plus the government's relentless prosecution of farmers even after it lost the Sawatzky case and appeal, proves something is badly wrong in our justice system.

The government's willingness to jeopardize all Canadian exports to the U.S. to avoid an independent audit of the wheat board demands an immediate judicial inquiry.

Pepper sprayed students, imprisoned farmers and confiscated property. What next?

Opera Ontario
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I draw the attention of the House to the Hamilton based Opera Ontario, Canada's fourth largest opera company. In recognition of the significance of its achievements, Opera Ontario has been awarded for the second time in three years one of the six $25,000 lieutenant governor's awards.

I have had the supreme pleasure to see a number of the company's productions and I can without hesitation attest to the quality of its work.

The success and recognition given to such organizations as Opera Ontario show that there is a living, breathing arts community in Hamilton that is as sophisticated and dedicated to quality as any other in Canada.

I say congratulations to Hamilton's Opera Ontario. I look forward to seeing the company build on the success it has already achieved. I am convinced that it will continue to be a vibrant and growing contribution to life in Hamilton and surrounding communities in southwestern Ontario.

Natural Disasters
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Armenians around the world will take time today to recognize the 10th anniversary of the tragic earthquake on December 7, 1988. On that sorrowful day over 25,000 lives were lost and hundreds of thousands of Armenians were left homeless and injured.

This year Armenians will reflect on the crippling effect of nature's fury and share with the victims of Hurricane Mitch and natural disasters everywhere the common bonds of human suffering, human courage and human resolve to overcome and persevere.

I urge my fellow members of parliament to join Canadian Armenians in mourning the victims of the 1988 earthquake and to continue the effort to provide relief to the victims of natural disasters everywhere.

Monique Sioui
Statements By Members

December 7th, 1998 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, “Pay equity is very much in the news these days. Monique fought for equity, plain and simple”

Those were the words of Richard Kistabish, the husband of the late Monique Sioui, who was awarded for the first time the rights and freedoms award for the Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Wanaki, the couple's daughter, accepted the award on behalf of her mother, who died last year from an illness.

At the award ceremony, we were reminded that she was the president of the Quebec native women's association in the mid-1970s. It was also pointed out that “Monique Sioui addressed acutely sensitive issues such as native children being adopted by non-natives and discrimination against native women under the Indian Act”.

According to Richard Kistabish, Monique Sioui got involved to bring about some changes: “She worked very hard at changing the status of women. She also worked with neglected children. She fought against discrimination by getting involved in the community. She wanted to act as a bridge between the white and native cultures.”

It is an honour for us all to say thank you to Monique Sioui.

National Friendship Centres
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, the first nations friendship centre at Vernon in my riding will host an open house on December 10, national friendship centre day.

Human Resources Development Canada has not included the friendship centre movement in its new aboriginal human resource strategy although half of Canada's aboriginals now live in cities. This leaves friendship centres without any way to address urban aboriginal employment and training. I toured the Vernon centre where people can get services like training referrals and help in preparing resumes.

I was impressed by the huge caseload these folks handle. For example, family support and crisis intervention averages 47 cases per month. Nationwide friendship centres also help develop feasibility studies and business plans to promote long term employment in such diverse ventures as catering and day care.

However the aboriginal urban initiative which the friendship centres run is scheduled to lose its funding on March 31. I urge my colleagues to support the national friendship centre movement.