House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

The House resumed from November 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act to to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of point. I understand appropriate discussions with other parties have taken place and I seek the unanimous consent of the House to complete the speaking period of my colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House has heard the request for unanimous consent from the hon. member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton. Is it agreed?

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to rise and replace my colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

My colleague and I are both in agreement to support Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian tourism commission.

As many members will already know, the Canadian tourism commission was actually founded in 1992 after an extensive consultation with various stakeholders in the tourism industry across Canada. At that time, when the former government was trying to get the commission up and running quickly, government and industry agreed that the CTC should be created as a special operating agency instead of a crown corporation.

Special operating agency basically means that it has all of the responsibility and none of the authority. The CTC was responsible for running the program but it was the deputy minister of tourism who was responsible for the administration. Because of the speech with which the CTC was originally created, it missed a whole bunch of key points and operations were often held back because of the bureaucratic nightmare that was created.

There were some marketing operations that had to sit around for months because they were going through the bureaucratic sign-off process which required 13 signatures. By the time they got to their signatures circumstances had almost always changed.

One could spot the potential for problems a mile away. Government contract issuance processes were just too slow to keep up with the rapid changes that occur in the tourism industry. Business does not have to be allowed to move much more quickly whether it is in the private or public realm.

My colleagues and I in the NDP support the move from a special operating agency to a crown corporation provided that the government provide the tourism board the support it will require to fulfil its objectives.

The development and accomplishments of the Canadian tourism commission is a unique and promising model of a private-public partnership. The tourism industry currently provides over two-thirds of the funding for the commission's operations.

Labour relations will move from the Public Service Employment Act to the Canada Labour Code, and while existing bargaining units will be merged, there will be a one year transition in eligibility for public service competitions and grievance procedures.

The tourism industry supports the change, the provinces support the change and the staff support the change. I believe that today in the House we should be able to co-operate and put Bill C-5 through the House as quickly as possible. One only wishes every government policy with respect to tourism was as beneficial for the industry as this one.

I take this opportunity to remind the House of the sudden and hurtful changes which our two airlines made with respect to their commissions for international ticket sales. This change alone threatens some 7,500 jobs in small communities across the country.

Basically the two airlines got together to set the new commission structure and informed the travel agents. I repeat, the two airlines got together to set the new pricing structure. Then, when the travel agents' association wanted to meet with the airlines to discuss the rate structure, it was threatened with anti-competition charges under the Competition Act by the very same airline. In other words, the Competition Act could be used by the airlines to bully small businesses, but where oh where is that act now that the big airlines are in trouble? Talk about a Liberal double standard.

Another point that I feel I must make in this debate on tourism comes more in the form of a warning. The preamble to Bill C-5 sets out the vitality of the tourism industry to the social and cultural identity of Canada. While I do not wish to necessarily disagree with this statement, it must be somewhat qualified. It is not tourism that is going to safeguard our identity. Instead, it is our distinct social and cultural identity as Canadians that will safeguard the continued interest for tourists in Canada.

Tourism can never be more than and certainly never less than an integral part of our economy. A well-balanced and vibrant economy of scale cannot be built upon tourism alone. I make this point because it is extremely important for us in Cape Breton to remember this at a time when our federal government is telling us that tourism will be our saviour.

Tourism also rides economic roller coasters, the big economic ones and the smaller seasonal variations. It is important to note that while we acknowledge the increased dollar figures generated in Cape Breton, from $211 million to $230 million this year which will make tourism one of the important factors in rebuilding our shattered economy, it is by no means the only or the whole answer.

As some of my hon. colleagues may already know, we, the NDP caucus members from Nova Scotia, have been working with tourism operators across the maritime provinces. We are facing a situation of a monopolistic food supplier if the Sobey's-Oshawa group merger goes ahead. This merger could potentially spell disaster for the restaurants, bed and breakfast establishments and hotels that are price-takers from their food suppliers. If the merger goes ahead there will be virtually no competition in that sector. I think I could elicit support from just about any part of the House that a situation where no controls or competition is in place could spell disaster for the people who depend on these suppliers.

Nearly 77,000 people are directly or indirectly employed by tourism operators in Nova Scotia. The fact that the government has taken no initiative toward protecting the interests of small businesses that will potentially be hurt by the merger is yet another example of the federal Liberals abandoning the interests of working people.

While I feel I must support the passage of Bill C-5, I do not do this without some reservations with regard to the Liberal government's policies toward tourism and tourist operators. I do not feel that the Liberal government supports tourist operators, especially those who are small business owners and employees.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her speech. I would like to ask her how Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourist Commission, would be different from what the Canadian Tourist Commission does now. I will read a paragraph about what the Canadian Tourist Commission is doing at the present time:

The CTC is industry led and market driven. It is a consortium of Canadian private sector, provincial, territorial, regional and federal tourism partners who collaborate closely to match Canada's tourism products and services with customer demand...both regional and global...and to focus the Canadian industry's efforts as a whole. The CTC actively pursues partnership opportunities for its marketing, research, and industry and product development programs. Interested organizations or individuals are invited to contact the Commission with ideas and proposals. It should be noted, however, that the CTC does not provide grants or subsidies, nor does it act as a lobby group on behalf of the industry.

Could the hon. member explain how the new tourist commission, under the corporate banner of being a crown corporation, would in any way be different? Would it be more efficient? Would it do the same kinds of things? Would it do things differently? How does she see it operating? This is what is happening now. Is that bad? Does she not like it? What is the real advantage to forming a crown corporation?

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, the answer is quite simple. As I stated in my comments the tourism industry supports the change. I respect the individuals in the industry and their ability to decide what best suits them.

The industry supports the change. The provinces support the change. The staff supports the change. I would only have to question why members of the House would not respect individuals in the industry who should obviously know what is best for their industry.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my compliments to the member on her speech. I have a concern that is perhaps a bit more general. Just recently on November 1 we saw the Department of Revenue Canada become an agency. While it is not entirely a crown corporation, it is certainly moving in that direction.

The number of crown corporations is growing. For example, Nav Canada took over the navigation services of Transport Canada. It is supposedly a non-profit entity right now. It is interesting the Museum of Nature is a crown corporation. These corporations are arm's length from the government but their arms are about an inch and a half long.

We have distorted the meaning of a corporation by setting up an agency of the government, dependent on the government for funding, with board members most often appointed by the government. The distinction between a crown corporation and a department or government agency is so small that it makes me wonder why we are going through these motions.

As we look at Bill C-5 it strikes me that we are going through much the same motions, as though we are singing the hit tune of the day. What will the consequences be for the government in establishing these corporations? More particularly what will be the consequences for these corporations and those they serve when in fact the government is still running the show under a different guise?

Could the member respond to my dilemma with setting up crown corporations which are so close to the government that arm's length is a meaningless term?

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have to be clear. Reform has always taken the position that if there is a government connection it is no good.

As I asked the colleague who questioned me prior, who are we to tell individuals in the industry what is good for them? We in the House are supposed to listen to the people we represent and bring their concerns here, not vice versa. We are not supposed to inflict our personal beliefs on individuals within industry.

When I hear that the staff supports it, the provinces support it and, more important, the people in the industry support it, that is certainly good enough for me and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member does a pretty good job of turning the question around, and I compliment her on that.

Has she ever asked why the industry is supporting this approach? Why is the staff supporting this approach? Why does this seem to be something different? Is it better? If the functions are the same, if the objectives are the same and if the CTC is operating effectively now, why would a crown corporation be more effective than the present commission?

Judd Buchanan, present chairman of the CTC, was a very strong Liberal cabinet minister in the Trudeau regime. He does his work for $1 a year. If the crown corporation is established, does that mean that the president of the corporation will work for $1 a year? Is one of the reasons the staff is supporting it that their salaries will rise? Why is it supporting it? Could the member answer that question?

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have real concerns with where Reformers keep coming from with respect to their questions. We are talking about the creation of a crown corporation. We all know, certainly those of us from Cape Breton, the Reform position with regard to Devco. If Reformers had their way they would fell all crown corporations and leave all Canadians on their own. Those that survive, great and those that sink, too bad.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

An hon. member

Free enterprise.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

The member says “free enterprise”. What, then, is our responsibility to individuals in the industry? In my home town in Cape Breton a number of individuals depend on the tourism industry for their bread and butter. The member asks why they feel this is better. As I have said before, they are the people in the industry.

I am not a tourist operator. I respect why they are saying this is best for them. I do not understand why Reformers would take the position that they do not think it is good and therefore inflict their beliefs on the industry.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain very specifically why we in the Reform do not think this is a good bill.

The reason that individuals are supporting the crown corporation concept is simple. It is likely that a lot more money will be spent on the institution but there will be less accountability. When members of parliament try to get information from the access to information department on crown corporations, we run into a virtual roadblock because crown corporations do not have to be accountable for the way they run their business.

I do not think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that private business can do a job better than government can. Under the current set up we have a program that is directly responsible to parliament through the Department of Industry. We do not want to see that taken away from us. We do not want to see the accountability taken out of this place and given to an untouchable board.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, I heard my hon. colleague make the remark that the creation of a crown corporation would mean more money.

We on this side of the House do not have any problem at all in investing in small businesses across the country. When I listen to members of the Reform, their position has always been let us sell off everything in the country and allow those who can survive to survive and those who cannot to waste away.