House of Commons Hansard #242 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was culture.

Topics

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am in receipt of a notice of motion under Standing Order 52 from the hon. member for Saint John.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I filed a notice yesterday requesting an emergency debate to discuss the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs' treatment of the Canadian Merchant Navy.

The merchant navy men have been asking for compensation for 55 years and every national veterans organization in Canada supports the merchant navy's request.

I was asked to table my motion by the standing committee, the chairman, and veterans affairs for compensation until we dealt with whether they would come under the War Veterans Allowance Act. I did that. We were led to believe at the standing committee that there would be an open mind at that table by all committee members and that they would hear and listen to everyone who came forward.

I cannot believe that the members on the government side voted this down because there was not a person who came before the committee to speak against it.

There is a need to discuss this before we take our summer break. I ask all of our members to agree to have this emergency debate for these brave men who brought peace to us here and around the world. We would not be here in the House if it were not for them.

I ask that we have an emergency debate before we break this summer with regard to the merchant navy's compensation.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has carefully considered the point raised by the hon. member for Saint John. While there is no doubt that she feels she has a grievance in relation to proceedings that may have occurred in the committee at some point recently, of which the House at this moment is technically unaware, I know that the member, in reviewing the standing order under which she has moved her application, will recognize that the Chair has to examine it in the light of cold hard facts. In this case the Chair feels that the application does not meet the exigencies of the standing order.

Ways And Means
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay for the Minister of Finance

moved that a ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act and a related act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, the Customs Act, the Excise Act, the Income Tax Act and the Tax Court of Canada Act, laid upon the table on Friday, June 4, be concurred in.

Ways And Means
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Ways And Means
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Ways And Means
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not want to be unfair to my colleagues across the way, but I think there was an understanding, and perhaps some colleagues did not know it, that they were requesting a recorded division. You might want to ask the question again, Mr. Speaker.

Ways And Means
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would be pleased to do that. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Ways And Means
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Ways And Means
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-55, an act respecting the advertising services supplied by foreign periodical publishers, and of the amendment.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 1999 / 10:30 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, although I have had an interruption of several hours and time to reflect on the merits of the Senate amendments and the amended bill, it has not changed my mind.

Last night I was puzzling over the fact whether the heritage minister, in her grand design and maybe in her new capacity as playwright once she leaves the House in the capacity of heritage minister, has designed the production of a play that is either a farce or a tragedy. I have had time to reflect on that and it has to be in the category of a farce. Nothing else would really fit the badly and almost comical way the government has handled the issue of split-run magazines.

This is all about the government having picked a fight with the Americans on an issue that it absolutely lost. It picked a fight and expended a tremendous amount of energy in an area which it knew it could not win. The government thought it would have a lot of people rally behind it, even in its own cabinet, and that simply did not happen.

I suggest this was a badly flawed bill right from the very beginning. The chickens have come home to roost and now we have the amended version of Bill C-55.

There has been a loss of credibility by Canada as a result of the government's actions on the world stage. We have legitimate concerns. We have legitimate problems with the Americans in areas where we need to fight the good fight. Softwood lumber is one of those areas. The matter of whether we are dumping cattle into the United States is another one. Softwood lumber is a very big issue in British Columbia. There are many of them.

This is the same government, by the way, which assured Canadian forest companies that if they signed the softwood lumber agreement we would have five years of peace with the Americans. The government's assurances are basically a bit like a Hollywood movie set. There is a false front, the nice looking hotel, with nothing behind it. That is how the government handles it. It tries to pretend that it is protecting Canadian interests when all it gives is empty rhetoric. It goes on and on.

On the issue of culture the government told us that there was a tremendous exemption which would protect the Canadian cultural industry. The cultural industry is based on that so-called cultural protection, and what do we find? It was not there but it keeps it going.

Now the government is telling the cultural industry that it will take it to the World Trade Organization in the next round of negotiations and that it will give the industry a new cultural instrument, a new cultural agreement in the World Trade Organization. If the cultural industry accepts that premise and builds its policies based on that, it will be disappointed once again.

It is not the only industry that has been subject to the Liberal government's fancy footwork in terms of pretending that it will protect them. As I said softwood lumber is one example, but it goes beyond that.

At the World Trade Organization-GATT back in 1993 in the Uruguay round, the government told the supply management industry that it would protect it and that it would not allow other countries to do away with article 11, which essentially was border closures or no access into Canada of dairy, chicken and eggs. What did we get? We lost. We lost and we had to accept tariffs. We still have very high tariffs in those industries but they will be coming down too.

I suggest supply management cannot believe the government either. It is now telling supply management that we lost at the Uruguay round but, not to worry, at the new round of the World Trade Organization it will protect that industry. I believe that assurance is worth nothing. The government knows that cannot be done, so it is misleading the Canadian public and it is misleading those industries.

How do we regulate a cultural sector. We do not even have a good definition of culture. There is not agreement in Canada on what culture is. There certainly is not an agreement on the Liberal side. We know that there were different ideas by different ministers. How do we regulate that? I suggest it cannot be done.

This does not mean that culture does not deserve Canadians supporting that sector. A better approach, one that is more enlightened, might be to promote our culture in the international trade forum, just like we do with any other business sector. Let us promote culture at our embassies and consulates. It deserves it. We know that Canadian artists deserve that promotion as well. That is a forum that is possible. It is possible to do.

There is another way in which we might address the issue. There are problems with Canadian films getting distribution rights. I suggest that we might look at international competition law or even Canadian competition law. We could even go beyond that and into the United States where competition law might be applied and where there is too much concentration in the hands of one set of business people.

There are forums to be used, such as competition law, to break down that terrific monopoly so that it is possible for Canadians to distribute their own films in their own country. There are things we can do but we have to be realistic. Pretending we can protect them in the forums of this government and in Bill C-55 is simply not realistic.

There are problems that may make Bill C-55, as amended, not even possible to implement. What might they be? On the matter of how much advertising revenues will be permitted for American publications by Canadian advertising companies there is a formula set in place: 12%, 15% and 18% by the end of a three year period. Canadian advertising companies are set to challenge that content regulation because they are being restricted under the charter. That is a substantial issue in itself.

What about the agreement? If it is based on gross revenue, net revenue or after tax profit, who will police it? Will we have another set of culture cops travelling around trying to decide what the revenue base should be? That is exactly what will happen. I suggest there is not common understanding, even with the United States, in the letters that were exchanged.

Do foreign publishers investing in Canada in the other section need to publish magazines with a substantial Canadian content or a majority content? In the letters exchanged just last week we can see where the problem is already starting to percolate.

These letters say that the United States accepts the terms of the agreement which state that a net benefit review by Canada of new investments in the magazine industry will include undertakings from foreign investors which result in a substantial level of original editorial content. The United States is saying a substantial level.

What is Canada saying? Canada is saying that we will use guidelines which call for a majority of original editorial content.

I thought we had an agreement. What kind of an agreement do we have when we cannot even get right if investment in Canada by American companies will have substantial content or majority content? They are entirely different.

We are sowing the seeds for the failure of this agreement. I suggest the Liberal government knew that all along. It is just another Hollywood movie front, the false front it is hiding behind, pretending that it is protecting the cultural industries. That is one aspect of a future problem.

Another aspect is that the Liberal government, in its lack of wisdom, will go into a policy that subsidizes Canadian cultural magazine publications upfront. The Americans are asking, if that is the case, whether they should qualify for it.

We have signed international treaties. We signed the NAFTA agreement. We signed the World Trade Organization-GATT agreement which says that we need national treatment. It is in there. Does the government not realize what kinds of international agreements it has signed? If the government subsidizes Canadian publications it will have to subsidize American publications as well. How absurd.

The whole concept of subsidies is wrong. It is ironic that we will now subsidize American publications. Is this not the height of irony?

In addition, how long will these subsidies last? Canada is going to the World Trade Organization millennium round, kicking off in Seattle this year, to argue against subsidies. It will argue to phase out subsidies internationally. The trade department is doing that and I agree 100%. The Reform Party has suggested that subsidies distort the marketplace. There is no place for them and in fact they are damaging sectors like agriculture very badly.

While the Liberals are speaking from one side of their mouth at the World Trade Organization, they are designing policies to put the very opposite into effect in Canada. How long will those subsidies stand up? This agreement was not designed to stand up very long at all. It is to get them through a critical period. This is a full retreat. It is window dressing. It is trying to save some face in the face of a very badly designed agreement.

The heritage minister picked a fight with the Americans and she lost. The bill should never see the light of day. That is the position of the Reform Party. We will not be supporting it.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am a little perplexed with what we are hearing from the official opposition which resisted Bill C-55 all the way through. It was totally opposed to any form of support for our cultural industries, the magazine industry in particular. All of a sudden it is crying that we have sacrificed this industry, which is total nonsense, by the way. It is rather amusing to see this huge flip-flop on the part of the official opposition, the only party opposing the legislation on some grounds on which it has now totally shifted.

In the process it has tried to direct personal attacks, as it always has. It gives the impression that it cannot do otherwise. It cannot debate the notion of ideas. It directs personal attacks to the minister, which is nonsense. That is not what it promised to do when it came to Ottawa. It is not living up to expectations.

These things need to be said. I will read a couple of quotes for members. One is from a fine gentlemen who writes for the Toronto Sun , Hartley Steward. He used to publish the Ottawa Sun . He is certainly not a friend of this side of the House but perhaps more of the other side of the House. Here is what he had to say on this matter:

—despite claims by the magazine industry's lobby groups that this is the beginning of the end for Canadian magazines, the deal is a pretty good one for those who own Canadian magazines. American split-run editions will be allowed to carry only 18% Canadian advertizing. Should they wish to carry more, they will have to set up a Canadian office and carry “substantial” Canadian content. If “substantial” is regulated to mean “majority” it is, indeed, a major concession on the part of U.S. trade officials.

Would the member like to comment on that quotation from Mr. Steward?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party was and still is, I believe, the only party that has resisted and said that it is dead against this agreement. The reason is that the evidence has shown that this agreement, this so-called exemption, did not exist. The exemption the government pretended was available to the magazine industry simply did not exist. I believe it was very misleading for the Liberal government to pretend it did.

When the free trade agreement was signed in 1988, Canada supposedly had an exemption clause on our cultural industries, but there was a cost to that, a price to be paid. The price to be paid was that if Canada did that, the United States had the right to retaliate in equivalent effect. That is the essence of this. We have seen it come home. We have seen the cultural industries now say that they do not want any more exemptions. The government told them about how great these exemptions were but they are not serving them well at all.

Instead of saying that the magazine industry has been sacrificed, I would say it has been misled. It continues to be misled because this is the same government that suggests in a report tabled today that Canada is going to protect cultural industries in the next round of the world trade talks, that there is going to be a cultural instrument, a cultural agreement in place.

We know what happened in the so-called failed talks of the MAI. One of the key reasons that failed was the cultural industries exemption. They could not arrive at any agreement as a result of that. I suggest that there is not agreement and there will not be agreement at the World Trade Organization for that exemption clause or any cultural agreement.

Most Canadians would suggest that the United States is the main threat to Canadian culture. That is what is perceived. That is the reason these things are designed. We have NAFTA. We have the original free trade agreement, whether the World Trade Organization comes to an agreement or not.

The United States' biggest export, I believe, is its cultural industries. The Americans regard it as commerce. Think about it for a moment. It is their biggest export. If we think they are going to say that these things are off limits or exempt, I do not believe that position is credible.

It is wrong for the government to pretend that certain conditions exist internationally that will protect our cultural industries in that way. It is wrong and I do not think the government should be doing it, nor the parliamentary secretary or the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The best thing that can be said about what has happened with Bill C-55 is that it is very much a face-saving gesture. Canadians lost. The Canadian government lost because now we are going to have to subsidize the magazine industries. The Liberal government lost. It got beat up very badly on this. It put the Canadian companies that were on the retaliation list through a painful period of time in our history. For one year they did not know if they were the industries that would be retaliated against.

We had all kinds of presentations from the steel, beef and lumber industries. They told us not to let this thing pass because they may be the ones that would face retaliation. Industries that had already faced tough times in dealing with the Americans possibly would be the ones that would be hit with further duties. It put them through an uncertain time which is unfortunate. It was an uncertain time.

There are legitimate fights that we need to take action on with the Americans. This is not one of them.

There are legitimate fights in the area of softwood lumber. The agreement on softwood lumber is due to expire in less than two years. It is one where Canada has to make significant progress next time around. The softwood lumber managed agreement which this Liberal government put in place is not working. The United States has taken action against rough header lumber. It has taken action against pre-drilled studs. There is going to be more action. We were promised five years of peace by the Liberal government for the forestry sector. What did we get? Anything but.

There is going to be a fight. Energy will be expended in the area of softwood lumber in the next two years. I suggest that at least we put our energies where we have some chance of winning and where we are right on the issues. That is not taking place at the moment.

The cattle industry is facing dumping charges and countervail actions by the United States. The steel industry is continually harassed in terms of facing dumping charges and it has to defend itself against unreasonable action. That is where the trade department and the Canadian government should be putting their energy. Unfortunately that is not the case right now.

With that, I suggest to the parliamentary secretary that there are many different views from Canadians as to whether it is a win or a loss here. If he were to canvass some of his colleagues on the government front benches, he would find there was division all through this debate right inside his own government.

When Canadians are asked what is important to them, what are the priorities and what we should be fighting for, they are talking about things like lower taxes. They are talking about things like less regulation in their lives. The so-called cultural protectionism this government has been providing and advancing as a priority is certainly not a priority for Canadians.

We need to be honest with Canadians. We have to give them a firm assessment of what is possible and what is not possible in future trade talks. I would submit it is not possible to get this cultural protection in any international agreements because there is not international agreement out there.

The United States is probably one of the countries that is most opposed to the idea of cultural protectionism. The Americans very much see this in a different light than Canadians do. They see this as an aspect of business, of commerce, and this Liberal government does not.

I am concerned when this government talks about cultural protectionism. What if other countries were to take the same attitude? What if other countries were to say that they were going to make their countries off limits to Canadian cultural businesses?

What about Canadian artists who want to work in Nashville? What about Canadian artists who want to work or who are currently working in Hollywood? If the Americans were to take this dog in the manger attitude that we have no access to their country, that they are going to protect it, a number of Canadian artists would not have the access to work in the United States.

It is badly designed legislation. The evidence of that is here in the amended version of Bill C-55.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Speller Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, first I want to respond to the remarks of the hon. member from the Reform Party regarding this bill.

I am somewhat surprised that the Reform Party on the one hand keeps claiming we can direct U.S. policy on trade and that we should somehow be standing up for farmers. On the other hand, when it comes to our cultural industries and what is important to Canadians and identifying Canadian symbols, the Reform Party would have us just walk away and do whatever the Americans want us to do.

Before the hon. member leaves, I would like to say that in terms of his comments regarding the cultural industries in our committee report, we did not come out and claim that somehow in a new round we would be able to protect all of the cultural industries in Canada. Our recommendation stated that at the WTO there should be a way in which countries can come together to discuss culture and put forward some of the interests of Canadian culture. We feel the Canadian government and certainly the Minister of Canadian Heritage and her parliamentary secretary have done that very well with regard to Bill C-55.

We should take that issue further. At the next round of WTO negotiations in Seattle at the end of this year, we should come together with the different countries in the world that feel culture should be on the table and find a forum under which we can discuss those issues.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-55. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade thanks the Minister of Canadian Heritage, her parliamentary secretary and her department for all of the hard work they have put into this bill. We are very appreciative of our Minister Marchi and the Prime Minister who together with the Minister of Canadian Heritage stood up for Canadian interests.