Debates of Sept. 21st, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was border.
- Customs Act
- National Security
- Interfaith Prayer Service
- United States of America
- Violence Against Women
- United States of America
- Walk of Hope
- The Economy
- Budget Surpluses
- Standing Committee on Finance
- Stock Market Speculation
- International Aid
- Points of Order
- Government Response to Petitions
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Question No. 58
- Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
- Question No. 44
- Question No. 50
- Question No. 55
- Questions No. 57
- Questions No. 61
- Customs Act
Question No. 50
September 21st, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.
Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB
What amounts were paid by government departments and agencies to the McMillan Binch law firm for professional services during each fiscal year since 1991?
Question No. 55
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
For the fiscal year 1999-2000, can the government provide a detailed list of all grants awarded by the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec in Quebec's 75 federal ridings?
Questions No. 57
Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB
Has the government formulated a national housing policy and, if so, what definitions has it given the following terms in regard to single persons: ( a ) “affordable housing”; ( b ) “poverty”; ( c ) “rooming house”; and ( d ) “homeless”?
Questions No. 61
John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC
With regard to the fishing industry and infrastructure necessary to support it on a riding basis for the fiscal years 1997-98 to 2000-01 inclusive: ( a ) what was the funding for fishing harbours under the Small Craft Harbours Program; and ( b ) what was the value of fish landings?
Questions No. 61
Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON
I ask, Madam Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
Questions No. 61
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Is that agreed?
Questions No. 61
Some hon. members
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be now read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Madam Speaker, as I was saying before being interrupted for oral question period, we had certain reservations about the bill. These were threefold.
First of all, regulations are needed for certain matters that strike us as crucial, including the criteria for accreditation of Canadian or American individuals or companies, so that when CANPASS accreditation is refused, the reasons for that refusal are known and corrective action is taken in order to maintain healthy competition between Canadian and American companies in the same sector.
Second, we also have certain reservations about the minister's discretionary power in certain cases. It is a failing of the government that it always includes several provisions in a bill referring to the minister's discretion. At some point everything is up to the minister's discretion and this concerns us.
As for giving customs officers increased authority to open mail in the case of envelopes weighing 30 grams or more, we question the appropriateness of such a measure. Customs officers already have certain powers, but it would be excessive to open mail without an arrest warrant or serious doubts about the nature of a parcel. Even the Canadian Bar Association questions these stepped up measures.
Following discussions with the Minister of National Revenue, who is responsible for the economic development agency, it wanted us to have some assurances regarding the possibility of having regulations with the bill, especially when it is examined in committee or at least of our having a statement of principle or a political statement for certain parts of the bill. It will be especially important to have a larger picture than that of the bill in which we find incredible gaps that prevent our understanding things properly.
We got this assurance and I think we will watch how things develop because the Minister of National Revenue and minister responsible for economic development is not in the habit of saying just anything. We will therefore await further developments in the hope that the minister will provide the clarification we seek.
In principle, at this second reading stage my party is going to support this bill, but we will be waiting for developments from the minister responsible who, let us hope, will meet our expectations. If at the end of the process we are not satisfied with respect to the concerns we have mentioned throughout this speech, we would have to oppose the bill unless there are amendments.
So far, we are in support of the bill's principles at second reading because international trade could benefit. The administrative problems encountered by certain companies and individuals in conducting business with the United States in particular, could be reduced. This could be a positive thing in the circumstances.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Madam Speaker, the NDP caucus feels that Bill S-23 is less about providing for the expedited movement of persons and goods into Canada, or even about making technical or housekeeping changes to the current practices, and more about economic sovereignty. It is about the larger issue of the whole subject of North American integration and the ultimate disappearance of our borders.
The bill, like many others introduced by the Liberal government, is like a Trojan horse. The government introduces some fairly innocuous bills or aspects to an issue but with a secondary objective. The primary goal in this bill is masked around the issue of making sure that there is a free movement of goods and services between Canada and the United States, our major trading partner.
There are some positive changes in Bill S-23, particularly the lengthening of the period of time within which a person can appeal a ruling by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
That was a necessary change to make given, for example, the practice of people leaving the country to be married and then coming back with gifts or jewellery stemming from that marriage. Many people did not realize that there were huge customs duties on that material and there were only 30 days to appeal. There have been cases where the opportunity to appeal was lost. Changes in Bill S-23 will remedy this situation.
The larger issue pertains to our economic sovereignty and about the move toward the integration of the North American economy with the whole western hemispheric economy. Recent comments made by the ambassador to Canada from the United States have given us even greater cause for concern along these lines.
There have been those who advocate the idea of expediting the process by making comparisons with the European Union. It has made recent changes to the movement across borders between its partners to make the free flow of goods and services easier and less cumbersome.
The relationship among Canada, the United States and Mexico does not resemble the member states of the European Union. It has done a much greater job to harmonize other necessary things even before contemplating the harmonization of immigration policies, customs practices or shared practices such as electronic passes that are being contemplated with retina identification or palm prints.
These are fundamental shifts in the way that we do things. The Americans are saying we should harmonize with American immigration laws and then enter into this new relationship. It is far more than a technical change in the way people are processed as they cross the border. It does belie a fundamental shift in the way that we view ourselves.
There is a saying in the Holy Bible that the lion shall lie down with the lamb. In that case the lamb does not get very much sleep. We are very concerned that as we enter into this relationship with the United States it will be hugely to the benefit of the Americans and lesser to us.
In light of the recent World Trade Center tragedy Bill S-23 should be put on hold and frozen in its place until such time as we deal with the issue of international security stemming from the WTC tragedy.
It is the wrong time to be dealing with issues of economic sovereignty when we are so wholly dominated by the tragedy that happened in New York. It is the wrong time to redefine our relationship with the United States or to redefine our position as part of the North American hemisphere. Bill S-23 would force us to enter into that argument and debate long before we are ready.
We were reminded recently of the dangers of letting our economic sovereignty slip away. The recent trend in the past 20 years has been toward a branch plant economy. As we predicted, the development of a branch plant type economic base is coming to fruition.
For example, we said that if we lost control of our industries and let the Americans dominate or foreign ownership take over, Canadian industries would lose the ability to chart their own destiny. A graphic example is at our doorstep.
Frustrated Americans are saying that if Canada does not fall into a complete goose step with the United States in its current military exercises then they would reconsider allowing their plants to continue manufacturing in Canada. They would withdraw their Canadian branch plants of American companies costing Canada jobs.
That is a perfect illustration of what we warned about. If we lose our economic sovereignty we will lose our ability to have national sovereignty and to chart our destiny as we choose instead of becoming part of the American manifest destiny.
It is ultimately what western hemispheric integration is all about. The Americans are deemed to be the inevitable and chosen ideal that there should be one force in the western hemisphere and that it should be the American economy and culture.
We are opposed to that. I am a fiercely proud Canadian nationalist. When I look around the room for others with the same mindset I do not see very many on either side of the House at this time.
Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. How can the NDP speaker compare the goose stepping of Hitler to America's attack on terrorism?
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
The Chair is not here to censor the words of the hon. member, but if the hon. member would like to continue his debate he may.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Madam Speaker, I am not trying to offend anyone with the point that I am striving to make. Our primary concern as Canadians should be to maintain our economic and national sovereignty. As a fiercely proud Canadian nationalist I see very few other people speaking in those terms. We used to hear that kind of argument from the Liberal benches back in the days of Walter Gordon and Paul Martin Senior, and when the current member from Windsor used to espouse those lines.
We used to hear Liberal members talking about ensuring that too much foreign ownership does not dominate Canadian industries. That used to be a popular theme for them. Laws and regulations were put in place to make sure that did not happen. Part of their argument was that if our economic sovereignty was lost we would lose the ability to be a sovereign nation.
The most paramount idea about being a sovereign nation is to be able to chart our own destiny and control matters such as international military exercises like the one we are about to see the Americans embark on.
We have been essentially threatened. President Bush told us in his speech last night that countries are either shoulder to shoulder with America or they are with the terrorists. I find that offensive as a Canadian who is not unquestionably shoulder to shoulder with the Americans but that does not make me shoulder to shoulder with the terrorists.
We are advocating a third way to deal with the international tragedy that happened at the World Trade Center within the parameters of the international community, and that is to bring these criminals to justice without embarking on a unilateral military exercise such as that being contemplated by the U.S.
Canada must be cautious not to drift along with the particular exercise. Unless we have control of our economic sovereignty we are subject to the coercion associated with the threat of branch plants closing and the border being sealed up.
Those are the issues that concern us about Bill S-23. The legislation should not be up for consideration in the House of Commons at this sensitive time in our nation's history. The bill should be put back on ice. The flow of goods and services across our border should be dealt with at some less sensitive time.
We are hearing all the typical and familiar buzzwords in the news that give us cause for concern about what is the real agenda. The current ambassador of the United States to Canada is talking about the need for a NAFTA plus. Bill S-23 is the Liberal government's answer to a NAFTA plus.
I remind the House that sometimes the wishes of Americans are brought about in a circular way for procedural reasons. In 1983 the previous ambassador of the United States to Canada, Mr. Paul Robinson, in a Maclean's magazine article stated:
--Back in January of 1983, I asked my embassy staff to see what we could do to initiate a free trade deal with Canada. I realized, of course, that the public initiative had to come from Canada, because if it came from us it would look as if we were trying to gobble up our neighbour.
He had to get a Canadian entity to start calling for the trade agreement, knowing full well that it was hugely to their advantage. However the Americans wanted it to come from Canada. Otherwise Canadians would see, in a very transparent way, that it was really their intention to gobble up their neighbour.
The Toronto Star reports that then U.S. Ambassador Robinson took the idea to Thomas d'Aquino, president of the Business Council on National Issues and unofficial prime minister, at his Ottawa home. He was exactly who the Americans needed to promote the idea of the free trade agreement, an agreement that would be hugely in their favour.
Interestingly enough, when the president of BCNI talks about those days he reverses what history tells us and says it is important to remember that it was Canadians who took the first step and asked for the free trade agreement. It was in fact the U.S. ambassador visiting d'Aquino in his home who asked for it, and d'Aquino dutifully delivered over the next number of years.
We in the NDP believe the issue of North American integration is cause for great concern. It is a subject we should be debating. We are not afraid of having the debate but we do not think it should be in this context. It should not be wrapped in the envelope of the issue of customs and excise. That is crazy.
This is a Trojan horse idea. We are ostensibly here today to debate the idea of free movement of goods and services across the international border between Canada and the United States, but the debate is really about western hemispheric integration into one United States of America from the Arctic Ocean to Tierra del Fuego.
It worries us when we hear the Liberal chair of the finance committee saying that no one can deny that North American integration is taking place. The newspaper article reports that he has emerged as the chief advocate for a no holds barred debate on integration, an issue which did not appear in Liberal election campaign literature in 2000.
I do not think the Liberal Party campaigned to trade away what little is left of our economic sovereignty. I do not think its intention upon re-election for a third term was to start passing legislation specifically asked for by the U.S. ambassador, that would see us lose our ability to chart our own destiny. I do not think the Liberals intended to embark on such an agenda. I did not notice it anywhere in their party's year 2000 election campaign literature.
We are not against having a more open border at some point. We are not against free movement of goods and services between us and our neighbour to the south. However let us do it on equal terms. Let us do it in a way similar to the way the European Union undertook integration. It had a bigger problem. It has 15 nation states but it took care of basic social issues first. It took care of the social charter that would equalize the standard of living.
There is a huge historic imbalance in the power relationship between Canada and the United States. That is why this is like the lion laying down with the lamb. It is not a deal between two equals. It is a deal between Canada and the largest economy in the world which happens to own 88% of Canadian industry. The U.S. already has a huge stake in Canada. It is the remaining 12% of Canadian ownership of our industries that we are bargaining with.
Some of us are not ready to give up on the idea of a sovereign nation state in Canada that is unique and different and does not need to harmonize with all things American.
The Canadian Alliance Party since it has been here has thought that all things American are good and all things Canadian are retarded. That is what we hear from the Canadian Alliance. It gets all its inspiration from the right wing evangelical movement in the United States. Whatever Pat Buchanan and Pat Robinson say in the United States, the Alliance brings here and tries to sell to the Canadian public.
However we are not buying it. We are not interested. There are still enough of us intent on preserving a distinct identity that Canada will not buy into that mindless idea.
I hate to say it but there are those who would exploit the tragedy in New York to expedite their vision of a single, integrated western hemispheric identity. It is not fair to exploit the tragedy in New York. The issue must be dealt with independently and not within the parameters of a simpler debate about the free movement of goods and services.
There are those of us who still care about the issue. I hate to sound like a Liberal but I probably sound like a Liberal from 1967 when Walter Gordon, Paul Martin Senior and others who had a vision of a unique Canadian identity used to stand proudly in the House of Commons and argue that we should not be economically dominated by foreign nations. They used to set rules and regulations about foreign ownership.
Where are the champions today? The only person outside the NDP who has spoken out in a loud and clear way is David Orchard of the Progressive Conservative Party. He asks those questions. Hardly anyone else seems to. Members seem to have resigned themselves to the benign indifference of the universe. They feel that American manifest destiny is inevitable and that there is no point in fighting it because we cannot resist it.
I put it to the House that we must have this debate without the emotional veil that has been thrust upon it by the tragedy at the World Trade Center in New York City. There will come a time when we must make a choice. Are we prepared to turn out the lights on the last shred of Canadian nationalism? Are we prepared to resign ourselves to the belief that we are merely Americans who are a little different?
The U.S. has sensed there is a difference today in that our Prime Minister did not rush automatically into the vengeance mode the Americans are justifiably feeling. No one blames the American government for speaking in strong terms about the need to avenge the assault on New York City. However our Prime Minister, to his credit, in the first reactions to the tragedy at the World Trade Center did not jump immediately into line with the American call for violent military intervention and revenge.
We are now paying the price for that. A significant number of Americans are disappointed with us. We first got snubbed when the U.S. president met with the president of Mexico before meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada. The second snub was in yesterday's speech, the single most important speech the president has ever given and arguably one of the most important speeches any U.S. president has given since the Checkers speech.
The speech did not contain one mention of Canada. Canada was shut out and snubbed. We were chastised in a diplomatic way for not being aggressive enough and falling into step, I would call it goose stepping, with the military initiative with which the Americans have seen fit to avenge the attack on their country.
I have pointed out some of the necessary and beneficial points of Bill S-23. However we in the NDP request that the Liberals delay consideration of the legislation until the World Trade Center tragedy has settled. We ask the government to freeze Bill S-23 pending investigation into its ramifications for western hemispheric integration.
Sophia Leung Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue
Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre recognizes that supporting business, especially Canadian business, is important.
We all know that about 85% of our trade is with the U.S. Bill S-23 is aimed at reducing costs for business by facilitating cross-border travel and business shipments. The bill also aims to protect the country from risk in terms of illegal shipping, including the passage into Canada of undesirable individuals.
I am sure the hon. member recognizes that we are trying to strengthen our border security, reduce risks for Canada and protect our business interests.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Madam Speaker, I think I made it clear that NDP members recognize the value of free and easy movement of goods and services between our two countries. That is clear. However we are concerned because when the U.S. ambassador to Canada calls for a more open border he is calling for retina and palm scanners to identify people. He is calling for electronic boxes on the bottoms of trucks that frequently cross the border so they can speed through without being interrupted. If we adopt such changes the U.S. might also want integrated immigration and perimeter security systems; in other words, North America-wide shared security.
It is a package deal. If we buy into what we see as housekeeping changes to the way we process goods and people crossing the border we must also buy into the idea of harmonizing our immigration system, customs enforcement procedures and border security along our water perimeter. The NDP is not prepared to go that far to accommodate the quicker movement of goods and services.