House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was excise.

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The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, an act to amend certain acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-50 is a bill of no small proportions. It is a bill which we should all, as members in the House, pay very close attention to because of its implications.

Having introduced it in this way and peaked the interest of members, I now need to say what it is about because everyone will be wondering what this important bill is that we are debating on Friday morning with the attention of all 301 members of parliament fully at hand.

We are debating a bill that will establish and increase our ability to trade with the People's Republic of China. It is a very interesting bill because we already have a great deal of trade going on with China. For many years we have exported, among other things, grain to China. For many years we have given it good credit conditions so it could buy our wheat and hopefully pay for it a little later. We are all aware of the fact that many items which we purchase are made in China.

I was intrigued to notice that my little timer clock was built in China. Many computer things we use are built in China. I had the opportunity the other day to do a little home repair and lo and behold, in big clear letters on my pliers it said “Made in China”. Over and over we see this. I have an electronic daytimer, which I hesitate to take out of my pocket. I am totally dependent on my auxiliary brain which is made in China.

One reason that trade with China is so important is the fact that it has such a huge population. It really boggles the mind to think of how large our target is in terms of doing trade with China. I anticipate that as we bring China fully into the World Trade Organization the impact on many economies, including Canada's, will be even greater than it is now.

The bill we are dealing with today is a housekeeping bill. It does not really talk about issues. That is one of the failures of the government. It often brings in legislation that is housekeeping in nature, the purpose of which is to amend certain bills, motions and agreements so that these trade deals can proceed. However I do not recall, at least in the eight some years that I have been here, that we have ever had in the House or even in committee a good philosophical debate about how we should handle trade with China.

Over and over many members of the House raised, shall I call it, the red flag of human rights abuses in China. Some members, and I think a lot of Canadians, think that we should put increasing pressure on China to reduce human rights abuses in their country. All of us probably have etched into our mind the history of Tiananmen Square and how the People's Republic of China really did stifle in a very high handed manner what appeared to us, at least in the way it was reported, to be a legitimate political protest. In Canada of course we feel that to protest on a political basis is almost a right. In China it is not a right. The people there do not enjoy anywhere near the freedoms that we do in this country.

It is interesting to know that our total imports from China at this stage are worth in excess of $11 billion per year. That is a significant number. Many of those goods are brought into this country competing with products which are produced in Canada. It is very important that when we enter into as trade agreement with China that we have a mechanism to balance the impact that volume of trade can have.

The whole idea of free trade and trade under the World Trade Organization is to increase the economies of both countries in the agreement.

What we are looking for is one of those win-win situations where both countries involved in the agreement benefit. As the Parliament of Canada, we should ensure that safeguards are built in to prevent the very populace and the huge country of China from totally overwhelming little old 30 million population Canada. We really are vulnerable when we are talking about a population that has over one billion people and we have 30 million. It is very disproportionate. Therefore it is important that our rules and regulations be such that we reduce at least the probability of us being overwhelmed economically by trade with China.

We should look at not only the human rights implications in trade agreements that we have but also the large economic spin-off that occurs when we enter into trade agreements with such a large country with an overwhelming economy.

At this stage it would be accurate to say that parliament's involvement, the people of Canada's involvement via their parliament , in setting up these trade agreements has been woefully inadequate. We just do not have the opportunity to debate.

One thing that really bothers me is that our negotiators often go out to these different organizations, whether it is a trade organization or whether it is the United Nations, and unilaterally carry with them Canada's position without that position ever having been debated and established by parliament. This is particularly annoying when there are some things which are obviously to our detriment and parliament could have, if it were permitted to fulfill its role, alerted the negotiators to the implications, and some of the problems could have been averted and resolved in advance.

We believe parliament should be involved and should ratify these agreements which establish a new economic relationship with other countries. This is a huge missing link in the work of parliament. Sometimes I wonder what the role of parliament is. I told some people in the riding not long ago that we were getting more MPs, and that is great. However I said what was the purpose of having more MPs since under the present regime the MPs who were here were not even allowed to think for themselves. They cannot even choose for themselves their choice of a chairperson of a committee. That is orchestrated by the Prime Minister's Office.

In my view there should be much greater consultation with Canadians through their parliament on these agreements. The agreements should be brought to parliament for scrutiny and for ratification. To me, that is a given. It is so obvious I cannot even proceed to build an argument for it. I cannot think of a single argument against that, so how can I not proceed to argue for it by refuting those arguments against it. There are none. We should just be doing it.

Another thing which I think is important for us to know is some of the details of Bill C-50.

I would point out there are some safeguards in the bill which seem to at least be going in the right direction. It is called a products specific safeguard. This could be applied to any good originating in China that was causing or threatening to cause injury to Canadian industry.

I know that the people in Ontario are more interested in car manufacturing than we are out west. We have no manufacturing plants for vehicles in western Canada. We should have. That is another one of the flaws of Canada. We have totally concentrated the industrial development mostly in the province of Ontario and somewhat in Quebec. Out west we are basically hewers of wood and haulers of water. It is unfortunate that we are not permitted to develop industry which is relative to our natural resources.

This is a bit of deviation from the particular bill, but I would point out that the Federal Government of Canada has primarily put the big barriers against us being able to do things like establish a pasta plant. That is again so eminently obvious.

Saskatchewan is almost the breadbasket of the world with all the agricultural products which are produced in the prairie provinces. Why should we simply take our raw materials off the land and ship them over to China for processing there and then buy some of them back after they are processed? That is nothing short of simply shipping jobs out of our country. There is no excuse for that.

It would reduce unemployment. It would give us a much greater sense of independence. It would help us in terms of international security to have a truly independent food supply since we would be set up not only to produce it but also to process it and get it table ready. I will continually press for more of such economic activity out in the regions. It boggles the mind why the government would continue to oppose that and not allow Canadians out west the freedom to market and to process their own product.

Bill C-50 has in it a safeguard which would limit the intrusion of Chinese products into our country if those products would threaten or cause injury to our industry.

There is a diversionary safeguard, which is interesting. It would prevent goods that are shut out of one market from overflowing into Canada. The most obvious example would be if the Americans were to put up a trade barrier so that the China was unable to deliver its product to the United States. This safeguard would, at least it appears to us, put the brake on that. It may not stop it entirely but at least it would prevent dumping of any product that is produced in China from overwhelming the Canadian economy. Basically it is like anti-dumping legislation.

There are specifically safeguards related to textile and clothing. We have factories across this country that produce textiles and clothing. I happen to frequently buy clothing that says “made in Montreal”. It is one of the few areas in which we are permitted to trade within our country. That would be another diversionary speech that I could give on all the trade barriers we have within our country. Recently of course there has been quite a bit of publicity on the barrier between Quebec and Ontario.

Obviously this is something that the two provinces have to work out. I would like to see the federal government take a larger leadership role in bringing these parties together for meaningful negotiations and to open up our interprovincial borders for trade.

Bill C-50 is meant to improve our trading relationships with China without detrimentally affecting our own industry and our own economy. I sincerely hope that is what will happen with the passage of this bill.

We ought to be aware that there is another little element. I will not get into it in depth, but there is a question about the adjoining state of Taiwan. We also have certain trading arrangements with that country. As we proceed into a trading relationship with China, we have to make sure that no barriers are put up to our trade with other countries which also have a great impact on our country.

I would like to read a page from our policy book. It is one of the things our party has always emphasized, as we did with the previous party before we became the Canadian Alliance. We are the only party that starts with basic principles. We used to have 21 principles and on those principles were built 75 policies. Those overriding policies drive our responses to different legislation.

I would like to read an item into the record. It is important for Canadians to know that the Canadian Alliance is a party that thinks through these things in a broad sense and on a principled basis prior to getting into individual pieces of legislation. Item No. 56 from our policy book states:

We support a foreign policy that protects Canada's sovereignty and independence, promotes our national interests (political, economic and strategic), contributes to collective security and defence, promotes democratic principles and human rights, and assists in international development. We will pay particular attention to maintaining good bilateral relations with our most significant trading partners.

There is one thing which totally puzzles me. There is no doubt that our most significant trading partner is the United States, yet I am appalled at the attitude which is sometimes displayed by the Prime Minister toward it. I wish that greater efforts would be taken toward building a solid co-operative relationship with it, particularly pertaining to trade and all the border issues. The Liberal government is altogether too lackadaisical in looking at these issues and their importance.

There is no doubt that because of China's size it has the potential of also becoming another of our very significant trading partners, even much greater than it is now.

Tonight when everyone puts up their feet and flips on their TV, they should look at the back of the remote control. It was probably made in China. The label on the back of the television will probably indicate it was made in China. A lot of the tools in our toolboxes were made in China.

Our trade with China is inevitable. It would be a huge error to enter into trade with a country without working agreements that safeguard Canada's interests. In that regard I believe the bill goes in the right direction. Perhaps there are some minor things which need to be adjusted.

Certainly I would like to have a broader debate sometime in the future in which we look at the bigger picture of what this means to us politically and economically around the world. We need to do more of that.

Meanwhile the bill is one which deserves our support. It is my intention to support it and probably most of my colleagues will as well.

I do not want to remind the Speaker of his job, but I have gone about 30 seconds over my time. I am willing to give the floor to the next person who I am sure will have even more interesting things to say than I did.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member of course knows that the Chair is very generous, but it is time for questions and comments, so he might get more time.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we have seen over the years is that socialist and communist governments have been consistent, at least in oppressing their people and having their leaders live in opulence while that is going on. Tens of millions of people have been eradicated by these regimes. It is interesting that the target has always been a couple of specific groups. One group has been the middle class agricultural class.

We saw particularly in Russia the attempt to destroy the kulak class. Barriers were set up around the area they were in and they were starved to death in order to gain control of that part of the economy.

We see the same thing happening in Zimbabwe today as the government tries to destroy the middle class agricultural class. It is actually destroying the country's own economy while doing that.

It seems that religious groups have been pressured forever by these governments around the world. We see persecution of them as they try to hold the government to a higher standard.

China has had a brutal history over the last 50 years, especially in the area of dealing with religious freedom. Christian churches have been persecuted, Protestant churches have been torn down. Pastors have been imprisoned and constantly harassed. The Roman Catholic church has been pressured to turn to the Chinese government rather than to Rome as its leadership. Groups like Falun Gong are under continual pressure with many of their people being imprisoned. We are all aware of the situation in Tibet with its culture and religion being pressured by the Chinese government.

I ask the member for Elk Island, why should the western world work to improve trade relations with a regime that punishes its own citizens? It does not just punish them for what they do. It punishes them for what they believe. Throughout the world we believe there are certain basic freedoms, which include the freedom to believe and the freedom to religion.

Also, how does the hon. member feel that this agreement will help average Chinese citizens prosper and hold their leaders accountable for their actions?

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish I were both a foreign affairs critic and a foreign affairs expert in order to answer the member's questions. Certainly my colleague has raised some very important issues.

I have followed the issue of persecution of people around the world based on their beliefs quite carefully over the years. The main reason is that members of my family escaped from Russia because they were not allowed to express their faith and live their faith in an open way in that country. They were not willing to be participants in the revolution and hence were considered to be enemies of the revolution. Many of our people were summarily killed because of that.

I cannot believe that in our world there are governments that think it is their moral right to suppress people's thoughts. In Canada, the United States and most of the western world, people enjoy a large degree of freedom, although even then it is attacked. For example, during the last election in our own country statements were made by our political adversaries which really went over the top and unfairly attacked people of faith. We had better be careful before we arrogantly say that we in Canada are in a position to tell China how to run its affairs unless there is some improvement in our own country in that regard.

As we build a relationship with China I hope that more and more we will interact with the Chinese and our values will hopefully catch on. That is the best way. Values are caught, not taught. It is much more important for people to see what they can do. At the same time however, I am certainly supportive of sanctions as appropriate.

I think of a country like Sudan. The oppression of its people is immense. Why we are not rising in international protest against what that government is doing to its people is a mystery to me. That certainly is part of it.

The member also asked how this trade agreement would actually affect the ordinary folks of China. I am not terribly knowledgeable about this, but it is my impression that probably the most oppressed people in that country are the agricultural people. In many cases they do a lot of very hard, physical, tedious work without adequate equipment for a very low income.

In our trade agreements perhaps we could sell China some of our farm equipment. Perhaps some of our manufacturers could go over there and design equipment especially for the fields in China. That would help the Chinese by easing their workloads and hopefully improving their income.

Nothing should be automatically assumed. It ought to be monitored. As our relationship grows with China it will give us more and more moral right to be in there and to speak up when we see abuses and different parts of that society being suppressed and oppressed.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, trade around the world and internal regulations and laws are issues that affect every country.

What is the opinion of the hon. member for Elk Island in regard to three countries in the world, one in eastern Europe, China and Canada, that force their farmers to participate in a marketing monopoly against the wishes of many of those farmers? When we talk about abuse within a parliamentary system or a dictatorship like there is in China, there can be abuse in those situations.

Should Canadian farmers be forced into a monopoly they do not wish to be involved in when marketing the very products they produce with the sweat of their brow and the dirt on their hands?

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is a very insightful question. Again it impinges on those broader principles. We can look at the details in a country like China where their people do not have anywhere near the freedoms that we have, but as I said earlier, before we go over there and pretend to have all the answers for them, we need to look at ourselves. There is absolutely no question in my mind that under the dictatorial government in Ottawa, not just under the Liberals but under the Conservatives before them and the Liberals before them, we have had a government granted monopoly given to some people, thereby totally taking away the freedom of some people.

For example, I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and later escaped to Alberta. I have a lot of acquaintances in agriculture in all three prairie provinces and I get both sides of this. Some say they want to keep the wheat board and it should be compulsory. Others say they grew the wheat, and if they can sell their lentils wherever they want, why can they not send their durum wheat wherever they want? They say it is their property and how can the government have the right to tell them what to do with their own property strictly for commercial purposes?

I hear over and over again that we need to reach a balance here. I remember many years ago facing this question in my own profession. In our group at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology where I taught, a small group of people wanted to have a dental plan. Some of us in the math department did the computations on it and came to the conclusion that it was very costly. A philosophical question then arose. Is it correct to force everyone to pay for something they do not want in order to provide the few with the ability to get it at a cheaper price? I say no, that is not defensible, nor is it defensible to force farmers to sell their grain only to a government agency.

Business of the House
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to do this prior to the member for Palliser beginning his speech. There has been consultation and I believe you would find unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That private member's Bill C-386 be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence.

This is a bill in the name of the member for Calgary East, who as you know has been ill and is not able to be here..

Business of the House
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, an act to amend certain Acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. Today I want to speak to Bill C-50, which is an act to amend certain acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the agreement establishing the WTO, the World Trade Organization.

Bill C-50 seeks to amend the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, the Customs Tariff, the Export and Import Permits Act and the Special Import Measures Act in order to protect Canadian industries from being overwhelmed by new Chinese imports resulting from that country's accession to the WTO. The proposed amendments are specific to Canada's trade with China and do not impact on trade with other countries, nor does Bill C-50 impact on the accession of China to the WTO, which happened in December of this past year; rather, it proposes changes to Canadian legislation to deal with this fact.

I thought it would be useful for the House to have me to look at our party's policy with regard to China over the past 50 plus years. Our party's predecessor, the Commonwealth Co-operative Federation, the CCF, consistently supported Canadian recognition of Peking and the people's republic and its admission to the United Nations on the grounds that to exclude the de facto government of the most populous nation on the earth from the council of nations was an absurdity that endangered both world peace and security.

When the NDP was founded in 1961 we picked up that cause at our founding convention and led the fight for recognition of China and its admission to the United Nations, which culminated in 1970 with an exchange of ambassadors between Peking and Ottawa and the eventual admission of China to the United Nations the following year. In part the party's position was a reflection of the fact that the NDP membership was generally more internationalist than the old line parties and in part it was linked to the party's broader theme of developing an independent foreign policy, that is, independent from that of the United States.

Under the leadership of T.C. Douglas, we also advocated the inclusion of China in international trade and economic agreements, broader cultural and intellectual contacts between China and the west and an invitation for China to join with the other four nuclear powers in working toward disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation agreements. That was important because China had become a nuclear power with the explosion of its first atomic bomb in 1964.

In 1989 when I had the privilege of being the federal secretary of our party, the federal council passed a major resolution on the Asia-Pacific region that called for:

a comprehensive Asia-Pacific policy...based on the principles of common security which promote international cooperation and recognize that environmental, development and human rights issues are all intrinsically related to security.

With respect to China, the resolution said specifically:

New Democrats have great admiration and respect for the Chinese people. We deplore the Chinese regime's massacre of its own people in Tiananmen Square and we are very concerned about the increasing repression of the regime in recent months. We strongly object to the occupation of Tibet and the human rights abuses that have taken place there.

Further on Tiananmen Square, it was the member for Winnipeg--Transcona who on June 5, 1989, in the House condemned the inexplicable actions of the Chinese government at Tiananmen Square and called on the Canadian government to communicate, in the strongest possible way, Canada's outrage at those brutal deaths and the injuries against thousands of young people who had the spirit for greater democracy. That member stated our party's respect for the Chinese revolution and its many achievements for the Chinese people and our collective dismay that the revolution, which began with so much passion for social justice, should come to such a brutal point that the People's Liberation Army was firing on its own people. That speech condemned the “gross violation of human rights” and urged the Canadian government to do everything in its power to ensure that the killing was stopped and the road to democratization, which the students so ably represented, was resumed.

The Asia-Pacific policy was passed by our party in 1989 and the resolution also raised concerns about the environmental implications of some forms of development and condemned Canadian assistance for such projects. For example, the Canadian government's participation in the Three Gorges dam project in China appeared to be motivated more by the possibility of lucrative contracts for Canadian multinationals than concern for the welfare of the people living in the vicinity of the project. Environmentalists warned that the project could have enormous environmental implications that would seriously endanger the health of the neighbouring population and involve the dislocation of one million people.

With respect to the issue of the Three Gorges dam, in 1995 the member for Burnaby--Douglas urged our government to support a resolution at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with respect to China and to speak out against human rights abuses. He called for the withdrawal of Canadian support for both the Three Gorges dam and the sale of CANDU reactors to China.

The Asia-Pacific resolution also deplored the inattention of the Canadian government to growing militarization and nuclear proliferation in the Pacific Ocean and called on the government to pursue multilateral arms reduction talks aimed at reversing and destabilizing trends and moving toward the creation of a nuclear free and independent Pacific Rim.

As I mentioned at the outset, the People's Republic of China formally acceded to the WTO on December 11 last year after 15 years of negotiations with member states. It is a country of 1.3 billion people, has the world's seventh largest economy and is the ninth largest exporter. While many Canadian exporters are anxious to gain increased access to the vast Chinese market, many other Canadian industries fear that they may drown in the anticipated surge of Chinese imports.

New Democrats are currently opposing Bill C-50, the bill before us today, which amends various pieces of legislation, to protect Canadian industries from being overwhelmed by new Chinese imports resulting from China's accession to the WTO. Our opposition to the bill relates to our objections to China's accession, for a number of reasons.

First, China stands out internationally for its flagrant disregard of human rights. The WTO does not seek to enforce standards of human rights. It is concerned only with the facilitation of international trade. China is anxious to join the WTO to increase its export markets, however, the terms of accession permit a significant volume of agricultural goods to enter China, including exports from Canada, which presents a real threat to Chinese agricultural industries and rural Chinese communities although we note and believe that steps will be taken to ensure that those exports are in the minority, not the majority.

Workers in Chinese industries will be negatively impacted by increased trade under the WTO, including agriculture and automotives, because they have no recourse to collective bargaining or free trade unions. In March 2001 China ratified the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, but filed a reservation under Article 8.1(a) to prevent workers from freely forming trade unions in that country.

In the Chinese automotive industry, which was referred to by the previous speaker, reduced tariffs under the WTO agreement will mean that exports will quickly flood the Chinese market, resulting in tremendous strain on workers in that country. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions reports that 10 million Chinese auto workers are forecast to lose their jobs as a result of China's entry into the WTO. Also, as we all know and as is well documented, China also has an abysmal record on workplace health and safety.

The New Democratic Party does not oppose international trade. We strongly support fair trade but if Canada imports Chinese products manufactured by workers receiving paltry and substandard wages, subjected to unsafe working conditions and denied the right to organize and bargain collectively, then such trade cannot be considered in any way fair trade. Trade which results in the perpetuation or augmentation of global inequity is not fair trade.

We oppose the structure and secrecy of the World Trade Organization and believe that the accession of China to the WTO further legitimizes and perpetuates a system which ignores international labour standards and fundamental environmental concerns resulting from its trading regime and consistently rejects efforts to correct these inadequacies. Our trade policy specifically opposes expanding trade on those terms.

Three years ago the NDP resolved to demand that the government make binding and enforceable protections of core labour rights an integral feature of all international agreements on trade and investment to which this country is a party. We further insisted that before there is any additional trade or investment liberalization at the WTO, that organization itself must deal with social, environmental, labour and human rights issues in an enforceable manner or that other international agreements and institutions, which concern themselves with issues like labour and the environment, be given the teeth necessary to sanction behaviour that violates agreed upon statements.

In other words, what we are saying is that we want something similar to the European Union and the pact that exists there where environmental standards and labour regulations are built into that agreement. We do not have that under the WTO and we certainly do not have it under the free trade agreement or the NAFTA.

International trade has been heralded for too long as the solution to global poverty and underdevelopment. The truth is that when trade is conducted under the auspices of fundamentally undemocratic organizations controlled by the corporations they are designed to serve, trade will only perpetuate global inequality and poverty.

I also want to put on the record our concerns about one of the latest human rights violations that is taking place in China, and that is the repression of groups like the Falun Gong petitioners. We were discouraged when we learned that when Canada had the opportunity to pick up the slack and speak out on this issue at an international forum, we dropped the ball and chose not to speak. This is contrary to what the member for Mount Royal said, a member who I give full credit and marks to for speaking to this issue in an all party human rights caucus. He said:

--we are witnessing the most persistent and pervasive assault on human rights in China since Tiananmen Square [in 1989].

The member said that the current Chinese government denies peoples' religious freedoms, systematically suppresses independent political activities, imprisons political opponents, violates rights to free speech and has conducted a crackdown on writers and activists.

Given the work of that member and that all party committee, it is unfortunate that the Canadian government remained silent this week at an international forum when it could have spoken out loudly and should have.

In conclusion, for Canada the implications of China's accession to the WTO are less clear. We negotiated a favourable deal that allows for 12 years of domestic protection during which threatened industries intend to prepare for increased competition from imports. Whether that turns out to be sufficient protection remains to be seen.

Canadians exporters and service providers will indeed gain much increased access to the Chinese market in that transition period. Whether or not Canadian production will migrate to China in search of cheaper labour any more than it already has, also cannot be determined at this time.

We in our party oppose the WTO in principle. It is for this reason that we oppose Bill C-50. The WTO is undemocratic in the sense that there is no parliamentary oversight of its operations. There is no opportunity for the views of concerned citizens to be heard. Its rulings are made by tribunals in secret. It has consistently resisted the imposition of human rights requirements on its trading regime.

The WTO has ignored calls for international labour standards to be enforced. It has consistently ignored environmental concerns resulting from its trading regime. The WTO is at heart an organization designed to facilitate corporate globalization through the removal of barriers to trade and the undermining of national sovereignty.

The Economy
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies is a program that was created in 1993 to pay tribute to companies that were achieving success despite the harsh economic conditions that existed in the early 1990s. This year one of the 50 winners is Overseas Express Consolidators whose Canadian operations are based in my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine.

A company that specializes in freight transportation, OEC's market spans all of Canada. OEC provides its many customers with thoroughly integrated logistical services including air and ocean transportation.

I am really proud of the success of this young company. I wish its president, Marc Bibeau, and his team, ever greater success.

I congratulate Overseas Express Consolidators (Canada) Inc. on being among those selected for the prestigious list of Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies.

National Defence
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I just finished watching the exciting made for TV courtroom drama The Artful Dodger starring the Minister of National Defence. I must admit it really grabbed me. It is the riveting tale of a man accused of competence, a man who knows too much and his mammoth struggle to prove he is not that smart.

He is up against the evil briefer, well played by Deputy Chief of Defence Staff Greg Madison who claims the dodger gets it, and the forces of darkness played by opposition members who try to make the case that the defence minister is not the scarecrow and really does have a brain.

The dodger is ably defended by FART, the Forces After Real Truth, who are played by the Liberal majority on the committee. They also perform as the jury which unfortunately gives the ending away. Not since The Great Escape have we seen people dig as hard to help someone get out of trouble. Not since the O. J. Simpson trial have we seen such an honest representation of Liberal justice being done.

I give two thumbs up to this riveting work of fiction.

Diamond Industry
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week delegates from 37 different countries gathered with representatives of the world diamond industry and several non-governmental organizations to tackle the important issue of conflict diamonds.

This week's meeting in Ottawa achieved substantial agreement on all key issues toward the implementation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. The scheme will go a long way to severing the link between conflict diamonds and the illegal arms trade.

I thank the strong leadership and the hard work of the Canadian delegation and in particular David Viveash, Jennifer Moher, Jennifer Daubeny and Don Law-West. I was also very pleased to learn that Partnership Africa-Canada, a small Ottawa based NGO, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by three U.S. congressmen for its work on the issue of conflict diamonds.

I offer my congratulations to everyone involved in the Kimberley Process for their commitment to eliminating the trade in conflict diamonds.

Zimbabwe
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, every week I receive an e-mail from a lady in Zimbabwe. Here is a partial text of this week's e-mail:

Yesterday morning, for the first time in 2 years, I simply could not find any words for my weekly letter. I had succumbed and for days wallowed in the horror of the blatant rigging of every stage of our elections. I finally pulled myself together and decided I would not become another victim. Darlington, a young farm security guard was murdered on Friday and his employer was beaten...[for] having helped MDC polling agents during last weekend's elections. The young man died on his way to the hospital. It took a visit to the hospital and the sight of massive black and purple bruising to put things back into perspective for me. Across the country reports are pouring in of ruling party youths engaged in witch hunts, searching out people suspected of being MDC supporters...[and] evicting them from their [farms]...For the moment the only hope we have is hope itself. Slowly we are coming to terms with what has happened and bracing ourselves for what lies ahead. People are starving and beaten but they are not broken--

Zimbabwe
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Scarborough Centre.

Greece
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year March 25 marks Greek Independence Day. It is a day when Canadians of Hellenic descent will be celebrating the anniversary of the liberation of their former homeland from 400 years of occupation by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1821 the Hellenes revolted against their oppressors and embarked on their successful war of independence. On this day Hellenes across the country will commemorate a dark period in Greek history when Hellenes lived under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, but they will also celebrate the courageous spirits of their ancestors such as Kolokotronis, Bouboulina and Karaiskakis to name a few. They successfully fought in order to restore the democracy and freedom that was lost to them for so many years.

As Greek Independence Day is observed we must also take note that Cyprus still remains occupied as a result of an aggressive and illegal Turkish invasion, and it is imperative that the Canadian government encourage Turkey to resolve this issue that undermines the democratic principles our ancestors fought so hard for. In the 21st century it only makes sense that Cyprus becomes united and free.

Mike Harris
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is both an honour and a privilege to rise and recognize Premier Mike Harris and his contribution to his province and country.

Mike Harris changed the very nature of politics when he demonstrated that politicians can mean what they say and do what they promise. That high standard in public morals where campaign promises are discussed before election and kept once in office has never been equalled in Ottawa.

It was tax cuts instituted by Mike Harris that fuelled the economy and led the country out of recession. From a province teetering on the brink of bankruptcy Ontario is set to produce its fourth balanced budget. Perhaps the greatest legacy of Mike Harris was his contribution to democracy that led to the election of party leader on the basis of one person, one vote.

Mike Harris returned dignity to the women and men of Ontario by creating tens of thousands of jobs in a province where thanks to 10 lost years of tax and spend Liberal and NDP policies almost 1 in 10 Ontarians were on welfare.

Ontario is a better place today because of Mike Harris. I thank Mike for making Ontario prosperous and strong.

Arts and Culture
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, March 19 the National Arts Centre unveiled a new music program which included awards of $75,000 each to three prominent Canadian composers.

I congratulate the first three recipients of the National Arts Centre Composer Awards: Denys Bouliane, Gary Kulesha, and especially my constituent Alexina Louie.

The new music program is a comprehensive plan for the development, promotion and support of new Canadian orchestral music nationally and internationally. The three award recipients have been commissioned to compose three works over a four year period: one orchestral, one for the new music ensemble, and one chamber music piece.

I offer my congratulations and offer them the very best in their endeavours.

World Water Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on this ninth World Water Day to remind people that water is vital to any form of life on earth. For a long time, it was thought that water was an inexhaustible resource, but such is not the case.

Water is being polluted, its importance is being trivialized, and it is being marketed, because we forget that it remains the very basis of our survival. The world's largest multinationals are appropriating it at an incredible speed, while over two billion human beings do not have access to it. The water crisis is already here. It is imperative that we be aware of this facat.

Quebec has one million waterways, including over 500,000 lakes, several thousand rivers and streams, and many groundwater sites.

It is with this in mind that, on April 13, the Bloc Quebecois' youth forum will examine the water issue, during its symposium on the environment and sustainable development. The theme of one of the workshops will be “Water: Protecting a Source of Life”.

2002 Arctic Winter Games
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate and pay tribute to the 2002 Arctic Winter Games Host Society led by its president Mr. Victor Tootoo. The 2002 Arctic Winter Games have been taking place this week in Iqaluit, Nunavut and Nuuk, Greenland. As the 17th edition of the Arctic Winter Games comes to an end it will go down in history as being the first major sport event to be hosted by Nunavut, Canada's newest territory.

The city of Iqaluit took on a great challenge and has succeeded in organizing an international competition involving nearly 1,000 athletes, coaches, officials and cultural performers from Canada, Greenland, the United States and Russia.

The Arctic Winter Games have provided an opportunity for the athletes and cultural performers of the region to celebrate sport and culture their way, the northern way.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Tootoo, the volunteers--

2002 Arctic Winter Games
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Elk Island.

Canadian Alliance
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I came to parliament in 1993 with some pretty specific goals, some of which have been achieved.

I represent the people of Elk Island who wanted to stop the incessant dive into deeper and deeper debt. Our influence on eliminating deficits has been substantial. The people want to pay down the debt. That work has hardly begun. They want to strengthen families, and our motion to define marriage was an important step. They want lower taxes. There is still much work to be done there. We have not nearly completed our work on justice and the issue of young offenders. Our goal of fixing a dysfunctional parliament has been totally stymied by the Liberal government and the present control freak Prime Minister. The people want to end political patronage and pork barrel politics.

With the election of Stephen Harper as our new leader the heat on the government will continue to increase. We will show the shortcomings of the Liberal government and we will earn the trust of the people. We will press on toward the goal and Canada will benefit.

Afghanistan
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister for International Cooperation announced that Canada is providing $30.2 million to Afghanistan. These funds are for priorities such as education, health, nutrition and child survival and are the first phase of the $100 million that the minister pledged in January at the Tokyo conference on Afghan reconstruction.

Canada is supporting human rights, gender equality and strong governance. We are making sure that girls are returning to school and that women are involved in their country's reconstruction from grassroots initiatives to governmental reform. We are funding de-mining activities as well as promoting peace and security.

The needs of Afghanistan are complex and call for a comprehensive approach. That is why the projects announced yesterday focus on both immediate humanitarian needs and on laying a foundation for longer term reconstruction efforts.

The women and men of Afghanistan can count on Canada to support them as they face the work of rebuilding their society.

World Day for Water 2002
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, today on the 50th anniversary of Bill Mosienko scoring 3 NHL goals in 21 seconds, nations around the world are marking World Day for Water 2002.

One of the goals set out in the United Nations millennium declaration is to reduce by half the number of people around the globe who do not have access to affordable safe drinking water, and that is why this year's theme of water for development is so important.

Water is vital to the survival of humankind. This year water pollution and water shortages will kill 12 million people worldwide and millions more will suffer. World Day for Water 2002 is an opportunity to open the eyes of the world, particularly in Canada where we have for far too long taken for granted our access to safe clean water, to the crisis that faces millions.

We must all act together to ensure water for all. Let today be a call for the developed countries of the world to take action to meet the goals of the United Nations millennium declaration and later this year reinforce our commitment at the UN world summit on sustainable development.

Highway Infrastructure
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a short while, I will be taking to the Prime Minister's office over 3,000 postcards from inhabitants of the Saguenay region, who are demanding that the federal government hand over the money promised for highway 175 before March 31, 2002.

Before and during the last election campaign, the Liberals promised $3.5 billion for roads in Quebec. The money now available is nothing like what was promised barely a year ago.

March 31 will mark the end of the fiscal year for the government, and its surplus is estimated at close to $10 billion. According to the usual budget provisions, this money will go completely toward debt repayment.

Those who sent in these postcards are demanding that the Prime Minister free up the money promised from this surplus so that his government can ratify the five memorandums of understanding for highways 175, 185, 30, 35 and 50 immediately.

The Prime Minister should open the till, because a promise is a promise.

Multiculturalism
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday night I had the honour of participating in a conference of the friendship group of parliamentarians for UNESCO. The conference was focused on the dialogue of cultures and civilizations, building on the UN Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations that was celebrated in 2001. I was honoured to join His Excellency John Ralston Saul as well as a number of my colleagues in exploring this important issue.

In this age of international uncertainty it is more important than ever that we actively engage in dialogue between those of different backgrounds. We want to create lasting peace in our world. We must find ways to speak to the hearts and minds of our common human family.

Political Parties
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday evening the new leader of the Canadian Alliance was chosen by its members. I congratulate Stephen Harper for the strength of his victory, for the clarity of his ideas and for the eagerness to tackle the Liberal government on the big issues of the day.

Most encouraging to me were early expressions of reaching out to others who are interested in building a principled conservative option. For the same reason, I also express my encouragement and my ongoing gratitude to the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, a man who is breaking new ground and taking new initiatives in an effort to build a democratic conservative alternative.

In the years leading up to the founding of our country, political coalitions sprung up and withered away with alarming consistency, mostly because their only purpose was to wrestle power into their own hands. However the great coalition, a coalition strong enough to usher into being a new and wonderful country, held together and was effective because it put the dreams and hopes of a nation at the top of its personal agenda.

Right now Canadians want a principled conservative option. Parliament desperately needs it and democracy demands it. I encourage both Stephen Harper and the leader of the Progressive Conservatives to put the hopes of the nation in first place and strive to put substance to the dreams of a better Canada.

Middle East
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, in every quarter, there are people who are inclined to dismiss Palestinians and Israelis equally, condemning the actions of both in the same breath. Others seek to make the problem go away by calling for an end to the violence and a return to the negotiating table.

The military occupation of part of Palestine by Israel since 1967 is the fundamental cause of the crisis in the Middle East. The end of this occupation is a necessary condition for ending the violence and restoring peace.

Canadian policy does not recognize the permanent control by Israel of the territories occupied in 1967 and is opposed to any unilateral action to predetermine the outcome of negotiations, such as settlements in the territories or unilateral action—

Middle East
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but we must proceed to oral question period.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this week it was revealed that one of Paul Martin's top fundraisers was also on contract with the Department of Finance.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I think the hon. member knows that he cannot refer to other hon. members by name. He will want to refrain from any such conduct.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this week it was revealed that the finance minister's top fundraiser was also on contract with the Department of Finance. That was too much for even the Liberal's ethics lapdog who asked the finance minister to cut his ties with Jim Palmer.

Now we learn that there are new guidelines for leadership fundraising by cabinet ministers but they are being kept secret.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister end this cover-up and insist that leadership fundraising rules be tabled in the House?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I saw the newspaper article on which the member based his question. There are no such rules that have been drafted.

The basic rule that ministers in conducting their affairs need to avoid, real or apparent conflict is the predominant rule. That is one that we need to respect.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously that has come under question and that is why we are asking the government to be honest with Canadians and table the rules.

The government's approach to ethics is see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Ethics violations that would have had the rat pack screeching under the Mulroney government are tidily hidden away by the ethics lapdog.

How can the ethics rules have any credibility if the Deputy Prime Minister and his colleagues are not prepared to be publicly accountable to uphold them?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, the system has worked.

There was an issue that came to light. It was dealt with by the ethics counsellor according to the most important rule, that ministers should avoid an appearance of conflict, and corrective action was taken. That is what needed to happen and that is what happened.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this has been a consistent pattern with the government. There are always problems when it comes to ethics and accountability. It owes Canadians better than that.

We found out that a minister's fundraiser has been on contract with his department only because he accidentally slipped the wrong cheque into the mail. How many other cabinet ministers have had their leadership bagmen on the payroll?

Could the Deputy Prime Minister assure the House that no other minister has given contracts or government appointments to their leadership fundraisers?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, unlike members on the other side, we are not in a leadership campaign, although I guess they no longer are either.

The fundamental rule, which is one that everyone agrees on and one that needs to be respected, is that ministers must comport themselves with a great deal of probity, and that includes avoidance of real or apparent conflicts. When they arise, the ethics counsellor is there to provide advice to the minister as well as to the Prime Minister.

The system has worked in this case and corrective action has been taken. I am sure that all ministers will take that into account.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the problem continues. Isabel Metcalfe is fundraising for the Minister of Canadian Heritage while lobbying her department. Her husband, Herb Metcalfe, is a lobbyist who is raising money for the Deputy Prime Minister. We know the finance minister keeps a whole stable of lobbyists on the public payroll at Earnscliffe Strategy Group.

Without public guidelines, how can we have faith that there are no conflicts of interest between a minister's public duties and private leadership ambitions?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I am not accepting the truth of what the hon. member has stated and the premise to his question. However, quite apart from that, I think the rule is very clear. The rule is that one should not be in a real or apparent conflict.

We have created a very transparent and open system for lobbyists to register their activities and to do so in a way that any member of parliament can investigate any person who may be a lobbyist and see who it is they are retaining to lobby and who they represent. It is for ministers to avoid an appearance of conflict.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, if there are rules why does the government not table them?

The government has kept its conflict of interest guidelines for cabinet ministers secret for eight years. Last fall the ethics counsellor gave the Prime Minister a new report on ministers dealing with crown corporations and it is still secret. Now we find there are more secret guidelines on leadership fundraising.

How can the Canadian public have faith that the cabinet is following the rules when we do not know what the rules are and the Deputy Prime Minister will not table the rules?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member is trying to find a set of rules that somehow or other will explain to him what the principles of real or apparent conflict and good judgment are. Those are things that most people understand and they recognize real or apparent conflict. Ministers are expected to avoid that. It is a question of judgment not a question of detailed rules.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the Groupaction affair is more than administrative.

Losing documents, awarding a series of contracts, changing the amount without the work being done, is not explainable only by poor management. It also assumes an organized system of patronage and corruption.

The minister of public works must realize that the auditor general is going to address only the management issue. The minister, who claims he wants to see a cleanup, must realize that only a public inquiry will be able to restore confidence and dispel the atmosphere of corruption and patronage.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago the hon. member, or rather her colleagues, called for an audit by the auditor general.

To their great surprise, probably, the response was yes. They are having a hard time accepting that yes.

Regardless of the opposition's problem with accepting a yes, the answer concerning the auditor general is still yes.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, yes the Bloc Quebecois has called for the auditor general to audit the government's entire administration, but every day we learn something new that goes beyond mere government administration. That is why we want a public inquiry.

Clearly, this entire affair is more than merely government administration. What we want to know, what the public wants to know, is the nature of the involvement of both ministers, including the hon. member for Sudbury, the political staff, and the senior departmental staff, in the awarding of phony contracts to the Liberal Party's cronies in recent years.

Does the minister understand that this affair, which involves public funds, requires a public inquiry?

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the only thing new here is that this is the newest version of the same questions.

I repeat to the hon. member that the mandate of the auditor general is, first, to audit any file she wishes to audit.

Second, in connection with the Groupaction matter, she has been asked to review the requirements of the three contracts, to analyze and compare the content of the three documents, to review the process and to conduct any other audit procedures necessary.

Games of La Francophonie
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport told the House that he would conduct an investigation and that he would answer all questions concerning the organizing committee for the Games of La Francophonie.

Even though a Canadian commissioner is refusing to comment on the regularity of the committee's financial books, we learned this morning that there will be no investigation.

Can the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport explain why he went back on his word, and is he still sure that he will be able to answer all questions about the organization of these games?

Games of La Francophonie
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of a Canadian audit, but an audit by the international committee of the Games of La Francophonie.

Furthermore, the Bloc Quebecois critic accompanied me to the international conference two weeks ago where the rules for this audit were established. It was in Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso and, if I am not mistaken, it was the same member who asked the question who delegated his colleague to attend in his place.

Games of La Francophonie
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is becoming clear that the Minister of Public Works and Government Services has inherited a political hot potato from former minister Gagliano. But this is a matter in which he is involved.

We will try another little question. We have in our hands documents showing that the Canada Information Office paid the organizing committee $600,000, much of it for advertising activities.

Can the minister assure us that no part of this $600,000 was paid as a commission to Rhéal Leroux, the games' general manager?

Games of La Francophonie
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question was asked in the House several months ago. We were asked whether commissions had been paid on Canada's sponsorships to the organizing committee of the Games of La Francophonie.

The information we were given at the time, which to my knowledge still obtains, was that no commissions were paid on government contributions.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade. Yesterday in Monterrey, Mexico, the Prime Minister met with Presidents Bush and Fox to push for the fast tracking of the free trade zone of the Americas. Meanwhile in Washington the softwood lumber talks have collapsed.

How can the government say that NAFTA is working just fine when the softwood lumber situation demonstrates once again that NAFTA only works and is good for the U.S. lobbying groups and not good for ordinary Canadian people?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows very well, within NAFTA we have not eliminated national trade laws. Canada has maintained its national trade laws within NAFTA. The United States has as well maintained its national trade laws within NAFTA. Unfortunately it is those very trade laws that the United States is using and abusing for punitive measures against softwood lumber.

I would say that the Canada--United States bilateral trade is a very successful one, but of course we are extremely frustrated that we cannot have this free trade in softwood lumber as well.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the extremely frustrated Minister for International Trade. How can the government ask Canadian people to wait another two or three years for a WTO ruling when the penalties the Americans are now talking about will wipe out dozens of Canadian communities and thousands of jobs?

Will the government table in the House today an emergency package that will assist those communities and assist those workers that will include such things as loan guarantees and measures from EI to help the people involved?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the government will work very closely with industry. We will work very closely with the provinces. We have been doing this for a year and a half to two years on the softwood lumber file. I can say that we do believe in litigation unlike the member who seems to say that litigation is not the road.

We have identified a two track approach which we tried and spared no effort. That is what we have been doing this very week in Washington: sparing no effort at trying to reach a long term policy based solution. We said however that we would not sign a bad deal. We broke off the relations and the negotiations yesterday when we could not get that good deal. However we believe--

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The right hon. member for Calgary Centre.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the leader of the government in the House and relates to the breakdown of the softwood lumber negotiations last night. Crippling duties on Canadian lumber exports could be announced as early as this afternoon. Further mill closures will be announced today in British Columbia where there are thousands of Canadians out of work.

The government did not have a plan to deal with the expiry of the softwood agreement last year. Now negotiations have failed. It says it is working now on some second track. That leaves communities across the country, particularly in British Columbia, in a terrible situation. They cannot wait longer. What--

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister for International Trade.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am a little puzzled by the attitude of the leader of the Conservative Party. Yesterday his member for Cumberland--Colchester said that we should not cave in, that the last thing to do was to negotiate a bad deal during the course of the day. Yesterday the Conservative Party accused us of being in Washington to sell off the country. It was a terrible thing.

I am telling the House that the government has been working very hard in harmony with the provinces and the industry and they are supporting us unanimously.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, the simple fact is that the Conservative government to which the minister referred successfully negotiated a deal to keep the factories open, to keep the softwood mills going and to keep the workers going. This government has failed. The Conservatives succeeded where the Liberals have failed.

In the House the minister promised to come up with a plan with the industry and the provinces to help the thousands of people that have been thrown out of work and the communities that will be devastated. When is that meeting to be held?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party has a very hard time with the fact that this country has been standing united on an approach to the softwood lumber issue.

At least everywhere throughout the country from coast to coast the industry and all the provinces involved are supporting the government and have been supporting our approach. They understand that the problem is south of the border, not north of the border.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, we all know that Groupaction has been a generous donor to the Liberal Party of Canada. We all know that Groupaction was paid several hundred thousand dollars to produce a second report that was virtually a mimeograph of the first. What is new is the revelation as to how this came about.

After receiving a contract on May 1, 1999, for $612,000 to perform what is called qualitative research services, Groupaction had managed within one month to negotiate a variance whereby it would be paid in full without actually complying with the terms of the contract. I would like the minister to tell me why.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is exactly about the 1998 and the 1999 reports. In view of the fact that the two documents provided, one to the House and the other subsequently from the computer disk, appeared to be almost identical I have decided to ask the auditor general to verify precisely those things.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, a document provided by officials of the minister's department in response to a motion for the production of papers placed by the Alliance includes a history of the contract prepared by the president of Groupaction.

It states that on May 1 contract was received by Groupaction; that on June 1 there was a meeting with Mr. Guité where he confirmed the importance of remaining within budgets; and that the qualitative aspect of the report would either remain uncompleted or would be the subject of a request for an upward revision in the cost of the report above the originally agreed amount.

Will the minister still deny that Groupaction has been getting very special treatment from its Liberal friends?

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I will refrain from commenting on the accusation part and I will deal with the substance because Canadians are generally interested in substance as opposed to nonsense.

I have indicated, and I will repeat, that the auditor general would review the requirements of not only the 1998 and 1999 contracts but that we have added to that for greater clarity and transparency the 1996 one.

They will compare the deliverables and determine if the deliverables meet the contract requirements. Clearly that is what--

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Jonquière.

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the fiscal year, the government will have accumulated a surplus of nearly $10 billion, in other words, quite enough to fulfill Liberal promises for highways in Quebec, which come to $3.5 billion.

The money is there. Does the Minister of Finance intend to free up the money needed to ratify the five memorandums of agreement for highways 175, 185, 30, 50, and 35 before March 31, or would he rather put all of the available money toward paying down the debt?

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as I have already explained, we have three programs for highways, including the new infrastructure program.

There is enough money for a great many projects across the country and in the province of Quebec. We are prepared to continue the discussions with the Government of Quebec on all of these projects.

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals were full of promises during the last election campaign.

Will the minister commit to freeing up the money promised during the last election campaign for Quebec's highways before March 31, 2002, in order to sign, right away, the five memorandums of agreement submitted by the Government of Quebec?

There are only nine and a half days to make the right decision. Will he pay before the end of the year? Yes or no?

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is talking about the promises made by my colleagues from Quebec during the last election campaign.

As I already explained, we presented a new infrastructure program in the last budget.

What worries me is that we do indeed support building highways in the province of Quebec and throughout the country, but it would appear as though the hon. member does not, since she voted against the budget this week.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we would not be in this softwood lumber mess if the Liberal government had prepared properly for the expiration of the softwood lumber agreement.

Despite all the warnings from the Alliance Party all through the five years of the agreement the Liberals disregarded the impending crisis. The agreement expired and they had no plan.

Yesterday again they failed to come up with an agreement. Do they have some sort of contingency plan now? How will they protect the workers and the industry from this devastation?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be more false than saying that the government had not seen the end of the softwood lumber agreement.

A year and a half to two years before the end of the softwood lumber agreement in March 2000 I travelled to British Columbia and consulted with the British Columbia government. I consulted with the Quebec government.

We all agreed, along with industry, not to renew the softwood lumber agreement of 1995-96. It was a choice of industry and the whole of Canada not to renew that agreement.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals may have chosen not to renew the SLA, and that was a good idea, but the fact is they had done nothing through the entire five years of the agreement to come up with some sort of plan when it ran out.

They did not work with the big lobby groups on our side in the states. They did not work with the industry to cobble together a plan to ensure that we would not be in this crisis. As a matter of fact the record will show that they only started discussing the expiry date of the SLA about six months before it ran out. This government did nothing.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the government of British Columbia has been a full partner in our approach and is supporting it. The British Columbia industry is supporting it. The industries in the provinces all over Canada are supporting the approach we have been adopting.

We have been working very constructively on this file all together. We are on the litigation track, which is perfectly all right. We have not worked with the consumers in the United States and the lobbies we have. I have here a quote of Madam Susan Petniunas of the American Consumers for Affordable Homes--

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Champlain.

Agricultural Co-operatives
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Coopérative fédérée du Québec announced its intention to invest close to $1 billion over the next 10 years.

In response to the Coopérative's request for assistance, the Quebec government announced on February 21 a tax deferral on patronage dividends.

Since the federal government is collecting two thirds of the taxes paid by co-operatives, will the Minister of Agriculture pledge to ask his colleague, the Minister of Finance—

Agricultural Co-operatives
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Agriculture.

Agricultural Co-operatives
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, the issue the hon. member has raised is one which I know is of concern to all of us. The specific issue is one that will need to be addressed by the Minister of Finance and the finance department.

With regard to the issue of co-operatives, we have shown very clearly in the last few years that we in the agriculture and agri-food department and industry support the co-operative movement in Canada. We know it has strengths. We also know that 40% of Canadians belong to a co-operative of some sort. We know the value it means to them and to the communities in which they live.

Agricultural Co-operatives
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is time for the government to show its support. The financial tools that would ensure the development of agricultural co-operatives exist. It is not as if they did not exist.

What is the minister waiting for to act?

Agricultural Co-operatives
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I have told the co-operative movement in Quebec, and particularly on the specific issue the hon. member has raised, I too have raised it with the Minister of Finance and the finance department. We will continue in those discussions on behalf of and with the co-operatives.

Middle East
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has repeatedly acquiesced to the anti-Israeli resolutions of the fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations. The Liberals' cowardly approach to such unbalanced resolutions has seriously flawed our reputation as a strong and honest broker.

Similar one-sided motions will be discussed next week at the United Nations commission on human rights. Will the government call for a ballot on those resolutions so that all participants, including Canada, can finally complain and make their positions known?

Middle East
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I wish the hon. member had been with me when I was in Geneva last week. He would have met with the deputy foreign minister of Israel and the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations human rights commission. They thanked Canada for the tremendous support that we have given to Israel over the years for ensuring balances in resolutions.

I can assure the hon. member and the House that we will examine all resolutions coming before us to make sure they are balanced and contribute to peace and progress in the problems in the Middle East.

Middle East
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is typical, all aid short of actual help.

If the government does not take a stand, it will be complicit again in passing maliciously one-sided resolutions. This would hand a powerful propaganda tool to supporters of anti-Israeli violence.

The Liberal member for Mount Royal has called on the government to demand a vote on the anti-Israel resolutions and to push for reforms to the commission on human rights. The Canadian Alliance has strongly opposed the government's silence in the face of this unbalanced resolution.

Opposing the anti-Israeli resolutions is important. Will the government do that at next week's meeting in Geneva?

Middle East
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the government always seeks to assure that resolutions are balanced when they come before the human rights commission. We are certainly willing to accept voting rather than consensus on resolutions if this requires compromises which undermine the intent of our resolutions or which run counter to Canadian government policy. As I said to the press, we will be watching very carefully to make sure there is a balance in what is happening in Geneva next week.

MIL Davie
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services told the House that he would give the MIL Davie trustee until March 22 to meet the conditions relating to the contract to do the maintenance work on one of the Halifax class frigates, the HMCS Ville-de-Québec .

Could the minister tell us if any progress has been made on this issue?

MIL Davie
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that, indeed, the MIL Davie trustee has met all the requirements and will be awarded the contract to upgrade the frigate HMCS Ville-de-Québec .

I thank the Minister of Justice, the Secretary of State responsible for the Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec, the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière and all the other hon. members who helped with this issue.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, when gas prices at the pump go up, our economy suffers. This week farmers, fishermen, truckers and people all across Canada had to pay out more from their pockets to big profit oil companies. That leaves less money to take care of their families.

My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. When will the government take a leadership role in monitoring and regulating gas prices by setting up an energy price review commission to stop the price gouging?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Secretary of State (Rural Development) (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, on a number of occasions we have reviewed the whole issue of pricing. If the member has a specific example of price gouging that needs to be brought forward, we would be happy to take it under advisement.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a British Columbia member of parliament, I can tell the Minister for International Trade that the breakdown in softwood lumber talks is having a devastating impact on British Columbia, on coastal communities and on forest workers. Just today we learned that layoff notices are being issued by Doman Industries. Today it is going to close at least two of its sawmills.

Will the minister make it very clear that the government is prepared to assist with a major aid package for the workers who are being devastated by the breakdown in talks? If we can come up with an aid package for Bombardier, surely we can come up with an aid package for the workers of British Columbia and the Canadians that are affected.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we are normally not used to this kind of divisive regional politics from the NDP and I regret it. It normally belongs to the right wingers to do that sort of thing.

We are just back from Washington. We are going to continue with our two track policy. We are very sorry that the negotiations did not bring out the long term policy solution that we wanted.

We will go the litigation route. We will continue to work with the industry. We will continue to consult very closely with the industry in the provinces as to the next steps forward.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, the media in Newfoundland and Labrador requested information under the Access to Information Act from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regarding the number of citations or warning tickets issued in the NAFO regulated region. Despite promises, no information was received. This week a promise was made to courier the information the next day. It was followed by a late night message left on the voice mail which said “Sorry, we will have to talk”.

What is the department trying to hide?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok
Québec

Liberal

Georges Farrah Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for St. John's West must agree with us that there is absolutely no question of hiding anything whatsoever. Moreover, the department has very clearly demonstrated this with the appearance before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans by Pat Chamut, the ADM responsible for NAFO negotiations, who gave a progress report on the negotiations. As well, there was yesterday's courageous decision by the minister to no longer allow ships from the Faeroe Islands access to Canadian ports.

However, as far as the specific request from the newspaper is concerned, we are in the process of assessing the situation, because the information requested is of course connected with international negotiations and we are going—

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for South Shore.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister of fisheries finally agreed to take a small step toward curtailing overfishing of Canadian stocks by foreign boats. Yet his leader has still not even acknowledged 8,000 letters that he received asking him to protect endangered Atlantic salmon in Nova Scotia's rivers.

The minister of fisheries gave his word in the House that he would find a solution. He could start by asking his boss to answer his mail. Or is this like his attempt at curtailing overfishing on the Grand Banks, simply a little--

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the floor.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok
Québec

Liberal

Georges Farrah Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, obviously we are very concerned about the Atlantic salmon situation. There is a very big problem with the resource and with conservation. That is why the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is in constant communication, particularly with the Atlantic people, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, to ensure that we all work together on a joint solution to protect this species, which is very important to the economic development of this region.

National Security
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the detailed estimates of Transport Canada were tabled in the House of Commons yesterday. One would have thought that safety and security spending for Canadians would be going up, not down. However, on page 38 of the estimates, last year's forecast for spending on safety and security was $65 million but this year it is down to $27 million.

Will the minister explain why the investment in the safety and security of Canadians is going down and not up?

National Security
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary. The hon. member would know that we announced a number of measures in response to the events of September 11. They include $60 million for ports. We are spending $100 million on new explosive detection equipment for the airports, policing on planes and all of that. Much of that will be covered by the new charge which will be introduced as of April 1.

I do not think there is any inconsistency in what the hon. member has read in the estimates and the commitment of the government and Transport Canada to safety.

National Security
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is no indication of the money being collected by the new charge and there is no indication of the $100 million being spent, all because it is hived off to some non-profit organization that is not going to be reporting to parliament and does not come under access to information. This Enron style, off balance sheet accounting has to stop.

Will the minister admit that this newfangled way of administering security has more to do with fudging the numbers and hiding tax increases than keeping the Canadian public safe and secure?

National Security
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I categorically reject the arguments of the hon. member.

If he reads the budget bill and looks at the new agency, he will know that all of the operations of the new agency will be fully analyzed by the auditor general. The auditor general will be able to call for every aspect of accounting. Obviously not all of the agency's activities can be revealed for security reasons, but the agency will be responsible to the Minister of Transport. I am accountable in the House of Commons.

This is just another case of the hon. member not really doing his homework and not really understanding what is in the budget bill.

Enabling Resource Centre
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission, with the complicity of the President of the Treasury Board, decided to shut down its enabling resource centre on March 31, right in the middle of the review of the Employment Equity Act and at a time when representation of persons with disabilities in the public service is inadequate.

Will this government show a modicum of judgment and announce today that it recognizes that it has made a serious mistake and that it will maintain funding for the enabling resource centre?

Enabling Resource Centre
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Laurentides.

Enabling Resource Centre
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Durham
Ontario

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the enabling resource centre is one of four temporary, and I underline temporary, projects within the employment equity positive measures program that concludes at the end of March. Many of the initiatives started under that program have become part of the normal business practices, including training in adaptive computer technologies for persons with disabilities, which already has served as a great model in other departments.

We remain committed to the concerns of the disabled community. This initiative has done its work. We are now using it to enforce the rights of--

Enabling Resource Centre
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, it has existed for 18 years. So much for temporary.

The centre received $554,000 last year for operating expenses. This is the equivalent of each of the three bogus reports ordered by public works from Groupaction.

Is the government trying to tell us that supporting people with disabilities is less important than federal propaganda in Quebec?

Enabling Resource Centre
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Durham
Ontario

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I reiterate the fact that it was a temporary program and it has come to an end. However the government remains committed to the concerns of the disabled. In fact the Treasury Board Secretariat will continue to identify how best to deliver these needed services and remove the barriers for persons with disabilities in the public service.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the environment minister.

Farmers feel that the federal government has painted a target on their backs with insufficient compensation for the impact of foreign subsidies and natural disasters, followed by a lack of consideration for farmers in the cruelty to animals legislation. There is also no guarantee of compensation in the species at risk legislation. Now the Minister of the Environment wants to declare fertilizer and hog barns poisonous by an unnecessarily broad listing of ammonia as a toxic substance.

Will the environment minister change his broad-brush approach that threatens our agricultural producers?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the preface to the hon. member's question is full of inaccuracies. I can assure him that it is not our intention to target the agricultural sector specifically.

However, no doubt the hon. member has read the Walkerton report. When we have issues such as Walkerton, and when we have issues such as the disposal of agricultural manure which could affect human health, I think he would agree we have a responsibility on this side of the House to protect Canadians from health risks from the agricultural industry or any other industry.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the minister is talking about because ammonia had nothing to do with Walkerton. When the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was passed, the Liberals told farmers that they would always follow science and new regulations would not attack their businesses. Not even three years have passed and the minister has turned his back on the scientific approach by listing ammonia as a toxic substance when in fact it should not be listed at that level. He has no evidence that natural ammonia from agriculture harms the environment, yet he is threatening to pass regulations listing it as a toxic substance. This will severely impact the incomes of farmers.

Why is the minister threatening to list chicken and hog barns and fertilizer as toxic without any scientific evidence?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, at least I am glad that the hon. member has returned to the hog farms because the issue is really important. I think he should understand that we have a responsibility, when agricultural practices are adopted, to ensure that human health, as well as the environment and the health of animals, is protected. That is our point. That is what we are trying to do.

With respect to ammonia dissolved in water, yes, there is a process under CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and we are working through that. However, I can assure him that everything being done is based entirely on science.

Steel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Tony Valeri Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, after a 201 safeguard investigation on imported steel, U.S. President Bush enacted tariffs of up to 30%. In Mexico steel tariffs are now as high as 35%. A meeting was held earlier this week, chaired by the Secretary of State for Finance, with the steel industry, the union and members of parliament to discuss the real threat of import diversion into Canada.

Given the integration of the North American steel sector, what is the government prepared to do to ensure that our market is not flooded with diverted steel?

Steel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the hon. member for Stoney Creek and other caucus colleagues for their valuable work on this important issue.

While the Government of Canada remains fully committed to multilateral trade liberalization, we will not stand idly by and watch as our market gets flooded with the world's diverted steel. Therefore I am pleased to inform the House that the government has launched a safeguard investigation into imports of steel products.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Health introduced the pest control products act. The act includes plans for mandatory reporting of toxic reactions to pesticides. Yet despite years of public outcry, concerns of physicians, recommendations of coroners and reports of 10,000 deaths a year, the government has failed to call for mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions.

When will the minister bring in mandatory reporting?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche
New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I was very happy that this bill was introduced yesterday. People have been looking forward to this bill for many years and I think that it was very well received by all of the members of the House.

A closer look at the bill shows that many things have been changed to ensure that products put on the market are safe for people.

Furthermore, if they believe there is a health risk, the public or concerned associations will be able to request a review, in addition to the automatic review to be done every 15 years.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, considering the intransigence of the Americans in the softwood lumber dispute, Canadian negotiators had no choice but to reject their final proposals.

The Prime Minister may boast that he will talk again to President Bush, the fact is that we are as far from a negotiated agreement as we were at the beginning of the crisis.

In light of the current situation, will the government finally put in place a plan to help the industry and its workers?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, first, I really appreciate the Bloc Quebecois' support for the position that we defended in Washington over the last few days, one that which led us to break off negotiations with the Americans, since the agreement that was being proposed was not satsfactory.

We came back from Washington. We worked while we were there, and we also worked very closely with the Canadian industry over the past year and a half. We shall continue to do so with the provinces and with the industry to ensure proper progress on this issue, which is extremely important for many of our communities.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, aside from the government's botched efforts to secure a softwood lumber agreement we have yet another crisis in the lumber industry. I am referring to the government's refusal to approve the wood preservative CDA. Without this approval we will see our pressure treated lumber mills out of business.

We have had vague promises in reference to a conclusion to this issue, in other words approval of the chemical CDA, but that will not cut it. We cannot live on vague promises. When will that chemical preservative be approved by the government?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

Noon

Madawaska—Restigouche
New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. In spite of his aggressive tone, he was kind enough to inform me that he would ask this question. This allowed me to get the necessary information.

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency also obtained information from the American agency EPA to speed up the certification process of the chemical preservative CDA. I am sure that we will have a positive reply for the hon. member in the near future.

International Aid
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of the international conference now being held in Mexico. Will the Minister for International Cooperation inform the House what steps the Government of Canada is taking to ensure that our commitments toward international development are met?

International Aid
Oral Question Period

Noon

Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Susan Whelan Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I just returned from the UN financing for development conference in Monterrey. I want to assure Canadians that the government will continue to fulfill its commitments on international aid.

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that Canada's aid budget will continue to increase in the coming years by 8% or better per year. Obviously this is great news and further proof that eliminating poverty will continue to be a high priority of the government.

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary missed the point. There is a $100 million lawsuit involving Health Canada in the untimely death of 15 year old Vanessa Young. There are thousands of suspected deaths every year in Canada. For every reported death the FDA estimates 10 that go unreported.

When will the minister drop the double standard and require mandatory reporting of adverse reactions? Lives are at stake.

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, the Minister of Health gave a response in this House indicating that steps have already been taken to improve the method of reporting adverse drug reactions and particularly to ensure that more would be done than just reporting them. Health workers need to have access to information in order to apply that information to their clinical practice, and this will really respond to the needs raised by the hon. member across the way.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of 12 boys and girls, the Children's Miracle Network 2002 Champions from across the country.

These youngsters have overcome life threatening illnesses or injuries and have been chosen to represent the two million children who are treated annually by the Children's Miracle Network hospitals and foundations across Canada.

These remarkable young people are true champions who have overcome major obstacles to be with us today.

I would invite everyone to join them at the reception that will follow in Room 216-N.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the hon. Steve Ashton, Minister of Highways and Government Services for the province of Manitoba.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier on March 18, 2002, concerning the selection of votable items by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

I thank the hon. member for Ottawa--Vanier for drawing this matter to the attention of the Chair, as well as the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville and the hon. government House leader for their contribution on this question.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier in raising the matter argued that the bill he sponsored, Bill C-407, an act to amend the Canada Health Act (linguistic duality), should have been selected as votable since it met all the criteria (approved by the House) in order to be considered eligible for “votable” status.

The member expressed himself very clearly and conveyed a deep sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with the way that private members’ business currently operates, especially with the fact that he was not able to obtain an explanation as to why his bill was not selected as a votable item.

As all hon. members know, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has the mandate to select votable items from the items placed on the order of precedence as the result of a draw. The committee must determine, in accordance with a set of criteria that it has adopted, the selection to be made.

I refer the House to a decision by Mr. Speaker Fraser on December 4, 1986 ( House of Commons Debates , p. 1759) with respect to the responsibility that the House has delegated to the procedure and house affairs committee relating to the selection of votable items.

He said:

—its decision in regard to the selection of items of business which must come to a vote cannot be challenged. When embodied in a report which is presented to the House, that report is deemed adopted by the House. The Committee, therefore, plays a very important role in safeguarding the rights of private members.

—It is not for the Chair to dictate to the Committee how it should take care of its responsibilities.

I want to emphasize that the Chair takes this matter very seriously even though, after careful examination, the case raised by the hon. member cannot be considered a question of privilege. It is a procedural matter which requires a procedural solution.

As hon. members know, several attempts at finding such a solution have been made and continue to be made. To begin with, a number of recommendations were made by members, in particular during the procedure debates in the House on March 21, 2001 and May 1, 2001.

These suggestions were taken into consideration by the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons and there is a reference to the issue in the committee’s report as adopted by the House on October 4, 2001.

While acknowledging the dissatisfaction with private members’ business as it currently operates and recognizing the need for changes, the special committee could not find consensus on the nature of specific reforms.

Following the report of the special committee the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs further considered the question of improving procedures for the consideration of private members' business and concluded in its report presented to the House on December 14, 2001, that:

--changes to the Standing Orders for the consideration of Private Members' Business, including a workable proposal allowing for all items to be votable, cannot be achieved at this time.

This leaves the door open for the committee to consider the matter once again in the future.

The hon. government House leader in his response to the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier reflected the opinion of many members when he said that “this subject matter has expressed itself in frustration on all sides of the House of Commons” and that he thinks “that there is a general desire in the House to find a better way of dealing with these matters”.

I can only urge the hon. government House leader to follow up on his suggestion that an attempt be made to find another way of solving these issues to the satisfaction of all members so that our procedures may be improved in this regard. I am sure that, with the help of interested members, like the member for Ottawa—Vanier, the member for Yorkton—Melville and others, including the nembers of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, a solution will be found.

I thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for having drawn this very important matter to the attention of the House.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, pursuant to the order of reference from the House of Commons dated February 7, 2002 regarding the accusation made against the Minister of National Defence of having misled the House.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 35(2) I have the following succinct explanation to make to the minority report filed by the Canadian Alliance to the report just tabled.

We dissented from the majority report for the following reasons. First, the evidence before the committee clearly indicated that the minister was thoroughly briefed on the matter of Canadian troops taking detainees in Afghanistan on January 21. The minister understood the matter and he did not seek further clarification contrary to his own testimony. We concluded from this evidence that the minister knew of the matter on January 21.

Second, it appeared that the minister misled the House. As the majority report will indicate one must examine the context of the relevant events around the minister's conduct in order to establish intent. In this case the context was the serious division within the ranks of the government members and the apparent need for the minister to avoid a confrontation with his own caucus on January 26 and January 27.

We concluded from this that the minister intended to demonstrate that he first knew of the incident on January 25 rather than January--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member may think this is succinct but the Chair does not agree. There is allowance in the rules for a very succinct explanation. I hope he is about to draw to an immediate conclusion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your definition of succinct. It is always relative I guess.

For the reasons set out in the report the official opposition must dissent from the majority report of the committee filed in the House today. We believe the minister should have provided a further explanation given the contrary explanation presented by his officials.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to make a brief comment regarding the report tabled by—

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the standing orders only allow one representative from a political party to comment, unless there is unanimous consent from the House, as the member knows.

Is there unanimous consent of the House to allow the member to comment?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to use the occasion of a point of order to indicate that the other opposition parties in the House are in agreement with the position of the official opposition on this issue.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I think we are having too many phony points of order here. We had better move on.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make the point that the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party does not speak for the Canadian Alliance.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

These are not really points of order. I know we all appreciate the co-operation and everything, but perhaps we will move on.

Canadian Wheat Board Act
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-438, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the Access to Information Act.

Mr. Speaker, I bring this private member's bill forward because the situation in western Canada and the designated regions under the Canadian Wheat Board forces farmers into monopoly marketing of their wheat and barley.

If the bill were passed all directors would be elected and producers would have the option of whether they wanted to market through the wheat board or not. The auditor general would have the authority to audit the wheat board to see if it met its prime objective which would now be to secure the best possible financial return for farmers that want to be part of the Canadian Wheat Board.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition containing close to 14,000 signatures. The petition opposes the creation of a golf course in Leamy Lake Park in the riding of Hull--Aylmer.

The petitioners believe that creating this type of golf course would have irreparable consequences on the wildlife and vegetation of the area and would privatize a major part of the park for the use of a minority. They are demanding that a review committee be struck by federal authorities.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from the residents of Pointe-Claire, Hudson, Dorval and Beaconsfield.

The petitioners point out that Canada is indivisible and that the boundaries of Canada, its provinces, territories and territorial waters may only be modified by ( a ) a free vote of all Canadian citizens as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or ( b ) through the amending formula stipulated in the Canadian Constitution.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to present pursuant to Standing Order 36 a very substantial petition signed by thousands of first nations citizens in the province of Manitoba. These signatories reject the first nations' governance initiative as proposed by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development because they maintain that it is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to diminish or even extinguish their treaty rights.

The petitioners point out further that the minister's so-called consultation process has been a sham. They urge all members of parliament to scrap the first nations' governance initiative and replace it with a mutually acceptable piece of legislation that actually addresses the many pressing and urgent issues that they outline in their petition.

Finally, these citizens serve notice that this is the first of many such petitions that will in fact outnumber against the first nations' governance initiative any who have indicated support for the initiative.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege and duty to rise in the House today to table a petition from concerned citizens of Canada. The petitioners are concerned about the recently released report from CIHR surrounding stem cell research. They are concerned particularly about the graduated approach determining human value and life. In this petition they are calling upon the House to give human life the love, respect and dignity that it deserves at all stages of its existence.

It is an honour for me to be able to table this petition with the signatures of 180 of the fine constituents of Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by the residents of my riding of Niagara Centre as well as other areas in Ontario asking that the criminal code be amended to ensure that corporate executives and directors are held properly accountable for workplace safety so that needless work related deaths, illnesses and injuries are prevented.

The petitioners also point out that a number of workplace deaths and work related permanent disabilities among Canadian youth is alarmingly high and unacceptable.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, an act to amend certain acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before question period and statements, the New Democratic Party is not opposed to international trade. We strongly support fair trade.

If I may digress for a moment, this week the agriculture committee had the opportunity to be in eastern Canada, in the maritime provinces, to hear from farmers. One farmer had a very good definition of the free trade agreement that Canada has with the United States. This gentleman said that under the free trade agreement, the U.S. had rights and Canada had obligations. I think that is a very significant statement and one that deserves to be underlined.

We support fair trade, but if Canada imports Chinese products, and we are talking about Bill C-50 today, that are manufactured by workers receiving paltry wages, subjected to unsafe working conditions and denied the right to organize to bargain collectively, then such trade cannot be considered fair. Trade which results in the perpetuation or augmentation of global inequality is not fair trade.

We are living in a time of unprecedented international trade and yet the differences in income among citizens of the world has never been more stark. A report in the latest edition of the Economic Journal says that the richest 1% of people around the world receive as much as the bottom 57% of citizens. It goes on to say that if poverty is defined as the average income level at which citizens of western Europe and North America are eligible for social assistance, then a full 78% of the global population should be considered to be impoverished.

International trade has been heralded for too long as the solution to global poverty and underdevelopment. The truth is that when trade is conducted under the auspices of fundamentally undemocratic organizations controlled by the corporations that they are designed to serve, trade will only serve to perpetuate global inequality and poverty.

I will say simply that this party is opposed to Bill C-50.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to challenge the member on one statement and that is with respect to poverty. Undoubtedly there are people around the world, including people in China, whose incomes are substantially less than our incomes in Canada. I would agree that we in our global community should do everything we can to reduce and eliminate such poverty. However the fact of the matter is that when one gets into trade agreements with countries like China, it increases economic activity. Generally that means there is an increase in demand, which means that there are more jobs for workers and the ability to produce more would normally increase the workers wages.

That would not always be the case. It depends on the kind of wage agreement. We know that members of parliament for example have a fixed wage regardless of whether they work 12 or 18 hours a day. Teachers are often paid exactly the same, regardless of how many hours they work. We have to take that into account as well.

Does the member not at least generally concede that these international trade agreements tend to improve the lot of both countries involved in the agreement?

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, no, I would not agree with the statement although in theory that is what they are supposed to do. In response to the member for Elk Island, it depends very much on the agreement itself. If we look seriously at the agreement that exists in the European Union where there are labour standards and environmental standards, then yes, there are opportunities for people at the bottom end of the income scale to advance.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the free trade agreement and the WTO, there are no such stipulations when it comes to environmental rights or labour rights. If we look at the maquiladoras stretched along the Mexican-United States border, we would look hard and in vain to find very many people, except perhaps the upper echelon in an organization, who have advanced. We would find that workers have generally not advanced. We would perhaps also find that a great many of them have suffered many environmental problems as a result of the fact that they do not have adequate environmental standards. That has become a cesspool as we know over the last 10 or 15 years.

Ideally, world trade should lift up all boats, as the saying goes, but it has not. It is fair to say that we have always had globalization, but over the last 15 years we have seen a more intense degree of globalization, yet all of the standards indicate that the levels between the top and the bottom are not shrinking. The rich are getting richer and the poor are indeed getting poorer.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I presume the member would like included in these trade agreements with different countries, especially third world countries and China, clauses that would require them to meet certain minimum environmental standards and certain employment standards.

In the event during negotiations a country said that it was a matter of sovereign right and that Canada did not have the right to change the way things were done in that country, then the trade agreement would not proceed and subsequently the increased economic activity and even the smallest potential of bettering the lot of the poor would be removed. Could the member respond to the dilemma faced in these negotiations?

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, there may be a dilemma, but I cling very strongly to the fact that we do need international rights and obligations in the area of trade and environmental and human rights. Poverty in China is a major concern, particularly in rural areas where reportedly upward of 30 million Chinese people, as many people as we have living in Canada, live in absolute poverty.

With respect to the Chinese automotive industry, reduced tariffs under the WTO will mean exports will quickly flood the Chinese market resulting in a tremendous strain on workers. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the ICFTU, reports that 10 million Chinese auto workers are forecasted to lose their jobs as a result of China's entry into the WTO.

China stands out internationally for its flagrant disregard for human rights. The WTO does not seek to enforce human rights standards, but is concerned only with the facilitation of international trade.

Workers in Chinese industries will be negatively impacted by increased trade. They have no recourse to collective organization. China has ratified the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, but filed a reservation to prevent workers from freely forming trade unions. The freedom to association and collective bargaining is recognized under the ILO, but it is ignored by China. China also has an abysmal record on workplace safety. In 2000 more than 47,000 industrial accidents were reported in China.

Yes, in theory free trade should work. It should help lift up people at the bottom end of the economic scale but it does need some safeguards. Those safeguards would include human rights, environmental rights and labour standards.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief in my comments, but I think it is the responsibility of my party in particular, the Progressive Conservative Party now in co-operation with the DRC, to stand and speak about free trade. We are and have been the free traders of the House and were instrumental in the negotiations of the free trade agreement, the NAFTA, put into place by the previous government. At the time it was suggested that it would not be supported by this government. Once elected, even the Liberals in their exuberance recognized that the only way in which this country would grow and expand would be to expand our markets and base those markets on rules based trade. In saying that, we are supportive of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the WTO family.

I have a lot of respect for the previous speaker from the NDP party, the member for Palliser. Although we do agree on some issues, we will agree to disagree on these issues with respect to the accession of China into WTO, free trade and how it is dealt with nationally and globally. One cannot put one's head in the sand. One must look at the possibility of bringing China into the free trade age and certainly into the global family.

My hon. colleague suggests that China has some difficulties and I would agree with him. In the past it has been seen as having some human rights issues, workplace safety issues and certainly some issues with respect to organized labour. However, one does not turn one's back on China and simply hope that the problems go away. What one does is incorporate China into globalized trade, which we know and realize so well is necessary for countries to be involved in if they are to expand their own economies.

China is a marketplace that is absolutely phenomenal, well in excess of 1.1 billion people who have a huge demand for goods and services being produced throughout the world. Equally, the world has a huge demand for the goods and services that can be produced within the People's Republic of China. It is important for China to have the opportunity to develop that economy.

Recently I had the opportunity of meeting with some of the political lawmakers of China at the Asia-Pacific parliamentary forum. I can assure the member for Palliser that these individuals are very excited about joining the ranks of the WTO. They are very excited about becoming better as a nation. They are very excited about being able to expand their now narrow focus into a global focus. This makes me very proud that Canada was a partner to China's accession to the WTO.

I believe very strongly that given the proper guidance, the proper opportunities and the proper abilities, the People's Republic of China too will become a very good partner in this world of global trade.

Regardless of what the hon. member from the NDP says, we recognize there are those issues. We recognize that allowing China to come into global trade will hopefully help with those problems. The Progressive Conservative/DRC Party will be supporting Bill C-50. We welcome China and thank its people for the opportunity to open up their wonderful market to Canadian goods and services.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion for the Minister of National Revenue

moved that Bill C-47, an act respecting the taxation of spirits, wine and tobacco and the treatment of ships' stores, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to present Bill C-47, an act respecting the taxation of spirits, wine and tobacco and the treatment of ships' stores, for second reading today.

Bill C-47 introduces a modern, legislative and administrative framework for the taxation of spirits, wine and tobacco products under a new Excise Act. This new framework does not address substantive tax rate or base matters for alcohol and tobacco products. Bill C-47 also implements other excise measures, specifically the changes to ships' stores provisions that were announced on September 27, 2001, and the tobacco tax increases announced on November 1, 2001.

Before elaborating on the details of the new Excise Act, I want to take a moment and provide hon. members with some background that will help put these new measures in context. The Excise Act is the foundation of the federal commodity taxation system for alcohol and tobacco products. It imposes excise duties on spirits, beer and tobacco products manufactured in Canada. It includes extensive control provisions relating to the production and the distribution of these products. Duties equivalent to the excise duties on domestically produced goods are levied on imported spirits, beer and tobacco products under the customs tariff. As well, excise taxes are imposed on domestic and imported wine and tobacco products under the Excise Tax Act.

Historically, commodity taxes on specific goods have been an important element of Canada's federal tax system. In the first half of the 1900s they accounted for as much as 25% of federal revenues. While their relative importance has declined in recent years, these levies are still significant. In 2000-01, duties on alcohol and tobacco products raised about $3.4 billion in federal revenues.

Why, then, is this bill needed? Quite simply because the current Excise Act is archaic. It is one of the oldest taxing statutes in Canada, existing in previous configurations before Confederation with parts of the present act flowing from the consolidated inland revenue act enacted in the 1800s. While periodically amendments have dealt with specific issues, the Excise Act has never before been the subject of an indepth review and revision.

Let me provide a few illustrations of the archaic provisions in the existing Excise Act. The existing act allows excise officers to enter premises at any time and break up or remove parts of the premises such as the walls, ceilings and doors. Taxpayers who suffer losses as a result of the actions of excise officers are only entitled to damages of 20¢. Any person found guilty of possessing or selling alcohol in contravention of the Excise Act could face up to 12 months of hard labour.

Licensed producers are prohibited from operating at night without prior authorization from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, CCRA, and must comply with the requirement to have an excise officer present at the licensee's expense. Licensees who intend to make any alterations to their premises are required to provide the CCRA with a detailed description of the proposed alterations and, following the completion of the work, with plans of the work. Pipes that are used in a distillery to convey spirits are required to be coloured blue and those used for beer are to be coloured green. Licensed producers are prohibited from erasing any words or figures from their books and records. The only way changes to a licensee's books may be made is by crossing out words or figures with ink in such a way as to ensure that they remain legible.

These are but a few examples of how outdated the current Excise Act is.

In recent years, both industry and government became increasingly aware of the need for a substantive review and modernization of the excise framework. In particular, industry has undertaken significant development with respect to new technology, product marketing and distribution initiatives which the existing Excise Act does not accommodate adequately.

Other factors also pointed to the need for review of the framework. For example, there is now greater foreign competition in the Canadian markets for beverage and non-beverage alcohol. However, the pervasive controls mandated by the Excise Act impose high compliance costs on industry and impair the competitiveness of Canadian producers. The Excise Act also has become increasingly difficult to administer and impedes CCRA's ability to fully adopt modern administrative practices. In addition, there was a need to address recent wine contraband pressures that have arisen in part because wine, which currently is taxed under the Excise Tax Act, has no substantive controls placed over its production and possession.

Finally, there are complexities and inefficiencies to both government and industry because tobacco manufactured in Canada currently is taxed under both the Excise Act and the Excise Tax Act. As a result, the government recognized that a revised excise framework was in everyone's best interests. A modern framework would generate stable and secure revenues and also address contraband pressures. Moreover, this could be achieved without imposing unrealistic or unnecessary costs and administrative burdens on industry participants.

Prompted by the need to update the Excise Act, the Department of Finance and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency jointly released a discussion paper on the Excise Act review in 1997. This paper outlined a proposal for a revised legislative and administrative federal framework for the taxation of alcohol and tobacco products.

The review was guided by the following three objectives: first, to promote a modern legislative framework for a simpler and more certain administrative system that recognizes current industry practices; second, to facilitate greater efficiency and fairness for all parties, leading to an improved administration and reduced compliance cost; and third, to ensure the continued protection of federal excise revenues.

Building on this discussion paper proposal, the government followed up in 1999 with the release of draft legislation and regulations. Public consultations, an important element in any federal policy initiative of this kind, formed an integral part of the review. With the discussion paper and the draft legislation regulations as a basis, extensive consultations were conducted with affected industry groups and businesses, provincial governments, liquor boards, various federal departments, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other enforcement agencies. Refinements were made to the original review proposals with the result that Bill C-47 has been given broad support among the spirits, wine and tobacco sectors, the provincial liquor boards and the law enforcement agencies.

Before discussing the new legislative framework, I should mention that the bill does not address beer, which, with the concurrence of the brewing industry, will remain under the existing Excise Act for the time being.

While time unfortunately precludes me from reviewing all the measures in Bill C-47, I would like to provide the House with a brief overview of some of the key components. Bill C-47 introduces core elements of the framework outlined in the discussion paper issued by the government in 1997, including: maintaining the imposition of duty at the time of production for spirits; the replacement of an excise levy at the time of sale for wine with a production levy at an equivalent rate; the deferral of the payment of duties for spirits and wine to the wholesale level; and the introduction of modern collection tools. At the same time, Bill C-47 helps to address the government's ongoing concern about the smuggling of alcohol.

Let me be more specific. A key element of the framework is the maintenance of the production levy, which as I mentioned, is extended to wine in the bill. The production levy incorporates strict controls on the production, importation, possession and use of non duty paid alcohol and significant penalties for breaking the law.

At the same time the bill removes the current outdated and onerous controls on premises and equipment which have hindered the spirits industry operating under the Excise Act. This means that businesses will now have greater flexibility to organize their commercial affairs to respond more quickly to market changes. Anyone producing or packaging spirits or wine will be required to have a spirits or wine licence.

Although vintners must be licensed under the new framework, the current small manufacturers tax exemption will be maintained for wine produced by very small vintners, especially vintners with sales of wine not exceeding $50,000 in the previous 12 months. As well, individuals who produce wine for their personal use will continue to be exempt from having to be licensed and pay duty.

Bill C-47 also proposes a new warehousing regime for deferring duty on packaged alcohol that will place domestic and imported packaged alcohol on an equal footing. As well it will accommodate the privatization initiatives of some provinces for the warehousing of liquor.

As under the existing Excise Act, comprehensive controls will exist on non-beverage uses of spirits and wine to protect federal excise revenues derived from beverage alcohol. These controls include the licensing or registration of users, the approval of product formulations for which spirits and wine may be used without the payment of duty, and the specification of denaturing standards.

The bill also eliminates the current nominal rates of duty that apply to certain non-beverage uses of spirits, such as spirits used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical goods. These nominal duties are inconsistent and erroneous in application and disadvantage domestic products manufactured with spirits vis-à-vis similar foreign products entering Canada.

While the fundamental controls over non-beverage alcohol remain unchanged from the existing excise framework, Bill C-47 contains new measures on imported industrial alcohol to ensure the integrity of the domestic alcohol market and the production of federal revenues. In particular there will be a requirement for imported denatured industrial alcohol to be sampled and tested to ensure it meets Canadian denaturing standards.

The comprehensive controls on the possession, distribution and use of non duty paid spirits and wine will also significantly improve the offence structure and enforcement function in regard to alcohol.

Finally, fines for alcohol related offences will be substantially increased. Proceeds of crime provisions will now cover serious alcohol offences.

Turning now to some of the tobacco provisions in the bill, the new legislative framework in Bill C-47 merges the current excise duty and excise tax on tobacco products, other than cigars, in a single production levy. This will result in improved administration and reduced compliance costs for the industry.

The new legislative framework incorporates the revised tobacco tax structure introduced in April 2001 and previously enacted, which formed part of the government's comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco consumption.

My hon. colleagues will recall that the tobacco tax structure now includes: an excise tax on imported manufactured tobacco sold in duty free shops; a customs duty on manufactured tobacco imported by returning residents under the terms of the travellers allowance; and a revised excise tax and duty structure for exported domestic manufactured tobacco.

While the measures in Bill C-47 will provide a more streamlined framework for the taxation of tobacco, I want to assure the House that the fundamental controls over tobacco under the existing excise framework will be maintained. In particular, the current stamping and marketing requirements for tobacco products will continue to apply and will play a key role in the enforcement of tobacco provisions in the bill.

In addition, the legislation incorporates the current offence provisions relating to the illegal production, possession or sale of contraband tobacco which have proven to be effective.

The new excise framework also contains a number of administrative measures that will enable the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to improve its level of service to clients and its overall administration of the excise framework for alcohol and tobacco products.

These measures, which are consistent with CCRA's integrated accounting initiative, include: a duty remittance and return structure harmonized with commercial accounting periods and the goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax, GST/HST, legislation; new assessment and appeal provisions similar to those under the GST/HST legislation; and a range of modern collection mechanisms, such as certificates of default, garnishment, seizure and the sale of goods and director liability.

In addition, the bill provides for a range of administrative penalties that will be imposed on licensees, registrants and others dealing with excisable goods who fail to comply with particular requirements under the law.

The new legislative framework will ensure that the excise duties on alcohol and tobacco are collected in a more effective and efficient manner. As well, it provides an array of modern administrative and enforcement tools for ensuring compliance with the proposed statute.

In summary, the new legislative and administrative framework for taxation of spirits, wine and tobacco products will provide: a simple and more certain taxation structure; equal treatment for all parties; improved administration and lower compliance costs; greater flexibility for businesses to organize their commercial affairs; and enhanced protection of excise revenues.

In the few remaining minutes, I will briefly discuss three additional measures in Bill C-47.

The first concerns changes to the ships' stores provisions under the customs and excise legislation. As my hon. colleagues know, ships' stores provisions grant relief from duties and taxes for goods used on board ships and aircraft in international service.

These changes, which were announced on September 27, 2001, respond to a recent Federal Court of Appeal decision that ships' stores regulations went beyond the scope of their enabling legislation. Bill C-47 provides the proper legislative authority for these regulations. The changes will take effect on the date the provisions identified by the court were incorporated into the regulations.

A second measure implements a temporary fuel tax rebate program for certain ships that will no longer qualify for ships' stores relief as a result of the proposed amendments to ships' stores regulations effective June 1, 2002.

Ships that would be entitled to this rebate are commercial tugs, ferries and passenger ships travelling on the Great Lakes and the lower St. Lawrence River that are not engaged in international trade. This rebate will apply on fuel purchased between June 1, 2002 and December 31, 2004. It is intended to provide affected operators with adequate time to make the transition to the new ships' stores rules.

The third measure implements the federal tax increases on tobacco products that were announced on November 1, 2001. Like the April 2001 measures I referred to earlier, this tobacco tax increase is part of the government's comprehensive strategy to improve the health of Canadians by discouraging tobacco consumption.

These increases re-establish a uniform federal tax rate for cigarettes across the country and amount to $2 per carton of cigarettes for sale in Quebec, $1.60 in Ontario and $1.50 in the rest of Canada. The increases are co-ordinated with provincial tobacco tax increases.

The government has always said that it would continue to work toward restoring tobacco taxes to pre-1994 levels as quickly as possible. The measures in Bill C-47 are one more step in the process of restoring tobacco tax rates in ways that will minimize the risk of renewed contraband activity.

In closing, let me say that the three elements of the bill all deserve to be passed without delay. It makes sense to implement a new Excise Act for addressing a longstanding need of both industry and government to rationalize the ships' stores provisions and to approve the tobacco tax increases for reducing tobacco consumption.

I urge all hon. members to support the passage of the legislation without delay.

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1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think you look very good in the chair. Perhaps you aspire to making that a permanent position down the road. Learn your French and you will be okay.

I would like to address Bill C-47, an act which has to do with taxation. If members ever listen to any of my speeches they would know that taxes and I do not mix. I recognize and acknowledge that for our different levels of government to do their work a certain amount of taxation is required.

However, let us stop to think about how heavily we are taxed, whether we purchase gasoline, wine and spirits, cigarettes or food in the form of restaurant meals, vehicles, furniture, clothing or even when we give money away.

As a leader in my community, I get, as I am sure all members of parliament do, a fair number of solicitations to contribute to fundraisers. I was solicited not long ago by a group trying to get hockey tickets for a number of young people who did not have both parents. It asked me to contribute to some hockey tickets so that these young people could enjoy the Edmonton Oilers beating someone else hockey game.

I told the group I would contribute and I pledged $50 which I think provided two tickets for these young people. Members can imagine my surprise when I received a statement from the group showing the $50 I had pledged but also showing a charge of $3.50 for GST. I was being billed a tax on my charitable donation.

The federal government, even when its citizens are giving their money away to help others, wants a cut of it. It seems to have an insatiable appetite to take away the earnings of Canadians.

Over and over again we see taxes increase. Once in a while we get a little announcement of a temporary decrease. Even now we hear much crowing from the Liberal side about the reduction in taxes. However when I spoke to people who had received their cheques in January and February, they said that their take home pay did not seem to be that much different. They wanted to know what happened to all the tax cuts they were supposed to get?

We also must remember that our taxes, when it comes to the kind of taxes we are talking about in Bill C-47, the excise taxes and the GST, those taxes are all being paid with money that has already been taxed.

I was thinking about something the other day. Given that governments need some money to run their operations, where can they get the money from? First, they can do something to earn it and, in some cases, they do that.

I worked in the mathematics department at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The institute had three major divisions: the technology division where I worked as a mathematics instructor, the business division and the so-called industrial division. The industrial division, among other things, trained mechanics, carpenters and many others in the hand skill trades which are so necessary in our society.

One of the things the institute did in order for their students to have hands on experience was invite citizens to bring in their vehicles. They would only be charged for the parts because the labour was provided by the students under the supervision of their instructors. I used to bring my own vehicles in there from time to time, although in those years I did most of the mechanical work on my vehicles myself.

I remember going to the institute's barber school which trained people to be hair dressers and barbers. One could go there and get a haircut for 50¢. It was a nominal charge but at least they got some revenue and the students learned how to cut hair.

Governments could raise revenues by doing things that would actually bring in money. Occasionally governments will build roads and then charge tolls on them. In a sense that is also a way of bringing in revenue. There are many other ways but I will not give an exhaustive list of how it can actually earn money directly.

The other way governments could earn money would be through taxation, that is, by separating the citizens from part of their earnings. As I see it there are basically three main classifications. They can tax people as a proportion of what they own. The municipalities do that with property tax. If one owns a house worth $100,000 the tax assessment every year would be $2,000 to $3,000.

I have not done my calculations recently but, having lived in the same house for over 25 years, I think I have paid more in property taxes than I paid for the house. In other words, the money I paid the government in property tax is greater than the money I paid to the guys who built the house. It is absolutely crazy.

Meanwhile I paid all those taxes with money on which I had already paid income tax. Most of that money was at the marginal rate of around 50%. I earned $6,000 of which $3,000 went to the province and feds and $3,000 went to the municipal government. That means that every year when I write my local municipality a cheque for my property taxes, if I write the cheque for $3,000, there goes $6,000 of my earnings. It was $6,000 of my earnings in taxes and yet all it shows is that I paid $3,000 in municipal taxes.

All hon. members here will be very pleased to know that I have introduced a private member's bill that would at least take the first step toward providing an exemption from taxable income for money that people earn to pay their property taxes. My principle is that Canadians should not have to pay taxes on money they earn for the sole purpose of paying taxes.

I am very unlucky because my private member's bill has never been drawn. My bill has been languishing in the bottom of the barrel. I would just love to have it debated and made votable. I would love to hear the members on the other side say that was a huge injustice.

If I included the amount of money I paid in property taxes with the amount of income tax I paid in order to make the money to pay those property taxes, I would have paid twice as much in taxes as I paid for the house. Of course we still have the house but it is very decrepit because I cannot afford to do upkeep due to all the taxes I have paid.

I am talking about Bill C-47, a bill that would change some tax rules. What the parliamentary secretary was very careful to keep a secret was that it would also increase taxes. I listened carefully to his entire speech and I do not remember hearing him say that as a result of these changes we will be able to suck out of Canadian taxpayers another quarter of a billion dollars, because that is what it is.

Our estimate is that this measure will result in increased tax revenues to the federal government of around $250 million. That is $250 million that will not be available to homeowners. It will not be available to moms and dads who are trying to provide for their families. It will not be available to good Canadian citizens who would love to give to charity but cannot because after they their tax bills most families hardly have enough money left to allow them to be truly charitable.

As an aside, the Liberals have a flawed reasoning when it comes to their taxation system. They claim they are justified in taxing people and then giving back to others who need it, people who make films, people who build airplanes, people who hire factory workers in Mexico to build buses that go to Kentucky and things like that. Liberals think they are justified in taking money away from all of us because we are inherently a generous people. There is a flaw in that argument.

I grew up in a family where that was practised. I have tried to be generous myself and I have tried to teach my children to be generous and charitable. If the Liberals really believed it and if the socialists really believed it, then they would not need to tax the dickens out of us because as generous people we would in fact help those people in need. We always did that.

I grew up in Saskatchewan in the rough years. Neighbours were always helping one another. It did not matter if it meant half a day of one's time. Sometimes someone would give a neighbour a ride to visit somebody who was ill in the hospital because that neighbour's vehicle did not work. My dad would pick people up and take them to the hospital. Things like that were always done.

Lo and behold, along come the socialists, the Liberals, who do not really think Canadians are generous. They take our money, whether we want to give it or not, and redistribute it. Meanwhile, they manage it in such a way so as to provide enough good slush funds in different areas to get re-elected in those ridings. I find that very offensive and so do most Canadians when they stop to think about it.

One form of taxation is property taxes. This involves taking every year from citizens a portion of what they own. In the business field there is the capital tax. That tax affects businesses, corporations and banks. Every year they have to pay into the public coffers a proportion of their capital inventory. No wonder businesses want to move to Mexico to build buses. No wonder they want to move to Ireland to invest there.

In Canada, businesses pay like crazy through the nose. Even when they buy equipment and once it is owned, they still have to pay the federal government an annual capital tax on it. That tax is in addition to any machinery tax that the provincial government may want. It is in addition to any tax that a municipality may level based on property value.

We have all these taxes that very frankly are a tremendous drain on our economy. They are a tremendous disincentive both to individuals and to businesses. We should be looking at ways to reduce that tax burden. Would it not be wonderful if Canadians could keep 90% of their earnings. If they earned $1 they would get to keep 90¢ of it. That would be great.

Before I got into politics, I was an ordinary person on a professional income. With my two degrees, I worked as an instructor. My wife and I made the decision that she would be a full time mom when our kids were small. We were struggling continuously to balance the budget.

I found it very distressing that I could not make ends meet. One day I figured out why. I earned $10,000 approximately five or six years into my career. The federal and provincial governments took about half of it, which left me with $5,000. We were told that we should put approximately 10% of our earnings away for future retirement.

My wife was not gainfully employed. She did not get paid for her labour although she worked in many instances as hard or harder than I did. She was not able to contribute to any pension plans or anything like that so I put some money away for our retirement. If we take the 10% away it reduces the $5,000 to $4,000.

I have always believed in charitable organizations and charitable contributions. For many years I used the rule of thumb of donating at least 10%. I would do that as an obligation.

It struck me one day that the reason we were having trouble making ends meet was that we were trying to live on 30% of my income. Some 50% was taken by different levels of government and the remaining part was taken through choice. We need to ease the tax burden on Canadians.

I have made allusion to other ways in which governments separate taxpayers from their money. Either they are taxed on a proportion of what they own, taxed on their income, or taxed on what they spend. Incredibly the federal, provincial and municipal governments are in collusion to make sure that all of us are burdened, stooped under a load of excessive taxes. We are taxed at all three locations. They tax us when we earn our money. They make us pay taxes on our properties. Business owners pay capital taxes. Then when we spend money to buy our kids some new clothes, we pay the GST and in most cases a provincial sales tax.

No wonder our families have problems. I read in a book that the greatest stress on marriage is inevitably financial. That is most often what leads to conflict and stress among married couples. With our taxation level and regime it is amazing that any of our families are surviving.

I was elected in 1993. Among other things my mandate was to work for lower taxes, and it still is. I believe very strongly that as individual members of parliament we need to do everything we can to reduce the tax load to leave more of the earnings in the pockets of the people who earned it so they can provide for themselves and their families. That is very important.

I want to say something specifically about the measures before us. I appreciated the speech given by the parliamentary secretary. He did a reasonably good job of going through the details of the bill and outlining its various measures. I will not bother repeating the details but I would like to bring a few issues to our attention.

It is interesting that work is being done to streamline the production of wines and spirits, the work of the vintners and distillers who produce alcoholic beverages. They want to make it more efficient. I have to applaud that. We know that our standard of living is inextricably linked to productivity in our country. Our productivity is greatly held down by all the administrative and regulatory regimes and taxes of the governments. I used the word in plural there because it is true at all three levels.

It is an admirable goal to streamline all these measures and bring them together. Presently there is an Excise Act and the Excise Tax Act. This is the first step, as I understand it, to bring those measures into one act which will be called the Excise Act, 2001. It happens to be 2002 but so be it. That will be its label.

I agree with some of the regulatory measures that are being taken. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the need for distillers to have at their expense government inspectors on site all the time. That is a regulatory expense which possibly should be changed to make us all more efficient.

As for colouring pipes certain colours I think they do this in most chemical operations. In a way producing alcoholic beverages is a chemical operation. I think it is a biochemical operation. We should let them do it if they want to do it, but we should not require by government that their pipes have to be a certain colour. That needs to be fixed. It needs to be modernized by all means.

When it comes to these taxes on alcoholic beverages, wines and tobacco I follow my father's footsteps in one regard. When a tax is levied we have a choice. We can choose not to pay it.

My father and mother taught us that drinking alcoholic beverages was not necessary and had inherent dangers if taken to excess. Neither of my parents ever drank or smoked and for some reason I picked that up as being a pretty smart thing to do.

I sometimes look back now still amazed at how insightful I was as a teenager when many of my friends were succumbing to group pressure. Some of them have since died because of either their addiction to alcohol, in some cases due to accidents caused by alcohol, or due to cancer caused by smoking cigarettes.

I have other problems. However my parents said this was a tax they would not have to pay so they did not bother buying that stuff. They not only saved the expense of the original purchase but also the taxes on it.

My dad did the same when the Mulroney government brought in the much hated GST. It is remarkable that sales tax, the GST, still resonates with people. A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad in the newspaper indicating no GST. The ad could just as easily have said 7% off everything, but they get way more attention because people say they hate the GST and will go to that store on the weekend to buy something if they do not have to pay the GST. I could use a word that would be unparliamentary which I normally do not use anyway, but other people sometimes use it when they talk about the GST.

When the GST came into effect my dad who used to trade in his car every three or four years said that was one tax he would not have to pay. He kept his car. I wonder how much that was replicated across the country when people made a decision not to make a purchase because the tax was a disincentive. We need to recognize that those taxes are a great disincentive.

Throughout our lives my family and I have not really become directly involved in the taxes we are talking about today because we buy neither alcoholic beverages nor cigarettes. However it does apply to many Canadians.

We should be aware of the fact that in this case the government will be increasing the taxes on cigarettes. As I mentioned earlier, the tax measures in the bill are to provide the government with an additional $240 million to $250 million.

Cigarette taxes in Quebec are to go up by $2 per carton, $1.60 in Ontario and $1.50 in the rest of the rest of the country. One may say that it does not seem to be fair and that the government is picking on Quebec. Why is it increasing the taxes in Quebec so much more? It is simply bringing Quebec into line because members will recall that back in 1994 or 1995 there was a big push to try to reduce smuggling. The government of the day decided it would reduce the smuggling of cigarettes by reducing taxes. If it reduced the taxes it would be able to--

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Is that a question?

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

There are no questions in my speech. The government reduced the taxes to reduce smuggling, the assumption being that if people who wanted cigarettes could buy them commercially at a competitive price instead of buying them from criminals, they would buy them commercially and the criminals would be out of business.

I do not know whether the government has now computed that the criminals are all out of business and will not get back into business, but now it is increasing prices again.

The reason that Quebec's increase is greater is that back in 1994 or 1995 the tax decrease to that province was greater. The government was targeting the areas where most of the smuggling took place. The government is bringing the tax levels back up to where they were before and the differentiation between the different regions of the country is simply to re-establish that the costs will be equal across the country.

I do not have any firsthand knowledge of this point, but a researcher indicated that the cost of a carton of cigarettes would bring in $6.85 in federal excise tax and $5.50 in excise duty, making a total of $12.35 per carton in federal taxes. I think that is absolutely incredible. I wish people would be like me and avoid the tax entirely. Given that they will pay it, I would be very pleased if we would have a lower rate of taxation for them. Plain and simple, I think the government is not entitled to that much money because a person buys a carton of cigarettes. It is a very high rate of tax. I dare to speak out of both sides of my mouth, but maybe we should increase the price even more.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize to the member opposite for interrupting him, but this is an opportunity that I would like to bring forward to seek unanimous consent to make my private member's bill, Bill C-391, votable.

The member who was speaking will appreciate that it is very difficult to make bills votable. This is a bill that would amend the oath of citizenship and bring in the principles of the charter of rights and liberties. I would seek that unanimous consent.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot have consent of the House to propose the motion?

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Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am just wondering if it is relevant at all to note that it was the government members who opposed the request.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I hope the hon. member will not be too shocked when I inform him that is not a point of order.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was talking about the taxes on cigarettes being a disincentive. I think especially of those in my knowledge who have succumbed to illnesses caused by cigarette smoking, both heart disease and lung cancer. Those are not good ways to die. It would be a lot better if the use of tobacco were reduced. Whether taxation is the way of doing that I do not know. Generally the principle in my mind is we ought not to use tax policy to drive social behaviour. I think that is an improper mix.

Excise Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

moved that Bill C-304, an act to amend the criminal code (prostitution), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting Bill C-304, an act to amend the criminal code (prostitution). First reading was deemed to be March 19, 2001. In the summary of the bill it states:

Under this enactment, the offences related to prostitution that are provided for in section 213 of the Criminal Code from now on will be either indictable offences or summary conviction offences.

My private member's bill is deceptively simple. It is a minor technical point in the criminal code, but it is my belief that the clarity and improvement it makes can bring a significant positive result for communities to take back their streets, for local merchants to have their sidewalks back again and for parents to renew their confidence in the safety of local schoolyards.

However, the main reason I am bringing the bill forward again is that it addresses the main point of the ease of access for juveniles to get involved in the sex trade in the first place. My bill would mitigate against children getting involved in the beginning. It is about crime prevention.

Bill C-304 would amend section 213 of the criminal code to change the kind of process available against a person being investigated for talking in a public place about buying or selling sex. It would change the street prostitution section.

I propose making the existing offence a hybrid or electable offence so that an investigator can proceed either summarily or under the rules of the list of indictable offences. Critics wrongly get hung up on the theoretical higher penalty from the indictable route, which of course is never applied, rather than the process and identification tools which is what the bill is really all about.

In Canada it is a criminal code offence, a crime to buy and sell sex in a public place such as a street corner, a taxicab, a bar, a pub or a hotel lobby. That is the law. We have had a national conversation about whether that kind of activity should be controlled by criminal sanction and, consequently, it is a crime.

It is also a crime to live off the avails of prostitution, to be a helper or employer to benefit from the trade, or to keep a place of prostitution. Involving juveniles is a very serious crime. However, existing rules for the streets seems to approve in a backhanded way.

The private act of prostitution itself is not a crime. I do not know why it is not a crime, as the history of abuse, exploitation and degradation associated with those who tend to become sex trade workers appears to be condoned here in a double standard. However, that is a completely different debate and beyond the scope of what I am trying to do here today.

I am sure that I will hear from my critics a reference to that false argument to cover their own lack of courage to act, and their lack of understanding of street realities. I have observed that a helpful procedure is to respond more directly to the street trade in prostitution. Capacity creates its own demand. If there were no buyers there would be no sellers, and if there were no sellers there would be no buyers.

We have a societal problem. Mitigating against exploitation is historically the Canadian way. We must provide the legal symbols which provide the appropriate social context for citizens to voluntarily do the right thing, while we defend the helpless and help them, rather than allow them to be exploited.

My proposed change is important for broad societal reasons. There is a national problem of street prostitution across the country that did not exist in such a pervasive way just a few years ago. Since the advent of the charter and the repeal of vagrancy laws the legal capacity has created its own demand. Whenever we create a loophole for the perverse the legal vacuum is soon filled.

Street prostitution goes far beyond just being a local nuisance. Wherever it takes a foothold the surrounding communities soon learn that the drug crowd follows, as does breaking and entering, theft from cars and an attraction of those with criminal histories. All these become entangled in the culture of the street. These trends develop wherever prostitution is openly traded. It is a money producing activity that supports organized crime, the drug trade and the foreign trade in people. It is a sad fact that our pathetic law gives an opening for international operatives to exploit.

Communities are victims too. Mothers do not appreciate walking their children to school over needles and condoms along the schoolyard fence. Merchants should not have to patrol their front sidewalk and doorways cleaning up after the night trade.

However, the fundamental point I observed as a probation officer before I came to this parliament attempting to bring social services to bear to individuals caught up in this sad cycle is that street prostitution itself is the wide open door for the young to become involved. That is my main point.

It is an issue of crime prevention. Runaway children can too easily stand on a street corner and get involved in prostitution as a way to support themselves. The wide open door and the legal and social tolerance of street prostitution is a major source of the national problem, how it is fed and kept going.

My experience in attempting to help young people in conflict with the law and those who were on the street made me acutely aware of how the summary conviction status of communication for prostitution was so much in conflict with all of our concerns and expenditures to help street kids preserve the peace and safety of our neighbourhoods.

Politicians on the Liberal government side have in the past been very sanctimonious about juveniles and prostitution. NDP members also talk about the awful violence against sex trade workers and claim to be concerned about children on the street. Yet historically they have resisted suggestions to mitigate against allowing kids to be on the street supporting themselves through the sex trade.

This is not a new problem. Today we in parliament after years of talk are still dithering about this matter. Past Liberal justice ministers have not responded to my requests. Moreover, previous Conservative governments were no better. There were reports and plenty of consultation but during their tenure the whole prostitution file was not effectively dealt with. Even worse the NDP appeared to support prostitution itself through the advocacy of what it affectionately called sex trade workers. I believe the NDP would like to unionize them and give them police protection right on the street as well as employment insurance.

I come from a different perspective, one that is rather pragmatic. We may not like prostitution in society. We also may not like the overwhelming violation of rights it might take to eliminate most of it. Nevertheless, as parliamentarians we also do not need to pave a golden street for the sex trade to flourish. Therefore, as an interim measure we need to pass my bill so we can get on with the more important comprehensive measures that the government claims it is considering and that the justice department has been studying for years.

Prostitution is exploitive and a lot of other crime and degradation seems to go with it, especially the drug trade and drug abuse. All these tragedies are tied together so there are practical reasons to have the public communications section of the code made as flexible as possible in its application.

The police are also using sections of the code to sometimes issue what is called a no go order for repetitious, obnoxious and aggressive prostitutes who are leading the trade and shepherding others into the trade to be subject to geographic prohibitions of not entering into common strolls. If the recognizance is breached it becomes an offence and is easier to enforce than gathering new evidence under section 213 every time. These restrictions are time limited and tied to the process of other charges, hence, of limited value.

Although section 213 is gender neutral, gathering evidence against buyers is somewhat difficult. Police are unlikely to assign much of its precious police time resources to respond to a problem if the offence is only a summary one and after the expenditure of thousands of dollars in enforcement routines only results in an occasional charge and nets the perpetrator a $100 fine which becomes just another cost of that kind of nuisance.

Flexibility rather than a heavy-handed approach is what I am promoting. The change would allow, if needed, to fingerprint and photograph if cases were proceeded with through the optional indictment process. It would be used as needed and would form part of a broader tool kit of resources that would support crime prevention objectives. It would greatly enhance breaking the cycle of lifestyle for some youths and more effectively get them into community remedial programs. My change would support social programs that focus on deeper causes.

We must have the political courage to intervene so that the inherent discretion that lies throughout the justice system can flexibly respond to the individual need.

In the 1995 interim report of the federal-provincial-territorial working group on prostitution the results of national consultations indicated several recommendations to combat prostitution, one of them being the change to section 213. The deputy minister of justice of the day established the working group in 1992 from the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The most important factor for change was not to punish prostitutes but rather for identification purposes. In many cases prostitutes use false identification. Many in Vancouver and Toronto are not Canadians and are not in the country legally. It is a serious immigration problem which my bill would address.

The Identification of Criminals Act states that fingerprints and photographs cannot be taken when a person is charged summarily. With fingerprints and photographs police would be able to track down runaways and to clear the backlog of outstanding arrest warrants of prostitutes who have used false identities. It would solve some serious crimes. It would send a most necessary and needed message to the community, to both customers and sellers, that such acts are not to be taken lightly and that they are not in society's interest. We would not likely have some 50 dead street workers in Vancouver if my provision had been in place over the last few years.

The response from the working group on this matter stated that the identification of prostitutes, along with the use of false identities, was considered a serious problem by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, one which might have been solved with such amendments. The ability to fingerprint and photograph would make it easier to identify and prosecute repeat offenders.

Something most people are not aware of is that many street prostitutes are runaways living under false names and identities. They become involved and perhaps trapped in a dangerous subculture. Parents of these children desperately want to find a way of tracing their children's whereabouts but because of false identities little can be done. They desperately want to find a way to bring their children home.

The research that has been done on street prostitution suggests that decisions to enter into the prostitution trade are decided in the time of youth. In 1984 the Badgely committee on sexual offences against children and youth found that of all the prostitutes interviewed 93% of females and 97% of males had run away from home.

In another report, a 1990 journal of Canada's Mental Health , authors Earls and David found that the average age of female prostitutes leaving home was 13.7 years.

People who support the sex trade say it is really not a big problem and that politicians are blowing it out of proportion. I have three comments from those affected by street prostitution. The first is from a Vancouver resident:

When prostitutes operate openly in a neighbourhood, all women in the area become targets for cruising johns in cars or on foot. Soon every female from 8 to 60, from your daughter to your mother, will have been on the receiving end of some sort of disgusting advance from a stranger while walking to the store or playing in the park.

The second is from a Toronto resident:

My apartment has become a refuge from streets which become enemy territory every night, streets where I am approached by drug traffickers, accosted by cruising johns and insulted by hookers; streets where menacing groups of young people take over the corners to haggle over drug prices and yell out to people in passing cars.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee in 1989 the former mayor of Toronto and current Minister of National Defence stated:

I support these changes to Bill C-49 as well as other recommendations our police are putting forward to help us once again regain control of our streets, namely that this offence be changed from a summary offence to a hybrid offence requiring that those arrested be fingerprinted and photographed, which is important in dealing with runaways who can change their identities and their names, and others who are trying to avoid prosecution, and that it remains, in addition to that, within the absolute jurisdiction of a provincial court judge.

The Minister of National Defence clearly stated that such a small change to the criminal code could make a huge difference in the fight against street prostitution. I hope he will be a man of principle and lean on his cabinet colleagues to help me so that we can all do the right thing.

In 1995 the justice minister introduced an omnibus bill that touched on the criminal code changes to prostitution. Unfortunately section 213 was not changed. Today communication offences are still mere fines or slaps on the wrist. Street prostitutes are not afraid of being caught nor are they deterred in any way to give up this dark and sad way of living. Their controllers are also allowed to continue their exploitation.

I advocate the passage of my bill for several broad reasons. There are symbolic sociological and national policy reasons why we should do this.

In addition, the local communities most affected are aghast at the lack of action to preserve the safety of their neighbourhoods. We can do it for them. We can do it for our children. It is important that we act on behalf of victims, whether those trapped in the lifestyle or those in the community.

Administratively we need to provide more flexible tools for police officers so they may exercise discretion in dealing with local variances and emerging problems. Moreover, we need to narrow the door which permits kids to get involved in prostitution in the first place and provide other legal ways to get them into social services.

In closing, I ask members of the House not to obfuscate and confuse what I am talking about. I ask them not to get off track by talking about the generalities of prostitution in society, violence against women, developing legalized brothels or any of the related topics not appropriate to the narrow proposal I have brought forward to the House.

My bill is a small technical amendment which could help victims and bring safety to our neighbourhoods. I hope it will receive non-partisan support in that light. It is time we had the political courage to act. Our communities which have sent us here expect no less.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-304.

In a nutshell, subsection 213(1) of the criminal code makes it an offence to communicate in a public place with any person for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. Currently the offence under section 213 of the criminal code is punishable on summary conviction. The sentence is a fine of not more than $2,000, imprisonment for six months, or both.

The amendment proposed by the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby would classify the offence as a hybrid offence. Hybridizing offences results in potentially increased penalties. This offence, punishable today by a maximum sentence of imprisonment for six months, would become punishable by imprisonment for up to five years as a result of the application of section 743 of the criminal code.

When the legislation containing this provision was first introduced in the House of Commons the Hon. John Crosby was Minister of Justice. He said the purpose behind the legislation was not to deal with all the legal issues connected with prostitution but to address the nuisance caused by street prostitution. He sought to balance the concerns of law enforcement agencies, citizen's groups, women's groups and civil libertarians.

Section 213 is intended to assist in dealing with the nuisance problems experienced by neighbourhoods affected by street prostitution. Making the offence punishable by five years would be going too far. Similar offences such as causing a disturbance in a public place are summary conviction offences.

Another possible underlying purpose for making a section 213 offence a hybrid offence is, as the hon. member mentioned, to permit the fingerprinting and photographing of persons charged under the section. As a hybrid offence the Identification of Criminals Act allows fingerprinting and photographing only in the case of offenders accused of committing indictable offences pursuant to the federal Interpretation Act. Hybrid offences are interpreted in that fashion.

Some seem to believe fingerprinting and photographing would act as deterrents for persons charged under subsection 213(1). However experience has shown it is not necessarily so. In addition, converting section 213 into a hybrid offence would allow police officers to proceed with arrests whenever they had reasonable grounds to believe an offence had been committed or was about to be committed.

In the case of a summary conviction offence police officers cannot arrest until they find a suspect committing an offence. Increasing police powers would likely lead to increased enforcement and ultimately the displacement of prostitutes to more isolated and potentially dangerous areas where their lives would be at greater risk.

It is important to realize that making subsection 213(1) a hybrid offence could open the door to engaging the more onerous criminal procedure associated with indictable offences and thereby create an added burden for the courts. This would have to be avoided by explicitly keeping the application of section 213 within the absolute jurisdiction of the provincial court.

For these reasons subsection 213(1) of the criminal code should not be amended.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-304, the private member's bill put forward by the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby.

The hon. member has spent a number of years working with youth. He has expressed a lot of concerns about street prostitution and the impact it has on local communities and on the prostitutes themselves. I appreciate his concerns and agree with the goals he has expressed today. He wants to improve safety in local communities, on our streets, in neighbourhoods where there are schools and so on. I support the goal of stopping violence against and exploitation of sex trade workers or prostitutes, particularly juveniles.

However I have a somewhat different perspective. If the goal is to stop exploitation as the hon. member said in his opening remarks, I have difficulty understanding how we could do so by making criminal sanctions against prostitutes stronger. If we want to stop exploitation why would we look at further criminalization? The hon. member says the bill is focused on the need to address the situation of juveniles on the street. However nothing in the bill is directed toward juveniles. If that is the primary goal it is not expressed in the bill.

If Bill C-304 were approved it would give more power to the police. It would give them the discretion to go from a summary offence to an indictable offence. It would give police authorities more power in the hope they could somehow solve the issue.

This is where I fundamentally disagree with the hon. member. It is a mistake to think we could deal with safety or the exploitation or juveniles on the street by handing the police more powers. For years police departments have campaigned for much stronger criminal sanctions. They have campaigned for fingerprinting as the hon. member mentioned. They were upset the day the old vagrancy laws were taken away because they were a powerful tool to round up anyone they had the slightest suspicion about. These things are a huge invasion of civil liberties. While the bill's goals may be good, the narrow mechanism it proposes for dealing with offences pertaining to prostitution under the criminal code is the wrong way to go.

I represent the riding of Vancouver East. As I am sure many members know, we have a most horrible situation unfolding in the national media. People are aware that 50 women, mostly prostitutes, have gone missing. Many are aboriginal women. The hon. member said if his bill had been in effect the women may not be missing or dead. If it had been in effect it would not have improved their safety whatsoever. It would have pushed them into a more criminalized lifestyle.

One of the problems we are facing is that when women on the street involved in the sex trade are subject to abuse and violence the police are often the last people they go to for protection because there may be warrants against them. They are already in a criminal environment.

Bill C-304 is the wrong way to go. During this important debate about the laws pertaining to prostitution we need to have an honest examination of the issue.

I have written to the Minister of Justice. I called on him to look at and expand the work of the working group on prostitution. I called on him to bring forward the idea of a special committee that would publicly look at the issue. I called on him to recognize there are hypocrisies in the law as it stands today. As the hon. member pointed out, prostitution is not illegal. It is illegal to communicate for the purposes of prostitution, keep a common bawdy house and so on, but in reality engaging in prostitution through an escort service or body rub parlour is completely ignored. Although it is “illegal” there is no public attention to the issue and no outcry about it. It points out the hypocrisy of our laws.

Rather than the bill before us today I would like to see an examination of the criminal code to look at ways to decrease violence and exploitation of women on the street. It is a huge mistake to say making the offences indictable would somehow improve the situation of the women and the safety of the neighbourhoods.

I thank the hon. member for bringing the matter forward. However I do not support the measure being suggested in the bill. I have talked to a number of colleagues who share the same opinion. I listened carefully to the parliamentary secretary's response. I would encourage the Minister of Justice to pay attention to what is happening in the downtown east side and to the fact that the women went missing over a period of time and nothing was done. We need a public inquiry into the police investigation that did not take place. I and many others in the community have called for it.

More particularly we need to examine the role and impact of federal laws pertaining to offences around prostitution. We need to ask whether they are contributing to an environment that makes the lives of the women more unsafe and safety in the communities harder to attain. We need to have that debate. It will not take place merely as a result of Bill C-304.

I urge the Minister of Justice to respond to the very real concerns coming out of the community. He should to look at the work done by the working group on prostitution. He should recognize the double standards that exist in the law today and say yes, we must stop the exploitation of juveniles. We should call it what it is. It is the abuse of children and we should have strong criminal sanctions against it. However making it a generally indictable offence would not offer a solution. If anything it would create a more unsafe situation for local communities and women on the street.

I thank the hon. member for bringing the bill forward. Regrettably, it is something I cannot support.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess I have a very different point of view from that of the member for Vancouver East or I would not have seconded the motion by my colleague, the member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby.

I have witnessed some things in the last few years that I find very disturbing. I believe this private member's bill will help to rectify those things.

One of those was the government's decision a few years back to drop the bona fides as they are referred to on refugee claimants or immigration claimants for exotic dancers. As I recall at the time the reason given was that it was too much paperwork.

It is a very easily proven fact that a lot of the women who were brought in for positions as exotic dancers were in fact brought in for the sex trade. That has continued and there has been nothing done to stop it.

If my colleague's private member's bill were to pass and the government could obtain fingerprints, it would solve a lot of problems. Not only would it solve a lot of problems for those women who are being brought in for the sex trade, but it would also solve a lot of problems for many parents in this country.

As a mother I have been very fortunate as my children have never caused me any difficulty at all. I cannot imagine being put in a position where my child has run away from home. If my child had run away from home and I was one of these parents wondering what had happened, knowing that my child was out there somewhere probably involved in the sex trade, the fact that my child could be fingerprinted under this proposed legislation would give me great comfort. There would be a way to trace the child. There would be a way to find out if the child had been arrested for prostitution or where the child was. That would allow for intervention.

I have very few concerns about the points made by the parliamentary secretary of the possibility of the sentence going from one year to five years. If we look at the way sentencing is being done for horrid crimes, the sentences are very light and inconsequential. I do not really think we are going to have problem with the judicial system suddenly deciding that if a person has been picked up for prostitution and is fingerprinted, that the person is now going to get a sentence of five years. In some cases if that were to happen it actually might be a life saver for the women. They would have an opportunity to be educated to do something other than prostitute themselves when they went back out into society. However, I do not think that is going to be a concern. I think the sentencing will remain at one year or less.

Going back to what I was saying about the children, that is the reason I support the bill wholeheartedly.

My colleague from Vancouver East mentioned the 50 women who have been found in her riding. What a horrid tragedy. The bill probably would not have prevented those women from being killed but it might have.

If the women had been arrested and fingerprinted and one of their friends had gone to the RCMP and said “Mary is missing”, the RCMP could have started to look for Mary long in advance. They could have ruled out a few things and perhaps Mary and many of her friends would not have been killed. That may be stretching it a little, but I like to think that there would have been some sort of mechanism if the bill was in place to help protect those women from what happened to them.

Regardless of the outcome, I am going to support the bill. In my opinion, the fingerprinting and the photographing of prostitutes who are picked up would be a great help to parents. That is why I will support the bill.

If we can do anything to help parents find children who have run away and maybe give the children the opportunity to turn around and make a life for themselves, then I support it.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-304 which unfortunately is a non-votable item. I always like to open my comments in private members' business by suggesting that the item should be votable regardless of whether I and my party agree or disagree with it. I strongly believe that all private members' business is important enough that it should be votable so we can stand up for our convictions as the member who put forward the bill has done.

This is a very controversial subject. It involves very complex, contradictory interests, values and issues. It is an issue that is at the heart of a lot of our own feelings about what is happening in Canada.

The bill attempts to deal with the most visible evidence of prostitution, that being street solicitation. It has become an acute problem in larger Canadian urban centres where prostitutes have transformed certain areas into unpleasant congested districts. Some argue that it also leads to other problems such as drug addiction and violent crime.

Residents and businesses have voiced concern over the noise and traffic. Children in residential areas where this occurs may be exposed not only to the sex and drug trades, but also to the litter left from the sex and drug trades.

A 1999 study by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reported a sharp increase in the number of prostitution related incidents following two years of decline. However the increase could reflect changes in enforcement rather than in the volume of criminal activity. Most recent statistics show that there were 5,036 offences dealing specifically with prostitution in the year 2000.

The street is a dangerous place for people working in this trade. There is a relationship between violence against prostitutes, including assaults and homicides and the venue in which it occurs. Nearly all assaults and murders occur while the prostitute is working on the street.

When considering how to deal with legislation regarding prostitution under section 213, we should be cognizant of the fact that the potential for increased violence against prostitutes exists. Unfortunately, the bill does not do that.

The bill would amend section 213 of the criminal code so offences would now become either indictable or summary in nature. Presently, offences found under section 213 are summary, allowing for a maximum of six months of imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $2,000. The amendment would give the sentencing judge the option of summary or indictable charges, essentially increasing the maximum from two years less a day up to 10 years.

We would be inclined to support a shift in sentencing if it pertained to those living off the avails of prostitution or those who engage in recruitment for prostitution.

Under section 212 of the criminal code, everyone who procures, attempts to procure or solicit a person to have illicit sex with another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years. This section deals specifically with those who wish to live off the avails of prostitution and would seem to have a greater beneficial societal effect in terms of sentencing.

Rather than increasing the sentence from summary to indictable for those charged under section 213, charges under section 212 would potentially address the greater issue, that of those profiting from prostitution. An increase along the lines of those found in section 212(2), which increases the term of the offence from the maximum of 10 years to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years for anyone who lives wholly or in part off the avails of prostitution of another person who is under the age of 18 years, could potentially serve as the model.

This amendment to section 213 would distort the system to deal with what some consider as much a societal problem as it is a legal problem. Those involved in the sex trade are often victimized disproportionately when compared to others. This is especially true in terms of youth involved in the practice. They are more at risk of being robbed, beaten and sexually assaulted at the hands of pimps or customers.

This is not the right approach. In fact, it takes a rather simplistic approach. Making the offence indictable does nothing to stop the problem or address the greater issue for those living off the avails of prostitution.

Section 213(1) is out to confine and keep prostitution out of the public view. It does this by making it an offence for anyone who tries to engage in prostitution or for those wishing to obtain the sexual services of a prostitute by making it an offence to: stop or attempt to stop any motor vehicle; impede the free flow of pedestrian vehicular traffic or going into or out of premises adjacent to that place; stop or attempt to stop any person or in any manner communicate or attempt to communicate with any person for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

If there is to be a lasting beneficial effect, we need to address the heart of the problem. We need to engage in preventive measures such as early intervention, educational awareness strategies, development of education tools and resources, and earlier identification of those at risk. These comments were made by the presenter and speakers from the Alliance. I could not agree more that we have to address those particular issues, the societal problems.

By making it an indictable offence, the opinion was given that it would simply be an option available to the courts, that it could be a summary or an indictable offence. Making it an indictable offence and taking people off the streets and putting them in jail for up to 10 years does not solve the problem.

I congratulate the member for bringing the matter to the attention of the House and to the attention of a society that already knows there is an issue with respect to prostitution, particularly child prostitution as we have seen in the major centres. However, this legislation, even if it were votable, even if it did go forward and even if it were put into effect would not resolve the problems and issues we face now as a society with prostitution and particularly those under the age of 18.

Had the bill been votable, the PC/DR coalition would not have supported this legislation, not because we do not think it is a major issue. We simply feel it is not the right way to change a very serious problem.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing the bill introduced by the hon. member for Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby. If I am pleased to be able to speak today, it is essentially because I find the topic interesting, although mainly a cause for grave concern.

I must make it immediately clear, however, that I am far from being in favour of the bill in question. As we all know, prostitution has always been, and will continue to be, a highly controversial subject and one that involves some highly complex interests, values and problems.

As I was saying, the merit of my colleague's bill is that it offers us as legislators an opportunity to ask ourselves some serious questions on this issue. We must admit that the federal government's inaction, or at least its slowness to act, has encouraged others to find solutions to the problem surrounding the world's oldest profession. Canadian law, on the contrary, has lent to prostitution a status of semi-legality, which has resulted in considerable confusion, for sex workers, police and the general public alike.

We all know that prostitution involves issues of feminism, individual freedom and public order. It always stirs up passionate debate.

When I read Bill C-304, however, which is aimed at amending the criminal code in order to make offences related to prostitution offences punishable by a maximum 10 year sentence, I am far from convinced that further criminalization of prostitution-related activities will solve all the problems surrounding it, particularly the impacts and consequences.

Prostitution is, of course, an international problem, and one addressed by many people before us. If there were one single and simple solution, everyone would have adopted it by now. But I am not convinced that this is the case. To quote the rather picturesque expression used by Diane Lavallée, president of the Conseil du statut de la femme du Québec, “When Mars and Jupiter look upon Earth, they do not see the same reality”.

For these reasons, and because the phenomenon of prostitution is a reality in Quebec as it is everywhere else, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois has asked three MPs to provide him with some proposals relating to the specific phenomenon of street prostitution. It is important to clarify that the problem lies mainly with street prostitution, because what is out of sight is somewhat out of mind.

Accordingly, in June 2000, the members for Saint-Bruno--Saint-Hubert and Hochelaga--Maisonneuve and I launched an extensive consultation of community organizations, spokespersons for sex workers, members of the Catholic Church, police officers, and many other stakeholders.

Naturally, our consultation was limited to the Montreal and Quebec City area, and even my riding of Longueuil. In fact, though it may surprise some people, there is also street prostitution in Longueuil.

The assignment was complex but, at the same time, very inspiring. One thing is obvious and that is that indifference is not an option, because prostitution affects our children, our sisters, our brothers, our neighbours, our lives. The causes of prostitution are as numerous as they are varied and, consequently, it would be utopian to look for a complete solution to the problem.

I therefore wonder about the purpose of the bill introduced by the member and on what exactly he is relying in saying that a sentence of up to ten years' imprisonment would solve the problem of prostitution.

It must not be forgotten that prostitution in itself is not illegal. The criminal code is somewhat vague, because it is the activities associated with prostitution which are illegal. The problem lies in when prostitution is allowed, and under what conditions.

We—the committee—therefore decided to develop certain possible solutions, which we put forward. I wish to take the opportunity of this debate to tell the House about them.

The most important involves decriminalizing, for a period of five years, action related to prostitution, specifically the sections of the criminal code having to do with keeping a bawdy-house, procuring, and sexual services. At the end of that period, the federal government, the provinces and the municipalities would conduct an exhaustive evaluation of the effects of this temporary decriminalization.

In this way, municipalities could be given responsibility for putting in place a framework for the exercise of prostitution by setting up an organization responsible for drawing up regulations and enforcing them.

However, since people who engage in prostitution are often addicted to drugs, the committee also recommended to include additional resources to fight drug dependency. To this end, the federal government will have to make available to the provinces a fund to help and support drug addicts.

Finally, one of the last important factors is the status of sex trade workers. In order for the decriminalization of prostitution and its regulatory framework to be truly effective, we must go further in the recognition of the rights and citizenship of these workers. Therefore, the various governments would have to amend the various legislation that would promote such a recognition.

These are essentially the solutions we can envision. However, hon. members are certainly aware that the Bloc Quebecois is not alone to have examined this issue. Many other reports have been published.

In 1985, the Fraser committee concluded that even though most were opposed to increased criminalization of prostitution and its related activities, a large number supported measures to alleviate their nuisance aspects.

The same committee concluded its analysis with the following observation: the problem of prostitution cannot be solved through isolated criminal provisions. On the contrary, we must ensure that all the provisions dealing with prostitution are part of a systematic set. The committee examined three strategies to fight prostitution: criminalization, decriminalization and regulation.

Another report on prostitution was tabled in December 1998 by a federal-provincial-territorial working group, which also concluded that the criminalization of prostitution, or the activities surrounding it, was not an appropriate solution.

The approaches that seem to receive unanimous support are those involving social measures, because it must be realized that there are many factors leading to prostitution, such as drug addiction, poverty, human misery, precarious jobs and so on.

Yes, we must regulate prostitution and ban it in certain areas and under certain conditions, but we must also help sex workers walk away from that trade by providing them with adequate tools and a proper environment. It is not by increasing jail penalties that we will eliminate this plague.

I humbly hope that I have demonstrated this.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have to smile at the hand-wringers. They are responsible for how things are right now out there on the streets. It is a surprise for me to hear the Liberal government defend the previous discredited Conservative government on this matter.

Just as I predicted we have heard talk today of too severe penalties. They discount the issue of the identification process. They discount how kids get involved in the trade in the first place and stay there. My critics just do not get it. The confluence of the interrelatedness of victimhood and of juveniles all the way to the international organized crime aspect is missed. They are arguing for the maintenance of the status quo. They say that they do not like how things are out on the street, yet they stand in the way of change.

What Canadians know today is the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc defend the current legal context of the situation. They say that they cannot act but they have no solution. In fact these parties are part of the problem and they must accept the current consequences of what it is like out there on the street because of their attitudes.

People who are watching this debate today must be aghast. We have a serious national problem. Let it be known that on this day the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc are not prepared to act. In fact they condone the current street dynamic by defending the status quo. They are not prepared to support the social services that we are expending to try to respond to this issue. They have no answers.

It is interesting to always bring in the non-related arguments to respond to their cover of embarrassment for their responsibility of how things are now. The answer is not a lot more talk, conferences, a comprehensive approach and all that we have heard in the House before. We should just make this minor change and see what happens. This is to respond to a current crime prevention problem, keeping the kids off the street because it is the wide open access to how most get into the trade. It would also respond to the international trade in people.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you seek consent to have my bill made votable to spur action and debate. It is for the children.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent to make the bill votable?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

It being 2.22 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, April 8, 2002, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.

(The House adjourned at 2.22 p.m.)