House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

10 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

February 10, 2005

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the schedule to this letter on the 10th day of February, 2005, at 5:40 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill C-14, an act to give effect to a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, to make related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts,

The House resumed from February 10, 2005, consideration of the motion that Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
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10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-32, as I did Bill C-31, to condemn this totally unacceptable operation on the part of the government, which consists in splitting the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade into two entities, namely the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

I am pleased to do so, because I really feel that I am fulfilling the role of the Bloc Québécois, which is to protect the interests of Quebec and also to show Quebeckers how a sovereign Quebec would promote its values and political interestsand to use its trade policy to meet these objectives.

Unfortunately, Quebec's interests are still being defended by Canada. Therefore, we must ensure that Canada has the necessary means to adequately protect Quebec's political and economic interests at the international level. However, this will not be the case with the splitting of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

We often hear from the Liberals, and I imagine the same is true for the Conservatives and the NDP, that Canada's foreign policy and commercial policy must promote great Canadian values. I agree with this. As a Quebecker, I hope that in a sovereign Quebec, the Quebec nation will base its foreign policy, commercial policy and international representation on promoting the values of Quebec society.

Unfortunately, I think the proposal being put forward by the government does not meet these objectives. Accordingly, as defenders of Quebec's interests and promoters of Quebec's sovereignty, we will oppose this bill.

As I was saying, this bill, which is associated with Bill C-31 totally lacks transparency, and I would even describe it as anti-democratic. I will come back to that. It is totally backward and goes against Canada's approach to foreign policy for the past 30 years whereby commercial policy was used as a lever in Canadian foreign policy and aimed, in an awkward and inadequate way, I agree, at promoting the great, so-called Canadian, values of democracy, social justice, fairness and social and economic progress.

It is a decision that will set us back 30 or 40 years. It is illogical on every level. I will come back to that. Finally, this decision to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is harmful to Canada's economic and political interests and likewise to Quebec's interests.

Obviously, faced with something so undemocratic, non-transparent, backward, illogical and harmful, the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-32, just as it will vote against Bill C-31.

I want to remind hon. members that on December 12, 2003, the Governor General in Council passed an order in council under the Public Services Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, separating the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade into two departments: Foreign Affairs Canada, and International Trade Canada.

What is extraordinary is that this order was handed down the same day the current Prime Minister was sworn in. I have said it before, but I want to say again that we are a little surprised by the speed with which the new Prime Minister was able to make such an important decision about splitting a department that, since the early 1970s, had merged these two missions: foreign affairs and international trade. We are not used to having the Liberal government act with such speed.

I can give the example of changes to the Employment Insurance Act. Since 2000, the Liberal government has been announcing, in election campaign after election campaign, a major overhaul of employment insurance to take into consideration the difficulties facing unemployed workers in seasonal industries who experience the black hole. Women and young people are not eligible for EI because they have to accumulate 910 hours of work before they can get benefits. The benefit level is insufficient, thereby creating child poverty, which the federal government is constantly condemning.

However, child poverty exists because parents are poor. And who made the parents poor? The current government did.

The government has been announcing an overhaul of EI since 2000, and we are still waiting. Obviously, we hope that, in the February 23 budget, the unemployed will see some solutions to their problems. However, this is the year 2005, and the decision still has not been made.

The same goes for the aerospace industry. During the election campaign, the government was able to announce a half a billion dollars for the auto industry, which is primarily if not almost entirely located in southern Ontario. A policy for the aerospace industry, which is primarily located in the greater Montreal region, is still under consideration. Without a decision, there can be no such policy.

The list goes on and on, and includes areas such as the clothing and textile industries. In April 2003, the Standing Committee on Finance tabled a report containing numerous proposals. The government waited until December, when there was a crisis that led to the closure of six textile mills in Huntingdon, before following up on this report. However, since June 28, the government could have taken the necessary actions to help the clothing and textile industries, which are currently experiencing a very important transition.

What is more, the measures announced in December are clearly not enough. From the questions we asked of the Minister of Industry, we have the clear impression that the government has no intention of doing any more than it announced in December. The Canadian Textile Institute itself feels these measures were inadequate and incomplete. We are still waiting for action.

The same goes for what we are discussing today. In two throne speeches, February 2004 and October 2004, new directions for foreign policy were announced. We are still waiting for them. The Minister of Foreign Affairs told the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade that he planned to do so in December. Here we are still, nearly mid-February, with no indication as to when the minister or the government plans to make these foreign affairs directions public.

This of course has an impact on the work of the committee, and in fact we are incapable of planning our work in any useful way for the coming months. We will need to consult Canadians and Quebeckers on these directions, which I repeat have been announced in two throne speeches by this government.

The Prime Minister reached a fast decision, the very same day he was sworn in. Whom did he consult? We do not know. Certainly not the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, nor the major organizations concerned by such issues, such as those involved in international solidarity or international cooperation, nor even the major coalitions of exporters or groups concerned with defending economic interests. So we are told, anyway. Who, then, was consulted that the government moved so quickly to try to split up Foreign Affairs and International Trade?

The Minister of International Affairs has given us a few ideas. When we asked him what the decision to split up the department was based on, he could not come up with an answer. Between you and me, the minister is not too thrilled with this decision by the PM. He was probably not consulted either.

Nonetheless, because he is a good soldier, the foreign affairs minister said, and I quote:

Consultations are still going on. The government has always kept communications open with large associations of exporters and other representatives of economic groups.

Later on, he added:

This time, after discussing the issue with various people, the Prime Minister decided otherwise.

What the minister is telling us is that consultations are always held. Each meeting or chat the foreign affairs minister or the international trade minister has with somebody probably qualifies as a consultation. I guess this is the kind of discussion we are dealing with here.

As I mentioned earlier, these are certainly not structured consultations. We are being told the Prime Minister has discussed this issue with various people, probably in his own entourage, and probably even before he was sworn in, since he has been able to move very quickly.

The foreign affairs minister's remarks are quite interesting. He said that, after discussing with various people, the Prime Minister decided otherwise. It means that even people in his inner circle advised him against splitting the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He had made up his mind, but on what basis? We do not know. This decision has no analytical or political basis whatsoever. It is probably a concept that is dear to him for whatever obscure reasons that, to this day, we do not know, and that nobody has been able to explain. This is not a transparent and democratic decision. It did not draw on the usual parliamentary mechanisms.

We find ourselves faced with a fait accompli. This order in council in December 2003, followed by the tabling, a year later, of Bills C-31, An Act to establish the Department of International Trade and to make related amendments to certain Acts, and C-32, An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, is an attempt at setting a done deal in front of Parliament, namely the partition of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of International Trade into two separate entities. That is profoundly anti-democratic.

I would like to remind the House that Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail was calling out for Hercule Poirot, that great detective and character invented by Agatha Christie, whose books you have probably read, imploring him to come to Ottawa to investigate whose absurd idea it was to slice up the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It is a non-democratic, non-transparent and unfounded decision.

It is a step backwards, which is my second point. I would like to quote once again, because I think it is not well enough known by the public and the media, a letter to the chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, dated December 8, 2004, from the president of the Retired Heads of Mission Association. The first paragraph says it all:

Our Association, which is composed of approximately 270 former Canadian Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consuls General, is deeply concerned about the future of the Canadian Foreign Service. Recently, we have had to come reluctantly to the conclusion that our Foreign Service is being gradually dismantled. One clear manifestation of this happening is the recent decision to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).

I am not the one who says this: it is the association of retired heads of mission. The letter concludes with this:

As former diplomats and officials of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Commerce, Immigration and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), our members have personally experienced the difficulties of integrating coherently these two crucial sectors of Canada's foreign policy. Thus, we believe that the decision to partition DFAIT is unfortunate and a step backwards.

These former representatives of Canada around the world came to this conclusion based on their experience.

So, why is this backward? Why are these 270 former foreign affairs officials raising this? It is because this improv decision, until proven otherwise, the government was not able to explain the basis of this decision to us, goes against the past 30 years of integrating all elements of Canadian foreign policy within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Let us recall that in 1971, under Pierre Elliott Trudeau, we started integrating functions of an external nature within the Department of Foreign Affairs. Then, in 1982, trade commissioners were included, over a ten year period. There was reflection and consultation, even though Mr. Trudeau cannot be said to be the greatest democrat in the world. It was concluded that trade representatives had to be included in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Thus, since 1982, we have had the functions of foreign affairs, international trade and everything relating to immigration, particularly to refugees, and international trade.

All that was overseen by the department, and they struggled to find a measure of consistency, synergy. Besides, retired diplomats also mention it. Indeed, it is difficult to achieve consistency and synergy in all those missions. That vision of things was maintained under the Mulroney and Chrétien governments.

Of course, this is the source of a problem, because the Department of Foreign Affairs and of International Trade has not developed harmoniously, in a straight line and free of problems over the past 30 years. It had problems. These problems were due less to administrative issues, and to the fact that four missions were combined, foreign affairs, international trade, foreign aid and immigration, particularly refugee matters, in one department. They have more to do, since the beginning of the 1990s, first with the Conservatives, then with the Liberals have cut the resources of the Department of Foreign Affairs and of International Trade.

The present Prime Minister, when he was finance minister, is one of the people primarily responsible for this operation. Clearly, since there was not enough funds, choices had to be made. Officials tried to maintain the essential missions of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. They set aside or relegated the issues pertaining to foreign aid, immigration and refugees in favour of matters of foreign affairs and international trade.

Therefore, the solution, and Jeffrey Simpson shares this analysis, is not to split a department which is trying to ensure consistency in all of the functions of Canada's foreign policy, but rather to reinvest the resources necessary for this department to be able to assume its various responsibilities.

So, this is a backward decision. It is also illogical, that is the third point, because it puts the cart before the horse. The past two throne speeches have announced a review of Canada's foreign policy. Why then proceed with the administrative partition of a department as important as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade before even debating the basis of the policy directions.

Normally, and Napoleon would agree, strategic, political decisions are made, and logistics follow. In this instance, the opposite occurred. A decision is made, and then a discussion is held on what should underlie an administrative decision. This is totally illogical. A decision is made and presented to Parliament as a fait accompli, if possible, and then a discussion of the broad directions in foreign policy will be announced.

The administrative split of the mandate of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will taint the debate. This brings us to the other point: the fact that this decision will be harmful to Canada's economic and political interests, because separating foreign affairs from trade policy is not possible.

I will remind the hon. members that today is the 15th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release, in 1990, which spelled the end of apartheid in South Africa. I remember very well that it did not happen out of the blue. First decisions were made by civil society, and later by governments, to boycott products from and investments in South Africa. I remember clearly that my father would not buy wine from South Africa at the Quebec liquor board. The liquor board, which might have undergone a name change during that time, was forced to stop buying wine from South Africa. I also remember a boycott on Shell to get it withdraw its investments in South Africa. These trade policy pressures, combined with diplomatic pressures, of course, paved the way for Mandela's release and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

How can we separate the two elements? When the Prime Minister recently went to Asia, whether in Japan or in China, he discussed both trade policies and foreign affairs. You cannot go to China and only speak of international trade without addressing the human rights issue. When he went to Japan, the Prime Minister discussed the upcoming G-8 summit on climate change. This and the Kyoto protocol are linked both to foreign affairs and to international trade.

Splitting the department in two will weaken both Canadian foreign policy and trade policy at the same time. The ambassadors will only be accountable for their diplomatic performance. They will no longer be accountable to the Minister of International Trade. Indeed, Canada will lose on both fronts, economic and political.

For all these reasons, you will understand that we cannot support this kind of hare-brained improvisation, which will ultimately be detrimental to the interests of Canada and, consequently, those of Quebec.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
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10:25 a.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to ask a question of the hon. member of the Bloc Québecois, who finds that there is no reason to split the department in two. I find that interesting, not to say daring, for a party that seeks to split up our country. He is here to work himself into a state and to make sure that there is no separation between departments.

I will find a few examples, because he feels that this decision was a step backwards. I know that the member is not aware of all the things that have been done recently but, in the case of the tsunami, it was not a question of international trade, but of foreign affairs. We recognize that we live in a global world. Large countries are currently increasing their potential and broadening their policies. I am thinking about China, Brazil and India. Those are examples that show that the world has changed a lot.

We must also take into account the fact that, in foreign affairs, policy considerations differ from those pertaining to trade.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Unbelievable, reactionary.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

If I have heard correctly, the hon. member has just said that there are no differences and that both fields must be paired.

When we want to talk about human rights or, as this hon. member knows, consular affairs, what in the name of goodness could that have to do with commerce?

The reality is that in many respects we have to judge the changing and evolving world, which that party simply does not get. The reality, however, is that there are other dimensions to our foreign affairs policies, and they deal with defence, of course, and immigration, as the hon. member has just discussed. Let us not lose sight of what the bill is all about it. It formalizes a process by law, which the hon. member does not want to consider, which permits the government by order in council under a bill to proceed with the division of the department. This is the formal process in which the member can have a debate.

That member and I sit on the same committee on foreign affairs. Not once in the time he has been a member, or in the past year and a half that I have been a member, has an issue come up on the subject of trade. Indeed, that member will know this, because his colleague, who is also the critic for foreign affairs, has brought several motions forward, not one of them dealing with commerce.

I therefore will ask the hon. member this. Since this issue has already taken place and the division is already occurring, and because of the maturity of both the foreign affairs element of our department and commerce, often not inextricably linked as he suggested but just the opposite, moving in very different directions to ensure the interests of the whole country, would he not agree that it is time for the Bloc Québécois and that member to get their facts together and to modernize their thinking about the world around them as opposed to the insular politics on which they are founding those kind of comments?

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely mind-boggling to listen to the parliamentary secretary. If he were at the Davos Economic Forum, he would be taken for an ultra-right guy. At this very moment, the forum is focusing on social issues and democracy than on commercial issues. Globalization is about opening markets but also about standing up for democracy and promotion rights, namely union, democratic and environmental rights, as well as cultural diversity rights. If the member still does not get that, he is 30 years behind.

Besides, he argues that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade does not deal with commercial matters. The sole fact that the committee decided to study simultaneously Bill C-31 establishing the Department of International Trade and Bill C-32 on the Foreign Affairs Department proves that this the member is wrong. The matter was not referred to the sub-committee on investment and international trade, because it was thought that it was about foreign affairs as well as international trade and, therefore, had to be addressed by the committee itself.

We are presently studying Bill C-25 on remote sensing satellites. This bill is about international trade, since the Canadian industry hopes to sell images throughout the world, but also about foreign affairs because we do not want those images to work against the military and trade interests of Canada.

Members will understand the point I was trying to make about the partition of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Department. It is the result of a retrograde vision of international trade and foreign affairs.

The parliamentary secretary should know that at least 60% to 70% of our foreign affairs are about trade policy and that the best way for Canada to promote its values and vision is to communicate its ideas through its trade policy.

The comments of the secretary parliamentary only served to reinforce my belief that this decision goes against common sense and modernity. I am more convinced than ever that the Bloc Québécois will vote against this bill and I invite all members to vote against those two bills.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague for his very eloquent speech. His reference to South Africa was very relevant.

We know now that Quebec's destiny today is defined by a logic of dependency. It is not simply a question of the technical separation of international trade and foreign affairs. This would take us into issues with broader ramifications in terms of values that we share, or maybe that we do not share, in light of what I am hearing from the members opposite.

I ask my colleague if such a thing could be considered in a sovereign Quebec.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the parliamentary secretary missed the beginning of my remarks, where I was answering him for a second time. I will avail myself of the question from the member for Saint-Lambert, whom I thank, by the way, for asking it, to remind the House why this debate is so important to us. As I mentioned in my first response, first, making this decision goes against the economic and political interest of Canada. Moreover, this decision will have repercussions on the economic and political interests of Quebec, as we are unfortunately still part of Canada and as a large part of our presence abroad is assured by the Canadian government.

Therefore, we want the Canadian government to be organized in a smart way in order to promote a number of values shared by Quebec and Canada, because we do share several, such as the promotion of Canada's economic interests.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, not only do we want to defend a situation, but we want to promote a vision of things. What all sovereignists in the Bloc Québécois, the Parti Québécois and other movements think is that globalization is no longer a simple business matter. It has been much more than that for a long time. First, the opening of markets has social repercussions. For instance, the textile and clothing industries are currently undergoing restructuring. This also has cultural ramifications. Quebec's culture is threatened, but so is Canada's. They may not be sufficiently aware, but in Latin American countries, their culture is also threatened not by American culture, but by a conception of American culture which is that of big business and entertainment, rather than purely cultural. The same goes for the environmental domain.

The government will thus need to be organized in such a way as to adopt a comprehensive vision of all those missions. In fact, it was present in the Speech from the Throne. Unfortunately, what I observe in this government, is that it says one thing and does another. Back when I worked with the CSN, we used to say that it puts the left blinker on, but makes a right turn.

I will read you only one sentence with which I totally agree, but which does not have any echo in the decision that is being forced down our throats. It is on page 13 of the Speech from the Throne of October 5, 2004:

Just as Canada's domestic and international policies must work in concert—

We saw it with Wal-Mart, which is a prime example of rampant globalization in Quebec, hence, here in Canada.

—so too must our defence, diplomacy, development and trade efforts work in concert.

We are well aware that all of that must be part of a unified vision of foreign affairs and of a country's responsibilities towards the world. I will continue to quote the paragraph because I alluded to the next part:

This fall, the Government will release a comprehensive International Policy Statement that will reflect this integration.

The decision to separate the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of International Trade is not integration, but dispersal. This is typical of the government. It has so many priorities that it has none. It has so many visions that it has none. The most concrete illustration of that is the introduction of Bills C-31 and C-32 without consultations, in an attempt to present Parliament with a fait accompli. We will not accept this.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-32. As has been mentioned before, Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 are companion bills, which we will be dealing with over the course of time.

In my role as CIDA critic, I have had the opportunity to take part in a few foreign affairs committee meetings recently while our critic from Halifax was travelling on business related to the committee. It was interesting to hear my colleague from the Liberals say there was no necessity to have international trade as part of the foreign affairs committee.

I was glad to hear my colleague from the Bloc mention that in just the last week, in the only meetings I have attended, we were dealing with issues of trade, specifically Bill C-25 and RADARSAT. That certainly very much was commercialization; that was what we were talking about. It was a commercialized agreement made with the U.S. on dealing with images that come through RADARSAT.

Just as a note on that one before I get into my real discussion on Bill C-32, it was interesting to find out at the meeting that the Government of Canada had given a company $430 million to put RADARSAT in place. The company invested $92 million and said, “Here is a deal”. We thought Joey Smallwood made the best deal in Newfoundland for the sale of power from Churchill Falls, but let me tell members that the government proved it could come up with a better deal. From the Government of Canada, from the taxpayers, $430 million, and from the company, $92 million, so let us guess who owns it: the company that put in $92 million. Let us guess what else: Canada is going to pay for the images. Is that not a deal? As well, if that satellite happens to fall out of the sky and creates some problems, we cover the liability. What a deal for us.

Let me say that we do not want these people negotiating too many things on our behalf. I was shocked. I thought I had heard it all, but it actually gets better. I hope we will have a chance to discuss it more when we debate Bill C-25, but if Canadians want some real fine tuning, they should pay attention to it and ask some questions about that bill when it comes before the House.

Just to get back to Bill C-32, because this is an important issue, I think it is important that I read out exactly what Bill C-32 does.Canadians probably do not realize exactly how a bill comes before us. We get a piece of paper with the name of the bill on the front and it tells us pretty much what the bill will do. Inside the bill there is a recommendation. Here is what the recommendation on this bill states:

Her Excellency the Governor General recommends to the House of Commons the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled “An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”.

I want to specify what “the appropriation of public revenue” is, because there is no question that what we are dealing with here is an additional cost to the Canadian taxpayers. There is no question about that.

This is happening at a time when we have a situation in our country in which the government, despite having a surplus, has taken more and more dollars from numerous programs. As a result we do not have, in my view, enough money in old age security for our seniors. We have taken dollars from the EI fund, so there is not enough money for EI benefits. We have issues with child poverty. There is not enough money to address that. We do not have a national housing policy. There are huge shortages of housing around our nation. They are huge in the first nations communities in my riding, and there are absolutely appalling conditions. There are shortages all over the country, not just in first nations communities.

In this situation, our municipalities and our cities are fighting for infrastructure dollars, trying to get tax dollars back because they have to repair the infrastructure. We have a situation where water and sewer infrastructure is lacking in numerous communities throughout the country. We have shortages in our health care as far as trained professionals and other individuals are concerned. There are shortages of health care equipment.

There are huge issues around the country, but what is the government's priority? It is going to set aside money to have separate departments for foreign affairs and international trade. Some might argue that this would cost only a small amount of money. Even if it is $1 million or $2 million, that would be enough money to put more MRI machines where they are needed. It would be enough money to enable us to give more money to seniors. It would be enough money to give additional assistance in pharmacare programs. It would be additional money for post-secondary education. It is not okay to say that it is just a small amount of money. It is an additional cost, and there other costs as well.

I will go to another section of the bill. It states:

The Governor in Council may appoint two Associate Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs,--

And it goes on:

The Governor in Council may designate one of the Associate Deputy Ministers appointed under subsection (1) to be Deputy Minister for Political Affairs.

We are talking about a whole new bureaucracy being involved in setting up this department. In my view we do not have the exact costs here. I know it is going to be more of a cost and the question is whether we should be putting taxpayers' dollars in at this point in time, if ever.

Apart from that, Canadians need to know that it was just over a decade ago that the federal government merged foreign affairs and international trade. They were merged 10 years ago. Now we are going to spend some money and demerge them. Why are we doing this? One observer said that it was because the Prime Minister wants to. He wants to. There is no real justification for having to do this. It is, quite frankly, the opposite. There is justification for not doing this.

My colleague from the Bloc, the member for Joliette, mentioned a number of reasons. They are very valid reasons. International trade and foreign affairs are tied together. Each and every trip that I have ever gone on, when we are dealing with issues related to another country and we are meeting with the different officials from that country, there is always discussion of issues related to trade and foreign affairs.

I am pleased to say that on a recent trip we had discussions with colleagues in Viet Nam, Russia and China. We dealt with trade issues and had discussions with these colleagues. We also dealt with issues of human rights. All of this comes together and we know that it should.

As my colleague from Joliette mentioned, if we are going to deal in trade and do business with a country, then we should be able to say to that country that it has to do certain things as far as human rights, labour legislation and the protection of workers is concerned. We must talk about human rights and treating everyone fairly in that country.

We must be able to ask if there are practices in place where people do not have the right of religious expression. We must be able to say that we want people to be given that opportunity. We should be able to have those discussions.

I hope my colleagues from the Conservative Party will go a step beyond saying they will look after business and support this because it is the best thing for business and trade.

The reality is that it is not in the best interests for Canada to do business with certain countries. My colleague from the Conservatives has criticized the state of human rights in China. Does that party not think it is important that when we are dealing with trade and foreign affairs that we should be able to say to China that as a country it must make moves in this area? China has one of the most undemocratic and hostile regimes as far as human rights. Do the Conservatives not think that those things should come together? Is that not what doing business together and improving things for everyone throughout the world is about? It certainly is in my view.

My colleague from Joliette also mentioned Wal-Mart. We have seen the situation where the one unionized Wal-Mart in Canada will be closed. We can think that it is not a federal government issue. In itself it may not be a federal government issue. However, the issue is to recognize why Wal-Mart is doing that. We do not want to be promoting that kind of a position within our country. We do not want to be doing that. Canadians believe that the right of representation is there.

More and more I am seeing issues where this government is accepting the crawl to the bottom of the barrel. It is the basis on what the government is willing to accept as far as human rights are concerned. I know of various situations. I have heard of numerous cases in the United States where Wal-Mart pays the lowest wages possible so that all of their workers will be able to get medicaid. Then Wal-Mart does not have to be pay anything from the company.

I was in the U.S. at a time when a story broke where Wal-Mart had signed contracts with a company to do the cleaning of its stores, knowing full well that the company was using illegal workers. Therefore, the company could pay the workers less and, as a result, Wal-Mart paid less for the cleaning.

We do not want to be promoting that. We want to stand behind good, decent values in support of each other and decent wages for individuals. More and more I see this kind of action, saying we do not want to tie human rights with trade because somehow trade is the ultimate. Companies having the right to trade is the ultimate goal. It is not mine. It is not my ultimate goal. I do not see human beings as a natural resource for companies to make a buck off of them. That is not how I base my life and I would hope it is not how others do as well.

I went off on a bit of a tangent, but when one starts to realize what seems to be happening in one's own country, it is starting to look an awful lot like what is happening in some other countries. One wants to ensure that the government is made to face it once in a while and have its members realize exactly what is happening because so often they do not know exactly what is happening in each and every area.

I am going to have to tie Bill C-32 and Bill C-31 together because another issue in this whole discussion is the fact that the government is in the process, so we hear, of an international policy review. It is beyond my wildest imagination why we would be spending money and time on an international policy review when the report has not been finalized and been given to someone to review or had a whole scope of meetings with the country.

The government says it is in the process of an international policy review, but before getting the results of that international policy review it is going to divide international trade and foreign affairs. It seems absolutely ridiculous. We use the terminology that it is putting the cart before the horse. No kidding.

It would be the same as spending a whole pile of money on the Romanow report on health care, but before even getting the report the government would go ahead and implement new programs and do different things in health care. I guess I cannot say it is the same because there was no hope of anything being implemented in health care by the government, so I probably should not have used that analogy.

The reality with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 is that it makes no sense to be carrying out an international policy review. People in my riding from the multicultural community contact me and say they want to have some discussions on the international policy review. There are people who have been actively involved in our communities since they came to Canada. They have taken a personal interest in the workings of our government and country, and want to be part of that international policy review. What is it saying to all those people who were going to do that job quite seriously and get their input in the international policy review if the government rushes to separate two departments with no justification for doing so?

My colleague from Joliette mentioned the 270 former diplomats who think this is a crazy thing to do. Certainly they must be in the know. They are the ones who have been involved in this for years. It is really a strange situation. It has us wondering why the government is doing this. What is the great benefit? I must say that I have not heard a really good reason yet.

I want to talk about an area where the government could have moved. As the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade exists now, we have the Canadian International Development Agency and there is a minister for CIDA, but there is no legislation in this country to mandate CIDA. That is a piece of legislation we should have been dealing with, a mandate for CIDA.

It spends a huge amount of money and is supported by Canadians because we are caring individuals and value our representation, and we support what our country does for the world. Is there a mandate for CIDA spending millions of dollars? There is no mandate for CIDA. The government's priority is a piece of legislation to separate the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. There is no legislation to mandate CIDA. That is unacceptable. It is absolutely unacceptable that this would be the government's priority and not CIDA.

The issue of not having a mandate for CIDA is twofold. First, we do not know for sure exactly what CIDA is supposed to be supporting and what Canadians want CIDA to do. Most Canadians want to see CIDA dealing with the alleviation of poverty. That should be the mandate. The other area that Canadians want to see, and they want to see this in all aspects of government but certainly in CIDA, is the transparency and accountability of CIDA dollars, of Canadian taxpayers' dollars. With no legislation for CIDA, how do we ensure that? How do we ensure that Canadian taxpayers' dollars given to CIDA will be followed through, and have the accountability and transparency that Canadians want?

I say to the government and to all my colleagues in the House not to accept these pieces of legislation. There is absolutely no urgency to do it. It is unconscionable to be accepting these pieces of legislation before the international policy review. I hope the people in all of our communities will come out and say to us that it is not okay to be doing this, it is not okay to be spending taxpayers' money. If the government is going to do this then it should forget the international policy review because there is no point. It is a farce. It is slap in the face. The government does not care what people have to say. It is going to go ahead and do this first. It is not acceptable.

If my colleagues want to really have a priority, they should give CIDA a mandate. Canadians have shown what kind of people they are during the tsunami disaster. They came out wholeheartedly and wanted to help out. We need people to help out on a continual basis and we need taxpayers' dollars, stable funding, and funding that we can tell year by year is going to meet the needs of our assistance in the world. We need a mandate for CIDA far more than we need Bills C-31 and C-32.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the hon. member for Churchill. I have a great deal of respect for that member of Parliament and I know she speaks very passionately.

The irony of course with her comments is that all of the concerns that she has raised, and those of her colleague from the Bloc Québécois and his party that she is supporting, on culture, human rights, peace, and yes, she even used the same example I gave on two occasions already on the tsunami, speak not for the reasons to keep this department together, but if we are going to respect the modernization of where Canadians are domestically, globally and internationally, then she could not but come to a conclusion other than the fact that there is an inconsistency with trade and our politics on foreign affairs.

The member is well travelled, as she has well described, as are some members in the House. I am glad to hear that. If we are to take seriously our relationship with other countries, not as a means to ensuring trade, the first thing we hear from those from other parts of the world is that we should be involved in understanding their cultures better. What better way to do that than to recognize Canada's diversity, which works for us in so many ways, to create links around the world that do not just take into consideration how much money we are going to make at the end of the day. That comes after and it is based on trust and relationships.

Our world has changed. Our consular services had nearly 200,000 inquiries by Canadians last year. The disaster of the tsunami that she pointed out had nothing to do, I hope, with anything related to international trade.

The hon. member has given a passionate and direct argument as to why she will not be supporting the bill. Ironically, those are the very arguments I would use to say that she has and must support the bill out of interest to ensure that our foreign policy not be connected with our trade policy.

As to the member for Saint-Lambert, and based on what the member for Joliette had already said, who talked about the 15th anniversary of the freeing of Nelson Mandela, I want to remind those members over there who were not here in the House that it was in 1960-61 that John Diefenbaker led the charge to ensure that country was reprimanded for what it had done. That was a matter of foreign policy, and to connect that, although it may be convenient from a trade perspective or from a monetary perspective, loses sight of Canadian values and what we stand for: dignity and respect for human rights.

If human rights mean anything to those members from the Bloc or the NDP, they could not but conclude that this is the right approach and that Foreign Affairs should not be linked with International Trade. I understand the 270 former diplomats who were diplomats during the period of the great unity between the department, but times have changed. Understanding what the hon. member has just said, would she not agree that change is a very strong argument to ensure that foreign policy, human rights, peace and culture become the priority of Foreign Affairs, not money?

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, actually a couple of the words which my colleague used would be reasons that I do not trust the government's motives. Those words are “trust” and “relationship”.

There is no trust in the government in the reasons it does anything any more. I do not trust the government to do this for the right reasons. What I have seen from the government is a climb down to the bottom in everything it does by not ensuring when it sets out trade deals that all the other aspects are not affected.

I cannot help but see that when we are working out a trade deal or whatever in relation to how we are going to treat the workers in our country. We have heard time and time again in the House that businesses are moving to other countries which have lower human rights standards, lower labour standards and cheaper working conditions. People worry about getting a toy at McDonald's for a cheap rate while someone is being abused in the country where it is being made. That is not acceptable.

It must be a holistic approach where trade and foreign affairs come together. I think the government only in the issue of the bill will say, “We want to be separate. We want to use foreign affairs as a way to fight for human rights”. We do not need a mandate for foreign affairs on human rights. It should be part of every aspect of every job we do. We should not have to divide it before we can work for those things. If that is the issue, the government has an even bigger problem than I thought. It is not acceptable.

Reverend John C. Holland Awards
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of attending the Reverend John C. Holland Awards dinner. This annual event held in his honour recognizes the accomplishments made by members of the black community.

The son of a runaway slave, Reverend Holland persevered the racist times he lived in and realized his dream of becoming a United Church minister. He was eventually recognized and honoured as a distinguished citizen of Hamilton.

At this year's dinner Dr. Ray Johnson received the Black History Award of Merit. Aminah Rock received the Youth Achievement award. Dr. Juliet Daniel received the Professional Achievement award. George Kerr received the Ray Lewis Sport Achievement award. Lloyd Turner received the Community Service award. Four Youth Scholarship awards were also presented to Nicole Williams, Nailah Gordon-Decicieo, Jairus Goodridge and Jelaine Foster.

Congratulations to all the award winners for their outstanding contributions to the community.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you probably know, February 8 was Food Freedom Day in Canada. This means that in just 39 days Canadian families earned enough to pay for their food for 2005. As recently as 1997 Food Freedom Day was February 15. In just eight years the percentage of income spent on food in Canada has dropped by more than 15%.

While consumers celebrate the fact that they are spending less on food, this also means farmers are receiving less for what they produce, at the very time they are paying more for the inputs they must use to produce it. In the opinion of many, the inevitable result of this cost price squeeze on farmers will be the erosion of our very capacity to produce food in Canada.

In my opinion, the only way to stem this tide is a commitment to sustainable food production in Canada. That is why I believe we need a Canadian food strategy to ensure we still have farmers in Canada 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and 50 years from now.

Women's Artistic Gymnastics
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Godbout Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, in preparation for the upcoming provincial gymnastics championship in April, there will be two competitive women's artistic gymnastics events from February 25 to February 27 in Orléans.

Over 130 athletes from across Ontario and western Quebec will compete in the qualifier. Over 130 clubs will compete in the Tumblers' Winter Classic. The Tumblers Gymnastics Centre in Orléans, a non-profit club run by volunteers in our community, will be hosting the event. The theme for this event is “Proudly Canadian”. To honour our Canadian heritage, the club will be producing a program with messages from key Canadians recognizing the talent and dedication of the young athletes.

This is the kind of leadership and the kind of message I am proud to say are typical of Ottawa--Orléans. Together we can make our country and our community better.

The Environment
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada must recognize the significant contribution of UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves in Canada.

These reserves contribute to the conservation of ecosystems, species and genetic variation. Furthermore, they promote education, as well as economic and human development that is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable.

However, our biosphere reserves are unable to completely fulfill their mandate due to a lack of financial resources. The Coopérative de solidarité de la réserve mondiale de la biosphère du lac Saint-Pierre is currently seeking funding from Canada Economic Development.

Instead of providing funding through all the usual programs, however, the government should designate adequate and recurring funding for all the UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves in Canada.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the all-party steel caucus, I would like to communicate our position that private member's Bill C-223 merits further study at committee stage.

Many past and present employees of the steel industry are being seriously affected by the shake-up that is occurring in this sector. As a result, provisions in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act are being implemented and these employees and pensioners find themselves at a disadvantage to other creditors after years of hard toil and loyal service, and at a time in their lives when it is most difficult to start over.

This issue is not unique to either the steel industry or even to Canada. It is a growing serious concern for men and women across the country. The steel caucus is unanimous that a serious study of the provisions of Bill C-223 as they relate to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act is required.

Our position has been communicated to the Minister of Industry and a copy has been sent to all members of the House of Commons. Let us have a full review of this issue. Our employees and pensioners deserve nothing less.

Manufacturing Industry
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to applaud Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters on the release of its excellent plan, “20/20: Building Our Vision for The Future”. This plan is very timely in light of the wage stagnation in Canada, the growing productivity gap between Canada and the United States, and increasing challenges from and opportunities in emerging markets like China, India and Brazil.

The CME calls on the government to rebuild and enhance our relationship with our major trading partner, the United States, to ensure that our goods have access to the world's richest market. To do this we must address its legitimate security concerns and invest in key upgrade projects at the border.

The report also highlights the need to reduce the tax and regulatory burden on Canadian businesses. We must harmonize our regulations both within Canada and with our major trading partners to reduce the costs for business. Business taxes should be reduced and existing tax credits and capital cost allowances should be improved to better assist manufacturers. The Canadian government must also begin to look at an overall energy framework and realize the importance of a reliable cost effective energy supply to the Canadian economy.

We must above all recognize and appreciate the importance of the manufacturing sector in Canada.

Black History Month
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, February 12, 2004 marks the sixth annual Black History Month program in Ottawa. The theme of the program is “Keepers of the Story: Making a Difference--the Power of Choice”.

This history in the street is a contemporary tribute to historic persons who laid the foundation for our human rights culture in Canada. They include Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, Chief Justice William Osgoode, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, the Hon. George Brown, Isabella Brown and Lord Elgin.

In 1793 Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe and his cabinet passed the first anti-slave trade bill in the British Empire and opened the way to the underground railroad movement to Canada. It was our nation's first anti-discrimination legislation.

The 12th of February honours Nelson Mandela, an honorary citizen of Canada who opted for reconciliation after walking to freedom in Africa on February 11, 1990.

This initiative of the J'Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre is presented with Dalhousie University's chair of Black Canadian Studies, Library and Archives Canada, with assistance from the Ottawa--

Black History Month
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.

Horticulture Week 2005
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw attention to the Semaine horticole 2005, sponsored by the Conseil québécois de l'horticulture. This year's theme has to do with markets.

Horticulture is an extremely important economic sector for Quebec. This industry generates total annual sales of nearly $700 million. Its development and its future are intimately linked to its high level of excellence, as well as improved access to markets. The same is true for all agricultural production in Quebec.

However, horticulture is much more than just a lucrative industry. The Fédération des sociétés d'horticulture et d'écologie du Québec has over 60,000 members throughout every region, city and town in Quebec. These many members want to serve their neighbours and their environment through improved quality of life and the beautification of their respective communities.

So, hats off to all the green thumbs in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois wishes them success in both their personal and business ventures. Happy horticulture week 2005.

Smoking
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, smoking kills. Every year 40,000 Canadians die as a result of this habit. What is also lethal is second-hand smoke, particularly for children. Children are more susceptible to an array of illnesses, including croup, pneumonias, leukemias, other cancers, and bronchitis.

Children whose parents smoke are more than twice as likely to smoke as compared to children whose parents are non-smokers. I beseech all Canadians not to smoke, but those who do smoke should not smoke around others, particularly children, because the smoke will make them sicker. Their lives depend on it.

Bowl for Kids' Sake
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, Big Brothers and Sisters of Clarington has been making a difference in the lives of young people for over 28 years. Big Brothers and Sisters delivers high quality volunteer based programs to children and youth, creating positive relationships.

The Clarington Big Brothers and Sisters in my riding has recently expanded its in school mentoring program. This means the benefits of this valuable program will now be available to more families in Clarington.

Each year more than 1,000 volunteers, families and businesses take part in the Bowl for Kids' Sake fundraiser. I encourage everyone to put together a team and bowl for the kids' sake. It is not about how well one bowls, but how one makes a difference in a child's life.

I also wish much success to the members of Team Oda who will be bowling on February 21 at the Liberty Bowl.

Tlicho First Nation
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this very building we witnessed a celebration of joy as one of Canada's northern peoples took another important step in the collective fulfillment of a dream generations in the making.

As the Tlicho agreement made its way through different parliaments, a whole people watched, hoped and allowed themselves to dream that one day they would have a settled land claim and self-government for their people.

Nearly 100 people from the Tlicho, young and old, came to Ottawa this week to witness the fulfillment of this dream and to bring home the agreement that they had been working on for years. Yesterday, as Parliament brought them one step closer, that collectively held breath exploded in joy, song and celebration.

I would like to congratulate the minister and all those who have worked hard on this agreement and to acknowledge our shared joy with the Tlicho in the fulfillment of their dream, the settlement of their land claim and the self-government that they have sought and finally achieved.

International Development
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, this month we celebrated International Development Week. It was a time for us to reflect on what Canada could do to make the world better.

Following the tragic events in South and Southeast Asia, Canadians responded generously, and the men and women of our armed forces continue to help in the field, delivering fresh water and assistance. However, we need to do more than look at short term crises and problems. We need to look down the road at the bigger questions. CIDA needs to be more than such an agency governed by a one sentence order in council written in 1968.

We need to follow the lead of other countries and establish a legislative mandate for CIDA. We also need to meet the commitment of .7% of GDP going to foreign aid, first established by the Pearson Commission 35 years ago.

The Liberal government remains one of the stingiest in the world, giving only .24% last year, down from .42% when this Prime Minister first became finance minister. Majority Liberal governments have neglected foreign aid and broken promises to the world. The NDP will not let the developing world be taken for granted.

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate those Canadians who are part of the campaign launched today to make poverty history. It is part of a global campaign, a call to action against poverty.

Northeastern Alberta
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, what area of Canada has 100,000 residents and a major shortage of highways, bridges, schools, police officers, teachers, doctors, nurses, labourers, pipe welders, and even lawyers?

What population base has grown by over 35 times in the last 40 years and has almost no infrastructure? What 200 kilometres of space in Canada provides almost 20% of the country's gross domestic product?

The answer is northeastern Alberta, my constituency.

How can the Liberal government sleep at night knowing that millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on golf balls and ad scam? We the people who drive Canada's economy ask the Liberal government: when will it take steps to invest in safe and adequate infrastructure for northeastern Alberta?

World Aquatics Championships
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, after a saga drawn out over several weeks, one of the most prestigious events next to the Olympics, namely the World Aquatics Championships, is indeed going to be held in Montreal.

This is a major last-minute victory for Mayor Gérald Tremblay, who has been engaged in a huge battle to convince FINA to reconsider its decision and award the 11th aquatics championships to Montreal.

This is also a victory for all Montrealers and all Quebeckers. The City of Montreal has regained its reputation as an international venue.

It is also a significant victory for aquatics competitors, such as Alexandre Despatie, Philippe Comptois, Audrey Lacroix and Yannick Lupien, and all the other Quebec participants, who will now have the opportunity to compete before a home town crowd.

The Bloc Québécois salutes Mayor Tremblay for his dogged determination, and congratulates the City of Montreal. Let this also be our first opportunity to applaud our Quebec competitors as well as those who will be competing here for other countries.

Middle East
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the foreign affairs minister announced that Canada's role in the Middle East peace process amounted to yet another fact finding mission and paltry $100,000 in aid.

We have seen the appetite for real leadership and generosity by individual Canadians. Yesterday, the Canadian Jewish community announced $750,000 in private contributions to Palestinian medical needs. That is seven and a half times more than the government.

The Conservative Party is listening to the expert advice of Arab and Jewish Canadians that are calling for Canada to play a leading role to establish a viable, independent Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

Liberal mismanagement and weak foreign policy is embarrassing for all Canadians. Our neighbours to the south pledged $350 million to support Palestinian reforms. The $100,000 will not make us a major player in the region as promised by the Liberal government.

Will the Liberals follow the Conservative lead and make a substantial financial commitment to institution building in Palestine?

Leader of the Opposition
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, once again the leader of the Alliance-Conservatives is showing contempt for the grassroots of his party. The Leader of the Opposition has consistently voiced his disdain for grassroots politics stating, “The biggest problem is that when you seek input from the bottom up, often the ideas are simple and low quality or just slogans”.

Former Conservative deputy leader, Elsie Wayne, is quoted in today's media as saying that the new party constitution centralizes too much authority in the hands of the leader. She said, “We don't feel that the voices of the grassroots are being heard”.

This should come as no surprise since the Alliance-Conservative leader does not listen to his caucus colleagues, let alone the average citizen in his grassroots party of one. This effort to control the party rank and file has caused yet another rift in that party.

If the voice of someone as shy as Elsie Wayne cannot be heard, God help the rest of them.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, we need a response to the devastating plight of the world's most vulnerable farmers, the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm safe seed. A leaked document reveals that Canada is going to the UN to protect terminator seed technology, genetically modified seeds designed to grow crops which cannot reproduce. These suicide seeds are designed solely to protect the patents and profits of multinational corporations and are currently forbidden from being planted outside the lab.

The Canadian government is doing the dirty work for these multinational gene giants and the U.S. government. Terminator technology takes a massive risk with our food supply and puts poor farmers into near servitude relationships with seed salesmen, and benefits only the multinational corporations like Monsanto who promotes it.

We want to know this. Is this official Canadian government policy? Who is really behind this Canadian move to protect terminator gene technology, which is so devastating to the world's farm community?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is now clear that the Liberals are actively working to discredit the Gomery inquiry. First, John Manley said that it was a bad idea. Then the Liberal caucus Chair actually had the gall to congratulate Mr. Chrétien for, “opening a can of whup-ass” on Judge Gomery.

Every day the Prime Minister or his stunt double tells us to let the inquiry do its work. Why have they not instead told these Liberals to stop undermining Gomery?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear, I think for the first time, that the opposition is determined to see the Gomery process a success. The government shares that point of view.

We want Gomery to do a thorough, competent job, so this whole situation can be thoroughly investigated and reported upon. We have every confidence that Judge Gomery is doing exactly that.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are not the ones with the skeletons in our closet.

The minister says that he cannot comment on the inquiry. Yet Liberal members are talking about it all over town. He says that we should respect the inquiry. Yet the Liberal caucus applauds Mr. Chrétien's behaviour, which was anything but respectful. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister cheers them on rather than reining them in.

Why is the Prime Minister supporting Mr. Chrétien's shameful behaviour before the Gomery inquiry?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, at the inquiry the Prime Minister made it abundantly clear that the Government of Canada looked forward with a great deal of anticipation to the good work of Judge Gomery.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the facts speak for themselves; that a growing number of Liberals are undermining the work of the Gomery inquiry.

The member for Simcoe North said, “I don't think it's going to necessarily help the Liberal Party in the long run”. The member for Brome—Missisquoi whined, “It's hurting the Liberal Party in Quebec”. I have news for the Liberals; it should hurt them, a lot.

All Canadians now know about the millions that were doled out of government coffers to pay for Liberal bills. When will the Prime Minister repay the money to taxpayers as he promised?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the issue is not who may or may not be hurt by the process. The issue is ensuring this process gets to the bottom of the matter and provides a thorough, complete and competent answer. That is what Judge Gomery is doing. That is what this government supports.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, in a recent study by the Vanier Institute, nine out of ten Canadians said that they would ideally have one parent stay home to raise their kids. In fact, almost all working moms and 84% of working dads said that if they could afford it, they would choose to work part time and stay home to care for their children. Their last choice was institutional day care.

When will the government implement a tax system that supports families and gives parents the power to make their own child care choices?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in every budget the government works to improve the Canadian tax system to be fair and equitable to all Canadians in all circumstances. In the last number of years, for example, we have implemented and then strengthened over and over again the Canadian child tax benefit, which is of direct benefit to families with children. On top of that, now we are working on a major contribution to child care, which the Minister of Social Development is engaged upon this very day.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Quebec has set up its own child care program and does not need any federal interference.

Will the minister confirm that he will respect Quebec's jurisdiction and that the province will receive full and unconditional compensation for its child care agreement?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that we do intend to respect the jurisdiction of all the provinces. This does not, however, prevent us from working together, which is why Quebec is this very day in discussions with my colleague, the Minister of Social Development, with a view to sharing its expertise on child care and early childhood education. We hope this spirit of cooperation will continue.

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign, the Prime Minister declared that Quebec would get its share of child care funding without being held accountable to Ottawa. The Minister of Social Development said yesterday that the provinces who refuse to turn in accounts will simply be left out of the program.

Will the government be able to bring the minister back into line and insist that he respect the promises made during the election campaign and give Quebec its proper share of the child care program—without conditions?

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear when we talk about accountability or responsibility. The Government of Canada, in all its dealings with the provinces, has never required the provinces to be directly accountable to the federal government. Exactly as in the field of health, the Canadian government requires that the provinces be accountable to their own citizens, and there is no problem. The Liberal government in Quebec already does that.

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only were promises made by the Prime Minister, but the former Minister of Social Development declared, and I quote, “There are no strings attached” which means that Quebec was receiving the money unconditionally. That declaration does not match the words of the Minister of Social Development who talks about national child care standards.

What is the minister waiting for before making adjustments and transferring the share of funding that belongs to Quebec, without any conditions?

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, I think the Bloc could now let the Liberal government in Quebec negotiate with the Government of Canada. Negotiations will respect the jurisdictions of all parties involved. I have real confidence that we will reach an agreement with the Government of Quebec, and with the other provinces of Canada.

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always the same story. The Liberals promise the moon but, after the election, they renege on their promises. Now, they are backing down not only on child care, but also on parental leave, issues which were supposed to have been settled before the election but are still unresolved. Claude Béchard even ushered an ultimatum, giving the government one week to come to an agreement; otherwise, the implementation of Quebec's program for 2006 will be compromised.

Does the government not realize that its tardiness in funding these two programs is compromising the cohesion of the social programs that Quebec took years to develop?

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, as far as I know, Claude Béchard, who is a Liberal minister in the Government of Quebec, does not, unlike the Bloc, typically resort to ultimatums, threatening the end of the world.

Claude Béchard is keeping in touch with me, so that we can settle the parental leave issue. I must say that the negotiations are progressing very well.

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, he may be a Liberal but, clearly, Claude Béchard is not a member of the same family as the government opposite.

Will the government reiterate its commitment to respect Quebec's specificity not only in health care, but also in the issues of child care and parental leave?

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, this is the same Bloc member, the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, who praised the health accord, in which we respected provincial jurisdictions and we even allowed Quebec to sign a side deal. Let me tell the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes that we have stood the test of time and he better brace himself, because we are going to sign an agreement with the Government of Quebec.

Treasury Board
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the President of the Treasury Board.

Canadians want fairness in the distribution of federal jobs but they also want cost benefit efficiency and fairness for those now holding those jobs.

Given news reports this morning that jobs once again are going to be relocated out of Ottawa, will the President of the Treasury Board assure us that the workers affected in Ottawa will be consulted first and that there will be a cost benefit study done before these jobs are relocated?

Treasury Board
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, given the member's experience, he ought to know that he should not believe everything he reads in the newspapers.

The government is committed to following through on its promises. We are constantly looking at ways to improve services for Canadians all across the country and we will continue to do so.

No decisions have been made on how fast, how far and in what manner. Should there be decisions made that impact on our employees, I guarantee the House and the member that we will treat our employees with respect and in the fairest way possible.

Treasury Board
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know very well that job transfers in the past have had more to do with benefits for the Liberals than for the people of Canada. That is why we have a taxation centre in Shawinigan and Veterans Affairs was moved to Charlottetown.

Will the minister guarantee that there will be discussions with the workers in Ottawa who are currently holding the jobs before their relocation and that a cost benefit study will be done before a decision is reached?

Treasury Board
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, one of the great joys of this job is that I have had an opportunity to meet with public servants all across the country, particularly the federal councils that are active in every province and region of the country. They do marvellous work and are working very hard on behalf of Canadians.

Should workers in Ottawa wish to join workers in the provinces, I certainly will be very supportive of that. Should there be job relocations that will impact on people, as I said before, we will do everything possible to guarantee fairness in that process.

The member ought not speculate on decisions that have not yet taken place.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister continues to mismanage the residential school file. In fact, the program is another Liberal disaster. More than $125 million have been invested and barely 50 cases have been resolved through her dispute resolution system. The AFN says that the system is biased and abusive. Her officials admit that it is deeply flawed. Aboriginal people say that it is re-victimizing the victims.

Why does the Deputy Prime Minister continue to violate the dignity of aboriginal Canadians with this insulting waste of time and money?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, we have reviewed the recommendations of the Assembly of First Nations. We are now working jointly with the AFN to determine the best methods to address mutual concerns. We are also looking at the costing of the proposals of the Assembly of First Nations to establish if there are savings as stated.

My department may be able to implement certain items shortly but many of the recommendations require the review and approval of other colleagues in cabinet. It is business as usual while we review the AFN's recommendations. We do not want to delay the resolution of claims of physical and sexual abuse. That is the position of our government.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about business as usual.

It turns out that the Deputy Prime Minister is now tendering $5 million worth of contracts for the services of private investigators. As it turns out, the investigators will be investigating the abusers, not the abused. More puzzling is the question of how the $5 million investigators will be interviewing the abusers when most of them are dead and gone.

Could anyone in the government explain this perverse waste of money?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, this is a complex and very sensitive issue. Claims include claimants, alleged abusers and witnesses. We are creating a process that will be fair to all parties.

I am sure the member opposite would want to ensure that on behalf of all Canadians we are performing the appropriate due diligence to ensure that these claims are valid and that there is a balance of interest when addressing these abuse claims. We need to provide the accountability that Canadians deserve.

Locating persons of interest assists the government to validate abuse claims and protects the rights of individuals by informing them that they have been identified by a claimant in the ADR.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was appalled to hear the international trade minister say that the Liberal government does not care if Canadian jobs are lost to foreign labour markets.

Apparently the minister does not have an issue with thousands of auto parts jobs being lost, thousands of tool, mould and dye jobs, all high paying Canadian jobs lost to foreign labour markets.

Sure the Liberal government does not care. It stopped working for Canadians a long time ago.

When did the minister become the minister for foreign, not Canadian, job security?

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about auto parts and investing abroad. As I travel the world, I am proud to take credit for the incredible accomplishments of many of the Canadian-based multinationals that have set up plants in other countries and are globally competitive. One of those is Magna, which has six plants in China and is a real jewel among the Canadian-based multinationals.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister should stay home for a while and examine what is going on here.

The minister for foreign job security goes on to say that he will not cry, that he will not even shed a tear for lost Canadian jobs. The problem with the Liberals is that they fail to recognize that we cannot compete with markets that do not pay their workers fair wages.

My riding of Cambridge, indeed all of Canada, wants to know if the minister actually believes that Canadians should be paid poverty levels, that Canadian standards should be lowered for us to remain globally competitive.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, whether the member wants to hide his head in the sand or not, the harsh reality is that if Canada is not globally competitive then we will be losing jobs. Everything we are doing is about making sure Canadians remain globally competitive and are plugged into the best value chains globally. That is the way we are going to keep the best jobs here in Canada.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, just days away from the coming into force of the Kyoto protocol, the Minister of the Environment indicated that the Canadian government would seriously consider purchasing polluting rights in exchange for clean development projects abroad, to achieve its objective on greenhouse gas reduction.

Instead of sending taxpayers' money abroad to buy rights to pollute, does the Minister of the Environment not think that it would be more appropriate to invest here in Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the source, and to impose on major polluters the burden that they should bear?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the bulk of our initiatives must be implemented here in Canada. However, the Kyoto protocol includes provisions that allow countries to exchange emission permits. If this process is well thought out, it will help the environment. It will also help the Canadian economy, because we will be able to export our technologies, our know-how regarding environmental services, and thus conquer new markets.

This emission market is there to stay, to expand. Therefore, it is in the best interests of Canadians to learn quickly the recipe for success.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are confronted to a real political windsock. We know for a fact that the Quebec official responsible for negotiating a bilateral agreement is in Ottawa today.

Instead of discussing the system to exchange pollution rights, will the minister tell his officials to sit down with Quebec government officials and negotiate a bilateral agreement that is based on the conditions—

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of the Environment.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, when the hon. member talks about a windsock, I suppose he is referring to the Government of Canada's policy to strengthen the wind power industry across the country and make Canada a leader in this sector. I suppose this is what he means, because I cannot imagine for one second that he wanted to insult one of his colleagues, definitely not.

Gasoline
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the price of gas regularly goes up for no reason, the federal government is doing nothing to help the consumers affected most by the repeated crises. People from remote areas are being penalized by the minister's inaction. Yet, there is something the government could do.

What is not setting up a petroleum monitoring agency, as unanimously recommended by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in 2003?

Gasoline
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, every member of the House is concerned about the cost of gasoline in this country. There is no question about that. However we must realize who has the authority to control gasoline prices in this country. It primarily is the provinces.

I find it odd that people from the Bloc would be talking about infringing upon provincial legislation in order to change the direction.

Let me assure all members that the Competition Bureau is always looking at this issue and we on this side of the House are ready to strengthen the Competition Bureau's input.

Gasoline
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that, in addition to setting up an agency to monitor competition in the oil industry, it could beef up the Competition Act, specifically to enable the competition commissioner to call witnesses and ensure their confidentiality. He was on the committee that unanimously recommended this. What is he waiting for?

Gasoline
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I understand that within Quebec alone there is an additional 4¢ on gasoline, which causes all people in Quebec on the provincial level more hardship than they normally have had.

However we must make sure that in Canada the Competition Bureau can work on this issue and make certain that things go forward. I would reiterate again that the Competition Bureau looks at those costs and does a stellar job of making sure they are fair.

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, a broad consensus is emerging in calling for a telecommunications policy review. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Bell Canada, Motorola, Mitel and the Montreal Economic Institute have all called for the government to review their telecommunications framework.

What is the delay? Why is the Minister of Industry dragging his heels with regard to a review of telecommunications policy in Canada?

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

In Industry Canada, Mr. Speaker, there are always changing essential issues that come up. The government, as well as the CRTC, is looking at emerging issues that are happening in industry and we are revising policy on a regular basis to make sure we have appropriate legislation there.

It is not clear what has been suggested at this point in time by industry representatives, but we will be working on that issue and moving forward as information is available.

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, what the industry has been calling for is less regulatory burden on the industry. This is what even members of the Liberal Party called for over two years ago, but the government has failed to act on it.

The fact is that the CRTC and the regulatory framework governing this industry are cumbersome, slow and outdated. Foreign ownership restrictions need to be relaxed. The government has failed to appoint a vice-chair for the telecommunications industry. The VoIP decision has been delayed.

The fact is, one of our best industries is left to dither while this government is dithering over a decision. When is this government finally going to relax the burden on the telecommunications industry in Canada?

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I have to reiterate the fact to the members across the way that we are always looking at ways in which we can modify and improve telecommunications in this country. There are extremely difficult issues to deal with in the telecommunications industry, but this side of the House is always looking at ways to improve communications to the public, which is the important issue in this case.

Post-Secondary Education
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, in a report this week, Bob Rae has exposed this government's use of Canada student loans to make money rather than assist students with education. The government charges students prime plus 2.5% interest. That is 6.75% right now. Yet the government pays less than 2% on Canada savings bonds.

Is it any wonder that people are finding themselves buried by student debt at a time when they are trying to build families and a brighter future? Why does the government use Canada student loans as a profit-making centre? Will the minister commit today to lowering student loan interest to prime plus 1%?

Post-Secondary Education
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, we followed with interest the tabling of Mr. Rae's report to the Government of Ontario. From what I understand, the Government of Ontario is currently reviewing the various recommendations. I can assure this House that we improve our student loan and bursary system every year and will continue to do so.

Equalization Program
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday the Minister of National Revenue referred to a province receiving equalization payments as being “mired in the world of have not clamouring for subsidies”.

As Minister of National Revenue, his remarks were totally inappropriate and degrading. Canadians in so-called have not provinces work just as hard as anyone and positive attitudes can be found in any part of Canada. The minister's remarks were insulting and divisive and I call on him to apologize in the House.

Equalization Program
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker--

Equalization Program
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Equalization Program
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The Minister of Finance has risen and the Chair recognized the minister. I know members may not want to hear what the minister has to say, but he is rising to answer and we have to hear the answer. The hon. Minister of Finance has the floor.

Equalization Program
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan is happily now emerging from a very difficult decade. Equalization has been there to help with several billions of dollars over the course of the last number of years, including $710 million extra this past year.

One of the biggest challenges Saskatchewan has had to deal with, unfortunately, is the legacy of debt inherited from a previous era, but notwithstanding that sad legacy, Saskatchewan has graduated to become one of Canada's most successful provinces.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, the snow crab fishery in Cape Breton and eastern Nova Scotia has emerged as the economic engine which drives the economy of many coastal communities. Both the permanent and temporary snow crab fleets in CFA 23 and CFA 24 are waiting anxiously for a report from the independent panel on resource management on a crab sharing plan.

Could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans tell the House how those talks are progressing and when the fishermen can expect some answers?

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague about the importance of the fishery to his region. There has been some debate about how we should reallocate or re-establish the allocation formula for snow crab in that area. That is why I appointed an independent panel to provide me with advice on resolving these issues. I am looking forward to receiving that report in the near future.

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Wal-Mart's closure of its first unionized store is being characterized as economic terrorism, a blatant attempt to smash organizing activities across the country.

Wal-Mart has forced manufacturers to relocate overseas at the cost of thousands of Canadian jobs and now it has sent a message to its 70,000 Canadian workers telling them that they do not have the right to organize, they do not have the right to collective bargaining, and they do not have the right to decent wages or hours of work.

What is the government going to do to protect Canadian workers from corporate bullies like Wal-Mart?

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the hon. member would want to clarify and make clear that this is a provincial jurisdiction and not a federal jurisdiction. Second, though, it is this government that truly believes, under part I of the Canada Labour Code, in collective bargaining. We believe that both workers and employers have an opportunity and obligation to build the best economy, to be fair and equitable to each other and to build a Canadian society that we can all be proud of.

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, those words do not do us an awful lot of good after the first comment of “it's not my responsibility”.

The fact of the matter is that Wal-Mart is an international corporation. This is affecting Canadians right across the country. In Saskatchewan, for instance, right now Wal-Mart is challenging the laws that protect workers' rights during an organizing drive. This is a constitutional matter in Saskatchewan.

What is the minister going to do to stand up for those workers in Saskatchewan who have a right to have their constitutional rights protected?

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the hon. member knows, because he used to be in the legislature himself, that this is a federation and we do have shared jurisdiction. In fact, federal jurisdiction is telecommunications, transportation and air, but with regard to retail business throughout the country, it is provincial jurisdiction that matters. Therefore, he should lobby the labour ministers in those provincial jurisdictions, as I will try to do, to make sure that employers protect employees' rights across this country.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, in just five short days the Kyoto protocol will come into effect. To meet the requirements, Canada will be forced to either slash and burn our economy or pay off foreign countries. The government's only plan so far has been to hire a comic. That is funny because the Liberal plan is a bad joke.

Even government bureaucrats are telling us that we are going to be significantly short of the Kyoto targets. Will the minister tell us if the Kyoto plan is to bankrupt Canadian industry or force a taxpayer revolt?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

To the contrary, Mr. Speaker, I think the Kyoto protocol and what we need to do in order to do our share for this planet in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our economy, to modernize, to use better technology and to have less waste in Canada. What is a bad joke is the question from my hon. colleague.

Natural Resources
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to resume the conversation I have been having over the last week or so with the Minister of Natural Resources concerning the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan, although I must admit it has not been much of a conversation because I have been asking all the questions but the minister has not provided any answers.

The province of Saskatchewan has committed to its share of funding for this cleanup project, but the government and the minister, while they have made many promises, have made absolutely no commitments. Will the minister commit today to the funding of this project or is this just another case of empty promises?

Natural Resources
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the question is completely unfair. The minister is working very hard on the file. In the last budget we invested $3.5 billion to address contaminated sites.

What is very deplorable is that although the member asks the question, when the finance critic of his party requested what that party needed for this budget, he did not say a word about contaminated sites, not a word about the environment, not a word about national parks, not a word about clean air, and not a word about clean water. Those members do not give a damn.

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Manitoba NDP government is planning to proceed with a plan to force every worker on the Red River floodway expansion to unionize, despite the fact that 95% of Manitoba's construction companies are not unionized. This seems to be a clear attempt to help union boss buddies do by the back door what they have not been able to do by the front door.

Given the fact that the federal government is a fifty-fifty partner in this, I give it the opportunity today to make it clear that it opposes the forced unionization of Manitoba construction workers.

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the hyperbole and energy in the member's question perhaps overstate the case a bit. There is the provincial government, along with the federal government, and there has been a corporation set up to manage this.

We have expressed our concerns about activities that might increase the costs or delay the build. We want this necessary infrastructure built as quickly as it reasonably can be. I have been in conversations with the premier of the province. There are arbitrators in place. There will be a solution to this.

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is not the Liberal Party's business if workers in Manitoba choose to unionize. It is not the NDP's business if workers in Manitoba choose to unionize. It is the workers' right to decide how they organize.

This $2.5 million to $5 million mistake in dogmatic direction provided by these two parties is a ridiculous waste of taxpayers' money. I recognize that the minister may be a busy man, but is he too busy to stand up for the workers of Manitoba? Is he too busy to stand up for the taxpayers of Canada?

Canada Labour Code
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the use of labour agreements in some form or another is common in large projects. They have been used many times. They respect the rights of non-unionized employers as well as unionized employers. The premier of the province is aware of this. We are negotiating on these very processes and I am sure we will reach a conclusion that respects the rights of everyone involved.

Tobacco Farming
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, several weeks before the election call, the government announced $70 million in financial aid for tobacco producers in Ontario and Quebec hit by plummeting demand. Seven months after the election, tobacco producers in Quebec still do not know the terms of this aid package.

What explanation can the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food give for such an unreasonably long delay?

Tobacco Farming
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, it is not very hard to explain. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, in discussions and through the department with industry, wants to do the right thing by producers and that is what we are trying to do: to continue to hold those kinds of discussions and at the end of the day meet our obligations and protect the needs of producers.

Tobacco Farming
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to staff at the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, aid for Quebec is being blocked by a dispute in Ontario.

Given that the situation in Quebec is urgent, that the number of tobacco producers has dropped from 55 to 17 in two years and that they need help to switch to alternate crops, will the minister take action and immediately implement a compensation package for Quebec tobacco producers, who are almost all located in the Lanaudière region?

Tobacco Farming
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Again, Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada takes into account the interests of all producers in the country, including those in the province of Quebec as well as those in Ontario. The bottom line at the end of the day is that we want to do the right thing for producers in terms of protecting their interests into the future for their efforts they have put into that industry.

Canadian National Railway
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour and Housing. The employees of CN and the Teamsters rail union are in a legal strike position.

The Canada Labour Code requires the parties to have an agreement in place to specify the supply of services during the strike to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety and health of the public. The agreement the parties have fails to do so. The minister has applied to Industrial Relations Board to set the services.

What services is the minister requesting be provided during the strike and how will this impact on the economic interests of farmers, grain companies and other businesses?

Canadian National Railway
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has just mentioned, I referred the issue of the maintenance of service to the CIRB and in due course it will make that decision.

I should also point out to the hon. member and the House that CN and the employees are at the mediation table. They have taken up the offer and therefore they are in mediation. We hope those mediation services are positive and fruitful and that we can come to an agreement with regard to both parties.

Tsunami Relief
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, six weeks after the tsunami tragedy in southeast Asia, the TV cameras have come home and the Liberals can finally have a cabinet meeting in Ottawa.

Reports now reveal that refugee camps in Sri Lanka are still waiting for tents and food. As feared, the conflict between the government and the Tamil Tigers is blocking the flow of aid. The Prime Minister assured Canadians that this would not happen.

Will he admit that he has mismanaged this humanitarian crisis and failed to deliver on another promise?

Tsunami Relief
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Burlington
Ontario

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister has made incredible commitments and our commitments are being honoured in every way.

Canadians can be very proud of the fact that this government has responded with $425 million worth of support. Canadian NGOs, international NGOs and the multinational community are working together to ensure aid is getting into the affected regions. Canadians are making sure our commitments once again are being honoured in that area.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the situation in Togo, a member of the Francophonie, is of great concern. On the death of President Eyadéma, Togo did not comply with its constitutional requirement for the national assembly to fulfill interim presidential duties until an election could be held. Instead, the military put the late president's son in power, throwing that country into total disarray.

What action is the Francophonie taking to protest this situation?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, the situation in Togo is indeed a cause of great concern. A few days ago, I met personally with Togo's ambassador to Ottawa, and on Wednesday, the Francophonie, in the form of the Conseil permanent de la Francophonie, met in Paris. The “sherpa” for Canada was in attendance, and a decision was reached by the council to suspend Togo from participation in Francophonie events and to suspend all aid to Togo from the international Francophonie until the situation is remedied. We are urging Togo to respect its own constitution and to hold the free and democratic elections it requires.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the agriculture minister is back from his BSE mission to the U.S. but it appears he came back with half the deal he went there with.

The U.S. said that it would open the border to live animals and boneless meat from mature animals on March 7. Now it is only opening it to live animals under 30 months of age.

I am glad the minister came home when he did or we might have lost the entire deal.

Canadian producers have, for far too long, been hearing empty promises and getting false hope from the government. Will the agriculture minister guarantee that the border will open on March 7 for live animals--

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, I really cannot understand where that member is coming from.

A delegation, with a member from that party, went to Washington to talk to United States congressmen and senators, as well as the secretary of agriculture, Mr. Johanns. It was a successful mission.

They met with a lot of congressmen and senators to keep the pressure on. In fact, Secretary Johanns is committed to the March 7 opening for live animals under 30 months, and that is progress.

Sport Canada
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently a decision was made by the Canada Games Council to remove men's softball from the 2009 Canada Summer Games.

I and many of my constituents are very concerned by this. I am told that removing men's softball from the games will result in lower levels of participation and dramatically reduce the funds needed to help build the sport.

As a lifelong player and fan of men's softball, I find this very troubling.

Will the minister commit to take action to reverse this decision?

Sport Canada
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I know the Minister of State for Sport will be very interested in the topic. I will make sure he gets the information and responds to the request of the hon. member.

Arts and Culture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, on January 28, 2005, a number of well-known arts organizations joined with the Conseil québécois du théâtre in sending a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs, in which they expressed their serious concerns about the possible impact of a 35% cut to the arts promotion program of that department.

Is it the minister's intention to protect our culture abroad, either by increasing the funding to support international tours outside of the public diplomacy program , or by allocating specific funds for this to the Canada Council for the Arts?

Arts and Culture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in the hon. member's remarks and documents. I know this is something of great interest to this Parliament as a whole. Meanwhile, obviously, there is a budget coming down. Perhaps certain proposals could be made first in order to calm the hon. member's concerns.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

David Smith Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, the Forest Products Association of Canada and Environment Canada launched the inauguralAir Quality Forum.

Could the Minister of the Environment elaborate on that?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, much improvement has already taken place in the pulp and paper industry in particular. However, the entire forest industry has mobilized, together with the governments, to ensure that, in forestry like in other sectors, the environment and the economy are considered together. Unless our forests are adequately protected, not only will the biodiversity be destroyed, but an industry which creates numerous jobs would suffer.

Environment and economy have to increasingly go hand in hand, and such is the vision of the Prime Minister.

Housing
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, hundreds of thousands of homes have been made dangerous and even devalued by virtue of Zonolite contamination.This happened because of a federal government program that promoted and even subsidized the installation of this Zonolite.

Within months of learning that UFFI foam was irritating, a program existed to remove that hazard from people's homes. Canadians are looking to their government for help in removing Zonolite.

What will the government do to help homeowners get this carcinogen out of their walls when the government helped put it in?

Housing
Oral Question Period

Noon

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, I do not buy the premise of the question at all. I am sure the member would want to be more clear with Canadians.

Yes, any time they are undertaking renovations we would encourage them, obviously, to talk to professionals so that they can get the right information.

We have been told, and it is on Health Canada's website as well as CMHC, which advised all the stakeholders and so on, that if left undisturbed it does not pose a health risk.

Yes, we need to inform Canadians on the health and safety of their homes but I am sure the member would not want to alarm Canadians to suggest that they are--

Housing
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

Noon

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, privatizing information technology services at DND resulted in over $160 million being defrauded from the people of Canada. Now the government wants to implement the same flawed system government-wide.

Past experience like the gun registry bureaucracy had $2 million become a $2 billion cost to the taxpayers.

Why is the government planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on another reorganization like the gun registry?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

Noon

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I should point out to the member that it was a result of action by this government that the bulk of the money that was mentioned in defence was recovered, almost all of it.

The reality is that we are constantly looking at ways to modernize the services that we deliver and, frankly, we will continue to do so. We will continue to look at ways to improve services, to seek lower costs and to provide better services for citizens. It is the mandate of this government.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday North Korea announced that it has an atomic bomb and refuses to resume multilateral negotiations. They must resume with China, Russia, the United States, Japan and South Korea, and North Korea must abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs promise to talk to his international partners about resuming negotiations and calling on the international community to work together to bring North Korea back to the table to prevent a dangerous escalation between North Korea and South Korea?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

Noon

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, if the statements by North Korea are true, they are troubling and worrisome. I agree with the hon. member that we are in a position where we must make every effort to have an independent investigation to ensure that the country is not acting in a manner that could threaten global stability.

This would enable us to see the true situation and ensure that there will be negotiations aimed at maintaining peace in that region.

Order in Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of orders in council recently made by the government.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-327, an act to amend the Criminal Code (bail for persons charged with violent offences), the Extradition Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the police agencies throughout the country I am pleased to introduce this bill that would amend the Criminal Code so that people who are arrested and charged with violent offences not be eligible for bail, as there are far too many incidents taking place after bail that could have been prevented had they been detained.

I have the support of the police departments across the country on the bill and I am pleased to introduce it on their behalf today.

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

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-328, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (dependence on alcohol or drugs).

Mr. Speaker, the bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to add the condition that an offender not have a dependency on alcohol or drugs in order to be eligible for parole, that if he or she is indeed addicted to any these, that he or she not receive parole.

I know that will be difficult because of the drug problem which is supposed to be a zero tolerance but which does not exist in this country. Nevertheless, when we send people to prison for rehabilitation and they are not rehabilitated, they continually remain addicted, and this bill would prevent them from being released on parole.

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

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-329, an act to amend the Criminal Code (arrest without warrant).

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is at the request of the police forces throughout the country who have, for a number of years, asked that the government give them the right and the authority to arrest a person who is in breach of probation or parole. When police forces see individuals in breach of these offences today they are required to report them to a parole officer or probation officer. It takestwo or three hours usually to make contact and to have anything happen.

If we were to give police officers the power to arrest these people on site without a warrant. it would prevent a lot of trouble. I fully support the police departments.

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

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today on behalf of the Sunshine Coast Peace Group that opposes participation in attack, invasion or occupation of foreign countries and call upon Parliament to denounce any further military attacks against foreign nations, and declare Canada's non-participation in such aggression.

The petitioners urge the UN to seek a peaceful solution that respects the charter of the UN and all other international laws regarding the sovereignty and equality of nation states and forbid the export of arms to any nation involved in military attack, invasion or occupation of other nations.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a second petition from a large number of my constituents in West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country.

These petitioners call upon Parliament to amend the Canada Health Act to include IBI-ABA therapy for children with autism as a medically necessary treatment and require all provinces to provide and fund this essential treatment for autism, and to contribute to the creation of academic chairs at a university in each province to teach IBI-ABA treatment at the undergraduate and doctoral level.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to table this afternoon presented by a group of very concerned citizens with reference to children suffering from autism spectrum disorder.

These citizens are calling upon the government to amend the Canada health Act and the corresponding regulations to include a particular kind of therapy called IBI and ABA for children with autism as a medically necessary treatment, and to require further that all provinces provide or fund this essential treatment for autism. They are also interested in the creation of academic chairs at universities to help with the research on IBI and ABA.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, my petitioners state that because it is recognized that traditional marriage is the best foundation for society, families and the raising of children, they are requesting that Parliament uphold the traditional definition of marriage, that being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South. It is on the subject matter of defending the traditional definition of marriage.

The petitioners point out that the majority of Canadians believe that fundamental matters of social policy should be decided by elected members of Parliament and not by an unelected judiciary. They state that 66% of Canadians, as was outlined in the most recent poll, support the current legal definition of marriage as the voluntary union of a single male and a single female to the exclusion of all others.

They therefore pray for Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including invoking section 33, the notwithstanding clause, if necessary, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.

The first is on the subject of autism spectrum disorder and the need for early treatment thereof. The petitioners draw the attention of the House to the fact that early treatment is essential in order to stop the progress of this terrible disease, and they point to a number of suggested ways in which the government could assist. Perhaps the one that could be acted upon most quickly would be the creation of academic chairs funded by the federal government for the research of early treatment.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on the subject of hepatitis C. A number of petitioners from my constituency draw the attention of the House to the fact that the compensation plan for hepatitis C victims is limited to people who were infected between 1986 and 1990. They ask that a full, fair and equal compensation be provided for all victims of hepatitis C.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is from constituents in my riding, and they call upon the Parliament of Canada to raise the age of sexual consent from its current level of 14 years. That is a proposal which is fully congruent with the policy of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have three petitions I would like to table today.

The first petition is signed by people living in my riding in the Bearspaw district surrounding Calgary, asking that Parliament amend the Canada Health Act and corresponding regulations to include IBI, intensive behavioural intervention, and ABA, applied behavioural analysis, treatment at the undergraduate and doctorate level, so that Canadian professionals will no longer be forced to leave the country to receive academic training in this field, and Canada will be able to develop a capacity to provide every Canadian with autism with the best IBI and ABA treatment available.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from people throughout Alberta. The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed. I do not think I have to explain how I feel about that petition.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present the third petition containing 220 signatures from Cochrane, Alberta, on behalf of Bernard Fortner, who owns Bernie's Bavarian Bakery. Just recently the CFIA told Bernie that he could no longer use the term bread because his bread does not contain yeast. This obviously is going to cause a little hardship to Bernie's bakery as well as affecting his customers who are on doctor-advised yeast-free diets. The petitioners would ask that the CFIA reconsider this decision on behalf of Bernie and the people of Cochrane.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the member for Wild Rose and I am glad he did not say whether he was supporting the actual petition or not.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

With respect to the petition just presented on behalf of Bernie's Bakery, which indicated that his loaves could not be called bread by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, this petition is not in its proper form. However, as I understand it, there have been changes to the regulations and I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to have it accepted in its present form as its intent is well understood. The 220 people in Cochrane would appreciate that.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to have the petition accepted in its present form?

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. At the time when the debate was suspended for question period I understood there were a few minutes left for us to pose questions and comments to the hon. member for Churchill. If that is the case, she made two points which need to be responded to and I also wanted to make a comment.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I believe the time had expired for questions and comments. The hon. member for Churchill is not here to respond anyway so it would be out of order for you to present those questions to her.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to made consequential amendments to other acts presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs formalizes the continuation of the Department of Foreign Affairs, whose principle mandate is to coordinate and lead Canada's foreign policy.

This re-centering of the Department of Foreign Affairs on its primary functions is already close to completion. It would allow for greater clarity in Canada's international actions and for improved coordination among the actors involved in developing our foreign policy.

It is incumbent upon us today to give a solid legal foundation to those who have been working toward this goal for a year now. To do so, we are being asked to make a number of amendments to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act, which dates back to 1982. It is a matter of removing references to international trade from the act of 1982 in order to reflect the new reality of a department that has been operating in this manner since the order in Council of December 12, 2003, with great success, as we have seen.

The first years of this millennium have been marked by events which have reverberated around the world and have had an impact on Canada's international obligations and vision. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, or of March 11, 2003, the war in Iraq, various regional crises in Darfur, Haiti, or the Ivory Coast, the move toward democracy and civil society, whether in Ukraine or Somalia, all of these event affect Canada. They affect our interests, conflict with our values, and call out to our common humanity. Such tragic events necessitate well considered yet resolute action on our part.

International problems and crises provide opportunities for Canada to find solutions. The Government of Canada and more particularly our Prime Minister and our Minister of Foreign Affairs have recently met with considerable diplomatic success. I am referring, among other achievements, to the inclusion in the report of the UN high level panel on threats, challenges and change, of the concept of the L20, a group bringing together leaders of developed and developing countries and the concept of the responsibility to protect. These successes, which emphasize Canada's influence in the world, were made possible through the dedication and professionalism of foreign service officers.

More than ever, our country must assert the role it wishes to play on the international stage. A Department of Foreign Affairs will now allow our diplomacy to focus on its foremost tasks: to promote the interests and values of Canada abroad; to develop its unique expertise, the product of over 80 years of remarkable history; to strengthen its international networks with a spirit of dialogue and collaboration with other government departments and actors on the international stage, International Trade Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of National Defence, of course; but also the many other federal and provincial departments and agencies which, with the proliferation of exchanges and the need to apply truly global solutions, have seen their perspectives extend beyond our borders.

It is a fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade no longer claims a monopoly on Canadian action beyond our borders. Today, it is unthinkable for foreign policy and domestic policy to operate in isolation. Ever more complex issues and parallel improvements in means of communication have led the actors of domestic policy to become increasingly interested in what is happening around the world. It goes without saying that many global challenges can only be faced with a coordinated response. That is why federal departments and agencies are ever more involved in Canada's international policy.

Foreign Affairs Canada will remain more than ever the main architect of Canadian international policy, but that policy will have to be pan-governmental, involving the engagement of all federal departments and agencies having international interests, with a special contribution by CIDA, International Trade and National Defence. This role as coordinator and integrator thus requires that the Department of Foreign Affairs focus on its own activities.

A Department of Foreign Affairs separate from that of International Trade does not mean the two distinct departments will cease working closely together to face future international challenges. To the contrary, these challenges will help Canada introduce a new diplomacy with an integrated approach that will take into account all Canadian actors involved on the international stage.

I want to emphasize that the act introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs does not affect the status of the management of consular affairs, which remains with the Department of Foreign Affairs. More than any other service, consular affairs directly interacts with Canadians.

The citizens of our country are great travellers. Wherever we go, whether in Latin America, Asia, Europe or Africa, we meet Canadians. Some have chosen to work abroad, whether for private institutions or NGOs. Others travel for pleasure, curious to discover the world. Just think of all our fellow citizens heading south at this time of year. For example, from November until March up to 15,000 passports will be issued every day and 8,000 a day during the other months of the year.

Still, consular services are much more than issuing passports. Every year Canadians make over 100 million foreign trips. Consular services are there to help Canadians plan their trips, whether for business, school or pleasure and to help them during their time abroad. The consular services of the Department of Foreign Affairs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through Canadian offices set up all over the world. Canada has offices in over 270 cities located in some 180 foreign countries to serve our fellow citizens, as well as an around the clock consular operations centre here in Ottawa.

The Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to provide the consular services at our missions abroad all the support they need to effectively carry out their foremost mandate, which is to serve Canadians.

The control and management of information are crucial issues of the 21st century. For a department like foreign affairs, the effective management of information and knowledge, for both internal use and public dissemination, are of vital importance. Innovation in the development of information technology is key to transcending the limitations of time, bridging cultural differences and overcoming the often great distances that separate Ottawa from its missions abroad.

The modern, well-defined Department of Foreign Affairs, as outlined in Bill C-32, can count on a very effective communications network to help fulfill its mandate.

To conclude, I believe it is important for us to enable those who represent Canada abroad to continue their valuable work. The legislation will do just that.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre for his presentation in support of the bill.

I take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. member for his initiative and leadership in terms of yet another event that I believe has been important in transforming the way we see the world, Canada's effort with respect to Ukraine. This is unprecedented certainly in my time as a member of Parliament of almost 12 years.

It is rather ironic, but not all lost on those of us who know about the change that took place in Ukraine. The response by the Canadian government and this Parliament speaks to the importance of foreign affairs policy that is directly focused on the issue of capacity for governing and on issues dealing with good governance, proper legal systems and electoral reform, for which Canada is very much noted. This is quite separate from commercial interests and trade considerations.

Given the member's expertise in this area, is it the view of the member that foreign affairs can operate more effectively when it is focused on matters dealing with affairs of other countries, devoid of commercial interests? I would like to hear the hon. member's response to that because he has an expertise in the House which is beyond question.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting that the two departments, as was mentioned earlier, came together some time ago, approximately a decade. Quite a debate was going on in the international sphere of diplomacy at that time. We had just witnessed the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the cold war had come to a close.

An essay was written at that time entitled, “The End of History”. There truly was a sense of euphoria in diplomatic circles that perhaps we had reached a certain end of history in terms of wars and we would now concentrate on economic development and trade. That is perhaps some of the logic that precipitated this move of the two departments coming together. Perhaps the theory was premature. Perhaps it speaks to a world that we will achieve one day, but events over the past decade have made it clear that we need robust diplomacy.

During my speech, I referred to a number of very Canadian initiatives. The initiative of L20 is similar to the initiative of the G-20, a concept our Prime Minister came up with, when he was minister of finance, of bringing the finance ministers of 20 countries together, not just the largest economies in the world but also regional leaders and economies in the developing world.

Canada has taken this one step further and come up with the concept of L20. We have joined along with developing democracies, countries with developing civil societies. It talks to a very different approach from our neighbours or allies to the south. We have a very different approach in bringing democracy to the world than our American allies.

The process that is bringing democracy to Iraq has been quite interesting. A number of people have been rightly suspicious. In fact, some people call it the Haliburton method of bringing democracy to the world. We take a very different approach. We believe in multilateralism. We believe in engaging the world, our allies and also countries that we believe are on the path and need to be encouraged along the path of democracy and civil society. We just heard a petition that was brought forward from the Sunshine Coast where the petitioners said that Canada should not be part of a war machine that brings war to other parts of the world.

Coming back to the example of what has happened in Iraq and the suspicions as to why that has taken place, we do not want that sort of suspicion to ever come into play when Canada plays an international role in diplomacy. There should be a separation between commercial interests and our very important work in building democracy and civil society around the world.

Bill C-32 clearly separates the two departments so when we engage other countries in the world, through concepts like the L20, people will understand that Canadians believe in the values of democracy and in bringing civil society to the world, notwithstanding our trade interests.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak on Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

A number of my colleagues have addressed it over the past few days. On December 12, 2003, behind closed doors, the Governor General in Council decreed that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade would be split. We are talking about an administrative decision that went almost completely unnoticed. Let me remind hon. members that December 12, 2003, was no less than the day the Prime Minister was sworn in. Now, this decision must be endorsed here in Parliament.

With the tabling earlier this week of Bill C-31, an act to establish the Department of International Trade, and the tabling of Bill C-32 today, many of my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois have set the tone of the debate by denouncing this unintelligible decision. Today I am, of course adding my voice to theirs.

For more than three years, I had the pleasure of working with the member for Joliette, the Bloc Québécois critic for international trade and globalization. Today, among other things, I am deputy critic for globalization. Therefore, I can say in all modesty that we know a bit about international trade and globalization. Over the years, we had the opportunity to discuss with all major organizations and to follow all the debates held in the House of Commons.

I can assure you that I agree with my learned colleague from Joliette, who stood this week and today to denounce what he called a totally absurd measure. Absurd indeed, because the Minister of Foreign Affairs himself, speaking before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on November 29, 2004, was unable to explain clearly why it was necessary to create two separate departments.

But what we understood from his testimony is that it was likely the Prime Minister himself who made the decision, against the advice of various people he had consulted. Now, who did he consult and when? It remains a mystery.

The same foreign affairs minister said that the Prime Minister, after having supposedly discussed the issue with various people, “made a different decision”. I am quoting here what the foreign affairs minister said on November 29. In other words, the Prime Minister went against the tide. It is true that he is a shipowner and knows something about boats. But the captain is going off course in this case. As we know, it is unfortunately not the first time this happens.

Today, we are faced with a fait accompli. Fortunately, we still have the possibility of voting against this bill and I take this opportunity to invite all my colleagues from other parties to seriously consider this issue. Others have done so, for example, the members of the Retired Heads of Missions Association. This association is made up of nearly 300 former ambassadors, consuls and high commissioners, who wrote to the chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, last December, to tell him that they are against those two bills.

I quote from the letter.

[...] we were forced to conclude that our foreign service is on the verge of being dismantled. [...] we believe that the decision to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in to is a regrettable one and it is a step backward.

For the past 30 years, foreign affairs and international trade have gone hand in hand; indeed, the latter has become a tool to promote the former.

The Liberal government now wants to ditch all of that, while we, members of the Bloc Québécois, have been advocating for a long time a globalization with a human face, a notion we will apply when Quebec becomes a country. The Liberals are creating a two-headed hydra: each head will be ignorant of that the other does.

The Department of International Trade will deal exclusively with foreign investment in Canada, investment abroad, and the development of trade. When issues relating to human rights, the environment or labour law will be at stake, we will wash our hands of it.

On the other hand, the Department of Foreign Affairs will make international commitments on behalf of Canada without holding the reins of international economic relations. Everybody will pass the buck with regard to human rights, labour law or the environment when Canada invests abroad, for example.

We all know Export Development Canada, one of the tools used by the government to enable exporters and investors to gain access to about 200 markets in the world, including about 100 in developing countries.

If the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is split in two, we wonder how the Minister of International Trade will ensure that EDC respects democratic rights and that Canadian projects in those developing countries are in compliance with, for instance, the International Labour Organization conventions and those relating to the environment.

The minister's response will be to put the ball in the foreign affairs minister's court. This minister will then toss it back to the international trade minister, saying that henceforth he will not address international economic relations issues.

Bill C-32 clearly takes the coordination of international economic relations away from the foreign affairs department. This is clearly spelled out in paragraph 7(2) of the bill.

This situation will be all the more catastrophic since EDC already has a special status. At times, we wonder whether it is not a secret organization. It is not subject to the Access to Information Act or the Environmental Assessment Act, and it is not regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions .

It will be even more difficult to keep tabs on EDC. We will not know if our values and priorities are going to be respected in projects financed by the crown corporation in foreign countries. With Bills C-32 and C-31, of course, the government strips its foreign policy of its economic and trade leverage. But, as I said, the two are completely indissociable, no matter what the Liberals think. The Liberals should remember, however, that their own leader, the Prime Minister of Canada, went to China recently. Every time our head of state goes to China, what do journalists ask him? Two things: essentially, if he discussed human rights issues with Chinese leaders and, obviously, if he signed any trade deals. These are the questions that our leaders are always asked when they visit, in particular, developing countries and countries were human rights are partially or totally abused

China is frequently mentioned because of all the economic problems it might cause. Obviously, there are not just problems. It is good to do business with countries such as China. This is a very compelling example. China is a country with which we are developing trade ties. Despite the harm it has done to our clothing, textile and furniture industries, to name just a few, we must obviously draw maximum advantage of this huge market, which is now open.

Okay for trade, but what about that country's human rights record? No one here is unaware of the human rights abuses and medieval working conditions in China. With the creation of two separate departments, the fear is that trade will take precedence over humanitarian issues.

Tying trade to human rights has been standard practice for over 30 years. Today, more than ever, a country's foreign policy is closely linked to its trade policy. How can we better the lives of Chinese workers—I am using China as an example, but it could just as easily be another country, such as Bangladesh—if human rights are no longer part of discussions on trade? I would really like the government to explain this secret decision to us, which it has yet to do, as was said earlier. In any event, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has not satisfied us that he himself was convinced of the merits of the decision.

There are two major problems with Bills C-31 and C-32. With respect to the first, as I said, trade is an essential tool for countries in determining foreign policy. With respect to the second, human resources are currently managed consistently at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, since all employees posted abroad answer to the same administrative unit. Separating the two entities would only lead to inconsistent management of human resources.

By creating two separate departments, how can the government now integrate its concerns and, naturally, the concerns of Quebeckers and Canadians about respect for human rights and the resolution of conflicts, for example, into its trade policy or selection the criteria established by Export Development Canada?

We are still waiting for the foreign policy review. Even before the results of this review become available, and without holding public consultations, considering Parliament's contribution or seeking the public's opinion, the government has decided that it should separate Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

We are naturally very anxious to see the changes made, because the present situation at Foreign Affairs is not ideal. I have myself had a highly negative experience, but nothing compared to what three people from my riding had to go through. They were in Thailand and got hit by the infamous tsunami. They managed to get to the Canadian embassy there, hurt, in great distress and without passports or money. They were treated terribly. The reception was cold to say the least, and one of them had to create a scene in order to even be allowed in. He could not go to a hotel because he had no money. He could not go anywhere except the Canadian embassy, which is considered Canadian territory and supposed to be a place that welcomes refugees and people from Canada who are in difficulty. That was anything but the case.

The department is definitely at fault here. Its policy in the case of disasters must be reviewed. Embassies are not there just to organize nice little cocktail parties and receive VIPs. They are also there to help people in distress. Fortunately, these things happen very rarely but, when they do, our embassies have a duty to treat Canadian citizens with all the respect that is their due.

We have also witnessed the minister's shilly-shallying about the missile defence shield, and the contradictions of his colleague at National Defence.

Then there is international aid. This, of course, has not yet reached the 0.7% of GDP mark, despite the promises made to Bono. Speaking of Bono, one wonders if he is not behind the PM's idea to split the department in two. I think not, because this is a man greatly concerned with humanitarian interests, so I do not think he would take such a position.

Those are my feelings about Bill C-32, and I encourage my colleagues to oppose both C-31 and C-32.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the aisle has made a very good argument for reasons we should divide the department. He started off by saying that approximately 240 former diplomats were opposed to this. There are thousands and thousands of current and retired diplomats. With any change there will always be a small minority that dissents with a new vision, especially with bureaucracies, or as sometimes we encounter here in Ottawa, entrenched bureaucracies. That is not what should guide us.

We should be the ones who provide the vision, not the departments or the bureaucrats. I heard from across the aisle that over the past 10 years about 60% of the work of the department has entailed work around international trade. It is very important as we articulate Canada's values around the world that these be values of democracy and civil society, and that there be absolutely no hint that trade will in some way influence these Canadian values and beliefs in democracy and civil society and the efforts of our diplomats in that regard.

We have seen over the past 10 years what a great importance and an increasing importance international trade has in our lives. As international trade develops and takes on a greater and greater role, is there not a danger if these two departments were together that it would take over the role of foreign affairs?

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is precisely the member's arguments that lead me to believe that we should not divide the department in two. He is well positioned to know that the influence that a country like Canada can have in a country where either democracy, human rights, the environment or labour rights are trampled relates to the fact that the foreign affairs and international trade departments are intertwined. He himself recently went to Ukraine, where many events occurred.

In exercising this influence, when our leaders discuss trade with leaders of other countries, these discussions are an integral part of everything related to labour and human rights. A country that intends to trade with a country like Canada must, of course, not only listen to it, but also make compromises. It must also prove that it is able and willing to change its approach toward human rights, the environment, social rights and so on.

I do not understand my colleague, who thinks that dividing the department in two can be beneficial, when his own Minister of Foreign Affairs did not manage to convince us.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, is not the particular case of Ukraine a perfect example of the way we should be approaching developing democracies, developing civil societies in the world?

There was absolutely no question that it was an issue of trade or investment. We looked to our allies to work together with them, but we took on a leading role. We took on a leading role because Canadians expected it of us. They expected us to stand up for Canadian values, values that we believe in, democracy and civil society.

There are other examples perhaps of when trade or investment influence our foreign policy in countries that have developing democracies or civil societies. I am not convinced that it is the Canadian values of democracy and civil society espoused by foreign affairs that take precedence at all times when the two departments work together. They should be separated. Foreign affairs should lay the groundwork and make sure that when Canadians become interested in investment and trade that we do it with countries that we have helped along the path of democracy and civil society.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I still do not understand the reasoning of my colleague opposite. The situation in Ukraine or the mission in which my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, as well as the colleague opposite, took part was under the aegis of the current Department of Foreign Affairs. However, I do not understand what went wrong in this mission, when we have the department that is there now. Again, we simply fear that, if the department is divided in two, trade will trump democratic rights.

So, on one side, there will be rhetoric, for example, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who will talk about the right to democracy.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

He is good at that.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Yes, we can proudly wear a flower in our lapel for saying that the right to democracy in Ukraine, or elsewhere, is paramount.

On the other hand, the Minister of International Trade will not need to make those speeches. There will no longer be a need to be consistent in our decisions, since the two departments will be separate. Trade will prevail over the right to democracy, in spite of the rhetoric.

But therein lies the danger and I will say it again: I ask my colleagues to pay close attention to this bill, lest it happen. We must simply vote against it.

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12:50 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the members of the Bloc keep talking about human rights and poverty. They point out the areas they want us to focus on. I find that interesting, but at the same time, they do not see that there is a reality where there has to be a division between trade, our statements and our foreign policies.

What they are asking for is a little like saying that because of the Wal-Mart situation maybe the province of Quebec should have its industry department connected with its labour department. The fact is there are many opportunities for our government and the Canadian people to interact, whether it is immigration, cultural exchange, defence, when it deals with things such as helping the world.

Where was the member when the discussion was about Haiti and Darfur? Where was the member when we considered Rwanda? Will he not agree that there is a trade issue, or rather—and without exception—a foreign affairs issue?

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, where was the parliamentary secretary, a few weeks ago, when we were in Davos talking about international trade? As it turned out, we talked about human rights and the environment. I am still not getting the rationale behind this. This department was put together some 30 years ago and changes were made over the years. The concept of putting international trade and foreign affairs under a single department came up under Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

And now, we are being told that this department should be split into two, but we still are not convinced. As I mentioned earlier, even the foreign affairs minister is not convinced that this is justified. We are still trying to be convinced, but I think that, on this side of the House, it is a lost cause. We are still not convinced.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to contribute to the introduction of Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I think that this measure will definitely help Canada produce a more balanced and more consistent foreign policy as we enter the 21st century and will thus ensure a more certain and more prosperous future for all Canadians. I agree with my hon. colleague, the parliamentary secretary, and I invite all members to support this bill.

I have no intention, of course, of repeating the minister's remarks; rather I will describe the proposed changes in more detail and provide some context.

As has already been mentioned, a year ago the Governor General signed an order in council separating the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade into two distinct departments. The order in council created the two departments and integrated them into the legislative framework governing all departments.

The order was made under the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, which enables the governor in council to transfer any portion of the public service and powers and duties from one portion of the public service or from one minister to another. This act also gives the governor in council the power to reorganize the administration, which is essential to give the government sufficient latitude, but not the power to give or increase powers without the prior approval of Parliament.

The bill at hand only codifies the changes to the operations of the former Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in accordance with the order in council regarding the Department of Foreign Affairs. In actual fact, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of International Trade have been operating as distinct entities for nearly a year.

This bill is being studied in parallel with the bill creating the Department of International Trade. That said, I shall limit myself to a brief review of the amendments it proposes to make to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.

Bill C-32 simply gives official status to the responsibilities given to the Minister and Department of Foreign Affairs by the December 12, 2003, order in council. Broadly speaking, the proposed amendments to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act consist in erasing references to international trade.

Because of the creation of the Department of International Trade, the reason for these changes is obvious. Therefore, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act will become the Departmentof Foreign Affairs Act and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will simply be called the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The changes will allow the minister and the employees of the department to use the new name in their official and legal correspondence.

The bill confirms that the Minister of Foreign Affairs will remain the head of the department whereas any mention of the Minister of International Trade as additional minister will be removed. However, it still mentions the Minister of International Cooperation, who supports the Minister of Foreign Affairs in his duties concerning Canada's international relations and has access to the services and facilities of the department.

However, there are now only two foreign affairs associate deputy ministers instead of three, the minister having the power to appoint one of them as deputy minister for political affairs. The bill eliminates reference to the associate deputy minister for international trade, which can now be found in the International Trade Department Act.

The powers and duties of the Minister of Foreign Affairs remain unchanged with the exception of his responsibilities over international trade which will now be under the purview of the Minister of International Trade.

For example, the section which describes the duties of the Minister of International Trade is totally removed as is the mention of international trade development. I want to underline that the international economic relations coordination function has been changed to reflect the general mandate given the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the administration of the foreign policy and the coordination of international relations.

Of course, the bill stipulates that the Minister of Foreign Affairs will no longer have the power to develop or implement trade development programs. The bill also adds on a section on allocation of funds stating that the funds authorized by Parliament for the Department's capital expenditures that are not used before year-end become obsolete at the end of the following year, unless otherwise stated in an appropriation act.

It goes without saying that the bill also provides for the addition of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the schedules of the Access to Information Act, the Financial Administration Act, the Privacy Act and the Public Sector Compensation Act. The bill creating the Department of International Trade will remove all reference to the former DFAIT in both pieces of legislation.

The powers and responsibilities of the Minister of International Trade will henceforth be set under the Department of International Trade Act, which will also amend certain other acts to replace “Minister of Foreign Affairs” by “Minister of International Trade” or to add reference to the “Minister of International Trade” if needed.

This measure is not expected to have any repercussions on the daily activities of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Consular services and passport services for the public will not be affected, and Foreign Affairs Canada has promised to maintain these services for all partner departments in missions.

On an operational level, all the major aspects of the separation should soon be in place. As I was saying earlier, the two departments already operate independently and coordinate their activities. The division of resources and personnel is a complex matter, but I am sure that if it is well managed, the two departments will be able to focus on their respective main mandates and Canada will be able to follow its chosen path, reinforcing its place in the world and giving itself a 21st century economy.

As the parliamentary secretary has already said, our entire foreign policy and the Department of Foreign Affairs itself, should be in step with globalization. This requires more than one department or internal agency, not to mention the provinces, to have a presence abroad. It is important to lay out a consistent strategic framework based on partnerships to achieve this.

Given the crucial role of international trade, investment and the integration of the Canadian economy to the global economy, it goes without saying that the Department of International Trade has an important place in this collaboration. For its part, once the Department of International Trade goes its separate way, the Department of Foreign Affairs will be in a better position to focus on its fundamental mandate, which will give increasing importance to achieving consistency between international programs and programs within the Canadian government and its new partners. It will be incumbent upon the Department of Foreign Affairs to interrelate the various repercussions on foreign policy of each partner's actions in trade, defence, development, environment, and so forth, and to promote in interdepartmental authorities an understanding of the larger international context.

I will let my colleagues elaborate on the advantages this bill presents to Canada. I just want to say that it is important to pass this bill. For a year now, the two departments involved, with their partner department, have worked extremely hard to promote Canada's international program.

That said, in a nutshell, there are several fundamental messages here that Canadians should understand.

First, the legislation simply reaffirms and enshrines the mandate of the Department of Foreign Affairs to coordinate and conduct Canada's foreign policy.

The Bloc Québécois continues to raise issues that are far outside the ambit of this bill and its effect. They are valid and legitimate questions that surround the question of globalization and the integration of human rights, environmental rights and environmental protection, the protection of labourers, and so on and so forth, but as far as I am concerned they fall well outside the ambit of the import of this basic bill which gives rise to a separate foreign affairs department to coordinate and conduct Canada's foreign policy.

In effect, this is simply the codification of provisions in the 12th of December, 2003 order, and it formalizes the separation of both departments. As such, the legislation has no impact whatsoever on day to day government operations. If that were the case, we would have seen such impacts, given that we are now many months after the original separation of both departments.

There are four salient features that inform the highlights of this legislation. This reaffirms that the Department of Foreign Affairs is under the authority of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is responsible for the management and the direction of both the department in Canada and abroad. It makes explicit that this minister conducts Canada's foreign policy, and no other minister, and coordinates Canada's international relations. It removes from the powers, duties and functions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs those responsibilities that are simply related to international trade. It adjusts several federal acts to reflect that Foreign Affairs Canada and International Trade Canada are two separate departments.

This bill has to be read in conjunction with the bill establishing the Department of International Trade, and although there are valid concerns being raised by all members of the House with respect to the system which governs the global marketplace, the system which governs the protection of labour and labourers, the emerging system that is in place to protect our international and national environments, the import of this bill is a simple one. It creates a separate department.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments were obviously from a very well prepared speech by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

I want to draw something to the attention of my hon. colleagues in the House. I am sure the Bloc members picked up on this but I am curious if my Conservative colleagues picked up on this, because it kind of just snuck in there a few times. I just want to emphasize what my colleague from Ottawa South said a few times. He said that the legislation merely sanctions what we already did on December 12, 2003. We really do not need this legislation because we have already done it.

What the heck are we doing here? Are we here to rubber-stamp what the government does? Is that what we are doing here? I can tell members that anybody who supports this bill is rubber-stamping the government overriding Parliament by not bringing this before Parliament before it did it.

How much will this cost Canadian taxpayers? No one has said how much this will cost Canadian taxpayers but the Liberals have gone ahead and done it. All we are here to do is to tell them that they have done a good job and that we will pass the bill because they think it is right. That just does not cut it.

The whole process of Parliament is debating legislation before we proceed. That is the issue. What does my colleague have to say about that?

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was unable to discern a specific question or two with respect to the comments, but let me react to a few things the member said earlier.

To begin, she spoke about the question of CIDA and whether or not CIDA has a particular mandate, a specific mandate, a legislated mandate. This is an interesting question. As a former lawyer who has performed a lot of international development work, who has acted in an executive capacity for CIDA and whose own spouse spent five years working for CIDA, I find that an interesting comment when 1,100 employees of the Canadian International Development Agency and several thousand consultants do not believe they have a mandate.

The mandate of CIDA is crystal clear. It is informed by a series of principles and objectives, including the sustainable development of the planet, as CIDA pursues its development projects all over the world in dozens and dozens of countries.

The second fact the member has omitted to share with the House is the fact that many and in fact dozens of government departments have international activities. Each of these is coordinated through and under the auspices of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is another reason why we needed to hive off and form a separate department. It was so we could better manage what is happening at Agriculture Canada, at Environment Canada or at the Treasury Board in terms of international projects and in terms of technical assistance which is going on all over the world. This is a strengthening of our capacity to deal with these internal management challenges.

Furthermore, just to be very clear, how can the governor in council simply create a new department? Does Parliament not have to approve a new department? The creation of new departments occurred within the statutory framework provided by Parliament. Under the authority of the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, this governor in council has the ability to transfer portions of the public service and ministerial powers, duties and functions from one part of the public service to another or from one minister to another.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member was referring to my comments on CIDA from earlier this morning. I am going to reflect on them. What I was calling for was a legislative mandate for CIDA, not a little statement in 1968 from the governor in council. I want to see a legislative mandate brought before Parliament, just like this legislation should have been brought before Parliament. That is what is important here and that is something the government seems to forget.

We have a minority Parliament right now. This government should have known that it has to do business differently.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again I was trying to discern a question. I appreciate the comment.

Again, let us be clear with respect to CIDA. Why is the role of the CIDA minister not dealt with specifically in this legislation? This legislation is simple. It is to codify in law the December 2003 order in council. There are no ghosts hovering around this bill. Second, the amended act continues to provide for the Minister of International Cooperation to assist the Minister of Foreign Affairs, clearly in his or her responsibilities relating to the conduct of Canada's international relations. There is nothing omitted here that was not already included before.

Third, the government has decided to maintain the existing close integration of international development assistance, policies and programs with our foreign policy more generally. We all know of the symmetry, for example, between Canada's multilateral approach, which some describe as part of Canadian DNA, and our international development, our good governance work, our rule of law work in other jurisdictions. An example of that is what we are doing today in Afghanistan.

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1:10 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague on his fine speech and on his answers to the member from the NDP, and I am sure they are very clear to her.

The bill is about the division of the foreign affairs department, which we have spoken about before, but I want to look into the future of our country, our government and what we are doing to deal with some problems that have seemed intractable for a very long time.

These include the prevention of genocide, the pandemic of AIDS, malaria and other diseases that kill millions of people in the world, and looking at aid in a different way to make sure that, rather than putting good money after bad, our aid moneys are going to be used as effectively as possible. We need focused, effective aid to deal with the problems that people are faced with in some of the poorest parts of the world. And there is also terrorism.

We need a new vision for aid, for example, that is focused and coordinated, and where we look at trade that is fair and effective. The NDP has brought up many important issues that have to deal with fair trade.

Indeed, we in our party are gripped with this issue. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade are both gripped with this issue and are working hard with our partners to try to reduce the barriers to trade.

There are two big issues that the government has put forward which I think all members should support. One is the L20 and the other is the Canada Corps. The L20 can be a new, dynamic, focused group of countries, north and south, east and west, developed and developing, which can address the seemingly intractable problems that I mentioned. The other, the Canada Corps, can bring in the best and brightest of our country and apply their skills, be they medical personnel, engineers, teachers or others, to address these problems.

I want to ask my friend a simple question. How does he see the issue of the Canada Corps and the L20 moving forward after we have had this division into both parts of what was formerly DFAIT?

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is remarkable about the work of this Prime Minister that all members of the House should keep in mind is that he was one of the earliest proponents of the expansion of the notion of the G-7 to an L20.

Why did he drive that? I am convinced he drove it because he understood that there are a number of mid-power nation-states all over the world that needed to come together and serve in some ways as a counterweight to, for example, the economic power of the United States of America.

This is not to say that this party is anti-United States or anti-American, but simply to admit that there is an L20 need out there, and I think the Prime Minister should be congratulated in fairness and objectively for his work in pursuing this notion on an international basis.

The Canada Corps is a wonderful opportunity for young Canadians to go abroad and take the message of Canadian multilateralism, Canadian tolerance and Canadian diversity to all four corners of the planet.

This is something that the split or the hiving off of the Department of Foreign Affairs will further facilitate in terms of the management, the support and the spreading of the message that the L20 concept is a positive one for Canada and the globe, and the Canada Corps messages that informed its creation are desperately needed at a time when there are so many different hot spots and conflicts all over the world.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in this House to speak on Bill C-32, to separate the functions and responsibilities of the Department of Foreign Affairs and that of the Department of International Trade.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to speak on Bill C-31, whose purpose is essentially the same. It is important to mention, however, that our discussions and debates in this place can only be conclusive if other debates are held down the line, particularly regarding the order that was made and which the Governor in Council general passed in December 2003.

What we are doing here today—and I tend to agree with my hon. colleague from the NDP—is debating an issue which, really, was settled on December 12, 2003, when an order was passed. All this bill has done, although it may not be mundane, is to start a discussion on issues that had already been settled and incorporated into a bill that was tabled on December 7, 2004.

It is important to ask ourselves what the government's real motivation is in bringing Bill C-32 up for debate today. The hon. members and ministers across the way would have us believe that this is a purely administrative and technical bill, with no substance, and no vision in terms of the issues and concerns of the government opposite.

Quite the contrary, what this Parliament is about to pass is not mundane at all. Basically, it puts into action a vision to separate a number of rights with respect to international trade. At a time when globalization can no longer be achieved in isolation, and when management by silos is rejected around the world in favour of a greater integration of the protection of rights—be it human rights, labour or environmental rights—into globalization mechanisms, we have in front of us a government which is trying to get us to pass a bill designed to undo something that is internationally recognized.

The Department of Foreign Affairs underwent a number of reorganizations in the past. In 1971, under Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade was integrated. In 1981, another reorganization took place, and also in 1982. The latter sought to integrate and transfer the activities relating to CIDA, industry, trade and commerce, and the trade policy, to the department.

Twenty-five years ago, when our exports accounted for barely 20% of Canada's GDP, such a decision might have been justified. However, we are now in a context of new markets and greater liberalization, with the result that our exports now account for more than 40% of our GDP.

At the same time, there is a global debate on the importance of integrating environmental protection, human rights and labour laws in our governments' decision-making process.

At a time when, in Davos and at international forums, civil society groups are trying to be heard to ensure that these concerns are reflected in trade rules, this government wants to split the role of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. We cannot sign international conventions and, at the same time, not take these concerns into consideration.

A few minutes ago, I was listening to the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Defence. I understand why he supports this bill. It is precisely because he is in favour of this splitting between Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He is hoping that projects such as the missile defence shield are implemented before the review of Canada's foreign policy has even begun. It suits him that this distinction be made between trade and our foreign policy. He is even hoping that a similar distinction will be made between Canada's foreign and defence policies, so that this silo approach can be perpetuated.

On this side of the House, we see things quite differently. For example, my colleague opposite, with whom I was on a mission in Ukraine in December, mentioned, by way of example, the importance of dividing the departments. However, since Canada has recognized the independence of Ukraine, one of the fundamental aspects has been its trade rules and its trade with Ukraine, which is the cornerstone of our trade.

When Ukrainians were fighting for the restoration of democracy, the government was trying to have us believe that commercial interests must not weigh in the balance in such a process. Do they think that, when societies are trying to restore the voice of democracy in their country, trade between them and Canada is not a consideration? I would think so.

China is the best example. That country is currently experiencing an important economic boom and vigorous growth and development, which will most probably expand trade between Canada and China. Is the government opposite, trying to tell us that politics and human rights considerations must not be a factor in the kind of trade we will have in the future with China? On the contrary, we must incorporate these international trading activities and decisions in Canadian foreign policy.

This is all the more true since trade has evolved in recent years. We must not forget the role of International Trade Canada, which comprises three main elements: the promotion of international trade, investment promotion and partnerships, and commercial and economic policy.

Promotion of international trade goes without saying. However, I would like to draw your attention to two other aspects of the mandate of International Trade Canada: investment partnerships. It is as if, on the other side of the House, investment was real and visible based solely on what we have accomplished in the past 10, 15, or 20 years.

However, new concerns are emerging with regard to investments. In recent years, we have seen the emergence of what is known as “socially responsible investments”. Before investing, potential investors seriously consider if the rights of workers and social rights are being respected. In my opinion, this is an integrated vision of investment partnering which, quite often, is developed by visionary small businesses wanting to ensure that these human rights are respected.

If groups within civil society or individuals believe in socially responsible investing—personally, I do—we should expect the government to have just as much faith in it. The way to clearly express this would have been to maintain and not divide foreign policy and international trade.

There is another aspect. The third aspect of the mandate of International Trade Canada relates to trade and economic policy, as if trade and economic policies remained the same and were not in constant evolution. We want to remind the government that fair trade—not trade for the sake of trade—means trade based on the creation of added-value products where the human element is integral to each product and its value. It is as if this did not exist, in the government's eyes. If the government truly believed in fair trade, it would maintain the conditions needed for these small groups to succeed. No, the decision is made to say trade is trade.

Biodiversity is another such example, since Canada has decided not to ratify the Cartagena protocol on biosafety. Its failure to ratify this protocol means it does not want to distinguish between products with GMOs and traditional products. So, it does not want to distinguish between the different products on the market.

To ensure a policy that ensures and that should ensure consistency, we must reject this bill which, in my opinion, clearly fails to make effective use of human resources and is clearly inconsistent in terms of services. This decision is, as I mentioned earlier, completely inappropriate and above all unjustified. For these reasons, we will be voting against this bill.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It now being 1:30 p.m., the House will proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should take action with regard to gasoline prices by: (a) setting up a petroleum monitoring agency responsible for preparing an annual report on all aspects of the industry, including how prices are set and competition issues, whose director would be independent and appointed for a three-year term after consultation with sector representatives and the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology, and that the Committee be tasked with considering the report; and (b) by bringing forward amendments to strengthen the Competition Act, including measures to ensure that the Competition Commissioner has the power to launch investigations, summon witnesses and ensure confidentiality.

Mr. Speaker, in 2003, the Bloc Québécois was moved to take action in response to the regular gas price hikes, most of these for no reason, or no real reason.

In its November 2003 report in response to the unanimous motion by the Bloc Québécois in February 2003, the Standing Committee of Industry, Science and Technology, having studied this matter, felt obliged to recommend creation of a petroleum price monitoring agency. The present government, at the time in a heavy majority position and just as arrogant as now, rejected the recommendation, despite the unanimous opinion on the committee, some of whose members were Liberals, the present Minister of Immigration in particular.

The finance minister at that time, the irresponsible finance minister, I might add, and equally irresponsible PM now, had the gall to amend the taxation system in order to benefit the oil and gas companies even further. He dropped the tax rate on their profits from 27% to 21% over three years, while doing the exact opposite to mining companies, at a time when they were experiencing the lowest ever prices for their products.

As a result, in a number of Quebec areas, in particular Abitibi-Nord, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and the Eastern Townships, mines closed down and hundreds of workers were out of work, while the oil companies, for the first quarter of 2004 alone, were blessed with additional revenues not far from the million dollar mark, including the increase in refining margins.

As for the consumers, the truckers, taxi drivers, people living in the regions, the common carriers, both bus and trucking companies and airlines, they have never had an ounce of assistance from the government. I am not including in this certain shipping companies which conceal their assets in tax havens, fly flags of convenience, make purchases anywhere but here, and pump out their bilges into Canadian waters, Quebec waters if at all possible.

Now for the rise in gas prices. As I said at the beginning, gas prices have been increasing by leaps and bounds for years. This happened in 1999, the winter of 2000-01, the winter of 2-003, and once again in 2004.

In May 2004, gas prices reached record levels in the Montreal area, with a weekly average of 99.7¢ a litre for regular gas, I should point out. All kinds of excuses, each as false as the next, were given, such as the war in Iraq, intense cold, taxes, pipeline sabotage and production cutbacks by Arab countries, to name but a few.

Up to now, none of these has had any effect on gas prices at the pump, it seems, up to now quite the contrary. Shortages have been created artificially, and, each time, the government revelled in the situation, even though 53% of the revenues generated went in the direction of the United States.

It is worth mentioning that between May 2002 and May 2003, profit margins jumped by 62.33%, and from May of 2003 to May of 2004, they increased by 86%. In other words, they went from 29.5 cents a litre to 54.9¢ a litre and during the same period, the inflation rate was 2%, for the very reason that it was affected by the sharp increases in the price of petroleum products.

To show how little consideration this government gives to consumers, we need only consider that petroleum product prices more than doubled between 1999 and 2000. Under pressure from the opposition parties, the government introduced at that time a program to help consumers pay their heating bills. However, between 1999 and 2002, the price of petroleum products increased more than fivefold, but the assistance program disappeared, despite an even sharper increase between 2003 and 2004.

The Prime Minister, who was then finance minister and a shareholder in a western oil company, in apparently flagrant conflict of interests, had no qualms—any more than he did in the sponsorship scandal—when he reduced the taxes on petroleum company profits by 6%.

Let me be perfectly clear; I am not accusing him of getting richer. He probably lost some money, but that is not something we will shed tears over when we think about the poor folks who lost their entire life savings, or those who are unable to retire as they planned, all because of the minister's failure to regularize this situation.

Let us not kid ourselves; inflation caused by gas prices has had many effects and impacts on consumer prices, transportation costs—for those who could change them quickly enough—and on the survival of certain transportation companies, whether they move passengers or goods by air or on land. Air Canada is one example we might think of.

The most shocking thing in all this, and I am repeating it, is the fact that at least 53% of these profits do not even touch down in Canada before going off to the United States. The same thing is still happening today with this government. We could mention the printing of our money in Germany, the production of advertising brochures in China, and particularly the very explicit encouragement to clothing manufacturers to go and set up shop where slave labour is the norm.

There was a time when the federal government intervened with presence and authority in the oil industry in order to help the producers themselves in the 1960s. That was on the recommendation of the Borden commission. In 1974 there was a freeze on the price of Canadian oil at a level below world prices. In 1975, Petro Canada was created to set a standard for the industry. It cost Canadians a bundle.

It was beneficial for a time, that is, until the government realized that it was a great pork barrel for their buddies, who were just as greedy as the ones today, and then gave them a wonderful gift by selling them half of this crown corporation at a price everyone at the time thought ridiculously low.

It was from that moment that its true mission was completely dropped and it became a champion of increased profits to the detriment of Canadian shareholders. This government decided to hand over to another Liberal friendly company the job of liquidating for good what was left of a company that had just made a 564% jump in profits.

Since 1984, the federal government has been much more concerned with freeing oil markets from their obligations than protecting consumers and other companies from the underhanded control of the oil market, going so far as to present them with the possibility of adding billions of dollars more to their existing exorbitant benefits.

Instead of boosting these shameless surpluses, it would have been more appropriate to surtax the excessive profits, which might have discouraged these excessive profits. It also could have just as well required a decrease of emissions in the atmosphere. A portion of this surplus could have been used for this purpose and we may not be talking about this decrease today.

Although the major oil companies insist that consumers are well served by the current market, one thing remains unanswered: the blatant lack of transparency.

The lack of authority of the Competition Act prevents Competition Bureau investigations from being effective.

Every time a crisis arises, the public wonders about the oil industry. It is high time to put an end to the crises every time the price of gas suddenly surges.

It is no secret. The crises are in large part due to the lack of competition in the oil industry where 75% of the market belongs to the three largest refineries. The increased profits for these oil companies stems directly from the profit margin at the refining stage.

Usually, according to AQUIP, it costs between 2.5¢ and 4¢ to refine one litre of gas. When the refining margin is between 4¢ and 6¢ a litre, the company does well.

Between 1998 and March 2003, the margins averaged 7.2¢ a liter. Could it be said that it was very good? As of early March 2003, these margins fluctuated between 9.5¢ and 11¢ a liter, reaching 11.4¢ in March 2004 and an almost incredible amount of 21.7¢ of profit margin.

This is having a huge Impact on certain groups of citizens and on the economy in general. It is hurting sugarbush operators who need to heat and boil the syrup, farmers who operate farm machinery, contract truckers, all those who use heating fuel, mass transit services, bus companies whose ridership has plummeted because of the increase in prices, just as airlines and the tourism industry.

A first solution had been proposed. The Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology of the Chamber of Commons, in its report on the Competition Act, recommended a reversal of the burden of the proof to deal with agreements among competitors and to determine whether there is a conspiracy. It would have been the responsibility of the party wishing to enter into an agreement to prove the ultimate social value of that agreement. The Bloc Québécois supported that report.

On May 5, 2003, in the industry, natural resources, science and technology committee , Mr. von Finckenstein, the Commissioner of Competition, cited raised as a shortcoming of the current Competition Act the lack of investigative powers in the context of a study of the industry, and the need to have an independent body with the authority to summon witnesses and gather information while protecting confidential information that no one wishes disclosed but that would be essential to a factual conclusion.

Indeed, how is information to be gathered when documents cannot be disclosed and witnesses protected?

The second solution that was proposed was the establishment of a petroleum monitoring agency. On April 2, 2004, the Liberal government presented its response to the standing committee's report. It said no to the establishment of a monitoring agency. It simply pledged to promote the dissemination and understanding of information on petroleum product prices. And this, even though the Liberals on the committee, including the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, had supported the report. This is another example of the democratic deficit under the current Prime Minister.

As I have only one minute left, I will conclude here. I urge all members of this House to support this motion in order to stabilize the quality of life of all taxpayers in every one of our ridings and to stabilize and curb any inflationary tendency.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague a couple of questions to clarify some matters.

He seemed to question the validity of the figures that are available to us. As he correctly pointed out, it was in 1995 through program review that the current Prime Minister, then the finance minister, eliminated a lot of the functions within the Department of Natural Resources to examine gasoline prices. However, there are public companies, such as MJ Ervin & Associates, that publish the prices every day on the Internet. I was on the committee when we studied this issue. In fact none of the witnesses who appeared before us, even those who alleged collusion, questioned the validity of the figures put out by MJ Ervin & Associates.

I would like to get the member's comments. Does he accept the figures that are put out by MJ Ervin & Associates? Are those figures correct in his view, or are they wrong? Is that one reason he is proposing this motion?

Also, the Competition Bureau can already investigate these matters if it gets letters of complaint from six citizens. This seems to me to be a fairly low threshold. If he thinks that is not sufficient, and obviously he does, why then does he see that as insufficient?

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I indicated that, in 1975, the government created a company called Petro-Canada, at great expense to Canadians, to stabilize oil industry in Canada.

Regarding the gasoline prices posted on the Internet, we are not questioning the figures. We are only questioning the need to set prices that high. No reason was provided to justify such high prices, because there is no correlation between the cost of a barrel of oil and the price charged at the pump. The refining margin always jacked oil prices up. A reasonable profit margin for a refiner is somewhere between 2.5¢ and 4¢ per litre.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou on a fine speech.

We all know there are taxes on gasoline: GST, QST along with federal and provincial taxes. Could my colleague tell me if the gasoline taxes are responsible for the increase in the price of gasoline?

I would also like him to explain the different tax levels in each region of Quebec.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. Even if some find that the taxes are too high, they do not really vary and certainly cannot account for the fluctuations in the price of gasoline. Most of these taxes are set and do not vary.

For example, at the federal level, there is a set amount of 10 cents on the price of gasoline. At the provincial level, in Quebec, for the central regions, there is a maximum amount of 15.2¢ per litre.

The provincial gasoline tax varies according to four tax zones. In the central regions, the tax level is 15.2¢. In the peripheral regions, Côte-Nord, Lac-Saint-Jean and Abitibi, for example, the tax level is 10.55¢ per litre. In specific regions like Rimouski or La Tuque, it is 12.9 cents per litre. In the border regions, the tax level varies up to a maximum of 14.2¢ per litre. GST is 7%, QST is 7.5%. Consequently, only the GST and QST vary in case of an increase before tax.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing forward his private member's motion. It is a noble effort, and I would like to speak to it today in two parts.

First, I would like to address Motion No. 165 by addressing the notion of a petroleum monitoring agency. This first proposal calls for the creation of a petroleum monitoring agency that would prepare an annual report on all aspects of the petroleum industry for consideration by the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology.

The proposal is very similar to a recommendation made by the former Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in November of 2003, at the conclusion of its report on gasoline prices in Canada. The committee's recommendation, however, at that time specifically indicated that a primary role of the agency should be to collect and disseminate pricing data, by removing specific reference to the collection and dissemination of pricing data and by replacing it with a mandate to report “on all aspects of the industry, including how prices are set and competition issues”. The motion suggests an even larger role for a new agency.

Further to this last point, I should note that the committee's report concluded:

In terms of federal government action, the Committee is satisfied that the Competition Bureau has sufficient powers, personnel and resources devoted to overseeing competitive aspects of the petroleum industry.

Based on this finding, I have to ask, why do we need an agency with an expanded mandate to report annually “on all aspects of the industry, including how prices are set and competition issues?”

In particular, in its report on gasoline pricing in Canada, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology examined a significant increase in the price of gasoline that took place over several months. It found that the price increase:

--was the result of industry participants’ competitive reactions to a series of international crises and the abnormally cold weather that gripped northeast North America last winter. No evidence was presented to the Committee of a conspiracy to raise and fix prices, nor was there evidence presented of abusive behaviour on the part of vertically integrated suppliers in the form of squeezing retail margins to eliminate or discipline independent retailers.

In its response to the committee's report on gasoline prices in Canada, the Government of Canada indicated that it had given careful consideration to the recommendation concerning the creation of a petroleum monitoring agency. Still the government concluded that current activities undertaken by federal and provincial governments or agencies, combined with information collected and widely distributed by the private sector, “provide the most practical and cost-effective method of informing the consumer”.

In summary, there is no evidence to suggest that the creation of a new petroleum monitoring agency, with its inevitable costs, is needed.

Let me turn secondly then to the bill's call for amendments to the Competition Act. The second part of the motion proposes that the government should bring:

forward amendments to strengthen the Competition Act, including measures to ensure that the Competition Commissioner has the power to launch investigations, summon witnesses and ensure confidentiality.

The government indicated in the throne speech that it was committed to providing an up to date legislative framework for business, and that it would propose changes to amend the Competition Act.

The government has already acted on the latter commitment. Bill C-19, an act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, was tabled in early November of 2004, and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology on November 16. The proposed legislation follows extensive consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, large and small businesses, consumers, consumer groups, economists and legal experts to help ensure that the proposed amendments will contribute to a modern competition regime in Canada.

The proposed legislation, which is consistent with the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in 2002, includes the following actions.

First, it gives the Commissioner of Competition the authority to seek restitution for consumer loss resulting from false or misleading representations. This will encourage companies to be accurate in their claims. It will allow consumers to get up to the amount paid if they have been duped by false claims.

Second, it introduces a general administrative monetary penalty provision for abuse of dominance in any industry. Currently, with the exception of airlines, the main consequence for abuse of dominance is simply an order from the Competition Tribunal requiring an end to the practice. Under exceptional circumstances, a structural change, such as divestiture, may be required. This amendment represents an additional tool to ensure compliance with the Competition Act.

Third, the legislation also removes airline specific provisions from the act to return it to a law of general application.

Fourth, finally it decriminalizes the pricing provisions dealing with price discrimination, regional price discrimination, predatory pricing and promotional allowances, so they can be dealt with under a civil regime, and this is very important, and the abuse of dominant position provisions of the Competition Act. This means that conduct like predatory pricing will receive the benefit of a full hearing on its likely economic effect. Cases will also be assessed by the Competition Tribunal with a lower civil burden of proof compared to the former criminal burden of proof.

The motion before us is not clear. It does not describe what amendments are being proposed, other than amendments to strengthen the Competition Act.

Let us look at the facts. The Commissioner can currently initiate inquiries if there is reason to believe that an offence has been committed or that grounds exist for the making of a remedial order by the Competition Tribunal. The Commissioner can summon witnesses, subject to judicial authorization; and the Commissioner must keep information confidential pursuant to section 29 of the Competition Act.

While not clear, Motion No. 165 may be referring to a suggestion that the Commissioner should have the power to conduct inquiries into markets or industry practices, even if there is no reason to believe that an offence has been committed when significant competition issues have been raised.

Other members of the Bloc Québécois have publicly indicated that this would represent an improvement to the Competition Act, and have cited a study of the gasoline industry as an example of why such powers are needed.

However, this is the government's experience. Recent nationwide consultations on various options to strengthen the Competition Act included a proposal to allow the Commissioner to ask an independent body, such as the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, to inquire into the state of competition and the functioning of markets in any sector of the Canadian economy. While some stakeholders supported the idea of market or general inquiries, many stakeholders raised strong objections to this proposal.

Serious concerns were raised with respect to procedures, length of time that these types of inquiries typically take and substantial costs likely to be incurred by both government and businesses in inquiries of this nature.

It is my understanding that in response to these concerns, the Competition Bureau is now presently examining the approaches used in other jurisdictions on a comparative basis that have general inquiry powers for competition related issues.

This brings me to my final point. The Competition Act, which dates back to 1889, is legislation of general application which provides a framework within which business can operate. It is important to approach changes to it with very careful consideration and to fully understand the possible implications of proposed amendments. There is no evidence indicating that a petroleum monitoring agency is needed.

Second, if the motion refers to general or market inquiries, I understand that more work is currently being undertaken by the Competition Bureau to resolve issues raised by stakeholders during consultations.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 165, and I would like to read the motion into the record. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should take action with regard to gasoline prices by: (a) setting up a petroleum monitoring agency responsible for preparing an annual report on all aspects of the industry, including how prices are set and competition issues, whose director would be independent and appointed for a three-year term after consultation with sector representatives and the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology, and that the Committee be tasked with considering the report; and (b) by bringing forward amendments to strengthen the Competition Act, including measures to ensure that the Competition Commissioner has the power to launch investigations, summon witnesses and ensure confidentiality.

As a member of the industry committee that studied this issue, I want to provide some background for members of the House. The committee studied it extensively. It issued a report in November 2003. The committee recommended something similar to what is in part (a) of the motion, although as the member just pointed out, something not quite as extensive.

With respect to part (b) of the motion, it is true that gas prices in Quebec tend to be higher than they are in Ontario. Members of the Bloc have claimed for a long time that there is collusion in the industry and that gas prices should be regulated.

However, it is important to point out that no evidence of collusion has actually come forward. In fact, the Competition Commissioner pointed out that the industry had been studied 18 to 19 times on that basis and each time it was found that there was no collusion, except in minor cases at the local retail level, not at the crude oil price, which is a world price, nor at the wholesale level, which is done within the North American context.

As well, I should point out as the government has done on a number of occasions, rightly, that the regulation of gasoline prices in Canada can be done at the provincial level. Provincial governments are free to regulate gasoline prices. In Quebec, if it feels a need to do so, the provincial government can certainly step in and regulate gasoline prices if it feels it is in the best interests of their citizens.

It is important to point out, though, that Canada ranks very low on the list in terms of gasoline prices across the world. These figures are free to anyone who wants to surf them. International Energy Agency points out that in 2003, when this study was done by the industry committee, Canada had the second lowest gasoline prices to the United States and the world at that time. If we took the comparative levels of taxation out from both the American side and the Canadian side, Canada would rank the lowest in terms of our gasoline prices. To put it into perspective, it is important for us to realize that.

I also want to provide some background on the price. People look at the price as they drive by, but they do not understand what goes into setting that price.

First, there is the international price of crude oil as set by global supply and demand. This is what people are referring to when they are talking about the cost of a barrel of oil. Obviously, that price has been very high in recent years for various reasons.

The second component to look at is the wholesale or the rack price which is the finished gasoline product used by cars and involves refining by oil refineries. For us in Canada, the price is set within a North American context.

Third is the local price that we see when we drive into fill up our vehicles, and this is a regional market price. It varies from city to city, province to province, region to region. It is a very locally driven price. However, the retail price includes taxes to which we in this party have certainly drawn attention.

I would like to point out that the standing committee report, which was done in 2003, pointed out that over the long term the price of gasoline, excluding taxes, increased by 50% while taxes on the price of gasoline increased by 67%. Taxes are the fastest growing component of the final price of gasoline, a fact that should be clearly understood by all of us.

The tax burden at the pump has been raised as one of the reasons why prices are higher in Canada than in the United States. In fact, once the taxes are stripped out and do the exchange rate, the price of gasoline is very similar, even lower in Canada than it is in the United States.

I would like to remind my colleagues on the government side that they promised to look at the whole policy of taxation on gasoline from the GST standpoint, but also in terms of the 10¢ a litre excise tax and sharing that with the provinces and municipalities for infrastructure. That has been promised for two to three years. It should certainly be fulfilled in our view.

In terms of returning to the issue of whether there is collusion within this industry, members of the standing committee listened to witnesses from all sides. Members of all parties had the opportunity to bring forward their arguments. The evidence was clear that collusion was not the cause of the increase in the price of gasoline in early 2003. This issue has been investigated 19 times. I think it is important to actually quote the competition commissioner who stated at that time, “We have never found any evidence of any kind of collusion, except at a very local level, which is usually a bunch of stations getting together and trying to maintain the price at a certain level. Those we have prosecuted with some success”.

Even those who testified that they believed collusion was possible in gasoline pricing offered no concrete evidence. The Quebec consumer coalition was unable to offer any proof except its belief, not the actual data that it presented to committee, but just a belief that there was a strong possibility of a price fixing arrangement. A possibility is not a fact.

One thing that should be emphasized here with respect to part (b) of the motion is that the Competition Bureau currently has all the powers it needs to investigate collusion. Those Canadians watching the debate who feel there is collusion should get five of their friends to write specifically about whether it is two stations or three stations they suspect and submit that to the competition commissioner. If people have a suspicion, they should gain a little bit of evidence and submit that to the Competition Bureau to deal with it.

The Competition Bureau did say to the committee that it is hampered by resources. It obviously has a finite level of resources and could use more resources to fulfill its mandate. Our party would be willing to look at that. However, we do not feel that the proper thing to do here, based on the fact that it has investigated this 19 times and has found no evidence of collusion on a grand scale, is to give the Competition Bureau more authority in this area. We feel it has enough power as it is.

Nevertheless, we have called for the industry itself to do more in explaining the actual price, to do more in explaining about the components of what goes into the price in terms of the crude price, the wholesale price, the retail price and the taxes. The industry has made some efforts in that area, but it could certainly do more.

As I mentioned, if the commissioner feels there are too many cases being presented and the bureau needs more resources, we would look at that.

I want to say indirectly, just as support for the member, that there was a report done in 2003 and the government talked about setting up some form of information commissioner. We supported that even though frankly we did not see a great need for it. That is why I asked the member if he questioned the data that was available from MJ Ervin & Associates. This information is available and every Canadian can monitor the price of gasoline across Canada. I encourage them to do that to obtain more information about how prices fluctuate across Canada.

Nevertheless, the industry itself would even support having a petroleum information commissioner who would provide information to Canadians on a regular basis. We see it as a double bureaucracy and is not necessary, but if it would give more credence to the argument that the gasoline industry is not colluding, then maybe we should look at that.

The main point we would make is that those who would want to launch an accusation of collusion ought to do so by bringing forward specific allegations against that industry. We should be very hesitant about launching accusations against industries within this country unless there is actual data. If there is such data, it should be submitted to the Competition Bureau to investigate it.

In our view, and going back to the main point in the committee report, the fastest growing component of gasoline prices is taxes. Our party called for a reduction in taxes and certainly the GST in a 2003 report. That simply has not been implemented by the government. We would encourage it to do so immediately.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate instigated by the Bloc Québécois, which has, for a long time, had a keen interest in what is certainly one of the most important issues for consumers, namely, the price of gas. This is an important issue, not just for those who work, but also for the businesses that must use oil.

The members of the Bloc Québécois have repeatedly tried to make the government understand that not only are there risks of collusion within the industry, but also that there is a real disadvantage for the consumer. Who has not had the experience of going to the gas station at the beginning of the week, and, lo and behold, the price of gas per litre has gone up by 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 cents?

I found it rather rich to hear our colleagues in the Conservative Party of Canada trying to be reassuring with respect to the behaviour of the industry, one of the most profitable industries, as we will show later.

Thus, my colleague, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, is bringing forward a motion that has two aims. Allow me to read the motion to make things clear for everybody.

That, in the opinion of theHouse, the government should take action with regard togasoline prices by: (a) setting up a petroleum monitoringagency responsible for preparing an annual report on all aspectsof the industry—

We are well aware that, in Canada, for example, the cost of drugs is controlled. So, when there is a situation of relative consumer dependency on one type of industrial sector, it is quite normal to consider that the state has a responsibility to monitor or even control the cost, the inflation price index, the price increase of a food product deemed essential to daily life.

The motion proposes to set up a petroleum monitoring agency, which would be separate from the Competition Tribunal and the Competition Bureau. We are not saying that this bureau is not doing a good job or that it is not useful. We are saying that it does not have the authority to force people to testify and to conduct independent investigations. So, it cannot monitor or divulge information, as the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou was saying . In this sense, the bureau cannot play the role of watchdog that we should be able to expect.

Let us examine the pharmaceutical industry, about which I have learned a thing or two in my role as health critic. The government has introduced the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which can oblige companies to testify. We are talking about big companies that perform research, the major innovative companies. The review board can issue orders that have the same weight as those issued by the Federal Court. It can even force the pharmaceutical industry to give back some of its profits when the revenues are deemed unjustified because of excessive prices.

I believe this was the example that the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou had in mind when he presented this motion in the House.

If we went to Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Moncton or any other major Canadian city, would hon. members agree that our fellow Canadians, irrespective of any kind of partisanship, are concerned by this collusion between the industries? When one increases its prices, everyone increases theirs at the same time. We are told that the review board could not conclude that there was indeed collusion. This is like some kind of vicious circle. It is circular reasoning.

Indeed, why was the Competition Tribunal or the Competition Commission not able to come to this conclusion? Because the Competition Bureau, whose mandate it is to set up the tribunal, does not have the resources needed to do so. The tribunal cannot force witnesses to testify; it does not have access to records; it cannot divulge data, which is why it was unable to come to this conclusion.

Let us stick, however, to common sense as we think of our constituents, with the week-end fast approaching. I remember the collusion that we witnessed, in Montreal for instance, before the construction holidays, in July. We saw the big oil companies raise their prices. This government has no backbone: while the law of silence reigns, it ignores the interests of the consumers and says, “No, there is no need for it, there is no need for concern.“ It is not really concerned about what happens to consumers.

Consumers are not the only ones who should be concerned. The status quo is not in the interest of big business either. I heard my colleague, who defeated our colleague, Mr. Bertrand, at his nomination meeting. He does not seem to be concerned about the situation. I invite him to be more vigilant because there is collusion. As consumers, we cannot allow the situation to continue.

Of course, governments collect taxes on gas. I have some numbers here. The federal government collects 10¢ per litre. The Quebec government can collect up to 15¢. There are regional differences. There are regions where the tax can reach 15¢. In some remote areas, such as the North Coast, the Lac Saint-Jean area, the Abitibi area, it can be 10¢. In certain border areas, the tax can be as high as 14¢. However, the root of the problem remains.

If we look at the profits recorded, we realize that Petro-Canada recorded an unbelievable increase in profits, so huge and exaggerated are they. They leapt upward by 564% in 2003, not 50 years ago, but two years ago. I repeat that Petro-Canada's profits increased by 564%, from $88 million to $584 million in the first quarter of 2003. We do not object to companies making profits, we are in a capitalistic regime. If companies make profits, it is because they take the risk of investing.

However, when a company declares a return on investment that translates into $584 million profits, we have good reason to ask questions. A few moments ago, we were told—and I am sure my colleague listened carefully—that 5¢ was a reasonable margin for refining. However, in some situations that were brought to our attention, profit margin at refining reached 21¢. Are we not right to think that that is not in the best interest of the consumer?

I am somewhat angry, in spite of my deeply calm and placid temper, when I see the Liberals and the Conservatives, the two great traditional parties, unite in a common front that goes against the interest of the consumer. I think that the Competition Bureau must be given somewhat more extensive powers. The commissioner must be able to do real investigative work.

We must not end up again in a situation where, on the eve of a long holiday, like the construction sector holiday in Quebec, the big oil corporations hike their retail prices—the gas liter had undergone a huge increase—and we are told in this House that there is no need for concern. Only obvious contempt for the consumer can lead the two major parties to express such irresponsible and uncaring views, that in no way serve the interest of the consumer.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Burlington
Ontario

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity brought forward by Motion No. 165 to address the issues of competition, particularly in the gasoline sector.

The second part of the member's motion proposes that the government bring forward amendments to strengthen the Competition Act, including measures to ensure that the competition commissioner has the power to launch investigations, summon witnesses and ensure confidentiality.

The challenge of the motion, of course, is that it is not at all clear what kind of amendments it is proposing. While it proposes amendments to strengthen the Competition Act and provide some non-inclusive list of examples, these examples refer to powers that already rest with the Commissioner of Competition.

Currently, as the member for Edmonton—Leduc has identified, if the commissioner has reason to believe that an offence has been committed under the Competition Act or that grounds exist for the making of a remedial order by the Competition Tribunal, she can, subject to some qualifications, “launch investigations, summon witnesses and ensure confidentiality”.

In the past, some members of the Bloc Québécois publicly indicated that they wanted to amend the Competition Act so that the Commissioner of Competition would have the power to conduct inquiries into markets and examine competition issues even if there was no reason to believe that an offence had been committed. I have some problems with that.

A study of the gasoline industry, which has been cited by some Bloc Québécois members, is an example of when such a power would be useful. Since the introduction of the motion refers to gasoline specifically, the member must realize that the issues they address would apply in a more general nature to the entire market and the potential for the commissioner to launch investigations in all areas of competition.

The first issue raised that must be addressed is that while some competition authorities in other countries, such as the U.S. and the U.K., found that these kinds of general or market inquiries were useful tools that we should look at that, I really think there needs to be appropriate checks and balances.

In the 1980s, for instance, a gasoline study was conducted by the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission in Canada. It gathered over 200 witnesses and the study took five years to complete. This has enormous cost implications for all of us.

I would also suggest that the example of the gasoline inquiry highlights the need for safeguards that could help ensure that the inquiries are initiated only when there is information suggesting legitimate competition issues that could be addressed by the inquiry.

While the member opposite has suggested that there is some kind of collusion going on between the Conservatives and the Liberals on this issue, let me say that the member for Edmonton—Leduc and I sat on a committee. The committee wrote a report to which I would refer the member opposite. All of us sat around the table and none of us got together out of some kind of crazed idea of colluding, but in fact because we had studied this issue and examined the facts.

There have been many studies on gasoline prices and all have concluded so far that there is no evidence of price fixing or other types of anti-competitive conduct that would substantially lessen competition.

The report that I referred to entitled “Gasoline Prices in Canada” by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in November 2003 represents one of the most recent studies. In our report, the committee indicated that it was satisfied that the Competition Bureau was adequately overseeing competitive aspects of the petroleum industry. Based on information, as the member opposite has suggested, from the International Energy Agency, Canada's retail gasoline prices have consistently compared favourably to other major industrialized nations.

This brings me to a second issue. I am always concerned about any cost inputs to any aspect of Canadian industry. I am concerned when gas prices go up and small business operators who have to deal with high input costs have to face these issues, but let us also look at the other side of this. Sometimes higher gas prices help people look at other options, like public transit.

One of the more recent blips in gasoline prices, I read with astonishment, is that young are making absurd claims in the newspaper like, “At this rate it hardly justifies having a car”.

However, maybe people do need to think about the choices they make. If somehow the change in gasoline prices makes people think twice and makes them wonder about buying an energy efficient car or taking public transit, I would be quite excited about that. I just bought a hybrid and I am happy with my car choice because it is showing by example. I bought the Honda Accord hybrid and of course Honda has a vibrant plant in Ontario.

I would also draw the attention of the members opposite to Bill C-19, an act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The bill, already before the House, followed extensive national consultations conducted by the Public Policy Forum, an independent non-profit organization that the government hired to look into this issue. The consultations proved very useful and helped provide a well thought out and balanced package of legislative amendments that addresses the interests of consumers as well as those of small and large businesses.

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of cooperation could I just seek clarification? If I sit down, does the member opposite get to make a concluding statement?

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Just for clarification, if the member sits down, another member will rise and start to speak, but the member proposing the bill does not propose it until the end of the second hour of debate.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Then, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage members to look at the changes to the Competition Act that are currently proposed by the Minister of Industry. These are important changes which will make sure that we have the best possible Competition Act, because it is in industry's favour to make sure that it is being held to the highest standards. More important, it is in Canadians' and consumers' favour to make sure we have a Competition Act that serves the interest of consumers in Canada and makes sure they have the safeguards to protect their rights.

This proposal should be considered by the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology during the hearings on Bill C-19, but until the research is done and the possible implications are clearly understood I do not think the motion before the House today should be supported.

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the motion introduced by my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and supported by the member for Hochelaga.

Since I also live in a resource region, I am in a position to see that we are somewhat affected by gasoline prices. We have no control over and cannot monitor gas prices. We must rectify this situation, because it has a major effect on the economy.

In a region like mine, which is hard hit by business closings, it is necessary to foster the emergence of new businesses. However, when we experience petroleum price increases, of course, this is another constraint for the economy as well as for the consumer. The petroleum price increase affects the taxi industry, the trucking industry, indeed, the whole transportation industry, whether in the public or the private sector. It affects municipalities and citizens as a whole.

As a member from a resource region, I must often drive long distances, not only in my riding, but also across Quebec, and I am appalled at price variations from one city to another. It is not taxes that cause price variations, since they are stable. There is the GST, the QST, the Quebec gas taxes, which vary, as well as a flat federal tax.

It goes without saying that oil companies are there to make profits. We have seen that they make huge profits. I will only mention Petro-Canada, which, during the first semester of 2003, had a 564% increase. Of course, other companies also make huge profits.

I believe my time has expired, Mr. Speaker, so I must say that there has to be price control—

Gasoline Prices
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately, the time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)