Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into the debate today on Bill C-23, the Competition Act.
Contrary to what the last speaker said, I think the world needs more competition. I would even suggest more competition even at grade school level where kids will learn the facts of life, one of those facts of life being that we win some and lose some but, most important, that we be competitive.
We have a problem in the schools right now. The kids are smarter and they can somehow get around things. When we herd kids out to the playground for the year 2000 or 2001 sports day and tell them about the high jump, we just lower the bar and everybody kind of throws themselves into the pit so that everybody is a winner and everybody feels good. In the hundred yard dash everybody gets into a blob in the middle of the field and they all run in whatever direction they can. They come back later and they all get a blue ribbon. Do they not all feel good?
The problem is that is not competitive. It needs to be competitive because kids need to find what it is that they do well and what they excel at. A competitive world does that for them when they are adults anyway. What we should be doing to help our kids is start them off by telling them we will help them find what they are best at and good at and encourage them to do that.
The same thing could be said in the Competition Act about creating competition or creating the atmosphere or an environment where good competition can take place. The bill is not meant to regulate competition so much as it is to regulate or to restrict anti-competitive behaviour. Anti-competitive behaviour is like the high jump contest. When somebody trips another kid on the way to the high jump it is an anti-competitive behaviour and not a fair behaviour. The bill tries to address that by saying that some things are just not right in a competitive marketplace.
The bill does its best to help the players in the marketplace understand what fair and unfair practices are in a competitive and free market society.
I believe the bill would never have come to the House as it has, had it not been for the work of the member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge. His private member's bills were really the impetus behind this. I do not think there was any idea that the industry minister was going to bring this forward. I do not think it was on his radar screen. He is so busy stockpiling a leadership war chest that I did not think this would even come up on the radar screen. The member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge did a good job. He brought forward a series of bills that pointed out some weaknesses in the current Competition Act that needed to be addressed and that we needed to get with the 21st century. I commend him for his efforts in bringing that forward and highlighting some of the problems in the existing act.
One of the problems I have with the bill is that it is supposed to be framework legislation. Framework legislation means that it gives the parameters for a good competitive law in the country. That is as it should be. It should give broad based principles. We have a commissioner who administers those. He or she should have the authority and the power that this act confers on her or him and the tribunals to make sure things are done properly.
What the bill has also been forced to deal with is to get specific in a couple of areas where there is a strong feeling that we have an anti-competitive marketplace, specifically in the airline industry. While I do not disagree with the amendments, it is kind of like we have to go the way of these amendments in order to deal with the airline industry in the bill. I believe we are doing that in the bill because the government has failed the country in its transportation policy. To create a competitive marketplace in transportation requires the proper transportation framework rather than a Competition Act framework.
What we are doing is trying to fix a mess left by the transport minister, who has presided over the demise of six airlines in the country over the last couple of years because there is no framework legislation on the transportation side that allows for the flourishing of the competitive world of airlines.
That is a shame, because now we are hearing things like we will penalize Air Canada under the act to the tune of up to $15 million if it does not do things right, whatever right is, in the eyes of the anti-competitive behaviour. Now we are hearing talk about perhaps nationalizing Air Canada, of all things. We are hearing people talk about how it is such a dominant carrier that maybe it is only right that we nationalize it, of all things. Third, we are hearing all kinds of chatter about re-regulating the airline industry, chatter saying that we can put on an A-320 from here to there but then we have to have an F28 from here to there and we can charge so much. What a quagmire they are getting themselves into by starting to talk like that.
We should be talking about a framework for the transportation industry that allows broad competition, including, I would say, an active negotiation with the Americans on reciprocal cabotage, something that would allow the American carriers on our routes here if in turn, as it has already proposed, Air Canada would be allowed to do the routes south of the border.
Contrary to what the transport minister said the other day, it was in the newspapers again last weekend that the Americans are stating they are interested in that and they think they should sit down and negotiate that. I urge the transportation minister and the industry minister to get with that before we lose another airline in our country. Let us get at fixing the industry problem, not the competitive problem, because we cannot fix one without fixing the other. That is for the transport minister and that deals with a specific part of the bill.
Let me talk about a couple of other things about the bill that are important for Canadians to know. First, the bill does give an increased specificity on international co-operation on anti-competitive behaviour. This is increasingly important because we are moving into a globalized economy, we increasingly are working in a globalized trade economy and we are working, hopefully, by the rule of law in more and more countries that want to come in and all play by the same set of rules.
Undoubtedly one of those rules in the future would be a common set of rules on how we define anti-competitive behaviour. This is a real problem because we can see what happens, for example, with a merger, one of the things the Competition Act deals with. A merger can be approved in Canada or in the United States, but because we are dealing with international corporations, the same corporations that obtained approval in one continent could go to Europe and find out there is a different set of rules, such that the transaction, the merger, that was approved in one hemisphere would not be approved in another.
We simply have to get a common set of rules around the world on what is acceptable for competitive behaviour and what is unacceptable in anti-competitive behaviour. We will be moving that way. It is inevitable, I believe. It is part of this inevitable globalization of the business community, but increasingly part of what we need to do in Canada and in other industrialized nations is to set the pace and show people that we want to be competitive, that we want to play by a common set of rules.
The bill does give a sample of the type of international agreement we might enter into with another country to reciprocate as far as the sharing of information is concerned, the sharing of trade secrets, so to speak, how much is to be divulged and who would get access to it. All those things are very important, because although we are concerned about competition in Canada, international competition is a driving force in many of our businesses today and will be more so in the future. Getting this right, getting the framework right and getting other industrialized nations to buy into the same kind of framework will be key.
I would suggest that we start with our American partners because we and the Americans have a common understanding of the rule of law and the need for these trade agreements, investment agreements and competitive competition agreements. I suggest that we start with the Americans, bring that together and then move quickly to the G-7 and the G-20 and get at least the industrialized world to agree to a common set of competition laws. We need to do that and I would argue that we need to do it sooner rather than later.
The other parts of the bill are relatively easy to support. There is an increased necessity for giving notice of winning a prize in what I call these fake-a-loo contests where something is sent to people. I got some again on the weekend.