Mr. Speaker, I can barely contain my emotions as I rise in the House because I know that the entire nation is hanging on my every word as I weigh in on this important debate.
I would like to begin by quoting a 13th century French poet named Rutebeuf. Some 700 years ago, Rutebeuf wrote:
What has become of the friends
Whom I held so dear
And loved so much
One could paraphrase his words today:
What has become of the principles
That I praised so highly
And boasted of so much
I am, of course, talking about the Conservative Party and the bitter disappointment it has inspired among its supporters.
For years, while it was in opposition, this government said that it would clean up Ottawa, bring change and act according to the following principles: integrity, transparency, freedom of expression and enabling parliamentarians to do their work.
What has happened since the beginning of the Conservatives' majority mandate? Parliamentarians are being prevented from talking, debating issues and making suggestions. The government is imposing time allocation. It is forcing committees to work behind closed doors. It is doing exactly the opposite of what it promised Canadians.
It is good that we are debating Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the Combating Counterfeit Products Act today. What we are seeing is counterfeit debates. Democratic freedom is being undermined and parliamentarians are being prevented from doing their work.
With this bill, that makes 47 gag orders. Forty-seven motions to limit members' speaking time on government bills. This evening, the leader of the Government in the House of Commons came to announce another gag order. A 48th gag order is coming.
I think that the Conservatives are aiming for 50 before the session ends. They must want to end on a round number or something like that. It must be as simple as that.
However, these are the same Conservatives who would tear their hair out and shout whenever the Liberals dared impose time allocation after weeks of debate. Once in power, these same Conservatives today put their principles behind them and can impose time allocation after an hour or two of debate by saying that it is a matter of urgency and that the bill absolutely must be passed because it is of vital importance.
In the meantime, they tell reporters that the NDP should give consent to adjourn Parliament and go home. It is one or the other: they cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot say that a bill urgently needs to be passed and then complain that the NDP is keeping them in Parliament and forcing them to work and answer their questions.
Let me come back to the bill. I come from a family that is well-rooted in the cultural community. My father is a writer and my brother is a musician, so copyright is very important to me. I know that this bill is about more than just copyright as it relates to artists, but it can have consequences for that.
It is important because copyright and intellectual property are related. These are fundamental to respecting creators and people who develop products, whether we are talking about cultural products, merchandise or high-technology products. This evening we talked about pharmaceutical companies and many other things.
This debate is important to the NDP. We believe that this bill is headed in the right direction. However, members will understand that I will probably raise a concern in a few minutes. The Conservatives often do not walk the talk, as people used to say when I was young. However, this bill does have good intentions.
We have to recognize the importance of innovation in economic development and the fact that the creators of these innovations are entitled to the resulting profits. We must not allow third parties to copy what they have developed, built or imagined and abscond with the fruits of their labour.
That is outright theft of the revenues generated after a product, good, idea or concept is created and developed. It is rather difficult to know what happens surreptitiously, under the table. There are estimates but, in this case, we only have the value of seizures of counterfeit goods by the RCMP. It says that seizures increased from $7.6 million in 2005 to $38 million in 2012. That is significant.
As my colleague pointed out earlier, it is probably just the tip of the iceberg. That is just what was seized. There must be a lot of counterfeit goods in the world.
I think that if we have an opportunity to travel around the world, we will see all these young people in tourist areas who sell brand name watches that are fakes. This is just one of many examples of what we can see when we travel around the world.
In 2009, the OECD estimated that the international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods could be valued at up to $250 billion. I think it is worth studying this issue and doing what is necessary to solve the problem.
Bill C-56 is a step in the right direction but the official opposition would be much happier if we had the resources to serve our ambitions. We are not just talking about the loss of money but a risk to Canadians and Quebeckers. We learned from the testimony of several witnesses that counterfeit goods often pose a risk to the health and safety of consumers.
We heard this evening about counterfeit electrical components that can be dangerous and can cause short-circuits, as well as about poor quality counterfeit winter jackets or vests with unsanitary stuffing that do not do the job. Counterfeiting is of even greater concern to us when it has an impact on the health and safety of our constituents.
However, I must admit that I am sad and disappointed. This bill is so important for Canadian companies and consumers that we would like the Conservative government to allocate the resources needed to enforce it. For the time being, we still do not know where the funding for the enforcement regime set out in Bill C-56 will come from. That is not just a minor detail.
This bill imposes significant new duties on Canada Border Services Agency officers at a time when budgets are being cut. That is where the Conservatives' true colours shine through because we know full well that they are imposing an additional burden, additional standards and additional rules on the CBSA. They are proposing measures and then turning around and cutting $143 million from the CBSA'S budget. The Conservatives are giving the CBSA more work to do and telling them that the work needs to be done, but then they are not giving them the resources they need to do that work.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency's report on plans and priorities, 549 full-time jobs will be cut by 2015. Of course, some of those jobs will be border officer positions. The CBSA will therefore have fewer financial resources, more work to do and fewer employees to do it.
What we heard the immigration minister say this evening was wonderful. Every time we try to show the practical implications of the Conservative government's blind cuts to public services, the Conservatives tell us that our figures are inaccurate and that they are going to give us the facts.
What is funny is that last year they announced $4 billion in cuts to services for Canadians. They said they would cut the cost of bureaucracy, red tape and photocopies, but that this would not affect services for Canadians. They said they would cut 19,600 positions, but that this would not make a difference or have any impact.
In its report on plans and priorities, the Canada Border Services Agency itself says that 549 jobs are going to disappear, yet the Conservatives say no, that is not true. That happens every time we provide an example. According to the Minister of Immigration, the real numbers show that the budget is going to increase by 27%. He needs to talk to the President of the Treasury Board.
When the President of the Treasury Board announced his budget reduction plan, he said that there would be cuts of 5% to 10% across the board, that no one would escape. However, every time we mention job cuts and the impact on services, the government says that it is not a question of cuts, that there will actually be an increase in funding. There will be more border services officers and the budget will increase.
If every budget cut has turned into an increase, I want to talk to the Minister of Finance. How will he get rid of the deficit in time for the next election in 2015?
The government cannot talk out of both sides of its mouth. It cannot say that it will increase resources for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, for example, and then put it on the chopping block, as it has done with every other government agency and department.
Last year, I found the first few pages of the budget to be fascinating. They contained an additional $51 million allocation to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In subsequent pages, where the bad news is usually found, the government's three-year budget reduction plan reduced the agency's budget by $56 million. I went to see a finance department official to ask whether the $51-million allocation or the $56-million reduction was right. He told me that both were right and that they would result in an overall reduction of $5 million.
The Conservatives obviously do not like to adjust the good news figures they want us to believe to reflect the reality of the cuts being made. We are seeing that, in several departments and in organizations such as Service Canada and other agencies, the Conservatives' budget cuts hurt.
This bill has good intentions, but in practical terms, on the ground, it will reduce services for Canadians. As the Conservative member who spoke before me said, if the government does not give teeth and real resources to this bill, border officers will have to be bold and do the work that the government does not dare do, without the resources that the government does not dare give them. This will be an additional burden on border officers.
That is a concern of ours. Once Bill C-56 is passed, customs officers would be asked to make highly complicated assessments on whether goods entering or exiting the country infringe on any copyright or trademark rights. Such an assessment for pirated copies would include, for example, consideration of whether any of the exceptions under the Copyright Act would apply to a product such as the CD or DVD that the officer is looking at. That is something with which the courts often struggle. We would be asking border officers to do sensitive, detailed work without providing them with enough employees, training or resources to do the job. That is worrisome.
Would traffic at our border crossings into the United States be slowed down? Would that mean that people will have to wait even longer because the border officer has to check the contents of a truck filled with boxes and ensure that those are not contraband or counterfeit goods? In addition, although there used to be two of them to do the job, now there is just one officer. That will increase the burden on border officers, make their task harder and increase their workload, and that is what concerns us.
I would like to talk about the lack of respect the Conservative government has for border officers. The Canada Border Services Agency is in the process of negotiations, and yet, for the first time in the history of Canada's public services, the Conservative government will try to impose a collective agreement based on recommendations published by the public interest commission on June 5.
Once again, the government is not showing respect for free collective bargaining. It wants to increase their workload. It is not even honouring their ability to freely negotiate their contract and collective agreement. Furthermore, the government wants to impose a new contract that would contain salary increases that are lower than what other public servants have obtained or are obtaining.
I want to put this in perspective, because it is absolutely one of the consequences of the Conservatives' attitude towards workers. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the government's lack of respect for the border officers in how it is handling the renewal of their collective agreement.
I also want to remind members of the Conservatives' attitude towards intellectual property. Earlier this evening, my colleague from Timmins—James Bay said that the assistant to the minister who is now the President of the Treasury Board went to Ottawa to ask that Canada be put on the 301 watch list because of its poor record on protecting intellectual property laws. This list includes countries that are as effective as Yemen and North Korea at protecting intellectual property.
By the Conservatives' twisted logic, being on the black list, being one of the bad guys, being among the world's worst offenders when it comes to protecting intellectual property rights, would actually give us an incentive to enact appropriate legislation. As if we need the whole world to see us as incompetent, unable to protect our own creations, our own inventions, our own innovations. As if we need to be compared to Yemen or North Korea before we can take action.
The funny thing is that, after the President of the Treasury Board's top official intervened, it worked. A few weeks later, Canada was on the list. Everyone here should be ashamed of the fact that our country is on the same list as countries that care so little about such critically important issues as copyright and protecting intellectual property.
I know it is late, but I would like to thank all of my colleagues for their speeches this evening. They were all excellent, and so were the questions. I would also like to thank all of the people who work behind the scenes, people who work for the caucus and the leader's office and who are here to support us and help us do our work even if that means working until 1 a.m.