Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to speak to this very important initiative. With recent events around the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa, it is clear that the fight against global corruption is as timely today as it has ever been. Indeed, developments in our own courts highlight that combatting foreign bribery is significant to Canada. Bill S-14 is an expression of our government's commitment to doing exactly that. I will be using my time today to address the inclusion of the facilitation payments amendment.
Before I continue with my speech, I need to let you know, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
I would also like to update the House on the three convictions that have already been made under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, which Bill S-14 seeks to amend. While these recent court decisions are evidence of the effectiveness of Canada's anti-corruption laws and a reminder that corruption is not a Canadian way of doing business, we have been asked to do more, and so we will.
First, I wish to note and thank members of the other place for their support of the bill. Indeed, Liberal Senator David Smith agreed that adopting the measures of Bill S-14 would send an important signal to the international community that we took our commitments seriously and would act on them.
I also wish to thank my colleagues for providing the detailed background on the CFPOA and the six amendments that would answer the call for heightened diligence. Taken together, they certainly demonstrate a broad approach to fighting unethical business practices.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has clearly stated, our government is committed to positioning Canada as a reliable supplier of the resources emerging markets need to grow. Canadian companies can compete with the best in this environment and will win fairly. These amendments would ensure that Canadian companies would continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.
I wish to remind my colleagues that a facilitation payment is a “grease payment”, paid to foreign public officials to do something that he or she is already obliged to do, such as deliver mail on time. It is specifically not supposed to allow the person paying to gain a business advantage in any way. Otherwise, the payment would be a bribe and it would be a crime to make the payment.
We have heard some concern that the elimination of the facilitation payments defence may create a competitive disadvantage for Canadian companies with international markets, given that legislation in other countries still contain the facilitation payments defence.
Let me be clear. Those who make facilitation payments are not allowed to receive any kind of business or competitive advantage from their payment. Payments that are made to receive a business advantage are bribes and these payments are already illegal under the CFPOA. They are also illegal under the legislation of every OECD country.
It is also important for hon. members to note that there is good reason to delay the coming into force of the elimination of facilitation payments exception. Canadian companies will need time to adjust their own practices and internal policies, if they have not already done so, to prohibit the use of facilitation payments in their habitual operations. This time to adjust is all the more important given that some other countries continue to allow facilitation payments.
We on this side of the House have been clear that our priority is to create the conditions for Canadian businesses to succeed in the pursuit of our aggressive pro-trade agenda. I reiterate our position that corruption does the opposite. It hinders economic growth and long-term prosperity. It fosters an environment conducive to allowing other crimes to flourish. We expect our companies to abide by the laws of the countries they operate in, as well as to act in accordance with Canadian laws and ethical standards and practices.
For Canadian companies operating in developing countries, this legislation is even more important. As the minister noted before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, on February 28:
It is not just about values and ethics. It is also about ensuring that we see meaningful development in developing economies. It is important that we see meaningful development and that this development benefits the people. Corruption, particularly in developing economies, is a real problem. It is basically tapping money that could otherwise go toward the public good, to the benefit of the people in these countries, so it is not just an ethical question but also very much a development question.
Foreign bribery weakens economic prosperity by corroding the rule of law that is the basis for market freedom.
Bill S-14 provides us with a robust tool for creating the conditions for Canadian businesses to play by the rules and for Canadian companies to be successful across the globe. It involves encouraging responsible and ethical conduct. It involves positioning our country as a reliable supplier of the resources that emerging markets need to grow.
As I mentioned at the outset, I would now like to use some of my time to provide the House with some details on the three convictions that have already been made under the CFPOA. These convictions highlight just how seriously our government takes its commitment to prosecute those involved in foreign corruption and bribery. I would like my colleagues to keep in mind that there are also two cases pending, as well as 35 ongoing investigations.
As others have noted, penalties are increasing substantially with each new conviction, and the adoption of these amendments means that those engaging in corruption will be penalized even more severely.
Griffiths Energy International Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, pleaded guilty on January 22, 2013, to a charge under the CFPOA related to securing an oil and gas contract in Chad. Griffiths will pay a total penalty of $10.35 million.
Similarly, Niko Resources, another Calgary-based company, entered a guilty plea on June 24, 2011, for one count of bribery. The company admitted that through its subsidiary Niko Bangladesh, in May 2005, it provided the use of a vehicle valued at $190,984 to AKM Mosharraf Hossain, then the Bangladeshi state minister for energy and mineral resources, in order to influence the minister in his dealings with Niko Bangladesh. In June 2005, Niko Resources Ltd. paid travel and accommodation expenses for the same minister to travel from Bangladesh to Calgary to attend the GO Expo oil and gas exposition, and paid approximately $5,000 for the minister to travel to New York and Chicago to visit his family
As a result of the conviction, Niko Resources Ltd. was fined $9.5 million and placed under a probation order, which puts the company under the court's supervision for three years to ensure that audits are completed on the company's compliance with the CFPOA. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service has placed a hold on providing services to Niko during the period of court supervision.
Finally, Hydro Kleen Group, based in Red Deer, Alberta, entered a guilty plea on January 10, 2005, to one count of bribery and was ordered to pay a fine of $25,000. Along with its president and an employee, the company had been charged with two counts of bribing a U.S. immigration officer who worked at the Calgary International Airport. The charges against the director and the officer of the company were stayed. The U.S. immigration officer pleaded guilty on July 2002 to accepting secret commissions. He received a six-month sentence and was subsequently deported to the United States.
In closing, I wish to address the importance of the timely passage of Bill S-14. This is signature legislation that has given Canada good marks with domestic stakeholders and at the OECD working group on bribery in 2013. We have invested a lot of credibility in Bill S-14.
We are due to report back to the OECD in the near future regarding the adoption of the bill, and further delays would have implications that go beyond the scrutiny of the OECD. Regardless of the merits of recent domestic developments, Canada would be criticized on the domestic and international stages for not meeting our commitments. I think this alone speaks to the importance of passing the bill at second reading today, and I urge my hon. colleagues to lend it their full support.