Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to begin debate at second reading of Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act.
On February 5, our government announced further steps to combat corruption and bribery by tabling amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, or the CFPOA.
Canada has long played a prominent role on the international stage in combatting corruption. Bill S-14 signals our commitment to further deter and prevent Canadian companies from bribing foreign public officials.
The amendments proposed in Bill S-14 are intended to ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade. They also signal our commitment and our expectation that other countries do the same.
The CFPOA has been in force since 1999 and was first introduced to implement our international obligations under the OECD anti-bribery convention and two more anti-corruption conventions through the OAS and the UN.
In essence, the CFPOA makes it a crime in Canada to bribe a foreign public official to gain a business advantage abroad. It also makes it possible to prosecute a conspiracy to commit or an attempt to commit such a bribery. It covers aiding and abetting the commission of bribery, an intention in common to commit bribery and counselling others to commit bribery.
Laundering property and the proceeds of crime, including the proceeds of bribery offences, as well as the possession of property and proceeds, are already offences under the Criminal Code. The new offences being created in the CFPOA would also be captured by these Criminal Code provisions once they were in force.
The six proposed amendments included in Bill S-14 are intended to answer the call for enhanced vigilance. They demonstrate a comprehensive approach to fighting bribery and signal our government's strong and unwavering commitment to that fight. I will explain each of these in turn.
The first amendment, the introduction of nationality jurisdiction, would allow us to prosecute Canadians or Canadian companies on the basis of their nationality, regardless of where the bribery takes place in the world. Currently, we can only do so after providing a substantial link between the offence and Canadian territory.
The second amendment would provide exclusive authority to the RCMP to lay charges under the act. This would ensure that a uniform approach is taken across Canada and would raise awareness of Canadian businesses regarding the RCMP's primary role in the CFPOA investigations.
The third amendment, the elimination of the words “for profit” from the definition of “business”, would ensure that bribery applies to all, not just those paid by businesses that make a profit.
The fourth amendment would increase the maximum jail term to 14 years. It is currently punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment and unlimited fines. The possibility of unlimited fines will remain as it is.
The fifth amendment creates a new books and records offence specific to foreign bribery. International anti-corruption treaties to which Canada is a party require that measures be put in place to ensure that individuals and companies do not “cook the books”. The penalties for the new offence would mirror those of the foreign bribery offence; that is, a maximum of 14 years of imprisonment and unlimited fines.
The sixth and final amendment would eliminate the facilitation payments exception. Currently, the act states that payments made “to expedite or secure the performance by a foreign public official of any act of a routine nature” do not constitute bribes for the purposes of the CFPOA. The CFPOA also provides for an inclusive list of acts of a routine nature.
For the benefit of all members, a facilitation payment is a payment made to a foreign public official to do something that he or she is already obligated to do, such as deliver the mail on time. Conversely, payments that are made to receive a business advantage constitute bribes, which are already illegal under the CFPOA. As a result of the elimination of the facilitation payments defence, this would not create a competitive disadvantage for Canadian companies in international markets. Bribes are illegal under the legislation of every OECD country.
In order to ensure a level playing field for all businesses, Bill S-14 provides for the delay of the coming into force of the elimination of the facilitation payments exception to allow Canadian companies to adjust their own practices and internal policies, if they have not already done so, to ban the use of facilitation payments in their day-to-day operations. This time to adjust is all the more important given that some other countries continue to allow facilitation payments.
With Bill S-14, our government has taken a proactive role in raising awareness of its zero-tolerance position, and we are taking a proactive role in raising awareness of the risks of engaging in corruption abroad.
It is incumbent upon us to appreciate this bill for what it is: that being a clear message that Canada means business and that our government's top priority is securing jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Corruption does the opposite. Corruption erodes economic growth and long-term prosperity. Corruption fosters an environment conducive to allowing other crimes to flourish.
Foreign bribery undermines economic prosperity by corroding the rule of law that is the basis of market freedom. The global fight against foreign bribery is intended to create a level playing field for all international businesses. The bill provides us with a strong tool for creating the conditions for Canadian businesses to play by the rules and for Canadian businesses to succeed. Canadian companies can compete with the best and win fairly. Recent cases right here in Canada demonstrate the need for continued vigilance and the importance of effective enforcement.
Our government remains committed to combatting foreign corruption and has already developed and implemented an array of regulatory and legislative tools with which to do so. A number of federal departments, agencies and crown corporations play key roles in Canada's fight against foreign bribery. They work in close co-operation in Canada's two-pronged approach to foreign bribery: enforcement and prevention.
In January 2008, the RCMP established its international anti-corruption unit, which is dedicated to enforcing and raising awareness about the CFPOA. Comprising two teams, strategically located in Ottawa, Canada's capital, and Calgary, a major nucleus for industry, trade and finance and a hub for Canada's extractive industries, it has complemented enforcement efforts with substantial awareness-raising and training.
In addition, the legal framework that established the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in 2006 further enhances prosecutorial discretion in Canada. Since its establishment, the PPSC has also created a position in Ottawa for the purpose of advising the two RCMP teams on ongoing investigations.
To date, under the CFPOA, there have been three convictions, and two cases are pending. There are 35 ongoing investigations. The penalties are increasing substantially with each new conviction. This is good news for Canada. With the adoption of these new amendments, we can expect to hear even better news.
In early 2012, during the development phase to identify new ways for Canada to enhance its fight against foreign bribery, the government hosted the “Canadian Workshop: New Ideas for Canada's Fight against Foreign Bribery”. This was a means to consult with experts from Canadian businesses, law firms, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations on the issue of foreign bribery.
The workshop was held in Ottawa and provided an opportunity for discussions between government officials and key stakeholders on concrete steps that could be taken to improve the enforcement of the CFPOA, and to further encourage Canadian companies to prevent bribery before it happens and to detect it when it occurs.
Over 30 participants engaged in discussions on a number of foreign bribery related themes, including possibly amending the CFPOA, recognizing and resisting bribery solicitations, discouraging facilitation payments, voluntary disclosure, books and records offences, awareness raising, messaging to small and medium-sized enterprises, sectorial initiatives and education and training.
The Government of Canada continues to consider the views and ideas that were presented at the workshop, which was intended to be the first step toward increasing engagement and co-operation with key stakeholders on foreign bribery and corruption in the months and years to come. The results of that consultation are reflected in the bill.
These consultations complement the awareness-raising endeavours undertaken by the RCMP, which I mentioned earlier. Additional examples of the RCMP's participation in anti-corruption awareness programs and training include expanding its training of RCMP liaison officers before they depart for overseas assignments to include the issues of foreign bribery and the CFPOA.
The international anti-corruption unit has also established contacts for the Department of Justice's international systems group to ensure that priority is given to requests for mutual legal assistance in corruption matters. The RCMP has also made a number of presentations to external stakeholders, including presentations to local universities, non-governmental organizations, banks, trade commissioners, law firms, government partners, the Canadian Institute of Mining and numerous Canadian and international associations, experts and professionals.
As we can see from an enforcement perspective, we are on solid ground. As mentioned earlier, a number of federal departments, agencies and crown corporations play key roles in Canada's fight against foreign bribery. They work in close co-operation in Canada's two-pronged approach to foreign bribery: in enforcement and in prevention.
Another of these key departments is Public Works and Government Services Canada. Members will recall that effective July 11, 2012, PWGSC extended the list of offences that render companies and individuals ineligible to bid on contracts to include the bribing of a foreign public official under the CFPOA. This further demonstrates the government's zero tolerance position and is evidence of the variety of legislative, regulatory and policy instruments used in Canada's whole of government approach to combatting corruption.
From a prevention perspective, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade also engages in training and outreach. Information and training on the act and on Canada's international obligations to prevent and combat corruption are provided to heads of mission, trade commissioners and political officers.
In March 2010, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade adopted the policy and procedure for reporting allegations of bribery abroad by Canadians or Canadian companies. These provide guidance to Canadian missions on the steps that must be taken when allegations arise that a Canadian company or individual has bribed a Canadian public official, or other bribery related offences.
Canada is a trading nation. Our economy and future prosperity depend upon expanding our trade ties with the world. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs said on February 5, Canada is committed to the implementation of our international obligations on anti corruption.
These amendments will help ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.
It is now up to the House to demonstrate our commitment to combatting corruption. Canada is committed to strengthening its fight against corruption, and this bill is a reflection of that commitment. Bribery is not the Canadian way of doing business. We need to make this crystal clear today.