Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-47. Before I speak to the bill itself, I want to thank my colleague from Calgary Forest Lawn for his learned comments. As he mentioned, he is the dean of our caucus and was first elected to this place on October 2, 1997, when I was in grade 7. I believe he holds the record as the longest serving parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs. It is always a pleasure to speak in his shadow.
I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. I look forward to his comments as well on this important issue.
I find it interesting that we are debating Bill C-47 today because, after all, this legislation was first tabled in the House of Commons on April 13, 2017, more than five months ago. Granted there was a summer recess in-between.
Over the summer, like many colleagues I had the opportunity to travel around my riding, host round tables, speak to constituents, hold stakeholder meetings, go to people's homes and speak about the important issues that are affecting them. I did hear about the ATT on a handful of occasions. I heard from a couple of people who were in favour of it and a couple of dozen who were opposed. That is the joy of democracy; there are people on both sides of the issues.
I find it interesting that we are debating this today when the opposition has yet to be given a single supply day in this period. We have also been told that there will be no supply day next week as well. Here we are debating the government's agenda but have been given zero opportunities to raise a motion in the allotted days we are entitled to as the official opposition. Is the government simply trying to avoid accountability on key issues that it knows it is hiding from? An example is the changes to the tax rules.
As I travelled in my riding this summer, I talked to people about these tax changes. I talked to farmers who want to pass on their farm to their daughters or sons, but these tax changes would potentially prevent them from doing so. I talked to the small business owner who may want to hire one or two more people but may not do so because of uncertainly. Family doctors are concerned because the changes may potentially impact their patients. These are people I am hearing from in my riding but here we are debating Bill C-47.
We are debating this treaty and its implementation today, which is interesting because the mechanisms that we have in place today, the rules that have been in place in Canada for many decades, already achieve what the government purports to want to achieve through Bill C-47.
A perfect case in point is that since the 1940s, through the Export and Import Permits Act, the government has had the ability to exclude and prevent the sale and export of any number of items, including what it is trying to achieve through this legislation. One need only look at the export control list under the auspices of the Export and Import Permits Act to find that much of what the government is trying to achieve is already in place: group 1, dual use; group 2, munitions; group 3, nuclear proliferation; and group 4, nuclear-related dual use.
The government is once again using a symbolic gesture in an area where issues are already addressed through existing mechanisms that previous governments of all stripes have put in place over the years. For it to try to change to a system with no noticeable improvement is unfortunate and, frankly, not a good use of the House's time when there is so much more that we parliamentarians, that we Canadians, can be debating in this place on behalf of our constituents.
The collection of data, the collection of information, is also interesting when the fact of the matter is that under the regimes that are currently in place here in Canada through the Canada Border Services Agency and Statistics Canada, a lot of the information on items that are exported from Canada is already being collected and provided to the appropriate agencies within Canada, and yet the government here today is bringing in yet another bill to collect information that is already being collected.
What is interesting as well is that this is not the only tool at the disposal of the government. The government has many opportunities to restrict the sale of goods to foreign entities. One example is the area control list. Currently the only country that Canada has placed on that list is North Korea, but it is certainly open to the government to place any number of countries on that list if it has sufficient grounds to cut off all exports to that country. I do not think there is anyone in this chamber who would disagree with placing North Korea on that list. I think that would be right and correct, and all Canadians would agree with that.
If the government has concerns about another entity, as it has in the past, for example, with Myanmar and Belarus, which have both been on this list, the government could register those concerns through the area control list and add a certain country to the list to block exports altogether to that country. That is especially the case when we are looking at regimes that may use any number of products against their own citizens or against those in the region, something that we would strongly oppose.
I find it interesting to talk about the measures that are already in place and their strength, but do not always just take our word for it. I would like to quote a government official, from a June 2016 Globe and Mail article. In the article he is quote as saying that he believes we already have sufficient restrictions on arms exports:
“Canada already has some of the strongest export controls in the world which means that we already meet the vast majority of the obligations under the arms trade treaty,” said the senior official in a briefing.
In a real sense, this treaty was designed to bring other countries—many of whom have no export control regimes in place—up to the high standards that Canada and our like-minded allies already apply through our robust export control regimes," the official said.
That brings me to my next point, the other countries that are missing from the ATT, namely Russia, China, India, and the United States, which has signed it but not yet ratified it. Whether or not it will is not a decision for this House to make, but certainly one that is questionable given where it now is.
That is not say that we as Canadians should not act on the world stage. Certainly, we Canadians have always played a leadership role on the world stage. I think of our former government playing that leading role internationally on a number of fronts over the past 10 years.
However, to sign on to this treaty and to bring forward the legislation to ratify it at this point, without the key players having signed on or ratified it, I think is a challenge. Mr. Speaker, I think you would agree that it raises more concerns than it answers.
In preparing a few remarks for today, I came across the press release from Global Affairs Canada when this bill was tabled on April 13, 2017. It states:
To implement necessary changes, in March 2017 Canada announced an investment of $13 million to further strengthen the country’s export control regime.
Granted, I was relatively young in 1995, but I remember another Liberal government promising that a certain long-gun registry would cost $2 million, and yet, over the years, the Auditor General found it cost upwards of a $1 billion.
I find it interesting that the government is proposing a $13 million price tag, but has not yet tabled a coherent plan for how that $13 million will be spent and where the cost overrides may or may not arise if that $13 million is used up relatively quickly.
I have heard members on the other side go as far as saying that claims or concerns of law-abiding gun owners are “bogus”. It is really bringing down the tone and the level of debate in the House to dismiss the concerns of legitimate, law-abiding gun owners as bogus.
I am very proud of my family. My late grandfather came to Canada in 1952. In 1974, he helped co-found the Swiss Rifle Club near my home town of Mitchell. I was proud, as a kid, to have been able to join him and my father at the rifle range to learn about the safety of guns and rifles, and I am proud of the legitimate gun owners in my riding and across Canada.
I know that my time has come to an end, but I look forward to continued debate on this matter and the questions that may come my way.