House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

My apologies, Madam Speaker. I believe the figures by the hon. member are correct. Members opposite often talk about user pay on that side of the House. Canadian society as a whole gains from many of these institutions, the Canadian Grain Commission, some of our inspection standards in the meat and horticultural industries as well. I do not believe producers should pay the full shot.

To the member opposite, in terms of farmers having a say in the Canadian Grain Commission, they do through their primary producers as well as through the Canadian Wheat Board Advisory Committee which is an elected body in 11 districts in western Canada. They advise the wheat board, they should advise and I am certain they do, at least the ones I talk to, advise the minister in all matters related to grain including this issue in terms of grades, standards and regulatory controls.

There is input at the moment through the Canadian Wheat Board Advisory Committee and through members elected in this House directly to the minister who is responsible for the Canadian Grain Commission.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I see no one rising on debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario


Herb Gray Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-47, an act to amend the Department of External Affairs Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Jesse Flis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in support of Bill C-47, an act to amend the Department of External Affairs Act.

Our government made a commitment when we were sworn into office to change the name of the Department of External Affairs to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This change in title is a recognition of the changes of the department's mandate that have occurred over the 85 years since its inception.

The Department of External Affairs was created in 1909 by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier to conduct Canada's foreign policy. Since then the mission of the department has adapted to reflect Canada's growing role on the international stage.

During World War I for example, Canada played an important role internationally as part of the allied forces and a member of the imperial war cabinet. By the end of the war, Canada was emerging as a fully independent nation. This maturation was reflected in changes to the fledgling department.

In the 1920s under the leadership of Dr. O. D. Skelton, the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, and Counsellor Loring Christie, the department began to evolve into its current structure and the Canadian diplomatic corps was formed.

The second world war contributed further to the growth of the department. Canada became an active world player. We were a founding member of the United Nations and a full participant in such other international organizations as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO; the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT; the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and, of course, the Commonwealth.

In more recent years, Canada has steadily increased its role in world affairs and joined additional organizations such as the G-7, the group of seven major industrialized nations, La Francophonie, and the Organization of American States, the OAS.

The department contributes significantly to this role, fulfilling its mission to portray, promote and defend the interests of Canada, to improve Canadians' awareness and understanding of the world and to serve Canadians at home and abroad.

Bill C-47 will amend the External Affairs Act to change the legal name of the department and the titles of its ministers and senior officials. Under this act, the Secretary of State for External Affairs becomes the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The title of the Minister for International Trade remains unchanged. The title of the junior minister, the Minister for External

Relations, will change to become the Minister for International Co-operation.

Senior official titles currently including the term under-secretary will reflect ministerial changes, thus the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs will become the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, referred to as the DM for foreign affairs.

Bill C-47 makes no substantive changes to the structure of the department. Rather the change in name affected by this legislation reflects the current mandate of the department.

I would like to add a few words about the roles of the two new positions not written into the act but important to the development of Canadian foreign policy. These are the positions of Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa, and I see the secretary of state listening very attentively to what I am saying, and of course the Secretary of State for Asia Pacific.

The secretaries of state have proven to be invaluable contributors to Canada's foreign policy. They travel and meet widely with leaders in many countries where Canadian foreign policy interests are being pursued. I know how active they are in liaising with the diplomatic corps here in Canada. They complement the work of the minister very effectively.

Let us not forget the role of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position also not incorporated in this act but a very important role to represent the Minister of Foreign Affairs in his absence when he is out representing Canada in his many, many duties. I know personally what a heavy role that minister plays. Therefore the roles of secretaries of state and parliamentary secretary are very helpful to the minister and to the department.

To conclude, I say that the object of the bill is very clear. It is simply to make sure that our presence abroad and in international organizations reflects today's reality.

In our history, we went from colony to dominion and finally independent nation. The new title of Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade makes this evolution official.

Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-47, an Act to amend the Department of External Affairs Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, for his excellent remarks. As he pointed out, the purpose of Bill C-47 is to change the name of the department from the Department of External Affairs and International Trade to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In fact, the purpose of the Bill is to update the name of the department and of some of its officers with respect to the existing administrative structure.

With your permission, I would like to recall a number of historic reasons for making what we feel is an appropriate change of name.

From 1867 to 1909, Great Britain retained overall responsibility for Canada's external relations, and it was Great Britain, as it were, that declared war on behalf of Canada in 1914, as Canada did not have its own ambassadors at that time.

In 1909, as the parliamentary secretary pointed out, Canada's own Department of External Affairs was created. It was headed by a secretary of state for external affairs, a position that had already been created in 1868. But actually, the prime minister continued to be largely responsible for this department. It is interesting to note, incidentally, that when it was created the department had five employees and, in 1911, no more than 15.

On April 1, 1912, the Department of External Affairs was placed under the direct jurisdiction of the prime minister; it concerned itself essentially with the Canadian government's relations with other dominions of the British Crown, whence the use of the term "external" to describe something that was not completely foreign. And this is the term that has remained.

Just before the outbreak of World War I, Canada was represented abroad, outside British dominions, by one office in Washington, with a staff of nine, one high commission in London, with a staff of eleven, and one general commission in Paris, with a staff of eight.

After the war, Canada's international status gained recognition through battle exploits of Canadian troops at Vimy for example. In 1923, Canada signed its first treaty as an independent state, the Halibut Treaty, and sent diplomatic representatives abroad. In 1931, as we know, Canada officially became an independent state under the Treaty of Westminster, which conferred complete independence to Canada.

The 1935-39 period is considered as a period of growth for the Canadian foreign service and one during which several countries established diplomatic representation here in Ottawa. In 1939, it is as an independent state that Canada declared war upon Germany and other Axis powers.

The foreign policy of Canada, one of the founding members of the United Nations, enjoyed new growth after the Second World War, particularly in 1946, with the appointment of the first truly independent secretary of State, and the passage of the Canadian Department of External Affairs Act. The same legislation is still

in effect today, except for minor amendments made from time to time since then.

During the 1960s, efforts started to be made to bring the various programs relating to trade and commerce under the purview of External Affairs. In 1983, the position of Minister for International Trade was created as well as that of Minister for External Relations. Over the years, various programs such as that of the export market development board came under the jurisdiction of the Department of External Affairs, while others, like that of the Grain Marketing Office, were transferred to other departments.

Today, we have before us in this House Bill C-47, a bill which, as I mentioned earlier, changes the name of the Department of External Affairs for that of Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

As we speak, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade employs over 4,000 Canadians and nearly 5,000 locally-engaged staff around the world. Thinking back to the rather modest beginnings of the department that I described earlier, we can see that it has come a long way.

Naturally, we intend to support this bill because, as the hon. parliamentary indicated, we believe the time has come to update the name of this department because, in its present form, it evokes the dominion status Canada had for so many years. The wish could also be expressed to see the government go ahead and eliminate the last traces of this colonial era by abolishing plainly and simply the other place, an institution which is a glaring anachronism and does not suit the Canadian reality at all. The government of Canada could also have used this opportunity to make progress on the political and constitutional status of Canada.

I think that this bill is also appropriate, given the foreign policy review aimed at updating Canada's present one. We, however, have three reservations about this bill which are far from trivial, to say the least.

First of all, we deplore the fact that the minister did not take this opportunity to put some order into all the positions that have not been filled since the Liberals came to office. I am referring specifically to clauses 4, 8(2) and 9 of the bill, under which the government may appoint-again, since the Liberals came to office, and even before in some cases-a Minister for International Co-operation, Associate Deputy Ministers as well as a Co-ordinator, International Economic Relations when these positions are vacant.

In fact, the positions that remain unfilled would allow the government to distribute them as it sees fit. If these positions are useless, they should simply be abolished. Such is the case with the position of Minister for International Co-operation, formerly the Minister for External Relations, which is now vacant. If the government does not find any use for it, it should simply abolish it instead of putting it aside for highly partisan appointments.

We also think that CIDA, whose mandate is rather vague, should have its own constituent act governing its activities as an independent body. Such an act would give the minister responsible for CIDA a clear and unequivocal mandate. It would, of course, also prevent financial and human resources from being wasted.

My third reservation concerns clause 7, subsection (3). If I may, Mr. Speaker, I will now read this clause: "The Minister may develop and carry out programs related to his powers, duties and functions for the promotion of Canada's interests abroad, including the fostering of the expansion of Canada's international trade and commerce and the provision of assistance for developing countries". We think it is inappropriate for the minister to link Canada's commercial interests with development assistance so explicitly and so directly in the same clause.

We recognize, of course, that development assistance provided by Canada works in favour of Canada's political interests at the international level. But keeping development assistance together with international trade in the same clause can be confusing and suggest that the government again intends to continue to favour tied aid. In this regard, I think that we cannot allow these two items to be together in the same clause of the bill.

In conclusion, of course we will support this bill, bearing in mind that we have these three very serious reservations which we would like the government to take into consideration in the process leading to the adoption of this bill. As I just said, this bill is part of a historical process which unfortunately has taken too many years.

I think it was high time for the Canadian government to update the name of the Department of External Affairs and the Department of International Trade to make it a real Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Unfortunately, as I just said when I was talking about our reservations, we regret that the minister did not take this opportunity to make some adjustments that would have made the department even more up to date.

I think that the goal which the government is pursuing with this bill is bringing this department up to date. So it is rather disturbing and surprising to see that the government wants to keep in this bill some positions of questionable usefulness, given that they are still vacant even as we speak.

I end my remarks here. We will certainly have the opportunity to talk about them again in subsequent debates.

Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the Reform Party's international trade critic it is a pleasure for me to speak today on Bill C-47 and its implications for a modernized and revitalized Department of Foreign Affairs.

This bill does not make any huge changes. It changes the name of the Department of External Affairs to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and it changes the titles of ministers and the deputy ministers to reflect the new name of the department.

I suppose the name change is intended to ensure that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade reflects the needs and values of Canadians in the 1990s. However I wonder whether changing the name of the department is necessary and whether the cost of doing so can be justified. I know that printing 4,000 new sets of business cards and redoing all the stationery does not amount to a monumental cost in the larger scheme of things, but the taxpayer expects a new standard of efficiency in government and this does seem to be frivolous.

The Department of External Affairs has operated for some 10 years with international trade as one of its components. It is suddenly necessary to add the long phrase of international trade to the name of the department. Why is this?

Why after so many years of operating just fine as external affairs do we now need the title of foreign affairs and international trade? What if in its wisdom some future government decides to move the international trade component back to the industry department? What if one day a crown corporation is formed to take over the trade promotion? What if that function is privatized altogether? Do we then have to go through this exercise all over again?

Changing the way trade promotion is handled is not inconceivable. Just this morning the Globe and Mail carried an article stating that a group of business people says Ottawa could save nearly $117 million a year by concentrating its trade promotion efforts on smaller companies ending duplication and tying trade to aid. The article goes on to quote the chairman of the International Business Development Review to say that it would require courageous decisions to wean business off trade support initiatives but the federal government would be surprised by the positive response from an overtaxed population. I encourage the minister to look at these options and explore this further.

Let us talk a bit about what Canadians do want from their department of foreign affairs as it is now going to be known. The foreign policy joint review committee heard many representations from Canadians. The resulting report will guide the department to restructure as necessary and to address those concerns and set Canada's future foreign policy.

Specifically Canadians told us of the need to restructure CIDA and to make it more accountable and more focused in its approach to development assistance. They told us of the need to more clearly define the criteria for Canada's participation in future peacekeeping operations. They told us that non-government agencies, NGOs, can play a larger role in Canada's foreign aid delivery and development. They told us that the need for Canada is to aggressively seek to develop the fast growing Asia-Pacific area for trade. There were many other suggestions and recommendations but we will have to wait for the report to hear them all.

We know for certain however that Canadians want economic security and that over two million Canadians depend on international trade for their jobs. For every $1 billion in new exports 11,000 new jobs will be created. Therefore the Department of Foreign Affairs must do its utmost to make sure that Canadian business succeeds in the international marketplace.

In 1993 Canada exported $181 billion worth of goods and services totalling 30 per cent of our GDP. To see this number increase Reform would like to see Canada be a strong advocate for free trade or freer trade worldwide. We have made some important steps in this direction and I give this government credit for that.

One of the most important vehicles for this will be the world trade organization which will soon be in place as a result of the GATT negotiations. It is vital that Canada help this organization to be successful. Canada must take a leadership role in the new WTO in making this rules based organization work. We must continue to strive for further trade liberalization in the second round of negotiations in agriculture at the GATT or WTO in six years time. Canada must actively pursue new free trade agreements which could enhance our international trade position.

Of special interest to Canada would be the rapid and successful expansion of NAFTA. When reviewing potential new members Canada should encourage our current partners, the U.S. and Mexico, not to drag their feet in these negotiations. In the long term the expansion of NAFTA will help us all. Canada is a trading nation. We need to develop this further.

Of principal interest to Canada however will always be our trading relationship with the United States which currently accounts for about 75 to 80 per cent of Canada's two way trade. This strong relationship with the United States has allowed Canada to become the seventh largest trading nation in the world, even though we are only 31st in terms of population size.

While Canada must always strive to diversify in the area of trade so that we do not remain dependent on our neighbour to the south for our prosperity, we must recognize that the Canada--

U.S. trade relationship is something which needs to be encouraged and promoted to the fullest.

Beyond nurturing our trade relationship with the United States, the Department of Foreign Affairs must always strive to carve out new markets for Canadian international trade. Its job is to tap into emerging growth markets throughout the world and make sure Canadian business can get its foot in the door and go on to develop a comparative advantage over our competitors.

One of the most exciting new growth markets for Canadian trade, as I have said, is the Pacific rim which within five years could represent 40 per cent of total global consumption of exports. Obviously the Department of Foreign Affairs should do its utmost to make sure that Canada remains an active and successful player in the region.

To date we have had some success. Japan is already our second biggest trading partner and purchases more Canadian exports than the U.K., Germany and France combined. In addition, China has the fastest growing economy in the world. With its huge population it is predicted that by early in the next century China could be the second largest economy in the world.

As has already been mentioned, Canada has a significant stake in expanding trade within our hemisphere, preferably through the NAFTA. It has already given Canada unprecedented and preferential access to Mexico's growing market of over 85 million consumers. Other countries such as Chile have demonstrated a very real desire to join this agreement. Canada must ensure that we are a leader in the area of NAFTA accession otherwise the Americans will take this leadership role and will dominate the agenda and look after their own trade interests.

The Department of Foreign Affairs should make sure Canadians remain well represented by acting as a leading force in defending Canadian interests and values. In order to successfully fulfil this task, foreign affairs should seriously consider reallocating its resources in order to optimize this important trade promotion task. This will require some tough decisions, including the withdrawal of resources from regions that do not represent growth markets for Canadian trade. Also in these countries where we have primary diplomatic and consular missions we should investigate cost cutting measures.

Our dealings with other countries of course must be on many levels and not just on those involving trade. Canada has a very special role to play in the area of international affairs because of our proud tradition of acting as an honest broker for dispute resolution and effective multinationalism. Canada must build upon this tradition and promote our position as a respected and effective middle power. With our capabilities, record of innovation and energetic use of diplomacy, many countries expect a special contribution from Canada in the area of international affairs. We should be proud to provide this service.

While Canadians will always want us to promote this positive middle power image, they also want us to live within our means. Therefore, Canada must aim for a foreign policy which is proactive, effective and fiscally responsible. This means that we must get our own fiscal house in order. We must concentrate on reducing internal trade barriers and generally reduce the cost of doing business here at home so that our companies can be more competitive in the world marketplace.

Whether acting as a catalyst for positive international change, a facilitator working to bring parties to an agreement, or mediators to defuse international conflict, the Department of Foreign Affairs must also strive to be a world leader in everything it does.

One area where Canada is already a leader is in our dealings with the United Nations which turns 50 years old this year. Improving the success of the UN is an important task for Canada. There are many ways to improve and overhaul it in the 21st century. I suggest there are several areas Canada should be looking at which would improve the efficiency, accountability and effectiveness of the United Nations.

First, rules that force countries to pay their UN dues must be enforced. Otherwise the UN will always be ineffective and all other reform will go for naught.

Second, the newly appointed UN inspector general must be given a wide mandate to rein in overspending, duplication and waste.

Third, an early warning system should be set up to pre-empt disastrous international conflicts and environmental degradation.

Fourth, an international court should be established through the UN to punish international criminals who currently use national borders and weak international co-ordination to avoid being punished.

Fifth, the structure of the UN Security Council and the veto powers of its permanent membership should be reviewed. During the review Canada should be considered for permanent membership because of its longstanding service and dedication to the United Nations and peacekeeping.

For any of these reforms to work it is necessary that the Department of Foreign Affairs play an effective role both behind the scenes and by publicly setting the agenda for change.

In conclusion, while the Reform Party was elected on a domestic agenda we realize we must be able to present a credible foreign policy and develop a good working relationship with the Department of Foreign Affairs. I would therefore like to express my support for the bill, not as a housekeeping measure to be dealt with quickly but as a sign of a new dynamic and efficient

Department of Foreign Affairs. There will be support for Canadian interests and values into the next century.

While the Reform will have plenty more to say in the area of foreign policy in the coming session, I hope I have illustrated some of the points we think are important for the department.

Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is the House ready for the question?

Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Department Of External Affairs ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, an act to establish the Department of Public Works and Government Services and to amend and repeal certain acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-52, known as the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act. It serves the purpose of bringing together or consolidating four former common service agencies of the federal government.

These are the former departments of Public Works and Supply and Services, as well as the Government Telecommunications Agency.

The new department will play an essential role in that it will allow the federal government to effectively increase the efficiency of its operations. This grouping of important services under a single authority with consistent policies and a co-ordinated long-term approach will allow us to provide better service to the federal administration as a whole and, consequently, to Canadian taxpayers.

The government is firmly committed to offer all Canadians a fair, efficient, innovative and accessible administration.

Canadians are aware that overlap, duplication and poor co-ordination have contributed to the tax burden they must all bear. Canadians expect and demand that we take every measure possible to streamline our operations, reduce administrative costs, cut out red tape and improve our service delivery in implementing government programs.

The creation of a new Department of Public Works and Government Services responds directly to that challenge. It will provide more effectively than ever before a central focus for the provision of a wide range of services that contribute in a vital way to the efficient operation of some 150 government departments and agencies.

The purpose of this bill is not to table new policies but to set up a structure which, thanks to the synergy and dynamics generated by the new organization, will help us streamline government services to Canadians and improve their effectiveness.

The new department is a major service element of the federal government. At the time of amalgamation it was comprised of 18,000 employees based in 200 locations across Canada and with an annual budget of approximately $4 billion. The range of services is extensive, including providing telecommunications and professional and technical informatic services to departments and agencies; acting as the chief contracting agent of the federal government; ensuring value for money through a procurement process that is open, fair and competitive; issuing some 200 million payments annually by cheque and direct deposit as part of the receiver general's responsibility; giving the government a full range of communication services, including publication of thousands of titles annually; providing consulting and auditing services on a fee for service basis; handling most of the architectural and engineering services needed by the government as well as providing a wide variety of realty services; and, my personal favourite, providing translation services for the Parliament and the public service for which we in the House are grateful. It also provides for the disposal and sale of crown assets. These are just the highlights of the many and varied services offered and provided by the department.

To fulfil its mandate effectively, Public Works and Government Services has to establish close and productive working relationships with a number of varied interests, most notably those who do business with the Government of Canada, the many departments and agencies of government that depend on

Public Works and Government Services for its services, and the Canadian public that wants and expects fast efficient delivery of government services.

We must remember the federal government is by far the largest purchaser of goods and services in the country. Annual federal procurement, exclusive of crown corporations, is in the order of $16 billion. Public Works and Government Services is responsible for the orderly processing of about 65 per cent of the total or $10 billion.

There is no doubt that this more global approach regarding government procurement will benefit all Canadians concerned.

Indeed, it will allow us to implement better co-ordinated and standardized methods and policies, to use state-of-the-art technologies enabling us to streamline existing procedures, and to give eventual suppliers a more precise idea of who they are dealing with.

Initial reaction to this amalgamation process has been positive. It will be even more so once legislation is passed and the new department's structure is farther advanced.

Our government has stressed again and again that the operations of government must be responsive and geared to action and results rather than to the bureaucratic process to which some members on the opposite side often refer.

This is very true of the central services provided by the new department. I believe it will be better equipped to develop stronger, more responsive relationships with its client departments in its new formation.

Direct benefits of this amalgamation, for the government but particularly taxpayers, are quite remarkable. Already, overlapping, which the Bloc Quebecois constantly talks about, and duplication have been significantly reduced everywhere in the department, and the streamlining of operations is well underway.

Taking into account operational reviews and related recommendations, as well as the new systems to be implemented and the amalgamation itself, the estimated savings over five years should total approximately $180 million.

The overall staff requirement will be reduced by more than 20 per cent, from 18,000 at the time of amalgamation to about 14,000 at century's end. Specifically the administrative services of the component groups in the new departments have already been consolidated and this will result in savings of some 500 full time positions.

I want to point out that all these savings will be made by eliminating duplication, streamlining systems and making increased use of state-of-the-art technologies such as infometrics.

I can assure you that these savings will in no way diminish the quality of service currently provided to the department's clients and to Canadians in general.

Regardless of the structure of joint services, efficiency will always be the key to success. In that regard, we must reduce overlapping and duplication everywhere in government operations and we must become a centre of excellence striving to develop new methods and technologies to deliver services.

The net result will be savings to taxpayers, a one-stop service centre for existing departments, a special expertise accessible from anywhere within the government, a single-window service for suppliers and entrepreneurs dealing with the government-this single-window concept is important, because that is all the opposition talks about these days-and, more importantly, an improved ability on the government's part to serve Canadians.

In the current climate of fiscal restraint the pursuit of efficiency and economy in government operations is clearly not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity. Bill C-52 which will integrate the majority of all common services into one department will help us operate more efficiently and deliver the best we can to our clients.

I hope all members will join me and this side of the House in supporting this innovative legislation. Much has already been achieved, and with the passage of the bill we could move forward with confidence in further streamlining and improving the operations of the federal government.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity today to speak on Bill C-52. Perhaps I may mention that during my 14 years as a municipal councillor in Baie-Comeau, I was Chairman of the Public Works Commission.

The responsibilities of a municipal councillor are similar to those of a member in this House. A councillor is expected to administer taxpayers' money, and the same applies in the federal government. Members of this House have to make sure that government revenues raised through taxes are properly administered, in the name of openness.

Increasingly, politicians are losing their credibility, and they are finding it harder to field questions from their constituents about contracting out, privatization, transparency and a host of similar questions.

In my speech I intend to discuss Bill C-52, but mainly as it concerns contracting out, privatization and how the government should take advantage of this opportunity. Bill C-52 is an Act to establish the Department of Public Works and Government Services, which will also include communications and translation.

In fact, this legislation goes back to the 1870s, and it does not give the government or the minister any additional powers. However, we in the Bloc Quebecois would have expected this bill to give the minister additional monitoring and administrative powers, and that the Liberal government, as it promised in the red book, should at least have tried to provide some transparency in this bill by legislating structured parameters for administration and control, thus enabling it to make future decisions based on the principle of openness and a clear knowledge of the facts.

As the old saying goes, if you want something done, you are better off doing it yourself. I wish the government would tell us how much it saves by contracting out, and by privatizing federal services. If the past is any indication, I think there is some cause for concern about the future, when we consider the disgusting case of Pearson Airport, the only profitable federal airport in Canada.

Of course, the federal government wants to get rid of some of its facilities that no longer make a profit, mainly in Quebec. However, if the federal government cannot turn a profit with them, it is doubtful whether municipalities, regional municipalities or regional economic partners would be more successful.

There are plenty of federal facilities in my riding. We have airports in Baie-Comeau, Forestville and Charlevoix. There are about 20 federal wharfs in my riding. Some wharfs are still operational, but many have been declared redundant by Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada and Public Works.

I am also concerned about contracting out, and by the Department of Transport's plans for privatizing railway and marine transportation, as well as airport facilities. In my riding, there is a company called Sopor, that carries goods for Reynolds and Quno to the South Shore. Sopor plays an important role in the region's economic development and is particularly useful as a carrier, shipping Reynolds aluminum products and Quno newsprint throughout the world.

Also, in the transportation industry, contracting out or privatization means we are not in a position to develop the railway line between Quebec and Pointe-au-Pic, because the line will be transferred very shortly to the private sector. It is taking forever to settle this matter. Furthermore, we are still waiting for the tourist train from the central station in Quebec City to the Casino in Charlevoix to come through.

Contracting out should mean better quality and better services at a better price. I am not saying I am against contracting out, but what I want from the government, the department and the committee is some proof that contracting out or privatization is cost-effective for the government.

As you know, the government is obliged to call public tenders for all contracts exceeding $25,000. In the case of contracts between $2,500 and $25,000, the department can award contracts, even by invitation. Of course, within the departments there is some flexibility for contracts up to $2,500.

In this House, the Bloc Quebecois has been blasted regularly by various ministers, who have claimed that it often criticizes but never proposes solutions. I can tell you that, in the context of Bill C-52, the Bloc does offer very substantial alternatives, so that greater control can be exercised and the government can demonstrate more transparency.

To ignore the solutions put forward by the Bloc Quebecois is to prevent reductions in program expenditures and the deficit as well as prevent finding ways of providing services to the Canadian public in an cost-effective and efficient fashion.

At a recent meeting of the government operations committee, I asked the minister responsible: "Do you undertake, before this committee, to identify clearly the needs for a department, develop solid specifications and estimates, launch a fair public tendering process, call for public tenders and have a bidders report produced, evaluate tenders openly, receive a recommendation through the deputy minister and, following this process, accept the lowest bid that complies with the specifications established by the department?" And the answer I got was "no".

How can a department or a minister claim to be transparent while refusing to accept the lowest bid, that meets all requirements? The minister is setting himself up to be criticized, sometime down the road, for favouring a friend of the government or a person who attended at some point in time a dinner at $1,000 a setting.

The issue of transparency was raised in the government's red book and during the election campaign. Transparency must be more than just part of a campaign platform. It must last throughout the government's mandate. Every department is very interested in good management. Our job, as politicians, as members of this House, is to demonstrate our willingness to earn as much credibility as possible from our constituents in each of our ridings.

Does the current contracting-out policy save us money? If so, how much do we save and how are these savings achieved? What are the major pros and cons of contracting out? Some drawbacks, such as poor quality, have been revealed. Increasingly, there are concerns about the protection of the confidentiality of certain documents.

Other questions come to mind. What constitutes acceptable justification for contracting out? How many civil servants have

been put on a shelf? Will their numbers keep growing? In short, many questions remain unanswered.

It seems to us that contracting out is expensive. More and more contracts are let, while no one has been laid off in the Public Service. Job safety in the Public Service, the case of this Communications Canada Group that used up funds left over at the end of the year so that its budget would no be cut the following year, the privatization of Pearson International Airport, these are cases that should convince the government to support the amendment put forward by the Bloc Quebecois and to vote against the bill, if that amendment were not adopted.

In the National Capital Region, 79 per cent of federal government services are provided by temporary personnel. It is reported that, in the NCR alone, $64.4 million were devoted to temporary assistance in 1993, while thousands of full-time employees were declared surplus. This is a ridiculous approach as well as an exercise in squandering public funds.

In 1992-93, a full-time government secretary made $24,000 plus benefits, while a temporary personnel agency charges the government $36,000 per year or $20 an hour for secretarial services.

I wish to give a few examples of what the federal government used to pay versus today's contracting-out costs.

A government mechanic made $16 an hour, while the agency charges the government $26 an hour. A plumber working in maintenance for the federal government earned $18 an hour, while an agency charges $26 an hour. A carpenter working in maintenance for the federal government made $17 an hour, while an agency charges $25 an hour for the same services.

It is not true that contracting out saves on space and equipment. In the national capital, hundreds of contractors work in federal government offices and use the equipment and facilities paid for by Canadian and Quebec taxpayers.

It is time to stop this waste. In 1991, contracting out in the public service cost $5 billion. Between 1984 and 1985 and from 1992 to 1993, these costs rose by 7.5 per cent on average compared with 5.3 per cent for other government operating expenditures.

According to a recent report, contracting-out costs amounting to $2.9 billion in 1984-85 rose to $5 billion in 1992-93, about twice as much. I will resume my speech after Question Period.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments made by the hon. member and his colleagues. They always talk about duplication, waste and transparency.

In this respect, I think that the federal government has made a considerable effort to open up the process. In fact, we have an Open Bidding Service or OBS whereby even opposition members, small entrepreneurs and big businesses are invited to bid on federal government contracts, in order to provide services to businesses in your ridings.

I can even give some examples. In my riding of Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, fishermen often submit tenders to provide various services to the federal government. For instance, bids have been solicited for providing CIDA with cases of herring. So I can tell you this: Because of the quality of their products and their competitive prices, Magdalen Islands fishermen got-

Department Of Public Works And Government Services ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. It being 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to Statements by Members pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Terry Fox Runs For Cancer ResearchStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, Terry Fox runs have now spread around the world but I am delighted that the runs are still thriving in parts of Canada like Peterborough that Terry visited on his own run.

This year more than $17,000 was raised by the city of Peterborough run organized by Doug Boden and his committee. Peterborough schools raised over $90,000. My thanks to everyone involved.

In the tiny village of Havelock, which had close personal ties with Terry during his run, more than $10,000 was raised through the amazing efforts of Ernie Hamilton. Our thanks to the village of Havelock, the townships of Belmont and Methuen, the Havelock Legion and all those involved in this remarkable effort.

Special thanks to the students of Havelock, Belmont and Methuen Public School for their $246.

Terry Fox is still raising money for cancer research.

FederalismStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Bernard Deshaies Bloc Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, leaks of the working discussion paper to be used by the Minister of Human Resources Development confirm for us that the ghosts of centralizing federalism are on the move again. These ghosts which we had hoped to see disappear forever are supposedly preparing to cut $2.3 billion in transfer payments to the provinces for post-secondary education so that the federal government can meddle further in this field of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

Why does this government want greater visibility for what it does in fields of exclusive provincial jurisdiction? Does the federal government want to give the impression that it is in a better position to solve the existing problems?

In both cases, the federal government is showing complete disregard for the provinces' ability to act and members of the Bloc Quebecois do not want to support that idea.

JusticeStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 2 the Ottawa Sun reported that a man convicted of a savage murder in 1976 will be given a second chance at early parole because the Supreme Court ruled that the crown consistently and improperly appealed to the jury's passions during his first hearing.

The court has decided that this killer who stabbed his victim 132 times and used five different knives in the process deserves a second chance. What about his victim? What about her chances? What about her chances to live a full and happy life? She got no second chance.

It is time to give law abiding Canadians a second chance, a second chance to regain faith in our criminal justice system. It is time to close the loopholes and throw out the bleeding heart liberals who so frequently allow such dangerous offenders back into society.

For crimes as savage as this, Canadians demand that a life sentence must indeed mean life with no second chance.

Parliamentary PagesStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a particular honour for me to rise today in recognition of our parliamentary pages. Parliamentary pages have served parliamentarians since Confederation in 1867. Prime Ministers Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Lester B. Pearson, Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent were served by distinguished young Canadians.

Their many duties include carrying messages, Order Papers and Hansard to members' desks, even the occasional glass of water.

At one time the opportunity of participating in this program was a privilege only extended to young men. In 1974 this practice was changed to include young women who also serve us today.

There are 42 pages in the House of Commons program today. Each and every province of Canada is represented. These young students set an example for all young Canadians. One of them is Roger Label who comes from my riding of Huron-Bruce, more particularly Port Elgin.

The pages are hardworking and dedicated individuals. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of all members of Parliament to thank them for their work and their support.

Native Council Of Nova ScotiaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, September 30 I had the honour of attending the 20th Annual General Assembly of the Native Council of Nova Scotia. This three day conference offered an ideal opportunity for Nova Scotia's off reserve Mi'kmaq population to participate in discussions on how best to achieve aboriginal self-government.

In conjunction with this conference the province of Nova Scotia announced it has initiated a tripartite forum in order to examine major native issues. This is the first of its kind in Canada. I am proud of the role all parties are playing in order to find positive, proactive solutions.

I applaud the work being accomplished by this council in promoting positive change. We must now lend our support to the Mi'kmaq nation as it moves toward a more traditional role of governing itself.