Mr. Speaker, this bill is aimed at implementing the provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade signed with the provinces last summer. To this end, the federal government must pass legislation to comply with the agreement before its coming into force, on July 1, 1995, as the minister said. Briefly put, this is the purpose of Bill C-88.
First, I would like to show that Bill C-88 assumes powers which were never mentioned during the negotiations with the provinces or when the agreement was signed. This indicates a strong desire on the part of the federal government to centralize.
In the second part of my speech, I would like to highlight some of the aspects of international trade which favour the political autonomy of the regions and the creation of economic unions rather than the establishment of great federations with a rigid and centralizing constitution such as the Canadian federation.
Last summer's agreement deals with 11 specific areas, namely government contracts, investments, labour mobility, consumer protection standards and initiatives, farm products and foodstuffs, alcoholic beverages, natural resources processing, communications and transportation, energy and the protection of the environment. However, the sections of the agreement Bill C-88 deals with are basically those regarding dispute resolution, as if all the federal government could do was put controls in place.
Articles 1601 to 1604 deal with the establishment of a committee on internal trade and its secretariat. The role of the committee will be to supervise the implementation of the agreement and to assist in the resolution of disputes. Article 1705 deals with the establishment of a panel at the request of the disputing parties. The panel is made up of five members who will have to decide on the validity of the dispute and on retaliatory action that the complaining party will eventually be authorized to take.
Articles 1710(4), (5) and (6) stipulate that, if the matter has not be resolved within one year of issuance of the panel report, the complaining party may request a meeting of the committee. The committee shall convene within 30 days to discuss with the complaining party the option of taking retaliatory action in respect of the party complained against. So, the complaining party may, until such time as a mutually satisfying resolution is achieved, impose to the party complained against retaliatory action of equivalent effect to the damage caused to the complaining party.
If I am reminding the House of these few rather technical aspects of the Agreement on Internal Trade, it is essentially in order to highlight the context within which the interprovincial agreement was reached. We must understand that the panel decisions are not binding, which implies that the committee governing the interprovincial trade agreement has no power.
If the party complained against does not comply with the panel recommendations, article 1710 applies. As we saw, article 1710 deals with retaliation action that the complaining party may take in respect of the party that did not comply with the agreement.
In fact, the main purpose of this bill is to implement the agreement on internal trade. The Bloc Quebecois has always been in favour of freer trade, which is the context in which states do business today. So, we support the principle of the agreement, but if the federal government is the aggrieved party under a trade agreement referred to in the agreement, it can impose retaliatory measures. However, that is not what is said in Bill C-88.
In fact, clause 9 goes well beyond the spirit of the agreement reached by the provinces last summer. This is why we are against the bill as it stands now. Clause 9 reads as follows:
For the purpose of suspending benefits or imposing retaliatory measures of equivalent effect against a province pursuant to Article 1710 of the Agreement, the Governor in Council may, by order-
And then it goes on. It says that the Governor in Council may act, by order, which is the method usually used by an autocratic government. This bill clearly shows that the Liberal government wants to govern by order in council.
Are we again facing Liberal totalitarianism? In fact, clause 9 means that, if a party is at fault pursuant to article 1710 of the agreement, then the federal government, whether or not it is party to the dispute, assumes the right to impose retaliatory measures against all of the provinces without distinction.
Bill C-88 clearly indicates that the federal government intends to interfere in interprovincial trade and be both judge and judged, to provide through this agreement the power to act by order in council, a power it alone can exercise, and to extend the application of any federal law to the provinces, as mentioned in clause 9( c ).
Governing by order in council, setting oneself up as the arbiter of interprovincial trade, are measures that go way beyond the spirit of the agreement signed with the provinces last summer. Nowhere in the 13 paragraphs of article 1710 of the agreement is there mentioned any right of the federal government to intervene in a trade dispute when it is not itself one of the parties to the dispute, contrary to the retaliatory measures described in clause 9 of Bill C-88, as formulated and tabled before us today.
The range of retaliatory measures the federal government has given itself in this clause is too broad. Its power of retaliation can affect the entire population of a province and is excessive. The problem stems, of course, from the fact that Ottawa has legislative power over all Canadians and can impose legislation on all the provinces.
Bill C-88 is another example. In our opinion, the retaliatory measures contained in clause 9 must be toned down considerably and the focus limited strictly to matters of trade. The federal government would thus not be able to retaliate in the social sphere, by attacking the Canada Social Transfer, for example.
I would have one last word concerning the intentions of the Liberal government reflected in this bill. Clause 14 of the bill provides, in the best Liberal tradition, that appointments to fill any position that may be necessary or advisable for carrying out the purposes of the Agreement be by order in council. To prevent any form of patronage on the part of the Prime Minister, the Bloc Quebecois requests that appointments be systematically ap-
proved by the House of Commons, as they should be in a democratic system.
There is no doubt in our mind that this bill is highly centralist. It is a sign of a retrograde vision of trade relations between the various regions of the same continent. We are living in an era of trade globalization, of the dissolving of tariff and non tariff barriers, of open markets and not of the heavy, unilateral regulation by order in council of a continental market by a single state like Canada.
More and more, a new competitiveness can be found at the local, regional and provincial levels, which goes against the federal centralizing model. The new regional international model of economic development is an example of the globalization of economies, in which regional economic trade areas are swallowed by the global market.
Fernand Martin, from the department of economic sciences of the Université de Montréal, is unequivocal regarding this regional international reality. He says that local businesses are realizing that they are competing not only with domestic businesses but with all other businesses, and that they no longer benefit from the buffer of national borders.
This new reality on the world market underlies a second economic phenomenon: the role of local economies in the competitiveness of businesses. Regional space takes on a strategic importance. In this context, the intervention of a national state structure is no longer needed. By wanting to give unprecedented powers to the regions, the Government of Quebec fully grasped the new parameters of international trade, something that the government in Ottawa failed to do. NAFTA will decrease the federal government's power to intervene in economic matters even more.
Even now in the area of international trade, agreements such as the GATT prevent Canada to a large extent from imposing tariffs and subsidizing exporters. These international agreements promote globalization of the economy and thus reduce, along with regional economic development, the federal government's control over the national and interprovincial economy.
Globalization of trade was first and foremost the product of the emergence of the multinationals. They initially turned the states toward new economic spaces, such as NAFTA. Today their ability to restructure an economic space is well established. Accordingly, they confer international stature on the cities and regions they locate in. These cities and regions in turn form networks giving rise to decisions and economic policy previously the domain of central states.
The federal government's regulatory authority, in these circumstances, becomes less and less important, and it is clear that clause 9 of Bill C-88 runs contrary to the current course of international trade. This point is all the more relevant, and, once again I quote Fernand Martin: "-since economic development is based on competitive development, which counts on the quality of labour and on the infrastructures and economics of large population centres and urbanization. These levers come under provincial jurisdiction, because health, education and land use planning do".
Thus, in terms of economic development and international competitiveness, membership in a centralized economic union is today, at the dawn of the 21st century, of little importance. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to belonging to a region. Since Trudeau, the traditional federalist vision of the federal Liberals has never gone beyond the level of a strictly nationalist analysis. Like those from the Trudeau school of thought, this liberal government is obsessed by the fact that it is powerless to stop the national economy from being regionalized under the influence of multinationals and the newly created continental trade areas.
It should not be forgotten that as interprovincial trade is increasingly following a north-south axis, Bill C-88, and more specifically clause 9, are nothing more than the reaction of this government without an economic agenda to this phenomenon and, by and large, to the present changes.