moved that Bill C-4, an act to amend the Standards Council of Canada Act, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support the Minister of Industry on the third reading of Bill C-4.
Let me begin by thanking the Standing Committee on Industry for the prompt review of the bill. I would also be remiss if I did not thank the more than 1,000 Canadians who participated in the consultations which led to the development of this amendment and this amended bill.
Its first objective is to provide a structure giving more adequate support to the efforts of the 14,000 Canadian volunteers who give of their time, energy and expertise to the national standards system.
Modern, effective standards are an integral part of creating the right marketplace conditions to encourage economic growth and jobs for Canadians. Marketplace framework laws like the amendments here to modernize the Standards Council of Canada help create an environment in which Canadians can make the decisions needed to create jobs and growth. These changes define the rules of the marketplace to balance the interests of all parties: businesses and consumers, small and large enterprises, buyers and sellers, the private and the public sectors.
When marketplace framework laws work effectively, governments can stay on the sidelines, like referees, and let the private sector get on with the job.
Marketplace framework laws have been at the core of the government's program to revitalize the Canadian economy. The changes proposed here fit well with our overall strategy.
When the Minister of Industry tabled the agenda for jobs and growths in the publication "Building a More Innovative Economy", he outlined how Industry Canada would address four key elements to help the private sector create jobs and ensure growth in Canada. These four elements are trade, infrastructure, technology and the marketplace climate.
The legislation before us addresses one of these elements, the marketplace climate. Standards establish a common benchmark against which the performance of goods and services can be measured. The impact of this legislation will be felt on all the other elements of our jobs and growth agenda.
Standards promote trade both domestically and internationally. Internationally, standards like the ISO 9000 series give Canadian products and services a seal of quality recognized around the world. Within Canada, standards enable different jurisdictions to agree on a benchmark for quality that allows them to eliminate duplication of government services.
Let me give the House an example of how important standards can be to international trade. Twenty years ago Canadian plywood was virtually unknown in Japan. Japanese builders had not accepted the wood frame construction we use commonly in Canada. There was therefore no market for Canadian plywood in Japan. Well developed Canadian standards in this area have, however, helped to convince the Japanese building industry of the value of wood frame construction.
The forest industry in Canada worked hard with the government to have Canadian certification recognized. The Canadian Plywood Association became the first organization in the world to gain Japanese approval as a foreign testing organization. Today Canada sells the Japanese 70 million board feet of plywood each year.
Let me also give an example of how participation in standards development leads to expanded trade. Advanced Information Technologies Corporation, a Toronto based company, is working with the International Organization for Standardization to develop standards for passports that can be read by a machine. Its work has opened many doors for its business and last year its sales topped $34 million, with 80 per cent of the sales coming from the machine readable document business.
Standards are vital in order to build an effective infrastructure. If members want an example of what can happen when uniform standards are not applied, study the early history of the railway industry in North America and in Australia. In Australia each state applied a different standard gauge for railway tracks. Hon. members can imagine the result. No train could travel from one state to the next. Every time one came to a state border the cargo had to be unloaded from its cars and reloaded on to the next train.
We can shake our heads now in wonder at why this happened, but we must ensure a similar situation does not now arise in the case of infrastructure for the next century, infrastructure for the information highway.
This infrastructure requires a great deal of co-ordination in the standards that will apply. The standards clearly affect a number of both federal and provincial jurisdictions, and a wide range of industries are involved in providing both the road bed and the content for the information highway. We do not want to find ourselves in the cyberspace equivalent of having to unload our information railway cars every time we come to a border.
Standards are vital to the healthy development of technology. The government's overall objective is to create conditions where we can build an innovative society in which research and development create technology and the business community adapts and adopts the best technology possible. That is the way to create jobs and growth in the modern context.
One cannot have technological innovation without safeguards. Canadians must be assured their health and safety will not be
compromised by the new processes, the new products and the industrial designs that make our society innovative.
Canadians want assurances that the buildings erected this year will not topple next year due to unproven techniques. Canadians want assurance that the electrical appliances they buy can be plugged into outlets at home and, once they are plugged in, they want the assurance a short-circuit will not burn their home down.
Canadians want assurances their natural gas lines will not leak, that the gasoline they buy has the right octane levels for their car and that the propane tanks they buy have the right thread fit for their gas barbecues. Canadians value new innovation and the convenience of modern technology. However, Canadians will not compromise safety and security.
This creates clearly a challenge for government. On one hand, we must encourage creativity and the adoption and adaptation of new technology. We do not want to slow down innovation. At the same time we have an obligation to ensure the new innovations will not expose Canadians to unwarranted risks. Standards are an effective way in balancing the need for technological innovation with the need to prevent undue risk. They enable innovators to know in advance the criteria that must be met.
The criteria have been established as a result of consensus on how the public interest can best be protected. This enables the business community, researchers and innovators to forge ahead. Innovators can be as quick and flexible as they need to be in responding to new ideas and to new opportunities.
Innovators know that by using standards set for their technology they will stay within the limits of safety. From my own constituency the needs are particularly important in farm related technology and new machinery as well as in the advancing and roll out of the information highway.
Why has the adoption of standards been part of the government's strategy to create jobs and growth? Standards help business people, they help innovators and they help the consumers of Canada to get on with the task at hand.
People do not always have to be looking over their shoulder to see what the government thinks. They do not consistently have to check for government approval, they just apply the standards that are there and accepted.
The primary objective of this legislation is to make standards a more effective tool for the creation of jobs and growth in Canada as well as to provide safety for Canadians.
Bill C-4 is part of the government's overall strategy to create market conditions where the private sector can get on with the job of building a modern innovative economy.
I congratulate all those who contributed to the drafting of this bill and I ask my colleagues to give it their full support.