Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at third reading of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Standards Council of Canada Act.
To begin thinking logically about this subject, two questions need to be considered: What are standards and what role do standards play in Canadian society?
Standards reassure consumers that products and services will work as they are described and as they are supposed to work. They also inform consumers about manufacturer tests for quality and safety and guarantee that human and environmentally safe production techniques have been used in all manufacturing processes.
For example, standards tell Canadians that hockey helmets will not break when players are in a collision on the ice. They tell Canadians that an electrical cord is safe to use and will not spark a fire. Standards tell Canadians that their TV reception will not go fuzzy when they turn on their sets. Indeed, standards ensure Canadians that products and services provide a level of quality on which they can rely.
Standards also play an important role in national and international trade. If a manufacturer in Canada makes a product that does not meet the standards required by another province or another country, it will not be allowed to ship or export that product to the desired destination.
In fact, some countries use unique product standards as artificial trade barriers to restrict foreign imports. It is important, therefore, for Canada to encourage national and international co-operation in the development of common standards.
In that regard, Canada's trade agreements, NAFTA, GATT and the internal trade agreement, prohibit the use of standards as trade barriers.
The development of the Standards Council of Canada reflects the importance the Canadian public places on standards. Established in 1970 as a crown corporation, the Standards Council of Canada promotes voluntary standardization in Canada and encourages international co-operation with our trading partners and standards organizations. It also oversees the Canadian standards system which consists of organizations that write standards, certify products and services, tests and calibrates, and registers standards.
The bill before us today changes the form and function of the Standards Council of Canada in several ways. First, it expands the current mandate of the Standards Council.
Second, Bill C-4 reduces the number of council members from 57 to 15 and adds necessary qualifications for the private sector representatives.
Third, Bill C-4 changes in the English version the titles of the president and vice-president to chairperson and vice-chairperson respectively.
Fourth, it specifies the duties of the chairperson.
Fifth, Bill C-4 establishes the provincial territorial advisory committee and the standards development organizations advisory committee.
Finally, Bill C-4 specifies that meetings of the council and its committees may be held through electronic means.
These are changes to the Standards Council of Canada Act that the Reform Party of Canada supports.
Let me discuss just a few of these proposed changes. First, the expansion of the Standards Council of Canada's current mandate means that it will include all areas where standardization is not already provided for by law. It will involve more Canadians in standards activities. It will oversee the national standards system. It will foster quality, performance and technological innovation in Canadian goods and services through standards. Finally, it will establish long term objectives and strategies.
These changes increase the competitiveness of Canadian industry. Let me explain why. The current role of the Standards Council relates to the maintenance of the national standards system. The Standards Council does not develop or promote a national strategy. This puts Canada at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis other countries, as Canada is one of just a few G-7 members that does not have a national standards strategy.
For example, Britain, Germany and France have well established strategies designed to support their industry both domestically and internationally. Often representatives from Canadian steel companies find that potential customers from around the world want to purchase steel according to German standards, an indication of how well the Germans have promoted German products and German standards throughout the world.
British industry improved the image of its export products by complying with international standards for quality labelled ISO 9000.
Japan currently provides assistance to many countries in order for them to adopt national standards based on its system of standards and as a result Japan acquires a competitive advantage.
The United States also aggressively promotes its standards internationally, even though it has not formed a formal national strategy.
A Canadian national standardization strategy would go a long way to support and help build Canada's commercial competitiveness abroad. Other countries would be encouraged to develop our system of standardization and we could gain more credibility by having Canadian industry accredit themselves with ISO 9000.
Renewing the Standards Council of Canada mandate to establish long term objectives and strategies is an important step to increasing Canada's international competitiveness. It is important that the Standards Council does not develop its strategies in secret.
Bill C-4 gives Canadians this commitment. It states that more people will be involved in standards activities. I remind the Standards Council to make sure it consults small and medium size businesses and implements their views in planning national standards strategy. Their interests must not be neglected as they have been in the past by this Liberal government.
Changes to the Standards Council of Canada membership under Bill C-4 is an important step in moving in this direction. The number of public servant members on the council will decrease from six to one. This change will hopefully make the Standards Council of Canada become more representative of Canadian industry, including those from the medium and small enterprises.
The private sector membership of the standards council will also change under Bill C-4. Private sector members would now have to represent a broad spectrum of interests and possess the experience necessary to assist the standards council in fulfilling its mandate. Hopefully the standards council will become more open, accessible and accountable to Canadians and Canadian industry under this change.
I recommend to the minister to make one change that would improve Bill C-4 in our estimation. That is to follow the suggestions made by the Canadian Standards Association and add a review clause to the Standards Council of Canada Act. The review clause would state that the act be examined on a regular basis such as five year intervals.
Since standards change rapidly in a fast growing technological and global economy, it makes common sense to review the Standards Council of Canada Act to ensure the standards council and the national standards system remain relevant to the needs of Canadian industry and Canadian society.