Mr. Speaker, I am going to take advantage of my remarks on Bill C-4, amending the Standards Council of Canada Act, to draw to the attention of the members of this House a series of legislative elements that I regard as extremely significant.
The Standards Council of Canada is a body created by the Standards Council of Canada Act, which is chapter S-16 of the Revised Statutes of Canada. It reports to the Minister of Industry. Its objects are "to foster and promote voluntary standardization" where this is not already "expressly provided for by law", in a number of fields set out in the act, including construction, manufacturing, production, quality, performance and safety of buildings, structures, manufactured articles and products and other goods.
The Standards Council of Canada is made up of representatives of the federal government, the provincial governments and industry, as set out in section 3 of the act. All standards are established on a voluntary basis by the relevant industries, and their purpose is to encourage and facilitate domestic and international trade.
Bill C-4, before us today for third reading, enlarges the mandate and powers of the standards council. In addition to advancing the national economy, the bill tells us, standardization will have to support sustainable development; in addition to benefiting public health, it will have to benefit the health and safety of workers.
The standards council will have an important promotional role to play, in addition to encouraging standardization where it is not already mandatory. In its annual report, the council will have to make recommendations to the minister regarding standards it considers should be mandatory.
Bill C-4 proposes significant amendments to the existing act. It chiefly seeks to make the council less ponderous by reducing the number of its members from 57 to 15. One of those members would be "a person employed in the public service of Canada to represent the Government of Canada".
The bill would also create two advisory committees: the provincial-territorial advisory committee, whose Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson would sit on the council, and the standards development organizations advisory committee, whose Chairper-
son would sit on the council. Provincial and territorial representation would thus be assured by the first of these new committees and representation of expert bodies by the second.
Eleven other people representing the private sector, including non-governmental organizations, would sit on the council, for a total of 15 members.
I think it is important to support Bill C-4 for three main reasons. First, the bill is designed to improve the operation of the Standards Council of Canada, a federal agency. Second, the bill is designed to promote economic growth by eliminating pointless irritants. And finally, Bill C-4 would help to pave the way for a flexible, efficient and viable partnership between Canada and Quebec.
These reasons deserve closer examination. First, the bill id designed to improve the operation of the Standards Council of Canada. Bill C-4 is designed to make the council less ponderous and more functional. This is a very important process. The federal government machinery is imposing, weighty, often not very efficient, and prone to expensive duplication.
The federal government machinery is omnipresent in the Canadian economy and often hampers economic growth by legislation or regulations that put a brake on, or put obstacles in the way of, economic progress.
In this context, measures designed to improve operations are always welcome. All taxpayers will benefit in the long run. The agencies and enterprises that do business with the federal government will also benefit.
Lastly, since governments are constant targets for criticism, the fact that the federal government wants to introduce some real changes may well make the public's view of it more favourable, and fairly quickly, too.
The end result will be the development and maintenance of functional, productive and viable relations between the government and the various components of our society.
Second, promoting economic growth. The importance of Bill C-4 lies in the status and mandate of the organization whose operation it is designed to improve. The standards council plays a key role in regulating economic processes. Its role is to promote voluntary standardization by industry; that is the very core of its mandate.
It would be difficult to argue that standardization does not matter. Without it, the propensity toward diversification characteristic of market economies would in the context of vast trading networks cause an immense variety of problems for the various transactors.
Apart from wasted resources, increased costs and consumer dissatisfaction, both domestic and foreign trade would be seriously affected. Scarcity of resources and the principles of rationalization and efficiency demand standardization. Standardization means fluidity, efficiency and effectiveness in trade. Standardization means the elimination of brakes on trade and of obstacles to trade.
Four factors militate in favour of standardization. First, the fundamental dynamic of the economy-the interdependence of trade, competitiveness, productivity, growth and employment. Second, the age-old dependence of the Canadian economy on raw materials: although the service sector has been developing steadily in Canada over the past 30 years, too many of our raw materials are still not processed in Canada, even now.
Third, the context of globalization in the framework of NAFTA and trade with other countries of the world. Forth and last, the trend toward forming local, national and international partnerships.
The principle of voluntary standardization is at the heart of Bill C-4. This key aspect of the standards council's mandate relies on promotion of voluntary standardization being done by industry stakeholders themselves. Encouraging stakeholders to adopt standards on a voluntary basis has obvious advantages.
This approach assumes that each sector knows itself, its products, its needs and its stakeholders. It uses a consensus approach, which minimizes government intervention and control. In the circumstances, and given the council's role and mandate in improving efficiency, this is an approach we support.
The third element I wanted to discuss is the implementation of a Quebec/Canada partnership. This is the third reason for our support of Bill C-4. We believe that very soon now, Quebec will have achieved sovereignty and, as it committed itself to doing in the agreement of June 12 of last year among the Parti Quebecois, the Action démocratique du Québec and the Bloc Quebecois, it will negotiate an economic and political partnership with Canada-essentially because Quebecers want to maintain a shared economic sphere, and stable, productive and viable political relations, with Canada.
From this perspective, Bill C-4, like Bill C-19 implementing the Agreement on Internal Trade, constitutes in our view an important step toward making such a partnership possible.
In both instances, an effort is being made to improve and consolidate government agencies that will be better able to serve our Canadian friends and that will be indispensable in negotiating the new partnership.
To sum up, our support for Bill C-4 is based on the three reasons I have discussed: it should improve the way the Standards Council of Canada, a federal government agency, operates; it should encourage economic growth; and it should help to lay the groundwork for a partnership between Quebec and Canada that will be flexible, effective and viable.
We hope that our future Canadian partners will understand that we are looking forward in all good faith to these improvements in federal political institutions.
In conclusion, I would like to add that the bill does not in our opinion seem to pose any major problems. The council's structure would be changed, and to a slight extent its powers, while the way it operates would be made less ponderous. The provinces and territories would drop from 12 representatives to two, but their proportional representation would be just the same. In addition, the proposed provincial-territorial advisory committee would give the provinces and territories the opportunity to make their voices heard.
Standardization is voluntary. This is simple common sense, as the economic sectors or companies that decide not to go along are penalizing themselves at a time when trade is so important, both within Canada and in North America and the rest of the world.
Given the increased trade among the provinces of Canada, between Canada, the United States and Mexico under NAFTA and soon with South America as well, and ultimately with the whole world, standardization will eventually have to be adopted by all parties. This is the only logical conclusion for those who want to trade.