House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was samples.


Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today deals with a very important issue, something that cannot be taken lightly.

We must decide today, in our consideration of the bill, what is most important: the fight against crime or the respect of individual rights and freedoms, including respect for an individual's private life and person.

In principle, the Bloc Quebecois supports the bill, because the crime rate in this country can never be too low, because the number of unresolved crimes is never too low and because the work of the police is too important for them not to have all the tools they need.

We all know that a DNA profile is the best way to identify someone. It raises some questions, however, first because it involves an individual's person, second, because we are talking about people's DNA profile and, third, because the possibilities of improper use are limitless. We must therefore ensure a very high level of confidentiality for the bank.

What sort of questions might we have? There are some I would mention here today. First, the bill contains provision for the storage of bodily substances taken. I would like to know why a sample will be kept once the genetic information has been taken, because the comparison is not done with the sample, but with the information taken from the sample. The point of having the bank is to establish a relationship between an individual and the scene of the crime, which can be done without the need to keep the sample once the analysis has been done.

Who is to say that, if these samples are preserved, there will not be pressure from a segment of the population saying “Let's do genetic testing to see if there is not some genetic predisposition for becoming a criminal”. Once again, these are huge ethical questions. Where will it stop? This is a slippery slope, one which we ought not to embark upon, in my opinion. By destroying the samples, while keeping the information gleaned from them, we will be able to resist the temptation to carry out unnecessary testing.

I have another concern. The bill provides that samples may be taken by a law enforcement officer. In the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, samples ought to be taken, not by a law enforcement officer, but by a health professional, either a physician, a nurse or a qualified medical technician. I have good friends on the police force and I respect their law enforcement work, but if they came after me with a needle I would feel pretty uncomfortable. Let us give sample collection over to qualified medical personnel.

There is also the question of the disclosure of profiles. It is possible, and somewhat normal in today's world, for information to be transferred between countries or between organizations. I am thinking of such things as the FBI or Interpol. Once a foreign state or organization has been given information, what assurance is there that if a file is sealed in Canada it would be sealed elsewhere?

Perhaps there could be a notification process whereby foreign states to whom information had been forwarded could be told that the file had been sealed in Canada and asked to seal it as well. Agreements could also be drawn up between Canada and these states so that once a profile is sealed here in Canada, it could also be sealed in the foreign state to whom we transmitted the information.

Another question we have concerns access to the information in the data bank. As it now stands, the bill gives commissioners considerable leeway. This raises certain problems of confidentiality of data.

Perhaps we could put measures in place, or require the commissioner to make public the list of persons with access to this bank so that there are certain limits to the commissioner's discretionary authority.

In conclusion, we support the bill in principle, but feel that there should be very serious consideration of certain provisions, some of which I have just mentioned. It merits serious consideration and we in the Bloc Quebecois would be very pleased to take part in such consideration.

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5 p.m.


Peter Mancini NDP Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, as indicated by my colleague, we will be supporting the bill in principle but with some very serious reservations and concerns that have to be addressed.

I will comment on some of the remarks made by a previous speaker, but first I welcome the debate initiated by the solicitor general. I take him at his word that he wants to ensure a detailed analysis of the legislation because it is crucial legislation. As my colleague has already indicated, we are trying to find a balance between information that can be vitally important to both the police and prosecution services and at the same time protecting the civil rights and liberties of individuals.

I look forward to debate on the retention of DNA samples. The solicitor general indicated there were compelling arguments on both sides at the current time. My own feeling would be that retention causes real problems. I look forward to that debate in the House as well.

I would be remiss if I did not also comment on the remarks of the hon. member for Blackstrap who indicated that the bill did not go far enough for his party. I respect his opinion on that. I can see we will have lively debate when the bill comes before the committee.

He quoted some information from the United States. Again with the greatest of respect I am very cautious of that kind of information because our systems are so different in many situations.

I appreciate when he says we should err, if we must err, on the side of victims and not criminals and therefore their support to take the DNA samples at the time of the charge. I remind my colleague, as I am sure he is aware, there is no criminal until such time as a court determines guilt. At the time individual are charged they are the accused.

At that time the person we are calling the victim is the accuser. If I come before a court and say that the hon. member has done something to me, at that time I am not a victim and he is not a criminal. At that time I am the accuser and he is the accused. As I indicated we will have a lively debate on that aspect of the bill.

It has been stated that an opportunity has been presented to find that balance and I think we will. History is fraught with examples of situations where societies and communities felt they had the answer to solving crime problems and investigative tools, only to be proven down the road that scientific evidence was not as accurate as we might have hoped and that many innocent people suffered as a result of what society thought was the perfect test for guilt.

We must approach this kind of scientific information with some scepticism because it deserves to be treated carefully and critically.

Certain sections of the bill require real examination. As the solicitor general indicated, many groups made presentations to him. Many groups opposed the legislation. Among them were the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, the Elizabeth Fry Society, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and women's organizations like the Feminist Alliance on New Reproductive and Genetic Technologies. Several other groups felt the legislation was not necessarily the best way to use government funds. As indicated previously civil liberties associations had real concerns about the legislation.

I can point to specific examples in the legislation where I think the solicitor general and the government have gone too far, or sections that require very careful consideration and debate. Clause 7, as my colleague has indicated, provides for tremendous discretion on the part of the commissioner to provide access to information about an individual's DNA index to other groups.

The very taking of the DNA samples is questionable. Why would we do it automatically instead of perhaps suggesting that an application be made by the prosecution or by the defence? Certainly there are benefits to the accused. Why should an application not be made to the judge hearing the case who could then exercise his or her discretion accordingly with procedural safeguards for the civil liberties of the individual charged? The automatic taking of the sample is something I have some problems with.

Clause 10 which provides for further testing if there are new developments is fraught with real problems. On the storing of the substances which has been referred to, especially the storing and keeping of the substances when an individual is pardoned, when a higher court overturns a conviction, I think we must ask the question why we would keep the substances once an individual is determined to be innocent of the crime. Then the sample ought not to have been collected in the first place. Why we would continue to keep that index and the information derived from the samples is something we have to look at very carefully.

The application to young offenders and the keeping of the samples for 10 years is a portion of the legislation we have to look at very critically. As well we should look at the offences to which the taking of DNA samples will apply.

Those concerns will demand very real examination in committee. As I have indicated, the NDP will support the bill in principle at this point and will certainly support referring it to committee.

However, if I can summarize, a number of issues need to be addressed such as the indefinite period of keeping the DNA on file; the inclusion of young offenders in the act, in every single portion of the act, to be treated the same way as adults; the issue of who has access to the DNA databank and how the information may be used; the fact that the DNA may be taken even while a case is under appeal or kept while the case is under appeal; and the taking of DNA be mandatory upon conviction rather than at the discretion of the judiciary.

I cannot stress that enough. I feel very strongly about that point. I am willing to listen to other arguments and debate, but it is something we have to be very careful about.

The fact that a person can be detained for a reasonable amount of time for the taking of the samples, as opposed to a clearly defined period of time during which the samples could be taken, requires consideration. Who will be taking the samples? Will it be a member of the police force or a trained individual?

Another very real question that has to be addressed is the funding formula and the costs of establishing the DNA databank. Who will pay for it? Obviously the commissioner will be a member of the RCMP. The RCMP will have a huge influence on the way the legislation is dealt with. All those questions deserve very careful consideration.

As I have indicated I look forward to the debate. I think it will be lively. I especially look forward to the comments of the next speaker, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. He is a former prosecutor. I am a former defence counsel. The two of us worked in the same province. We did not have the opportunity to lock horns in the courtrooms of Nova Scotia, but I look forward to our debate in committee.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-3, the DNA identification act. As my learned friend in the New Democratic Party pointed out, I was a crown attorney in the province of Nova Scotia and had the opportunity to deal with a number of cases which featured DNA evidence.

Although this may give lawyers, both prosecutors and defenders, a unique perspective on the legislation, I would suggest that DNA evidence is something that has a tremendous effect and impact on the criminal justice system for all Canadians.

There has truly been a number of changes within our legal system and DNA type testing is certainly the next generation of fingerprinting.

Since 1988 trial judges have allowed DNA evidence from the accused to be identified in several criminal prosecutions throughout the land. Indeed forensic DNA analysis has been instrumental in securing convictions in hundreds of violent crimes, as well as resulting in the release of wrongfully convicted persons, as referenced by the Reform member. He mentioned the Morin case as well as the Milgaard case in his province. The key here is that both an inculpatory and exculpatory notion arise from the use of DNA evidence.

During the early years of DNA evidence there existed a vacuum in regulating the collection and use of DNA data. In a number of cases judges allowed DNA samples which were taken from individuals without their consent. This is something which is addressed within the proposed legislation. It is something which will certainly lead to more lively debate with respect to individual rights, as opposed to the rights of the victims and their families. Caution must always be exercised in the use of this type of technology.

Organizations such as the Canadian Police Association have warned the Liberal government that legislation would be needed to ensure proper and effective use of DNA evidence similar to the type of evidence that is introduced through the identification of criminal acts with photos and fingerprints and of the need to potentially purge the samples if a person was found not guilty.

In December 1993 the Canadian Police Association met with the then justice minister and in January 1994 met with the then solicitor general. The purpose of the meetings was to raise the urgent need for updating the evidence laws, including DNA technology. Despite the warnings from the country's top law enforcement personnel, the men and women who are on the front lines enforcing the laws, the Liberals decided to wait. They dragged their heels until the Supreme Court of Canada intervened in 1994, much the same way they continue to drag their heels on the faint hope clause, the Young Offenders Act, victims bills of rights and impaired driving legislation.

The supreme court ruled that in the absence of federal legislation the police did not have any lawful authority or means to obtain a search warrant for the seizure of bodily substances for the purposes of DNA typing. This lack of legislation led the Supreme Court of Canada to determine that DNA evidence obtained without the consent of the accused risked being excluded at trial. I did see this happen in a case that arose within my constituency of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, the Queen vs. Borden.

The government finally took the step to provide a legal framework for DNA evidence in 1995 by passing Bill C-104. That bill gave the police the right to seek a warrant that, if approved by a provincial court judge, would authorize the collection of bodily substances for DNA analysis.

Bill C-104 also legislated the criteria for our judges to consider when reviewing DNA warrant applications. Police officers, lawyers and judges finally had some guidelines, albeit very broad guidelines, to govern the collection and use of DNA evidence.

With Bill C-104 in place the obvious question arose of what would the government do with the DNA samples once they were collected. The logical answer was the creation of a national DNA data bank in which the collected samples could be stored for future reference in the use of criminal investigations or trials. Even the justice minister at the time, when not preoccupied with cracking down on law abiding gun owners or launching politically motivated witch hunts, did concede that the importance of a national DNA bank existed. He felt that it was so important that when Bill C-104 was approved he promised complementary data bank legislation for the fall of 1995.

That promise bit the dust when the government decided to start consultation again in January 1996. A discussion paper entitled “Establishing a National DNA Data Bank” was tabled. Interestingly enough, the cover note on the news release which accompanied the discussion paper of the day stated that the government would bring in DNA legislation within the coming year. We all know what happens when these promises are made on justice issues. The coming year seems to be stretched into 16 months and the promised legislation was tabled in April this year just in time for its inclusion in the writing of the order paper. It was also introduced in time for inclusion in the red book.

Thankfully the Liberals did not use this as an election excuse to delay the potentially important piece of legislation before us today. With some minor exceptions, technical language that is, Bill C-3 is essentially the same bill that was introduced in April during the dying days of the last Parliament.

The solicitor general has outlined many of the positive elements of this bill, of which there are several. The national DNA data bank, to be managed by the RCMP, will consist of two main components, a crime scene index that will contain DNA profiles obtained from unsolved crime scenes, as well as a convicted offenders index which will contain DNA profiles of adult and young offenders convicted of designated Criminal Code offences.

Because police officers would be able to cross-reference these data from certain convicted offenders with unsolved crimes, the DNA identification act is a great improvement over the vacuum which previously existed in terms of storing the DNA data.

But will this national data bank established under Bill C-3 provide police officers with an effective tool to solve crimes and keep our streets and communities safe as referred to by the solicitor general?

Police officers, particularly those involved in the Canadian Police Association, do not feel it will. The Canadian Police Association, which has been at the forefront of lobbying the government to establish this DNA data bank, is concerned about the effectiveness of Bill C-3. In essence, it is opposed to the legislation in its current form.

The major concern of the Canadian Police Association is the timing of DNA collection. According to the CPA, a national DNA data bank will only be successful if the collection of DNA evidence from a person charged with an indictable offence is done at the time of arrest. Why is this the case? Because the only guaranteed opportunity to obtain DNA evidence from an individual charged with an indictable offence is when the police have actual custody and possession of this individual.

The proposed convicted offenders index, while somewhat useful, would not help police with unknown murderers and rapists. It might even encourage suspected offenders to skip bail. Most people charged with offences do receive release pending trial. Our criminal justice system grants bail in more than 95% of cases when individuals are charged. According to


in 1995, 66,000 people broke bail or failed to appear as required.

Consider this example of what might happen if a person were arrested with respect to an offence related to juvenile prostitution, a designated offence for which the DNA collection would apply. If that person had also committed an offence such as a murder or a sexual offence in another part of the country from which the offender's unidentified DNA was to be collected, that person would know that if convicted for juvenile prostitution, an offence not as serious as the prior offences I have mentioned, the DNA analysis would be obtained, cross-referenced with the crime scene and then that person could potentially face a murder charge. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that under the bill in its current form the offender would certainly have an incentive to skip bail knowing that he was going to face more serious charges.

As it stands, this bill is a huge loophole that we do not need. We certainly do not need more unnecessary loopholes in our justice system. I understand the fears of individuals in Canada with respect to privacy but I believe there are ways to deal with this without compromising the collection of samples and the ability to solve serious unsolved crimes.

I respect the fact that many members in the opposition have posed serious questions that will be debated at the committee level. I also look forward to taking part in that rigorous debate and to seeing that this bill is brought forward in such a way that it will aid our law enforcement agents throughout Canada.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Vaudreuil—Soulanges Québec


Nick Discepola LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have seven or eight minutes left. I will try to conclude my remarks by 5.30 p.m.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-3 today. It is entitled the DNA Identification Act. It concerns an issue never before dealt with in Canadian legislation.>

The registration of DNA profiles in a bank and the storage of samples and bodily substances raises many ethical and legal questions and warrants thorough consideration in an open discussion. Rest assured that the Government of Canada is taking these questions seriously. That is why the Department of the Solicitor General last year consulted widely on the creation of a DNA data bank.

In January 1996, the solicitor general at the time made public a consultation paper on a national DNA data bank. This document was used as the basis for consultation across the country, in which a number of questions were asked, including: what genetic material should be included in the bank; when should samples be taken and who should do so; should we keep biological specimens and DNA profiles; and how should the DNA data bank be funded?

The document was given to provincial and territorial governments, to police departments, to national police organizations, to those responsible for privacy, to lawyers, to representatives of correctional services, to women's groups, to victims' groups and to experts in the field of forensic medicine. You can see a broad cross section was consulted.

The number of participants in consultations and the number of briefs received raised considerable interest in the creation of a national DNA data bank.

On the whole, the consultation also showed that there was strong support for such a bank, particularly from the police. On the other hand, those concerned with privacy issues and jurists stressed the necessity of adopting balanced legislation which would include the necessary guarantees, limits and protections to ensure that privacy is respected.

The Department of the Solicitor General summarized the results of the consultation process in another document titled “Summary of consultations”. This report stated that there was no true consensus among respondents on such questions as preservation of biological samples of bodily substances and the range of offences involved.

Given the complexity of this matter, and the diversity of views on this aspect of how the data bank would operate, I must take advantage of this opportunity to congratulate the Solicitor General of Canada for introducing legislative provisions which reflect both the necessity to improve protection of the public and the obligation to respect the individual's right to privacy.

The national DNA data bank will offer police forces an invaluable tool to assist them in their battle against violent crime. Police investigations will be facilitated by the use of DNA analysis and by the possibility of comparing genetic data from biological samples from convicted criminals with those found at the scene of unsolved crimes.

It will help ensure that those guilty of serious crimes, such as repeat violent sexual offenders, are identified and apprehended much more quickly. At the same time, the bill contains strict rules governing the collection, the use, the retention of DNA profiles and biological samples in order to ensure that privacy interests are protected.

Building on the success of the DNA warrant legislation passed in July 1995, the current bill includes similar safeguards and processes related to the collection of the samples. To date, we all know that the DNA warrant scheme has withstood charter challenges and thus provides a solid foundation on which to build the DNA data bank scheme.

The legislation includes numerous safeguards. For example, as has already been stated, the RCMP will be responsible for safely and securely storing all biological samples. In addition, the legislation limits access to DNA profiles contained in the convicted offenders index and access to the samples themselves will be limited to only those directly involved in the operation and maintenance of the data bank.

In order to ensure the appropriate use of information contained in the data bank, the bill states clearly that only the name attached to the profile may be transmitted to the authorities responsible for implementing the legislation in the course of criminal investigations.

The bill also provides for prison terms of up to two years less a day for infractions. Infractions involving unauthorized use of the data bank will also be included in Canada's Criminal Code and in the legislation on identification by fingerprints.

This is an extremely important bill that will be invaluable to the police in combatting violent crime. As my esteemed colleague, the Solicitor General of Canada, has already said, however, the complexity and innovative nature of the bill require the full attention of members and of experts with the necessary experience and knowledge to advise us on issues relating to technology, privacy, law and ethics.

In conclusion, therefore, I support the motion of the Solicitor General of Canada to refer Bill C-3 to committee before second reading, and I urge all my colleagues in the House to do the same.

The House resumed, from October 28, 1997, consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to provide for an integrated system of land and water management in the Mackenzie Valley, to establish certain boards for that purpose and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-6.

Call in the members.

Before the taking of the vote:

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I know it is a new Parliament but members should not come between the person speaking, the Chair and the mace. Therefore, when members have to cross the floor, I ask you either to go around the chair or around the table.

Actually what I have is a trap door here, and if you don't—

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

—you go down.

Also, when members enter the House or leave it—it is a tradition—but you acknowledge the authority of the Chair. The overwhelming majority already do it, but it is simply to bow to the Chair when you come in and when you go out.

The question is on the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 21Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Division No. 21Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 6.03 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should actively develop an innovative National Shipbuilding Policy which focuses on making ship yards internationally competitive by providing tax incentives and construction financing comparable to what is being provided elsewhere in the world and which ensures reasonable access to foreign markets, particularly the United States of America; and should recognize that such a policy would not provide direct subsidies, but create alternatives methods of support to ensure the growth of the industry.

Mr. Speaker, it is with the utmost of honour that I introduce my motion which calls on the government to review, revitalize and renew Canada's shipbuilding policy.

For the past number of months various sectors have been pleading, in fact demanding, development of a national shipbuilding policy. A focused and unified consortium of stakeholders recognize the industry is in need of governmental leadership and initiatives to ensure the future of a strong, self-sufficient and export driven industry.

These stakeholders include the Shipbuilder's Association of Canada and the Canadian Ship Owners Association. Labour is represented by the Marine Workers Federation and even all 10 provincial premiers are on side.

This motion addresses the need for policies and initiatives to ensure Canadian shipyards have reasonable access to international markets. Today's debate brings the issue to the forum where change must and can only be delivered, on the floor of this House.

My objective is for the House to recognize through constructive debate what others know to be true, that the federal government has a responsibility to respond to the needs of Canada's shipbuilding industry.

I stress the need for all members to reach a consensus so this issue will reach the desk of the Minister of Industry in an urgent fashion. Reaching a consensus would be a major step forward for the shipyards and individuals who earn their living in this high tech industry.

Before we get into detail, the support and changes that I and the industry are advocating are not about subsidies. We are calling for changes to simplify regulations to enable our shipyards to compete. These changes would do more for the industry than any subsidy ever could.

The industry recognizes the way it has been supported in the past by government contracts will not continue. It is eager to find new markets internationally where it knows it can compete. This is the key to the success of a shipbuilding industry and our ability to be competitive in a global marketplace.

Canada's marine industry employs 40,000 people nationwide and adds over $2 billion to gross domestic product. Canadian shipbuilders have rationalized 40% of their shipbuilding capacity over the last decade. They have become more efficient and are lower cost producers.

The industry has evolved and modernized. What it needs now are initiatives to use this modernization to be able to compete. Canadian shipyards are now high tech companies supporting Canada's ocean and marine shipboard technology and are part of an industry with a future, yet we continue to impede their progress with a paternalistic approach.

The federal government has no specific industrial or trade policy dealing with shipbuilding. The international trade business plan, Canada's integrated plan for trade, investment, technology and development, does not include shipbuilding.

While this motion does not call for subsidies, I think we need to recognize that all other shipbuilding nations have direct subsidies or a variety of programs that enable them to compete internationally. Canada does not. This forces us to compete on an uneven playing field.

At the same time, Canadian shipyards have become more competitive by incorporating new technologies and processes, adding new equipment and modern facilities. The fact is that Canadian shipyards could be cost competitive with other European Economic Community and United States shipyards building naval ships today and have the potential to become competitive building merchant ships if we had the opportunity to compete on a more level playing field.

Shipbuilding is a relatively labour intensive activity, thus labour costs have a major impact on the total shipbuilding cost. Over the past 10 years hourly wages in Canada have gone from being among the highest in the mid-1980s to near the lowest in 1996 when compared to European and American shipyards. This is a result of significant currency exchanges, improved Canadian efficiency and rising labour costs abroad.

Due to excess subsidies, low cost shipbuilding nations such as Korea, China, Poland, Ukraine, Brazil and Spain target low technology ships such as crude tankers and bulk carriers with high steel content and low outfitting needs. Canadian shipyards cannot, would not and have no interest in participating in this aggressive market.

While some nations are losing their market share in shipbuilding, others are finding success in specialty niche construction. Canadian shipyards would focus on product carriers, chemical carriers, offshore vessels and specialty ships requiring special paint coatings, improved steel treatment and specific instrumentation, navigation and communication systems. These ships are presently built in high wage areas, such as the EU, Japan and the United States.

Over the past decade Canadian government procurement has been the main source of work for domestic shipyards. However, because of shrinking government budgets and reduced government requirements for ships, new markets must be found.

International markets provide the only possible military and commercial shipbuilding opportunities for larger Canadian firms. In the near term the commercial market offers the best prospects for maintaining and/or expanding production.

Considering the fact that only 2% to 3% of Canadian shipyard capacity is exported today, there is a real opportunity for the government to assume a leadership role and empower the industry to grow. Canadian policies must support both international market entry and sales to Canadian operators and owners. We must agree that the future of the shipbuilding industry in Canada is tied to its ability to compete in the international commercial shipbuilding markets.

Shipbuilding construction has shown consistent increase in demand since the early 1980s. Shipyards around the world are preparing for continued growth. The longer Canadian shipyards wait, the more difficult it will be to enter these international markets.

Canadian officials continually point to the need to follow the 1979 OECD agreement, yet we are the only country to abide by these terms. Members of the EU generally provide direct subsidies to their shipyards of up to 9% of construction costs. Other assistance, such as research and development, tax benefit programs and export financing are also provided.

Providing subsidies is not a solution that I am advocating. It is not a made in Canada solution. There are alternatives which would enable Canada to compete on a more level playing field which do not involve subsidies.

The premiers, the Canadian Shipbuilding Association and other stakeholders believe that there are financial mechanisms used by the Americans which could form part of our Canadian solution.

First of all, the U.S. federal ship financing program, known as Title 11, is a good example. After a long absence from the international commercial market, U.S. shipbuilders have appeared in the world order book compliments of Title 11. This financing program recognizes the common practice of ship buyers demanding a financial package as part of the total sales package.

Title 11, established in 1936, provides for federal government guarantees of private sector financing for the construction of U.S. ships for both domestic and foreign ship owners. The success of the Title 11 export financing and loan guarantee program is an indisputable success.

In fiscal year 1996 more than $1 billion U.S. in U.S. ships were exported and delivered courtesy of Title 11 guarantees. It is worth noting that there has not been a default under this program. There has been no cost to the U.S. government since it was established in 1936.

A second initiative which the shipbuilding stakeholders support involves revisions to Revenue Canada leasing regulations. Leased financing has become a predominant method of financing significant capital items. The current regulations make the ownership of leased financing of a Canadian ship uneconomical.

Accelerated depreciation was the backbone of the shipbuilding industry only a few years ago and resulted in many ships being built. The industry is imploring the government to visit this initiative immediately. There is no reason the government cannot take that step right away. It is not precedent setting and it would make a significant difference in additional activity and reduce social costs to the government.

Major items of capital equipment are already exempt from existing Revenue Canada leasing regulations, such as computers, rail cars, trucks and others.

The industry also wants to see the one-sided aspects of NAFTA eliminated. The American 1920 Jones Act legislates that cargo carried between American ports must be carried aboard American ships that are American built, registered, owned, crewed, repaired and serviced exclusively by American firms. Otherwise they are open to free trade. This legislation was exempted from the FTA and from NAFTA.

Canadian shipbuilders do not have access to the American market which is our natural market, yet American shipbuilders have the right to sell to the Canadian market duty free. This unfair and imbalanced version of free trade puts Canadian shipbuilders at a severe disadvantage. The chances of reaching a quick resolution with the Americans are slim because protectionism has pervaded U.S. shipbuilding policy since 1920, as we found out in FTA and in NAFTA.

However it is possible for us to revisit the Jones Act using a strategic piecemeal approach. We need to push for bilateral agreements on certain types of ships and vessels. I think all members would agree that some form of market penetration is better than none.

Currently U.S. grain exporters are unhappy with the Jones Act as they perceive the legislation to be an infinite tariff that has reduced competition and driven up shipping costs. This represents an American chink in the Jones Act armour which may enable better dialogue on possible bilateral agreements later on.

When referring to the government strategy for better economic and industrial development in Atlantic Canada the Minister of Industry stated:

The emphasis has to be on working with community strengths and building on community advantages, and not on wielding a pot full of cash and dispensing it to people on the basis of who they know and who they voted for in the last election.

I agree with the Minister of Industry on this issue. If he wants to work with the community strengths and the community advantages he need not look any further than Canada's modernized state of the art shipyards.

We have highly tooled yards and highly skilled labour. What we do not have is access to markets. Subsidies, or as the minister said a pot full of money, are not needed but a national policy that faces up to the realities of the global marketplace is.

The industry has proven that it is competitive. What it needs is export financing, revisions to Revenue Canada leasing regulations, and attempts at bilateral trade discussions to ensure we have access to our natural markets. A combination of any one of these initiatives would create jobs and make the industry more viable.

The development of a national shipbuilding policy has widespread support. The member for Saint John has been a tireless supporter of the shipbuilding industry since she has become a member of Parliament and during 20 years in municipal politics as well.

At the first ministers meeting in July the premiers recognized the challenges currently faced by Canadian shipbuilders in their efforts to become internationally competitive. They recognized the need for a national shipbuilding policy. The industry and the ship owners association are calling for a national policy.

The current finance minister stated in 1988 as owner of Canada Steamship Lines why he had to have ships built in Brazil:

I fought hard to have the ships built in Canada but was unable to convince the government of the need to have an aggressive shipbuilding policy. If we are not going to do that we will never be a factor in commercial shipping.

All these folks are not wrong. Simply put, we need to develop a modern policy to give Canada access to international markets. While I am pleased that constructive debate is taking place, I believe it is a great injustice that we are not able to vote on this matter.

Therefore I would like to seek unanimous consent of the House to make Motion No. 214 a votable motion. This is a national policy that benefits shipyards in Vancouver on the western coast, inland shipyards whether in Quebec or Ontario, and in Atlantic Canada as well.

This is a national policy. All we are imploring the government to do is to begin dialogue. Everybody wants a national shipbuilding strategy: the ship owners, the workers, the premiers and I believe members of Parliament.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, this is a motion respecting the shipbuilding industry in Canada. The shipbuilding industry has a long and rich tradition in the country. It continues to play a key role in many coastal and port communities, from major yards in Saint John, New Brunswick, to Levis, Quebec, to smaller ones dotted across the country in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Newfoundland and British Columbia.

As has been stated earlier, overall the major shipyards employ about 4,000 workers. They are highly skilled, well paying jobs. The smaller yards and facilities employ many other workers. All these people can take great pride in the work they do and the contribution they make.

The shipbuilding industry is a small but important component of Canada's overall marine industry, making a significant contribution to Canada's economic growth.

Shipbuilding is one of only a few industry to benefit from comprehensive government initiatives. Essentially there are three elements to the policy.

First, we made a commitment to use Canadian shipbuilders for the renewal, repair and overhaul of government fleets. We will continue our policy of domestic procurement on all federal ships and repairs where it is possible to do so.

Second, we have a 25% tariff on all non-NAFTA foreign built ships over 100 tonnes entering Canadian waters, with the exception of fishing vessels over 100 feet.

Third, between 1986 and 1993 we spent $198 million on an industry led rationalization process. The industry decided that it was necessary to reduce its capacity so that the remaining shipyards could survive and stay competitive. Therefore the structure of the Canadian shipbuilding industry has changed dramatically since 1986 due to this rationalization. Certainly in the last five years there has been no real change in the domestic international market situation to support reversing the approach of the current government.

In addition, the Government of Canada has several other key initiatives to support this sector. There are tax measures available to ship owners in the form of accelerated capital cost allowance on new ships built in Canada. Shipbuilders are also encouraged to keep pace with new technology through the research and development tax credit system. Through government institutions there is financing available to this sector like any other sector for commercially viable projects. For example, the Export Development Corporation can provide financing for export sales of Canadian products including ships.

We recognize that the international playing field is not level. First, major distortions in the marketplace result from massive subsidies from foreign governments to their shipping industries. To defend our domestic industry we will continue our efforts to eliminate foreign subsidies through the OECD. At the same time the European community is looking at eliminating its country's subsidies by the year 2000. Things are slowly changing.

Second, let me address the U.S. situation and the Jones Act. Under the legislation only vessels built in the United States and operating under the U.S. flag can engage in U.S. domestic trade. This prohibits building or rebuilding any vessels for the U.S. coasting trade in non-U.S. shipyards.

I remind the member for Fundy—Royal that he was not a member of the House at the time the previous government led by his party negotiated the free trade agreement and did not work out any details to change this awful protectionist system under the Jones Act.

However there are opportunities for Canadian yards to capture some of the U.S. ship repair markets which will become more accessible as the standard U.S. 50% tariff on repairs continues to decrease over time and will be eliminated in 1998 under NAFTA.

It is still important to continue our efforts to encourage the U.S. government to update an archaic 77 year old Jones Act in line with NAFTA and WTO principles.

While the majority of U.S. legislators are supporters, a growing number of legislators as well as other organizations such as citizen tax groups are attacking the act on the grounds that it is effectively a subsidy paid by the consumer.

In 1996 the International Trade Commission estimated the Jones Act raises the price of water borne transportation by 26%. The extra costs get passed along to consumers in higher prices. This constitutes a hidden Jones Act tax of between $3.8 billion and $10 billion a year. There is a result of subsidies.

A U.S. senator has recently introduced the legislation to allow foreign flagships to operate between two U.S. ports, if the operator or charter of the ship is a U.S. citizen or is eligible to engage in business in the U.S., and if the operator operates regularly scheduled freight service in the ocean trades including the Great Lakes. This is a very slight improvement but still not good enough.

However all parties in the U.S. are acknowledging this is a long term issue with no immediate solution. That is what they say every year.

There is little doubt the Canadian shipbuilding industry has faced some hard times in recent years. However recent developments might help to stimulate new business in Canada for shipbuilding and marine construction. They include the need to revitalize the aging Great Lakes shipping fleet and the development of high speed ferry services in offshore oil and gas developments such as Hibernia, Terra Nova and Sable Island.

Certainly new opportunities are out there. There is evidence that the international shipbuilding industry has come out its global recession. The deep sea shipping fleet is aging and needs replacement. Double hauling will soon be mandatory for ships entering U.S. ports, requiring modifications to newer ships and possibly the replacement of older ones. Each of these developments may provide some opportunities to Canadian shipyards in the future.

We must be prepared to compete in the global marketplace. To become globally competitive Canadian shipyards must aggressively continue to adopt modern technology. Acquiring the latest technology in shipbuilding will help reduce production costs, increase productivity and reduce labour. A lot of work has been done but a lot more has to be done.

Around the world Canadian shipyards have earned a sterling reputation in specialized markets such as coastal ferry systems, icebreakers and self-unloading bulk carriers. Canada enjoys a significant technological advantage and market edge because of its experience in the construction of these specialized vessels. Many new opportunities are looming on the horizon for shipbuilding and the refit and repair industries in Canada. There is much work to be done.

Although I cannot support the motion as submitted by the member for Fundy—Royal, I congratulate him on his preparedness and his desire to continue to work on behalf of the Canadian shipbuilding industry. I hope we can continue to do so in the months and years ahead.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too congratulate and commend the motion presented to the House, the depth of the research that has been done and the understanding of the industry. I also commend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry for his light on the subject.

The intent of the motion is probably one we could all support. There ought to be a sound industrial policy not only with regard to shipbuilding but with regard to all industrial development in Canada. That is what is lacking in the government currently in charge of the affairs of Canada.

I cannot help but to refer back to a particular response the Ministry of Industry made as recently as yesterday. It is no wonder people are confused, particularly the hon. member who proposed the motion. The Minister of Industry in reply to a question by the member for Halifax West said:

If he is asking me to announce that Canada will get into a subsidy bidding war in shipbuilding, the answer to him as it was for the member for Saint John last week is absolutely no.

The interesting contrast is that the same Minister of Industry is quite prepared to enter into a subsidy bidding war when it comes to the aerospace industry. How is it that the same minister will unequivocally say “absolutely no” to the subsidization of the bidding war with regard to shipbuilding but it is absolutely okay when it comes to the aerospace industry?

This is the same minister who does this. The unfortunate part of it is that is not unusual. It so happens that this is a Liberal government right now. There was a PC government before it which did exactly the same thing. It also subsidized the one but not the other. So there is nothing new here.

What this motion does is allow us to articulate rather clearly that while there is nothing new, the PCs did the same thing as the Liberals, Liberals do the same thing as the PCs, now they are saying the government needs to have policy. That is right. It does need to have a policy but so do the PCs because they do not have one either.

This is just one of those crazy back and forths. One would think it was a ping-pong game we were involved in here. The unfortunate part of it is that the people who are suffering in this are those working in the shipyards, the families involved, the lack of work for these people. That is where the problem lies for not having a good policy come to the floor.

I want to read this motion. The motion is a very interesting study in semantics. It reads something like this. They want the policy to focus:

—on making shipyards internationally competitive by providing tax incentives and construction financing comparable to what is being provided elsewhere in the world and which ensures reasonable access to foreign markets, particularly the United States of America; and should recognize that such a policy would not provide direct subsidies, but create alternative methods of support to ensure the growth of the industry.

What other alternate forms of support would their be than subsidies, maybe not direct but certainly indirect?

The hon. member said that there are all these other programs. Indeed there are. In fact, there is the foreign investment opportunity company and all kinds of other programs that exist which do allow countries that want to buy these ships to get financing from the Canadian government.

There is nothing new here. What there is, and I commend the member for this, is to articulate very clearly what the problem is in certain parts of this country.

I happened to be at the vision conference in Moncton, New Brunswick and I was particularly impressed by the tenure and discussion that took place at that conference. There were premiers and business leaders from the Atlantic provinces who all had one theme at this vision conference, a vision for the Atlantic provinces. It was led by the premier of New Brunswick.

Today this gentleman has retired from his position but he said to the assembled group “we want the federal government to get out of the subsidy business, get out of the grant business and give us that money in the form of tax breaks or reduced taxes”.

The Reform Party has talked about this for the last eight years. We know that is the answer. The answer does not lie in subsidies or grants. Grants and subsidies create dependency and operations that are now competitive, operations that do not search out markets, that do not have the incentive to apply the most recent technology, the most efficient ways of applying that technology and the most efficient deployment of personnel and people who are skilled. That is what is wrong with subsidies.

What has to happen here is that the environment needs to change. We said limit things like ACOA and grants and subsidies and then these industries could become indeed competitive, search out the markets and do the kinds of things that really matter.

From that point of view I support the motion but unfortunately that is not what it states. It states one thing and I am not so sure that it totally explores it the way it should. Perhaps the motion could be reworded in such a way so that we could fully support it and be enthusiastic about it.

The specific questions with regard to the shipbuilding industry really could be summed up in two questions. First, is the shipbuilding industry in trouble because it did not remain competitive? Second, is it in trouble because there is not enough of a market or the market is not large enough to sustain another international global shipbuilder?

Those are two absolutely critical questions. They lie at the very base of a Canadian shipbuilding policy. What ought it to be? I think the hon. member will agree that those are the key questions. I do not have the answers to those questions.

I suspect that the Canadian Shipbuilding Association does not have an answer to that question either, but I think it needs to address those two questions and then come to wherever the policy ought to change so that indeed the competitiveness of the marketplace can be established as far as the shipbuilding industry is concerned and the size of the market identified as to whether the capacity for building ships ought to be expanded. I think that is a major issue.

The hon. parliamentary secretary indicated that there was a rationalization of the shipbuilding industry. Part of it was to reduce the number of ships, and that is fine. However, what we now need to do is not only rationalize in terms of the numbers of ships that are to be built, but the kinds of ships that ought to be built and the technology that exists in those ships so that they can become competitive in the international marketplace and that they will then build the kind of profit picture into the people who own those shipbuilding yards so that they can hire people and give them work so that they can supply their families and friends with the things they need.

I wonder as well whether we should not become very serious about this whole business of how industry ought to run in this country. What kind of an environment ought the government to create for this country so that business could compete?

The number one issue it seems to me is to have a level playing field. We do not have a level playing field in Canada. It is anything but level when the government interferes in the marketplace with agencies like regional economic development agency like ACOA, western economic, FEDNOR or whatever it is. That creates an artificial intrusion into the marketplace.

When the government intrudes into the marketplace in giving specific grants to particular industries that are not repaid, that create an unfair advantage to the manufacturing agents receiving that money over and against a group that does not. It also raises the question of providing certain kinds of guaranteed loans.

I understand under title 11 in the United States, which is what I believe the member referred to, there have been no defaults on the money that has been granted since 1936.

The significant aspect here is that we know that in Canada there have been many defaults of various kinds of government repayable loans. This is a double whammy on the taxpayer. First the taxpayer is asked to give the grant or subsidy to a particular industry. When that industry defaults, the taxpayer has to pay again.

That is what is wrong with this kind of system. We cannot afford to do that. I encourage the member to go back and reword his motion slightly so that we could support it and recognize that subsidies and grants are anathemas to good business.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker,I am pleased to speak to this motion in my capacity as the Bloc Quebecois transportation critic.

Let me begin by telling my colleague for Fundy—Royal that our party finds his motion very interesting and is in favour of it. Unfortunately, that support cannot take the form of votes, because this motion is not votable. The debate this evening is, however, highly relevent.

In Quebec we have the wonderful motto “Je me souviens”, but sometimes unfortunately we do not use our memory effectively. I will explain with an anecdote.

During the 1993 election campaign, I had the opportunity to represent my party in a debate on Radio-Canada, participated in by Jean Pelletier, the executive assistant of the current Prime Minister, and the ineffable or unspeakable Pierre Blais, erstwhile Minister of Justice in the Conservative government, a man very taken with his own importance.

You will not be surprised to hear that, since this debate was held in the greater Quebec City area and was apparently broadcast as far away as the Magdalen Islands and the Portneuf region, the question of the survival of MIL Davie Shipbuilding at Lauzon was raised.

Remember, this was 1993. I recall very clearly that Pierre Blais, a Conservative minister, and therefore in the same party as the member moving this motion, said to me “For the nine years that the Conservative Party has been in office, it has given contracts to MIL Davie”. I asked him how much they had given and his answer was $1.2 billion.

I told Pierre Blais, the Conservative minister at the time, that, while the Conservatives had given $1.2 billion to MIL Davie, they had given $11 billion in contracts to shipyards in the maritimes. This shows that, Liberal or Conservative, it makes no difference.

Naturally, we agree that the government should provide tax incentives to revitalize shipyards, but I would remind all our listeners—and I am sure they include former employees of Canadian Vickers in Montreal, Marine Industries in Sorel and present employees of MIL Davie in Lauzon—that no more than 12 or 15 years ago, Quebec had three major shipyards. They were responsible for 50% of the shipbuilding in Canada, and the only province that has rationalized its shipyards is Quebec.

Canadian Vickers was shut down; Marine Industries in Sorel also shut down, leaving only Mil Davie. Meanwhile, the Conservatives encouraged the founding of shipyards in the maritimes. The people at MIL Davie in Lauzon did their bit. They rationalized. Recently, when this shipyard was sold, when the present Government of Quebec encouraged a private promoter to take it over, the men and women of MIL Davie scrapped their collective agreement and showed their complete flexibility in order to create a climate conducive to building. All that remains is to deliver.

I want to tell you that the management of MIL Davie or Les Industries Davie, as it is now called, has shown leadership. Last August 30, the Port of Quebec received the world's second largest drilling platform, the

Spirit of Columbus

, which will be repaired in the port by people from Les Industries Davie, providing employment for 400. Les Industries Davie has shown that it can land international contracts.

What I am concerned about, however, is having certain tax incentives to encourage our Canadian shipowners to build ships here and repair them here, in Quebec and in Canada. It is on this point that I agree completely with the motion moved by my colleague, the member for Fundy—Royal.

I would remind members that, during the term of office running from 1993 to 1997, the Conservatives, with a leader and one member, were not very visible in the House of Commons. But I will tell the member for Fundy—Royal that the Standing Committee on Transport, of which I was then a member, tabled a report in May 1995 that was essentially the precursor of Bill C-9 now before us. This report led to Bill C-44, which, as we know, died on the Order Paper, in the Senate. That is why we are debating Bill C-9 again today.

The Standing Committee on Transport had tabled a report entitled “A National Marine Strategy”. This report included a recommendation, Recommendation No. 22, which I think is relevant. The report gives an indication of the Liberal government's willingness to go in this direction.

This is what the Liberals promised in 1995. Recommendation 22 provided: “In order to ensure the long-term viability of the Seaway, the federal government—this is the Liberal majority speaking in committee—should give serious consideration to the development of an incentive program to stimulate new construction and refitting of Canadian and foreign flag Seaway-size ships based on the essential condition that the work is done in Canadian shipyards”.

We in the Bloc Quebecois prepared, with my colleague, a minority report containing, if memory serves, 26 or 27 recommendations. There were some recommendations we certainly could not live with. That is why we tabled a minority report.

This is what the dissenting report of the Bloc Quebecois said with respect to Recommendation 22: “The Bloc Quebecois members on the Committee are pleased to note that the majority of members agreed with this proposed recommendation—that was our position. They fervently hope that the minister will consider it as it is vitally important to the future of the St. Lawrence Seaway and to shipyards in Quebec and in Canada”.

So, bouquets aside, it is very important to note the Bloc's concern. What we would like and what we want from the Liberal government is for it to behave like Bernard Landry, the Quebec minister of finance, in its next budget. Minister Landry was congratulated by the shipbuilding industry on the measures in his May 9, 1996 budget to encourage the building and repair of ships here, in Quebec particularly.

This budget included four points that are of interest: a new tax credit for builders; financial guarantees that would be given through the SDI; a reduction in the capital tax on the acquisition of ships; and, finally, a tax holiday for Quebec's sailors. These, I think, are measures that encourage shipbuilding in Quebec and in Canada.

The present Minister of Finance would do well, because we know his links with Canada Steamship Lines, to propose these sorts of incentives. We are trying to fight a war with water pistols, because we know that owners turn to other countries that have incredible tax benefits to build their ships, and we are unable to compete. That concludes my remarks.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Fundy—Royal.

As my colleague, the member for Halifax West, stated yesterday in the House, we in this party believe that Canada is in desperate need of a national shipbuilding policy.

Shipbuilding has a vital place in the economy of this nation, in its heritage and, more importantly, in the lives of numerous coastal communities. To let it wither on the vine would be a wanton act of industrial sabotage that would haunt the present government for generations to come.

Canada was once a key player in the global shipbuilding industry. As a major coastal nation and a central partner in the Allied military effort during the second world war, Canada entered the post-war years with a robust and healthy shipbuilding sector.

Today, after decades of short-sighted Liberal and Conservative stewardship, the industry is on its knees. The industry which once was a vital part of our industrial base is now barely afloat. We have reached the stage where we can barely meet our own modest shipbuilding needs, let alone aspire to become a major provider to the global market.

More sadly, the tragic lack of foresight and innovation exhibited by successive Liberal and Conservative governments have condemned thousands of highly skilled workers to unemployment or idleness. Since the beginning of this decade alone, the workforce in this sector has fallen from 12,000 to less than 5,000 hourly and salaried workers in 1996.

This is a shameful performance. It is especially so when we reflect on the fact that these same workers have made tremendous strides in improving their value added and productivity per worker, increasing it by almost one-quarter between 1986 and 1993. Alas, no such vision or dynamism has been apparent in the approach taken by the government to the future of this strategic sector. Apathy, resignation and ineptitude have been the hallmarks of its approach.

The government approach has had devastating consequences. Total sales of the Canadian shipbuilding sector have declined by about one-half since 1991, from $1.5 billion to less than $800 million in 1996. The decline in the value added of of the shipbuilding industry to the Canadian GDP has been even more dramatic, falling from $450 million in 1990 to less than $200 million today. While other countries continue to make the necessary investment in upgrading their shipbuilding yards and technology, with some exceptions Canada has continued to rely on outdated capital equipment.

Most forecasts suggest that the demand for new ships and marine technology will grow rapidly in the coming years. The need to modernize our Great Lakes fleet, the requirement for high speed ferry and commuter services, developments in the offshore oil and gas sector all point to a renewed demand for ships. However, every indication at present is that Canada is in no position to meet this renewed domestic demand.

If we are ill-equipped to meet domestic demand, our preparedness to meet global demand is even weaker still. As world trade grows, demand for new, economically efficient ships to replace an aging world fleet will be strong. Close to one-third of the world fleet is more than 20 years old. In sectors such as oil tankers this figure is much higher. There is also demand for new cruise ships from the expanding leisure industry. Opportunities for economic growth in jobs in the coastal shipbuilding yards abound, yet the minister sticks to his banal and naive view that he will not be dragged into a subsidies bidding war.

I can assure the minister that while he clings to these doctrinal absurdities, other nations are busily preparing themselves to meet the renewed demand. The U.S. with its Jones Act ensures that cargo carried between U.S. ports is carried aboard U.S. ships that are U.S. built, U.S. registered, U.S. owned, U.S. crewed and repaired and serviced by U.S. firms.

European nations use innovative tax credits, competitive bank financing, share purchases and tax shelter programs to encourage investment in shipbuilding. In Germany, for instance, individuals or corporations who invest in ship shares receive total deductions equal to 100% of the total investment.

The do nothing approach taken by this government to date is no longer acceptable. Canada must show some audacity and seek to develop new markets for our industry in niche areas such as ferries, icebreakers or specialized cargo ships. Canada must get out of the business of subsidizing foreign shipbuilders, many of whom utilize cheap labour and fail to comply with fair social and environmental standards.

Since the completion of the frigate building process and the refurbishment of Tribal class destroyers, Canada's shipbuilding industry has been waiting in vain for direction from Ottawa. Hard pressed coastal regions are looking to Ottawa to abandon its dismal hands off policy which has been so fatal to the industry. As it is increasingly obvious that neither the minister nor his senior officials have any idea how they might begin to re-invigorate the industry, let me suggest some basic life support measures which would benefit the industry over the medium to longer term.

First, let us rid ourselves of the short-sighted and damaging notion that private market forces alone should determine the future development of this important industry. While we do not endorse an escalating subsidy war, it is time to recognize that governments have a role to play in managing a fair allocation of shipbuilding production between competing countries. A managed trade approach, akin to the auto pact, would ensure that the Canadian shipbuilding industry would receive an overall volume of new orders consistent with our own shipbuilding requirements. This would amount to the extension of the U.S. Jones Act principle to international shipping and would ensure that each major seagoing nation would achieve a certain target level of shipbuilding activity.

Second, the government should lobby for the inclusion in any future international agreement regulating shipbuilding of a social clause. The problem in the past was that the term subsidy had been defined too narrowly. In many countries anti-union laws, low wages and non-existent health and safety laws amount to a subsidy to private shipbuilders. In these cases a subsidy is paid by the workers through lower wages or less safe working conditions rather than explicitly by the government.

We recommend that future international agreements in relation to subsidies take a broader view and include a social clause requiring participating countries to respect basic social, democratic and labour norms.

Third, we must recognize and co-ordinate the close links that exist between the regulation of the shipping industry and government efforts to support the shipbuilding industry.

In the past, shippers have been given too much discretion to select companies on the basis of price alone. The result has been that considerations relating to Canadian content, basic health and safety and environmental concerns have been neglected. In many cases the trade in Canada has become dominated by foreign flag vessels, flying flags of convenience from low tax jurisdictions such as Panama.

In fact, it is alleged by observers of the industry that Canada Steamship Lines, a company owned by the finance minister, has made use of these tax evading measures in the past. We believe that to be simply scandalous. It is time for Canada to implement a Jones like act that would require minimum levels of Canadian content in shipping activities. Furthermore, it is time that we insisted that ships traversing Canada's inland waterways be Canadian built and Canadian flagged.

Fourth, Canada has long been relying on its production and export of natural resources. We now recognize that greater value must be added to these raw, unprocessed resources here in Canada. It follows that Canada should be more involved in constructing, maintaining and operating the vessels that carry our natural resources to their destination markets. Canada is a great trading nation and it makes obvious sense that we have shipping and shipbuilding industries that reflect our stature as one of the top ten exporting nations.

Finally, it is time the government paid greater attention to maintaining appropriate levels of investment in our coastal infrastructure. Liberal cutbacks to lighthouses, coast guard search and rescue services, port upkeep and other maritime services have been highly detrimental to the safety, security and efficiency of our maritime communities. New public investment is needed by the coast guard and would generate additional work for Canadian shipyards.

In conclusion, I would like to state that we reject the view that the key decisions affecting the shipbuilding industries should be left to private shipbuilders and the private shipping companies. It is time for the government to embrace the public interest in promoting a vibrant, domestic shipbuilding sector. Shipbuilding workers, coastal communities and Canada's status as a major maritime nation are too important to be left to the vagaries of the marketplace.

To my colleague for Fundy—Royal, I too endorse your request that this important motion be a votable one. I will do what I can to support the motion. I beg your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, to look into that aspect.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to participate tonight in the debate on the motion of my colleague for Fundy—Royal which urges the government to develop a national shipbuilding policy.

I heard the hon. member from the government talking about money that has been invested in shipyards. The shipyard at Saint John is the most modern shipyard in the whole of Canada and perhaps, in the world. That is because of what the Liberals and the Conservatives have done in the past.

The investment is there but now the shipyard cannot compete. There is no work and it is sitting idle. The private industry people who own the shipyard are very frustrated and are saying that changes have to be made. They have spoken with a number of members.

I rose in the House this past week and asked the Minister of Industry if he was going to look at a shipbuilding policy to put our people back to work. His statement was that the government is not in the subsidy business. I want to make it clear that we are not advocating subsidies at all. We are seeking the simplification of regulations to enhance the industry's export capabilities. That does not mean subsidies.

There are two specific areas where the industry can be helped to be more competitive: improvements to export financing and loan guarantees and the exclusion of newly Canadian constructed ships from the present Revenue Canada leasing regulations. For the life of me I cannot understand why the government would not look favourably on that. It is done for rail cars, for vans, trucks and computers.

Over 10,000 people in the country would be put back to work. The Liberals can become heroes. When they do it, we will stand up and applaud. Those trained people are being told to go to Calgary, Alberta and look for work, or go to Texas and look for work. And what happens then? The families come to us saying “Daddy is gone. Daddy is not coming back.”

We have an obligation to put our people to work ad we have an opportunity to do that. We have an opportunity to make use of the tremendous investments that have been put into Canada in all our shipyards. So we are saying to them please, please. We are not saying subsidies, no. I understand the Minister of Industry has heard form the private sector this week to clarify that when that was his answer to my question.

Lease financing has become a predominant method of financing significant capital items. However, the regulations as presently stipulated make ownership and lease financing of a Canadian constructed vessel very unattractive if not uneconomical.

I am saying tonight that we can all work together on this. This must be a votable item. Like my hon. colleague from Fundy—Royal, I would like to seek unanimous consent to declare this motion votable.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

For the clarification of the Chair, is the hon. member moving to seek unanimous consent to have this made a votable item? Has it been seconded? If so, by whom?

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I moving that, seconded by the hon. member for Fundy—Royal.

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does the hon. member for Saint John have unanimous consent to have this motion made votable?

National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

An hon. member


National Shipbuilding PolicyPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There has not been unanimous consent. The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

National Shipbuilding PolicyAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my comments today flow from my question to the Minister of Health on October 3 pertaining to the influence of multinationals over this government's drug policies and drug pricing policies. Perhaps the fact that we are discussing this issue on the same day that the Minister of Health publicly caved in to the tobacco industry says it all.

There is a very disturbing pattern taking place with respect to Liberal style government and Liberal legislative priorities. The influence of multinational corporations over policy development and decision making is apparent in every area and pervasive throughout this government. On every turn the public's interests have been subsumed by commercial interests.

Whatever happened to the idea of government as an instrument of the people, as a truly democratic institution reflecting the collective interests of society, the institution protecting the common good? It is increasingly apparent that this government is beholden absolutely to the big corporations, the bankers, the stockbrokers and the bondholders in the global community today, that it is no longer able to distinguish between the public interest and the commercial interest. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to drug policy.

I do not think anyone can dispute the fact that this government is absolutely controlled by the big brand name drug companies. Let me refer to the evidence, the complete flip-flop by the Liberals on Bill C-91 legislation to extend patent protection to 20 years for multinational drug companies. When in opposition Liberals stood up and talked about government siding with multinationals on drug policy. What did they do when they became government? They simply carried on with Bill C-91.

That brings me to my second concern. What did they do when the standing committee reviewed this issue last year? What happened to the draft report of that committee? Why was it watered down so that all meaningful recommendations were eliminated?

Third, let us mention the elimination of the drug research lab, the one independent bureau we have in this country for research into drugs. This government eliminated it and put the responsibility into the hands of the drug companies.

Let me also point to the refusal of this government to ensure that the work of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board is open and transparent.

Finally, let me refer to the backing away by this government from a promise made as recently as the last election for a national drug plan. In that campaign the Liberals promised to look at a publicly funded, universally administered single payer drug plan, provided nationally. What did we get in the Speech from the Throne and what have we heard from the minister and this government since then? They are looking into the feasibility of studying the possibility of better access to medically necessary drugs.

My question today is why has this government changed its mind so quickly on such an important program to Canadians. Is it so much influenced by the big brand name companies and by the money that those companies provide the Liberal coffers that it cannot put in place good public policy?

Why has this government not taken seriously the concerns we raised in the House on October 3 about an obvious and apparent conflict of interest with employees from its own Patented Medicine Prices Review Board—

National Shipbuilding PolicyAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

National Shipbuilding PolicyAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Joe Volpe LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, this is a great place because you can get rhetoric and fiction or you can listen to parliamentary secretaries and get fact and reality.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to give this House the government's plans with respect to a national approach to pharmacare.

One of the recommendations of the national forum on health was the expansion of medicare to include other medically necessary services such as home care and drugs. The federal government intends to pursue the examination of these future directions recommended by the national forum.

On drugs, for example, we will develop a national plan, a timetable and a fiscal framework for providing Canadians with better access to medically necessary drugs.

On pharmacare, the federal government recognizes that as a country we can do better with how we deal with prescription drugs in the health care system and with respect to the coverage that is provided; in other words, with compliance and prescription. We can do better with respect to integrating our health care system and in allocating resources among drug therapy, hospital therapy and medical care.

Drugs have become a medically necessary component of health care and it is time for us to start talking about how we are going to ensure that all Canadians have access to this care.

But the dialogue has just begun. The federal government has no ready made national pharmacare scheme secretly prepared in Ottawa. Canada's health care system is a partnership. The federal government is counting on working fully with the provinces and the territories to explore the possibility of pharmacare.

As part of the new health transition fund, $150 million over three years announced in the last budget, the Minister of Health will be co-hosting a national conference on pharmacare with the minister of health for Saskatchewan. This will be an important step in our discussions on a national approach to pharmacare.

The federal government wants to do what it can to promote optimal drug therapy for all Canadians and a national approach to pharmacare will make a significant contribution.