This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was powers.

Topics

Order In Council AppointmentsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments which were made by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1), these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Immigration ActRoutine Proceedings

November 18th, 1997 / 10:05 a.m.

Reform

John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-281, an act to amend the Immigration Act (removal of those convicted of serious criminal offence).

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to provide for the removal from Canada of any immigrant or person seeking immigrant status who is convicted of a serious criminal offence in Canada. If the order for removal is sought by the crown, it is mandatory.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Head Start ProgramRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce in this House a motion that asks for the unanimous consent of the House to develop, along with provincial counterparts, a comprehensive national head start program for children in the first eight years of life, to ensure that this integrated program involves both hospitals and schools and is modelled on the experience of the Moncton Head Start Program, the Hawaii Head Start Program and the Perry Preschool Program.

This motion could be the greatest single effort of this House to decrease youth crime in this country that we have ever seen. I ask the government to work with the provincial counterparts on this matter.

National Head Start ProgramRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

National Head Start ProgramRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

National Head Start ProgramRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is no consent.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition for a public inquiry into Ipperwash. This petition concerns the fatal shooting death of Anthony Dudley George on September 6, 1995 at Ipperwash Provincial Park where over 200 armed officers were sent to control 25 unarmed men and women.

The petitioners ask that the House of Commons support a full public inquiry into the events surrounding the fatal shooting on September 6 to eliminate all misconceptions held by and about governments, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Stoney Point people.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-11, an act respecting the imposition of duties of customs and other charges, to give effect to the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, to provide relief against the imposition of certain duties of customs or other charges, to provide for other related matters and to amend or repeal certain acts in consequence thereof, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to Bill C-11, an act to simplify and update Canada's tariff system.

Members will recall that during the second reading debate, widespread support was voiced for this legislation from both sides of the House. I am pleased to report that support was also evident at committee. Indeed, I believe that most members were of the view that while Bill C-11 is and might be low profile and somewhat technical, it nevertheless represents an important contribution to making Canada a more competitive player in world trade and will in fact help to maintain jobs in Canada.

In that respect, we heard during debate and in committee that trade is the economic lifeblood of Canada. Clearly then, it is in our national interest to advance measures, such as Bill C-11, that simplify importing and enhance Canadian producers' ability to compete both at home and abroad.

Members will know that the customs tariff is a key component of Canada's import regime. In my view it represents the nuts and bolts of import transactions undertaken by thousands of Canadian importers on a daily basis.

It not only classifies all goods that may be imported into Canada but also provides for applicable tariffs and import duty relieving measures to assist Canadian businesses.

Put simply, despite going largely unnoticed by the general public, the customs tariff touches on the daily economic activities of millions of Canadians.

It is thus important that we take every effort as we are doing with Bill C-11 to ensure that the tariff is as efficient and as up to date as possible. Anything less would in fact entail an unnecessary burden to Canadian industry.

I remind the House that the Canadian industry has played an integral role in developing this legislation. Since 1994 when this initiative was launched, extensive and detailed consultations have been undertaken with interested parties regarding the proposals contained in Bill C-11.

As well, to facilitate input and to help secure consensus, the government has disseminated the proposals as broadly as possible. In fact, each of the proposals to change the existing customs tariff has been published in the Canada Gazette .

In addition, letters were sent to all known interested parties and in March 1996, when a draft of the proposed new simplified customs tariff was made public, it was placed on the Internet and on Revenue Canada's electronic bulletin board. To go further, advertisements were placed in some of Canada's leading newspapers inviting comments from both industry and individuals.

As a result, the importing and manufacturing communities strongly support the changes embodied in this bill. They particularly support the measures for greater simplicity, for transparency and predictability, all of which should help to improve the competitiveness of Canadian industries.

Moreover, industry unanimously endorses the implementation of the new simplified customs tariff on January 1, 1998.

To sum up the virtues of this bill, let me use the words of the hon. member for Calgary South rather than my own. As he eloquently put it during the second reading debate, the cumulative effect is a more predictable, simplified tariff legislation with less regulatory burden and increased competitive strength. Very eloquently put.

As I mentioned, this view was confirmed during the hearings of Bill C-11 in the House standing committee on industry. Clearly the witnesses from the manufacturing and importing associations welcomed the benefits of this bill, especially with respect to the positive effects the legislation will have on their competitiveness.

Particular mention was made of the duty reductions on a wide range of inputs used in the manufacturing processes. They also welcome the streamlining of the existing tariff system to facilitate the importation of goods into Canada and to reduce compliance and administrative costs for business.

We did hear some concerns. I first wish to address a concern that was raised on a policy issue relating to the tariff on auto parts.

Specifically, some witnesses objected to the inclusion in the tariff schedule to Bill C-11 of the provision that continues duty free status for auto parts used by non-auto pact producers as inputs in assembling motor vehicles in Canada.

The purpose behind this measure being continued in Bill C-11 is to maintain a uniform manufacturing environment for all auto assemblers in Canada. The continuation of a zero tariff on auto parts is consistent with this objective.

Bill C-11 ensures that Canada will continue to be an attractive place for automotive investment by maintaining a level playing field for auto manufacturing in Canada.

I should also point out that this bill contains a number of measures that all participants in the auto industry will benefit from. They include the unconditional duty free provisions covering all production machinery, precision instruments and apparatus, as well as all materials for manufacturing vehicles, parts and accessories. That is the one concern.

I also want to take a few minutes to address concerns that have been expressed by some in the importing community that there may not be enough time to prepare themselves fully for the scheduled January 1, 1998 implementation date.

Revenue Canada and Statistics Canada appreciate that there is a large change over in data that must be installed in importing systems in order to be ready for the new tariff. That is why since April of this year there has been an ongoing outreach campaign by the department of revenue to assist in these necessary preparations by providing the data required to update these systems. The efforts are continuing with the issuance two weeks ago of the printed departmental version of the 1998 tariff. Updated customs notices are also being issued which taken together with other initiatives are aimed at ensuring that importers will have all the necessary information in their hands prior to the January 1 implementation date.

A second concern has been expressed in that in view of the timelines for introducing the new tariff, Revenue Canada should exercise administrative tolerance for the first six months of 1998 and in fact waive any penalties for submitting incorrect statistical information.

I understand that Revenue Canada has discussed these issues with the importing community and is prepared to show flexibility provided that importers make their best efforts to apply the new tariff correctly. Furthermore, Revenue Canada is prepared to assist those who need help to identify the proper statistical information to do so before goods are imported into Canada.

The government has every confidence that the new simplified customs tariff represents a positive change for the importing community. For its part, the importing community looks forward to the benefits the bill will confer, benefits including some $90 million in duty reductions in 1998. Importers are also looking forward to having less red tape associated with their import transactions.

These are all issues that not only the importing community has made reference to, but the business community at large. This is an area where the government has taken a step forward in reducing the regulatory burden and easing the administrative burden that small businesses and businesses in general face. That goes forward on the competitive issue in allowing our Canadian companies to compete both domestically and internationally on a more level playing field.

In conclusion, while there is an effort required to adapt to the new tariff, it is certainly well worth it. We have seen support from both sides of the House during second reading debate as well as in committee. Certainly it is a widely held view in the House and in industry.

I urge the House to pass Bill C-11 quickly. The faster Parliament passes this legislation, the more confident the business community will be that its efforts to adapt to the new tariff will not be in vain.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-11 today. I want to indicate that the Reform Party is supportive of the bill. Largely this is a bill which simplifies and harmonizes Canadian customs legislation.

When this bill landed on my desk for me to critique it on behalf of my party I thought we were getting a case of bills, but in fact it was only one. It was a foot and a half thick. Canada is simplifying and clarifying our customs codes. We are taking it down from 11,000 to 8,000 codes. We still have 8,000 tariff lines for import duties into Canada. We can do even better than that and I hope we can in the future.

This initiative came from industry. It wanted government to clean up some of these areas of customs tariffs. The free trade agreement negotiated some 10 years ago with the United States was one of the prime motivators to phase out tariffs. The tariffs between Canada and the United States had been phased out except in a couple of areas like supply management and textiles, that type of area. In response to that we were able to clean up a lot of customs lines.

The Reform Party supports this bill because we are supportive of free trade in general. We would even go further. We want to have further trade liberalization and we believe that the only protection Canadian industry really deserves and needs is protection from exporters from other countries that are selling product in this country that is subsidized or protected by tariff at home.

We feel we can compete head on on the basis of production with the best in the world. Industry in general is starting to recognize this. Companies such as Teleglobe have been privatized. They are saying we should open up investment because they want to be able to compete with the best in the world. There is a big market outside of Canada and if we want to do that, if we want to have trade liberalization in other countries we have to provide that at home as well.

That means we should move to a freer trade environment worldwide. We have good networks in place. We have good trade agreements. We must move further to keep this bicycle rolling down the road. We must move further to try to reduce tariffs and subsidies in countries such as those in Europe. By doing so I believe we will be able to reduce our tariff activity in Canada, our import tariff regime, even further than the 8,000 tariff lines we have for the protection of industry. That will mean industries that compete on the basis of production will compete head on worldwide in that new world out there. They have to be competitive as well. If they cannot be competitive, they probably do not deserve the support of Canada's government in providing tariff protection for them.

On that basis I would have to say that although Revenue Canada raises about $3 billion a year on tariffs, there is a very large bureaucracy that has to administer that tariff structure. We hear of Canadian government officials who travel to places like Georgia to check on their carpet manufacturing industry to see if they are not dumping into Canada. We see they have to be assessed duties. It is a very expensive regime to keep in place.

There are a number of areas within the Canadian economy that already have quite a harmonized basis of business. The steel industry is one example. When we think of trade in Canada we sometimes think of product moving outside of Canada or into Canada by the shipload. In fact, most of our trade does not occur that way. Eighty-three per cent of our exports go to the United States and most of our exports move across the 49th parallel day in and day out by truck. It is a small commercial quantity that is moving to service some need. It might even be that a parent company is either in Canada or the United States.

We are moving more and more toward a harmonized trade relationship with the United States in particular. This is reflected by the fact that we are going to be phasing out our customs duties in those areas. However, we have 8,000 customs duty lines left. The sooner we can move to trade liberalization so Canadian companies can compete head on with companies outside of Canada that are neither subsidized nor protected by tariff, the better off we will be and the sooner we will be able to clean up the rest of our customs lines.

We support the early implementation of the bill and we support its passage.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak, as my colleagues have before me, on the third reading of Bill C-11, an act respecting the imposition of duties of customs and other charges. This bill will replace the Customs Tariff currently in effect and simplify its application.

This bill is extremely significant for Canada. First of all, because it will make life easier for our businesses, but mainly because this is a preliminary effort on the part of the government to get rid of numerous rules relating to customs duties that are both obsolete and useless.

We, along with the people of Canada, have long been calling for less bureaucracy and more efficiency in our government system. The resulting savings will be of benefit to Canadian businesses and Canadian taxpayers.

My colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and myself support Bill C-11, for it is high time there was some tidying up of Canada's Customs Tariff. Moreover, the World Trade Organization shared that opinion. In its July 2, 1990 report on Canada's trade policy, the WTO described the Canadian tariff system as “complex and lacking transparency”. Seven years ago, that was the WTO's comment on our customs system. The time was therefore ripe for a thorough reform of Canada's Customs Tariff.

When the February 1994 budget was tabled, the Minister of Finance made a commitment to undertake an in-depth examination of the Canadian customs duty system, and he set himself a three-year deadline. To this end, a task force was set up in his department. Improved tariffs were proposed in 1996 and subsequently supposedly submitted to public consultation.

As I said earlier, we support Bill C-11. However, we must once again express our indignation at the government's approach to getting the bill passed. The government started this tariff reform in 1994. It has known since then that the new tariff was to take effect in January 1998—in less than two months. So why did the Minister of Finance involve parliamentarians only just recently? Bill C-11 was relegated to the Standing Committee on Industry—not even the finance committee, which is too busy with prebudget consultations—two weeks ago. Despite the fact that they have known since 1994 and that the bill was ready in 1996, they dumped it on the industry committee less than two weeks ago.

Bill C-11 is an important bill that requires a long, hard look. Unfortunately, the industry committee which has to study it because the finance committee was too busy met only twice to consider this technical bill. As you know, customs tariffs can be very complex, particularly when the bill contains 3,000 pages of schedules alone.

The members of the committee would have welcomed help and information with open arms to get this express examination done. The government often uses this pressure and delaying tactic to force the opposition to pass a technical and complex bill requiring long hours of examination. We have a right to question the time allocated to the committee as well as the need to have the legislation come into effect by January 1, 1998.

We have had it with this approach. It is not the first time that the government has acted this way. The most recent example was the multilateral agreement on investment. The subcommittee on international trade, trade disputes and investment was mandated by the Minister of International Trade to hear witnesses and produce a report by mid-December, that is to say before the Christmas break. The hearings started on November 4. Because of its tight deadline, the committee must sit three or four times a week to hear witnesses. As a result, not all those who wish to testify before the committee will have the opportunity to do so and those who do will have only a few minutes to express their views.

Does the Liberal government know what the expression “public consultations” really means or does it just use the words blindly? This government is showing contempt for what the people of Canada think and for the opposition. It is extremely difficult to do our job in the opposition under such circumstances. We often get the feeling that the government would rather we did not do our job, so it can get anything through and hide tons of technical papers.

For the Liberals, to consult means posting a document on the Internet, discussing with two or three people and expecting parliamentarians to trust them blindly. This government has never managed to win our trust and this is not about to change.

We should point out that, as usual with the Liberal government, public consultations were botched. There are groups that were not consulted, and those that were have not been heard properly. That was the case of the Canadian automotive industry. The Canadian vehicle manufacturers association, which represents Chrysler Canada, Ford Canada, Freightliner Canada, General Motors Canada, Navistar International Canada and Volvo Canada, repeatedly tried to voice its concerns to the finance minister and his officials.

The association testified before the Standing Committee on Industry, which studied Bill C-11. Witnesses informed committee members that they disagreed with the government's unilateral decision to eliminate customs duties on auto parts on January 1, 1996. At that time, the association was strongly opposed to such a move. It asked the committee to wait before confirming definitely the elimination of customs duties for auto parts in the new Customs Tariff.

The association told the committee that a study was being conducted on the automobile industry and that this study would deal with such matters as customs tariffs on parts and complete vehicles. The study is being conducted by Industry Canada, the Department of Finance and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. According to the information we have, a report should be released at the beginning of 1998.

There is another matter I would like to speak to. The Canadian Automobile Manufacturers Association is also strongly opposed to the elimination of customs duties on assembled vehicles. The Bloc Quebecois shares this concern. I asked a question on this matter last March, and the Minister of Finance answered by saying that he was studying the issue. In April 1997, following a question from the Liberal member from Windsor, the Minister of International Trade at that time made a commitment not to eliminate customs duties on assembled vehicles.

We hope the Liberal government will finally be able to keep a promise. The consequences of eliminating customs duties could be serious for the Canadian automobile industry. The Canadian government should be able to protect an industry when it needs it.

Representatives of the automobile industry were told that the Canadian government cannot wait for Industry Canada's report because Bill C-11 must come into effect on January 1, 1998.

We question the urgency of implementing the Customs Tariff, but it seems that the government will make every effort to pass this bill quickly. We are concerned about the automobile industry in Canada. That is why we are following closely Industry Canada's study to ensure that it is properly conducted and that its conclusions reflect the needs of Canada's automobile industry.

It should be noted that the January 1998 deadline is also a concern for the companies themselves, which will have to be ready to apply the new changes in a few weeks. When the committee reviewed this issue, Revenue officials announced that businesses would benefit from a six-month grace period before being penalized for non-compliance. We hope that the government will indeed be lenient toward these companies, because it prepared this new tariff to help them and not to hinder them.

For the benefit of Quebec businesses we will support Bill C-11, because the proposed standardization and streamlining of the Custom Tariff are necessary for both Quebec and Canada. For once, the government is making life simpler for Canadian businesses by helping them become more competitive at the international level. It must also be realized that, with the signing of international trade agreements, our tariff structure has become more complex, thus making Bill C-11 all the more appropriate.

The proposed changes in the bill include a consolidation of Canadian tariff obligations under the Canada—U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization, the Canada—Israel Free Trade Agreement and the Canada—Chile Free Trade Agreement. It is imperative that Canada fulfil its international obligations.

The Bloc Quebecois has always been in favour of globalization, unlike the Liberals who just recently realized the importance of free trade agreements. They are now converts. Unlike the Liberal government, however, we are not prepared to engage in trade at any cost. We believe in respect for human rights, labour standards and environmental standards. It is high time the Liberals learned to promote trade while also emphasizing respect for social and human rights.

Recently, the foreign affairs minister had a good opportunity to do so, but he did not. On September 5, 1997, a group of Canadian private businesses, including Alcan, announced the creation of an international code of ethics for Canadian companies. This voluntary code of ethics outlines the responsibilities incumbent on Canadian companies doing business abroad. It also recognizes the importance of human rights and prohibits child labour.

Following a study by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on small and medium size export businesses, we proposed that the government set up a code of ethics for Canadian companies doing business abroad. Far from acting like a leader, the Liberal government does not even require crown corporations to comply with the private sector's code of ethics. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Trade are not even encouraging agencies that report to them to adopt the code of conduct. This is a disgrace, to say the least.

The president of the Export Development Corporation, better known as EDC, told the committee that EDC had not yet taken a decision at the time we were speaking as to whether or not it was going to respect the much discussed international code of conduct. With EDC lending large amounts to Canadian enterprises and not ensuring that they respect social and human rights in the countries in which they are investing, this is unacceptable.

The government, with the help of EDC, is strongly encouraging Canadian enterprises to invest in Colombia. Colombia is currently in the grip of what for us is an unthinkable crisis. The people of Colombia are being terrorized by paramilitary soldiers and guerillas. Colombian teachers have the world's highest mortality rate. Four out of every ten labour leaders in the world have been assassinated in Colombia. Torture and repeated violations of human rights are common occurrences. And yet the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Trade are encouraging Canadian businesses to invest in Colombia. We hope that the Liberal government will finally understand the importance of respecting the social standards set out in international agreements. One step in the right direction would be to have Canadian enterprises respect the international code of conduct.

In conclusion, I remind members that the Bloc Quebecois will be voting in favour of Bill C-11, for the new tariff code benefits Canadian businesses and is consistent with respect for our international obligations.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to debate Bill C-11 and to be the representative of the only party which is taking a pro-Canadian view on these international trade matters.

As has been mentioned Bill C-11 is an enormously lengthy document. It sets out to do a number of things, not all of which are terrible. Nonetheless it is a continuation of the process of implementing what has been disastrous free trade deals signed by Canada, particularly disastrous because they signed away things that never needed to be signed away.

Among other things Bill C-11 attempts to simplify customs tariff and rationalize various provisions in the customs tariff as well as delete provisions that are no longer relevant. There are also rate reductions on a wide range of goods, mostly on manufacturing inputs, an elimination of a large number of tariff codes and regulations, a rounding down of decimal rates, and the elimination of most rates that fall below 2%.

The bill is supported by most members of Canada's business community because it will reduce their costs. It will in part implement the free trade agreements, in particular NAFTA.

We in the New Democratic Party remain alone in being opposed to the terms of free trade agreements. That is not to say that we are opposed to trade or opposed to fair trade. I come from the province of Saskatchewan which trades more than any other province in the country. Canada trades more than any other country by various different measurements in terms of percentage of exports, GDP and so on.

Canada lives on trade; Saskatchewan lives on trade. The constituents of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar live on trade. I am not opposed to trade, but I am opposed to unfair trade which encourages the continual control of our economy by the United States.

From what has taken place since the signing of the free trade agreement with the United States and then NAFTA with Mexico, we know that our trade focus has concentrated more and more on trade with the United States. We have not diversified our trade. Indeed we have become ever more dependent on one market, the United States.

No sensible business person, no sensible country, no sensible person would ever suggest that it is desirable to focus and be dependent on one market as a result of the many things that flowed from these trade deals. It is simply foolish. To be so dependent means that in the event of a downturn in the American economy we will follow suit. It also means we have lost much more control of our economy. We did not have much before, but we gave away much of it in these deals.

Had we been more international, had we been more open, had we been more external in our focus, we would have been able to diversify our trade more effectively to other markets around the world which are growing and in good shape.

That focus is not helping Canadians. We have an unemployment rate of around 9.9%, significantly higher than that of the United States. These deals have not brought us what first Conservative governments and then Liberal governments promised they would bring.

As I mentioned, the New Democratic Party remains the only party opposed to these deals. The Liberal Party was strongly opposed to the free trade agreement when in opposition but when it became government—and you will remember this, Mr. Speaker, because you were part of that transition—the Liberal Party became the main flag bearer for free trade agreements. The Prime Minister takes some pride in being described as being the main flag bearer for the free trade arrangements in North America and further afield in South America also.

It was an amazing transformation as the Liberal Party moved from opposition benches to government benches and began to listen more and more to those in the business community and less and less to ordinary Canadians struggling to make ends meet.

I, my party, my province and I think all Canadians support a focus on trade in an effort to ensure we create a vibrant and dynamic economy, one which provides decent jobs for those who need them. These deals have not done that. This simplified customs tariff, which is merely a part of the whole process, will not do that either.

It is time the government spoke up on behalf of Canadians, on behalf of a trade policy and on behalf of an economic policy that works for Canadians and not just for those who are wealthy, those who are privileged and those who control a large measure of our economy, most of whom are not Canadians but from elsewhere.

In closing, I reiterate my and my party's opposition to Bill C-11 and to the whole context within which the bill is presented, the context of free trade agreements in which Canada gave up so much of its sovereignty for so little.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a couple of comments and to ask a question.

I listened to the representative from the Bloc who stated that his party would have liked to have been better informed about Bill C-11. I wish to note that background information on the bill was supplied to all opposition parties before the examination in committee. Oral briefings were also offered to explain the bill. Some took advantage; some did not. Those who did were no doubt better informed about the bill and dealt with it in a more effective manner.

The member from the Bloc continued to say the process was flawed and that no one knew about it. The bill and the customs tariff were published in the Canada Gazette . Letters were sent to interested parties. It was placed on the Internet and on Revenue Canada's electronic bulletin board. Advertisements were placed in some leading national newspapers. I wanted to clarify that for the record.

With respect to the comments made by my colleague from the NDP, he focused on the free trade issue, on different aspects of Bill C-11, and voiced his opposition to the bill. The policy of the government is to expand trade globally. We are dependent on the United States as our largest trading partner just south of the border, but we are continuing to expand trade globally through the team Canada approach which brought back billions of dollars to Canadian companies that are continuing to excel in exporting effectively.

I am sure members of companies from the west, the east and central Canada participated in team Canada. I wonder if he could share some of that information. Perhaps he could demonstrate to the House that exports are good for Canadian companies, that exports provide Canadian jobs and that the core of our economic success has been the export market.

I would like to hear the hon. member give some indication that team Canada has worked and perhaps share the experience with some western companies.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, those western companies are not here but I am happy to make a brief comment. Our premier was part of the team Canada visits. We have yet to see great fruit bearing from the visits, but I support the Prime Minister and the premiers in their efforts to expand trade around the world. There are few who would argue that we should not expand trade and our exports.

A country like Canada will only survive, will only thrive, if we have healthy exporting markets and an environment within Canada which encourages businesses to respond to those markets.

The member picked up on the point I was raising. With the agreements made first with the United States and then with Mexico, Canada's trade is focused on one market. Surely nobody would regard that as good. Nobody would regard our increased focus on trade with the United States as good. One of the reasons that focus has taken place is precisely because of the free trade agreements that have been negotiated.

There were efforts by earlier Liberal prime ministers to open up trade much more with Europe, a much bigger market than that of the United States, a market that is becoming bigger and bigger.

Those efforts did not take us very far. We did not diversify back in the eighties to other markets, but we were beginning to export more to other countries than the United States slowly but surely through the eighties and prior to the free trade agreements being signed.

Since those agreements have been signed the focus has become evermore dependent on one market. I merely wanted to reiterate that. In the process I can certainly refer to the many meetings I have had with exporting companies in my province and in other provinces that are doing very well at the present time, certainly those in my province.

Recently the Globe and Mail wrote about the western economies having reached full employment. They must be doing something right.

The New Democratic Government of Saskatchewan has an effective approach to business and job creation. It has consistently had the lowest unemployment rate in the country over the last two years. It leads the country in economic indicators. It must be doing something right. That approach is one of partnership with business, labour, government, aboriginal peoples and the communities as a whole to represent and develop an economy which supports all people of Saskatchewan. It is a diversified economy and is becoming ever more diversified unlike the Canadian economy.

I just wanted to make that point. I will pass on to western exporting corporations the good wishes of the member opposite.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my first comments are for the parliamentary secretary. He states that the government informed the population by means of the Canada Gazette and the Internet. I doubt that people will get up in the morning and start surfing the Net to check out the Revenue Canada or Finance Canada site and look in a Department of Finance subfile to see if it contains a bill that might eventually be of interest to them.

I would also like to point out that parliamentarians—because we are here among parliamentarians—only had two weeks to review and assess Bill C-11, whose schedules alone total 3,000 pages. In fact, we had but two sessions at the industry committee, which should have been held at the finance committee.

When we speak of consultations, perhaps we should use the same definition, and when we speak about bogus consultations, we could perhaps ask the Liberals to give us a definition, because they are very good at that.

I now have a comment and a question for the NDP spokesperson who spoke earlier. I noticed that the New Democratic Party does not support Bill C-11. They were against previous free trade agreements, but the purpose of Bill C-11 is to simplify trade and exports for companies in Quebec and Canada, including those in his riding. So I have difficulty seeing how they can explain to their constituents that they are opposed to streamlining trade. We are not talking about the free trade agreement that was concluded three, four or five years ago. That was my first comment.

Here is my question. My hon. colleague may also have attended the industry committee sittings. I would like to know what he thinks personally of the role of parliamentarians in the review of this particular bill, when we had two weeks and two weeks only to study a bill whose schedules alone total 3,000 pages.

Before closing, I would like to make a brief comment and to ask the hon. member a short question on Canada's obligation to respect its international conventions. Whether we like it or not, Canada signed a free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. Following the Liberals' conversion, Canada also signed a free trade agreement with Israel and another with Chile, and Canada is an active member of the WTO. Does he not believe it is essential that Canada respect the international conventions it has signed?

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from the Bloc for his question.

Admittedly, we have international obligations and we must respond to those international treaties and implement them once we have signed them. That does not mean that we in the New Democratic Party have to be happy about it or should support that requirement. Not being supportive of the arrangements which formed the basis of Bill C-11 certainly provides adequate reasons to be opposed to Bill C-11.

Bill C-11 provides some benefits to business and that is indisputable and business as a whole supports the provisions. That does not mean that the whole trend that Canada has embarked upon since 1988 with the signing of bilateral, trilateral and other deals which give up Canadian sovereignty even more than has been taken away by the globalization of world economies, is a good or desirable thing and it will never be something that the New Democratic Party supports.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Charlie Power Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that hon. members just cannot wait for this wonderful bill.

There seems to be a pretty decent consensus in the House for this bill, with the exception of the New Democratic Party which opposes free trade even when it is point blank in front of their faces that it has done wonderful things for Canada, created hundreds of thousands of jobs. At least they are consistent in their opposition to free trade. We cannot say that for the adaptable Liberal government which very quickly when they see a good idea, no matter where it comes from, will happily take advantage of it.

On the last occasion when we had an opportunity to speak in the House on Bill C-11, we stressed the importance of making legislation that simplifies our lives and simplifies the business practices of business owners. Today, I reiterate these words.

We acknowledge that Bill C-11 will help improve the competitive position of Canadian industry within a freer trading environment as well as in the long run make the tariff system simpler. However, there are some concerns that need to be addressed.

In committee we heard dissatisfaction from business owners as they faced pressures to adopt new methods according to legislative changes. The time period allotted to them is unacceptable, given the nature of the changes they face.

Second, some automotive manufacturers may face additional changes early in 1998 once a clear automotive policy is implemented.

I will address these two main points today. First, amendments to this bill must be considerate of the business owner, the individual or groups of individuals who must implement our decisions in the real world. They must be given the necessary time to implement changes and carry out the process.

Second, it is inappropriate that the government take decisive actions when a clear automotive strategy is not in place as of yet. While we know that industry generally supports the bill, we also know that they have qualms about it.

The issue of greatest concern to the committee is the sense of urgency that is being placed on the bill. Those with the Canadian Importers Association are very concerned with the speedy passage of this bill. They point out that importers do not have sufficient time for what is a very time consuming and costly exercise. They ask for a period of administrative tolerance. This timeframe would allow them to adapt to the changes and alleviate their uneasiness with the timing of the proposed legislative changes.

The recurring message that we are hearing from the business community with respect to the uneasiness they face are their concerns related to the delivery and implementation of the tariff simplification initiative. While they support the elimination of regulation and business procedures, they are deeply affected by the timing of this bill. They feel it is quite rushed and they have not been granted enough time to prepare for the upcoming changes and the enormous challenges they will face.

The Alliance of Manufacturers is but one example of this concern. They stated, and I quote; “It is a scary exercise. There is very little time to do the programming we need.” These are the most affected parties. We demand that the government listen to their concerns and continue with the theme of simplification. If it is going to simplify the process, then it needs to continue with the agreement and simplify the law to all business owners. We will hold the government accountable to this and urge it to listen to the suggestions it has received.

We also heard concerns from vehicle manufacturers groups. It is no secret that Canada is in need of a strategic automotive policy, one based on free and fair trade. We understand that work is to be completed in this area in early 1998. Why then, we ask, make changes to automotive tariffs when the strategy is not in place? Why make changes now when a clear automotive policy is yet to be decided and risk having to amend the tariff to fit the policy later on?

This plan is not logical. It is not fair to the automotive industry. The government ought to stop and think about the possible repercussions of amending clauses now and then setting its automotive policy.

By trying to rush through legislation, the government is missing the point. A comprehensive automobile policy needs to be introduced in conjunction with clauses in Bill C-11 which pertain to automotive tariffs. Why take the chance of negatively impacting jobs and investment in Canada?

The free trade agreement that was so profusely objected to almost 10 years ago is today the largest bill on our shelves in the House of Commons. It is a huge factor in contributing to tax revenues and job creation in this country. The government continues to carry out our Conservative initiatives and our tariff agreements. However, as I have highlighted, there are several important factors to consider.

This is the most complex tariff system in the world. We know it and our trading partners know it. I strongly urge the government to consider the huge task that lies in front of importers in Canada and demand that they be given time to adapt to these enormous changes. As well, strategic consideration must be given to a comprehensive automotive policy.

My message today is that this is a beginning, not an end. We cannot stop now with all the progress we have made for the simple reason that the bill has been simplified. Work still needs to be done.

I would ask the government to commit to continuing with the work in progress, to continue developing trade agreements with our partners and to look ahead at the global marketplace to achieve a standard of excellence with our trading partners. This means that the government must continue to promote trade, thus encouraging business development and job creation in Canada.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for his excellent insights into this issue which is so important to Canadians.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his intervention, but I want to clarify that Bill C-11 does not make any changes to the current automotive tariff policy; rather it continues to ensure that all auto manufacturers in Canada, auto pact and non-auto pact companies, import parts duty free. No changes are made to vehicle tariffs. Auto pact companies continue to import vehicles free of duty while non-auto pact companies pay duty on all vehicles which they import.

I wonder whether the hon. member is now indicating that he wants to change that policy.