House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crtc.


Science And TechnologyOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I could hear the end of that question.

Clearly innovation and knowledge are the keys to Canada's participation in a knowledge based economy of the 21st century. Therefore we have invested in supporting research and development in the universities through the extension of the networks of centres of excellence and the $800 million Canada Foundation for Innovation. We have supported research in the private sector through the Technology Partnerships Canada program.

There have been 11,000 jobs created and maintained through the extension of the industrial research and—

Science And TechnologyOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Macleod.

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, Judge Horace Krever is about to make his report on November 21 and he will surely say that the federal government shares the blame in the tainted blood tragedy.

Will the health minister commit that he will also share the compensation package with those victims who got hepatitis C?

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I think instead of anticipating the recommendations the judge will make, it is best to await the delivery of the report. It will be in our hands within a few weeks. We will make it public and then we can all have a look at it and go from there.

Cultural IndustriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Prime Minister.

We all know that the Canadian government wishes to exclude culture from the multilateral agreement on investment. To achieve this, however, the negotiators must agree on the wording of a clause whereby cultural industries will be exempted.

Is the Prime Minister willing to make a commitment to the cultural industries that their recommendations will be considered for adoption and that a clause worthy of the name providing for a general exception for cultural industries will be negotiated?

Cultural IndustriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec


Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, yes, whatever the forum we have been involved in. We have always acted to protect Canada's cultural industries. We did this when NAFTA was signed and we have always done this in our multilateral negotiations, always.

Child Support PaymentsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Diane St-Jacques Progressive Conservative Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice, who was kind enough to reply to my question yesterday, even if it was directed to the Minister of National Revenue.

Bill C-41 authorizes Cabinet to establish guidelines on child support payments. The courts refer to these when making child support orders, for instance to determine the amount to be paid to the parent with custody.

If the government has authority to establish guidelines governing orders, why are judges awarding today smaller benefits than those that were awarded after taxes under the old law? How can the government accept and justify such practices?

Child Support PaymentsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned to the hon. member yesterday in response to her question, the support guidelines were enacted by the government. In fact we believe those support guidelines will ensure that the children of divorced couples will be better off.

If the hon. member has any indication that these guidelines in any part of their application are not working well, I would be very happy to discuss it with her.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw members' attention to the presence in our gallery of Marc Fischbach, the minister of justice, minister of the budget and minister of parliamentary relations for Luxembourg.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act and the Teleglobe Canada Reorganization and Divestiture Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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3 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Resuming debate with the hon. member for Calgary Centre who has approximately 15 minutes remaining.

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3 p.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, just to recap from where I left off, I was speaking to Bill C-17 and our concerns about some of the changes the bill is bringing about.

There were two changes to the broadened powers of the CRTC linked to the bill which sadly limit the benefit of the bill. We are very concerned about the extensive increase to the powers of the CRTC.

I was also beginning to address a third concern related to the bill in that it has a very short term nature. It is somewhat shortsighted in its application of a greater degree of competition within the industry.

The reason I say that is the bill continues to attempt to separate broadcasting regulation from telecommunications regulation. In Canada today we are facing an increasing convergence within technology where voice, data and broadcast are all being carried over telecommunications facilities.

It is increasingly difficult to try to separate the broadcast component from the telecommunications component because of the convergence of the technologies. As the convergence continues it will be increasingly difficult to keep these two acts separate. Therefore this piece of legislation will have a very short lifespan.

A better approach would be to allow and promote the Canadian cultural industry to produce a package of broadcast content that Canadians actually want. This would allow Canadians to select the kind of material they want to view rather than what the CRTC decides they need to see.

In this way we would be able to reduce the requirement of the Broadcast Act to control content. Then the Broadcast Act and the Telecommunications Act could be combined so that we would be controlling the transmission media rather than the actual content through a combined simplified Telecommunications Act.

Rather than delay the inevitable and hold up the industry from being able to capture some of the gains in the telecommunications market through simplified regulation, we recommend the government take a leadership role and amalgamate the Broadcast Act and the Telecommunications Act. It should harmonize and relax the regulations. It should reduce rather than expand the CRTC protectionist role.

We encourage a strong Canadian product that will compete well locally and internationally. We are not in a protectionist age. We are in a very competitive age. We need regulations which will allow Canadian telecommunications interests to compete. Broadcasters must be able to provide the products Canadians wish to see rather than the products the CRTC deems we should be able to see.

If we move in this direction we will see a much greater interest by investors to step into the telecommunications marketplace. It will also generate a substantial amount of business confidence.

In summary I will deal with some of the positive measures of the bill. We are encouraged because several of the measures are ones the Reform Party has long been calling for such as the removal of monopoly interests and allowing for Canadian interests to fully participate in international carrier services.

Another positive is the opportunity for greater competition at home when accessing long distance services within the international marketplace. This should lead to lower rates for Canadians.

Unfortunately these positives are coupled with some very significant concerns that we have. I will list them briefly. We are concerned that more power will be given to the CRTC, beyond what is called for by the legislation. We are concerned about very expansive CRTC administrative power over operational concerns, which it is not equipped to manage and never has been. We are also concerned that there is no recognition of convergence between the broadcast and the telecommunications technologies.

It is not a forward looking bill. It is a reactive bill. It is reactive to industry and technological pressure. It does not take us into the information age as the minister so clearly likes to tell us it does. It continues to attempt to strip out broadcasting and the regulations associated with broadcasting. It is getting increasingly difficult to do this.

We encourage the government to address these concerns before the next reading of the bill. Then we as a House can take what is the good part and the good start that we see in the bill, improve it, keep it on track and allow the Canadian industry to become a world leader.

If members opposite and the minister will entertain these changes to the bill and will allow the increase in the controls they are calling for within the greater powers to the CRTC to be uncoupled and removed from the bill, it will strengthen the entire package. It will also strengthen the opportunity for Canadian interests to participate fully in the global information age.

We ask the government to entertain that. I know it would be endorsed by many of members of this party and by many other members of the House.

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3:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Calgary West on a question or comment.

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3:10 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a tough question for the member for Calgary Centre.

I wonder if he could enlighten the House with regard to the CRTC—

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3:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The Chair has made a mistake in that there are no questions or comments following the first three speakers.

However, the Chair having done that, recognizes that the Bloc member who is supposed to be speaking at this time will have to be brought back into the House. Therefore the Chair is at a loss as to exactly what the Chair should be doing.

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3:10 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was surprised by the fact that 40-minute speeches can be followed by questions and comments. That is why I have rushed back to my seat.

First of all, I am pleased to indicate that I agree in principle with Bill C-17, which eliminates the two remaining monopolies in the telecommunications field, that is Teleglobe Canada and Telesat.

On the other hand, the government is using this bill to give additional regulatory powers to the CRTC, and supplementary legislative powers to the minister and the governor in council.

This second aspect is indispensable because it must be clearly understood that this liberalization of telecommunications in Canada makes Canada and Quebec—and I stress the latter, because as a result Quebec has been stripped of all power in this area—two of the countries most open to competition. And that competition is being carried out right under the nose of a giant. That giant is the United States, a country which makes massive use of international communications and one in which giant production companies with networks have a very strong presence.

This is why, in addition to these provisions, Quebec has supported—and the Bloc is also pleased about—the fact that, in negotiating the basic telecommunications agreement with the World Trade Organization, Canada insisted on preserving Canadian majority ownership and limiting direct and indirect foreign ownership to 46.7%.

This then is support for the underlying principles. However, this bill also provides an opportunity to express three major concerns, questions and proposals.

Naturally, this liberalization comes with promises for business. Teleglobe had five years to prepare to face the international competition, and the loss of its market in Canada is amply compensated by an increase in its market share in the United States, first, and then in Europe and no doubt in developing countries. We will come back to this, if time permits. This liberalization is therefore favourable and suits business.

As for the two other benefits that are supposed to result, namely access to WTO regulatory mechanisms—which has at times proven to be an advantage, albeit a less certain one—and promises to consumers that rates will drop as competition increases, recent events in the telephone and satellite telecommunications sectors show that this is not a sure thing. So we invite the minister and the CRTC, who have given themselves new powers, to exercise them to ensure this liberalization, this globalization, not only benefits business, but also takes consumer interests into account. This is the only condition that will ensure the government has the support it needs.

We are seeing a sort of revolution in the telecommunications field of the sort they went through at the end of the 19th century with the industrial revolution. Without a minimum of targeted and well-thought-out regulation, this revolution will take place at the expense of those who can afford it the least. Fortunately, this is not the 19th century; therefore, while creating a favourable environment for business, the government and the CRTC will have to protect consumers and ensure access to services at affordable rates.

This is not the only question we want to raise, effectively I hope. There is also the question of privacy. I would like to point out right off that there is a great deal of documentation on the subject. I will conclude with a comment, by saying that government ministers across the way have promised to introduce legislation on privacy. But we are continuing to build this information highway that creates extreme risk conditions without giving ourselves the legislation required to ensure people's privacy, which may result in Canada becoming a country with which the European Union for example will not exchange confidential information, especially since it already feels that Canada does not properly protect this kind of information.

I will try to read in the most lively fashion possible excerpts from a few documents. Rather than paraphrasing, I will quote directly what Paul-André Comeau, Quebec's privacy commissioner, said on this issue.

“In Canada, the federal government and some provincial governments have established legislative frameworks setting out the principles that define the protection of personal information held by government institutions. But, he said, the main designers and owners of the new information systems are currently consortia largely made up of private businesses. It is these businesses which will soon—this was in 1994, so we are there now—with the implementation of the information highway, be in possession of all sorts of information on people. This information will circulate, it will be disseminated and spread in such a way that it may be difficult for people to protect the data relating to them”.

He goes on to say: “To protect privacy, voluntary codes of ethics are often suggested. Such codes are less restrictive than the regulatory framework, especially for businesses. Yet, as interesting and useful as they are, these codes have flaws, a major one being that businesses refusing to comply with the code leave people totally unprotected”.

Paul-André Comeau then cites the Quebec legislation: “In this respect, Quebec serves as a model and a beacon in North America. The Quebec experience, still in its early stages at the time—which is no longer the case, although Quebec continues to be proud of this legislation—shows that it is possible to protect people's privacy and their personal information in the private sector, without adversely affecting the competitiveness of businesses and creating obligations that would prevent them from operating”.

Paul-André Comeau is certainly not the only one who spoke highly of the Quebec law and who stressed the need for Canada to adopt similar legislation. In their report, the Fédération nationale des associations de consommateurs du Québec and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Canada state that Canadians are quite concerned about the collection and use of personal information. People feel there is less control over personal information. Canadians are particularly concerned by the transmission of personal information between various organizations, especially private businesses.

Consumers want to know and control how their personal information is being used. The technological changes must not impose a new burden on individuals seeking to protect their privacy.

Why am I raising this issue in the context of the legislation on Teleglobe and Telesat? Because it is precisely through this information highway, through the Internet and the Intranet, through old-fashioned telephone lines and numerous new means of telecommunications, that information about people's private lives may be collected in the form of data banks that, if not protected, can seriously compromise people's privacy.

Naturally, businessmen are doing business and are concerned with maximizing their companies' competitiveness. But the role of the Quebec National Assembly and of the House of Commons of Canada is to take account of these concerns, to have a vision, to know to what extent this information highway is transmitting data in Canada through Quebec and towards other countries, to what extent this electronic highway, this series of networks requires that a way be found to protect confidential information.

I would like to add that at the level of the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, there is a great concern for another related issue, and that is to ensure that Internet can be used to safely conduct business.

It is of course extremely important to find means to ensure reliability. Otherwise, Internet will not develop to meet all the expectations it is giving rise to today. But the same thing can be said about the protection of personal information. It must be remembered that when the Internet is used, there are always traces of these operations. These traces are numerous and varied on all existing systems.

It should be noted that the hon. member for Mount Royal was chair of a committee that submitted a report dated April 1997 and entitled “Privacy: where do we draw the line?”.

This report stated, last spring:

Throughout the country, people are calling for a comprehensive and uniform package of rules to protect personal information. The scope of this legislation should be as wide as possible. Therefore, this committee believes that it should apply to Parliament and also all federal government departments, agencies, crown corporations, boards, commissions and government institutions and to the federally regulated private sector. The participants at our public discussions stated repeatedly that the voluntary application of codes of practice for the protection of personal information does not work.

The committee recommended that the Government of Canada introduce new legislation that would replace the current act. This legislation would comply with the requirements of the Canadian Charter of Privacy Rights and would apply to all departments and also to all the industries and companies subject to the act. This legislation should be enacted by the year 2000.

I would like to add this little part that I find very important:

As we are advancing on the information highway, most of our daily activities leave an electronic trail that many data banks can register.

It is obvious that current legislation in Canada is inadequate and that this situation also affects Quebec citizens in their international relations. An important player also added his voice to all these concerns, and this is the Privacy Commissioner, Mr. Bruce Phillips, who, in his 1996-97 annual report, reminded us of the promise made by the then Minister of Justice that legislation would be introduced to protect privacy in a concrete and binding manner in the private sector.

He stated “The Commission has been calling for such an initiative for a long time”, and he added, referring to the report by the hon. member for Mount Royal, “that the committee devoted almost a full year to the review of the impacts on privacy of new technologies”.

I could continue, but I believe that this act provides the opportunity to state clearly that further development of the information highway can only be welcomed if we succeed in implementing ways to protect privacy.

As I said, the introduction of this bill affords an occasion not only to rejoice that a number of businesses are being given the opportunity to be competitive not only in Canada but on the world market as well, but also—and I will word it this way—the market and the competition alone, I repeat, the market and the competition alone, are not sufficient to ensure access for all at a reasonable price, as two recent examples have shown: the telephone situation and the bankruptcy of Alphastar.

The minister, the government, the CRTC, cannot do otherwise than to listen to businesses. I understand this, because we are aware that, on the world scale, the biggest Quebec companies are only middle-sized or sometimes even smaller. So, yes, businesses need to grow and this brings considerable challenges.

It is impossible, however, to believe that our businesses' competitiveness comes solely from the pockets of consumers, and often from the most disadvantaged among them. We must therefore continue to make telecommunications services available, and to increase access to them. This bears repeating.

International services, and all other telecommunications services, must be not only accessible, but also affordable. They must be affordable. The minister, the CRTC, the government and the governor in council must face up to their responsibility for issuing operating licences to businesses that could not be economically viable. You will realize I am referring to the experience with Alphastar, which I shall return to in a moment.

It is true that the bill contains good news, but if the minister intends to exercise the powers he is giving himself, as set out in clause 6, there will be an amendment to the Telecommunications Act to permit increased charges to set up a fund to promote uninterrupted telecommunications services. We should note clause 8 too. It gives the bill teeth, if the minister or the CRTC or the government so want, to enact new statutory or regulatory provisions. My understanding is that these provisions will prevent a repeat of something like Alphastar.

I will take the liberty of pointing out that telephone companies denied by the CRTC the increased revenues resulting from the rate increases they sought won their case with the government, which, rather than doing what the CRTC asked, that is, reducing long distance rates, let them keep the whole amount. We might think there was talk of investments.

However, it is to be noted that they used it to increase dividends to 12.5%. All this is complicated. We know that telephone rates have increased tremendously. In the Montreal region, they have gone from a little over $12 in 1992 up to $21 now, and if the government agrees with the applications being made the rate will climb to $27. I am talking about Montreal.

The hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis made strong representations to ensure that, in northern Quebec, telephone companies, which used to be managed by the Quebec company, would no longer be able to significantly raise telephone rates and keep the resulting profits. What the hon. member asked, and this is absolutely indispensable, is that while a competitive market should be allowed, companies interested in providing services should all be subject to the same regulations and requirements.

Companies are once again before the CRTC. There is a movement in Quebec and across Canada asking that this new application be rejected by the CRTC. The minister has the authority to tell the CRTC that it is better for basic services to continue to mean something and that, consequently, their costs should not be increased.

In the spring, our former critic who will have the floor after me, was already saying that telephone costs should not be increased until it was demonstrated that such a measure would not change the meaning of basic telephone services. Current rates are taking us away from the basic rate.

The government claims that the number of telephone users has not diminished, that there have not been a large number of cancellations. What I am about to say is true in the case of small and medium size businesses, which won their case but could still be subject to rate increases, but it is even more true for low and very low income people. The telephone can be considered as something so indispensable that if people's income is reduced, some will go so far as to deprive their children of food to keep their telephone. So, when considering what a basic telephone service is, it is not possible to keep talking about increases strictly in the context of national and international competition.

Yes, it is important for businesses to have conditions that will help them, but this is impossible. We must look at the overall picture, and it cannot be done. As I said earlier, I am pleased to see that the government wants to create a fund to subsidize, if need be, regions where costs would be greater, so that a basic communication service, including not only telephone but also basic telecommunications services, would be maintained.

It is essential, again, so that the population will know, that such “economic modernization” not be undertaken at their expense. Why should we want to compete in Europe? Why should the government say “I am allowing businesses to compete in the United States and Europe”, if this results in penalizing the average consumer or the consumer with a small income?

This is the issue that parliamentarians, the House of Commons, the National Assembly must address.

Also, when things like the Alphastar case are involved, the government cannot stand idly by and let the market make the rules. Satellite communications today are still considered important because there are areas in Quebec that do not have access to cable and where there are no digital telephone lines. Therefore, they do not have access to Internet and cannot rely on communications that elsewhere are basic commodities. There are self-employed workers and also small businesses who depend on these. It is always possible for them to be connected, but then they have to pay long distance charges, and this makes no sense.

So satellite communications for access to television are important, but the minister has instructed the CRTC by an order in council not to consider economic viability when awarding licences to businesses. The result was, as observers had foreseen, that Alphastar, which had 6,000 subscribers in Canada, went bankrupt. People were left with lovely dishes with which they could decorate their gardens, but which had cost them hundreds of dollars, and also with subscriptions that also cost them hundred of dollars and which are now useless.

The market cannot ensure fairness in all cases, and in this case, consumer protection required that there be basic safeguards.

With this bill, the government is creating appropriate mechanisms and we sincerely hope that it will use them.

Finally, there is another grave concern that I would like to address in relation to this bill. I just spoke about the lack of powers in Quebec in the area of broadcasting and telecommunications.

I think it is worthwhile to take a few minutes of my colleague's precious time to go over this. We are always well advised to ensure that our colleagues better understand Quebec, of which they often get tired, but whose demands are always based on the fact that Quebec is a people and a nation. Binational countries are rare in this world, and many of them have not succeeded in holding together—binational or trinational if we consider first nations, as we should.

I would like to remind you that communications are a field that Quebec claimed very early, I would say from the very beginning, when it first appeared, and it was not a bad separatist who did so, at the time.

Way back in February 1929, Alexandre Taschereau, the Liberal premier of Quebec, introduced a bill to give Quebec exclusive jurisdiction over the emerging broadcasting industry. Those were the days, before the CBC, when broadcasts were often drowned out by all sorts of interference. Liberal premier Taschereau, who was no doubt a federalist, a staunch federalist, claimed exclusive jurisdiction over broadcasting and wanted Quebec to operate its own radio stations. This eventually lead to the creation of Radio Quebec.

Around the same time, in Canada, there was a royal commission on radio broadcasting, the Aird Commission. It tabled its report in the fall of 1929 and recommended that exclusive jurisdiction over radio broadcasting be given to the central government. Its model was based on the BBC, a publicly owned network.

Who was asked to settle the issue? The supreme court, in 1931. What do you think it decided? Naturally, it decided this was an exclusive jurisdiction of Canada, but the Government of Quebec, not satisfied with this ruling, submitted the matter to the Privy Council, which upheld the supreme court's decision in 1932. The first Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act was passed in May 1932, and, in 1936, the CBC was born.

In 1945, after the war, Maurice Duplessis, the premier of Quebec, in the middle of a fight against university subsidization—at the time, Duplessis did not want Quebec universities to receive federal subsidies—contended this was an area under provincial jurisdiction. Duplessis then proceeded to legislate, to introduce a bill, to establish a provincial radio broadcasting service. Radio Quebec was born. In September 1973, Robert Bourassa, a Liberal premier, and more of a federalist than Duplessis, said shortly after being elected:

In cultural matters, the decision making centres we need for our own cultural security will have to be transferred, particularly in the telecommunications sector. Here again, it is a simple matter of common sense, because we cannot leave it to an anglophone majority to ensure the cultural security of a francophone minority.

That was what Robert Bourassa said. Jean-Paul L'Allier, his Minister of Communications, said:

It is up to Quebec in the first instance to develop a global communications policy. This policy is indissociable from the development of its education system, its culture and everything that comes under Quebec's domain.

There was nothing in Meech or Charlottetown on this issue, but it continued to be discussed. In 1994, we know that the supreme court ruled against Quebec with respect to telephone services and the Régie des télécommunications du Québec ceased to exist.

I mention this today because the information highway, this telecommunications revolution, is drawing the highway ever closer to its contents. If the medium is the message, what can we say about the present information highway and the relationship between the road and what travels on it, roads that are closed and small roads that are open?

To recap, we agree in principle with this bill, which will end monopolies. We are all the more in agreement because the government is giving the CRTC, the governor in council and itself greater regulatory powers to ensure that there are controls over how this liberalization takes place.

However, this bill is an opportunity for us to insist, and we are going to keep coming back to this, that there be legislation to protect personal information, in order to assure consumers that this liberalization that is supposed to provide the necessary conditions for businesses to position themselves on the market does not come about at the expense of those at the low end of the wage scale and of outlying regions, or take consumers for a ride, as happened in the case of Alphastar.

Finally, it is an opportunity for Quebec to say that it will need this jurisdiction for its culture, and the only way we have found to advance this to date is by seeking our sovereignty.

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3:50 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP is opposed to Bill C-17. We do not even favour the bill in principle. We are flatly opposed to this bill, the intent of which is to implement the general agreement on trade and services, GATS as it is known, and the agreement on basic telecommunications.

The reason we are opposed to the bill is that Bill C-17 is part of the process of completing the free trade agreements and the implementation of the regulations of free trade.

We oppose this bill because we opposed the negotiated free trade agreements which were against the interests of ordinary Canadians. The NDP, unlike other parties that have been all over the map on this issue, has consistently stood in opposition of these liberalized trade agreements from the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement to NAFTA and now the MAI. In 1997 we are still speaking in opposition to these trade agreements.

It is worth taking a few moments to look at the context of Bill C-17 and the history of these free trade agreements. The trade agreements of the last decade, if we look at the overall results, have made it easier for corporations to increase their profits and harder for workers to keep their wages and benefits.

The impact of this is reflected in Statistics Canada reports. Corporate profits have increased dramatically, while real family income has declined and masses of jobs lost in this country. The reality is that deals like the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement encourage corporations to go where wages and benefits are lower and where environmental regulations are weaker.

These agreements are designed to increase the mobility of capital and goods, making it easier for corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying taxes. In other words, these deals are designed to push down Canadian wages and social programs like medicare, environmental protection, safety and labour standards and the revenue from taxes to pay for our desperately needed public services.

Ten years ago when the FTA was signed the Canadian people heard promises of the jobs that would abound. We heard the promises of greater prosperity for Canada and for Canadians that would result from increased trade. We heard promises of better social programs and unimpaired Canadian sovereignty. All these promises stand revealed today as nothing but a fraud. We only have to look at the facts to see what free trade has meant a decade later. It has been a disaster for Canada and for Canadian families.

Since Canada entered into free trade agreements, we have experienced the longest period of sustained high unemployment and the worst social and economic conditions since the 1930s. That is in stark contrast to the promises and the issues that were held out as being the things which would change our economy since the advent of these agreements.

Canadians have experienced 84 straight months of unemployment at 9% or more. What kind of record is that under these free trade deals? We have seen the disappearance of 100,000 direct jobs in the public sector. We have seen the decline in labour force participation, which has fallen from 67.5% prior to the recession to less than 65% today. That is equivalent to the loss of 700,000 jobs. If we included these discouraged workers in the official tallies of unemployment, it would bring our unemployment rate to something around 13%.

More than that, we have had an appalling crisis for young people, whose participation rate has plummeted from 70% before the recession to barely 60% today. If we included the young people who have also been discouraged, then the official unemployment rate would almost double for young people, going from 16.5% to 30%.

What we have witnessed is the declining quality of jobs in the Canadian economy with the NAFTA and a growing emphasis on part time work and low wage jobs. Even our unemployment benefits, which used to cover 87% of Canadians who were jobless, are now going to only about 40% of people who are unemployed, and 25% of Canada's manufacturing base was wiped out in the first three years after signing the FTA. That is the real story of—

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3:55 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understand that Bill C-17, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act and the Teleglobe Canada Reorganization and Divestiture Act, is what we are debating this afternoon. I would ask for your guidance that we debate on that subject.

Telecommunications ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The Chair was following the hon. member very closely. The hon. member was debating telecommunications, its relevance to free trade and the effect of this bill on the implementation of free trade. The Chair would consider the debate to be relevant.

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November 4th, 1997 / 3:55 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for those words. In fact, the background of the free trade agreement is very relevant to the bill before us today. In my discussion I will be moving right into the bill itself.

The point that we wish to emphasize is that the real story of the NAFTA, when we look at this bill, has not been a success for the Canadian people.

Going to the background of the bill before us today, we know that on February 15 of this year at the World Trade Organization Canada and 68 other countries concluded a multilateral agreement to liberalize trade and investment in telecommunications services.

The GATS agreement on basic telecommunications followed the conclusion of the information technology agreement which liberalized trade in information technology equipment.

Under the GATS the federal government has said that it is committed to eliminating the two remaining areas now closed to competition, overseas telephone service and fixed satellite services. As a result, Teleglobe's monopoly will end on October 1, 1998 and Telesat's monopoly will end on March 1, 2000.

Canada, as part of this agreement, has also agreed to remove foreign ownership restrictions in satellite earth stations and the landing of international submarine cables.

The key elements of Canada's offer under the GATS agreement on basic telecommunications are the elimination of the remaining monopolies of Teleglobe and Telesat, the liberalization of traffic routing restrictions, the elimination of minimum Canadian equity requirements for mobile satellite systems, the elimination of the special foreign ownership limits applicable to Teleglobe Canada, the elimination of the foreign ownership limits for international submarine cables and the adoption of a regulatory reference paper which sets out principles of regulations for all the signatory countries.

What is the government's position on this? We have been told by the industry minister that the changes contemplated in the bill before the House today, along with the GATT agreement, will lead to increased business opportunities for Canada's telecommunications industry at home and abroad.

We are told that Canada's telecommunications firms will have easier access to a more competitive international market and will capture a larger share of the $880 billion global telecommunications industry. Those are the same old arguments that were put before the people of Canada under FTA and under NAFTA. I would suggest that what we are really experiencing, instead of the benefits that we have been told that we will get, is the Americanization of all aspects of Canadian life as a result of these trade deals and now as a result of this bill if it is passed by the House.

I would like to spend a moment to look at what that experience has been for some Canadian companies. Think about the company CN, the railroad which once linked our country together and pioneered public broadcasting and our national airline. What happened to that company? It was sacrificed as a result of free trade. CN was sold for half of what it was worth and it is now owned 70% by Americans. It is now busy selling off parts of the rail network which, I might add, was built at public expense. It is being sold to other U.S. companies. All of the lines of northern Manitoba, including the port of Churchill plus two Saskatchewan lines, have been sold to Omnitrax of Denver, U.S.A.

It is now virtually impossible for Canadians to buy Canadian if they want to do so because whole sectors of our economy, such as pulp and paper and advertising, have been taken over by U.S. corporations. Now we are facing the same thing in the bill that is before us today. That is the real history of free trade.

Instead of getting out of these agreements and defending Canadian business interests and public interests, the Liberals ratified Mulroney's NAFTA and are now currently negotiating to extend NAFTA's investment section into a large new agreement called the multilateral agreement on investment. However, they do not have a public mandate to go ahead with the program under the MAI.

Regrettably, we all know that unless there is massive opposition by the public that the Liberals are prepared to sign the multilateral agreement on investment. They will be egged on to do so by the Reform and the Conservative parties, pushed and aided by corporations and their CEOs, to whom these parties are best friends.

It is absolutely necessary that these trade agreements and the bill that is before us today be advanced in terms of the public interest and not just corporate interests. They have to be advanced in terms of what will benefit Canadians. Trade liberalization should help improve wages and working conditions, not drive them down to the levels that exist in developing parts of the world.

We should be working for trade agreements that will help Canadian families and will include the introduction of real, enforceable and progressive social, labour and environmental standards.

We need to be working for stricter measures to prevent corporate tax evasion and stronger financial reporting requirements for large corporations that are not publicly traded.

The government should be working with its trading partners to develop international standards for taxation of income from capital to counter tax avoidance and evasion by corporations and the super wealthy.

That is what the government should be focusing on instead of opening up the flood gates and saying that under trade liberalization that we are going to somehow benefit. The contrary is true.

We also need the introduction of an international tax to control speculative currency trading. In recent years, such speculation has undermined some national economies, forcing up interest rates and throwing people out of work.

The NDP caucus speaks against Bill C-17 because it is part and parcel of the free trade agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement and is now part of the globalization we are seeing under the multilateral agreement on investment.

I challenge the House of Commons and this Liberal government to protect the interests of ordinary working Canadians when signing any further trade agreements. It is time we had agreements that worked for Canada and Canadians, not against them.

Telecommunications ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious to anybody who has any understanding at all about how jobs are created or who has had any contact with business that deregulating these government monopolies contributes to tremendous levels of employment and helps people get jobs.

I was in the telecommunications industry prior to becoming a member of Parliament and experienced the deregulation of the telephone and telex systems which were partially under the CRTC and Teleglobe in the early 1980s. The expansion of the telecommunications industry as a result is phenomenal. Northern Telecom expanded dramatically and the telecommunications industry worldwide has grown and created huge numbers of jobs as a result of deregulation and of NAFTA.

In addition to that, anyone who has been in business or understands how jobs are created knows it is high taxation that causes unemployment, that has caused our 83 months of unemployment, not deregulation of government monopolies. It is high taxation, over-government regulation and government overspending.

If government spending could create jobs—it has already overspent by $600 billion—we should have three jobs each by now. It is totally ludicrous to blame deregulation for high unemployment. It does not make sense to anybody who really thinks about the situation.

If the member thinks that NAFTA is a disaster, what could she say to the people in my riding like Mr. Hans Gawenda or Mr. Peter Belding? Like dozens of other small businesspeople, they have expanded their businesses up to 50 employees and more from just one or two because NAFTA allowed them to do business in the United States, to get rid of all the tariffs that prevented them from assembling products in Canada?

Some old, worn out, tired, oversubsidized industries went out of action, such as the shipbuilding industry in my riding that never could compete, but in its place are thousands of new jobs in these deregulated industries, in these new industries available through NAFTA.

How does the hon. member rationalize her position with the facts?

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4:05 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. Clearly we have a strong difference of opinion on the effect of trade liberalization on Canadians, Canadian jobs and Canadian companies.

I argue very strongly that deregulation is part of a global agenda that is driving us in a direction where larger corporations, multinational corporations, transnational corporations are gaining greater control. The overall effect of that has not been to create jobs.

We are in favour of fair competition. We are in favour of regulation that sets a level playing field. That is not what NAFTA and FTA are about. That is not what the MAI is about. MAI and these trade liberalization agreements are about corporate rule. They are about giving more power to corporations and driving down wages, ensuring that basically there are no environmental standards left.

If the member is arguing that is good for his constituents, I would argue the opposite. Canada has had a long tradition in the shipbuilding industry in the province of British Columbia, in the member's riding and in my riding of Vancouver East. We want to see a government committed to industrial infrastructure and to manufacturing. We have all kinds of workers with the skills and knowledge to create a shipbuilding industry who have been dumped out of work through agreements like NAFTA, the FTA and now the MAI.

The facts show a different story in terms of what has happened in our economy.

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4:10 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder how a tax, as the NDP member has termed it, on currency trading creates jobs. Investment and growth in the economy are what creates jobs. But restricting Canada's access to capital markets and to currency does not. Is she possibly proposing that Canada move to a gold standard rather than having a free floating currency? How does the free flow of capital stimulate investment and create jobs?

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4:10 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

Part of the problem we are witnessing is that with agreements like NAFTA and now the MAI there will be no rules about the movement of capital around the world where huge profits are being made. There is more than enough evidence to show that very large corporations are making record profits at the expense of jobs. There needs to be in the context of a globalized economy some international institutions and structures that have the ability to ensure that windfall profits are recouped for public benefit.

If the member cannot understand that and understand that we are talking about a matter of financial and social equity, then I guess we have a very different view of how things should operate.

We in the NDP see that under the trade liberalization we are transferring power to very powerful corporations that have absolutely no accountability. There are some very undemocratic organizations. Who are they accountable to? Not to governments, not to the people of Canada or any country. The very real issue is whether they are creating jobs in the long run. There is a small percentage of people who are making enormous profits at the expense of millions of ordinary people, workers who are getting low wages or people who have been thrown out of work. That is why we need to have a fair and open system where we can ensure that windfall profits are properly taxed.